Chapter 23

A/N: Hello readers! LAST CHAPTER! I'm quite excited.

Thanks so much for everyone who reviewed and especially those who have been reading and reviewing this since I posted the very first chapter! Also thanks to Adele for betaing!

Ugh. I have a problem with abusing the exclamation point... I'm just so excited to post the last chapter! I think a few of you have been waiting for the scene at the very end.


Proudly, Rose used her wand to carve her name into the plaque adorning the door of her very own office. Starting the business hadn't been as easy as Scorpius seemed to think; she had to first get her certification, and then there had been a pile of legal gibberish for them to wade through in setting up their business – something Scorpius had proved to be surprisingly adept at.

It had taken months, but she was now the proud owner of her very own business. No more bosses or annoyingly inquisitive coworkers prying into her personal issues.

Turning away from the shiny plaque, she winced. While the brass was shiny and perfectly neat, everything else in the office was chaos, and Scorpius was a horrible assistant.

After only a week of being unemployed, he had decided that he was going to work with her to fend off the boredom that had plagued him while he was alone at their apartment. He'd claimed that there was only so much daytime television a bloke could watch before he started to get the desire to "paint an accent wall or some such nonsense". Rose suspected that he was just at the office to see if he could fulfill some dirty office fantasies in the office and when she had immediately shot down that idea, he defaulted to seeing how much he could annoy her without getting sent home.

While Rose filed paperwork in her brand new filing cabinet, she could just see his back outside the window as he indulged on his fourth cigarette break of the last two hours. He was going to give himself lung cancer trying to avoid doing actual work.

Frustrated with having to handle the paperwork on her own, she stomped over to the door and dragged it open, smiling at the little bells that trilled at the movement of the door before a frown once again overtook her features. "Who in the world are you waiting for out here?" she snapped.

Scorpius' eyes lazily trailed over the crowd passing by before he settled them on her. "I'm not waiting for anyone. Come on, let's get lunch."

He took her hand and dragged her away from the store. Rose wanted to protest that she had too much work to do, but she was hungry. If she was being honest, she needed the break anyway.

Lunch was a quiet affair, Scorpius seemed to be deep in thought and Rose didn't bother pushing him. He'd come to her eventually if he wanted to speak about it, pushing him would just put them both in a foul mood. Instead she focused on her surprisingly delicious tuna sandwich, chewing it carefully.

As soon as they were once again within sight of the office, she could tell that something was wrong. The windows were dark and the shades were drawn, but Rose clearly remembered leaving them open.

Scorpius felt her tense and reach for her wand, but he seemed to know that was going on. He took her elbow and guided her the rest of the way into the shop, a small head shake telling her that she wasn't going to need the wand.

What she found inside her shop nearly brought tears to her eyes. It was her entire family, with cake and party hats. A large banner was strung across the wall, saying "Congratulations Rose!" It was a good thing Scorpius was so close, he was able to stop her stumbling from shock.

"What is all this?" she asked in a whisper.

Hermione, baby in her arms, approached her daughter. "It's a party for you. You've finally started to get your life in order and we're all so proud of you!"

One armed, she hugged her daughter and then Scorpius. When Hermione was finished hugging Rose, and Scorpius had stepped away from her after standing stiffly for a moment to allow Hermione to get her overly affectionate gesture out of the way, Hermione looked over her shoulder and made a beckoning motion to someone behind her.

As repentant-looking as a Malfoy was capable of appearing, Draco came up behind his wife and turned his eyes on his son. Hermione elbowed him to get him speaking.

"I suppose I was a little hasty in banning you from the Manor. If you were to visit, I suppose I could refrain from hexing you off of the property," Draco said.

Scorpius gave a short nod and Draco nodded in return. It was as good as a tearful hug in a normal, emotionally healthy family. Knowing that was the best they were going to get, Rose smiled radiantly at her family. It was good that they were back to normal.

She spotted Hugo and Albus in the crowd and waved to them over Hermione's shoulder. For some reason, her brother and cousin didn't look happy. In fact, they looked downright furious. The anger wasn't directed towards her, but Rose still wanted to know what it was that had incited their wrath.

Thanking her mum again for the party, she made her way through the crowd to her brother, Scorpius in tow. "What's wrong?" she whispered.

Hugo pointed over the sea of redheads to someone outside, peeking in the window.

Rose heard Scorpius start cursing behind her as he recognised the man at the same time she did. It seemed that her wayward father had decided to make an appearance at her party.

No one else had caught sight of Ron yet, and Rose, not wanting to make a scene, slipped back out the door without anyone really noticing – George had decided to set off some indoor fireworks that were wreaking havoc with the guests, so she was hardly the most notable thing in the room. If they wrecked her office with their little party she was going to dismember them, starting with her Uncle George. She was just starting to get everything in order.

