For anyone who has ever suffered as a direct or indirect result of cancer.
It had been Christmas Eve. The Weasleys and the Potters had all crammed into the small, cosy sitting room of the Burrow, digging into sweets and listening to Celestina Warbeck on the small, antique radio. Nana Molly had just started handing out her homemade jumpers, and while almost everyone else had crowded round to get theirs, Rose and her father had hung back, their mutual desire to avoid hand-knitted garb keeping them seated on the sofa.
“So, your first year at Hogwarts has been going well, yeah?” Ron had asked his daughter. She had grinned at him.
“Yeah! It’s brilliant there, Dad!” Rose had replied eagerly. Ron had laughed and put his arm around his little girl.
“You’ve made lots of friends?”
“Uh-huh! There’s Alice, but I knew her cause she’s Mr Neville’s daughter. And there’s Al, but we’re related, so it doesn’t count. The other girl in my dorm, Annie, she’s really quiet, but she’s nice enough. And I met this girl, Amy, in my Charms class! But she’s a Ravenclaw, so I don’t see her as often. I also started studying with Ben cause I needed help in Potions - he’s a Gryffindor, like me, but he’s in second year, so I don’t see him a lot either.”
Rose had then stopped to take a breath. Ron had laughed again. “Sounds like you’re pretty popular,” he had said.
“Of course she is!” Rose’s mum had said, sitting down next to her suddenly and pulling her hand-knitted Nana Molly jumper over her head. “Before you know it, you’ll have boys tagging along after her!” She then had given her husband a smirk.
“Uh-uh!” Rose had argued, crossing her arms. “I don’t like boys!” She had stuck her tongue out in disgust at the very thought of liking the opposite sex.
“What, you don’t like your old man?” Ron had said with mock-sorrow.
“He’s boy too, Rosie,” Hermione had grinned. Rose’s eyes had widened and she turned to her father.
"No you’re not!” she had said. “You’re a man!”
Ron had roared with laughter and drew his daughter onto his lap, planting a kiss on her forehead. “That’s right!” he had said. “And you know what your mother is?”
Rose had thought for a moment, but then brightened and exclaimed, “A know-it-all? That’s what you call her!” Ron’s face had quickly crumpled into worry.
“Uh, n-no I don’t!” He had given a nervous chuckle and grinned half-heartedly at his scowling wife. “I meant you should call your mother a very beautiful, wonderful woman…”
“Nu-uh, you call her a know-it-all all the time!” Rose had replied indignantly; if there was anything she got from her mother, it was her need to be right.
“Hey, Ron, Mum’s got your jumper all ready over there,” Uncle Harry had said, coming up to an increasingly uncomfortable Ron.
“Ah!” he had replied, jumping up as if he had been electrocuted; he had then run to his mother as if his life depended on receiving a hideous maroon jumper.
“You call her a know-it-all too, Uncle Harry!” Rose had said suddenly, pointing her finger up at her terrified uncle.
“Harry…” Hermione had said in a dangerous tone, standing from the sofa.
“Er, I have to get my…” Harry had said, then darted off before finishing his excuse.
Rose’s mum had angrily tossed her hair and stomped away, leaving her very confused daughter alone on the sofa. “Did I say something wrong?”
It had been the longest and coldest November Rose could remember. The cold wasn’t improving her mood in any way, and while her Healer at St. Mungo’s told her and her parents that she was “doing surprisingly well,” Rose felt as if the stress from keeping such a large secret would kill her long before the cancer did.
Rose had assumed that telling someone would be beneficial to her health, would relieve most of her stress, would make living with her illness so much easier, but in fact, it did the opposite. I never should have given Lily that damn promise, Rose thought everyday. I can’t tell everyone by Christmas; what the hell was I thinking?!
Lily wasn’t the cause of Rose’s stress - Lily Luna Potter could keep a secret better than anyone else in the Weasley-Potter family tree and knew not to pester Rose about her promise. She never lost her cool in front of anyone else either and didn’t bother Rose about ‘sharing her feelings’.
