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Chapter 35: Epilogue - Wounds
Author's Note: And the final chapter is here! I can't believe this story is coming to a close.
Thank you so much to everyone who followed this story so closely over the past year! It really means the world to me. And thank you SO MUCH to everyone who voted and nominated this story for awards over the past year. Over the year it has accumulated the awards:
2012 Dobby Award - Best Mystery
2012 Golden Snitches - Best Plot Twist Runner-Up
2012 Keckers Awards - Best Chaptered Story
Again, thank you so much! And I really hope everyone enjoys this chapter. I did my absolute best to make sure it is satisfying and fulfilling to everyone who loves Ted and Rose. I must say this though, this is not a fairytale. Just a gentle reminder. It's not a fairytale. It's not perfectly happy, but there is hope and it's bittersweet, in my opinion. I tried to find the perfect balance, so please do share your opinion.
I really hope you enjoy it! And thank you again to everyone! :)
It was a few weeks later when Rose and I were having dinner in the living room of my flat - a picnic, we liked to jokingly call it. The evening was approaching, and we were having our normal evening date together. We didn't have a date every night, but it felt like we did, and we both loved it. I cooked while she changed a few things up in my flat - well, I should say our flat now. She's officially moved in, and I never really had any preference as to the decor, so I've let her take full reign of the place.
It was the first day in which Rose wasn't busy with other family things in a while, and it was the first day I didn't have physical therapy for my arm in a long time. So we had a great day painting, rearranging furniture, and I split off to do the cooking. We were helping the food onto our plates on the floor of the living room, sitting on a blanket, when I ran into the kitchen to grab the wine.
Walking back into the living room with two wine glasses in my good hand with the bottle tucked against my side. I stopped dead in my tracks. Rose stood in the middle of the living room, holding onto herself and looking desperately scared. She was shaking, trying to hold back her tears. Immediately I set down the glasses and the wine bottle. My mind began to race. What could possibly be wrong now?
Things had been so perfect, and I immediately thought the worst. Rose and I had watched Peakes get the Kiss last week, but what could have gone wrong?
Scared, I ran to her, taking her into my arms where she began to sob. "Rosie, Rosie, what's wrong?" I asked in fear.
I only then realized the room was ablaze with light. We had turned off the lights and had intended to light some candles. The candles remained unlit, and instead all the lights were once again on.
"N-Nothing," she choked out.
"That's a lie," I said, trying to chuckle.
"Please don't think I-I'm...Please don't think I'm a baby or anything."
"I'll never think that," I encouraged her.
"It was dark," she whispered painfully. "S-So dark, and I...I panicked. I don't know why. I just panicked. I'm sorry, Teddy!"
"Shhh," I consoled, taking a step back to hold her at arm's length. Was she really upset about being alone in the dark? Was she scared of the dark? "Don't apologize. At all. Rosie, were you scared of the dark?"
She pursed her lips, looking at me as if I was judging her, and with her tears seeping between her lips, she nodded. "Yes. Yes, I was. I am."
"All the time?" I asked, for this was new information to me.
"A-All the time," she hiccuped.
Why had I not known? We had slept in the same bed together for weeks now. Since I had left St. Mungo's, I had shared every night with Rose. I had been with her in the dark. How had I not known?
"Rose, I've been with you. How...Why didn't I know?"
"B-Because," she said with a cry and a roll of her shoulders. "You were exactly that. You were with me. I was braver then. Or I tried to be, at least. It didn't matter because you were there and I knew you would protect me. You wouldn't let anything happen to me. But I was alone just now...And I just panicked. I'm sorry, Teddy."
"Shhh," I soothed once again. Stroking her arm with, I coaxed her to the ground. She curled into a ball on the blanket we had laid out, and I went to fetch the wine glasses and wine bottle again. I struggled briefly, working with my torso to secure the bottle of wine against my forearm and my stomach before I grabbed the two wine glasses by the stems and held them between my fingers. I plopped down next to her, set down the wine glasses, and then uncorked the bottle with my teeth. I was surprising myself every day; I was managing. It wasn't always the prettiest of actions or very civilized, but I was getting things done.
