Chapter 1 : Second Hand Ticking
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Scorpius was due home ten minutes ago, and she hoped that the delay meant good news. They both needed it to be good news. Time was running out for the Malfoys, and they were only too aware of it. The debts were piling up steadily and still Scorpius hadn’t been successful in finding a job – every single place he’d looked had taken a look at his papers and politely shaken their heads, turning him out to pound the streets again. His father’s reputation as a Death Eater, coupled with Scorpius and Rose’s own star-crossed story, worked strongly against them in the close-knit wizarding world. They had both known it was going to be hard, being married – expecting anything else just simply wasn’t realistic – but not this hard.
Of course, life before marriage for the two of them hadn’t been easy, either. Their fathers had been longtime rivals, bitter enemies since their own Hogwarts days, and it appeared that old feuds ran deep within both men. Rose vividly remembered standing on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters the morning she left for her first year at Hogwarts, her father by her side. He had warned her against “the Malfoy boy”, only half-joking. But as far as she was concerned, that admonition was fuel to a fire she hadn’t known existed within her. As she grew older, and her father’s continued warnings lost their humorous undertones, it only served to further her rebellion. And before long she realized she was in love, far too deep to pull out – and what was more was that Scorpius loved her back.
Both Draco and Ron had been absolutely dead-set against the relationship, forbidding each from seeing the other. Rose’s mother had lamented over it, not wanting her daughter to become estranged from the family, but Ron hadn’t listened. Scorpius’s mother had pleaded with Draco not to push Scorpius from their lives, but he turned away. Both had refused to believe their children would defy them in favor of the person they claimed they loved.
And so, convinced of their love for each other, and determined to prove their parents wrong, Scorpius and Rose eloped one week after graduating Hogwarts, sending letters to their mothers and moving into a miniscule flat in the slummier districts of London. No reply had been received; they had not seen their family in all the seven months of their marriage. Rose wrote occasional letters to her brother, Hugo, and sometimes her mother sent messages to her through him. But she missed seeing their faces, and she knew Scorpius missed his parents as well, although the subject was more often than not avoided.
But thinking of her family was painful; it was no use troubling herself over things that seemed unfixable. She had enough problems closer at hand at the moment. Rose’s eyes moved to the doorway into the tiny kitchen; she could see the kitchen table clearly, and lying innocently on it, a square yellow envelope that was anything but. Their rent was due in a week, 20 Galleons for December and January, and they didn’t have a Knut to their name. All of Rose’s money had been removed from her vault at Gringotts, presumably by her father; the same had happened to Scorpius’s own vault. She had no idea what they were going to do about paying their rent, not to mention their bills. And that was just the apartment; they needed food, and clothes, and countless other things she hated to think about.
Footsteps on the stairs made her lift her head, recognizing the tread; it was the same one she’d listened for nearly every evening for seven months. A key turned in the lock and the door swung noisily open on dilapidated hinges. Scorpius entered the room, removing his jacket and placing it on the back of a kitchen chair. He looked defeated; Rose’s heart sunk at the sight of his face, knowing what that meant for both of them. He moved through the kitchen wordlessly and all but collapsed onto the sofa next to his wife, exhausted.
He didn’t say anything, and neither did she; these were always some of their best times, when they just sat in an agreeable and mutual silence. However, it couldn’t last; it never did last lately, they had too much to discuss. Finally, although loath to burden him further, Rose turned to her husband.
“The rent’s due.” She didn’t want to say it; part of her childishly hoped that if it wasn’t voiced, the rent notice might just disappear into thin air. She knew their situation just as well as he did. But not beating around the proverbial bush was much better than trying to disguise the bad news.
Scorpius cursed quietly and bent double, gripping his head between his fingers as though trying to erase the words he’d just heard. She pressed her lips together and clasped her hands together, as though offering up a silent prayer. He drew deep breaths, willing himself to calm down. He was scared, she knew. They both were.
She didn’t want to say the next sentence either, but knew it had to follow the first.
“Please, Scorpius, just let me-“
“No, Rose!” he cried, sitting up quickly and whirling around to face her, as though knowing exactly what she had been about to say. He paused, regained control of himself, and then said more gently, “No. I’ve told you before, I don’t need charity.”
“It wouldn’t be charity, you’re his son-in-law!”
“Rose.” She stopped, suddenly realizing she had stood up in the course of her argument. Scorpius gazed up at her from the couch, a small smile flickering around the corner of his mouth, the first she had seen in a while. Her stomach clenched, as his smiles could still make it do. She sighed and resumed her seat.
