A/N Credit to E Nesbit for her book and the 1970 film of the same name.
The Railway Children
I'm Rose, but people call me Rosie, and I'm the oldest, worse luck. I have a younger brother called Hugo, who means well, and we lived in a nice red brick house in London.
It had big fireplaces everywhere, a gas one in the kitchen, and Muggle electricity too. Our mother was a Muggle you see, and Nanna and Granddad Granger are Muggles still. They use quite archaic ways of mending people's teeth. We're lucky, as our father refuses to let anybody hammer at our teeth. We see the Healers for that.
Our mother could still be stingy about giving us sweet things, though. This never mattered as our father had a sweet tooth and would always keep a secret stash of sweets in the house.
Mummy was never the type of lady to spend time having tea and sandwiches with no crusts with other ladies. She hated to gossip and didn't enjoy stifling lunches with bland conversation. She would spend all her free time with us. While to us she was very proper and scolded nearly everything we found to entertain ourselves, she never understood perfectly agreeable children. She said they made her uncomfortable. Mummy would always be suspicious of children who never got their hands dirty too, although she was forever huffing at Hugo for getting into a state.
Mummy also enjoyed spending time with our father, wonderful daddy, who seemed to be the only person who could get away with arguing with her. She enjoyed disagreeing with him because she enjoyed making up with him afterwards. Daddy was charming and sometimes as childish as we were.
We all went to see a Muggle play called Peter Pan, the four of us dressed up all fancy for the evening, and there was a part in the play where a fairy called Tinkerbell was dying. Peter asked us all to save her by telling her how much we believed in her and all her kind. We shouted again and again that we believed in fairies and when Peter rose to his feet and declared one last time, did we believe in fairies, daddy jumped to his feet and bellowed out at the top of his lungs, 'Of course we bloody do, are you deaf?'
Everybody cheered and Tinkerbell was saved. More importantly, though, Hugo started to say bloody in nearly every sentence he uttered from then on. If daddy could do it so could he, he informed us.
We had a very lovely life, but we didn't know how lovely it was until we had to leave out red brick house in London for a very different life indeed.
The first thing to happen that spoiled our lovely life was when Hugo was playing Exploding Snap with our father. The game went on longer than it ever had done before and the cards were vibrating with pent-up energy until they were finally able to release it with the loudest bang in the history of Exploding Snap.
Crookshanks, mummy's pet cat since she was a girl, screeched and ran away. That was the last we ever saw of him.
Then, on Christmas night, two gentlemen came to call. Daddy was clearing the debris of the charred cards from the explosion and mummy was picking hearts and diamonds, clubs and spades, from Hugo's hair. I had been waiting at the window, looking into the back garden for any sign of Crookshanks' return, when one of Mummy's free elves announced that the gentlemen had arrived and she had shown them into the study.
They had come asking for daddy and he had made a joke about a man's home being his castle but if a man were to dig a moat around a normal man's house people would think he was a loony. He got to his feet and muttered about not even having Christmas Day to himself. Men from the Ministry would always come asking for daddy. He was an important man and he would always be able to help the Aurors when they got stuck with a puzzler.
Daddy was fantastic at solving puzzles.
He left and we sat and talked about how much fun it would be to have a moat and a drawbridge. Hugo said he wanted a portcullis too. Mummy joked that he'd ask for somewhere to boil his oil to pour over invaders next and we all laughed just as daddy's voice raised so much we could hear that he was shouting but not enough to hear exactly what he was shouting about.
We all sat quietly and wondered what had made him angry on Christmas Day.
The free elf came back into the room and wrung her hands, ears drooping and eyes large and shiny, as she told mummy that daddy had asked for her to join him in the study for a moment.
Mummy left and we sat and looked at each other. Hugo clutched the working model of the Hogwarts Express he had been given for Christmas and I moved away from the window and over to the door to press my ear against it and listen.
We heard daddy shouting 'I will not' and mummy saying that something was 'absolutely ridiculous' and I opened the door a crack to peep through. Hugo pushed between me and the door and the squeezed through the gap to look at the closed door of the study.
The door opened and we both jumped into the kitchen to hide as daddy, mummy and the two men came out. Daddy put on his coat and mummy grabbed his scarf and put it on for him. She held onto the scarf for longer than need be and then pulled daddy towards her with it and clung to him very tightly.
One of the men cleared his throat and mummy let go of daddy and lifted up onto her toes to kiss his cheek. The first man opened the door and stepped outside the house, then daddy followed him, and the second man walked behind. Mummy stood at the door until she started shivering and then closed it.
We stepped out of the kitchen and walked down the hallway towards her. She smiled at us, still looking as if she was very cold, and told us it was time for bed.
"But daddy said we could stay up late. He was going to play with us," Hugo protested.
Mummy's voice was very quiet as she answered him.
"Daddy's had to go away, he was called away on Auror business."
The elf ushered us up the stairs to bed and I paused to ask mummy if there was bad news.
"Nobody's dead are they?" I asked, worried.
"No," mummy said as she cuddled me tightly, "nobody's dead. I can't talk about it now. We'll discuss it in the morning. Night, night."
Hugo tried to find out what was going on from the elf but she simply told him 'ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies' so he'd stomped into my bedroom grumpily and ended up sleeping in my bed with me.
Though we didn't sleep for a very long time.
We lay with our eyes closed as if we were asleep. Mummy came in on her way to bed and kissed us both before walking to the door and starting to cry as she closed it.
"Hugo," I whispered.
"If mummy doesn't want us to know she's been crying we'll not know it, all right?"
"All right then," he agreed before pulling the bed sheet over his head completely.
"Those men last night did bring very bad news and your father will be away for quite some time."
Mummy had been gone when we woke up and the free elf had made us breakfast until Auntie Ginny arrived to sit with us all morning.
Despite all his questioning Hugo couldn't get an answer out of her.
"Did Uncle Harry get called away on business too?" I asked, because our Uncle Harry and daddy were always working together on Auror things.
Auntie Ginny said that Uncle Harry was trying to find somebody else to be called away instead so that daddy could come back to us. When mummy came home she spoke in whispers to Auntie Ginny and they cuddled each other and then Auntie Ginny Flooed home.
Mummy didn't tell us anything different to Auntie Ginny, that daddy was going to be gone for longer than we had hoped, and for the next few weeks we didn't leave the house except to go to the Burrow every Sunday. Mummy would leave every day with lots of books and rolls of parchment and Auntie Ginny would come to the house with our cousins.
We would make our own fun while we were stuck indoors all winter, and it became quite a pleasant routine until Great Auntie Muriel decided she would come out of retirement as a governess and move in to give us lessons and teach us manners. She said we acted like savages on our last trip to the Burrow and that she wouldn't have me going off to Hogwarts bringing shame onto the Weasley name.
She was very strict and rude about everybody. She said that we should be seen and not heard but better still never seen or heard ever. Hugo didn't like the way she spoke about mummy or any of our Aunties and Uncles and he would always get into trouble by calling her a bloody liar when she said that Granny Weasley had raised a bunch of anarchists and criminals.
After she had made the free elf cry and resign her post, Great Auntie Muriel had told us that we weren't to see the Potter side of the family again because it was all that man's fault that the family were disgraced. Hugo was so angry that he sent his bowl of porridge flying across the kitchen and into her face.
He laughed at the sight of Muriel dragging the slimy grey oats from her eyes but soon he was trembling as she advanced on him, backed him into a corner, and smacked him very hard. I'd never seen mummy or daddy smack Hugo before so I knew it was wrong and I hit her several times on her fat backside but she barely felt anything at all.
Hugo was crying, though, and just as Muriel raised her hand again Mummy came home.
"If you don't change your ways you'll go where your precious father's gone!" Muriel was ranting as she towered over us.
"Get out of my house!" Mummy bellowed.
Muriel was gone and the free elf never came back so mummy had to give up her job to stay with us all the time.
"Without the money from my job we're going to have to play at being poor for a while," Mummy said as she cleared up the breakfast things. "We're going to move to a nice little house in the country."
Hugo's face fell.
"But daddy won't know where to come back home to."
Mummy looked as if she was about to cry and I kicked Hugo under the table.
"Will we be going on a train?" I asked.
"Yes," mummy said as she turned away to busy herself with the washing up. "We'll be going to Hogsmeade village and then getting a Thestral-drawn carriage to the new place on the outskirts. The headmistress is arranging it for us."
"A steam train ride, Hugo, won't that be nice?"
Hugo nodded and then left the table without a word.
"Will we be able to play outside at the new house?" I asked.
We had been cooped up because of people saying things about our father on the street that she didn't want us to hear.
