The last chapter! Thank you all so much for reading! I hope you enjoy the resolution!

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Rose Weasley or Scorpius Malfoy or any of the other characters you see here.


Among Thorns - Chapter Four

The day of Scorpius' Bonding found Rose on the stone bench in front of her mother's roses. There she sat without moving for most of the day, barely aware of her parents watching her with concern out of the kitchen window.

Her father finally came out as the time to depart grew closer. "Sure you won't go?" he asked, sitting beside her. She didn't look at him as she shook her head.

"I think it will be easier for a lot of people if I'm not there." Her father nodded, frowning, following her gaze out into the roses.

"Rose," he started, then, frowning, closed his mouth and looked away. After a moment he tried again, his voice softer. "Rose . . . you never had to wear red and gold or be able to stay on a broomstick or get into trouble to make me proud of you. I have never, not for an instant, been disappointed in anything you've done, and if you want proof of that, ask anyone I work with. They've been wanting you to fail something for years, so that, for one day, they wouldn't have to listen to me talk about my daughter, top of her class, Prefect, Head Girl. The only thing you ever had to do to make me proud of you was be my daughter and be happy." Rose found herself suddenly blinking back tears. Slowly, she turned her head and met his gaze. She didn't need to ask how he knew. He smiled sadly at her. "How long have you loved him?"

"I don't know," she whispered. "Forever, maybe." He put an arm around her, and she leaned into his embrace.

"It's never too late, Rosie," he said. Rose sadly shook her head.

"No, Daddy," she whispered. "Sometimes it is too late." Her father sighed.

"You're right," he said. Rose looked at him. "It's too late the minute he says 'I do'," he said seriously. Then he kissed Rose on the forehead and left. A few moments later, Rose heard the crack of Disapparition, and knew she was alone.

A breeze blew through the garden then, playing with the late blossoms, wafting their scent over her. Rose closed her eyes against more tears, tired of scolding herself, of reminding herself yet again that she'd made this choice, that it had been and still was the right one. The breeze blew over her again, suddenly not so warm as it had been only moments ago. She tilted her face into the wind to let the air dry the wetness on her cheeks. With a sigh, she shivered and opened her eyes.

The immense sadness that she had felt at the Auror party had, over the last few days, settled as a weight in her chest that she knew she would probably never shed. As she sat there, she finally allowed herself to examine it. And she felt – regret, regret for so many things. There were so many things she should have done differently . . .

But she hadn't, and that was that. She pushed the weight down with another sigh, not to try and dispel it, just to bury it slightly. It would become easier to bear in time, of that she was certain. And she was willing to wait, and determined to live her life in spite of that weight.

She had no idea how long she sat on that bench, watching her mother's roses dancing in the wind. The sun slowly made its way across the sky, slowly turning it from blue to gold to crimson as the day inched toward twilight.

"Your father said I might find you here."

The familiar voice broke the silence. Rose turned slowly in place, the hint of a frown between her eyes as she squinted slightly, matching the silhouette to the voice, not quite willing to believe what her ears and eyes were telling her.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, her voice hardly more than a whisper.

"At the moment?" he asked. "Standing in your garden, waiting to be invited to sit down." Rose closed her eyes and shook her head.

"You're supposed to be getting Bonded," she said.

Slowly, he came toward her, and she turned her back against his approach. "Well," he said slowly as he sat beside her, facing the opposite direction. She stiffened against the goose bumps that erupted on her left side, betrayed yet again by her body's reaction to his proximity. "That didn't end up working out quite as was originally planned."

Rose shook her head against his words, her head reeling. This wasn't how it was supposed to happen. He wasn't supposed to make her do this again –

"I got jilted," he said heavily. It took a moment for his words to sink in. Frowning, she turned her head to look at him. He was looking innocently and resolutely forward, a pseudo-regretful look on his face. But as her eyes narrowed, the corner of his mouth betrayed him.

"You got jilted?" she repeated. He glanced sideways at her, and took in both her raised eyebrow and the disbelief in her voice.

"I did!" he insisted, crossing his arms over his chest defensively. Her gaze didn't waver for an instant. "Well, I didn't say it wasn't a carefully planned and agreed-upon jilting," he finally admitted. Shaking her head in slight disbelief, she turned back to the roses, not wanting to think about the implications of what he was saying. "Merlin, but she was amazing," he said, turning back to the house. Frowning in confusion, Rose turned once more to him, fully aware that she was probably responding just the way he wanted. Noting her look, he met her gaze. "She was," he said. "Impressive, really. I couldn't have done it half so well."

"Done what?" Rose asked, exasperated. Scorpius smiled somewhat smugly and turned back to face the house. Inwardly, Rose cursed herself for taking the bait.

"I told you," he said. "I got jilted. In rather a spectacular manner. They'll be talking about it for years, I expect." Rose strongly considered smacking him, an urge she hadn't had for more than three years. She settled for growling his name.

"Scorpius," she warned. He laughed, leaning back, grasping the front of the stone bench for balance. She couldn't help but notice that he looked and seemed free in a way he hadn't since that horrible conversation by the lake. The change in him took her breath away, and seemed to be gradually working a change in her, as well.

