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Chapter 25 : Picking Up the Pieces
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Just to let you guys know, the queue closes on the 1st of July, so this will be the last posted chapter until the queue reopens on July 7th! Come back then when chapter 26 is up! :)
beautiful chapter image be laelia @ TDA
The day came two weeks later after I hadn't stepped foot outside of my flat when the knocking came again. Once again, I knew who it was. So I didn't leave my bed. I had grown weak and lethargic, not to mention filthy. I had cooked until I had just about bled my kitchen dry of what ingredients it held, and then I relied on conjuring my food so I didn't have to leave my flat. I had showered recently, but I hadn't shaved once. Neither had I done my laundry or taken care of the place. I was embarrassed by my behavior to say the least, but I found that I couldn't muster the strength or the will to do any of that. I simply spent all my time sulking to myself, wondering if Rose was still sane, if she was alive or had died within her cell. Then the thoughts of her losing her mind or being dead made me even more deranged.
Harry's shouting made me find my voice, the voice I hadn't used in three weeks. "Go away!" I tried to shout, finding my throat dried up and croaking.
Then a huge crash came, and I groaned, knowing Harry had forced himself into my flat. But whether he broke down my door or used a charm to get in, I didn't know, but the crashing sound suggested my living room was an even greater mess now. I didn't budge from my bed. From there, I listened to the crunching of glass beneath my god-father's feet, and I heard him say in exasperation, "What the fuck happened in here, Ted?"
"Leave me alone," I groaned, my voice droning from its lack of use.
The shuffling moved closer, and I knew he now stood at the entrance into my bedroom. Still I didn't budge, so he finally threw my covers off of me and onto the ground. I cringed at the light I hadn't seen in days, and he drew in a sharp breath at the sight of me. I knew that my facial hair was nothing like it had ever been before.
"Holy shit, Ted," he huffed again. I turned to face him. Harry's eyes appeared sunken, almost hollow in his eye sockets with the skin darkened around them. I could tell he lacked sleep and had been stressed lately. "What the hell has happened to you? Pull yourself together, boy! You can't keep going on like this."
I grunted. He was angry with me; I could tell, and so he began to reprimand me like I was his own child.
Harry turned away from me and began to pick up after me. I watched him pick up my t-shirts, the dirty socks, and the many pairs of pants, throwing them into my closet. I sat up, placing my feet on the floor and rubbing my eyes. I didn't need Harry to take care of me. That was the last thing I needed.
"Cut it out," I told him, watching him violently pull open the drapes to let in the sunlight. "You don't need to pick up after me."
"Then pick up after yourself," he snapped, whipping around to face me.
His snap sent a chill down my spine. He was pissed. I didn't want to irritate him, but I also didn't want to put up with him. I didn't need him doing this right now. I thought about what day it was and the sunlight spilling in. I knew it had been approximately three weeks since Rose's confession, but I didn't know what day it was. They had sort of started to bleed together, and I could no longer tell. I think it's Thursday...
In the middle of the day. So Harry should be at the office.
"What the bloody hell are you doing here anyway? Shouldn't you be at the Ministry?" I asked. I rose and snatched one of my t-shirts from his hands, putting it away myself.
"I've been sacked," Harry answered.
This caught my attention. I paused and rounded on him, my eyes wide. "You've what?!"
"You heard me," he answered, rolling his shoulders. He had moved to my bed, replacing my covers but probably just to give himself something to do to keep his eyes from meeting mine. "I was sacked."
"Maybe a week ago," he answered dully. I could tell the conversation was hard for him, but he kept a strong face.
Well, that explained why I didn't know. After I had read all I needed to about Sondheim becoming Minister, I had stopped reading the paper. Instead, they had just collected on my window sill where I ditched them after the owl delivered them. I hadn't read the papers to find out anything, and I had of course diverted all outside communication for the past three weeks.
Somehow I wasn't surprised. I should have known this was coming, and I should have given Harry a fair warning. It was obvious to me now that once Sondheim was Minister, he had sacked Harry and hired Peakes as the new Head Auror.
