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Chapter 20 : Victoire's Woes.
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Rose had intended to spend the Christmas holidays trying to figure out just what she'd done wrong when trying to open Dora's trunk, but it was so good to be home and to see her parents and little brother again that the issue was quickly pushed to the back of her mind. Life at Hogwarts was so busy, with so many interesting things to be learnt, she almost forgot to miss them until the holidays began and she suddenly realised just how long it had been since she'd seen them.
One glance at Hugo, however, was enough to remind her.
"You've grown," she declared in surprise.
"Yup." He sounded pleased with himself. "I'll be as tall as you soon, don't you think?"
"Well, maybe not for a little while yet."
She hid a smile. He was still nearly a head smaller than her.
"Don't worry, son." Their father grinned. "You'll be taller than her someday and then you'll be able to tell everybody she's your little sister."
Rose rolled her eyes and glanced around at her mother, who smiled back at her, shaking her head.
"So tell us all about life at Hogwarts," she said, as they climbed into the car.
"Yeah," Hugo added excitedly. "Who's winning the Quidditch Cup?"
Rose shrugged. "I'm not sure actually. Probably Gryffindor. They'd a pretty good win over Hufflepuff. But Slytherin are doing pretty well too."
"Yay!" Hugo punched the air. "Gryffindor are going to win! Gotta beat Slytherin anyway."
"Too right," their father agreed.
Their mother shook her head. "Honestly, Ron, would you stop trying to prejudice them against Slytherin? We don't know what house Hugo's going to end up in yet, you know."
"I won't be in Slytherin!" He looked horrified at the mere thought.
"I'm sure you won't," his mother said. "But that's not the point. Hasn't our society been divided enough?"
"And who started it exactly?" Their father looked amused. "Could I remind you most of those pureblood supremacists who've been causing your department so much difficulty recently were Slytherins in their day?"
"Not all of them," she pointed out. "And there are ex-Slytherins on our side too. That's if you really want to divide people up according to the house they were in in their schooldays."
"Seems as good a way of dividing them as any to me."
The argument was an old one and Rose couldn't help feeling he said half the things he did just to get a reaction from their mother.
She rose to the bait now.
"But why exactly are we so anxious to divide people up at all? It's just another way of judging people and it only leads to problems. There's more to a person than the house they were sorted into, you know."
Rose had to agree. Dora was a Ravenclaw, after all, and she'd certainly trust Scorpius before her. She decided not to say that now though. Her father'd probably have a fit.
"Has your department been have problems, Mum?" she asked instead.
"Oh, he's just referring to the whole A.W.L. thing. They've gone pretty silent recent, so let's be grateful for small mercies. I suspect we might be in for fireworks when we next raise the issue of werewolf employment legislation though. "
"Are you about to do so?" She really hoped so. It would be great if werewolves could finally feel secure in their jobs.
"Not immediately, Rose, no. We're going to let things die down for a couple of months and hopefully give this crowd a chance to either make a fool of themselves or completely fade into obscurity. Then we'll raise the issue again. My research says there is support out there."
"But plenty of opposition too," Rose's father put in grimly.
"It's hard to be completely certain," her mother said, "because, of course, it's not as simple as people either supporting or opposing werewolf rights completely. There are people who wouldn't go nearly as far as the A.W.L. but who are still a little leery about a werewolf teaching at Hogwarts."
"But it's so stupid!" Rose said.
"I know," her mother agreed. "But unfortunately, people often are, I find. There's not much we can do until after the Christmas recess anyway. Come January, I might try sounding Kingsley out on the issue again. I think he'd prefer let matters die down for a bit longer though."
"Can't we talk about something more interesting?" Hugo whined. "I'm bored of politics."
"They have a good deal more of an impact on our lives than you may realise." His mother looked at him sternly. "If you'd lived through the times your father and I did, you might realise the importance of what we're trying to do."
