"Magic, like in Harry Potter?"
"Warming up all right?" the Doctor asked, striding back into the library.
He'd finally managed to rid his jumper of ice, but he was more concerned about his all-too human companion, who did silly little things like get cold when she got stuck in an ice cave for two hours.
"Mmph," Rose replied noncommittally, snuggling deeper into the blanket he'd left her with when he'd gone to dry off.
He frowned at the thick book in her hands, so much different than what she usually read. Rose caught him looking, and held up the front cover at a better angle so that he could read it.
"Harry Potter?" he asked. "Isn't that a children's book?"
Rose shot him a dirty look. The Doctor put his hands up defensively.
"Mum and I used to read 'em together," Rose said, fondly patting the back cover. "I was eleven when the first book came out. Perfect age, you know."
He stared blankly.
"You don't know."
The Doctor shook his head.
"You've never read them. Nine hundred years old, and you haven't read Harry Potter?"
She pulled the giant blanket off of herself, moved over on the couch and patted the space next to her. With some trepidation, the Doctor sat down next to her. Rose tossed the blanket over both of them and held the book up for him to see it.
"We're going to fix that right now."
He raised an eyebrow. Rose resolutely pretended not to notice.
"Are they still popular, in the future?"
The Doctor resisted the urge to correct her: future, after all, was a relative term, and seeing as they were in the vortex, there was no future. He managed to reel himself in just in time.
"Required reading from the forty-fifth century to the fifty-second."
Rose made a face.
"As soon as they called somethin' required reading, I didn't want to read it."
"Hang on, you didn't want to read the Crucible? Or Shakespeare? Or—"
"I get the point," Rose said, blowing a puff of hair out of her eyes.
The two engaged in a brief tug-of-war over the blanket before he got a chance to reply. Rose won when he gave up.
"Tomorrow," he said, "we're going to see Arthur Miller."
"Only if we read a chapter tonight," Rose said.
The Oncoming Storm became the Oncoming Gentle Breeze the moment she started giving him the puppy dog eyes, so he caved.
"All right," he said grudgingly. "One chapter."
Rose flashed him a bright, tongue-tipped smile and opened the book.
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number Four Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much..."
"Quirrel is working for You-Know-Who?" he asked, grabbing the book so he could read the sentence for himself.
"I dunno why you're surprised," Rose said. "Happens to us all the time. Sweet, innocent, stuttering evil minion."
The Doctor had expected a twist (Snape, after all, was far too obviously evil) but the stuttering, comic-relief Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher had been a distant last on his list, right after Neville Longbottom.
"D'you want me to keep going?"
He looked over her shoulder as she began to read again, acutely aware of the absurdity of a nineteen-year-old, twenty-first century human girl reading a children's book to a nine-hundred-year-old Time Lord. When had this insignificant little human become the most important thing in his life?
Thankfully, Adam Mitchell only delayed their routine rather than stop it. The Doctor had known that it was a bad idea to bring him aboard from the beginning, but he hadn't been able to resist Rose's pleading, particularly after nearly losing her. It had taken all of his self-restraint not to wrap her up in a hug and never let her go. Then, Adam had followed her around the TARDIS like a bloody lost puppy and they'd barely had time to talk. (And then, she'd wanted an explanation of the creature in the bunker, one that he felt required to give.)
"Ready?" Rose asked hesitantly, holding out The Chamber of Secrets.
"It was Adam's own fault, you know," he said. "Not yours for inviting him along."
Some of the worry dropped from her eyes. The tension in her shoulders that the Doctor hadn't noticed drained away. He slipped his hand into hers and tugged her over to what Rose had dubbed 'the Potter couch.'
Rose opened the book to the place they'd left off and began to read.
"Harry, Ron and Hermione had always known that Hagrid had an unfortunate liking for large and monstrous creatures…"
"Had to read that in History," Jack said, scooping the copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban that the Doctor and Rose had been reading off the table beside the Potter couch.
The Doctor looked up from his book (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy—the real version, not the one written by Douglas Adams) long enough to fix Jack with an icy stare. Rose, however, grinned. The Doctor looked away. He was not jealous. Time Lords did not get jealous.
"We read it after we get back from wherever we were," Rose explained, taking it from his hands and opening it up. "Care to join us?"
The look the Doctor gave Jack would have made Weeping Angels run and hide in fear. The ex-Time Agent didn't take long to consider his options. An angry Time Lord, particularly an angry last of the Time Lords was never a good thing to have after you.
"Nah, I'm good. I'll leave you two lovebirds to it," he said, winking at the Doctor as he strode out.
"We're not," they began, but Jack shut the door before they could finish.
The Doctor muttered something rude in Sontaran under his breath that the TARDIS didn't bother translating for Rose. She got the message anyway.
"It was nice of you to save him," Rose said
He pretended not to notice how close she curled up next to him, book in hand, but he wasn't focused on what she was reading at all.
