Oh and it's good to be back! This story is rated Mature for events in the final chapter.

Disclaimer: Characters and world belong to JK, I am simply borrowing.

The Rumour Mill - Chapter 1

Rose awoke that Saturday morning to a strange feeling of contentment. She woke naturally, no need for her usual weekday alarms, and could feel the spring sunshine streaming in through her crooked window blinds, casting her neck and shoulders in a warm bath of light. The sheets entangling her legs felt clean and crisp for once, having finally managed to sneak her laundry into the washing machine between Albus' never ending loads of dirty Quidditch kits, and she silently thanked Merlin for taking her cousin Roxanne's advice about investing in a King-sized bed. Despite the fact it took up nearly every spare inch of space in her tiny, rented bedroom, the luxury of being able to stretch out her limbs after a wearing week at work gave her unbridled pleasure.

Relishing in this recent, exuberant purchase, Rose threw her arms and legs wide beneath the sheets, earning – to her abject horror – a snarled curse from the direction of her spare pillow.

"Buggering Hell, Weasley! I can think of nicer ways to wake up than being kicked squarely in the Gobstones!"

Blue eyes snapping open and scrambling to sit upright, Rose stared down in mad panic at the young man occupying the other half of her bed. Scorpius Malfoy winced back at her, bent double beneath the sheets, grumbling a string of curse words and clutching at his groin.

"Malfoy!" Rose shouted in surprise. "You're in my bed!"

"Very astute of you," he snapped, still nursing his unfortunate injury. "How wonderful to see that Auror training extends to observational skills and physical combat."

Rose's mouth gaped. "My bed. You're in my bed," she blinked away the last vestiges of sleep, growing increasingly furious by the second. "Why in the name of Merlin's left arse cheek are you in my bed, Malfoy?!"

Scorpius simply groaned and rolled over to face away from her angry onslaught. "And it is far too early for anyone to be squealing like that."

"I do not squeal!" she smacked him hard in the arm, momentarily distracted. "I am not a piglet!" Although, given quite how startled she was to find this particular individual next to her in bed that morning and how high-pitched her admonishments sounded even to her own ears, it was entirely plausible that she was indeed squealing.

Clambering out of bed and over the semi-lifeless body of her bedfellow, she turned to glare at him, hands on hips. "Malfoy," she started, warningly, "explain yourself this minute or…" she let her threat hang in the air. They both knew the level of punishment she was capable of exacting.

Scorpius prised one eye open and stared at her, his silver gaze dropping to her choice of nightwear, an amused smirk quickly following. Rose glanced down at herself and blushed crimson. It had been a warm May evening the night before and she'd gone to bed in nothing but a thin vest top and a pair of old knickers, patterned with tiny red and gold lions.

"Bloody Gryffindors," he chuckled.

She glared and snatched at the bed sheets, ripping them away from Scorpius and wrapping herself up in them like a ridiculous oversized toga. Unfortunately, this now left him rather exposed instead. He lay there in nothing but a pair of grey boxers, and from the way his smirk was widening, was clearly far less opposed to showing off his underwear than she. Rose averted her gaze from the sight of him, practically naked and man-spreading across her sheets. If she wasn't entirely mistaken, he appeared to have something of a morning arousal. The very fact that she now had that unfortunate image burned into her brain made her cheeks flush an unusually vibrant shade of beetroot.

"You have five seconds to explain yourself, Scorpius, or I am hexing your 'gobstones' to ensure that you are the last of the so-called 'Pure and Ancient' Malfoy line!" she snarled at him.

He propped himself up on one elbow and gave her his best puppy dog stare, pale blond hair mussed haphazardly. "Look, Weasley, I swear to you, there was nowhere else for me to stay."

She gawped at him. "How about literally anywhere else in the world but here?"

He merely rolled his eyes. "I was out with Albus and we both drank too much to apparate home. My new place isn't on the Floo network yet, so Al said I could stay here."

"And you're in my room, not his, because?"

"He, er, brought a girl home with him." Scorpius was practically beaming with fraternal pride.

Rose rolled her eyes. Well, that was hardly an unusual occurrence. One of her many gripes with her cousin, best friend and flatmate, was that he was currently cycling through women as if sex was going out of fashion. "And you couldn't just sleep on the sofa like a normal person?"

