Blood of Birds

Note: Hi! The following is a 2nd generation Harry Potter fanfiction, with main characters being Rose Weasley, Scorpius Malfoy, and Albus Potter. It will be comprised of four parts, the first of which will follow Rose. There will also be seven one-shots (or side-alongs) following other characters at points throughout the series, each uploaded separately. I've also taken the liberty to include a few re-quotes, courtesy of JK Rowling and Steve Kloves of course, to pay homage to the original books and films. So without further ado, here is Chapter 1. Happy reading!

~ Lauren

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8. The Morning Spat

Outside the Hogwarts Express, perfect, powdery snowflakes were falling, slowly piling on to the blanket of white that had formed atop the cold, December ground. Rose couldn't help but smile as she looked out at it through her compartment window. Snow was such a delicate thing, so small and detailed, light and pure. It was almost more magical than rain.

She had gone off on this train of thought a few minutes ago, after getting bored with her book on wandlore. Nigel had made sure that she packed it to read at home over the holidays, and she had reluctantly kept her promise to him. They still hadn't found anything that explained how Albus had been able to fix Hugo's wand, but Nigel wasn't ready to give up, so Rose was still going along with it.

She hadn't, however, been meeting Nigel in the library as often as before. She just couldn't seem to find enough time anymore, thanks to Scorpius. Ever since their first kiss, they had found it difficult to stay apart for too long. It wasn't that they were snogging all the time, though. Both of them were much too prudent for public displays of affection. They really just enjoyed each other's company, and would sneak in a handhold or a kiss every now and then. In fact, not many in the school knew that they had recently become more than friends, with the exception of Albus and James, and Rose was adamant on keeping it that way.

Now, the two of them were sitting with Al on the Hogwarts Express, on their way home for Christmas. Scorpius normally stayed at school over the break, but the Potters had invited him to spend it with them, and Rose had convinced him to oblige. They would be able to see more of each other that way.

"Merlin's beard, not again," Scorpius mumbled then, sitting up from where he had been lying across his seat, his head on Rose's shoulder. Waking her from her daydream, Rose turned to where Scorpius was looking to see Abby Chang-Turner at the door to their room.

She had stopped right in front of it and started blowing on the window, making a large circle of fog. She then traced her and Al's initials in it, and enveloped them both in a heart. Across from Rose and Scorpius, Al sighed and stood up from his seat.

"Don't worry," Al said to Scorpius. "I'll leave." He was annoyed yet again by Scorpius's disapproval of Abby, and Scorpius gave him an apologetic smile as he left the room to join his eccentric new girlfriend.

As soon as he had gone, Scorpius sighed with relief and laughed at the sign she had left on their door.

"I'm surprised you were able to hold in it that long," Rose said, referring to Scorpius's restraint from teasing Al or laughing at Abby before he had left.

"Yeah, well I'm trying," Scorpius said. He and Rose had agreed that they would lay off of Abby if that's what Al wanted. They didn't want him to feel like a third wheel now that they were together, and Abby was a good distraction from that. "Sorry I almost slipped," Scorpius added, turning back to Rose.

"Mmm, I don't know how I'll ever forgive you for it," Rose joked back.

"Oh, I think I know a way," Scorpius said, raising his eyebrows. He then leaned forward and kissed her.

It took a lot of inner strength for Rose to break apart from him, but eventually she managed to. She could have continued on with him for the rest of the ride to King's Cross, but she didn't want anybody to walk by and see, even if it was just an innocent kiss.

"Oh, why don't we just tell people?" Scorpius asked, sitting back in his seat, but still with his arm around Rose's shoulders. He knew that was why she had backed off, and he knew why they had agreed to keep it quiet, but he couldn't help but get impatient sometimes.

"Because," Rose said, taking his open hand in hers, "It's not anybody's business. Plus, it wouldn't be fair."

Scorpius's expression turned to one full of envy as he asked, "It wouldn't be fair to Lysander, you mean?"

Rose didn't answer right away, out of fear that Scorpius might break away and get very angry. She had explained to him everything that had happened with Lysander, and had put particular emphasis on the fact that she had never had any feelings for him. Scorpius had been very accepting of what Rose had done, but he wasn't happy to know that Lysander had tried something on her without her permission. Every time he had seen the other blond since, Al had had to hold him back from going up and beating him to a pulp.

After waiting a moment, and seeing that Scorpius was still holding on to her hand and looked relatively relaxed, Rose said, "It's just that I'd feel like I was rubbing it in his face or something. I mean I already feel bad enough for using him."

"But it was his idea!" Scorpius said. He was always on Rose's side, and so he never thought that she should feel bad about anything. "Plus, he seems to be doing okay, and not just on the Quidditch pitch."

During the Ravenclaw vs. Hufflepuff match in late November, Lysander had led his team to a violent victory, after knocking out nearly every Hufflepuff player. He was lucky enough that Abby was also able to catch the snitch as well, which came as quite the shock to everyone who had met her. Ravenclaw won, 250 – 70, taking the overall lead early on in the season.

Quidditch aside, Lysander had also gone back to his polygamous ways, and was dating Myriam Vane, a 6th year astronomy fanatic, one day, only to be seen with fellow Ravenclaw, Pallavi Patil, the next. Rose assumed this was his way of coping, though Scorpius used it as proof that he had moved on… just in an interesting direction.

"Even so," Rose replied, trying not to tell Scorpius that he was wrong, but at the same time prove that she was right, "Do you really want him to be looking at you the way you look at him right now? I mean, you're the one who has a match against him coming up." Slytherin would be playing Ravenclaw in January, and Lysander being a Beater could put Scorpius in a very precarious situation. Plus, Scorpius would be having a hard enough time trying not to knock Abby way off her broom every time she got near him.

"Fine," Scorpius sighed, after squinting with dismay upon hearing Rose's threat. "We won't say anything. But if we're keeping it a secret at Hogwarts, then we're not telling your parents either," he stated, looking at Rose with his eyebrows raised, though this time for a much different reason.

"Scorpius!" Rose exclaimed. They had been talking a lot about this as well, and though Rose dreaded the idea of actually saying it, she felt obligated to tell her father about him. She and Ron had always been very close, and she couldn't imagine lying to him so blatantly. As for Hermione, hardly anything ever got past her, so chances were she'd know before Rose said a single thing. "You can't just ask me to keep this from them!"

"Rose, trust me," Scorpius replied, changing positions on the seat so that he was directly facing her, and moving his hand from her shoulder to the crook of her neck. "It'll be better if he doesn't know. He hates me enough as it is, and if he finds out about this, it'll only make it worse."