"As long as you're not a bother to people," mummy said, turning around with a smile. "Why don't you go and help your brother pack. You know how disorganised he is."
"Okay," I said and slipped away to find Hugo in his bedroom, sadly polishing his toy train.
"We'll get to see lots of people we know in Hogsmeade," I said as I pulled a sticky treacle toffee off one of his jumpers and then folded it neatly.
"Will we still go to the Burrow on Sundays?" Hugo asked as he set the little engine down beside him.
"Of course we will," I nodded, with confidence.
"Because daddy will know to go to the Burrow on a Sunday. He'll be able to find us."
"Mummy will have told him where we're going, I'm sure," I said, feeling a twinge in my stomach as I wondered if that were true.
"Maybe, when we go to the Burrow, we can look for Granny Weasley's clock again and see what daddy's hand is pointing at."
I didn't say anything to that. I had looked for the clock when I had first gone to the Burrow after daddy had gone away. It didn't have an 'on business' segment so I wondered what the clock would call being away on business. There were lots of things it could have said. I wouldn't have liked to see his hand pointing at 'lost'.
It would have been awful if he was lost when we were moving somewhere new.
"The first class carriage is this way, madam," one of the porters said as he took mummy's travelling bag and gestured to the end of the train.
"No," she said as she took the bag back, "we're travelling on a standard fare. Thank you."
As she called for some free elves to help Hugo with his trunk, well it was daddy's old school trunk really, I heard the porter turning to the station master and muttering, "Well she looks first class to me."
We did usually take one of the good carriages when we travelled by train because Hugo loved it so much and he was able to chatter and hog the window without tripping over good working people or kicking sleeping commuters awake. That had been what daddy said anyway.
And the porter was right, mummy did look first class. She always had looked very proper and important. Once at a Weasley family gathering, a waiter apologised to her for the raucous common family dining that day. She never did look like one of us. It's funny how daddy always looked right with mummy's family though. Daddy could be charming.
But we tried not to think of him as we travelled away from our red brick house without him.
It was dark when the train pulled into Hogsmeade station and we struggled onto the platform with our bags, trunks and cases by ourselves. As soon as we were all out and clear Mummy drew her wand and levitated everything three inches off the ground and then guided them along ahead of us.
"Nobody's here to meet us," Hugo said as he looked up and down the deserted platform.
"Nobody knows we're coming," mummy said as she reached back and took Hugo's hand. "The headmistress has her students to take care of. We can manage, the carriage should be right outside."
There was a carriage, just like she said, but there weren't any Thestrals as we'd been promised. Hugo was ever so disappointed. Mummy didn't seem to notice that there was nothing to pull our carriage, however, and started loading it up with our things.
"Climb aboard, you two," she said just as a hooded man with what daddy would have called a gormless face stepped out from under a shelter that was dripping onto him more than if he had stood outside it in the damp with us. "Oh!"
The man didn't say anything, he just climbed into the front seat and picked up a whip.
"Are you taking us to the Three Chimneys?" Mummy asked him.
"I dare say," the man said in a croaky voice.
"Did the headmistress send you?"
"I dare say," he repeated before cracking the whip at thin air and then being pulled away as the magic carriage set off by itself.
"So we're walking behind I suppose," mummy said, sounding annoyed, before turning to us and beaming. "Well we did fill the carriage up with so many things. Stretching our legs after that long train journey will do us good, don't you think?"
Hugo looked at mummy as if she was a very naïve child and then turned to me and shrugged.
"I dare say," he said, in a perfect imitation of the man's voice.
Mummy laughed and I giggled. Hugo was so much like daddy sometimes.
When we arrived at the Three Chimneys there was no light and no food. Hugo was whining about how he was starving and I was getting jittery about the squeaky noises. Mummy wasn't bothered by the prospect of rats or mice though.
"Your father used to sleep with a rat in his bed, a big ugly thing it was," she said before looking as if this suddenly wasn't very funny. "Rats are sometimes preferable to certain people if you ask me. Anyway, rats aren't anything to worry us and mice are timid little things who'll scamper away as soon as we turn on the lights."
"What lights?" Hugo asked before falling over something in the pitch black.
"Careful dear," mummy said before several things sounded as if they were being knocked over. "Wait, I'll light my wand and we'll..."
When the light from the wand filled the room we saw that there were candles and wall mounted oil lamps all around the place. With a flick of her wand the cluttered little place filled with warm golden light and there was no more squeaking.
We found our way to the kitchen and mummy checked the cupboards but they were all bare.
"Maybe this is Old Mother Hubbard's house," Hugo said as he upturned a biscuit tin and shook it, only to find crumbs.
"Granny Weasley said she'd sent some things on ahead of us, I'm sure there'll be something to eat in there, knowing her. Let's find it, shall we?" mummy said as she began opening doors to see if there was a pantry or a larder to be found anywhere.
"I see boxes!" Hugo shouted from a little half door beneath the stairs.
He ran down the wooden steps into the cellar and I stayed behind as the light from my lamp showed that it was thick with cobwebs. I always thought that if daddy was scared of something then it must be a terrifyingly dangerous thing. Mummy followed him and then let out an exclamation of relief as she opened a wicker basket and found some jars and tins of various things for us to tuck into.
We had an odd assortment on our table for the first meal in the new house, the house with the three chimneys, and mummy had to wrestle a teaspoon from Hugo's hand when he plucked it from the marmalade jar and reached to dig it into the sardines.
"No, Hugo, you do not put the marmalade spoon into the sardines."
"But it's gorgeous, mummy!" Hugo grinned.
We all laughed and then drank a toast to Granny Weasley with our cups of tea.
"To Granny Weasley," I said, happily clinking my teacup with the others.
"To Granny Weasley," mummy echoed.
"And all who sail in her!" Hugo added.
The Three Chimneys was a lot less scary when daylight came. We went outside to explore and the grass was long and unkempt, nothing like the neatly trimmed lawns of the parks and gardens of London, and filled with glossy looking buttercups of the yellowiest yellow I'd ever seen.
We ran all the way to a wooden fence which ran along the crest of a steep slope down to the railway tracks. We climbed onto the fence and sat, looking towards the large gaping black hole of the tunnel as a rumbling sound grew louder until we felt it right down to our boots.
Then the engine appeared and the driver set off the whistle, causing me to jump with fright and almost fall off the fence onto my back, while Hugo laughed and whooped. It was like a metal dragon tearing by, blowing smoke as it went. Hugo thought it was the most brilliant thing he'd ever seen.
"I never thought I get as close to a train as this," he said, watching the last carriage disappear around the bend in the track.
"What do you mean, silly, you've been inside a train lots of times."
"It's different being on the outside, with it going full speed right by you, and it looks so much bigger when it's not cut in half by a platform."
"I wonder if that train was going to London. That's where daddy is." I said, wistfully.
"How do you know where his business is?" Hugo frowned.
"All business is in London isn't it?" I said with a shrug.
"But he was already in London to begin with, why would he have had to go away if he was already there?" Hugo pointed out.
Sharp-witted like daddy sometimes too.
We hopped off the fence and ran down the slope, pausing at the side of the track to make sure there wasn't another train coming, and then stepped between the rails and followed the railway line all the way to Hogsmeade station.
"I don't think I'm going to enjoy being poor," Hugo said as he balanced on one of the steel rails like a tightrope walker.
"But we'll pretend it's a game, like mummy said," I told him as I jumped ahead and walked backwards in front of him so we were facing each other as we went along. "And we shouldn't complain about being poor because daddy grew up poor and he always looks so happy in all the old photographs doesn't he?"
Hugo nodded and then frowned, thoughtfully.
"But Granddad Weasley was in those photographs too. He was probably happy because he had both his mummy and daddy instead of money and nice things."
I turned around to continue walking on ahead, looking down the track and not at Hugo's very blue and very daddy-like eyes.
"We don't have money or nice things or daddy, I think I should be allowed to complain," Hugo called after me, but I ignored him.
The next time we sat on the fence, watching the trains go by, Hugo came up with an idea.
"If the trains going this way are going to London, and if daddy is in London on business, then we could send our love to him down in London on the train."
"Trains can't send love, Hugo."
"I wonder why daddy hasn't written to us," Hugo said as the sound of the engine rumbled from deep within the dark tunnel.
"Mummy says he's too busy, he'll write soon she said."
Hugo looked at the mouth of the tunnel with determination.
"Well why don't we wave anyway, two waves won't matter, we won't miss them."
I had to agree.
A stout looking brown engine appeared, pulling its smart wooden panelled carriages behind it, and we both waved as it went past. As the last carriage emerged from the tunnel the sunlight fell upon an old gentleman being served tea by a smartly dressed elf.
