I’ve thought about it all week. In fact, I’ve thought about absolutely nothing else. I got in trouble three times at work because I was staring off into space, and I forgot to add an essential ingredient in Potions class leading to a minor explosion, and I nearly splinched myself while preparing for my apparition exam, which is tomorrow. I cannot get the fact that Daisy is a Dolohov off my mind – and I’ve decided that I’m not going to use this information against her. I just can’t.
“I knew you were going to say that,” Tom sighs dejectedly, sitting back in his chair. “I can’t even mention it?”
“No,” I tell him firmly, “It wouldn’t be fair. It has absolutely nothing to do with Aidan, or me. It’s her business.” My voice almost sounds robotic, as if I’m not really saying this of my own accord, rather there’s someone with much better morals than me controlling what comes out of my mouth. Deep down there is still a huge part of me that wants to scream from the rooftops that dear old Daisy is the daughter of one of the most evil men in wizarding history, but that stupid sense of right and wrong that my holier-than-thou mother drilled into me as a child seems to be what is stopping me.
“It would sway the Wizengamot,” Tom points out, “Lots of them lost family members or friends in the war. I’m just saying.”
“Well don’t just say!” I exclaim, “Daisy hasn’t killed anyone...that I know of.”
Tom is in a bit of a sulk for the rest of my meeting with him, but I don’t care. I think he’s being a bit childish about this whole thing – I mean, really, the argument that Daisy’s father was a Death Eater could be shot down so quickly by Scorpius’s lawyer that it would completely undermine all of our other arguments.
After leaving Tom’s office, I decide to go to James’s apartment. I haven’t seen him all week, being busy with work and apparition and Mum’s campaign and the custody battle. Dom tried to talk to him two days ago, but he wouldn’t answer the door, even though she was sure he was there. He won’t even talk to Al, except shouting at him to leave him alone, so I’m not sure how far I’m going to get with him.
Surprisingly, he buzzes me into the building and flings the door of his apartment open. I can tell straight away, before he says anything at all, that he’s drunk. It’s two o’clock in the afternoon.
“Red!” he yells, “Always a pleasure!” He pulls me into a bear hug and the smell of alcohol off him almost knocks me out.
“You smell like a brewery,” I cough.
“You smell like a rose! Get it?”
“Very witty,” I say dryly, “Can I come in?”
He stands aside to let me into his extremely messy apartment, and I notice for the first time that he’s not alone. Scorpius is here, and nods at me awkwardly. He clearly is here doing the same as me – checking that James is still alive.
“Look at you two!” James slurs, “Red and Scorp, Romeo and Juliet...Mary and Joseph...”
“How much has he had?” I ask Scorpius.
“No idea,” he shrugs, “I’ve been here about ten minutes...looks like he’s been drinking non-stop...”
“I can hear you!” James wails, “Can I get you a drink, Red?”
“No thanks,” I tell him, “Erm, do you think you should maybe...sleep or something?” His eyes are red and puffy, and he looks skeletal.
“Why would I need to sleep? Nothing to sleep for...nothing to get up for...”
Is he really this lost without Quidditch? He’s only been banned for a few matches, it’s not like he’s lost it forever. “James, if you keep going on like this they’re going to kick you off the team for good,” I tell him sternly.
“She’s right, mate,” Scorpius agrees. This is the first time we’ve been on the same side in a long time. It feels nice. “You look like shit, want some food?”
James’s mood changes from pleasantly wasted to angrily drunk very quickly. “Shut up, Malfoy. Don’t you come ‘round here preaching to me –”
“He’s worried about you!” I cry, “We’re all worried about you!”
“Since when are you two a bloody team again?” James snaps, “I liked it better when you hated each other’s guts, at least you were a bit of a laugh back then...”
“And I liked it better when you weren’t this drunken loser,” I hiss, “Grow up.”
James was never a fan of tough love. He storms into his bedroom and slams the door, after mumbling something along the lines of “fuck you and the Hippogriff you flew in on”. I’m so glad he’s taken my ‘grow up’ advice. Scorpius and I don’t leave. Instead we silently start to clean up the living room, knowing that it’s just about the only way we can help him right now. We find beer cans, whiskey bottles, cigarette butts, but absolutely no food or food packaging – it appears James is on a purely liquid diet.