"Er, you don't have one anymore," he grinned, sheepishly, "sorry about that too, by the way."

Bollocks, he was right, she realised. Their lovely green suede couch had recently been the unwitting victim of a classic Al versus Scorpius duel to the death. On this occasion, wands had been foregone in favour of dungbombs, smuggled no doubt from her Uncle George's shop. Rose had come home to a wall to wall stench and a variety of dubious stains on her furniture. The couch, she could only presume, had been used as some sort of barricade during the hard-fought tussle, and was irreparably stink-ridden. She had eviscerated it that same night and charged Albus with buying a replacement. A task he had evidently yet to succeed at.

It was incidents such as the dungbomb fiasco which had helped to elevate Scorpius over the years to the position of Rose's least favourite houseguest. That and his obnoxious behaviour, his stance on almost every major moral and political argument and his ever-growing opinion of himself, to name but a few of his notable charms. Rose had had the misfortune of Scorpius' unwanted presence in her life for far longer than she would have cared for, ever since he and Albus had become friends at Hogwarts. The two had been sorted into Slytherin together, whilst she had been sent off to live in Gryffindor Tower, the boys' bond deepening through a mutual love of Quidditch, general mischief and – as they got older – charming unsuspecting witches with their easy grins and knowing smirks.

Rose found the double act vomit inducing.

At least when it came to Albus, she knew there was another side to him. They'd practically grown up as siblings, after all, and so she loved him in a way that such annoyances could just about be overcome. Al could also be kind when he wanted to be – he would make her tea in the morning before a long shift, would run her a bath if he knew she'd had a day of heavy field training and send her postcards whenever he trained away with the Falmouth Falcons.

Scorpius, as far as she could tell, had absolutely no such redeeming qualities. Not that she had any desire to receive postcards from the prat, mind you.

"This is not okay," Rose pinched the bridge of her nose, shaking her head of matted copper curls and muttered to herself. "This is absolutely not okay. There has to be boundaries! He can't just let himself in to my bedroom, my bed no less, like he owns the place -,"

"You know, Weasley," came that infuriating drawl, "they say talking to oneself is often the first sign of madness." Scorpius, still making himself comfortable on her inviting King-sized mattress, grinned up at her. "And I should know, runs in the family, probably all the inbreeding."

She glared, "Actually, I'm just rehearsing what I'm about to say to Al, to convince him once and for all that you are banned from coming to this flat!"

"Now, now, no need to be like that," he swung his legs round so he was perched on the edge of the bed, stretching his arms leisurely over his head with a yawn.

"Malfoy, I'm serious," she snapped at him. "This is my personal space! You've gone too far this time -,"

"I really didn't think you'd mind," he shrugged, deflecting her rage with his usual nonchalance. "Besides, you didn't even know I was there. Why do you have such a big bed in here anyway? Planning on entertaining some lucky half-giant, I bet. Professor Hagrid got a cousin?" The rude grin he was now offering her was enough to make her blood boil. She settled for the most poisonous glare she could muster, fists clenching where they still gripped at the sheets.

"One of these days, I'm going to perfect my anti-arsehole wards on this flat and you're going to splinch yourself to high heaven trying to apparate into our living room."

Unfortunately, this only served to make the prat howl with laughter. "Merlin, you are feisty first thing in the morning, Rosie!"

"And for the last time, do not call me that!" she turned on her heel, half stumbling over the tangle of sheets around her ankles as she stomped for her bedroom door, Scorpius padding barefoot and practically naked in her wake, still bubbling with laughter. "You are truly the most insufferable git, Malfoy! How Al manages to spend so much bloody time with you when I would rather pull out every single one of my eyelashes by hand, is completely and utterly beyond me!"

"And you, Weasley, are an absolute delight and always have been. I really ought to come for sleepovers more often, don't you think?"

"No, I do not think-,"


At the sound of such a loud, feminine screech, Rose came to a sudden halt just over the threshold of her now open bedroom door. Scorpius – who was not paying attention to anything other than himself, as usual – stumbled into the back of her, slipping on her gown of sheets and inadvertently pulling them off her petite frame. Rose squealed again (she didn't think she'd ever made that noise before today and now listen to her) and reached out a hand to steady herself on the nearest firm object. Which just so happened to be Scorpius' chest. Instinctively, he slipped an arm around her waist to catch her.