He saw us waving and smiled and waved back with his copy of the Prophet.
Pleased with ourselves we ran back to the Three Chimneys to tell our mother all about it. I stopped to pick her some buttercups and Hugo ran to the door, which opened before he could launch himself at it in that way he did. Our uncle Neville, who wasn't really our uncle but you call friends of your parents that because they are too familiar to call sir or mister but still deserve a respectful title, that's what mummy said anyway, opened the door and caught Hugo as he fell through into the hallway.
"Whoa there, young man," Uncle Neville said as he righted Hugo and stooped down to look at him. "What's the hurry?"
"We were just waving to the train as it went by in case it was going to Lon... What's the matter, Uncle Neville?"
I looked up and saw that Uncle Neville was indeed looking very worried about something. I felt a lump in my throat and hoped that there wasn't bad news about daddy.
"I need you to do me a favour, Hugh," Uncle Neville said. "I need you to run into the village and go to the Hog's Head. Ask the person at the bar to call for Madam Pomfrey. Got that?"
"Wait for her to come to you and bring her back here. Tell her Hermione Weasley's very ill and she's to come quickly. Go!"
Hugo ran off, calling over his shoulder, "Don't let her die, Uncle Neville!" and I dropped my handful of buttercups and dashed towards the house.
Uncle Neville held me back and then slowly walked with me up the stairs to mummy's room.
"Don't worry, she's just been looking after everybody but herself. Your dad usually takes care of her but..."
I stared up at him, eyes wide, and waited for him to tell me why daddy wasn't with us any more.
"It'll just be that she needs rest so you're going to have to be the bossy woman for a few days until she gets those bossy boots back on, okay?" Uncle Neville teased me with a smile.
I nodded and he gave me a cuddle.
Madam Pomfrey said that mummy had influenza, had been given lots of potions to make her better, and that I was appointed her nurse. She gave me a list of things that mummy needed to eat and drink so she would get well and stay well. I was to tell her that there would be no more eating leftovers instead of proper meals and no more skipping meals to buy us buns and chocolate for teatime treats.
I nodded, very sternly, and looked at the list. I didn't know where most of the things on it were sold and I didn't know how much they cost or where the money for them would be found.
Uncle Neville was giving me some money to buy the things when mummy saw him through the open door and shouted at him that we wouldn't take his money. They had a disagreement about it and mummy snapped that our father would be sick at the thought of receiving charity.
"He'd be sicker to know you weren't letting his friends look after you when you were ill," Uncle Neville said before dropping the little bag of coins into my hand, "and I happen to be Hugo's Godfather and it's my duty to take care of him when his father can't."
This upset everybody, even Uncle Neville, but mummy told him we would pay him back as soon as she was well enough to write some articles for the politics editor of the Prophet and earn some money again.
"Be sure to use your pseudonym, they won't print anything a Weasley has to say at the moment, not even Harry can get into the newspaper," Uncle Neville mumbled before turning to head down the stairs.
There were things on the list Madam Pomfrey gave us like grapes and brandy. We weren't allowed to buy alcohol and the only grapes anybody in Hogsmeade knew of were the tiny sour ones Hagrid grew for home made wine.
"We need a grown up to go shopping for us," Hugo said, propping up his head with his hand.
"I mentioned asking Uncle Neville but mummy said no. She thinks he'll sneakily pay for extras and not tell her and she's terribly funny about taking advantage of charity."
"She wouldn't be if daddy was ill," Hugo grumbled.
"No but daddy would have been. I think she's doing it for him. She's displaying his pride because she doesn't want to..." I stopped, I didn't like to think of exactly why mummy was trying to take his place as if he wasn't going to ever come back. "Just because he's not here she's still respecting what he would want and saying what he would say."
"He'd buy her everything she needed though," Hugo said with a huff. "She's only remembering part of him. She might have forgotten what he was like but I haven't!"
"Nobody's forgetting daddy," I said, sharply. "Now come on, let's think, what would he be happy with us doing for her?"
"What are you doing?"
"The letter H."
"There's no H in station, Hugo."
"Give it here," I huffed as I grabbed the paint brush from his hand and added a large T and I to the bed sheet we were using for our banner.
"I'm sure that's not right," Hugo said as he stood back and folded his arms.
"As long as it works, that's all that matters," I said as I joined him and we admired our work. "Now we have to wait for it to dry."
"Look out at the station," Hugo read aloud. "They might think there's been a catastrophe and not stop at all. They might speed up or stop too early so they don't hit the thing we're warning them to look out for. We should have put something different."
"Well it's too late now isn't it?" I said as I washed the brush in a jam jar full of water. "We only had one sheet to use and it won't help mummy get better if she's lying on a stripped bed."
"I'd donate one of my sheets," Hugo said, sticking out his chin.
"No, this will be fine, come on, let's walk with it. The breeze will dry it on the way."
Hugo fixed the banner to our spot on the fence, near the tunnel, and I ran down to Hogsmeade station to wait for the train to pull into the platform. As the train emerged from the darkness of the tunnel and into the light Hugo was waving and pointing at it until the old gentleman in the farthest carriage at the very back looked up from his newspaper and noticed him.
When the engine pulled into the station nearly every door and window opened and different people poked their heads out before the train had even stopped. I ran the length of the train to the end carriage and the old gentleman was pulling down his window and looking out just as we'd asked him to do.
"Oh you did see! You are the man who waves to us aren't you?"
He smiled and nodded at me and I pulled a letter from my pocket and clutched it to myself.
"Yes my dear, I do wave," he replied, somewhat taken aback by the whole event.
"Oh please take this," I said as I pushed the letter into his hands. "We chose you because you have such a kind face."
The station master blew his whistle and the train began chugging along on its way. I waved to the old gentleman and he waved back. The station master waved too, I think because he thought maybe it was impolite not to, and I watched until the old gentleman closed his window again and then ran off to find Hugo.
It was only two days later when the station master came staggering down our garden path, struggling with a large wicker basket that looked very heavy. We opened the door and helped him set it down on the floor just inside the front door.
"Good evening, the name's Cribbins." He pointed to me. "I believe we've met."
"Yes Mr Cribbins," I nodded.
"The old gent asked me to fetch this up to you straight away," Cribbins said as he pointed down to the basket.
"Thank you very much, Mr Cribbins," Hugo said, taking his role of man of the house very seriously. "I'm very sorry I haven't a Sickle to give you like father does but-"
"Hey," Cribbins said, waggling his finger down at Hugo and widening his eyes. "Just stop that please. I wasn't thinking about no Sickles. I just came to say I was sorry to hear your ma weren't so well and to see how she finds herself this evening."
Cribbins took off his tiny bowler hat, far too small for his head, and pulled out a little twiggy bouquet of white flowers.
"Oh and I've bought her a little bit of sweet briar there, very sweet to smell that is." He shoved his nose into it and sniffed deeply before handing it to me. "Sickle indeed."
"Thank you very much," Hugo said with a grin, "and I beg your pardon about the Sickle."
"No offence, I'm sure. I know you didn't mean anything by it. I've spoken to Rubeus Hagrid and he tells me you're decent young people. Well I'll be going then, goodnight."
"Thank you Mr Cribbins, goodnight," Hugo said as he saw him out and closed the door.
As soon as his man of the house duties were over with he was skidding across the floor on his knees to fling open the lid of the basket. I crouched to join him.
We both gasped as the lid creaked open and we saw how the old gentlemen had got what we had asked him to buy for us and more.
"I think we were right to ask him to spend Uncle Neville's money for us," Hugo said as he began unloading jar after jar of preserved fruit.
"Of course we were right," I said.
"But do you think we should tell her the whole truth about what he got us? He spent some of his own money too, he must have."
"We'll wait until she's completely well and when she is we'll be so happy we shan't mind her scolding," I said with confidence.
Hugo seemed happy enough to go along with my theory and lifted out a small bunch of red roses.
"Oh look, I'll take them up to her." I got up to carry the flowers up the stairs to mummy's room when Hugo called me back.
"Sweetbriar," he said as he held out Cribbins' bouquet too.
"Oh, thank you."
By the end of the following week we had painted a new message on the other side of the ruined bed sheet and were hanging it on the fence as we waited for the old gentleman's train to pass through the tunnel.
When it did we waved, madly, and grinned as he saw the new banner.
She is well
He waved back, beaming, and we kept waving to him until all we could see was the plume of steam from the funnel of the engine.
Mummy wasn't quite so thrilled.