"What are you doing here?" Rose demanded, her arms crossed and feet braced, ready for a confrontation. The sudden redness of her father's face and the warmth at her back told her that Scorpius had followed her and was standing entirely too close once again. She glanced back at the blond out of the corner of her eye and shook her head slightly. She wanted to handle this on her own; no matter how much Scorpius would have liked to have another go at Ron, he was going to have to restrain himself.

"George said he had somewhere to be, I followed him. I never would have thought that you would sink so low as to follow in your Death Eater loving mother's footsteps," Ron snarled. "There must be something wrong with the both of you for choosing Malfoys."

Oddly enough, Rose was experiencing none of that crushing feeling she used to get around the man that was the source of most of her issues. While Scorpius' steady support and presence had done wonders for her, Rose suspected that her lack of fear was because she'd faced worse and come out on top. Sure, Ron was a little threatening when he was in a full rage, but he was no cursed Dark object. He'd yell, possibly use his wand to try and hex her and maybe handler her too roughly, but he wasn't capable of slowly sucking the life from her.

She never would have thought the fact that Ron wasn't some sort of energy-sucking vampire would be so comforting to her, yet it was.

Rose didn't even bother taking out her wand, though she did make sure she knew where it was in her pocket. She drew herself up to her full height and made sure to look Ron right in his eyes. "You're just a sad little man unable to deal with the fact that Mum doesn't love you anymore and that it's entirely your own fault. You've lost your chance with her and your chance to know either of your children, and the only way you can deal with it is lashing out at us."

Ron was getting increasingly red as she continued to talk.

"You think you're better than everyone else just because you have money now-" Ron started, only to be interrupted by his daughter.

"No, I only think I'm better than you. And it's not because I have money – it's Scorpius' money, I'm still broke – it's because I am better than you. Better as a person and as a family member. I didn't and won't leave when times get tough."

Ron took a step towards her, his intentions unclear, but Rose was faster. She had her wand at the ready and pointed between his eyes before he was even within reaching distance of her. "I think it'd be best for everyone if you just went away. And this time, make sure you stay gone. You've lost your chance for anything resembling happiness here."

Cowed, Ron skulked back down the street, presumably to go back to watching the store as he'd probably been told to do.

Scorpius slipped an arm around her waist and kissed her temple. "Feel good?" he asked.

Nodding, she briefly leant against him. Despite her lack of fear, she was still shaking slightly with adrenalin and welcomed the support. "I feel great. Now let's get inside and finish the rest of my party."

"Okay, but we're having our own celebration tonight."

She nodded, leading him back inside.

Rose groaned and rubbed her head. It hurt. Everything hurt.

She wasn't really one for drinking - much less in excess - but she knew a hangover when she felt one. And the one she was feeling was a severe case of something that was already horrible.

If she could only figure out how it was that she'd arrived at her current state...

At the sound of a groan that wasn't her own, she cracked her eyes open slightly and glanced around the room. She'd seen the place before – on several occasions, actually - but never from the inside.

Reaching towards the sound of the other groan, she whacked Scorpius with all of her reduced strength.

"What was that for?" he demanded without taking the hand he'd flung over his face away from his eyes. The light was probably paining him as much as it was her. She had no sympathy.

"I don't remember how yet, but this is entirely your fault."

"I'd be indignant that you're so quick to blame me, but one: I'm too tired to really muster up the proper indignation, and two: it probably was my fault."

She took a few breaths to be sure the contents of her stomach weren't going to rebel and make an appearance all over the floor before sitting up. Her head tilted back against the brick wall, the metal of the bench underneath her cool against her palms, she sucked in a few more steadying breaths. Only halfway to standing and already she felt like she was going to die. The day was not looking good.

It hurt her brain to think too hard, but she was desperate to remember what had happened the previous night. Most of it was a blank, but she could still remember her run-in with her father and Scorpius' promise to celebrate.

"When you said that we were having our own celebration, I was thinking a fancy dinner, not this," she complained.

Scorpius was saved from having to answer by footsteps echoing down the hall.

"I see you're up. How're you feeling?" a voice asked.

Rose turned her head slowly so it didn't pound worse. "Like death, Patrick. Thanks for asking."

The MLE agent on the other side of the bars looked entirely too amused to see her sitting in a holding cell alongside Scorpius for the first time ever. Maybe that was why he did so well manning the holding cells; he got a kick out of seeing people he knew in some capacity at the low points in their lives. Rose certainly hadn't felt lower in recent memory. It was a wonder Scorpius had done this on something of a regular schedule, she never would have been able to handle it.

She shot a glance at the blond to see how he was handling it in the present. It seemed that he was asleep, a hand flung over his head to block out the sunlight. She'd only just been talking to him and already he was asleep on the uncomfortable bench. Git.

Forcing herself up from the bench, Rose walked over to the bars. "How's the wife?" she asked. "The baby's got to be almost two by now."

