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“If you don’t stop pacing, Harry, you’re going to wear a hole in the floor,” my Uncle George joked.

I looked up from where I was staring at the white tiles in time to see my Uncle Harry shoot Uncle George a glare and then take exactly one step over to the right before continuing to pace back and forth across the room. With a shaky sigh I looked back down at the tiles.

I hated all this waiting. 

The clock on the wall said that we’d brought my father to St. Mungo’s nearly two hours ago. And yet we still hadn’t heard from any of the doctors. Nana Molly said that that might have been a good thing – that it obviously meant that he wasn’t dead, otherwise we would have already been informed of his condition – but it wasn’t very reassuring.  

The Healers, when we’d first arrived, had insisted upon giving me a Calming Draught and also a Pepper Up Potion to first calm the hysterics that I had been in at first and then to cure the inevitable depression I felt once I had my head back on my shoulders. At the moment, I was feeling rather detached, my emotions floating sort of at the back of my mind like a caged animal, ready to spring at me as soon as the potions wore off, which I feared they already were.

 All that kept going through my head were those last few words I’d spoken to him - every bit more I am like her, the less I am like you. Besides a few cries of “dad!” I hadn’t gotten to say anything else. What if he really did die? What if he died thinking that I hated him? I had never gotten to apologize. I had never gotten to tell him how much I really loved him despite everything. I had never gotten a chance to say goodbye.

My stomach churned again for what must have been the thousandth time tonight and I did my best to hold back the tears that had been threatening to run down my cheeks all night. No one knew we had been arguing when my father collapsed. They all thought we had just been quietly dancing and talking. It was my own private shame and remorse.

“He’s going to be fine,” Nana Molly, who was sitting next to me, told me quietly, rubbing my bare arm comfortingly. I glanced up at her out of the corner of my eye to see her staring down at me worriedly, her wrinkled face pale and her blue eyes worried. “He’s been through worse before – he was poisoned once, on his seventeenth birthday – did he ever tell you that?” 

“Yeah,” Hugo shrugged from her other side. “We’ve heard just about every story they have.”

Nana Molly was just quiet after that, obviously not knowing what to say to that. 

“What exactly were you and dad talking about when he collapsed?” Hugo asked after a few moments and there was an audible rustle as everyone in my family turned to look at me. I could tell that that was the question they’d all been dying to ask me, but that they knew it was the one I would be the most reluctant to answer.

I looked up from my continual staring at the white tiles to see exactly what I expected – everyone staring at me. Uncle Harry was closest; having stopped in his pacing at the sound of Hugo’s practically whispered question and Aunt Ginny sat on the arm of James’ chair behind him. Lily sat in between James and Al and behind the three of them were Aunt Fleur, Victoire and Teddy. Besides that little pod in the middle of the room, the rest of my family was seated along the wall to the right of me and straight across from me, the only other person besides myself, Nana Molly, and Hugo who sat near me was Granddad Arthur. 

“I-“ I started to say, startled at how my voice shook. I cleared my throat and tried again. “It was nothing really-“

“You weren’t arguing?” my Uncle Bill asked, cutting me off. “You weren’t talking about the Malfoy boy?”

“Scorpius has nothing to do with this,” I spat, glad that my voice went hard and cold. “We had a slight disagreement, but it wasn’t anything bad, okay? He was feeling bad before while we were eating dinner and he just collapsed. I don’t know what you want me to say-“

My voice broke off as a wave of grief and guilt washed over me and I couldn’t help the few tears that escaped down my cheeks. Of course, the more I tried to wipe them away, the more they started to fall and before I could stop myself I was all out sobbing, burying my face in my hands to hide how red my eyes were sure to be becoming and also to muffle the sounds of my strangled cries. 

I felt Granddad Arthur’s hand grip my shoulder tightly and Nana Molly wrap her arm around my waist, letting her other hand brush my hair away from my face and making soft shushing noises. 

“I’m sorry,” I choked out when a wave of calm overtook me again, most likely the potions working their magic. “Merlin, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, Rosebud,” Nana Molly assured me, and the rest of the family followed quickly with so many assents to that fact that I couldn’t help but let out a strangled chuckle and swipe at my eyes one more time. 

“Your dad’s probably been sick for a long time,” Uncle George piped up, the normal smile he had plastered on his face absent for the first time I’d ever seen. “We’ve all noticed all the weight he’s gained lately and how angry and strange he’s been. No one blames you for any of this. It’s not your fault.” 

