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Welcome to Mars by Violet Gryfindor

Format: Novel
Chapters: 3
Word Count: 12,869
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Strong Language, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Drama, Fluff, Romance
Characters: Teddy, Albus, Rose, Victoire, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 09/20/2011
Last Chapter: 11/07/2012
Last Updated: 08/23/2013

Summary:
The sequel to Winner Takes All ;; Fantastic new banner by niika!

No one ever told her what you're supposed to do after growing up.
Welcome to adulthood, Rose Weasley.

Winner of 2012 Kecker Awards for Best Next-Generation & Best Couple.


Chapter 1: A Tortured Brow
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This is a sequel, and while it isn't necessary for you to have read "Winner Takes All", there will be certain details tossed in that only make sense if you've read that previous story. Additionally, the general structure of this story will echo its predecessor, such as the use of flashbacks in the first chapter. This time, however, the musical inspiration comes from Bowie's "Life on Mars".

Otherwise, this is my foray into the fluffy drama, in which plot is always secondary and nothing in particular is primary. Enjoy!






chapter image by Clara Oswald


One
A Tortured Brow

It was one of the quieter parts of London in the middle of the week, a suburb populated by that generation of individuals who live as far as possible from their places of work, preferring a long ride on the tube to a cramped existence in an impossibly expensive, yet impossibly minuscule, flat that cost the equivalent of a minor country house, one of those abbeys or manors that bankrupt purebloods were always trying to offload onto up-and-up halfbloods. Being one of the halfbloods in question, Rose Weasley had gone against the grain, shunning the grandiose for the boringly normal. She was, after all, now an adult, and had to act as such, whatever that meant.

Not that being an adult necessitated maturity. Take her neurotic family, for example.

There were many times when Rose believed that she was the only adult in this dismal weekday ghost town, but that was an illogical thought. What about those foreign stock traders who crept out to collect the newspaper in their pyjamas? The nannies who pushed prams up and down the pavement while chatting on their mobiles? Or the old ladies like herself who hung up shop signs, praying for business of any sort?

Rather like herself, when she came to think about it.

Except for the old ladies part. Pulling at some loose strands of her hair, she checked that they hadn’t turned white when she wasn't looking.

Nope. Not yet. Still plenty of time for that.

She stood on the pavement outside a row of shops that once marked the centre of a quaint English village, the kind with little stone cottages and tea houses that tourists absolutely adored as they snapped endless photos. There was a flock of them exiting the tea house across the street. They brushed the crumbs off their gaudy clothes with one hand while wielding technological masterpieces of photography in the other. She watched them for a minute before turning back to her own problem.

Her eyes rose to regard a newly-painted sign hanging outside of the closest shop, also newly-painted, red trim setting off the blue door to perfection. Teddy would be pleased that she had been capable of doing something without his assistance.

R. Weasley, Registered Herbalist. The words were surrounded by colourful, though heavily-stylized dragons, flames bursting from their mouths. She wasn’t entirely sure that dragons and fire would be particularly reassuring to customers, but it did give away the origins of her training. Teddy told her that it was also an accurate representation of her personality; most everyone has had agreed, though she personally didn’t like such a comparison. She, a dragon? It would have better-suited Lily, and Rose had the scars the prove it.

The sign spelled out her name in bright red letters, followed by the initials to which she was now entitled. They were a rather impressive collection of letters, even if the majority of people would have no idea what they stood for. She supposed that it only made her sound more impressive, and she needed all of the impressing power she could get. Chinese herbology and alternative medicine was a rather narrow field, but it was also refreshingly popular amongst these thirty-and-forty-somethings who were obsessed with good health and green living.

She kicked at a bit of discarded rubbish; it seemed that putting things in the bins had not yet made the list of current trends.

She checked her watch. Three. Still too early.

Glancing back up at the sign, she could have sworn that the letters of the last name had transformed themselves on their own volition into L U P I N.

It was just the sort of thing she couldn’t let herself think about. Marriage was one of those sticky topics for a girl whose ex-boyfriend had married one cousin while her current boyfriend had gotten divorced from another cousin. It was all a big mess, which was typically why she preferred not to think about it.

She blinked and the illusion faded. Her heart couldn’t take that kind of scare, and a scare it was, because some twisted part of her imagination actually liked the sound of it. Rose Lupin. Like two flowers conjoined, sprouting alongside one another in a glorious English garden, red and purple flowers mingling amongst the twisted undergrowth... which was a ridiculous image because they didn’t flower at the same time.

Rose gave her head a shake to clear her foggy brain. Perhaps those potions she’d brewed that morning had given off some hallucinogenic fumes, or worse, whether Teddy’s poetry was starting to go her head.

She pushed open the door and disregarded the carefully-polished brass handle, knowing that everyone else would do the same.

“Do you think this will work out?” she had asked while they searched for an appropriate location to establish the business.

But she wasn’t only talking about the business.

He pressed his fingers against a doorframe and made a face when he made a dent. Another merely cosmetic job that disguised the rotting wood beneath. It rather reminded Rose of Scorpius, a highly satisfying comparison.

“If you want it to, it will.”

Sometimes she swore that he enjoyed being cryptic.

“You sound like Confucius. Now stop confusing me and help me decide.”

He took one look at her face and smiled in that way that always shook her nerves to their core and made her knees feel like jelly. She was still young enough to blush fiercely beneath the rays of that blistering grin and wondering how in Merlin’s name it was beaming down on her.

“I’ve made my choice, Pinky. This one’s up to you.”

Now flushed to the roots of her hair, she turned to inspect a mouldering bit of ceiling, wanting, as she had many times before, to ask that horrid little question of why. Why her, of all people? There were so many reasons why he should not have made that choice. Awkward, selfish Rose Weasley, that’s who she was.

A reassuringly solid arm snaked its way around her waist, a long-fingered hand coming to rest on the outcropping of her hip. His lips drew close to her ear, brushing against her earlobe before she heard his whisper.

“Because we could move into a cave and I wouldn’t notice.”

That rather put things into perspective.

Her feet took her through the building that was hers from top to bottom. At least, the majority of it was hers, other sources having done their part to ensure her place as the next best thing in the world of healing. She supposed that she was lucky to have support, albeit a begrudging sort from certain corners, but they were just another thing her thoughts preferred to avoid.

After all, she was going to spend the evening in their company.

The engagement party. It was supposed to be a brilliant event, filled with fine wine and discordant song, certainly two of the worst excuses to bring the Weasley family together. Rose felt a whole flock of butterflies soar around her stomach at the very thought of being hemmed in on all sides by relatives, well-meaning and otherwise. The otherwises would be easy to deal with; it was the well-meaning ones that worried her most.

They were the ones who constantly told her that she should do this or that or something completely different from what everyone else said. Or, better yet, something in opposition to what she herself wanted.

Yes. She was capable of doing her own thing. At twenty... was it three or four now? She tended to forget. All of the years were blurring together, just like all of the days and all of the weeks and months. It was difficult to keep track of time now that she no longer had to count the days until she completed her education.

It had been the better part of a year (she was sure) since her return from China, and that time had been primarily spent deciding on a place to live while, in the remainder of her “free time”, she worked part-time for the St. Mungo’s apothecary. This job had marked the first time in her life that she had met people more insane than either herself or any of her family members. Now that had been an experience....

Twenty-five, that was it. What a disconcerting age. One whole quarter century. It seemed like an eternity.

When she thought about it, it was an eternity.

Her eternity.

