Chapter 5 : One says she's a friend of mine
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It was a few week into the holiday and life had sunk into a rhythm for Rose. She would get up in time to have breakfast with her parents before they left for work, then spend a few hours reading. Her favorite spot to do this was on the swing that hung out front on the wrap around porch, enjoying the cooler weather before it got hot later in the afternoon. She'd then rouse herself to go get ready for the day and would usually meet up with a friend or cousin or two for lunch. A lot of her days were spent having lunch at the Potter's. Her Aunt Ginny worked from home in the summer as there was no Quidditch unless the World Cup was going on, so there was a lot less reporting to be done. Hugo would join her on some of these trips to the Potter's and about once a week, Scorpius was there as well. James, who had moved out but couldn't seem to bare missing more than a day of his mother's cooking, was there more often than not, especially since he had time off in the summer as well.
"So, do you think you'll be able to take Tutshill in the season opener?" Hugo asked one day, about two weeks into the summer.
"Well," James responded as they sat around the lunch table. "It's hard to say since we haven't started training since Adamson retired. I haven't even had my first real practice as a starter yet. Only time will tell I guess," he said with a shrug.
"Since when are you so modest?" asked Al with his eyebrows raised. James wasn't one to usually shy away from talking himself up, especially when it came to Quidditch. In fact, everyone had rolled their eyes at Hugo's question, fully expecting him to launch into a never ending tale about the superiority of Puddlemere United and their unquestionable advantage now that he was a starting Chaser. To hear his actual response had caused everyone to do a double take.
James just shrugged his shoulders in response, his manner slightly more subdue than normal. Just last week he was unable to shut up about his future with Puddlemere and his excitement over the upcoming gala that weekend, where he would make his first official appearance with the team as a starting Chaser.
"Well," began Ginny, attempting to ease the strange tension. "We're all looking forward to going to your first match."
"Yeah, mate!" said Albus, looking excited. "I can't believe you were able to get a whole box for the family. And that we're lucky enough that the season starts in August this year! Have you decided who you're going to give the tickets to?"
James just shrugged his shoulders again before responding in a rather miserable manner.
"Doesn't really matter. You can give them to whoever you want mum," he said as he threw a glance at Ginny while poking at his food.
"Well I'm sure you'll want ones for your friends, so I'll set some aside for Roxy, Fred, Ly, Lorcan, and Violet - "
"No need," James interrupted. "Vi can't come. You can give her ticket to someone else."
There was a general spirit of understanding around the table. Everyone knew that James and Violet had a complicated relationship, even if, until this moment, James seemed to be unaware and unaffected by it. Even Scorpius was aware that their relationship was different than it appeared on the surface and he wasn't even part of the family. Always one to be able to break the tension, he saw his opening.
"An extra ticket then? Great, I've always wanted to see the Tornado's thrash Puddlemere."
His plan worked as James looked up at him with a scowl before launching into a long winded speech about the statistics of both teams and the complete unlikelihood of Scorpius' prediction ever occurring. Pretty soon they were all bantering back and forth and Ginny shot Scorpius a grateful smile as Albus and James were in an intense discussion about the quality of brooms that each team possessed.
Rose subtly studied James throughout the rest of the meal. She knew him almost as well as she knew Albus, as he was her Father's godson, and he spent a great deal of time at their house growing up along with his siblings. He and Albus were very close as well so he generally hung around with him and Rose when he was visiting. Since she and Al were so close in age, James was the one who always felt more like an older brother to her, even though Albus had her beat by a month as well. As she watched him, she noticed his eyes looked slightly sunken with dark circles under them. Exhaustion seemed to radiate off of him.
After lunch, Scorpius and Al took their turn for cleanup while Hugo and Lily left to meet up with their friends in Diagon Alley, which left Rose and James alone in the family room when Ginny went out to do some work in the garden.
"So, Rosie," James began as he stretched out on the couch. "Excited to be Head Girl this year?"
Rose threw his feet off the couch and sat at the end, crisscrossing her legs and turning to face him.