Rose sighed, but didn't yet agree. She would never wish to put Scorpius in an uncomfortable position, but she also desperately wanted to believe that what he said about Ron was wrong. Rose was sure that he would support her with something that made her happy, no matter the circumstance.

"Look," Scorpius said, stroking her chin. "This is my compromise. So, do we have a deal?"

Though she tried to look away, Scorpius gently turned Rose's face to his, making her look straight at his ice blue eyes. Rose could never sustain herself against them; they had some sort of power over her.

"Alright, deal," she said. "But we're going to have to tell him eventually."

"I know," Scorpius said. "We'll tell everybody. Just not yet." He then kissed her softly before returning to lying down across the seat, his head leaning on her shoulder as she went back to reading.

"Rosie, over here!" Rose heard her father yell. She was just barely off the train, but could already see his hair among the sea of parents, his hands waving high above them all.

Once on the platform, Rose began pushing her way through the crowd, Scorpius and Albus not far behind. When she reached her parents, both of them grabbed her in an enormous hug, blinding her from everything and everyone else around her. Yet again, she was immersed in the rich scent of spearmint toothpaste from her father, with a hint of freshly mown grass and new parchment from her mother. This was the smell she had been missing most lately, as it had been such a long time since she had seen Hermione.

"We've missed you so much!" Hermione said, once all three had broken apart.

Rose smiled in return, saying, "I missed you too". Ron was next to her, his arm on her shoulder. To their right was the Potter family, Ginny and Lily locked in a tight hug and Harry with a hand on both Al and Scorpius's shoulders. It seemed as though James and Hugo were missing, but this was only normal. Hugo usually took a while to say goodbye to his friends, but as soon as he did so, he'd come running up to find his dad. James, on the other hand, was too cool for any of that, and tended to meet the rest of the clan just outside the over-crowded platform.

"Hugo did make it on the train this time, didn't he?" Hermione asked with worry, referring to the unfortunate event that had occurred in Hugo's first year at Christmas, when he had been too distracted by the prospect of Honeydukes (which sat only a block away from Hogsmeade Station) to ever board the train. Ron laughed in remembrance, but Rose just nodded in reply. She had been on Hugo-watch ever since the incident, and was positive that she'd seen her little brother on the way there.

Though slightly calmer than before, Hermione continued to look around until Lily called, "There he is!" while pointing to a small, redheaded figure a few yards away.

Hermione sighed with relief at this, but her content expression turned to irritation when she noticed her son's tousled hair and ratty old Chudley Cannons t-shirt above a pair of pants that were much too small for him. Just like Ron, Hugo grew too fast to ever have a pair of trousers that covered the whole way down his legs.

Rose laughed at all this, as she already felt like she was back at home. Giving Hugo and her parents some space to greet each other, Rose went to hug both Harry and Ginny before stepping to the side, next to Scorpius.

Neither said anything to the other, but Rose could feel the light touch of Scorpius's hand brushing past hers. For that moment, everything and everyone around them disappeared, and it was just the two of them, their palms barely touching as Scorpius slowly opened up his hand to clasp it around hers. He then squeezed it tightly once before releasing it and returning to the previous stroking. He was trying to abide by his promise to keep things secret, but Rose didn't blame him for slipping a little. If anything, the distant closeness was only making her want him more.

Scorpius broke apart from Rose suddenly then, the feel of his hand disappearing from her skin and allowing her to return to the world of King's Cross Station, where her family was gathering all of Hugo's misplaced things that had spread themselves across the floor during her reverie.

She looked up at Scorpius to see where he had gone. He was still standing next to her, his hands now at his side, but it was clear that his eyes were lost in something else. Following them to the brick wall that marked the entry and exit point of the magically hidden station, Rose saw that a relatively tall, dark-haired woman, who looked to be around the same age as her parents, had just appeared. She was walking through everyone now with the same look of determination that Scorpius so often wore, and they all moved aside to make a path for her as she went. Rose wouldn't have recognized her if it hadn't been for Scorpius's reaction, but she could tell by his clenched teeth and gaping eyes that the woman they were staring at was in fact his mother.

Rose didn't dare speak, but just waited for Astoria Malfoy to approach her son. It came as quite the surprise to Rose though, when the woman did not head toward them. In fact, she didn't even seem to notice Scorpius, and instead walked right by. For a moment, Rose considered that they should call out for her, but she seemed to know who or what she was looking for, and it didn't appear to be Scorpius.

Their eyes were still on her as she disappeared into the smog at the other end of the platform. A moment later, she began to head back the same way she had came, and Rose and Scorpius watched her walk right past them for the second time and go straight through the brick wall without even a jerk of the head.

As soon as she was gone, Rose looked to Scorpius to see if he was okay, He seemed confused, with his forehead wrinkled, but was still up and breathing in the same spot he had stood in before. This was more than could be said if the same had happened to Rose, she thought.

Slowly, Rose turned to face Scorpius and tried to get him to look at her, but he was in deep thought. Just as she was about to say something, she heard a soft whispering from Scorpius's other side. Leaning around to see past him, she spotted Vincent Goyle walking alone with his head down, quietly talking to himself. As he passed her, he looked up for a moment and spat out, "What are you looking at, Weasley?"

Goyle continued on his way after Rose failed to reply, and she then turned away to make sure neither Scorpius nor Ron had heard, and luckily they hadn't. Ron was busy trying to corral Cow back into his cage, since he had apparently escaped during Hugo's moving fiasco, and Scorpius was still lost in his own world.

Al approached then, looking to Scorpius and asking, "What's up?"

Rose was about to explain when Scorpius said, "I just saw my mum."

"Here?" Al asked. "Where'd she go? I mean, I thought your parents told you not to come home for Christmas. Did they change their minds?"

"No," Scorpius stated matter-of-factly, swallowing hard. To a confused Albus he added, "I'll tell you later."

Al didn't understand, until Scorpius nodded to his side, where the rest of the Weasley and Potter families had finally seemed to get a hold on things, and were just about to make their way off the platform. Seeing this, Al gave Scorpius a small nod and then caught up with the rest of his family.

"Rosie, come on! You're slowing down the herd!" Hugo yelled as he walked with Ron and Hermione toward the brick wall. Ron, who was carrying Rose's heavy suitcase, looked back at Rose as well, signaling for her to follow.

Rose was still standing with Scorpius though, and so she called back to them, "Go ahead, I'll meet you outside!"

Hugo shrugged and ran for the wall where everybody else had vanished. Ron looked to Rose and to the boy next to her with skepticism, but eventually turned around to follow Hugo, giving Rose a moment alone.

