Disclaimer: Any characters, places etc. that you recognise belong to J K Rowling. I'm just a humble writer who likes to play around and write love stories.
A/N: Hello, and welcome to Summer at the Burrow. This will be updated fairly quickly, so don't worry about waiting months and months, and I hope you think I do the Harry Potter universe justice. I can only try. Just so you know, this story takes place in the summer between Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire.
My welcome home from my stepmother was, rather surprisingly, being hit in the face.
I should perhaps mention that it was completely unintentional and that it had been more of my fault, swerving to avoid an oncoming Muggle pushing a large luggage trolley, and somehow managing to half-impale my face on the pointed edge of my stepmother's umbrella. But still, not the sort of welcome I expected.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" she said cheerily, pulling me towards her by my shoulders and inspecting my face. "There's a bit of a mark, but it should fade in good time!"
I pulled myself away from her, rubbing the spot on my cheek - really, I could have lost the eye itself if she'd held it a bit higher - and grudgingly smiling myself. She had an infectious, often downright annoying happiness.
I turned to my father next, who was looking rather more weary and haggard since the last time I'd seen him. He had a stressful job in the Ministry as an Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries, and so I had no idea what is was that could be causing him to seem so tired. When I caught his eye, though, he managed to break out in a smile, his green eyes lighting up.
"Claudia," he said, inclining his head. It wasn't usual for people in my family to show much physical affection - our bonds were formed in the smallest of ways; the wrinkling of a nose, the upturned corner of a mouth, a gesture of the hand. "All ready for the summer?"
"Almost," I admitted, turning to skim the crowds that were bustling around the train station. I had just come from platform 9¾ with my father (my stepmother was a Muggle and so couldn't come through herself). "I just have some goodbyes to say."
"Hurry it up then," my father sighed, used to this happening at the beginning of every summer.
Sure enough, in a matter of seconds Lee Jordan was hurrying out of platform 9¾, closely followed by Fred and George Weasley. I grinned, flicking a stray hair out of my eyes, and the three of them grinned back, nearing.
Before we go any further I'll clear up the bewildering mess that is my family; Lee Jordan's grandparents adopted my mother when she was seven, and so I am his adopted cousin. My mother died when I was three (it was upsetting, but I can't really remember her much) and my father married my stepmother, Catherine, three years later.
Catherine is a Muggle who's first marriage was to a wizard, so she's no stranger to magic. Her daughters from that marriage are two Muggle teenage girls, one fifteen and one seventeen, who are much less friendly than their mother and much less accepting of the wizarding world. They were stood with my stepmother at the station, shooting glares at me and my friends.
I didn't really look like any of my family there with me. My father had very light hair, and my stepfamily were of course born with different genetics and so there weren't any similarities really. Supposedly I took after my mother; thick brown hair, ever so slightly round face, one or two freckles and green-grey eyes.
"Miss Paisley," Lee said, gravely. "Are you trying to leave without saying goodbye?"
"That was my plan, but alas, you have foiled it," I said, solemnly, though I quickly hugged him in goodbye. He was a tall black boy, with long dreadlocks and a pair of glittering brown eyes. We had known each other since birth.
"Where are our hugs?" Fred and George asked in unison. I turned to them, raising my eyebrows. They were toned boys of my age, sixteen, and identical. Both had jaw-length red hair and green eyes; the easiest way to tell them apart was that a few strands of hair fell into Fred's eyes but not George's. Being friends with them for five years, however, had taught me to notice other little differences, so now I could tell them apart within a few seconds (or sooner, if I was in a particularly sharp mood).
I reached up and hugged the two of them, being the shortest of the four of us. Believe me, it had made me subject of quite some ridicule, despite the fact I stood at a respectable 5"7. I mean, I was hardly short, was I? Lanky bastards. They both raised a hand simultaneously and ruffled my hair - I ducked rather too late, ending up knocking into my oldest stepsister, Polly.
"Watch where you're going!" she snapped, shoving me away from her. Out of the corner of my eye I saw all three of the boys' bodies tense, eyes on the angry girl. She glared straight back at them.
"Polly, stop being so touchy," Catherine sighed at her daughter. "We have to be off now, Claudia, it'll be nice to hit the roads before rush hour."
"Right," I said, vaguely, still giving Polly my dirtiest of looks. Shaking my head slightly, I glanced back at my friends. "Have good summers, all of you. And write this time, won't you? You promised last summer and I didn't get a single owl."
