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You would think I would have learned by now not to believe everything I hear. Sleazy magazines reported about some member of my too-famous family every other week. I myself had been the victim of untrue rumors for almost all of this year – I think it should have been fairly obvious that nearly no one told the truth anymore. But somehow, I always thought that they of all people wouldn’t lie to me.

Dom had told me that she felt guilty afterwards – like she had caved in and given up something she wasn’t ready to. Victoire told me that she felt a deeper connection with her boyfriend at the time – that it had made their relationship stronger. James said it made him feel like ‘a man’. Fred claimed he felt bad because she turned out to be just a one-night stand. I’d heard girls in the bathroom talking about how much it hurt or how good their guy was.

But I’d never heard someone say that they felt completely the same afterwards. Was something wrong with me? I’d expected maybe to feel a little guilty this morning – after all, my virginity was something I had been rather fond of. I’d also expected to feel a little bit giddy, like I was coming down from a high. But I didn’t feel…anything. I just felt like Rose. Like the same girl I’d been yesterday night and the same girl I’d been all my life. 

No, that was definitely a lie, I decided as I rolled over, feeling the sides of my pelvis twinge. I felt a bit sore. I sighed and rolled back the other way, burying my face in Scorpius’s pillow to block out the sunlight I could feel pouring through the open curtains. It didn’t help very much though, because I could still see the red spots on the back of my eyelids. What the hell were those, anyway?

I rolled slowly back over and let my eyes open carefully. The room still looked the same, save for the small pile of my clothes down near the foot of the bed and the fact that the navy curtains were now drawn open, sunlight spilling down onto the floor. I smiled and stretched carefully, relishing in the loosening feeling and then with a yawn looked over towards the side of the bed where I expected Scorpius to be. I blinked a few times, hoping it was just my sleep-clouded mind playing a trick on me.

No, he definitely wasn’t there.

I sat up instantly, my eyes darting around frantically. His clothes were still heaped next to mine, although one of the top drawers of his dresser was wedged open slightly. I felt the bed next to me where he had slept. It was still warm. I took a deep, shuddering breath, trying to calm my nerves.  

He’d probably just left, I tried to convince myself. He probably just had to go to the bathroom. Maybe he was just getting coffee. I could smell coffee in the air. Yes, that was probably just it. 

I took another deep, shuddering breath and pressed my fingers hard against the back of my eyes, making those red spots erupt there again. I opened my eyes again slowly, peering between my fingers at the door, as if it would just magically open and he would appear there. After a few minutes of no such luck, I decided it was time I got up and investigated for myself. And get some of that coffee, I added mentally as I pushed the covers off of myself and swung my legs over the side of the bed.

I lowered myself gingerly to the ground and was taken aback by the sight of the light pink ink on my right hip when I glanced down at myself. Had I really gotten a tattoo last night? Another glance down at my hip told me I definitely had. I watched as the little flower transformed from the bud into a beautiful, fully formed rose and I smiled to myself. I definitely didn’t regret getting it.

I grabbed my underwear out of the pile of my clothes and quickly pulled them on, reaching into Scorpius’s partially opened drawer and pulling out a clean t-shirt and pair of boxers. It seemed like a stupid observation, but his clothes smelled like him and it brought a sense of innate calm over me. 

Trying not to laugh as I caught a glimpse of myself in his much-too-large clothes in the mirror, I opened the door and followed the familiar path to the kitchen. I stopped before I walked through the archway that served as the door and listened inside, feeling even better when I heard the sound of silverware against china. I tugged self-consciously on the hem of his shirt, even though it hung down to my mid-thigh and his shorts went well past my knees and ran a hand nervously through my hair.

What were you supposed to say after something like this? Hey, uh, I really enjoyed having sex with you last night? Merlin, I blushed just thinking about it. It was Scorpius though. I told Scorpius practically everything. And surely he’d want to know about this. Still, it was the truth. I really had enjoyed myself. 

Deciding I would cross that bridge when I got to it, I tugged once more on my shirt and stepped quietly into the kitchen, feeling the corners of my mouth pull up into a grin when I saw Scorpius leaning against the counter in his shorts, a cup of coffee in his hand and his eyes still half closed with sleep. I didn’t think he heard me or saw me because I made it all the way over to the counter and had pulled a mug from the cupboard before Scorpius started, jumping slightly at the sound of the cupboard opening.

“Good morning,” he said, after he had put his cup of coffee down to save from spilling it over his bare chest in fright and gripping the edge of the counter for support.

I looked up at him and poured myself a cup, stirring a few spoonfuls of sugar into it and taking a long sip before fully turning to him. He had regained his composure and was regarding me with what I thought was caution. I stayed still as his eyes raked over my figure, obviously looking for something wrong with me or perhaps a sign that I was suddenly going to snap and tell him I was leaving him.  

