AN: Thank you all for the support! It is deeply appreciated!
The only thing worse than grading is Quidditch.
Rose groaned as she slid another parchment in front of her. She moved a half-melted, black candle closer to her, hoping a little more light would make the handwriting more legible. Then she stuck a black quill into a red ink pot.
In the first sentence alone, there were three inaccuracies. After three paragraphs, it became clear that the student had written this only hours before it was due. This was definitely getting a Poor. Knowing this student, though, he would protest the grade, leading to further headaches upon the return from break. She groaned and cursed grade inflation.
Rose sighed as she pulled out her quill. Her eyes drooped, but before they could shut she shook herself.
I only have ten more parchments to go in this section, I can stay awake for that long.
Her head began to pound as if it were being trampled by a centaur.
Rose tapped the quill onto her chin. Perhaps I would have been happier in another profession. What would I do differently though? My entire life has been devoted to a love of potions, and Hogwarts is the closest thing to home outside of my parents' mansion. Where else could I have gone?
She licked her lower lip. Well, I could always have followed the footsteps of my sperm donor. Had I been raised by Ronald, I may have been a professional Quidditch player. Merlin knows if I became one, then I would not need to deal with dunderheaded students day in and day out. No, I would need to deal with is dunderheaded fans droning on about some insipid sport with nonsensical rules, reporters who wouldn't know the meaning of privacy if it chained them to a chair, and the ever present fear of a life-ending broom collision.
She shuddered. I would much rather deal with a hundred students protesting their grades.
Rose marked out the second sentence of the last paragraph and began to scribble a note on the margin.
She groaned. Can I not be left in peace for longer than five minutes?
"Please open the door. We need to talk."
Rose set the quill onto the desk. "I am coming."
She trudged to the door, only to yawn once her hand gripped the doorknob. So help her if this was another dispute over a stolen girlfriend. Despite the holidays, she was more than prepared to deduct points.
She opened the door and wore her most intimidating scowl. "What do you need?"
"I need to speak with you."
Rose's heart stopped. The person before her was a man roughly her age. He wore a white gown which reached to the ground. His skin was translucent, though not silver. What commanded her attention though was his piercing emerald eyes.
How could one's eyes be that green?
"I'm glad to see you're still awake," the man breezed past her. He stood in the middle of her room, his eyes glistening as they scanned the area.
Rose rubbed her eyes and blinked. She gripped the doorknob as if it was the only thing keeping her tethered to reality.
"It's been so long," the man whispered. "I didn't think I would ever be here again."
"Indeed," Rose drawled, her head no longer throbbing.
"I, I remember packing up the books," he pointed to a bookshelf in the corner and ran towards it.
"Your dad's. They're all in the same order and," his thumb hovered over one book. His voice was quiet, as if he was saying a prayer. "Oh Merlin you kept it."
"What did I keep?"
"Your dad's old potions textbook. It's right here."
"It is a family heirloom," Rose replied. "Violet used it last year, and she returned it to me. She said I have more use for it than she does. According to her, it is more valuable to me than it is to her as well."
"I am sure it holds a great deal of value for you."
"Indeed it does."
The man ran his finger along the cracked binding. "I shouldn't be surprised that you have it. I knew you dad gave it to you for your sixth year, though I'm sure you knew everything in it by your third year."
Rose crept closer to him.
"I shouldn't be this emotional," his voice cracked. "I saw him give it to you before your sixth year but Merlin to see that textbook again. It brings back so many memories."
"What kinds of memories?"
"Memories of your parents."
The man's eyes were transfixed on the book. "I'm glad he found the book and gave it to you. Violet is right, if anyone deserved that book, it was you."
"Indeed," Rose cleared her throat. "Now, could you please explain to me why you are in my living quarters?"
He turned around. His emerald eyes were the two of the friendliest orbs she had ever seen. "I apologize for being so vague. It's been years since I've been in Hogwarts. Please forgive me if I become too excited or emotional."
"While it is clear you love Hogwarts, I am uncertain why you are so fascinated by my books and my living space," Rose replied.
The man chuckled. She frowned.
"I'm sorry," he began. "You remind me so much of your dad. Even your expressions are just like his."
"I am told I sometimes resemble him."
"You are very much like him."
"Yes well," Rose coughed. "If you are nostalgic for my parents then you are more than free to see them sometime."
"Don't worry, I'll see them right after I see you."
"Are you sure that is advisable? Dad is usually going to bed at this hour, and he hates to be disturbed."
"Indeed he does," the man answered. "I suppose before I visit him I should also know where he lives."
"Where does your dad live?"
She said nothing.
The man's voice was soft. "It looks like we have a few things to discuss."
Rose furrowed her eyebrows. "There is very little to discuss with you. I do not even..."
"You do not even what?" There was a soft glow around the man.
A chill ran up her spine as her eyes bulged. "I do know you."
His expression did not change.
"You are the surgeon in my dream."
The man hummed.