"And yet, I think Hugo has a point." Their father grinned. "I'm not saying that stuff isn't important, but it's almost Christmas and our daughter is home after months away at school, so let's leave politics a while, all right?" He turned to Rose. "Is there anything you'd like to do before Christmas, Rose?"
"Well, I need to do some shopping. I've hardly bought any presents yet. I can't wait until we're allowed into Hogsmeade next year. It will make things so much easier."
"We'll go to Diagon Alley Christmas Eve," her mother said. "I've a few last minute things to get too."
"You?!" Rose's father feigned horror. "I thought you'd everything prepared for the next three Christmases."
Rose and Hugo exchanged glances. You knew you were home when the bickering started.
The car pulled into their driveway and Hugo tugged Rose's hand.
"Come on up to my room. I got a new bedspread with the Holyhead Harpies' logo on it."
By the time she'd been through the house and checked out all the changes which had taken place since the summer, Rose had to admit she was ready for bed. She'd have liked to stay up longer; it was her first night home in months after all, but she'd had a long journey and she'd have the next two weeks to enjoy with her family.
She spent the next day catching up on everything that had happened while she was at Hogwarts and then, on Christmas Eve, the family headed for Diagon Alley.
"Good to see you all." Neville smiled at them as they emerged from the fireplace in the Leaky Cauldron. "Doing some last minute Christmas shopping?"
"Yes." Rose's mother sighed. "I try to get everything organised in advance, but somehow something always seems to get overlooked." She gave her husband a significant look. "And of course, Rose wants a chance to look around the shops before tomorrow."
"Well, have a good time. And happy Christmas to you all."
"Happy Christmas, Neville," Rose's mother said.
Rose, her father and Hugo all echoed the greeting.
Outside lanterns lit both sides of the alley and Christmas tunes wafted through the air. Rose loved Diagon Alley at Christmastime. It was so atmospheric.
The first place she wanted to go was Flourish and Blotts. She could at least get her mother a present there. Her father and Hugo might like something from the Quidditch store. She'd spent the previous weeks thinking what everybody might like, but it was still a bit of a rush trying to get everything done in one day. She'd done some of it already by owl order, of course, but there were some things you really needed to see before making your decisions.
It took a while to get everything, but finally it was done and the family returned to the Leaky Cauldron for a Butterbeer before going home.
Neville, Hannah and Frankie joined them at their table. Now two years old, Frankie was chattering constantly. He could now address almost everybody by name and was clearly aware how much this delighted Rose and Hugo.
"And what's my name, Frankie?" Rose asked.
"No, Ro-ose. Can you say 'Rose'?"
"Say Hugo," Hugo said.
"All the attention will have him spoilt," Hannah said. "Harry and Ginny were here with Lily on Friday and she spent half the afternoon playing with him."
"He is adorable," Rose's mother said.
"We should have another baby," Hugo announced. "Then I wouldn't be the youngest anymore."
A horrified expression crossed their mother's face.
Their father laughed.
"I don't think your mother and I will be having any more children for a while yet. We've our hands more than full enough with the two of you."
"We're not that much trouble," Hugo said seriously. "We could definitely manage it. Don't you think so, Rose?"
She made a face.
"You wouldn't like it much when the baby was screaming at two in the morning. You did that a lot."
"How do you remember that? You were only about three!"
"Mum told me." She laughed. "And I am perfectly happy not to remember it. Frankie is cute, but I'm just as happy you're the youngest person living with us."
"Just as well," their mother said, "because I am not having any more children."
Hugo pouted slightly. "I am so sick of always being the youngest."
Hannah smiled at him. "Ah, but the youngest always gets most spoilt. You should be pleased, young man."
Their father stood up. "It's time we were going. Up early tomorrow, after all, and Hermione has a lot of preparations to make for the morning."
Their mother glared at him.
"I have a lot of preparations, have I? Well, let me tell you something, you can just do your fair share for a change..."
Rose and Hugo hurried ahead, bored by the repetitive arguments. Wasn't Christmas meant to be a time of peace and goodwill?
