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Chapter 25: Acceptance
"Not exactly the best Christmas Eve ever," said Zander as he plopped down beside Olivia and reached over to wipe blood off of her busted lip.
"It was quite memorable though," she attempted a feeble smile. Appreciating her even more in that moment, Zander pulled her toward him. They were sitting on Scorpius' bed, just the two of them, letting the adults figure everything out.
Every day he spent with her, Zander felt stronger about the girl in his arms. He was so flighty and wild that he needed someone like Olivia. She was his steady rock. She kept his feet on the ground, which was not something that was easily accomplished. They were such a complimentary pair.
"I can't imagine," said Olivia with a shake of her head, "if we hadn't gotten here in time. If something had happened to Rose," then added as an afterthought, "or Scorpius."
Not for the first time, Zander replayed the scene in his head. When they apparated into the Manor, they appeared in Draco's study. Knowing exactly where he was going, Zander had charged toward the largest sitting room in the house. When he had burst through the large double doors his heart stopped.
His best mate; his brother in all ways except blood, was closing his eyes just as Lestrange raised his wand. Zander hadn't even thought before he acted (which was normal for him). He knew there was a real possibility of the curse hitting him instead of Scorpius, but that was a chance he had to take.
Once he realized that both he and Scorpius were alive, he raised his head automatically toward Rose, having heard her scream, and he grinned at her. The look on her face morphed from horror to confusion to relief all within an instant.
Deciding to push those memories from his thoughts, he sighed and focused instead on Olivia, who was looking at him with a frown. Before she could ask what was on his mind, Hugo Weasley came into the room, "Mum wants to see you downstairs," he told them.
Hand in hand, they made their way back to the room in which the fight had taken place. Everything was cleaned up, and most of the people were gone. The few who remained were Ron, Hermione, Scorpius, Rose, and Hugo had joined them as soon as it was safe.
"Are you ready? Let's go then," said Hermione at once.
"Excuse me?" asked Olivia in confusion.
Hermione smiled at them, "You're spending Christmas Eve with us and I won't hear a word otherwise. Olivia, darling, you were supposed to spend the holidays with our family anyway, and Zander, you are more than welcome."
A strange sort of swelling filled Zander's heart and he felt more confused than he ever had before. Painfully slow over the past few years he had been going through a change, and it felt so weird for Zander to be experiencing these new emotions. His list of people he loved had always been so short: his mum, his gran, Scorpius….and then Rose….and then Albus and Grace…and then Olivia…suddenly his list was expanding to include so many strange new people. People he had just met.
Hermione pulled him into a hug and Zander felt like she was his own mother. Without hesitation, he kissed her cheek and she pulled back, her slim lips forming an 'O' and she gingerly touched the place on her cheek where his lips had just been. Then she smiled at him, and said, "Rose is lucky to have you," Hermione didn't say it, but in that moment she knew that Zander was to Rose what Harry was to her.
Granted, Harry Potter and Zander Goyle were nothing alike, but that relationship was just the same. They loved each other, would die for each other, fought for each other, and Hermione was glad that her daughter had such a friend.
"I'm the lucky one," said Zander. He reached for Olivia, who was grinning at him, and they spun on the spot with a crack! Rose and Scorpius were waiting for them at the Weasley home. "Where is everyone else?" Zander asked.
Rose broke into a huge smile that automatically made Zander fearful; it was her devious smile. "They're at the Burrow."
"What the hell is the burrow?" asked Zander.
"Well," said Rose as she linked her arm through Zander's, "I'll show you," she dragged him to the fireplace, shoved him inside with a handful of floo powder. Knowing exactly what to do, Zander said "the Burrow!" and was gone.
Immediately, he was pulled into an embrace and had to fight the urge to push the person off of him. It was a man he didn't even recognize. "It's so great to finally meet you!" the man boomed. He had long red hair that was thinning and pulled back into a ponytail.
"I would say the same, but I'm afraid I don't know who you are," said Zander shortly.
"Oh, that's right," the man laughed and released Zander, offering him a handshake instead, which Zander gratefully took, "I'm Bill Weasley, you might know my children; Victoire, Dominique and Louis."
