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Chapter 13 : Chapter Thirteen: Mr. and Mrs. Ron Weasley
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Any lingering doubts Rose had about her need to “get away” for a few days were quickly put to rest.
As soon as she stepped out of Heart’s office, all eyes were on her. She felt the red-hot glares of her co-workers burning into as she passed through the halls. Heads popped up from behind desks and out open doorways. Even Heart’s no-nonsense secretary flashed her a look that said she knew exactly what Rose had been up to and she wasn’t impressed. No one said anything to her as she went, but the raised eyebrows and bemused expressions spoke volumes. Rose Weasley was hot gossip and everyone in the building knew it.
Rose kept her eyes glued to the floor, darting into her office and slamming the door shut behind her. She grabbed her trusty satchel up from off the desk and began cramming it full of papers, not bothering to look at what she was packing. She had to get out of there – and fast.
Ten minutes later she was standing on her parents’ doorstep. She’d been planning to stop by her flat first, to gather up a few belongings – her toothbrush, clean underwear, and enough clothes to last her the week. But then she’d remembered Al’s warning about the twitchy-looking fellow parked outside her building. What if he was with the press? He could have followed Krum to her flat, been waiting out there for her all weekend. And even if he wasn’t, chances were, someone else would be scouting the place by now. With the story out there for all the world to see, it was only a matter of time before the less reputable papers started sniffing around, hoping to track down some morsel of information that could twist to serve their needs. Rose knew enough about her parents’ experiences with the press to know that once they got a whiff of something juicy, there was no telling how far they’d run with it.
Rose reached for the doorknob but stopped. Heart had made it sound like heading home was the easy choice, but now that she was there, she wasn’t so sure anymore. She hadn’t lasted ten seconds at the office – all those shrewd looks being hurled in her direction. Was she really expecting it to be any different at home? Her parents were bound to have seen the article. Did she think she could just show up, plop down on their sofa, and have everyone go about their business as if nothing was wrong? Of course not. They, just like everyone else, would want to know what the hell she’d been thinking getting herself caught up in such a mess. And Rose didn’t have a clue what to tell them.
Rose dropped the satchel and plopped down on the front stoop. She sat out there for a long while, contemplating what to do – too afraid to go inside but unable to think of anywhere else to go. After a time, she heard the front door open. Seconds later, her brother appeared beside her, sitting down next to her, hands resting on his knees.
“You planning on staying out here all day then?” Hugo asked.
Rose shrugged. “Seems as good a place as any. At least it’s not raining.” She glanced in the direction of the front door. “Are Mum and Dad home?”
“They sure are. Seemed to think it was a good morning for calling in sick to work.”
Rose’s insides gave an involuntary lurch. “So they’ve seen it then?”
“What, you mean the picture of you in your skivvies? Yeah, they’ve seen it. It was pretty hard to miss.”
“And...?” Rose was almost afraid to ask.
“And they’re worried about you. We all are. Mum was ready to come out and drag you inside once she realized you were here, but I convinced her to let me give it a go first. I figured you might not be ready to handle her just yet.”
“Thanks,” Rose said, flashing her brother a half-hearted smile. “I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to face her again. Or Dad, for that matter.”
Hugo leaned over, giving her shoulder a gentle bump. “Oh, come on. It’s not that bad. Remember the time you failed your potions exam – or when you broke Dad’s wand? You thought they’d never speak to you again. But they got over it. Face it, Rose. You’ve got a family that’s going to love you no matter what you do. It’s nauseating, I know, but it’s just something we have to learn to accept.”
Rose smiled. “It is a bit sickening, isn’t it?”
Still, this wasn’t like coming home with bad marks. This was big. The article had mentioned her parents by name. She’d dragged them all into this mess without their knowledge or consent. While true that, even in her wildest dreams, she couldn’t have predicted that things would end up like this, it didn’t change the fact that she’d brought this down on all of them.
“Look,” Hugo said, seeming to read her thoughts. “You aren’t going to be able to please everyone all of the time. You’re an adult now, Rose, and sometimes you’re going to do things your family doesn’t like. But in the end, you’ve just got to follow your heart and learn to live with the consequences."
Rose looked over at her brother. “And when did you get so wise?”
“I have my moments.”
“Great,” she sighed. “First Albus and now you. Looks like my boys are all grown up.”
“What’s Al done now?”
Rose sighed again. “That’s right. You won’t have heard the good news yet. He’s getting married. Stopped by this morning to drop off the invitation.”
“Married, huh?” Hugo considered that for a moment. “Well, good for Al.”
Rose shot him a look. “You’re kidding, right? It’ll be a disaster. He and Amelia can’t be in the same room together for more than five minutes without getting into a row. I give the marriage a year, and that’s being generous.”
