A/N: Finally, I present: Chapter 7! To everyone dutifully waiting for an update, I can only apologise. As Ray very rightly pointed out in their last comment - it has been way more than 5 weeks (more like 5+7, I think, gah!). I can only blame real life and it's unrivalled ability to disrupt even the best laid plans, plus a nasty case of the WB for this chapter. It may have had about 67 re-writes and had me screaming at my laptop on multiple evenings, but here it is.

Do leave any comments/thoughts/feedback - I really do read them all and try to reply to any with a logged in username attached. They make my heart happy. (And thank you to everyone who asked or wished me well on my trip - they were the most amazing 5 weeks EVER.)

The Rumour Mill – Chapter 7

Lily Potter had been called many things in her lifetime by many different people. Her older brother, James, had once declared her to be an insufferable nitwit, which she'd found a bit rich coming from the only member of the family to get a T for Troll in one of their O.W.L.S. On another occasion, after a particularly explosive hour spent in the dungeons, her fifth-year Potion's professor had deemed her a public safety hazard with a cauldron, and with that one she rather had to agree. And Marcus Sloper – one time Hufflepuff Quidditch captain – had drunkenly claimed she was the best snog of his life (an accolade that Rose knew her cousin was secretly still proud of to that day). But one thing that no one had ever tried to claim was that Lily Potter was a forgiving soul which was why, as Rose timidly approached her bedroom door later that afternoon, she came bearing gifts. And she certainly didn't make any of the usual jokes about Lily still living with her parents.

"What's all this in aid of?" Lily asked primly, peering into the proffered bag containing a pint of her favourite ice cream from Florean Fortescue's, a bottle of rosé wine and the little sparkly mini-skirt that she always asked to borrow whenever she wanted to make an impression on a night out. Which was roughly every other Saturday.

Rose winced, "I may have been a little, er, hasty earlier. I'm sure you were only trying to help by ambushing me in my own home, ruining my day and humiliating me." Lily frowned. Rose bit the inside of her cheek; she'd never been the best at apologies. "What I'm trying to say," she sighed, "is that I'm sorry for kicking you out of the flat this morning. I guess I felt a little caught off-guard, that's all."

"You threatened to hex me," Lily sniffed, arms folding across her chest.

"Well, you were technically breaking and entering -," Rose snapped, then grimaced at the remarkable shortness of her own temper. What was it that Scorpius had said to her the other night? That she had the 'monopoly on yelling'. Well, whilst that might have a ring of truth to it when it came to their arguments, she didn't want that to be the case with everybody, especially not family.

"Look, I really am sorry, Lily," she muttered. "I suppose I'm probably near the bottom of the favourite cousin league tables right now, aren't I?"

Lily snorted. "Yes, you are. But lucky for you, you're the only cousin whose sexual exploits have recently made the national newspapers and so that wins you a few extra points for drama," she grinned at her cheekily.

Rose grimaced at the reminder of her most recent social humiliation, which was merely the latest in a string of mortifications directly related to a certain platinum blond. The fact that she seemed to mind less and less with each passing blow was something that she wouldn't be sharing with Lily for all the gold in Gringotts.

"Er, right, yes," Rose cleared her throat. "Well, if I'm still above James in the pecking order at least, I was hoping you might be able to help me with something."

That certainly piqued Lily's interest. "Help with what exactly?" she narrowed her eyes, suspiciously.

Rose had absolutely no idea why she suddenly found herself blushing. She fiddled with the hem of her jumper and jerked her head towards the wardrobe. "I actually wondered if I could borrow a dress…. Well, a ball gown, more specifically."

Lily's face lit up with unadulterated joy. It wasn't that Rose was a tomboy exactly, in fact, aside from her Auror-Training uniform (and really, who could honestly claim to pull off combat boots and an all black ensemble with a complexion like hers?), she thought she dressed rather nicely for her figure. Lily, however, was in another league entirely. The girl had a seemingly photographic memory of every fashion editorial in the history of Witch Weekly, knew exactly which silhouette to best suit any body type and could make you look like you came from the Delacour branch of the family without the need for Veela genes. Plus, ever since Albus had flown the nest to move in with Rose, Lily had unofficially converted his bedroom into additional wardrobe space, which meant plenty of room for her ever-expanding collection of fineries – muggle and wizard alike.

