gorgeous chapter image by .asperity
I could not contain the uncontrollable joy that I felt upon the closing of that hearing. Jimmy Peakes was escorted from the tribunal, and Ron and I watched the members filter out of the courtroom. We sat there in awe until it was empty, and we meandered our way back to his office. When we were safely behind the closed doors of his office, with one look to each other we were all smiles. We jumped around like uncontrollable children with sheer happiness, and we embraced each other, cheering.
"She's coming home! She's coming home!" Ron chanted. When we separated I could see his tears of joy streaming down his cheeks.
"We did it. It's not over yet, but it's a step," I beamed.
"Yes," nodded Ron in agreement, swiping at his eyes. "But at least she will be out of Azkaban. Eighteen days. Just eighteen days."
"Eighteen days," I muttered under my breath.
Eighteen days. It sounded like a lifetime from now. I understood why Sondheim extended her sentence to 61 days. Her life sentence had been overturned - a first in the history of Azkaban's prisoners - and if Rose were to be acquitted in the near future, her sentence couldn't just sit at 43 days. It was too strange a number, so Sondheim rounded it up to the most reasonable sentence. 61 days. Two months.
It didn't seem like much. Compared to a life sentence, it was nothing at all. But to wait another eighteen days just to see Rose again? I didn't know if I could do it. My heart was racing just with the thought of seeing her again.
Ron hugged me again, this time tightly, as if he thought he would lose me if he let go. "Thank you so much," he said through his tears.
"Ron, what for?" I asked in surprise, trying to suppress a chuckle.
"For taking care of my daughter."
"No," I said quickly, cutting him off. "Don't go down that road. She wouldn't have even set foot in Azkaban if it weren't for me..."
"You don't know that," he said quickly. "Besides, if it weren't for you, we wouldn't be looking forward to her return in eighteen days. We don't know what she will be like when she comes home, but I hope she comes around."
He had changed subjects. I knew what he was speaking of. He was talking about her feelings for me. I grew stiff at the thought of how Rose and I had left things off. The memory flashed across my mind, and I tried to ignore the pain that came with it. I did hope she would come around. I tried to think about how she would react upon seeing me again. Would she hate me more? Will she have forgiven me? I couldnít possibly anticipate what would happen in the near future, but I hoped she would come around too.
It was pure heartbreak to just hear her say that the man she fell in love with doesn't even exist.
Ron noticed how tense I grew against him, and he patted my back to loosen me up. "Hey, don't worry about it. My daughter loves you."
"I-I hope so," I murmured, losing face as Ron held me like I was his own child. "I love her. I love her so much..."
"I know," said Ron, and I could feel his smile. I think he was proud for me to be in love with his daughter. When we separated, he gave me that knowing smile again.
Oh, Ron. I was so thankful to have grown so close to him over these past few weeks. He had always been reserved and kept to himself, but he was beginning to open up to me. He was letting me in to what was going on in his head. What's even better is that he is rooting for me and his daughter. He didn't even seem embarrassed that he was sharing his emotions with me. In fact, he seemed comfortable.
He clapped me twice on the shoulder with a firm nod. "Well, I'm going to go tell Hermione the news. You go find Harry and tell him we proved him wrong."
Those next eighteen days were the slowest of my entire life. The entire family knew, and everyone was just as anxious as I was to see Rose. As the 61st day grew closer, it became a huge debate as to how we should go about the situation. At first it sounded like a good idea to cook a great feast and show everyone's enthusiasm in having her home again with a family dinner. But as we thought about it more and more, it didn't seem like such a good idea.
None of us could anticipate just how Rose will react when she comes home. She could quickly get back into the swing of things, and while that is what everyone hopes for, we tried to plan for the worst. So it was decided food would be ready for her upon her arrival home, but her introduction back into the family would come slowly and in small numbers. That would probably be best.
