Rose is quiet when she and her brother return home for Christmas. Ron doesn’t notice the change in her disposition, but then again, he doesn’t notice anything unless it slaps him across the face. Hermione, however, can sense that something isn’t right the moment she embraces her daughter, wrapping her arms around limp shoulders. Hugo glances at them, uncertain, and then beams at his father; he’s the perfect mixture of his parents, and sometimes, it’s difficult to decide which of them he should follow.
“Mum,” Rose whispers into Hermione’s ear, “I’ve… I’ve got to talk to you about something.”
Hermione stiffens at once out of that maternal instinct she can’t quite shake, then pulls away from her daughter, looking into Rose’s eyes. There’s confusion and guilt and even frustration in them; it’s a look Hermione knows all too well.
“Ron,” she calls to her husband. He glances up at her, a grin lingering on his face—the one that says I still can’t believe I’m a father. “Would you mind terribly if Rosie and I joined you and Hugo in a few minutes?”
Briefly, he harbors a blank expression.
“In the kitchen? For hot chocolate?” she prompts.
“Ron,” she says exasperatedly, giving him a pointed look. It’s the look he always understands now.
“Oh,” he says. “Right, yeah. Hey, Hugo, let’s go and have some hot chocolate, okay?”
Hugo is skeptical, suddenly feeling like his mother. “What about Rosie?” he asks.
Ron leans down and whispers loudly, “I’ll let you put all the sugar you want in it. Reckon your mum won’t mind today.”
Like his father, Hugo can be persuaded by his stomach.
When they’re gone, the men of the Granger-Weasley clan, Hermione returns her attention to Rose—not that it ever really left; she’s kept a hand on her daughter’s back all this time.
“Now, what—?” she begins, but Rose shakes her head.
“I don’t want to talk about it here,” she insists, and Hermione nods.
They close themselves in Rose’s room with a charm to lock the door behind them. Hermione sits on Rose’s bed, careful not to step on the mess that is the floor as she makes her way toward it, but Rose, who can’t seem to remain in one place for too long today, jumps up the moment she sits beside her mother. She stares at the pale blue of her walls distractedly, and then begins to pace.
“I’ve done something I shouldn’t have, Mum,” Rose bursts out after a minute of dodging the collection of books and clothing around her feet. “I didn’t mean to, but it just… happened.”
“What happened, Rosie?” Hermione coaxes calmly. She’s trained herself, after sixteen years, not to sound as alarmed as she used to in situations such as these—at least, when she’s with her children.
“I’ve…” Rose’s cheeks are aflame with the Weasley Blush, thus causing her freckles to almost disappear. “I really, really fancy Scorpius Malfoy.”
For a moment, Hermione is glad Rose didn’t say that she’s in love; she’s glad that, at sixteen, her daughter knows better than that. In another moment, however, Hermione realizes what’s just been said, and she tries not to appear shocked.
Rose’s ears are bright red now; she’s never been this frank with anyone out loud. Her lips are turned downward miserably, and her shoulders sag. Hermione rises and encompasses Rose in her arms, leading her to her bed, where they sit in a pool of silence.
“Dad will absolutely murder me,” Rose moans suddenly, pulling at the ends of her bushy ginger hair.
“It’s alright,” Hermione soothes. “I doubt you’ll ever tell him such a thing, and I certainly won’t reveal anything to him that you don’t want me to.”
Rose stiffens, her countenance pained. “But Mum… What if this progresses to something… more?”
“Is there a reason that it should?” Hermione inquires carefully.
Rose looks like she’s considering this, but Hermione knows that there’s been a definite answer before the question was ever asked.
“Yes,” Rose says slowly. “I think so. I think he fancies me back. He asked me to Hogsmeade just before we left Hogwarts today.”
Hermione tries not to draw in her breath too sharply. “What was your response?”
Rose’s blush changes from red to pink, the perfect complement to her name. “I told him to go away, or I would hex him like last time.”
