A/N: And here's the next Installment!
…BTW, I own Edway.
Just thought you ought to know.
Everything following now is directly in the book Fablehaven: book one and shares a lot of dialogue, description, and wording as the book. I will be making changes, but I know people get irritated when this kind of thing happens. The Fablehaven book is mostly in Kendra's third person POV, and this fic will be in Harry's, so please just bear with it, and thank you everyone for the support! ^-^
A Mandatory Vacation
(Ten Years Later…)
Harry stared out of the SUV's window, watching the trees pass by silently. His sister of the last ten years, Kendra, was staring out of her own window with a contemplative look on her face, something he was well used to seeing. Seth sat between them, looking bored, which was something else he was used to seeing (when his little brother wasn't being mischievous, troublemaking, or adventurous. Man but did he make Harry's hair want to turn gray early, with his constant death defying. If this was what it was like growing up with James Potter or the Weasley Twins, he could understand why their parents and peers loved and bemoaned their existence…). But he could understand the boredom. They'd been driving down an apparently endless, two-lane highway somewhere in Connecticut for quite a while now.
It was enough to make him want to twitch.
"Why didn't you tell us Grandpa Sorenson lived in India?" Seth finally said, boredom driving him to speak. Harry smiled slightly, amused. At eleven years old, he was heading to the sixth grade, to the relief of his fifth grade teachers. His handheld video game, which had held his attention for most of the epic drive, sat discarded on his lap. Mom (as Harry had grown used to calling Kate Sorenson) twisted to face the backseat.
"It won't be much longer. Enjoy the scenery."
"I'm hungry," Seth told her immediately, and she started rifling through the grocery bag full of snack food between her feet.
"Peanut butter and crackers?" she asked, offering the package. Seth reached forward and took them while Dad (As Harry had gotten used to calling George Sorenson) asked for some Almond Roca, which made Harry wrinkle his nose slightly. Last Christmas, Dad had decided that Almond Roca was his favorite candy and that he should have some on hand all year long. Nearly six months later, and he was still honoring his resolution, though Harry, for the life of him, could not figure out why. The candies didn't taste very good to him at all (though, he would never say that they were the worst in the world. They tasted far better then Hagrid's Rock Cakes, which had, in fact, had actual rocks in them.). But, he would leave his adoptive fathers candy choices up to him, just like none of the Sorenson's tried to make him give up Edway, which sat in his lap, chained to his wrist by a thin pocket-watch chain he'd made into a makeshift collar for the gargoyle.
"Do you want anything, Kendra?" Mom asked; she kept her eyes out the window.
"I'm fine," she replied idly.
"How about you, Harry?" Mom asked, smiling, and Harry smiled back but shook his head.
"No thank you, Mum," he said, voice still accented despite the decade he'd spent in America. It wasn't as bad as it had been, but he had been talking the British way for twenty-seven years before he met the Sorenson's. Mom and Dad just found it endearing.
Harry turned his gaze back out the window, and contemplated the situation he and his two younger siblings were in. Mom and Dad were going on a seventeen-day Scandinavian cruise (as per the directions of the Will of Mom's parents who died via asphyxiation while visiting family members in South Carolina.). The cruise was free, but the stipulation was no Grandchildren allowed. And so, now the three of them were off to spend that time with their reclusive Grandpa and Grandma Sorenson (the grandparents who had died were Grandma and Grandpa Larson, not that Harry and them had been very close… They had known he was adopted and treated him a little differently because of it, for some reason.). Grandma and Grandpa Sorenson were Dad's parents, and Harry had never even met them, not even at the funeral. He was usually sick or somewhere else when family met together. It made it less awkward for those who felt strange about him being adopted.
"Won't you get bored stuck on a boat for seventeen days?" Kendra asked, turning her eyes to Mom and Dad; Harry looked away from his window to watch his 'parents' as well. Dad glanced in the rearview mirror.
"The food is supposed to be incredible. Snails, fish eggs, the works." It made Harry faintly queasy, but he was a firm believer in the "don't knock it 'til you've tried it" saying some Americans lived by.
"We're not all that thrilled about the trip," Mom added, smiling back at the three children softly, sadly. "I don't think your grandparents envisioned an accidental death when they made this request. But we'll make the best of it."
"The ship stops in ports, you know," Dad said, quickly redirecting the conversation before Mom could get more upset. "You get to disembark for part of the time."