Like Rose, Lily kept her feelings to herself.
There was another reason (other than nerves) why Rose was reluctant to tell anyone else. She wanted to face her illness alone; it wasn’t out of some twisted sense of nobility or anything like that. She just felt like it was the right thing to do, like there was no other way to fight the cancer. It was almost like her Uncle Harry’s need to face Voldemort alone, although the only life on the line in Rose’s case was her own.
"Rose! Roooooooose! Rosie-Rosie-Rosie-Rosie-Rosie-Ros -”
"Ugh, Alice, enough! I’m awake, see?”
Alice Longbottom grinned mischievously at Rose, showing the large dimples on her round, rosy cheeks.
“We’re going home today!” she squealed excitedly. Rose felt dread drop into her stomach.
“Oh…” she muttered, her heart beating at an accelerated rate, “That is today, isn’t it.”
Alice’s grin slid off her face. “What’s wrong?” she asked with concern.
Quickly, Rose plastered a pathetic, fake smile onto her face. “Oh, oh, n-nothing! Nothing’s wr-wrong, Alice!”
Alice frowned slightly, seeing right through Rose’s feeble attempt to lie. Then, she saw the small, dark spots of blood on Rose’s pillow. Alice gasped, her face turning white. “Rose! Wha - how could…Rose, what’s wrong?!”
Rose paled; she must have coughed in her sleep again, like she had been doing for the past few nights. “Oh. That. Uh….”
“Are you feeling sick?! Here, I’ll take you to the hospital wing, don’t worry! Oh, should I ask Madam Pomfrey to Floo you to St. Mungo’s?! Yes, y-yes that’s what I’ll do!” Alice said in rapid succession, jumping up from Rose’s bed and pulling on her long, yellow hair nervously.
“No!” Rose said, sitting up quickly and raising her hands. “Alice, I’m fine, really!”
“But you’re - you - blood -” Alice squeaked. For a brief moment, Rose saw timid and silent Annie Green looked up from her neat bed across the room with slight anxiety - but upon seeing Rose looking at her, she quickly scurried into the washroom.
“Alice, it’s nothing, okay?” Rose snapped, losing her patience. “I just…I-I got a nosebleed last night, alright? ‘Cause of the weather…not a lot of humidity…”
Alice’s bright brown eyes grew wide. “Really?” she asked hopefully. Rose nodded, and Alice’s shoulders slumped with relief. “Alright then. Sorry for, uh…did I, er…freak out a bit?”
Rose smiled. “Just a bit.”
Alice grinned back and started to pack up her trunk. The moment she turned away, Rose’s smile slipped off her face, leaving nothing but worry in its wake.
Rose and Alice met their moody, sixth-year friend Ben in the Gryffindor common room, and the three of them walked down to the entrance hall together, dragging their luggage behind them.
“So who are you spending the holidays with this year, Ben?” Alice asked politely. Ben’s parents were divorced, so for every holiday he was bounced back and forth between his mother, his father, and his cantankerous, cat-loving grandmother.
Ben glowered at the ground. “My mum and all her bloody sisters,” he muttered sullenly to his feet. “All they do is knit hideous socks for me and talk about how much the price of bat spleens has raised since last month.”
Rose and Alice snorted with barely concealed laughter. “The price of potion ingredients has been rising steadily for the past couple years…” Rose said with a smirk.
Ben turned his glower on her. “It’s not funny, Weasley,” he snapped. This only made Alice and Rose laugh harder.
“You shouldn’t talk ill of your aunties,” Alice said. “I mean…they knit you socks!” Her face and Rose’s were red from suppressing their giggles.
“Oh, ha-ha,” Ben replied sarcastically, rolling his eyes. “You’re just so witty.”
“Oh, lighten up, Benny bud!” Rose said with a large, toothy grin, nudging him with her elbow.
“Don’t call me tha -”
“Yeah, Benny darling!” Alice chipped in, interrupting a very annoyed Ben. “It’s the holidays, love! Where’s that charming grin we all know and never see?”