Hugo raised an eyebrow. “Well, that’s a bit rich coming from you, don’t you think? Ms. I’m-dating-a-man-twice-my-age-with-a-criminal-record-and-drug-problem. You really think you’re in the best position to go around commenting on the quality of other people’s relationships?”
That shut Rose up. Her brother was right, of course. Who was she to decide when it was right between two people? To the rest of the world, she and Krum must look like a terrible match, and yet, when she was with him, something about it just felt right. Maybe it was the same for her cousin.
“So,” Hugo said, standing up. “You ready to go inside and face the music?”
“Yeah, sure, just give me another five or six years to work up the nerve and I should be good to go.”
“Oh, come off it. It won’t be that bad, I promise. And if it is... Well, I can always come out of the closet again. That should put your relationship troubles in a bit of perspective.”
Rose laughed in spite of herself. “You’re too kind.”
He smiled, reaching out a hand and pulling her to her feet. “Hey, that’s what little brothers are for.”
Hugo was right. Facing her parents was nearly as bad as she’d expected, at least not at first. There had been a lot of awkward silences – interrupted every so often by a loud sigh from her father, who seemed to be doing his best to abide by the rule that if you don’t have something nice to say, keep your trap shut.
On the surface, her mother seemed to be handling things about as well as could be expected given the circumstances – asking the occasional question, giving Rose an affectionate pat on the knee when the situation called for it. But Rose knew there was more bubbling underneath. Her mother wouldn’t sit still, constantly getting to her feet, bringing in fresh cups of coffee, even though no one had touched the first two rounds she’d set out.
Hugo stayed by Rose’s side as long as he could before eventually having to head into work. Rose sent him one last grateful smile before watching him throw on his coat and disappear out the door.
They were alone at last, just the three of them: Rose sitting on the sofa, her mother perched beside her, her father seated across from them in his favorite easy chair. A heavy silence had settled over them, punctuated only by the loud ticking of the grandfather clock resting on mantelpiece above the fire. Someone was going to have to say something. It was only a matter of figuring out who would be the first to break.
Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be her mother.
“So,” she said, shifting in her seat, angling herself towards Rose. Her mother’s voice was calm, but Rose could tell she was having to work hard to keep it that way. “We didn’t know you were writing again. That’s certainly good to hear. I always thought you had such a way with words.”
Rose looked over at her mother, wondering for a moment how she knew about the book before remembering that too had been mentioned in the now infamous article.
“Yeah, sorry about that. I meant to tell you before. I guess it slipped my mind.”
Her father let out a grunt, but her mother ignored him, keeping her attention on Rose. “Well, that’s understandable. You’ve been busy. I’m sure you would have told us about it when you had the time.” There was a long pause before she added, “And we didn’t know you’d been seeing anyone either.”
Her father mumbled something that sounded a lot like, “Guess that slipped her mind too.” This time her mother shot him a look, but he’d already gone silent again.
“Well...” Rose began, not really sure how to reply. She wouldn’t exactly say that she and Krum were “seeing” each other. It wasn’t as if he was her boyfriend. They’d sort of bypassed the dating part, skipping right to the sex. Though Rose doubted that was the sort of thing her parents would want to hear. “It’s...complicated.”
“Of course it is,” her mother said just a bit too cheerfully. “These things always are. And it’s not that we aren’t happy you’ve found someone—”
“Ha!” her father barked, unable to hold it in any longer.
Her mother whipped her head around. “Will you stop that, Ron? If you’ve got something to say to Rose, then say it. Otherwise, you can stop all your grunting. You sound like a Neanderthal.”
“Me the Neanderthal?” he father said. “He’s the one who can hardly string three words together. It’s Dumb Krum, for Christ’s sake. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten what’s he’s like. Happy for her, my foot.”
“Ron! Stop it.”
But now that the floodgates were open, her father was going to have his say. “Oh, come off it, Hermione. Don’t tell me you’re all right with this? It’s Krum. Your Krum. It’s just too bizarre.”
Rose spun in her seat, looking straight at her mother. “What does he mean, your Krum?”
But her mother wasn’t looking at her. She was too busy shooting daggers at her husband. “Oh, now we’re getting to it then. This isn’t even about Rose, is it? It’s about your insecurities. I’d have thought that after thirty years, you’d have gotten over this sort of thing by now.”
Her father let out a derisive snort. “Of course it’s about Rose. What, just because I think the man is one rung up from pond scum means I must be jealous of him?”
“Well, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know exactly what it means,” her mother said. “You’re always doing things like this. Letting your temper get the best of you. We were having a perfectly civilized conversation until you went and lost your head. Weren’t we, Rose?”
