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Brief notes, spoilers, trigger warnings, and part 1
Part 2

*** Part 3 ***

On Boxing Day Rory had his head under his pillow when his door burst open and Bryce and Gareth pounded in shouting, "Come on, it's snowed!"

Lloyd jumped out of his bed. "Really? How much? Come on, Rory," he added, pulling Rory's blankets off him.

"Hey, it's cold!" Rory protested, but there was snow outside, even if it was mostly on the edges of the garden, and if he went back to bed now his brothers would ruin it. Even as he thought that he could see Hayley running out and scooping up a ball of snow from the best spot.

"Hey!" Gareth shouted at her, and they tore out the door as their father shouted, "Quiet down, boys!" and Rory pulled on his clothes and the next-door neighbour's dog started barking.

*

It was fun while the snow lasted, but once it started running out Bryce and Gareth began stockpiling it on one side of the back garden and Lloyd and Hayley took over the other side, and Rory came back to the front to see if anyone had missed anything.

Instead he found Amelia Pond standing by their gate with a little suitcase by her feet.

"What are you doing here?" he asked suspiciously.

"I need some batteries," she said. "For my torch."

"Are you running away?"

"No. I just need batteries."

He checked over his shoulder, but everyone was still in the back garden. "Come on, then." He led her into the house and up the narrow stairs to his bedroom. His parents' door was still closed and they were playing CDs, and everyone outside would have forgotten him already. "Just a minute," he said, and rummaged in a drawer. He found the remote control in the back, and dug the batteries out of it.

"Don't you need them?"

"My cousin Fred stepped on the robot and broke it. And then Mum told me off just because I left it out for a bit."

She rolled her eyes with a knowing sigh and took the batteries. While she opened her suitcase to get out her torch, Rory tried to look as if he wasn't looking inside. There were jerseys underneath but on top was a pile of paper, and crayons and felt tip pens in every possible space.

As Amelia fitted the batteries into her torch, the pile of paper slid off the jersey, exposing a book underneath. "Hey," Rory said, pulling it out, "you said you were going to take it back."

"I did."

"You've still got it!"

"So I got it out again. Five times. And then my aunt gave me that for Christmas."

He looked down at it and realised it didn't have the library stickers on it. "Oh," he said. He put it back.

Amelia tested her torch then put it back in the suitcase too.

"Why do you need batteries if you're not running away?"

She sighed heavily. "Aunt Sharon always gets mad if she catches me drawing the Raggedy Doctor. So I have to do it when she thinks I'm asleep."

"Oh." Rory had tried reading under the covers with a torch once, but Lloyd had told on him. "That must use a lot of batteries."

"I know," she said with another sigh.

"You should go to the library instead. Mrs Stedman wouldn't mind."

She looked thoughtful. "Can you use scissors and glue at the library?"

"Uh, I don't know." He shifted and said, "You could maybe use them here if you want. Except my family--"

"Rory!" came Hayley's shout, and her shoes pounded up the stairs.

Amelia dropped and scrambled under his bed. Rory threw his blankets over her suitcase just as Hayley came in. "What?" he demanded.

"You're meant to be bringing us more snow."

"There isn't any more."

"Then you have to come back out and help us make our fort."

"I want to read Bulfinch."

She stomped her foot. "You can read anytime."

"I want to read now."

"Rory, you're such a poophead."

"You're a poophead," he retorted.

"Kids!" their father shouted from the other room.

Rory and Hayley glared at each other until finally she turned and stomped away. Rory closed the door behind her and leaned on it.

Amelia poked her head out from under the bed. When she saw the coast was clear she said, "Why are you reading to birds?"

"What?"

"You said you wanted to read to a bullfinch."

"No, I..." He went and fetched it from his bookshelf. He'd already thrown away the dustjacket with the Christmas paper: the book looked much cooler in black with gold lettering. "See, it's called Bulfinch's Mythology, that's the name of the guy who wrote all the stories down." She looked bored already so he added, "Like Pandora's Box."

"Oh! Are there more stories about Zee-uss?"

"You say 'Zooss'," he said. "And I think so but you can't borrow it, I haven't read it yet."

"Then you can read it and I'll make my puppets."

Rory grinned and flopped down on Lloyd's bed to start reading.

*

He was vaguely aware of the sounds of Amelia's scissors, and Mum and Dad's music, and the neighbour starting up his chainsaw and the dog barking in complaint, but he was concentrating too much on Bulfinch to mind.

At the end of chapter two he looked up. Amelia was gluing pieces of material onto a toilet-paper roll with a man's face drawn on in crayon. He thought he recognised the material from the shirt she'd made him wear when he'd visited.

"Is that the Raggedy Doctor?" he said.

"Yep."

He watched her try to wrestle the little shirt in place over the cardboard roll and the little arms. He wanted to ask why she was still doing that when the Raggedy Doctor hadn't come back for Christmas, but she looked too fierce so he kept his mouth shut.

