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Chapter 24 : Love rule #23
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Love rule #23 - When times get tough, find the nearest, cutest boy
I sat on my bed, fully dressed in my Hogwarts uniform. My shoed feet drummed against the bed frame as I waited impatiently for 11 o’clock. Butterflies were making me feel sick. Soon I’d be back at Hogwarts and ready to face everyone. My only hope was that word hadn’t gotten out about where I’d been or what had happened.
“Rose? I just wanted to say bye before I leave for work,” Granny Tonks said, peering at me from around the bedroom door.
I stood up with a smile, forever grateful for the elderly lady’s help. “Thank you for everything, Gran.”
She pulled me into a tight hug, and I clung on. I missed my own Nanna Molly, and I blinked back tears. Crying wasn’t part of my new ‘harden up’ act. It was time to stop being a child and to start actually acting my age.
“You’re more than welcome, my dear. I’d say ‘any time’, but I’d rather you didn’t come back under the same circumstances.”
I managed a weak laugh and nodded fervently. I couldn’t agree more. We had one last goodbye, and I was back to sitting on the bed and wondering if the clock had stopped. Had anything happened between Callie and Albus? Who had been doing my Head’s duties while I was away for so long, and while Scorpius was away for a few days?
“You’re stressing, aren’t you,” came a deep voice, and I wrinkled my nose at Teddy. We’d said goodbye over scrambled eggs and toast hours ago.
“What are you still doing here?”
“Just popped back from work quickly, I wanted to check that you and Scorp hadn’t killed each other.”
I grunted, trying not to snap moodily at him. The past few days, tensions had been high and Scorpius’ nearness had been getting to me. We hadn’t yet spoken about the first night in Granny Tonk’s house, when I’d cried and he’d disappeared by the morning, and since my parent’s visit I’d been stressed and moody.
“I don’t even know where he is.”
“Righto. Well so long as you’re fine, I’ll be off again. Owl me as soon as you settle in tonight.”
“Yes Dad,” I muttered sarcastically, and Teddy scoffed.
“Ouch, someone needs a nap. Don’t be a bitch Rose, we had this conversation.”
I started to glare at him, before physically calming myself down. I took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I’m so sorry, Ted. I know we talked about this. I’m just so stressed right now, and kind of scared, too. What if people at Hogwarts judge me for leaving?”
“Rose,” Teddy sighed, sitting next to me, “They don’t even know why you left. Just try to relax a bit – read a book or something. And try to be nice to Scorpius? He’s done so much for you; you’re going to be spending the rest of your life repaying him.”
I nodded shamefacedly, a bit pink. Teddy was right of course. I could always trust him to make me see straight again.
A tight hug from Teddy, and then he was gone again. I did as he said and pulled out a book. Surprisingly, I didn’t look up until I heard a knock on my door. I checked the clock and my heart skipped a beat. The fireplace would be connected to Hogwarts’ floo network very soon.
“Yeah?” I called, putting the book on top of my pile of belongings sitting beside the bed.
“I made you a sandwich,” Scorpius said, coming cautiously into the room. I stiffened, forcing a smile on my face.
“I didn’t know you had it in you,” I tried to joke.
“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me, Rose,” he said flatly, and I felt an unwanted thrill go through me at the sound of my name. He shoved the plate into my hands and leaned awkwardly against the door frame.
“Sorry,” I said inadequately, taking a small bite of the sandwich. It was surprisingly delicious, and neither of us spoke until half of the sandwich had disappeared into my mouth. Fatty.
“So… are you looking forward to starting back at class?” Scorpius ventured, his voice cracking slightly. He was clearly as nervous and awkward near me as I was near him.
“I guess so. I’m worried about what people will say.”
“Says the girl who grew up in the public eye.”
I shrugged uncomfortably. It was more of a pride thing, I think. I was embarrassed. The infallible Rose Weasley, frightened by food. I took an unenthusiastic nibble at the second half of the sandwich.
“Who has been doing Head’s duties while we’ve been away?” I asked, and tried not to like the sound of ‘we’ too much.
“Other seventh year prefects.”