Another troubling factor to take into account was where I should be. Ron, Hermione, Harry, and Ginny had no idea if I should be there when she comes home or not. They had no recommendations or ideas on how to approach the matter, so I would have to wing it tomorrow.
On the night of her 60th day in Azkaban, I was a fitful mess. I couldn't sleep. I lay in bed, trying to imagine just how the next day would pan out. Victoire came home for her return and spent the night at my flat. She was by my side the entire night, trying to coax me into tranquility so I could sleep. She gently cooed to me as she lay next to me, stroking my hair. I appreciated her efforts, but I found that no one could subdue my jumbled emotions. I was anxious, excited, and nervous all in one.
Finally the morning of Rose's 61st day of imprisonment came and I prepared myself for the day's events. I showered, dressed, and pumped myself full of coffee to avoid getting too drowsy later on in the day.
Ron would be picking her up from the Ministry at 10 AM. At 9:30 I bid goodbye to Victoire and I apparated to Ron and Hermione's place where I was greeted by an anxious Hermione, Ginny, Harry, and Hugo. Everyone else in the Weasley-Potter family would have to wait to say hello to Rose again.
Hermione, ever the gracious hostess and despite her nerves, offered me some breakfast upon my arrival. I turned it down and instead joined everyone else at the kitchen table where the silence was eerie and thick. It made me uncomfortable, but no one quite knew what to say in a situation such as this. So we sat in silence.
10 AM rolled around, and we were all impatiently waiting for Rose on the edge of our seats.
10:05. I couldn't stop biting my nails in anticipation.
10:10. Hugo was beginning to pace the room.
10:15. Hermione could no longer hold back her tears.
Finally 10:20 rolled around and that familiar crack echoed throughout the kitchen. We were all startled by their arrival even though we had been anticipating it, but it felt strange for it to finally be here.
Suddenly there was a quick commotion. Ron was stumbling forward, and the mass of rags and red hair in his arms was Rose.
Oh my god...
He ran over to Hermione quickly, his tears streaming freely down his cheeks. "Hermione," he blurted out in haste, terrified. "Get some blankets. Ginny, get some warm water. Warm.
She was huddled against her father, but other than that she was limp. Her face was buried into Ron's chest, hiding herself from the light. Panic immediately swept through me. I feared for her safety. For her life. She looked as if she were only inches away from the arms of death.
Hermione fled from the room to fetch blankets, and Ginny began to heat up some water. Ron bolted from the room, Harry, Hugo, and I following in his wake. He set Rose down on a couch in the living room and quickly draped the nearest blanket over her body.
"Oh my god, Rosie," muttered Ron in horror. He knelt by her side and took her fragile hands into his own. "I'm so sorry. You're safe now. You're safe."
Ginny burst into the living room with a mug of warm water between her hands and a damp cloth, most likely warm from the water. Ron moved aside so Ginny could place the cloth around Rose's neck, spreading the heat throughout her limbs, and she gingerly held the cup up to Rose's limp lips.
She pressed the plaster against her plush lips, quietly begging for her to drink. Rose remained unmoving, her eyes closed, and the only sound that came from her was a faint moan of resistance.
"Come on, Rosie," ushered Ginny. "Drink."
Ginny slowly tipped the glass, and the warm water ran down her throat. Rose swallowed once, and Ginny nodded in satisfaction. She backed away with the water. Hermione entered with heaps of blankets in her arms, and she delicately laid them on her limp form.
I wanted to cry at the sight of her. Lying there on the couch, unable to carry her own weight or even speak, she was hopeless. So different from the Rose I knew only two months ago. What happened to my fierce Rose?
Ginny turned to Hermione, both of the women crying steady tears. "'Mione, what can we do to help?"
"N-Nothing now," answered Hermione. I could tell she was doing her best to keep her composure. "Thank you for your help."
"Of course. I think Harry and I will give her some space then. Harry, come," Ginny weakly said. As she rose, she entwined her hand with her husband's.
