Before they knew it, Fred and George's feet were landing on the ground. Their feet made contact with the sound of crunching gravel. The gasped as they looked out at the scene laid out before them. It was unlike anything they had ever seen. Laid out before them was nature that seemed to be in perfect harmony. The hills rolled on as far as the eye could see. The grass was the perfect shade of green and the tree reached up to the sky, various hues of green mixed together to make the perfect scene. It was as if they had stepped into a painting, a painting of the most beautiful country scene. They looked more closely around themselves and realized they were standing on a gravel drive and weren't too for away from a stately looking house. They walked up the drive, the gravel crunching under their feet, the sun beating down on them. They realized how hot it was, it was almost sweltering. As they approached the house, they realized how massive it was. The perimeter was surrounded by hedgerow and the only opening was a tall wrought iron gate. The gate was closed and most likely locked. Fred and George exchanged looks. Now what?
"State your name and business." The voice seemed to come out of no where.
"Err... what was that?" asked Fred.
"Fancy showing where you're at mate?" Asked George. There was a giggle from the direction of first voice.
"Sorry about that. I'll be right down." This voice was different than the first, this one sounded as if it belonged to a young boy. Before too long they heard a whistle form somewhere beyond the hedgerow, then a young boy popped around the corner and caused Fred and George to jump back in surprise. At first they though Draco Malfoy himself had jumped out from behind the hedge, but then they realized this boy was too young to be Malfoy; he could only be 12 or 13. And his face looked far too friendly and he had a very welcoming smile.
"Sorry," the boy laughed, "we forgot to tell Harrison, our butler, to open the gate." The boy laughed again and rang a bell hidden on one of the bushes. The gates opened themselves and Fred and George cautiously walked in. "Wow, they weren't kidding, you are identical!" The boy exclaimed. To Fred and George's relief, the more the boy talked, the less he reminded them of Malfoy.
"I'm Fred, and this is George." Began Fred, but the boy cut him off,
"Ohh I wouldn't bother, I'll never be able to tell you apart. Just wait for Thalia, she already knows who is who."
"Come again?" Asked George, "How can already know us, we haven't met her."
"Thalia is, uhhh, she's different. You'll see." He said with a wink.
"You haven't told us your name," interjected Fred.
"Oh duh, I'm Alexander. But don't call me Alex, you can just call me Xander." They continued to make their way up to the house, Xander whistling and kicking rocks, totally at ease. As they got closer, they realized just how big the house was, it was a huge estate, most likely had three floors and an attic. It was a simple white with a red roof and pillars in the front. There was a huge wrap around porch. The front had a set of extravagant double doors and three widows on either side of the door. They had never seen, let alone been in a house this huge or stately. It looked like a house the Malfoys might live in. This was even more strange than they had thought. This family had a son who could easily have been Draco's younger brother, they lived in a huge, expensive mansion, what kind of family were they expected to stay with and how had Thalia already known them?
When they reached the house, instead of going in the front door, Xander took a quick detour and headed down a path partially obscured by a low growing shrub. They walked to the back of the house only to find themselves in a huge back yard. They could have easily fit the whole Burrow including the apple orchard and still have extra room just in one yard. Their eyes could barely make out the far end of the yard, only to see it was flanked by trees. Too the very right of the house, one could barely make out the side of a big red barn. Xander looked back to see Fred and George looking around with wonder.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" He asked with wonder, "That's the thing about living here in upstate New York, no matter how long you've lived here, everyday that you look at the land around you will always find something new and breathtaking. Every time that you take to admire it here is awe inspiring. Wizard or not, this land has its own magic. Its ancient, yet it stands, untouched by man, lasting against the test of time."
"Have you ever considered a career in advertising?" Asked George with a laugh. Xander seemed to be snapped out of his reverie and laughed, laughed like it was the funniest thing he had ever heard.
"Advertising? That's hilarious! I can't wait to tell Thalia how funny you two are!" He lead the way to the back door, which was simple and much less extravagant than the rest of the house. They entered the house and to Fred and George's excitement, the house was nothing like what they would expect from the Malfoys.