"Now listen, it's true that we're hard up at the moment," she said, back on her feet and putting one of them down quite firmly, "but we have enough to live on just as long as I keep writing articles for the Prophet."
We stood our ground, happy that she was well enough to tell us off at all.
"But you mustn't go about telling people of our affairs, it isn't right, and you must never, never, NEVER ask strangers to give you things!"
Our heads began to hang and we shuffled our feet, awkwardly.
"I will write to your old gentleman and I'll tell him I didn't approve. I'll still thank him for his kindness, it's you two I'm cross with, he did a very nice thing. You can give my letter to your Mr Cribbins to give to him, along with a Sickle."
"Mr Cribbins is offended by Sickles!" Hugo piped up.
"The Sickle is for the old gentleman. I'll be repaying him for his trouble. Your father's family will not beg strangers for food. I want him to come back home to a family he's proud of."
She turned and stomped away.
"Isn't she marvellous when she's angry?" Hugo said, in awe.
When it rained we would go to the station and sit in the waiting room as watch the trains go by. When the old gentlemen's train had been and gone we stayed, the rain driving down like stair rods, and had silly name-calling fights. Hugo was always the winner of those. If ever I came up with a name that was unsurpassable he'd just take it and say thank you, with the tone of a man who had been greatly complimented.
It's hard to feel triumphant in your victory when your conquest is so flattered by their loss.
Daddy would always win at chess and mummy would always win at arguments. Mummy would lose graciously, retiring her king before she it got too embarrassing, and daddy would back down from the argument with either a red-faced storming out or a smile and an 'at least I can admit when I'm wrong'. He was sneaky like that. He never said he was wrong, just that he admitted that he could admit to it.
Another train had come and gone but the people were still gathered on the platform in the rain. I stood up and leaned right up against the window to see what was going on. The pane soon steamed up and as I wiped it clear with my sleeve Hugo opened the door to the waiting room and shouted out to the crowd.
"What's going on?"
"Never you mind, young Hugo," Cribbins said before squatting down and then struggling to lift something.
Hugo stepped out into the rain and crossed the platform to push his way through the crowd. Cribbins was helping a shabby looking man to his feet. Nobody could understand what the man was saying. I stepped out of the waiting room and heard a couple of unfamiliar words.
"It's French I think," one of the onlookers said to another.
"That's not French!" Hugo said with disdain.
"Oh and how do you know?"
"My Auntie Fleur's French, that's how, and she doesn't sound like that."
I tried to take hold of Hugo and pull him away with an apology.
"Why don't you say something to him in French then?" one of the men said with a point at the unsteady man.
"Parlez vous Francais?" Hugo said, with a very English accent.
The man's face lit up and he began talking to Hugo in very distinct French.
"Now that's French!" Hugo said, beaming.
"So what did he say?" Cribbins asked.
"I don't know," Hugo shrugged, "I don't speak French."
The crowd groaned and Cribbins tried to shoo them away before supporting the man into the shelter of the waiting room.
"Our mother can speak French," I said, "she'll be on her way for us now."
"Oh yeah, she's really good, you must hear her!" Hugo said to Cribbins, eagerly.
"Well all right then, do you think you'll be safe with him just you two and whoever he is?"
"I'm sure we will," I said with a confident nod.
When mummy arrived she talked to the man until he started crying and I was sent to fetch Madam Pomfrey for him. When I got back Hugo told me the man was Russian and had told mummy his life story in French.
"I understood the nodding," he said as he filled me in on what I'd missed.
I was sent to the cellar to fetch some pyjamas for the man to change into and found them in the trunk with daddy's name on it. I opened it and rooted through the things we had brought with us but never got around to unpacking before noticing the hem of the pyjama bottoms.
When I pulled them free I saw that almost all of daddy's things were packed. Everything was there, all but the clothes I saw him wearing on Christmas day when he went away with the strange men.
I wondered why, if daddy was on business, he didn't need a change of clothes.
I found his Deluminator, a framed photograph of his and mummy's wedding day and another of the four of us when Hugo was very little. Then I found his wand.
I clutched the pyjamas to myself and walked backwards away from the trunk. I almost ran up the rickety wooden stairs and then up to the bedroom where I handed mummy the pyjamas and bolted for my own room.
It wasn't long before mummy came to find me.
"I know you said we weren't to ask any questions, but daddy isn't dead is he?" I felt slightly sick just saying it out loud.
"Oh, sweetheart, no," mummy said as she pulled me into her body and squashed my cheek against her chest, firmly, as he hands cradled the back of my head.
She kissed me through my hair and I squeezed her tightly. Mummy lowered her arms to cuddle me back and then she leaned away and tried to get me to look her in the eye.
"Come on now, look at me," she said, firmly. "Your father was very well when I heard from him last and he'll come back to us one day."
I nodded and Hugo walked into the room. Mummy stepped back and I smiled at him, he didn't need to be upset too, and he pointed at my bed.
"I've lost my bed to a Russian, can I get in with you Rosie?"
"We're all in together tonight," mummy declared with a clap of her hands and a happy smile. "He has my sheets and our spare one has painted messages all over it."
Hugo and I shared a guilty smile before giggling. Mummy shepherded us into bed and she told us all about the Russian we had found at the station.
"He's a very clever man. He writes books on defence against the Dark Arts and he's a very skilled wand maker too. He was working on wands that had amazing strength against Dark Magic."
Mummy had us enraptured already.
"Remember how we told you about Unforgivable Curses and how there are some things that are impossible to defend yourself against?"
"Unless you're Uncle Harry!" Hugo piped up.
"Well of course not counting Uncle Harry," mummy laughed. "He's shaken off so many fatalities I think death is just a slight irritation to him by now."
We all laughed so much about that, and for such a long time, that mummy lost her train of thought.
"Where was I? Oh yes, well there was a rumour that he was very close to creating a wand that could defend its owner against the killing curse."
"This was all just an idealistic dream of course, but he had good theories behind his work and in a few more generations such a wand might one day exist. But some people don't want it to ever exist. People who use the killing curse don't like to fight, they certainly don't like anybody fighting back, and if their cowardly curse could be seen off then they would have to duel and no matter how powerful the witch or wizard anybody can win or lose a duel."
"No more killing, not as if it didn't matter, not like there was when you and daddy were young?" I asked.
"I'll have you know I am still young and your father younger than me so there!" Mummy said before smirking. "Honestly, you youngsters think we grow white hair and shrivel up when we become forty."
"I've seen white hairs on your head, mummy," Hugo said as he began searching her mane for proof.
"One or two silver birch trees in a forest of oak does not an old hag make," mummy said with a dignified swat at his hand.
"So the horrible dark wizards in Russia, they tried to stop him making his wand?" I asked, still deeply engrossed in the story of our Russian.
"He spent three years in a dungeon, damp and dark and dreadful," mummy said, pausing to shudder; "and then they sent him to Siberia where he was condemned to spend the rest of his life."
"His whole life, for not hurting anybody and trying to stop people killing other people?" Hugo said, utterly shocked, "That's awful."
"His Russian friends helped him escape and told him they had exiled his wife and children to England for safety. That's why he's here. He's trying to find them."
"Do you think he will find them?" I asked her.
"Oh I hope so," Mummy said, wistfully. "I think in your thoughts tonight, we should keep in mind all the prisoners and captives out there."
"All prisoners and captives?" I repeated, examining her sad, distant face.
"Yes, every one of them," she said, softly, with a single nod. "You know all about how powerful a Patronus is, don't you?"
"Well all it's made from are wonderful thoughts of love and hope and happiness. I think that, even though we won't be sending a real Patronus with them, those thoughts will find their way through walls and bars and over great distances and get to where they're needed most."
"To people unfairly locked up," I said, watching as mummy's face strained to remain as it had been before and not crumple away into tears.
She nodded and Hugo balled both his hands into tight fists and closed his eyes tightly as he tried to send his good thoughts and feelings out to those who needed them. I took mummy's hand and we both closed our eyes and sent our thoughts out together.
As the Russian sat in the garden, enjoying the sunshine, and mummy stayed inside, working on a new article, we decided to go and send our love to daddy with all the passing trains, sure that at least one of them would be going to wherever he was. We packed a small picnic basket with a blanket and some buns and took a flask of lemon squash with us too.
As the bright red engine and all its carriages passed by we climbed over the fence and set off down the steep slope to the track, planning to walk to the station and talk to Cribbins before settling down for our picnic.
We were half way down when Hugo grabbed my arm and pointed.
"Look at that tree over there!"
There was a groaning sound and then tumbling earth. It did appear that the tree was moving. It wasn't thrashing around like the Whomping Willow mummy and daddy had told us about. It was straight and still but sliding down the steep grassy slope as if its roots were greased up and unable to grip onto the ground anymore.