“Good morning,” I replied, smiling up at him and he looked relieved. “You’re up early,” I noted, looking at the clock that hung on the opposite wall. It was only 7:30. 

“I’m sorry,” he said, scratching the back of his head uncomfortably. “I didn’t think you’d be up for another hour at least. My mum’s owl was at the window at about 7 this morning. Apparently it was necessary to tell me they wouldn’t be home until after noon today. And then I smelled the coffee and I figured as long as I was up I would get some. I’m sorry-“

“It’s ok,” I laughed, cutting him off as his voice grew louder, more pleading, and faster by the second. I set my cup down on the counter behind me and took a step forward, wrapping my arms around his waist. He pulled me closer to him automatically and I kissed the bare skin of his shoulder. He stiffened and then relaxed, burying his face in my hair. 

“Are you okay?” He said it so quietly and his voice was partially muffled by my hair, but I was still sure he had said it. I pushed away from him slightly, hanging onto his shoulders as I looked up into his face. He looked worried, almost scared.

I remembered last night, how worried he was that he would hurt me. Was that it? Was he afraid that he had hurt me? No, that didn’t seem right. We both knew that we’d enjoyed that. I could see the panic that was beginning to build in my chest as I struggled to figure out what he was asking mirrored in Scorpius’s face and suddenly it dawned on me. 

The unspoken had been hanging over both of our heads all morning – what this meant for us now. Scorpius was obviously waiting for me to say that that had been a mistake and that I’d wished I’d waited. Hell, part of me was waiting for that too. Another part of me was waiting for the elation that Victoire had described. But honestly, I didn’t think I would ever feel either of those things. I just felt like Rose and he still felt like Scorpius, the boy I was madly in love with. We were still the same people – our relationship was still the same, and it had never been an exceptionally physical one anyway. We’d just taken the next natural step. There was nothing wrong with that. It had felt right. And that’s what it felt like now – right. Nothing more. Nothing less. And that was okay with me. That was perfect for me.

“I’m brilliant,” I told him finally, beaming and he visibly relaxed, a crooked grin playing at the corner of his mouth. He kissed my temple lightly and then I let go of his shoulders, taking a step back from him and hopping up to sit on the counter, taking a large gulp of my coffee. 

“You’re sure?” he asked, still sounding slightly uncertain.

“You can come over here and do an inspection if you want,” I replied saucily, smirking a smirk that even his father would have been proud of and he grinned back wolfishly, all traces of his previous apprehension gone. 

He sauntered forward and I felt myself shiver slightly with anticipation as he placed one of his cold hands on my knee and the other on my hip. I pushed his long hair out of his eyes and pressed a light kiss to his lips. He pulled me closer and suddenly I had a very déjà-vu moment of last night. But if there was no stopping me then, than there was definitely nothing that would stop me now.

“Scorpius!” a familiar voice called from the direction of the living room. “Hello, hello, hello!”

Except for that. 

I untangled myself from Scorpius and slid off the counter so fast that I sent my cup crashing to the ground in a loud crash and a spray of hot coffee.

“Bloody hell!” I cried before I could stop myself, my bare calves stinging from where the coffee hit them. 

“And it looks like he’s not alone,” another very familiar voice chimed and I groaned. “Only one person I know could knock something over and swear like that simultaneously.”

I barely had time to duck behind Scorpius before Noel, Tony, Ashley, and Jack appeared in the little archway that connected the kitchen to the small eating area.

“Looks like we have impeccable timing,” Tony said smugly as he took in the smashed cup, Scorpius’s half-naked torso, and me hiding behind him and slowly turning the color of a plum. 

“You know, even if you Floo, it’s polite to announce that you are coming,” Scorpius pointed out, not bothering to comment on their timing.  

“We figured you were sleeping,” Jack answered. “Not you know…doing another activity that takes place in the bedroom.”

Ashley giggled loudly and Noel was shooting me her ‘you-better-tell-me-what-the-hell-happened’ look around Scorpius. I just felt my face grow hotter. Stupid Weasley red hair genes. 

“Regardless of what we may or may not have been doing,” Scorpius continued, although his voice sounded quite strangled, “why would you come over if you thought I was sleeping?”

“We wanted to see Rosie,” Ashley told him. “Before we went traipsing off to St. Mungo’s and made fools of ourselves, we were going to come and get you. We figured you’d be a good buffer against her family.”  

“Looks like we found her already though,” Tony smirked and I glared daggers at him around Scorpius.  

“Speaking of the hospital,” I said, hoping to deter the conversation away from this topic and onto one that actually was pressing, now that I thought about it, “I should probably be getting back.”