One at a time they kissed Rose's forehead. Rose responded each time by muttering something that couldn't be deciphered, and then Harry and Ginny slipped silently out of the room. With tears in my eyes, I looked to Ron and Hermione. Hugo was busy pacing on the other side of the room, running his hands through his hair.
"S-Should I leave...?" I asked quietly. Because, really, I didn't know what I should do.
Ron and Hermione both looked to me again. Their expressions were blank. They didn't know if I should leave either, and they didn't seem to care either way.
Despite their confused and befuddled expressions, someone else in the room spoke on my behalf. A murmur came from Rose, the first coherent words for her to utter.
And it was my name.
"Teddy's here...?" she asked again. Her voice was hoarse, and I could feel her pain in having to speak. I couldn't tell what emotions there were in her voice, if she could muster any at all. Did she want me to be there?
Ron and Hermione parted the way for me, granting me entrance to their daughter. With my heart pounding and sitting in the back of my throat, I knelt down next to her. I debated if I should touch her or not, but after a few moments of silence, I brushed her matted hair away from her face. I pushed it back and tried not to gasp at the sight of her face. Her eyes were sunken, her cheekbones fully exposed due to her loss of weight. Her eyes, though, were still closed. Perhaps she couldn't find the energy to open them or she didn't want to see me.
She let out a heavy sigh at my touch. A sigh of what? Relief? Satisfaction? Anger? I couldn't tell.
I refrained from touching her further, though, so I retracted my hand. I whispered kindly to her. "Yes. It's me..."
She was quiet for many moments, still aside from her shivering. Then she spoke again, and her words cut through me like a knife.
"Please...Leave..." she moaned.
A great pain tore through my heart. Worse than the kind I felt when she told me she didn't love me, worse from when I saw her leave to go to Azkaban when I thought I would never see her again. I had never felt a pain like this. What I feared had come true. I was horrified of Rose telling me to leave her. Thankfully, last time she had only denied her love for me. She hadn't chosen to walk away from me; she had been taken
from me. And now...
She was back, looking fifteen pounds thinner, her hair matted and frayed, her eyes sunken, skin pale and bruised, dirty, her clothes hanging from her all too thin frame. She was back all but two minutes, and now she was telling me to leave.
I choked on my tears, and I didn't bother with holding them back. They fell down my cheeks as I took in her words.
I love her so much. Why couldn't she see that? Why couldn't she see that she was my entire life now?
But what could I do other than obey her one command?
Uneasily, I staggered to my feet. I was aware of the eyes upon me. Hugo was gaping in shock while Ron and Hermione were simply struck with pity and horror. I backed away from Rose, and with each step I felt as if I lost more and more of myself. I was leaving it with the girl who was nearly unconscious on the couch.
Ron's mouth opened and closed as he debated saying something to me. He looked at me with pity, and finally he whispered, "I-I'm sorry, Ted."
"It's what she wants..." I muttered through my tears. I could taste the salt on my lips.
"We will keep you updated."
I only nodded.
Then for some reason my love came pouring out of me. I covered my mouth with my hand and moaned in pain. "I love her so much. I love her."
"W-We know," Hermione whispered as she hugged me.
When she let go of me, I apparated back to my flat before my sobs consumed me. Feeling as if I had truly hit rock bottom, I sank to the floor of my bedroom. I pulled my knees up to my chest where I let my cries take over me. Never in my life had I cried like this, but alone - truly alone - I let it wash over me. I didn't even care if I should try to be strong.
I lost track of time. I cried until my eyes refused to shed anymore tears. At some point in time I laid down on the wooden floor, curling into the fetal position. It was dark when the familiar crack of apparation sounded in my living room, but I didn't bother with moving. Victoire's voice filled my flat, calling for me, but she found me soon enough. She kneeled down next to me and rubbed my back in reassurance. Her voice was filled of true pity, but I didn't want her pity. I didn't want anyone's pity. I had done this to myself. I should have known from the beginning it would turn out like this.