I uneasily asked him this. "And Peakes is now Head...?"
"Yup," he said again. This time he stood up straight, placed his hands on his hips, and his eyes met mine.
"That bastard," I muttered under my breath.
"Don't worry about it," sighed Harry. He finally left the mess that was my bedroom alone and went into the living room. Thankfully he just dropped down onto the couch without picking up anymore of the mess.
Now I felt terrible. Here I was letting myself go and not giving a damn about anyone but myself, and everyone else had suffered as well. Ron, Hermione, and Hugo were suffering. Hell, all of the Weasleys and the Potters, and to top it off, Harry had been fired. Yet here he was, picking up after me like he always had.
I chewed on the nail of my thumb as I listened to him try to convince me things were all right.
"I'd been thinking about retiring anyway. Twenty-five years in the place is a long time, and I certainly have enough money. Besides, the kids are old enough now to be taking care of themselves. We'll be fine," he sighed.
"I'm sorry, Harry," I muttered.
"Really now?" he questioned, putting on that stern look and that fatherly, reprimanding tone he always got when he fussed at his kids. "You've been dodging all of our owls, locking yourself up in your flat, taking an exceptionally long leave of absence from your job, letting your flat go to pot and not giving a damn about anything else. Ted, you have to straighten up."
"I will," I answered in a bashful tone. I could feel my cheeks flushing a deep crimson. I felt terrible, so guilty for my actions and my behavior. I was beyond embarrassed. Mortified even.
"We are all going through a rough patch here," he said. His tone grew softer, and that made me feel a little better. "We are all struggling. Especially Ron and Hermione. We know what you've lost, and we understand that, but cutting us off is not how we deal with things. We're family, and we handle things together."
"Absolutely," I said, nodding with him.
He looked me over for a good few moments, trying to see if I was mocking him or not. But I wasn't. Harry had come here to set me straight, and he had. It hadn't taken anything to put me in line after hearing he had been sacked by Sondheim. It forced me to realize that we all have some weight to carry, but we always have to keep moving. And we have each other when we need the extra help and a shoulder to lean on.
When he believed me to be serious, he nodded in return.
I took a step towards the kitchen, pointing towards the coffee pot. "Can I get you some coffee?"
At least I could try to make up for being an immature, conceited jackass.
"That'd be great," sighed Harry and he kicked his feet up onto the coffee table.
I quickly made us two cups of coffee. Luckily coffee beans were the one thing I still had in my flat. I hadn't had any need to make coffee the past few weeks, as all I wanted to do was sleep. Coffee would have kept me awake so I could worry about my troubles, and I didn't want that.
I handed Harry his mug, sitting next to him on the couch, and we turned to face each other.
"How is everyone?" I asked uneasily.
"They're holding up. Hermione is...distraught, to say the least. Ron is managing, but it's obvious this blow has been hard on him. Hugo is getting along. Everyone? Well, we're all making it."
I looked at Harry with admiration. He is one of the bravest, strongest men I know. I don't know how he does it.
"And Ron. He's still employed at the Ministry, right?" I asked because I wasn't all that sure. If Harry had been sacked, granted for Peakes' job, I found it likely that Ron had been sacked as well.
"Yeah, Ron is still employed, but no one knows for how much longer. We know why I was sacked. Sondheim wanted Peakes to have my position. In Sondheim's and Peakes' eyes, Ron is just another Auror. But if he isn't sacked soon, then the ridicule he is facing at the office may be too much for him soon. No Weasley is in good graces anymore."
I sighed in defeat. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling of how this all seemed to be my fault. I knew it was, and I voiced these thoughts.
"Stop blaming yourself," breathed Harry in an exasperated voice. "You didn't kill the Minister. You didn't force Rose to do it, and nothing can change that. She made her own decision."
"So you think she was forced too?!" I asked quickly. I took his reassurance with a grain of salt, but his words brought forth another thought within me. I knew Rose had been forced into killing the Minister. Blackmailed. Yet I would hold this bit of information within me for a while longer until I had more information and leverage.
