Beside the Victory
Rose’s hand reached for the handle, her heart beating so hard that she thought it would burst from her chest, her breath slowing so such a degree that she wondered how she could remain alive. The seconds on the clock passed with agonising slowness as her fingers clasped around the cool metal. She heard the others coming forward behind her, heard someone snatch the needle from the record, the music coming to a screeching halt as one final knock sounded against the door.
You see, she hadn’t actually opened the door yet. She hesitated, and continued to do so, feeling the silence in the room behind her as though an elephant had just walked into the room.
Vinny touched Rose’s arm, but the latter shook her head solemnly. She had turned pale, and the others watched her, watched the door, watched each other. It was as though time had come to a halt, freezing them all in place.
Even as Rose’s hand hovered over the latch, a dark form brushed her aside to fling open the door, the night breeze wafting past Teddy as he stood, like a shield, blocking the doorway, and the person standing there, from sight. But what Rose could see from her vantage point behind Teddy’s shoulder was more than enough to validate her suspicions. That tow-light hair, illuminated by the light above the door, was the sign of doom, akin to the cloak of Death.
“How can I help you, Mr Malfoy?”
If only Teddy wasn’t so tall! Rose’s hand gripped his arm, nails digging into his flesh as she heard the name, but still she could not see past him. Most of her did not want to. She half-hid her face behind Teddy’s shoulder, waiting for the intruder’s response.
Her father had stepped forward, wand in hand, but Harry held him fast.
“I have a letter for Rose.” There was a pause from him an a shocked silence from the others. “Don’t curse the messenger, Weasley. It’ll do nothing for your flawless reputation.”
Before stepping aside, Teddy placed his hand over Rose’s, his fingers trailing across the back of her hand for the briefest moment. His barrier removed, she felt cast adrift as she stared at the intruder’s gleaming black shoes, then the unrelieved-black of his expensive robes up to his startlingly white face and bright hair. Steely grey eyes looked into Rose’s own and the pit of her stomach grew hollow.
Teddy’s greeting, which she had supposed to be spoken in sarcasm and distain, had merely been honest because it was not the son, but the father, who stood now at the door, proffering a slim letter between his fingers as though its very contents threatened to corrupt him.
Rose stepped forward, struggling to recapture her breath, her poise, her wits.
Not Scorpius. Not him. He must have been gone now, long gone, flown off to whatever corner of the world Lily had thought best. Yes, of course it would be what Lily thought best. Scorpius was lost, and all Rose could feel was pity that he had let himself fall so far.
Draco Malfoy waited.
“I am as surprised as you that he would think to write, though I can’t say for certain whether it’s the apology that it ought to be.” His eyes remained cemented on Rose’s face. It was as though none of the others were there, only her. “He always made poor decisions.”
Always. Yes, always. Rose had to agree.
“We all do, Mr Malfoy.”
Some muscle on his face twitched. He was otherwise unmoved, studying her with tired eyes. Perhaps had she been alone, he would have said more, but as she was, surrounded and supported, there was no place for him, no place for his words of embittered wisdom. Rose watched him, waiting, but he shook his head – a minute gesture – and turned away.
She closed the door, leaning her back against it, the letter in her hand. A deep frown was etched upon her face, revealing creases across her brow where they had never appeared before.
So he had written her a letter. He had never done that all that time she had been away, never once thought to inform her that he was not going to wait, that he was involved with Lily, that he was going to marry her. And now that it was all over, he chose to write that letter, so long overdue. He hadn’t even been able to say a word in Lily’s presence. He hadn’t even tried.
At that moment, Scorpius had ceased to exist.
A bell from the kitchen shattered the silence, its clang soon accompanied by Aunt Audrey’s head protruding in from the corridor.
“I think we’re ready in he–”
She had seen the tableau, felt the stillness in the room, heard the overwhelming silence.
“Did I miss something?”
Ginny took a step forward. “Only a dramatic conclusion.”
