Chapter 4 : A Barbecue at the Burrow.
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The following weeks passed quickly and soon there were less than two weeks of the holidays left.
Hugo seemed more disappointed than Rose was.
“It’ll be so boring once you go back to school,” he complained.
“Your classes with Grandma will start back again too,” she reminded him. “And you’ll have Lily and Fred for company.”
“Only for this year. Then Lily’ll go away to Hogwarts too and I’ll be left with Fred.” He curled his lip. To Lily and Hugo, six year old Fred was the ultimate in uncool.
“Only for a year,” she reminded him. “Then you’ll be coming to Hogwarts too.”
“But it’s not fair. Lily’s only a couple of months older than me. Why should she get to go a whole year before I do.”
Rose felt sorry for him. She’d hate it if she and Albus were in different years for want of a few weeks. “You know how it works. You have to be eleven by the first of September.”
“Two bloody weeks,” he said miserably. “That’s all. If I was just two weeks older, I could start next year.”
“I know.” She sighed. “But I suppose they have to put the cut-off point somewhere. And there’s no point in worrying about it until next year anyway.”
“I suppose.” He kicked an imaginary point on the carpet. “Tell me about Hogwarts again.”
“It’s hard work sometimes. It’s not all fun, you know. We have classes just as you do.”
“But classes in magic. We’re stuck learning stupid stuff like our multiplication tables.”
“It’s not all that different sometimes.” She laughed. “And believe me, Grandma is a lot more interesting than Binns. But yes, we have a lot of fun too.”
She told him about the Hallowe’en feast and how Blackburn’d turned their books into bats earlier in the day.
He laughed. “Did she teach you how to do that? I’d love to turn our books into bats when we’re having classes with Grandma!”
“No, she didn’t! And you’re not allowed do magic anyway!”
“I wish I went to a Muggle school.” He grinned. “Imagine the fun you could have.”
“No, you couldn’t,” she said sharply. “Whatever about underage magic, you can’t risk breaking the Statute of Secrecy. You know that.”
“Grandpa says Muggles never notice. He says you can do magic right in front of them, practically, and they won’t believe it. They’ll just think you’re fooling them somehow or that they imagined it or something. Wouldn’t it be great to have a teacher who’d think she was imagining it whenever you did anything wrong?”
“You can’t just take risks like that!”
She calmed down. He’d never get the opportunity anyway. It was why so many young witches and wizards were homeschooled. Primary school aged children couldn’t always be trusted to keep their powers secret, let alone other aspects of their lives, such as the toys they owned, the holidays they took, even some of the words they used.
Rose knew their mother’d wanted to send them to school. She’d wanted them to interact with young Muggles. But in the end, she’d been persuaded it was too dangerous and had agreed to have first Rose and then Hugo join James, Albus and eventually Lily for classes with their grandmother.
Rose supposed it was the right decision really, but she’d have liked the opportunity to get to know Muggle children her age. When they visited her mother’s parents, they’d sometimes played with Muggle children in the area, but it wasn’t the same as seeing them every day in school.
She grinned. Albus had been so excited to visit the Muggle world. He’d had even less chances to interact with Muggles than she had, having virtually no Muggle relations. His dad had been raised by Muggles, of course, but they definitely weren’t what anybody would call close. She didn’t think Albus had ever met them.
She wondered if Derek was just as excited to be spending the last week of the holidays with a wizarding family.
It began to look as if she might find out when an owl arrived from Grandpa Weasley, inviting the family to a barbecue the Wednesday before they returned to school.
“Oh dear.” Rose’s father began to laugh. “Dad barbecuing. This can only end in disaster.”
“Can we go?” Hugo jumped up and down.
“I don’t think I can,” their father said. “I’m working tomorrow. I’ll try and call over before it ends, but I can’t promise anything. You’d better go though, Hermione. Knowing Dad, he’ll try Muggle barbecuing and you’re the only person in this family with a Muggle background. Well, except Harry and I doubt he’ll be able to make it either.”