"Is this car ride going to last for seventeen days?" Seth asked, and Harry wondered if he had some attention deficit disorder or something, or if he was mildly claustrophobic in long car rides. He was getting antsy.
"We're nearly there," Dad assured him simply.
"Do we have to stay with Grandma and Grandpa Sorenson?" Kendra asked pleadingly, and Harry sent her a questioning look. What was wrong with staying with them?
"It'll be fun," Dad told her easily. "You should feel honored. They almost never invite anyone to stay with them."
"Exactly," Kendra continued insistently. "We barely know them. They're hermits."
"Well, they were my parents," Dad said, tone dryly amused. "Somehow I survived." Harry hid his smile under the guise of a yawn which, like most fake yawns, immediately transformed into the real thing.
The road they were on finally changed, stopping its winding through forested hills as the car passed through a town. As they idled at a stoplight, Harry thought back fondly on the last ten years, filled with childish things he'd never gotten to experience before in his previous life, and loving parents as well as annoying-yet-adorable siblings. Glancing fondly over at Kendra as she watched an overweight woman gassing up her minivan, Harry remembered every forced game of House, School, Dress-Up, and Tea Party she'd insisted her come to over the years. As she turned her sharp gaze forward, Harry turned his away, to focus on is youngest sibling.
Seth had grown to quickly despise the "girly" games Harry allowed himself to be involved in, and took his own turns in forcing his older brother to play Tag, Hide-and-Seek, Adventuring, Exploring, and (on one memorable occasion), Rock Climbing (only the fact that Harry was much stronger than his lithe form gave away, saved the younger boy from a broken collar bone when he'd tried climbing an area of the small cliff that was much too difficult. Harry had managed to catch the, at the time, seven-year-old, but Mom and Dad had been far from amused.).
It had been an amazing, exasperating, and terrifying ten years for Harry, and the now sixteen-year-old looked forward to more, with his siblings by his side.
Refocusing on his surroundings rather than his memories, Harry blinked, and found that their SUV had left the town far behind already. Bemused, he shook his head faintly. He could be such a scatterbrain sometimes… They drove around the curve of a lake, and lost themselves in some low, forested hills, passing a mailbox, and even a house or two, every so often. There were sometimes long driveways as well, when the houses weren't visible.
As the SUV turned onto a narrower road and kept driving, Harry blinked as Kendra leaned forward to peer around the edge of Dad's seat, blue eyes narrowed.
"Dad, you're under a quarter of a tank," she informed him; Harry leaned forward curiously, and saw that was, indeed, true.
"We're almost there," Dad told her reassuringly as they continued down the road. "We'll fill up after we drop you kids off."
"Can't we come on the cruise?" Seth whined, flopping sideways against Harry's shoulder as he sulked. "We could hide in the lifeboats! You could sneak us food." Harry snorted.
"Not all of us are small enough to hide comfortably in a life-boat for an entire cruise," Harry informed his brother dryly, vindictively pleased that, for once, he was the tallest, reaching five-foot-seven and still growing, black hair messy (but not the ratty birds-nest of his Home Dimension), and bottle green eyes (that didn't need glasses, thank you, Edway!) peering out of a narrow, sharp-cheeked tanned face. Seth elbowed him in the gut with a glower, and Harry chuckled while Kendra rolled her eyes.
"You kids will have much more fun with Grandma and Grandpa Sorenson," Mom interrupted soothingly, smiling in the rearview mirror as Harry and Seth began to playfully tussle, the older boy making sure that they didn't knock into or accidentally hit Kendra even as he grabbed Seth in a headlock, making the twelve-year-old yelp as he was given a noogie. "Just you wait," Mom continued. "Give it a chance." Harry sent the pretty woman a bright smile, ignoring Seth who was struggling under the, ah, loving assault.
"Of course, Mum," he agreed readily enough, earning a fond smile from her as she turned around.
"Here we are!" Dad announced as the SUV turned off the road and onto a gravel driveway. Harry leaned forward to peer through the bug-splattered windshield, but couldn't see any sign of a house, only the driveway, which was angling out of sight of the trees.
"Do you think Grandpa and Grandma Sorenson have a lot of deer through here?" Harry asked Mom hopefully, earning a smile as the car crunched on over the gravel.