The topic of age was an inevitable one. They could not avoid it completely. Everyone else certainly spoke of it enough, from her parents to her grandparents to her cousins to his grandmother to... well... you get the idea.

“It’s only eight years,” she said one day, fiddling with a teacup.

He drained his triple-strength espresso, watching her over the rim of the cup with those disconcerting eyes, never constant in their shade. “It was thirteen years with my parents.”

“So that’s it, then.”

His eyebrow not only arched, but also turned blue. “That’s what?”

She sat back and crossed her arms. “Just something I was thinking about.”

They stared at one another, his eyes narrowed as he seemed to consider learning Legilimency, if only to get a good look into the strange workings of her brain. Finally, he set down his cup with measured deliberation.

“Does it bother you?”

Her eyes widened as her back straightened. “No. No!”

“You don’t sound as though you’re convinced.”

His eyes focused on his cup, and she began to believe that she had made one blunder too many. Things were still uncertain between them at this point, not long after her return from the East. But suddenly there was a hint of something on his face (not just the still-blue eyebrow) that spread across his features, transforming into a smile that was at once coy and knowing.

“I suppose I’ll just have to try harder to convince you.”

The memory of his highly effective methods made her cheeks flare red. Her eyes drifted toward the clock on the wall, patiently ticking the seconds, to redirect her thoughts onto a safer train of thought. The last thing she needed was a customer to arrive just as she was thinking about how–

Yes, yes, remember to look at the clock, note the position of its hands... his hands... No, no, no!

Four. Still too early.

She did not want to arrive first. That would mean being sucked into the kitchen to assist in whatever endeavours on which her grandmother and culinary cousins had embarked. It would be a quest into the heart of domesticity that Rose would much prefer to avoid. The last time she’d been in Grandmum’s kitchen, she had caused at least three bubbling pots to explode, permanently staining the ceiling with tomato soup. Dominique refused to let Rose live that one down. "Dom" of course being short for "domestic goddess."

It probably didn’t help that Rose was currently living with Dom’s sister’s ex-husband. Those sort of things always led to awkward family dinners. Speaking of which, she would have to spend three times as long to prepare herself for the engagement party.

Victoire would be there.

She would have to venture into the furthest reaches of her wardrobe for something that was neither out-of-date nor patched, stained, or in any state of disrepair. Those silky blue dress robes were long-ruined by mud and hexes, though she still kept them. She didn’t like throwing things away, and of course she’d never thought of buying something new.

Stupid, stupid. She should have thought of this sooner.

Her eyes flickered toward that damned clock. Four-thirty. Too early to close, but too late to run out to Madam Malkin’s.

Teddy would be no help. He never cared about what he wore, much less how he looked. Metamorphmagi never had to worry about those sorts of things; they could become anyone else at the squish of a nose and a wink of an eye. She also knew what he would say. They had, after all, had this discussion before.

“Victoire won’t be a problem.” His face was unusually grim. “If she had cared, perhaps I would worry, but–”

She supposed that it was one of his bad days, the ones when he would scribble down random lines of verse without getting anywhere before tossing tossing both quill and ink across the room. Yet there were no black spots dashed across the wallpaper, only him, perched on his stool, staring at his hands.

“I worry,” Rose said, crossing her arms. “She’s gorgeous, genius, wickedly influential and every-bloody-one always compares me to her.”

He looked up, blinking. “Because of me?”

She nodded, jaw wavering.

He dropped his hands into his lap and tilted his head, surveying her anew. She was not sure if it was with the eyes of the poet or of the man; they alternated between admiration for a certain curve to thoughtful contemplation of her green-tinged fingernails.

“Well,” he began, choosing his words with care. “I hope that they see, as I have, that I made a better choice this time.”

She took a step back to regard him in the dimming light.

“And what about me? Will they say the same thing?”

His jaw dropped in a not particularly flattering way.

“They damn well better not compare me with Malfoy.” The words emerged as a half-suppressed grumble. He should have known that they had already made that comparison a very long time before.

His discomfort alone was worth a smile, perhaps even a tiny laugh, and she covered her mouth with a hand to conceal her amusement.

“In your case.” She forced out the words between steadily-increasing gasps of laughter. “They’ll definitely think that my taste in men has improved.”

She remained certain of that as time passed, even as things between them developed. Changed. Transformed. She couldn't hope to keep up.

Instead of being here, managing the counter from the hoards of customers streaming through the door – which remained as shut today as on most days – Teddy was with his grandmother. Andromeda may have only been seventy-six, but she was also a Black. A family without any luck whatsoever. A family that had died out in name, but had left two very different specimens of wizardkind. Rose could attest to that difference, having been romantically involved with both of them...

Ugh. It was a morbid thought.

But it did remind her that she had work to do. As a licensed practitioner, she provided for her not-official-grandmother-in-law’s medical needs, which was hardly a confidence-booster because, if the tiniest thing went wrong, she...

...didn’t want to think about that sort of thing.

Nonetheless, work. Now. Those nice black robes with the green plaid scarf would do nicely. Screw Victoire. Rose only had one person to impress.

Two, actually, because Mrs. Tonks would also be there. She would probably be wanting more of that stomach elixir. Merlin knew that the Weasleys ate some of the most ridiculously unhealthy food in all of Britain, and Mrs. Tonk’s gall bladder would be sacrificed at the altar of Mrs. Weasley’s cooking, especially her preference for lard.

Glancing down at her hips, inherited from said grandmother, Rose grimaced and set to busying herself with the mortar and pestle, grinding down some ginger root Teddy had brought that morning from his grandmother's garden. There was far more room there than on the tiny rooftop of the shop, not that it had stopped him from creating a miniature Oriental garden complete with pagodas, neatly-arranged stones, and a koi pond. It was very pretty, she had to admit, and a sweet gesture intended to assist her transition into suburban English life. If only it wasn’t quite so English-looking. It was like something out of a storybook rather than her memories of Ming’s garden, where the wise old woman would serve tiny cups of tea by the roses she so lovingly tended....

In the background, a bell tingled.

But Teddy had never been there. He had asked to come, but she had always refused. Too independent, too selfish, wanting to keep China for herself, that whole big country and its millions of people. It was the one thing that she had entirely to herself. Even Teddy had been Victoire’s first. She could never forget that.

The front door to the shop closed.

It was a very pretty garden, after all.

“Excuse me.”

A bespectacled woman of some indeterminate age thrust her aquiline nose into Rose’s range of vision, the nostrils flaring in disgust.

“I want an appointment with this Dr. Weasley.”

So she was going to be one of those kind of customers. There had been a few Muggles entering the shop. They were the kind who imagined she was some great doctor of medicine that could heal all their aches and pains, but not only were their suppositions entirely incorrect, they were not in the least ill. As far as Rose knew, there weren’t any great herbal cures for psychosomatic pains, other than opium, and Rose’s business didn’t lean in that direction.

The fact that her father was an officer of the law had probably influenced that decision to a large degree. Possibly.

“I don’t offer appointments” – she paused to glance down at the woman’s hand, where a ring solidly gleamed from her fourth finger – “Ma’am. I take prescriptions and offer medicine just like any other chemist.”

The woman stared over the rims of her spectacles as though she hadn’t quite seen something like Rose before in her life. Perhaps she hadn’t.

“You? Are you trying to make me believe that you’re this Dr. Weasley person?”

Rose bit her lip, knowing that it would appear like an absence of confidence and surety, but for the life of her, she didn’t know what to say to this woman – unfortunately for those who continued to complain about the perpetuation of stereotypes, a Muggle – without somehow losing her temper and snapping like a pond turtle.

