Chapter 29 : The Road to Recovery
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Vic and I were up the next morning at an early hour. She had to drag me out of bed to get me moving, but she got me there. I was reluctant to move. I forgot about my promise to go to Paris with her and was once again reminded of ever-expanding pit of despair inside my chest. That hole seemed to grow bigger over night, but Victoire did her best to maintain it. I put up a weak fight as she dragged me out of bed and practically threw me under my cold shower in my boxers and t-shirt.
I got the message, and once she left my bathroom, I stripped and let the cold water wash over me, rejuvenate me to the core. When I had shaved and dressed, the sweet aroma of coffee and pancakes filled my flat. I entered my kitchen to see Victoire happily making herself a plate of the splendid breakfast she had cooked. She was bouncing around enthusiastically, her curls flaring as she moved.
"Hey, look at that! Your legs do work," she joked.
"Shut it," I said even as a smile worked its way onto my lips.
"I made your favorite," she commented as she sat down at the breakfast bar.
"Oh, you're brilliant," I sighed as the heavenly smell coaxed my senses.
I made myself a heaping plate of the pancakes, putting a dollop of the strawberry filling on top and drowning it in syrup. Vic motioned to my already-made mug of coffee on the bar beside her. As I set my plate down and slid in next to her, I gave her a thankful kiss on the cheek. "What would I do without you?"
She actually snorted. Graceful Vic snorted. "You'd probably be a washed up drunkard."
"No doubt," I agreed. I tried to ignore the fact that that scenario would have been highly likely if it weren't for Peakes letting me in on his scheme or Vic putting me on the right track. I don't know where I would be without her. Or even with Peakes and his poor indiscretion. He gave me hope that I could fix this.
"I've already packed your bag," she commented as I shoveled a forkful of pancakes into my mouth. I turned to look at her from the corner of my eye. I almost wanted to back out, but she sensed that and spoke before I could change my mind. "Hope you don't mind. I wasn't going to let you get out of this one."
"I was going to try," I dully commented. I rolled my shoulders. "But I never win with you."
Vic giggled as she hopped down from the barstool. "Well, did you ever really win before?"
"No," I said with a shake of the head and a chuckle.
"Well, great! Now that we're on the same page and you know you won't be winning, we'll be off as soon as you're finished."
Vic stuck to her word. As soon as I finished eating and we had cleaned up my kitchen, I took her hand and we were off to Paris. We settled into her hotel room, and after a pleasant lunch at a cafe, she had to go to her conference. I was left to my own resolve on the streets of Pairs.
Strangely enough, Vic was right. Paris relaxed me. Even though I was out of my element and lost in this massive city, I was able to forget. I cleared my head and wandered the streets. I went back to the hotel a good while later where Vic was waiting for me. I could see the doubt that had sat in her mind before I came back; had she believed for a moment that I had gone home again? Either way, she looked relieved when she saw me and embraced me.
We talked about her conference and had dinner together. It was great for it to just be the two of us again. I was glad to be spending so much one-on-one time with my best friend after so long. I can easily say that the rest of the Paris trip was enlightening. While Rose was at home recovering, I was recovering in Paris. I know that I had gotten pretty fucked up at the summer house, and even more so during Rose's imprisonment. And after she returned home, even more so...
I had grown to be a mix of myself and Scorpius Malfoy. I wasn't pretending to be him by the end anymore, I was changing myself. He had grown to be a part of me. By the end, I needed to be Malfoy. I fed off the person I was while I was with him because I had Rose. I began to love her unconditionally. It was no longer Malfoy I needed. It was Rose. I needed her.
I grew deranged.
I'm so messed up.
Paris helped. Greatly. But even as I packed my bags on our final morning, I knew my sense of crazy wasn't completely gone. Paris hadn't gotten rid of it; it had only subdued it.
After a week of relaxing and trying to sort myself out, I apparated home only to drop off my bags. My first thing was to check on Rose's progress. Even if she still didn't want to see me, I could still find out how she was doing. So I apparated on Ron and Hermione's doorstep. Sucking up my courage and preparing myself for the possibility of another order I didn't want to hear from Rose, I raised a fist and knocked.
Ron was the one to answer the door, and he looked truly happy to see me. He embraced me again, and I was glad to see that our new bond hadn't diminished due to his daughter's order.
"Ted," he said with a grin against my ear. "It really is good to see you. Paris has treated you well."
"It really did," I breathed as we stepped away from one another. "I needed it."
"That's good to hear, Ted," he said.