Audrey’s eyes took in the details of Ron’s tensed shoulders, Teddy’s darkened expression, and the ivory missive in Rose’s hand, her brow furrowing only for the briefest instant before letting out an appropriately dramatic sigh.
“I always miss the interesting parts.” She shook her head. “Well, the food is ready, unless the curtain hasn’t fallen yet, of course.”
Ginny laughed and the ice broke, the actors were people once again, regular people whose stomachs were rumbling after a long day largely unbroken by meals. The sort of luncheon that Astoria Malfoy had provided ran along the lines of caviar and expensive cheeses rather than anything particularly satisfying to a well-fed family like the Weasleys. They filed out into the kitchen even though there wouldn’t be enough room for all of them in that small space, but perhaps they’d have done anything to walk off the stage and find relief behind the fallen curtain.
Rose remained, ignoring the glances of her parents, her aunts and uncles and cousins and best friend as she stared into the air, the letter still in her hand. Another letter! All of this had begun with a letter, and now it would finish with another.
He was almost out of the room, but he turned in a swift, fluid motion that would have betrayed him had any of the others remained. For Rose no such betrayal was required; why else would she have asked him to stay?
“I don’t want this.” She held out the letter. “Please, I don’t–”
Although his lips twisted at the sight of the thing in Rose’s hand, he shook his head.
“If you don’t want it, Rose, you can throw it away. Burn it. Anything you’d like.” His voice was low, almost husky, impossible for anyone but Rose to hear. “I can’t make that choice for you.”
She swallowed and dropped her gaze, red spots appearing on her cheeks because he’d gotten it wrong, gotten her wrong, too. She didn’t want to revisit what was past, that was what she was going to say before he had interrupted, jumping to conclusions just like everyone else always seemed to do with her. She didn’t want to be a straightforward person, the kind that one could, as they say, “read like a book.”
Her fingers crumbled the envelope, squeezing it into a tight ball.
“It’s not that,” she said, pausing to bite her bottom lip. It was time to make her choice.
“I’m going back to China.”
He nodded, or rather his head bounced up and down, the understanding immediate even if the realisation trailed behind.
“You’ve always made your own way, Rose. Don’t allow anything to hinder you.” He spoke the words with great care, taking the time to decide on just the right word before pronouncing it in full, clipped syllables, his eyes searching her face.
That was when it hit her. At last, she saw it. At last she knew. If he told her to stay, she would. If he asked, she would answer. Three days and he had almost transformed back into the Teddy of her childhood, the one she had turned to for everything, asking him the questions that none of the adults wanted to hear, and he would answer with honesty, never condescension, even when she deserved it. What could happen in three more days? What would be possible? Her nerves tingled at the thought, a thought so far removed from Scorpius that it in itself was a healing herb that could begin to repair the damage of this last terrible week.
She stepped forward, the letter, now forgotten, falling to the floor. “Anything?”
Maybe it would have happened just the way it did in the movies. Maybe he would have reached out to her and she would have fallen into his embrace, at last discovering all the things in her life that she had missed, lost, or set aside in other pursuits. Maybe he would have finally spoken the words that he’d never been able to tell his wife because she never would have listened. Maybe they would have become that perfect romantic couple who, after so short a time, finds the path to true love.
Maybe it would have been easier that way. The conventional route is always easier, wrapping things up in neat striped paper with a sparkly bow to the satisfaction of all parties involved. Now if only these two particular parties were anywhere near conventional, it may have made things a little easier.
“Are you two coming?”
Roxanne’s head appeared around the corner, her short-sighted eyes peering into the darkened room to where two shadows stood, separated by more than mere inches.
Teddy, turning his head toward her, paused to let out a long-held breath before replying.
“Yes. Of course.”
But it was only his head that turned, and once Roxanne had vanished once more, he looked back at Rose. She wished that she could see his eyes, hidden in the impenetrable shadows that surrounded them both.
“Will you tell them that you’re leaving?”