"About half an hour before the ceremony, she came over to see me," he said. "Said she needed to speak to me privately. So she led me away and said, 'Scorpius, is this really what you want?' Didn't even give me a chance to answer. 'Because if it is, then that's fine, you can turn around and walk into that chapel, and we'll get Bonded, and we'll marry in a year. But I don't think this is what you want, and I know it's not what I want.'

"'What are you saying?' I asked her.

"'I'm saying that I don't love you,' she said to me. 'I care about you a great deal, but I don't love you, and you don't love me, and that makes all this just a little bit wrong.'"

Scorpius shifted on the bench, glancing sideways to make sure Rose was hanging on his every word. She continued to look forward into the roses. When the silence had gone on too long for her liking, she flicked her eyes to his and said, "And?"

Scorpius smiled. "And she was right," he said. "'I made a promise to you,' I told her, but thankfully, she stopped me before I had to go too far with that line.

"'And I appreciate the fact that you want to keep that promise, but that isn't enough to build a marriage on, at least not for me. Can you really tell me it's enough for you?' she asked."

Scorpius looked down at the grass, a soft smile playing on his lips. "I couldn't, of course," he said. "Which she knew. So I relented without much protest and asked her for the plan. She grinned and told me to go ahead with things normally, and when the train came off the tracks, to just play along."

Scorpius smiled as he remembered. Rose snuck a glance at him, her heart pounding in her throat. She swallowed hard, forcing her gaze away from him. "Why couldn't you just tell your families that you wanted to call it off?" she asked quietly, looking down at her fingers twined tightly together in her lap. Scorpius let out a snort of laughter.

"That would have gone over well," he said. "No, Rose, it's like Honoria said. This would only work if one of us got jilted, and it probably wouldn't have worked if it had been her. People just think it's cruel if the groom leaves the bride, even at a Bonding. So it had to be her. It was an amazing performance. We were all in the chapel, and her father escorted her over to the alter, where I was with the officiator and all the necessary paraphernalia. And our hands were clasped, her right in my left, over a basin of water, and the officiator had started the ceremony. Well, she let him get about ten seconds into his muffled intonations before she stiffened and snatched her hand away from mine. Everyone froze, and she choked out that she couldn't do this, and turned and fled."

Rose watched the progress that one deep red rose made, bobbing up and down in the soft breeze, fully aware that Scorpius was staring at her. She was determined not to take the bait again. Letting out a low chuckle, he cheated, reaching over and brushing his fingers against the skin of her arm. She jerked back, her breath catching in her throat, and her eyes inadvertently met his. "I caught up with her outside the chapel," he whispered. "I thanked her for doing what I was too afraid to do, and I let her go. My mother sent me home. I came here. And that's the story."

He is far too close, was all Rose could think. His proximity was keeping her from being able to think straight. She could count every eyelash, see every speck of blue in his gray eyes. And his hand was still on her arm. She closed her eyes and forced her mind to process what he was telling her. "But what are you doing here, Scorpius?" she asked.

"You always used to do that," he said cryptically. "Used to drive me crazy because I could never figure out why."

"What?" she breathed, opening her eyes, puzzled. The corner of his mouth rose.

"Ask questions you already know the answer to," he whispered, inching his head closer to hers. She couldn't breathe. "Luckily, I know how to punish you."

"Do you?" she breathed. He nodded.

"I'm not going to answer your question."

And the next thing she knew, his lips were on hers, one of his hands caressing her cheek, the other pressed against the small of her back. She responded immediately, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing herself closer to him.

It was everything she'd ever wanted a kiss with Scorpius to be, and it was so vastly different from the first kiss she'd shared with him. His lips teased hers, first gently, then more insistently, and he seemed to be saying that everything she'd done, everything they'd been through, was forgiven and forgotten.

The kiss ended when the both of them tasted salt. As Scorpius pulled away from her, Rose realized slowly that she was crying. With a tender smile on his face, Scorpius gently wiped her tears away with the pads of his thumbs. She reached up and caught one of his hands, threading her fingers through his own.

"I never stopped loving you, you know," he whispered. Her eyes fluttered closed as his words washed over her. "Even though I was so angry with you, and I wanted to hate you . . . I couldn't. And it was so frustrating because I couldn't understand why. But after hearing everything you said to Al, I finally did. And I knew you were right, all along." Rose shook her head slightly. "But I know it doesn't matter anymore, and so now I'm going to ask you straight out something I should have asked you ages ago." Rose opened her eyes and looked into his. "Rose Weasley, do you love me?" he whispered.

"You shouldn't do that, you know," Rose said. He looked down at her, puzzled.

"What?"

Rose smiled. "Ask questions you already know the answer to." And before he could say another word, she reached up and pulled his face down to hers.

When the Weasleys returned home not long after that, neither of them was overly surprised to find Scorpius Malfoy sitting on a low stone bench in their rose garden with their daughter, her head on his shoulder and his arm wrapped protectively around her.

Unaware of her parents' approving presence, Rose sat with Scorpius as night descended around them, content never to move. And as the roses' colors darkened as the sun left them, Rose remembered a story her father had told her over and over, at her insistence.

I want her to stand as proof that the best and most beautiful things in the world come nestled among thorns.

Rose smiled as she recalled her mother's words. She'd finally found her way through the thorns.

Fin


To come soon, a companion to this story: Scorpius' side of things. It will be called Fighting Briars. Look for it!

Please review and let me know what you think!

Realmer