"Oh, Teddy," she moaned in my ear. She tried to tug on my arm so I would either sit or move to my bed, but I didn't budge. Finally she lay down next to me and wrapped her arms around me protectively. "Hermione told me. I knew I had to see how you were holding up."
She pressed her cheek to my back, and her left hand rubbed my stomach. I was surprised to find my own voice somewhere underneath all my cries. My voice was hoarse and it didn't sound anything like me. "Iím not holding up.
I love her, Vic. I love her."
That seemed to be all I could say today.
"I know you do," she answered in that soothing voice of hers.
She continued to rub my arms, back, and stomach, trying to coax me into tranquility. Finally my rugged breathing settled down and I turned to face her on the warm wood.
I could see the whites of her eyes, beautifully illuminated by the moonlight, and she was trying to hold back her tears for me.
"Don't cry for me," I whispered.
"But I've never seen you like this," she said, border-line crying. She blinked them back, refusing to cry, and gave a heavy sniff. "It's tearing me apart. I care about you, Teddy. I hate to see you like this."
I found myself apologizing, and I didn't know why. Maybe because I didn't want Vic to worry about me? Her cousin was home from prison. She should be happy, she should be getting ready to visit her, but instead she was here consoling me.
"Don't you apologize for one second," she snapped.
I didn't say anything after that. I just nodded. What was I to say?
Her tone softened after a moment, and she moved on to better things. "Besides, Rose is probably trying to cope with all this. She's hardly conscious, and when she is, she says nothing. Ron and Hermione aren't even sure yet if Rose understands that this is real. She might even think that she's still in Azkaban, that she's dreaming this all.Ē
Oh my god, does Rose really think she's still in Azkaban? I hadn't even considered that. I tried not to believe it. I tried not to believe that my strong, courageous Rose was now so battered both mentally and physically.
"It's going to take time for her to get better and adjust. And then, once she knows she's home and safe, maybe she will start to think about her relationship with you. She could change her mind. She might realize that she really does love you."
I shivered. Oh, how I desperately wanted that. But I found myself pained with another epiphany.
What if Rose finally did realize that she was out of Azkaban, that this wasn't a dream, only to be thrown back in? What if Ron and I couldn't do this? And Rose had to go back to Azkaban? I shuddered and tried not to let the idea sit. Instead, I forced it to the back of my mind.
"There's still hope, Teddy," Vic cooed to me.
I nodded. I tried to tell myself this. Vic could be right, couldn't she? Especially if Rose thinks this is all a dream. What if - once she realizes she's home and safe - she realizes she loves me?
A whim of hope surged through my veins. It was small, but it was enough to keep me going.
"Tell me I'm right."
I knew she could see the hope that filled my eyes with her last statement. We both knew she had given me that small amount, but she wanted me to voice it. "You're right," I whispered.
"I know I am. Now, all you have to do is be patient. And you can't go to work now, can you?"
"Not until this case is final."
"Great. Then you're coming to Paris with me tomorrow."
"You heard," she said. She rose and pulled me with her. I couldn't move much though; I was only able to relocate to my bed where Victoire helpfully and gladly tucked me in. She crawled in next to me, propping herself up on one elbow. "You're coming with me tomorrow. To Paris. You need to clear your head. You're not working; all you'll do is sit here and wallow about Rose. Come with me. You've always said you wanted to see the world. Sure, you've been places for work, but come to Paris. No strings attached, no job commitments. Just you in Paris, clearing your head."
Could I leave for Paris, though? I was supposed to be at Sondheimís disposal in case I got called to the stand during this case, but Sondheim had made an announcement stating that court would not resume until Rose was in a right state of mind. This should mean I had a window to get away while Rose was recovering. And if she still thought she was in Azkaban, then I definitely had a decent amount of time.
Merlin, she made it sound wonderful, and I realized I needed it. I did need a break. Perhaps this was the perfect time as well while Rose would be recovering. I nodded, and Vic beamed.
"All right, I'll come."