A/N: There is nothing I can say which will excuse the horrific lateness of this update. Real life has intervened, as well as the beginnings of my (hopeful) career as a published author, so I've been a bit more occupied with those things. Enjoy, and please review! I'll hopefully get a chapter out within the next couple of weeks (I'm on a break from everything for the next month or so) and that will probably be the conclusion to this story.

Malfoy Manor, Wiltshire

24th December, 2024


Rose had to admit, absolutely everything was perfect. Her dress, the most extravagant piece of clothing she had ever worn, was perfect. With its long black train and intricate gold detailing, she felt like a princess. And, according to her cousins, her parents, and the majority of people she had been introduced to, she looked like one, too. Her hair had been curled and pinned up to frame her face and cascade down her back, and when she spun her dress fanned out around her.

"Rose, your date just walked in over there," Dominique whispered into her ear. The blonde looked immaculate, as always. Her dress was black and shimmery and fell to the floor softly, barely concealing her bright red heels. "Go on, go and say hello. He's looking for you."

Rose couldn't hide her smile as she saw who her cousin had picked out for her. Standing at over six feet tall, Noah Wood gave her a dazzling smile back and made his way over to her. Son of Oliver Wood, Keeper for Puddlemere United, Noah had graduated two years prior as Head Boy. "You're all grown up, Rose," he greeted her and brought her hand to his lips, grazing it softly. "You look wonderful."

"Thank you," she flushed under his admiration. "You look good, too."

He led her to the dance floor which was swarming with couples and they began to move in time to the music, twirling about as Noah spoke of his work at the Ministry of Magic. After half an hour had passed of simple swaying and spinning and Noah's incessant chatter about his position, his family, his budding career, his hair, and anything else relating to him he could think of, Rose excused herself politely.

After winding her way through the crowds of people she found the powder room, slipping in quietly and locking the door behind her. Rose couldn't help but giggle to herself in the wide room at Dominique's choice. It was assured that Noah was dreadfully handsome, but she was certain her cousin had not taken his ridiculous arrogance into account – Dom was more concerned with appearances than personality, particularly when she wasn't searching for a date of her own.

Once her makeup was back in place and her hair neatened, Rose returned to the party. She could see that Noah had gotten distracted by a petite blonde thing in the corner so she deemed herself able to carry on with her evening without worrying about avoiding him. A waiter passed by and she grabbed a glass of champagne from the tray he carried as she looked for someone to talk with. Dominique was spinning around the floor with Dante, her dress fanning out beautifully at the bottom. Her parents were laughing with Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny about something as James and Lily danced with their respective dates. At last Rose's eyes landed on Albus. He was standing by himself, watching his younger sister dance with just one out of many gentlemen she had danced with. Rose wound her way through the crowds, stopping to shake one or two hands on the way.

"Al," she said, relieved to have reached him.

"Rosie," he embraced her tightly. "You look great, unsurprisingly. Where's your date, though? Dominique told me she had reeled Noah Wood in to accompany you."

"Probably off shagging some blonde girl. He's great to look at, but he can't talk about anything unless he can relate it to his hair in some way."

"I still don't understand why Dom chose him for you. The plan was that you'd have someone to distract you from talking to Scorpius, but if you choose someone as dull as a rake then I haven't a clue how that'd work out," Albus rolled his eyes. "Then again, I'm assuming she was basing it more on looks than anything else."

"No doubt. Speaking of dates, where's yours?"

"Just over there, talking to mum and dad by the looks of it. She went to the bathroom and I guess mum ambushed her."

Rose turned to spy over the heads of the crowds. Indeed, Ingrid was in talks with Ginny and Harry, all three of them looking very relaxed. Similar to most of the guests there, Ingrid had pulled out all the stops for the night. Her dress shimmered with every movement, the gold complimenting her very tastefully. Looking back to Albus, she realised just how smitten he was with Ingrid. He was standing slightly on his toes, gazing at her with a very soft look on his face, something Rose rarely saw unless he was looking at his close family. With one last kiss on the cheek between Ingrid, Ginny and Harry, Albus' beau glided over, kissing him softly on the cheek with her arrival.

"Rose, you look nice," she said upon arrival. She appeared far more relaxed than usual, arm loosely around Albus' waist and a small smile on her face. "I love your dress."

"Thanks?" Rose frowned, unsure of how to react to her niceties. "You look lovely as well."

"Don't be so shocked by my compliments, Rose!" Ingrid rolled her eyes, looking more like her usual self. "I'm actually quite nice, once you get to know me. Your cousins can attest to that, can't you babe?"