"Can you hold this?" she asked suddenly.

"Sure." He wriggled onto the floor with her and held the arms in place while she fitted the shirt on. The glue was making it slip around but they got it working.

"Is the book boring?" she asked.

"No!" he said indignantly, then admitted, "Well, some of it. But that doesn't matter, you can just skip the boring bits."

"That's cheating."

"No, it's not, it's... It's time management," he said, remembering something Bryce had said in an argument with Mum. He remembered Mum hadn't been very convinced, so he hurried on: "Like introductions. Nothing interesting ever happens in introductions. And poetry."

"What if it does and you never find out because you didn't read it?"

"Then you can read it again."

She frowned as if she still disagreed but couldn't explain why.

He said quickly, "It had a bit more about Pandora's Box. Actually it had two bits, and both of them were different from the storybook."

She relaxed a little bit and let him tell her about the two new versions of the story. Then, almost forgetting about the trousers she was making, she asked more about Prometheus.

Rory told her about how Prometheus had stolen fire from the gods. Downstairs the phone rang, but Mum and Dad weren't playing music any more, so one of them would get it. It was nice having someone actually listening to him for a change.

When he'd finished she said, "Then what happened to him next?"

"Well," he said, thinking -- he'd skipped a lot, and had to read some things twice, so parts of it were a bit fuzzy -- "Zeus was still angry with him, so then he chained him up on a big mountain--"

"What?!" Rory blinked at her and she insisted, "That's mean. How long for?"

"The book doesn't say."

"I told you you shouldn't skip the boring bits."

"No, it doesn't say!" He fetched the book down and found the spot and read: "Jupiter -- that's another name for Zeus -- had him chained to a rock on Mount Caucasus, where a vulture--" He stopped. If she was upset about Prometheus being chained up, Rory probably shouldn't tell her about the vulture eating his liver.

Amelia was watching him. "I was right, wasn't I?"

"Um, I guess so," he said, and shut the book quickly.

"What did the vulture do?"

"It... bit the chains off." He added in defLloydce of the lie, "But it doesn't say how long it took."

"So he's free, then," she said in satisfaction. Then she looked back down at the Raggedy Doctor and frowned again.

"It looks good," Rory said.

"It's okay," she admitted grudgingly. "He didn't come back, you know. For Christmas."

Rory thought for a moment, then decided the safest thing to say was, "Oh."

She added, "I don't really think he's Prometheus. That's just a story."

He looked at her suspiciously. "Then why were you so upset about him being chained up?"

"I wasn't upset! I just think it's mean."

"Well, he shouldn't have stolen from the gods."

"Pff," she said, or something like it, "stealing fire isn't stealing-stealing."

"Of course it is!"

"They still had it. Besides, they're gods. If they really wanted they could take it back."

"But--" Rory started, then heard footsteps on the stairs. "That's my Mum," he said, just before her call of "Rory?" said it for him.

At once Amelia swept her things under his bed and rolled out of sight with them. Rory had time to blink four times before Mum opened the door. "Rory, are you in there?"

"I'm just reading," he said.

She blinked at him. "With your book on Lloyd's bed?"

"Oh." He looked at it up behind him, and said, "I was taking a study break."

"Fair enough," she agreed. "I just came up to ask if you'd seen Amelia Pond this morning while you were outside."

"Um," he said, trying not to look under his bed. "Amelia Pond from school?"

She gave him a long look. "Her aunt just phoned. She's worried because it looks like Amelia's run away."

"Oh no, she hasn't run away!" Rory said. "Um. I mean, I saw her out on the road and... and she said she wasn't running away, she just wanted to draw somewhere quiet."

Downstairs Hayley shrieked, and Gareth and Lloyd shouted at each other.

"I see," Mum said in an ominous tone. "And did she also say that she was going back to her aunt right now?"

"Um..." He glanced sideways at the bed, and back at Mum, and decided he'd rather have Amelia mad at him than Mum. "I guess so?"

"Good. I'll phone Ms Pond back and let her know, then." She went back out and closed the door behind her.

Amelia crawled back out and pulled a face at him.

"You're not mad, are you?" Rory asked.

"I told you I wasn't running away," she said, a little grumpily. But after he helped her pack her suitcase again she added, "If I was going to run away, I'd wait until Aunt Sharon was at work and then I'd go and take the bus to the train station and go back home to my Nan."

"I bet she'd just send you back here though."

"Yeah," Amelia said with another face.

He walked her downstairs, scouting ahead a little, but Hayley and his brothers had disappeared for the moment. "It was nice having you over," he said politely at the door.

"I hope you don't get in trouble."

It was worse than that, he discovered when he went into the kitchen: Mum and Dad were in there giggling with each other about him. He scowled and stomped back up to his room with some bread and cold ham, but at least they never told Hayley or his brothers.
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