"I'm sure they do, sweetheart," she assured him, and Harry grinned, absently releasing Seth and ignoring the pouty glare the twelve-year-old sent him as the sixteen-year-old took sharp note of all the signs they were starting to pass. Signs labeling the area as private property, others warding off trespassers. How very… welcoming, Harry mused as they came to a low metal gate that hung open, but could be shut to prevent entrance. Seth made a disgruntled noise, reddish-brown hair still mussed from their play a few minutes before.
"This is the longest driveway in the world!" He complained; Harry snickered at him, ignoring the shoulder-punch it earned him as the car drove on. The farther they drove, the less convention the signs. They went from Private Property and No Trespassing to Beware the .12 Gauge and Trespassers Will Be Persecuted, the first of which had Harry snorting in amusement and Seth grinning slightly, bemused, while Kendra frowned slightly.
"These signs are funny," Seth announced; Harry nodded with a smirk, but Kendra continued to frown, perturbed.
"More like creepy, she muttered; Harry leaned back and slung an arm around the thirteen-year-olds shoulders comfortingly, earning a faint eye-roll from his sister even as she leaned against him. The SUV rounded another bend, and Harry noted that the driveway reached a tall, wrought-iron fence topped with the traditional fleur-de-lis. The double gate stood open, and he could see that the fence extended off into the trees far off into the distance on either side. Near the fence sat a final sign, and Harry grinned as he read it aloud.
"'Certain Death Awaits'." He felt Kendra shift uncomfortably next to him, and instinctively tightened his half-hug.
"Is Grandpa Sorenson paranoid?" she asked; Dad shifted slightly, glancing into the rearview mirror at the three of them.
"The signs are a joke," he informed them mildly. "He inherited this land. I'm sure the fence came with it." Harry bit back another grin as his thoughts silently tacked on a Constant Vigilance to the image he had of his Grandpa Sorenson. Of course, since he'd come to this dimension, he'd taken note that his humor had become decidedly morbid and dark, so it wasn't all that surprising, to be honest…
They drove on, through the gate, passing still more trees and shrubs, with the house no where in sight. Harry leaned over Kendra a bit so he could peer out the window as they drove over a small bridge spanning a creek, and climbed a shallow slope. There, the trees ended abruptly, and Harry felt a strange tingle of something ominous as the house finally came into view across a vast front lawn.
Something strange is going on in this place, he thought, a hand absently shifting to land over little Edway as he tightened his hold on Kendra briefly and shifted his leg to press more firmly against Seth, protective instincts sitting up to take notice of everything around them.
The house was big, but not exactly a mansion. There were lots of gables and, he blinked, even a turret. After the wrought-iron gate, he had been prepared to see a mansion, honestly, perhaps a fixed up Renaissance number, but the house, constructed out of dark wood and stone, while old, did not look nearly old enough to be considered a 'classic'. While it was in good shape, the yard was much more impressive in Harry's opinion, with a bright flower garden blooming out front, manicured hedges, and even a fish pond, all of them adding character and life to the house. If he leaned down a bit, Harry could just make out the weather vane that topped the massive brown barn behind the house, which reached a good five stories tall by itself, if he calculated right.
"I love it," Mom declared, and Harry couldn't help but nod in agreement, eager to go and explore, his leg beginning to bounce as his body finally seemed to realize he'd been sitting still for hours. "I wish we were all staying," she sighed wistfully; Dad reached over and gently patted her knee.
"You've never been here?" Kendra asked; Mom shook her head with that same wistful smile as she admired the flower garden.
"No. Your father came here a couple of times before we were married," she told them; Dad nodded easily.
"They go the extra mile to discourage visitors," he told them calmly, as if it was completely normal… Though, considering that they were his parents, it probably was normal for him. "Me, Uncle Carl, Aunt Sophie—None of us have spent much time here. I don't get it. You kids are lucky," he sighed, smiling as he looked back over his shoulder at them. "You'll have a blast. If nothing else, you can spend your time playing in the pool… Or," he added dryly, looking at Harry, who smiled sheepishly back. "You can get lost for hours on purpose in the woods, and only come back when the search parties have been summoned."
"It happened once!" Harry complained, pouting. "I was nine, how was I supposed to know that area of the Zoo was for Staff Only?!" He slumped back against the backseat and huffed, sulking as he crossed his arms over his chest while Dad and Mom chuckled and Seth grinned at him teasingly, Kendra rolling her eyes.