“He’s going to end up in St. Mungo’s if he keeps on like this,” Scorpius announces after a few minutes of silence. I wonder if it’s genuine concern that I’m hearing, or if he’s just looking to make conversation. Either way, I go along with it.
“Nobody seems to be able to get through to him,” I reply sadly, “Not even Harry.”
I sneak a look at Scorpius. He is concentrating hard on cleaning up. Once again, Daisy’s dirty secret pops into my head and I wonder desperately if he knows about it. It would be inappropriate for me to just bring it up. And whenever Daisy is brought up, the conversations turns awkward very quickly, and then ends up in a huge fight.
When the place is clean, I decide I can’t take any more of the awkward tension, and announce I’m leaving to collect Aidan from Teddy’s. He’s over there playing with Remus after school – I pity Teddy and Victoire. I’m not sure there has ever been a pair of demons like those two kids.
“Well, I’ll see you on Thursday then,” says Scorpius.
I have to think for a moment what Thursday is, and then it hits me – the custody hearing. Of course. As if I can think about anything else. “See you Thursday,” I reply automatically. There is no point in arguing about it anymore. It’s going to happen.
And if it kills me, I’m going to win.
I sit in the waiting room at the Ministry’s Department of Magical Transportation, waiting to be called forth to do my apparition exam. I’m the only one here – a man a bit younger than me went in before me looking extremely nervous. Mum offered to wait with me, but I can’t think of a worse person to have waiting with me before an exam. She’d drive me mental. So I politely declined her offer, and she went back to work looking sort of offended.
Oh crap. That’s me, isn’t it?
I’m always a nervous wreck going into exams. I kind of think it could be a good thing that I never sat my NEWTs – I’m not sure I would have survived them. The examiner, who is a woman in her thirties, leads me into the office where the exam will take place.
“Good afternoon, Rose, my name is Fiona and I’ll be you’re examiner today.” She says it as if she’s trying way too hard to seem friendly, which means her bitchiness is completely on show. “If you’ll just fill in this form we can get started...”
I fill out my details, taking deep breaths and trying to calm myself down. I hand the form back to her when I’m finished, and she tells me to stand up and take her arm, and apparate to a wizarding village near Orpington.
I concentrate hard on the destination. I can do this. I practiced a million times. I turn on the spot, hope for the best and...
We arrive at the exact spot assigned, and I breathe a sigh of relief.
“Well done,” says Fiona, as if disappointed I did it right, “Now, if you could just apparate back to the office...”
I feel lighter than air having passed my apparition exam, and have dinner at Mum and Dad’s to celebrate. No longer will I have to take the crappy bus, or Floo to people’s houses – I can finally apparate! I apparate from room to room happily, Aidan excitedly telling me to take him side-along. For the first time in a very long time I feel like maybe the world doesn’t hate me after all. And this achievement, however trivial, makes me believe that I will win on Thursday. I just have to. And I can do it without resorting to underhanded tactics...
The night before the custody hearing, I get plenty of phone calls offering me support for the day ahead. Dom has forgotten about our little tiff over Daisy’s secret (well, I don’t know if she’s forgotten it, but she’s certainly not mentioning it), and tells me that if Scorpius wins custody, she’ll do all she can to make sure he doesn’t live to see another day.
Mum and Dad tell me that no matter what happens I won’t ever lose Aidan because they won’t let that happen, blah blah blah...
Even Ginny rings to tell me that she is positive I’ll win because I’m a great Mum. But I can’t help but disagree with her. I’m hardly going to win the award for best mother any time soon. I resort to blackmail to get my son to eat his vegetables, I tell him that monsters will get him if he doesn’t go to bed before nine, I let him eat ice-cream before his dinner if it’ll mean he’ll be quiet for a few minutes. I’m probably the worst mother in the world. Except for those Mums who make their kids join cults and stuff...they’re pretty mental.
