Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, or anything else that may be referenced in this chapter.

A/N: Perpetual thank you to yous all for reading, reviewing, following and favouring and I hope you all enjoy this chapter! :)

Twitter: Prof_McGonagal

Chapter 9

Despite the extent of her confliction and uncertainty, Rose determinedly endeavoured to put all thoughts of Severus and Draco aside over the next few days, instead choosing to focus on relaxing, resting her ankle and enjoy spending time with Blaise. Though Rose was steadily regaining normal use of her ankle, she couldn't risk going beyond the wards of Zabini Manor and its grounds in case Death Eaters were flying around looking for her, she and Blaise couldn't go out on dates- at least, until she was seventeen and didn't have the trace on her, but they spent a majority of their time lounging around at the very bottom left hand corner of the Manor's grounds, where, behind a private clump of trees, was a clearing in which remained an enormous yet rather aged and in some places metallic wooden treehouse; a wooden picnic table; a plastic sandpit; and, in the trees lining the clearing, strings upon springs of multi-coloured fairy lights. The sunlight shone through the branches of the trees, the former ensuring that the clearing was pleasantly warm and cool at the same time.

"This place is brilliant." Rose smiled, snuggling close to Blaise as they lay on a picnic blanket in the early hours of the afternoon, the first time Blaise had brought her to the clearing.

"Yeah, it's pretty special." Blaise smiled, too, playing with her hair. "…Can you do me a favour, though?"

"Sure." Rose agreed, looking up at him curiously. "What is it?"

"Please don't tell anyone about this place." Blaise said. "I helped my father build the tree house- it was the last thing we built together before my father died- and I don't really want to to share it with anyone else but you just yet; that's why I never mentioned this place when everyone stayed here in the summer between second and third year- I just wasn't ready."

"I get that." Rose nodded, "and of course I won't tell anyone- your secret's safe with me."

"Thanks- and I know." Blaise smiled, leaning over and kissing her. Rose kissed him back, deepening the kiss and sliding her arms around his shoulders as he moved closer, his arms wrapping cosily around her waist.

As well as lounging about in the grounds, Rose and Blaise spent considerable time in the once-guestroom room that Blaise had transformed into an office for his inventing, experimenting with various potions, spells, and Muggle objects. Blaise wanted to see if there was a higher purpose to cufflinks, and Rose was happy to help as much as she could, brewing potions and writing descriptions as Blaise transfigured and charmed one pair of cufflinks after the other, trying to inflict various magical properties upon them, whether they be disillusionment charms or the communicative element of Patronuses; with varying levels of frustration.

"If I see another pair of cufflinks I think I'm going to be sick." Blaise groaned, slumping down the wall behind the desk to the floor of the office, having failed to turn their current set of cufflinks into something akin to a communicative Patronus.

"I wouldn't look at the desk then," Rose said, sinking down beside him, slowly and carefully as to not disturb her ankle.

"Mmm," Blaise acknowledged, tilting his head thoughtfully to one side. "…D'you think I should give up?" he asked after a moment. "I mean, will there ever be a need for magical people to talk through their cufflinks?"

"There might be," Rose titled her head to one side, too. "So no, you most certainly should not give up; positivity, remember?"

"Cufflinks aren't really up there with matters with dire consequences." Blaise pointed out

"Doesn't mean you can't extent your positive outlook." Rose pointed out. "Now, come on," she struggled to her feet with the aid of Blaise and her now only necessary single crutch, concluding her endeavour by smoothing down her hair with absolutely no success whatsoever. "We've come too far to be beaten by a pair of cufflinks- red and gold ones at that."

Blaise grinned. "You're right," he agreed, nodding and getting to his feet, too.

When Rose and Blaise were not out in the grounds or trying to turn clothing items into spyware, Blaise had to work out with Antonio- his grandmother had a great deal of contracts in motion and he had to, or so Giselle pointed out when Blaise argued he needed a break after working fir a month, be ready to work at any moment. Rose went along to the training sessions to keep Blaise company, work out a little herself with hand weights and other non-feet-using exercise equipment and at times lean on her crutches standing over Blaise while he lifted weights, eating sweets she got from the kitchen for a laugh.