In cases like this, sarcasm, albeit in a watered-down form, was necessary. She could not imagine getting herself through this conversation using any other means, not without disastrous results for both parties involved.

“I’m afraid that I’ll have to disappoint you by saying yes.”

The woman, instead of stepping back, leaned further forward until Rose could smell the tea and scones on her breath. Fresh from the experience of a “traditional” English tea of weak tea and papery scones, this woman had deemed it necessary to deal with whatever indigestion came from heaping too much clotted cream on her scones. She narrowed her eyes as she stared into Rose’s face, her lips twisted in disbelief.

“Now that’s a strange thing because–”

Rose gripped the edge of the counter, bracing for impact as would the pilot of a crashing plane. She was going down in flames.

“–you don’t look Chinese to me.”

There was a long pause.

Rose could not imagine how she was meant to reply to such a statement. Was it even humanly possible?

It was just ridiculous. There was no other way to describe it. This woman must have been sent by some of Rose’s more nefarious cousins to confuse her to bits before the party for their own amusement. That could be the only rational explanation behind it.

The woman continued to stare at Rose, not so much waiting for a reply as searching her person for any sign of Asian ancestry. All that red hair was the real problem. Unless it was dyed. So many people were doing that sort of thing these days. Then there was the height... goodness! If this girl stood up, she’d be nearly six feet! Perhaps there was something fantastic in all of these herbal thingymabobs after all–

“I studied in China, madam, but I’m not fortunate enough to be from there.”

Watching the woman’s face was rather like witnessing the popping of a child’s balloon.

“Well, then,” the woman huffed before turning on her heel and exiting the shop. The door smacked shut behind her, the bells clanging against the glass, though whether it was in victory or defeat, Rose could not be certain.

Come to think of it, she wasn’t even certain that these last five minutes had been real.

She sniffed the air, thinking that some of those potion fumes were still hanging about. Nothing. Nothing at all.

Bloody hell.

It still wasn’t yet five o’clock, but Rose no longer cared. If those were the kinds of customers she was going to get, she wanted nothing of them. She was beginning to understand her mother’s general impatience with the world, the exasperated sighs and rolled eyes that signalled another tirade complaints regarding the degenerative state of the world.

With a wave of her wand, the door locked and the little sign halfheartedly flipped from “open” to “closed” as though chastising her for giving up this soon.

She pursed her lips and stalked into the back room, passing various cauldrons, vials, powders, cordials, and jars of ingredients, all in various stages of use and abuse without any logical form of organisation. Logical only to Rose, perhaps one could say, if necessary. Each article seemed to protest her retreat from the front lines, the jars and vials rattling together with each footstep she took, the buzzing of the fly caught in the window echoing the whispers of “coward” she heard in her ears.

Vanity. It was all vanity. Not Rose Weasley at all.

Maybe it was that Rose Lupin person who dogged her steps. It was always easier to blame someone who didn’t exist.

Yet.

No... stop it, Rose. She shook her head, hair falling loose in flat, lanky strands.

Her state of denial didn’t stop her stomach from being attacked by fluttery butterflies of a most vicious sort.

Sometime later, the lavatory mirror was thoroughly fogged up, the floor littered with robes and hangers adding up to her complete wardrobe. Rose heard a gentle knock on the bedroom door before it squeaked open and a single brown eye, appropriately accompanied by the surrounding portions of his face, peeked around the corner.

“I didn’t realise that the weather called for tornadoes this afternoon.”

Rose stuck her head out from behind the lavatory door, holding a towel to her chest while her hair dripped over her bare shoulders onto the floor.

“It wasn’t my cousin the Tornado, either.” She hoped that James wouldn’t bring half the team along as his “date” like he had last Christmas. The Burrow was full enough with just the family present, much less half a team of bulky, burly Quidditch players.

“Never fear, I’ve brought what you couldn’t unearth from the deepest, darkest corners of your wardrobe.” As he stepped into the room, he held out a set of robes, the sight of which made Rose’s eyes widen to their furthest extent, the towel half-dropping from her hands.

Now it was turn for Teddy’s eyes to widen, but he caught himself, his mouth twitching upwards as he gingerly laid the robes across the bed.

“They’re your grandmother’s?” Rose took half a step forward.

He nodded. “She insisted that you’d have nothing better.” His eyes appraised the state of the room and pulled out his wand. “It looks as though you came to the same conclusion.”

A simple string of spells sent the clothes flying back onto their hangers and into the closet, even deigning to remove the worst of the creases along the way. Amidst the rustling of fabric, Teddy glanced back at Rose, who examined the robes from afar.

“Give her my thanks. They’re far nicer than anything I’d have picked.”

“I know. It’s why I picked them.”

Rose’s eyes moved from the robes to him, and back and forth again, but no matter how many times she looked back and forth, she couldn’t quite see how one had led to the other, nor why this particular set of robes had caught his eye.

Hidden depths. With him, it was always hidden depths.

“Would you like me to come back for you? Or would it be safe to meet you there?”

She let out a breath and tried to keep a level face.

“I should be fine, unless those end up inciting a riot in the streets.”

His laugh was somewhat forced. Perhaps he was as worried as her, maybe even a little disappointed, too.

“Out here? Though with you in them they will.” There was a glint in his eye that made Rose feel as though her insides were tying in knots. “Now cover up before you incite me to riot.”

His eyes drifted downward and hers followed suit, a blush burning across her cheeks and more as she tucked the towel more firmly around her chest. She opened her mouth to awkwardly respond, but when she looked up again, he had gone, the squeaking door belatedly announcing his departure.

Chapter 2: An Awfully Small Affair
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chapter image by Clara Oswald


Two
An Awfully Small Affair

It did not begin well. Therefore, it could not end well.

Rose was cornered by her cousin James even before she’d had the proper chance to say hello to her parents (she caught her father going slack-jawed at the sight of her dress robes before her mother had elbowed him and placed another glass of wine in his hand). Thinking herself safe, Rose had made a beeline to the dessert table, only to be stopped in her tracks by an already-slightly inebriated Chaser who wasn’t steady on his feet at the best of times. She supposed that, in some ways, it was preferable to the sleekly suited Victoire who stood on the other side of the room, staring off into space, muttering political nothings to herself.

“Godric’s girdle, Rose! Not wearing black for once. I was starting to think that you were in mourning for your sex life or something.”

Rose wondered if foot-in-mouth disease had become an epidemic.

James was preening himself behind a glass that had, until a moment before, been filled with the best champagne this side of the Channel, courtesy of Aunt Fleur. It was always the best for the great Quidditch player of the family, whose ego was large enough to withstand everything the gossip column printed about his off-and-on again stardom.

From his mood, it was definitely off-again. That fumble during the last game....

“You’re disgusting, James. All you think about is sex.” Albus shoved aside his brother with a belligerent elbow.

This failed to divert James. Once he was on a roll, he would never stop unless someone hexed him, or, as more often happened, smacked a bludger in his direction. The latter tended to be the most effective because they silenced him, too. For quite some time, if one was lucky.

“What’s the world coming to? My little brother saying the s-word!”

“Have you ever considered growing up?” Albus’s scowl did nothing to support his point, rather, if anything, undermining it completely.

The impossibility of being a Potter and “mature” must have been a result of having parents who had grown up too quickly; the evolution of the Potter species could not withstand such an accelerated rate of change, and thus chose to make up for it with a trio of siblings who found maturation absurdly difficult.

Nigh on impossible, in fact.

Rose rolled her eyes at the sight of them, who were for all their differences two peas in a pod.