"We don't even know if that will be the case yet. Besides, you and I both know that's not what we're going to talk about."
She was looking at him expectantly but he just pulled his legs up on the couch again and slid further into the cushions, trying to hide behind his knees.
"Jamie…" Rose said with a warning tone, and he slowly sat up. He only let her and Lily call him that and she knew she could use the affectionate term to get him to open up. Sure enough, he lowered his knees and scooted back up as he let out a sigh.
"I guess I was never good at hiding anything from you. I don't know Rosie, none of it makes any sense anymore."
"Try me. I'm rather good at figuring out the things that don't make sense." She smiled slightly at him and he heaved another heavy sigh, grabbing a pillow from behind his back and holding it tightly to his chest.
"I just can't seem to do anything right anymore. Nothing will make her happy. She says she wants one thing and then acts as if I've completely buggered it up by doing exactly what she said she wanted. When did this get so complicated? We never had issues like this in school and now she's refusing to even bloody talk to me."
Rose looked at her cousin sympathetically.
"I'll let you in on a little secret James."
He perked up at her words and looked at her as if the next thing out of her mouth would hold the answers to all of his problems.
"Girls don't always say what they mean. In fact, more often than not, they'll say the exact opposite, hoping you'll make the right choice on your own."
He looked at her in despair. "But that makes no sense at all. Why would anyone do that? Doesn't it just make more sense to say what you mean and actually mean it?"
"Absolutely," said Rose. "Believe me, I think it's as ridiculous as the next person, yet I still manage to do it." She paused for a moment as he looked frustrated by this news. "But maybe she's scared that, maybe if she's honest, you'll do the same in return."
He looked at her skeptically. "Why would that be a bad thing?"
"Maybe she's afraid of how you feel."
"Why on earth would she be afraid of that?"
Rose let out a sigh. "James, how do you feel about Violet?"
He thought about it for a second before responding.
"She's my best friend Rose. I know I always says it's Ly and Freddie, but there's no one I'm more sure will always be there for me than her. And now I'm questioning all of that."
"Well, what exactly happened?" She asked, deciding to come back to the feelings portion later and fully prepared to listen for as long as he needed her to.
James sighed before launching into his story.
"So you know how I was going on about that gala last week?" she nodded to indicate that she remembered. "Well, originally, I'd sort of asked her to go with me."
She had a judgmental look on her face now and James knew he probably deserved it, even though he was still trying to figure out where he'd gone wrong.
"I would say that's wonderful, but you said originally. How'd you manage to mess that up?"
"I know this whole mess is somehow my fault, but when we had originally decided she'd go with me, it was as friends. I didn't think she'd be that upset when I asked an actual date to go with me instead."
"James!" Rose exclaimed, shock and disbelief written all over her face.
"Don't look at me like that, Rosie! I asked Vi to go because I was invited so late minute due to the sudden roster change and I didn't think I'd have time to find an actual date. I told her as much when I asked her. I didn't think she'd blow her lid when I told her she was off the hook."
James looked positively miserable and Rose softened.
"Did she really go off on you?"
"Like you wouldn't believe. Started talking about how I always take her for granted and that I was a bloody fool and completely blind to how I treat her."
"Well are you?" she asked, hoping James would finally see sense about his best friend.
"I never thought I treated her differently than any of my other friends. I don't see what the problem is at all."
"Maybe that is the problem Jamie," He looked at her questioningly. "Maybe she should be treated differently."
James looked deep in thought, trying to process what Rose was implying. She patiently waited for him to speak again.
"Like how? Like a sister?" He now seemed utterly confused. Rose just rolled her eyes at him.
"Well, do you feel the same way about her as you do about Lily? Or any of your female cousins for that matter?"
He thought long and hard before a slight blush started to rise on his cheeks and he couldn't meet Rose's eyes.
"No," he said softly, "I reckon I don't."
Rose couldn't help but beam at how uncomfortable he looked.
"Do you get what I'm saying now?"
James finally looked at her and seemed to braced himself for what he was about to say.