Apparently thrilled at the prospect of dressing her older cousin for the evening, Lily had already dragged her across the hall into her chamber of dress-robes and pulled out four or five different outfits before it even occurred to her to ask what Rose might be in need of a ball gown for.

"A ball, obviously," Rose mumbled, awkwardly, "Well, strictly speaking, it's a gala."

"What's a gala?"

"Merlin, if I know," she shrugged, running her fingers across the satin sash of one of the dresses and avoiding her cousin's curious gaze. "Apparently there's a lot of standing about making small talk, eating tiny amounts of food and being polite to people you'd probably rather hex into oblivion."

Lily tilted her head thoughtfully, "Will there be dancing?"

"Sweet Circe, I hope not," Rose snorted.

"And where exactly is this gala being held?"

Rose glanced nervously at her cousin, who was still watching her with great interest, before sticking her head into the next wardrobe containing Lily's rather impressive shoe collection. "S'atMalfoyManor," she directed at a pair of beaded wedge heels.

The was a moment of silence and Rose almost thought she'd gotten away with it, and then: "Rose Weasley, that isn't a vanishing cabinet, you know?! I can see and hear you perfectly fine! Are you telling me you're Scorpius' date to a 'gala' – whatever on Earth that is – at his parents' private home?"

Rose grimaced into the dark cupboard; it really did sound rather incriminating when she heard it spoken out loud. Peeking around the doorframe, she found that Lily's grin was now wide enough that it threatened to swallow the rest of her face entirely. "Look," she started to protest, "I'm only going as a friend -,"

"Oh, please!" Lily stomped her foot in frustration; Rose's eyes widened. "You're not still trying to sell me on that nonsense, are you? I haven't heard something so unbelievable since Roxanne blamed a hickey on a doxy bite! The two of you are in the bloody newspaper together, for Godric's sake -,"

"That photo is very misleading!" Rose cried.

"- And I've seen you together myself this morning, all cosied up in your pyjamas -,"

"It was just a bit of breakfast!"

Lily rolled her eyes in exasperation, "You and I both know it's never just a bit of breakfast."

"I don't even know what that's supposed to mean, Lily," Rose couldn't help but laugh.

Lily gave her a look that suggested she thought Rose might be the stupidest person on the entire planet, "It means that if someone is discovered having breakfast at your flat in their pyjamas, its likely they also spent the night there! Are you honestly going to try and convince me that you two didn't sleep together?"

At that, Rose faltered, "Well, I suppose, er -, I mean, technically we did, but -,"

"I knew it!" Lily clapped her hands together, animatedly. "And?"

"And nothing, Lily!" Rose scowled. "It was a purely platonic sleepover! We'd had too much to drink and it wasn't safe to apparate, and Scor– Malfoy is too lazy to get his Floo connection set up, so he stayed at the flat. That's all it was! Everyone was fully clothed the entire time!"

Lily looked obviously crestfallen. "But you two used to hate each other. Why would you let him stay over, unless -?"

"We're friends now, alright? Sort of, at least," Rose frowned. She was starting to feel almost as confused as her cousin. "Can we just drop it? Please?"

Lily held up her hands in defeat and turned her attention back to the pile of dresses she was sorting through, laying each one out on the bed for Rose's approval. She managed a whole blissful two minutes of silence before poking Rose on the arm to get her attention. "Just for clarity," she asked quickly, "have you two actually shagged, or not?"

Rose grit her teeth, "No, we have not!"

"Have you kissed?"

"No, Lily," Rose glared over her shoulder, warningly.

Lily knew she was pushing her luck, but she had one more question she really had to ask: "Well, do you want to?"

Rose faltered, cheeks flushing a deep crimson. "Don't be ridiculous!" she managed to choke out, before she shoved her head back inside the wardrobe, ignoring her cousin and the pesky inner voice reminding her that, actually, that all sounded rather appealing.

It took another forty minutes of shoe rummaging, trying on an insurmountable (and totally unnecessary, in Rose's opinion) number of dresses and letting Lily nit-pick at her overall appearance before Rose finally escaped the Potter family home. She had to admit that the emerald green, velvet, off-the-shoulder gown Lily had chosen for her did actually make the whole torturous affair worth the while.

