AN: Thank you for all the support! It is deeply appreciated!
It was always nice to see the gargoyle.
Sure, his stories were long, but some of the best gossip came from the gargoyle. It never hurt to indulge in tales of misbehaving students, or a few of her colleagues' misdeeds. Her favorite stories of all though were the ones her parents wish the gargoyle would forget.
"So anyway, your father told them that if he ever caught them kissing in the halls again, he would fuse their lips together," the gray beast continued. "He then took out two vials from his pocket and fused them together, as if that spell would work on those students."
Rose laughed. "After seeing how Dad carries on with Mum, I can hardly imagine him being so strict with students, especially with those from his own house."
"Oh your father was the terror of every lovestruck student and he reveled in it."
"If only they could see him doting on his wife. His entire reputation as a greasy git would be in tatters."
"I think most of them would die from a heart attack if they knew the kind of man your father really is."
"I do not doubt that."
"Anyway," the gargoyle spread its wings. "I don't think you came here to speak with me."
Rose tensed. "No, I did not."
The gargoyle intoned, "Password."
"Password?" Rose asked.
Rose dug her foot into the ground. Sweat formed on her brow. "Yes, the password."
The gargoyle cocked its head. "I thought Headmaster Longbottom told you the password."
"He did," Rose wrung her hands.
The gargoyle leaned in closer and whispered in her ear, "It's the same as the last time you visited."
"So he did not change it over the break then?"
The gargoyle shook its head. "He's been too busy to think of a new one."
"I see," Rose relaxed. "The password is petunia blossom."
"There you go." The door opened. "Enter."
"Thank you," Rose replied.
"Anytime Rose," the gargoyle answered. "Anytime."
Rose strode into the room, straight towards the massive mahogany desk.
Headmaster Longbottom dipped a white quill into a blue ink pot. Eyes glued to the page, he bit his lower lip. A smile crept across his face before he picked up the quill and resumed attacking the paper.
Rose loomed over his desk. She cleared her throat.
Headmaster Longbottom held up one finger and continued writing. Rose took two steps back.
"Am I interrupting something?" Rose asked.
Headmaster Longbottom was not distracted from his task.
"I can return at a more convenient time," Rose began.
Eyes still glued to the parchment, he pointed to the leather chair in front of his desk. Rose nodded and sat.
"Sincerely, Neville Longbottom," he mumbled before placing the quill back into the ink pot. Then he raised the parchment with his left hand and scratched his chin with his right. After a few silent moments, he lowered the parchment and hummed.
Rose put her hands on her lap and glanced down at an ink blot on the floor. She pulled out her wand and muttered an incantation. The spot dissipated.
"Thank you for your patience."
Rose looked at her employer.
There was a gleam in Headmaster Longbottom's eyes. "What can I do for you?"
"First and foremost," Rose began. "I would like to apologize for not helping you defend the school these last few nights."
Neville waved his hand. "There is nothing to apologize for. I told you before the break: if I needed you, I knew where to find you."
"I still feel as if I should have been with all of you," Rose replied.
"We did not need your help."
"Perhaps, but it does not change that fact that I left you alone to…"
Headmaster Longbottom held up his hand. "There were no attacks."
"There were not?" Rose squeaked.
"No, I was correct in assuming that the amnesiacs would be too distracted celebrating the holiday to give the school any heed. Sure, we had a couple of skirmishes, but these were easily taken care of by the staff we had on hand."
"That is a relief."
"Indeed it is."
Rose folded her hands.
"Something tells me that you did not come only to discuss the amnesiac crisis," Headmaster Longbottom continued.
"No," Rose answered. "I did not."
"What do you want to talk about then?" Headmaster Longbottom asked.
"Well," Rose covered her mouth and coughed. "I have an odd request."
"Okay," the headmaster drawled.
"I need," Rose grabbed the end of her cape and wrapped it around her finger. "I need you to suspend me from teaching for the rest of the semester."
Headmaster Longbottom stared at her as if she'd just announced that unicorns had two heads.
"I need to be suspended immediately," Rose continued.
Headmaster Longbottom frowned. "I believe we discussed this earlier."
"We did?" Rose asked.
"Yes we did," Headmaster Longbottom answered. "I told you that I don't care who your biological father is, and your paternity does not matter to anyone else in the school. I also told you that I would reject any resignation you gave me."
"No, this request has nothing to do with my relation to Ronald," Rose replied.
"Then why don't you want to teach anymore?" Headmaster Longbottom answered.
"No, I want to teach potions and head the Slytherin House," Rose argued. "I would love nothing more then to spend the rest of my life continuing my dad's work."
Neville's eyes twinkled. "I am very happy to hear that."
"Still, I need a break in order to embark on a very important project," Rose continued.
"What kind of project?"
"I need to find a cure for the dark magic overwhelming Mum."
"Aren't you already searching for a cure?"