Albus grinned at his date and kissed her cheek lightly. "She's right, Rosie. Really, I'd appreciate it if you could at least try to get along with her, and I know Dom would like it if you tried to get on with Dante. He's really very nice."

Rose sighed and rolled her eyes at her cousin, having heard the same speech numerous times before. She had honestly tried to accommodate her cousins' partners in a much more open and relaxed fashion, but having endured seven years of torment from one particular Slytherin who happened to be the best friend of both people, she was struggling.

"I've heard it all before, Al," Rose said, her tone sharper than she had intended. "You two have a lovely evening. I think I'm going to go and look at the grounds and then return home."

Heading towards the grand doors which lined one side of the ballroom, Rose heard her cousin calling her name exasperatedly, but she walked on. Most people were dancing with a few of the older guests sitting at the round tables dotted throughout the room with their champagne and meals, leaving the path clear for Rose to navigate. The doors swung open at her presence and she tugged the train of her dress through after her.

Heating Charms had been strategically performed along the balcony, keeping the warmth of inside despite the snow which fell lightly on the other side of the railing. The area was breathtaking. Fairies hung around at various places, casting a very light, soft glow on the location. Roses bloomed wonderfully from pots and ornately carved stone benches gave the entire space a very romantic look.

Though the stone railing was cool, Rose leant her forearms against it anyway and looked out over the gardens. In the dim light she could still see the extravagance of the grounds – in the distance she could just make out a maze, and a large pond, as well as a small building she could only assume to be a greenhouse of some sort.

"You'll freeze to death out here," said a silky voice and Rose looked over her shoulder to see Scorpius. He looked dashing, attired in all black dress robes aside from a dark green bowtie, his hair looking slightly neater than usual. Despite being somewhat floored by his appearance (Merlin! The things she could do to that!), Rose remained stiff.

"Heating Charms. I'll be fine."

"They'll only last so long," Scorpius joined her in leaning on the railing, though he left a good distance between them. "Why are you out here, anyway?"

"I needed some air."

"As far as I'm aware, there's plenty of oxygen in there," he smirked at his own joke though she made no move to acknowledge his humour. "Honestly, Weasley. You'll definitely freeze to death with an attitude that icy."

"Ha, how witty," Rose pulled away from the railing, prepared to return to the party in favour of talking with Scorpius. She was not prepared to let so many weeks of avoidance go to waste in just a few seconds. "I wish I could say it's been great talking to you, but I'm afraid that just isn't true."

Gathering her skirt and train, she moved back towards the doors to the ballroom. Before she could get far, however, Scorpius reached forward and wrapped his hand around her wrist. "Not so fast, Rose," her name slipped easily off his tongue and she shuddered as memories of her dream came back to her. "We still have a lot to talk about and I'm not letting you get away that easily."

"We have nothing to talk about," Rose said and pulled her arm from his grasp. "It was a mistake, a drunken mistake. What happened was nothing more than that, so I don't know what you think we need to talk about."

"You are as aware as I am that what happened was not just a drunken mistake, Weasley," his tone was darker now and he had reverted to using her last name. "Don't you walk away from me. Not again."

Rose's hands slackened from the fists they had formed and the bunches of fabric of her dress fell back into place. "You'll have to forgive me if I want to leave what happened between us as a drunken mistake. I don't want anything else, and certainly not from you of all people. Even if we did what we did, that doesn't change the fact that you've tormented me for seven years of my life. I don't want anything more to do with you than I have to."

"You're going to write any chance with me off because I was a kid? Because I acted like boys do?"

"A kid!" she tossed her head back and laughed. "I wasn't aware that seventeen was still considered a child. And I've been told quite recently that you've only stopped acting immaturely because you want nothing more than to get into my pants. Face it, Malfoy. You're a dick."

"Who told you that?" Scorpius' voice was low and he took a step forward as though he were a lion and she his fragile prey. "Who said that?"

"It's none of your business," she sniffed and felt herself shiver. Scorpius was right – the Heating Charm was wearing off on her. He took another step towards her and all at once she began to fear him.

"Tell. Me." Scorpius took one more step and extended his arms out, effectively pinning her against the banister, his arms a cage. She looked from side to side, searching for anyway out of her predicament. "You aren't getting out until you tell me."

She tried to swallow through the nervous lump which had formed in her throat, biting down on her lower lip. "Why do you care? It's true, isn't it? You're not exactly renowned for being a one-woman guy. That's all you want from any woman. To put another notch in your bed post and then kick them out into the cold." Rose regained some of her confidence as she spoke, standing up to her full height. She was taller than him in her high heels yet his presence seemed to make him loom above her.

