Chapter 18 : Chapter Eighteen: Mr. and Mrs. Albus Potter
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“Are you sure you want to do this?” Rose asked.
They were standing at the bottom of a steep flight of stone steps that led up to the church where, at that very moment, a throng of anxious guests sat eagerly awaiting the moment when Ms. Amelia Strong would become Mrs. Amelia Potter.
All traces of last night’s storm were gone, the sky overhead now a brilliant shade of blue. The air around them was crisp and cool, and smelled of all things autumn – like warm apples, spiced cider, and dried leaves. In other words, it was the perfect day for a wedding – or so Rose imagined that to be the sort thing people would say. Personally, she didn’t think there was such a thing as a perfect day for getting married.
“It was your idea to come,” Krum reminded her.
“And you’re the one who invited me, remember?”
“I know that too.”
“So what’s the problem? Have you changed your mind?”
“No...” Rose said, not sounding at all convincing. “Why? Have you?”
Krum shook his head. “No, but he’s your family, not mine. Of course, if we did leave, that means we could go back home and finish what we started last night...” The hand that had been resting at the small of her back inched its way slowly southward.
Last night. After she’d finished her little temper-tantrum in the hall, Krum had stood there for a long time, armed propped against the doorframe, seeming to mull over everything she’d just said to him. He put up no argument, offered no defense against her accusations. He’d just thought it all through before nodding in apparent agreement and inviting her inside.
She didn’t know what sort of reaction she’d been expecting, showing up there in the middle of the night, shouting at him so loudly it was a miracle she hadn’t woken half the neighborhood. Anger, maybe. Or defiance. Maybe she’d even been expecting him to counter with his own list of reasons why he thought they’d be better off going their separate ways. But he hadn’t done anything. He’d just listened to her, accepted what it was she’d had to say, and that was apparently that.
As for finishing what they’d started? Well, they hadn’t actually started anything. But when he’d made to kiss her goodnight, she’d met his lips with more enthusiasm than she’d been able to manage for weeks. Rose, it seemed, had taken all the time she needed, and when that moment finally came again, she’d be ready for it.
“Well?” Krum asked. “Vhat’s it going to be? Are we going in or not?”
Rose sighed, a noise that was quickly swallowed up by the sound of church bells ringing out overhead.
“Now or never...” he said, raising his voice to be heard over the clanging that was now echoing down street.
Rose sighed again. “Then I guess it better be now.”
The church was full to bursting by the time they finally made their way inside. Everywhere she looked, Rose was met with smiling faces. Some she recognized – friends of Al’s, the kind of extended family members she only saw on special occasions. Or at funerals. There were also a lot of people Rose was pretty sure she’d never seen before. Friends of Amelia’s, no doubt.
“This is quite the crowd,” Krum whispered in her ear as they took up their seats in a pew near the back.
Rose had to agree. There must have been at least three hundred people crammed inside the tiny church. And what little space wasn’t occupied by guests or members of the wedding party was taken up by any number of enormous bouquets of deep red roses or giant candelabras that were nearly as tall as she was. Rose had been expecting something smaller, more intimate. She’d assumed the short engagement and impending arrival of the baby wouldn’t have left a lot of time for wedding preparations. Apparently, she’d been wrong.
The ceremony itself turned out to be short and to the point. As neither the Potters nor Amelia’s family were particularly religious, the event was generally free of the sort of recitations and prayers that could take an already drawn-out affair and make it absolutely unbearable. Rose still thought they could have done without the best man’s speech on the joys of love, life, and the eternal gift of holy matrimony. But as far as weddings go, Rose had to admit, it wasn’t the worst one she’d ever attended. Besides, she’d made a promise to herself to be more okay with all this love stuff. What better place then this to test her new resolve?
Before too long, the old wizard officiating the proceedings was announcing, “Then with the exchange of these rings, I now declare you bonded for life.”
There was a long kiss and then everyone was on their feet as the bride and groom made their way down the aisle, taking their first steps as husband and wife. As they drew near to the back, Rose caught Albus’s eye, holding it just long enough for him to flash her a wide, toothy smile. And then, with a quick wink of his eye, he was gone.