Lily had also given her unduly strict instruction that it was bad manners to turn up at the time stated on the invitation and that being an hour late was unofficially customary. Thankfully, this had allowed Rose plenty of time to nip home, scrub off the top few layers of make-up that her cousin had enthusiastically applied, and dislodge some of the tight curls that had been pinned atop of her head in an elaborate structure of bobby-pins, sticking charms and hairspray. Rose felt the overall look was acceptable – she had clearly made an effort but she could, at least, still recognise herself in the mirror.

Then, with an uncharacteristic knot in her stomach (she would worry about why she felt quite so nervous another time), she had stepped into her fireplace and read aloud the address included with her invitation.

Much like the offices of Malfoy Incorporate, Rose had never visited Malfoy Manor of her own accord before. This had nothing at all to do with the history of the place and everything to do with the fact that she had – up until this week – had a vehement dislike of its young heir and future master. That wasn't to say she hadn't been intrigued by the place, however, and had on numerous occasions put the squeeze on Al for descriptions of the rooms and grounds. Now, as she stood in the grand entrance hall, trying to take stock of her surroundings, Rose felt she finally understood why Al had never tried out for the position of Seeker in any of his Quidditch teams, amateur or professional: he was clearly the least observant prat on the planet.

His descriptions of Scorpius' family home had been nothing short of the greatest understatements of all time. All Albus had ever told her about the Manor was that it was 'nice' or 'big' or 'clean'. In reality, the place was astonishingly beautiful, and she'd not even made it three yards from the fireplace. She took in the polished marble floors, the black pillars that looked as if they'd been carved from onyx or jet, and the enormous, ornate mirror that reflected the room back on itself, so that it seemed to go on forever.

Slowly, Rose followed the floating sounds of people and string music, gazing around herself like a first year stepping foot inside Hogwarts castle for the first time. She made her way passed portraits that looked as if they belonged in an art gallery, vases and busts that could have come straight from a museum, and ridiculous crystal chandeliers that made her feel like she'd accidentally stumbled into Versailles. When you lived somewhere like this, she thought – her mouth practically hanging open, spending half your childhood going to school in a castle must have felt like a real step down.

Eventually she found herself at the top of a flight of stone stairs leading out towards the gardens. The grounds, or what she could see of them in the evening light, were already littered with guests and also seemed to go on forever; the formal garden eventually giving way to a maze of hedgerow, and what looked like a vineyard disappearing into the darkness. She wondered idly what sort of charms their groundskeeper must use to grow decent grapes in the cool English climate – and then immediately congratulated herself for having such a sophisticated thought at all. She'd squirrel that one away for a lull in conversation, she decided.

Loitering awkwardly by the open French windows and trying to resist the urge to pull or tweak at her dress, Rose scanned the crowds for a familiar crop of blond hair. The garden was lit by a number of well-placed floating lanterns which, whilst very elegant, made it difficult to scope out the crowd. A number of guests had also, rather unhelpfully, chosen to wear very distracting hats and there was even a tiara or two in the mix, but no sign of Scorpius.

She was almost ready to give it up as a bad job and skulk back towards the fireplace when a familiar voice called up to her from the bottom of the steps: "I wasn't sure you'd actually come!"

She looked down to find the idiot himself, grinning and bounding up the stairs towards her, taking them two, three at a time till he drew eye level with her. Rose felt the knot in her stomach tighten at the sight of him. Though she preferred his hair a little less sleek and perfect, there was no denying he looked unjustly handsome in his midnight blue dress robes and with a fresh shave. He looked so genuinely thrilled to see her it made her knees wobble.

Rose swallowed quickly, turning away from the handsome git to survey the gardens again. "I know what it feels like to be stood up, remember? I wouldn't inflict that upon anyone, Malfoy, not even you."

Scorpius' grin took on a sly quality, "How very considerate of you, Rosie." He ignored the dangerous flash of her eyes at the use of the nickname and offered her his arm. "May I? I just saw a tray of champagne go by and, if we're quick, we might catch it before it finds its way to my Aunt Daphne."