"Look, Rose, I know what you're getting at, but I've been trying to stamp this out for Merlin knows how long. I'm not about to risk stuffing everything up or making things awkward by finally admitting how much I bloody care for her as so much more than a friend."
Rose was slightly surprised that she'd actually gotten him to admit that much, and he looked like he had surprised himself as well.
"Well, you're likely to lose her anyway with the way you've been behaving lately. Did you ever think that she might actually feel the same way as you?"
He seemed skeptical at this idea.
"But she's never said anything otherwise."
Rose ran her hands through her hair in frustration. She refused to just give him the answer. She wanted him to get there himself. She thought about her relationship with Scorpius, and the words she would want someone to say to him if he was sitting where James was. Maybe her confused feelings could come in handy right now.
"Look, James," she began, preparing herself for the vulnerability she was about to embrace. "I know how it feels to be caught between friendship and something more."
He stared at her quizzically and she couldn't help but let her eyes flicker behind him to the door that lead to the kitchen, where they could hear his brother and a certain blonde having what sounded like a little too much fun cleaning up.
Realization struck his face and he quickly looked back and forth between the kitchen and Rose.
"Really?" he asked in a softer tone so they weren't overheard, his eyes bugging out at her as he soaked in this information. "Since when?"
"Honestly?" she began hesitantly, matching his quiet tone. "I couldn't even begin to guess." She let out a small, depressed sounding chuckle, looking down at her hands and willing herself to not feel too self conscious about her confession. It was the first time she had ever admitted to anyone that she was feeling anything more than friendship towards Scorpius, and it terrified her how real it was all becoming in her mind. She was finally starting to embrace how she felt about her best friend.
Rose looked up at James and let out a genuine laugh. He still had a slightly shocked look on his face, but he was now grinning at her.
"Good one, Rosie. He's brilliant."
She quickly became subdued, recalling the situation she was actually in.
"Yes well, you're the only one who knows and I trust you keep it that way. Nothing has actually happened and I have no idea if he feels the same. He certainly hasn't given me much of an indication that he feels anything more for me than friendship, and I'd be terrified to confront him about it. The chance that he might not feel the same and that I could ruin our friendship? Right now, it's not worth the risk when I have no clue how he might feel. His friendship means too much to me. So the point I wanted to make," she continued getting back to the topic at hand and looking pointedly at James, willing him to understand, "is that, while I'm not privy to Violet's personal thoughts and feelings, I think I might know where she's coming from."
James looked at her questioningly, recalling what she had said earlier. The uncertainty of it all and about being caught between friendship and something more, afraid to take the next step because you have no clue as to how the other feels.
"Wait…" he said slowly. "You can't mean what I think you mean."
She gave him a sly smile. "Finally figured it out have you?"
He looked dumbfounded. Then his face twisted in pain and he dropped it into his hands.
"Bloody fucking hell, I'm an idiot."
"That's one thing we can all agree with, but why this time?" his brother asked as he walked out of the kitchen and slapped James on the back of the head with a drying towel, Scorpius trailing behind him.
James shot a scowl at his brother.
"None of your damn business if you're going to be an arse."
Albus had a mocking look of shock on his face.
"Me? Why, I'd never be an arse to you brother dear."
James had put his face back in his hands and was ignoring his brother, his mind clearly preoccupied. Al and Scorpius picked up on the slightly more serious tone of the situation and looked at Rose for clarification who just shrugged at them before informing them it wasn't her place to say. They looked back at James with worry on their faces. Scorpius then moved to pull out the chessboard and Al sat across from him. It appeared they were prepared to just be there incase James should need them. Rose picked up her book which rested on the coffee table and they remained in silence for a solid half an hour, until James finally picked his head up and looked around the room, as if just remembering that they were all there. Scorpius and Al looked at him expectantly but his eyes landed on Rose.
"How do I fix this?" he asked in a timid and terrified voice.
"Well, do you know how you feel? Do you know what you want?" she asked.
He nodded and she grinned at him.