I poured her a glass and pushed it into her hands, which she graciously accepted and began to gingerly sip at.
"You don't have to be sorry," I encouraged. "We all get scared. Tell me why you're afraid of the dark."
It took her a moment, my brave Rose, but finally she continued. "I just am...Ever since Azkaban. The dark...It was where all that bad happened. The dementors, the screaming of the mad inmates. I can't handle it. I just can't."
"Rose, why hadn't you said anything?!" I asked, gasping. I didn't want her to be scared. I knew she was still recovering. Of course I knew that, and I always paid careful attention to it. She always seemed to be all smiles, and we were always having a great time now. It didn't occur to me that there could have been something going on beneath the surface. How rude of me to not even ask.
I thought I knew Rose perfectly. Back to front. How could this have gone unnoticed to me? I felt awful. Like an awful boyfriend, and we already began our entire relationship on a lie.
Not it all dawned on me. It had always been there. She had just used my arm to divert her fears and all that was bothering her. I should have noticed how she would flinch every time I would shut off the lights before climbing into bed. I should have noticed how my flat was degrees warmer ever since she moved in because she likes to keep it warm; the cold terrified her now. There were so many little things. How had I not known?
"Because!" she groaned. "I didn't want you to worry. It was pointless. You were always there, and that was enough! There was no need for me to worry you, a-and we've been having so much fun! I am able to live so happily with you, Teddy, and I love it. I didn't want to tell you because, when I was with you, I could just forget about that part of me...That part of me that hasn't mentally healed from Azkaban. And you have your arm, and everything you went through at the Wizengamot for me, and it just wasn't my place to give you another burden."
"Rosie," I said sternly, holding her chin between two fingers and forcing her to make eye contact with me. "Don't think like that. Your thoughts, feelings, your fears, and your happiness is not a burden for me to bear. It is something I would gladly take on because I love you. It's not a burden because we're supposed to share these things. You don't have to worry about how I'm coping to share your fears with me, a-and you didn't want to tell me because of my arm?"
"I just didn't want to bother you with something so small when you have other, bigger, more important things that you're dealing with right now," she cried.
"Stop thinking like this," I said, kissing her cheek once and pulling back again. "My arm is miniscule. It is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Rosie, I'm paralyzed. You went to Azkaban. Don't you think for one minute that my arm is more important than what Azkaban did to you, and I'm sorry I didn't ever ask. I just...It didn't occur to me, Rose, and I'm sorry about that. But please. You have to start telling me these things."
She just nodded and, abandoning her glass of wine, she crawled into my lap and held onto me tightly. While she cried, I rocked her back and forth. I debated whether or not I wanted to make her remember what else she feared due to Azkaban, or if I should save that for another time. So for now, I just smoothed down her hair and kissed her cheek.
"We don't have to turn the lights off, you know," I commented. "We can leave them on. Even at night."
She shook her head against me. "I won't make us sleep with the lights on."
"But, Rose, if it will help, we can do it," I said.
"No, Ted," she whispered. "Really, it's fine. When you're there, everything seems to be okay. I'm not scared when I'm with you. It's like...I know you'll always be there to protect me."
I actually chuckled and smiled at that, leaving a kiss on the top of her head. "Of course I will be. I'm your boyfriend, and I love you more than anything. I will always protect you."
"I love you, Teddy," she breathed in an angelic voice as she moved in my lap.
She wrapped her arms around my neck and looked to me. I wiped the tears from her cheeks, our foreheads pressed to each otherís. Tenderly I began to kiss her, moving my mouth slowly against hers. She responded quickly, pulling herself tightly against me and sending her hands into my hair. When her mouth opened up to me, I could taste the wine on her tongue. One of her hands moved down my still arm and to the hem of my shirt, where her fingers began to inch their way under my shirt. Passion coursed through our veins, a fire igniting with her touch and our hearts beating out a loving hymn for one another.