"It's moving," I said, unsettled by a sight I couldn't explain even with magic.
More trees were sliding down the hill now, smaller saplings, but still standing straight and not falling or wobbling. They just slid down with an eerie smoothness.
"So are the others," I said, still frozen to the spot and watching the trees slide away down the slope.
"It must be magic," Hugo said in a whisper.
"But they're still just trees, they aren't behaving as if they're magical plants or like they've been enchanted."
"What is it then?" Hugo said, still whispering.
The slope began to crumble and clods of earth and rocks rolled down alongside the trees.
"What is it?" Hugo demanded, fascination deserting him and need to run away and get somebody to explain it overcoming him completely.
The largest tree was almost at the bottom of the slope now, approaching the built up wall of logs at the side of the track.
"It's much too magic for me," Hugo said as he backed away up the slope. "I don't like it, I'm going to get mummy."
He turned to run and I grabbed him just as the big tree jarred to a halt at the log wall. The tree began to fall, as if it had been chopped down, and the creaking sound grew louder until it became a crash. We jumped and gasped and the trunk broke through the log wall and earth tumbled out all over the tracks.
There were rocks and logs and soil and the branches from the toppled tree blocking the railway line completely.
Everything finished toppling and sliding and crashing and then went still. Dust settled and it was all over.
"Cor, that'll take some sweeping up," Hugo said as he took it all in.
We hurried down the slope and onto the tracks.
There was so much debris, some of the logs from the wall were jutting out like spears, and there was no way any trains could pass at all. If one were to come along at the speed they did when we usually waved to them people would be killed.
"The eleven twenty-nine hasn't gone by yet," Hugo exclaimed, "we must warn them at the station, there'll be an accident!"
"Let's run!" I said, turning to sprint away.
"No it's too far, it's almost a mile away." Hugo was thinking hard as he looked down the line. "If only we had something red, we could make a flag and warn them."
"But the train won't have time to stop by the time it comes around the corner and sees us," I said.
"We can go around the corner, further up the line, and wave for them to stop."
"They'll just wave back like they always do," I said, worrying my hands and beginning to really panic.
"Picnic basket!" Hugo shouted.
"Inside the picnic basket, we packed a red blanket to sit on!"
We dashed back up the slope to where we'd dropped the basket and pulled out the crimson blanket. I took one end and Hugo took the other.
"Pull hard, we need to rip it into pieces to make warning flags."
Hugo grunted and heaved as the fibres of the fabric began to stretch and give way.
"You know, it would be much better if we were allowed to use wands at our age," Hugo grumbled as he pulled. "We could really do with sending up red sparks at a time like this."
"Just keep pulling," I said as we managed to start a rip which we then ripped all the way down through the blanket.
"First no sheets and now no blanket. Mummy will be in our bed until the Russian leaves," Hugo sighed as he started to try and rip his half in two again.
"Let's get down there now, look for some sticks to make proper flags. The train's almost due."
We ran around the bend in the track and I trod on one end of my blanket while pulling at the other. I got it to rip at last and Hugo struggled to do the same with his. We could hear the train approaching and rushed to grab some sticks to tie the corners of the torn blankets to.
I had two small flags and Hugo one large one, the weight of which was almost bending his stick right over, and we stood on either side of the track and waved like mad.
The train was closer now, we could feel the vibrations from it through the ground, and hear the growing roar of the engine.
"It won't see us, it's all no good," I said, waving my flags in desperation.
The white plume of smoke appeared over the tops of the trees. I moved to stand between the rails and waved harder.
"Get off the line, Rosie!" Hugo shouted.
"It's no good," I said again as the train finally appeared.
"Get back!" Hugo yelled at me, almost engulfed in his own giant flag.
"Not yet," I shouted over the roar of the engine, waving both arms even harder, flags flapping in the air above me. "Not yet!"
The train sounded its whistle and we both shouted.
Another louder whistle, it sounded like a tuba being blown by an elephant and deafened me.
The whistle sounded again and was followed by the screeching and scraping of the brakes. The train was slowly rolling to a halt, wheels shrieking against the tracks, but it was still moving forward at a rate of knots.
"Get back!" Hugo shouted at me.
"Stop!" I screamed at the train.
"Stop, stop, stop!" Hugo echoed beside me.
The scraping and scratching of metal against metal was so loud it made my teeth hurt now. It didn't look as if the train was going to stop in time but I couldn't move my legs from where they had been planted.
I closed my eyes and waited for the train to hit me. There was a screaming sounds and then a hiss. Hugo was shouting and babbling.
"There's been an earthquake, don't move, you'll all be killed! The trees are walking down the bank and there's a mountain of stuff."
Hugo's voice faded away and so did the train and the sunlight and the breeze. Everything went black.
A huge celebration was thrown for us on the platform at Hogsmeade station that weekend.
The old gentleman heard about us stopping the crash and arranged for a brass band to play and made us little medals of valour. He was there to present them to us after giving a lovely speech about us being heroes and he called us the Railway Children.
Mummy looked very proud and had got all dressed up for the party. Granny and Granddad Weasley were there and all our aunts and uncles and cousins. Even Uncle Harry took time away from business to be there. Daddy didn't manage to get away from his business though.
Hagrid made an enormous cake and nobody but a funny old man and his goat could actually eat it, it was so tough.
"An accident was averted on August the fifteenth by these brave young people, when a freak landslide occurred at the very spot we would all look out for them and wave." The old gentleman was a very good speaker. "We passengers of this railway thank them, as do those who live in the village of Hogsmeade. Thank you both."
Everybody applauded and I curtseyed, for reasons I am unsure of looking back, while Hugo said thank you to the old gentleman. The brass band played again and we all left to go to the stationmaster's house for a garden party.
"Dad's always away all day and into the night, helping Uncle Ron," our cousin James said as we sat and ate the jelly trifle Granny Weasley had made. "I'm surprised he came today, we never see him apart from 'bye dad' in the mornings and 'goodnight dad' when we go to bed. If he's helping Uncle Ron and he still came then why couldn't your dad?"
Teddy shushed him and jabbed him hard in the side with his elbow.
"We're not supposed to say anything about Uncle Ron," Lily said.
"Why not?" I asked. "Do you know anything about him?"
"Nope," Lily said, "but we wanted to ask you where he was and we were told we shouldn't."
"Shhhhhh!" Teddy said with a glare.
Mummy soon came and ushered me away. I looked around at all the family and old friends and new friends, the old gentleman and the Russian and Cribbins, and gave mummy a cuddle.
"Wouldn't daddy have loved this?" I smiled.
When I looked up at her, mummy's eyes were filled with tears and shining. I kissed her on the cheek and pretended I hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary. I would stick to my vow that if she didn't want us to know she was unhappy then we wouldn't know.
"I'm going to go and have a jam tart before Hugo eats them all," I said before leaving her to talk to Uncle Harry alone.
As I pondered over a yellow tart with apricot jam, a red one with raspberry jam or a purple one with blackcurrant jam, the old gentleman leaned over and whispered into my ear.
"I highly recommend the blackcurrant."
I jumped and he laughed.
"So are you enjoying the party my dear?" he asked.
"Oh yes, it's lovely to see everybody together like this," I said as I followed his advice and picked up a purple tart, "even our Russian is happy."
The old gentleman looked across the garden towards the shabby man, thoughtfully.
"He looks as if he has some tales to tell."
"He does, and he's told them all to mummy in French." I nodded. "He was a prisoner and captive for years in Russia and escaped to England to try and find his wife and children, or the kids and the bloomin' missus as Cribbins puts it."
The old gentleman laughed and I realised I was babbling a little.
"The thing is, he was locked up for trying to stop wizards killing each other with magic. Can you imagine punishing somebody for that?"
"Unfortunately, I don't have to. I have lived through two wars where certain wizards wanted to do nothing more than kill with magic."
"Of course," I said, blushing. "I forget sometimes that the magical world used to be a horrid place. Mummy and daddy had to fight when they were still at school you know?"
"I'm sure they would have been delighted to know that, by fighting back, their own children would find the idea of Dark Magic and killing wizards and witches for power unimaginable."
I smiled. I took a bite out of my jam tart and watched as Hugo tried to recreate the way the trees moved down the bank with sticks of celery for Granddad Weasley. I saw that the Russian was watching my cousins play with a sad smile on his face and had an idea.
"Could I ask you a favour?" I said, turning to the old gentleman again.
"Of course, my dear."
"I don't want you to give me anything," I said, urgently, "it's just that you might know how to go about helping our Russian find his family. Do you think you could? Would you know where to look?"