She shrugged and moved to pass him by, afraid to breathe lest he hear her ragged breath or the deafening beat of her heart raging against her chest. At the point where they drew closest together, a bare inch dividing them, she felt the hairs on her arm shudder as though an electric current had surged across the air between them. If he had reached out to touch her– If she had looked up to meet his eyes– If, if, if, if.
“I’d better do that before they get too weighed down by your food.” She wondered if he could hear her voice shaking around the edges.
“Grandmum would appreciate her guests not coming down with indigestion.”
It was his voice that shook more, the words absurdly formal.
“Let’s go in, then.” The banal words fall flat from Rose’s lips, but she would say anything to relieve the tensions of this moment, a failed moment, perhaps, one that was destined to fail from the beginning.
He stood aside so that she could continue past, shadows obscuring their faces like the masks they would, before the others, always wear firmly in place, the most perfect of actors.
But as Rose left the room, she did not hear his footsteps following her to the kitchen. When she looked back, she saw that he had bent down to retrieve the crumbled envelope and the damning message it contained, flatting out the creases between his long, nimble fingers. She continued on without waiting, unable to decide whether she ran from the ghost of Scorpius or the ghost of that thing which had arisen between herself and Teddy. Her new-found peace, still fragile in its infancy, was shattered, and she returned to the proposition she had made so many times this past week, stepping into the kitchen to announce to all gathered within the result of her decision.
“I’ll be going away again.”
“When?” multiple voices asked in varying tones with varying reactions.
“On the first flight.”
A long day turned longer, but a long week had come to an end.
That's Her Destiny
The airport was always bustling, but a troupe of Weasleys still made an impact, rather in the same way as a troupe of clowns, evoking mingled amusement and exasperation from passengers and security guards alike. It was difficult to say which portion of the troupe caused the most trouble. There were the adults, the oldest ones, who stared in awe at all the funny little Muggle things:
“Granddad, please don’t–”
A red light flashed and a buzzer sounded as the moving walkway ground to a halt, throwing everyone off balance.
“These moving floors would be great at home, Molly!”
Albus rolled his eyes at Rose, easily entering into that penchant for immaturity they had always shared. They each lugged one of her small, but unhealthily heavy bags and had already bickered over their weight, which was why they walked a little apart from the others, who could only take so much of the old-married-couple style of conversation.
“How many memories do you think you’ll have to wipe this time?” she asked him.
“No one’s brought out their wand to do up their shoelaces, so we may be safe this time.”
The younger generation of adults were rather more normal in behaviour, though Rose could swear that Uncle Harry was growing paranoid, eyeing everyone who passed them by from behind his bottle-bottom spectacles; maybe it was one of those mid-life crisis sort of things. Or maybe it was what happened when your daughter married a Malfoy. At least, that was what Rose thought until she saw, in the distance, sitting on a bench, a blond head accompanied by a head crowned with auburn.
Albus’s gaze followed hers. “Wait a second.”
He drifted up the crowd toward his mother, who was eavesdropping on Hermione’s umpteenth explanation to Ron regarding the workings of Muggle money. It didn’t help that the Muggles kept changing the appearance of the numerous bills and coins they required.
“Wizarding money has looked the same since... since...” he sent Hermione a wordless plea with his eyes.
“The eleventh century,” she replied automatically. “I think the problem you’re having is that Muggles continue using the old money until it’s taken out of circulation–”
“It doesn’t make sense! Why bother changing it at all?”
Hermione let out a long sigh.
“Mum,” Albus tapped Ginny on the shoulder, bending to whisper conspiratorially in her ear, something none too easy as he struggled to wrestle the suitcase with one hand. “What are they doing here?” He nodded in the direction of those two unmistakable heads.
Ginny followed his gaze. “Their flight was delayed.” She swallowed. “I didn’t realise their gate would be so close to Rose’s.”
“What do we do?”
“About what?” Hermione missed nothing.
Soon, the whole group knew of the presence of two undesirables in the near vicinity. The real surprise was that Scorpius and Lily had not yet entered the secure area of the terminal, unless they had only just arrived from whatever hotel they’d put up in for the night. Rose hung back, hiding behind her parents and the others. Even on the first day of school she hadn’t been nervous, popping onto the train in her robes while Albus had hemmed and hawed over what house they’d put him in. She hadn’t cared then, so why care now?
