Finally - the end! I... honestly cannot believe I finished a fic. This was one of the more emotionally intense stories I've ever done, and I've been so overwhelmed by the response. Do let me know if you have ideas or headcanons you'd like me to pursue in future fic! In the meantime, I'll be working on A Bouquet of Scandals, so do check that out too. Once more, thank you for sticking with my lazy arse.

And just a little final note: the song that inspired this story is Close To You by The Carpenters. I think I made that pretty obvious though, ha :'D

Epilogue: Abraxus

A little over a year later, on a sunny midsummer's day, Scorpius Apparated onto a charming gravel drive framed by brimful beech trees.

He stumbled slightly at the landing, taking a moment to recover his equilibrium. Apparating always made him somewhat nauseous; Scorpius had long considered it an occupational hazard.

If nothing else, at least the jarring buzz of London's chaotic city life had gone from his ears, replaced instead by the muted sounds of a serene afternoon. Above him, a canopy of sparsely toothed branches swayed and sighed, startlingly green leaves swishing lazily to the symphony of birdsong. Patches of sunlight quivered at his feet as he walked, a leisurely breeze tickling against his tanned cheeks, warm and inviting. Nature, Scorpius thought with a rush of pleasure, always knew exactly how to welcome him home. The soles of his oxfords crunched against the gravel, each sound punctuating his purposeful stride towards the humble country house in the distance.

Upon graduation, Scorpius had chosen to move into the Abraxus House, a property built and owned by his great-grandfather. The house was modest in size, constructed of mellow red brick and slate roofs, and sat discreetly on the fringe of the Malfoys' expansive Wiltshire estate.

At first glance, it surely lacked the luxury of the Manor, but Scorpius' favourite parts of the Abraxus House were outside of it. Abraxus Malfoy had chosen a prime spot to locate his sanctuary. Every room overlooked the lush, sprawling greenery of towering oak and beech trees. In the distance, gentle rolling slopes of meadowland dipped into a glorious lake that mirrored every pigment of the sky.

To Scorpius, the serenity offered by the Abraxus House was far more valuable than the waxed marble floors and Roman pillars he grew up with. Indeed, there was something rather subversive about the house's obvious lack of vanity—as though Abraxus had undermined the suffocating formality demanded of him through his subtle choices in architecture.

Draco and Astoria had been reluctant to let Scorpius move out of the Manor. They regarded the Abraxus House as too crass to pass for a family heirloom, but Scorpius had warmed up to the property the moment he saw it. The moment he turned eighteen, he asked his father for the keys.

Here, he planned to build his dreams.

The faint hum of music reached his ears as he neared the doorstep, where the large oak door sat ajar. As he entered the house, he was greeted by a high-ceilinged staircase hall. He made his way through the adjoining space, pausing in the middle of a modest, oak-floored drawing room.

Despite the exhaustion he felt from the week's travels, Scorpius could feel a smile touch his lips as the pillowy sounds of Goldfrapp drifted past him. Since moving in together, he and Rose had unwittingly built an eclectic vinyl collection comprising music from both muggle and wizarding worlds. In recent times, both of them had become obsessed with Goldfrapp and the 80s-inspired wizarding duo, Clock & Quack.

Voices were coming from the kitchen terrace at the back of the house. He arrived at the edge of the kitchen, letting the familiarity of Rose's voice wash over him.

Her very presence felt like a balm on his soul.

"But if you could just shift just so," Rose was saying from beyond the rain-stained french doors, "your face will catch the light, and your nose will finally behave—"

"I have a perfectly fine nose, Rosie. Has it been an hour? Surely your clients aren't expected to sit still for an entire hour!"

Rose sounded like she was trying not to laugh. "Some of them did request a body-bind spell."

"You're not thinking of using it on me, surely?"

A pause. Scorpius had no doubt Rose was considering the idea. Then, with a lilt of amusement in her voice—"Of course not, dad."

Scorpius moved closer to terrace as Rose continued to bicker with her father. Ron Weasley was seated awkwardly across from her canvas, looking torn between amusement and exasperation. He and Rose shared the same deep blue eyes, but his had none of her dreamy qualities. Instead, it was humour that dominated his expressions, a constant laugh skirting the edge of his words. Indeed, Ron exuded an affability that would have anyone mistake him for an approachable fellow… which he was. Unless your last name was Malfoy, or you were sleeping with his daughter.

In Scorpius' case, he certainly was both.

Which meant he should definitely approach with caution, no matter how friendly Ron Weasley was looking today.

Scorpius set down his briefcase, leaning against the kitchen counter and clearing his throat. Rose and Ron glanced over at him then; her face lit up, an adorable delight filling her face at the sight of him. Scorpius didn't even notice Ron frowning at his appearance. He was too distracted by Rose, who looked impossibly lovely in the late glow of the afternoon, her sunkissed skin contrasting gorgeously against the crisp white of her paint-stained tunic. But most of all he relished the unbridled happiness in her eyes as she hurtled past the french doors and into his arms, a secret kiss pressed into his neck. The intimate soap scent of her skin filled his senses… like opium to an addict.