"I'm very glad you asked me about this, very glad indeed, and I shouldn't be surprised if I find something out very soon."
"Oh thank you!" I said, flinging myself at him to hug him tightly.
"Now would you be so kind as to do something for me?"
"Of course," I said, jumping back and waiting for the old gentleman to tell me what he needed from me.
"Please go and enjoy your celebration party and stop troubling yourself over everybody else, just for an afternoon."
I laughed and promised before rushing off to tell Hugo that our Russian might soon have a celebration of his own.
The light grew a hazy orange and spilled like syrup over the meadows all the way to the Three Chimneys, which looked like one of those sepia photographs from olden days. We walked back with mummy and talked until we were worn out.
When Hugo had fallen asleep I sat up and read the fancy scroll that had been presented to us with our little medals. It was then that I realised I didn't have mine with me. I felt the front of my dress and looked over the side of the bed but it was nowhere to be seen.
I hoped I had left it downstairs and crept out, so as not to wake Hugo, and then down the stairs to the living room.
Sure enough, there it was on the sideboard beside the door. I leaned in and picked it up before freezing at the sound of a sob. I peered further around the door and saw mummy sitting in her chair in front of the fire, crying.
I wanted to go to her and tell her everything would be all right and give her a cuddle but then I remembered making Hugo agree to play along and pretend we hadn't noticed when she cried. She didn't want us to know, that's why she waited until we were in bed.
I crept back up the stairs and into bed without making a sound.
For a few minutes I sat up in bed and closed my eyes. I thought about all the lovely feelings and how happy I had been at the party that day. I gathered all of the lovely light that fell upon us as we walked home, and the hope for the Russian finding his family again, and I sent it all out there to prisoners and captives.
I sent it all out to find daddy.
We sat on the platform impatiently waiting for the train to arrive. When it did we became incredibly nervous. If the Russian couldn't get back to his family we would have felt as if daddy would never return to ours.
"I'm so nervous, my heart's beating like a steam engine, right under my belt too," I said as we watched the old gentleman's train pull into the station.
"People's hearts aren't under their belts," Hugo said with a huff.
"I don't care, mine is," I said as we got up from our seat and walked down the platform to meet the old gentleman at his end carriage.
"Well if you're going to talk like a poetry book, my heart's in my mouth," he said as the steam filled the platform around us.
The train stopped and we stepped forward.
"Now it's dropped right down into my boots," I said, nervously as the door opened and the old gentleman stepped out.
"Hello," Hugo said, holding out his hand to shake the old gentleman's.
"What a great pleasure it is to see you again." The old gentleman smiled.
"It was good of you to get out," I said.
The train was sent on its way and the old gentleman tapped his fingertips together in excitement.
"I have some wonderful news for you both," he said. "I have found your Russian friend's wife and children."
Hugo cheered and I clutched at the old gentleman's hands.
"Really, are you sure?"
"It is most definitely them, they showed me a picture of your guest and I recognised him instantly. I have come to return him to them."
We both hugged the old gentleman and then to an arm each and all but dragged him to the Three Chimneys.
That afternoon we waved our Russian off as he left with the old gentleman on the train and I felt sure that we would see daddy again one day.
It was a rainy afternoon and we were shut up indoors with nothing to do. Cribbins, having children of his own and knowing how rainy days can drag, came to the Three Chimneys with a bundle wrapped up with string.
I saw him coming and ran to the door to let him in.
"No, no, I won't keep you," he said, water dripping from the end of his peaked cap, "and besides, I wouldn't want to traipse mud into your nice clean house. Your mother wouldn't thank me for that."
"Oh but," I began to protest.
"What she will thank me for is giving you two these."
Cribbins held up the bundle of newspapers and magazines.
"You and your brother are probably right bored stuck in today, eh?"
"Too bloody right!" Hugo called out from the stairs.
"What was that?" Mummy called out with a disapproving tone.
"Sorry, mummy," Hugo shouted back towards the kitchen.
Cribbins chuckled and then handed the bundle to me.
"I collected them from the waiting room. Some of them are old but they have puzzles and crosswords that aren't done and pictures if you want to colour in. Some of those kiddie comics are in there too, Marvellous Muggle or whatever he's called."
"You've got Martin Miggs?" Hugo leapt down from the step he was sitting on and hurried over.
A clap of thunder rumbled ominously close overhead and Cribbins pulled his hood up and stepped back from the door.
"I'd better be going before it starts really chucking it down. I hope you find something in there that interests you," he called out with a wave.
We waved him off and then closed the door. Hugo spotted a brightly coloured page and wrestled a comic free without untying the string. He ran into the kitchen to show mummy what Cribbins had brought for us.
I grinned and then looked down at the bundle in my arms. The newspaper on the top was a copy of the Prophet. I wondered if it had one of mummy's articles inside and scanned the front page.
The first and only thing I saw was a picture of my daddy.
It was the same picture used on his Chocolate Frog card. Above it was his name, Ronald Weasley, and below was the bold print headline.
End of trial verdict
Sentence five years
I stared at the words for a moment and then at the picture.
"Not my daddy."
I clutched the bundle to my chest and ran up the stairs to the bedroom. I threw myself onto the bed and then sat up to stare down at the article and the picture of my wonderful daddy.
He was my daddy long legs, that was what we called him as a tease. Afraid of spiders but just as spindly-legged as one, Hugo would laugh. He was our big brave daddy but he was still frightened of spiders. What if they had locked him up in a dark place full of cobwebs?
I leaned over and cried into the bundle, hugging it as if it were him.
"Rosie?" Mummy called from the foot of the stairs.
I sat up and wiped my eyes. She was already making her way up the stairs, I could hear her footsteps. I turned the bundle over and faced the window, my back to the door.
"Rosie?" she called through the door before opening it.
I was still struggling to hold in my sobs. I knew how mummy had felt all those times now, having to keep it all tightly packed down and not wanting anybody to see, and couldn't help it when she walked around the bed to look at me.
"What is it, my love?"
I turned my streaming eyes upon her and sniffed.
I couldn't say it, so I rolled over the bundle so she could see.
Mummy looked at the newspaper, then at me, and then sat down beside me on the bed.
"You don't believe daddy did it, do you?" she asked, looking alarmed.
"No!" I choked.
"Because it's not true," mummy said, firmly. "They have shut him in prison but he's done nothing wrong. Uncle Harry's going to fix it. Everybody's trying to fix it."
I nodded but more tears poured out over my cheeks.
"He's good and honourable and he belongs to us," mummy said with a confident smile.
"Would it make you terribly unhappy if you told me all about it?" I asked, desperate to know everything after all this time.
Mummy shook her head.
"I want to understand," I explained, throat still tight from fighting to hold back the tears.
"Do you remember the day those two men came to the house and took daddy away?"
"Yes I do."
"Well they arrested him," mummy said, looking relieved to be letting it out at last, "charging him with stealing from the Department of Mysteries and selling what he took, information mostly, to Death Eaters. They called him a traitor."
I jumped up from the bed.
"How could anyone believe that?" I was angry now, anger dried the tears very quickly; it boiled them away. "How could anyone do it to him?"
"Someone did," mummy said, staring out of the window and clutching the bedpost.
"Why don't you tell somebody? Minister Shacklebolt?"
"He can't overturn the Wizengamot, he just presides. When Dumbledore was the head of the Wizengamot even he couldn't get them to drop charges against your Uncle Harry." Mummy sighed and shook her head.
"There isn't anybody who would hurt daddy on purpose, is there?" I asked, having to sit down again.
"I don't know," Mummy held my hand. "There used to be. It's all so complicated. There was an Auror who was very envious of your father. Daddy always said he didn't quite trust him."
"Why didn't you explain all that to someone?"
"Because they think I'd say anything, accuse anyone, and they won't listen to me. Uncle Harry's been suspended from the Aurors because he was trying to investigate and clear his name. Your Uncle Percy is the only one in the family who can still work at the Ministry and that's because the corrupt ones think he's corruptible."
"Uncle Percy?" I gasped.
"They're wrong," mummy said sharply, "but he's all we have left on the inside so he's letting them think it's true."
She sighed and her shoulders fell.
"Do you suppose I haven't tried everything?" She was so sad but so strong. "What you and I have to do, and daddy, is to be brave."
She wiped away a tear with the pad of her thumb and kissed me on the cheek. I kissed her back. I didn't tell Hugo. I couldn't.
That night I snuck up to bed early and cut out the newspaper article about daddy. I wrote a letter to the only person I could hope to help him and put both into an envelope.