The following morning Rose and Hugo woke early.
"IT'S CHRISTMAS!" Hugo cheered, jumping up and down.
"Yeah, yeah." She ruffled his hair and he pulled away in annoyance.
"Stop that! I'm not a kid. I'm ten."
"Sorry." She laughed. "Come on. Let's go open our presents."
A large pile of gifts awaited them in the living room. Rose opened books and chocolates, wireless records and a new telescope, while Hugo unwrapped games and sweets, books and Quidditch memorabilia.
Hugo had just unwrapped a model of his favourite Quidditch player which really flew around on her broom, when their parents entered the room.
"Mum, Dad, look!"
He sent the model flying crazily around the room.
His mother sighed. "Be careful with that."
"Oh come on, Hermione, it's Christmas," their father said. "Watch this, Hugo."
He took the controls from his son and sent the Quidditch player into a spectacular dive.
"Watkins catches the Snitch and the game is won by the Holyhead Harpies."
Their mother sighed. "Boys and their toys. I'm warning you right now, Rose, they never grow up."
"I noticed," she said.
Her father glared at her.
"Don't you start. Your mother is bad enough!"
"I'd watch what I was saying if I were you," their mother replied.
"All right, all right, you're a wonderful wife and mother. Happy now?"
"I might be if you sounded at all as if you meant it."
Rose and Hugo laughed and carried on messing with their presents until Hermione declared it time to go to their grandparents' house.
"YAY, more presents!" Hugo cheered.
Their mother glared at him. "Don't you dare say anything like that when you get there! You're to be polite now, do you hear me?"
"Ah, leave him alone Hermione, it's Christmas."
"That's no excuse, Ron. He has to learn. You let them get away with murder sometimes, you know."
Grinning at her brother, Rose took down the Floo powder, took a pinch and after passing the rest to him, threw it on the fire and stepped out into her grandparents' living room.
"Rose!" Her grandfather smiled to see her. "You're the first one here."
"Mum, dad and Hugo are on their way. Once Mum and Dad stop bickering."
He laughed. "We could be waiting a while, in that case. They've been bickering since they were teenagers. I doubt it'll change any time soon."
"What's not going to change?" Rose's mother stepped into the room, her good humour apparently restored.
"Oh, that's between me and Rose." Her grandfather winked at her. "MOLLY! Ron and his family are here."
Grandma Weasley bustled into the room, carrying a large pile of presents, which she passed around to the family.
"Thanks Grandma," Rose said, as she opened yet another Weasley jumper.
"Yeah, thanks," Hugo echoed.
As more of their relatives arrived at the Burrow, the pile of presents beside Rose and Hugo began to grow. Not having any children of his own, Uncle Charlie, had as usual proceeded to spoil his nieces and nephews, giving Rose an interactive map of Transylvania which recited the wizarding history of the country and gave details of its extensive vampire communities. Hugo received a game that required the player to move wooden pieces around a board, avoiding the dragon, who blasted flames at the figures, attempting to destroy them, and Albus a set of books on dragons and dragon taming.
"I thought it might come in handy if you're planning on taking Care of Magical Creatures next year," Charlie said.
Half an hour before they planned to have dinner, most of the family had arrived, the noticeable exceptions being Uncle George and his family.
Grandma Weasley began to fuss.
"He'd better not be late again this year. The dinner's almost ready and still no sign of him. If he'd at least let us know he was going to be late, it wouldn't be so bad."
"Don't worry, Molly," Grandpa Weasley said. "Nobody's going to mind if dinner's a little late. It's not a big deal."
"I just want things to be perfect. Is that so wrong?"
"No, of course not," he reassured her. "But the important thing is that we're all here together, celebrating another Christmas. It doesn't matter if it isn't perfect, just as long as we're together."
"Not all of us," she said quietly and for a moment silence fell, as they remembered the other face that should have been with them at the table.
