A/N: LAST CHAPTER! Kay, so I was going to do my a/n now and then post the chapter first thing tomorrow morning, but then I figured that a lot of you wake up earlier than me. This way, you can read it when you wake up! Or before you sleep...
Did the font on here change for other people too or did the cat walk over my keyboard and change something I'll never be able to fix again?
Thanks so much to everyone who reviewed, especially to those who reviewed every chapter! Also thanks to irianaceleste for betaing (I added a few lines right before the first divider and am too lazy to PM you about it).
To Guest: I'm working on both sequels. Soon. It's about the same temperature here. It sucks.
To yay: Hy and Rose have gotten closer over the course of this story, but Rose didn't count them as friends until towards the second half of this story. I didn't forget Blaise, he has an appearance before the end. I never even realized I was writing her analyzing relationships with everyone, but I see it now...
Rose hung her head. "I figured as much."
"Why did you think you had to hide so much of yourself from me?"
Uncomfortable with the sharing of feelings, Rose kept her head down and poked at a blank piece of parchment that her uncle had left behind. "You always used to joke that if I was ever sorted into Slytherin, you'd disown me. You said it all the time while I was growing up, so I hid any characteristics that might get me sorted into Slytherin." She smiled wryly at the parchment she'd started to shred. "You can hide things from your family but not the Sorting Hat."
"Rose, I wasn't serious when I said those things," he put a hand on top of hers to stop her destruction of the parchment.
Rose looked up at him then. "You were a little serious, but it's okay. After I was sorted, I sat down beside Scorpius and we've been inseparable ever since. I've never hidden my devious bits from him and he still accepts me."
"I think he does more than accept you," Ron grumbled, remembering the kiss he'd witnessed.
Rose wasn't so sure, but she didn't want to have that conversation with her dad. It would be too awkward and she'd already had more than enough discussing of her feelings with him for one day.
"I'll love you no matter what," Ron said firmly. "Don't ever doubt that."
"Even if I take pleasure in systematically destroying people?" Her question was half-mumbled.
"Nothing," Rose said quickly, jumping up and throwing her arms around her father. "I love you, Daddy."
The exhaustion that Scorpius had claimed to be feeling was starting to creep up on Rose as well by the time she and her dad had finished their little heart to heart. She wasn't sure how she felt about him knowing her secret, though she supposed that it wasn't really much of a secret anymore. On one hand, she didn't have to put so much effort into concealing her true nature. On the other, he was a lot more likely to believe it if one of her teachers went to him claiming that Rose bribed or blackmailed her way into good grades.
Rose wanted her bed, but there were a few things she had to do before she could rest.
The Potions classroom was dark when she got there. Rose had asked a passing House Elf if Professor Zabini had gone home yet, and the elf insisted that he was still in his classroom. She knocked on the door and then, upon receiving no answer, pushed it open.
Professor Zabini looked up in surprise when she entered. He'd had his head resting in his hands, and Rose could see that he looked drawn and haunted. She supposed that's what people looked like when they realized that they didn't really know their children. Rose hoped that her dad was taking the news about her a little better than Zabini was about his son.
Taking it as a good sign that he didn't immediately banish her from his presence, Rose walked up to his desk. She was uncomfortable again. She was going to have to do some majorly devious things in the next week just to get herself feeling normal again – that is, if she survived the next few minutes.
"Someone's told you, then?" she asked quietly.
Zabini nodded. "It has yet to sink in though. After everything we went through growing up under the thumb of Death Eaters, to find out my son was trying to restart the movement now that we're finally free from them is a slap in the face." Rose had the disconcerting feeling that he was telling her too much because he'd forgotten that she was there. These things needed to be said, she could tell, so she just stood there nodding, getting increasingly uncomfortable with every new piece of information.
"I can't even go home," he continued. "I don't know how I'm going to face my wife knowing that our son went so horribly wrong right under my nose."
Looking up them, he smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry, Rose. You don't need to hear this. Was there a particular reason you came to find me?"
"I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry. He's misguided, but he's still your son, and I played a part in putting him behind bars." Mentally, Rose was compensating for this display of softness by drafting plans to exact her own revenge on the younger Zabini for her bruise. The few people she'd run into on the way to Professor Zabini's office had really stared at the healing green blotch on her face and he needed to pay for punching her. Time in prison just wasn't enough.
"No apology necessary, Rose. I'm just glad he was caught before he did anyone any major harm. Now you should get some sleep, you look exhausted."