I just nodded, not really convinced of that, but grateful to hear that they all believed I was innocent of any blame. I couldn’t bear to look at all of their pitying faces any longer and looked back down into my lap, the lilac colored fabric of my dress making my back bristle and the knot in my stomach twisted painfully. A loose thread hung off of the hem and I played with it idly. I hated this stupid dress. The reminder of what it was and what it meant made the skin over which it laid feel like it was being pricked with thousands of needles. If I wasn’t in front of all of my family, I was sure that I would have ripped it off and thrown it in the fire where it belonged. 

“Rose? ROSE!” 

I snapped to attention to see James and Al standing in front of me, identical looks of worry on their faces.

“Sorry. Yeah?”

“We were wondering if you wanted to come up to the fifth floor with us to get some tea,” James said, a determined smile on his face. “Thought it might cheer you up.”

“No thanks,” I replied sadly, sitting up straighter. “I think I should stay here. If the doctor comes, I want to hear what he has to say.”

Al nodded understandingly and James ruffled my hair and I swatted at him as I always would as they walked away from me towards the door, followed by Freddie, Ben, Molly, Lily, and Dom, all of whom, I assumed, were getting bored of waiting around. 

I sighed again and stretched, noticing how those around me winced at the sound of my back cracking and then slumped back down in my chair. I really wished Scorpius was here. He’d have known just what to say to make me feel better. Either that or he would have provided a good distraction from all of this. 

I glanced towards the door, praying that by some divine cosmic intervention he would just suddenly appear there – my knight in shining armor – but much to my dismay, but not surprise, the doors stayed closed and Scorpius free. 

A few of my uncles had taken up the topic about some new Ministry policy that was being enacted or debated and I tried to take my mind off of Scorpius and my father and my mother by listening to them, but it was a lost cause because less than thirty seconds in I was already bored. Merlin, I hated politics. I hated Ministry business in general. I’d never be able to be the Minister of Magic like my mum or an Auror like my dad. 

I stared at the doors on the other side of the room, willing them to open and for one of the Healers to come out and tell us exactly what was wrong with my father. I would have given anything in that moment just to know that my father was in fact, still ok. That he hadn’t died. That he would live to fight with me again tomorrow and so that I could hug him and tell him how sorry that I was.

Would he let me hug him? Or would he push me away despite everything and tell me that if I really loved him I wouldn’t have said that?

The thought made the hole that had been slowly eating away at my chest feel like it had ripped open. I felt like I was bleeding and as my heart thudded slowly under my ribs, I knew that I deserved to feel this way.

I was a horrible, horrible daughter.

I bit my lip again to stop myself from crying again and I tasted blood on my tongue. In the background, I could hear people whispering and I could instinctively feel their nervous glances towards me, but I’d grown so used to it after all this time that it didn’t bother me like I knew it should have. I just stared resolutely at the two white doors that blocked off the waiting room from the patients’ ward, waiting for them to open.  

This time, much to my surprise, they did open.

“Is there someone for Ronald Weasley here?” the tall, handsome dark-haired healer asked, and immediately, everyone who was still in the room stood up and began proclaiming exactly how related they were to him. 

The healer took a step back from all of us so that his back banged against the white doors, and he didn’t do a very good job of hiding his fear of all of us. 

“That’s enough!” Nana Molly cried over all of the ruckus. “That’s enough! Don’t scare the man!”

Instantly the room quieted and Nana Molly stepped forward, dragging Hugo and I with her by our upper arms until we were standing in front of the healer.

“Hello, my name is Molly Weasley,” she told him politely, smiling a tight smile at him. “I’m Ronald Weasley’s mother.” 

“Ah, yes, Mrs. Weasley,” the healer said, stepping forward again and adjusting his robes with an uncomfortable cough. “I’m Doctor Abbott, the healer who has primary care of your son while he is here.” We all just nodded, impatient to hear what his condition was. “We have stabilized your son’s condition and he is now resting comfortably.”

I felt myself release a breath that I didn’t know I was holding and waves of relief washed over me. He was alive and he was going to be okay.

“But what happened to him?” Hugo piped up, sounding relieved, but still worried.

“Ronald has suffered from a myocardial infarction, due to a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries and high blood pressure,” Doctor Abbot prattled off.

All I could do was stand there and stare at him. This was what I hated about doctors. They spoke to you in a different fucking language, just to prove how smart they were and how much schooling they had. They never just gave you the simple answer you were looking for. I didn’t know what a mayocardinal fartthingy was. Nor would I ever care to know what that was. All I wanted to know was what was wrong with my dad.

“I’m sorry, sir,” Nana Molly said, her voice trying to sound sweet but coming out rather frigid. “But I’m afraid I don’t know what any of that means.”