Their mother laughed. “I’ll drop the kids over and make sure he doesn’t set fire to the house or anything, but I do have to work too, you know. I’ll have to get back to the Ministry pretty quickly.”
“Yay,” Hugo cheered. “We’re going.”
As their father’d predicted, Grandpa Weasley was trying to set up the barbecue Muggle style.
“Oh for Heaven’s sake, Arthur, would you just use magic.” Grandma Weasley sounded exasperated. “Hermione, you tell him.”
“Ah, Hermione, you’ll be able to help me here, won’t you.”
“I’m afraid I think Mrs. Weasley is right, Mr. Weasley. It really would be easier with magic.”
“But where’s the fun in that? Come on, give me a hand.”
“I would, but I really should get back to the Ministry. I’ve given up my lunch hour to drop this pair off.”
“And there won’t be much fun if you set fire to the place,” Grandma Weasley said.
“Welcome to my family.”
Glancing around to see who’d spoken, Rose saw Aunt Ginny, James, Albus, Lily and Derek.
“Um, I could help, Mr. Weasley,” Derek said tentatively.
Grandpa Weasley swung around. “Ah, you must be Derek, Albus’s Muggleborn friend. Tell me, Derek, how do Muggles get these things started?”
Derek went over to help him and Rose and Albus collapsed down on the grass.
“Imagine,” said Rose, “this time next week we’ll be back at Hogwarts.”
Albus groaned. “Don’t remind me.”
“You’re not looking forward to it?”
He shrugged. “It just feels like we’re hardly home. It’s not that I’m not looking forward to it, but I’d just like to just enjoy the holidays without thinking about it for a while. I really don’t want them to end.”
“I think I’m ready for them to, actually, but I guess it’s different for you. I mean, since you have Derek staying with you and all. What does he make of the wizarding world anyway?”
“He’s been living in it since September,” he reminded her.
“Well, yeah, but Hogwarts isn’t quite the same as being exposed to the whole Potter/Weasley family, now, is it?”
“I suppose not.” He glanced up. “I hope Grandpa isn’t driving him crazy.”
“They’ll be fine. What have you been doing?”
He smiled. “We went to a Quidditch match the other day. A professional one, I mean. Mum was reporting on it and she took us with her. Hey, did I tell you Muggles can play all these sports in their own living rooms with this computer typed thing? It’s called a ‘we’, I think. Something like that.”
“Never heard of it.” She was fairly sure her grandparents didn’t have one.
“It’s sort of weird. I mean you swing your arm, but you don’t really have a racket, like Muggles do when they play tennis normally. And you don’t really hit the screen or anything.”
“I think they should make a Quidditch version. Imagine, you could to pretend to fly on a broom and throw the Quaffle and all.” He paused. “Actually, that could get complicated.”
“It sounds it.”
“What are you talking about?” Hugo appeared before them, followed by Lily.
“Could you ever give us some peace?”
“Nope.” He flopped down beside them.
“We’re avoiding Fred,” Lily explained. “He’s been following us around everywhere.”
“So you thought you’d follow us instead,” Rose muttered.
She glanced around. Strangely enough, Uncle George was there but Uncle Percy wasn’t. She wondered if he and his family would show up later or if they were too busy. The latter was quite possible. Uncle Percy liked to give the impression of being absolutely indispensible to whatever Ministry office it was he worked in. She’d have expected Audrey and the girls to have come without him if that was the case though.
All of Uncle Bill’s family were there. Victoire was sitting with Teddy, his arm around her and Dominique was talking, apparently seriously, to James about something. Probably Quidditch. It was about all they talked about. Louis was sitting on his own, slightly apart from his parents. He looked bored, but then he usually did. Rose was never sure if he really was or if it was just an affectation.
George seemed to be trying to entertain his kids with what were probably Weasleys’ products. Angelina was nowhere to be seen. Probably working.
Just then, Uncle Percy arrived, accompanied by his entire family.
“Good to see you all,” he announced. “I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make it or not. I’ve been rather busy. And of course, Lucy’s busy too, what with her O.W.L.S. coming up this year and everything. And she’s been appointed prefect. Show them your badge, Lucy.”