Nearly everyone had left the platform by now, with only a few first year stragglers still running around. Rose knew that Scorpius didn't want to talk, and she wanted to be there for him regardless. Still, in order for that to work, she needed the truth from him… the whole truth.

"What happened with your family this summer, Scorpius?" Rose asked sternly, with a look that told him she expected an honest answer. She had accepted the brief explanation he had given her and Al at Diagon Alley, but they hadn't really been together then. Now that they were, she needed more.

Scorpius looked at Rose for a moment before shaking his head and breathing deeply. "Your dad's waiting for you," he whispered, now looking to the floor. He then started walking, passing Rose and making a run for the wall.

Rose suspected that Scorpius might not tell her right away, since he was so stubborn. Oddly enough though, Rose didn't think that Scorpius was being headstrong; it seemed more like he was scared.

Rose gave him some space to breathe before she too exited the platform, making a slow run for the wall and walking out the other side to try to blend in with the Muggles making their way between platforms 9 and 10.

Once in the parking lot, hats and boots on and ready for the winter weather, Rose found her family standing by her father's car. They were saying goodbye to the Potters, which now included James. Scorpius was on the outside of them all, and Rose didn't even try to talk to him this time.

"Rose! There you are; we've been waiting for ages!" Hugo called. He was always over-exaggerating (for effect, of course).

"It's true," Lily piped in, crossing her arms at Rose. She couldn't keep track of Lily's hot and cold behavior toward her, but tried not to take it personally.

"Sorry, I thought I'd lost something," Rose said, trying to come up with an excuse.

"Oh, I got your bag; it's already in the boot," Ron said.

"Thanks Dad," Rose smiled back, making Ron smile in return.

She then leaned against the beat-up car that her grandfather had built them and sighed. James, who hadn't been standing very far away, walked over to her and asked, "Everything all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Rose answered, her voice flailing slightly.

James chuckled, and Rose could tell he saw right through her white lie. "Just uh, give it some time."

Rose smiled at him. "You know, you're getting quite good at this brotherly advice," she laughed.

"Yeah, well I'm not sure I'm worthy of it, but I try," James mumbled, looking thoughtful about something. "Anyway, see you on Christmas," he added, before he walked away with his parents and Lily. The Potters and Scorpius would be coming over to the Weasley house on Christmas day. It was a yearly tradition, and was always hosted at the Weasleys' rather than the Potters', since Hermione's decorating skills were far superior to Ginny's.

"Bye," Rose called to James. Ron, Hermione, and Hugo had already gotten in the car, but Al and Scorpius hadn't left yet.

"See you on Christmas, Rose," Al said with a hug. "Oh, but don't expect a gift or anything. Birthdays are hard enough to remember."

Rose laughed and nodded before Albus left, taking the ferret cage Scorpius was holding before he walked off and left the two alone.

Rose and Scorpius faced each other, not knowing what to say or how to say it. Ron was honking inside the car, and Rose wanted desperately to tell Scorpius to forget what she had asked before and give him a kiss goodbye, but neither seemed plausible.

"I'm sorry," Scorpius said finally. He sounded sincere, and so Rose gave him an enormous hug in return. Ron honked even more at this, no doubt looking at them through his rear-view mirror, but a hug was nothing more than they had displayed in front of him before.

In his ear, Rose whispered, "I'm sorry." She didn't like to give up so easily, but decided that the best way to earn Scorpius's trust was to start acting like she deserved it.

They broke apart then, and Rose watched Scorpius walk away, knowing full well that she would see him again before long.

Rose then got in the car, sitting in her seat only to quickly be reminded by her mother to fasten her seatbelt. She had never gotten used to riding in a car, and the odd, elastic band seemed highly unnecessary when Rose could perform a cushioning charm in mere seconds if needed.

The drive went slightly better than usual, though Hermione still had to yell out orders to Ron at every corner. Hugo got a kick out of it all, laughing hysterically in his seat the whole way home. Rose didn't think it was as entertaining, but it still felt good to be back with her family. This time though, she felt like she was missing a crucial member.

It was straight to the kitchen when the Weasley family arrived home, and Rose smiled at the familiarity of it. She hated to admit how much she missed watching Ron and Hugo tear through every cupboard in the house, stuffing their mouths with everything they could lay their hands on.

Rose and Hermione took a seat at the table in the middle of the room, each with a cup of tea in front of them and a book on their laps, and watched the boys at work. After a few minutes of whining that there was absolutely no food in the house, Hermione got up from her seat and made dinner for them all.

Afterward, Hugo, exhausted from the day and completely stuffed, set off for bed. Hermione put Ron to work washing the dishes, which wouldn't take long if he used the proper spells (which he almost never did), and she and Rose walked into the living room to relax for a while.

Once there, Rose stopped abruptly upon seeing an enormous Christmas tree by the wall opposite the fireplace. Rose loved this holiday, if not for the perfect weather than for the beautiful decorations.

"How does it look?" Hermione asked. She was standing closer to the tree, which was a foot or two taller than her. "We waited for you to hang the ornaments, of course."

The tree was completely bare, except for a string of lights wrapped around it. It was a Weasley tradition for Rose to hang the ornaments on the tree every Christmas Eve, while Hermione sat on the couch and read to Hugo. Ron would normally be behind the couch, frantically trying to finish wrapping his last-minute gifts. Eventually, he would give up and Hermione would take over, Ron replacing her on the couch and falling asleep next to Hugo.

"It's perfect," Rose answered, marveling at it. She then took out the deluminator from her pocket, clicked it once, and watched a tiny ball of light race from inside the metal object over to the tree, where it spread itself evenly across each of the miniature bulbs in the string of lights. The room was lit only by the tree now, the lights reflecting the snowflakes from outside the window.

"Did your dad ever tell you what else that's used for?" Hermione asked then. She was pointing to the deluminator in Rose's hand.

Rose had no idea what her mother was referring to. Ron had given her the magical switch when she was very young, and she only knew that it could store light, and both acquire and release it from any bulb or fire. "What do you mean?" she asked, taking a seat on the couch next to Hermione.

"Do you remember what I told you about what was supposed to be my seventh year at Hogwarts?" Hermione asked, beginning her story. "Before I went back to finish my N.E.W.T.'s, I mean."

"Yes, of course," Rose answered. "You, Dad, and Uncle Harry didn't end up going to school, because Lord Voldemort was… looking for you." Rose had only heard this story once, when both her parents had sat her and Hugo down to tell it. It wasn't one they liked to recall all that often.