Fred and George rolled their eyes but Lee said, sounding rather exasperated, "Of course we will!".
"See you then," I said, giving them all one last wave and turning on my heel, my family just behind me. I sensed Polly and her younger sister, Diane, scowling at my back, and found myself smiling. Things hadn't changed one bit.
That night I lay in my bed, squinting through the darkness at the ceiling. It didn't feel right, being in this room to sleep. I missed my dormitory, even with the girls that I didn't feel comfortable around most of the time. I guess that's what comes from hanging around with boys constantly, but still, sometimes I wish that I could be my normal self around my dorm mates without feeling cynical every few minutes.
I wasn't what one would call a tomboy, but nor was I exactly the average girl. I wore skirts, sure, and the odd splash of makeup, but my life was in no way driven by boys (well, I guess it was, it just wasn't driven by the desire to kiss boys). I'd had a boyfriend back in fourth year; I wasn't a complete novice. I just wasn't particularly bothered about it.
When I was younger - much, much younger, when my father had first married Catherine - Polly and I got on fairly well. We had one game where we'd be pretend to be princesses awaiting our princes. In fact, that was how we'd first fallen out, over who was the most beautiful princess. After she'd said something nasty about my hair I'd declared it was a stupid game and threw juice over her dress.
We hadn't spoken civilly since.
Aside from my oh-so-troubling family woes, I suppose it was a pattern for the rest of my life. I didn't believe in all that crap about true love. I believed in love, of course, and I thought that maybe one day I'd find it. But I didn't believe it was this huge life-affirming thing that made you incapable of going a day without your sweetheart.
Polly, on the other hand, stuck to that notion and went off in the different direction - trying out as many 'true loves' as possible in order to get the right one. It caused some concern for the family who were anxious that one day she'd just run off with a boy, but so far all it consisted of was a few sneaking outs at midnight.
I rolled over, nestling my head against the pillow. The night was warm and humid, causing me to kick my covers back and try to get cooler. Outside I could hear the distant rumble of a car, and an owl hooting from a nearby tree. I couldn't sleep at all. Stupid bird.
Just then the sounds of the front door slowly opening could be heard. I sat up, curious. The patter of feet on the staircase told me it was only Polly, wandering in from another boy. She was even humming. Scowling, I turned onto my other side and bade the world goodnight, squeezing my eyes shut and egging on sleep.
I lay on my front on the lawn, my chin rested in my hands. Three days into summer… it was so boring. I wished, not for the first time, I lived closer to my friends. But Lee lived in London, and the Weasleys in Devon - here I was, stuck in the rainy and muddy North. With a sigh, I rolled onto my back, watching the clouds drift aimlessly pass.
It wasn't that I had a horrible home life by any means. I wasn't close with any member of my family, but then again they weren't close with each other either. It was just that I missed the companionship so easy to find at Hogwarts.
Back in first year when I'd been tiny and geeky, the people kindest to me were Lee, Fred and George. They had an unmistakable air of naughtiness, even then, and it was an air they'd soon pass onto me as I spent more and more time under their influence. All three of them - but especially the twins - were brilliant at magic too, whilst I struggled behind with my average grades.
My fingers ran over the cool wood of my wand, tucked in my pocket. I missed doing magic though, missed the thrill of it. They couldn't detect that it was me doing magic if I did any now, surely? My father was on night shifts and so currently was fast asleep in bed, and this was his house. They'd think it was him.
I lifted it above my head, muttering a couple of words, and a few daisies pulled themselves out of the ground, dancing above my face. I giggled, as a passing bee, confused, tried to catch them. A cold voice cut through my happiness, making me start, sitting up and hastily pushing my wand back in my pocket.
"You're not supposed to be doing magic."
It was Diane. A year younger than me, she was a small and weedy girl with pale blonde hair and contrastingly dark brown eyes. Sometimes I felt rather sorry for her - Polly was constantly described as the beauty of the family, whilst Diane was just casually dismissed as being a sister. All my sympathy went, however, at her next words.
"I'm going to tell your dad that you've been practising your freak stuff again."
I stood now, much taller than her, looking down with my hands on my hips. "Oh, really? You really think he'll care? That 'freak stuff' you so eloquently described is as much a part of him as it is me."
"I'm not stupid enough to call it that in front of him," she snarled. "But you'll get in trouble. You did it before, ages ago. After your first year. He was mad then."
