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Chapter 13 : Encouraging Snide Voices
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Love and cowardice are really the same thing.~Unknown.
Shock. Anger. Embarrassment. Despair. Shame. Frustration.
Emotions flooded Rose the second she Disapparated to her flat.
Her hands shook in anger- or was it exertion? She could barely tell the difference anymore.
She honestly couldn't be bothered at the moment.
What...what the hell just happened?
Rose dazedly made her way to her bed, uncaring of all the things she knocked over in her path. There was always Reparo. She flopped down on her bed, peeling the layers of clothing one by one without getting up. It truly was a skill. She settled herself into her warm bed, summoned whatever solid food she had- which turned out to be two apples, a banana, some brownies Marissa had baked for her, and left over take-away chicken. Rose smiled ruefully at her meal. While not the delicious pot roast she would have had if she hadn't left her parents house- alright, stormed out- it was still something.
And the satisfaction that she quit was enormous.
Rose sat upright, her apples rolled off the bed with a firm thunk.
“Holy shit, I just quit. I just quit. I...I just...” Rose stared at her blank television. Her breathing quickened. Her gaze flitted around the room searching for an escape, even though there was nothing to escape from.
Then why did she feel so...scared? Cornered? Helpless?
“Because I am.” The whispered answer rose to her lips, echoing loudly around to the room with perfect clarity. The words made her flinch.
But how did one flinch from oneself?
Rose looked around her flat. She knew what she had to do.
All thoughts of food gone, Rose summoned her suitcase.
Hugo Apparated back to number twelve, Grimmauld Place. Worn faces stared at him when he descended into the kitchen.
Hermione looked up from her coffee mug. “Did she answer?”
Hugo shook his head, taking a seat next to Lily. “I don't think she's home. I tried to get past the wards but-”
“You wouldn't be able to,” Albus croaked. He tightened his hold on Cely's fingers. “She's modified all the wards. They're a mix of those Aurors use and some used here in Grimmauld place.” He looked at Harry and Ginny, “Remember when she asked you if she could look at the Black library for Auror training research?” Harry nodded grimly. “Well, she was researching wards. She tried explaining them to me, but, well...you know I was shite at magical theories.”
Now, though, Albus wished he had paid more attention.
“She's been gone for a week,” Cely whispered. “And everything's falling apart. The wedding, the ball...no one knows what to do.”
Scorpius turned to Marissa, “Have you had any luck?”
“No. I mean, Rose has copies of all her notes, charts, receipts, and guest lists in the office. But I have no idea where to start. I didn't know she was feeling so over worked. I just- I just don't understand why she didn't send me to get the things. I always run the errands. But no, she sent me to her appointments instead.”
Shame tore through Albus once more. He was partly responsible for Rose's disappearance.
“Look, it's no use sitting around hoping Rose will come back.” Harry gazed at them steadily. “She's left us her notes, and there are-” he did a quick head count “- ten of us. We can figure it out.”
Ron clapped Harry on his shoulder, “He's right. Rose is a big girl, and bloody brilliant with a wand. She's going to be fine. If we sit around doing nothing then we'll be proving her right even more. “
In that moment, standing shoulder to shoulder, Albus could see what had made his father and his uncle the best damn Aurors of the twenty-first century. Team work.
“But that's not all,” Marissa said. “There were things Rose never wrote down. Either because she could remember them, or because she didn't think them as important even if they were important.”
Ron grinned. Albus absently noted it was the same grin Rose gave every time she was about to do something new and different.
“We'll fill in the blanks,” Ron said, exchanging a glance with Harry and Hermione. “Wouldn't be the first time. And who better than 'Mione to make sense of Rose's crazy notes? She learned from her mother, after all.”
Just like that, Albus' hopes were raised. He still wished Rose were here, but they could do this. Rose hadn't completely abandoned them. They had her notes.
Albus just hoped that would be enough.
Rose sighed, forcing herself to enjoy the radiant sunshine on a quite beach in southern France.
