Scorpius poked me awake with a pointy quill. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up and looked around blearily.
“What do you want? It’s my day off,” I muttered whilst trying not to snap the quill in half and chuck it at him.
“We’re going to your parents’ in a bit, don’t you want to get ready?” He sat down on the end of my bed and waited for me to stir.
“What time is it?” I asked, hugging my knees to my chest.
“It’s nearly half past ten,” he informed me. I groaned; that had been such a wonderful lie in before he’d rudely interrupted me.
“Right,” I said after a while, swinging my legs out of bed and shooing him away. “Let me get dressed without you perving on me,” I instructed with a cheeky wink. He took the hint and shut the door behind him on his way out. I rubbed my eyes again and tried to kick-start my brain.
I rifled through my suitcase, wishing that everything in it didn’t need the wrinkles charming out of them. I found a clean dress at the bottom beneath my box of foreign coins and pointed my wand at it. It hung a little straighter, thankfully, so when I put it on after my shower it would be presentable at least.
When Scorpius knocked on my door half an hour later, he was positively beaming.
"What's that face for?" I asked as I searched under the bed for my shoes.
"No reason," he said with a grin. "This just feels nice, doesn't it?"
"What does?" I wedged my feet into my heels, which hadn't been worn in a good while. I dearly hoped I wouldn't need to stand up too much today; I would soon be remembering why exactly I'd stopped wearing these shoes months ago. I tucked a couple of plasters into my handbag for safety. Who said I wasn't organised? That was forward planning at its best.
"This," he said, gesturing between us. "Us."
"There is no 'us'," I reminded him evenly as he stepped out of the way and followed me down the hallway.
"I know there's no 'us'," he corrected himself quickly. "I just meant it's nice that we're doing stuff together. I like spending time with your family."
"Right," I said.
I wasn't quite sure where he was going with this conversation but I wasn't keen to encourage it. I was only taking him with me to my parents' because my Mum had invited him. She wanted to repay him for letting me stay with him. She'd found out last week that I'd moved out of my flat after my argument with Molly. She'd tried to insist that I stay with them but I flatly refused. There was no way I'd ever go back to live with my parents again; my sanity couldn't take it.
We Apparated to my parents' hand in hand and Scorpius reached up to ring the doorbell for me.
Hugo answered the door. "Oh hi Rose," he said, looking like a chirpy bird as he did so.
I raised an eyebrow sceptically. "Why are you in such a good mood?"
He shrugged, running a hand through his unkempt ginger hair. "I dunno," he said. "Young love always cheers me up."
He simpered down at us from the doorstep. I resisted the urge to poke his eye out.
"Shut up," I snapped, pushing past him to go inside.
Both of my parents were standing not far behind Hugo, looking dressed up. Dad was bending down to do up his shoelace and Mum was rearranging her hair.
"Are you going somewhere?" I asked suspiciously.
They both looked up and Mum beamed when she saw Scorpius. "Scorpius!" she exclaimed. "It's so lovely to see you, we're so glad you came. Aren't we, Ron?" she added with a nudge to my father's ribs.
"Yes," he said in a somewhat pained voice. "Very glad."
"Why are you fetching your scarf?" I pushed, interrupting their small talk.
"Oh, didn't Scorpius tell you?" Mum said lightly. "There's been a change of plan. We're going to the Burrow."
Oh, bugger. I turned to glare at Scorpius, who looked away sheepishly. There was no way I was going to the Burrow, even though they'd all clearly set me up. They probably thought I'd play along like the naive little lamb I was and maybe seeing Molly again would make me realise I'd made a mistake and I couldn't live without her friendship. Well, that wasn't bloody likely.
"I'm not going to the Burrow," I growled.
Mum frowned. "Don't be childish, Rose," she said quietly. "No one is going to force you to talk to Molly if you're still insisting on being stubborn."
"I know what you're all up to," I hissed. "Just because I don't have as many NEWTs as you do it doesn't mean I'm stupid."
"Rose," Dad warned. "Don't talk to your mother like that."
I groaned in frustration. "Why does everyone assume I can't sort my own life out? If I wanted to talk to Molly, I would go and see her. I don't need you to organise some sort of surprise reunion."
“We’re not asking you to play happy families,” Dad interrupted. “It would mean a lot to your Gran if you came today. It’s a difficult day for her.”
My expression softened and I sighed. Dad always knew how to find my weak spot. “All right,” I conceded. “But I’m not talking to Molly.”
