With only a few hours' sleep, Phoenix, Ginny, and Hermione packed their bags and, with very bleary eyes, got dressed and made their way outside the tent so that Mr. Weasley could take down the tents by magic.
"You look dashing Phoenix," Fred greeted.
Phoenix looked tiredly at Fred, her eyes still half closed and her lavender coloured hair was as bushy as Hermione's, "I've only had about 5 hours sleep in the past 48 hours," she complained.
"Aw," cooed George, "Is ickle Pixy tired?"
Phoenix frowned, "Of course I am," she said. "I just want to sleeeeep," she pouted her lips slightly before leaning her head against George's shoulder.
"Ickle Phoenix is tired." Said Fred.
They left the campsite only a few minutes after. They passed Mr. Roberts at the door of his cottage. He had a slightly stunned look on his face as he waved the Weasleys, Harry, Hermione, and Phoenix off with an airy, "Merry Christmas."
"Bless him," said Phoenix as they all followed Mr. Weasley to the spot where the Portkeys lay. It was crowded by witches and wizards, despite it barely being dust. It was clear that they were all eager to get away from the campsite as soon as they could. After Mr. Weasley had a hurried conversation with Basil they joined the queue and were able to take an old and batty looking rubber tire back to Stoatshead Hill before the sun had even risen.
They walked through Ottery St. Catchpole and then up the lane towards the Burrow as the sun had risen higher. Phoenix was taking even littler steps than usual, looking as though she was going to fall asleep at any given moment, her stomach growling for food. As they neared the gate and the Burrow was in clear view, a cry cut into their loud silence.
"Oh thank goodness, thank goodness!"
Mrs. Weasley ran with surprising speed towards them in her pink fluffy slippers, her eyes wide and her face extremely pale, a copy of the Daily Prophet in her hand.
"Arthur - I've been so worried - so worried-"
Mrs. Weasley's arms instantly wrapped around Mr. Weasley's neck and the Daily Prophet fell out of her hand and onto the ground. Phoenix could immediately see the headline, SCENES OF TERROR AT THE QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP.
"You're all right," Mrs. Weasley whispered, her bloodshot eyes darting from each of her children, Hermione, Harry and then Phoenix, "you're alive…Oh boys!"
Mrs. Weasley flung herself at Fred and George, pulling them both into a very tight hug, almost knocking Phoenix off her feet. She tried not to laugh as they struggled, red faced, against their mother.
"Ouch! Mum," said Fred, clearly embarrassed, "you're strangling us!"
Mrs. Weasley had begun to sob into their shoulders, "I shouted at you before you left!" Mrs. Weasley cried, "It's all I've been thinking about since I got the paper! What if something bad had happened and the last thing I ever said to you was that you didn't get enough OW.L.s? Oh Fred…George…"
Phoenix caught George's eye over Mrs. Weasley's shoulder and she smiled at his embarrassment.
"Come on, now, Molly," Mr. Weasley said soothingly, managing to pull Mrs. Weasley off the twins, "We're all perfectly okay." Mr. Weasley then led his wife towards the house as the twins both turned to a smirking Phoenix.
"Come on them," said Fred.
"Let it out," finished George.
"What?" Phoenix snorted, trying her very best not to laugh, "is ickle Freddie and Georgie all embarrassed," she said in the same voice that someone would adopt talking to a very young infant.
"There it is," said Fred, still looking very red.
"Sorry Freddie," said Phoenix, in the same babyish voice.
"You're really enjoying this aren't you?" George asked as they followed the others back to the Burrow.
"Oh Georgie, you have no idea how much I enjoy annoying you," said Phoenix.
Everybody managed to crowd into the tiny kitchen, Phoenix was sitting upon one of the counters with Fred and George leaning against it beside her. Hermione had made Mrs. Weasley a cup of strong tea, which Mr. Weasley had sneaked a shot of Ogdens Old Firewhiskey in it.
Bill handed his father the dusty looking newspaper that Mrs. Weasley had dropped. Mr. Weasley unfolded it and began to read, Percy was peering over his shoulder.