"Oh bloody hell!" Zander snatched his hand back.
"It's okay," said Dom, who had just come up to stand beside her father. They didn't look similar at all except for the shape of their faces. "I'm not mad at you anymore about anything, Goyle. Not after what James told me." She looked almost sad to not be angry at him. Bill looked between the two of them in confusion, then shrugged and went on his way toward the kitchen.
"Where the hell are we?"
Dom laughed, "My family's house. The Burrow is the home of my Grandma Molly and Granddad Arthur."
"That bint!" said Zander with fake venom, "Rose just sent me off into the lion's den without any warning!"as if on cue, Rose stepped out of the fireplace, dusting herself off, quickly followed by Olivia and finally Scorpius. "You are an evil, evil witch!"
Rose laughed and took a bow. Nobody had talked much about the events that had taken place that evening, but they all knew it was coming. It was still the early evening, and most of the family hadn't even arrived yet. Harry, Ron, and Teddy had gone to the Ministry and returned the Death Eaters to Azkaban.
Scorpius was worried about his mother, but Draco had taken her to the hospital and assured everyone that she would be just fine. "But why did Rose go to the mansion in the first place?" Grandma Molly asked.
"I got a letter that I thought was from Scorpius," said Rose, motioning to her boyfriend. With the crazy events that had taken place over the past few days, nobody seemed to care at all that Scorpius Malfoy was Rose's boyfriend.
George had expressed his disappointment at missing Ron's reaction, but aside from that, no comments were made. "It wasn't from me," said Scorpius firmly, "I suspect that my father sent it."
"I'll kill him," growled Hugo. "How could he do that to my sister?"
"You have to understand," said Rose, "if someone was going to kill me if you didn't kill Scorpius, what would you do?"
"I would kill Scorpius," said Hugo without hesitation.
"Exactly," Rose concluded, "That's the same conclusion that Draco came to. I can't hold it against him for trying to protect his family."
"Well I can," said Scorpius, balling his hands into fists under the table they were seated at.
"However," said a silky voice as Draco Malfoy entered the room, "it was not I who sent that letter."
"Well it sure as hell wasn't-"
"Your mother sent that letter," Draco paused, letting that new information sink in for Scorpius as he turned to Rose, "and she would like to see you. They are hoping to release her from the hospital some time tomorrow, and she wants to speak with you before then."
Without hesitation, Rose stood up, but Scorpius grabbed hold of her arm, "No," he all but growled, "there is no way I am letting Rose anywhere near her after she did this. I knew she had a problem with Rose's parentage, but that was too far. She wanted Rose dead, Father."
"She never wanted Rose dead," replied Draco, who was exceptionally calm, "she was doing what she mistakenly thought was best. She should've let me handle the situation. But alas, that argument is for another time. Rose, would you like to come with me to St. Mungos?"
Rose nodded and followed Draco Malfoy out of the house. Scorpius watched from a window as they walked just out of the security bounds around the house and disapparated. When they arrived, Rose let Draco lead her to the correct room. "Thank you for coming," Astoria said the moment they stepped into the room.
"Of course," said Rose. She was trying very hard to think of this objectively. Draco made a quiet exit, leaving the two women alone. Astoria looked exhausted, but no less beautiful than normal. She was lying weakly in a hospital bed with the blanket pulled up to her shoulders. Slowly, she pulled herself so that she was sitting up and the blanket pooled around her waist, revealing the hospital gown she was dressed in.
"When we arrived at the Manor," she began without preamble, "the Death Eaters told us that they had given Scarlett a potion that would steal her soul and her magical abilities. And all they wanted in exchange for the antidote was your life." Rose didn't say anything, just stared at her blankly. "Draco had done it before, put the lives of others in danger to save his family, I thought that I could be as strong as him.
"I forged the letter in Scorpius' handwriting because I knew that he wouldn't do it himself. My son loves you, and love blinds people. I'm a mother and a wife, it's my duty to protect my family anyway that I can. At least, that's what I told myself," to Rose's horror, Astoria was starting to cry. "I talked myself into it, really. I told myself that the lives of my family were worth so much more than the life of….of an insignificant half-blood," her voice broke on the last word, but she continued, "but then, when I saw you enter the sitting room, and I heard Vance talking about you like you weren't even human, just an object for him to get amusement from, I realized my mistake.