The more that Rose thought about it, the more she had to be thankful for. Lily was not being sent off by the family, not by her parents and grandparents and aunt and uncle and a small handful of cousins. Lily was alone with her husband, and perhaps that was how she would be for the rest of her life. Perhaps she even wanted it that way, not that Lily preferred independence, quite the opposite. What she preferred was aloofness, the ability to take that step beyond the Potters and Weasleys and all the things she’d known; they weren’t good enough.
But was Scorpius?
Because thinking of the devil was sometimes enough to catch his attention, Scorpius looked up, straight at them. Not at Rose; – he couldn’t see her – but he said something to Lily and gestured toward the gathering of Weasleys. Lily’s face was anything but complimentary to her relatives, but the expression was gone in an instant, replaced by the perfect mask of bridal bliss, all flushed cheeks and sparkly eyes.
Soon Rose, her parents, and Albus stood alone. He had planted his feet firmly on the ground, his glaring eyes magnified by his spectacles so that Rose could imagine emerald laser beams shattering Scorpius to bits. She rather liked the image.
“No regrets?” Hermione put her hand on Rose’s shoulder.
Under the intimidating gaze of her parents, Rose swallowed and gave a small nod. She was more than a little cowed by the situation. Yes, she was well over Scorpius. Yes, she couldn’t have cared less about him and Lily now. But the more the two of them were wafted under her nose, the more she disliked the smell.
Her father’s eyes widened. Her mother’s face went pale.
“I only regret not having caught a different plane. Why do they have to be here?”
Ron shook his head, letting out a long breath. “Your own brother couldn’t even make it.”
To be honest, that was a rather longer story, one that Rose wasn’t particularly keen on telling, not now, not even ever. Hugo had kept his promise not to tell anyone that Rose would attend the wedding, and although that event had passed, Rose couldn’t even think to start explaining to her parents where her brother had run off to and with whom. It was bad enough that she was running back to China. Hugo would have to explain things for himself; he had no place in Rose’s story.
She was actually more concerned about another significant absence.
“What did Uncle Harry ‘phone you about, Dad?”
Ron blinked, for once missing Rose’s poor attempt to change the subject. “This morning, you mean?”
“The first, the second, or the third time?” Hermione asked with a raised eyebrow. It was true that Uncle Harry could be a little over-zealous at times, even more of late.
Rose put down her suitcase and flexed her numbing fingers. “Just before we left.”
“Teddy was apparently running late.”
“But he is coming?”
Ron and Hermione exchanged glances, Hermione’s eyebrows rising to new levels while Ron just managed to look confused. It would be another thing that Rose would have to explain to them one day, preferably not face-to-face. Thank goodness she was going. Maybe she even had to thank Merlin that Teddy had done nothing the night before. There had of course been that moment of almosts and ifs, but it hadn’t amounted to anything. After dinner, he had washed up and she had gone home. Plain. Simple. Utterly boring.
It was Rose’s turn to sigh.
“So he said.”
Rose pointedly ignored the wordless conversation her parents were having behind her back, instead choosing to drag her suitcase to the nearest bench. Albus followed, but never once did his eyes veer from their target. If Vinny was here, the three of them could at least talk, Vinny’s presence the type of distraction they both needed, but she was off meeting the French Minister about those new reform bills....
She had almost forgotten that Victoire was the chief interpreter for the French Ministry. It would mean that she was in London, today of all days. What if he had–?
“Stop looking so glum, Pinky. One would think you didn’t want to go after all.”
Some would claim that Rose’s gasped response and whip-fast turn to face the new-comer was rather on the dramatic side of things, but one must make allowances sometimes.
“I– I– you– but– I–”
He pulled an antiquated pocket watch from one pocket to check the hour. “It’s still a bit too early for you, isn’t it? If only you liked coffee. Imagine all the sunrises you’ll miss due to that cloud of morning haze in your brain.”