The reception was being held outdoors in the cherry orchard behind the Burrow – the lopsided, six-story house where Rose’s father had lived as a child. The home still technically belonged to her Granny Weasley, though the woman spent less and less time there since Rose’s grandfather had passed away the previous year. These days, her grandmother seemed to prefer staying elsewhere, dividing her time equally among her six children and countless grandchildren – most of whom were old enough to have children of their own.
Weddings at the Burrow had become a sort of Weasley family tradition. Rose didn’t know how far back the practice stretched, but Albus would be the third grandkid in less than five years to hold his wedding reception there. Rose had to admit, the place was perfectly suited for the task. The expanse of land directly behind the house was flat – ideal for setting up tables or laying out a dance floor. It was surrounded on all sides by high tress that provided not only shade in the summer, but a certain amount of privacy should any muggles happen by.
Rose and Viktor arrived to find the garden already teeming with guests. A large marquee had been set up in the center of the yard, a vast white and gold tent large enough to hold the hundred or so people already milling about, awaiting the arrival of the new bride and groom. On one side of the marquee, several large tables had been erected. In the center of each sat a three-foot high vase full of what Rose guessed to be lilies, though they weren’t of any variety she’d ever encountered before. They were a deep shade of blue, a perfect compliment to the Bluebell flames that burned brightly in all four corners of the tent, keeping the November chill at bay.
“Looks like we’re in for quite the party,” Krum said, taking in the sight before them.
Rose nodded. “It certainly does.”
The pair entered the tent and were just snaking their way through the crowd when Rose heard a familiar voice calling out to her.
Rose turned, catching sight of her Uncle George, watching as he attempted to push his way through the crowd and over to where she were standing. He was a tall man, though not as tall as her father, sporting the same mop of red hair as the rest of the Weasley family, only his had started to go grey around the temples. He was dressed that evening in a set of mud-brown robes with orange and green piping. The hat he was wearing looked about two sizes too small and only partially obscured the fact that he was missing his left ear.
“Didn’t see you at the ceremony,” he said once he’d finally reached them. “Thought maybe you’d decided you were getting too famous to be caught rubbing shoulders with our sorry lot. It’s been too long since any of the Weasleys made it onto the front page. Mind, you might be the first to do it in your underwear.”
And so it begins, Rose thought to herself. But before she could reply, her aunt appeared, saddling up beside her husband and handing him a glass of champagne.
“Now, George,” she said, “don’t tease the poor girl. I saw her come in just before the ceremony got underway.”
“Is that a fact?" he said, looking first at Rose and then over at his wife.
Her aunt nodded. “Just because you’re blind as a bat doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t see past the end of our own nose.”
“Blind?” her uncle huffed. “Who are you calling blind, woman? I’ll have you know there’s nothing wrong with my vision. I could spot a Bowtruckle at a hundred meters with one hand tied behind my back.”
“I’m sure you can,” her aunt said, taking her husband’s arm and steering him off in the direction of the Hors d'oeuvre table, but not before flashing Rose the briefest of smiles.
Rose mouthed a silent “thank you” before watching her aunt and uncle disappear back into the crowd.
“Charming fellow,” Krum said as soon as they pair were out of earshot.
“He doesn’t mean anything by it. That’s just how he is with people.”
“If you say so...”
As it turned out, her Uncle George was just the first in a long line of people who stopped to chat with them as the pair tried unsuccessfully to make their way over to tables, which were filling up at an alarming rate. Rose didn’t care so much about the food as finding a place to sit. She’d only had them on for them for a couple of hours, but the shoes she was wearing – the only pair she owned suitable for the occasion – were pinching her toes, and she knew if she didn’t take them off soon, she was liable to hex the damn things until there was nothing left but two foot-sized holes in the dance floor.
Al’s younger sister, Lily, was the next to appear. On her arm was a boy Rose had never seen before. He was short and stocky, with a round face and an expression that told Rose he was about as thrilled to be there as she was.
“You think we could make a break for it?” he’d whispered to Krum as soon as Lily’s back was turned. “I tell you, I don’t know how she always manages to talk me into coming to these sorts of things. I guess you and I are just a couple of whipped men, huh?”
As soon as they were gone, Viktor shot her a look, but Rose just smiled. “Are we having fun yet?”