Rose snorted her amusement but looped her arm through his, letting him lead her down the steps and onto the busy lawn. Glancing around, there wasn't a single soul here that Rose thought she recognised. She couldn't remember ever having seen so many well-dressed people in one place before and it was understandably a little intimidating. Almost instinctively, Scorpius moved closer to her as they made their way through the crowd, his hand sliding from her arm till it was resting against the small of her back. Oddly, Rose found the gesture rather comforting and pressed herself into his side a little more.

"You know," he muttered against her ear, "I was under the impression that would-be Aurors were a bunch of thuggish brutes who didn't know their way around a bar of soap, but you actually look somewhat presentable this evening."

"Oh, thank you very much" Rose rolled her eyes and fought a losing battle against her grin. "And I suppose congratulations are in order; I see you've learned how to use the top three buttons of a shirt, at long last."

She felt him chuckling beside her. "I think that might be the nicest thing you've ever said to me."

"Yes, well, don't let it go to your head, will you?" she bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself smirking at him.

Scorpius shook his head, amused, and reached out to grab them a flute each from a passing drinks tray. He pressed one into her hand and raised the other towards her. "A toast to us -," Rose's eyes grew wide. "– managing to be halfway civil to each other for almost a whole week. I think Al would be rather proud of us, don't you?"

It took Rose a moment to regain her composure. "Er, right, I mean, that's if we ever actually see him again, of course."

"Still no sign of him at the flat?"

She shook her head. "I'm beginning to think Emily might have eaten him."

"There are probably worse ways to go," Scorpius considered, "than being devoured by the woman you love."

"You think they're in love?" Rose's eyebrows jumped towards her hairline.

He smiled down at her, teasingly, "Don't you?"

She rolled her eyes again and tore her gaze away from him. "Merlin, Malfoy! If I'd known you were this much of a sap when we were at school, it would have been so much easier to make fun of you."

He simply grinned back at her, "You'd have been out of luck, I'm afraid. It seems to be something I'm growing into in my old age," before taking a hefty gulp of his drink and nodding at something over her shoulder. "Now, brace yourself, the cavalry's about to arrive."

"What-?" Rose had just enough time to ask before Scorpius had squared his shoulders and spun her around to face the oncoming assault. Mr and Mrs Malfoy were making their way through the crowds towards them, stopping every few yards to greet their various guests and giving Rose just enough time to realise how very unprepared she was for this particular introduction to take place. Indeed, when they eventually materialised in front of her, she found she had to take an involuntary step back, unwittingly pressing herself against the solid wall of Scorpius stood directly behind her and smirking in amusement.

"Miss Weasley, I presume?"

Rose's jaw went oddly slack. Staring up at Draco Malfoy was like having a vision of a future Scorpius. The shock of platinum, the steely grey stare, the frankly impossible cheekbones. People always told Albus he looked like his dad but this – this – was uncanny.

It took Rose a startled moment, and a nudge from Scorpius, to realise that not only was she openly staring, but that Malfoy Senior had his hand outstretched towards her. "Yes! That's me, s-sorry," she blushed, offering hers in return and allowing him to raise it chastely to his lips in greeting.

"Not to worry," Draco drawled. "Your family has always struggled with the complexities of social graces, as I recall."

"Father!" "Draco!" – the rest of the family Malfoy chastised him at once. But Rose had caught the ghost of a smirk as it passed over his otherwise stoic expression, and besides, she'd grown up with Hugo, being mocked on a daily basis was part of the deal.

"You should see us all at the dinner table," Rose offered him a conspiratorial grin, "it's a study in Darwinism."

Draco Malfoy stared at her for a moment, then let out a laugh from somewhere deep in his chest. "Excellent. Excellent!" he chuckled, arm curling tightly around the woman beside him. "Please, let me introduce my wife, Astoria, and welcome to our home."

For the first time, Rose focused her attention on the woman in front of her and would have likely gasped in awe if she hadn't already been made fun of once for her lack of manners. Astoria Malfoy was, like her house, astonishingly beautiful. Tall and lithe, with dark brown hair pulled up to frame her face. And suddenly, Scorpius no longer looked to her like a carbon copy of his father; Rose could see all the tell-tale hints of his mother, plainly on both of their faces. Although the colour of his eyes was all Malfoy, the shape of them was not. The soft curve of his upper lip, the line of his nose, the way he would calmly tilt his head to observe her - that was evidently all Astoria.