Harry sighed and thought hard about his opinion, and then he did his best to articulate his thoughts. "I never thought Rose to have an evil bone in her body. In a way, yes, I think something made her do it. She would never do that of her own choosing."
"What does everyone else think?" I asked. I didn't know if I should be worried about the answer or not. If her uncle believed her to be half innocent, then her parents should at least think that way too, right?
"No one in her family thinks her to be a killer. She may have killed him, but no one thinks she made the choice to do so. We all think she was either forced, blackmailed, or Imperiurised."
I had never felt so relieved in my life.
"I know she was, Harry! Of course she was! So why can't we try to prove it?!" I demanded.
"It would be nearly impossible. We have no evidence, and to obtain that evidence is even more far-fetched. Not to mention, we would probably be acting illegally to obtain this evidence."
"So what?!" I roared. "Who gives a damn? We can't just let her rot!"
I felt hypocritical. I had sworn to free her, to prove how she had been blackmailed, and yet I had done nothing but let her rot for three weeks. Oh, Merlin, what's wrong with me...? I had been so absorbed in my sulking that I had forgotten Rose was still alive, still breathing, and still being tormented by her memory of me and the Dementors in Azkaban. What had I done?
"Ted, even if we could do this, no life sentence in Azkaban has ever been overturned."
"There's a first time for everything!" I breathed.
"I think you need to slow down and think about what you're saying," suggested Harry. The look he gave me didn't put me in a better mood either. He sipped at his coffee as he looked at me begrudgingly from the rim of his mug. He seemed to be thinking what had gone through my head just a few minutes earlier: how I had cut myself off from the world and let Rose just let Azkaban take over her. Now I wanted to fight for her with every fiber of my being.
Well, sorry, Harry, if I can't have a dawning moment of realization in my life that I had done something stupid and decided to make a change, I thought sarcastically.
"I don't need to think," I began sternly. "I know I've been a conceited ass the past three weeks, but I'm going to free the woman I love and that's that."
"You will do what you wish. You're strong-minded like that. I think you're coming upon a dead-end here, but prove me wrong. When you have a plan, I'll contribute everything I can. I know Ron will jump right on board with you," Harry said, throwing in his last comment. He said it under his breath, and he tried to restrain an eye roll as if he disapproved this from Ron. I wanted to smack Harry for doubting Ron and I. What was wrong with him?! We want to free his niece and he's just sitting back.
I didn't argue it though. I didn't need to pester him any further. I had disturbed him enough, and he had enough to worry about. I didn't need to add myself to the list of his troubles. I was mortified by my behavior and hoped he would overlook what I had done the past three weeks.
We had a good chat, catching up on what else had happened, trying to focus on the better things. How James would be heading to the Quidditch World Cup in a month with his team, how when Lily had come home from Hogwarts a few weeks ago from completing her seventh year, she told her parents of her relationship with Lysander Scamander. Harry asked how Rose and I had begun, and I gladly told him. You would think that after everything, thinking of Rose would only upset me, but it didn't. It kept me sane. If I could even be called sane anymore. It made me happy.
I told him of we had developed a friendship that we had lacked throughout our entire life, and then suddenly with her kiss it had grown into something more and I realized it was where I should have been all along. Harry looked at me like he never had before. His smile was wide, his eyes appraising my words and my emotions. He seemed to suck in the happiness that filled me when I talked about Rose, and he seemed pleased to see me in such a way.
When I was done, his words reflected his expression over the past few minutes. "I've never seen you speak so passionately about anything. Or anyone for that matter," he whispered.
"That's because there's never been anyone like her," I answered.
I knew what he was thinking when I said that. His eyes deceived him. They seemed to question, Even Vic? But he didn't say it. And of course even Vic. Victoire and I had had our go, and it didn't go as planned. We were always clumsy on the romantic side. We had always bumped our noses when we kissed, stepped on each others toes when we danced, hands foolishly and awkwardly placed. We argued about the little things that shouldn't even matter that made us appear to be an old married couple, and we soon realized that maybe things were that way because we were too good of friends. We knew that our feelings had betrayed us into romance. We felt nothing more than the strongest of friendship. That was why we had kissed so clumsily, why there had been a lack of spark in our touch for the both of us. And that was why it was so easy to end our relationship on such great terms. We were too good of friends, and always would be. I would still lay down my life for her without a moment's hesitation, and always would.