Aidan doesn’t really know what’s going on. I’ve been told he doesn’t have to attend the hearing tomorrow, so Dom agreed to look after him. I haven’t had the heart to tell him that we’re essentially fighting over him because I think he’d just assume it was all his fault.
The one person who doesn’t ring up is Jenny. Al offers his support, but doesn’t mention his wife at all. It’s been over a month since we’ve spoken, but it feels like longer. Sometimes I really wish I wasn’t so bloody stubborn all the time.
Dom picks Aidan up early the next morning, and hugs me before she leaves.
“Go Team Rose!” she whispers into my ear, “You’ll beat that blonde fucker hands down.”
I wish I could believe her. If I was nervous going into my apparition exam, it’s nothing compared to how I feel right now.
“Be good for Auntie Dom,” I tell Aidan firmly, “I’ll see you later, ok?” I hug him, as if it’s the last time I’m going to see him.
“Mum, you’re squeezing,” Aidan squeaks, “See you later!”
“Bye, love.” Oh God, I can feel tears in my eyes.
“Oh and Rose?” Dom turns back, “Happy Birthday!”
This is by far the least happy birthday I’ve ever had. Including a rather odd birthday where my family was suspected of being Muggle terrorists. There really never is a dull moment in the Weasley house.
I apparate to the Ministry, where Mum and Dad are already waiting for me. They both wish me a Happy Birthday, but they do so very half-heartedly. I’d rather forget that today is my birthday, to be honest. Even if today wasn’t the day I could potentially lose my son, I’m pretty sure I’d be depressed anyway about turning another year older. Scorpius and Daisy have arrived too, and we exchange glances as we wait outside the chambers to be called in front of the Wizengamot. However, the most important person has not arrived.
“Where the hell is Tom?” I hiss at Mum.
“He’ll be here,” she assures me, but looks extremely nervous, “Or he’ll be very sorry...”
As if he knew we were talking about him, Tom arrives just as the doors of the chambers open. As everyone enters the room, he pulls me aside for one final word.
“I’m going to do my best for you, Rose,” he tells me, “But are you sure –”
“I’m sure,” I interrupt, “I do not want you using that information against Daisy. Ok?”
Tom rolls his eyes. “Fine. Right, so Scorpius is going to be questioned first, and then you. Then the Wizengamot will retire to deliberate – should only take a few minutes – and decide what’s the best course of action. You ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” I nod, feeling like I could throw up.
We take our seats at the front of the chamber, with Scorpius and his lawyer sitting across from us. Daisy sits behind them, deliberately looking away from me. Mum and Dad sit behind me. Seven members of the Wizengamot are sitting at a long table at the front of the chamber – these are the people who will decide the fate of this hearing. Maybe I should flash them a bit of boob.
“The case of Malfoy versus Weasley in the custody hearing regarding Aidan Ronald Weasley will now commence,” Raymond Wolf of the Wizengamot announces. He says it so casually. This is just another day at the office for him, while it’s one of the biggest days of my life. “The Wizengamot will hear from both Council now the requests of their clients. Mr Summerville?”
Scorpius’s lawyer, Henry J. Summerville stands up to address the Wizengamot. “My client wishes to apply for chief custody of his son, leaving Ms Weasley with a generous three days of custody during the week, and weekend visits.” Wolf writes this down and nods.
“And Mr Fox?”
Tom stands up now. “My client wishes to remain the primary care-giver for her son, offering Mr Malfoy custody every second weekend and on Wednesdays.” Tom suggested this arrangement, saying it sounds more reasonable than it actually is. Again, Wolf writes this down.
“Very good. The Wizengamot calls the father of Aidan Ronald Weasley, Mr Scorpius Malfoy to be questioned, and then the mother of Aidan Ronald Weasley, Ms Rose Weasley to be questioned before making their decision. Mr Malfoy, if you would take your seat in the stand...”
Scorpius looks just as nervous as I feel as he walks forward to take his seat at the front of the chamber. In a criminal trial, this would be the witness box. Summerville questions Scorpius first.
“Mr Malfoy, would you describe yourself as a good father?” Summerville asks.
Scorpius pauses for a moment. He really looks like he doesn’t want to be here. “Yes, I would,” he answers, his voice shaking.