“Your son has suffered from congestive heart failure,” Doctor Abbott explained, a smirk across his face because he knew that again we had no idea what that meant.

There was a grunt from my left and then Uncle George was standing up from where he had been sitting. He strode over to stand in front of the pompous healer and then he brandished his wand threateningly, poking the tip into the bottom of his chin.

“Stop prattling on in psychotic healer babble and tell us what is wrong with my brother before I shove that inflated head of yours up your arse,” Uncle George growled, and Granddad clapped him on the shoulder warningly. With another withering glare up at the healer, my uncle dropped his wand and stepped back to stand just outside of the small circle that Granddad, Nana Molly, Hugo and I had formed around the healer.

“Ronald has suffered from a massive heart attack,” Doctor Abbott finally said, his face white after having been accosted by George.

That I understood.

Nana Molly let out a shaky breath and Granddad stepped around me to wrap his arms comfortingly around her. She buried her head in his chest and I thought I heard soft sobs coming from her, but I couldn’t be sure, because I forced myself to look away. Nana Molly was always so strong. To see her practically falling apart was rather terrifying. I glanced over at Hugo to see him ashen faced.

He glanced up at me when he felt my eyes on him and he shot me a grim smile. I tried to smile back reassuringly, but I couldn’t. The horrible feeling of guilt that I’d been carrying with me all day had exploded in my stomach. It was taking all the will power I had left in my body not to gag or to curl up on the floor and cry myself out until it was physically impossible for me to cry anymore.

This was all my fault.

All of it.

If I hadn’t been such a difficult child…If I hadn’t started this whole stupid thing with Scorpius…If I hadn’t brought him home with me over Christmas…If I hadn’t chosen my mother over him…If I’d worn another dress today…If I hadn’t argued with him…

The little bubble of hysteria that had been pushed to the bottom of my stomach by the Calming Draught I’d been administered felt near to bursting and I felt myself sway on the spot, only to be caught by a strong pair of hands on my shoulders. I felt myself being shoved down into the nearest chair and then someone who sounded a lot like Uncle Harry told me to relax, that my father was going to be fine. I felt myself nod stiffly, not really believing him, but knowing that this was what I was supposed to do. 

I wanted to bash my head against a wall or throw myself down a flight of stairs. Anything to make up for what a horrible daughter I was. Anything to make the waves of guilt that pounded over me, eroding away whatever sense of self-worth and sanity I had left, go away. Anything to show my father how truly sorry I was. 

No, that’s not right, a sensible little voice at the back of my mind reminded me. My father had probably been sick for a long time. And what had the doctor said? He’d had a heart attack due to the buildup of plaque in the arteries around his heart.

That was his own fault, wasn’t it? Not mine. I hadn’t forced him to abandon his health. I hadn’t made him eat unhealthy foods or drink day and night. And besides, he’d been having chest pains at dinner. And he’d been wheezing at the car a few days before that. His health had been degenerating for a long time. It wasn’t entirely my fault.

Slightly contented with that fact, I looked back up at where Dr. Abbott was standing still with Granddad, Nana Molly, and Hugo just in time to hear Nana Molly ask, “So can we see him?”

“I’m afraid that we are about to give Ronald some sleeping potions to help him sleep painlessly and for a long while,” Dr. Abbott replied, looking truly apologetic this time. “Although, we did ask your son if he would like to have any visitors before hand and he has requested that his only visitor for now be his son, Hugo.”

Every face in the room turned to look expectantly at my little brother.

“Me?” Hugo asked, his voice coming out high and rather squeaky with nerves. “Why me?”

“He didn’t say,” Dr. Abbott told him. “But I don’t think you have anything to worry about. It’s not like at a Muggle hospital here – he’s not hooked up to wires and tubes and such. He’s just lying in a bed. He might already be asleep.”

“Yeah, okay,” Hugo replied, looking petrified. “He didn’t say he wants to see my sister Rose too?”

“No, I have express instructions that it is supposed to just be Hugo.”

I tried to smile warmly up at Hugo to assure him that I didn’t mind that he had to go alone, but I think he noticed how forced it was because his brow furrowed and he put his hand on my shoulder, squeezing it slightly as if to say “be strong”. 

“Okay, let’s go,” Hugo said after a minute and then Dr. Abbott opened the white door and gestured Hugo through. With one last fear-filled glance back at me and Nana Molly, Hugo stepped through and then the healer followed him, the door swinging shut with a horrible air of finality.

“Are you okay, sweetheart?” Nana Molly asked, extracting herself from Granddad’s arms and shooing Uncle Percy from the seat next to me so that she could sit down.

