The only thing she said on the subject before the end of school was, "And my parents can explain a bit more about it. They will have some very important things to say on the matter, in fact."
She sounded very neutral but, having known her for a long time, Matt could sense a hint of gravity in what she said. Or at least, he felt it was subtle.
He waited by the main gate after school. Mr Brennan, the somewhat portly English teacher, paced around in a high-vis jacket as the rest of students passed through the gates.
Matt turned to see his friends Alex and Joe.
"We're heading into town," said Alex. "Want to come with?"
"Can't I'm afraid. I'm going to Sarah's today."
"Oooh." Alex and Joe looked at each other and shared a conspiratorial smirk. "I see how it is."
Then Matt realised that these two didn't really know how close his and Sarah's family were, and than they had been going to each other's houses regularly since they were kids. It just didn't often happen after school. He'd normally go off with these two and a bunch or others.
"We knew it."
"Knew what?" Matt tried to sound neutral, which he realised only made him seem more suspicious.
"We noticed you two talking to each other every now and then. Noticed you flirting."
"What do you know about talking to girls?" said Matt.
"Not much, not much," Alex said, still grinning. "I mean, compared to you."
"You're an idiot." Matt couldn't help but grin.
"Only messing man. I'll see you around. Have...fun."
He waved them off and continued the wait.
The number of students passing through thinned. Eventually Mr Brennan even left and Matt was still standing there, around 10 minutes or so after the last bell.
Matt was about to go back in the school but then Sarah emerged, half-running up the driveway to where he was.
"Sorry about the wait," she said. "Ms Walker talks a lot."
Matt laughed. "Maybe you should stop indulging them, teacher's pet."
"Hey. It's not my fault they like me. I guess I'm just a very likeable person."
"Totally. So...are we heading off or what?"
"Hmm? Oh. I guess I forgot to say. My father's going to pick us up."
"Thank. God. I'm tired. Make me a coffee when we get to yours."
"I'll get mother to do it." said Sarah. "I didn't realise nodding off in class was that tiring."
"It baffles me also."
"Just wait until you have to do hero work." Sarah turned to him with a wink. Then she frowned, as if remembering herself.
"Stop it," said Matt. "I don't like it when you frown."
"I just remembered how dangerous things are going to be now."
"I know. I wish you would trust me a bit more. You know, I might be secretly competent."
"I'm sorry. You're right. You're a lot calmer about this than I was, even before I learned a bit more about the situation. You're probably going to be better than me at this. I think, I know it. I know you're going to be really good."
"Wow," said Matt. "That was a quick change of tune."
"That's my father."
A moment later the black car pulled up. Matt could not say what make it was for the life of him, but recognized it from previous journeys with Sarah's family.
Sarah's father Percy promptly got out.
"Matt," he said, smiling warmly. "So good to see you."
Matt remembered not thinking Sarah's father suited his name. 'Percy' conjured up the image of someone scrawnier, gentler. Not that he was mean - far from it. He was one of the nicest people Matt knew. But there was an undeniable strength about him. An aura. And it wasn't just because he was well-built and dressed, and had a strong narrator-like voice. Handsome, with streaks of grey in his hair.
His wife, too, was like that. Beautiful and strong. And putting the pieces together from what Sarah said earlier, it suddenly made sense.
"Sarah told me about what happened," Percy went on. "I'm sorry I wasn't there to help, but I'm glad you were able to handle it on your own."
"Uh, it's alright," said Matt. "You were at work an' all."
"He was amazing, dad," said Sarah. "I couldn't have done it without him."
"It seems like quite the auspicious beginning," said Percy with a smile. "Now kids, get in."
* * * * * * * * * *
Their house on Ashfax Avenue was, to outsiders at least, surprisingly modest in size, and quaint in its design. Percy Hargate and his wife Alicia Hargate were high-ranking civil servants and obviously earned well, but the muted and traditional look of their home suited their personalities. Bookish, scholarly. Sociable, but also aloof in their own way. There was a shed in the garden which Percy was said to retire to on occasion, to work on his notes or on his books.
The kids sat on the couch next to each other, while Percy sat in the armchair by the fireplace. No-sleeve sweater over a white shirt and tie, smoking a pipe. Longish hair ruffled very slightly.
"Where's mother?" said Sarah.
"Kept behind at work," said Percy, and then turned to Matt with a wink. "Fighting warlocks."
Matt's eyes lit up.
"Ha ha," said Sarah dryly. "Old in-joke, Matt..."
She couldn't help but grin anyway, though, and Percy quietly laughed. Matt felt stupid for a brief moment.
"Fortunately," said Percy, "it's a bit more mundane work. Diplomatic. Stemming the flow of clans going from the Community and joining the Shroud."
"It's so stupid," said Sarah. "Do they really believe they have something to gain?"
"Now now. These are the people we're trying to protect, even if they are ditching our side. We must never forget that. We have to respect their decision and try to win them back. Even if they are wrong. It's the same in the non-magical world."
Sarah looked at Matt askance. "Everyone says my father is way too cautious and hands-off."
"Nonsense," said Percy. "There are plenty of people in the government who are hands-on and reckless enough to cancel out my disposition. Like your mother." He took a puff. "Wait, that came out a little wrong."
"I'm telling her you said that," said Sarah.
Despite them talking very casually about the magical world Matt was only just learning about, he was used to interactions like this by now.
"I didn't know you worked as part of the government," said Matt.
"Indeed," said Percy, "and hopefully that will stay the case for all the people who have no reason to have knowledge of...'the magical world'. People who have no practical magical ability, and whose attempts to grasp this world would only complicate matters. Perhaps start a war - one they would not win. Alicia and I are part of a governmental department that deals with this world. And yes, of course, it's a secret from the Prime Minister, who is non-magical. So don't tell him."
"I don't understand," said Matt. "Why do you need to be part of our government exactly?"
"You ask the right questions, Matt. You are more perceptive than you look..."
"Father," said Sarah. "You're doing that thing again where you accidentally insult someone."
"How did he insult me though?" said Matt.
Sarah paused for a moment. "Forget I said anything."
"Anyway," said Percy. "Good question. You see, and now don't get alarmed, but we have been influencing the government behind the scenes. Pulling strings. But only merely as a matter of keeping the knowledge of magic secure. For example, avoiding certain building sites that hold a portal to another place. We do not aim to go further than that and respect the right of non-magical people to govern themselves. There are departments like ours all over the world, magical governments in secret working together to keep our worlds separate, and of course to uphold peace and work on policies that only concern ourselves."
Matt listened in awe as the fire crackled in the background and Percy took another puff of his pipe. Sarah sat patiently waiting, obviously already knowing all this.
"So," said Matt. "I'm magical now."
"That is correct."
"You absorbed the red crystal. One of the few crystals of power, also known as the Tricks. The original sources of magic."
"So that's where it went. I absorbed it. I thought it was destroyed when I touched it."
"It was merely disposing of its unnecessary physical form."
"Then why does Sarah still have hers?"
"Because it is necessary. Her ability works differently from yours. She only has to draw from its power when she needs to. Once that is done, the power needs a physical form to return to. Whereas your power is always with you. It will become clear why later. Now, I believe you have another question nagging away at you. And that is: why you?"
"It is a solemn story," said Percy. "Listen carefully."