And so that is how Lily Potter found them that morning: stumbling out of Rose's bedroom together, half naked and tangled in the sheets from the night before, hair mussed and arms around each other.

Rose stared at Lily. Lily stared at Rose. Malfoy stared at Lily and then at Rose and then at Lily again and snorted in amusement.

"S-sorry, Rosie, I was just returning that dress… didn't realise you had… company," Lily babbled, eyes darting curiously between the two of them, the spare set of keys that Albus claimed to have lost last month clutched in her fist.

It took Rose a few seconds to contemplate the horror of the situation she now found herself in. A picture of innocence, in her white tea-dress beneath a yellow raincoat that clashed awfully with her hair, Lily Potter was really anything but. Rose knew, after years of suffering the consequences of the girl's thirst for gossip and overactive imagination, that she'd just stumbled firmly into her cousin's cross-hairs.

"Lily," she started warily, swatting away Scorpius' hand that was still inexplicably resting at her hip, "this is absolutely not what it looks like -,"

"Oh, I'm sure," Lily's gaze fell to the sizeable and oddly persistent bulge at the front of Scorpius' boxers, and Rose could only watch as her eyes grew to the size of saucers. Lily threw her a scandalised look and winked in a way that couldn't have been less subtle if she'd actually tried.

Rose's cheeks turned a colour to match her hair. "Lily! I swear to you on Great-Aunt Muriel's life this is not -, I mean this did not happen!" she gestured wildly between herself and Scorpius.

The younger girl's eyebrows were creeping up her forehead at a rate of knots. Scorpius was muttering something about waiting to see if they would fall off her face entirely, which Rose pointedly ignored.

"Honestly, Rosie, it's really none of my business," Lily could barely contain her glee. As if that had ever stopped her before, Rose thought crossly. "I'm actually not surprised though, I had money on you two getting together much sooner than this -,"

Rose felt her heart starting to pound in her chest. "Good Godric, Lily! Are you deaf? We didn't - I mean, we haven't -… this did not happen!"

"Whas-all the yelling about?" A bleary eyed, wonky haired Albus chose that moment to appear out of his own bedroom. The other three caught a glimpse of discarded clothes and the unmistakeable shape of a naked woman under his sheets before the door swung shut behind him.

Rose, pointedly ignoring Lily's mutterings of "Merlin, this place is practically a brothel," turned on Albus furiously: "I need to talk to you! About your useless prick of a best friend!"

Lily let out a gasp, "You mean Al doesn't even know yet?! Oh, this is good."

"Lily, please!" Rose hissed desperately.

Albus squinted between the two girls. "What don't I know yet? Lily, why are you even here?"

"You don't know about Malfoy and Rosie!" Lily ignored him, jumping up and down on the balls of her feet in excitement.

"For the last time, there is no 'Malfoy and Rosie'," Rose was practically snarling now. "The prat was in my bed when I woke up, tell them Malfoy!"

She whipped around, red hair flying, only to find that he had disappeared. He emerged moments later at the archway to their little kitchenette, having apparently walked off to make himself a cup of coffee. Make that two cups. Sipping casually at his own, he brought the second over to her. Startled, Rose blinked down at her favourite Weasley's Wizard Wheezes mug with the chip in the rim – when in the name of Helga's saggy tits had Malfoy ever made her a cup of coffee before? – only snapping out of her bewildered reverie at Lily's audible: "That is so sweet!"

Hurrying to rid herself of this unwelcome offering and deliver him a poisonous (if somewhat confused) glare at the same time, she almost missed the odd little exchange between Scorpius and her sleep-deprived cousin. Lucky for her, Auror training really did sharpen your observational skills and so she caught the silent raised eyebrow from Al, and the all-but-imperceptible shake of the head from Scorpius in return.

"Look, Malfoy," Rose frowned, unable to escape the feeling that there was something there she wasn't totally privy to, "can you just tell them that there is no 'us', that we did not sleep together, and that you are simply an idiot with no respect for social boundaries?"

He appeared to consider this for a moment, took another slow sip of his coffee and then, "Weasley, that was - hands down - the best night of my life."

Rose gawped. Albus snorted. Lily clapped with glee.