"Right," Hermione nodded. "We went into hiding, and it was just the three of us on our own for the longest time. We had discovered this thing, it was called a horcrux…"

"Objects of dark magic, they have the ability to store a piece of one's soul," Rose finished for her. "I know. I read about them in Hogwarts: A History, the updated version. It didn't say what the actual objects were though… or how many he had."

"Yes, well Harry never told anyone the specifics," Hermione explained. "But we had found one of them, one of Voldemort's. It was an old necklace that belonged to Salazar Slytherin.

"At the time, we had no way of destroying it, so we took turns wearing it around our necks, the three of us. As it turned out, the necklace sort of rubbed off on us, especially Ron. It made him angry, jealous, and irrational." Hermione was looking away from Rose now, lost in her own memory. She appeared to be sad as she thought back to this time, and Rose was beginning to get the feeling that her father had not been so kind to Hermione.

"What did he do?" Rose asked concernedly.

Hermione took a deep breath before stating, "He left."

"What? He left you?" Rose asked. This part of the story had not been told before. "How did he find his way back?" Rose knew that Ron had been with them at the Battle of Hogwarts, and it would have been extremely difficult for him to get to them with all of Hermione's protection spells that Rose was certain she would have used everywhere she and Harry went.

"With the deluminator," Hermione answered simply.

Rose was very confused now, and waited for more explanation.

"He said that one day, when he was gone, he heard a voice coming from it. Apparently, the voice was mine, and I was saying his name. Just his name. Then, he clicked it and this tiny ball of light appeared, floated toward him…"

"And went straight through my chest. Right here," a voice said from behind Rose. She turned around to see her father, pointing to where his heart was and smiling down at Hermione. "And I knew it would take me where I needed to go," he continued, walking over to them.

Once he reached the couch, Hermione made room for him and he sat down and held her close, saying, "And I've never left since."

Hermione blushed, and Rose smiled at her parents. They still seemed so in love, even after all these years. Sometimes, Rose could picture her and Scorpius having that… everlasting love, the kind that never faded, not even a little. Still, it seemed a bit far off.

"So you mean to say that the deluminator can record your voice, and only your voice?" Rose asked her mother curiously.

"I don't know exactly. We never found out how it all works, and it seems to be the only one of its kind," Hermione answered.

"Well do you think it would work with another voice?" Rose asked. "I mean, if that's the person you needed to go to…"

Hermione smiled at Rose, and Rose could tell that Hermione knew she was talking about Scorpius. Ron, on the other hand, was oblivious to Rose's insinuation, and was staring blindly at Hermione with dreamy eyes.

"It might," Hermione said. "There's no way of knowing in advance."

Rose nodded. She was always scared that Scorpius might leave, or merely get lost somewhere, and that she wouldn't be able to find him. It would be nice to know that if something of the sort did occur, she'd at least know where to look.

A little while longer, Rose left her parents and made her way upstairs to her bedroom. Once inside, she laid down on her bed in the dark, the deluminator pressed against her ear. Listening intently, she slowly fell asleep in hopes that Scorpius's smooth, rain-like voice whispering her name would wake her up.

Christmas morning came much sooner than Rose had expected. Over the week leading up to it, she had gone into town nearly everyday shopping for gifts. She hadn't found much, but had bought a book for Hermione, matching Chudley Cannons socks for Ron and Hugo, some new broom polish for James, and was even lucky enough to come across a Bezoar for Albus, which was a very rare antidote that could overpower almost any potion. She hadn't been able to find anything for Scorpius though. She felt terrible about this, even though they had both agreed back at Hogwarts not to get any Christmas gifts for one another. It would keep others from suspecting anything, and keep the pressure off of themselves.

On Christmas Eve day, Rose and her family had gone over to the Burrow to visit Ron's parents. Though Rose had been seeing plenty of her grandfather in her Muggle Studies class, it was nice to see her grandmother again. They only stayed for a couple of hours, as all of Ron's brothers and their families were also stopping through at some point (though the Potters weren't visiting until later that night). Rose's visit overlapped slightly with her Uncle Percy's, so she had the chance to talk with Lucy while she was there.

It was difficult not to tell Lucy about Scorpius, especially since she was questioning her so much about what had happened with Lysander. Still, Rose was able to steer the conversation away from her as soon as she brought up Lorcan, whom Lucy couldn't stop talking about once she started. They did seem to be the perfect pair, Rose thought, both so quiet and sweet. It sounded as if they hardly ever fought with each other, which Rose was jealous of. She had to continually remind herself that what had happened with Scorpius at the train station wasn't really a fight, and that they were fine now, but she couldn't help but worry about him.

Mrs. Weasley had made Ron and Percy do some de-gnoming in the garden (trying to get the last of the pests out before there was too much snow to dig through) while she, Hermione, Audrey, and Percy's elder daughter, Molly, conversed by the fire. Hugo had gone off with Mr. Weasley in his shed of Muggle 'toys', which Rose couldn't help but notice was rather odd, considering that they had never been close. Still, it was probably better than de-gnoming, which was Hugo's only other option.

They all left just before Bill and Fleur were arriving, Rose and Ron carrying sweaters with R's on them, and Hermione and Hugo with H's. Some things never changed.

Now it was the morning of Christmas day, and Rose awoke not to the sound of birds chirping, but instead to the pounding of Hugo's feet as he ran down the stairs. As soon as she heard him yelling through the halls, "Happy Christmas everybody! Now wake up!" she counted to ten and waited. Sure enough, exactly 10 seconds later, an even louder thumping came from the stairwell. Ron was always just as excited as Hugo for this holiday, and his enthusiasm only seemed to grow larger with age.

Because she knew that the two were highly impatient and would wake her up if she tried to sleep more, Rose got out of bed to get dressed. Ron and Hugo would still be in their pajamas, but the Potters and Scorpius would be arriving soon, and Rose wanted to look somewhat presentable.

She came downstairs to find her father and little brother tearing apart their stockings, which were filled with all of their favorite candies. Once each had gathered a nice pile for themselves, Hugo announced, "Hey Dad, tell you what, I'll let you switch Drooble's with me. I'll give you the chance to switch Drooble's with me, I'll give you that opportunity." Drooble's Best Blowing Gum could fill rooms with bubbles that refused to pop for days, and Hugo was after Ron's blue one, which was his favorite flavor.

"Ahh, let me think about it," Ron said, staring up at the ceiling and stroking his scruffy chin as if in deep thought. He then looked straight back at Hugo, raised his eyebrows at him, and stated bluntly, "No". The blue had been Ron's favorite flavor first.

"I'll give you my chocolate frog!" Hugo begged, Rose rolling her eyes in the background. They hadn't even noticed her yet, standing in the doorway giggling at them.