It was true, unfortunately. I had indeed cast a spell to levitate my dinner over to where I was sitting, and he was furious. If you're not careful, you'll get expelled … you really think that I want a daughter who doesn't follow rules? … I work in the Ministry, I'm sure you didn't stop to think about how it would look if my very own flesh and blood broke the law … Dramatic git.
"I'm sixteen now," I said simply, brushing a few blades of grass from my dress. "And if you want to be the one to wake him up for such a thing, be my guest."
Her cheeks flushed. "No."
"Well then," I said brightly, tossing my hair over my shoulder and beaming. "There's not a problem then, is there?"
"Afternoon, Claudia, Diane," came a weary voice. I went still, and then turned, very slowly. My father was coming out of the house into the garden, a dressing gown on and a mug of coffee in his hands. Just my bloody luck.
"Dad!" I said, trying to sound cheery and innocent. "What are you doing up?"
"I couldn't sleep," he sighed, sitting himself at the garden table and running a hand over his tired face. "I don't fancy whipping up a sleeping potion either."
"Claudia could make one for you," Diane said, sweetly, though her narrowed eyes were on me, glinting. I felt my cheeks go slightly pink.
"No, no," my dad said, looking surprised. "It's fine without one - I never get up for work that way. And besides, she can't do magic out of school."
Diane looked shocked, though I knew she was feigning it. "Really? But - but Claudia, you just told me you were sixteen and so allowed to do it."
My dad looked at me, suspicious now. I cleared my throat, trying my best not to hit my younger stepsister in her smirking face. "Er - no. No, you must have misheard me. I said seventeen."
Diane smiled wider. "Then why were you doing magic?"
I grimaced, closing my eyes instead of looking at my father. Why was I cursed with the most insufferable stepsisters in the world? They were just jealous, surely. I couldn't wait to be seventeen…oh, the hexes they'd get…
"What's all this then?" my dad asked, voice quiet. I opened my eyes at last, meeting his. His face was emotionless. The calm before the storm.
"I - I only enchanted a couple of daisies to dance in the air," I muttered, pushing my hands in my pockets, fingertips brushing against the guilty wand. "I didn't do anything serious."
Then, to my enormous surprise - and judging by Diane's gasp, to hers too - my father, my constantly preoccupied father, tossed back his head and laughed. He was laughing at the fact I'd just broken the law! Dianne seemed to be struggling with herself, but managed to spit out impatiently, "What's funny? She's just done something wrong!".
"Honestly, if you were going to rebel against everything as usual, you could have done something more imaginative than dancing daisies," he chuckled. I blinked.
"Are you - er - are you alright, Dad?"
"Of course I am."
"But why aren't you lecturing me or yelling or confiscating my wand? You said you would last time."
"Last time you were eleven," he said, still smiling, crow feet widening at the edges of his eyes. "When I was sixteen your mother and I were always doing underage magic, enchanting paper that would write out notes to each other from long distances."
I was smiling too now. I loved it when he spoke of my mother, he always got a softer expression, he always seemed more friendly. Diane, on the other hand, looked like she'd been mortally offended. "You did? I thought you were a good boy at school."
He waved his hand indifferently. "A good boy? I was never even made Prefect. I never broke the rules that seriously, of course. I didn't get half as many detentions as you and your friends. No one was any the wiser though, they thought it was my parents casting spells."
I grinned, happily, glancing at the affronted Diane. "Something wrong?"
"No," she muttered, storming past the two of us into the house. My father watched her go, smile fading, concern spreading over his face in the form of a frown. I strode to his side, feeling safer now that I knew he wasn't going to murder me.
"Are you and the girls still arguing? I would have thought after ten years you'd at least be slightly fond of one another."
"It's not my fault!" I protested, knowing that he often thought that I was the troublesome one. "They hate me, they hate that I can do magic. I never start the arguments, honestly."
He raised an eyebrow. "What about yesterday when you teased Polly because her boyfriend split up with her?"
"Well - well - she'd been making stupid comments about my friends just before you walked in!"
"I see," he sighed, running a hand through his greying hair. "Listen, I need you to do all you can to make friends with the girls. For me. I'm going to be working a lot soon, there's a new project starting at work, and I'm relying on you to keep the house in order."
"What about Catherine?" I asked, more surprised that I was being given the responsibility rather than that he was going to be working even harder.
