For Dad and Grandma, and for everyone who has personally experienced or was close to someone with cancer.
“Rose! Red Rosie!”
Rose had looked around the Entrance Hall and eventually spotted her cousin, James, the one calling her name. “Hullo, James,” she had replied politely with a smile as he ran up to her, his untidy black hair sticking up in a hundred different directions.
Instead of greeting her, James had immediately got Rose in a headlock. “Huh, Rose, you’re looking a bit stressed as of late,” he had said conversationally.
“Geroff me, you -”
“I think this will therapeutic for you. You know, help ya unwind a bit.”
“I’m going to kill you!”
“It’s kind of hard to do that while in a headlock, don’t you think?”
“Argh!” Rose had manoeuvred her foot nimbly and found James’s - with savage pleasure, she had slammed her foot onto his.
“OW!” James had released her and clutched his foot, hopping around like a nutter. The other students around them had smiled at James, eyes flashing with admiration; they thought he was just being his usual attention-seeking self, and they loved it.
“Aw, what’s the matter, James?” Rose had asked with false sweetness. “You’re looking a bit stressed as of late!”
James had sucked in a sharp breath through his teeth. “Dammit, Rose! That really hurt!”
“You deserved it!” Rose had snapped in reply. She had covered her cough in the crook of her elbow. She had coughed so hard, tears sprang to her eyes. James had straightened up, dropping the ‘wounded beyond salvation’ act.
“Ouch,” he had said. “That made my throat hurt. You okay, Rosie?”
“Fine,” Rose had replied brusquely. “I’m fine, nosy.”
“You sure about that?” James had asked with a concerned expression on his face. “Maybe you should go see Madam Pomfrey…”
“I said I’m fine, James!” Rose had snapped, feeling very annoyed all of a sudden. Why did everyone have to pester her? Merlin, it was just a little cold!
“All right, then,” James had said, his face falling into a frown. He had sounded annoyed, and Rose had felt extremely guilty.
“James, I’m sorry I snapped at you,” she had said, placing a consoling hand on his arm. "I'm just feeling a bit sick." He had grinned at her, running a hand through his hair and making it ten times messier.
“It’s alright, Red,” he had replied, tousling her frizzy hair. “You can’t help being a homicidal maniac.”
“OI!” Rose had yelled at him. He had giggled like a child and ran up the stairs. Rose had laughed and started to chase him, but halfway up the stairs, she stopped and sat, unable to go on. Her lungs had felt like they were on fire, her breath wheezed out painfully. She panted, every breath taxing her body.
The people who passed her had simply stared at her with curious eyes, wondering why Ron and Hermione Weasley’s daughter was sitting in the middle of the main staircase. Eventually, everyone had left, leaving Rose all alone, her wheezing breathing echoing around the vast Entrance Hall.
Maybe something is wrong, she had thought to herself. But then she had shook her head, dismissing the notion. If something is really wrong, I would know it. Right?
The camera went off with a high-pitched whining noise and a blinding white flash. The four people sitting at the end of the Gryffindor table blinked in confusion, making various noises of discontent ranging from groaning to explicit swearing.
“Rose?” a round-faced girl exclaimed. “What did you do?!”
“I took a picture, Alice,” Rose replied calmly, looking at the camera. “And I’ll probably have to take another one, because I don’t think the first one will turn out so great.”
Another boy right at the end of the table coughed dramatically, waving his hand in front of his face as if trying to get rid of imaginary smoke. “Rose, you idiot, you’ve blinded me!” he whined in a posh accent.
Rose rolled her eyes. “Ben, you are the biggest drama queen I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet,” she said as she took the empty seat across from him.
“Is there any particular reason why you decided to photograph us?” a boy with messy, jet-black hair asked.
“An excellent question, Al!” Rose put a finger to her chin, her head tilted to the side, in a clichéd pose. “Uh…no, not that I can think of.”
Albus stared at her for a moment. “Amy?” he said suddenly, turning to the girl sitting next to Rose.
Amy, a petite girl with a blonde pixie cut, replied, “Yes, dear?
“My cousin needs to be punished for nearly blinding us,” Al said in a grave tone as he shot his girlfriend a meaningful look.
All the colour drained from Rose’s cheeks. “No…” she whispered.
Amy sighed. “All right, all right,” she said, turning to her red-haired friend. “Rosie, I’m sorry, but it’s my Gryffindor duty.”
“It’s not yo -” Whatever Rose was trying to say was interrupted as Amy began tickling her. Rose squirmed and giggled madly. “S-stop! Stop…it! I’m…s-sorry, okay?!” she said in between rasping breaths.
Amy shot a questioning look at Al, and, after her nodded in reply, stopped in her barrage of tickling. Rose coughed uncontrollably, her eyes streaming.
“I hate being ticklish,” she muttered sullenly, putting her camera in her bag and grabbing a plate.