"Sure, Harry, sure," Mom teased, and Harry pouted as they finally pulled to a stop in front of the garage, and finally got out of the car.
The front door opened, and what must have been Grandpa Sorenson emerged (Harry had only caught a brief glimpse of him at the Wake for Grandma and Grandpa Larsen, and hadn't met him before that), followed by a tall, lanky man with large ears and a thin, older woman, Stretching his arms up, Harry tried to pop his back as Mom, Dad, and Seth all got out of the car, before the sixteen-year-old followed, leaving Kendra to sit and observe, which she always did when confronted with something new.
Stretching, Harry let his eyes fall half-closed as he observed his paternal grandfather and company, biting back a moan of relief as his back finally popped. Grandpa Sorenson was dressed in faded jeans, work boots, and a flannel shirt, with the stubble of a white beard beginning on his face from what must have been a smooth shave for the funeral. The older woman behind him wasn't Harry's grandmother, he knew, despite her white hair, streaked with a few black strands. Her face had an ageless quality, and Harry's skin tingled as his magic, changed as it was from his first dimension, warned him that she was just sort of off compared to normal humans. Her almond shape eyes were black as coffee, locked on him from features that hinted at an Asian ancestry.
She was short and slightly stooped, yet managed to hold an exotic beauty, and Harry felt his teeth ache as his magic persistently warned him of her not-quite-human status, so he turned his attention to the lanky man, who was helping Dad remove the kids' bags and things from the back of the SUV. Silently, Harry moved to assist, taking his own duffle bag and two suitcases with a polite smile to the strange man, eying him sharply. The man was like a scarecrow, his large ears and long, lanky limbs drawing attention away from surprisingly nice-looking gray eyes and limp brown hair. His nose was a little big, his mouth a little thin, but his features weren't all that unattractive.
"Harry Sorenson," Harry introduced himself, offering a hand to the lanky man, who smiled faintly, showing slightly crooked, off-white teeth, and wrapped one of his large, calloused hands completely around Harry's.
"Dale Burgess," the man replied, voice a surprisingly gentle tenor; Harry nodded pleasantly, and grabbed his bags again as Dad called Kendra out of the car.
"Just place the things inside," Grandpa Sorenson told Dad mildly, cinnamon-brown eyes sharp despite the faint bags beneath his eyes, pale gray hair short and slightly messy. "Dale will take them up to the bedroom." Harry nodded obediently and set the bags where Dale indicated, knowing he'd still probably help the lanky man carry them upstairs, if nothing else than to escape the awkwardness of family-reunions. For now, he wandered back outside, briefly admiring the iron knocker that hung from the front door (a squinting goblin with the ring in its mouth) and the bulky hinges the door claimed.
"Where's Mom?" Dad asked Grandpa as Harry rejoined his siblings, snagging Seth by the back of his shirt before the bored twelve-year-old could bounce off to investigate the grounds like an over-eager puppy.
"Visiting your Aunt Edna," Grandpa Sorenson replied calmly, a slight tartness to his tone that had Harry eying him from the corner of his eye as he made sure Seth hadn't left anything in the car.
"In Missouri?" Dad asked, just as calmly, but with a hint of disappointment, and Harry couldn't help but bite back a sigh. His Dad had been looking forward to seeing both of his parents, no doubt, after Mom had just lost hers. Death was an unwelcome reminder that loved ones are never safe.
"Edna is dying," Grandpa told him bluntly in response, effectively ending the conversation, and Harry couldn't help but send him a mildly disapproving frown at the almost uncaring response to a family members imminent demise, but was distracted when Kendra wandered a little away, eying up the pretty bubble-glass windows, and he spotted a bird nest under the eaves. Seth was clutching a cereal box, what Harry affectionately called his "Trouble Box". It was filled with everything the twelve-year-old could want for in an adventure—rubber bands, a compass, granola bars, coins, a squirt gun, a magnifying glass, plastic hand cuffs, string, a whistle, and, recently (under Harry's urgings), a small box of Band-Aids with a tube of Anti-Bacterial cream, just in case.
"This is Lena," Grandpa Sorenson introduced the older woman beside him, bringing Harry's attention back to her as she nodded and gave a little wave. "She's our housekeeper. Dale helps me tend the grounds." Politely, Harry nodded at the woman, but bit back a wince as his teeth hurt from his magic, feeling almost like he had decided to chew on aluminum foil until his eyes pulled away from her ancient black gaze.