“You don’t have to go,” Scorpius replied quickly, turning around so that his back was to our four friends in the doorway. “With all of your psychotic family there to keep him company, I’m sure your father won’t miss your presence. Considering he doesn’t know you’re there anyway.”

I felt myself slightly bristle at how irritated he sounded and I guess he saw how I frowned because his expression instantly softened and he reached out and laced his fingers through mine.

 “Said psycho family is probably wondering where I am. I was only supposed to be gone for the day yesterday,” I reminded him. “Soon enough they’ll send out a search party for me. And let’s face it, Al and James would be the nicest of those they send after you.”

Everyone burst out laughing and Scorpius pulled me all the way to him, kissing my forehead lightly. “I’m not scared of them,” he chuckled and I raised one eyebrow inquisitively.

“Scorpius, they’re my family and even I’m scared of them,” I told him, and that made them all laugh harder. 

“I guess you’re right,” he admitted and I grinned.

“Finally I get to be right for once,” I joked quietly, so that only he could hear it and he smirked, tugging lightly at the end of my hair.

“Don’t get used to it,” he threatened and I bit my lip to stop myself from saying something inappropriate back.

“Oi, you two, enough with the mushy lovey crap,” Tony called. “I want breakfast.”

“You know there’s this nice little place called a café,” Scorpius smirked as he turned around again. “You should try it.”

“Too much effort,” Tony grinned, flopping down in one of the chairs around the table. 

“Well don’t expect me to cook you anything,” Scorpius growled, grabbing his half-drunken cup of coffee off the counter and striding over to the table, sitting down hard next to him.

“Noel,” Tony whined and my blonde friend just scoffed and flipped her long hair.

“Make your own food,” she shot back. “I’m not your slave.”

I didn’t listen to the argument that the two of them got into after that, but shuffled over to where Scorpius was sitting, stealing his coffee from him and taking a large gulp of it. Scorpius glared up at me but didn’t steal it back.

“I think I’m going to take a shower,” I told him quietly as Noel shouted something that sounded like “chauvinistic pig!” “I should get back to the hospital. I know you don’t think it’s worth it, but I – I can’t bring myself to give up on him.”  

Scorpius just smiled sadly up at me and leaned his head against my right hip for a moment and I combed my fingers through his hair, pushing it back out of his eyes. “Towels?” I asked him and he sighed, opening his eyes and giving me a look that clearly read ‘you-just-killed-the-moment’.

“The door to the right of the bathroom,” he told me, leaning away from me and back into his chair. I grinned and drained the rest of his cup, setting it down on the table and scurrying quickly out of the kitchen before anyone could notice I was gone.

I grabbed a giant white fluffy towel out of the cupboard that Scorpius had pointed out and slipped into the bathroom, shutting the door quietly behind me and locking it for extra measure. I knew that it really would not stop anyone from coming in, but it was slightly reassuring and I leaned against the door heavily, feeling the lack of sleep I had gotten last night already wearing on me. I really did not want to go back to the hospital. But deep down inside, I knew not going back was not an option. For one thing, I hadn’t been lying when I told him people from my family would come looking for me. For another, I had spent three days sitting by my father’s bedside. To suddenly stop now seemed rather pointless – if I was going to give up on him, I should have just done it at the beginning.

I sighed and pushed away from the door, shedding Scorpius’s shirt in one fluid movement and kicking off his boxers. I glanced at myself in front of the floor length mirror that covered the wall opposite of the sink and was pleasantly surprised to see a bright flush in my cheeks and my hair looking rather wild, but full and healthy. There were dark circles under my eyes probably from the lack of sleep I’d had over the past week. My skin was pale, but seemed to be glowing this morning, even though I felt rather greasy and gross without having taken a shower. The light pink rose on my hip was still blooming through the stages of its growth and I traced the delicate petals with my finger. I really loved this little flower. And to think that last night I wasn’t sure I even wanted it.

I jumped slightly as a loud knock sounded on the door and I quickly pulled my underwear off, bolting behind the shower curtain just as the lock in the door clicked and the door swung open.

“So you thought you could run off and not have to answer any questions, huh?” Noel’s voice called and I heard two pairs of feet shuffle into the room before the door closed with another click of the lock.  

“Yeah,” Ashley chimed. “You thought we would just let you get away without giving us every little detail about last night?”

Despite the fact that they couldn’t see me, I blushed profusely behind the shower curtain. “Can I at least get the shower started first?” I asked timidly and I heard Ashley giggle.

“Go ahead,” Noel said.

I sighed and turned the knob with shaky hands, feeling butterflies erupt in my stomach at the thought of telling them about last night. It was obvious that they weren’t going to leave unless they were adequately satisfied with my answers. But at the same time, I had to admit that I kind of wanted to tell them. Girls were supposed to gush with one another about these sorts of things, right?