It hadn't taken that long for her to contact the owner of the villa. The Portkey had been ready for her by the time she finished packing.
The last few days had been beautiful. Well, nature-wise at least. There was nothing lacking in the French air. But her conscience pecked at her like vultures pecking at rotten roadkill.
The anger had subsided, bringing with it another intense wave of shame and this time...guilt.
Guilt at her mother's tear streaked face. Guilt at screaming at her friends and family just because she had been sleep-deprived and high on caffeine. Guilt for leaving her best friend and cousin in a lurch with the wedding in a week and half. But most of all, she felt guilt for the absolutely helpless expression on Scorpius' face as she stormed out of her parents' house.
He had done nothing wrong. Hell- he'd even helped her with the box when she was bringing it down the stairs. Scorpius had been nothing but nice and polite and more friendly than Rose deserved ever since they started meeting regularly back in September.
Yes, her family had taken her for granted. Yes, Scorpius may have done so too. But Rose genuinely knew none of them had done it on purpose. They had just become so dependent on Rose to take care of everything. Because she always had. Rose had always turned down every one's offers of help in the past, so could she really fault them for thinking she wouldn't accept any now?
“No, no I can't.”
“You know, zey say talking to oneself iz ze first sign of madness.”
Rose started. She looked at the man standing over her.
“Who are they?” Rose countered, as the man sat down next to her without permission.
“Good question.” He gave a lopsided grin. The effect was even more crooked because he had tilted his head away from the ocean. The soft sea breeze rustled his slightly long brown hair.
Rose thought about how she preferred blonde now, then scolded herself. She wasn't here to pine after Scorpius.
Even if that is exactly what you've been doing for the better half of last week.
Rose didn't bother answering the snide voice. Instead, she took a moment to observe the stranger who had quite rudely intruded on her personal time. He was decently handsome, she surmised, the angled jaw, bright green eyes, and strong, broad shoulders would have any woman tripping over herself for him. But it just wasn't happening for Rose.
She knew it was a sad day when she couldn't even check out a handsome, shirtless bloke without comparing him to the one back home. Not that she had ever seen Scorpius shirtless. At least, not since Hogwarts.
She cursed the person who decided Scorpius Malfoy would be the one she would fall in love with.
Ah, so you are in love with him.
Rose sighed. “Can I help you with anything?”
“No,” he spoke in his strong French accent. “Just enjoying the sight.”
The way his eyes raked over Rose, it was obvious what sight he was talking about.
“What brings you all ze way down here from ze land of ze Queen?”
Rose knew enough about Muggles to understand what he was saying.
“Escape,” she answered simply, and turned to look at the gentle waves.
“Ah.” He glanced at her left hand. “Boy friend troubles?”
Rose laughed, thinking about the last time she had had a boyfriend. “No, more like family troubles. Or career troubles, since they're related to each other. Kind of a mix of both, I suppose.”
Rose glanced at him with a smirk. “No, you don't.”
He gave a sheepish grin. “I may not see your situation, but I know what it's like to want to run away from one's family. I tried it once. Didn't work out. I have a large family, you see, and you can never escape from them.”
“Mine's something like that too,” Rose said, thinking about the Weasleys.
He nodded, “So I took the old saying by 'eart: If you can't beat zem, join zem.”
As if on cue, a tawny owl flew at her, and held it's leg out with a letter.
Rose glanced at the Frenchman in panic. “It's domesticated.”
He chuckled, “Do not worry. Muggles don't come here. This is a beach exclusively for our kind.”
“Oh.” Rose blinked. “You knew.” She felt ridiculously stupid.
“I'm on the International Relations department here in France. I meet a lot of people from your Ministry. Your famous Weasley hair is unmistakeable. Although, I cannot pretend to know which one of them you are,” he gave her another lopsided grin. Really, if she wasn't such a goner for Scorpius, she would have tried something with him.
“Rose.” He looked at the letter. “What will it be, Rose? Will you try and beat zem, or join zem?”
Rose glanced at the letter. The sloping writing was very familiar. She plucked the letter from the owl. “Join them.”