“Can you describe your relationship with your son?”
“We have a good relationship...when I get to see him. He’s a well-behaved boy most of the time.”
The Wizengamot are all taking notes vigorously.
“And how often do you get to see your son, Mr Malfoy?” the lawyer asks.
“Well, I get to see him most weekends, and Wednesday is my day to look after him, but a lot of the time those arrangements don’t work out.”
“Why don’t they work out?”
“Well, Rose is very busy, and sometimes she needs me to mind him when she has Potions class in the evenings...”
I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut. He’s the one who told me to go to those classes! He’s the one who said he’d look after Aidan! Was it just to get some ammunition?
“So, would you say that Rose is unreliable?” Summerville asks.
“I...” Scorpius looks very uncomfortable, “I wouldn’t say unreliable. It’s just her hours in her job change a lot, they’re not fixed, and she has other commitments...” He trails off.
“Other commitments. And what hours do you work, Mr Malfoy?”
“I work from 8am to 3pm from Monday to Friday, with a day off on Wednesdays.”
“And these are fixed hours?”
“So it would be fair to say that you are a more reliable parent than Ms Weasley?”
“Objection!” Tom stands up quickly in defence. “He’s leading the witness. Rose’s working hours have nothing to do with her parenting abilities.”
“Mr Summerville,” Wolf addresses Scorpius’s lawyer, “Could you please rephrase the question?”
Summerville looks annoyed. “Do you think Ms Weasley’s working hours in any way affect her ability to be a reliable parent for Aidan?”
Scorpius looks down at his hands. “I suppose they might...”
“Well, she isn’t always able to pick him up from school. He has to spend a lot of time at his Grandparents’ house, or at other family members’ houses. Aidan’s living arrangements lack stability.”
“And do you think you could offer more stability than Ms Weasley can?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Are you in a relationship, Mr Malfoy?”
“Yes. I’m married.”
“And how do your wife and son get on together?”
“Daisy loves Aidan,” Scorpius says firmly, “And Aidan loves her too. They get on extremely well.”
Summerville nods. “Thank you Mr Malfoy.” With that, Summerville sits back in his seat looking very pleased with himself.
“Mr Fox, have you any questions for Mr Malfoy?” Wolf asks.
“Yes sir,” Tom stands up. He looks at me one last time hopefully. I shake my head. I will not let him use that information. I don’t care. Tom turns to Scorpius. “Mr Malfoy, what age were you when Aidan was born?”
“I was seventeen,” says Scorpius, “We both were.”
“Seventeen,” Tom repeats, “And what year were you in at Hogwarts?”
“Sixth. Well, he was born in the summer between sixth and seventh year.”
“That must have been difficult having a child while still at Hogwarts. Were you still able to attend Hogwarts once the baby came?”
Scorpius raises his eyebrows, now realising where this line of questioning his going. “Yes, I was. Rose and I agreed that I’d do my NEWTs while she’d stay with her parents and look after Aidan.”
“So Ms Weasley didn’t go back to Hogwarts for seventh year?”
“She sacrificed her education to look after your son. How often did you see Aidan that year?”
“I’m not sure,” Scorpius shrugs, “Maybe once every three weeks.”
“So not very often then,” Tom observes. “Did you find this separation from your child difficult?”
“Yes, very much so.”
“Can you tell me how meetings with your son took place while you were at Hogwarts?”
Scorpius frowns, as if trying to remember that far back. “Rose would travel up to Hogsmeade with the baby and we’d meet there for a few hours. And I spent holidays at the Weasley house.”
“Mr Malfoy, what age were you when you took your apparition test?”
“I was seventeen. I took it in sixth year.”
“Did you pass it?”
“Yes. First time.”
“I would like to point out to the Wizengamot that due to the fact that Ms Weasley was pregnant upon turning seventeen that she did not get the chance to take her apparition test until last week,” says Tom, “So, Mr Malfoy, do you not think that it would have been a lot easier for you to visit Ms Weasley during your seventh year at Hogwarts than for her to travel to you?”
“I...I suppose so.”
