Chapter 1 : Sense and Insensitivity
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Canon is less important than historical accuracy here, but, all the same, if you find any glaring inconsistency or error, please let me know.
Sense and Insensitivity
The pureblooded family of Weasley had long been settled near the village of Ottery St. Catchpole, but it was one particular generation of six sons and one daughter that rather complicated the family’s living arrangements. The first and obvious reason was that their home, known by the distinguished name of “The Burrow,” required extensive alterations with the birth of each subsequent child, but size became an even greater issue as all but one child married. The single daughter was the easiest to marry, her chosen husband a grand hero of war who swept her away to the grand estates of Potter Manor. Of the remaining sons, one took himself to Romania to make his own fortune and one was a casualty of the great war, but that still left four sons, their wives, and their children.
Not that the sons chose to live in The Burrow, having made homes of their own across the countryside from London to Godric’s Hollow. Yet that did not prevent them from spending much of their time in the ancestral home, a domestic haven of baked cookies and darned socks, the magic clock ticking in time with a pair of knitting needles that clacked away in one corner of the back parlour as a great many sets of youthful feet traversed the stairs once, twice, and again in an endless stream of red hair and freckled faces.
They were never a wealthy family, and the presence of so many children and grandchildren did nothing to save the family’s coffers from the curse of perpetual vacancy. Even the spiders had tired of the Weasley vault; it was devoid of any life.
Needless to say, when nothing is divided by four, the answer is still nothing, and as one knows from the Bard, nothing comes of nothing.
Or does it?
It is the daughter of the youngest son whose story concerns us here. One Rose Weasley of late fame, the third youngest of her cousins, though she would prefer to never see it that way.
Her mother was as far from pureblooded as one could get without actually being a Muggle, as the scandal-mongers would say, but no one in the family minded. It was, perhaps, a relief to cancel out the Black blood that had leaked its way through the line. Or was it instead that Miss Granger’s cleverness could have ingratiated her with any pureblooded family? Either way, the results of the match were favourable, by some accounts.
They lived in Granley Cottage, a small place on the outskirts of Godric’s Hollow, but although the cottage could be warm and inviting when its occupants cared it to be, it was so rarely occupied that most passers-by took it for an empty house. Rose’s younger brother was set to inherit it, should he care to retire from his adventures abroad, but Rose was expected to marry.
Rose’s age had set but a single condition on her future. Because two of her elder female cousins had chosen not to marry, there was simply no way that the family could bear the burden of an additional spinster cousin. So although Rose may have been the most intelligent of her cousins, having read the most books and practised the most spells and learned to brew the most potions, she would have to set all of these things aside to pick up a fan, shake out an old silken gown, and prepare herself for the most challenging of maidenly duties: flirtation.
“But I know nothing about it!”
“You’ll learn soon enough.” Rose’s mother said from behind the parchments stacked precariously high on her small writing desk before busying herself once more with the concerns of house elves across the nation, if not the entire world.
“Surely you didn’t need to?”
The question was, instead, answered by her other parent, who stood by the window, hands clasped behind his back as he awaited the owl post, having forgotten that it had arrived but an hour before.
“Your situation is different, Rose. These peaceful times are taxing.”
It was his old complaint, the same that all war heroes must have, once the battle is over and the rubble cleared away. What was an old captain to do? Aurors now lived quiet lives on half-pay, staring out of windows to see only the birds and trees beyond.
“There’s no choice, Rose. We’re both very sorry.”
There was nothing more to be said. She took herself to the garden where her namesakes grew in wild abundance to practice her charms on their blushing faces.
Rose could find no assistance in her plight from neither relative nor friend. It seemed that no one could understand that the last thing on earth she wished to do was marry, particularly if that supposedly-sacred act was to be undertaken merely for the sake of survival. It was too mercenary a thing for her to conceive. If she married, it would only be for love.
And since she could not foresee ever losing herself in such a silly thing as love, she needn’t ever worry about marriage. She would find a way to support herself; there had to be things that witches could do. The world could not be so grave a place as to forbid a witch from living as she pleased, from finding the means to survive without giving herself away to the highest bidder?
She had no need for fancy dresses or fine carriages; her only need was for freedom.
Appropriating a pair of scissors, she snipped off the dead flowers, dropping them to the ground below like the falling heads of French aristocrats those many years ago in her father’s war, the war he still secretly wished for, if only because it gave him meaning. The money was never important beyond the necessities. They did not even keep house elves, primarily due to her mother’s convictions that no being should be enslaved.
The youngest Mrs Weasley worked with as much diligence to free the house elves as she did to free the Muggle slaves of distant lands, but of course there seemed to be few ears open to these pleas for simple human empathy for the plights of others, be they creature, Muggle, or wizard, and it left Rose’s mother writing letters, day in and day out, to members of the Wizengamot who would never care to read them, their minds filled with greater concerns.