"It took a few seconds for the absurdity of this statement to sink in. Then Ron voiced what Harry was thinking. 'You're both mental.'"
The Doctor stumbled a little coming over the threshold of the library, still attempting to get used to his new form. Rose jumped as he came in.
"Sorry," she said, tucking the magazine back in its place. "You sound different when you walk."
He settled next to her on the couch, pulling a blanket over both their shoulders, much more comfortable with the close proximity than his last regeneration had been.
"So how many times has this happened?" Rose asked, gesturing at him.
"Nine," he said, refusing to admit that he had ever lived, even to her. "Tenth body, nine deaths."
"Oh," she said. Then, "What's it like?"
"What's what like?"
"The next great adventure," he joked.
Rose hit him with The Goblet of Fire. He rubbed his arm, muttering a mock 'ouch' under his breath.
"I don't know," he said truthfully, knowing she was thinking of Jack. He'd tell her the truth one day. "I've only ever regenerated."
"Is that a Time Lord thing or a…last of the Time Lords thing?"
"Time Lord thing," he confirmed. "It's a defense mechanism."
She nodded, though he could still see the loss fresh in her eyes. She missed him, Mr. Big Ears and Thousand Yard Stare.
"Do you still…still want to come?" he asked uncertainly.
"Yeah. Yeah I do."
She leaned against his shoulder and opened The Goblet of Fire to where they had left off.
"D'you still want to read?"
His grin was all the answer she needed.
"Dumbledore stood up. He stared down at Barty Crouch for a moment with disgust on his face."
"Nooo!" the Doctor wailed dramatically.
Rose shook her head and patted him kindly on the shoulder. The offending book, The Order of the Phoenix, was clutched innocently in her other hand.
"Poor Sirius," he said, voice hushed.
Rose nodded sympathetically. "I cried for about an hour after we read that. Mum too."
"I'm going to find a universe where Bellatrix Lestrange is real and strangle her. Twice."
Rose arched her eyebrow.
"Time Lord," he reminded her.
"D'you want to keep going, or d'you want me to stop?"
He waved her on, though his mind was elsewhere. While Cedric had reminded him of all the innocent bystanders that had been lost in his struggle, he identified more with Sirius, who had been unbearably similar to every brave soul who'd willingly—recklessly—died for him. Rose seemed to recognize this, because she paused before reading again.
"'He hasn't gone!' Harry yelled."
After the events of Krop Tor, they both agreed without saying to read faster. They blew through The Half Blood Prince quickly.
The Doctor was worried. Something in the universe had shifted. Something to do with Rose. Usually, he wouldn't have noticed. He tried to avoid sensing companion's timelines, but Rose's Bad Wolf stunt had spread hers everywhere. Something had changed the moment the Beast had spoken his prophecy. Rose wasn't as cautious with the words 'the Valiant Child who will die in battle so very soon' hanging over her head.
"…he felt his heart lift at the thought that there was still one last golden day of peace to spend with Ron and Hermione."
Rose closed the book, a satisfied expression on her face.
"Is he innocent or guilty?" she asked about Snape, turning to him.
The Doctor thought for a moment, distracted slightly by her head perched on his shoulder. He knew better than anyone what it was like to have to commit a terrible act for a good reason.
"Well," he said, stretching out the L, "it doesn't seem like Dumbledore to plead, does it?"
Rose shook her head. "But he was in pain, and a bit delirious, too."
"I think Snape is innocent," the Doctor declared.
"Guilty," Rose decided. "Dumbledore deserved better."
"You're wrong, Rose Tyler, and I'm going to prove it."
She was gone. Gone! Rose Tyler, gone from his life with the most terrible goodbye in the long history of his goodbyes to remember him by. The Doctor dropped on to the Potter couch and covered his face with his hands. Through his fingers, he saw a book.
Fingers trembling, he picked it up. The bookmark where she had left it two nights previously, just before the Battle of Hogwarts was due to begin. Leaving the bookmark where it was, he flicked open to the page they'd been on and began to read:
The enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall was dark and scattered with stars, and below it the four long House tables were lined with disheveled students, some in traveling cloaks and others in dressing gowns.
He read and read, forcing himself to hear it in her voice, hear her terrible voices for each character yet love them anyway, hear the long pauses she took before dramatic bits just to irritate him. He pretended she was curled up next to him, hanging on to every word.
The Doctor cried for Severus Snape, who never had a chance to say it either; for Remus and Tonks, who had had to say goodbye to their son just like had Susan; for Fred because he had so much left in front of him; and then for George, because he knew all too well what it was like to carry on without them; for Mrs. Weasely, losing her son and watching her family risk their lives; for Colin Creevey, who had fought when their chances were astronomically small. Finally he cried for Harry Potter, knowingly sacrificing himself so that the rest could live but not quite managing the job.
But most of all, the Doctor cried for Rose Tyler, the girl who'd brought magic into his life where he'd thought there'd never be magic again.
"Wait 'til Book Seven. Oh, I cried"