In one fluid motion, I wrapped my arm about her waist and laid her down on the blanket. Our bodies rocked back and forth as we worked to free the other of their shirt. Rose threw mine aside, and I briefly struggled pull hers off with my one arm. Finally, I did so and threw it aside. As Rose rolled onto her back once more, my paralyzed arm became trapped under her back. But this didn't bother me. Not in the slightest. It didn't make a difference to me if I couldn't feel it or move it.
I moved to kiss her neck, moving slowly and passionately. As Rose's lips were freed of mine, she gasped out into the living room, pulling at my hair. "What about dinner?"
It wasn't a notion to stop; I could tell that much. Her panting and talented fingers suggested differently: that she wanted us to continue by all means.
"Forget about dinner," I panted against her collar bone.
Rose and I both knew what tonight would hold for us. Tonight would be the night we finally make love. We never did that while I was impersonating Malfoy, and after everything involving the case, we had started anew. We both knew we were in love, and Rose quickly moved in with me, but we took our physical relationship slowly. Tonight would be the night, and now that we were down to the removing of clothing part, I didn't care that we hadn't eaten dinner. I could care less. We could eat after. Or not at all. It didn't matter to me, in all honestly.
"Gladly," she breathed into my ear, kissing the skin beneath it.
She let out a pleased giggle, and I knew my Rose was back. She moved talentedly and pleasurably beneath me until I had to grunt against her throat. "Rosie, youíre on my hand."
"No, I'm not," she said carelessly, continuing to kiss my chest. "Your hand is in my hair."
"No, it's not," I weakly argued. "I can feel it. It's numb; you're lying on it."
"Teddy," she said sternly, "it's in my hair."
"Not that one, the - "
Then I stopped mid-sentence. Rose and I stopped kissing. We finally looked at one another, our eyes wide as we both realized what had just happened. Finally, I breathed out the rest of that sentence that was hanging in the air between us. "My other hand..."
"You can feel it?!" Rose asked, startled, and she quickly crawled out from under me. We both looked to my right hand in awe, as if it would move of its own accord.
"I-I can feel it..." I breathed.
And I did. I could feel the faintest, numbing, tingling sensation running through my fingers. It was weak, but it was there nonetheless. I knew I had the potential to gain mobility back in my right arm and hand, but after weeks of useless physical therapy, I had given up and was just trying to learn how to live with my arm.
Rose smiled brightly and eagerly sat up. "Try moving it!"
I looked at it, and I tried. I did my best. I watched my hand, still limp, and begged for it to move, but it just lay there motionlessly. I finally shook my head, and Rose was the positive one this time. "That's okay though, Teddy! You can feel it! That's the first step!"
"I know," I said, grinning. "I know! It's great."
"Here," she said brightly, and she scooped my hand into her grasp. She opened my palm up wide and stroked my skin. "Can you feel this?"
"Faintly," I responded with a smile, watching Rose move with my hand.
She lifted it to her lips and planted a kiss there in the middle of my palm, and the warmest sensation I had ever felt ignited in my skin there. It shot through my finger tips and up my arm. It warmed me from the inside out, and I shimmied with pleasure. "I felt that."
She smiled and kissed the tip of every finger in return, finally holding it against her heart. Her smile was bright, and it warmed me from the inside out. With my cheeks stinging from my smile, I leaned forward and closed the gap between us, kissing her with everything I have.
Rose is still the bravest woman I know. Some of her experiences may have left lasting scars, but who wouldn't be changed after what she has gone through?
Some days are rough, some more so than others, but every now and then there is a day when things are almost normal. Rose will smile, she will laugh the way she used to, she'll cling to my side because she loves me and is proud that I am hers. Not because she is trembling with fear or with her memories of a worse time.