"… Blaise?" Antonio said at the end of one such training session, moments before Rose and Blaise would leave the Manor's gym. Blaise paused in his efforts to swipe Rose's bag of sweets and looked around. "Can a talk to you for a moment please?" Ant asked; he looked oddly nervous. "Alone?"

"…Sure." Blaise said after a moment, turning back into the room. Rose slipped a chocolate frog into his hand, smiled back in response his smile of thanks and left the gym for her bedroom; showering and quickly changing her clothes. Having massaged her still slightly sore ankle through the leg of her jeans, Rose got up from the edge of her bed and crossed the room, intending on going in search of Blaise.

When she opened the door, however, she found Blaise standing outside it, poised to knock. He had changed, too, but looked rather ashen faced.

"Hey," he said, lowering his hand and clearly trying to smile, though it came out very much like a grimace.

"Hey," Rose replied, stopping short in surprise at his demeanour. "I was just coming to find you- are you alright?"

"Um- I dunno." Blaise half-shrugged, running a hand through his hair. "I had a shower and ate the chocolate frog; I thought that would help but it didn't- I need to talk to you."

"Okay… come in," Rose drew back, closing the door after Blaise as he passed her and sank down onto the side of the bed, staring at his lap as he twisted the Zabini family ring around his finger with such velocity Rose half expected it to fly off at any moment.

"…Blaise-?" she asked, moving towards him after several moments of silence.

"Antwanarryother." Blaise garbled, looking up and staring helplessly at Rose.

"Pardon?" Rose asked, her brow furrowing as she tried to work out what he had said.

"Antonio," Blaise said clearly, looking just as helpless as before, "he just asked for my permission to marry my mother."

"He did?" Rose stared at him, sitting down beside him on the bed. Blaise nodded. "What did you say?"

"I froze." Blaise answered. "I didn't know what to say or how I felt- I still don't- ended up asking him if he had asked Irma telling him that he should ask her first when he said he hadn't, then I bolted."

"Right," Rose nodded. "So… are you okay with Ant wanting to marry, and potentially marrying your mother?" she asked gently.

"I don't know." Blaise answered, running his hand through his hair again. "I mean, even though they've only been together for like…" he paused, thoughtfully; counting "…seven months or something, but Ant and my mother have known each other for years and he's a good guy and all, but-" he broke off, clearly struggling to order his thoughts. "… but I'm worried that if he and my mother get married- well, that'll make him my step-father; and even though I'm seventeen and an adult that stuff still matters and I'm worried that he might, you know… one day replace my father." Blaise's eyes found Rose's, looking anxious; searching for help.

Rose hesitated slightly before replying, working out what she thought and then putting those thoughts in order.

"…I never knew your father," she began, "but from what I've heard about him from you, and Irma in the common room in fourth year, I think your father wouldn't want you to worry; and he would want you and Irma and your mother to be happy. If your mother and Ant do get married it doesn't mean that anyone will have stop caring and forget about your father; Ant wouldn't be replacing him- not even really with your mother. Your father's still going to be your father, and because you're seventeen Ant won't really have any authority over you; and like you said he's a good guy, so I bet that all he will try and do is help your mother and Irma and you as much as possible; and, if it helps, just think of him and the possibly impending wedding as…" Rose paused, trying to think of a way to phrase it. "…a new- or the last- paragraph in the same chapter in the overall book of life; you know?"

"…Yeah," Blaise nodded slowly after a moment, his expression clearing as he did so. "Yeah, you're right. It just took me by surprise that's all- and I mean, yeah, it'd be a bit weird at first and take getting used to, but like you said, my father's still going to be my father and if Ant makes my mother happy then, you know; that's okay." He smiled, clearly a great deal more relaxed.