“I’m fine,” I croaked. “I’m glad he’s alive.”

There was a murmur around the room of consent as everyone hurried to assure each other of how wonderful this fact was and I settled back into my chair, running my fingers through my long hair and trying to push that hysteria back down into my stomach. iHiI felt disconnected from everyone and everything. I just needed some time for this all to soak in. I needed the blasted potions that they had given me to wear off so that I was in control of my own mind again. And I needed to curl up in my bed and cry myself out until I felt better and could cope with all of this.

I had never really realized it before, but crying had always been my escape. I had never been afraid to cry before. Whenever I was upset, or depressed, or even enraged, crying had always been my escape – my relief. My ability to cry had probably saved me from a fate like Hugo’s. And now that it was taken away from me, I knew what he meant.

I felt empty. I felt detached from my own mind and feelings. And I didn’t like it one bit.

In the background I could hear the sounds of my family talking about something new and try as I might, I couldn’t make out exactly what it was. Their voices were far away and warbled, like some of the sounds that came out of my Grandpa Joe’s old radio when the static was bad. It was oppressive and surprisingly loud, pressing in on me from all sides. I began to sweat, and glanced around the room, the walls feeling suddenly snugger. I felt my head spin and then I was up out of my chair, bolting for the door on the opposite side of the room.

“Rose!” I heard someone cry, but I ignored them, shoving through the door and into the deserted hallway.

I ran down the rest of hallway, not stopping until I was around the corner, the sound of my family far away and silent. I leaned against the wall, relishing the feeling of the cool plaster against my hot skin and let my head loll back as far as it would go. I hadn’t realized it, but I was panting and my side burned with a stitch. I clutched at my side and concentrated on clearing my mind so that I could think straightly. 

I hated this!

I hated everything! I hated not being in control of my mind. I hated that my whole family was sitting in that waiting room, probably discussing what a nutter I was and how this was all my fault. I hated my father for having a stupid heart attack in the first place. And I hated myself for getting into the middle of all of this.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I was going to be sick. I turned swiftly to the window that was on the wall nearest me and flung it open, the chilly spring breeze rushing in and stinging my cheeks. It felt wonderful, but my stomach still lurched and before I could stop myself, I retched.

I coughed a few times and straightened up, careful not to look at the pool of sick at my feet. My head was throbbing, but there was a certain clarity to my thoughts that had not been there before. Maybe throwing up had its advantages – like the fact that it got those awful potions out of my system. 

I took a deep breath and then pulled my wand out of the special fold in my dress for it, pointing it at my mess and muttering a quick “Scourgify”. Instantly it was gone and I leaned heavily against the windowsill, breathing in the cool air and feeling my body instantly relax.  

This was so much better. Just being alone and having some time to sort myself out without my overbearing family breathing down my neck. Are you okay? I scoffed aloud at the useless question. No, I was bloody not okay. Nothing would ever be sodding okay ever again, thank you very much. My life had gone to hell in a hand basket; my father was lying in a hospital bed and recovering from a heart attack, my little brother was suffering from depression, my mother was shagging her colleague and my boyfriend happened to be the son of my father’s arch enemy. Nothing was fucking okay! 

“Stop it,” I commanded myself, sticking my head father out the window and taking a couple of deep breaths. “Feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to get you anywhere.” 

“No, it definitely isn’t,” a voice agreed suddenly, and I nearly jumped out of my skin.

I spun around on the spot, my heart accelerating to a rapid pace and then stopping as I saw the figure lounging comfortably on the wall across from me, his trademark smirk plastered on his handsome face.

“Glass of water?” Scorpius asked, pushing off of the wall and waving his wand in one quick motion so that a glass of said liquid promptly appeared there.

“I, er, thanks,” I said, accepting the glass from him and taking a long gulp of it. I could feel him watching me warily as I finished the entire glass but I took my time, enjoying the refreshing feeling of it, almost as it was washing away all of the bitterness I’d been feeling moments before.  

When I had finished it, the glass instantly vanished and I stared at my empty hand for a moment before turning to look up at Scorpius. He just smiled down at me with too understanding eyes but after having looked up into his grey-blue irises for almost a year, it was easy to see the hidden worry in them. He must have seen the frenzy of my own emotions clearly written across my own face because he wordlessly pulled me to him. I instantly melted into his arms, inhaling his familiar musky scent and feeling completely and totally safe and at home. A complete sense of calm washed over me, and all the guilt and fear and pain I’d been struggling with all day calmed and the churning of my stomach stopped.