"Well, of course. But she works too, doesn't she? When it's just you girls here, I need you to make sure you all get on well."
"Try telling them to leave off me," I murmured sulkily, but at an exasperated look from my father, I sighed. "Fine. I'll try. Just bare in mind I might not succeed."
The last week of June was the hottest yet, giving Polly an excuse (though there was no excuse, not really) to trot around in skimpier clothes than ever. I bit my tongue whenever I saw her, however, trying my hardest to keep my promise to my father. Besides, there were other things to distract me.
Lee had written, even if the letter had been short and holding barely any news - all I found out was that he was going away to Japan for the summer with his parents. Fred and George, on the other hand hadn't sent a thing. I had half considered being the first to write, but that would be my dignity gone. I'd be, once more, labelled the typical girl who can't spend a few weeks without friends. I'd given up hope that they'd remember me.
So it was with some surprise that the Weasley family owl, Errol, landed (or, more accurately fell) into my toast two days before the end of July. Ignoring Polly and Diane's scandalised looks, I carefully laid the unconscious bird on the table and eagerly ripped open the letter.
Here it is, the spectacular and epic moment - we're doing what you told us to do! We're committing quill to parchment and it's the school holidays! Alas, the world shall explode any day now.
Now. What to say, what to say? Life here is the same as normal, if a bit boring, the only reason we've resorted to letter-writing. We've been working on our joke products with order forms and everything. It's getting close to actual work. How disheartening s that?
Are your sisters treating you any better? You know we have no reservations in hexing girls who deserve it (you'd know, harhar). Next time one of them says anything, remember to clench your fist properly. Don't want to hurt a knuckle now, do we.
We would say we missed you and your attempts at witticisms, but that would make us girls like you and so no luck there, mate. Hope you're well and that it's nice up there on the silly side of the country.
Lots of love,
Fred and George
P.S. Mum and Dad say you can stay over at ours for July and August. Basically the rest of the holiday. We'll Floo over 1st July regardless of your answer, of course.
"Yes!" I cried, punching the air with my fist. Catherine, from the top of the table, looked up from her newspaper.
"Fred and George have invited me over to theirs for the summer," I grinned, brandishing the letter. "They're coming to pick me up on July 1st. Thank goodness, I thought I'd go out my mind with boredom."
Catherine smiled. "Well then, you had better get your things packed! We don't want a mad rush that morning, do we?"
"I'll go pack now." I stood up, pushing my chair under the table and making to rush away. However, Polly spoke before I could, sounding outraged.
"Mum, that's not fair! Last year you wouldn't let me stay at Jamie's for the summer! How come she's allowed?"
"Well, Jamie was your boyfriend, wasn't he? I didn't know his family at all. Whereas Claudia is just staying at her friends' house, and we know the Weasleys well. I trust them."
Polly stood up, slamming down a hand on the table. "Mum, that's completely unfair and you know it! Just because she's a witch, she gets everything!"
"That has nothing to do with it," Catherine said calmly, flicking through her paper.
"Yes it has! It's horrible. Your supposed to be my mother, not hers. You should stand up for me."
"Honestly Polly," her mother said, now sounding rather impatient. "She's your sister. Stop being jealous."
"She's not my sister. She's a freak," Polly snapped, and swept from the room, taking care to push past me as I went. I followed her into the hall, grabbing her arm and pushing her against the wall. Her eyes went wide and she struggled, but I ignored it.
"Don't you dare call me a freak," I growled. I hated her, I hated her perfect face and figure, I hated her icy tones, I hated that she hated me.
"Let go of me!" she said shrilly. "You're such a boy!"
I let go of her, then shoved her back onto the wall. She hit her head slightly, but I hardly cared. Anger was coursing through me and I was having to flex my fingers to stop them going around her neck.
"You uncontrollable manly fre-"
I couldn't help it. I turned around and slapped her across the cheek. She gave me one last look of deepest loathing through her bright blue eyes, before knocking me out the way and running upstairs. I watched her go, breathing heavily, hand stinging slightly.
I'd never slapped somebody before, least of all a member of my family. But this was one time too many, being called a freak, being disliked for no reason than who I was born as…
I sighed heavily, wistfully, and charged off to send my reply to the twins. At least it seemed this summer wasn't going to be a complete nightmare.
A/N: I really hope you liked the beginning of the story. Please review? -puppy eyes- I'd love to know what you think!