Helga's tits, she thought to herself, Scorpius really had won the genetic lottery coming from these two.

"Delighted to meet you, Miss Weasley," Astoria Malfoy had a voice that could make a werewolf purr. "I am so pleased that you were able to come tonight and very sorry for the lateness of the invitation." At that, she gave her son a look of jovial admonishment. Rose chanced a peek over her shoulder to find Scorpius grinning at both his parents, totally unabashed.

"Not at all, Mrs Malfoy. Thank you for inviting me," Rose found she had to resist a peculiar urge to curtsey.

"Astoria, please," the older woman added with a breath-taking smile. "'Mrs Malfoy' is still my husband's mother, to my ear. Now," she turned to her husband, "let's stop distracting these young people. I think Minister Finch-Fletchley has had a little too much Gillywater and may be about to fall into the koi carp pond. Shall we intervene?"

Draco's lips twitched with amusement, "If we must. A pleasure to meet you, Miss Weasley. And Scorpius, do try and behave yourself…" he added, with a look to his son that made Rose blush right down to the tips of her toes.

She watched the Malfoys glide away into the crowds again, her brow furrowing anxiously. "Scorpius," she started slowly, "do your parents think that we're -,"

"I haven't the faintest idea what they think," he cut in, casually. "Would you like to go and ask them?"

"No!" she cried. Merlin, she couldn't think of anything more mortifying. "Didn't they ask you about the Prophet article?"

Scorpius chuckled and looked down at her, his gaze warm. "I'll let you in on a secret: everyone in this family likes to assume they're the cleverest one in the room, myself included. Nobody asks for information directly unless they're absolutely forced to."

Rose stared at him, incredulously. She thought back to her conversation with Lily that afternoon; her cousin had asked her very directly, multiple times, and without even a hint of subtlety about her relationship with the man now in front of her. And she could still painfully recall every second of her lunch at the Burrow, with what had felt like twelve hundred pairs of prying eyes and ears. No one in her brood knew how to keep their questions to themselves, not even her mum. The contrast was mind-boggling, as if by coming here tonight she'd entered a parallel universe. It was weirdly refreshing, everyone minding their own business.

"I'm surprised your parents wouldn't object… hypothetically speaking, of course," she muttered quietly, sipping her glass of bubbles and watching Scorpius' father clap a hand over the Minister for Magical Transport's shoulder, steering him safely away from the water's edge.

Scorpius looked down at her in surprise, "And what, hypothetically, would they have to object to?"

Rose met his gaze and arched an eyebrow. "Well, me, I suppose. Hypothetically."

A smirk flitted at the corner of his mouth, reminding Rose very much of his elder. "To object to you would make them hypothetically morons," he muttered, smoothly.

Rose stared up at him for just a moment too long and felt her pulse-point jump nervously under his careful scrutiny. There was a heat to his gaze that was turning his irises the colour of thunder clouds. Rose clutched at her cold glass tightly, willing it to reduce the warmth that was beginning to creep along her skin. She cleared her throat and adjusted the silver bracelet tied at her wrist, "I believe I was promised megalomaniacs?"

Scorpius blinked at her, "What?"

"You said there'd be small talk, investors and shareholders and such. Aren't we meant to be 'networking' or whatever you business folk call it?" she gestured loosely at the surrounding crowds, her heartbeat still racing beneath her sternum.

"Yes. Right. Of course," Scorpius glanced around in surprise, as if he'd somehow forgotten anyone else was there. "I suppose the Vice Chairman of the company must pay his dues," he grinned at her. "I'll let you escape and find the bar, or if you want directions to the kitchens, Flimsy the House-Elf can make you a mean dirty martini."

Rose giggled at the very notion, "Where on Earth did she learn a thing like that?"

Scorpius shrugged cheerfully, "Ever since your mum emancipated them all, who knows what they get up to in their free time. Unless…" he paused, looking at her uncertainly, "Unless you'd like to keep me company? Be my partner in crime for a bit?"

She pretended to think on it for a second then rolled her eyes at him, "Isn't that why I came?"