The petals of one rose scattered at her feet and she looked down, wishing for a moment, that she could have born into a family remotely approaching some stage of normality. For all her pride in being a Weasley, her family was too often the pestilence that plagued her waking hours, her sleeping hours too. She heard one now, entering the garden, approaching with the skipping steps of one who knows how to be happy and little else.
She turned, scissors in hand, another brown-tinged flower falling at her feet.
“There is to be a ball!”
It was hardly the sort of news that would excite one such as Rose Weasley, no matter what prospects for marriage she ought to have been preparing herself for. She stared across the lawn at her younger cousin with an expression that could only be called disdain.
“What’s so exciting about that? There have been enough of those lately.”
Lily Potter shook her head as though she felt sorry for Rose’s inability to find excitement in such glorious news.
“But this one’s in London, and my parents say that you can come too.”
She emphasised the significant words with relish to ensure that Rose understood exactly what the situation was. She seemed to take Rose’s disinterest in balls and finery as a great intellectual and moral failing that must, at the soonest possible moment, be remedied by exposure to the wonders of those essentially feminine things.
Rose nipped the head from another flower, the petals scattering as it fell.
“Did they? How kind.”
It was not an offer lightly given; she was already certain of that, however casually it seemed to spill from the mouth of her cousin. From Lily’s point of view, Rose would be a life-sized doll to dress and decorate to her own peculiar fancy, not someone to whom she was extending charity. Lily could never have seen it that way.
“It will be wonderful, don’t you think? There hasn’t been a single decent-looking wizard in the neighbourhood since Mr Lupin married, even among the Muggles, and Molly is always saying how there used to be so many interesting gentlemen around before that one Muggle... what was his name?”
“Bonaparte.” Rose put down the scissors to examine a freshly budding bloom.
Lily waved a freckled white hand. “Yes, him. The officers were dashing, but we were too young! Oh Rose, what bad timing we have, coming out in such a time....”
It was difficult for Rose to discern whether she was more annoyed by her cousin’s words or her inability to properly complete a sentence.
“It’s not as though we can help when we were born, Lily.”
“If only the war hadn’t ended so soon....” Once again, Lily’s words drifted into the air, catching in the breeze that wafted through thorned branches and scarlet curls alike.
Rose let out a sigh. “Officers die in wars. Dead husbands are hardly useful, are they?”
“Useful?” Lily put a hand to her mouth as the word emerged, hardly more than a squeak.
With a shrug, Rose took Lily’s arm and began to make her way across the garden, leaving the flowers to continue their growth uninhibited, at least for the time being. The bees buzzed around them, narrowing avoiding the shallow gusts of wind by diving deep into each flower to drink deeply of the nectar. All types of flowers grew here, the space grown wild the plants that Rose loved best. No one would expect her parents to take interest in such things, but it was generally believed that Rose’s preoccupation with the blooms was more than acceptable for a young lady of her breeding. It was also acknowledged as a far less expensive pursuit than the addictions of rich silks, glittering baubles, or dragon breeding.
One ball in London was too likely to lead to another and another; the season was said to be a profusion of dancing and romance, however dubious, not to mention mercenary, the latter may be. There would, of course, be no Muggles present, their season taking place in the dead of winter, when bare shoulders turned white with frost and pretty embroidered slippers proved fatal on patches of ice. The magical world was far more advanced in this regard.
However, for Rose to leave her garden now in June, just as the flowers were reaching their peak.... It was enough to lead Rose to take on her cousin’s habit of unfinished sentences.
“That’s the only reason girls like us marry. We need husbands. We don’t necessarily want them.”
Her chilled tone evoked a gasp from Lily, who whirled to obstruct Rose’s path.
“Rose! How could you say such a thing? You should be happy that Mama and Papa want to take you with us to London. How else are you going to find a husband? You need one far more than I.”
It was a question that Rose could not ignore. Her parents’ words still rang through her mind, try as she might to disclaim them, to swear up and down that she would – could – never marry and subject herself to a life of dependence and obedience. She shuddered at the thought of such a life, waking every morning into a prison of the spirit, no better than the house elves whose liberty her mother sought.
How could she say these things, Lily had asked, but how could Lily think the opposite, believing so firmly in their destined roles as wives and mothers? That was what Rose wished to know, but to ask it would not necessitate the reception of a satisfactory answer, for she knew full well that Lily had none to give.
They would both go to London, that would be settled as soon as Rose’s parents heard of the offer, if they had not already known, but Rose hoped with all her heart that she would find no husband there.
What wizard would wish to marry a penniless half-blood? No good could come from any who did.