“This is impossible.”
“I can't do this.”
“We have only two more days!”
“What does brg even mean?”
“Why the hell won't these names erase?”
“The florist's a Muggle! How is going to keep the flower arrangement with Muggle Repelling Charms?”
“The chairs were locked into the bloody ground. What's the counter-spell for that?”
“Where is the dance floor going to be?”
Scorpius stood on the threshold of Rose's office where fifty-something Weasleys were crowded. Or maybe it was because of the small room that made them seem like fifty. Questions were thrown at no one in particular. Pages were strewn across the floor, fireplace, desk, and on the ceiling.
It was Sunday, and when the extended family had gotten wind of Rose's sudden departure, every one had assembled to pull off the wedding and ball.
Right now, the Potters, Lupins, Cely, Rose's parents and brother, and Dom were running around the cramped office, trying to make sense of Rose's notes and appointments.
Scorpius stepped into the chaos. A paper crinkled under his boot. He picked it up. It was bound to be something important like everything else in Rose's office. He flipped the page over on the side with writing. It was a copy of the menu she had given him back in November.
He called for attention a few times but to no avail. Finally, after ten minutes of yelling himself hoarse, he cast a Sonorous.
“OI! LISTEN UP!”
The chaotic grumblings ceased.
“I've just gotten a letter from the florist, and the landlady of the chateau, and the marquees people, and everyone else saying that they've finished setting up.”
“But we never even got in contact with half of them,” Lily said. “We didn't even know about the marquees.”
Scorpius shrugged, “Maybe Rose gave them intructions before she left. I dunno. The point is, everything is set up for the ball.”
Albus threw his hands in the air. “Perfect. Bloody perfect. We spent the last week and half trying to find all the bloody paperwork for it and it turns out we didn't need it. We could have spent that time working for the wedding!”
“I know. But-”
Marissa came running in from the next room, waving three pieces of parchment. She was grinning ear to ear. “I've just got letters from the chapel, and baker, and beverage providers that they've received their payments! They're going to start setting up today.”
“Did you send the payments?” Hermione asked.
Marissa blinked. “No, I thought one of you did.”
Cely shook her head, “I didn't even know we had to pay the chapel.”
“What. The. Fucking. Hell.”
Scorpius spun around so quickly he was sure he'd cricked his neck.
“Rose!” about a dozen voices cried behind him in relief.
Rose stepped in next to Scorpius, looked around at the mess in her office calmly, and twirled her wand in a complicated motion making all the strewn papers to straighten out and settle themselves neatly on Rose's desk.
“Care to explain what you lot are doing raiding my office?” Rose stared at everyone. “Hmm?”
Lily shuffled her feet. “We were just-”
“Fancying a stroll through my office?” Rose's lips twitched, signaling to everyone that it was all right. That she wasn't angry anymore.
Scorpius could do no more than stare.
Did this mean she'd gotten his letter?
“We thought you left.” Scorpius heard Albus' voice distantly.
“And leave you poor sods to flop around like fish out of water?” Rose laughed. “No. I didn't leave. Well, I did. But only for a week or so. Then I came back and finished up. I've never abandoned and event. You should know that.”
“You haven't been to the office though,” Cely pointed out. “How have you-”
Scorpius didn't give a damn how she did it. She was back and that was all that mattered. For now.
“I worked from home, of course. I knew you lot would be badgering me in here. Although...I suppose my papers felt the brunt of it.” She glanced at the stunned faces in amusement. “If you had bothered to inquire the florists and the baker and Alice, and every other person directly involved with this wedding, you would have known I was getting everything done.”
“So you're the one who made all the payments and the Floo-calls?” Hugo asked.
“Course I did,” Rose grinned. “You'd have been a right mess without me.” She glanced at Scorpius. “From what I understand, you were a right mess without me.”
Scorpius returned her smile. So she had received his letter all but begging her to come back because they could do nothing on their own.
He hadn't gotten a response, and his owl had returned empty-clawed. Scorpius had assumed she had ignored him.