“You sound like an old married couple.”

She had never been particularly imaginative. Thankfully, she had Teddy to deal with that sort of thing.

When they both turned to stare at her, it was as though someone had placed a mirror between them, their fish-like mouths and eyes gaping in equal measures. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, Rose asked herself why these two were so bloody insistent that they were nothing alike.

They quickly returned to their usual banter, a thing unfortunately lacking in any wit whatsoever, thereby making it of no interest to readers.

Standing a few steps away so that no one would think she was actually involved in this conversation, Rose surveyed the room, trying to be the distanced observer from the people she had known all her life. They had infiltrated every level of the Ministry, not to mention most other locations of power within the wizarding establishment The Weasleys were everywhere, involved in everything, which generally made them the bane of the wizarding world’s existence.

It explained why Rose had chosen to do something completely different. She watched them, knowing that while she knew most everything about these people, too much of her mind was still half a world away in China. She was like them, but she found herself disliking them.

Damn paradoxes. It was Teddy’s fault that she thought things like that, and her own fault that she listened so much to him.

He hadn’t yet arrived. Perhaps that was why he kept coming to mind.

Time passed. She waited. The party continued.

The notion of an engagement party was beyond Rose’s understanding. In her mind, such things celebrated a stage of in-betweenness rather than any real achievement. Engagements were easily made and just as easily broken, though she supposed, the more she thought about it, that marriages were not much better.

Was her problem that engagements had become as great an achievement as the marriage itself? It depended on the two individuals in question. Take, for instance, Albus and Vinny. Although there was no question regarding the state of their relationship, they would never, to put it bluntly, "take the plunge". They simply liked their independence too much.

“Al, your mum wants to speak with you.”

Vinny had come to Albus’s rescue, sweeping him away from James’s company before both Potter boys could launch into the kind of argument that Albus would regret. James regretted nothing. It was, many said, part of his charm.

One arm latching onto Rose’s as they passed, Vinny ensured that they were safely away from James. The remaining liquid in Rose’s glass sloshed from side to side and Albus’s spectacles were knocked askew, but neither complained. If anything, Albus looked more than a little grateful as he put himself back in order.

“How did I end up with two trolls for siblings?”

Vinny’s ruse had been well-played, since the only person in the world James Potter gave reverence to, apart from himself of course, was his mother. To say that Ginny Potter wanted to speak to anyone was, in James’s point of view, like saying that one had been summoned for an audience with the queen.

“It must be the celebrity curse.” Vinny was painfully practical at the worst of times. “One hailed as the Potter heir, the other as the living image of a fabled grandmother. It was bound to lead to disappointment.”

Albus’s eyebrow arched over the rim of his spectacles. “And me?”

She gave his arm a squeeze. “The curse of your namesakes cancelled the other out.”

“At least they’re useful for something.”

“Apart from being wonderful to say aloud?”

He flashed a smile. “Of course.”

They made that face at one another which made Rose awkwardly shuffle aside, averting her eyes from the profound fluff that was sprouting in front of her, threatening to engulf her helpless form.

“Rose! I was meaning to ask you....” Vinny’s voice trailed off ominously, her smarmy smile fading as she leaned toward Rose.

Furrowing her brow, Rose set down her still-not-yet-empty glass on the nearest table. “About?”

“You and Teddy.” Vinny lowered her voice. “Is everything alright?”

Rose blinked. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

It was Albus who answered. They were well into that annoying stage of relationships when. Rose could speak to either and have the other reply without any discernible difference. She hoped to Godric that it would never happen to her.

“You’re never out together anymore, not since you opened the shop.”

“And we thought for sure he’d come with you tonight.”

Rose shook her head, not understanding one bit. “But you of all people know what we’re like. We... we...” She couldn’t think of how to say it. There was no single word or phrase that would suffice.

“Have an understanding?” Vinny supplied with a skeptical eyebrow.

Albus was no help. “Do people even say that anymore?”

“I just did.”

“Yes, but–”

Not about to let them fly into one of their famous verbal tennis matches, Rose made an impudent volley that was destined to hit the net.

“It’s mostly platonic, you see.”

There was a moment of silence between the three, though the room itself was a buzz of activity and noise, chattering voices of every pitch raising a chorus against the clattering of dishware and pans emerging from the kitchen joined by the clinking of glasses as various groups wished each other congratulations for anything and everything that came to mind. The gathering together of nearly every Weasley clan member outside of Christmas was certainly a call for celebration, and no one was begrudging it one bit.

Except for Rose.

She stood between her friends, trying to surreptitiously glance toward the door every so often just in case her whi– no, multi-coloured knight should burst through to rescue her from the trials that were family gatherings and the tortures that were uncomfortably personal questions.

“That would explain things.” Albus adjusted his spectacles in a way that he thought made him appear discriminating and ever-observant. “Lots of things, actually.”

Rose did not like the sound of that, nor could she appreciate the expression on Vinny’s face.

“I think it’s best to change the subject.” Vinny said in that matter-of-fact voice that she reserved for particularly obtuse Ministry employees.

Albus was easily distracted into a more agreeable conversational direction, but Rose met Vinny’s gaze with uncertainty only to see that same uncertainty reflected back. She was going to hear about this later, just how much later depended on how the rest of this horrible evening continued.

Impudent, unwise, or otherwise, Rose could not help but wonder if she had unwittingly spoken the truth. And so what if she had?

She let her thoughts be lead astray by Vinny’s next purposefully-banal comment, finding safety, if not comfort, in talk of the Ministry’s latest shufflings and how the window images never worked as well as they should, showing rain everyday for the past week, making everyone exceedingly depressed to the point that they sobbed over cracks in the coffee cups.

Had Rose cared to say, she could have told Vinny that a person could be depressed in any weather or situation, no matter how sunny or wet, but instead, she returned to the dessert table to drown her sorrows in whatever punch there still remained. Rose didn’t like much the taste of foot-in-mouth.

~ * * * ~


As she washed down her third glass, a hand patted her shoulder, nearly sending her half-filled glass flying out of her hand. It would have indeed been a sad thing to break one of her Grandmum’s best glasses, especially when Rose had worked so hard to gain that privilege. Neither of the Potter boys had it yet and for good reason: they were too likely to throw them at one another.

“Congratulations, Rose!”

Rose found herself staring into Uncle Charlie’s tanned face, which was, due to his deficient height on the same level as her own, though he more than made up for it in the width of his shoulders. He wrung her hand with all the strength of one more used to wringing the tails of vicious dragons.

“I wish you plenty of luck, but you don’t need it.” His eyes flickered to another corner of the room. “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

As though his feet were affixed with dragon wings, he moved on before Rose had the chance to take breath much less absorb his words. Blinking, she set down her glass with a suspicious glance at its contents and turned toward the door and the newest arrivals. Uncle Charlie had already stepped away to greet Teddy with a solid shake of the hand even before the younger wizard had put his foot in the door. Rose could see Teddy wince from across the room.

No one was quite certain why Charlie Weasley was quite so enthusiastic about Teddy’s general existence. It did not matter what Teddy did: Uncle Charlie was there to offer praise, support, or, alternately, a clear honest opinion when it was needed most. Perhaps it was something to do with Teddy’s mother. But perhaps Uncle Charlie simply liked him. Sometimes that was a possibility.

“What for?” Teddy was asking with a tilt of his head. “It’s Rose’s success, not mine.”

Why was it the more that one tried not to eavesdrop, the easier it was to hear everything that was being said? This problem only seemed to worsen when one’s own name was mentioned. It frustrated her to no end. Ignorance is a very happy thing indeed.