O’Walsh must have been happy. There was more silence, and I took another bite of the sandwich to avoid looking at him. There was just so much that we hadn’t talked about yet, and I wasn’t sure where to begin. I decided that neutral ground would be the best start.
“Lucy was taken away so quickly.”
“It was for the best, Rose. Such a mentally ill girl needs to be somewhere safe, structured and simple.”
Mentally ill. Did he give the same title to me? Was I ‘mentally ill’?
“I just miss her,” I sighed. It was true; I missed the tiny girl’s presence, and her slow, sweet smile. She’d become like a sister to me in the months at Mungo’s.
“I was talking to Teddy about her,” Scorpius said, and I felt the atmosphere between us suddenly shift to an easier, more relaxed air; the kind that we used to have before the Winter Ball. “Especially about her family. It can be no coincidence that Avery had Trumpleton target the daughters of well-known Dumbledore supporters.”
I must have made a noise of surprise, because he nodded fervently and continued, “Yeah, Lucy’s grandparents were members of the Order, and her parents fought in the battle at Hogwarts.”
My heart skipped a beat, and for the first time in a long time, things were starting to make sense. Maybe I wasn’t just a complete failure –maybe I was actually a victim, set up from the start to fail. The entire wizarding world knew that Avery was an ex-Deatheater, watched by authorities constantly; he wouldn’t physically be able to exact revenge upon anyone. What if Trumpleton’s awful treatment of Lucy and I was somehow connected to Avery and our parents?
I opened my mouth to reply, sandwich forgotten, when a clock chimed the hour from the lounge room. I jumped up in surprise, sandwich and plate flying to the floor, and grabbed Scorpius’ arm.
“It’s already eleven o’clock!” I moaned, heart beating painfully hard. An equal mixture of excitement and dread was filling my stomach, and Scorpius grinned. We were standing close, close enough that I could see little gold speckles in his eyes.
“Calm down, you’ll be fine. The same can’t be said for my arm, however,” he said, amusement in his voice. I quickly let him go, and saw the red finger marks that striped his forearm.
“Right. Calm. Okay. Nothing to it. ‘Hey guys, I’m back. How’s everything been? I’m good, yeah. I was in treatment for a mental health issue and jail-broke myself out because of a psycho healer.’”
“Rose!” Scorpius yelled, shaking me slightly. I took a deep, shaky breath and laughed unevenly.
“Sorry. Are you ready to go? Let’s go. Are we going?”
I was still babbling. Shaking his head in exasperation, Scorpius shoved my bag into my hands, Vanished the plate and sandwich and grabbed my hand. The hospital had sent all of my belongings over the previous afternoon, down to the very last book.
“Is this okay?” he asked, a look of trepidation crossing his face. I looked down at our linked hands; his, strong, pale and big and mine, small, freckled and shaking. I nodded my head, and he gently pulled me from the room and towards the fireplace.
He dropped my hand once we were standing in front of the dancing frames, and I shoved it in my pocket to stop myself from grabbing onto him again. The tension and anger that had crackled between us over the last few days was dissipated.
“I’ll go first – here, I’ll take your things,” he said, slinging my bag over his shoulder and dipping his fingers into the pot of floo powder on the mantle. He was doing so much for me, and I still didn’t understand why. Perhaps when you’ve been through so much with someone, they feel compelled to continue helping. He turned to me suddenly, and I felt briefly, hysterically amused as I noted how close we were again. “Promise me you’ll follow me?”
He nodded once, threw the powder into the flames and shouted, “Professor McGonagall’s office, Hogwarts!”
I stared after his spinning form, and all was silent but for the cracking of the logs in the fire. I stood, basking in the warmth and pushing away my doubts. He trusted that I would follow him, but I didn’t have to. What was to stop me from going back to bed, or going for a walk, or doing anything that didn’t involve going back to school?
“Miss should go now,” a tiny voice piped up next to me, and I was so startled I almost fell into the flames. Granny Tonk’s house elf stood looking at me worriedly, wringing her little hands together.
“Minty! Don’t sneak up on me like that!”
“Minty is sorry, Miss Rose. But Minty thinks Miss should go back to school.”