When I got the water to the right temperature I pulled the little switch-thing that turned on the shower and stood under the water, letting the warm beads run over my skin. Merlin, this had never felt so good.

“Okay, I’m ready now,” I called out shakily and Ashley giggled again.

“So how was it?” she gushed before she could stop herself and I imagined her rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet, her bright brown eyes shining with excitement.

“It was great,” I admitted honestly, scrubbing shampoo into my hair. “He was very sweet. Very gentle.”

I smirked when I heard Noel make an “awww” noise this time and Ashley squealed very loudly. My smirk turned into a smile as they both began rapid firing off so many questions that I couldn’t even keep them all straight, but I didn’t bother to stop and ask them to take it slow.

All I could think about was that maybe Victoire had been right. I felt pretty fantastic right now.

 

 

 





 

Noel and Ashley didn’t let me out of the bathroom for another half an hour. By the time I got out of the shower I was freezing due to the fact that the water had turned cold and my fingers and toes resembled prunes. Noel insisted that I couldn’t wear my same clothes back to the hospital and Scorpius, the little traitor, had agreed, so an hour later I found myself trudging up the stairs to my father’s ward dressed in Noel’s black ‘leggings’ as she called them and an overlong grey sweater that she insisted was a dress and not a shirt. Honestly, I felt pretty naked and had tried pulling on the end of the shirt so that it at least reached my mid-thigh, but Noel yelled at me for stretching it out and fixed it.  Scorpius told me that he really liked it, but that had not made me feel any better. If anything, it made me feel worse. 

Why did I have to have a best friend whose life ambition was to be, in her words, a ‘fashion slave’?

I groaned as I stepped up the final stair into the corridor that lead to my father’s ward and wiggled my toes in the flat shoes that she had given me to complete the outfit. Why in the world anyone wanted to wear these clothes was a mystery to me. They were uncomfortable and these shoes were giving me blisters on the back of my heels.  

I limped the rest of the way down to the brown doors and was relieved when I pushed through them that I would get to sit down in approximately three steps. However, I found myself stopping instantly in my tracks when the door closed behind me, my mouth dropping open at the sight before me.

My mother was sitting on my right, laughing and helping Nana Molly and Aunt Ginny knit what looked like a giant maroon scarf.

“Rose,” my mother cried, looking up at me at the sound of the door opening and closing. “There you are. Where have you been?”

While she had sounded nice, her combination of eyebrow-lift and dagger-glare told me that I was in a lot of deep trouble.

“I’m sorry I didn’t come back last night or owl,” I replied quickly, looking down at the white tiles in pretend and also real shame. “I spent the night at my friend Noel’s house. By the time I got back to the hospital last night it was past visiting hours. They wouldn’t let me in. So Scorpius dropped me off at her house, because it’s only a few blocks from here.”

All three of them gave me equal looks of disbelief, although the glint in Nana Molly’s eyes told me that she knew exactly what I’d been doing last night. I felt my cheeks color unwillingly and I looked back down at the floor. The woman had had seven children of her own and was grandmother to twelve. Of course she knew a ton about sex. I’d say it would probably be sad if she didn’t.

“I have about five people who can vouch for that,” I told them when none of them said anything. I looked up to see my mum and Aunt Ginny exchange a look that clearly said they didn’t know what to think, but Nana Molly just stared at me still, her eyes on my stomach. I gulped and looked down there too, but she grinned after a moment and shook her head. 

“I trust you,” my mother sighed finally, setting her knitting needles down in her lap and looking up at me with tired, rather old looking eyes. “You’ve always been a good girl. I have no reason not to trust you.”

I beamed at my mother, feeling slightly guilty knowing that my mother definitely had plenty of reasons not to trust me, but I was glad to be off the hook.

“Well now that that’s over,” I said, trying to seem nonchalant, “the more pressing question I have is what’s going on here?” I gestured between the three of them sitting so closely together and all three of them smiled the same smile.   

My mother looked nervously between Aunt Ginny and Nana Molly and then spoke up. “Well, I talked to your father this morning.”

My jaw literally hit the floor.

“What? How did you – Why did you…? What? Are you back together?” I asked, unable to form a coherent sentence. My father had invited my mother, the woman he hated so vehemently now, back in to visit him before he invited me?  

“No, no, we’re definitely not back together,” she hurriedly assured me, shaking her head so fast that her bushy brown hair whipped Aunt Ginny in the eye. Her voice sounded rather sad and strangled and I felt bad for asking, but at the same time, I didn’t. She had made her bed, right? Now she had to lay in it. “But we just talked about things for a long while. Your father and I cannot not be in one another’s lives. We have too much history together for that. We have you and Hugo. And we share a group of best friends and a family. We don’t have to be married to still share that. But we’re just going to go back to the beginning. Start off slowly. See if we can be friends again. There’s too much hurt there still for us to ever be anything more. Too much pain.”

