Valorie rushed home. She ran straight up to the computer room, where her father was still asleep. The tea she’d left him had gone cold, so she moved it out of the room, leaving it on the banister.
Rushing back to the computer, she stood in front of it, frantic, not knowing what to do.
The computer was on. She reached her Thoughts.com group, ‘Wizards United.’ She changed the description, being careful to lean around her father, so as not to wake him up.
Wizards of the world! We call upon you more urgently than before to join this group! Charley Aether, a respected and brilliant Wizarding teacher has been captured by the Government for reasons not yet understood. I myself talked to Derek Williams, Head of the department of Magical Management, who told me that they are holding Charley Aether for questioning and may not return him for several days.
We must take a stand! Join this group! In the not-too-distant future, I see all Wizards banding together to fight the forces of the Government, so please show your support. Together, we can save Charley Aether!
P.S. THIS GROUP IS NOW MORTAL PROOF. NO MORTALS CAN VIEW THIS GROUP.
Valorie finished typing, feeling a little better, but holding out little hope that this would make any difference.
She checked her watch. Mum was at university today. She’d be home in about half an hour. Time enough to call Eddie and tell her what was happening.
She dialled the number. Eddie phone was off, so she had to leave a message. As soon as she hung up, her father woke up.
‘Oh, my God,’ he said, lifting his head from the desk. ‘My head… did it work?’
‘Yes,’ Valorie said. ‘Yes, it did. Well done Dad. Thank you.’
‘Oh dear.’ He clutched his forehead. ‘You don’t look very happy.’
‘I’m fine Dad, really. You should get another snooze, you look really tired.’
Mr Morse got up.
‘I think I will. Not in here though, that desk isn’t very comfy. I’m going to bed.
Valorie’s mother showed up at around six o’clock. By then, Valorie already had the dinner started – broccoli and Stilton soup.
‘Oh, you are a good girl,’ her mother said hugging her. ‘I’ve been so tired and stressed lately, I don’t think I could have cooked dinner.’
‘Mmmmm.’ Valorie continued to stir the soup. The chunks of broccoli were getting softer. Soon it would be time to empty in the cheese. ‘So how was your day, Mum?’
‘Exhausting,’ she said, laying her bags down on the dining room table. ‘I’ve been in a lecture all day, listening to some boring old tutor talk to me about company law. And I’ve got an exam tomorrow, so I was wondering if you’d come and help me revise.’
‘I don’t know anything about law,’ Valorie replied.
‘I just need you to read some stuff back to me while I take notes, and maybe test me on some stuff. You don’t mind helping, do you?’
Valorie set the hob to its lowest setting and left the soup alone for a minute. ‘Actually Mum, I’ve had a really busy day. I’d like to go to bed after dinner, if that’s alright.’
To her surprise, her mother dropped her keys on the table, and held her head in her hands.
‘Please, Valorie. You have to help me. I’m tired, I’m unwell, and I can’t pay attention to that doddery old fool in my lectures. I really really need your help.’
‘I’m tired as well, Mum. And Dad, too. You should see Dad, he’s shattered.’
Mrs Morse snorted with laughter.
‘Ha! Your father’s never been tired in his life. He’s probably got man-flu or something. Yeah, that’s it. He’s had man-flu plenty of times before when I’ve needed his help.’
Mrs Morse stomped out of the room to hang up her coat. ‘He’s just a LAZY GIT!’
Valorie fought back the lump in her throat. She started to bite her nails.
‘OK, Mum, I’m sorry. I’ll help you revise.’
Mrs Morse went upstairs, probably to check on her father.
Valorie went to check the soup again. The broccoli still had to soften. She reached into the drawer to the left to get the hand-held liquidiser.
‘The memorandum of a company is primarily concerned with the regulation of and outward appearance of the company in respect of its dealings with third parties. Section 3, CA 1985 empowers the Secretary of State to, er, specify…’
Valorie paused. Her mother looked up from the other end of the bed, a notebook in her lap. Her father was quietly dozing to her mother’s right.
‘How do you pronounce that?’ Valorie said, pointing the word out.
‘Yeah. Er… to specify by statutory instrument the standard form of memorandum to be adopted by a company.’
They’d been doing this for half an hour. Occasionally Valorie would read out to her mum. Occasionally, her mum would seize the book herself and pull bizarre faces as she tried to absorb the information. Occasionally, her mum would read a bit of the text back to Valorie, and she would check the book to see if she’d remembered it right.
‘OK, let’s go over that bit about compulsory clauses again,’ Mrs Morse said, and Valorie skimmed down to the right sub-heading on the page.
‘Section 2, CA 1985 provides that… the memorandum of a company… er… limited by shares…’
‘That’s right so far.’
‘’Limited by shares must… have certain clauses… thingy… Oh, dammit!’
Mrs Morse threw down her notebook. Valorie jumped.
‘I’m never going to remember all this! Urgh, why did I take this stupid course in the first place?’
Valorie didn’t really know what to do for the best.
‘Er… why don’t we go over that first bit again, Mum? You’re good at that bit.’
‘What bloody difference does it make if I’m good at that bit? Going over it again… I need to learn all this by tomorrow and I don’t know anything! Gaaaaaargh!’
Mrs Morse, suddenly fed up, stormed out of the room to the bathroom. The door slammed, and she heard sobbing noises. Mr Morse stirred a little, rolled over, and went back to sleep.
Valorie sagged, looking over the reams of text. It did seem hopeless.
She knew she should have run to the bathroom door, said to her mother that it was going to be OK, said that she’d stay up all night to help her study if she wanted.
But Valorie was just too tired. She needed sleep. She needed to go into her room and curl up in a ball and try to think of a plan to get Charley back. Everything was in a muddle now. Valorie felt so confused, all the time…
Quietly, she got off the bed, walked to her bedroom, and shut the door. It was going to be a difficult night for everyone, she thought.