"W-Well, I guess you know why I'm here. H-How is she?" I was stumbling over my words and main reason for coming unannounced before I could stop myself.
Ron shuffled from foot to foot as we still remained on their patio. He looked uneasy, and that didn't settle well with me. "She's doing better. She's talking. Occasionally; when asked. She knows she's home now. Hermione and my mum are always cooking and stuffing her full of her favorite meals. She's put on a few pounds."
"That's great news," I nodded.
I found that I breathed a huge sigh of relief. A heavy weight was lifted off my shoulders. I just wanted her to be okay. I wanted her to be on a healthy, steady road to recovery.
Ron and I both seemed to be avoiding the one topic we knew I was desperate to ask about. What Rose thought of me, if she would let me see her. I didn't want to ask the dreadful question. Finally Ron conquered the subject with a furrow of the brow and a truly apologetic expression.
"Listen..." he huffed. "Ted, I...Rose, she..."
"She doesn't want to see me, does she...?" I finally asked for him. I could tell he was having a hard enough time trying to get the words out.
"I'm sorry," was all Ron could manage, but it was enough to answer my question.
"I understand," I muttered painfully, but I did anything but understand. I didn't.
"Merlin, Ted, I'm so sorry," grunted Ron again. It was probably the expression on my face that made him apologize profusely. "She knows though. Hermione and I are talking to her. Sometimes we will tell her about our day. She'll lay there and listen with her eyes shut. When Hermione's around, she doesn't want to discuss any topics that will spur any emotion or reaction from Rose. So when Hermione isn't there, I talk to Rose about all the important things. I've told her about the postponing of the trial. I told her about Peakes. I tried to get her to talk about it, but she still won't do that. The most I got from her was a small noise, and I told her that she wouldn't be here if it weren't for you. She knows; she knows all you've done."
"I won't rest until she's cleared. Peakes will be behind bars at the end of this," I hissed.
As I said this, I realized how true it was. I wasn't going to stop until this ended my way. Rose would be cleared of all charges, and by the end of this, I would make sure Peakes is locked up in Azkaban for good. He won't get away with this. I then realized that Rose's freedom was all that mattered to me. I just want her to be happy. I want her to have a free life, make the decisions she wishes, but most of all to be happy. Happy with whatever she decides to do in her life, whatever that may be. Whether she chooses to move to Egypt permanently and forget about me completely, whether she never forgives me. I just wanted her to be happy.
I realized that is the price you pay when you love someone. You'll do anything to make sure they're happy. It's all that matters to you, and you will do everything in your power to see that they receive that happiness. Even if it means your sadness and destruction along the way. It's just what you do.
Of course, I want her to love me. I want her to be with me, but only on her own terms. Whatever makes her happy.
My own sadness and hatred for myself that I will now carry with me always is just collateral damage. That's all I am. Collateral damage to giving Rose a happy life.
I'm okay with it.
"I know you won't," said Ron. "But please, Ted. Don't forget to take care of yourself along the way."
“I won't," I reassured him.
"And while you do that and work on exposing Peakes, I will be here, taking care of Rose. I can see that you just want her to be happy, but I'm not settling for that. I want you to be happy as well, Ted. You deserve to be happy; you deserve to be with my daughter."
"She doesn't want me," I murmured.
"Right now she doesn't. But there's still hope. I think you should come in anyways," said Ron, and he stepped aside to allow me entrance. I looked at him apprehensively. I don't know why he thought this was I could idea. I could tell that he was subtly trying to force me onto Rose, and despite how much I wanted to see her or be with her, I didn't want to disturb her.
But somehow my urge to be closer to her took charge, and I found myself entering their home. Ron closed the door behind me, and we went up the stairs of the home. We weaved through the hall until we came to stand near an open door where a soft humming was emerging. I looked at Ron with a questioning look on my face, and he answered in a whisper. "That's Hermione. She's humming a lullaby. Her parents used to sing it to her, and we sang it to our children when they were young. The first thing she said to either of us after you left that day was to hear the lullaby again. Now, Hermione sings it to her every day. It soothes her."
I smiled. Hearing this from Ron relaxed me. It put my worry over Rose at ease. He then whispered to me again. "Rose may not want to see you, but you are welcome to our house. You may come and go as you like and just...listen until she is ready to see you."
"I appreciate it, Ron," was all I could manage.