I nodded, unsure of what else I should do or say. What did you say to something like that? Congratulations, you’ve just realized what idiots you both are? No. I couldn’t say that. Even though I really, truly wanted to say that, I knew I never would and never could. Everyone was entitled to make their own mistakes. Even my parents, who were supposed the elite of the elite, who supposedly could do no wrong, made mistakes. And now they had to pay for them. 

“It’s best for you and Hugo,” Aunt Ginny piped up, obviously trying to say something to fill the awkward silence that had filled the air. “Having two parents who hate each other will do more harm to the two of you than good.”  

I just nodded again, still unsure of what to say. 

“Your father was asking for you, dear,” Nana Molly said, although her tone was the most understanding out of all of theirs.  

I tried to keep my expression indifferent and nonchalant, but I’m pretty sure that they could all see that internally, I was screaming and waving my arms and generally freaking out. “Did he?” I asked, my voice sounding faraway and slightly sick. 

“Yes, first thing this morning,” Aunt Ginny told me. “I told him that you weren’t here, but that I’d send you in when you got here.”

“Ok,” I nodded.

“He’s probably asleep again,” my mother piped up. “He was looking tired after our conversation, and I swear, I heard him snoring the moment I was out of the room.”

“That’s ok,” I said quietly. “I’ll sit with him while he sleeps. I don’t mind.” 

I didn’t wait for any of them to reply, but turned quickly on my heel and strode the familiar path over to the set of white double doors, pushing through them quickly and forcefully, sure that if I thought too much about it that I would turn back around and run away. The ward was oddly silent for this time of day – usually the mornings were quite wild as patients had to get up to go to the restroom or needed help eating their breakfast. But all of the Healers were lounging around behind the station at the front of the ward, some filling out paperwork, others getting fresh cups of coffee, and some making paper birds zoom around everyone’s heads with their wands.

A few started at the sound of the doors being pushed open and Greta, the rather surly trolley woman, waved at me. “Morning Rosie,” a few of them called and I waved half-heartedly back at all of them. Was it rather pathetic that the hospital staff knew me by name now? “Do you want some breakfast?” Greta asked.

“No thanks,” I replied, gesturing to the purse over my shoulder. “I packed some food for myself today.”

She just nodded and I grinned, happy that Scorpius had suggested I take some real food with so that I didn’t have to eat slop anymore. I took a deep breath and squared up my resolve, reminding myself that he was probably sleeping, and that I would have plenty of time to worry about what he was going to say later. 

I walked slowly down the corridor, listening to the eerie sound of my shoes clacking against the tiles in the silent ward. I counted the doors to pass the time and to take my mind off of all of the things that were running through it. I wished Scorpius was here. He’d know what to say. Or at least help me take my mind off of it. But Scorpius wasn’t here. And he wasn’t always going to be here. I was a big girl now. Technically, as Noel had pointed out more than once, I was a woman now. I should at least be able to talk to my father on my own. I couldn’t depend on others forever to solve my problems. 

Before I knew it, I was standing outside the open door to my father’s room, and sure enough, his loud snores echoed back to me. I breathed a sigh of relief and slipped inside like I had done so frequently. The chair I had sat in was pulled up close to his bedside where I assumed my mother had sat while they talked and I tiptoed over to it, picking it up and setting it back a few feet so that the scraping of it on the tiles did not wake him up.

When it was in a more proper position I flopped down into it with relief, my feet tingling slightly. I saw a plate of uneaten, runny looking eggs and some cardboard-esque sausages sitting on my father’s bedside table and was once again glad that I had brought some food with from Scorpius’s. I fished inside my bag and pulled out another brown paper bag, reaching inside and pulling out a few pieces of plastic wrapped toast, bacon, and an orange. I unwrapped the toast first and wrinkled my nose slightly at the way the jam I had spread on it made them stick unappetizingly together, but the yummy strawberry scent had me slightly salivating. 

I took a large, crunchy bite out of the first piece and looked around the room curiously. It still looked the same as it had yesterday morning when I left. Bare, white walls. Starchy, uncomfortable blankets. An overcrowded side table, filled with flowers, cards, balloons, and different get-well sweets. Yes, everything definitely still looked the same. Why was it then that everything felt completely different?

Maybe it’s you who is different, a little voice at the back of my head piped up as I took another bite of toast.  

“Is that bacon I smell?” a voice asked and I nearly jumped out of my skin. I glanced towards the door automatically. There was no one there. I turned slowly in my seat, trying to keep my face calm and serene despite the fact that my heart was pounding so fast and so loudly I was sure you could hear it across the otherwise silent room.