"Aren't you pretty?" Lena said, to Kendra, thankfully, as Harry wasn't sure how he'd react to that. "You must be around fourteen." Her slight accent only added to her beauty, Harry freely admitted to himself, even as he felt himself tense as the woman glided a little closer to his sister. His young, innocent sister, and he, of all people, knew that some creatures fed on innocence like a mosquito on blood.
"In October," the girl informed the not-quite-human. The group of them moved sedately into the house, and Harry looked around, admiring the glossy wooden floor of the entry hall. A still-pretty array of wilting flowers in a white ceramic vase graced a low table. A tall, brass coat rack stood off to one side, beside a long, black bench with a high, carved back. One the wall hung a painting of a fox hunt, and Harry felt another ominous tingle as he eyed it. A huge, embroidered throw rug covered most of the wooden floor of another room, and Harry eyed the furnishings with curiosity. Like the house, they were antiquated to a degree, and in good repair, but nothing historically relevant, as far as he could tell. Nice, sure, but not anything irreplaceable… Though the couches and chairs weren't exactly something you'd see at an everyday store or garage sale, and more than likely would be found at a historical site.
Noting that Dale was already starting to carry some of the bags upstairs, Harry quickly grabbed some himself and followed the man, getting a brief, kind smile from him.
"You don't have to help if you'd rather not," Dale told him, and Harry could only shrug and eye the walls curiously as the lanky groundskeeper led him down a carpeted hallway and up to a white door.
"It's fine, Mr. Burgess," Harry reassured the man easily. "I've never actually met Grandpa Sorenson before, but I know I hate awkward family reunions, so, really, you're doing me a favor!" Harry grinned mischievously up at the man, who chuckled faintly as he led the sixteen-year-old onward and into what looked like an old attic play room, cheerful and warm. It was spacious, clean, and bright, all things that pleased the slightly claustrophobic dimension-traveler. The long room had a pair of beds and a cot set up, a bookshelf crammed with children's books, a couple of freestanding wardrobes, tidy dressers, a unicorn rocking horse, multiple toy chests, and…
"Is that a chicken?" Harry asked, startled as he spotted the live avian sitting quietly in a cage. Dale nodded, a strangely sad expression flickering over his face for a moment, before he smiled mildly, setting the bags in his hands down, Harry mimicking him, his eyes still on the bird.
"That's Goldilocks," the lanky man told him, and Harry couldn't help but wander over, crouching down to look into the hen's eyes. She had red-gold feathers, and seemed rather content in her slender-barred cage. Carefully, Harry slid his fingers through those bars, and stroked her soft chest plumage tenderly, earning a soft clucking noise as he smiled at her.
"I love birds," he murmured wistfully, thoughts drawn, as always, to his dearly, departed Hedwig, his free hand slipping down to instinctively grip Edway for comfort, the Inter-Dimensional Portkey Gargoyle vibrating silently in a comforting way, as it always did.
"We best get back downstairs," Dale told him after a few moments, and Harry nodded, reluctantly pulling away from the pretty chicken to follow the lanky man back downstairs, where his parents pulled him into their arms in a tight hug, making Harry blink before he willingly pulled the two in tighter, burying his face in Dad's shoulder as he took a deep breath of his faint Old Spice scent.
"We've got to go, kiddo," Dad told him quietly as the two pulled back, Mom wiping at tears that were just beginning to show and, over her shoulder, Harry could see similar tears on Kendra's face as Seth determinedly looked away from them all, clutching his Trouble Box closely.
"Watch out for your brother, and take care of your sister," Mom told him sternly, voice wavering, and Harry gave them both a gentle smile and a playful salute.
"Yes, Ma'am!" He chirped, earned a watery laugh from Mom and a chuckle from Dad. He walked with them to the door, Kendra and Seth at his sides as they watched their parents climb into the SUV. Dad honked as they drove off and, as they disappeared into the trees, Harry silently slung his arms over Kendra and Seth's shoulders, dread coiling silently in his stomach.
I don't know why you're there, he thought at the dread as Kendra closed the door with a strangely fragile expression that had him reeling her into a comforting hug while their willful, oblivious brother darted away to begin examining the intricate pieces of a decorative chess set.
"Put that down, Seth," Harry called as Kendra pulled away, wiping her face of tears. Grandpa Sorenson stood in the entry hall, looking politely uncomfortable as his sharp cinnamon colored eyes watched Seth fiddle with ont of the pieces.