"Of course I care, Rose," he leaned forward slightly and she shrunk back down again. "Who said that?"
"Dante and Ingrid," she said and immediately clapped a hand over her mouth. She had been trying to protect the privacy of her cousins' partners, but something about Scorpius' proximity was making her anxious.

"Of course," Scorpius shook his head. A rush of air escaped from between Rose's lips as he pushed away from the rail and chuckled dryly. "There was never a doubt in my mind that they'd tell you, only I thought you were smarter than that, Rose."

The redhead sniffed and crossed her arms beneath her bust, glaring at him. "I don't know if you're aware of this, but the best way to a girl's heart is not through insults."

He let out a dry chuckle and moved towards her once more, but this time his presence was not intimidating. Instead, a trace of the trademark Malfoy Smirk was growing and his eyes sparkled. In a move much bolder than Rose had anticipated, Scorpius reached out and tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. She sucked in air nervously at his touch. "I figured you might like wit more than my…other ways of seduction. Or would you prefer I take a more direct approach?"

"What exactly does this approach entail, exactly?" Rose shivered again involuntarily, wishing she had a jacket. She was aware Scorpius had noticed this tiny action and would certainly take advantage of it.

Her stomach flipped as his tongue darted out to wet his lips and the smirk fully formed on his place. "Trust me, Rose, my usual approach would definitely warm you up. However, my more common methods of seduction somehow don't seem fitting to woo you. You're different, Weasley. There's something about you which sets you apart from the rest. And besides, what would your family say if I chased after you like we had no history? Like our parents didn't despise each other for almost a decade? How do you think that brood of fire-headed minions you have would react? It isn't as though my family has the cleanest past. I come from a family of dark wizards and hell, you're the poster child of the wizarding world."

"So? What does that have to do with anything? My mother and your father set aside their grudges a long time ago," her lips twitched upwards at the corners. "And whatever happens, my mum will always be able to keep my dad and the rest of his family in check."

"What do you mean your mother and my father 'set aside their grudges'?" Rose's laugh tinkled in the cool night air at the bewildered look on Scorpius' face. "Whatever, keep your stupid little secrets to yourself, then. That wasn't why I came out here to talk to you."

A neatly arched ginger eyebrow rose slightly. "Such a shame for you, then, because that's all I wanted to talk about." She brushed past him and returned inside where the warmth was immediately enveloping and her body shook with the change in temperature.

Rose pushed her way through the crowds for a few moments before looking behind her to see Scorpius craning his neck to find her. She smiled to herself and slipped through a gap between two groups until she was right at the centre of the area cleared for dancing. Colours spun around her, elegant dresses fanned out, dapper gentlemen glided around with laughing women. She felt out of place in the middle of it all until a hand rested on her waist and began to lead the way. Distracted by her escape, Rose did not notice she was dancing with her pursuer until her mouth opened to thank her saviour.

"No need to be grateful, Weasley," Scorpius said. "Instead, I feel I should be thanking you for allowing me to dance with you, though at the moment you seem to have two left feet. Perhaps you need to stand on my feet to allow us to dance properly?"

It felt as though somebody had punched a hole in Rose's stomach when he started speaking. She thought she had successfully evaded him for the evening (though there was no concrete reason as to why she was avoiding him. Being in such close proximity was sending flutters through her chest and although she was attempting to deny the feelings, she knew what the wings meant). Refusing to give him any more ammunition against her, Rose brought back the one year of classical dance training she had taken when she was younger in an attempt to show the smarmy Slytherin up. She allowed him to lead but still managed to make minor corrections in his technique, ignoring the amused look he had plastered across his smug face as they twirled together.

His hand on her waist. The skin beneath the fabric burned with his touch. She wanted to quell the feelings she was having; the flip-flop of her stomach and the butterflies in her torso. Each time they moved closer together with the swell of the music, her heart would beat a little faster and she became incredibly conscious of every aspect of her body. Were her hands sweaty? Hair a mess? Makeup smudged? If he were to say anything, even an offhand comment about the price of unicorn hair in Canada, she was certain her face would colour.

"Is it hot in here or is it simply me?" Scorpius waggled his eyebrows with the question as though he could sense her insecurity. As she had believed, Rose could feel her face flushing at his words. He chuckled and spun her beneath his arm as the music flourished. "You seem a little warm. Care for a drink?"