"That's the spirit," Rose grinned, leaning up and kissing him.

"… D'you reckon I should I go and tell Ant that I think it's okay and explain, now; or wait until he's asked Irma?" Blaise asked when they broke apart for air.

"Go now." Rose said. "You'll feel better about it all if you do."

"True." Blaise nodded, getting to his feet. "…Can you come with me, please?" he asked, after a moment, holding out his hand. "For probably awkward conversation moral support and post awkward conversation chocolate?"

"'Course." Rose smiled, taking his hand; lacing her fingers through his as they left the room in search of Antonio and chocolate.

Antonio took the news of Blaise's acceptance and his explanation of why he froze very well indeed, something that put Blaise's mind very much at ease; and so it was that Rose and Blaise ended up starting a celebratory chocolate fight in the kitchens with the house-elves, something that ended only when Giselle burst into the kitchen, demanding to know what in Merlin's name was going on and then why Blaise and Rose felt the need to start food fights at seventeen.

"Technically Rose isn't seventeen for another… seven hours." Blaise pointed out with a grin, sweeping five dozen pieces of chocolate from the floor into the rubbish bin with a wave of his wand.

Rose started, ceasing to pick chocolate mini eggs from her hair. "…Oh, yeah." She said. "I'd forgotten."

"You forgot about your seventeenth birthday?" Blaise asked, starting at her in surprise and amusement.

"Well, you know, a lot has happened," Rose shrugged, sheepishly. "And they say time flies when you're having fun." She smiled, leaning up and kissing him softly.

"That they do." Blaise smiled against her lips, wrapping his arms around her.

"When you're quite finished being soppy," Giselle interrupted, her voice rather muffled. Pulling away from each other slightly sheepishly and turning around, Rose and Blaise saw her leaning against one of the kitchen benches, her hands and mouth bugling with chocolate she had clearly collected from the surface. "You can help the elves clear this mess up. Elves- I order you to let them help you," She ordered the House-Elves; looking around at them all. Murmurs of 'yes mistress' followed her as she swept from the kitchen, scoping up chocolate from various surfaces and gleaming kitchen appliances as she did so.


Even with the aid of magic, it took a couple of hours to clean the manor's extensive kitchen of all traces of the chocolate fight. Thus Rose was rather tired come the end of the day and fell asleep moments after falling into bed without a second thought.

She and Harry were walking along a road that ran the width of a mountain. It was early in the morning; the soft blue light of dawn shone down over them and the small town swamped with midst far below them. Could the man they sought be down in the town; the man they wanted so very badly they couldn't think of very much else, the man who definitely was in possession of the answer, the solution to their problem...?

BANG!

Rose awoke with a start, flying up in bed and straining to see through her natural vision as she looked around her wildly. Light was streaming through the fuzzy navy blue blurs that were the curtains around the window, telling her it was morning, but what had awoken her she didn't know. Turning to her right, Rose squinted, fumbling along the beside table for her glasses. Finding them, Rose picked them up and slid them onto the end of her nose, looking around at the beside clock as her vision restored itself. It was a quarter-past seven in the morning. Noting the earliness of the hour, Rose considered going back to sleep, but found herself staring at her bedclothes, a knot of emotions where twisting around in her stomach.

She was happy, yes, because it was her birthday and she was finally seventeen and could do magic outside of Hogwarts, but she had always thought that Severus, and Draco, would be with her on her seventeenth birthday; that things would be okay between them. Rose winced inwardly at this last and pushed the thoughts from her mind, not wanting to delve into such complicated thoughts on her birthday. Despite this, Rose couldn't help but bite her lip slightly as she thought over the dream she had just had.

…Wherever the Dark Lord was, or indeed, who he was looking for, Rose didn't know, but she rather thought that wherever he was, he was abroad; the mountain and the little town below it didn't look very much as though they were anywhere in Britain…

Pausing in her reflections, Rose remembered her desire not to delve into such complicated thoughts on her birthday. Shaking her head to clear it, and realising that she was too awake to go back to sleep, Rose got out of bed and entered her room's ensuite bathroom, intent on having a long, hot shower and relishing the thought that at last, she could dry her hair with magic outside of Hogwarts.