Eyes turned in her direction. Unable to bask in such a light and sorrily regretting that she had not worn her usual minimalist attire (a fancy word to describe what was, in all reality, merely boring), Rose thought it prudent to go speak with her parents.

Rose was aware of one particular pair of eyes that followed her steps around the various pieces of furniture and between the groups of friends and relatives in various states of conversation from the serious to the drunken and disorderly. The latter were found furthest from the kitchen, attempting to escape the long range of Grandmother Weasley’s ears. One inappropriate word would land one the washing up and inebriated laughter would send one out into the gardens to clear out whatever creatures had dared make their home in those hallowed grounds.

Yes, those eyes. She believed that she could guess at their colour and shape, even which head in which they belonged. His voice was silent now. Did he wonder why she had turned the other way at his arrival? Had others seen?

He was somehow standing not far away. There were questions in his eyes, but his mouth remained silent, gently pressed in a pensive line.

“I haven’t even said hello to my parents yet. Can you believe it?” Rose felt herself babbling without knowing why. It must have been that expression on his face, or the crisp white of the shirt in contrast with the impossible darkness of his robes, or the way that these plain shades were set off by the particular shade of chestnut he had chosen for his hair. The very sight of him made her flustered, increasingly so when he drew her arm through his.

“Then we can greet them together.”

As they passed one of the hovering trays of drinks, he whisked two off with a single hand, offering her the second.

“They seem to have noticed your oversight. You’ll need this for certain, Pinky.”

That name always brought the corresponding shade to her cheeks. “Quiet, Moonbeam, they’ll hear you.”

His reply was a somewhat clumsy kiss that nearly got her in the eye. A whisper met her ear, tickling it with a most inappropriate comment that induced Rose to extricate her arm so that she could give him a proper punch in the shoulder.

“You’re insufferable!” She made sure not to say it with too great a volume.

One corner of his lips twisted upwards. “Somehow you manage.”

She took his arm again. “No thanks to you.”

They soon stood in the presence of her esteemed parents. Only a touch of the old awkwardness that had flourished whenever Rose had returned to England for various holidays still remained. Those days had been the worst, when her parents, particularly her mother, seemed uncertain (to put it mildly) that a future with Teddy was a wise choice. Her father had been suspiciously supportive at first, but that was waning as no progress seemed to be made.

Progress of course referring to marriage. Children. The usual things that terrified Rose.

“I said ‘how are things at the shop?’”

“What? Oh. Right. Sorry. Fine.” She wiped a sweaty palm against her hip. “The usual silence broken only by crazy Mu–” A slightly raised eyebrow from her mother sent her tongue scrambling for a new word. “People. I’m a magnet for them.”

Speaking openly to her parents had never been a habit of hers. Verbal diarrhea was, however, slowly becoming a chronic condition.

“I shouldn’t think so.” Teddy was not at all helpful.

“It’ll improve once you settle into the place more.” Her mother was being conciliatory, and that also proved unhelpful.

She hoped that her father would not disappoint.

“You’d never have those problems in Diagon Alley. Not with the Mu–” He cut himself off at the same syllable of the Unmentionable Word.

Unmentionable for Rose because she was technically half-Muggle. But spending most of her time among the Weasleys allowed her to frequently forget the fact of her mixed heritage and the pair of dentists who had happily retired to a cosy house overlooking the Great Barrier Reef. It was said that the strength of Hermione’s memory charm had made it very, very difficult to reverse, and there were, of course, always aftereffects.

There were rather too many times when Rose wondered what would happen if she did the same to her parents.

“People will get used to Rose’s line of work soon enough,” Teddy was saying with his usual grace and tact. “There have already been a few successful cases.”

He made her sound like a seedy private detective, though that would have been a more lucrative career choice; certainly her father would have better appreciated it. She could see it now, Rose Weasley, PI. She could be on the telly or something, fighting crime and generally kicking some–

“–went well, didn’t it Rose?”

“Oh yes, of course.” Hopefully it was something she was meant to agree with.

Her parents were nodding, so she seemed safe. For the moment, at least. It was inevitable that they would eventually put into words the question that was always lurking just behind their eyes. They did not need to speak it; perhaps that was Rose’s problem. With Hugo run off to America on an impressive Quidditch deal, Rose was their primary worry. She may have always been their primary worry, now that she thought about it. Clumsy, silly, slow Rose. Her end of the gene pool was somewhat shallow.

“Is everything alright at the new house? No problems?”

Her mother was being polite. Never a good sign. Rose’s ears rang with the question she knew her mother must have wanted to ask instead: “So when will you settle things with Teddy?” It would be preferable to her father’s version of the question: “Aren’t you two going to get married soon? It’s been long enough, hasn’t it?”

Years ago, people had asked that same last question of her endlessly bickering parents, but all adults have painfully short memories when it comes to their own misguided adolescence.

“It seems okay. I haven’t really noticed.”

Rose glanced over at Teddy, who was also shaking his head.

“It is still summer. When the winter comes, we’ll know for certain how things are.”

There was too much potential for double entendre in what could have been a perfectly banal statement. Rose felt herself dissecting in against her will, imagining the various ways in which her parents could interpret the meaning of Teddy’s words.

But Rose’s parents proved to be rather flat that evening. This ought to have worried her more, but she was so tired of worrying; she seemed to do it all of the time these days, as though she feared that everything in her life she had worked so hard for could slip away from her in the slightest breeze. She had already found white among the carroty strands of her hair, and when she looked at her mother, she found the source of that particular attribute in the streaks of grey that ran through the wild curls.

It was not until Ron had led Teddy off to discuss... well, Rose wasn’t quite sure what, but it didn’t bode well if her father had his arm conspiratorially draped about Teddy’s shoulders. Once they were out of earshot, Hermione stepped closer to her daughter. Rose’s sense of foreboding increased exponentially. So this was how they were setting to achieve things: divide and conquer. If it worked for emperors, it must work for scheming parents.

“You nearly gave your poor father a heart attack.”

Ron Weasley, poor? Only his wife could get away with making such a statement.

“Because of the dress?” Rose’s hand unconsciously reached for the flowing fabric that poured around her like a striped waterfall.

The smile on Hermione’s face was nostalgic in its hue. “I did the same to him once at the Yule Ball.”

Rose frowned. “That’s strange.”

A crooked line deepened on her mother’s brow. “Why?”

That dreaded blush was creeping up Rose’s throat again and that part of her body was as good as naked. Under her mother’s sharp gaze, those chocolate brown eyes only capable of softness when it was certain that no one was looking, Rose shifted from one foot to the other, her eyes cast downwards.

“He told me that there was another time.” The words emerged in an unintelligible mass.

“What was that?”

A hand took hold of Rose’s arm. Rose shook it off and met her mother’s gaze.

“Oh, Mum, you know when. Your wedding!”

Certain untamable curls leapt outwards as though jolted by electric shocks. “Impossible!” However, for all of the impossibility, a slight flush still crept up Hermione’s cheeks, but unlike Rose’s flushes of mortification, this one expressed pleasure.

“It’ll be the same for you, Rose, just you see.”

The bright smile on her mother’s lips did nothing to keep Rose from feeling the pit of her stomach take a sharp dive, the gallons of punch she'd consumed dangerously bubbling within, threatening to overflow at any moment. Her good deed for the day had backfired, returning her to the very subject she wished to avoid.