Rose looked up at him, struggling to put together the mismatched pieces of the puzzle that was Teddy Lupin. His hair was blue again, an electric shade that blinded the eyes, but made it impossible to look at anyone but him, and he knew it.
“I couldn’t be sure,” she began, fingers fiddling with the handle of her suitcase. “If you would make it on time.”
His eyes were trained on her face as though to read the epic novel playing out across her features, covering every genre, every possible plot twist. She looked away, feeling too much under surveilance, her parents still watching with curiosity while her other relatives had begun to take notice of the new arrival. Even Scorpius and Lily were looking their way now, and Rose felt herself wither beneath the heat of their glares.
“Your friend Virginia informed me of the latest news.”
“You saw her?” Rose’s voice cracked as she watched Roxanne and Lucy come forward to greet Teddy.
He regarded Rose through narrowed eyes, the colour of his hair darkening a shade.
“I would have had to see her in order to hear the news. Rose–”
She refused to meet his eyes, so he took her chin between his long fingers, leaving her no choice but to face him, the pit of her stomach plummeting into a different dimension.
“I had another date, you see.” He smiled, and even though it was a lopsided smile that revealed the gap between his front teeth, Rose’s heart decided to join her stomach. “One of far, far, greater importance.”
He looked past her, all of a sudden, his smile fading as he discerned the presence of Lily and Scorpius among the throng of Weasleys that approached. The newlyweds were mostly silent, Lily holding her head high while Scorpius’s hung low, as though he were no more than the house elf she dragged along for good measure.
Placing a hand on her arm to give it a reassuring squeeze, he added. “Maybe you can never think of hearing his name or seeing his face without remembering everything.” He held up his left hand before Rose’s face, he wriggled his now-bare ring finger. “She sent me a note last night, if I may use that as an excuse, but I’ve found a reason to stop looking back. You remember Orpheus.”
Rose nodded, even though she didn’t remember, because she could guess at the reason.
“Here he comes,” Teddy whispered in her ear. “Can you look at him now, right in the eyes, and declare yourself the winner?”
She blinked, her face screwing up in thought as she put together the final pieces of the puzzle. That song he had played the night before, the song that had pierced her to the heart with the reminder of all that she had lost on this failed return home, she had misinterpreted it completely. Why did the winner have to be the one who married Scorpius? Why should Scorpius Malfoy, scheming and pathetic as he was, be anyone’s prize? Perhaps it was the other way around.
Yes, the other way around.
Rose did not see Teddy’s smile return in response to the one growing wildly across her face. It was a perfect Weasley grin, the sort that alluded to secret sneakings around Hogwarts and the seats of exploded toilets sent to harangued mothers. Rose wisely put it away, if only for a short time, so that she could turn and face the Malfoys, but Teddy saw it, as did Albus and her parents, and it was enough to keep them back when Rose took a step in Lily’s direction, offering her hand.
“Congratulations, Lily.” It was best not to refer to her lack of felicitations on the previous day. “I’m sorry to hear about your plane.”
Lily’s expression said “I’m sure you are,” but her lips shaped a different reply.
“Thank you. How kind of you to say so.”
Lily gave her trademark simpering smile, but it was set in harsh contrast with the genuine upward turn of Rose’s lips and the confident sparkle that lit Rose’s blue eyes before she turned to her once-supposed true love.
What commenced could only be called a “moment”. Rose and Scorpius looked upon one another as though for the first time. Neither was the person they had once been, the person each had professed to be in love with, and now in their new roles of well-trained husband and independent witch-of-the-world, they failed to know what to say to one another, hardly even knowing how to look at one another. Scorpius’s eyes wandered, as they’d always done, but Rose kept hers trained on his face.
Some would later say that she was giving him one last chance.
But they would be wrong.
“I wasn’t able to read your letter,” she told him with a set jaw and squared shoulders. “It got damaged on delivery.”