"Then I suggest you do something about it."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was Rose's turn to make dinner that night, so she apparated home around 5:30 to get started. She and James had discussed at length how he could "do something about it" as she put it. He had argued that her solution was impractical since Violet wasn't even talking to him, so they, along with Al and Scorpius, who they clued in on the situation ("You're a bloody git," Al had told his brother who chucked a pillow at him), brainstormed ways to get her to listen so James could "apologize and confess his undying love for his best friend" as Scorpius had put it. They realized that the best chance he'd have would be at the Quidditch match that was held annually at the Potter's family home and would take place in a few weeks. She would be coming with Roxanne the night before to participate in the traditional girl's night the day before the match. Rose said she would touch base with Roxy to make sure Violet was still planning on coming at least to the girls night, and promised she'd do her best to get her to stay for Quidditch the next day.
"Ok," James had said, "but it will be very hard to keep the boys out this year. I'm going to go mad knowing I could miss my best chance to talk to her if she plans to bolt in the morning."
Rose tried to make the boys promise not to ruin their time, but they wouldn't budge.
"If James needs us to stage a coup, we stage a coup." Al had said in all seriousness.
James couldn't stop beating himself up over the situation he'd put himself in. He was pacing almost violently in front of the fireplace. Ginny had come in from gardening, taken one look at the scene in the living room, and informed the other three that they looked like they had everything handled before she went to wash up.
"I can't believe I spent all this time pushing her away. She's got to have no bloody idea how I feel! Which, incidentally, is what I was going for. But if I had thought that on some level she felt the same? Blimey, everything I've been afraid of happening if I ever said something, she's been afraid of too. And with good reason! I've been a prat!"
Everyone took turns reassuring him that the situation was still salvageable and that he needn't worry. James was still having a hard time wrapping his head around the fact that he might actually have a chance with her.
"Why else would she be refusing to speak to you right now? Girls only do that if they really care."
Everyone gave Al a quizzical look at these words, but Rose actually saw a lot of truth behind them as well.
Scorpius had given some surprisingly good insight too. He had encouraged James to be brave and to fully put himself out there.
"It'll all be worth it in the end," he'd said, "Especially if you end up getting to spend the rest of your life with someone you consider to be the best person in the world. I can't think of anything better than having your best friend forever by your side."
He had said this as he and Al continued to play chess, his eyes fixed on the board. Al just nodded his head in agreement as he too was focused on the game, but James had shot her a knowing look.
Now, as she peeled potatoes and prepared the chicken to be roasted, she couldn't help but let her thoughts stray to her best friend and what the future might hold for them. Did she think she wanted to spend forever with him? No, definitely too soon to think things like that. She was still trying to juggle her changing feelings. Was she curious about where it could go? Without a doubt, but she understood why James felt terrified to face Violet, even though he had a pretty solid idea of how she felt. The idea of rejection, of losing that person who means so much to you, it pained her to think about more than she cared to admit.
And what if he did feel the same way and they did get together but it was only for a while? What if they broke up and it was horribly messy? She'd wind up losing him eventually anyway. Would it still be worth it?
The sound of apparition outside and the door opening brought her out of her head as her parents walked in the front door, her father finishing up a funny anecdote from work and her mother chuckling at him with an amused expression on her face. Even after her father had stopped working at the ministry, he made sure his schedule worked out so that he could see his wife home from work almost every day.
"Were you able to get it off of him?" she asked her husband with a smile on her face as she kicked off her shoes and hung her bag and robes on a hook by the door.
"Took forever to catch the little bugger but yeah, we eventually controlled the situation."
By the mirth in his eyes, Rose could tell that whatever situation had occurred at the shop today was more amusing than anything.
"Rose! Hello, dear," her mother said brightly, noticing her daughter standing in the doorway to the kitchen. She smiled in greeting at her parents as her father also shot her a hello and inquired about dinner.
"It's in the oven. Another mishap with a customer then?" she asked her dad. Ever since he had left the aurors and gone to work with her uncle George, she and Hugo had loved hearing the crazy stories he would come home with.