"I knew it," sighed Mr. Weasley, "Ministry blunders… culprits not apprehended…lax security….Dark wizards running unchecked... national disgrace…Who wrote this? Ah…of course…Rita Skeeter."
"That woman's got it in for the Ministry of Magic!" Percy burst suddenly, "Last week she was saying we're wasting our time quibbling about cauldron thickness, when we should be stamping out vampires! As if it wasn't specifically stated in paragraph twelve of the Guidelines for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans -"
"Do us a favour, Perce, and shut up," said Bill.
"I'm mentioned," said Mr. Weasley, his eyes wide as he started at the paper.
"Where?" Mrs. Weasley asked, almost chocking on her cup of tea and Firewhiskey, "If I'd seen that, I'd have known you were alive before you got back!"
"Not by name, listen to this," Mr. Weasley said, shaking the paper slightly before reading, "'If the terrified wizards and witches who waited breathlessly for news at the edge of the wood expected reassurance from the Ministry of Magic, they were sadly disappointed. A Ministry official emerged some time after the appearance of the Dark Mark alleging that nobody had been hurt, but refusing to give any more information. Whether this statement will be enough to quash the rumours that several bodies were removed from the woods an hour later, remains to be seen.' Oh really," Mr. Weasley spluttered angrily, frowning at the paper, "Nobody was hurt. What was I supposed to say? Rumours that several bodies were removed from the woods…well, there certainly will be rumours now she's printed that." He sighed, shaking his head. "Molly, I'm going to have to go into the office; this is going to take some smoothing over."
"I'll come with you, Father," said Percy pompously. Phoenix, Fred and George all rolled their eyes, "Mr. Crouch will need all hands on deck. And I can give him my cauldron report in person."
"He just wants to see Mr. Crouch," whispered Fred. Both Phoenix and George snorted.
"Arthur, you're supposed to be on holiday!" Mrs. Weasley said, looking upset, "this hasn't got anything to do with your office; surely they can handle this without you?"
"I've got to go, Molly," Mr. Weasley said solemnly, "I have appeared to make things worse. I'll just change into my robes and I'll be off…"
Mr. Weasley kissed his wife and Ginny's head before he left the kitchen and up the rickety staircase.
"Do you three want to play some Quidditch?" Charlie asked Fred, George and Phoenix as they all settled down in the comfy sitting room.
"Yeah!" The twins said at the same time.
"I'm too tired to play," said Phoenix, "I'm going to get some sleep."
"Aw is ickle Phoenix tired?" George spoke in the same voice babyish voice that Phoenix had adopted earlier.
Phoenix rolled her eyes and got to her feet, flicking both the twins on the ears, "Don't even start," she said.
Phoenix slept for hours. She awoke several times because Ginny and Mrs. Weasley were tiptoeing in and out every now and then. She only fully woke when Fred and George came storming in and had shaken her awake.
"What?" she grumbled, rubbing her eyes, "did ickle Freddie and George lose?"
"No." Fred said gruffly.
"Just come up to our room," said George, "quickly." Phoenix obliged and followed the twins up into their seemingly floorless room due to the mess.
"What's wrong?" Phoenix asked, taking a seat on George's bed beside him, Fred sat herself down on his bed opposite them.
Fred and George shared a weary look before Fred said, "The gold that Bagman gave us for winning the bet-,"
"-it's gone." Finished George.
"Gone?" Phoenix said, horrified.
"Yeah," George said, looking pitiful.
"But how? We haven't been robbed have we?"
"Remember at the match?" said Fred.
"What the Irish mascots had-," said George.
"It wasn't leprechaun gold was it?" said Phoenix, . The twins nodded and Phoenix exploded into hushed shouts, "I told you it was a bad idea! Betting was a huge mistake, you can't trust-"
"Don't worry Phoenix," said George, putting an arm round her to calm her down before she really got mad. "We're going to write to him, it was probably a mistake."
"Nix," Fred soothed, "its fine. We can get the money back one way or another. We earned it and we can earn it again."
