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Chapter 21 : Clean Slates.
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As their mother was an only child, Boxing day was always far quieter than Christmas at the Burrow.
At Granny and Granddad Granger's, stockings filled with small gifts like sugar-free sweets, crayons or markers, novelty toothbrushes and maybe a couple of small pieces of cheap jewellery for Rose hung above the fireplace and one larger gift for each of them lay on the floor below.
Hugo dashed across to the presents as Rose and her parents greeted their grandparents.
"Rose, come on, don't you want to see what we got?"
"One moment. I'm just saying 'hi' to Granny and Granddad."
"And it wouldn't do you any harm to wait a couple of moments either, young man." His mother scowled at him. "I'm sorry, Mum and Dad. He usually knows better than to be so rude."
"Sorry," he muttered, not sounding particularly sincere.
"It's all right. He's just excited." Their granny smiled. "Did you have a good day yesterday, Rose?"
"And how are you doing at school? Keeping up, I hope."
"She's doing really well," Rose's mother replied, before she could reply. "They don't have exams until the end of the year, but she looks set to repeat last year's achievements."
"Takes after her mother." Their father grinned.
"Just so long as she hasn't inherited her tendency to put herself in danger," Granddad Granger put in. "Or yours either, for that matter."
"She's living in a very different world than we were, Dad. We're not at war anymore, you know. Those days are long gone."
"I haven't forgotten them, though. Have you any idea what it was like to send your child off into an unknown world and then find out she's caught up in a war?"
Rose's mother shook her head. "Probably not, but I can imagine. I worry enough about Rose now she's away at Hogwarts for much of the year and at least I know what's going on there. I can appreciate how difficult it must have been for you and Mum."
"And I don't like the sound of this A.W.L. or whatever it is you called them. Wasn't that how things started the last time - secret groups opposing your Ministry?"
"Sort of, but Theodore Nott is no Voldemort. Voldemort was evil, a dictator. He wanted to round up those he considered unworthy of performing magic and eliminate them. Nott is just...well, he wants power, I suppose and the return of pureblood dominance, but not like Voldemort did. The A.W.L. aren't killing people, they aren't threatening war. The worst they've done so far is launched a media campaign. That's not to say we're not taking them seriously, mind. They can still do a lot of harm. But only in the sense of slowing down progress. I really don't think they're any threat to our physical safety."
Granddad Granger didn't look convinced.
"Can't we please open our presents?" Hugo pleaded.
Granny Granger smiled. "Go on."
They tore them open, Rose receiving a selection of books including The Diary of Anne Frank and Hugo a kids' science kit, which would allow him create all sorts of weird and disgusting things.
"I know Hogwarts doesn't teach science." Granny Granger sounded somewhat disapproving. "So I thought he should at least get some introduction to it."
"Thanks Granny." Hugo went over and kissed her cheek. "That looks like fun."
"No harm in his learning the Muggle way of doing things," their mother said. "Or learning about some Muggle history either." She glanced at the books her daughter'd received. "We're all connected, after all, and if wizards understood more about the Muggle world, there might be a lot less discrimination."
"Hermione's on her hobby horse again." Their father grinned.
His wife glared at him.
Once Rose and Hugo had opened the gifts in their stockings and Hugo was inexpertly chucking a yo-yo around the room, Granny Granger called them through to the dining room for their meal. It was nowhere near as delicious as the meal Grandma Weasley had prepared for them the previous day, but of course, nobody would have dreamed of saying so.
After they'd eaten, Rose asked if she could use her grandparents' computer and Hugo rushed outside to play football with some of the other neighbourhood children, while the adults sat down to chat.
Computers were confusing and Rose was always a little wary when using them but she had to admit that e-mail seemed a far more efficient way of keeping in contact with people than owl mail. If Angie had been home for the holidays, she might have tried e-mailing her, but as she was at Hogwarts, where electronics didn't work, that would be pretty pointless.
She wondered what it must be like spending Christmas at Hogwarts and if Angie had wanted to or if she'd had to. She lived in London, so the journey shouldn't have presented any problem. And surely her parents wouldn't want her spending two Christmases in a row apart from them.
But she knew that wasn't always true. Uncle Harry, after all, had been raised by an aunt and uncle who'd almost seemed to hate him.
Whatever the truth was, Angie certainly didn't seem too anxious to broadcast it.
The rest of the holidays passed quickly. On New Year's Eve, the younger cousins again gathered at the Burrow, while their parents went out to various parties and functions. Rose, Hugo, James, Albus, Lily, Lucy, Molly, Fred and Roxanne all spent the night with their grandparents.
"All right," Grandma Weasley began, "we'll put Lucy and Molly in Percy's old room, Albus and James in Ron's, Rose and Lily in Bill's, Fred and Hugo in the twins' and Roxanne in Ginny's."
Grandpa Weasley laughed. "I wouldn't worry about it, Molly. You know they'll all end up somewhere completely different anyway."