I realized I missed her then. I needed to see her and talk to her about Rose. She always had something great to say. I then questioned why she hadn't come pounding on my door yet, but then I remembered from months before Jarvis Branstone's murder case. Her book involving magical creatures and their relations with humans was published about two months ago, and she was on tour. Either she was still traveling the world or she was back and busy catching up with her duties as owner of Flourish and Blotts.
He nodded when he understood my feelings for Rose. That they were like nothing I had ever felt before and that he could compare them to that of his relationship with his wife.
Shortly afterwards, Harry said his parting goodbyes, but at the door he turned to face me and pointed a reprimanding finger at me, that fatherly tone back in his voice. "Don't go all incognito on us again. Dinner. My place tonight at 6. You will be there."
"Yes, sir," I answered with a firm nod.
And I was. At approximately 6 PM I apparated onto the Potter's doorstep. I gave a knock to signal my arrival before I let myself in. Their quaint home was quiet and peaceful on the outside, but as soon as I opened the door, I was greeted by the familiar sound of chatter, laughter, and grand times like the homes of the Potters or Weasleys were usually full of. It was like old times. Only so different. Maybe only for me; maybe everyone just tried to forget about whom we were lacking, but I couldn't forget. Her name kept ringing in my ears, and it stung with intense acidity.
I pushed in, trying to smile at everyone as I entered. I could feel the change in ambiance as I entered. Everyone tried to keep their conversation going, to try and not make a big deal of my arrival, but I knew what was running through everyone's mind. I felt the dooming sensation that everyone knew of my love for Rose.
Ginny was the first to act like everything was normal. She rose from the couch where she was chatting with Audrey and moved over to me. She opened up her arms, a smile wide on her face, and she embraced me. I buried my face into her neck, temporarily letting my guard down. I whispered into her ear. "Harry didn't say the whole family would be here."
"Of course he didn't," Ginny said, patting my back. The chuckle in her voice was unmistakable. "But when can we ever have a quiet get-together?"
"That's true," I smiled as she pulled away. Ginny stepped away from me, but I was only to be engulfed into the arms of Rose's grandmother. Molly Weasley was one of the kindest women I had ever met, and she always reminded me of my own grandmother who passed away a few years ago. Arthur was behind her, and he delivered a hard pat on my shoulder. I went into auto-pilot, overwhelmed by all the greetings, some normal and others all too cheerful to simply put on a face, as I was passed off from person to person.
And that's when I saw just the person I needed to see. Victoire was standing at the back of the room, leaning in the doorway with her cute smile as she watched me, a glass of wine perched within her long fingers.
I pushed Fred, Roxy, and Lucy out of the way. They were pestering me with demands to change my nose and other facial features, something I had always done to entertain the lot of them, but since my incognito mission with Scorpius Malfoy, I hadn't changed my appearance at all. I shoved them off and beamed a true smile as I burst over to Victoire.
Knowing I was coming, she set down her glass of wine and opened up her arms just as I scooped her up into mine and spun her around joyously. Her laughter breathed the life back into me, and when I set her down, I kissed both of her cheeks. When I held her face, forcing her eyes to meet with mine, I whispered so no one else could hear. "You're just the person I've been needing to see."
"I knew you would," she answered with a smile. "When Harry told me you would be coming, I decided to cancel my appointments for the day and come back. I have to be back in Paris on Saturday though."
"That's enough for me," I said, my smile widening.
I was thankful when the sound of chatter resumed behind me. That meant all eyes and attention was no longer on me, and I was thankful for that. They were leaving us be.
"So how's the tour? The book? How is everything?" I asked her. I wanted to know how she was. We had gone over three months without speaking. I believe that was the longest in our entire lives that we hadn't spoken to one another. Ever since her first word, we were always speaking.