She hesitated. "Professor? I think you should probably go home to your wife now."
"I think you may be right." He started shuffling papers on his desk, preparing to leave.
Her work done, Rose headed to the door.
"Oh, and Rose?" he called after her.
Rose turned around. "Sir?"
"I want to make sure you know that I didn't raise him that way."
She smiled awkwardly, even more uncomfortable than she'd yet to be that day. Since when had Professor Zabini needed her to understand how he raised his son? Did his opinion matter that much?
Forcing her smile to become a little more genuine, she nodded. "I know."
Her next stop was Scorpius, and she feared that it was going to be no less emotionally exhausting and uncomfortable than her last few encounters.
Apparently, even a duel, an arrest, and then time spent locked in a classroom with a murderous father acting as an Auror to take statements after a run-in with Death Eaters wasn't enough to keep Scorpius away from his schoolwork. Rose searched the Slytherin common room for him, having already checked the library. He wasn't there; the common room was much too loud to get anything done. The entire school had heard about the arrests of their classmates and wherever Rose went, she overhead excited conversation speculating what could have led to their arrest.
After asking around a bit, she found Scorpius in his bed, scratching away at his parchment while he used a book as a writing surface. Knowing that their head of house was right at that moment speaking with his wife about their son's arrest, Rose didn't worry about getting caught as she wandered in and plopped on the bed beside him. Scorpius shot her a glare when his inkwell nearly toppled onto his sheets but didn't comment further on her presence.
The git was going to make her start this conversation! Her lips pulled down in an annoyed frown. Nevertheless, she accepted the challenge.
"Today's been eventful," she tried, hoping that he'd pick up the conversation from there. At the very least, maybe he would help her along a bit, perhaps even look at her if he was feeling particularly generous.
The quill didn't even pause in its journey across his paper.
Fine, if that was the way he was going to play it, she wasn't going to dance around the issue.
"Why'd you push me away?" she asked. It had been bothering her the way he had literally held her away from him by the shoulders when she'd tried to lean in to continue their kiss. Rose wasn't rejected often and it stung, especially coming from Scorpius.
"I didn't want our first real kiss to be the result of manipulation."
That was kind of sweet, which was completely unlike Scorpius. Rose searched his eyes for signs that he was deceiving her but didn't find any. Not even Scorpius was good enough to fake the kind of earnestness and affection - possibly even love- that was weighing his gaze.
"I don't have ulterior motives now," she said quietly.
It was his turn to stare at her hard, searching for something in the depths of her eyes. "This thing between us probably isn't going to end well," he finally commented.
Briefly, she paused to contemplate the blackmail, scheming, and manipulation of which the both of them were capable. Then she moved on to imagine the state of the school should they turn the full force of their deviousness on each other in an all out war. The picture wasn't pretty.
Still, she thought it was worth a shot. In the event that they didn't end in a domino effect of deviousness that could very well take down the school with them, they could be happy together. Rose just knew it.
"Excuses! Stop being a chicken and kiss me."
Scorpius remained where he was, examining her. Rolling her eyes, Rose tackled him and mashed their mouths together, softening when they accidentally bumped teeth in her hurry. Having fallen on his back under the force of her tackle, Scorpius made no effort to push her away, instead he responded – if a little reluctantly – to her ministrations. Rose took that as a good sign.
"There, that wasn't so hard, was it?" she asked, lifting her head to meet his eyes. She was sprawled on his chest, so she was confident that he wouldn't be able to just run away like he'd done the last time she'd kissed him.
"That wasn't a kiss; that was assault."
She rolled her eyes once more. "Show me then."
Freeing the arm that had gotten squished under Rose when she jumped on him, Scorpius put a hand on either side of her face and placed the most gentle, sentimental kiss on her lips. It was completely out of character for either of them.
"You can do better than that," she scoffed.
"You just want me to kiss you again." He was still holding her face, so her smile pushed her cheeks against his palms.
"Maybe I just missed you and realized that not even plotting was fun without you there to share it with me. Maybe I've become so used to you being there with me every day that I didn't realize how important you were until we had to spend some time apart."
He kissed her, cutting off whatever else she'd been planning on saying. Not even Rose was certain how long she would have continued had he not stopped her tirade. Talking about her feelings was hard with Scorpius, but she wasn't used to hiding things from him, something that made talking to him infinitely easier than explaining herself to her father.