I sighed and nodded. “I know.”
“Miss should follow the Malfoy boy.”
“I know, okay? Merlin knows I’d follow him anywhere,” I said to myself crossly. I was angry because it was true – Scorpius Malfoy drove me almost literally to insanity, and it was only during the last few days at Granny Tonk’s house that I’d been realising how much I relied on him.
I heaved one last sigh, said a quick goodbye to the house elf and grabbed a handful of floo powder, and all too soon I was spinning through the blue flames until I fell out at Hogwarts.
“Hello, Miss Weasley. We were starting to think that you weren’t going to grace us with your presence,” came a dry voice, and I was pulled to my feet by a wrinkled but strong hand. “It’s good to see you again, dear.”
“You too, Professor McGonagall,” I said, and my old teacher squeezed my hand and smiled shakily at me. I busied myself with brushing soot off my clothes and looking around her office, embarrassed to have made her upset. I couldn’t lie to myself- it felt good to be surrounded by Hogwarts’ stout stone walls once more.
She turned to sit behind her desk, and Scorpius stepped closer to me.
“You took a long time,” he whispered as we moved to sit down, and I shrugged, meeting his worried gaze.
“I’m here, aren’t I?”
He nodded tightly, and broke our eye contact as he turned to McGonagall. “If that’s all, Professor, I’ll be leaving.”
“Thank you, Scorpius. Come back in, say, an hour? Rose is all yours after that.”
I think we both blushed at her last sentence, but before I could say anything, he turned and left. The door stayed open behind him and Amethyst Lewis, my Muggle-born psychologist-healer walked through. She had a bounce in her step, and to my surprise, she briefly threw her arms around me. Healer Rivers followed behind her, but only nodded and smiled perfunctorily in my direction.
Once we were all seated around the desk and tea had been conjured, Healer Rivers began to speak.
“Now Rose,” she said, “Everyone here is up-to-date with your progress.”
Professor McGonagall interrupted quickly, saying, “Let me reassure you Rose, that your parents, Ministry representatives, Healers Lewis and Rivers and myself are working together to investigate any dealings between Trumpleton and Avery, and you will be adequately compensated for your time under their thumb.” She tapped a file on her desk – my file – and nodded determinedly. My parents must have given it to her.
I nodded back, feeling as if a weight was lifting off my shoulders. It was one thing for Dad to get mad and talk about sorting things out; it was another to hear that the Ministry had become involved. Knowing basic Ministry procedures, a thorough report would be given to the Wizengamot. I wasn’t concerned over my own time there – I had made it out almost okay – but the other girls still stuck inside.
“So,” continued Rivers, “You’re back at Hogwarts with us. We three, along with your parents, have discussed the best treatment course – one that you can undergo while studying at Hogwarts. Once a week, you will meet with Healer Lewis for therapy.” She paused to make sure I understood, and I nodded. I’d had therapy at Mungo’s, but it was an uncomfortable experience. “You will be permitted to eat one meal per day in the Great Hall and every other meal and snack will be eaten under supervision in the hospital wing. This will be ongoing until we feel that you can be trusted to eat properly.”
I tensed, and everyone noticed.
“It’s for your own good, Rose,” Amethyst Lewis said, leaning forward and patting my hand. From day one she’d been kind and open with me, even though I hadn’t noticed or appreciated it at the time. I was noticing now though, and I smiled shakily at her. Meals under supervision were no new thing, but they were still scary. With each new thing that was said, my heart was sinking more and more and my chest was getting tighter.
Amethyst continued, “It’s your mental health that we need to improve now, Rose. I won’t know until we do tests in the hospital wing tomorrow, but physically you look like you’re on the road to recovery. We just need to take further steps to ensure you stay on that road and graduate in June healthy and happy.”
Healthy and happy. Concepts which I remembered distinctly but which were out of my reach. My chest tightened even more, and it was getting harder to breathe.
There was more discussion of my treatment, and it wasn’t until a good hour had passed that the two healers stood and left, reminding me of my appointment with them in the morning. I took a deep breath as the door shut behind them, feeling overwhelmed and distinctly sad. What if I couldn’t ever recover?