I would have loved to stay like that all day, but I was acutely aware of the fact that I was standing in the middle of a deserted corridor at St. Mungo’s in my best dress, my face red, my hair a mess, and probably reeking of my own vomit, so I forced myself to take a step back from him. 

“Hi,” I whispered, leaning back against the wall.

“Hi,” he repeated, smiling genuinely down at me and I felt the first real smile I’d felt since I’d come here tug at the corners of my lips. 

“How did you get here?” I asked, figuring it was best to just cut right to the chase.

“I Floo-ed,” he replied cheekily, his smirk sliding back onto his face.

I sighed playfully. “What I meant was, how did you know to come?”

“Oh,” he said, as if surprised. “Well, I was helping my mum manage those fifteen little nightmares that Mira calls her friends and we had the radio on in the kitchen. My mum had asked me to go and check on the biscuits she had in the oven and while I was in there the station cut off the horrible Celestina Warbeck song it had on and cut over to an important news flash. They said that your father had collapsed at your cousin’s wedding and that your family had taken him to St. Mungo’s, but they didn’t have any more news about his condition at the current time. My mum came in to check and see what was taking me so long and heard the end of it. She told me to go, that she would take care of it. So I came.” 

“Thank you for coming,” I replied when he had finished, my voice cracking slightly with emotion. “You have no idea. I’m-“

“Falling apart?” he offered when I couldn’t finish my sentence.

“That’s a good way to put it,” I agreed and he stepped forward and pulled me to him as my emotions finally overwhelmed me and I sobbed into his shirt for a few minutes, letting all the grief and anger and remorse that had been suppressed for so long overtake me and run their course until I couldn’t cry anymore.  

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” I sniffled finally as I pulled far enough back from him so that I could see his face.

“About what?” he asked.

“About this,” I replied, gesticulating wildly to the hallway, to the pair of brown doors that loomed at the end of the hall. “I don’t know how to make it right again. I don’t know how to apologize for it.”

“Why should you have to apologize?” he asked fiercely, sounding slightly angry. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

I shook my head furiously. “But I did,” I answered sadly. “I’m a horrible daughter. A horrible, horrible daughter, who doesn’t even deserve to be here, waiting to hear if her father is going to live or die. I said horrible things to him, that I’m not sure if I meant or not and we were having a heated argument when he collapsed on me-“

My voice trailed off as I found I could not complete the rest of my sentence, the guilt that consumed me was so great.

“Stop it,” Scorpius commanded, not bothering to hear the rest of it. “Stop it right now.”

I looked away from his hard, stubborn eyes, but instantly felt one of his long fingers under my chin, and let my head be brought back around so that I was looking at him again.

“This isn’t your fault,” he told me, and the conviction in his voice almost made me believe it.

I began to protest, but he quickly covered my mouth with his hand.

“It isn’t,” he insisted again and I felt my resolve waver. “Your father had a heart attack, I’m presuming?” I nodded, because his hand was still over my mouth. “People don’t have heart attacks from arguing with their fathers. If that was the case, your father probably would have been dead by now.”

That logic made some sense. I nodded for him to keep going.

“I know you’ve probably heard this already and still don’t believe it, but your dad has probably been getting sick for a long time,” he continued, still using a stern tone of voice that would have made my mother very proud. “Hell, even I’ve noticed the weight he’s been gaining and I think I’ve only seen him fully three times in my life. He eats as if he’s a teenager and drinks whenever he feels the smallest bit sad, or uncomfortable, or hurt. It’s a wonder he’s gone this long without having a heart attack.”

I stood there for a long moment, contemplating what he had said. He was right of course. He was always right. I was just overreacting as usual. 

“You’re right,” I muttered, but my response came out sounding more like “mmhhmmgg”, due to the fact that Scorpius still had his hand clapped tight over my mouth. I glared up at him and he shot me a quick, apologetic smile before taking his hand away.

I glared at him again for good measure and then said, “You’re right.”

“I know,” he replied cheekily.

I scowled up at him, but my resolve quickly wavered when I saw his goofy grin in response.

“Merlin, I’m so overdramatic sometimes,” I sighed, resting my head against his chest.

“Yes, you are,” he agreed and I smacked him playfully. “But that’s why I love you.”

“Really?” I asked. “Why?”

“Because then I get to convince you that you’re just being overdramatic and you think I’m some incredible genius.”

“No, I think you’re an insufferable git whose ego is big enough for two people,” I shot back cheekily and I heard him chuckle.

“Got me all figured out, have you?”

“Maybe,” I replied, mimicking his trademark smirk as I lifted my head so I could look at him properly. “If I admit to that, it takes half the fun away. I have to at least make you think you seem mysterious and alluring.” 