There may have been a small reactionary spark in his eyes that revealed far more than his statuesque face, but Rose’s gaze was drawn by the sight of Lily’s hand clamped on his forearm, her red-painted nails digging into the fabric of his Muggle blazer.
“No matter,” Scorpius replied with a petulant sniff. “It really meant nothing.”
Much ado about nothing.
Rose struggled to maintain her smile, feeling the plaster that held it on chipping away under the pressures of emotion. Real, honest, pure emotion. The final card had hit the table, hidden up his sleeve until the very end. The letter had been merely another trick, another way of keeping her completely in his thrall. He would never acknowledge her before his wife, would never admit to his weaknesses and allow his mask to slip again.
There existed, for an impossibly long minute, the possibility that everything could crumble. Rose was anything but impassive as she regarded Scorpius, but, at last, at long last some would say, she met his eyes with a directness that had never before infected her gaze.
“I hope that you enjoy your honeymoon. I did hear something about that volcano, but I’m sure that it’ll amount to nothing.” Her smile slowly reappeared. “It always does in the end.”
When she turned away, her ankles wobbled, but she otherwise remained steady on her feet. Approaching Teddy and Albus, she picked up her suitcase and holdall, arms straining against their combined weight until Teddy delicately slipped the former from her hand, an action that met with no resistance. Together, they approached the attendant to relieve Rose of her baggage in more ways than one.
Before they returned to where the family awaited to bid Rose a final farewell, Teddy placed a hand on Rose’s shoulder.
“There is one final issue to address.”
She paused in mid-step, looking up to regard him from beneath furrowed brows.
He gave a negligent shrug. “To some, it may be.”
“But not to me?” She tilted her head.
It was his turn to frown, his grip loosening as he hesitated.
“I’ll admit that I’m more than a little unsure of you, Rose, but I can guess that you’re experiencing the same uncertainty.” His words were halting, reminding her of the Teddy who stood in the shadows as tension filled the space between them.
After some seconds of awkward silence, she slowly shook her head.
“I think that I’m very certain about one thing.”
His gaze, which had wavered, now sought hers.
“And what is that?”
One corner of Rose’s lips twitched as their eyes at last met.
“I’d very much like it if you kissed me goodbye.”
Teddy’s eyes turned such a deep, penetrating blue that Rose’s breath caught in her throat.
If there was one way to cause a sensation among the Weasleys, it was for two very unexpected people to very unexpectedly kiss in the middle of a bustling airport. Teddy had placed his arm around Rose’s shoulders and pulled her toward him for what was, to all appearances, a demure, even chaste kiss. Yet when he pulled his lips away from hers, she leaned her head forward as though to forestall the distance that would, at first, extend a few inches, but too soon it would grow to a few continents.
He said it quietly, but it was all that Rose could hear, even above the din of bustling travellers, wheeled suitcases, ringing mobiles, announcements funnelled through buzzing speakers, gasping cousins, exclaiming mothers, and her father’s triumphant statement to his wife.
“It’s because of me, you know. I pointed out his book to her.”
Hermione blinked multiple times, thinking through her next words with care.
“You pointed out a book, and she fell in love?”
Ginny poked her head around Ron’s shoulder. “Extraordinary, isn’t it? Ron may have hidden depths after all.”
Albus stepped forward with crossed arms, his manner more than a little daring. “Sorry, Uncle Ron, but I was the one who arranged a meeting between them, so I think I deserve some of the credit.”
Ron frowned, and Albus shrunk a full three inches under the chilling gaze of his superior officer, expecting the worst.
“Rose must not suspect that we arranged all of this for her.”
Albus’s eyes widened, their size behind his spectacles only rivalled by Hermione’s increasing state of shock in regard to the actions of her daughter, her husband, and now her nephew. Perhaps now, more than ever, she was questioning the sanity of the family into which she had married.
“Hermione, look!” Ginny touched her arm and gestured toward the retreating backs of Scorpius and Lily, his hand clutching hers until she squirmed under the pressure. They had left without saying goodbye.