After Lily came her Uncle Charlie, followed by someone Rose thought might be her second-cousin twice removed, or else maybe her great-great aunt on her father’s side. It was hard to keep track; there were just so bloody many of them. Krum must have been thinking along the same lines.
“You aren’t actually related to all these people, are you?”
Rose grimaced. “I’m afraid so. Or at least most of them.”
“You’re telling me.”
Rose had just spotted a pair of empty seats next to one of the two champagne fountains set up at either end of the tent, when another familiar face popped into view.
“Uncle Harry,” Rose said, releasing her grip on Viktor’s arm and waving over at her uncle. Rose loved all the members of her family, if not always all at once, but she held a special place in her heart for her uncle. Of course, she supposed most of the wizarding world held a special place in their hearts for the great Harry Potter. Still, Rose didn’t have to feign enthusiasm; she was genuinely pleased to see him.
“Hey there, Rose,” he said, giving her a quick peck on the cheek. “It’s good to see you. Does Al know you’re here? I know he was worried you might not make it.”
Rose nodded. “Yeah, he does. We saw him at the church. Oh,” she said, as if just remembering, “and this is—”
She made to introduce Viktor but he’d already stepped forward, arm outstretched in greeting. “Harry Potter,” he said. “It’s been too long.”
Her uncle took Krum’s hand, giving it a hearty shake. “That it has. What’s it been, twenty years now?”
“Something like that. I suppose congratulations are in order.”
“I suppose they are,” her uncle replied, giving them a weary smile. “I swear, it feels like it was just last week we were throwing one of these for James – that’s our eldest. Got married over the summer.”
“Two in less than six months. That can’t have been easy.”
“And we’ve still got another one to marry off yet. Though, I think we’ve still got a bit of time before our youngest is ready to fly the coop, so to speak.”
Rose watched with fascination as the two men chatted amiably for another few minutes. It was the first time Rose had ever seen Viktor hold an actual conversation with anyone, other than herself or Peter. Both men spoke with confidence and ease. It was a trait Rose was used to seeing in her uncle, but one she hadn’t had occasion to observe in Krum. It was oddly humanizing, and Rose liked it.
“Well, I guess duty calls,” her uncle said at last. A man Rose assumed to be the photographer had just appeared at Harry’s side, informing him that his presence was requested at the head table. They wanted to snap a few photos of the parents with the bride and groom before dinner got underway. “Good to see you, Viktor,” he said with a quick nod in Krum’s direction. “You too, Rose.”
And with that, they waved him off, finding themselves alone again at last.
Dinner turned out to be a Cornish game hen, the small birds smothered in a tangy orange glaze and set atop a pile of roasted vegetables. It wouldn’t have been Rose’s first choice of fare, but as she hadn’t had to cook it, she wasn’t really in any position to complain. Plus, there was the champagne. At first, Rose had declined the waiter’s offer of a glass, not sure whether or not it was a good idea to drink in front of Krum. But he’d told her not to worry.
“Besides,” Viktor said, “if I had this much family swarming around, I’d be drinking too.”
Swarming was the perfect word to describe her relatives’ behavior that night. All throughout dinner, the pair continued to be harassed by various members of her extended family, each claiming to be over the moon to see her, eager to wish her well. But Rose wasn’t buying it for a second. She was thinking back on her mother’s words – what she’d said as she’d flipped through all the post that had arrived while Rose was camped out at her parents’ house.
“They’re the biggest bunch of busybodies I’ve ever met.”
It seemed they were at it again. With the expectation of Harry, Rose was convinced they were really just vying for an opportunity to ogle her date. Not that she shouldn’t have expected as much. She’d known it might turn a few heads, the two of them arriving there arm-in-arm. And it wasn’t just that he was famous – or infamous, as the case may be. The Potter and Weasley families were no strangers to a little infamy now and again. But it was because he was there with her – her escort for the evening. After what had been said in the papers, how could people not be curious? Still, Rose had hoped that given the occasion, their presence might fly under the radar. Clearly, that had been wishful thinking.
The only people Rose had yet to run into were her parents. Well, she hadn’t actually seen Hugo either, but that didn’t really surprise her. While it was always possible that he was avoiding her, more likely, he’d simple been called into work. Hugo might not have been Krum’s biggest fan at the moment, but he’d made it pretty clear during their last conversation that as long as she was happy, that was good enough for him.