“If you missed your son as much as you claim, would you not have made the effort to travel to see him in that first year?”
“I was very busy at school.”
“I’m sure you were. But as I’m sure all parents will know, a newborn baby is just about the most time-consuming thing there is!” Some members of the Wizengamot nod in agreement. God, Tom is good. “Do you agree that Ms Weasley put a lot of time and effort into raising your son?”
“Do you agree that she is a good mother?”
“Thank you, Mr Malfoy. That’s all.”
After Summerville’s questions I felt like the case had been lost. Now, I feel like I could fly! We didn’t even need that stupid argument that Daisy is the daughter of Dolohov.
“Mr Malfoy, you can return to your seat. The Wizengamot now calls Ms Rose Weasley to the stand.”
My legs feel like jelly. Scorpius passes me on his way down from the stand, but does not make eye contact. I take my seat, now facing Mum and Dad and Daisy. Mum and Dad smile encouragingly. I really feel like I’m going to puke. “Mr Fox, you may begin your questioning.”
“Ms Weasley,” Tom addresses me, “Do you think that your current custody arrangement is fair?”
I knew he was going to ask me that. We’ve been over it so many times in his office.
“I think it’s very fair and flexible. Aidan gets to spend a lot of time with his father, while still having a stable home. He doesn’t have to split his life into two different worlds, and I find this makes it easier on him. He is perfectly happy.”
“Is it just you and your son living in your flat?”
“Yes. But we have family very close by.” Mum and Dad continue to smile in encouragement.
“Do you think your working hours have a negative effect on Aidan?”
“He’s used to my changing hours. We still spend plenty of time together, and he loves to spend time with his Grandparents too.”
“And do you think he sees enough of his father?”
“Well, obviously with parents who are separated a child can never really see as much as he’d like to of both. But he spends as much time as he likes with Scorpius. He has never complained about our current arrangement.”
“Do you think disrupting his current living arrangements could have a negative effect on your son?”
“I think so. Aidan suffers from dyslexia and is having a difficult time at school. I think that disrupting his life at the moment would do much more harm than good. Like I said, he’s perfectly happy.”
Tom nods, and turns to make a statement to the Wizengamot. “Ladies and gentlemen, I think it’s clear to see that Aidan is perfectly happy with the current custody arrangements. Ms Weasley has been the primary care giver for her son for his entire life – wrenching him from her care at his age would be an emotionally scarring experience for the boy. Mr Malfoy agrees that Ms Weasley is a good mother. She does her best as a single mother with a career, while still giving Mr Malfoy plenty of time with his son. Mr Malfoy’s request for chief custody of Aidan is nothing more than selfish greed, and should absolutely not be granted. Thank you.”
How I wish this was the end of the hearing. I could safely say I will win if this was the end. However, Summerville stands up to cross-examine me – I feel like he should grow horns and a tail.
“Ms Weasley, you described your son as ‘perfectly happy’, is that correct?” he asks.
“Yes,” I reply, resisting the urge to add ‘are you deaf or what?’
“Do you think Aidan would prefer if you and Mr Malfoy were together?”
I frown at him. “Well, yes, but things don’t always work out. Scorpius is married to Daisy.”
“And Ms Weasley are you in a relationship?”
“Have you had a relationship at all since the birth of your son?”
“Scorpius and I were together for two years, on and off.”
“And may I ask why that did not work out for you?”
Oh God. Is there anything more embarrassing than having to go through my love life with Scorpius in front of the Wizengamot? “Scorpius wanted to get married,” I reply.
“And what was your answer?”
“I said that we were too young.”
“So the break-up of your relationship was your decision,” Summerville says.
“In a way.”
“And was Scorpius the only man you were in a relationship with since the birth of your son?”
“What about a Mr Brian McDonald?”
Oh Jesus. I can’t believe Scorpius told him about that.
“Brian is just a friend.”
“Where did you meet Brian?”
“In a Muggle nightclub,” I reply sheepishly. It sounds so bad.
“Do you go to nightclubs often?”
“No. It was New Years Eve.”
“And is it true you went home with Mr McDonald that night?”
