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Chapter 4: Cry
I apparated into the front hall, knock-down-drag-out tired, when the nanny came flying at me, red-faced and huffing. I eyed the snappish thirty-something witch, and wondered again how much longer it would be until our usual nanny was back from her holiday. Mrs. Homely was gray-haired, grandmotherly and sweet, and I wasn’t quite sure how this woman could work for the same child-care agency Mrs. Homely did.
“I quit!” she exclaimed, shaking a fist in my face. “That baby hasn’t stopped screaming in hours, she is an absolute terror and I refuse to come back to this! Good night!” With that she stomped out the front door and slammed it shut. I sighed and rubbed the back of my neck as I followed Lottie’s wails up the stairs to her bedroom, wondering how I was going to get to Healer training in the morning, before remembering that the next day was Saturday, and chances were pretty good Rose would watch her for me.
Charlotte was still dressed in her day clothes even though it was ten o’clock and sitting in her crib crying desolately, her breath hiccupping in and out every few seconds. I picked her up, fished the cell phone Rose had insisted we both get after graduation and called her, starting in on Lottie’s nappy while I listened to it ring.
“Hello?” Rose answered, sounding sleepy.
“Hey. You know how horrible Mrs. Homely’s replacement was?” I began.
“Mmm…” she hummed in response, then cut herself off. “Wait, was? What happened?”
“Said Charlotte wouldn’t stop crying and she wouldn’t come back. She even called her a terror!”
“How could anyone call our angel a terror?” I smiled into the phone at her causal comment about “our” baby as I finished with Lottie’s nappy and started changing her into a soft knit sleeper. “Er, your angel.” I frowned. Until we had graduated, she’d done almost as much as I had on a daily basis for my niece, and she loved her as much as I did.
“Our angel.” I corrected, and grimaced down at Charlotte as her cry picked up in intensity as my knuckles brushed her stomach.
“Scorp, is she sick? Her cry doesn’t sound right.” Rose’s concern was palpable through the phone.
“I was just wondering the same thing. She had a dirty nappy and her day clothes still on,” I stared speculatively at her kicking fitfully on the changing table, “I think I’ll see if she’ll eat and maybe that and a clean nappy will make her feel better.”
“‘Kay. Anything else going on?” Rose asked, and I sighed.
“Well, I have training tomorrow, rounds at St. Mungo’s with one of my professors…is there any chance you could keep Lottie? If not I’ll…” I pulled up short. What would I do? I could call the nanny agency, but after this last debacle I was loathe to do it, especially when Mrs. Homely would be back Monday.
“It’s fine, I didn’t have anything unmovable planned for tomorrow.” Rose told me as I carried Charlotte into the kitchen. “Dom was going to come over and help me with some sorting in my closet, the amount of toys I have packed up is crazy, but we can do that Sunday or next week.”
My knees weakened with relief as I pulled a cup of mixed berry baby food from the cupboard and settled Lottie in the highchair. “Thanks. I know it would be harder with her around, but she could hang out over there and you could still smack at the work.” I said, knowing she wouldn’t want to do anything with Lottie, even take her home with her, without my blessing. With anyone else it would put my mind at ease, but I wished Rose would realize that I saw Charlotte as partially hers too at this point and that I trusted her choices.
“Nah. I want some Lottie time anyway. Maybe if she’s feeling better I’ll take her to the park for a while?”
Charlotte wouldn’t stop squirming in her chair and refused to take any of the food, her wails only escalating as I gazed at her in concern.
“She’d love that. Rose, I think I’m going to take her into St. Mungo’s, something’s not right.” I had been on the fence, but once the words were out I knew it was the right thing to do.
“Okay. Can…do you want me to come?” she sounded hesitant, and I shook my head. Always so afraid of over-stepping.
“You don’t have to, I know it’s late. But I would like it.” I said, afraid myself of asking too much of her. Although she’d proved to me over and over again how mature, selfless, caring and understanding she was, I was still painfully aware that raising a baby at seventeen wasn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, and when that baby was not biologically yours…I didn’t want her to feel obligated, but I knew better now than to push her away, too.
“I’ll be there in a minute. I just need to pull some jeans on and let Mom know.” I heard a swish of fabric, and a muffled thump, followed by Rose’s indignant “Ow!” But then she laugh, “Teach me to try and triple-task. Be there in a flash!” and the phone clicked off. A crack sounded down the hall and she rushed into the room and over to Charlotte, quickly picking her up and pressing her lips to her forehead. She turned to me, sweater-coat flying out around her thighs and shifted her slouchy-boot-clad feet on my kitchen floor. “She doesn’t have a fever,” she said, sounding puzzled.
“Huh,” I said, frowning at them. “I’m gonna go throw her hippogriff into her nappy bag, then we can go.” Rose nodded, and I raced up the stairs.