As for her parents, that was a showdown she could do without, at least for the moment. She wasn’t in the mood to deal with her father’s disapproving looks, or to watch her mother pretend as if there was nothing odd about Rose bringing Krum as her date. Rose loved her mother but the woman was a terrible liar. It wouldn’t take more than five seconds for Viktor to see through her futile attempts at good cheer. Rose supposed that was a trait she and her mother shared. Krum had told her as much at their first meeting; he could read her like a book.
Once dinner was over, the waiters made quick work of clearing off the tables and whisking them away to places unknown. The band took up their place in one corner; the rest of the space was soon filled with mismatched chairs and wooden benches, which were immediately snatched up by the oldest of the attendees.
“I’m starting to think this is a conspiracy,” Rose said, finding a spot at the end of one of the benches just wide enough for her and Krum to sit.
“What is?” he asked.
“The serious lack of seating. It’s like they don’t want us to sit down. Afraid we might get comfortable and never leave.”
“I think it’s because they’re hoping people will dance.”
“Oh,” Rose said. She hadn’t thought of that.
“Besides, I could care less about the chairs. Vhere the hell do they put the loo in a place like this?”
Rose looked around, but she couldn’t locate any signs pointing the way to the restrooms.
“Just go in the house,” Rose told him, nodding in the direction of the Burrow.
“I don’t think that’s for guests.”
“I’m not a guest. I’m family. And since you’re my date for the evening, I say that entitles you to piss in peace. The bath is on the third floor.”
“And you’re sure it’s all right?”
“Of course,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “It’s fine. Just make sure to stay out of the attic”
“Why? Vhat’s in the...” But he stopped himself. “Never mind. I don’t want to know.”
Alone for the first time that evening, Rose tried to make sense of the day. Aside from the probing looks and pointed questions, things weren’t going as terribly as she’d expected. She wouldn’t go so far as to say she was enjoying herself, but having Krum by her side had helped keep at bay the sense of emptiness that came with seeing her best friend moving on with his life.
Speaking of empty, Rose looked down at the flute in her hand. Dry as a bone. She glanced around for a waiter, but there was no one in sight. Sighing, she got to her feet and made her way towards one of the fountains, refilling her glass from one of the many streams of the amber liquid that seem to shimmer in the light of the lanterns that had been strung overhead.
She was just watching them roll out the cake – one of the bakers hurriedly patching a section of the frosting that had begun to melt under the heat of the lights – when a small voice said, “Hello, there.”
Rose looked down. A girl, no more than six or seven, was standing in front of her, staring up at Rose with obvious interest. She hair was blonde – a rarity at this party – and she was wearing a pale yellow dress draped in several layers of lace, two large bows tied at the sleeves. It was just the sort of thing Rose’s mother would have forced her into at that age.
“Hello, yourself,” Rose said. “Aren’t you a little young to be in line for champagne?”
The girl let out a tiny giggle. “You’re funny. What’s your name?”
“Rose. What’s yours?”
“Victoria Elizabeth Strong,” the girl replied in a practiced tone.
Rose had been right. She wasn’t a Weasley. The girl must have belonged to one of Amelia’s relatives. “Well, it’s very nice to meet you, Victoria.”
“It’s nice to meet you too, Rose.” The girl looked like she was about to say more when she caught wind of someone calling out her name.
“Victoria, dear? Where are you?”
“I’d better go,” the girl said, giving Rose one final giggle before running off into the crowd.
“Making friends?” Krum asked.
She hadn’t seen him return, but she flashed him a quick smile. “You know me. I can’t resist a little girl talk every now and then.” Rose took a long pull on her drink before setting it down on a nearby table. “Fancy a dance?”
Krum gave her a sharp look. “I don’t dance.”
“Says my two left feet.”
“Oh, come off it. I thought athletes were supposed to be all quick and agile.”
“Former athlete,” he reminded her. “And I was. When I was on a broom. There isn’t exactly a lot of complicated footwork required in Quidditch.”