Her mother left her on that note with an encouraging pat on the shoulder. Rose watched her go, taking note of her mother’s careful walk, of the way her unadorned blue dress robes complimented her shape. If she could grow up to be that way, she wouldn’t mind. No, more than that; she’d be happy about it. Things may not have gone perfectly for Hermione Granger, but the way they’d gone was more than satisfactory under the circumstances.

“You look nice, Rose.”

She startled, blinking, and looked down at Lucy, whose tiny voice made her almost impossible to hear over the rampaging Weasleys.

It was not hard to smile at the sight of the delicate girl whose white taffeta robes only heightened her resemblance to a witchy Cinderella, just arrived at the ball, her wide blue eyes surveying the crowd with a rabbit-like trepidation.

“Thanks. So do you, Luce.”

Lucy’s lips quavered. “I feel like a fairy cake. You at least look comfortable.”

Rose looked down at her robes with a snort.

“They feel like they’ll slither off at any moment. Why do we do this to ourselves?”

Their laughter – genuine in Lucy’s case, merely nervous in Rose’s – caught the attention of many in the room, parents who managed minor degrees of admiration for the now-fully-grown young witches, cousins who hid their reactions behind half-filled glasses or rolled their eyes quite openly, and one cannot neglect to mention the devout boyfriends whose minds, at the sight of their objects of worship, limit themselves to a single train of thought.

But Rose had one other pair of eyes upon her, hardly admiring, though it was difficult to say for certain, those plain grey eyes as washed out as the rest of the face, clothes, and hair, the traits of the Veela having little affect upon one who no longer cared to display them. Victoire came forward at last.

“I don't have much to say.” She held out her hand to Rose, who took it with trepidation. “But do know that I wish you all the luck I can offer, which may not be much–”

“Victoire.”

“–though I think it’s more than–”

“Victoire!”

There was a long pause, in which Rose found herself closely scrutinised by those grey eyes as though she was a very menial clerk who had said something very annoying.

“It’s not Teddy and I who are...” Rose couldn’t say it. “You know. It’s Lucy and Lorcan.” She halted again, watching as the news sunk into Victoire’s obviously distracted brain. “You don’t have to worry. Not yet. Not ever. Maybe.”

Time slowed to the point that Rose could hear the individual glugs of liquor pouring out of emptying bottles into empty glasses. She took in the scents of the room, the bodies, the desserts, the dinner that seemed so long overdue to be served. The Burrow pulsated with the life of its inhabitants, the bustling family that overflowed through its rooms and doors. Her words washed through her ears and she wondered how she ever could have spoken them aloud to the one person she wanted least to know them.

Rose and Victoire stood silent, their eyes locked together in mutual perplexity, Rose having forgotten that she still held Victoire’s hand between her fingers and thumb as one will hold an unsavoury item while Victoire held on more firmly without knowing why.

“We’re ready!” came Dominique’s cry from the kitchen door.

The roar that accompanied the commencement of dinner leapt up about them, and only then did Victoire make her move.

“You’ll need the luck no matter what you do, Rose. Because he has none.”

Once again, Rose was cast adrift in the tide of her own passive uncertainty, watching the flow of Weasleys pass into the other room, feeling the distant observer and only wishing that it was all she was expected to be.

Chapter 3: The Uncertainty Principle
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chapter image by Clara Oswald


Three
The Uncertainty Principle

No one remarked upon any change in Rose. She was largely left to herself, except for the usual annoying questions about her housekeeping and eating habits. Her older relatives, cousins included, still seemed to think she was still a teenager, as awkward and ignorant as ever, so they showered her with advice every moment they could. She sunk lower and lower in her chair as time passed, staring at the cake in wonder, unwilling to reach for a slice when she really wanted to down the hole thing in one go.

Most assumed that she was once again on a diet, and Teddy was too far down the table to refute this belief. Rose sat on in silent misery as the cake was dully distributed, consumed, and the plate removed. It would have been worse if one lonely slice had remained, its crumbs calling her name, but some greedy cousin took more than his share.

“Now that was cake,” James said too loudly, licking his fork with relish.

Rose held her breath, counting down from one hundred.

“Yes, yes it was. Were you expecting something else?” Albus didn’t bother with subtlety. He received an elbow in the ribs for his pains.

“It’s wonderful, Dom.” Vinny offered a bright smile even as her elbow found its mark. “I’m surprised you haven’t taken over Fortescue’s yet.”

Dominique did not smile in return. Smiling was against some very un-Weasley portion of her constitution. Every ounce of sweetness she should have possessed went into her famous baked goods, which were as delectable as they were unhealthy, and Rose couldn’t shake the suspicion that Dom reserved an extra-special ounce of sourness for herself.

She found herself once more falling into a round of not-so-logcal thought, her special brand of philosophical enquiry. Things had seemed easier at the beginning, before Rose had settled down, though she was loathe to use that term. It didn’t sound right, mostly because things were as far from being settled as they had ever been. She had left for China brimming with optimism, only to return to a reality that fit her ill. It was like that horrible jumper her Muggle grandparents had given for Christmas one year; nothing could make it sit right no matter how many charms her mother used.

Was it that she found England boring? When others complained about hills, she thought of climbing to the roof of the world to pick some rare flower. When they talked about politics, her mind drifted to the potion she’d left on slow boil or the new herb she wanted to try and grow, even if the climate wasn’t right. She looked at them and saw adults. Boring old grown-ups who seemed to have tossed their youth aside in favour of... what? She saw no benefit; she saw only what she didn’t want for herself.

“One might almost think you’ve forgotten how to be a Weasley.”

Andromeda dropped herself into the chair beside Rose, balancing her walking stick against the table’s edge.

Rose shook her head to clear her cobwebbed thoughts. “Sorry?”

“You were very deep in thought. Even my grandson dared not approach you.”

Blinking, Rose surveyed the table and chairs, emptied of their contents. She heard voices from the other room while, from the kitchen, plates and cutlery clashed in mighty battle.

“Was I asleep?”

“Not that I could see.”

Rose let out a breath, but found it incredibly difficult to release the tension in her nerves.

“I’m sorry for... for...” What? Not being more sociable? There was a feeble apology if she’d ever heard one. It wasn’t as though she’d ever been a social butterfly.

Andromeda waved Rose’s words away. “You have nothing to apologise for. If anything, you have the advantage over most of us here tonight. We haven’t seen the other side of the world. Many have not even ventured beyond the English Channel.” A spasm in her leg interrupted this speech, but only for a moment. “You have seen the world, and I suppose that it makes this place seem less than interesting.” Her eyes roamed the familiar room with its low ceiling and careworn furniture.

Rose followed her gaze, knowing every detail and the story behind it. The chip on the table. The darned holes in the curtains. The ticking of the old clock, its hands still arranged from “home” to “mortal peril”. Somehow, none of it had changed. She was the thing that was different. She was the thing that no longer belonged.

But Andromeda was shaking her head. “I’ve seen that look too many times on too many faces. You may change, Rose, but your home will always be here.”

Something must have gotten into Rose’s eyes. She rubbed them harder than she should before looking into the old witch’s eyes. There was so much there, a long life filled with things that Rose didn’t want to imagine, and yet Andromeda had survived it all, the loss and pain, the fleeting bits of happiness. It made all of Rose’s cares pitiful in comparison.

Whatever expression came into Rose’s face, it was enough to satisfy Andromeda. With a sharp nod, she launched into an interrogation that touched upon all aspects of Rose’s work, and the struggle to not only keep up, but provide definitive answers to one who had little knowledge of the subject, kept Rose from dwelling on sorrier subjects. There was actual colour in her cheeks by the time that Teddy re-entered the room, holding his grandmother’s wrap.