"Yeah," he chuckled lightly. "Tiny little wizard with a sense of humor got ahold of one of the headless hats, although he was about the size of the hat itself so the whole thing covered him and made him invisible so you saw only his feet. Took ages to catch him."
Ron collapsed on the couch with a groan and Hermione chuckled at him.
"Getting old are we?"
He shot her a look. "You try going on the run for a year and then turning right around and jumping into a full fledged career as an auror. I don't know how Harry still does it to be honest."
"Yes well," said Hermione matter of factly as she sat next to him on the couch, looking through the post from the day. "Harry mostly stays in the office now doesn't he?"
"Still," Ron said, "I'm glad to spend my day surrounded by jokes rather than hunting dark wizards. Takes a lot out of you."
Hermione, still focused on the mail, silently reached out and rested her hand on his thigh as his arm came around to lightly rub her back.
Rose watched her parents and thought for the first time about how they got to where they were. They looked so peaceful and comfortable together. She knew that they, along with her uncle, had been best friends growing up, but she had never given much thought as to how or when they became something more. She knew it wasn't really until they were older, but other than that she didn't know many details.
Ron eventually noticed her watching them.
"What's up, Rosie?" he asked.
Hermione glanced at Ron as he spoke but then turned to look at Rose as well. By the looks on their faces, she knew they could tell something was on her mind.
"I was just thinking, that's all," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand.
"About what dear?" her mother asked. "Anything you'd like to talk about?"
Rose studied her parents for a moment before deciding there was no harm a simple question.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Anything, dear," said Hermione and she gestured to the chair across from them as she set aside the post and leaned back into Ron's side, his arm coming around her shoulders.
"It's just…" she began hesitantly, "I was wondering about you two."
Her parents glanced at each other and then looked at her quizzically.
"What about us Rosie?" Ron asked.
"I don't know, it's just, I don't think I know much about the history of your relationship. I know you were best friends in Hogwarts and you eventually became something more, but that's it. I don't know who liked who first or who made the first move or when things actually changed between you. I guess I was just curious," she finished, looking slightly scared that they would either scold her or laugh at her. Instead, their response was to look at each other and smile.
"We knew one of them would ask eventually. Do you want to start or should I?" Ron asked his wife.
"I'd love to see what you have to say actually, so by all means," and she rested her head on his shoulder, prepared to listen. Rose looked at her father expectantly.
"Well," he began, "I guess you could say it all started with a lost toad."
"Ron," Hermione chuckled, "not that far back or this will take ages."
"A troll then?"
"How about a hippogriff?"
"The Yule Ball then?"
"That's more like it."
Rose smiled at her parents' banter and waited for her father to continue.
"You see Rose, I had always found your mother to be a right pain in the arse, but a lovely one at that."
Hermione scowled up at him and he laughed before placing a peck on her nose and turning back to his daughter.
"And it took me forever to admit to myself how much I liked her as more than a friend."
He went on to explain, with Hermione interjecting when she found it necessary, the events of the Yule Ball, the aftermath of it, and the trainwreck that was their 6th year, before finally getting to their year on the run and the war. Rose knew quite a bit about that time, but there were still things she knew her parents had never told her. As they reached a certain point in their story, her father grew quiet, not sure how to continue. Hermione looked up at him and grabbed his hand comfortingly before looking back at their daughter.
"Rose, something you have to understand is how dark and powerful horcruxes are. I know we explained them to you last summer, but it's not something you can truly understand unless you've been affected by them. And to have to carry one around with us for months on end, well it took its toll."
She glanced at her husband and he nodded for her to continue.
"Rose, there's something that happened during our time on the run that we've never told you and your brother, and it deeply affected your father and I's relationship for a time."
Rose sat forward and nodded her head, bracing herself.
"The horcrux was trying to divide us and tear us apart. It used our weaknesses against us and, well.."
She hesitated for a moment and Ron rose to the occasion.
He said the statement so simply, but by the look on his face, Rose was shocked by his statement, but could tell he carried nothing but regret for the decision he had made all those years ago.