Rose opened her mouth to respond but her mother was already talking again. It was as if Rose had suddenly gone invisible. They were saying her name, but the fight wasn’t about her. It had been the same way growing up. One minute they’d be telling her something important, and the next they’d be trying to tear each other’s heads off. This is what she meant when she said didn’t understand how they made their relationship work. It was the same with Al and Amelia. Why did all the couples in her life seem so hell-bent on making each other miserable?
“Besides,” her mother was saying. “Maybe this is just what Rose needs. She’s young. She’s got to experiment. Explore her sexuality—”
Her father threw up his hands. “No. No. We aren’t going there. I’ve had enough. You two can sit here and swoon over the man all you want, but I’m out.”
He was already on his feet, heading for the front door, yanking it open so hard the coffee mugs rattled against the tabletop.
“And where exactly are you going to go?” her mother called after him.
“Anywhere is better than here!”
And with that, he was gone, slamming the door shut behind him.
There was a long pause during which neither of the women said anything. Finally, her mother let out a loud huff, muttered something about fetching more coffee before disappearing into the kitchen. Rose, feeling shell-shocked, was left alone to try and make sense of what had just happened. She knew better than to try and go after her parents, to persuade them to talk this through. Hopefully, all the needed was a little time.
Besides, it wasn’t like Rose was going anywhere anytime soon.
Once she was sure her mother wasn’t coming back, Rose grabbed her satchel and trudged upstairs to her room – or at least what was left of it. Her parents had converted it into a guest room not long after she'd moved out, but the bed was still the same. So was the chest of drawers pushed up along the far wall. The overstuffed reading chair she’d kept in the corner was now gone, replaced by droopy houseplant that looked like it hadn’t been watered in days. The room was a lot smaller than she remembered, but it still had all the essentials: a place to sleep, a desk in the corner for writing and, most importantly, a lock on the door.
With nowhere to go and no one to talk to, Rose figured she might as well try and get some work done. She could use the distraction, anything to keep her mind off her troubles. She spent the next few hours hunched over her desk, attempting to get down on paper all the things she and Krum had discussed the night before. Save for the sound of her mother going up and down the stairs, the house was quiet.
She'd expected the work to be harder, what with all that was going on, but she found the words came easily for her, traveling from her brain straight through her fingertips. It was calming, the steady scratch of the quill across the parchment – a familiar rhythm that calmed her nerves.
It was late afternoon by the time she finally set down her quill, messaging her cramping hand, her finger stained with ink. There was a quiet knock on the door and Rose turned around to find her mother standing in the doorway, peering in at her.
“Am I interrupting?” her mother asked.
“No, not at all. I think I’ve done just about as much as I can for the moment.”
Her mother nodded, stepping inside and taking a seat on the edge of the bed. “It’s so nice to see you at it again.”
“At what?” Rose asked.
“At your desk. Writing. You used to spend hours in that chair, tucked away in here, working on your stories.”
“Oh, yes. You’d have stayed locked in here for days if we’d let you. I can’t count the number of times I had to send your father up, threaten to throw you over his shoulder and carry you down for supper. And as soon as you’d cleared your plate, back up here you’d run. You must have written a hundred stories by the time you started school. As soon as you finished one, on you went to the next. All of them written right there, in that chair.” She pointed at the spot where Rose was sitting. “Don’t you remember?”
Rose shrugged. She did remember, but it all seemed so long ago. She felt so far removed from that little girl who had begged her parents for a new set of writing quills every Christmas, promising she’d repay them once she’d sold her first book and made her fortune.
Rose had always gotten the impression that her parents thought writing was a waste of time. They didn’t begrudge her passion, but they didn’t really understand it either – perhaps hoping she’d grow out of it in favor of a more practical career. But now, looking at her mother, Rose wasn’t so sure anymore. She had a dreamy expression on her face, a smile pulling at the corners of her lips as she thought back on all that time Rose had spent plugging away at her stories. It was as if those memories made her mother happy.
Rose shrugged again. “It was only silly kid stuff.”
“Perhaps. But you loved it all the same, and that’s what counts.”
Rose stared at her mother for a long moment. “Is Dad going to be okay with all of this?”
Her mother sighed. “You know your father, Rose. He just needs time. He’ll come around.”
“And what about you? What did he mean when he said your Krum?” Rose was thinking back to her past conversations with Viktor. He’d admitted knowing her parents but had refused to say why or how. She'd sensed there was more to the story, something he hadn't wanted to tell her.
Her mother looked away, glancing out the window before turning her attention back to Rose. “Whatever I say about that, it will come out sounding wrong. What’s more important is what’s happening now. You know your father likes to dwell on the past, but I don’t. Let’s just leave what happened well enough alone and focus on the here and now.” Rose waited, expecting her mother to say more but she didn’t. Instead, she stood up, crossing over to where Rose sat and patting her gently on the shoulder. “Now, I better let you get back to that book of yours.”