My father was sitting up in bed, his face pale, unshaven and tired looking, but alive. 

“Err, yeah, it is,” I told him unsurely, gesturing to the small package on my lap.  

“You didn’t get that from the trolley woman, did you?” he asked, his long nose wrinkling as he glanced over at the breakfast he had been given. 

“No, Greta didn’t give this to me,” I said, my voice shaking slightly. The tension in the air was palpable. I wanted to slash it with a knife or blast a hole in it, just so I could breathe. “I brought it with me.”

He just stared at me blankly, probably wondering who Greta was and where I had been. “Do you want some?” I asked awkwardly.

My father smiled the first genuine smile I’d seen him give in a long time and then sighed. “I would love some,” he said rather sadly. “But the healers say I’m not allowed. Nothing fatty.”

“I’m sure one piece wouldn’t hurt,” I said, smiling my best crooked smile back and trying to look persuasive. “Besides, surely this smashed pile of nutrients they’re feeding you isn’t all that much better for you. Bacon has protein.”

My father chuckled and shook his head, his graying hair falling into his eyes. “I shouldn’t,” he groaned. “I’ve got to learn self-discipline somehow. Start small.”

“Some toast then?” I offered. “That’s carbohydrates and fruit. Should be good enough for you.”

“Maybe just one,” he grinned and I stood up carefully, trying not to fall. My legs felt like jelly. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to walk. So far, things had been good. He was even talking to me normally, like he would talk to Uncle Harry or Uncle George. That had to mean something, right? 

The walk from my chair to his bed was only a few steps, but it felt like an entire ocean lay between us. I could feel his eyes on me as I walked there, but I kept my eyes carefully averted, staring straight at the wall above his head. I didn’t want to know what he thought of me.

“Here you go,” I said, handing him a piece of toast and he took it gratefully, taking a large bite out of it. His eyes closed and he must have been savoring the flavor for it was a few seconds before he took another bite. 

“Thank you,” he said when he had finished it, settling back onto his pillows. “That was good.”

“You’re welcome,” I replied quietly, stepping back from his bedside and returning over to my chair.

“Why don’t you pull your chair up closer?” he asked before I could sit down and I turned around in surprise, shooting him a quizzical look before he patted the bed beside him as if to say come here.

I dragged the chair noisily across the floor, stopping when there was just enough room for me to squeeze past it and sit down. I sat down carefully, tugging at the end of Noel’s dress. I was sure that she would probably yell at me for stretching it out, but it was a chance I was willing to take. I crossed my legs first one way and then the other, trying to get comfortable, but nothing worked. I felt hot around the collar and tugged at the neck of the dress anxiously. Since when was this room so hot? 

“You sure are fidgety today,” my father noted and I let out a strangled chuckle. “Not comfortable in your new sophisticated clothes?” 

“They aren’t mine,” I said quietly, feeling my cheeks flush bright red. “I borrowed them from my friend. She’s into the whole fashion thing.”

My dad laughed, and the sound was oddly comforting, like a lullaby that I hadn’t heard in a long time. 

“Well that’s good,” he replied. “You do look nice though – a lot like your Mum.” 

“You guys talked today, didn’t you,” I said it more as a statement, but he must have heard the question behind it because he ran his hand over his face wearily.

“Yes, we did.”

“You’re friends again.”

“If that’s what she says,” he replied, his voice returning to its hard and bitter tone that I had grown so accustomed to hearing over the past few years. After having heard him being so normal and natural, the change stung even more. 

“You don’t want to be friends?”

“Part of me never wants to have anything to do with her again,” he said so quietly I almost didn’t hear him. He hung his head dejectedly and my heart twinged painfully for him. “But we go back too far not to, don’t we?” his voice grew louder and he sounded like he was trying to convince himself as much, if not more than, he was trying to convince me. 

“There was that whole war thing,” I reminded him and he chuckled.

“Yeah, that whole war thing,” he agreed, gripping the edges of his starched blankets so hard that his fingers went white. “Death sure does bring the two of us together, doesn’t it?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, thoroughly confused. 

“I’ll never forget the first time I kissed your mother,” he said nostalgically and I grinned, remembering this story from all the time I would request he tell it to me as a bedtime story. “We had just gone down into the Chamber of Secrets and come back up with some Basilisk fangs. Your mum had destroyed the horcrux in Hufflepuff’s locket and we ran back upstairs to find your Uncle Harry in the midst of the battle. I don’t even remember what I said, something about the House Elves, and your mum dropped everything and threw herself at me. In the middle of the bloody battle.”

He shook his head and I could see that his pale blue eyes looked slightly watery. Was he crying?