"Phoenix," George said, more sternly than usual, "just trust us for once yeah?"
Phoenix sighed, defeated. "Okay – but – what were the exact plans for all the money?" she asked cautiously.
"Well," began Fred, "we were going to get you a really nice Christmas present."
Phoenix snorted, "I'm not an idiot Fred."
"We were planning to start our joke shop from the money," continued George.
"Weasley's Wizard Wheezes?" asked Phoenix before she could stop herself. Fred and George both nodded.
"Yes-" said Fred. "But it's fine. We can get the money back easily with our order service and the plans we have when we get back to Hogwarts."
"Right," said Phoenix sceptically, "and what exactly do you have planned for when we get back from Hogwarts?"
At that moment, two owls flew in through the open window. One launched itself into George's chest. The other landed quite gracefully on Fred's knee and hooted serenely.
"Errol has your reply," said George, laughing as he untied the cords around Errol's legs and read Phoenix's reply from all those days ago, "And you are a lazy git Pixy."
"Errol isn't exactly first class mail," said Fred.
"Silvano most probably found him unconscious in the tree again," said George, "probably wanted to make sure Errol got back here in one piece."
Phoenix was not listening to their conversation however. Her mind flashed briefly back to image of the Dark Mark. It's image had seemed to edge itself into her mind, the way it glittered ghostly green and the eerie way in which the serpent slide out of its mouth as though it were a tongue, and she couldn't help but feel a deep sense of foreboding when she thought of the mark. She thought, regrettably, that maybe it was a sign. No matter how much she tried to shake it off, she couldn't help but feel that is way no a coincidence this was the first time that the Dark Mark had been seen in over thirteen years. Even the thought of Lord Voldemort being in power again made her skin crawl. But she couldn't shrug off the feeling that something dark and dangerous was approaching.
Over the following week at the Burrow, it became increasingly difficult to even catch a glimpse of Mr. Weasley or Percy as both left the house every morning before anybody else had awoken, and only returned late after dinner every night.
Phoenix was sitting at the dinner table with Hermione, Harry, and the rest of the Weasleys, minus Mr. Weasley. Percy was talking vigorously about people sending Howlers complaining about security at the World Cup and wanting compensation for ruined items. Phoenix only listened briefly, before returning to her potato and leek soup and only looking up to glance at the grandfather clock in the corner. It was completely useless if you wanted to know the time, but if you wanted to know welfare of each of the Weasley family members, it kept you well informed.
It had nine golden hands, each of them engraved with each of the family's names. Unlike a normal clock, it didn't have numbers around the face, but descriptions of each family member were. There was 'Home', 'school' and 'work', there was also 'traveling', 'lost, 'hospital', 'prison', (which was where Phoenix always could imagine both Fred and George golden hands will one day be pointing), and where in the number twelve would be on a normal clock, instead it read, 'mortal peril.'
Eight of these hands were all pointing at 'home', but Mr. Weasley's was pointing to 'work'.
It had begun to rain once everyone had finished their dinner and Mrs. Weasley had cleared the table with a flick of her wand. Everybody was situated in the living room. Phoenix was on the floor with her back propped against George's legs, reading The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts that Cecilia had bought for her in Diagon Alley and sent her earlier that day along with her other school supplies. Fred and George were sat beside her, their heads bent over a piece of parchment and talking in hushed whispers about the Ludo Bagman situation so that their mother could not hear, but of course Mrs. Weasley couldn't help but be suspicious of her sons.
"What are you two up to?" Mrs. Weasley asked sharply.
"Homework," said Fred airily. That boy could lie through his teeth, Phoenix thought.
"Don't be ridiculous, you're still on holiday," said Mrs. Weasley and Phoenix couldn't help but agree with her, even if Phoenix herself was already immersed in one of her school books, but the Weasley twins had never even looked at a book during their summers and never will because they always managed to get Phoenix to their summer holiday homework for them.
"We've left it a bit late," George coughed.
"You're not by any chance writing out a new order form, are you?" Mrs. Weasley questioned, "You wouldn't be thinking of restarting Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, by any chance?"