"They look expensive," Kendra managed as well, and Seth rolled his eyes, already setting the piece down.
"Oh, he's all right," Grandpa tried to wave off, but the relief on his face when the piece was safetly back on the bored was telling, and Harry couldn't help but send him a reassuring smile. "Shall I show you your room?" Grandpa offered; Seth eagerly nodded, bouncing over to join their Grandpa at the base of the stairs, while Kendra stuck close to Harry, taking comfort in his tall presence as he guided her over to them. Together, they went up the stairs and down that soon-to-be familiar carpeted hall, and through the white door at the end.
"We don't often get guests," Grandpa told them mildly as they walked. "Especially children. I think you'll be most comfortable in the attic." Harry inclined his head, and watched his sibling's faces, amused at the eager fascination on Seth's face, and the trepidation on Kendra's. No doubt his little sister was envisioning cobwebs and torture devices, strange young teen she was.
As they re-entered the room that would be theirs while their parents were away, Harry smiled as the very first thing Seth did was rush towards Goldilocks cage with a cry of "Cool!"
"Careful, Seth," Kendra warned as the twelve-year-old began to pet the chicken through the bars, much like Harry had done earlier.
"He's fine," Harry soothed the girl, Grandpa Sorenson nodding at him in agreement.
"Goldilocks is more of a house pet than a barnyard hen," he told them at large, nodding at the chicken. "Your Grandmother usually takes care of her. I figured you kids wouldn't mind filling in while she'd gone. You'll need to feed her, clean her cage, and collect her eggs."
"She lays eggs!" Seth all but squealed, looking astonished and delighted, and Harry rolled his eyes fondly.
"Well, she is a chicken, mud-for-brains!" He teased, and Seth glared at him for the nickname.
"Shut up, Lost Boy!" he snarked back sulkily, and Harry snorted, a mix of amusement at the name and irritation at the reminder of his little Zoo mishap (he apparently could never go to one without something happening). Grandpa Sorenson interrupted, voice just as calm and mild as Dad's was most of the time.
"She lay's an egg or two a day, if you keep her well fed," he told them, the last bit sounding almost sharp, and Harry mentally made a note to make sure that the pretty chicken was well cared for, by himself if nothing else. Grandpa Sorenson pointed at a white plastic bucket near the cage, full of kernels. "A scoop in the morning and another in the evening should take care of her," he told them firmly. "You'll want to change the lining of her cage every couple of days, and make sure she has plenty of water. Every morning, we give her a tiny bowl of milk," here, he winked, and Harry smiled slightly as the sharpness in Grandpa's eyes softened slightly. "That's the secret behind her egg production." If anything, Seth looked even more excited, and Harry wondered if he'd have to read the boy to sleep or if he'd crash like he was want to do as of late.
"Can we take her out?" The twelve-year-old asked pleadingly as the hen pressed closer to his hand so he could better stroke her feathers; Grandpa Sorenson wandered closer and crouched next to the boy, reaching his own finger through the bar to stroke Goldilocks' head tenderly.
"Just put her back afterwards," he told the boy, and winced as the seemingly docile hen turned her head and pecked him nastily, making him withdraw his finger, shaking it a little. "Never did like me much," he muttered, and Harry grinned slightly at that, joining the two at the cage as Kendra wandered away from him cautiously.
"Some of these toys look expensive," she announced, standing near an ornate Victorian dollhouse.
"Toys are meant to be played with," Grandpa told her simply. "Do your best to keep them in decent shape, and that will be good enough." At this, Seth finaly moved away from Goldilocks, and Harry didn't hesitate to slip his own fingers through the bars and gently scratch the hen's chest, earning a few pleased clucks from the pretty hen, as his brother moved directly over to a small pianoin the corner of the room. Harry winced slightly as Seth banged on the keys, though he noted that the notes that clanged sounded more like a harpsichord than a piano.
"Consider this room your space," Grandpa Sorenson told them all, nodding firmly, almost to himself. "Within reason, I'll not bother you to pick things up in here, so long as you treat the rest of the house with respect." Harry inclined his head, and moved to drag his bag over to the cot, giving his siblings the beds as the looked both more comfortable and shorter than the cot.
"Okay," Kendra said, verbally agreeing with their Grandpa.