A short while later, Rose emerged from her bedroom, fully dressed and smiling at the scent of her strawberry-flower shampoo and conditioner that surrounded her. She caught sight of Blaise halfway down the stairs, a rectangular parcel wrapped in black and white checked paper under his arm and sped up to catch up with him.

"Morning." She smiled, falling into step beside him.

"Good morning," Blaise smiled back, slipping his free arm around her and kissing her neck around her air, grinning as she giggled. "You look happy; sleep well?"

"Yeah- had a funny dream, though," Rose pushed her hair from her face, and detailed the dream. "… I think the Dark Lord's abroad somewhere; looking for someone- dunno who, but I hope they stay hidden- the longer the Dark Lord's away from Britain the better."

"Yeah," Blaise agreed, nodding vehemently.

BANG!

"Merlin!" Rose exclaimed as both she and Blaise jumped violently at the second tremendous bang, just as loud as the first, if not louder, echoed through the house.

"Apologies Master; Miss." A female-sounding house-elf said, apparating onto the bottom of the stairs before them. "We house-elves are trying to build an exploding cake on Mistress Giselle's orders, but it keeps… well, exploding before we can finish."

"What does she want with an exploding cake Ginmey?" Blaise asked, slightly out of breath.

"Quite honestly, Master, we hasn't the faintest idea." The house-elf- Ginmey- replied. "Apologies, sir, miss, but Ginmey must return to the kitchen; fresh breakfast is on the dining table…"

"Yeah," Blaise nodded, recovering his composure. "Thanks; you may go Ginmey."

"I did wonder what that noise was," Rose remarked as Ginmey apparated away and she and Blaise reached the bottom of the stairs, and crossed the foyer.

"So did I," Blaise said as they entered the dining room and sat down at the table, which was laden, as Ginmey had said, with freshly cooked breakfast. "Speaking of cakes- happy birthday." He smiled, holding out the rectangular parcel.

"Thank you." Rose smiled back, leaning across and kissing his cheek as she took the gift. Opening it on the dining table in front of them, Rose felt her mouth fall open. Beneath the paper was a beautifully made black leather potions ingredients case, embroidered with a large silver 'R' in cursive font on the front and complete with a black-feathered silver quill in a holder and a re-fillable, removable black notebook emblazoned with a silver cursive 'R', too, fitted on the inside of the right of the case's two silver padlocked doors, which came with too small, silver keys. Still open-mouthed in awe, Rose turned from the case to Blaise to find him watching her rather nervously.

"I thought you might find it useful, or you know, just like it a lot in general." He said, sounding as nervous as he looked. But whatever nerves he felt were utterly alienated as Rose leaned across again and kissed him passionately. Blaise kissed her back in kind, sliding his hands into her hair and half-losing them in its chaos...

"…It's amazing." Rose said breathlessly when they were forced to break apart for air. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Blaise replied in kind, smiling at her happiness.

Tap-Tap! Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap!

Rose and Blaise looked around. A plump, important looking, shiny-feathered barn owl sat on the dining room's window-sill, blinking at them beadily, a letter in tow. Blaise took his wand from his pocket and flicked it at the window, opening it. The owl flew into the room, landing on the table in front of Blaise and holding out its leg.

"Looks like it's from Pansy." Rose said, recognising the handwriting on the envelope as Blaise untied the letter from the owl's leg.

"… It is," Blaise said, opening it. "… As far as she and the others know you're still at Godric's Hollow and they're planning on surprising you, and am I back from Italy and not too tired to join in and if not do I have any messages?"

"Oh Merlin," Rose groaned.