The assessment healer at the front of St. Mungo’s emergency ward said he didn’t think there was anything life threatening going on, and that the wait time was about an hour. Rose spent forty-five minutes pacing around the waiting room with Charlotte, gently rocking and soothing her. She was on the far side of her loop around the room when an elderly wizard sat down heavily across from me, a large towel clamped around his hand. He followed my gaze over to the two girls and chuckled knowingly.
“Still can’t believe you made another human being, eh? I remember the feeling. After my wife had our first son…I was so in awe.”
I smiled weakly, and gathered my scattered wits to try and form some sort of coherent reply that would set the aged wizard straight. But he wasn’t done talking.
“There’s something about watching a mother with her baby isn’t there? Take those two,” he lifted his toweled hand with his other hand and pointed shakily at Rose and Lottie, “the bond you can tell they have. The way she comforts her, how the baby reacts. That’s not something you get without some kind of natural maternal connection.”
The healer called out a name, and the wizard got up. “Take care of those girls, now. Good night.” And with that he walked off just as Rose meandered over.
“Did you know him?” she asked.
“Nope, but he sure liked to talk.” I told her, watching her hold Charlotte with fresh eyes.
As the minutes ticked by a thought started niggling in the back of my head. “Maybe I should floo Dad.” I said quietly, testing the words. Rose glanced up in surprise and lifted Lottie up from where she’d been laying on her lap while she made faces at her.
“I’m sure he’d like that…” she said hesitantly, eyebrows knit together.
“He is her grandfather, after all. It’s not like letting him know would mean giving up custody or anything. He can be in her life without being her guardian, right?”
“Yeah,” Rose said, eyes soft.
“What do you mean, what?”
“Why’re you looking at me like that?” I clarified.
“I’m proud of you.” She smiled, and kissed Lottie’s fist. “If you want to go, I’ll stay here incase they call.”
“Okay…” I slowly got up, not quite sure how I had come to be in this situation. I could only imagine what Dad was going to say. I tossed the floo powder into the fire place and said “Malfoy Manor,”, sticking my head in resignedly.
“Scorpius?” Dad said, almost dropping his book. He was sitting in a leather chair in front of the fireplace.
“Hey,” I said sheepishly. “Something is wrong with Lottie, so we’ve taken her to St. Mungo’s. I thought you might like to…know or come down or whatever.”
“Oh.” He looked taken aback, but put his book down and started to get out of his chair. “I’ll be there in a minute, if you’re sure.”
“Yeah, we’re sure.” I said, hoping if I spoke in the plural enough he wouldn’t freak when he saw Rose.
When I got back to the waiting room moments late my girls were gone. “Mr. Malfoy?” a young assistant healer in puke green robes was squinting at me through tiny rectangular glasses. “Your…girlfriend…” his voice rose questioningly before he continued “asked me to wait for you and bring you back when you returned.”
“Thank you.” I said, speed walking for the double doors. He lead me down a hall and around a corner before walking into a small room Lottie was lying on a table by the wall, Rose hovering at the end while a plump healer with a long salt-and-pepper braid down her back and plum covered robes waved her wand over Lottie.
“She seems to have several broken ribs,” the healer told Rose, not seeing me. “Has she been roughly handled? Most babies with broken bones have been abused.”
Rose looked at her in shock. “Scorpius treats her with kid gloves. He thinks she hung the stars. And last time I saw her she was bright-eyed and bubbling. She was with a nanny today, and she was like this when Scorpius got home.” Her eyes met mine when she spoke my name and the healer turned around.
“I take it you’re the baby’s father?” she said, eyeing me up and down.
“Uncle. My sister and brother-in-law passed when she was a month old. The nanny was a sub, our usually nanny has been on holiday and the agency provided a replacement, she’s been rather temperamental with me, but the agency is reputable. I figured she liked kids better than adults. I guess not.”
“Hump. This will need to be reported to the agency as well as the proper officials.” The healer eyed me distrustfully.
“But will Lottie be okay?” Rose asked, stroking her hair and gazing at her softly. I wasn’t the only one who thought she hung the stars.
“I’d rather like to know that myself.” My father stormed into the room, taking in Rose’s hands splayed protectively over his granddaughter before turning to the healer.
“Broken ribs.” I told him shortly. “Seems the substitute nanny isn’t quite as careful as she should be.”
Dad glowered, then turned back to my girlfriend and baby. “And you a-” he began sharply, before cutting himself off. “Forgive me. I’m Draco Malfoy, you must be Rose.”
Rose smiled serenely at him and nodded, disentangling one hand from Lottie’s fingers and extending it towards my father. He stared at it for a minute before shaking it firmly and bending over Lottie’s head. Rose stepped back, but let Lottie keep her other hand. I walked up behind Rose and wrapped my arms around her. “You are amazing.” I murmured. “I know” She said smugly.
