AN: Sorry if this is not up to my usual standards. It has not been a good day on multiple fronts.
Thank you for the support! It is deeply appreciated!
I just want to be alone.
Rose crept towards her bedroom, ignoring the laughter from down the hall. Truth be told, she did not know what she planned to do once she reached her destination. Staring at the ceiling sounded appealing, but it would get dull after a few minutes. Perhaps she could read, though she doubted she could focus long enough to decipher a word. The sun hadn't set yet, but sleep was an option. It might be her best one.
"Little One, what is wrong?"
Rose turned around and whispered, "Hello Dad."
He approached her. "Would you like to tell me why you are not with your siblings and your mother?"
She shrugged. "There is no need to be with them. They are having fun without me."
"They would have more fun with you."
"That is doubtful."
Severus gestured to her bedroom. He stepped inside.
Rose frowned. "Do you not have a sleeping draught to take in the not so distant future?"
"This is more important than my sleeping draught," Severus argued.
"This conversation will become quite incoherent if you lose your memory in the middle of it." Rose crossed the threshold of her room. "I would imagine you would like to keep track of what is being said rather than be clueless as to what is occurring."
Severus sat on her bed. "Do not change the subject to my condition."
"I have thirty minutes before sundown. In that time, I would like to determine what exactly is troubling you so we can work through it together," Severus began.
"What is there to work through? I just found out that my mother's cancer has returned. I need some time alone."
"While I can understand the need for solitude, your mother needs all of her children with her."
"Why are you not playing with them?" Rose asked. "She needs her husband too."
"True, but you need me just as much, if not more."
"How could you say that?"
"You are the one taking this the hardest."
Rose sat beside him.
"You have not said two words since lunch," Severus answered. "You have been staring into space all afternoon. You are deeply troubled, and I need to help you."
Boiling tears pooled in Rose's eyes. "You should hate me."
"Excuse me?" Severus asked.
Rose nodded. "You should not care about my mental well-being. You should be finding ways to punish me."
"Why do you feel that you need to be punished?" Severus asked.
"Because I was the one who stressed Mum until her cancer reemerged," Rose answered. "All of this is my fault, and I should suffer for it."
"What?" Severus whispered.
Rose buried her head into his robes and wept. "Yes, Mum's cancer is all my fault."
"Why ever would you blame yourself for this?"
"If I had not been so infuriated about my paternity, if I had been calmer during Percy's reveal, if I had not spent so much time yelling at and then shunning Mum, then perhaps she would still be well."
"Oh Little One," Severus whispered.
Rose gasped. "Due to my outbursts, Victor and Violet may lose their mother. You may lose your wife. Do you not think that is enough of a reason to punish me?"
Severus massaged Rose's back. "None of this is your fault."
"I was the one who stressed Mum. This is all my fault."
"No, I stressed your mother by not listening to her when she told me to reveal your paternity."
Rose looked at him.
Severus sighed. "A few months ago, when you began asking about your paternity, your mum suggested that we tell you the truth. I persuaded her to continue the charade. Had we told you the truth sooner, we could have dealt with it as a family. Instead, I allowed you to discover your origins in the most humiliating way possible."
"Nobody could have foreseen Percy's actions," Rose replied.
"No," Severus answered. "Yet I knew there was a possibility you would discover the truth. In my hubris, I thought I would be intelligent enough to explain away everything. We all know how wrong I was."
Rose sniffed. "If I had not been conceived though, I am certain some things would have been easier."
"What things?" Severus asked.
"You and Mum still could have found each other…"
"Did you not listen to a thing we said over Christmas?"
Rose closed her mouth.
"We were married because she was pregnant with you. Without you, none of us would be together. Never tell yourself anything to the contrary," Severus answered.
Severus' expression told her the conversation was over.
"Yes Dad," she whispered.
"Oh Rose," he wrapped his arms around her. "You should never blame yourself for things which are beyond your control."
"I feel so guilty though," Rose replied.
"You have nothing to feel guilty about," Severus answered.
"I was so infuriated with you and Mum, and I was all too willing to make you away of that fact."
"I deserved your wrath."
"No, you deserved credit for being a good father, and she deserved credit for being a good mother."
Severus took a deep breath. "Your mother and I are far from the perfect parents. We both made mistakes. You had, no have, a right to be angry with both of us. If your mum was here, she would agree with me."
"I never wanted to be angry with either of you," Rose replied.
"We did not want you to be upset with us," Severus answered. "Still, we did deceive you, so we do deserve your rage."
"No, you deserved my love and nothing else. I wish," Rose took a shaky breath. "I wish I had a time turner so I could decline Percy's invitation. None of this would have happened had Victor gone in my place."
"I wish I had a time turner so that I could tell you the truth when you began to ask for it," Severus answered. "I would have saved everyone some pain had I done so."
"Do you think Uncle Lucius has one lying around?"
"I wish he did, Little One, I truly do."
"But he does not."
"No, he does not."
Rose wiped her eyes. "I suppose we have no choice but to live in the present then."
"Exactly," Severus replied.
Rose took a shaky breath.
"Please do not make the same mistakes I made at your age," Severus began. "Please do not begin blaming yourself for situations which were beyond your control. Do not punish yourself for anything pertaining to this family. You are so very loved by all of us. Never forget that."
"Okay, I will never forget that I am loved," Rose straightened her posture. "You will need to make me a few promises though too."
"What would those be?" Severus asked.
"Regardless of what happens to Mum, please be careful when you brew."
"I am always careful when I brew."
"I doubt that would be the case if you no longer cared about your life."
"I know how much Mum means to you. I envy you love, and hope to one day find a partner who loves me half as much as you love Mum."
"I hope that for you as well."
"That being said, one of my greatest fears is that if Mum dies, you will not be too far behind her," Rose began.
"I will still have things to live for," Severus replied.
"I know you love us and would never intentionally abandon us. Still, I also know that one of the reasons you are such a cautious brewer is because you have Mum upstairs."
"I have all of you children in my life as well," Severus replied.
"True," Rose answered. "Still, Mum is the other half of your soul, the keeper of your heart. I am so terrified that if she dies, you will become lonely and begin making careless mistakes."
"Rose," Severus kissed her on the forehead. "Do not spend one minute worrying about me. I will be fine."
"I cannot help but worry for you, Dad. Your wife may be dying. That deserves at least a modicum of my concern," Rose replied.
"I will promise not to blame myself for our family's problems if you promise that no matter what happens, you will exercise caution in the lab," Rose replied.
Severus gave her a half smile. "I suppose I could make you that promise."
Rose hugged him again. "Thank you."
Severus looked into her eyes. There was so much of himself in her. He saw the frightened, abandoned boy; he saw the man ready to punish himself for everything he had ever done wrong in his life; and he saw the brilliant potions master with all the potential in the world.
There was something else in Rose's eyes though. There was an inner strength he had only dreamed of possessing at her age. There was a confident woman he could weather even the severest of storms. There was a determination which would not be easily squelched.
In short, he saw his beloved daughter.
Regardless of what happened, Rose would survive and thrive. One of his main tasks from here on out was to convince her of that.