The following morning I went to the station and saw Cribbins across the tracks, tying runner bean plants to poles with string, and hopped down off the platform to cross the tracks and hand him the envelope. He read the front and gave me a nod and a smile. I thanked him and popped back across the tracks to go and find Hugo.
"Where have you been?"
I looked up and Hugo was looking down over a high wall at me.
"I've been to the station, but don't ask me why, it's a secret."
"Please yourself," he said with a shrug.
Mummy found another way to earn some money, besides her articles for the Prophet, when Cribbins mentioned that his eldest was going to go to Hogwarts the following month but that Mrs Cribbins was too busy with the baby and the younger children to help him with his basic education.
She offered to have him at the Three Chimneys when we did our reading, arithmetic and general studies in the afternoon. Cribbins insisted on giving mummy some money for this but she refused, knowing that Cribbins wasn't much better off that we were. Cribbins refused to take charity and we hit a brick wall in negotiations until Hugo pointed something out.
"If you are teaching more then you can't write stories to earn the money to pay the rent on the Three Chimneys. If Mr Cribbins sends all his children here for lessons, not the baby of course but the others, he will have more time to work."
"The missus'd get her cleaning done in no time without our lot under her feet, I can tell ya." Cribbins sounded almost wistful as he spoke, before returning to practicalities. "But that'd be more of a liberty taken on your mother wouldn't it?"
"But you paying mummy won't be a hardship if you can stay longer at the station, not having to hurry back," I said, picking up on Hugo's point, "and as mummy would have to take less time writing articles and our money would go down..."
"This could be a job, not a favour," Hugo interrupted. "Paying somebody for doing their job isn't charity."
"We can make this a school house so the local children can read well and write neatly and not be so scared to start at the big school all by themselves when they're old enough," I said, proud of us for being so clever.
Mummy thought about the idea for some time. Cribbins looked hopeful, liking the idea of it being her job so he could pay his way fair and square.
"I don't like the idea of charging children to learn," Mummy said. "And education is a right."
"I agree," I nodded, "but you don't get to live here for free and if the children will be coming here to learn then... and books aren't free, quills and parchment."
"I'm sure people would donate those things, the people here are very kind you know?" Mummy smiled.
"They will donate quills and parchment and books but they won't take advantage." Hugo was determined to get her to see things his way. "You were angry about the old gentleman helping us before, it was wrong of us to ask for things for nothing you said. Mr Cribbins should have the same pride in himself you do."
I gasped. Hugo could be so much like daddy that I often forgot how he could turn on mummy's fierce passion for a cause too.
Mummy took a deep breath and looked at Cribbins.
"If you work an extra hour at the station, would you earn enough to pay a Sickle for your children to spend an hour here at lessons?"
"A Sickle for all of 'em? That's not enough Mrs Weasley."
"Not enough for giving up my job, no," mummy agreed. "But if this is to be a job I will do it right. We'll open as a school for whoever wants to attend and it will be a Sickle for an hour per family, have they one child or ten children."
"How can you teach maths when yours is as bad as that?" Hugo said with a look of bewilderment.
"I won't have large families, like your father's, having to choose only one or two children to get an education because they can only afford two Sickles. If we teach the Cribbins children and two other families want to send their children for lessons too, we will have made what my articles would have made."
"And we'll probably get more than that!" I said, excitedly.
"Yes, we probably will," she nodded, "so I'll need your help changing one of the rooms into a classroom and, as you both have had a head start, you could help with the younger ones. Teaching is a good way of learning yourself."
"We'll do it!" Hugo said, holding out his hand to shake on it with mummy.
"Quite the little businessman isn't he?" Cribbins chuckled.
"He has his moments," mummy said as she ruffled his hair.
"I'll go into the village now and tell people. I can ask for donations too."
"Quills, ink, parchment and books, nothing else," mummy called after me as I dashed out the door. "Unless it's school equipment don't ask for it and don't take it."
"I won't!" I called as I ran outside.
I was on my way when I spotted a familiar figure in unfamiliar surroundings. The old gentleman was walking up the path towards me.
"Ah hello, my dear, I was just on my way to see you," the old gentleman said with a wave. "I got your letter, but it wasn't needed."
I looked up at him and frowned, wondering what he meant by that.
"When I read about your father's case in the papers at the time I had my doubts, and ever since I've known who you were I've been trying to find out things from friends at the Ministry."
We began to walk back to the station together.
"And I have hopes, great hopes, but keep your secret for a little while longer. It wouldn't do to upset your mother with a false hope, would it?"
"But it isn't false. I know you can do it. I knew you could when I wrote. It isn't a false hope is it?"
"No, my dear."
"And you don't believe daddy did it do you? Oh say you don't believe he did."
"My dear, I'm perfectly certain he didn't."
Life at the Three Chimneys was never the same again, not after all the events of that day.
The house became a school and mummy a teacher. We had two different classes in the weekdays. One was eleven to noon and the second was from three to four. There were so many families who wanted to get their children used to school before going away to Hogwarts by themselves that we had to split into two.
One of the girls in the morning class burst into tears of frustration when she still didn't understand the arithmetic despite all the others being able to do it after mummy explained the method.
Hugo sat beside her and told her that he still worked out difficult problems on his fingers and if she was embarrassed to count on hers she could use his instead.
They worked on all the sums together and mummy gave him a kiss and some money to go to Honeydukes and buy himself a treat before the second class.
He bought three Chocolate Frogs and shared them with me and mummy. Mummy laughed when she got her own Chocolate Frog card inside her box. I jumped up when I saw I had Uncle Harry's, and Hugo beamed to have got daddy's.
"We got a full house!" he said. "That's seventeen daddy cards I've got now."
The following day he told his struggling mathematician friend all about it and then laid his card collection on the desk they were sharing.
"So now there are seventeen cards with my father's picture on," he said as he set the stack down neatly, "fourteen with my mother's and twenty eight with my Uncle Harry's."
"They make more of the Harry cards because they're most popular," she said.
"Yeah but my mum and dad's are more valuable," Hugo said, proudly. "Anyway, seventeen, fourteen and twenty eight, right?"
"So how many complete sets of three are there?"
She looked down at the three piles of cards and tensed up.
"Um, twenty eight divided by..."
"You're trying to do a sum," Hugo said to her with a smile. "Think like we're not doing maths today. We're just playing and I'm wondering how many threes we can get with my cards."
He saw her trying to work out the puzzle again and pointed to each pile of cards.
"Seventeen, fourteen, twenty eight. No sums. You already know, don't you?"
She suddenly looked shocked and gasped as she pointed at the pile of mummy cards.
"That pile is the smallest so we can't make any more than fourteen groups of three."
"See," Hugo said, grinning, "a lot of the time you don't even need to start counting. I like to look for any way not to have to count before I start doing it. Counting should always be a last resort."
She looked thrilled by this. Mummy rolled her eyes and shook her head, but the little girl felt a lot better about at least trying to work things out after that.
I always enjoyed afternoon classes with the Cribbins children. They were fascinated by mummy's 'joined-up writing' and during an English lesson I would show them how to use pen and ink, blotting so the words didn't smear, and they even asked me to write down the alphabet in upper and lower case letters so they could practice at home.
Mummy said they could take a quill each, a bottle of ink, and some blotting paper with them. Every day, little Bernie would come in with one hand stained blue and a scrap of paper covered in beautiful curly writing.
It would take him ten minutes to write a sentence but his normal handwriting was much better too. He was left handed and kept smearing the ink as he wrote but when his father's birthday came around and we all made cards that afternoon his was almost like proper calligraphy. Cribbins was so proud of all his fancy cards that he kept them on display for the whole week.
When we weren't running the school or collecting more donated equipment, we played in the garden while mummy wrote out shopping lists for the things she wanted from the village. She was so happy to be able to buy what she wanted rather than make do with what she could afford.
At the weekend she even sat down at her desk and wrote, not because she had to, but because she loved to. She was writing because she wanted to again. At the Burrow for Sunday dinner she announced that she was going to write a text book for children getting ready to go to Hogwarts.
Even Uncle Percy was there. I asked him if he had lost his job too and he smiled at me and told me that the kind of people who would have sacked him were gone now. I looked again for Granny Weasley's clock but it was still hidden away.
That could only mean that daddy's hand was still pointing at 'Prison'.
Over the next couple of weeks we hardly seemed to be railway children at all. As the days went on both of us had an uneasy feeling about this, which Hugo expressed one day.
"I wonder if the railway misses us. We never go and see it now."
"It seems ungrateful, we loved it when we hadn't anyone to play with," I agreed. "The thing I don't like is how we stopped waving to the nine-fifteen and sending our love to daddy by it."
