They reappeared outside the gates of Hogwarts, and Rose promptly lost her breakfast all over the mud-slick lawn. She stared at the mess, shuddering. It dimly registered that the Doctor was kneeling beside her. He reached out a hand to rub her back and she flinched, wincing against the pain.
Wilf pulled out his wand, casting a simple diagnostic spell. He winced. "Two broken ribs and a bruised spine—we'd better get her up to Poppy." Koschei grumbled something from where he was lying on the ground, and Wilf gave him a swift kick to the arse. "Quiet, you."
The Doctor glared back at him and gestured with Rose's wand, dragging him behind them as they made their way up to the castle. If he happened to trail through the remains of Rose's breakfast, screaming through his gag, neither Rose nor Wilf said anything.
The front door creaked open, and McGonagall hurried around the corner. "Celeste, what ha…" She stopped and stared, taking in the Doctor with his arm around Rose's shoulders and Wilf, dragging the bound and gagged form of Koschei Rosier. She pursed her lips. "I should've known. The others?"
Wilf straightened, pulling his heels together. "Still fighting, as far as we know."
She nodded grimly and looked them over carefully before nodding to herself. "Mr. Mott, get Miss Tyler to the Hospital Wing. Your father and I will take care of Mr. Rosier."
The Doctor shifted his arm to support her weight more fully as they trudged up to the Hospital Wing. "You know, if you weren't this hurt you'd probably be getting an earful right now. What in Merlin's name possessed you to come after me?" She gave him an incredulous look, but it was weakened by the pale, feverish cast of her skin. He ignored her and continued. "And then you insisted on taking on one of the most dangerous beings alive."
Rose's stomach roiled at the memory of that scorched corpse. "But we didn't even know who he was."
The Doctor blinked and stared down at her. "You didn't know who he was. I've seen his picture since I was a kid, though—Dad always kept an eye out for him, but he was never able to catch him." The oddest expression was starting to creep over his face, something satisfied and amused all at once. "Rose, you just killed Fenrir Greyback."
Her knees gave out, and she sat heavily on the stairs. "That was Fenrir Greyback?"
"In the char-broiled flesh."
She swallowed heavily. "Don't." After a moment she raised her head and stared up into his face. "I just killed Fenrir Greyback?"
He was outright grinning now, his eyes bright with mischief. "I daresay there's a bit of a reward coming your way. Maybe a parade or two. Ooh, and epic poems are always good."
"What'll it say, that I was scared out of my mind and just threw out the first spell I could think of?"
He shrugged and sat next to her. "It worked, didn't it?" A shiver ran down his back. "I have to say, I am rather glad you didn't get bitten. You'd've made for a rubbish werewolf." She began to laugh, but stopped and gasped at the pain. He made a face and stood, pulling her carefully to her feet. "Come on, you. Back to the Hospital Wing."
Rose grimaced as they climbed the stairs. "Blimey, but I'm getting' tired of that place."
"Well, maybe you should try being a bit less jeopardy-friendly, hmm?"
She gave him a dry look. "You've been saving that one for a while, haven't you?"
The Doctor sniffed haughtily. "Well, if the shoe fits…" He paused and wrinkled his nose. "Bit of an odd saying, that. It never mentions what type of shoe. I mean, what if it's a sparkly pump, or something? It might fit, but I'd certainly never wear it."
Rose snickered, and winced as the pain jolted her sides. "I dunno—with your legs, I bet you could carry 'em off."
He stared down at her, and sped up their steps. "Right, the sooner we get you to the Hospital Wing, the better."
Rose would later swear on the Doctor's hair (and it was some really great hair) that Poppy Pomfrey bit off a particularly vicious expletive when they came through the doorway. She bustled over, the grey hair pulled back without a strand out of place and the stiffly starched apron only magnifying her disapproval. "Well, Miss Tyler, what have you gotten yourself into, now?" She shook her head in annoyance. "I swear, you're worse than Potter."
She gulped. "Well, there was this kind of… rescue attempt?"
Madam Pomfrey narrowed her eyes. "I distinctly remember telling you to take it easy for the next few days, Miss Tyler."
Rose clenched her jaw. "Yeah, well he wasn't about to go rescue himself."
"Well, you weren't! Until your dad an' I got there, you were unconscious an' draped over the guard dog's shoulder."