Lucy muttered something inaudible.
“Of course they do.” Percy raised a hand and beckoned the family closer. “Everybody’ll be delighted. Another prefect in the family.”
Across the lawn, George rolled his eyes.
“Remember when Percy was first appointed prefect,” he announced to the gathering at large. “I don’t think he mentioned anything else all summer, did he Ginny?”
“He was pretty proud of his badge all right,” she said carefully. “But then it is something to be proud of.”
James glanced up from his conversation with Dominique. “Hope you’re not expecting me to be chosen. Only nerds get chosen as prefects. Everybody knows that.”
George got up, walked over to his nephew and slapped him on the back.
“Well said, James. Glad to see somebody’s carrying on the tradition of opposition to all forms of authority.” He glanced over at his own children. “And I don’t want to see either of you ever becoming prefects either, do you hear me?”
Percy glanced at him disapprovingly. “Children live up – or down – to the standards we set for them. If you don’t expect your children to achieve a high standard, then they won’t.”
“Great.” George grinned. “Though actually, I do expect them to achieve a high standard. In pranking. I expect them to make sure Hogwarts doesn’t know what’s hit it once they start there.”
“The look on Uncle Percy’s face,” Lily said in an undertone.
“He does have a point though,” Rose admitted reluctantly. “I don’t think Uncle George should be telling his kids not to try their best.”
“He is telling them to try their best,” Hugo said. “Just at getting the better of teachers.”
“Roll up, roll up,” Grandpa Weasley announced. “Sausages and burgers for everybody.” He glanced at his wife. “And you thought I couldn’t do it without magic.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes, but didn’t say anything.
The family got up from the various places they sat and filled paper plates with food from the barbecue.
“It’s good actually.” Rose was surprised by her first mouthful.
“Derek probably did most of it,” Albus said.
Grandpa Weasley still had Derek buttonholed and was now interrogating him about computers.
“And why do Muggles need pet mice to make them work?”
“Um, they’re not real mice,” Derek said awkwardly. “They’re just called mice because of their shape. They’re just…something you use to point at whatever you want to use on the screen.”
“Such a pity Louis didn’t get the badge for Gryffindor,” Percy was saying to Bill at the other side of Rose, Albus, Lily and Hugo. “You must be so disappointed none of your children was made prefect.”
“Actually, I’m not,” Bill said firmly. “I’m proud of my children. Victoire’s doing really well at the bank and Dominique’s one of the best Chasers at Hogwarts, I believe.”
“But Victoire’s job is only part-time, isn’t it? And after all, Quidditch is really only a hobby.”
“Tell that to the top level players. A fortune, some of those guys and girls make. And look at Ginny. She didn’t make a half-bad career out of it, did she?”
Percy pursed his lips. Rose had the impression that, really, he thought Aunt Ginny could have chosen a more secure career. But he didn’t say that.
“Ginny did well on her O.W.L.S. and N.E.W.T.S. too,” he said instead. “It’s always a good idea to have a back-up. Sports careers are notoriously uncertain.”
“Oh, I agree with you,” Bill said calmly. “Dominique knows she needs to work for her N.E.W.T.S. too, but I’ve no doubt she’ll do fine. She got an O in Care of Magical Creatures in her O.W.L.S. after all and an E in Defence. Charms is the only subject likely to cause her any difficulty.” He glanced at his son. “And I’m sure Louis’ll put in the required effort this year too. He’s well aware of how important his O.W.L.S are.”
Rose notice Louis stifle a yawn.
She doubted he’d any intention of working any harder this year. Louis liked the easy life and seemed to think good looks and a charming manner were enough to get him through life.
According to James, who envied his ability, there were no shortage of girls willing to let him copy their homework, but that wouldn’t work when it came to the O.W.L.S. He’d be judged on his own merits there, though she wouldn’t put it past him to try and charm any female examiners.
“Molly.” Albus leaned across to their cousin, who was sitting alone, staring into space. “Come and join us.”
For a moment, Rose sighed inwardly. Lily and Hugo were bad enough. How many younger kids did they need to be surrounded by?