"I am asleep," Rose muttered. "Somehow I fell asleep while grading, and then you appeared."
"Are you sure you're asleep?"
"What other explanation is there?"
The man approached her. "You're an intelligent woman. You know who I am."
"I," she could not utter another word.
"I think we need to talk about some things," he began.
Despite there being no fire, Rose's body was warm, as if she was standing beside one. How could one feel so warm, so at peace, in a dream?
"What's this?" The man rushed towards Rose's sofa.
"Those papers are none of your concern," Rose began.
He waved his hand. A parchment which sat atop the coffee table floated towards him.
"What are you doing?" Rose demanded.
He began to read.
"Set that down immediately."
His attention remained on the parchment.
"You cannot just barge in here and begin reading my mail," Rose snapped. "Please return the letter where you found it."
He glanced up from the parchment. "Did your father write you this letter?"
"No," Rose stuttered. "I mean, he isn't my father, not truly anyway."
"He either is your father or he is not," the man began.
Rose shook her head. "Why am I speaking with you at all? You are trespassing on my quarters and distracting me from my very important work."
The man flashed her a smile. "That's exactly what Severus Snape would say if he was in your position."
"He would not be wrong to point out that you have little right to be here."
"Deep down inside he'd know that I have every right to be here, which is why he would try to deflect the conversation away from himself as much as possible."
Rose grabbed the parchment. She grumbled, "He would not be wrong in trying to ascertain why you are here."
"You know exactly why I am here."
"No, I fear I do not."
"Tell me about that letter," the man asked.
"What about it?" Rose muttered.
"Why haven't you answered it yet?"
"I will in due time."
"After I finish grading."
"How long after grading?"
Rose grew silent.
He approached her. "Do you think it is a good idea for you to answer the letter at all?"
"Why are you interested in this letter? You did not send it, so I am uncertain as to why it is important to you," She asked.
"There's that deflection again."
"Listen…" She gestured for him to say his name, but his glow intensified.
"I will make you a deal," the man began. "I will explain to you how I knew about that textbook if you explain to me why you would even want to answer that letter."
Rose blinked. Up until that moment, she had cared little for how he knew about the textbook. Still, so few people knew of it. How did he discover it? What memories did he have attached to it? An even more pressing question, how did he know this was her sixth year textbook?
"Do we have a deal?" the man asked.
"Fine," Rose answered. "How do you know about the textbook?"
"No," the man shook his head. "You need to answer my questions first."
"Because I know better than to trust a Slytherin."
She pursed her lips. "I take it you were a Gryffindor."
"Very well then," Rose answered. "The man who wrote that letter is my sperm donor. I thought he did not care about me, which made it all the more surprising when he wrote me saying that he did."
The man nodded.
"His letter is atrocious. I can barley make out his handwriting, and the portions I could make out where crude to say the least. He is extremely disrespectful to my parents. I should not have anything to do with him," she continued.
"Yet you want him to care for you," he answered.
"I do not know." Rose threw up her hands. "Three months ago I was content with my life. I had a father who loved me, and cared little about what the Weasleys thought. Now, I am trying to recover from my sperm donor's abandonment. Then there's this."
"What is 'this?'"
She picked up two additional letters. "My grandfather and my uncle want to meet with me."
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Well," she dropped the two parchments onto the ground. "If I am being honest, I have always wanted an uncle. My parents were both only children. I always thought it would be interesting if there was someone else who could give me a different perspective on them."
"I have one set of loving grandparents but," she paused. "Let's just say the other set is less than ideal."
"What do you mean?"
"Nobody would ever wish to have Tobias or Eileen Snape in their lives."
"Then again," Rose huffed. "Nobody would ever wish to have Molly Weasley in their life."
"So just to clarify, you do not want Tobias Snape in your life," the man noted.
"No, but I fail to see how that is relevant to this."
"I believe it is very relevant."
"Well," the glow grew brighter again. "I did promise you an explanation for the textbook."
"You did," Rose replied.
"Let's start at the beginning then."
"That is always a great place to begin."
"I suppose you know the book's history. After Harry Potter was finished using it, your dad found it in the Room of Requirement. He didn't have the heart to leave it, so he stored it down here."
"He has alluded to that on a few occasions."
"Then you know why it was down here?"
"Yes," Rose answered. "Professor Slughorn was not the bibliophile my parents are, so his shelves were mostly empty. Dad stored a few of his books down here knowing he would not mind."
"That does not explain how you found the book."
"Did your dad ever tell you that one of the most painful moments of his life was when he received his books in a cardboard box at St. Mungo's?"
"Did he ever tell you how painful it was for him to receive these books?"
"He has mentioned it in passing but," Rose cocked her head. "Given how horribly they treated him at Hogwarts I never fully understood the reason why."
"Because as long as those books were at Hogwarts, there was a chance he could return. He held out hope that maybe he would be welcomed back once the war was over," the man's skin was duller. "When your mother and I gave him those books, he couldn't hide the pain in his eyes."