"I could've managed!" She gave him a deeply skeptical look, and he flushed. "I could've!"
Madam Pomfrey sighed. "We're all sure you could, Mr. Mott, but now I'd rather heal Miss Tyler than listen to the two of you squabble. If you can be quiet, then be quiet. If you can't, leave."
They both flushed, and Rose caught the Doctor's hand and gripped it tight. He squeezed right back and gave her a tender smile. "I'm not going anywhere."
Madam Pomfrey nodded and began to pull out a selection of potions. "Good. Then let me do my work."
Rose's eyes blinked open to stare at the familiar misshapen tiles on the Hospital Wing's ceiling.
She turned her head and saw the Doctor sitting next to her, his hair a wreck and his hand wrapped firmly around her own. She smiled at him. "Hello."
"Time's a funny thing, you know. If there's a deadline coming up, it seems to rush forward, but when you're waiting for something, it's achingly slow."
She bit her lip. "How long was I out?"
He looked away, jiggling his leg. "Too long. Madam Pomfrey put you under until you were actually healed, so it's been a while." His lips twisted wryly. "Be glad you missed Donna's wrath—she found out where Wilf and I were hiding from her, and let us have it. Dunno if I've ever seen her that angry before."
"She has every right to be." They both turned to look at the doorway, where Severus Snape stood with his arms crossed. He lifted an eyebrow as he looked at Rose. "What you did was amateurish and foolish, and if it weren't for your absurdly good luck, you'd probably be dead right now." The Doctor opened his mouth to protest, and he raised a pale hand to forestall him. "And yet, I can't argue with the results. You've both achieved things that wizards and witches far beyond you in talent and experience haven't. There might be hope for you yet."
The Doctor blinked. "What do you mean?"
"I was assigned your case, Mr. Mott, not only to protect you, but also to observe you. The department head had heard of some of your exploits, and she was… interested. She'll no doubt be quite pleased to hear that I found not one, but two potential candidates."
Rose struggled to sit up, and the Doctor wrapped an arm around her waist to support her. "Candidates for what?"
He stepped forward and handed them both a small, blank white card. "Bring those to the Department of Mysteries after you graduate." He bowed shortly to them. "Until we meet again."
The Doctor choked a little, and Rose's jaw dropped. She waved faintly, but he'd already left. She turned to the Doctor, her eyes wide. He looked utterly gobsmacked, and she began to giggle. He met her eyes and blinked before joining in, and they laughed until the astonishment and exhilaration were gone.
He bent his forehead to hers, his slight laughter still puffing against her lips. Rose closed her eyes and smiled, tilting her head to press her lips to his. He pressed back carefully, calculating the angles to deepen the kiss. Rose could feel her toes curling against the rough, utilitarian sheets, and she reached up a hand to plunge her fingers into his thick, soft hair. The Doctor groaned as her fingernails brushed against his scalp, and suddenly the soft, slow pace wasn't enough anymore. His hands found her waist as he angled her back against the bed, his long, bony chest pressed against hers.
They jumped apart, both panting wildly and more than a little flushed. The Doctor attempted to step away, but he looked down with a squeak and sat himself down again immediately. Donna stood in the doorway, her foot tapping and an expression of exasperated amusement on her face. Hermione stood behind her, biting her lip against laughter, and Ginny was giggling madly as she stood next to Harry. Martha was had her eyebrows raised, but she seemed just as amused as the others.
Donna rolled her eyes. "Blimey, give the girl a chance to recuperate before shovin' your tongue down her throat, won't you?" She shuddered theatrically.
The Doctor blanched. "I wasn't—"
Rose began, "We were—"
They stopped and looked at each other, both flushing bright red. Donna smirked. "Look, they even coordinate their blushes."
"Donna!" They'd protested in unison, and now Hermione and Martha couldn't hold back their laughter, either.
The Doctor sniffed. "I don't think you're giving the Hospital Wing the respect it deserves."
Donna raised an eyebrow. "What, an' you are, by snoggin' her breathless?"
"That was a celebration of her recovery, clearly."
She rolled her eyes. "Clearly."
Harry stepped forward. "Good job with Greyback, Miss Tyler."
Rose blushed and smiled. "Thanks. An' call me Rose, please."
"Will do." He nodded at the Doctor. "John."