“Everything was fine for a long while – we beat Voldemort and within a few years were married. When you mum told me that she was pregnant with you, I think that was the best day of my life. I remember I jumped up onto the couch, after the initial shock wore off of course. And then you were born and I remember holding you in my arms – you were so small. I swear, I was terrified that I was going to break you. And when Hugo was born a few years later I thought things couldn’t get any better.”

His voice choked off at the end and I couldn’t help myself. I bit my bottom lip as tears welled up in my own eyes and I placed my small hand over his automatically, squeezing it supportively. I heard him take a deep, shuddering breath and then he continued.

“You went off to Hogwarts and I remember thinking about how proud of you I was,” he squeezed my hand back at this point, and I couldn’t stop myself – the tears started pouring down my cheeks. “You were so young and beautiful and smart, Merlin so smart, I didn’t want to let you go. I think that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It was easier with Hugo. After your firstborn goes everything gets easier. But I wanted to run after that train and whisk you back to me. I remember when you wrote home about your first broom lessons. I couldn’t have been happier – your mother was convinced that you would have inherited her Quidditch genes, but I knew you were a natural born Weasley. Quidditch is in your blood.”

Through my tears I smiled up at him and he smiled sadly back at me, squeezing my hand so tight that I thought my hand might break, but I didn’t loosen my grip on his hand either. I don’t think that in that moment there could have been anything in the world that would have made me remove my hand from his.

“But then it happened, right?” I asked, and he nodded slowly and I definitely did see two glistening tears fall down his cheeks.

“Yeah,” he agreed and I tried to swallow the lump that had risen in my throat. “I remember waking up in the hospital here, much like I did a few days ago, and your mother was sitting just where you are now.” I tried not to cringe at the irony, but I think he must have seen my frown because he squeezed my hand again. “I didn’t remember much of what happened at all, just the sound of a blast, a sharp pain in my head, and then everything went black. But your mother was crying and she threw herself at me when I opened my eyes, claiming that she thought I was going to die. She told me that the building I had been chasing my target in had blasted the building to rubble, while I had still been inside of it. But you don’t remember much of that, do you?”

“No,” I replied, shaking my head. I really didn’t. I remembered the accident had occurred in November, about a month before we were to be released for Christmas holidays. I had been in my second year, and was in Transfiguration when I was called out of class. Professor Longbottom told me that my dad had had an accident at work and that he was in St. Mungo’s and that he was in good condition. I remembered crying and going back to class, but I hadn’t really thought much about it until the actual Christmas holidays, when I first saw my dad in person again. He looked horrible – like he himself had been blasted apart and crudely sewn back together. He couldn’t talk well and walked with a limp. I remembered for a long time that I was afraid of him and wouldn’t hug him or kiss him. 

“It was a downward spiral from there,” my father continued. “Your mother tried to encourage me to get on my feet again and take a desk job in the Auror department, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I think I resented her for that – she was encouraging me to fall back through the ranks while she herself was skyrocketing up the corporate ladder. I quit the Auror department all together after a while, unable to stand being looked at with that same pitying smile all the time. George offered me a spot in the shop and your mother practically forced me to take it. She told me that it would help me feel worth something again, but I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t ever worth something.” 

I didn’t even know what to say to that. But I figured that sometimes, the best thing to say was nothing. Sometimes the best thing to do was just listen.

“I thinks that when the resentment really began. If even my wife thought I was worthless, I thought that I really must have been. It was easy to distract myself with other things like beer or television. It got worse as your mum got promoted to the Head of Magical Law Enforcement and when your Uncle Harry became Head Auror. Your mum became unhappy and angry with me for being so depressed all the time – she kept reminding me that I was lucky to be alive – but every time she said that I couldn’t help but think that she resented having such a deadbeat husband. I noticed the way she would stay out all night at times and the way she talked to Justin Finch-Fletchley all the time. I’m not stupid. I knew what was going on. But I tried to ignore it.”

“Ignoring it doesn’t make the problem go away,” I reminded him and he nodded, dragging his hand through his hair. 

“I figured no one wanted me and that no one loved me. I saw you and Merlin, you look so much like her. The way you bite your lip when you are frustrated, sad, or trying not to say something you know will get you in trouble. The way your eyes twinkle when you’re being mischievous. You have the same eyes, the same smile. Even the way you put your hands on your hips and glare is so reminiscent of her. I looked at you and thought that if Hermione, the woman I love so much could do this to me, than you definitely could. It was almost subconscious; I didn’t realize I was doing it at first. The first time I made you cry though, I felt so horrible. I hated myself for it. But the more I thought that you must hate me, the more I resented you for it. It was a vicious cycle.”