“Last time, I didn’t mean to hex him, but of course he doesn’t know that, so I didn’t think it would hurt to remind him…”
As Rose babbles, her blue eyes alight, Hermione decides that she should have seen this coming. She should have realized that apples don’t fall far from the tree, and that daughters who are like their mothers may make the same mistakes and triumphs; she might have considered the fact that oranges, sons, and fathers can behave in very much the same manner.
“I don’t even know why I’m telling this to you,” Rose concludes as her sense returns. “I suppose I shouldn’t make this out to be such an enormous monstrosity. It’s just that Dad’s always told me to stay away from Scorpius, and I’d like very much to do so, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I can’t. We’re partnered together in nearly every Gryffindor-Slytherin class, you know, and he’s not as rude as I’d thought he would be. He’s also quite…” She stops, the pink once more turning red.
“Attractive?” Hermione supplies with a small smile. For the first time since their conversation has begun, Rose is at a loss for words. She simply gapes at her mother, wondering.
“I’m going to tell you something that I’ve not told anyone, not even your father, Uncle Harry, or Aunt Ginny,” Hermione begins. The words spring from her tongue, as if they’ve been waiting forever and a day to break free and reveal themselves to someone. At once, Rose’s back grows a little straighter; even at her age, she drinks in the secrets that her mother has left to share. Today, more than ever, Rose is flattered by such confidence.
“Whilst we were at school,” Hermione continues, “I was very much enamored with your father. In fact, for the greater part of our seven years at Hogwarts, I harbored an attraction to him. There was a time, however, when he was so—so very—unaware, that my attraction began to fade. There’s only so much that can be done when it seems that someone doesn’t feel the same as you do!”
“What happened then?” Rose asks curiously. She almost forgets that she’s supposed to be feeling distraught.
Hermione inhales deeply. “I did something I didn’t intend to do. Something I didn’t quite want to do, yet inadvertently did all the same. I began to look to someone else, anyone else, to place my affection upon, even platonically. I hoped that perhaps, with luck, I might discover someone who could provide me with the type of affection I craved.”
“But Mum,” Rose breathes, “That doesn’t sound like you at all!”
Hermione laughs, but only a little. She can feel herself flushing now; she and her daughter make a pretty pair. “It was utterly ridiculous of me, I know,” she admits. “But being best friends with two boys can cause one to feel somewhat underappreciated. I would rather have continued focusing upon my studies, but—”
“You slacked off?” Rose demands, aghast. “Are you certain this story is about you and not Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry?”
Hermione bites her lip: an old habit returning. “I didn’t neglect my homework and such,” she says quickly. “It was just… Well, thereafter, there was a nagging sort of thought at the back of my mind that became quite a bother when I was hoping to study. It was impairing my concentration a bit, and it was maddening, because I couldn’t get rid of it.”
“So what did you do about it?”
“I accidentally set my fancy upon someone who had always loathed me, and whom I’d always disliked in return. It didn’t much help, considering he was even less likely to care for me than Ron was. However, something rather incredible occurred. I began to notice that, when we encountered, he was acting more tolerably toward me. Then—and I very much hope that you won’t repeat this, Rosie—he admitted to me, in passing, that he’d grown rather fond of me, despite who I was. Of course, it wasn’t as eloquent as it sounds.” She frowns, old displeasure resurfacing. “It was something more like, ‘I abhor you, Granger, because I can’t stop thinking about you. If you ever tell anyone, I’ll—’” She breaks off.
“That sounds quite Slytherin to me,” Rose comments. Hermione almost doesn’t hear her; she’s lost in her memories, the ones she’s suppressed for so long. They’re vivid still, as if the initial events occurred not more than a day before.
“After that, he simply ignored me, and things returned to the way they were before. Your father—finally, might I add—began to take notice of me because I had stopped trying for his affection. In our seventh year, he saw sense, and we were together.”
“And you have been ever since,” Rose nods. “I like hearing this story, Mum, you know I do. But I don’t understand how this relates to… to me. Your situation is ever so different from mine.”