“He’d do it for you, I know he would. Won’t you even go to the Ministry and ask him?” Scorpius’s smile dropped and he looked away, choosing at the scratched wood floor of the flat. Rose gently reached over and took his hand, and he squeezed it.
They’d had this argument more times than she could count in the past few months; she was sure that if she swallowed her pride and returned home, she could talk her father into getting Scorpius a job at the Ministry of Magic. It would be hard, doubtless, but what other options did they have at this point? If they didn’t find a solution soon, they might well be on the streets before too long.
“Your dad hates my guts, Rosie,” he said now, using the nickname she’d had since she was born. “He’d have to be out of his mind to give me a job. I don’t even know anything about Magical Law Enforcement.” Rose shifted so her whole body was facing him and took his other hand.
“You wouldn’t have to,” she said softly, brushing the knuckles of his hand with her thumb. “He’d teach you, and so would Uncle Harry. I know they would.” She spoke with more confidence than she felt, not willing to do otherwise for fear of depressing him further. Scorpius said nothing; the clock ticked annoyingly into the silence.
Suddenly, Rose remembered the final thing she had to tell Scorpius (how could she have forgotten until now?), and it made her stomach clench again. This time it was with nerves; this would by far be the hardest thing she’d ever had to tell him. She tried to swallow against the sudden swelling dryness in her throat; it felt like sandpaper.
Scorpius glanced over at her just then, about to say something, but stopped short at the moisture hastily welling in her brown eyes. “Oh, Rosie,” he said, and pulled her into a hug. She began to sob, inwardly cursing herself for acting weak when he needed her to be strong. She tried to fold herself into his arms and hide from her problems, but that wouldn’t make them go away.
“Th-there’s m-more,” she sobbed into his shoulder, and he pulled back, his forehead wrinkling in a puzzled frown. She hiccupped and met his gaze. “I’m g-going to have a b-baby.”
It was as if the world stood still; she was sure that absolutely nothing moved at that one moment in time. Scorpius was looking at her with a politely puzzled expression, as if he had simply misunderstood what she had forced out. She wiped her eyes, mascara slashing her pale, freckled cheeks, and still he continued to look at her.
“You’re pregnant?” he finally asked quietly, and she nodded, fresh tears pooling in her eyes. He stood quietly and moved to the window, staring unseeingly out of the dirty glass onto the street below. She watched his back apprehensively, her trembling fingers covering her mouth. Was this the beginning of the end, then?
“You’re sure?” he said, not turning to look at her. Rose nodded, then realizing he couldn’t see her, choked, “Yes. I’ve b-been suspecting it for a while now, but n-now I’m sure. I d-didn’t want to tell you, because of…” She trailed off; she didn’t need to finish that sentence.
“I-I’m sorry,” she finished weakly, and at that he turned, pain marring his handsome face.
“Oh, Rosie,” he whispered brokenly, crossing the room in two strides and sitting beside her again, taking her back into his arms. “Why are you sorry?” She drew back and looked at him, and he smiled gently and wiped a tear from her cheek with his thumb.
“You’re having a baby, Rose. Our baby. Do you know how wonderful that is?” Her lips trembled, but she returned his smile.
“We knew when we got married that it was risky. Hell, we knew when we fell in love that it was risky. But there has not been a moment when I have regretted taking those risks, and I stand by that now. I love you, and we’re going to get through this together.” He took her hands and squeezed them. “Okay?”
“Okay,” she said, her voice cracking slightly, and he laughed gently.
“Tomorrow, we’ll go to your parents’ house. It’s time I listened to you; you were always the brightest girl in our year. And by this time tomorrow I’ll have a job, and before long we’ll have a baby.”
“And we both live happily ever after?” she asked tentatively, and he laughed; it was a sound she’d missed recently. Scorpius leaned forward and kissed her forehead, then her lips, pulling her close into yet another warm hug.
“Scorpius, I can’t do this,” Rose said suddenly, her hand poised only millimeters from the shiny wood of the front door of the Weasleys’ house. She looked wildly back at her husband, more scared than she could remember being in a long time. She’d imagined this moment for months – returning home to her parents, having her father beg forgiveness and her mother take her into her arms and soothe away her troubles. But now that she was actually here, how could she be so certain of her reasons for doing so? What if everything didn’t go in accordance to the picture in her head?