“That’s fine,” Dad said, placing a hand in the small of my back and pushing me towards the door. Mum frowned as though she was ashamed to have such a disobedient daughter.
We all arrived together in silence, which was surprising what with all the rackety thoughts inside my head. It was a miracle that they couldn’t hear me yelling profanities at an imaginary Molly.
Inside the Burrow, I could hear loud chatter which could only point to a large gathering of Weasleys. I wondered if it was too late to hide inside the chicken shed all day and pretend that I was ill. It would be more pleasant talking to chickens than seeing my nosy family members.
“Ron, hi!” Aunt Audrey called from the kitchen as we joined the family inside. She was putting the decorative touches on a plate of scones. She put down the jam and waltzed over to air kiss us all. “They’re all in the sitting room,” she informed us.
Scorpius gave me a significant look and I realised he wasn’t going to let me hide away all day instead of facing my relatives. We left Mum, Dad and Hugo behind to help Audrey with the food and made our way through the house. My heart was rattling around inside my ribs like nobody’s business and I was suddenly very nervous. I hadn’t seen Molly for weeks; how was I going to stay composed in the same room as her? I didn’t even know if I wanted to make a scene or not. None of our family knew why we’d fallen out and no doubt they were all hugely curious. I didn’t want to think about the impertinent questions they were just dying to ask us. Perhaps she’d already got in there first and told them all about how horrible a person I was and it was entirely my fault. Ugh.
Molly was sat between Louis and Roxanne, deep in conversation about something. I tried not to glare at them but I could already tell they’d take her side in any argument I decided to start. It was so typical of Roxanne to join whichever side I wasn’t on.
I looked for somewhere safer to sit, and was stuck with a choice between Lily and Lucy in one corner and Dominique. It really was a choice between a rock and a hard place. I really couldn’t stand Lucy and Lily’s irritating whining, so I left Scorpius standing awkwardly in the doorway whilst I went to talk to Dom.
She wasn’t necessarily glowing, but she had a touch of the pink cheek about her. She was clutching a champagne glass full of orange juice and was resting her hand on her now showing bump. She must be something like five months along now.
“Hi,” I said cautiously as I perched on an armchair beside her.
“Rose,” she said, looking slightly startled that I’d chosen to sit with her. “Hello.”
“You look well,” I offered, trying not to stare at her belly. I couldn’t believe there was a little person in there, soon to join our family in a few months. It was so weird.
“Look, I know why you’ve come over here,” she said gently. Her eyes flicked over to where Molly was throwing her head back in laughter.
“We all know you’ve had a fight with Molly.” She looked back at me with wide eyes. “I think I know why.”
I frowned slightly. “I don’t think you do.”
Dom shifted slightly closer to me. “I can trust you, can’t I?” she said in a very quiet voice. “You know who the father is, don’t you?”
I looked around to see if anyone was listening in. They were all absorbed in their own conversations except for Scorpius who was still standing alone in the doorway. “Yeah. Teddy. Does Victoire know?”
Dom shook her head. “Please don’t tell anyone, Rose. She’ll never forgive me.”
I bit my lip. I’d suddenly found myself in a very difficult position. Was it wrong to keep something like that from Victoire when it was so important? She was marrying him, she surely needed to know about it. She deserved the chance to leave him before it all became legally binding. I didn’t want to lie to anyone but it wasn’t my place to tell her. Either Teddy or Dom had to and there was nothing I could do about that.
“We fell out, me and Victoire,” Dom said when I’d been silent for a while. “I tried to get her to break up with him after we… you know. She wouldn’t listen to me, she said I was just jealous.”
Dominique’s bottom lip began to tremble and I was really worried she was going to start sobbing in the middle of the party.
I took her hand in mine and stroked it. “It’s going to be okay,” I lied, hoping to soothe her. Of all things, the one thing it certainly was not going to be was okay. Victoire would be devastated when she found out, which she inevitably would when she saw the baby and its hair changed colour.
“I’m such an idiot,” she whispered. “I didn’t even like him that much, I was just drunk. And now look what’s happened.”
I resisted the urge to tell her that yes, she was an idiot and that she’d ruined her sister’s happiness. She’d changed so many lives over a guy she wasn’t even that keen on. It just made it all the more clear to me how little chance I’d actually had with Teddy after all and I was so glad nothing serious ever happened. I could be thankful for that.
We sat in silence for a bit. “I’m not going to tell anyone,” I said after a while. “But I think you should tell her. She deserves to know.”