"Let's start again tomorrow," Hugo said with a resolute nod.
That we did. We ran down to our usual spot beside the tunnel, at the top of the steep sloping bank, and sat upon the wooden fence. We heard the train coming and as soon as the first plume of smoke emerged we began waving frantically.
The train whistle sounded and the engine appeared.
We beamed and waved as hard as we could.
"Take our love to father," Hugo shouted as he waved.
"Take our love to father," I echoed.
We repeated it over and over again until the smoke cleared around the mouth of the tunnel and we saw that the driver was waving back at us, waving his handkerchief.
Then the people in the carriages all leaned out of their windows and waved their handkerchiefs too. Most were white but some were coloured and all were being thrust out of small windows and waved wildly.
The waiter for first class and the ticket attendant were waving too. Our eyes fell and stayed on the old gentleman, though. He was our old gentleman and he was waving his newspaper again, only this time he was hanging right out of the window of the rear door and pointing at the paper with his finger, then waving it and grinning, then pointing again.
The people waved all the way until they were out of sight, they sounded as if they were cheering too, and we let our arms drop and looked at each other, utterly stunned.
"That was extraordinary," Hugo said, wide eyed.
"Most extraordinary," I agreed.
We went back to the Three Chimneys for morning lessons. Sat in the sunshine and had lunch, and then went back inside for afternoon lessons. Mummy took out a globe and began to talk to us about Australia, where our grand Grangers as we called them had retired. Hugo was narrowing his eyes and holding his quill in that distinctive way of his, little finger curled up like an aristocrat holding a hot cup of tea, and he started drawing a koala and a duck billed platypus.
Mummy was explaining how a koala was an indigenous creature that had evolved over millions of years to be what it was today and the platypus was an Australian wizard's idea of a joke that took to the territory like a duck, an otter and a beaver stuck together, to water.
"...and this is why when you take your Apparition tests you must concentrate very hard, otherwise you could be Splinched as badly as this poor creature was," Mummy teased.
"I've seen a Splinching scar," Hugo said with scepticism. "It had nothing to do with growing animal parts."
"Oh well, haven't you caught me out?" Mummy said with a huff and a laugh.
She turned to me but I was staring into space. It was unusual back then but something I do frequently now when deep in thought. It's funny how there's so much more to think about as you get older.
"Don't you feel well?" Mummy asked me.
"I don't know," I said, truthfully. "I don't know how I feel. Will you let me off early today? I feel as if I need to be alone, by myself."
"Of course I'll let you off," Mummy said, always understanding the need to take time for contemplation.
I got up and left the room. Mummy followed me out and closed the door behind us, leaving the class to chatter amongst themselves while Hugo continued drawing. He's really very good; he has an artist's eye.
"What is it?" Mummy asked.
"I've just got to be alone, you know?"
She laughed and stroked my hair.
"Sometimes, Rosie, you are so like me."
We cuddled each other and I went out for a walk.
I found myself following a set route, the same way I would always walk with a purpose and yet still walked with none at all, and found myself at the station.
Cribbins seemed delighted to see me.
"There she is!" He pointed down the track to an oncoming train in the distance. "If this is the train your timing's as good as ever eh?" He lifted a newspaper and jabbed it with his finger. "Merlin's beard, tricycle, and unmentionables. I seen it in the paper and I don't know if I've ever been so happy in all my born days."
He doffed his peaked cap to me and did a little jig-like kick of the heels.
"I must, and no offence, but on a day like this..." Cribbins gripped me bracingly by the shoulders and kissed me on the cheek.
"And one for luck," he said before kissing the other.
"You aren't offended are you? Not taken too big of a liberty have I?" Cribbins said, still near dancing with excitement. "But on a day like this, y'know?"
"No, Mr Cribbins, of course it's not a liberty, we love you just as much as one of our uncles," I said, meaning every word of it.
Cribbins let out a cheery laugh and then looked back at the oncoming train.
"But on a day like what?"
"A day like this 'ere," he said, jabbing the newspaper in his hand once again, "I told you. I seen it in the papers didn't I? I told ya!"
He hurried away down the platform to perform his duties.
"Saw what in the papers?" I called over the sound of the nearing train.
"Hogsmeade! Hogsmeade station!" he shouted out as the train pulled in and rolled to a stop.
The platform filled with smoke and soon I could barely see Cribbins any more. I could still hear him calling the name of the station to those who wanted to depart.
The train was an unusually impressive looking engine and it was then I realised that today was the first of September. Today was the day Teddy and Victoire and many others would be taking the Hogwarts Express to school.
There was another familiar voice shouting now. It was Hagrid. He was calling from the other end of the platform and waving his huge arm.
"Firs' years, firs' years this way!"
The platform, still clouded with smoke, was now bustling with children of all ages. All were older than me though I was taller than many. I was the lanky one in the family. I got daddy long legs' long legs.
The children who knew where they were going all made a bee line to the carriages drawn by nothing and the tiny first years passed by me like a sea of bobbing heads. One of the heads looked up and my cousin James stared at me and then grinned the widest grin I have ever seen.
"Oh, Rosie!" He flung his arms around me. "I'm so glad you're here. We sat in first class all the way, hero treatment, I have to go but I'm really glad they told you to come and meet the train."
"Firs' years!" Hagrid yelled again. "You leave Rosie be an' come over 'ere, young Master Potter."
"Daddy actually cried. Mummy didn't cry, she's made of stone."
"James, will you get over here and into one of these bloomin' boats before I get sacked?" Hagrid said as he pulled James by the elbow and winked at me. "Tha's great news, really great. You all come teh me fer tea this evenin'. Neville's comin' an' the headmistress an' everybody. Everybody an' their goat!"
I had no idea what anybody was talking about but tea at Hagrid's hut sounded like a nice change. We would bring soft buns for people whose teeth weren't up to Hagrid's cookery.
The throng of children dwindled and the smoke thinned a little. The train was empty now, all the doors to every carriage hung open.
Cribbins shouted one final call out for the station and then waved to the driver to turn the engine around and head back to London while walking the length of it and slamming all the doors closed.
"On your way, Mr Viney."
I looked back down to the end carriage. There was no first class on the Hogwarts Express, but a door slammed back there and the smoke was still too thick to make out if a student had been left behind.
Cribbins smiled at me one last time before nodding and stepping back into his little stationmaster's room. I was still peering into the smoke, waiting for a breeze to send it away.
The train pulled out and the movement eventually wafted the smoke thinner and thinner and thinner.
I thought I saw somebody there. If I had seen a figure it had to have been a grown up as no first year was taller than me, as this figure had to have been.
A billow of smoke obscured the shape again but another waft from the departing train pushed the smoke apart and thinned it enough for me to make out an outline.
It was the outline of a man.
The train left the platform completely now and with it, sucked away a considerable amount of the smoke lingering about the platform.
It was a man, a tall man, wearing a cloak and holding a small travelling bag.
I looked at him.
He had red hair.
He took a step forward, leaving the last of the smoke behind him.
I waited for it to be a trick of the eye. I waited for him to be some other red-haired gentleman. I waited to be let down because this couldn't be.
The smoke was gone.
The man was not.
His face didn't dissolve into the face of another. It remained the face I wanted it to be.
And he was wearing a Gryffindor scarf.
"Daddy, my daddy!"
I ran down the platform and threw myself at him. He lifted me clean off the ground and crushed me with his hug.
He was real. He was back. He was here.
He leaned away and looked at me, lifted my chin as only he ever has been able to do, and kissed me on the cheek.
We walked to the Three Chimneys, me leading the way through the buttercups so plentiful they outnumbered all the freckles on all the Weasleys all together, and I pointed out the house to him. The children had all left, classes over long ago.
As we passed through the gate I saw mummy looking out of an upstairs window. She let the curtain close before daddy could see her too. That was when I knew that mummy needed special reunion of her own too.
I walked him to the front door and went in to tell her I was going to send him up to her, then I came back and showed him inside. I closed the door and went around to the back of the house to take Hugo for a walk.
Hugo would have his time with daddy too but that time, that time was for them. It was for mummy and daddy. We weren't wanted right at that moment.
I told him that his daddy was back, it would never be fair to expect anybody to wait another moment thinking they were without him, but I asked him to walk with me and give them time to be just mummy and daddy again. Just them together.
Hugo was happy to walk with me, through the buttercups, knowing that he had a complete family to come back home to.
We took one last look back at the house where we, nor anybody else, was wanted for those next few minutes.
It was home and now it was complete.
A/N Thanks to Brum for betaing and Steppy for read throughs and cheering.