"I left," he said again, "I had a stupid fight with Harry and I stormed off, ignoring your mother calling for me not to go." Hermione squeezed his hand in encouragement and the pressure of her warm, familiar hand seemed to ground him.
"I regretted it immediately and I eventually found my way back, but the damage had been done. Your mother would hardly look at me for a while let alone speak to me."
"But she forgave you?" Rose questioned.
"Yes," Hermione responded, "I did. He more than proved himself, and to be honest, I missed him so much I almost forgave him straight away, but you know how stubborn I can be."
Rose grinned at her mother. She was the same way.
"Anyway," Ron continued, "by the time we ended up at Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur's, all was forgiven. We had been through too much not to realize what was right in front of us."
A look passed between them and Rose could tell there was something else they were leaving out. They had always skimmed over the part of the story that explained how they had ended up at her aunt and uncle's house.
"We both knew then how much we cared for each other and what we wanted at that point, but we both refused to act on it or even openly acknowledge it to each other," Hermione said. "We were in the middle of the war and it was only getting harder to make it through each day, but we had to be there for Harry."
"Git," Ron said with a chuckle and Hermione smacked him in the stomach.
"We made it through the next few weeks and up until the battle of Hogwarts." Hermione continued. "For my part, it had been hard, knowing anything could happen and I'd never… well, I was scared we'd lost or chance, and then… well…"
To Rose's surprise, her mother blushed. It was rare to see her mother like this and she looked at her father in astonishment to see him beaming.
"She flung herself at me. Right in the middle of the battle. Snogged me like her life depended on it 'cause I wanted to save the house elves."
Her father was grinning cheekily and her mother's face was buried in her hands.
"I thought we might die any second and it was so selfless of you and I'm sorry I couldn't help myself."
She said all this with her face still in her hands and Ron squeezed her shoulders affectionately.
"Have I ever complained about your decision, love?" He asked with a slight grin.
She finally composed herself and looked back up at her daughter. "Does that answer your question, dear?"
Rose was simultaneously enjoying her parents tale and wanting it to end as quickly as possible. They were still sickeningly sweet on each other. But she still had one more question.
"Yes, but…" She paused over how to phrase her question. "How did you handle the transition? You were best friends for years. How did that all just change? Wouldn't it have been awkward at first?"
They just smiled at each other and her father responded to her question.
"Nah, I'd been wanting this for years. If anything, it made us less awkward around each other."
"Mind, it did take us a short while to get all our ducks in a row," Hermione continued. "After the war was over, we didn't get the chance to talk about things for a while. I had sent your grandparents to live in Australia as we've told you before, and I had set my mind on going to find them a few weeks after the war was over and all the funerals had taken place. When I casually mentioned over dinner one night that I would be setting off on my own the following day, your father lost it, in front of his entire family no less."
It was Ron's turn to blush now.
"I had just got you, I wasn't about to lose you so soon."
"And that's exactly what he said to me," Hermione said, beaming at her husband, " in front of his parents, his siblings, and even Harry, poor lad. He seems to be there for all of our big moments," her mother chuckled lightly.
"I ended up going with her to Australia and the rest, as you say, is history. We just had to make it through a year of her being away at Hogwarts as I started working as an auror, but it was all worth it."
They shared a smile before turning back to their daughter.
"What made you ask, Rose?" Her mother asked.
"Oh," Rose started at the question. She had been asking because of her relationship with Scorpius, but she didn't want her parents knowing that, not yet anyway. Her mother was already giving her a look that was slightly more knowing than she was comfortable with. So she did the only thing she could think of and threw her cousin under the bus.
"I was just talking to James earlier. He's having a hard time of it with Violet," she said as a way of explanation.
Her father chuckled slightly as her mother continued to giver her a knowing look.
"He finally pull his head out of his arse then?" Ron asked and Hermione scolded him.
"Hopefully," said Rose, "but don't say anything to Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny. I probably shouldn't have mentioned it in the first place."
"Am I at least allowed to give my godson a hard time about this?" Ron asked.
Rose laughed and decided that, while she should apologize to James for spilling the beans, a little good-humored ribbing never hurt anyone.
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