I look at Scorpius. He looks guilty. I can’t believe he dished all this about me.
“Yes. But we just kissed. Nothing else.”
“And what did Aidan think of Mr McDonald?”
“He didn’t like him because Brian was his substitute teacher at school.”
“So did you stop seeing Mr McDonald when Aidan became upset?”
“I was never seeing Brian!” I cry, “He’s a friend!”
“But did you stop communicating with him when you saw your son was unhappy?”
“So, really, your son was not ‘perfectly happy’ at all.”
I really hate this man. More than I hate Auntie Audrey. If she and Uncle Percy ever split up, I know who to set her up with.
“He was just throwing a tantrum. He got over it. Kids throw tantrums.”
“But you ignored this tantrum and passed it off as nothing?”
“It was nothing!”
“Ms Weasley, it seems a selfish act to ignore your son’s feelings about a person in your life. While Mr Malfoy offers a stable home environment for your son, an environment with two parental figures, both loved by Aidan, you are offering flakiness and you disregard the feelings of your son towards your ‘friends’. Ladies and Gentlemen, clearly there needs to be a radical change in Aidan’s living arrangements. These ‘tantrums’ Ms Weasley has referred to can be seen as the desperate acts of a child who craves more attention from his parents. Instead of being pawned off on nearby family members and friends, Aidan needs stability in his life. He needs the stability that Mr Malfoy and his wife are offering, not the insecurity that defines the life he currently leads. Thank you.”
Raymond Wolf tells me to go back to my seat while the Wizengamot deliberates. I’m completely shaken by Summerville’s questioning. Tom tells me not to panic, that even if it doesn’t go our way we can always appeal. I feel like I might cry, but I can’t. Not in front of Scorpius and Daisy. Scorpius isn’t speaking to anyone.
“Everything will be fine,” Dad assures me, “I promise, Rosie. Everything will be fine. I really hate that Malfoy git-”
“Ron, not here,” Mum warns him.
After what feels like two hours, but is actually only about twenty minutes, the Wizengamot file back into the chamber with their decision made. Tom pats me on the shoulder and wishes me luck. I’ve lost. I can feel it.
“Having taken into consideration the factors brought to our attention in this hearing,” Raymond Wolf begins, “We have decided to award sole custody of Aidan Ronald Weasley to Scorpius Malfoy for the next six weeks pending a subsequent hearing.” My heart stops beating. Sole custody. “Aidan Weasley will live with Scorpius and Daisy Malfoy for the next eight weeks, with visits from Rose Weasley with the permission of Mr Malfoy. After these eight weeks, the Wizengamot will assess what course of action is in the best interest of Aidan Weasley. Hearing adjourned.”
I am in complete shock. Those tears that have been threatening to come pouring out all day are still holding back, thank God. Scorpius looks equally shocked, but I can’t look at him for too long in case I jinx him.
“T-Tom...we lost,” I tell him, my voice shaking.
“We didn’t lose, Rose,” he tells me firmly, “They’re just doing this to see how Aidan gets on living with Scorpius and Daisy on a more long-term basis. It’s only for two months. We’ll get working extra hard on the next hearing...”
“I should have let you use it!” I whisper to him, my whole body shaking now, “I should have let you!”
“Stop it,” he frowns, “Stop talking like we’ve lost. This is just the beginning.”
Mum and Dad come forward and hug me, while Scorpius crosses the chamber to speak with me. Mum, Dad and Tom leave us alone for a moment.
He doesn’t look victorious. In fact, he looks devastated. But all he can say is: “I’ll...I’ll pick him up at seven. And, erm, Happy Birthday.”
I break down in tears.
A/N - Depressing chapter! Woo! (Just trying to cheer ye up!)
I think it's safe to say that this is Rose's low point. Then again, I always seem to find ways to make her sink lower. I hate the part with the apparition test, but I feel I needed to stick it in there anyway. Did you guys like or dislike the trial? I know it's not like a real trial, but I tried to make it kinda original. Also, I don't have time right now to look through for mistakes, but I will do soon!
Thanks SO MUCH for the reviews on the last chapter! You guys make my life. Can't wait to hear your opinions!
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