“It’s okay, Rosie,” Scorpius urged gently, but he looked rather ill; his face was much paler than normal, and he could see his hands were balled into fists in the pockets of his coat. She turned back to the door, and, before she lost the nerve, knocked sharply upon it.
The seconds seemed to drag out, and with each further moment Rose felt as though her lungs were being compressed; it was the exact same feeling as when one Apparated, the feeling of being squeezed into a tube. She half-wished her parents were out of the house.
But presently, there was a scraping sound from behind the door as a lock was unlatched; Scorpius moved instinctively to stand more closely by his wife. The door opened, and Rose looked at the face of her mother for the first time in over half a year.
Hermione seemed at first not to register the significance of the couple standing on her front porch; she merely looked politely curious. Slowly she recognized Rose, and her eyes traveled between her daughter and Scorpius, not quite sure she wasn’t dreaming the whole thing up. For a long moment neither party spoke, and the silence was like a visible wall between them.
“Hello, Mum,” Rose said at last, amazed her voice hadn’t gotten lost on the way up; she was finding it a little hard to breathe at the moment. Hermione continued to stare blankly at her daughter, and Rose glanced back at her husband, who really looked as if he was about to be sick now.
Then, without warning, Hermione stepped quickly forward and embraced her daughter in a hug so tight that Rose really couldn’t breathe. Rose choked up, burying her face in her mother’s shoulder as she had so often when she was little girl. She hadn’t realized until right then how much she had missed the scent of her mother: warm and clean, a combination of soap and parchment. Scorpius stood by awkwardly, feeling as though he was watching something intimate and private, but then his mother-in-law surprised him by turning and wrapping him in a hug as well.
“You’re home… you’re home,” she whispered, over and over, trying to make herself believe it as well. Finally she let him go and stepped back, her eyes wet but a brilliant smile lighting up her face.
“Come in, come in,” she said briskly, trying to wipe her eyes without their noticing and failing entirely. Rose and Scorpius followed her into the house, hands clenched tightly together; they had made a huge leap toward bridging the gap that had been forged between the generations, but the hardest part was still to come.
Hermione led them into the kitchen and immediately put on a kettle for tea, waving her wand over the shoulder and sending a tin of biscuits zooming neatly onto a china plate. Rose sat down at the familiar, worn wooden table, and Scorpius did the same. Her mother sat across from them, eyes still shining with tears. Rose painfully took in the new lines on her mother’s face and the gray streaks in her bushy brown hair; had she been the cause of that?
“What made you come home?” Hermione asked, running her fingers nervously up and down the wand she still held. Scorpius looked down at his wife, who nodded; no more secrets from their family, not anymore.
“Rose is going to have a baby,” he said bluntly, “and we know we can’t do this alone.” Hermione’s eyes widened and she looked quickly at her daughter. Rose smiled weakly and nodded, and her mother gave a little gasp and her hands flew to her mouth.
“Oh, Rosie…” she murmured through her fingers, her voice trembling with a sudden onset of emotion. The kettle whistled but she seemed not to hear it. Rose felt slightly uncomfortable as her mother continued to look at her with awe. Scorpius awkwardly got up and took the kettle off the flame, not really knowing what else to do.
Hermione shook herself slightly and blew out a small breath, smiling. “Sorry,” she said, rising to take the kettle from Scorpius’s hands and beginning to pour tea into three mugs. “I just… that’s wonderful news.” She looked at Scorpius directly and smiled, placing a hand on his upper arm. “Congratulations.”
Scorpius smiled and, impulsively, gave his mother-in-law another hug. She looked mildly surprised but hugged him back, busying herself with the tea and biscuits to hide it. When she returned to the table, Rose and Scorpius glanced again at each other, and Rose continued on hesitantly with the real reason for their coming to the Weasleys’.
“Mum, we… need your help.” She paused and took a deep breath before continuing. “Scorpius can’t find work anymore, and we’re running out of time. Our rent’s due and we don’t have the money to pay it.” No need for smoke and mirrors; the facts were the facts.
“We were hoping that Rose’s father would be willing to help me,” Scorpius finished, and suddenly a voice in the doorway said icily, “Help with what?”
All three of them jumped and turned; Ron Weasley was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, looking absolutely livid. Scorpius’s face drained; Rose thought her heart must have skipped several beats. Hermione jumped up and went to him, obviously trying to buffer any sort of confrontation before it actually began.