“I can’t tell her,” Dominique said in a panicked voice. “She’ll hate me.”
Then, she promptly burst into tears. Quickly, I flashed everyone in the room a smile and then took Dominique by the elbow and steered her out of the room. I took her into the larder and sat her down on an upturned bucket. I nipped out to fetch some tissues for her and ran straight into an orange fur ball.
“Making more people feel shit about themselves, I see,” Molly observed as I straightened myself out.
“Oh shut up,” I growled. “I’m not talking to you.”
Molly narrowed her eyes. “You’re not doing a very good job.” I ignored her and stalked off in search of tissues. “You can’t keep running away from your problems, Rose,” she yelled after me. “They’ll catch up with you eventually.”
I swung round and marched back up the hall towards her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’ll have to talk to me eventually,” she said with a shrug. “When you’re ready to stop being pathetic, you know where I live.”
“You know what,” I snapped. “You’re a terrible friend. You don’t even care that we’re not speaking and you clearly aren’t prepared to make the effort to fix the mess that you made. If you’re not going to try then neither should I.”
Molly raised an eyebrow. “I’m not the one who threw a tantrum and moved out. You can’t cope with the confrontation so you’d rather let other people run around trying to fix things for you. I know you’ve got Lucy on my case and quite frankly I don’t appreciate it.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked indignantly. “I haven’t had anything to do with Lucy other than the fact that she keeps nagging me to talk to you.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Molly retorted. “You’ve never been one to do your own dirty work.”
“That’s not true.” I glared at her with as much spite as possible. “That isn’t true at all,” I repeated lamely.
“Whatever, Rose,” she said. “It’s a wonder you’re coping in the real world without me.”
“What, do you think I need to rely on you?” I said heatedly. “You’ve made it quite obvious that I definitely shouldn’t and can’t rely on you, Molly. I trusted you to be honest with me and you let me down.”
“It was for your own good,” she hissed in response.
“Keep telling yourself that.”
Glaring at me one more time, she returned to the living room whilst I silently seethed in the hall. The bloody nerve of her! I didn’t need her, that was for sure. I had no intention of depending on anyone who could betray me like she did. If she expected me to come running back to her with my tail between my legs she could think again. I wanted her to realised that she’d really badly hurt me and she was in the wrong. Where did she even get the idea that she was right, anyway?
Eventually I remembered that I’d left Dominique crying in the larder and hastily fetched the tissues and returned to her.
“I’m a terrible sister,” she mumbled as she sniffled into a tissue. “I wish it had never happened.”
I sighed. Wishing that it hadn’t happened didn’t exactly help anyone. I wished Molly hadn’t been a horrible lying cow but that didn’t change anything. “Well, it did happen and now you have to deal with it.”
“I know,” she sniffed. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Talk to Victoire,” I advised gently. “She’ll find out sooner or later and it would be better if it came from you.”
“She’s not going to take it well either way.”
“No, she’s not,” I agreed. “The sooner you tell her the sooner you can start to redeem yourself. And your baby is going to want an auntie.”
I didn’t know where I was getting all this excellent advice from, but if I did say myself I wasn’t doing too bad a job of this whole thing. I looked around at the food on the shelves and found myself a packet of biscuits. I offered one to Dom but she declined, looking nauseous.
“You’re right,” she said numbly, scratching her arm with an absent mind. “I’ve got to tell her.”
I nodded. My eyes were fixated on the packet of biscuits, which seemed to be very unappealing all of a sudden. I hadn’t had much of an appetite for them recently. They reminded me too much of Molly and the good and bad times we’d had together. Biscuits without Molly just seemed too wrong.
We sat in pensive silence for a while, neither of us having anything new to say to each other. I liked to think she appreciated my company more than my talking. At least she didn’t have to feel alone for now.
“Rose, could you get me a glass of water?” she said thickly after a while. I was going to ask her why she couldn’t get her own glass when I realised she wanted to be alone. I took the hint and left her, shutting the door to the larder behind me as I went.
The kitchen was empty when I went to find a glass, everyone having moved into the sitting room to eat Audrey’s pastries. I filled the glass with water from the tap and sipped at it, giving Dominique a few more minutes to herself. She probably had a lot to think about.