"Now, Mum," Fred began, placing his quill down onto the table in front of him and looking up at his mother incredulously, "If the Hogwarts Express crashed tomorrow, and George and I died, how would you feel to know that the last thing we ever heard from you was an unfounded accusation?"
Phoenix laughed along with everyone else. Even Mrs. Weasley had laughed.
"Nice save Fred," Phoenix whispered just as Mrs. Weasley shot up out of her seat.
"Your father is coming back!" She said happily and Phoenix looked up at the clock to see that Mr. Weasley's hand had spun from 'work' to 'travelling' and a few moments later had landed back to 'home'.
"What exactly are you writing to Bagman then?" Phoenix asked, placing her book down and turning to the twins as Mr. Weasley walked in with his dinner on a tray, looking completely exhausted.
George leaned down in his seat so he could whisper in Phoenix's ear, "We're writing to him and telling him he made us a mistake giving us leprechaun, and then maybe he might cough up and give us the money back."
"So you think that he did this purpose?" Phoenix asked.
"Well yeah. Don't you?" Fred said. Phoenix nodded and Fred continued, "He might give us the money back if he realises that he has messed up or realises that he conned us."
"And if that doesn't work?"
"Then we'll keep writing." Said George, "we're smart enough to know we're being messed around."
Their conversation was silenced when Hermione and Percy began to argue about Mr. Crouch and his house elf, Winky and Mrs. Weasley had broken the argument by telling everyone to go upstairs and pack their trunks, ready for the train tomorrow, but Phoenix, who had already packed earlier in the day, followed Fred and George to their room so that they could pack and discuss about their letter to Bagman.
"I don't think we should send Errol," George was saying as he packed his trunk alongside Fred, while Phoenix lay down on Fred's bed, twirling her aqua coloured hair.
"We should probably wait until we get to Hogwarts– wait– what on earth are these?" Phoenix looked up, just in time to see Fred holding up deep purple dress robes.
"I've got some too." George said, holding up his, which were a might night blue.
"Why on earth have you got those?" Phoenix spluttered, she couldn't even imagine either of the twins ever willingly wearing dress robes.
There was a knock on the door, and Mrs. Weasley entered, carrying Fred and George's Hogwarts robes.
"Hello Phoenix," she said kindly, "Now pack these carefully so that they don't crease."
"Mum, why have we got dress robes?" George asked.
"It says on your school list that you're supposed to have dress robes this year… robes for formal occasions," explained Mrs. Weasley.
"What formal occasion?" said Fred, but Mrs. Weasley didn't answer, instead she turned to Phoenix.
"Cecilia told me that she has your dress and will send it to you sometime when you get back to Hogwarts–"
"Wait!" said Fred, looking positively gleeful.
"Phoenix has to wear–" continued George.
"A dress?" They chorused.
"Yes," Mrs. Weasley beamed and Fred and George began to laugh silently while Phoenix glared over at the pair of them. "Boys, try to be more mature," Mrs. Weasley said, "Phoenix will look lovely in her dress."
"Thank you Molly," Phoenix smiled at her gratefully as the twins continued to snigger childishly behind Mrs. Weasley's back.
Mrs. Weasley left shortly after ensuring that both of the twins had packed their trunks correctly. When she did, Fred and George immediately began to discuss how silly Phoenix would look in her dress.
"Why do you two find it so amusing that I'm going to be wearing a dress?" said Phoenix, her arms crossed over her chest.
"Because–" spluttered George.
"–you are the last person I could imagine in a dress, but I'm sure you'll look lovely," George added quickly as Phoenix raised her eyebrows.
"I've worn a dress before; they're not exactly alien to me," she said, "I was a bridesmaid at Cecilia and my father's wedding, haven't you seen any pictures?"
"Well yeah," said Fred, "but you were about ten and we didn't know you until a year after that."
"And that makes a difference because?"
"Because you're a completely different person now!" exclaimed George.
Phoenix laughed, "Yeah you two have corrupted me."