“Ron, your daughter has just come home after seven months,” she murmured in what she apparently hoped was a soothing tone, although Rose could detect the hint of warning underneath. “Behave yourself.”
But it seemed that he was past reason; without looking at his wife, Ron stepped forward to where Rose and Scorpius were sitting at the table. Scorpius stood up to meet him, trying to appear much braver than he felt.
“Sir, I’ve come to ask you if you would be willing to give me a job in your department,” he said with what Rose thought was an amazing show of confidence, given the circumstances. Ron eyed him with surprise, and then snorted.
“Like hell,” he snapped. “Get out of my house.” His gaze fell on his daughter, whose mouth had dropped open. “Both of you,” he clarified.
“Daddy, please…” she whispered. Hermione stood trembling in the doorway, a mug of tea forgotten in her hands.
“You were a big enough fool to marry him, Rosie,” said Ron, sneering at Scorpius. “This is the kind of family you married into – selfish, lazy, and good for nothing.”
Scorpius stiffened but said nothing in his defense; Rose stood up hotly, her hair fairly crackling with electricity. She glared at her father before running from the room, through the foyer and straight out the door. Scorpius looked coolly at his father-in-law and followed his wife, his heart sinking as he realized they had lost what had been their last hope.
As soon as they had gone, Hermione whirled on her husband. Ron’s insides quavered; he hadn’t seen her so mad since he had returned after walking out on her and Harry when they had been on the run, so many years ago, seeking Horcruxes.
“Well, wasn’t that pleasant,” she said waspishly, levitating the untouched mugs of tea over to the sink where they dropped with a clatter. “You couldn’t have done the right thing and listened for two seconds, your bloody pride had to get in the way. Do you think we’ll ever see her again now? You’ve run her off again.”
Ron’s stomach gave an uncomfortable jolt. She was right, of course – Hermione was always right, especially where their children were concerned. He already regretted not waiting to hear what Rose and Scorpius had to say – but the nerve of them, asking for him to give Scorpius a job!
“Look, Hermione,” he said angrily. “I didn’t ask her to marry that bloke, did I? It’s not my fault they have no money, Malfoy’s loaded, there’s no excuse for-“
“Oh, grow up, Ronald Weasley!” Hermione snapped, turning from the sink, hands on her hips; she looked so much like Ron’s own mother that he winced involuntarily. “You know very well why they’ve got no money, you made sure they wouldn’t! Malfoy’s probably done the same to Scorpius that you've done to Rose, ever think of that?”
Ron was speechless; it was quite obvious he hadn’t thought of that at all.
“And what’s more,” Hermione continued, taking a menacing step toward her husband, “your daughter is pregnant with our grandchild, and because of you we will never get to see him.”
“I – what – bloody hell-“ Ron sputtered, sitting down at the kitchen table. He felt like the biggest jerk in the world. What had he done? He looked up wordlessly at Hermione.
“Merlin, Hermione,” he whispered hoarsely, all his anger of ten minutes ago flooding out of him like spilled potion. The daggers that had previously been shooting from Hermione’s eyes softened; she sat down across from him and leaned forward.
“You have to make this right,” she said firmly. Ron nodded mutely, staring unseeingly at the kitchen table. He said nothing for a long time. Was he ready to do this? How could he forgive his daughter for marrying that… Malfoy boy?
A memory popped quite suddenly into his head.
He had taken Rose for a walk one autumn day so Hermione, then heavily pregnant with Hugo, could have some time alone. She had only been about two then, but could babble away as well as any toddler; she really had inherited her mother’s brains. She’d been enthralled by the leaves that had been falling on them as they walked, reaching out her little hands to catch them.
They’d wandered into the center of the neighboring Muggle village, and walked by a streetlamp hung with posters, advertising missing dogs, gardening services, and furniture for sale. Rose’s attention was caught by a theater poster, advertising a production of “Cinderella” at a performing arts center. She had danced up and down, clapping.
“Daddy! What that?” she had said, pointing at the picture of the woman on the poster in the frilly dress. Ron chuckled, now being well-versed in Muggle fairy tales, and briefly explained to his daughter about princes and princesses.
Rose looked puzzled. “Daddy, am I puh…” She frowned, trying out the new word on her tongue. “Pruh…”
Ron laughed and scooped up his daughter, kissing her little forehead. “Sure, you’re a princess,” he had grinned, turning and starting for home.
“Daddy, you my pince?” Rose asked, twirling her little fingers in his hair. Ron smiled wistfully, gently removing her hands from where they were tangled in his hair.