"Of course he tried to hide it. He made a few snide comments, but when I left the room I took one last look at him. There were tears in his eyes."
"I see, but," Rose coughed. "You really have not answered anything."
"You told me about giving Dad the book at St. Mungo's, but your reaction to it is not that of someone whose only connection to it was placing it in a box and giving it to him. The book means something to you and I would like to understand exactly what that is."
The glow returned to its warm blue hue. "You are very observant."
"One has to be in order to be an effective professor," Rose answered.
"True," The man's eyes twinkled.
"So please tell me, why does that book bring back so many memories?"
"I was a sixth year when I first found the textbook. At first I only used it as a textbook, but as I read it further, well, I began to form a bond with the author."
"The more I read, the more I understood the half blood prince. It was clear that he was brilliant. Still, he seemed to be an outsider, someone who was very lonely. At the time I couldn't understand why, but in time I learned."
"I take it you found out everything about Dad during his trial."
The man winked. "I may have sat in on the trial for a day or two."
"Indeed," Rose replied.
"When I first glimpsed your dad's memories, I found someone who I could understand. We were both men with terrible beginnings we somehow had to rise above. Both of us only wanted acceptance, but we struggled to achieve it."
Rose thought better of asking the man what he had endured.
"What I saw in his memories was a boy who never felt wanted. He yearned to fit in, but due to his upbringing never learned how to accept love."
"He has told me that on certain occasions."
"Your dad was a harsh and-pardon the pun-severe man. Still, he would never have wished his childhood on anyone, especially his own children."
"He has told me that."
"But have you truly listened to him?"
"Your dad was misguided in lying to you, but at the end of the day he knew who Ron had become."
"In your words, what has Ronald become?"
The man's glow dimmed. For the first time, his eyes did not twinkle. "Ron could've, should've, been somebody very different. He has the capacity to love, but he is so consumed with himself he can't express it."
"So am I supposed to teach him how to love?" Rose asked.
"You are supposed to be a better person than him," the man answered.
"Rose," the man's glow returned. "You have an amazing ability to love, and unlike your dad, you learned from your parents how to receive love. You should never cut yourself off from love."
Rose snorted. "You are the first person to encourage me to grow closer to the Weasleys."
"You didn't let me finish."
She closed her mouth.
"Part of receiving love is knowing what love actually is. If you can't tell what love is, then you run the risk of being taken advantage of."
"You cannot allow someone who has no feelings for you into your life and create unnecessary problems. You're too good for that."
"In other words, do not respond to the letter."
"You said that, not me."
"Yet that is what you want me to do."
"I never said that."
"Then what are you saying?"
"I'm saying that you should not give your love to someone who does not love you back."
Rose whispered. "Ronald does not love me."
The man's eyes deadened again. "I wish he was a much better man than he is, I truly do."
"My parents have always shown me love. I do not need anyone interfering with my relationship with them, especially one as disruptive as Ron."
"Then there's your answer as to whether or not you should write him," he replied.
Rose picked the parchments off the floor. "What about Arthur and George? What should I do with them?"
"The same thing you do with everyone else who wants into your heart," he replied. "Decide if they are worthy."
"I," Rose relaxed. "I think I can do that."
"I'm happy to hear it," the man took examined the room again.
"Is there anything else I can do for you?" Rose asked.
"No," he grinned. "I only wanted to relive a few memories."
She asked, "What memories?"
He made eye contact with her. "You haven't changed much of the room."
"Is this how things looked when Dad lived here?"
"More or less."
She sighed. "I never could be accused of being a creative decorator."
"Very few people are," he replied.
Silence fell between them.
"I need to go now."
"Why?" Rose asked.
The man chuckled. "Do you want me to stay now?"
Rose shrugged. "If I am speaking with you I have an excuse not to grade papers."
"True, but eventually you will need to get some work done."
The man smiled. "Goodbye Rose."
"Goodbye, uh," Rose answered.
The man made his way to the doorway.
He spun around.
"How did you know that Dad gave me this textbook for my sixth year studies?"
His body's glow was now a soft yellow. "Tell Hermione that her Santa cookie cutter is in the top right hand drawer. Last year she got distracted talking to you dad, so she put it there instead of with the others."
"I was not aware she had lost it."
"She did," he answered. "If I were you, I would tell her where to find it first thing in the morning. She's given up looking for it tonight, and if she doesn't find it by noon tomorrow she won't make any Santa cookies."
"I will be sure to relay the message."
"Good." The man put his hand on the doorway. "Goodbye Rose. I love you."
"Good bye, and thank you for everything."
In a flash he vanished.
Rose stared at the spot where he had stood. Her body was still warm, despite the lack of a fire.
"I am dreaming," she mumbled. "I fell asleep while grading and I began to dream."
Then she yawned.
I will go to sleep, Rose trudged towards her bedroom. Yes, I will get some sleep. Somehow if I fall asleep I will awaken from this dream.
At least I am finally at peace.