Some nights she will sleep it all the way through, snuggling against my side, but always drowning in her blankets. Even when it causes both of us to sweat. She still can't tolerate the cold. In the winter, we go to Egypt or to a beach somewhere to get away from the cold because it terrifies her so greatly. Even if the day is just a little bit chilly, she closes the windows and starts a fire. She basks in the warmth, too afraid to leave the heat, for the cold brings back the very memories she tries so hard to forget.
The same thing goes for storms. She can tolerate the rain; a simple shower is when she gives herself therapy and will stand under the precipitation. But it's when the thunder crashes and the lightning strikes that her bravery fades. She will close the curtains and crawl into bed when storms hit, cowering in fear and doing her best to not shriek with the rolls of the thunder. But we both know how terrified she is.
Most nights she wakes up screaming. Screaming about the imaginary dementors hovering over her, screaming about how she was losing her mind, screaming about the nightmares that constantly plague her of her time spent in Azkaban. I am always there to console her when she wakes up. When she starts to thrash and mutter under her breath, I try to wake her before the screaming begins. No matter if she wakes to me shaking her shoulder or to the sound of her own screams, she always jumps into my arms with fear. Her tears will drench my chest and I rock her in my arms, telling her it was just a nightmare. That she's safe with me now.
Sometimes it irritates me. How I bend, twist, and turn in every which way to fit her needs. But I can understand it. She is recovering, and I know it will be different. Someday it will be better, and it's all worth it because I love her.
It often pleases me when I remember what she told me after she got out of Azkaban and experimented with the real Malfoy. What she realized while she was imprisoned. That I am the definition of her happiness.
Sometimes she will have real moments of clarity when she pours herself out to me. When she knows Azkaban is in her past. She will rant about how sorry she is that she wakes up screaming in the middle of the night, how she keeps the house at a toasty temperature, how she makes us flee somewhere warm in the winter, how she cowers under blankets during storms, that she's always trying to do better. She'll cry as she expresses her apologies. Maybe she only does so when she begins to fear that I will leave her for all these things, but I only reassure her that it is okay. That I don't mind, because I truly don't. We all have our baggage; I know I certainly have mine.
I don't have as much as I did when we started to properly date. Back then I couldn't move my right arm. Now I have regained all sense of feeling and partial mobility. I remember the first time I felt my fingers twitch against Rose's flesh one afternoon. Therapy helps; every day I can move my arm, hand, and fingers more and more, but it's the least of my worries.
I know that she stays with me because she loves me. Not because she needs someone to be her stronghold while she recovers. If she didn't love me, she wouldn't put up with my metamorphmagus abilities after what I did to her. I know she loves me for the man I truly am and not the one I was pretending to be years ago at that summer house. If she didn't love me, she wouldn't have said yes when I proposed to her months ago.
The planning of our wedding keeps us both sane sometimes. When things seem to be falling apart or we are reminded of our past, we often sit down together and flip through the wedding book Victoire made us and try to agree on our center pieces, our invitations, or our color scheme. We look forward to the life we will spend together.
I don't listen to her when she apologizes because it doesn't matter if she's laughing or crying. I'll be by her side anyways. I don't sleep on the couch when she's having a restless night; I hold her in my arms and whisper soothing things to her instead. I don't sit outside when she makes the house too hot; I sit there and hold her instead, sweating all the while.
She will never be fearless like she once was, or as brave, but she will always love as steadfastly with the same passion that made her go to any ends to protect the ones she loves. And I consider myself lucky to be the one she would go to the end of the earth for. I would do exactly the same.
The road to recovery has not been an easy one, and we both know that it will take some time before things finally return to normal. But we're all right with that because we have each other. We still take strolls by the beach, something she can still tolerate from the times when I was lying blatantly to her face. She still enjoys the sand between her toes and still wiggles down to her knees, making me the one to pull her out. We still laugh and smile when there are no tears. She surprises me with lunch at work - where I am now an editor of The Daily Prophet - while I bring home the occasional flowers and chocolates. We're still what we like to call normal. Our past may have left some scars, but with so much good and so much love in our life, everything else - all that bad - is just a wound that will someday be healed.