Martha sat down in one of the visitors' chairs, leaning forward. "So, you really did kill Fenrir Greyback?"
Rose looked down, and the Doctor spoke up. "That she did. It's a good thing she warned me, or else I'd have ended up just as toasty."
Rose blanched. "Don't joke about that."
Ginny leaned forward and took her hand. "You did a good thing, Rose. That bastard mauled my brother Bill, just months before his wedding."
Rose smiled at them awkwardly, leaning back into the Doctor. He rubbed his hand up and down her side and spoke to Harry, drawing their attention. "So, how did things turn out at the manor?"
He looked down. "There were some casualties. Ross Jenkins and Teresa Albright." He cleared his throat. "But they died taking out one of the largest Death Eater collectives we're encountered since the end of the war. Both Lestrange brothers are dead now, along with Greyback, and the others are in custody. In full custody. None of that Ministry lock-up nonsense."
Ginny smirked. "Gee, Harry, tell us how you really feel." He shot her an affectionate glance and ignored her.
Hermione spoke up, frowning. "What I don't understand is, why were they so desperate to get your amulet, Doctor?"
The Doctor opened his mouth, confused, and Wilf spoke from the doorway. "Well, wizards are a superstitious lot. What's worse is most of it is for a reason." He smiled down at Rose. "Feeling better, love?"
She grinned up at him. "Much, thanks."
"Sorry to break up the little reunion, but Poppy insists that the patient needs some quiet."
Donna's eyebrows drew together, but the rest of them said their goodbyes and left. She waited at the end of Rose's bed, her foot tapping.
"What's this about, Granddad?"
"Had somethin' I needed to talk to them about without the rest of you around."
She reeled back, looking almost as if he'd physically hurt her. "Fine, I see how it is."
Wilf blinked at her. "Well, I didn't mean you."
"Could've fooled me!"
The Doctor cleared his throat. "So, what was it you wanted to talk to us about, Dad?"
Wilf let out a breath and drew his eyebrows together, glancing sideways at Donna. "Snape's done some repair work on this whole mess. Your secret's safe again—he planted the story that you'd found Tom Riddle's amulet while you explored Hogwarts, and they thought they could use the trinket to bring him back. The only people who know who your birth parents were are in this room. Well, and Sarah, but she's practically family anyway."
Rose frowned. "Why didn't he tell us earlier?"
Wilf frowned. "Sorry?"
"Snape, he came to talk to us earlier. Might've been useful if he'd mentioned that, so we wouldn't accidentally blow his story."
The Doctor shrugged against her. "Maybe it was a test."
She sighed and leaned back against him. "Are all Slytherins like that? 'Cause I swear, that's downright mental."
He grinned against her hair. "You might as well get used to it."
Rose groaned and closed her eyes.
She stepped out of her dorm the next day, shrugging on a comfortable hoodie over her vest top. The Doctor had told her he'd meet her outside Gryffindor Tower, and she didn't want to keep him waiting long. The room had been loud with the murmur of students not working on homework, but a hush fell as she walked down the stairwell. Patrick and Rajesh were sitting with Rebecca and Genevieve, and as she walked past Rajesh hurriedly stood up. "Rose."
She blinked. It was the first time any of them had addressed her by her first name. He looked nervous, somewhere between embarrassed and awestruck. "Yes?"
He glanced back at his friends and turned back to her, clearing his throat. "Is it true that you took out Fenrir Greyback on your own?"
"No." Noise exploded back into life around her, and she raised her voice. "The Doctor helped me."
She smirked at the sudden silence and stepped outside. The Doctor was leaning against the wall across from the door, hands in his pockets. He straightened as she stepped out, and she bumped his shoulder with hers. "So, where are we goin' today, Doctor?"
He grinned and spread out his hands in an exuberant shrug. "Anywhere you like, Rose Tyler."
She smiled and took his hand.
A/N: And it's the end of the longest story I've yet written, and my very first AU! Well, you know what I mean. Thanks SO much to everyone who favorited and commented- I love you guys. You make writing so much fun. There are a few other stories in the pipelines, so new things might be up before long- I'm partway into several stories, and can't seem to make up my mind. Would you rather I worked on:
1: a sequel to The Stolen Plot,
B: a continuation of Phoenix and the Wolf/Tangled Web,
or sub-paragraph III: a sequel to Nature of the Wolf?
Thanks for reading!