“I still don’t understand why I’m always the one who has to tickle Rose,” Amy protested, her mouth turning downwards in a little pout.
“Because that’s your hidden talent, Amy!” Alice said, her wide blue eyes twinkling with amusement.
“Alice, if you know about her talent, then how can it possibly be hidden?” Ben, the overly-dramatic boy, asked dryly.
Alice thought for a moment. “Because…” she started, then trailed off uncertainly with a look of intense confusion on her face. “Because…oh, never mind!”
Rose, Ben, Al and Amy all snorted with laughter as Alice angrily poked her fork into her eggs, as if each egg had personally offended her in some manner. Rose started to dig into her sausages, but after one bite, her appetite vanished. She quickly dropped her fork and pushed the plate away, feeling nauseous. None of her friends noticed.
“Hey, Rosie?” Al asked her as he shovelled bacon into his mouth. Amy looked quite disgusted and ashamed of her boyfriend.
“Yes, cousin dearest?” Rose replied politely, before taking a sip of her pumpkin juice to relieve her burning throat, a smile still on her lips.
“Where were you yesterday?”
Rose began coughing and spluttering as she choked on her pumpkin juice. The question had caught her completely off-guard; she had forgotten all about yesterday. For a moment, memories overwhelmed her and tears stung in her eyes, but Rose simply shook her head and steadied herself internally.
Be strong, Rose, she thought to herself. You can do this. Just tell them…
“Rosie!” Alice exclaimed, her voice full of worry. “Are you alright?!”
“I-I -” Rose coughed a bit more. “Yeah, I’m fine. The juice just, you know, went down the wrong way.”
Ben frowned. “How?” he asked. “I mean, how many different ways can it go down? There’s one way, and -”
“Ben?” Amy asked sweetly. “Can you please shut up?”
Ben grumbled but remained quiet to the relief of his friends.
“Ah, what were you saying, Albus?” Rose asked hesitantly.
“I asked you where you were yesterday,” he repeated. “No one saw you all day and Alice said you hid in your bed all evening with the curtains drawn.”
“I, uh…actually, I -” Rose was interrupted before she could finish with I just found out I have lung cancer. C’est la vie!
“She must have been feeling poorly, Al,” Alice said defensively.
“Yeah, cool it with the Spanish Inquisition, Potter,” Amy said sternly.
Rose sat quietly as her friends bickered. In a way, she felt disappointed; she was just about to tell them, she was right on the brink of getting everything off her chest. She frowned slightly. Perhaps it was better this way.
Maybe telling her best mates she had lung cancer at breakfast wasn’t such a good plan.
“What’s the Spanish Inquisition?” Ben asked Amy.
She cleared her throat, smoothing her blue-and-bronze tie. “A Catholic orthodoxy established at the end of the twelfth century to smoke out heretics…”
Everyone at the table tuned out as Amy carried on with her lecture; sometimes, having a Ravenclaw in your group of immediate friends could make things very boring.
“Yes!” Ben shouted triumphantly as the bell rang. Amy looked disappointed, but Al pulled her up and grabbed her hand.
“C’mon, love,” he said, grinning at her with adoring eyes. “Herbology first.”
Amy smiled back and kissed his cheek, tying his Slytherin tie the right way. Everyone else at the table gagged at the gooey exchange. They left the Hall, walking so close together that Rose almost thought they were glued at the hip.
“Absolutely nauseating,” she commented as she stood and swung her bag over her shoulder.
“He is so whipped,” Ben said, standing as well. “Hasn’t he ever heard of the Bro Code? ‘Bros before -’”
“If you value your life, you will not finish that sentence,” Alice said, whacking him over the head as she began to walk out of the Hall. Rose smirked at Ben and followed her.
“I need more bros,” Ben said before tagging along behind Rose and Alice.
“So what’s on the schedule today?” Rose asked Alice.
“Defence first,” she replied. Rose swallowed nervously, feeling anxious all of sudden. Headmistress McGonagall had said she would inform all your professors of Rose's condition. How would they treat her know they knew she had only ten months to live?
“Rose!” Alice called. “Are you coming?”
Rose realized she had stopped in the middle of the Entrance Hall. She shook her head slightly to clear it. “Yeah, of course,” she replied. “Why wouldn’t I?”
She coughed in the crook of her arm before walking up the stairs to class. She didn’t notice the small drops of blood that flew from her mouth and settled on her sleeve.
Author's Note: So, didn't really contain everything I said it would, but all in all, I like this chapter. What about you? Thoughts? What about favorite quotes, what you think of Rose's friends, how you think she's handling things so far? Then review, review, review!
Next chapter, we might meet little third-year Hugo, perhaps see some more of Rose's friends, and possibly catch a glimpse of the slippery Slytherin Scorpius!