"I also have some unfortunate news," Grandpa told them all. "We are in the height of tick season. You kids ever head of Lyme disease?" He asked, and Harry nodded while Seth shook his head and Kendra frowned.
"I think so," she told him; Grandpa Sorenson nodded calmly.
"It was originally discovered in the town of Lyme, Connecticut, not too far from here. You catch it from tick bites. The woods are full of ticks this year." Harry felt a flicker of foreboding, not at the idea of Lyme Disease, but at the emphasis on the woods being filled with ticks, not the area.
"What does it do?" Seth asked curiously; Grandpa Sorenson frowned, so Harry decided to answer.
"Lyme disease starts out as a rash around the area of the ticks bite," he told his brother, Kendra looking over and listening as well. "Before too long, victims of the disease start getting arthritis pains, and can develop paralysis. It can also lead to heart failure, and even death." At their horrified looks (though Seth also looked utterly fascinated, typical), Harry nodded, and Grandpa nodded back at him calmly.
"Besides, disease or no, you don't want ticks burrowing into your skin to drink your blood," the older man told them sternly. "You try and pull them off and the head detaches. Hard to get out." Harry winced at the mental image, and wondered just what Grandpa Sorenson was hiding out in the woods, because he seemed to be trying very hard to make them picture those woods with bad things.
"That's disgusting!" Kendra exclaimed, while Seth looked torn between agreeing and exclaiming over how 'cool' it would be, while Grandpa just nodded grimly.
"They're so small you can hardly see them, at least until they fill up on blood. Then they swell to the size of a grape. Anyhow, point is, you kids are not allowed to enter the woods under any circumstances. Stay on the lawn." He stared at them all sternly, especially eying Seth. "Breath that rule and your outdoor privileges will be revoked. We understand one another?" He asked, that sharpness back in his eyes, and Harry inclined his head in agreement, while Kendra and Seth nodded mutely.
"You also need to keep out of the barn," he told them. "Too many ladders and rusty old pieces of farm equipment. Same rules apply to the barn as apply to the woods. Set foot in there, and you will spend the rest of your stay in this room."
"Okay," Seth chirped, and Harry cast a narrow-eyed stare on his little brother, who was no doubt crossing his fingers over that, and watched the twelve-year-old cross the room to where a little easel stood on a paint-spattered tarp. Harry eyed it a little hopefully. He wasn't great at drawing or painting, but he enjoyed it immensely, as well as reading fiction books and wandering outside. A blank canvas rested on the easel, and more leaned against the wall nearby, beside shelves stocked with jars of paint.
"Can I paint?" Seth asked hopefully; Grandpa Sorenson blinked slightly.
"I'm telling you twice, you have the run of this room," he reminded the twelve-year-old, who grinned brightly. "Just try not to destroy it. I have many chores to attend to, so I may not be around much. There should be plenty of toys and hobbies here to keep you busy," he gestured vaguely around the expansive room, and Harry smiled fondly at him.
"What about a TV?" Seth demanded; Harry snorted and rolled his eyes.
"No TV or radio," Grandpa told the boy mildly, a bit of dry amusement curling his lips. "Rules of the house. If you need anything, Lena will never be far." He gestured at a hanging purple cord and Harry winced slightly at the idea of having to call the beautiful not-quite-human like a common servant. "Tug the cord if you need her. In fact, Lena will be up with your supper in a few minutes."
"Won't we eat together?" Kendra asked, and Harry was curious as well.
"Some days," Grandpa told them nodding slightly. "Right now, I need to visit the east hayfield. May not be back until late."
"If you ever need help around the grounds, please don't hesitate to ask," Harry told the older man honesty, smiling at the considering look he got. "I go stir crazy with nothing but free time." Grandpa Sorenson nodded calmly, and Harry left it at that, wandering over to the piano Seth had so quickly abandoned earlier.
"How much land do you own? Seth asked, and Grandpa Sorenson smiled faintly at him.
"More than my share," he replied cryptically. "Let's leave it at that. I'll see you kids in the morning." With a final nod, he turned to leave, before pausing, reaching into his coat pocket, and Harry felt himself stiffening slightly, watching their grandfather with slightly-narrowed bottle-green eyes. Turning back, Grandpa Sorenson pulled a tiny key ring holding three miniature keys of varying sizes, and handed it to Kendra, who was closest.