“...to explore additional uses of Dragon’s Blood, but that’s far beyond my area of expertise. At most I could hope to do is find a way to tame a Chomping Cabbage–”

She broke off upon observing the intruder, who took the opportunity to step forward, a smile on his lips, if not in his eyes..

“But I don’t want to take the chance that she’ll lose a hand to one of those things. If the stories are true, one consumed most of her hair in a single bite.”

With a roll of her eyes, Rose leaned back in her chair. “Those stories were exaggerated.”

“That’s what makes them interesting.”

He winked, but Rose could still sense a certain wrongness about him. What had changed? His artistic temperament made him so goddamned difficult to read sometimes. No, make that most of the time. Rose watched him with a furrowed brow, her flood of pleasure at finally having someone ask about her work receding into the desert of trepidation.

His efforts to help Andromeda to rise were waved aside with a gnarled, corded hand, but she did not refuse his assistance in donning her woolen wrap. Rose could not mistake the tension in his jaw and the pained twist of his lips, but both vanished as soon as his grandmother turned to face him with a playful tilt of her head.

“So I’ll allow you to see me safely home, but don’t think for a moment that you’ll be staying for a nightcap, young man.”

Even his smile contained a touch of sadness, but to look at his eyes was worst of all. “I wouldn’t dream of it, Granny. Don’t forget that I’m a kept man now. No wild parties for me these days.”

“Ever, I think you mean.” Granny was disturbingly perceptive.

Teddy screwed up his face in thought and his hair turned a frightful shade of green. “You’ll ruin my reputation at this rate. Definitely time to go home.”

“Goodnight, Mrs. Tonks.” Rose hesitated as she stood and rearranged the folds of her dress robes, then added, “Thank you. Not many... listen.” She flushed, biting her lip, feeling like a silly, awkward child.

Andromeda offered Rose an outstretched hand, a smile cracking the wrinkled porcelain face. “It is their loss, not yours. Anyway, it is you I should thank. I’m pleased to leave my grandson in good hands.”

It took Rose too long to realise the true meaning of that statement. Teddy’s face remained inscrutable. He understood. He had heard it. His grandmother was preparing him, but Rose, practical as a Granger at times, knew that you could only lead a horse to water; you couldn’t make him drink.

He bent to plant his lips on whatever portion of Rose’s head happened to be within reach. She reached up to catch his hand, fingers running along his arm until they twined with his.

“I’ll be back–”

“It’s not necessary. I can find my own way home.”

Andromeda had drifted into the other room to bid her good nights, the warm, bubbling sound of voices contrasting with the confused silence in the dining room.

“It’s not that, Rose.” Teddy turned to face her, but refused to relinquish her hand, his hair fading to dull brown.

Rose let out a breath. “I know, but I don’t care what everyone thinks. We are what we are. Why should they interfere?”

Taking her hand in both of his, he leaned forward. “What are we?”

There it was. The question that had no answer, no simple one at least. Rose stared at him, open-mouthed, half-expecting him to kneel and ask the next, terrible, inevitable question. It must have been on the tip of his tongue. She could see it in his eyes, in the tension of his jaw, the increasing dullness of his hair. There was no part of her body that did not quaver, every nerve alive and pulsating until she thought she would never take another breath.

“Not now, Teddy, please....”

The pathetic note in her voice made him straighten and release her hand.

“Of course. I’m sorry. I–”

Rose shook her head, eyes widening. “It’s not– No, I mean– I’ve something else to tell you. Later. When we’re–” It sounded more ominous than she’d intended, and she shut herself up before she could fall into a deeper linguistic hole.

His brow was furrowed, but he nodded and patted her arm. “Alone, yes. I understand.” The tone of his voice made it clear that he did not. “See you at home, then.”

It was the sound of that word – “home” – that made Rose choke on her goodbye. If they were anywhere else, she would have thrown herself at him and probably strangled him in a loving embrace, the likes of which neither had seen since her return from China. But within earshot of her family, she hesitated, shrinking at the thought that they would see sentimentality and weakness where there was neither, only strength, or something like it.

Her face had to do all of the work, and she tried the most comfortingly reassuring type of expression possible. The result must have been horrifying, but Teddy didn’t seem to care. He even managed an answering smile that bled into his hair, transforming it to a brilliant auburn.

Rose followed him into the sitting room where the remaining family was gathered, sitting or standing, talking or silent, excited or bored. Chorus after chorus of farewells rounded the room, and Rose did her best to ignore the curious looks sent her way by Hermione and Vinny. She wasn’t sure which of the two would be worse to face, and strategically, the only remaining place for her to spend the next quarter hour was beside Dominique, whose straight back and piercing gaze did nothing to inspire Rose’s confidence. It seemed like a miracle had fallen out of some absent-minded god’s pocket when Lysander began to ask about rare tropical plants.

To say the least, it was the kind of innocuous conversation that Rose needed just then. It gave her time to think, always a troublesome process, painstaking and time-consuming. Ideas did not just magically appear, fully-formed; they stewed over days, if not weeks, like germinating seeds. What she had seen and heard that evening were taking root in her mind, and she had a feeling that she wouldn’t like the colour of the blooms.

She rushed though her goodbyes, pausing only when it came to her grandparents. Andromeda’s words and that strange hint of finality they contained perhaps bothered her most. If she were to die, Teddy would be alone, or as good as. The Malfoys would then be his closest family, and Rose knew for certain that the Malfoys were not the kind of people one liked to call “family.” She could not imagine what it would be like to have no parents, no siblings, no cousins, no uncles or aunts. Teddy had never had any of those things.

“Stop looking so serious, Rose!” Grandmum gave her a tight squeeze. “It has been so good to see you again”

Rose nodded, her throat tight, before turning to Grandad, and exiting into the yard. Before she could reach the usual apparation point, she heard her mother calling after her.

“You really shouldn’t be going alone. You can’t be sure that it’s safe–”

“I’ll be fine, Mum! I’ve done it before.”

“But–”

“You did much worse things when you were years younger.” Rose hadn’t meant to sound so judgmental, as though saving the world from evil was a potentially bad thing. It was like hearing her mother’s voice emerging from her own mouth, and she couldn’t help but feel terror in the pit of her stomach at the thought of it.

“I’m sorry–”

Hermione’s face was inscrutable in the darkness. “No, you’re right.”

There was a strange silence between them. “It’s easy to forget that you’ve grown up.”

After giving Rose a quick hug, she disappeared, her footsteps making no sound on the thick, overgrown lawn. Once again, Rose was left with the feeling that she had made some fatal error, that she was making one blunder after another. Perhaps one day, she would wake up, and no one would be bothering over her. There would be no one who cared.

She wanted to go back and say something, but what? She had no words, only a mess of emotion that no language could describe.

With one last long glance toward the Burrow, she closed her eyes and went home.

~ * * * ~

The significance of that word did not hit her until she stood outside her own front door. A single light blazed from the first floor window, and she half-imagined that she saw a delicate tendril of smoke twist away from the rooftop garden. No doubt that he was lying beneath the stars, ordering and reordering words until he landed on the perfect sound. He would say it once or twice aloud to taste it, then he would–

Oh Rose, you’re such an idiot. There she was, standing in the middle of the pavement in a ridiculous dress, staring up at her own house like a homeless puppy with an appropriately pathetic expression on her face. What had her life become?

Better yet, what had it ever been?