I should have known she was back the minute everything started falling in place.
“Now, how about you lot go back home and let me worry about everything, yeah?”
Was it just his imagination or did she look a bit more...light? Clearly she had gotten sleep and proper nourishment where ever she had gone off to. But there was something else. She looked like a weight had been lifted off her. Or she had accepted something and wouldn't keep running from it anymore.
Scorpius didn't know what it was that had changed. He only knew he was already in favor of this new Rose. Her eyes twinkled cheerfully, like they had when she was still back at Hogwarts and having one of her passionate debates with Albus.
The fire that had been absent for the last few years had returned.
Hermione stifled a sob, and pulled Rose into a tight hug. “Oh Rosie. We are so, so sorry. You were right. Everyone was taking you for granted. It wasn't fair.”
Rose took big gulps of air, and hugged her mother back. “Mum...can't...breathe.”
Hermione sniffled, pulled away, and fixed her daughter with a stern glare. “And where did you run off to, young lady?”
Scorpius stifled a snicker at young lady. Albus, James, and Hugo weren't as tactful. Rose glared at her brother and cousins in a perfect imitation of Hermione Granger-Weasley. They silenced at once.
“I'm not a child, Mum,” Rose rolled her eyes. “And I had to...” She shook her head. “It doesn't matter. I never left.”
She was, and Scorpius wished he could kiss her.
He didn't want to admit to himself how worried he had been about her.
“Go on. Get out of here. You need to get rest. Especially you three,” Rose looked at Harry, Albus, and Cely sternly. “I've got everything under control.”
Scorpius went to follow after everyone had filed out, but Rose threw her hand out and snatched his wrist. “Wait, Scorpius.”
Scorpius saw Albus give a sly grin out of the corner of his eyes. He ignored it.
He glanced down at her hand, willing himself not to flush scarlet. “Yes?”
Rose looked at him uncertainly. What was she supposed to say? Why was she holding onto his wrist? What in the name of Merlin's saggy ball sacks had possessed her to ask him to wait?
“Er...” She let go of his hand, noticing they were quite alone.
Perfect. He probably thought she'd come back from her vacation with brain damage. Actually, Rose was certain she had come back with brain damage.
There was no way she could- should be in love with Scorpius. But she was. Dear God, she was and she didn't know how or if she should tell him.
Just do it, the snide voice said not so snidely. It sounded mostly encouraging.
Damnit Rose, are you a Gryffindor or aren't you?
Rose took a deep breath. Here it goes.
“I only wanted to- what I'm trying to say is- that I...wanted to thank you for the letter.”
Apparently, she did.
“Yes, I did.” Sure, why not? Clearly, I'm gutless and should never have been placed into Gryffindor.
“Oh,” he smiled warmly. So warmly Rose though she would melt from the sheer warmth. “No problem. And we were sort of struggling like- like fish out of water, as you said.”
“Right, but it helped put things in perspective for me.” That much was true, at least. “So, thank you.”
“Anytime, Rose. And like I said in the letter, I really am sorry for what happened.” His eyes crinkled at the corners apologetically. There was a long silence during which both of them only stared at each other. Finally, Scorpius jerked his head to the doorway. “I suppose I'll see you at the wedding then”
He turned to leave when Rose didn't say anything more.
“Wait.” This time, the the word came out strangled. She had to say it.
But she couldn't.
Say it. The snide voice was back.
“Make sure Al isn't hung over from Stag night.”
Coward, the snide voice hissed.
Scorpius flashed her a playful smirk. “I will.” And then he left.
A/N: *ducks and takes cover behind fluffy bunny* Please, please, please don't hurt me. I wanted her to say it. I really, truly did. But Rose has a mind of her own at this point. She just won't say the damn words. What is a writer to do?
I promise. Next chapter, at the wedding. Or the ball. Promise!
Anyway, you know the drill: read and REVIEW.
Disclaimer: So, we're at the end of the story now, almost. If you lot still think any of this belongs to me, you are clearly delusional and need professional help.
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