Severus was gone.
Rose stared at the offending piece of iron. Why had no one asked her? Why had they excluded Dumbledore? How could they really believe what they had said? Damn it, why was it worse to be with her than his time as Death Eater which, just by the way, Rose thought he was completely rehabilitated from. No one should hold that against him anymore not after four times as much time he´d already worked for Dumbledore. Severus was not the bad person they wanted him to be and he did definitely not deserve to be locked up in Azkaban for it. But even less for a relationship she had willingly agreed to. Even more, a relationship she had begged him to finally make real.
"No Wilbert, this is unacceptable and will definitely have consequences," Dumbledore´s muffled shout sounded from behind the closed door of the antechamber shortly before it was torn open. Dumbledore stormed out of the room, closely followed by Minister Shacklebolt and Amelia Bones who both wore equally grim and determined expressions.
“Rose. Rose! What do you say to this sentence? Do you feel it does justice to the accusations? Do you feel relieved to be freed?”
Rose tore her gaze from Dumbledore and spun around. Even before she had thought about her actions, she had drawn her wand, pointing it at Skeeter´s chest.
“Relieved? You silly bitch! I´d be relieved if I could finally get rid of you!” Rose spat, quite literally, and took a step forward, narrowing her eyes at the other woman. “Who is that ominous source of yours who has such brilliant insight of our life?”
Skeeter´s predator smile widened but her eyes did too as Rose pressed the tip of her wand between Rita´s ribs. “You should be glad, we´re in public. I wouldn´t know what…”
“Rose.” Dumbledore stood suddenly at her side, pushing her wand arm away but regarded Skeeter with an icy look.
Rose exhaled forcefully but turned her head to the Headmaster, noticing the subtle shake of his head.
“Let´s go home,” Sirius said from her other side, taking her arm and guiding her towards the door, away from Skeeter and her scavenging colleagues. Remus followed and laid his hand between Rose´s shoulder blades, pushing as much as stabilizing her.
The way through the Ministry seemed endless and short at the same time. Remus and Sirius steered Rose swiftly outside, never breaking contact to her. Once out in the fresh air, Rose stopped and leant heavily against the closest wall. Immediately Remus was there, embracing her softly.
Back at Hogwarts, Rose´s steps became unsteadier the closer she and the men came to the portal and finally faltered completely as they entered the entrance hall.
“They are back!” someone shouted and ran into the Great Hall.
Rose looked up. It seemed the whole school was gathered and the Order had obviously joined the waiting crowd. The Weasley´s spilled into the entrance hall, closely followed by everyone else who was dear to Rose.
Molly hurried over and pulled Rose in a tight, motherly hug, patting her hair. “I´m so sorry, love. It is not right,” she murmured into Rose´s hair, still hugging her. Obviously the assembled crowd was already informed and had only waited for Dumbledore´s return, most likely for Rose´s too.
“Don´t,” Rose whispered and pulled out of Molly´s arms. She took a few steps back, stumbling, and then swirled around and hastened away. She had no real destination in mind only the need to get away from all those prying eyes. A few people called out for her, but she ignored everyone and kept going.
She first stopped when she tripped on a fake step. Her leg stuck up to her knee in the stairs. Frustrated she pulled and ranted lowly, but to no avail, she couldn’t free herself.
“Uh oh…isn´t that an unfortunate situation?” Peeves cackled and swooped down on Rose.
“If you´re not here to help me then get lost,” Rose snapped and pulled on her leg again.
“I don´t think I want to help someone so rude…” Peeves drawled and hovered upside down in front of Rose.
“Fine. Why don´t you just fuck off then?”
“And missing all the fun?” the poltergeist giggled.
Rose took a quivering breath to rein her temper and looked up, gazing directly in feisty, twinkling eyes.
“Peeves, please, can you help me out? I´m sorry for being rude. I had a really fucked up day and I don´t think it will get better any time soon.”
Peeves stopped circling Rose and looked rather serious. He inched closer until he was only about thirty centimetres from Rose apart and inclined his head.
“Because you asked so nicely, of course I´ll help you. NOT!” He shouted into her face and shrieked with laughter.
“Honestly, that isn´t very nice.”
Fred and George Weasley walked casually up to Rose. George helped her out while Fred voiced his disapproval of Peeves behaviour.
“So, the next time one of our friends needs help you do what?” Fred finished.