“Well that’s that, I suppose.” Hermione let out a breath, one that seemed to have been held in for a very long time.
Rose hurried over in response to one of those buzzing announcements to give everyone a cheerful embrace. She had become a different person entirely, her steps light as a dancer’s, though she slipped on a damp patch of tile and nearly tripped over her grandfather’s shoestrings. Certainly she appeared radiant, cheeks blushed to the same shade as her freckles, and perhaps it was that which had most infuriated the defeated Malfoy. He had never liked her freckles.
“I’m sorry to be going again so soon, Mum.” Rose paused in front of her mother, face falling into hesitancy.
Hermione found that her eyes had become rather bleary quite against her will.
“We’ll just have to come and visit you.”
“Wouldn’t that be fun?”
Ron put one arm around Hermione’s shoulders while the other proffered a handkerchief in a feat of sympathetic feeling. When, after making fair use of the bit of cloth, Hermione returned it, Ron hid behind her hair to likewise dab at the corners of his eyes.
“Yes, wouldn’t it?” Rose bit at her bottom lip, sounding anything but convinced.
No matter how much her life in England could take a turn for the better, Rose was very certain that she wanted her life in China kept separate as a thing of her own, a place that was entirely hers without encroachment from these endless distractions and responsibilities. She loved her family, but the thought of them crowded, much like they were now, in Zhang’s garden, gulping down Ming’s tea while Chang watched them, owl-eyed that so many could have hair that particular shade of carrot orange.
When Aunt Ginny came to the rescue, Rose could have given her all the tea in China.
“I don’t think that the food would agree with you, Ron.”
Rose nodded agreement. “And the flight is terrible.”
The announcement buzzed again, and she started, looking about her in a growing flurry.
“I have to go.”
Her family crowded around for one final goodbye. It was as though Scorpius and Lily had not been there at all, had never been there, had never even existed. Rose was plied with enough eatables to more than likely last a month, if not two, enough hugs to squeeze all the air from her lungs, and enough kisses to thoroughly wash both cheeks. Above their heads, Rose met Teddy’s eyes. He stood on the edge of the crowd, hands in his pockets, a sideways smile spread wide across his face, reaching into his eyes, still a violent shade of blue. Now there was a distraction that Rose didn’t mind. There was no responsibility there either, no broken promises, no worries whatsoever.
At least, not for the present.
Before she passed into the secure area, Rose’s hand was taken up by Teddy, who had politely shoved Albus aside at the last moment. She twined her fingers with his until they became a Gordian knot of knuckles.
“I have this letter,” he began, bending his head so that only she could hear. “Much damaged, unfortunately, but I thought you might change your mind about discarding it.”
From his pocket he took the crumpled envelope containing the more crumpled letter.
Rose looked down at it and took a deep breath.
“Thanks, but I haven’t changed my mind.”
She nodded, a corner of her mouth twitching coyly.
“And of something else, too.”
The others were pushing her toward the security line, but she resisted, even at the peril of missing her flight.
“What?” He minced his words to save some seconds.
She squeezed his hand before letting go, her voice carrying back to him as she was caught in the swift current of departing passengers that endlessly flowed through Heathrow’s halls.
“I'm sure you write wonderful letters.”
Author's Note: Many, many thanks to everyone who has helped with the completion of this story - all the supporters and reviewers and readers who have been interested enough to read this story and follow along with Rose's blundering exploits. I really appreciate everything you've done to get me through the writing process - I couldn't have finished without you.
This chapter was shamelessly inspired by the film collaborations of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (new obsession, sorry). The tension-filled shadowy scene and goodbye kiss were adapted from "Woman of the Year" while Rose's final line was adapted from "Desk Set".
There is a sequel in the planning stages, tentatively titled "Welcome to Mars" and based on the David Bowie song "Life on Mars?" - look for it at the end of 2011. Also, if you want to read more about the secondary characters, I have two one-shots: "The Name of the Game" featuring Lily and Scorpius, and also "Take a Chance on Me" with Albus and Vinny.