“Oh, don’t be a spoil-sport,” she said, sticking out her lip. “Just one little dance?” When he failed to respond, she leaned in, whispering in his ear, “If you’re good, I might just let you cop a feel.”
Krum raised an eyebrow. “Here? With your whole family watching us?”
Rose shrugged. “They’re going to stare anyway. Might as well give them a show.” She leaned into him, pulling his tie until his face was only inches from hers. Then she kissed him.
“Just how much, exactly, have you had to drink tonight?” Viktor asked once she’d released him.
“Not nearly enough.”
After several more attempts to refuse her, Viktor finally relented, allowing Rose to take him by the hand and lead him out onto the dance floor. Krum seemed hesitant to get too close, so Rose took it upon herself to position his hands at her hips before wrapping her own arms around his neck. The music was soft and slow, and they swayed in time to the beat.
After a long silence, Rose looked up at him. “Do you think you’ll ever want this again?”
“This,” she said, gesturing at the space around them. “A wedding. Marriage. Do you think you’ll ever want to do it again?”
“No,” he said, needing no time at all to formulate an answer.
“Why not?” His response hadn’t surprised her, and she certainly wasn’t fishing for any sort of promise for their future. She was just genuinely curious about what he had to say on the subject.
“Because twice is more than enough, don’t you think?”
Rose shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not.”
“What about you? Do you see yourself valking down the aisle one day?”
Rose shrugged again. “I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to picture me in a wedding dress, don’t you think?”
Krum pulled back slightly, as if to take in the full sight of her. “No, I don’t think it’s hard to picture at all.”
“Still...” Rose said, her voice trailing off. Her gaze had landed on a spot just off to her left, where Albus and Amelia were dancing cheek-to-cheek. They were grinning, laughing and whispering in each other’s ears, totally oblivious to everyone else around them. “They look happy, don’t they?”
“They are happy.”
“What about children?” she asked.
Rose’s eyes had moved from their smiling faces down to the small bump just visible beneath Amelia’s gown. She’d gotten her wish; she hadn’t been forced to waddle down the aisle. In fact, to Rose, the woman never seemed more graceful.
“What about them?” Krum asked.
“Well, you’ve been married twice, but no kids. Don’t you like children?”
“Not particularly, no.”
“What about Peter?”
“Peter isn’t a child.”
“No, but he was when you married his mother.”
“That’s different,” Viktor said. “I inherited Peter. I didn’t create him.”
“That doesn’t seem to matter to him. He said you were a good father. He told me so the first time we met.”
“Peter’s easily confused.”
“Well, he didn’t sound confused to me. And besides, you must have done something right to make him stick with you after all this time.”
“Maybe so,” Krum said. “But it’s not the same. When they’re your own flesh and blood... Vell, there isn’t anyone else to blame when they screw up their lives.”
Rose looked up at him. “Is that what you think your parents thought of you? That you were a screw-up?”
Krum laughed. “I see you’ve finally mastered the art of interrogation. Am I getting paid for answering all these questions, Ms. Weasley, or is this off the record?”
Rose felt her cheeks go pink. “You’re right. I’m sorry. You don’t have to answer. Let’s just blame that one on the champagne.”
“No, it’s all right. I don’t mind.” He paused for a moment before continuing on. “My parents were long dead before the worst of it started. I was able to spare them that grief, at least. Let them go to their graves thinking they’d done their job. And what about you?” he asked, “Do you want to be a mother someday?”
Rose shook her head. “I don’t know.” And that was the truth. Rose wasn’t sure what her future held, or even what she hoped it might hold one day. “I’ll tell you what I do want, though.”
“More of this,” she said, resting her head against his chest and tightening her grip on his neck. “More of you and me...and dancing.”
“I’d like that too,” he said.
“And I’ll tell you what else I wouldn’t mind.”
“What?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t say no to a piece of that cake.”
Krum was right, as it turned out. Rose did have too much to drink.
It was nearing midnight when the two finally left the party, which was still in full swing, poised to stretch on until the wee hours of the morning. Rose was feeling a bit unsteady on her feet, and Krum had offered to take her back to his place. But Rose wanted to go home, to sleep in her own bed. Viktor agreed, taking her by the hand and Apparating them back to her building before helping her up the three flights of stairs and into her flat.