"You can say that again." Blaise ran a hand through his hair. "… I can't tell her you're here in case the letter gets intercepted… and I can't not reply…"

"Well, you can," Rose said reasonably. "but for politeness sake it's probably best that you reply, but lie. Say you're still in Italy... and say no message; that'll sort of pave the way for our faux-break-up."

"Yeah," Blaise nodded, flicking his wand again and summoning a quill, inkpot and piece of parchment. "… 'Hi Pansy,'" he murmured as he wrote, 'Sorry still I'm still in Italy; and thanks for offering but no message for Rose. All the best, Blaise.' How's that?" he asked, looking up from the letter to Rose.

"Good." Rose nodded, biting the inside of her lip slightly after a moment. "Sucks doesn't it?" "Being in hiding?"

"Yeah- but it will be alright," Blaise said comfortingly, retying the letter to the Owls leg.

"I know." Rose said, smiling slightly. "Positivity."

"Yeah," Blaise grinned, finishing tying the letter to the Owls leg and offering it a slice of bacon. "…So, what do you want to do today?" he asked as the owl took the bacon and flew off through the window and they started on breakfast.

"Well," Rose tilted her head to one side, thinking. "I am trace free and it's very warm outside…"

"… Are you sure this is how you want to spend your birthday?" Blaise called through the door of Rose's bedroom some twenty-five minutes later, rather amused.

"Yes," Rose called from within the room, her tone so very simple and certain that Blaise couldn't help but laugh.

"Keep still for just a moment, longer please, Rose," Blaise heard his mother murmur; then a moment later the bedroom door opened and Blaise's eyebrows rose in surprise.

Rose paraded out of the bedroom, giggling; but she didn't look or sound like very much like herself at all. She was the same height and shape and skin tone and still wore her glasses, her long, messy dark red hair was now just short of her collar bones, iron straight, neat, and jet black, complete with a blunt fringe. Her eyes were still the same shape but were now bicoloured- her left was bright blue; her right a dark brown; and there was a thick smattering of dark freckles across her nose and cheeks. Her laugh, too, was rather higher pitched than usual, and when she spoke, it was with a perfect high pitched Italian accent; quite a contrast from the usual sound of her voice.

"Hello, Blaise; d'you recognise me?" She grinned.

"No- but how the bloody hell are you talking like that so well?" Blaise asked, amazed.

Rose smirked, tugging down the collar of her dark blue t-shirt to reveal the little silver and green rose charmed necklace that altered the sound of the wearer's voice if they wanted it to, he had given her for Christmas in their first year at Hogwarts, resting atop her now silver and flower shaped anniversary necklace.

"Ah." Blaise smirked back, understanding.

"The charms are due to wear off in a few hours so as long as you two are back by about half-past three you should be fine," Giselle said, following Rose from the room.

"Okay- thank you so much agreeing to this Giselle," Rose smiled "And again for my jewellery case." she added, referring to the silver jewel case Giselle and Antonio had given her for her birthday.

"You're very welcome Rose," Giselle smiled back. "I trust you two can look after each other; and you are in disguise."

"Any chance I could be in disguise, too?" Blaise asked, slightly sheepishly. "I mean, I know you're you, Rose, but you don't look like you and I feel a bit weird going out looking like me when you don't look like you; you know?"

"Yeah." Rose nodded, understanding.

Giselle nodded, too; raising her wand. "Keep still, then, son of mine."

"… Better?" Rose asked some ten minutes later, grinning.

Blaise looked at himself in the full-length mirror in Rose's bedroom and grinned, too. Like Rose, he was the same height and shape and had the same skin tone as usual, but his hair, though still black, was longer, falling over his forehead in curls; a layer of stubble ran across his face, making he prominence of his cheekbones less noticeable; and his eyes, though still long and slanting, were a light amber colour, as opposed to their usual brown. He still looked rather like himself, but not enough to be recognised upon closer expectation and a little older, too.