"Yes, I am," Rose replied. "But there is a renewed urgency."
Headmaster Longbottom paled. "Are her scars…?"
Rose's eyes fell upon her cape.
"I see," Headmaster Longbottom took a deep breath.
Rose ran her right hand along her cape.
"How is your mother right now?"
"She is putting on a brave front, though it is clear that both she and Dad are terrified." Rose swallowed. "I honestly do not know who is more terrified, her or Dad."
"I would imagine this is hard on both of them."
"It is very difficult for them."
"What about Victor and Violet? How are they doing?"
"They are taking it as well as can be expected."
"Now, just as importantly," Headmaster Longbottom's eyes softened. "How are you doing?"
A lump formed in Rose's throat as she made eye contact with him. "I am terrified that I am about to lose both Mum and Dad."
Headmaster Longbottom leaned in closer towards her.
"I do not think Dad wants to spend two minutes without Mum in his life. I fear that if she dies, he will soon follow her into the afterlife."
"Severus would live for his children."
"He would only be half alive at best," Rose argued. "I fear he will stop taking care of himself and will decide he would rather be with Mum than on this earth."
"He would never abandon his children," Headmaster Longbottom answered.
"He would not abandon us intentionally," Rose replied. "Yet I know him. Mum is the one who gave him his family. She is the reason he wakes up every morning…"
"His entire family is the reason he gets up in the morning," Headmaster Longbottom interrupted. "Also, you are not answering the question."
"You have told me how you think your dad will do, but you have yet to tell me what your mum's illness means for you."
Rose's lower lip quivered. "I always thought Mum would be there for me. She survived both Voldemort and Fenrir. How could she be taken away from us by a small clump of cells?"
Headmaster Longbottom scooted his chair closer to his desk. "I wish I knew."
Rose brushed a tear from her eyes. "I need to help her in any way possible. That is why I need to take a break from teaching. I need to devote my time to research."
"Dad will not hear of it though. He demanded that I continue to teach and research in my spare time just as I have been doing."
Headmaster Longbottom hummed.
"I offered to take next semester off, but neither Mum more Dad would accept that as a solution. You have made it clear that I cannot quit my position, but I need to focus on curing Mum."
Headmaster Longbottom ran his finger along a groove in his desk.
"That is why I need you to suspend me," Rose replied. "If you suspend me, then the choice of whether or not I can teach will be taken out of my hands. They will have to accept my fate, and I can devote my entire time to my research."
"If I suspend you from teaching, you will be suspended from being the Head of Slytherin."
"I am certain that someone else can take up the mantel for a semester."
"You will not be able to take up that position again for another ten years."
Headmaster Longbottom exhaled. "According to the Hogwarts bylaws, the Heads of the Houses must be in excellent moral standing. In order to suspend you, I must accuse you of a serious ethical violation. You will be disqualified from being the Head of the Slytherin House for at least the next decade."
Rose bowed her head.
"I am not willing to make that sacrifice," Headmaster Longbottom answered. "Nor will I incur the wrath of your father."
"For the love of Merlin, you are no longer his student. You can stand up to him and explain your reasoning."
"Your dad is not a stupid man," Headmaster Longbottom answered. "He will see through this sham and will demand that I give you your position back. He will pay more attention to intimidating me than he will to helping your mother recover."
"You could fight back," Rose locked eyes with him before her body sagged. "Yet that would only infuriate him more, and continue to take up his time."
"Exactly," Headmaster Longbottom replied.
Rose sniffed. "There must be something we can do."
"Well, I believe there is," Headmaster Longbottom replied.
Rose raised an eyebrow.
"All I would need to do is make a new addition to our staff."
"What kind of addition?"
"Well, Professor Khan did an excellent job subbing for you when you had your concussion."
"So I hear."
"Right now, she isn't necessarily searching for a full time position. She's a university student looking for experience. Surely being your graduate assistant would look great on her CV."
"She could teach your class on days when you're running experiments, and she could take over your grading. You would retain your position as Head of the Slytherin House and perform all the duties that come with it. Still, I'm sure she could handle a few of the more minor squabbles if you were at a particularly important juncture."
Rose's lips curled up. "I would love nothing more than a few nights where I do not have to listen to the romantic drama surrounding my fifth years."
Headmaster Longbottom smiled. "Then I believe it's time to write Ms Khan a letter."
Rose stood. "I believe it is."
Headmaster Longbottom reached over and opened a drawer to his right. "Tell your parents I said 'hi.' Also, tell them I plan to stop by sometime over the break. It's been far too long since I've seen them."
"It has been," Rose replied.
Headmaster Longbottom pulled out a parchment and set it on his desk.
"Thank you again, Headmaster."
"It is my deepest pleasure."
With one last smile, Rose strolled out of the room.
Headmaster Longbottom turned his attention to the parchment. He took a shaky breath, hoping he never had to live in a world without Hermione Snape.