I stared out of the window into the yard, trying to pinpoint when exactly all of our lives had changed. When we’d all finally left Hogwarts a few years ago it had felt like the start of a new era, but really we were all still the same, essentially. Nothing had dramatically changed, we just lived closer to home and spent more time in the pub. Now, though… now we were all growing up and growing out of ourselves faster than I could keep track of. Teddy, Victoire and Fred had all left for new countries, Molly was no longer the person I thought she was and Dominique was having a baby. When did we all get so old? I didn’t even want to think about how I’d changed. I’d thought I was in control but now I didn’t know. I had a better job, a better outlook but I was so much less in control of everything now than I ever was before.
Was it bad that I wanted things to go back to how they used to be? It was so much simpler when Molly and I were too busy locking ourselves away in broom cupboards to gossip rather than forming real connections with people. An unattainable, perfect Teddy was better than the real man who had got my cousin knocked up. What I thought I knew about my life was so irrevocably off-kilter that I couldn’t imagine how I’d ever coped before. What was it I wanted out of life? It had never mattered before but there was some ticking clock inside of me that was reminding me that things were moving on fast and I was soon going to get left behind.
The sound of the back door opening roused me from my thoughts and I looked up from the water glass to see an unexpected face at the door.
“Victoire,” I said, my throat suddenly dry despite the water. “What are you doing here?”
“Surprise!” she exclaimed, stepping inside the kitchen and revealing another unexpected face behind her.
Teddy smiled at me and gave a small wave. I was too shocked to anything but stare numbly back at them both.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Teddy joked.
“I…” I struggled to find something to say. What could I say to either of them, knowing what I knew?
Victoire looked at me curiously but didn’t question me further. She disappeared out of the kitchen to find the others, leaving me trembling in the kitchen with Teddy.
Teddy watched me, a frown slowly developing on his brow. “Say something, Rose,” he prompted.
I cleared my throat and carefully set the glass down on the table in front of me, scared that I might drop it any moment now.
“You’re back,” I managed.
Teddy nodded. “Just for the weekend. It’s Victoire’s birthday, you see.”
“Right,” I responded slowly. “Her birthday.”
Teddy’s frown deepened. “What’s the matter? You’re acting weird.”
“I’m acting weird,” I repeated. “I’m acting weird…”
“Rose, you’re scaring me a bit. What’s going on?” He took a step towards me to put a hand on my arm, but I flinched away from him.
“Don’t touch me,” I snapped. “Don’t come near me.”
He drew his hand back slowly, looking reproachfully at me. “What is the matter with you?” he said frustratedely. “I thought you’d be pleased to see me.”
“You thought I’d be pleased to see you,” I repeated derisively, grimacing.
“Will you stop repeating everything I say and just tell me what the hell is going on?” he retorted.
“Do you really want me to do that?” I asked angrily. “I tell you what, why don’t I tell the whole family what’s going on?”
“What are you talking about?” he said dangerously.
“I know, Teddy,” I said with as much venom as I could muster. His eyes widened as he realised what I was talking about. “I know about you and Dom and the baby. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t tell everyone what a lying, cheating scumbag you are.”
I couldn’t stop trembling. I felt weak. I clutched the table in front of me for support, hoping that he hadn’t noticed how close I was to crying.
“Rose…” he started quietly, then stopped to reconsider. He ran his hands through his hair and sank down into a chair at the table. He seemed unable to find any other words to say. I managed to regain my composure and I sat down on the edge of the chair opposite him across the table. I passed him the glass of water, which he gladly drank from.
“I couldn’t believe it at first,” I told him in a low voice. “I didn’t want to believe it. I thought I loved you,” I admitted, which caused him to look up at me. “I respected you, idolised you. We all grew up together, Teddy. You know everything about us. But I didn’t know enough about you, did I?” I smiled ruefully to myself. “I’d never have you pegged down as the one who would break Victoire’s heart.”
“Please,” he begged softly, his voice thick with desperation. “Please don’t tell Victoire.”
“I won’t,” I assured him darkly. “But Dominique will.”
“No,” he shook his head forcefully. “No she can’t. I won’t lose her, Rose. She’s all I have.”
I sighed. “You’re going to have a baby, Teddy. Dominique is going to need your support.”
“You can’t leave her alone on this. She won’t cope.” I watched as he squirmed in his seat. He was clearly weighing up the consequences of what he’d done.
“She has all the family,” he whispered. “She won’t be alone.”
I recoiled at the implications of his words “You disgust me,” I said in horror. “You’re going to let her do this by herself, aren’t you? She has to live with what you did but you expect to just walk away and continue playing happy families with Victoire? You’re worse than I thought.”