This time it was different than his gentle peck and her tackle kiss. Rose and Scorpius were not gentle people, something that was reflected in their kiss. It was all fire and a struggle for dominance; nips and caresses and even a pinch when Scorpius rolled them over so that he was on top of Rose. She hadn't liked being toppled from her position of power and made her displeasure known.
Uncomfortable, Rose shifted her legs until Scorpius rested between them, cradled by her thighs. With anyone else, she would have felt trapped, but this was perfect.
A little too perfect. Blissfully happy was not a familiar place for Rose.
She pulled away, smiling at Scorpius' darkened eyes. Even if he was an amazing liar and she'd misread him – which she knew she hadn't – he wouldn't be able to hide that he was attracted to her, especially with the way their lower halves were pressed together.
He quirked an eyebrow in silent question, wondering why they'd stopped.
"Or maybe I just wanted you to kiss me again," she said with a grin.
Scorpius wasn't fooled. Scorpius was never fooled. His face was suddenly serious. "I may love you."
It was a warning more than anything. He was telling her to stop right now, to leave him there and give him some space if she wasn't serious about them being together. Underneath this seriousness though, Rose saw that he was only warning her in the first place because he needed their friendship just as much as she did.
Rose didn't let him bring her happy mood down with uncomfortable sappiness. Besides, he should have known better. "I will neither confirm nor deny my feelings until you kiss me again."
She didn't need to clarify what she meant, Scorpius understood.
Not much changed between them in the eyes of the public. They sat a little closer and occasionally allowed their hands to brush as they walked side by side, but otherwise gave almost no indication that their relationship had shifted significantly.
Their relationship, of course, didn't distract them in the least from their usual way of life. It was only two days after the arrests of their classmates that Rose walked into the Great Hall a little late, having overslept, to find that there was something strange happening.
"What's going on?" Rose asked, sitting down beside Scorpius and looking towards the head table, where Headmistress McGonagall was talking quickly in Professor Griffith's ear. As she watched, the professor's face paled and he shook his head vehemently.
"I'm not positive," Scorpius said, the corner of his mouth twitching as he fought a smile, "But if I had to guess, I'd say that the Headmistress just found some pictures in Professor Griffith's classroom of him and Phoebe Clark doing some very inappropriate things."
Thoughtlessly nibbling on a piece of toast, Rose nodded. "Interesting approach. It's simple but elegant. Took you forever though."
Scorpius shrugged. "I was busy."
"Why didn't they try to expel you sooner for the whole assault thing?" Rose asked. They hadn't been talking for a stretch, and then she'd been so busy that she'd plain forgotten to ask him about that.
"Headmistress McGonagall didn't believe that I would randomly assault a girl I'd tried so hard to escape not so long ago. She refused to take such severe action against me until she had something more than a crazy woman's words as proof - I'm paraphrasing, of course."
Since everyone's attention was riveted on Professor Griffith as he was marched from the room by the Headmistress, Rose allowed herself a moment of affection. She leaned her head against Scorpius' shoulder, rubbing his knee under the table. "I love it when you talk devious."
"I know you do." He removed her hand from his leg and placed it on the table beside her fork – not because he wasn't enjoying the attention, but because he was enjoying it too much to be appropriate for a public place. Scorpius was a bit of a prude that way and Rose thought it was both hilarious and adorable.
Rose sighed, but took the hint and started piling food on her plate. "Now that you're done with that business, you're free to help me make plans for Luciano. You're family, so you can visit him in prison without arousing too much suspicion."
"What were you thinking?"
"I'm torn between making sure that his cell is infested with large, hostile rats for the duration of his stay, or hiring a Muggleborn actress to make him fall in love with her, only to tell him that she's a Muggleborn and break his heart when she leaves him." She sighed, looking genuinely distraught. "I'm limited because I don't want to upset Professor Zabini by completely breaking his son or disgracing their family name."
Scorpius briefly rested a consoling hand on her shoulder. "Think of this as an exercise in creativity – or restraint." He pondered the choices seriously for a moment. "I think the first option would be better. Uncle Blaise would be annoyed if your revenge only strengthened Luciano's prejudices."
"Maybe he'll get rabies." She said it with all of the optimistic hopefulness of a child proclaiming on the last day of summer vacation that maybe school would be cancelled for the year.
Not pleased with his cousin in the least and nowhere near ready to forgive the other boy for hurting Rose, Scorpius mirrored her evil grin. "We can only hope."