“I love you.”
“And I love you too.”
“Hello Charlotte. I’m your grandpa.” Dad was actually cooing. The healer loudly cleared her throat.
“I can fix her ribs or you lot can watch her cry for another hour. Which will it be?”
Dad stepped back, and Rose pulled her finger out of Lottie’s fist. “Does someone want to hold her?” Everyone was looking at me, but I nudged Rose forward. “She needs you.” She gathered her up gently and held her head against her chest, holding her like a newborn.
It only took a minute, but I thought Charlotte would make the whole lot of us deaf with her surging wail. And then she was silent, with only one last hiccup. She nuzzled into Rose and shut her eyes; within moments her breathing evened out.
“We’ll need to keep her overnight in the pediatric ward for observation. Her guardian can stay, but no one else.” I opened my mouth to argue with her, tell her that Rose was as much her parent as I was, but Rose was already nodding along. “Do you want to carry her up?” the healer asked her, and she nodded again.
We made a silent party, trooping soundlessly through the hospital. Rose followed the healer into a room decked out in mid-night blue and covered in twinkling stars and laid Lottie into the crib. As she backed away, Lottie grabbed her hair and shirt, pulling her back. “Momma,” she sobbed, clutching tightly.
The healer backed out of the room, warning us “It’s late, the visitors need to leave soon. The wards on the room will monitor her.”
Dad eyed the three of us. “I’m going to get some tea.” He said decisively. “Scorpius, Rose, can I get you anything?”
“No.” we chorused in unison.
As he quietly shut the door Rose moved, lifting Lottie back out of her crib and settling into the rocking chair. “I’m right here baby. I’m right here.” When she spoke I realized she was crying.
“Hey,” I said, crouching down next to them. “What’s wrong? She’s going to be fine.”
“Scorp, I love you. But I love her too, and she’s already lost one mother. Maybe now that we’re not in school together I shouldn’t spend so much time with her. What if…”
“What if nothing.” Trust Rose to second guess us, and worry about Lottie, all in the same breath. “You and I…and Lottie, we’re forever. We’re always. You’re not going to loose her and she’s not going to loose you, because I’m never letting either one of you go, okay? And I’m going to go talk to the healer about you staying, if you want.”
“It’s okay.” She offered me a watery smile, tracing circles on our baby’s arm as she once again slept peacefully. “I’ll go get some sleep and then you can rest tomorrow. No need to make a scene.” She stood and handed me Lottie carefully, but she still woke up. “Dada,” was all she lisped out before going back to sleep.
“Always.” I told her, pulling her close with my free arm and kissing her. She smiled against my lips. “Always.” She agreed. Dad cleared his throat from the doorway, tea steaming in one hand. Rose blushed, pressed a kiss to Lottie’s head and walked out the door.
“Goodnight Rose,” I head my father say.
“Good night Mr. Malfoy.”
“Please, call me Dad. I have a feeling we should both start getting used to it.”
She blushed harder and dipped her head in acknowledgement before rounding the corner.
“That was nice of you.” I said, not quite sure I trusted this new version of my father.
“Son, I realized when you flooed me tonight that this might be my one and only chance to be a part of your life and my granddaughter’s life. If that means a Weasley calling me Dad, so be it. It’s worth it to watch my granddaughter call her Momma and you Dada.” He brushed a hand over the blond curls of the little girl in question.
“Oh.” I didn’t know what to say to that. But if he could make an effort, so could I. “Would you like to go with us to the park the next time I have a day off healer training?”
“I’d love to.”
The healer poked her head in. “Time to go sir.”
Dad nodded and headed for the door. “And son?”
“Yes Dad?” I said, looking up from Lottie’s sleeping form.
“I meant it when I told Rose I thought we should get used to her calling me Dad. That girl is a keeper. Don’t wish-wash around and let her get away.”
“I know she is. Don’t worry, she’s not going anywhere Lottie and I aren’t going too, if I have anything to say about it.”
“Good.” And with that, Dad was gone.
If tonight had done anything, it had reminded me how much I loved both the girls in my life, and how sure I was that they both needed to stay in it. Permanently and together.
I needed Rose and Lottie.
Lottie didn’t just need me, she needed Rose too.
And Rose needed us.
The three of us had been thrown together out of desperation and death, and we were going to stay together with love. We could create a new life, not the life Aphrodite had hoped for for her daughter, but a life full of light and laughter just the same. It was possible, within reach, even.
And that meant one thing.
“What do you think, Charlotte? You want to go ring shopping with me?”
AN: Sorry it's been so long! Yes, he's thinking of rings!! Hehe :D
Let me know what you think of Lottie calling her Momma. I hadn't planned that for another few chapters, but Rose was putting her down and before I knew it Lottie was crying for her mummy :p This is what happens when authors start listening to blond almost-one-year-olds, lol!