"You were never insignificant to me, and your blood status never really mattered. When Scorpius looked at you, I realized that he had no intention of letting you get hurt. I realized that instead of sacrificing you to keep him safe, I was going to lose you both. And it would be no less than what I would deserve. After what I'd done, after luring you to your death, I would deserve to lose my son, and my daughter, and the girl who was like a daughter to me. It wasn't until I saw your face that I let myself believe what I'd known all along….I love as if you were my own, Rose.
"You probably don't believe me. Hell, I wouldn't believe me if I were you, but it's the truth. Even though it took such terrible circumstances for me to realize this and to get over my former prejudices, I'm glad that I know now. I'm so sorry, Rose, so sorry if it's too late and you can never forgive me. I know that Scorpius will never forgive me, and I deserve that, but I needed to explain myself to you. When I saw Scabier shoot that curse at you, my first thought was 'anyone but her,' and I jumped in front of you.
"Because you are not some insignificant half-blood. Not to me, not anymore, not ever again. Draco and I were married because both of our parents demanded we marry a pureblood. There weren't many options, and then I met Draco. It was a stroke of fate that I ended up loving him the way I do. He is a good wizard, a good man, and I don't think anyone else could have made me as happy as he does. But what you and Scorpius have is different. What attracted you to each other initially wasn't blood status, but your hearts. Sometimes I think that perhaps the two of you have a stronger bond, a stronger love, than Draco and I.
"Scorpius and you would not have gone behind each other's backs, you would not have betrayed each other the way I betrayed Draco and the rest of my family. I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing because I didn't think I would be able to endure losing them, but I didn't realize that I wouldn't be able to endure losing you either."
Astoria opened her mouth to continue, but Rose had unexpectedly flung herself onto Astoria, both of them weeping and holding each other. As much as Rose felt betrayed, she understood. Even if she wouldn't have made the same decision, even if she didn't agree with it in any way, she felt like she knew Astoria's reasons, and Rose could forgive her. Because there were people in Rose's life for whom she would do just about anything.
"I'll talk with Scorpius," Rose whispered, "he'll forgive you."
"Rose? I was under the impression that you wanted to spend Christmas Eve with your family," Draco was standing in the doorway of the hospital room looking highly uncomfortable at the display of emotion before him.
"Yes, I should really be getting back home," wiping the tears from her face she said to Astoria, "For what it's worth, I forgive you, and I feel like you are a part of my family as well."
They smiled at each other and Draco turned to usher Rose out of the room, but Astoria said, "Wait!" they turned back toward her, "Draco, darling, please stay at the Weasley's home this evening."
"But it's Christmas Eve, love, and I want to spend it with you."
"I know what day it is, and I want you to stay with Rose's family. Please."
He sighed, "Alright," he crossed the room and kissed her forehead gently. Rose looked the other way, feeling as though she were intruding on a private moment. Draco returned to her side and the two of them went back to the Burrow.
Things were ten times as crazy as when they had left. Rose's entire family had arrived and the party was in full swing, just as it was every year. Draco looked highly uncomfortable, but Rose gave him a slight nudge toward where Harry and Ron were standing and Draco walked toward them timidly.
That was when Rose spotted Grace and Olivia chatting quietly in a corner. "What's going on?" she asked when she reached them.
"Well," said Olivia, "Grace and I have been talking, and I'm not really mad her for what happened between Albus and me. She told me that they had kissed while he and I were still dating, and I'm shockingly okay with that. I never felt with Albus what I feel with Zander, and if Albus feels that same way about Grace, how can I be mad at them?"
"Wow," said Rose.
"I know," agreed Grace with a playful laugh, "Who would have thought that our little Olivia could be so mature and insightful?" Olivia made a face and the girls laughed. "Where are the boys anyway?"
"Oh you know them," said Rose with an absent wave of her hand, "probably getting into some kind of trouble."
"Ugh, after the past few days you've had, Rosie, let's hope not!" said Olivia.