"Oh, shut up, Teddy," she said, rolling her eyes. "We can talk about all of that later. What I want to talk about is you and how you're doing."
"Do we really have to right now?" I asked, whining like a child. I knew that I had wanted to speak with Victoire for those exact reasons - to discuss things with Rose and what had happened, to have someone to vent to and to rely on her opinions - but now I found that I just wanted to forget.
"I only have twenty-four hours," she sighed, seeming truly disappointed with how little time we had together. "And Jack would absolutely kill me if I didn't spend some time with him as well."
"Later. I promise," I said, finding it odd that I was the one promising a venting session later on tonight when she would be the one who would sit there and listen to me hash it out. Whenever she wanted to vent, I always tried to run in the other direction. She was always so eager and so understanding when it was me to complain. What did I do to deserve a friend like her? She was only home for two days, and sure she had probably already spent the afternoon with her husband, but she was giving up her time with him to be with me. I told myself she could have tomorrow with her husband as well so I wouldn’t feel so guilty.
I gave her one more hug of thanks before I turned and looked at everyone again. I saw Ron sitting in a chair in the corner, his chin perched on his hand, perfectly still. It was only then did I realize that he hadn't greeted me. I dismissed myself from Vic and went to him. I knelt beside him, placing my hand on his knee. That was when he turned, slowly and lethargically, to see who his greeter was. He tried to muster a smile but failed, but he still took my hand into his.
"How are you?" I asked him apprehensively.
"I'm alive, aren't I?" he muttered.
I tried to swallow down my anxiety. It felt as if sucking down a box of nails. I cleared my throat and said the only thing that could come to mind. "I know..."
I managed a squeeze. The pressure I felt in my hand in return was a good sign. Then I didn't know what else to say to him. I patted his knee and let him be. As the evening went on, I learned a few things. That no one believed Rose to be a cold blooded killer. Like Harry said, everyone believed she had been forced to do it in some way. Harry and Ron had also respected my privacy and my embarrassment; they hadn't told the entire family about my feelings for Rose. I soon learned that only a select few knew. Molly and Arthur knew, as well as Hermione, Ginny, and Victoire, of course. But other than that, no one else knew. Everyone knew of my involvement in the case though; that much had been shared. They knew of how I had impersonated Scorpius Malfoy by means of obtaining information from Rose, but anything beyond that was a secret. And I was thankful for that. Everyone assumed that Rose and I had grown close during our stay, perhaps to that of friends, but I don't think anyone else assumed that we had fallen in love.
After we had eaten dinner and the first few people left, Victoire and I dismissed ourselves. We apparated into my flat where she looked at the mess that I had yet to touch, and she seemed appalled. Her disappointment in me was radiated in her gaze.
"You've really let yourself fall apart, haven't you?" she muttered, kicking a broken picture frame. She pulled out her wand, gave a wave, and we watched as my flat repaired itself.
I watched her busy herself about my kitchen. She flawlessly remembered where I kept everything, and she made us both a cup of coffee. We knew it was late, but I immediately knew why she was making us both a cup. It would be just like the nights when we would stay up for hours on end just talking. With so much to catch up on, tonight would be one of those nights.
And it was. I poured my heart out to Victoire, and she just sat there and listened. She nodded when she needed to and asked for me to elaborate when she wanted. She was a brilliant listener, as I made sure to not leave out a single detail. I gave her the whole story, even the parts I was keeping from Harry and Ron. That I believed Peakes to be the root of this all, how he told me he had blackmailed her into doing it, and how there was still so much more I didn't know but Peakes refused to tell me. She gave me advice and consoled me when I needed it. Having her there was exactly what I needed.
Victoire told me from her heart that she believes Rose and I belong together. I know we do. Now if only I could find a way to bring us back together.
Peakes had convinced me all I needed was a push to make me go mad. I had reached that point; I had gone mad - and quite easily so – but all it took was a push from my uncle and from Victoire to get me moving again. Slowly, I was beginning to pick up the pieces.
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