"Oh…" Ron said, sounding interested. (He had always loved collecting the cards that were included inside every package of chocolate frogs.) He then looked down to inspect his pile, before saying, "No, no. I have a peppermint toad."

"I'll throw in some Ice Mice with the frogs, you can make little hippety-hoppety choreographies," Hugo suggested, looking desperate now.

"Alright…" Ron gambled. "You throw in that pack of Every Flavor Beans and you've got yourself a deal."

Hugo took a step back in surprise at first, then looked down at his one and only package of Bertie Bott's longingly. After another moment, he shook his head furiously, looked back at Ron and said, "Absolutely not. No."

Ron shrugged in response, before throwing his blue piece of gum in his mouth right in front of Hugo, who crossed his arms and stomped his foot like an eight year-old full of defiance.

Hermione had appeared behind Rose now, and both were laughing hysterically. As Ron looked over to find where all the noise was coming from, he saw Hermione's expression and asked innocently, "What?"

Hermione giggled, then walked over to him and began hitting his shoulder lightly with a book she was holding, asking, "Will you ever stop eating?"

Ron was leaning away, surprised. He blew an enormous bubble into the room, then looked to his wife and shrugged, saying questionably, "I love you?"

Hermione laughed again, before giving him a peck on the lips and whispering, "Happy Christmas, Ronald".

"Happy Christmas, Hermione," Ron said back, smiling at her, before going in for a better kiss.

"Well played, Dad," Rose commented after her parents had separated from each other, walking up to her father to give him a hug and wish him a Merry Christmas herself.

"Thanks, Rosie," he said in return.

Rose and Hermione then took a seat on the couch next to the boys and opened their own stockings, which had also been filled with chocolates and small trinkets. They had to be careful to sort through all of the Weasley products Hugo had stuffed in them, but the rest was warmly welcomed.

Afterward, the Weasleys migrated to the kitchen, where they had a nice breakfast of crumpets and various fruits. Soon after they had finished eating, the Potters finally arrived, appearing in the living room fireplace one by one.

Rose, who had been trying to convince Hugo to be more patient in unwrapping his presents, rushed over to greet James as soon as she heard him coughing from behind her. "James, Happy Christmas!" she said, after calling to her parents that the Potters were here.

After stepping out and brushing off the soot on his face, James gave Rose a hug, patted Hugo on the head, shook hands with Ron, and kissed Hermione on the cheek before making himself at home in front of the Christmas tree. Harry came in next, followed by Al, Scorpius, Lily, and Ginny.

Once everybody had said hello, they split up into their separate groups. Ron, Hermione, Harry, and Ginny all gathered in the kitchen while Hermione made them some tea. Hugo and Lily stayed by the tree and marveled at the gifts beneath it, James with them to make sure they didn't open any just yet. Al stayed as well, motioning to Rose and Scorpius that now was the perfect time to talk alone, since their parents weren't paying attention.

Following his suggestion, Rose led Scorpius into her mother's office, which seemed more like a home library with Hermione's impressive book collection covering each wall. She stood in the middle of the room and faced Scorpius, who closed the door as he came in.

Rose looked at the rug on the floor with a guilty expression before mumbling to Scorpius, "I didn't get you a gift."

Scorpius chuckled and Rose could hear him walking toward her, though she was still looking down. Once he reached her, he put his hand under her chin and lifted her to his eye-level. "You've given me enough already," he said sincerely. He then leaned down and kissed her, and Rose could tell that he hadn't gotten her any material gift either, but she didn't care. This was much better.

Once they broke apart, Scorpius took Rose's hands in his, mindlessly playing with the ring he had given her. "I hope you know that I never meant to pressure you into telling me something you weren't comfortable with," Rose said to him. She hadn't been sure if bringing this up again was the right thing to do, but she didn't want to have it weighing down the air anymore.

"I know," Scorpius said, nodding. "And I hope you know that…" But he was interrupted by the sound of the door opening. Quickly, Scorpius dropped Rose's hands and turned to see who it was.

"Psst," Al said, peaking his head into the room. "They're all about to go unwrap the gifts. You two had better come before they start wondering where you are." He then turned and left, heading back to the living room.

Rose sighed, and said to Scorpius, "Tell me later?"

Scorpius nodded, and let Rose leave the room a few moments before him so as not to make it seem like they had been alone together.

Back with everybody else, the Potters and Weasleys began their round robin exchange of gifts. Ron, being the main host, went first, handing out a crumpled present to everyone, not including Scorpius, to whom he merely said, "I wasn't sure if you'd be coming or not. Sorry."

Nearly all of Ron's gifts were either Weasley products or various sorts of Quidditch gear, except for the beautiful necklace he gave Hermione. It was simple but thoughtful at the same time, with two silver charms hanging from a metal string. One was a tiny otter; the other was a little dog.

Hermione went after Ron, but was interrupted by a ring at the doorbell just as she was handing over a small box to Ginny. Ron left the room to answer it, only to reappear with two extra members: a red-haired Teddy Lupin, hand in hand with his glowing, gorgeously blonde wife, Victoire.

Upon seeing them, Harry and Ginny rushed up from their seats and greeted their godson. "Happy Christmas, everyone!" Teddy called out to the rest of the clan. "Thanks for inviting us."

"It was our pleasure," Hermione replied, greeting them and thanking them for the bouquet of flowers they had brought her.

Once they settled in, Hugo began pestering Teddy to demonstrate his metamorphmagus abilities to him. Without much of a say in the matter, he obliged, changing hair colors while simultaneously turning his nose into a duck beak before quickly switching it to a pig snout. Meanwhile, Victoire, who was now nearly five months pregnant, was subjected to answering all of Hermione and Ginny's questions about the baby. With nothing else to do at the time, Rose listened in on their conversation.

Apparently, the couple had yet to come up with any names, though Teddy was adamant about honoring those of his parents in some way. As Victoire came to this explanation, Teddy turned away from Hugo and added in, "Actually, with the two of us so focused on the coming months, I've sort of taken it upon myself to look into everything that happened with my parents… how they died."

Harry went very pale as Teddy explained how he had been looking for evidence of which death eater(s) may have killed Remus and Tonks, but relaxed once he revealed that he hadn't found anything. "Nobody seems to have seen it happen," he said.

Victoire took his hand as Teddy sighed, and then addressed everybody again before saying, "But we did find out that we're going to be having a little girl."

Everybody smiled at this, and the mood was instantly lightened. Harry and Teddy were grinning like the proud fathers they were, and the women were all on the verge of tears. Rose wasn't as emotional about it, but she did find it nice to know that she would soon have a niece to babysit.