I could see I was about to pay dearly for that cheeky comment and bit my lip nervously as I waited for his reply, my stomach doing flips in my abdomen. I needn’t have worried though, because at that moment my cousin Al poked his head around the corner, a mixture of a grimace and a grin on his face at the sight of the two of us.

“There you are Rosie,” he said, sounding highly uncomfortable at having walked in at that point in our conversation. He nodded at Scorpius and mumbled a quick “hello” before turning back to me. “Nana Molly sent me out to make sure you were all right.”

“I’m much better now,” I assured him, shooting him a genuine grin and he looked relieved.

“You should probably come back now,” he added, sounding like this was the more important of the two messages he was sent to carry. “Hugo’s been in to see your dad and came out. He’s demanding to see you right away. He says there is something of utter importance you need to discuss.”

“My father?” I asked, swallowing the lump in my throat.

“No, Hugo,” he said. “I don’t know what it is,” he added before I could ask. “He wouldn’t say. All he said was that he needed to talk to you immediately.”

Worry quickly flooded through me and I felt Scorpius press his thumb into my side supportively. “Yeah, ok,” I agreed. “Let’s go.”

Scorpius looked as if he wasn’t sure if he should stay or come along with me as I detached myself from him. I just grinned up at him and threaded my hand through his, pulling him with me along the hall towards the ominous set of doors.

Al held them open for me, so there was no dawdling, and I marched calmly through, not stopping until I was in the middle of the room. By that time, all of the chatter that had previously filled the room had died out, as each of my family members turned to look at me and noticed Scorpius.

“Hi,” I said unceremoniously to the room, noticing how on edge they all suddenly looked. “You remember Scorpius, right?”

No one said anything. Bollocks.

“Scorpius, mate,” James said, patting the empty seat next to him that Lily had vacated, seeing as she and Molly were playing a game of Exploding Snap on the floor in the corner. “Nice to see you again.”

Scorpius didn’t say anything, and I glanced nervously up at him to see his eyes practically bugging out of his head. Probably from James’ use of the word ‘mate’ and his name in the same sentence without the words ‘will never be my’ in between them.

“You too,” Scorpius replied enthusiastically, finally coming to his senses, and with one last squeeze of my fingers went to sit in the seat James had offered him. “Did you hear about the Hufflepuff Chaser Edwards? Their beater Haddock gave her a concussion in practice right before break and Burch says she’ll be out for the rest of the season – can’t risk another head injury.”

“Really?” Al piped up, and from there, the conversation between the three boys flowed smoothly throughout the otherwise silent room.

I smiled at Al and James, hoping to get across how grateful I was for their kindness and support, and James just winked back at me before making some comment about how Gryffindor and Slytherin were sure to be the two teams competing for the Cup.

Finally, the rest of my family seemed to get over their shock and a dull roar sounded throughout the room as they began to pretend like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened – that two supposedly sworn enemies had not just spoken civilly and even called each other ‘mate’. 

I took advantage of their distraction and slipped practically unnoticed through the crowd until I got to the other set of doors, pushing them open soundlessly and creeping inside. I needn’t have bothered being worried about making noise though, for the moment I was through I was grabbed roughly by the upper arm and shouted at.

“There you are!” Hugo cried, sounding a mixture of relieved and furious. “Where the hell have you been?”

“I’m sorry,” I replied, wrenching my upper arm from his grasp and glaring at him. “I wasn’t in the waiting room. They had to send Al after me.”

Hugo ran his hand wearily through his hair in a way very reminiscent of Uncle Harry and sighed.  

“So what do you need?” I asked when he didn’t say anything more. “Al said you demanded I come right away…”

“Well, you know how I’ve been going to see Dr. Stegner, the psychological healer for a few days now?” he replied, sounding like he was trying very, very hard to stay calm. I nodded. “Well, when they had Dad in a stable enough condition, Dr. Abbott decided it was probably a good idea to bring in a psychologist to look at him and address the other problems it’s pretty obvious he’s been dealing with besides just poor heart health.”

My heart skipped a beat as I realized where this was going. “Dr. Stegner isn’t Dad’s psychologist too, is she?”

Hugo nodded miserably. “She is. And she recognized Dad’s name as the name of my father and apparently during his examination she commented on what a lovely son he had, figuring that he already knew I was seeing her.”

“Oh Hugo,” I breathed, the horror of the situation too unbearable to say anything else.