"I know that Molly. How could I forget? And you know as well as I do that if Fred were here today, he'd be just as bad as George. So let's not worry about a little delay. Life's too short."
"I suppose you're right," she said quietly.
He gave her a hug. "Do you want me to give you a hand?"
"Certainly not." She tapped him gently on the hand with the wooden spoon. "The last thing I need is you hanging around the kitchen, getting in my way. You just stay there and entertain everybody."
"All right." He smiled at her.
Gradually, the atmosphere in the room began to improve, as memories of sadder times were pushed aside. Victoire, however, remained subdued, which surprised Rose. Surely, the mention of Uncle Fred's death couldn't have bothered her that much. It was upsetting, of course, knowing they'd another uncle who should have been there, teasing them and bringing gifts and irritating their grandmother, but it had all taken place a very long time ago, before any of them had even been born and it seemed unlikely it would have affected her more than those who'd actually lost him.
She hadn't much time to wonder about it, as Uncle George and his family suddenly emerged from the fireplace.
"Mum not spitting fire?" George asked incredulously. "I thought she'd be here, berating me for my tardiness."
"She's finishing up in the kitchen," Percy said primly. "And yes, she was quite upset that you have once again held everything up."
"That's enough, Percy," Grandpa Weasley said. "It's Christmas day. Let's try not to argue."
George laughed. "Have I walked into the wrong house? This is the Weasley family, Dad; you've about as much chance of a nice quiet Christmas as there is of snow falling in July."
"Well, actually..." Percy began.
George sighed. "Oh please, spare us. Don't start telling us about some mountain top where the snow never melts or how back in 1572, there was a fall of snow on the twenty-second of July or something. Quite frankly, I don't care."
"Are you here at last?" Grandma Weasley appeared in the doorway. "Oh well, at least you're not as late as you were last year, I suppose."
"Thanks Mum. Coming from you, that's an expression of affection."
She sighed. "Your dinner is ready."
The meal was as delicious as their grandmother's cooking always was. Since neither of Rose's parents were particularly talented, or particularly enthusiastic, in the kitchen, she and Hugo always enjoyed meals at their Burrow and it was only towards the end of the meal that she realised Victoire still appeared distracted.
She might not have noticed it even then if it wasn't for the fact that having recently left Hogwarts and started working, Victoire was the focus for a lot of the conversation. Lucy, in particular, plagued her with questions about starting work, how she enjoyed her job and if she missed studying or Hogwarts in general.
Victoire did her best to answer her questions and those of her uncles and aunts, who were also interested to hear how she enjoyed her work, but her mind was clearly elsewhere.
"Don't you miss studying magic?" Lucy asked.
"Not really." Victoire shook her head.
James stared at her. "Why would anybody miss studying? I could understand missing Hogwarts. We have good fun there sometimes. But the actual studying? I can say with absolute certainty I wouldn't miss that!"
"You're still only working part-time, aren't you?" Percy asked her. "Have you started looking for anything better? You can't be getting many hours now that the World Cup's over."
"She's doing fine," Bill replied tightly before his daughter could say anything. "And of course, she's still studying besides, aren't you Victorie? She's learning Italian, so she needs time to work on that too." He glanced at James. "You might well need to do more study after school too, young man."
"No way." James shook his head vigorously. "Once I'm finished school, I'm taking no more classes. I'll get a job that doesn't require any further qualifications."
"Me too," Louis said firmly. "So you can forget about trying to convince me to continue studying any longer, Dad."
Percy looked utterly scandalised. "You boys don't realise just how difficult it is to get a good job. Nor do you realise just how many jobs require some form of further study. I myself went straight into the Ministry from school, but I have, on many occasions, had to familiarise myself with various information relating to different wizarding cultures and other matters of importance to the Ministry. I have had been on numerous training courses and fact-finding missions over the years. Five years ago, I went to Pakistan to participate..."
Most of the family were stifling yawns at this point. Uncle Percy really did go on.