Eventually, they all returned to the pile of gifts they had to get through, and began a miscellaneous round, opening various letters and packages that had been sent from other friends and family. Both James and Hugo received interesting letters, to which they had surprising reactions. James left the room with his, not telling anybody whom it was from. Hugo, on the other hand, told them that his was from Nigel and that it wasn't important, but Rose could've sworn that she saw his hands shaking as he read it.

The next round was Harry's, and he had a gift for everybody. Rose was the last to receive one, and just as Harry was handing her a bag, his eyes caught onto her hand and he asked, "Rose, where did you get that ring?"

"What?" Rose asked, baffled by the fact that Harry seemed to recognize it. She quickly put the gift down by her side and covered the ring with her other hand. To her left, Scorpius shuffled in his seat.

Harry was still looking intently down at Rose as everybody else in the room turned toward her to try to see the piece of jewelry he was referring to. Lily, who was on Rose's other side, stood up and looked down at Rose's hand before furrowing her eyebrows and asking, "Oh, did Scorpius give that to you?"

"What?" Rose asked again, even more nervous now. She hadn't told Lily about her and Scorpius, nor had she ever mentioned the ring, though it was clear that Lily somehow knew about at least one of these secrets.

"Scorpius?" Ron asked, standing up from his seat now, his eyes wandering back and forth between his daughter and the son of Draco Malfoy. "Why would Scorpius give you a ring?"

"I can explain," Scorpius offered, his hands in the air as if pleading his case at a crime scene. It seemed necessary too, considering the look Ron gave him as soon as he tried to speak.

"They're together, aren't they?" Lily asked, looking to her uncle.

"Lily!" Rose snapped, glaring over at the face that still looked like the naïve, young girl that Lily was, but that Rose could tell was hiding a smirk behind those mouse brown eyes.

Ron's face had gone bright red now, and Hermione had stood up next to him, staring cautiously at his angry face. Still on the couch, Ginny, Al, Hugo, Teddy, and Victoire were trying to remain perfectly still so as not to get involved. All of them, along with Harry, Rose, and Scorpius, were looking to Lily for an explanation. Rose was praying that she didn't actually have one.

"What?" Lily asked, looking from one confused face to the next. "I mean, I didn't think it was some big secret. Blimey, they were holding hands the entire time we were at the train station."

Rose closed her eyes then, taking one last gulp and waiting for her father's reaction. Next to her, she could hear Scorpius's breaths growing shorter and shorter.

Slowly, Rose heard Ron walking toward her, until he was just in front of her, and asked, "Rosie, is this true? Are you really with… him?"

Rose opened her eyes to her father, who looked both enraged and genuinely hurt. She had never meant for him to find out this way, but it seemed as if Scorpius had been right: telling him about them, in any way, shape, or form, was a terrible idea.

Trying to ignore everybody around her, including Scorpius, who now seemed to be holding his breath in fear, Rose whispered, "Yes. It's true."

Ron's eyes suddenly widened a great deal, and he turned his gaze over to Scorpius, to whom he yelled, "That's my daughter, you ARSE!" before leaping forward at him and grabbing Scorpius by the shoulders.

Luckily, Harry was there to try to hold him back. James came in then too, and immediately rushed over to help, for Ron was much bigger than Harry.

"Dad, STOP!" Rose yelled, trying to get in front of him so that she could gain his attention.

Scorpius was trying his best to fight back, all while mumbling, "Please, I didn't do anything. Please!"

Hermione was helping Rose now, and as soon as Harry and James were able to pull Ron completely off of Scorpius, Hermione used a defensive charm to create an invisible wall between the two of them, with only Scorpius on the other side. She then put her hands on Ron's face, pointed him away from Scorpius and toward her, and said, "Ronald, at the very least, just hear them out."

"They lied to us, Hermione," Ron whimpered. "And do you have any idea who his family is?"

"Of course I do!" yelled Hermione, looking angry herself now. "I have the scars to prove it," she said, and suddenly Ron understood.

Rose didn't know what Hermione was talking about, but both Ron and Harry seemed to, as Harry loosened his grasp on Ron, letting him take Hermione's hand as he told her, "I'm sorry."

Hermione nodded, and then stepped aside, her hand still locked with Ron's, and motioned to Rose, who was standing beside her father. Ron followed Hermione's motions and asked his daughter, much more calmly now, "When exactly did this happen?"

"November," Rose answered. The look on Ron's face still scared her, and she was beginning to wish that she could be standing on the other side of the wall with Scorpius.

"And you really have feelings for him?" Ron asked, though he had to say each word very slowly in order to get them out.

"Of course I do," Rose answered. She couldn't even begin to explain how strongly she felt about Scorpius, and she knew that no matter what she said, her father wouldn't believe her.

Across from Rose and Ron, Scorpius was standing as still as he possibly could, not daring to move anywhere or say anything.

Ron was back to shaking his head in frustration now, as he said through clenched teeth, "He's a pureblood, Rose!"

"And so are you!" Rose yelled back, aggravated by her father's hypocrisy. He was determined to believe that all pure-blood families were prejudiced against Muggle-borns and half-bloods, and yet he was just as prejudiced against them.

"Not like him!" Ron yelled, pointing a finger down at Rose.

"You don't even know him!"

"I know enough," Ron stated back at Rose. He was using his most authoritative voice, and no matter how many times Rose told herself that he was just trying to protect her, it felt like he didn't trust her, or her judgment.

"I know about his father," Ron continued. Before Rose could reply, he added, "and I know what happened with his family this summer."

To this, Rose was left speechless. Ron, along with Harry, was one of the top Aurors working at the Ministry. For her father to have been involved with the Malfoys in any way would have meant that whatever had happened had been very dangerous. Realizing all this, Rose looked over to Scorpius, who was staring at Ron with more fear than she had ever seen him wear.

"I don't want you anywhere near him," Ron said, signaling for Rose to turn back to their yelling match, which had now become more like a one-sided conversation. "Are we clear?"

"Ron," Hermione breathed from beside him, about to defend Rose.

"No, Hermione," he said. "It's not safe. I was just barely able to tolerate them being friends, but I can't stand by this."

Hermione sighed, and then Harry approached his best friend and said, "Ron, come on mate, he's a good kid. Just give him a chance."

Rose glanced at Scorpius again, only to find him looking down at the floor now, completely ashamed. She then turned to her uncle and said, "Thank you, Harry, but I can handle this on my own."