He smiled and gave my shoulder a squeeze. Knowing I couldn't go into her bedroom, I remained out of the doorway and I leaned against the wall in the hall. I slid down to the ground, pulled my knees to my chest, and I just listened to Hermione hum her lullaby to Rosie. Ron's footsteps signaled his entrance into Rose's bedroom. After Hermione finished the lullaby, Ron gave a small exchange with Rose. It was of little importance, but I just listened to her voice. She sounded a thousand times better from that day when I saw her lying weak and hopeless on the couch. It gave me hope for her and her future, hope for her recovery.
He didn't say anything about how I was sitting in the hall, nor did I expect him to. I didn't expect to go in and see her, talk to her, or anything of the sort. I just sat there and listened to them. An hour may have gone by before Ron and Hermione both left her room together. Hermione smiled at me and hugged me. Then she spoke in a whisper. "She's asleep. You can go see her if you like."
I wasn't going to turn down this opportunity. I wanted to see her. Even if she was sleeping. It would be better that way, at least while she still firmly refuses to see me. This way we could both have what we wanted; I could see Rose, and she wouldn't see me.
I briefly and quietly hugged Ron and Hermione, whispering my thanks. Then they disappeared and left me to it. Almost uneasily I slipped into her bedroom. I don't know why I was so nervous. She was unconscious, for Merlin's sake, and yet my heart was racing, and I felt as if it had jumped into my throat. I forced the uncomfortable lump down and gained a steady rhythm once again.
I had never been in her room before. I never had any reason to. It was small but comfortable, and all of the room's contents screamed her personality to me. From the unorganized stack of books beside her empty bookshelf. Beside it was an array of maps, probably of Egypt and other places Rose had been to during her days as a Curse Breaker. In the back of my mind I wondered if she would ever go back to work. Granted, she had to be acquitted first now, but I wouldn't rest until that happened. Her walls were covered in pictures and souvenir plaques and pictures from her trips, things probably taken out of her flat before Ron and Hermione sold it a month back. The walls were a nice pale, sky blue, and her bed was a painted white brass with a patchwork quilt her grandmother must have made her.
She was tucked beneath her blankets, and her red hair was beautifully spread about her pillow. The color had come back to it; I could already see the life returning to her. I felt my heart clench, and I was surprised to feel the tears in my eyes. They blurred my vision, and I paused to blink them away, prudent to not trip in the process. When I reached her bed, I decided against sitting on the mattress beside her. Despite how much I wanted to be close to her, I didn't want to wake her. So I kneeled beside her bed and lowered my face to hers.
She had recovered greatly. Her eyes were still darkened with her sunken lids, but her cheeks looked fuller, and the color had returned to her skin. Her one arm that wasn't under the covers even looked more healthy. Seeing her health return even while she was asleep made me smile.
I was suddenly grinning like mad, and before I could control myself, I was reaching out to her. I longed to feel her warm skin against mine. I didn't want to wake her though. So before I could touch her, I retracted my hand and pursed my lips in disappointment. I resulted in just watching her. She was so peaceful, so motionless and perfectly content. Her breathing was even, and one of her hairs would flutter every time she exhaled.
Her exposed hand moved from her side up to her chin as she subconsciously curled into fetal position. She let out a grunt, and I grew still in fear of her waking up. But once she let out another long breath, I knew she was still in deep sleep. Her fingers began to curl and uncurl around nothing. Occasionally the quilt would bunch beneath her fingers, but she seemed to be searching for something to knead, something to hold.
Puffing my lips and growing even more cognizant, I etched my hand onto her bed. I began at the edge, my fingertips grazing the quilt, moving closer and closer to her. When her fingers uncurled again, I let the tip of my index finger enter the cocoon her palm made and I readily braced for the feel of her hand for when she would squeeze again.
It came soon. Her touch was warm and desperate, loving even in her sleep. She squeezed the tip of my index finger, and I smiled. When her hand released yet again, I etched more of my finger into her grasp. It became a slow process of her embracing only a small part of my finger, releasing it, only for me to move more into her grasp, until finally I had my full hand beneath hers. A groan escaped her lips when her subconscious seemed to register my hand, and she squeezed. This time she didn't let go.
I released a heavy breath and laid my head down on her bed. Uneasily I whispered, some part of me hoping she could hear. "Why can't you see how much I love you?"
I quickly felt uneasy. As if I was being watched. Had Rose awakened? Her hand was still tightly holding mine, though. My eyes shot open, and without moving my head, I looked in my line of vision. It wasn't Rose but Ron who looked at me hopelessly. His expression quickly grew embarrassed, as if he was sorry for watching me with his daughter. He just stood motionlessly in the doorway, his lips tightly pursed, and his large hands bracing either side of the doorway. He quickly waved a hand of apology, gave me some sort of approving nod, and then he was gone.