“Yeah,” he groaned, looking as if he wanted to cry. “She told me she felt awful – she really hadn’t known – and I don’t blame her for it. Dad called me in when she left though and made me tell him about it. Dr. Stegner suggested that maybe we could do a few sessions together this summer and we both agreed it might be a good idea.”

“Well, that’s wonderful, isn’t it?” I asked, trying to be optimistic.

“I guess,” Hugo consented. “It’s just, well, this may sound childish, but Dr. Stegner is my doctor. I don’t want to share her.”

“Maybe you should tell her that,” I tried to reason with him but he shook his head no.

“I don’t want her to think I’m being a baby.”

“You are a baby.”

He stuck his tongue out at me and I laughed, clapping him on the shoulder supportively.

“You and Dad should talk about this more when he is feeling a bit better,” I told him and he nodded understandingly. “Tonight, there is just too much going on. He’ll probably understand. In the mean time, let’s just try to stay positive and think about the fact that he’s getting the help he so desperately needs. And if Dr. Stegner has been able to work such wonders on you in such a short period of time, I’m sure she’ll be able to turn him around in no time.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he agreed, smiling now more at the reminder of that. “Dad really does need her more than me right now. Besides, I’ll be going back to Hogwarts soon and won’t get to see her until the summer anyway.”  

“That’s my boy,” I said, planting a kiss on his cheek which he promptly wiped off with a scowl.

“What?” I asked, feeling slightly offended.

“No offense, Rose, but you have horrible breath,” he said, chuckling slightly and walking back out into the waiting room. 

With one last aghast look at him, I turned on my heel and quickly hurried over to the nurses’ station, which was situated a little bit down the hall on my right. The kind looking, middle aged woman behind the desk was happy to give me a few breath mints and one of the toothbrushes they kept in the ward for long term patients and I quickly scrubbed my mouth out in the public bathroom she had directed me to.  

I was feeling slightly more confident and even happy at this rather good turn of events, not even worrying about the possibility of my family having killed Scorpius in my absence. I pushed through the white doors back into the crowded waiting room and was instantly sobered.

Because there, standing in the middle in the room with her hands on her hips, her determined glare on her face, and her bushy brown hair flying, was my mother.

“Mum?” I asked, stepping away from the door and for the first time noticing Nana Molly, who was standing across from her, much in the same position. My mum turned from what appeared to be a heated argument and smiled weakly at me.

“Hi, honey,” she said quietly. “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” I said warily. “What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be in China?”

“I was in China,” she replied. “But I took the first international Portkey I could back to London when I heard what happened to your father.”

“Why?” Nana Molly demanded, her voice high pitched and rather hysterical. “Why would you come back here when you heard something happened to him if you don’t love him anymore? If you cheated on him with that vile man? If you left him?”

My mother took a step back as if she had been slapped, and Granddad stepped forward, grabbing Nana Molly around her upper arms and holding her away from my mother, as if afraid she would fly into a frenzy and physically attack her.

“I just want to see my children,” my mother said quietly, after a few moments. “Please.”

Nana Molly glared her fiercest glare at her, but when I saw Granddad squeeze her arms warningly her glare faded into a more hate-filled scowl and she nodded. My mum cocked her head towards the brown doors and I walked wordlessly across the floor, the only sounds that of my shoes and Hugo’s shoes against the tiles. I pushed through first and heard the two of them follow me through.

“Are you all right?” my mother asked as soon as the door had swung shut, placing one of her cold, worn looking hands on one of either of our shoulders.

“We’re fine, Mum,” Hugo assured her coldly. “We’re in perfect health. It’s not either of us who are lying in a hospital bed right now, remember?”

She just nodded gravely, a grievously sad look coming into her brown eyes. “Is it really that bad?” she asked, her voice slightly betraying her worry.

“It’s bad enough,” I replied, not sure how I should judge her worry. Of course, she had been married to him for over twenty years. At the same time, she had just left him for another man. Why was she so worried? “The healer said he’s suffered from a massive heart attack due to a buildup of plaque in his arteries.”

My mother sighed and leaned against the wall much like I had earlier, draping one hand across her eyes like she always did when she had a headache or when she wanted to hide something she was feeling. Hugo and I both just stood there, not sure of what to say or do.

“Have you seen him?” she asked finally.

“Only I was allowed in to see him,” Hugo told her. My mother looked puzzled at this, but didn’t question it. “He doesn’t look well at all. He’s pale white, almost a sickly blue and for a man of his size, he looks really small in that bed. Although he’s not hooked up to any Muggle equipment, all around his bed are the potions that he’s been administered and various nasty looking probes. He can hardly talk and it’s hard for him to keep his eyes open, but I think that that might just be the effects of the Sleeping Draught they had given him. He’s not well.”