"You're back," she whispered, fighting back a goofy little smile as she gazed up at him.

"Hi," he murmured.

Just her closeness alone was enough to undo reason. It took all of his restraint not to cart her off to bed, or pin her against the nearest wall, or kiss her into oblivion right there and then—Ron Weasley be damned. As though reading his thoughts, Rose pulled away abruptly from his hold, a coy promise in her crinkling gaze. Scorpius remembered to breathe.

He schooled his expression as he turned to Ron, who now had red patches spreading across his cheeks. Scorpius swore he could see the heat radiating off of him in currents.

Rose glanced at her father with barely suppressed elation. Her fingers curled into Scorpius'. "He's home," she said merrily.

"I can see that," Ron said. He stood up stiffly from the deck chair, stepping gingerly across the threshold and into the kitchen, looking quite uncomfortable as he held out a grudging hand. "Mal… Scorpius."

"Mr Weasley, sir. It's good to see you."

"Rosie told me you were in London with Bill." A pause. "How did it go, then?"

"Aunt Fleur wrote me a few days ago," Rose blurted impulsively. "She's beside herself about the breakthrough, but how did the tests on Uncle Bill—"

Scorpius couldn't resist a smile at her enthusiasm. For close to three years, Scorpius and Needham had been working to crack the healing components that would repair the scars caused by werewolf bites. In the past few months, they had engaged Drusia Spatafore, an experienced Potioneer and a good friend of Needham's, to help them produce the first batch of antidotes. Bill Weasley had been their very first patient.

The fortnight he spent in London had been spent monitoring Bill's reaction to the tests. While the process took time, it soon became apparent that the scars would heal and fade with daily use of the antidote. In a best case scenario, Needham beamed, consistent usage could lead to the permanent recovery of Bill's formerly handsome features.

The high colour in Ron's face subsided as Scorpius delivered the good news. He began to nod, looking rather pleased despite himself.

"Well, this is… excellent work, boy. I suppose it's time I pay Bill and Fleur a visit." As his daughter looked up at Scorpius, her expression so openly smitten that it was impossible to miss, Ron added with some difficulty, "I have never gotten along with your father, as you know… but you're a credit to your parents, Scorpius."

"You could come over again tomorrow." Rose shot Ron a hopeful look. "Mr and Mrs Malfoy wanted to come see what we've done with the house, so we invited them over for breakfast. It'd be lovely if you and mum come, too. Scorpius is a pretty great cook—he understands herbs, you see." Her face had turned slightly pink. "He makes a delicious pecan cake, though he'll have to tone down on the sugar if you're coming by. He makes it extra sweet for me."

Scorpius felt his own cheeks heat up at the rather startled look on Ron's face. He met Scorpius' eyes, and suddenly there seemed to be a shared commiseration between the men. It was apparent they had that quality in common. They adored Rose with all their hearts, and could deny her nothing. And that included her absurd love of sweets.

At length, Ron said, "Well, we must keep it extra sweet, then." His voice was oddly low and gruff. "Your mum and I will come by for breakfast."

Rose's lips parted slightly in surprise. Then, she brightened like sunshine, as though understanding what he meant. Ron cleared his throat noisily and gave them a brusque nod, accepting a warm hug from Rose and a handshake from Scorpius.

Then, with a loud crack, he had Apparated away.

Rose turned to look at Scorpius.

The sudden privacy seemed to electrify the languid summer air, the once pleasantly warm room now almost too hot underneath his collar. Scorpius managed a staggered breath, savouring the sight of her unruly hair in a haphazard bun barely held together by a pencil… her quirky little smile, still carrying traces of her shyness even after the years they shared together.

Merlin, he wanted to touch her.

And yet, something stopped him from reaching for her. At Ron's exit, he could sense a change in her demeanor; she seemed almost to be buzzing from the inside, despite the fact that she had barely moved from where she was. As though she had a secret to tell, and had been waiting for the right moment to share it.

"I have to show you something," she said.

They stepped past the french doors, where a number of paintings were perched on easels. Rose slipped her hand in his, leading him towards the biggest canvas. It was a still life of the land that sprawled out from the Abraxus House... of the sprawling slopes of meadowland, dotted with beech and oak trees under a wide, cotton-filled sky.

Rose released his hand and turned her attention to the painting before her, raising her wand.

One flick. Two flicks. Three.

Concio expergefacio, she murmured, anima veritas.

Within the painting, the sun rose before them, brush strokes of volcanic orange bursting at the seams of the horizon and splashing haze gold onto the morning mist. The sun changed positions, turning morning to noon to night, and back again. Rose retreated, her back brushing against Scorpius' chest. Instinctively, he wrapped his arms around her, drawing her tightly to him.

Together, they watched as the still life painting seemed to exhale and breathe in a whirlpool of movement… the brush strokes, so fine and delicate, seemed to gasp and tremble, some irresisitible force emerging to the surface. The fine beech trees within swayed ever so gently, as though finding the rhythm of some passing breeze. Then, the rush of movement swelled and settled in the frame; the painting sighed, as picturesque as the very afternoon that surrounded them. Inside the canvas, the sun finally came to rest, sipping silver at the edges of the clouds. A brilliantly painted mirror image of its true life counterpart.

