At the New Zealand Academy of Magic, it was common for students to live in their campus halls on school days and go home over the weekends. Most of them came from the island or Oz itself, so it was an easy trip. The older students could pop over the Floo while younguns always got picked up by a parent, which also made for a great opp for parents to chat up and check in with each other in the foyer before slapping a palm down on the secretary’s enchanted tablet at the door and heading out with their kid in tow.
He normally showed up alone at sixteen-hundred and got to chatting with a few of the other parents while he waited for Paige. Today though, it was only half fifteen on a Friday afternoon and Cooper Blair was sitting with his wife in NZAM’s administrative office, which was a significant departure from the norm.
He and May were both still in work clothes - hers a bit more formal than his gator-patterned button-down and khakis. His very Muggle wife was very pointedly trying not to stare at the spinning weather dials on the ceiling or the bright green parrot with an eyepatch on the open windowsill. Cooper, for his part, was more distracted by the fact he was sitting in what felt like the exact same wooden chair from his teenaged years.
“Paige is a bright student, but she’s been increasingly interruptive,” Principal Baker was saying, and while Cooper was taking in her words on a surface level he was also trying to remind his dumb brain that being in the principal’s office wasn’t about him this time. Never mind that the woman behind the desk wasn’t the same as the older man who reigned over his time in school; never mind that he was twice the age from the last time he’d sat here. His body remembered this chair. Tactile memory trumped current circumstance. Even if current circumstance was all about his wildin’ daughter.
He snapped back in time to catch: “second time this week.”
“Don’t the Year Twos only have their core mods three times a week?” May questioned.
“Yes, so the fact we had to replace two cauldrons is impressive,” Principal Baker noted in a tone that could almost be called wry, if it wasn’t immediately followed by an apologetic, “We’ll have to bill you.”
Cooper exchanged a look with May and nodded. Cauldrons weren’t cheap, but they could afford it, not that they really had a choice. “Of course.”
“Several of the teachers have expressed concerns about Paige,” the principal continued, folding her hands on the desk. “On top of actively disobeying instructions in Potions, she repeatedly pesters her seatmates and throws biros during class. When asked to stop, she consistently says she didn’t mean it and apologizes, but keeps on. As I’ve explained before, some acting out is expected from students, but we don’t tolerate prolonged issues.”
The last time Principal Baker had met with them, it was standing in the foyer with Paige clinging to his arm as she explained the detentions listed on her midterm report card. She was an excitable kid and could be a bit twitchy around the house, but Cooper couldn’t piece together how she could be so much worse at school, and expressed this. “She’s always fine at home, more or less,” he part-explained, part-insisted, not liking the disbelieving expression that the principal wore. “Maybe she’s just throwing a wee wobble?” he theorized hopefully, glancing to May. “You know she’s never happy being left behind when Joey goes off, and it’s only been a couple months.”
May sighed, raking her fingers through straight black hair. “Coop,” she addressed in a lower tone, turning away from the desk to face him, “you know as well as I do she’s always had outbursts. I thought it was best to keep her close, but… maybe we need to give in.”
“You want to send her off to America?”
“She’s best at home, and better with Joey,” she pointed out. “If she’s acting worse now, maybe that’s a sign we made the wrong call.”
Oh, that didn’t sit well with him. Cooper had never liked that their kids were at school on different continents; he’d gone through all his schooling years right beside Estelle and Noah. May and her sister, on the other hand, had gone to separate schools and been fine, so when she suggested that Joey go to Estelle’s school and Paige stay home, he’d agreed. Their daughter had been troublesome at the time and it made sense for them to work on it with her. With May’s support, he was enough of a man to admit that maybe their efforts weren’t working and they might’ve been in the wrong - but he was also enough of a man to dislike every part of admitting that.
May reached over to take his hand. He exhaled through his nose and nodded to her. He’d never had much of a poker face.
Principal Baker, meanwhile, had a well-practiced poker face, and had kept a politely neutral expression as the private conversation played out in front of her. She was far too professional to share her thoughts that literally any other school would be a better place for Paige Blair. However, now that they seemed to have reached some consensus, she interjected politely. “Keeping siblings together has been shown to improve academic performance, as well.” She rustled a few documents on her desk before sliding one over to the couple, ineffectively disguising that it had been at the forefront of her mind. “Some information, if you’d like to look into transferring Paige to Rocky Mountain. As both schools are in the IWCE, transfers are a simple process; some paperwork on our end, but nothing we wouldn’t be happy to do to support your daughter.”
May picked it up while Cooper raised a question. “Won’t it be disruptive, transferring this time of year?”
“With the differences in scheduling, there’s never a perfect time.” Like all schools in the western hemisphere, NZAM’s academic year ran from February to November, while RMI’s followed the American calendar of September to July. “But,” the principal continued, “I think this works very well. She’ll have finished her second year, and with her still being twelve, Rocky Mountain would require her to remain in second year. Repeating class topics will mean a smoother transition, and let her focus more on the social adjustment.”
“Mhm,” Cooper hummed, affirmative but hesitantly noncommittal. He exchanged another look with May and read a proposal in her dark eyes that he shared. “Can we take a couple weeks, think it over?”
“Of course. We’ll just need to know by early December to file the transfer request.”
Shortly thereafter, the couple was winding down the staircase, May’s hand warm in his. He could already hear the distant noise of the foyer ahead and intentionally stopped them in front of a display case, holding an extra bit of time before facing what would surely be some very curious parents watching them come out of the administrative section. “Lots to think on,” he commented.
May gave the three Māori ceramics - one for each student hall - a cursory glance before taking another step down. “Let’s just go get her and have a quiet night. We can think later.”
“Right.” Eyes lingering on the decorative Huia Hall vase for a moment, he let her pull him down the stairs. “Well, if we end up thinking yes, we’d better send her off with a warning tag.”
“I’m joking.” He tried to grin, humour being the best fix in a rough spot, although this particular one was proving difficult. “At least half joking. No less than a third.”