“Rose?” Professor McGonagall said quietly as I stood to leave. She walked around the desk and took my hands. Squeezing them.
“Yes, Professor?” I said, confused.
“I just wanted you to know how sorry I am that you felt you had to leave Hogwarts. Please don’t ever feel that you have to leave this school. We may be your teachers and guardians, but we’re also your family. We can help you through anything.”
“Thank you, Professor,” I said, tears filling my eyes, “To be honest, the reason I left was all to do with a boy and nothing to do with not getting proper help here.”
“And if you don’t mind me saying, I think that ‘boy’ is ready to make amends for anything that happened between the two of you.”
I blushed, embarrassed that my teacher knew what was happening between Scorpius and I.
“Thank you, Professor. And I promise that if I have issues again, I’ll come to you.”
She let my hands go, and reverted back to the professor I knew and loved. “Good, Miss Weasley. Considering this meeting went over time, the young man outside the door has been waiting for a long time. See you tomorrow at breakfast.”
Her eyes crinkled in a smile, and I picked up my bag and opened the door.
“Hi,” Scorpius said back, taking my bag from me. The tightness in my chest eased a tiny bit.
“You waited a long time.”
“I’ll wait as long as it takes, Rose. Now come on, there are some people dying to see you.”
I followed him down the spiral stair case, heart beating painfully hard as I made sure my hair was flattened and my too-big skirt was straight.
“You look fine,” Scorpius said as we walked down the corridor, slapping my hand away from my clothes.
I frowned at him as we overshot our shared common room. “I look awful. Where are we going?”
“The library. Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not okay, Scorpius!” I said heatedly, the confusion, anger and sadness that had been building throughout the meeting suddenly bursting out. “I’m so bloody scared. I’m having treatment for a mental disorder, for Merlin’s sake. I’m mental!”
Scorpius frowned and grabbed my hand, pulling me behind a tapestry and casting muffilato at it.
“You’re not mental, Rose,” he said, grabbing my shoulders. “You might have heard some confronting stuff in that meeting, and gone through some awful things in hospital, but you’re definitely not mental.”
“But I am! The world is a crazy, topsy-turvy place, and I don’t know my place in it anymore!”
I was crying, but I couldn’t stop. Panic was blinding my vision, and I wondered if this was how fast my moods would turn all the time now. Teddy’s words of reassurance in my head and Scorpius’ warm hands on my shoulders weren’t enough to calm me down. My chest felt so tight that I could hardly breathe, which was making my head spin.
“What if I’m crazy for the rest of my life? Scared of my own shadow, scared to eat my bloody Christmas dinner, scared to go to class and see my friends? I don’t belong anywhere!”
My words descended into sobs, and Scorpius crushed me against him. Everything faded as my whole body heaved in agony; Scorpius was talking but I couldn’t hear him over the white noise in my head. It wasn’t until he was detaching my arms from his neck that I came back to myself.
“Hey,” he said softly, taking a step back and surveying me. I was a mess, but he wouldn’t look away. “Just give it time, okay? You can relearn where you belong and I promise you can get better.”
“I have no place anywhere,” I sniffed, turning my face away and trying to scrub away the tears.
“Rose,” he said softly, taking hold of my shoulders and turning me to face him. My bony shoulder bones were sticking into the concrete, and I could feel my nose running, and I’d literally just had a mental breakdown, but all I could focus on was Scorpius Malfoy, “Rose, you have a place, right here.”
“What do you mean?”
“At Hogwarts. With your friends. With me.”
“No one wants the crazy girl,” I said stubbornly, turning my face away again. My breathing was calming down slowly, and my mind went back to the articles I’d read years ago on anxiety attacks.
“I want you.”
“What?” I said, meeting his eyes once more. He was close, so close that I could see the little gold flecks in his eyes and the scar on his cheeks and his gaze on my lips. “Scorpius…”
“Rose,” he murmured, hands reaching hesitantly towards me. He wrapped them around my waist, and my heart was beating harder than ever but my mind felt clearer than it had in hours, and he was bending his neck towards me and then there were fireworks, and sparks, and bright, happy lights, and I was happy as he kissed me.
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