"Much." He replied, speaking as though he too, had an Italian accent. Though he did not have a necklace or charm to alter his voice, his learning to speak both English and Italian at the same time as a child had left him- and Irma, too- with the ability to speak English with a perfectly natural sounding Italian accent- something that he was often stuck with for a couple of days after spending weeks on end in Italy.

"Well, the wards have been adjusted to recognise family members so you should be able to apparate with Rose just fine Blaise, so you two have fun- and stay safe," Giselle said, following them from the bedroom as Peeley apparated into the hallway carrying a picnic basket. "Come back instantly if you see anyone suspicious."

"Will do." Blaise agreed; Rose nodded, too; looping her arm through Blaise's free one as he offered it to her, and smiling in thanks as Blaise did as he accepted the picnic basket from Peeley.

"Well be gone with you!" Giselle grinned, waving as Blaise readjusted his hold on the basket.

"Bye," Rose and Blaise replied, and then Rose redoubled her grip on Blaise's arm as he twisted o the spot and moments later she and Blaise were standing on the small bank of finely cut grass that lay before the large, pristine, rich aqua lake completely with a small waterfall past the bush land near the end of Blaise's street. Discarding her shoes, socks, t-shirt and shorts in seconds, Rose adjusted the straps of her bikini and tested the water with her toes.

"Oh, I knew it would be worth it," she sighed, falling into the water; having discerned that it was warm enough. "Spending my birthday looking like someone else to swim here."

"You don't look that different- just your face and eyes and hair," Blaise pointed out, joining her in the water. "You've still got your normal clothes." He gestured to the bikini she wore; the same blue ne she had worn in Italy.

Rose suppressed a smirk, remembering something Blaise had said to her when he sleepwalked in the Hospital Wing after being attacked by the greater yellow-headed vulture. "True." She acknowledged. "Though I think I prefer my normal hair; especially with this blue, don't you think?" she smirked at him teasingly, raising her eyebrows as though curious.

Blaise stared at her for a moment, then his eyes widened in horror. "… That night in the Hospital Wing after the vulture incident…" he said slowly after a moment. "Did I sleepwalk? Did I say what I think I did?"

"Yes you did." Rose nodded, giggling as Blaise grinned sheepishly; running his hand through his newly long hair. "And I was very flattered," she went on, leaning up and kissing him, sliding her arms around Blaise's neck as he kissed her back, hugging her waist.

"…Merlin it's going to be difficult," Blaise murmured when they broke apart for air and began to drift around the lake. "Our pretending to break-up I mean."

"I know," Rose nodded, settling her head into his shoulder. "But it's only temporary; until we know that we can be together and it not be taken advantage of … we should probably start it properly soon…"

"Not now." Blaise said quickly.

"No." Rose shook her head just as quickly. "Not anymore than we have today…" she trailed off, biting her lip thoughtfully "…how about we start tomorrow?" she suggested. "Have one last day of openness then-" she broke off, not entirely sure how to finish, or even wanting to.

"…Fight." Blaise concluded after a moment. "We need to put it about that we've fought and broken up that way because it's the only way this is going to work." He went on as Rose stared at him. "I don't think it will really be believed that there's nothing in our relationship to take advantage of if we say everything's all fine…." He trailed off, tilting his head to one side thoughtfully. "…The way it's going to work, I think, is if we pretend to force amicability; not so it's awkward; only so that it's believable- you know?"

"We pretend like we're angry but insist everything's fine?" Rose asked; Blaise nodded. "…Okay," Rose agreed, slowly. "So what do we say we fought about?"

Blaise paused. "… Dunno." He said after a moment, his brow furrowing. "… We could say that we argued about whether or not you should go with Potter," he went on thoughtfully. "You thought it was a good idea to go, I said you shouldn't because it's too dangerous, and we got into a big argument…" he trailed off, thinking again. "…and then I ended it in a 'it's-up-to-you' type thing."

"… And the Order sent me here because they needed a safe place to, and they don't care that we broke up." Rose went on. "and we've spent the time we have together avoiding each other and bickering, not spending time together and snogging." She grinned.