She changed her mind, though, seeing the grin cross her younger cousin’s face.
“OK.” Molly moved over to join them.
“Here, have a burger,” Rose said. “Have you had anything at all to eat yet?”
“Dad says I should try and lose some weight.”
She glanced across at the slim Lucy, but took the burger anyway.
“It’s a barbecue,” Rose reassured her. “It’s OK to have treats occasionally, so long as you eat healthily the rest of the time.”
“I really hate healthy food though. I’d rather eat burgers all the time.”
“Me too,” Hugo agreed with her.
Molly glanced at him. “You’re thin though.”
She got up to get another burger, returning just after Derek finally escaped from Grandpa Weasley and flopped down beside them.
“I should have warned you about Grandpa,” Albus said apologetically. “He’s a bit…obsessed…about Muggle things.”
“I didn’t mind.” He glanced around. “Um, would you mind explaining who’s who to me? I’m sort of lost.”
Albus laughed. “It’ll probably take you more than one explanation to figure out our family.”
He started to explain anyway.
A couple of hours passed enjoyably before Rose’s father arrived at the Burrow.
“Dad!” Hugo jumped up to greet him.
“Hi Hugo. Any sausages left?” He turned to his father.
“Oh, I can throw a few more on for you. I’m quite the expert barbecuer now, thanks to this young man.” He indicated Derek.
“So we can blame you when Dad burns the house down?” Her dad grinned at Derek, who looked away in embarrassment.
“Leave him alone, Dad,” Rose said.
“All right, all right. Just slap a few sausages on for me, Dad. I’m starving to death here.”
“Hard day at work, dear?” Grandma Weasley asked.
“Oh, they’re all hard, Mum. Not that I’m complaining. It’s a great job. But nobody could say we don’t work hard.”
“I know you do, dear.” She gazed at him fondly. “Ah, put a few more sausages than that on for him, Arthur. He must be starving after his hard day at work.”
Rose, Albus, Lily, Hugo and Molly giggled as she tipped another six sausages onto the barbecue.
“I think you’re getting a bit thin actually.” Grandma Weasley surveyed her son carefully. “I hope you’re not skipping meals.”
“Dad? Skip a meal?” Rose laughed out loud. “You must be joking.”
“Now, now, you don’t appreciate how hard your father works.”
“See, Rose,” her father said. “You just don’t appreciate me. I’ve been saying it for years.”
“We appreciate you, Dad,” Hugo said.
“No, no.” Rose shook her head. “We really don’t.”
To Rose and Hugo’s delight, their father appeared in no rush to leave the Burrow. After eating, he waiting on, chatting to his parents, siblings and nieces and nephews, until the group finally began to disperse.
“See you both on the Hogwarts Express on Sunday,” Rose said to Derek and Albus.
“Yeah, see you then,” Derek said. “Think my parents are glad I’m staying with Albus this week. They found the whole Platform 9 3/4s thing a bit confusing.”
Hugo and Lily also said their goodbyes and the two families parted.
The following day, Rose began packing for school. The holidays were almost over and her mother always said not to leave it until the last minute. Otherwise, there’d be no time to check you hadn’t forgotten anything.
So far, Rose had found it to be good advice, especially when she woke on Sunday morning with most of her packing already done.
“You’re both so organised.” Her father glanced from her to her mother in amazement. “You’ve no idea what chaos returning to Hogwarts used to be when I was a boy. Though of course, there were seven of us kids.”
“You weren’t all at school at the same time,” Rose reminded him, as she carried her owl’s cage out to the car.
“Well, no, but Mum and Dad still had to round up us younger ones when Bill and Charlie and Percy were going back to school. And you know what George is like. Always the last minute. And Fred wasn’t any better. Unless of course, there was mischief to be had. Then they didn’t dally.” He gave a chuckle, but it sounded slightly forced.
Rose tried to imagine what it must have been like when Uncle Fred was alive. He sounded so like Uncle George. It must have been hard for people to get used to the idea there was now only one. Especially for Uncle George himself.