"You know what I want to know, Percy?" George eventually interrupted him.
Percy looked up suspiciously.
"When exactly did you learn to be so boring?"
Percy face rearranged itself into an expression of disapproval.
"We can't all spend our lives messing around with tricks and jokes, you know. Where exactly would our society be if it wasn't for those of us who work tirelessly in the Ministry, ensuring the Statute of Secrecy is maintained, drafting regulations and generally maintaining order? Your problem is you never really moved on from childhood."
George laughed aloud. "That may well be so, but I'm still earning a good deal more than you do, bro."
Rose glanced over at Victoire, who seemed to have tuned out of the conversation again. Something was definitely bothering her and she very much doubted it was the earlier reference to Fred's absence. What else it might be though, she couldn't begin to imagine.
Once they'd finished eating, George finally gathered his nieces and nephew around him to begin handing out presents. Hugo and Lily were practically bouncing up and down with anticipation.
"Hmm, let's see what I have for you here. Who is this one for, Angelina?"
She rolled her eyes. "Oh stop teasing them and just give them out, George."
He laughed. "It's for you, Rose."
"Thanks Uncle George."
She unwrapped a set of Unnoticeable Notes and a jar of Instant Invisibility Powder.
"And this is for you, Lily."
"Wow." Lily practically squealed with excitement. "Look, it's a wheel for Penelope Purple. She is going to love that!"
James ripped the parcel open and slipped whatever it contained under his robes.
Rose rolled her eyes. No doubt it contained something he didn't want his parents to see, something no sane adult could possibly approve of.
It was only after everybody'd opened their gifts that Rose noticed Victoire had disappeared. She glanced into the living room where a number of the adults had gathered, but there was no sign of her there either.
"Did you see where Victoire went?" she asked Albus.
"No, why?" He sounded surprised and she supposed she couldn't blame him. At Christmas, the Burrow was so packed with people, it was often hard to know where a particular person was.
She shrugged. "I've a feeling something's up with her. I think I'll go look for her."
"Do you want me to come with you?"
She shook her head. "No, don't bother. It's probably nothing anyway. I'm just curious really."
That wasn't entirely true. She was more concerned than curious, but there was no point in worrying Albus unnecessarily. After all, she'd no real reason to believe there even was anything to worry about.
She was, however, determined to find out.
She eventually found Victoire sitting alone in one of their uncles' old bedrooms.
"Are you all right?"
Victoire sighed. "Yeah. Just not really in the celebrating mood, that's all."
Rose sat down beside her. "What's wrong?"
She half-shrugged. "It's complicated."
"Try me. I'm not a little kid, you know."
"No, you're all grown-up now, aren't you?" She sighed again. "Sorry Rose, I'm only teasing. I'm not patronising you."
"I know, but really, you can tell me. I'm not just being nosy, you know."
"I know you're not. I'm just disappointed really. Teddy and I are going out tomorrow night and I was really looking forward to it, because we don't get to spend much time together at Christmas. He was over at Uncle Harry's yesterday and well, he did ask me to come over and have Christmas dinner with him and his gran today, but I didn't want to disappoint Grandma Weasley. You know how she likes having us all here and it doesn't happen very often."
"She'd get over it," Rose said. "She'd still have quite a lot of us, after all."
"Yeah. I sort of wish I had now, 'cause he wants Blackburn to come out with us tomorrow. I mean, he asked me if it was OK and all, but I could hardly say no, could I? She has had a pretty crap time lately and I know he's been concerned about her. I didn't mind when all that A.W.L. stuff was going on, but it's pretty much over now as far as I can see. The A.W.L. haven't been heard from in weeks." She paused for a moment. "I'm actually beginning to think he fancies her. And I am quite certain she fancies him."
Rose stared at her. "But she is way too old for him. She's a teacher."
"She's twenty-five," Victoire said flatly. "And he'll be twenty-one in April. My parents were much the same ages when they got together."