"I don't want the older ones keeping Roxanne awake though. Or Fred, either, for that matter."
"I can stay awake," Fred insisted. "I don't get tired at all."
"Yeah, right," Hugo teased him.
"I don't get tired either," Roxanne said.
Grandma Weasley sighed.
Grandpa Weasley touched her arm. "Staying up late for one night won't kill them. They can sleep in in the morning anyway."
"I suppose so." But she sounded displeased and once it started getting late, she hurried Fred and Roxanne upstairs and put them to bed.
"And Lily, Molly, Hugo, I want the three of you in bed in another hour."
"Ah, Grandma," Hugo moaned.
"Can't we stay up until Albus and Rose go to bed?" Lily pleaded.
"Certainly not. Just be pleased I'm not sending you up right now."
She gave them a stern look and their complaints subsided. Nobody dared openly defy Grandma Weasley.
As Grandpa Weasley had predicted, however, going to bed when they were ordered to didn't mean they stayed there and when Rose was sent up to bed some time later, she found Hugo, Fred and Molly crowded onto Lily's bed.
She raised her eyebrows at them and all five got the giggles.
"Fred insisted on following me," Hugo said. "He's too small to still be up."
Fred aimed a kick in his direction.
"I suggest you both keep the noise down," Rose said, "if you don't want Grandma Weasley in here wondering what the three of you are doing out of your rooms."
The younger children made a concerted effort to remain quiet, though it was clearly difficult. They didn't often all spend the night together, after all and they were still whispering and giggling quietly, when Lucy and James were finally ordered upstairs.
Lily started to giggle again, as they heard James protesting that he was nearly fifteen and far too old to be sent to bed like a kid.
"He always says that. It doesn't matter what he's told to do, if he doesn't want to do it, he says, 'I'm almost fifteen.'"
Fred was, by this time, struggling to keep his eyes open. He curled up on the bed, the duvet clutched in his arms.
"I think it's time Fred was asleep," Rose suggested.
He sat up immediately.
"No! I'm not tired at all."
Rose, Lily, Molly and Hugo began to laugh.
"Come on, it's almost midnight anyway. It's time you two went back to your rooms too." She glanced at Hugo and Molly.
"You're not in charge of us," Hugo argued.
"Perhaps not, but what do you think Grandma Weasley would say if she found us still up at this time, eh?"
"So go on. Scram. We'll have plenty of time to talk again in the morning and you and Lily see each other every day when Grandma Weasley's teaching you anyway."
"That's different. She makes us work. And it's not for much longer anyway." He pouted and Rose wished she hadn't reminded him. She knew his being a mere two weeks too young to start Hogwarts the following September was a sore point. "It's just so unfair."
"I know," she said, "but there's no point in discussing it at this time of night. Fred's nearly asleep."
"No, I'm not," he murmured sleepily.
"Come on." She pulled him up from the bed. "Molly, you take charge of getting him back to his own room, OK?"
"Why me? Hugo's sharing a room with him," she said suspiciously.
"Ah, but I trust you."
"And you don't trust me?" Hugo sounded appalled. "I'll take him." He dragged Fred towards him, earning himself a half-hearted kick for his trouble.
Wishing Rose and Lily a happy new year, the trio left the room and Lily flopped down on her bed.
"Tell me about Hogwarts, Rose."
"Surely you hear enough about it from James and Albus!"
She shook her head. "I can't hear enough. Not when I'm starting next September."
"You'll be fine," Rose reassured her.
There was a moment's silence. "You do think I'll be in Gryffindor, don't you?"
"I don't know; probably. But you know, Lils, what house you're in doesn't really matter as much as you think. Look how worried Albus was about it and now he's perfectly happy to be a Ravenclaw. The Sorting Hat knows which house is right for you."
"Albus was worried about it?"
"Of course he was. I think everybody worries."
"A little." She tried to be honest.
"I wouldn't mind Ravenclaw, really," Lily said thoughtfully. "But what if I'm in Slytherin? Or Hufflepuff?"
Rose shrugged. "What if you are? It's not a death sentence, you know. Look, Lily, there are cool people in every house."
She nodded. "You remember Scorpius Malfoy?"
"Draco Malfoy's son?"
Rose laughed. "I know, but he's a pretty decent guy really. So you never know. And there's no point in worrying about it. Not for another nine months anyway."
"Yeah, I know, but..." She trailed off.
"Seriously, Lily, try not to worry about it. It will work out, I promise you."
Though they woke late the next morning, they were still downstairs before James, Albus, Hugo or Fred.
"I suppose you were up half the night chatting." Grandma Molly tutted disapprovingly. "I thought you'd have more sense, Rose."
"Sorry Grandma." Rose hid a grin.
Still tutting under her breath, Grandma Weasley piled sausages, bacon, eggs and mushrooms onto a plate and placed it in front of her.