“Are we going?” Hugo interrupted her thoughts.
“I suppose it’s time we did, all right,” their mother said. “Are you sure you have everything, Rose?”
She nodded and the family piled into the car.
“I wish you’d let me fit it out to fly, Hermione.” Their father grinned.
“ARE YOU CRAZY? Don’t you think you and Harry got into enough trouble the last time you tried flying a car?”
“Ah, but we were only kids then. Didn’t know what we were doing, did we?”
“You still don’t. No way, Ron. It isn’t happening.”
The bickering continued until they reached King’s Cross station and Rose and Hugo hurried towards the busy platform, their parents following close behind them.
As was usual when the Hogwarts Express was leaving, the station was filled with signs of the existence of witches and wizards. It was probably just as well it was packed and that most of the Muggles were hurrying about their own business, as the number of owls and toads and those witches and wizards who struggled when it came to Muggle fashion could easily have raised suspicions if anybody’d been paying particular attention.
In front of them, a fussy looking woman, wearing a bright blue cloak wasn’t even taking care to keep her voice down.
“Now, don’t be in the least bit nervous, Felicity. You’ll go right through it. Take my hand, actually. We’ll do it together.”
The girl seemed reluctant, understandably, to take her mother’s hand in public.
A first year, Rose presumed.
“Off you go, Rose,” her mother said, once the girl and her mother had passed through. “We’ll be right after you.”
She bustled forward and followed them through the barrier and onto Platform 9 and 3/4s, where the woman was still fussing.
“Owl me immediately if you’ve any problems. I really don’t like the thought of a werewolf teaching you. You’d think McGonagall would have had more sense.”
“Did you hear that?” Rose turned to her mother, who’d just followed her onto the platform. “She’s complaining about Blackburn.”
“You’ll probably hear a lot more of it,” her mother said. “We’re doing our best, but we can’t make everybody agree with us.”
“I suppose not.” She shot the woman an annoyed look, but since her back was turned, she didn’t notice it.
“We should move up a little,” her mother said. “There’ll be a lot more people passing through the barrier and we don’t want to get in their way.”
As her mother’d predicted, the platform was filling up. People were rushing around, greeting friends and saying goodbye to their families before boarding the train.
Rose kept an eye out for the Potters, who didn’t appear to have arrived yet. She was beginning to wonder if she should just board the train and wait for Albus to join her.
And then she saw him, passing through the entrance to the platform.
“Rose!” he called to her and she rushed towards him.
“You’re cutting it pretty fine, aren’t you? The train will be leaving any minute.”
“James couldn’t find his Care of Magical Creatures book. And then Lily disappeared off somewhere.” He checked his watch. “We’re not really late anyway. We’ve another ten minutes before it leaves.”
“Still, we should get boarding.”
“I have to say goodbye to my parents and Lily first.”
They both said their goodbyes, then they and Derek boarded the train. James had already done so, rushing off to join his friends, without as much as glancing back at his parents and sister.
Felicity and her mother were still on the platform. Felicity seemed to be trying to board the train, but her mother grasped her by the arm and pulled her back towards her.
“Watch that,” Rose said.
“Shouldn’t we be looking for a compartment?” Derek asked.
“One moment. Watch that girl and her mother.”
“What about them?” Albus asked.
“Look at how the mother’s dressed.” Now he could see her properly, Rose noticed she was wearing a large chain with a phoenix on it, which seemed to be flashing different colours. Hardly appropriate attire for a station full of Muggles. “And she was telling her daughter Blackburn shouldn’t be teaching here.”
“That’s rubbish,” Albus said.
“I know that, but she obviously believes it.”
“I still don’t see what’s so special about them,” Derek said.
“Probably nothing really,” Rose admitted, as the girl finally bordered the train. “But imagine having a mother like that.”
The two boys laughed and they began to search for a compartment.
Finding an empty one near the back of the train, they settled down to enjoy the long journey back to Hogwarts.
Chapters might be posted a little more slowly over the next month or so, as I will be rather busy. I hope to get another chapter up before things start getting hectic, but I'm not sure.
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