I ignored it. The moment passed, and I went back to thinking about Rose still tightly holding my hand, her breath making the locks of my hair gently fluttered. It tickled in its own way. The quilt was warm and soft against my cheek, and it smelled of Rose. I turned my nose into it and inhaled deeply. It reminded me of all those days at the summer house when she would be wrapped around me or I would wake up with her hair drowning my senses.
I found myself whispering to her again, just wishing she could hear me. I don't know what prompted me to begin my rant; maybe it was just knowing now would be the only time I could say my piece without her telling me to go to hell. While she was unconscious. I just hoped that - somehow - she could hear me.
"I love you like I've never loved anyone before. I loved my gran when she was alive; I still do, and I do love my parents, even though I've never met them. And I love Vic like a sister, and I love Harry and all of you Potters and Weasleys. But Rosie, I have never loved anyone like I love you. I didn't know I could love like this. I never had my parents to love unconditionally. Just my gran and Harry, of course. Then you came along. And now I know what love is really like. It's unconditional; you can hate me or you can love me, but no matter what I will always love you. So why can't you see that I am still that same person. I'm the same person who pulled you from the sand when you were little. I'm the same person you knew all along, and I'm the same person you fell in love with at the summer house. That man does exist, Rosie, and he's right here. He's right here, loving you. And I will always be waiting for you to love me back."
I closed my eyes, falling into silence as her evened breathing still rustled my long copper locks. I listened to the drumming of her heart and her gentle exhales, and I slowed mine until it matched hers. Then before I knew it, I was drifting into sleep.
I don't know how long I slept for. It was still daylight when my eyes opened again, and my cheeks felt damp. Had I cried in my sleep? If I had slept for quite some time, Rose could be awaking at any minute. My right hand was still warm and tightly enclosed in Rose's grasp; I took this as a sure sign that she was still asleep. Not wanting to risk her seeing me, I lifted my head from her bed. I could feel the indention in my cheek fromthe patchwork quilt.
Watching her beautiful face, I slowly began to retract my hand. As I pulled away, though, I could feel her grip tightening until I had to pull with gentle force to retrieve it from her.
"Even in your own body, I would still know your hand anywhere."
I grew stiff. I had awoken her by trying to retract my hand. I didn't mean to wake her. As much as I loved to hear her voice, I didn't want to anger her. Slowly I lifted my head to see her. She was still tightly curled in the fetal position, and she was still holding my hand. Her eyes were empty of all emotion, and her voice was flat and just as emotionless as her face.
I swallowed when she met my eyes. Neither of us said anything, and neither of us moved.
I finally cleared my throat, my voice cracking as I spoke. "I'm sorry. I can leave."
I knew she wasn't ready for me. Not yet. I tried to take away my hand, but she still held strong. Did she want me to stay...?
Her eyes briefly betrayed her confusion. I could see how distressed she was with her thoughts. It was as if she didn't want to allow me near her, yet her heart was telling her different. I could see it and feel it, and it gave me hope. Listen to your heart.
"My father let you in, didn't he?" Rose weakly asked. I could tell she was beating around the bush with my last comment by not telling me to either leave or stay. She just ignored it completely. Again, she had little emotion. I was having difficulty reading her, but our hands were still tightly clasped. I took this is a good sign.
I only nodded in return.
"I don't know what you did to him while I was gone, but he loves you now. It's kind of creepy."
I actually grinned and chuckled at that. Even if she had little emotion in her voice, at least some of her personality was returning to her words. The Rose I remember was slowly beginning to return.
I only had one answer. "We worked hard to bring you back home. We spent a lot of time together."
She fell into silence, her expression ashen, until she finally whispered. "Thank you..."
I didn't have to ask to know what she was speaking of. I nodded and squeezed her hand. "You're welcome."
At the pressure I supplied her hand with, she looked to them in skeptical wonder. Her thumb ran over the backside of my hand, her touch leaving a trail of fire, and while I wanted to believe she was tenderly stroking me, I knew she was analyzing my hand for my differences. How different my hand is now from what it was when I was Malfoy.
"Your laugh is the same..." she muttered as she did her work.
I knew what she spoke of now as well. She wasn't talking about me changing throughout the years. She was comparing my laugh now to mine at the summer house. Of course it was the same. I let out a heavy sigh.
"That's because I am the same person. It was all me, Rose. Why can't you see that?" My whispers were desperate. I just wanted her to understand in that moment. More than anything.
Her next words gave me hope. Even if it was small. "Maybe someday I will."
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