Hermione shakes her head. She’s become too verbose as she grows older; she provides too much background information, not enough relevant information. It’s frustrating, because she knows that this is how it should be told, rounded out so that it can be understood. However, she always forgets that most people, even her own daughter, have attention spans like those of Ron Weasley and Harry Potter.
“Perhaps I shouldn’t tell you this, Rosie, but nevermind secrecy for the moment. Your father and I… We didn’t get married straightaway. We thought that we were happy, but still, we wanted to wait. It was a very lucky thing that we did; after an argument, we broke things off.”
Rose gasps. “You didn’t!”
“We did, and at the time, I thought it was for good. I was devastated at first, but then I moved on; life moved on, and I was content again.”
“Then, how did…?” Rose trails off; further words are unneeded.
“The boy—well, the man, really—who had once hated me came across me one day, and I remembered what he had told me whilst at school. We talked, and grew closer—begrudgingly at first—and after a while, we became intimate.”
Rose makes a face, and Hermione laughs.
“Not quite in the way you’re thinking. What I meant was… I fell in love with him, after all that had happened. All the animosity between us was gone.” A thoughtful expression crosses her face. “We met most often in secret, not wanting to publicize our relationship—”
“But why wouldn’t you want to do so? It’s not as if it was an affair.”
“Regardless, your father had still been my friend for more than seven years. I didn’t want to hurt him. My clandestine lover”—Hermione laughs at the term—“didn’t mind. Even after the war was over, it would have been difficult for a Muggle-born and a Pureblood to be together, especially being who we were. So it became the type of adventure I’d never had before, one that potentially wouldn’t harm me as much as the ones I was accustomed to.” At the slight confusion upon Rose’s face, she adds, “By which I mean, of course, hunting Voldemort with Uncle Harry. My new relationship was not as dangerous, yet it was still thrilling.”
Images flash into her mind like fireplaces glimpsed whilst traveling with Floo Powder. She can almost feel his cold hands upon her cheek, see the glint in his eyes that was only meant for her. Words spirit across her mind like leaves in the wind.
“I’ve always known Weasley was a fool, Granger, but still…”
“It’s as much my fault as his for the way things ended…”
“His loss is my gain, then…”
“You should hate me…”
“I don’t. I’ll prove it…”
Hermione blinks, the pressure of a phantom kiss fading from her lips. Her face flushes.
“How did it end?” Rose asks, and then she narrows her eyes. “It has ended, hasn’t it?”
Hermione is startled by the accusation. “Yes, it ended a long time ago, in the manner that most relationships do. We realized that it would never take us anywhere; it would never become anything more than what it was, and we needed to move on.”
“What happened to this man?”
“He married a Pureblood several years later. They have a son now. He’s your age.”
Rose’s eyes narrow again. “What was the man’s name?”
Hermione doesn’t hesitate. “Draco Malfoy.”
Even though it’s what she expected, Rose’s mouth hangs open.
“So you see, Rosie, our situations aren’t entirely different. They’re not the same, of course, but they at least hold some resemblance to one another.” Hermione flushes again. “And I’m sorry that was so long, by the way. I suppose I could have conveyed the same meaning much less wordily.”
She smiles and kisses Rose’s cheek. “And that is, I’ll still support you if you decide to follow your heart and not your father.” She chuckles. “No matter how clichéd that sounds to you.”
“Thanks, Mum,” Rose says. “It’s difficult for me to imagine you and Scorpius’s father together, though.”
“Sometimes, it is for me, too.” She pauses, wondering whether or not this is a lie. She decides, quickly, that it isn’t. “Are you feeling better now?”
“Good. I’m sure Hugo and your father are plenty worried about you now. Shall we go and reassure them?” Hermione touches her daughter’s shoulder.
“Actually, Mum,” Rose tells her slowly, an idea forming then and there, “do you mind if I join you a bit later? I’ve something I need to do first.”
She waits until her mother leaves, a look of understanding remaining in Hermione’s wake that’s only a little disconcerting, and then Rose pulls a sheet of parchment from her desk—which is the only organized part of her room. She tickles the underside of her chin with the feathery end of her quill, paused in thought, and then she writes.
After that, the words come easily.
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