Chapter 5 : Chapter Five
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Rose breathes in deeply. Christmas at the Burrow always smells like pine needles and cinnamon candles, possibly because there is such an abundance of both. There is a tree in every room, even the bedrooms. The main tree, in the sitting room, is seven feet tall.
The Burrow has extended over the years as people kept having children; it’s easily big enough now to fit the whole family, including Great-Aunt Muriel, who always complains about the turkey and pokes people with her cane. She stays in Granny and Granddad’s room because it’s on the ground floor. Rose shares a room with Molly, Lucy and Roxanne under the eaves. Apparently, it’s one of the only original rooms in the house, and it used to belong to her dad. It would account for the orange walls.
This year is Dora’s first Christmas. Teddy, whose hair is its customary shade of turquoise, is beside himself with joy. Victoire does very little. Rose thinks she looks exhausted.
On Christmas morning Rose opens her gifts seventh; the presents are distributed by age, therefore Teddy is first, followed by Victoire, then Dominique, then James, then Louis, then Molly, then Rose. She receives sweets from all her cousins, except the younger ones without an income, who give presents with their parents. Granny and Granddad have given her a box of fancy soap in which Granddad has hidden a set of fuses; their little joke. Rose gives him a secret grin upon unwrapping it, which he returns. Nana and Grandpa, her mother’s parents, have sent a box of sugar-free sweets and twenty Muggle pounds. Uncle Percy and Auntie Audrey give her Uncle Percy’s book on Ministry procedures, and are thanked dutifully. Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny have given her The Auror Training Handbook, What Witches Can Do Without Wands – A Potions Treatise, and a box of Chocolate Frogs. Her dad has given her a pair of diamond earrings, and her mum has given her a necklace to go with it. Hugo, as usual, gives her some socks and a bar of Honeydukes pineapple and spearmint chocolate. Uncle George and Auntie Angelina seem to have deemed her old enough for Wonderwitch products. Uncle Charlie has given her an old watch which he bought off an old man in Romania, which only shows the planetary alignments. Uncle Bill and Auntie Fleur have given her a new, expensive Potions kit and a year’s subscription to Transfiguration Today.
Rose enjoys watching her cousins open their presents, enjoys dinner, even enjoys Dora falling asleep on her shoulder while they listen to the wireless and play various games. She plays chess against Uncle Harry with one hand, the other holding Dora lightly to make sure she doesn’t fall. Across the room, Hugo, Lucy, and Lily are building a tower out of Exploding Snap cards. Victoire has fallen asleep on the sofa, conked out.
Rose likes the feeling of Dora on her shoulder, a warm, heavy feeling, and the smell of baby shampoo and milk. She allows herself to think about a little child, a boy, with strawberry-blonde hair and grey eyes and pale freckles, like chocolate flakes in milk. She wonders how it would feel to have a life growing inside her.
On Boxing Day they all go for the traditional walk, except Victoire, who is ill and sleeping. Teddy carries Dora, all wrapped up like a fat teddy bear. He and Rose have always got on well, and he walks beside her now.
“So how is everything, Rosie?” her favourite family member asks, grinning at her. She grins back. He’s so handsome and infectious. When Teddy laughs, the world laughs.
“It’s great,” she says, and at that moment she means it. Life is great, never mind having to cover up bruises, never mind the throb in her abdomen, never mind her building feeling of wanting something. Never mind her disillusionment and her sense of a whole new future. At this moment, the world is good.
Returning to school feels strange, especially since snow blankets everything still. Rose sits in the library, staring out at the grounds. Finally she throws down her quill (she should have done her homework over the holidays, really) and storms off to the back shelves. She must find something to interest her, something to do.
He finds her there and sneaks up behind her, blowing cold air onto her neck. She jumps a mile, nearly screams, turns round so sharply that he has to catch her before she loses her balance.
“I figured you’d be here,” he says. He is smiling. She gawps. She’s never seen him smile, not like this, she’s seen him smirk with just one side of his mouth. This smile is genuine and seems to radiate out of his face, gladness and joy. She hopes, prays, wishes, that emotion is for her. “How was your Christmas?”
He’s asking out of politeness. She knows he hates Christmas.
“It was lovely… how was yours?” she knows she should close her mouth, but she just can’t. He’s beautiful.
“Fantastic,” he replies dryly.
It feels odd, just standing here talking civilly. They’ve never done much talking, except post-sex babble. She’s uncomfortable. She wishes he’d kiss her, but that would be weird now. She turns away, runs her fingers over the reassuringly hard spines of the books. She hears him go to walk away. She’s not sure if she’s relieved or disappointed.
“I can’t do it,” he says. She jumps. She’d thought he was gone. He’s very close, lips just by her ear. She stiffens. “I thought I could be polite to you, but Jesus, Rose, I can’t. Every time I see you I just lose control, I want to…”
Nothing turns her on more than honesty and hearing him speaking his feelings makes her heart jump in her throat, pounding blood through her body. She turns and they are close together, so close, close enough that she only has to move slightly and their lips are pressed together gently, in a kiss unlike they’ve had before. He shudders and sighs against her mouth.
That is the moment, Rose knows later, that she falls in love with him.
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