Patrick nodded. "They're not kidding when they call them the 'terrible twos', but I can go on about my home life later. Right now, I imagine you're more concerned with getting out of there before someone you know sees you."

Blushing, she made an embarrassed sound of agreement. It was good to be polite though, so she couldn't have just demanded to be let out without making some small talk first. She was just pondering who she should call to bail her out – it was Scorpius' fault that they were in there and she wasn't yet sure if she was going to get him out as well – when Patrick spoke again.

"I was going to come in here to see if you had anyone you wanted to call to bail you out, but someone showed up before I could – two someones actually."

Rose was confused, but before Patrick could elaborate, voices echoed down the hall.

"I told you this was where he'd be," said a frighteningly familiar voice.

"Fine, I owe you a Galleon," another person snapped.

Rose closed her eyes in mortification as her bother and cousin came into view. Albus looking smug while Hugo fished around in his pockets, presumably for the Galleon he owed.

Before she could speak – whether to beg them to leave so they wouldn't bear witness to her shame or to plead with them to get her out of the cell, even Rose wasn't sure – Albus raised a camera he'd been hiding in the folds of his cloak and blinded her with the flash as he took a picture.

"I suppose too much change in so little time was a little unnerving," Hugo commented, looking over his shoulder at Albus, who was busy taking pictures.

"Are you implying this sort of behaviour is expected of me?" Rose demanded. She blinked furiously, trying to clear the flash spots in her vision enough to properly glare at everyone. In the end, she had to settle for a nasty look in the general direction of the voices. The next person who said one wrong thing was going to get skinned alive, she could just feel a rage coming on. It didn't help that she still felt horrible and the camera flashes were making her nausea and headache worse.

"No," Hugo said, his tone placating. "But this kind of behaviour is normal for Scorpius. I meant that he's changed over the past few weeks, but not enough to keep out of jail."

Oh, that was fine then. All the anger bled out of Rose and she sagged against the bars. "Just get us out of here," she sighed.

Another flash of the camera reminded her that Albus was there as well. "And if you don't stop taking pictures, I promise you you're going to regret it," she snapped at her cousin.

Hugo handed Patrick a bag of gold, and the MLE officer proceeded to slide open the door.

Suddenly Scorpius was up off of the bench and headed towards the door. He reached out a hand as he passed to drag Rose along with him, eager to be out of the cell he had entirely too much experience with.

Rose let him tow her, Hugo, Albus and Patrick following. She was pretty sure her cousin was asking what it was she'd done to get herself thrown in jail. Come to think of it, she'd like to know what she'd done as well.

"Remind me never to celebrate with you again," she muttered.

Scorpius snorted. "I will do no such thing. You let loose for once, and it was magnificent."

Her eyes widened in horror as she started to remember the previous night and what had landed them in jail in the first place. As soon as she could turn her head without fighting off waves of pain and nausea, she was going to murder him. No, bribe the press first, then murder him.

Completely unconcerned about his imminent death or his horrible breath, Scorpius kissed her temple and slid an arm around her waist, smirking. The bloody bastard was probably remembering their night as well and how thoroughly he'd managed to corrupt her with so little coercion.

"Think of it like this: now you have notoriety on the streets. People will be more willing to come to a PI with experience."

Rose glared. "That's rubbish and you know it."

She mentally flipped through her memories of the previous night, cringing in horror at each new detail that popped up. How does one even get matching top hats and a dozen live ducks at midnight? Increasingly horrified as more of the night came to light, Rose turned around to look at her brother.

'Get me a Hangover Potion so I can kill him,' she mouthed to Hugo.

The redhead shook his head and smiled at his sister, causing her to glare before turning back to Scorpius.

The blond froze just before they were out of the building, looking around in horror. When Rose jerked to a stop from the restricting arm around her waist, she took a look around as well, wondering what his problem was. She spotted it almost immediately.

In the MLE waiting area there were plush chairs, expensive-looking tables and even a large aquarium in the corner. Patrick had taken her suggestion and made the waiting room much more comfortable.

"This all came out of my pocket, didn't it?" Scorpius asked.

Rose was slightly smug and wanted to gloat, but the fish reminded her that they'd been to Muggle London and gotten themselves banned from the aquarium there. Apparently the staff frowned on it when people broke in after hours and tried to release twelve slightly singed and completely traumatised ducks into the stingray tank.

"As soon as I remember everything we did last night, I'll think of an appropriate way to murder you for it," she said, glaring up at Scorpius, who was still looking irritated about their surroundings.

"They're an odd couple, but somehow, they work," Albus said quietly, watching the pair's interactions with amusement.

Hugo turned to watch his sister glare at Scorpius, who, smirking at her irritation, didn't notice that she was obviously planning his demise – that or he didn't take the threat seriously.

"They do," Hugo answered, "But just in case, I think we should make sure Rose has some time to calm down before we give her that Hangover Potion."

Patrick and Albus nodded their agreement.