Honestly, Rose thought, it was as if she'd just told the man that Slytherin house had somehow qualified for the Quidditch World Cup, the way his face broke out into such an almighty grin. The dimple in his left cheek had a nasty habit of making her feel woozy if she looked at it directly and so she glanced away, looking around the throng of people all dressed in their fineries, and asked, "So, where do we start?"

For the best part of an hour, Scorpius made his rounds amongst the guests. Shaking hands, slapping backs, and kissing the cheeks of the various witches and wizards who had invested their money in the ventures of he and his father. Rose remained dutifully at his side throughout, watching in fascination as he went to work. He introduced her, courteously, to every new face – sometimes just as 'Rose', sometimes as 'my friend, Rose', and on one awkward yet exhilarating occasion as 'Rose, my… my Rose'. (She had given him a funny look and he had flushed pink at the slip up.)

The conversations were always extremely dull, as they chit-chatted about quarterly returns and investment portfolios, and Rose might have found the whole ordeal incredibly tedious, had it not been for Scorpius' hand resting firmly against the hollow of her back, and his thumb, which had begun to trace a pattern of small, lazy circles against the velvet of her dress. She wasn't entirely sure that he even knew he was doing it. Certainly, he gave the impression of being entirely focused on his guests. But with each little brush of his fingers, Rose could feel the hairs on the back of her neck and arms standing up, and a heat, low in her belly, begin to simmer and pulse. She found herself inching closer to his side, till her hip pressed lightly against his. She started reaching out to touch him, mid-conversation – a casual hand on his arm, here or there. And when he grabbed them another few drinks from a nearby tray, her fingers seemed to linger an extra second or two over his as he passed her the glass.

Rose had never ever thought of herself as a flirt. It was almost as if her body were acting without her permission, simply responding to him in all these small ways, and she didn't know how to stop herself. It would have been embarrassing if it wasn't for the way he seemed to be responding to her, too. She'd stopped pretending to ignore the way he looked at her, or the way he angled himself around her – just a little too close to be entirely innocent. Being so near to him whilst also being surrounded by so many other people was starting to get a little frustrating.

And so, when Scorpius finally whispered in her ear that they'd done enough 'schmoozing' for the night and suggested going in search of that House-Elf made martini, Rose found herself agreeing so readily that it brought a smirk to his face. They quickly bid their goodbyes to those around them and, when Scorpius took her hand in his without asking, she didn't even think to scowl at him. She let him lead her away from the party and back up the stone steps towards the house, only mildly aware of the interested stares they were receiving from a number of the other guests.

"I think they liked you," Scorpius muttered, nodding towards his parents who were currently making small talk with someone who may or may not have been a member of a foreign royal family.

Rose grinned at him, "Then they're both excellent judges of character."

"They certainly are," he nodded with a smile, "In fact, they had Al pinned for the idiot that he is within five minutes of meeting him."

Rose couldn't help but laugh. Until, that is, she felt Scorpius' thumb rub across the back of her hand and the sound died in her throat. That fluttering in her lower belly was growing more and more insistent.

As it turned out, Flimsy the House-Elf could not only make a mean dirty martini, but she also took requests. Scorpius procured himself an Old Fashioned and a Tom Collins – heavy on the lemon juice – for Rose, before taking her by the hand again and leading her towards a different part of the house. Rose sipped on her drink, noting that the further into the Manor they went, the less formal the décor. Here, rather than portraits, there were family photographs adorning the walls. She spotted one of the Malfoys looking devastatingly attractive on what must have been their wedding day, one of Scorpius as a pompous toddler chasing – inexplicably – a white peacock, and another of him as an eleven-year-old, proudly showing off his new Hogwarts robes. She could picture an almost identical one of herself, hanging up in the downstairs loo of the Burrow; perhaps they hadn't been so different back then, after all.

Scorpius finally came to a halt in front of a set of mahogany doors and turned to face her, his hands hovering on the door handles. He fixed her with a serious stare. "I would like you to know that in about ten seconds time, you – Rose Weasley – will be the very first woman to ever enter this room. Not even my own mother has been invited inside. You should consider yourself entirely honoured."

Rose promptly rolled her eyes at him, unimpressed, and took another sip of her drink, "Always with the dramatics, Malfoy. I take it from that description that we've stumbled upon your teenage bedroom?"