Harry nodded and stepped aside, and then Ron and Rose turned to face each other. Ron opened his mouth to say something, but Rose got to it first. "No. No, you don't get to have a say in this. Now I don't know what happened this summer, and that's fine, because I don't care. I don't care who his family is, or how dangerous they may be. I don't care aboutthem. I care about him.

"Unlike you, I've taken the time to get to know him. I've been his friend, even when everybody around me warned me not to, and I don't regret it. He has never reflected badly upon my blood status, nor anybody else's, and I know he cares about me just as much as I do him. I mean it's obvious, considering that he is willing to put up with my family, when they appear to be just as dangerous as his."

Rose took the time to pause here, allowing her harsh words to sink in. She never liked to fight with anyone, especially her own dad, but he was being way out of line.

Yet again, Rose looked to Scorpius, staring straight back at her now, then turned back to her father and added, "I love him, and if you can't accept that, then I suppose you'll have to see just how dangerous I can be." She then walked away from her him and everybody else, avoiding all eye contact, and waited until she was alone in the downstairs bathroom to burst into tears.

Sitting on the floor with her back against the door, Rose let out everything that she had been keeping in during the yelling match with her father. Her thoughts were going a million miles a minute, racing from Lily's unexpected revelation, to Ron's frightening reaction, to her own confession. She did really love Scorpius, but she hadn't wanted him to find out in that way.

Rose spent a good while sobbing before a knock was heard at the door. She quickly wiped her face and asked between inhales, "Who is it?"

"It's James," a voice said from behind the door. "Now let me in."

Rose took a few deep breaths before standing up and opening up for her older cousin. Upon seeing her swollen face, James opened his arms and said, "Come here," letting Rose collapse on him.

She held tightly onto him for what felt like an eternity, letting him stroke her hair as her cries became weaker and weaker. They were back on the floor, Rose's head on James's shoulder, when she managed to say, "I'm sorry. I should be stronger than this."

"Hey," James said, and Rose could feel his head shaking. "You don't have anything to apologize for. "At least you told the truth. You stood up for yourself."

Rose lifted her head off her shoulders then and looked to James. "Who was the letter from?" she asked. Something was going on with him, and after all that he had done for her, she owed it to James to reciprocate.

"This conversation was supposed to be about you," James said with a crooked smile.

"Don't worry about me," Rose replied. "Now who sent you the letter?"

James looked down, embarrassed, and answered, "Cassidy Finnigan."

"Cassidy?" Rose asked. "I thought you were with Caitlin…"

"I was," James answered. He then looked up at Rose with eyes that told all he couldn't say.

Sighing, Rose said, "James, you didn't?"

"I did," James admitted. He wasn't proud or disgusted by it, but seemed to be more in between the two.

"So, what does this mean?" Rose asked. "Did you tell Caitlin? Are you with Cassidy now? What about Sam?"

"I dunno'," James said before Rose could ask anything else. "I mean, Caitlin doesn't know, and neither does Sam. Cassidy apparently wants to keep it that way."

Rose nodded, before asking, "Do you?" She had always admired Sam and Cassidy, but at this moment she didn't care about them. She just wanted what was right for James.

"I dunno'," James answered, a favorite reply of his it seemed. "I mean, I never really liked Caitlin…"

"And what about Cassidy?"

"I dunno'. I don't really know her well enough, I guess," James replied honestly. After a moment longer he added, "Hey, you're a girl," looking at Rose.

"Oh, well spotted," she joked.

"No," James said, laughing. "What I mean is, would you want to know? If you were Caitlin."

Rose thought about this for a minute. She couldn't imagine how hurt she would be if Scorpius was ever with somebody else, especially if it were a close relative. Still, the pain of knowing about it would be better than being kept in the dark. "Yeah, I think I would."

James nodded before saying, "Well I guess I've got some explaining to do then."

Rose smiled in encouragement, knowing that the conversation he would have with the Finnigan girl would not be pleasant.

"Thanks, Rose," James muttered. He then stood from where he was sitting, held out a hand for her and said, "Here, I'll help you up."

She took his hand and he pulled her to her feet. He then opened the bathroom door for her and said, "I'm sure Scorpius is waiting for you. I might have seen Al go upstairs looking for him before."

Rose nodded, then left James and looked around quickly to see that no one was there. She could hear voices coming from the living room, but luckily she didn't have to pass by to get to the stairwell. Instead, she merely had to walk a little further down the hall, in the opposite direction of where she knew her father was.

Once on the third floor, where only her room was located, she could hear the familiar voices of her two best friends. Without bothering to knock (it was her bedroom, after all), she opened the door and stepped inside. Scorpius had his back to her and was sitting on her bed, something that he had never done before, though he had been in her room on countless occasions. Al was standing across from him, leaning against Rose's dresser.

As she came in, Al looked up at her and motioned his head for Scorpius, who turned in his seat to face her. "Rose," he said quietly. Rose was sure that he could tell she had been crying.

"I'll guard the door," Al offered before walking around the bed and out of the room, squeezing Rose's shoulder on the way to let her know that he was there.

As soon as Al had shut the door behind him, Rose walked over to Scorpius. He was about to stand up when she sat down next to him, took both of his hands in hers, and said once again, "I love you." She wanted to make sure that he had heard it, and that he understood that she hadn't just said it to spite her father. She meant it.

Scorpius gulped, looked down at their entwined hands, and said, "My mother… she tried to kill herself this summer."

Rose could have sworn that her heart stopped upon hearing this, if only for a second. She had never felt closer to him than during this one moment, but she had also never felt further away. What he was telling her was something she could never have imagined, and she no idea what to say in return.

She didn't have to say anything just yet though, since Scorpius went on to explain, "The week I got back from school, she was already going crazy. I don't know why, and neither does my dad, but she kept mumbling things to herself, all about somebody, or something, that she needed to find. Something she had lost a long time ago. At one point, she got so angry with herself that she started destroying everything in site. Anything she saw, she'd turn into dust.

"My dad tried to control her, but nothing seemed to work. A couple of Aurors got involved, but nobody as high up as your dad or Harry. They must not have been brought in until after."

Scorpius took a long pause then, and Rose could tell that the next thing he had to say was the most important. Eventually, he continued, "Then one day, my dad told her that she wasn't the same person anymore – that she wasn't his wife anymore. And then, that same night, she put him under the Imperius Curse."

Rose thought she knew where this was going, but wasn't sure if she wanted to hear it out loud. Still, she wasn't about to walk away from Scorpius, and it didn't seem like he was going to stop telling the story.

"He fought it, but she was really strong. She had been practicing; it was her perfect plan. This way, they'd all think it was him, and he'd go off to Azkaban. Only, it didn't work out the way she had hoped, because she had forgotten one thing."