"So you can spike it or do something equally as vile?" Rose said after allowing herself a few moments to gather her thoughts. "No thank you!"

"As I've told you before, Rose, believe it or not, but I like my women to be conscious and willing," he rolled his eyes. "Besides, I don't shag on the first date." He tossed a lewd wink in her direction and she feigned gagging, much to Scorpius' amusement.

"When did this become a date? Or did I miss the part where you weren't being a complete arsehole? I forget. All the spiked drinks you've fed me must have muddled with my memory."

"Oh, ha-bloody-ha, Weasley. You're absolutely hilarious."

She winked at him, curling her upper lip in a smirk worthy of matching his own. The music began to slow even further and the couples moved closer together, the dancing far more intimate. Scorpius drew her in so their bodies were flush against each other, his hand impossibly tight against her waist. Any humour had been sucked out by the changing beat. This was not flirtatious. This was hardcore sexual tension and her very essence was on fire. Everywhere she moved, she was surrounded by the essence of Scorpius. His physique which was keeping her firmly in place, his laughter which seemed to ring in her ears though his mouth had stopped moving, his smell which made her mouth water.

"Did I mention how utterly delectable you look this evening?" His lips brushed against the sensitive skin of her ear and she swallowed. Her knees quaked. "That dress is perfect on you. It leaves just the right amount to the imagination." Scorpius paused, moving one hand from her waist to brush back a curl which had been resting on her collarbone. Goosebumps formed where his fingers brushed and he ran over them softly with his thumb. "Beautiful."

"Scorpius," his name was scarcely a whisper from her lips, instead coming out as a hoarse croak. He paid no attention to her voice, and it soon slipped her mind when he ducked his head to press a chaste kiss to the area. Heat spread through her as her stomach clenched at his touch. This was nothing she had experienced before. This was pure sexual desire, blatant lust burning a trail along her skin. "Scorpius," she repeated and this time he stopped as if realising his position.

His lips moved away and she caught sight of his dilated pupils. The silver eyes he normally possessed were nearly black, and with their bodies so close she could feel evidence of his excitement against her. Her body ached and she unconsciously drew herself closer to him. His grasp tightened until they were almost completely wrapped around each other with not a single space between them. The world could collapse around them and neither would have noticed.

Scorpius' breathing quickened as Rose's body shifted against him and she bit her lip. She could scarcely deny that this, this blinding, burning lust was what she wanted, but what she was doing, what Scorpius was about to do, seemed all too fast for her.

As if sensing her hesitations, her suitor managed to control himself enough to pull away slightly, releasing her from his grasp. He adjusted himself to disguise any hint of their activities and chanced a small smile at her. She was still shaken up, her body still far too hot, blood pumping, heart pounding, stomach clenching. "Shall we get a drink?" he offered. "It's very hot in here."

"I think I need to use the bathroom, actually," Rose managed to uproot her feet and slip through the throngs of people. She needed distance, to be as far away from Scorpius Malfoy as this event would allow, and a splash or two of cold water wouldn't go astray. The bathroom was mercifully empty and she ducked in, leaning against the counter for support.

Other than being marginally flushed, which anyone would attribute to the alcohol she had consumed and the compression on the dance floor, she looked as though she had just arrived. Her hair was still in place, her makeup still perfectly applied, and there were no marks or signs to show that she had been involved in any activities than polite socialisation.

On the inside, she ached. Her skin was still on fire after she splashed her face with water (immediately remedying the effects this had on her makeup with a few flicks of her wand and a couple of simple spells Dominique had taught her) and her legs still felt as though they were made of jelly. She took several deep breaths until her heartbeat returned to a moderately healthy pace and her temperature had decreased, still observing her reflection.

The doorknob began to tilt and before she could say anything, the music was flooding through behind Dominique, who looked like the cat who caught the canary. Dom shut the door and twisted the lock closed behind her and Rose unconsciously stepped away from her cousin, the blonde's enthusiasm radiating throughout the room. Unlike Rose, Dominique's previously flawless appearance had not been retained, and instead she was emanating the trademark post-sex glow.

"Don't pretend nothing happened because I saw you two and it was hot," Dominique had cornered Rose until the redhead had stumbled and fallen to sit atop the closed toilet lid. "Spill."

"Dom, you sound like a bitchy fourth year," Rose said. "Do we have to talk about this now? I'm tired and I'd much rather go home. It can wait until morning."