"You wish," he fixed her with a mock glare before flinging open the doors with a flourish. "Welcome to, in my somewhat biased opinion, the most important room in the whole house."

Rose peeked her head inside the door, cautiously. She was half expecting to discover that Scorpius was in fact a mass murderer and this was where he kept the bodies. What she found, however, made perfect sense, and she could see exactly why he and Albus would consider this their favourite room in a Manor which probably boasted some of the finest works of art, literature and House Elf cooking this side of Kent.

It was a games room. Not that dissimilar to the one her Uncle George had set up in his garage a few years ago – although arguably better furnished and with significantly less spiders, she imagined. The centre of the room was occupied by a large muggle snooker table, whilst a mahogany card table with a green felt inlay was set up for a round of exploding snap beside the fireplace. A Wizard's Chess set beckoned from the far corner and a darts board – the Wizarding variety, she noted, from the way one of the darts was fluttering its wings and trying to dislodge itself from the bullseye – had been tacked up beside the door. The entire room was decorated with various sports memorabilia, with the jerseys of all the major teams from the British & Irish Quidditch league dotted about the walls. Right in the middle, she noticed, was the trademark green and silver uniform of the Slytherin house Quidditch team; the name 'Malfoy' proudly emblazoned above the number 5.

She quirked an eyebrow and glanced sideways at him. "Let me guess, that's your sixth-year uniform, isn't it?" Scorpius simply grinned at her. Their sixth year at school had been the only time Slytherin had won the Quidditch Cup whilst Scorpius had been their first-choice Keeper. They'd lost the title the following year to Hufflepuff – a fact that Rose still enjoyed bringing up around Al whenever the opportunity presented itself.

"Why am I not surprised that you have such a self-indulgent man cave?" Rose laughed, shaking her head in exasperation at the immaturity of grown men.

"You haven't even seen the best part yet," Scorpius shot her a wicked grin, heading over to a nearby sideboard and opening a cabinet door to reveal a very well-stocked bar, complete with the same brand of vodka he kept at his office. Rose had barely finished her cocktail by the time he was pressing a glass full of the stuff into her other hand.

"Did you just bring me here to get drunk again, Malfoy?" If so, Rose thought to herself, she would happily oblige.

"Though that would hardly be an unwelcome outcome…" he smirked conspiratorially, watching as she explored the room, "I was actually going to propose a wager."

Rose snorted, "Blimey, that sounds rather dangerous," she muttered, letting her fingers drift over the smooth marble chess pieces as she passed.

Scorpius cocked his head to one side. "Oh, come on. I thought all you Auror-types loved a little excitement? Stupefy first, ask questions later, that sort of thing."

She offered him a withering glare. "Right, and you'd want to challenge me – the so-called professional dare devil – because…?"

"Let's just say that I'm a business man who enjoys a calculated risk," he sipped at his drink, eyeing her hotly over the rim of the glass.

Rose distracted herself by testing the sharpness of one of the dart needles against the pulp of her thumb. If she had to endure that look on his face any longer, she was worried she might just start taking her clothes off right there and then. She cleared her throat, "And other than the thrill of totally annihilating you, right here in your little palace of ego, what's in it for me, exactly?"

He pretended to think for a moment, "Well, we pick a game and, if I win, then you'll owe me a favour. Meaning I can ask you for anything I want, and you can't say no. And if you win -,"

"When I win."

"- you'll get to claim a favour from me, which I cannot refuse." He leant back against the edge of the sideboard, hands dipping casually into his pockets as he continued to observe her.

Rose tried to keep her face impassive as her mind frantically began to risk assess the various compromising positions she might find herself in, left to the mercy of Scorpius' whim should he be the victor. She could practically feel the blush that pinked her cheeks at some of her more fanciful imaginings. Equally, she had to admit, if she were to win, the prospect of having Scorpius totally at her disposal certainly had interesting potential…

"I'll even give you the advantage if you like," Malfoy offered, impatiently, cutting through her cloud of rapidly fogging hormones, "I'll let you choose the game. So, what do you say, Weasley?"

Rose's gaze flicked up to his face, her caerulean eyes narrowing at the smirk she found there, before she squared her shoulders decisively. "I say game on, Malfoy. And may the best woman win."