A similar plate was placed in front of Lily and the two girls tucked in to the delicious breakfast.
Finally, once even James had risen and breakfasted, their parents began arriving to fetch them home.
"See you on the Hogwarts Express." Rose gave Albus a hug.
His face clouded. "Yeah, see you then."
"Ah, come on, Albus, you know that within days of getting back, you'll be glad to be there again. You wouldn't miss out on the chance to play Quidditch for Ravenclaw, now would you?"
"I guess not." But he sounded slightly doubtful.
Much as she loved life at Hogwarts, she had to admit she too felt slightly disappointed when the holidays came to an end and it was time to pack and return to King's Cross station.
"Ron Weasley, are you ready?" her mother demanded. "Honestly, it should be the children holding us up, not you."
"Relax, would you? We've plenty of time."
Her lips tightened. "We most certainly do not. We still have to pack everything into the car and then there's the traffic. Half of England will be returning home after their Christmas holidays, you know."
"Most of them are already back at work. And if I know Rose, she'll have everything neatly organised for packing. She takes after you that way."
"Just as well. I don't know what I'd do if I had to organise her as I do you. Really Ron, she's supposed to be the child here."
Ignoring their argument, Rose brought her trunk out to the car and eventually, the family set off for King's Cross, arriving, as they usually did, with plenty of time to spare.
"See." Her father was triumphant. "I told you we'd plenty of time."
Her mother sighed.
"Hey, Rose." Rasmus joined her.
"Hi Rasmus. Did you have a good Christmas?"
"Yeah, did you?"
They bordered the train and found a compartment. They were deep in conversation when Albus and Derek bustled in to join them.
"We were looking for you everywhere," Derek said.
The journey was an enjoyable one as they caught up on what had been happening to each of them over the holidays and it felt like far less time had passed than should have when they pulled in to Hogsmeade station.
The students disembarked and pushed across the station to where the coaches awaited them.
Now that she was on her way back to school, Rose's thoughts again turned to Dora's trunk and how she could open it. She'd hoped to figure it out over the holidays, but the truth was, it had barely crossed her mind after the first couple of days. How could she have forgotten about it like that?
There was one possibility that had occurred to her, she remembered. Now, if only she could find an opportunity to try it out.
"You're very quiet, Rose," Rasmus said. "What's on your mind?"
She trusted Rasmus, of course she did, and Derek too, but it still wasn't wise to broadcast your plans any more widely than you had to. The more people you told, the more likely it was that information would leak out and there was no way she was going to risk putting Dora on her guard.
"Yeah, right." He looked at her a little suspiciously. "Seriously, you've hardly said a word since we boarded the coach. Is everything all right?"
"Everything's fine," she said wearily. It looked like she wouldn't get much time to think on the journey back to school.
Not that it mattered, she reassured herself. There wasn't much chance of getting access to the trunk that evening anyway. She'd wait until the following morning, after the others had left the dormitory. If she had to miss breakfast, so be it. It was only one morning after all.
Waiting for the others to leave the dormitory wasn't as easy as it might have seemed, however, especially on the first morning back, when she couldn't even claim she'd homework to finish.
"Hey Rose." Angie paused at the door of the dormitory. "Aren't you coming down to breakfast?"
"In a moment. I still have some things to unpack."
"Can't it wait until after classes? You'll be late if you don't hurry."
She shook her head, thinking quickly. "I need to find a quill. I got a spell-checking one for Christmas. You go on. I'll catch you up once I've found it."
Once Angie, Fionnuala and Dora had left the dormitory, Rose reached for Dora's trunk.
Before she could get it down, however, she heard the door open and turned around hurriedly.
"Did you see my timetable?" Fionnuala asked vaguely.
Rose crossed the dormitory and snatched the piece of parchment from beside Fionnuala's bed.
"Oh, thank you. I'd have been so lost without it."
"Somebody'd have told you what was next."
"You'd better go down now or you'll be late for breakfast."
"Aren't you coming?"
"I have to find a quill. I'll be down in a moment."
Fionnuala left and Rose breathed a sigh of relief. She'd better wait a moment though. It would be just like Fionnuala to return two minutes late, having thought of something else she'd forgotten.
She hadn't time to wait, she thought irritably. It wasn't as if she had that long.
Once she was sure Fionnuala had truly left, she yanked the trunk down so hurriedly it hit her arm.
"Ouch," she muttered, dropping it down on the floor.
The last time she'd tried it, she had simply tapped the trunk twice, whereas Dora had been holding her wand against it.
Whether or not it mattered how long she held it against it, she wasn't sure, but it was worth trying anyway.
She held her wand to the trunk for what felt like a reasonable length of time, then raised it and tapped it quickly. The trunk flew open.
A grin crossed Rose's face, but faded quickly as she glanced into the trunk. Apart from a spare set of school robes, it was completely empty.
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