I stood up, pacing the kitchen in order to expel some of my adrenaline. I felt like I was going to throw up. How could he even think those things? He was prepared to bail on Dom now, after all they’d been through together? They’d grown up together, they’d been friends and lovers and now they had created a life and he was going to just walk away. I was struggling to breathe I felt so horrified.
“It’s not like that,” he said wearily from the table.
I stopped pacing and turned towards him, clenching my fists. “You have to tell Victoire,” I said decisively. “Before someone else does.”
Teddy looked up, startled. Victoire stood in the doorway, half a smile dying on her lips.
“Tell me what?”
I was on tea duty. Pretty much everyone had gone home or hidden in another room to leave Teddy, Victoire and Dominique alone in the sitting room. I clutched the tray tightly in my hands and knocked on the closed door with my forehead. There was a muffled “come in” from Dominique and I nudged the door open with my knee.
The room was eerily quiet after the humdrum of conversation from family members earlier. The room felt so much larger without them all perching on sofa arms or tables. All three of them were sitting on different pieces of furniture, keeping a safe distance. Victoire looked like she might throw up, her face coated in smudged make up and tears. Dominique was looking at the floor and Teddy had his head in his hands. I placed the tray on the coffee table in the middle of the room and retreated hastily.
The door clicked shut behind me and I returned to the stairs to join Scorpius, who was sitting on the bottom step with a bemused expression on his face.
“How’s it looking?” he asked.
I bit my lip briefly, considering. “I don’t know,” I said truthfully. “There’s lots of crying going on.”
“Do you think they’ll split up?”
“I think so. I would if it were me,” I answered.
I couldn’t see how Victoire would ever trust Teddy again after this. He’d not only cheated on her, but done so with her sister who was now pregnant. It was the worst of all possible scenarios. There was no hope for them now. I felt extremely sorry for Victoire; her whole life was now turned upside down. Perhaps Teddy was so keen to move to France with her because he thought he would be safe from any rumours. He should have known he’d get caught out eventually. Of all people to trust with a secret, James wouldn’t have been my first choice.
Scorpius and I sat in silence as we tried to listen through the wall. We couldn’t really hear anything, which meant that either they were all sat in silence or that the walls were too thick to hear through.
It wasn’t much longer after that when the sitting room door opened and Teddy emerged, eyes watery and face pale, and left without saying a word. I hesitated, wondering if I should go after him. I caught Scorpius’s eye and he seemed to understand. He nodded encouragingly, and I ducked out of the house and followed Teddy outside.
“Teddy,” I called, trotting to catch up with him. My heels were slowing me down, so I reached down to pull them hastily off my feet and chucked them on the ground. “Wait a minute.”
He stopped in his tracks and slowly turned to face me. He looked lost, like the whole world was weighing him down.
“Is this it, then?” I asked.
He sighed. “I knew it had to happen one day,” he admitted. “She deserves better than me. It’s only fair that I leave.”
I wasn’t going to argue with that; I didn’t think any of the family would forgive him any time soon. “What about Dominique?”
“I’ll do my bit for her and the baby,” he told me. “But Victoire and I need space. I can’t be a part of the family from now on.”
I hoped that one night stand had been worth it, I thought sadly. He and Dominique had thrown their lives away in the heat of the moment and now all that was left was a heck of a lot of awkward moments. How was he going to be around to support Dominique without being reminded of everything he’d had with Victoire?
“So this is goodbye,” I mused.
“It is,” he said sadly. “I’m sorry,” he added as an afterthought. I could see in his eyes that he sincerely meant it, but what use were words now? It was his actions that had changed my family forever. “You’re right, what I did was disgusting.”
I almost shook my head in disbelief that we were having this conversation. Six months ago I wouldn’t have been able to fathom the possibility of all this; I would have thought it absurd. I idolised Teddy, I thought he was the good guy, but the more I got to know him the more I realised that he wasn’t perfect.
I didn’t disagree with him. I no longer had to console him or tell him things would get better. I had a duty to Victoire and Dominique, even after what she did, and my family; Teddy was not my concern.
“Goodbye, then,” I said quietly. Teddy moved to kiss my cheek but I avoided him and turned away.
“Goodbye, Rose,” he called after me as I walked back into the house.
I didn’t look back, I didn’t respond, I just left him standing there as I walked away and ejected him from my life.
AN: Yay for quick updates! Only four more chapters to go, though, so every update is slightly bittersweet. Let me know what you think and thank you so much for all the reads/reviews/chatter that I get elsewhere. I'm going to miss your feedback more than anything else when this is over. -Marina.