They entered the house into a warm dinning room, with a hard wood floor and walls decorated in plain off white wall paper. To the left was a fire place that was empty, as it was summer time. In the middle of the room was a massive, oval dinning table, polished to perfection. Two people were seated at the table, a man and a woman. Presumably Mr and Mrs Mannaro. The man was wearing a white button up shirt with a simple red tie, his suit jacket tossed over the side of the chair. The boy was clearly a spitting image of his father, for his father too looked like he could be a close relative of the Malfoys. Except instead of the pale, gray eyes of the Malfoys, the father and son had bright eyes, the color of the ocean on a sunny day. The man looked up and smiled a dazzling smile.
"Ahh, You must be Fred and George." He said as he got up form the table and extended his had to the twins. He shook their hands and continued, "I"m senator Charles Mannaro. And this is my wife, Helen."
"Senator?" Asked George.
"Yes, senator." Said Mr. Mannaro. "You see our government is little different here. Instead of having a Minister of Magic, we have a Congress of Magic that runs the magical society. It's roughly based on the government of the muggles here, except we don't have a president like the muggles do."
"Dad, where's Thalia?" Xander piped in, joining his mother at the table. A grim look briefly flashed across the senator's face.
"Oh yes of course." He said, regaining his composure, "She's upstairs right now, getting to know a new nurse. You met our usual nurse, Junias, but as she is on leave we've had to hire a temporary."
"or twenty." Shot Xander.
"That's enough." Scolded his mother. Fred and George exchanged a look, the scolding tone of a mother was something they were all too familiar with.
Their reminiscing was interrupted by a raucous upstairs. There was the sound of two voices shouting and the faint sound of glass smashing. Soon the whole atmosphere changed. The once warm and welcoming dinning room soon became cold and tense. There was the sound of heavy footfalls on the hall above them and more shouting. This time more defined.
".....No. NO. NO! No amount of pay is worth this!"
"I SAID GET OUT!!! WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?!" This voice was more shrill and much, much more angry. There was a shrill scream and more smashing. Soon the sound of very fast and sloppy footsteps could be heard on the steps.
"Xander," Said Mrs. Mannaro in a forced calm, "Go make sure she doesn't fall this time." Xander got up looking grim and headed out of the room. There was a a crash in the next room and Xander came in, helping a middle aged women into a chair. Her breath was in gasps and she barely managed to get out any words.
"....That girl.....is the...devil......I..quit.....not worth....the trouble." There was the sound of someone angrily running down the stairs and Mr. Mannaro turned to Fred and George. He seemed to be counting down on his fingers. He was one two when he said.
"I would duck, if I were you two."
"What?" But no one had time to answer. Fred and George just had time to jump out of the way when a vase came flying through the room, crossed across right where they had been standing and smashed unto the table right where the nurse had been resting her head. But the nurse had apparated away and was long gone.
"Well, Thalia, that's a new record. Three nurses in two days. I'm impressed." Her father said with a laugh, clearly trying to diffuse the situation.
"Is, is s-she gone?" Came a meek voice from the other room. It was hard to believe that just seconds ago that same voice was the shrill, enraged voice.
"Yes, she's gone. Come meet Fred and George." It took a few moments, but Thalia soon joined her family in the dining room. When she entered the room, she couldn't have been any different from her family, while they were clean cut, and proper looking, she looked more like she would more easily belong at a rock concert. She had the same blonde hair as her family, but instead of the neat, and perfectly curled hair like her mother, Thalia's hair was cropped short and various lengths that fell around her chin. And had one black streak amid her bangs. Her lip was pierced three times on the left side, she wore ripped, faded jeans, and an old T-shirt with some muggle band on it. She had the same eyes as her father and brother: sea blue, but hers were a but different, they seemed more distant, it was almost as if there was a hint of fog. She looked directly at Fred and addressed him correctly and then did the same with George. She was about to turn and leave the room when she stopped dead in her tracks.
"Wait." And she turned back to George. "Wait, something is different." She peered more closely at George, as if something about him stumped her. She looked at him appraisingly. "You changed your shirt."