She took out her key, a small, light thing she was sure to lose quite often, and let herself in. It was still an alien thing, to lock one’s doors, but with her collection of herbs and potions, she had to take the necessary precautions. The real surprise was that Teddy had remembered to lock up behind him.

He had neglected to shut the door to the roof, though, and a group of moths had gathered to worship their goddess of light.

“If you would turn off that light, I’d be very appreciative.” His voice drifted over from the darkest corner of the garden.

“In what way?”

There was a pause, followed by a soft chuckle. “Need you ask?”

She felt too weary to attempt a witty reply. “Just be careful on the stairs.”

If he spoke again, the words were lost to the night.

A slight chill of night air had drifted into the flat. Perhaps some would have found it refreshing, but Rose shivered and wrapped her shawl more closely about her throat. It was difficult to believe that this could be a summer’s night, but August was waning. Rose could feel the slightest pang that she ought to be preparing for her return to school though she was eight years out of Hogwarts. Nearly a decade! It was at once so long and so short a time. What would she say once ten years had passed? Fifteen? Twenty?

When she shivered again, it was not from the air.

She moved through the flat, setting out the kettle and tea, turning on the lights, sending her discarded clothes back into the wardrobe with a flick of her wand.

Oh, Rose, how domestic you’ve become! With a roll of her eyes, she shut the bathroom door behind her.

When she later emerged in a cloud of lavender steam, there was no sign that Teddy had climbed down from his lofty perch. She would not put it past him to fall asleep in the arms of her Algerian aloe, but it was equally likely that he was merely staring up at the stars, in love with their endlessness. He did not think of distant planets and strange beings; he liked the colour and spaces between the pinpricks of light. Teddy saw the sky as a giant work of art.

Wrapped tightly in her dressing gown, Rose pushed open the door, eyes trained upward.

Yes, she saw the endlessness of it. A gaping hole above her head, a place with no lines, no paths, no sense of order. It was a terrifying sight, even with the comforting red glow of London hanging to the southern horizon.

“How did you like the dress?”

She followed the sound of his voice to find him lying on the stone bench, one long arm trailing to the ground.

“It gave me the strangest feeling of wearing nothing at all.”

“Not ideal for a family gathering, then?”

She snorted. “No, but it was worth it to see the looks on their faces.”

“Most definitely.” Teddy gave a quiet laugh, swinging his legs off the bench.

Before taking the offered seat, Rose turned to her nightflowers, so white that they seemed to cast their own light. They smelled like fresh lemons, a sharp contrast to the acrid smell of cigarette smoke that still lingered around Teddy. Not for the first time she bit her tongue. It was not the time for complaints. Their after-dinner conversation left her on uncertain ground. Was it for her to breach the silence?

She had climbed the highest mountains in the world to collect sprigs of rare herbs, braving grumpy Yetis and even grumpier Sherpas. She had ventured into the wizarding markets of foreign lands where dragon’s blood flowed freely and no one batted an eye at the trade of illegal beasts. She had seen and done things that her cousins could only dream of, yet now she quavering on the edge of a cold stone bench, thinking of every way possible to take the coward’s way out.

It was no wonder that Victorian ladies had cases of the vapours. It saved them from having to face unpleasant situations, be they offensive suitors or awkward discussions with one’s spouse... partner... whatever.

Why had she become an adult? Every day brought innumerable new difficulties. Some would call them challenges, but Rose held on to the hope that she would, one day, find herself happy and successful, with nothing more to prove to the world.

But that would be boring, wouldn’t it?

“What was that?”

She blinked. “Sorry, what?”

“You said something. I rather liked the sound of it.” It was too dark to see his expression.

A cat in the alleyway gave an ear-piercing yowl.

“Only that things would be boring if we had nothing left to prove.” She tried to sound like she didn’t care, but her voice wavered all the same, exhausted from a long day of pretending.

He did not reply for some time, his head thrown back to watch a airplane cross the sky.

“But sometimes, one wishes for respite. Just a single moment of peace.”

Rose shut her eyes. Had she ever experienced such a thing? Even if she had, did she know what it was, how precious it was?

A set of cold fingers touched her own. Here it was. Now he would ask, Are you ready to talk? or something similarly delicate and polite and absolutely disarming.

“Granny enjoyed your conversation. She was adamant that I tell you.”

Rose let out a breath. “It was very nice of her.”

He looked at her over his shoulder. How much could he see? Apparently, enough.

“She had more than mere politeness in mind. You impressed her so much that she said you were the most practical Weasley she had ever met.”

Rose gave a snort in response.

“I would have liked to see her face when she said that.”

“So would I.” His voice lowered with what sounded like amusement.

Had he experienced another – what did he like to call them? – existential crisis? That would not surprise her in the least. His creative abilities seemed to rely on seeing the world outside of himself; he could leave himself behind, like an actor, to take on the voice of an old woman in Spain, a smuggler of dragon’s blood, or even a tree.

“What do you mean?”

He ran a hand through his hair and gave the answer she least expected.

“She shut the door in my face and promptly ordered me home to you.”

It was a ridiculous image. Rose put her face in her hands, her shoulders shaking with ill-repressed laughter. But through it all, she could not help but smile inwardly at the sound of that word on his lips: home.

“Ah, at last.” He said, drawing circles with a finger on the back of her hand. “I was worried they’d cursed you into a perpetual state of gloom.”

If she furrowed her brow any deeper, she’d end up with more wrinkles than the portrait of Dumbledore. He at least had the excuse of being more than a century old; she only had an unfortunate gene pool.

“It was Victoire.”

There were things that Rose would keep from him, but not this.

She expected some quip in reply, perhaps even a dramatic sigh, but his silence chilled her more than the night air. He had gone still, hands gripping the side of the bench.

“What did she say?”

When she looked toward him, she could only see his profile with its gentle, rounded chin and forehead. She could never depend on the shape of his nose.

“That you had no luck.”

He pondered over the words. “That was it?”

“All she had time for, at least. She seemed to think that we were the ones... you know.”

“She wasn’t the only one to believe that.”

He must have known all along what plagued her mind. How long had he waited for the right opportunity to arrive? She was glad that the darkness masked her expression when she, at last, breached the wall she herself had built around the question she feared most.

“Do you think that it’s a problem?”

There was the sound of a slowly-released breath, then the slight scuff of shoes against stone before his knees knocked into her own and he took her hands in his. Some portion of her stomach fell to earth.

“Only if you do.”

Rose squeezed her eyes shut.

“Don’t be so damned polite.”

His grip loosened, but she pulled him closer, peering into his face.

“If you want to do it, just say so.”

“Is that a yes?” His eyes opened wide.

“No.”

For a moment, she felt as though she’d kicked a puppy, but his startled expression disappeared so fast that she wasn’t sure it’d even existed. It must have only been a trick of the light, or rather of the night.

“I mean that we shouldn’t do it just because everyone else wants it.”

There was so much feeling in her voice that she almost convinced herself that she was right, that they should wait longer, longer, but how long? Would she wake up one day and know that the time was finally right? Did it even work that way? How did one decide such things?

“You like things the way they are.”

He smiled while he said it, but she still felt a twinge of uncertainty.

“Don’t you?”

In answer, he leaned forward to catch her lips with his. As they entwined on the bench, Rose could not help but wonder why one so well-practised in the art of words would prefer an alternate form of communication, particularly when all the moment called for was a simple yes.

Or a not-so-simple no.



Thanks to everyone who has favourite'd this story so far! I never expected it, and I hope that you enjoyed this chapter. If you have any comments or suggestions, please review!

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