“Merlin,” my mother breathed, sounding very much like she was trying to keep herself in check. “Merlin.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant – I took it to be shock – and laid my hand gently on her arm. She smiled wearily down at me, and for the first time, I saw a woman who looked like she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders, and was slowly being crushed by it.  

“HERMIONE!” 

My mother jumped at the sound of the angry, loud voice that echoed down the corridor, and all three of us turned to see Justin storming towards us, his dark mustache bristling with indignation.

“Hello,” my mother greeted her fiancé. “What are you doing here?”

“What am I doing here?” Justin demanded, sounding enraged. “I think the better question is what are you doing here? You can’t just walk out on the meeting I’ve spent weeks setting up for you with the Chinese Minister of Magic!”

“Yes, I can,” my mother replied coldly, standing up to her full height and putting on the stern glare that I had to admit made her look rather regal. “Maybe this fact eludes your memory Justin, but I am the Minister of Magic. I can do whatever I want. You are not my keeper. No one is.”

Justin spluttered angrily for a moment and my mother just smiled wickedly up at him. “Stuttering like an oaf does not become you,” she added after a moment.

I watched with bemusement as Justin turned a violent shade of plum, still not saying anything. Finally, he snatched her arm in what looked like a crushing grip and started to tow her down the hallway.

“Let me go,” my mother insisted, struggling to break free of his grasp.

“You’re coming with me, Hermione,” he growled angrily. “I will have no more of this. I’ve worked too hard and too long for this, and you will not ruin this for me.”

Suddenly, there was a loud bang and Justin went flying back from my mother, landing with a rather loud crack against the far wall.

“Ruin this for you?” my mother demanded shrilly. “Ruin this for you? Is that what this whole thing is about? Furthering your career?”

“Hermione, sweetest,” Justin winced, and I had to give him some props for standing up after how hard he hit the wall. “No, that is not it at all. I swear. Please, just come with me and I’ll explain it all on our way back to China.”

“You really think I’m going back there?” my mother asked. “Merlin, you are much stupider than I ever believed. Justin, I’m not going back to China. Not now. My children need me. I need to be with my family.”

“They’re not your family anymore, Hermione!” Justin yelled, sounding on the verge of throwing a temper tantrum. “You gave that up, remember? You’re my fiancé now, and soon you will be my wife. You have to do as I say. Now come with me, we are going back to China, and you will apologize to the Minister and we will patch up these negotiations as if nothing has happened.”

He grabbed her arm again as if to pull her off, but released her instantly with a cry of pain and looked down at the palm of his hand, which had a long red welt along it as if he had burned it on a hot poker.

“You will never speak to me like that again,” my mother spat, the hatred and anger in her voice making me shudder with fear, even though it wasn’t me it was directed at. “Just because you have this ring on my finger does not mean you own me. I am a person, not a House Elf, and like them, I have a right to my own freedom.”

With one swift motion, she removed the silver and diamond encrusted band from her finger and chucked it at her former fiancé, where it hit him promptly in the cheek before falling to the floor with a metallic clang of finality.

“Good-bye, Justin,” my mother spat, turning on her heel from him and looking slightly startled to see Hugo and I still standing there, staring at her dumbfounded. With a slight grin she wrapped her arms around both of our shoulders and together we walked back towards the brown doors.

“Don’t expect me to take you back when you come crying to me about the mistake you made!” Justin shouted after us.

A dark look crossed my mother’s face before she muttered “Good riddance.”

Hugo and I just chuckled as she pushed open the door to see Uncle George and Freddie jump back from the door guiltily, tucking what looked like quite a few pairs of extendable ears into their pockets discreetly.  

No one said anything as we all went back to our seats as if nothing had happened, and my mother looked around the room, trying to judge everyone’s reactions. Everyone was studiously ignoring her though, and all of the chairs were occupied.

For one quick moment, I feared that she would just leave. But then with the humble grace of someone who knew that she had a lot of making up to do, she walked over to the farthest corner of the room and sat herself down on the floor. 

I saw Nana Molly glance over in her direction and my mother shot her a pointed look, as if daring her to tell her to leave. I saw Nana hesitate for a second and then she nodded and my mother tried to hide her smile.

Despite everything that had happened, my mother still belonged here.  







 
A/N: Yay! This chapter is finally finished. It was giving me some problems for a while, but I think I hopefully worked them all out.  I hope you enjoyed this.

So uh, yeah. I don't really know what else to say. 3 chapters left now! Exciting! 

Thank you so much for reading everyone. Please, please review!

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