“Dad,” I said, struggling to speak over the tight knot that had grown in my throat. “I’ve never hated you. Ever. Even when I’ve wanted to – even when I knew that I had every right to hate you, I didn’t. You’re my father. My only father. No matter how much I hate your behavior and how you treat me, I’ll never hate you.”  

He squeezed my hand so hard I thought I felt the bones of my knuckles grinding together but I squeezed his hand right back. 

“Look at you,” he said, his voice choked with emotion. “You’re seventeen now. Merlin, my little girl is all grown up. And I’ve missed it all. I sit here and hold your hand but you might as well be a stranger for how much I know about you. And it’s all my fault. I pushed you away from me and I’ve missed out on all of the years of your growing up. Bloody hell, I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry.”

Tears were flowing freely down his face now and I realized that this was the first time in my entire life that I’d ever seen my father cry. A strange sense of relief washed over me at the sight of them and I didn’t know what I was doing really as I lifted myself out of my chair and threw my arms around my dad. He pulled me tightly to him, sobbing into my shoulder as I sobbed into his, both of us rocking back and forth in that small, white hospital bed. I sniffled slightly as I realized that this was the first genuine hug I had received from my father in about four years and the thought made me sob all over again.

 He just held my shoulders, his own sobs having died out long before as I cried. I cried for all the times I’d ever thought that I’d hated him and for all the times I’d gone to bed feeling like I didn’t know what I had done to deserve this sort of treatment. I cried for all the times I had previously cried and for all the times I had wanted to cry but couldn’t. Most of all, I cried for all the time I had lost with my father, all the memories that we could have had together but didn’t, and all the love that the two of us had missed out on by being estranged from each other.

I cried until it was physically impossible for me to cry anymore and my sobs turned into sniffles, which eventually turned into hiccups until I was finally silent.

“Are you okay?” my father asked when I had finally calmed down and I sat back from him, still on the edge of the bed, and nodded.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “I feel much better now.”

My face felt raw and my eyes burned and my throat felt like it was on fire, but it was true. I felt lighter, freer. I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I know I’d said I’d felt that way before, but it really was true. It was like there was a giant lead weight in my stomach that had suddenly disintegrated, like I had grown wings and was able to fly. It was a general sense of happiness that I just couldn’t put a name on.

“I’m so so sorry.” My dad brushed away a stray tear that still ran down my cheek with his thumb and pushed a stray strand of hair behind my ear.

“We have a lot of work to do, don’t we?” he asked, sounding rather somber, and looking down at the blankets instead of at my face, as if he was afraid I would say no, that despite all of this.

“Yeah, we do,” I answered, grinning slightly. “I want this to work Dad. I want my father back. I want the man who wanted to snatch me back off that train back and the man who helped me practice Quidditch every summer back. I know he’s still in there.”

I poked his chest for extra effect and he winced.

“I don’t know how much of him is left, Rosie,” my dad answered quietly, staring down at his chest as if willing his former self to just burst forth out of him. “I don’t know if he’ll ever come fully back.”

“You have to at least give him a chance,” I pleaded, gripping his shoulders and forcing him to look at me. “I know that there has been too much between us now to go back to the way we were before. I know that. We have to build a new relationship – start afresh. And the first thing that has to happen is that we have to leave the past in the past. Dwelling on it doesn’t help anything – it only brings us backwards. From now on, I am Rose. Not Hermione. Not Ronald. Rose. And you are my dad. Not my daddy. Not my father. My dad.”

“I think I can agree to that,” he smiled, and this time it reached all the way to his eyes. “So you forgive me for being so horrible to you for all that time?”

“I always have, Dad,” I told him and he wrapped his arms tightly around me again, hugging me for the second time in four years.

I snuggled up closer to him and laid my head on his shoulder, digging my fingers so hard into his back that I thought I felt him wince, but he didn’t seem to mind. I had to admit, that even if he had said it hurt I probably wouldn’t have been able to help myself. Now that I had my dad back, I never wanted to let go.  






 
A/N: Oh my gosh, I have been waiting to post that scene since the very beginning. I hope I did it justice. I know I cried while writing it. And now there's only one more chapter left. I cannot believe this story is coming to an end so soon. 

I could bore you here with explanations as to why this chapter took so long, but I'll just skip that and say thank you so so so so so much to everyone who nominated me at the Dobby's this year. Seriously, I don't even know how to tell you how much that means to me. You all rock my world. Thank you!  

So yes, one chapter left. I'm hurrying to post this before the queue closes, so I'm sorry about grammer/spelling mistakes. I'll fix them when it opens again. In the mean time, look out for the final chapter SEPTEMBER 1ST. Yep, I've set the date. So look for it then. 

Thank you all so much for reading. It would mean a ton to me if you all would please review! Thanks again!

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