"A miracle, isn't it?" Rose said, her breath slightly hitched. Her fingers were still clutched tightly around her wand, as though she could hardly believe what she'd done.

"Yes," he whispered.

"To summon nature, one must understand it," Rose continued, as though in an awe-inspired trance. "Like composing the symphony of a storm, or crafting the first breath of dawn… I tried this for years. I could make a painting move. That was the easy part. But giving it the life of nature itself, its moods and temperaments…"

"When did you master this?"

"A week ago. While you were gone." Rose glanced up at Scorpius with a sheepish grin. "Less distractions."

Her candid response made him laugh, the tightness in his chest rising within him to find relief in his smile. "Do you know how special magical painters are?"

"Very. It's not very fashionable, is it? Everyone wants to be an Auror these days."

"Like Albus."

"Exactly like Albus."

"Which makes you a rare commodity."

Rose chuckled. "Well, I have a few commisions on hand. Did I tell you Brock McLaggen wrote me? He'd like me to paint his father's portrait."

"Tell him no."

"I already said yes. He's dating a model, anyway." Rose turned within his embrace, biting back a smile as he lowered his head to nuzzle her neck. "You think I'd fall for a man who can't tell Manet from Monet?"

"Fine. Take the commission. It doesn't matter where you go." His lips pressed into the soft line of her jaw, the briefest of kisses. "I'd steal you back somehow."

"Mmm. What's your strategy there?"

"A seduction involving Sherbet Lemon and some talk about Dali."

"You know my heart. How could I possibly resist you?"

"You couldn't." Scorpius drew a trembling breath as a flare of want seared through him, making him unable to resist kissing her again. "I thought we'd already established that."

Rose's eyes fluttered shut as his hands reached up to cradle her face, marking her skin with kisses… her forehead, her eyelids, her freckled cheeks, her dainty nose. She made a soft, adorable sound as his mouth found hers, the relief of finally being close to her overwhelming him.

They stumbled back into the house, her back now pressed against a wall—he didn't care where they were at this point. His tongue melded into hers, selfish and unyielding as he kissed her, seeking more heat, more depth, more everything. Rose tasted like the devil's own concoction of lemon and sunshine… Scorpius tilted his head, deepening the kiss, his tongue teasing hers in a heated dance… before tracing the outskirt of her lush lower lip.

He could feel Rose coming apart against him, her sweetness and light so, so delectable under his mouth. His fingers had curled into her red hair, kisses trailing down the lovely line of her neck. She felt perfect in his hold… all soft curves and feather bones, her toes holding her up between his feet, arms gently circled around his neck and locking him against her.

They had made love for the first time in their seventh year, the night she finally returned to his arms after a separation that felt too long. Their first time had been marked by shyness and inexperience, but as always they managed to learn alongside each other, passion and heat interspersed with gentle affection and familiar giggles… She had devastated him with every move she made beneath him, his shuddering breaths cradled in the safety net of her red hair, her soft cries caught in his languid, open-mouthed kisses. Afterwards, Scorpius had held Rose against his chest and breathed her in as she slept, filled to the brim with a terrible happiness… and the reckless possessiveness of her very bones.

Rose's eyes fluttered open, her fingers raking gently through his hair. "What are you thinking about?"

Scorpius merely stared back at her, a fond smile stealing into the corner of his mouth. "I'm just glad," he said, voice low and hoarse, "that I don't have to miss you anymore."

"I've missed you too," she said softly. "So much that I feel bruised from the inside."

It was one of life's mysteries, how Rose Weasley could ever think she was anything but the sun or moon, the stars or the sky, in his very private universe. He forgot when or how, but he saw her in everything he cherished… Peaceful evenings by the fire. A chapter in his favourite book. The pleasure of a pale, dewy morning. She was all the beautiful things he could not explain, not through science or alchemy.

Scorpius was a man of reason, but he adored her to a point beyond his own comprehension.

His hand had worked up under her tunic, coming to palm the delicious curve of her breast. His arousal nudged against her stomach, drawing a soft breath from her. Scorpius lowered his head, tugging the loose tunic off her delicate shoulders. He took his time, teasing the slopes and valleys of her clavicle with his tongue, a silken kiss moving across her skin to linger hotly in the hollow under her throat. Her wispy frame writhed against his, sending pulses of consuming desire coursing through them both. He swallowed a moan as she held his face in her gentle hands, their slow, sipping kisses turning heated and intimate once more.

Without warning, he pulled away, swiftly picking Rose up in his arms. "Bed."

"Scorpius!" Rose protested, a squeak caught in her throat as she found her balance in the air. "Wait—"

"I've waited long enough." Scorpius glanced down at her, his gaze heavy with intent. "Got nothing planned, I hope? Because we're not going anywhere."

Rose stared at him, a faint blush spreading across the bridge of her nose. "…You do know our parents will be here for breakfast."

Scorpius raised a mischievous eyebrow before springing them towards the bedroom. Rose burst out laughing, the sweet sound echoing through the walls of the house.

They had plenty of time.

- the end -