"I suppose," Rose said thoughtfully, "but..." She trailed off. The truth was she just couldn't imagine Teddy, who she'd grown up with being interested in one of her teachers.
"I'm not saying she's done anything wrong," Victoire added quickly. "She isn't flirting with him or anything like that. And I don't think she would. Not when he's in a relationship. She's a nice person. But that's just makes it worse really. She's nice, she's really good-looking; why wouldn't he fancy her?"
For the second time, Rose stared at her in amazement. Yes, she supposed Blackburn was pretty enough, but Victoire was beautiful; she was part-Veela. There was no way any guy would think Blackburn better-looking than her.
"Victoire, look in the mirror," she said quietly. "You are beautiful. And Teddy's crazy about you. You know that, surely."
Victoire gave a slight smile. "Thanks Rose. I guess I'm just pissed off really. I just wanted to have some time alone with him after all the rounds of parties and family and everything lately. It feels like forever since we've had any privacy."
"Well, tell him that then."
"I can't really. Not at this point. He's probably already asked her." She paused. "Oh well, it doesn't really matter, I suppose. We'll get plenty of time together once things calm down. It's just...it's Christmas, you know. And I do love him. I don't think I was ever really in love before."
Rose shifted awkwardly. That was a little more information than she wanted.
Victoire half-laughed. "Come on. I suppose we'd better get back to everybody before they start wondering where we are."
Apart from Albus, nobody seemed to have noticed their absence. Everybody else was too busy catching up or comparing gifts or digging into the large amounts of chocolates, sweets and drinks that lay around the Burrow.
"Is she OK?" Albus asked quietly.
Rose shrugged. "I guess. It's...complicated."
Somehow passing on what Victoire had told her, even to Albus, felt sort of like gossiping. And it was just too weird anyway. Blackburn fancying Teddy? Victoire had to be imagining that. It would probably seem even weirder to Albus, since Teddy was practically a brother to him.
No, she definitely wasn't comfortable telling him about it, she decided, at least not there, not on Christmas day.
"Let's go grab some sweets," she suggested, before he could ask any more.
It wasn't hard to avoid returning to the subject. In fact, if she had wanted to tell him, it would be difficult to find a moment, with all their aunts and uncles cornering them to hear how they were doing at Hogwarts and congratulate Albus on making the Ravenclaw Quidditch team.
"Great to see my nephews, and niece, following in the family footsteps." Charlie grinned at him. "Suppose there's no hope of you trying out, eh Rose?"
She shook her head. "I think I'll leave that to Albus. My talents lie elsewhere, I'm afraid."
He sighed. "Oh well, I suppose even you can't be good at everything."
She laughed. "I'm nowhere near being good at everything."
"What are you talking about?" Hugo burst into the conversation, followed closely behind by Lily.
"Just congratulating your cousin here on making the Quidditch team."
"We're going to play when we get to Hogwarts too, aren't we Lily?"
She nodded seriously.
"Come on outside," Charlie said. "I'll teach you a few moves."
"We don't have any brooms," Lily said doubtfully.
"I can still show you the best ways to catch a Snitch. And I'm sure there are a few of our old brooms out in the shed anyway. Come on."
Hugo and Lily followed him excitedly out of the room. Albus glanced around at Rose.
"Go on." She grinned at him. "I know you're dying to. I'll go in and chat to Lucy and the others."
"Are you sure you don't want to come?"
"Um, it's December; it's probably freezing out there. I'm sure!"
All too quickly, the day came to an end and the families began to head home.
"Now, try and call over again before the holidays end," Grandma Weasley was telling everybody. "We'd love to see the kids again before they go back to school."
"We'll do our best," Rose's father promised, "but you know how busy the school holidays can get."
Rose grinned at his words. The following day, they'd be visiting Granny and Granddad Granger, so Christmas wasn't over yet.
I expect to be quite busy in February/early March, so updates may slow down for a while. It depends.
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