The moment they were inside, Rose stripped of her dress, letting it fall unbidden onto the floor. She made to kick of her shoes only to realize she wasn’t wearing any. She must have taken them off at some point and never got around to putting them back on.
Rose crossed over to the bed, wearing nothing but her bra and underwear, and plopped down on to the mattress, not bothering to pull back the sheets.
“Comfortable?” Krum asked, and she could hear the note of amusement in his voice.
“I’m getting there.”
Her eyes were closed, but she could hear the sound of his footsteps as he drew near to the bed. “Well, I’ll leave you to it then,” he said, bending over and kissing her forehead.
Rose opened one eye. “You’re not leaving, are you?”
“You’re tired. I vas going to let you rest.”
Rose sat up, reaching out and taking his hand, which she pressed to her cheek. “You know, I’m not that tired...”
“You could have fooled me.”
“I’m just relaxed,” she said. “That’s not the same as tired.”
Rose was pulling on his arm, forcing him to sit down beside her. They were face-to-face now, and she barely had to lean forward in order to press her lips to his. It started slowly, but soon the kiss deepened – sharp and lustful, stretching on until her tongue began to tingle. Rose shifted positions, throwing one of her bare legs over his body until she was straddling his hips. She kissed him again, pressing her nearly-naked form flush against him. She tugged at his shirt until it came loose from his pants, running her hands up his chest and around to his back, desperate for the feel of skin on skin. But it wasn’t until she began to fiddle with the buckle of his belt that she felt him pull away.
“What is it?” she asked, her voice breathy with anticipation.
“This is wrong,” he said.
“What? No it’s not. It’s perfect.” And she made to kiss him again but he turned his face away, her lips brushing his cheek instead – just like she had done to him not so long ago.
“You’re drunk,” he said flatly.
“Is that what this is about?” Rose let out a laugh. “Don’t worry. I’m not that drunk. Besides,” she said, kissing his neck, “it’s not like we haven’t done this before.”
“That’s not the point,” he said, and there was an edge in his voice that caught Rose’s attention.
She stopped what she was doing and looked down at him. “Then what is the point?”
“You said you needed time.”
“I know. And I took it. Now I’m ready to be with you again. Can’t you see that?” She was practically throwing herself at the man and he was turning her down cold. She tried once more to kiss him, but he just stood up, forcing Rose to scramble off his lap in order to keep from falling on the floor. “What the hell is wrong with you?” she demanded.
“I don’t want to do this, Rose.”
“Do what? Be with me?”
“Of course I want to be with you. Just not now. Not like this.”
“I don’t understand—”
“Don’t you see, Rose? I’ve fucked enough drunk girls to last ten lifetimes. I don’t need to prove anything by sleeping with another one tonight.”
There was no venom in his tone, but that didn’t lessen the sting, his words like a slap to the face. “Fine!” she snapped, stripping back the covers and crawling into bed. “Then I guess we’re done for the evening. I’d offer to show you out but I’m probably too drunk to find the door.”
“Rose—” Viktor began, but she’d already turned her back on him, rolling over so her face was now pointed at the wall.
For a moment he said nothing. She might have thought he’d gone if she hadn’t been able to sense him there, his eyes boring into her back. Finally, she felt the mattress shake as he sat down beside her. He ran a hand over her hair and down across her bare shoulder.
“I didn’t mean to upset you,” he said. “It’s just that when I have you again, I vant to have all of you. I want you there with me. For every second of it. Can you understand that?”
Rose said nothing. She was listening, trying to make sense of his words, but her brain was fuzzy from the alcohol. And she was suddenly feeling very sleepy.
“Do you understand?” he asked again.
Rose could feel her eyelids growing heavy, but she rolled onto her back so she could look him in the face. “Yeah, I get it. You want all of me.” She parroted his words back at him, not really taking in their meaning.
“That’s right,” he said, but his voice seemed suddenly very far away, as if talking to her from the other end of a long tunnel. She heard him speak again, though this time the words were not only faint, they were garbled too. What was it he’d said? She didn’t know for sure.
But whatever it was, it made her smile. And then she drifted off to sleep.
*It's not exactly a full quote, but the phrase “bonded for life” comes from Chapter 8 of HPatDH.
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