“I´ll help them,” Peeves said unfamiliar contrite and nodded seriously.
“Perfect. Now you can go and annoy Filch.” Fred clapped Peeves on the shoulder and sent him away.
“You´re all right?” George asked Rose.
“No. Thanks for the help, though.” Quickly she turned and climbed the last steps of the stairs.
“You shouldn´t run away. We´re all worried, you know?” Fred called after her.
Rose briefly glanced over her shoulder but didn´t stop.
The top of the Astronomy Tower was cold and draughty. Some time ago it had started to snow, however, it was more ice than real snow.
As Remus stepped on the observation platform he immediately spotted Rose folded into a tiny ball in the far corner.
“One day you´ll catch your death,” he said and crouched next to her. Cautiously he touched her face, noticing the barely dried traces of tears. “Oh darling.” Remus sat down next to Rose. He pulled her into his arms and Rose immediately buried into this embrace.
“He´s gone,” she sobbed brokenly, new tears spilling into Remus´ chest.
Remus kept quiet, only held her and stroked her back.
After ten minutes the wind picked up and changed direction, blowing the ice crystals directly onto Remus and Rose.
“Let´s get back inside.” Remus said and stood up, pulling Rose with him, but she didn’t follow. He gazed down at her, cupping her face softly. “Rose, please come with me. It´s too cold and too wet up here. You´ll get seriously ill.”
“So what?” Rose shrugged and slung her arms around herself, turning her head away from Remus.
“It won´t help Severus either.”
Rose´s head whipped around as she stared at Remus, but then her expression crumpled and she leant heavily against him.
Remus embraced her briefly before simply hoisting her into his arms and carrying her downstairs to his quarters.
“Is she all right?” Sirius asked, crossing the room.
“Cold, wet and stirred up, but apart from that yes. She´s all right.” Remus exchanged a look with Sirius who went and boiled water for tea while Remus brought Rose into the bathroom and told her to take off her wet clothes. A moment later, he came back with pyjama pants from himself and a thick pullover from Sirius, handing both to Rose.
“Maybe it would be best to take a hot bath, but I´ll leave that to you. Come over when you´re ready.”
He closed the door gently, leaving Rose alone.
For about five minutes she just sat there and stared at the clothes in her hands but then she undressed and quickly slipped into the dry clothes. Slowly and with shuffling steps she walked over into the living room.
“Rose, you´re still wet,” Sirius tutted gently and spelled her hair dry, giving her a scrutinizing look.
“Would you like a tea?” Remus pushed on of the three cups closer to Rose who stood there in front of the men in the much too big clothes and chewed on the nail of her left thumb while her other arm was wrapped closely around her body.
Sirius pursed his lips slightly and leant towards Rose, touching her hand. Rose didn´t move at all and Sirius let go and instead looked a little helpless at Remus who took the hint and stood up. He pulled Rose´s other hand from her mouth, stopping her from chewing her nail, and guided her to the sofa where he sat down and pulled her into his arms, like so many times before.
“How did you know I was on the tower?” Rose asked into the thickening silence.
“Sirius stormed your common room and had Hermione look for the map,” Remus explained and smiled at Sirius who looked a little proud because he´d had this idea.
Rose hummed noncommittally but otherwise kept silent. She closed her eyes and listened to Remus´ heartbeat and then after a while to his conversation with Sirius.
Rose woke up as Remus tried to move without disturbing her and groaned. She opened her eyes and noticed surprised that it was day again.
“Sorry,” Remus said lowly and groaned more. He stood up and stretched, pressing his hands into his back.
“No, I´m sorry.” Rose watched him turn his head and roll his shoulders.
“I´m fine, just a little stiff.” He nodded to emphasize his words and then peered into the cups on the table, emptying the one which had been for Rose and was still untouched. “Breakfast starts soon, you should dress and then go and fetch your stuff.”
Rose pursed her lips, sucked one corner of her mouth between her teeth and nibbled at it.
“What?” Remus asked.
“I don´t want to see anyone and repeat everything again and again.”
“Then take a day off,” Sirius said, stepping out of the bathroom. He was already dressed but obviously freshly showered with his hair still damp. “But only today. Tomorrow you´re back in class,” he added, raising his eyebrows.
Rose smiled, a crooked little thing, and nodded relieved. “Ok.”