“No, sweetheart. You’ve got a long, long time before I let your prince take you away.”
Ron looked up at Hermione. He knew now what the problem was. Rose’s prince had come for her – and he’d just been too unwilling to let her go.
Neither Scorpius nor Rose had spoken since the fiasco at Rose’s parents’ house. They both felt the future looked grim at best: no income, no stored money available, and they were expecting a baby as well. Scorpius paced by the window, running his hands through his hair over and over again; Rose sat on the couch, fingers pressed to her lips, staring blankly at the floor.
Another envelope had come that afternoon, while they had been out; the electric bill now lay next to the rent on the table, with just about as much hope of being paid. It drew Rose’s eyes like a magnet, mocking her. She was only too aware they had run out of options.
“Rose.” Scorpius broke the silence suddenly; he had stopped pacing, and was now staring out the window at something on the street below. She rose from the couch and joined her husband, wondering what on earth he could have seen.
A red-haired man was walking up the street, a piece of paper visible even from this distance, clutched tightly in his hand. He consulted it and looked up at the building, seemingly right into the window where Rose and Scorpius watched him. He then turned and started up the walkway toward the apartment complex.
They looked at each other, not sure if what they thought they had seen was the truth. They heard footsteps through the paper-thin walls of the flat, footsteps climbing the stairs, and then approaching their door; still neither of them spoke. Then a loud knock resounded through the space.
Scorpius walked to the door and opened it confidently. Ron stood there, looking slightly abashed and defiant, paper still clutched in his hand. “May I come in?” he asked without preamble; Scorpius stood aside to let him pass into the apartment wordlessly.
Rose, still standing by the window, noticed her father glance at the bills on the kitchen table, and a look of pain crossed his face. He then looked up and met his daughter’s gaze.
“How did you get the address?” she asked bluntly; Ron looked down at the paper in his hand.
“Your mother got it off one of the letters you sent Hugo,” he said. He stuffed it back in his pocket and looked about him, obviously uncomfortable with the situation he found himself in. Finally, having nowhere else to turn, he looked back at his daughter;
Scorpius had gone to stand beside her. Both of them just regarded him silently, wondering what had brought him to their apartment after the scene at the Weasleys’.
“Your mother tells me you’re…” He cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck. “She says you’re having a baby,” he finished uncomfortably, now fiddling with the collar of his blazer, his ears turning characteristically red. Rose nodded mutely; her father had never been one to handle mentions of such things very well. It appeared time hadn’t changed that.
Suddenly, without warning, something flickered across his face; some emotion she’d never seen reflected there before, a pain so raw and real that Rose almost felt it as if it were her own. Her heart beat painfully in her throat; she didn’t like seeing her father so torn.
“I… am so sorry,” he said, breaking all former pretense of formality, his voice trembling but his eyes remaining dry. Rose’s own eyes, however, misted immediately, and she swallowed hard. Scorpius’s hand on her waist tightened slightly.
“It’s okay, Daddy,” she said thickly, and, stepping forward, wrapped her arms around her father’s neck for the first time in over a year. His arms tightened around her waist, and they stood embracing for a long time. She was suddenly aware of the clock ticking yet again into the silence. Only a day before it had seemed to be ticking like a bomb; now it only seemed to be counting down until the end of a nightmare.
Finally Ron stepped away and gave a great sniff. He cleared his throat and stepped past his daughter, speaking to Scorpius.
“I would be honored if… if you would come and work in my department,” he said, and held out his hand. Scorpius smiled slightly and shook it.
All crimes had been pardoned; all sins had been forgiven. Ron turned and walked back through the kitchen, and without even having to ask permission, Rose and Scorpius followed him. They watched as he scooped the bills from the table without looking and tucked them in his pocket. Scorpius gently ushered his wife from the kitchen that would no longer be their own, a loving hand carefully placed on the small of her back.
The three left the apartment, knowing it was the last they’d ever see of it. The nightmare had ended; the dream was just beginning.
A/N: I thought I should update this, since the old author's note no longer pertains to the story - it's been edited several times since January, or whenever I first put this story out. It's still a story that is really dear to me, no matter how many months have passed since I've written it. I found the old notebook I used to plan it the other day, and it was quite amusing to see the ideas I kept, and which I scrapped. Thanks to everyone who's reviewed thus far, and I hope you'll do the same, if you're a first-time reader!