"You treacherous git!" Rose snarled at him from between clenched teeth. Scorpius simply smirked, ruffling a hand through her already matted curls, and sauntered back into her bedroom, presumably to put some much-needed clothes on. In desperation, Rose turned back to Lily, and instantly knew that the damage was already done. Lily was practically skipping on the spot, vibrating with an energy that Rose didn't think was entirely healthy and probably mentally calculating how many people she could share this piece of news with before lunchtime.

"This is so brilliant, Rosie!" she cried.

"Lily, please listen-," Rose groaned, knowing full well it was far too late for reasoning with her.

"I have to go, meeting Roxy for coffee, but I can't wait to hear how this finally happened!" she crowed animatedly, half tripping over herself to head back out the front door. "I bet it's romantic – oh! and you have to tell me what he's like in the sack, because I've always imagined he must have a ginormous -,"

Rose was thankfully spared from hearing the end of that sentence by Albus slamming the door shut in his little sister's face. He offered her a part sympathetic, part disgusted grimace and shook his head as if to dislodge Lily's words from his ears.

"My sister needs to keep her imaginings to herself," he griped, looking up as Scorpius reappeared out of Rose's room, mercifully now clothed in a rumpled green t-shirt and dark jeans – standard fare for a night out in one of the Muggle London bars the two liked to spend their Friday nights in. "I'll leave you two lovebirds to it, then," Al muttered with a smirk of his own. Rose grimaced, she hated how he'd picked up that habit from his ghoul of a best friend. "And don't forget, Rosie, Sunday lunch at Grandma's tomorrow. It's bound to be, er, quite an interesting one now, I reckon."

Rose paled as Albus sloped back into his room, chuckling to himself. She just about glimpsed the bare leg of his night-time companion poking out from the duvet before the door swung shut, leaving her and Scorpius alone in the living room. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes, allowing herself a moment to process the truly horrendous start to her day, and giving Scorpius – if he knew what was good for him – a five second head start to make his escape before she hexed his arse into oblivion.

Evidently, he did not care much for self-preservation for when she opened her eyes again, fury simmering in the heat of her azure stare, he was leaning back against her door frame and grinning at her. "So," he drawled, "how long until I read about our upcoming nuptials in Witch Weekly, do you reckon?"

Rather than offer him a response – and she had many, several of which pertaining to the fact the he'd just admitted to reading Witch Weekly – Rose growled darkly and dived for her wand atop of the ring-stained coffee table. Eyes widening, Scorpius darted across the room and away from her, holding his hands up defensively.

"Oi! Careful! How do you know that the bird Al brought home isn't a…" he mouthed the word, "MUGGLE?!"

"You think I give a rats arse about the Statute of Secrecy after what you've just done?!" Rose advanced on him, furiously. The very tips of her curls crackling with unbridled rage.

"Alright, well…" Scorpius grappled for a way to stop the approaching onslaught of the human fireball. The fact that she was clad only in her knickers and vest making her no less terrifying. "In that case, it's just as well that it's Emily Longbottom he's got in there, isn't it?"

Rose stumbled to a halt, face a picture of shock. "That's… that's Emily?!"

The various scenarios in which Albus Potter had somehow managed to bed Rose's old dorm-mate turned Auror-Training partner, not to mention his childhood crush since third year, briefly flashed through her mind. The ones not involving the Imperius curse were rather few and far between and so she turned to stare at his closed door as if that would somehow provide her with answers. A moment too late, she realised that was exactly what Scorpius had counted on, and she whirled back around to find him across the room, one leg in the Floo already.

"Malfoy!" she hissed. "Get back here!"

He merely offered her a triumphant grin. "Been an absolute pleasure as always, Weasley. And, just in case no one's ever told you before, you snore like a drowning Hippogriff."

Rose shrieked with rage, firing off a jinx that missed the fireplace by inches, as Scorpius disappeared in a flame of green. His laughter seeming to echo around the tiny living room even after he'd gone.

Merlin, that man was the epitome of evil! There was no doubt in her mind that every member of her family would have heard about this by tomorrow morning. And whether or not he truly understood the Hell he had unleashed upon her by his actions, she planned on murdering him in the foulest way imaginable the moment she got the chance.

Scorpius Malfoy was dead meat.