Rose nodded, watching as her mother turned to leave. “Hey, Mum?” she called out, and her mother turned back around. “And you... You’re really all right with this? With him and me, I mean?”
Her mother stood there for a long moment, carefully considering her reply. “It doesn’t matter what I think, Rose. It only matters what you think. As long as you’re safe and you’re happy... Well, your father and I can learn to live with the rest. You’re an adult now. You don’t need our permission.”
Rose smiled. She knew that already, of course, but it was good to hear her mother say it out loud. A part of her was still curious about what her mother hadn’t said – about Krum. But she didn’t want to push it. And in truth, Rose wasn’t really sure she wanted to know. She may be an adult, but there were just some things between parents and children that were better left unsaid.
The rest of the week passed pleasantly enough, all things considered. Thus far, Heart’s prediction had proven correct. Either the press didn’t know where Rose was hiding, or else they were smart enough to know that being caught trespassing near the home of two Ministry officials was a very bad idea.
Rose couldn’t bring herself to check the papers for more stories. When she asked Hugo if he’d spotted anything else, he just shook his head and said, “No. Well, at least nothing new. A few more ran a reprint of the original, but nobody’s got anything new to say.”
Her mother seemed to be getting on with things. There’d been a flurry of letters from friends and relatives, ostensibly writing to offer their support or vilify the papers for publishing such rubbish. But in reality, they’d all just wanted to know if the story was true. After the first dozen, her mother had stopped opening them, tearing them up and throwing them directly in the bin, declaring them to be from “the biggest bunch of busybodies I’ve ever met.”
Rose’s father was fairing about as good as anyone had hoped. He’d stopped grunting at Rose every time she entered the room, deciding it was better to just pretend none of this really happening. He’d even stopped rolling his eyes whenever anyone in the house mentioned Krum’s name. He’d just act as if he hadn’t heard a thing, going about his business like he didn’t have a care in the world. This arrangement suited Rose just fine. It wasn’t like she wanted to discuss any of this with her father anyway. Still, she had to admit, the man’s ability to deny reality was astounding. She supposed this was how her brother felt anytime the subject of his sexuality came up.
As for herself, she was managing. She’d made some good progress on the book. It was oddly freeing to be back at home. She could work at her desk or out in the garden, and when she was done for the day, she’d come downstairs and find the cupboards stocked, the laundry washed and put away, and dinner sitting on the table. Rose didn’t know how her parents did it. All she had was herself and a tiny rented flat to take care of and she couldn’t even manage that half the time. But at her parents’ house, there was a rhythm, an unspoken schedule that everyone was required to follow. Meals were eaten at the correct times, things were put away when they weren’t being used, and Rose was left with nothing to do but write from sunup to sundown. She covered so much ground in just a few short days, she started to think she might actually meet her deadline. That was, of course, assuming she’d be able to speak with Krum again.
The last time Rose had seen Viktor was when he’d left her flat on Monday morning. It was now Friday afternoon and she hadn’t received so much as a note letting her know he was okay. She didn’t know what to make of it. Was he just hiding out, laying low until this all blew over? Or was he purposely avoiding her, believing she was somehow to blame for all this mess?
Heart had promised he’d work on getting Krum settled, setting up a way for the two of them to meet in secret, but every time she tried to ask Heart about it, he’d give her the same answer.
“He’s in the wind, kid. But don’t sweat it. He can’t stay gone forever. If we don’t find him, you can bet the Ministry will. They don’t look kindly on felons who just up and take off before their court dates.”
If this was meant to put Rose at ease, it wasn’t working. But there was little she could do about it. She’d just have hope that Krum was smart enough not to stay away for long. In the end, he’d only be making it harder on himself. As far as Rose was concerned, better to deal with the press than the Ministry.
As to what would happen between the two of them when he did finally return, Rose tried not to dwell on it. She was pretty sure he’d at least help her finish the book. Beyond that, she’d just have to wait and see.
Rose was just about to wrap up her work for the day, having spent the afternoon sitting at one of the small tables on the far side of the garden, when she heard the backdoor open and her mother call out to her from across the lawn.
“Rose, come inside. There’s someone here to see you.”
Rose’s heart skipped a bit. Was it her boss? Had Heart come to tell her they’d found Krum? Or better still, was it possible that it was Viktor himself?
Rose gathered up her things, sprinting back towards the house. She bounded through the open door, rushing straight past her mother, calling out, “Is he here? Is it—”
But Rose stopped, skidding to a halt in the middle of the kitchen. There was no need to ask who it was. Their guest was already seated at the breakfast table, eyes locked on Rose.
It wasn’t Heart. And it certainly wasn’t Krum.
It was none other than Regina McFey.
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