Rose didn't like where this was going. She didn't like this at all.

"She had forgotten that I was supposed to be asleep in the next room. I heard her whispering the curse to my dad through my bedroom wall, and so I decided to sneak up on her. I didn't want to have to use any magic, because I couldn't get kicked out of school, so I just walked into her room really quietly, after I made sure she wasn't looking in my direction, and I hit her onto the floor so that I could collect her wand. Once I got hold of it, the spell broke and my dad apparated with her to St. Mungo's."

St. Mungo's Hospital was home to many witches and wizards who were mentally unstable. Rose hadn't known of anybody who been a patient there… until now.

"Once my dad got back to the house, he sent me away. Told me to get as far as I possibly could, and uh, I didn't know where else to go but Al's." Scorpius was crying softly now, as was Rose. Slowly, he turned back to her, squeezed her hands and said, "Your dad's right. I don't know how it happened, but somehow my mum got out of the hospital, and that can't be good. Rose, please, we can't do this anymore. My mother's never agreed with equality for all blood statuses, and my father doesn't seem to approve either. With her out there, and if she possibly found out about us… you're just not safe with me."

Rose wanted to agree with Scorpius. She wanted to take the easy way out. She wanted to, but she couldn't. She was already in too deep, and so was he. "No," she said defiantly, looking straight at him.

"Rose, please," he begged. "I don't want it either, but we can't."

"No," Rose said again. "I love you."

When Scorpius didn't reply, Rose repeated, "I love you. I love you, and I told you that I would never let go."

"I'm giving you an out," Scorpius said. He sounded angry, but Rose knew it was just a cover. "So take it."

"NO!" Rose shouted. "I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you…" Rose kept repeating the three words, waiting for Scorpius to accept them. Both of his parents had treated him like he wasn't important, and like they didn't want him anymore. Rose refused to do the same.

Scorpius was breathing very heavily now, trying to look away from Rose, whose hands had moved to his face, in an attempt to pull him toward her. Eventually, she accomplished this, and said one last time, with him looking deep into her, "I love you."

Through the power her eyes had over him, he suddenly leaned forward and kissed her, one of his hands clasped around her neck and the other at the small of her back. It was more passionate than they had ever kissed before, and Rose let Scorpius take complete control. When both began to lose their breath, Scorpius finally pulled away. He then said to Rose, "I love you."

Rose smiled in between her tears, and upon seeing his fearful expression, pulled Scorpius close to her and held him tightly. They stayed like this for quite some time, until Rose was fairly certain Scorpius had fallen asleep in her arms.

When a soft knocking was heard from Rose's bedroom door, Albus came in to inform them that his family was leaving. Rose said goodbye to both Al and Scorpius from her room, hoping that Harry, Ginny, and James would understand why she wouldn't want to come downstairs to see them off (Teddy and Victoire had already left by now). It was once again difficult to say goodbye to Scorpius, particularly with him in such a fragile state, but he promised Rose that he would tell Al everything so that he wasn't alone, and that he would tell Harry that he had seen Astoria at King's Cross. Once they had left, Rose laid down and closed her eyes, still hiding from her father.

Hermione came in soon after and sat next to Rose on her bed. For a while, she didn't say anything, but just kept her company. Then, while she was stroking her hair like mothers do, she said quietly, "Your dad would like to apologize, but if you're not ready to hear him out, I'd be happy to tell him that you're already asleep."

Rose took a deep breath upon hearing this. She wanted nothing more than to hear a sincere apology from her father, but she also didn't want to forgive him that easily. He had tried to deny her of the only thing she had ever wanted, and so she needed more than an apology. She needed to know that that would never happen again.

Sitting up to face her mother, Rose replied, "You can let him in. But I can't promise that I will."

Hermione nodded and said, "That's fair. I'll go tell him." She then stood up and left the room.

When Ron appeared, he opened Rose's bedroom door very slowly, making a creaking sound as he stepped in. He had his hands stuffed in his pant pockets and was hunching his shoulders up, making him look like one of those giant rugby players that Muggles were so fascinated by. At first, he just stood there, looking down at the floor and biting his bottom lip. After a long moment of silence, however, he made his way over to Rose, who was now sitting at the side of her bed with her arms crossed against her chest.

Taking a seat beside her at the foot of the bed, Ron's legs stretched out twice as far as Rose's. Both of them stared at this, Ron marveling over how small Rose still was, and Rose wondering why, even after all these years, her father always seemed so big.

"So, you love him?" Ron finally asked, breaking a bit of the tension between them.

"Yes," Rose said without hesitation. Now that she had admitted it, she felt proud to say it, like it meant that she wasn't a child anymore.

Ron took a while to process this before he said, "I don't want to see you get hurt, Rosie. By him or anyone else."

Rose was still waiting for the apology, but a part of her couldn't help but feel sorry for her father. "I know you don't," she said to him. "But Dad, he's been one of my best friends for over four years, and he's never once hurt me. If anything, I think I'm the one who's hurt him." She was thinking about all the months during which she had been pretending to date Lysander, of course.

"And his family," Rose added, "Has never been there for him. So imagine what it would be like if I went and left too. Imagine how alone he'd be." She knew that saying something like this would hit a soft spot for Ron, after what she'd heard about him leaving Hermione before the battle. He was the only person she'd had, other than Uncle Harry, and it didn't sound as if it had been easy on her to be without Ron for so long.

"I know," Ron said. "I'm sorry about what I said before. You were right. I don't know him."

Rose smiled up at him, and was about to thank him for owning up to what he had done, but didn't get the chance to, as Ron continued, "But Rose, I do want you to be careful. His father has really screwed us over a couple of times, and I don't want you to ever have to be in that sort of position."

"Alright," Rose promised. "I'll try to steer clear of Scorpius's family. They're not the ones that matter to me anyway." Ron was patting her on the back now, but Rose wasn't quite ready to let him off the hook.

"But Dad," she added, "You have to promise me something in return."

Ron looked skeptical, but nodded nonetheless.

"You have to promise that from now on, I get to make my own decisions about what I want to do with my life. And if I choose wrong, you have to let me figure that out for myself. I am so grateful for having the family that I have, but you can't protect me from everything," Rose concluded. After hearing about some of the terrible things that had happened within people's families, from Holly, to Colin, to Scorpius, Rose did realize just how lucky she was. She had also realized however, that she couldn't stay sheltered forever.

Ron sighed, clearly not thrilled about the compromise. Still, he kissed Rose on the forehead and said, "I promise."

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