"Rose, Dante is currently interrogating your little lover boy, and one of you is bound to spill the details. So, either you tell me firsthand, or I get to hear Scorpius' version, and I'm sure he'll leave in all the juicy details which you're bound to gloss over. Which version would you rather I hear first, hm?" Dominique asked, flicking her own wand to conjure a stool she could sit on. "Your choice."

Rose was certain that Scorpius would tell Dante precisely what had happened, and his account would definitely be far cruder than Rose's. "Fine," she huffed. "But after this I'm going straight back to my apartment and putting up every security and privacy spell I know, so don't you try and surprise me with Malfoy wrapped in a big red ribbon."

"I was thinking green would go better with his complexion…"

"Dominique," Rose clucked her tongue and her cousin grinned. "You've put way too much thought into this. Anyway, I just went outside to get a breather, he followed me, we talked, and yes, just talked, about a lot of things. Our parents, what happened at that party, things like that. And then I came inside, he followed me, we danced, and then I decided to use the bathroom and take a break."

"You forgot the part where he left a wicked hickey on your collarbone," Rose's companion sniggered and she stood up in horror, leaning closer to the mirror. Sure enough, what she had at first thought to be just the signs of her overheating was instead forming the makings of a small – but blatant – love bite. She elicited a low groan and vainly tried to rub it out of existence, prompting laughs from her cousin. "Just use a concealment charm and it'll vanish, unless you want something to remember tonight by."

"Dominique!" Rose said, twirling around to face her cousin. "Ugh, I can't believe this all happened. I promise to tell you everything that happened tomorrow night if you serve as a human shield for me so I can get to a Disapparition point. I just want to get out of this dress and these shoes."

"I'm sure Scorpius could think of another way of getting out of that dress, but he might be a kinky bastard and make you keep the shoes on," Dominique ducked out of the way of Rose's slap. "Alright, let's go. Dante is going to want to tell me everything that happened between you and Scorpius anyway, but I suppose I should be a good friend and help you escape, anyway. Though, if I were in your shoes, I'd stay behind and see if a night with Scorpius Malfoy is all that it's cracked up to be."

"Shut up and cover me, would you?"

Rose quickly magicked a concealment charm over the mark just below her neck and snuck out of the bathroom behind Dominique. Moving along the walls, they escaped from the glittering ballroom and into the entrance hall were a few guests were shrugging their coats on or off.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Dom," Rose embraced her cousin quickly, but froze when she saw Scorpius waiting at the doorway to the bathroom, Dante by his side. "Shit."

Her cousin escaped from her grasp and nudged her towards the Disapparition points. "Dante!" the blonde cooed, all but throwing herself into her boyfriend's arms. The sight distracted Scorpius for a moment, allowing Rose just enough time to disappear with a loud crack. She held her breath through the tube of apparition and landed with a light stumble in her living room.

True to her word, she kicked off her heels and flexed her toes before casting multiple privacy and security spells, ensuring no one would be able to gain access to her apartment without her explicit permission. She traded her dress for her most comfortable pair of pajamas, let her hair fall free from its confines, and curled up in bed.

Zabini Estate

Christmas Day, 2024


"At least you know one thing, mate," Dante said as he shrugged on a jacket and checked his hair in the mirror.

"Yeah, what'd that be?" Scorpius lounged on his best mate's bed, feet dangling off the end and head propped up on clasped hands.

"She definitely has the hots for you."

"Funnily enough, I'd worked that out for myself by the time I started macking on her neck," the blonde rolled his eyes whilst Dante threw him a rude hand gesture. "I'm well aware of her feelings towards me…I just need to get her to admit them."
Dante finished primping and turned back, hands in his pockets. "I can always get Dom to help with that. She's obsessed with you two. Seriously, mate, it's been a saga between you and Rose, and Dom has been following every step of the way. She's going to burst soon if there aren't any developments soon."
"You make it sound like a bloody experiment."

The Italian snorted. "Sometimes I think Dom believes it is. Anyway, if you're that determined to get the truth out of her, why don't you go to her place tonight and confront her? You've never been one to shy from confrontation in the past, Scor." He fell into an overstuffed armchair and crossed his legs at the ankle.

"Fuck it, I'm sick of going to her. I've made my position clear on more than one occasion, and she's just too bloody stubborn to do the same," Scorpius slapped his hand against the silk sheets. "I'm sick of chasing her. If she really wants me, she can find me herself."

"You do realise that she is, though it's hardly possible, more stubborn than you are, right? The likelihood of her ever coming to anyone is ridiculous. Just don't take it personally."

Scorpius growled and sat up, rushing his hand through his hair. "Fucking stubborn Weasley."