Everyone was quick to hug Rose and ask her how she was doing, and to assure her that everything was over. "Mum!" said Rose, catching sight of a bushy head of brown hair moving in the opposite direction. Hermione Weasley turned automatically toward the sound of her daughter's voice and went to her. "Are the Death Eaters back in prison?"
"Yes," said Hermione, her brown eyes sparking with fury at the mention of the Death Eaters, "your uncle Harry isn't very happy. He worked for years to get the Ministry to agree to take away some of the dementors guarding the prison. Dementors are foul evil creatures and he didn't believe in letting them guard the wizard prison. However, it seems that they are necessary, because without them, the prisoners have a much higher chance of escape, obviously."
"I hate dementors," said Grace with a shiver. The others nodded in agreement.
Teddy Lupin came up behind Rose and lifted her off of her feet spinning her around with a laugh saying, "And we all thought James was the rebel of our family!"
After everyone settled down, they began exchanging presents. Due to the large number of occupants in the expanded Burrow, Rose was sitting on Scorpius' lap, with Draco to their right and Zander on their left. Everyone received at least one present, even those who were unexpected visitors.
Rose didn't have as much trouble picking out a Christmas present for Scorpius as she did with picking out his anniversary present. As a matter of fact, she had an over abundance of ideas so she ended up giving him a random assortment of things.
A couple of new books he had been wanting, WWW products, and his personal favorite, an extensive family tree. If you went back far enough, he and Rose were related, so their family trees came together at one point. She had scribbled a handwritten note on the back of the parchment, "Just like it did before, the Malfoy and Weasley family trees are coming together again." He smiled as looked around the room and realized how right she was.
From Rose's parents, Scorpius didn't expect to receive anything, but was pleasantly surprised when a wrapped box was handed to him and Ron said sincerely, "That's from Mione and me."
After a quick, "Thank you," Scorpius tore it open to find a broom servicing kit. "Wow, you'll love that," said Harry as he leaned over to see what Scorpius had gotten, "I had one when I was at Hogwarts and it really came in handy."
Scorpius had given Ron a box of chocolate cauldrons, and Hermione a wizarding cookbook. "I don't know if having the recipe right in front of her will help or not," Ron's statement was rewarded with Hermione's elbow in his ribs, "I don't know how she did so well in potions in class when she's such a rubbish cook." He was smiling fondly at his wife who was now blushing, but everyone laughed good naturedly.
Even though Hugo had not gotten anything for Scorpius, Scorpius had a gift for Hugo. It was a new pair of Keeper gloves. Grudgingly, Hugo thanked him and Rose beamed. This had been going so much better than she had dared to hope it would.
Teddy and Victoire liked Scorpius very much. Especially Teddy. They got along well, and spent most of the night talking to each other. With his big mouth, James had told everyone most of what he had seen in the pensieve, leaving out any involvement of the Dragon Club, since it was still a Hogwarts secret.
Rose was concerned about how Olivia was going to deal with Zander keeping secrets from her the way Albus used to, but thought that maybe Olivia wouldn't even notice since they weren't in the same house.
After almost everyone had left, Scorpius took Rose by the hand and led her outside. They could still hear a lot of chatter from inside the house, but it was like they were in their own little world. "I wanted to give you your present in private," he told her, sounding almost embarrassed.
"Oh dear Merlin, is it something terribly inappropriate?" she asked in a tone that was a mixture of amusement, teasing, hope, and embarrassment.
"No, nothing like that," he assured her quietly. He pulled a ring box from his pocket and said quickly, "Don't freak out, I'm not proposing…at least, not yet," he grinned down at her and opened the ring box. It was a plain silver band with two stones in the center. One was an emerald and the other a ruby.
The engraving inside of the band read simply, "Scorpius & Rose."
"I love it," she whispered, "Thank you."
He took it out of the box and slid it onto the middle finger of her left hand. "Merry Christmas, Rose."
"Merry Christmas, Scorpius," she stood up on the tips of her toes to kiss him.
All in all, it had not been the best Christmas Eve ever, but it did have the perfect ending.
A/N: Sorry it took so long to update, lots of things have come up recently that have kept me from being able to update! I plan on writing a few more chapters and then maybe a sequel? What do you all think? Let me know!