"Each of these keys fits something in this room. See if you can figure out what each unlocks," he suggested with a mild smile, before walking out and closing the door behind him. Harry slowly relaxed again, breathing out slowly and giving his sister a fond smile as he watched her wait until she couldn't hear their Grandpa anymore, before testing the door to make sure they weren't locked in, just like they'd always practiced whenever she decided to play pretend with him when they were younger (of course, the fact that he had been teaching her such little bits or paranoia and caution just in case she ever got kidnapped by a predator or something else, was just a little bit over the top but, well, Constant Vigilance!). As she closed the door again, looking mildly relieved, Seth opened a toy box and began rooting around in it.
Old-fashioned soldiers, dolls, puzzles, stuffed animals, and wooden blocks were within, and he examined them all curiously. Harry began to gently tap out a tune on the piano, nothing fancy, just a played-by-ear tune that sounded vaguely like something he was sure he'd heard on the radio before, while Kendra wandered over to a telescope by the window, peering into the eyepiece, fiddling with the focus knobs. After a few moments, she pulled back and stepped around it, examining the glass, before reaching forward and unlatching it. She gently pushed the window open, and looked outside, while Harry watched her with a fond smile. She moved the telescope closer to the window, and just contented herself for several moments, just fiddling with the knobs and examining the outside world.
"Let me see," Seth demanded as he finally got bored and joined her at the window.
"Pick up the toys first," she told him, and Harry nodded approvingly as he eyed the mess of toys the twelve-year-old left on the floor.
"Grandpa said we can do what we want in here," Seth whined.
"Without making it a disaster. You're already wrecking the place," Kendra replied tartly, and Harry bit back an annoyed sigh.
"Children," he muttered to himself, rolling his eyes as Seth retorted.
"I'm playing," the twelve-year-old told Kendra. "This is a playroom."
"Remember how Mom and Dad said we need to pick up after ourselves?" The girl prodded, annoyed.
"Remember how Mom and Dad aren't here?" Seth taunted back.
"I'll tell," the thirteen-year-old responded with the age-old threat of all siblings; Harry rolled his eyes and stood up from the piano, wandering over to Goldilocks, neatly undoing the latch and gently pulling the chicken out, sitting on the floor so he could cradle her in his lap.
"How?" Seth demanded mockingly, rolling his eyes. "Stick a note in a bottle? You won't even remember by the time they get back!" Kendra glanced around the room, and spotted a calendar.
"I'll write it on the calendar," she told her younger brother, who snorted.
"Good," he told her smugly. "And I'll look through the telescope while you do that." Kendra made a frustrated noise, while Harry just contented himself with stroking Goldilocks' soft, pretty feathers, cooing at the hen while she clucked contentedly, and the two of them listened to his silly siblings bicker, forgetting Harry was even there in their battle of wills.
"This is the one thing in the room I was doing," Kendra complained, scowling at Seth. "Why don't you find something else?" Seth crossed his arms over his chest.
"I didn't notice the telescope," he argued stubbornly. "Why don't you share? Don't Mom and Dad also tell us to share?" He taunted, and Kendra threw her arms up in the air, frustrated, before something calculating flashed in those blue orbs, and she wrinkled her nose at Seth pointedly.
"Fine," she told him. "It's all yours. But I'm closing the window," she told him, moving towards it, and Harry smirked faintly, amused. "Bugs are coming in."
Clever girl, he thought approvingly as Seth rolled his eyes, even as he smirked smugly, having gotten his way.
"Whatever," he told her; Kendra closed the window and stepped away, and Harry winked at her as they watched Seth eagerly peering through the eyepiece and start twisting the focus knobs, while Kendra pointedly wandered over to the calendar and flicking through the months to June. It was June eleventh today, but Harry doubted the days of the week matched, considering how old the calendar was.
Just then, Seth huffed, finally frustrated by the poor view out of the telescope, most likely caused by the bubble-window morphing the images before they could reach the telescope.
"This stupid thing won't even focus," he complained, stomping away from it moodily.
Kendra smiled, and Harry shook his head and continued to stroke Goldilocks' lovely feathers, smiling.
It was a good start, despite the continued thrum of dread in his stomach that seemed to whisper to him.
A good day…
A/N: Most of the descriptions in this are my own, because the Fablehaven author, Brandon Mull, put as little description into his human characters as possible in order for the reader to better relate to them, so most of the descriptions of cannon characters are my own, including personalities.