“Alice, I am not afraid to kick a girl in the ars- AUGH!” he started to reply, but was again cut off as he once again got his ankle stuck in the trick stair on the third floor. “Alice, Rose, help me up!”
But Alice and Rose were bent double from laughter, leaning against the banister for support. Hoarse coughs wracked Rose’s throat, but she didn’t care; for the first time in almost two months, she felt happy. That’s what the holiday season does to a person - makes them happy, regardless of malady or misfortune.
“How is it that you’ve gone to this school for six years and you still get stuck in the trick step?!” Rose asked Ben. “Even first years know about it!”
“Will you two just shut up and help me up?!” Ben snapped in reply. Still giggling, Rose and Alice grabbed him under the armpits and hoisted him up with difficulty.
"Ugh, Ben, why’re you so damn heavy!?” Alice groaned as she and Rose finally managed to free him from the step.
“It’s muscle mass, woman!” he snapped, brushing himself off.
“Excuse me?” she said in a dangerously low tone, narrowing her eyes at the snooty sixth-year. Rose, sensing one of Alice’s feminist rage-induced rants, scurried off down the stairs.
“Hey, Rose!” a light, friendly voice called as Rose began walking down the corridor. She turned and saw her Ravenclaw friend, Amy, hurrying towards her, dragging her bag behind her. “Excited to see your family?”
Rose suddenly remembered why she had woken up this morning with an extra dose of dread. “Oh, uh…of course!” she said with a hastily plastered-on grin. It seemed to satisfy Amy, who’s grin widened. “And you?”
“Yes!” she squealed. “I’m so excited to see my dad! We’re going to France, you know; didn’t I tell you that?”
Rose sighed. “You’re going to Argelès-sur-mer for a magical, Mediterranean Christmas holiday while everyone else is stuck freezing their arses off here in England,” she said dryly. “You’ve only mentioned it…oh, I don’t know, a hundred times in the past week?”
Amy’s face fell just a tad, but her excited expression was still a bit overwhelming. “Oh, yeah,” she said, “sorry. But Al is coming for the last few days befo -”
“Before we go back to Hogwarts, yeah,” Rose cut her off. “You mentioned that, too.” Then, she flashed a small smile at Amy to let her know there weren’t any real hard feelings.
“I wish you and Alice could come too, but my dad’s still not that convinced that Al should come…” Amy said, her expression turning sympathetic and sad.
“Don’t worry about it,” Rose said. “I like having Christmas at the Burrow. Besides, you’re the one who’s gunna miss the Potter’s annual Christmas party.” She shot Amy a smirk.
“Ah, well,” she shrugged in reply as she and Rose reached the entrance hall, crowded with homebound students wrapping scarves and other various winter clothes around themselves. “Oh, we must be late!” Amy said. “The carriages have already pulled up! C’mon, Rose, I’ll bet Al already found one!”
As Amy grabbed her hand and pulled her through the crowd, Rose sighed and let the weight of her fears crumple her brow in an anxious frown. Happy holidays, she internally grumbled to herself.
Author's Note: Sorry, sorry, SO SO SORRY for the extra-super-insanely-horribly long wait for this chapter, guys! Procrastination strikes again, I'm afraid! I'm also sorry for the poor quality of the writing in this chapter, over-use of alliteration, and the filleryness, but I wanted to give you guys a cheerier chapter for the holidays. (Alliteration. Again. I think I have a problem.)
But next chapter, THE PLOT THICKENS! I'll give you a hint - SOMEONE ELSE FINDS OUT ABOUT ROSE'S CANCER!!! (dun dun duuun!) Anyway, I hope you still like the story enough to review - wink wink wink nudge wink - and happy holidays, everyone! Stay warm! Stay safe! BE MERRY.
(I don't think I've told you guys how much you all mean to me, and so here's your holiday hug! *huggiiiiiing!*) <3, Hannah.