"Yeah," Blaise grinned, too, "and we're still both angry with each other about the argument because I said that you would be being stupid by going and you took that as I said you were stupid."

"And so I said I was only trying to do the right thing and the stupid thing to do would be to put myself in danger and that you were the stupid one for not seeing that…" Rose continued.

For the next fifteen minutes they floated around in the lake, their arms around each other, planning their argument and faux break-up in detail.

"… Then we exchanged 'Fines' and I turned around and walked through the gate and down to the house." Rose concluded as they drifted in the general direction of the waterfall.

"And I apparated to the Ministry and went back to Italy." Blaise nodded. "So ends the sorry tale of our break up."

"And what a good sorry tale it is." Rose giggled, leaning up and kissing him.

"Yes it is," Blaise smiled against her lips, kissing her back; deepening the kiss as she drew back against one of the rocks framing the waterfall and pulled him closer, running her hands through his hair as his hands slid down to her hips and they kissed passionately anew.

"Merlin Rosie I l-"

CRACK!

Blaise broke off abruptly as he and Rose sprang apart at the great cracking noise searing through the clearing. Whirling around in the water they stared around them, but the lake and its surroundings were quite deserted.

"Did that sound like apparition to you as well?" Rose asked, unnerved.

"A bit yeah." Blaise said, hurrying out of the lake and over to their clothes. Rose followed, pulling her wand from the pocket of her shorts as Blaise took his from on top of his shirt.

"Homenum Revelio," Rose said.

Nothing happened.

"...That's a good sign; I think." Blaise said, looking around them warily.

CRACK!

A second crack filled the air, sounding much closer this time.

"Oh, for Merlin's sake, Archie, you're such a prat." A man's rather raspy, nasty sounding voice replied. "We're on wrong side of the suburb- It's a wonder you passed your apparition test."

"Sorry Scabior." Another man said, his tone very timid indeed. "I-I can try again."

"No- I'd rather walk." The first man, Scabior, replied.

"Who the hell is that?" Rose whispered to Blaise as the faint sound of footsteps crunching through the bushland reached them.

"Dunno." Blaise whispered back. "But they don't sound very friendly."

"Ruddy pathetic excuse for a Slytherin you are," Scabior's voice went on. "It's a wonder you didn't get kicked out for being a squib…"

The footsteps were very close indeed now. Rose and Blaise exchanged nervous glances.

"Let's get out of here." Rose said, feeling slightly panicked.

"Yeah," Blaise nodded, and snatching up the unopened picnic basket and their clothes, Rose took Blaise's arm and they apparated away, arriving back in the safety of the foyer of Zabini Manor soaking wet and to the fading echo of a loud CRACK!


"Scabior you say?" Giselle asked interestedly, looking at Rose and Blaise over the Chocolate Cobweb composed, cauldron shaped cake hat was desert at around a quarter to eight that evening. When Rose and Blaise returned from the lake they found she had left a note with Peeley say she had been called to Italy for a business meeting with Blaise's grandmother, and had only got back a few minutes before the start of dinner; when Rose and Blaise had launched into the tale of what they had heard.

"That's what we heard; and Archie." Rose nodded, spearing a bit of her cake slice with her fork.

"Why?" Blaise asked, eyeing his mother shrewdly. "Do you know them- or this Scabior?"

"I know of a Scabior, yes- there was one in Ant's at Hogwarts; and an Archie too; remember darling?" she asked, turning to Antonio beside her.

"Yeah," Antonio nodded. "Particularly nasty pieces of work they both were, but last I heard they were in Azkaban for attempting to rob Gringotts- well, they were on their way to Azkaban; they had to stay in St. Mungo's for six months beforehand, because the Goblins got hold of them during the robbery." He grinned, draining the last of his drink. "Merlin knows what they were doing here, though- perhaps Scabior's got a relative or something."

The sound of a doorbell rang through the house as he spoke, and Giselle looked around in surprise.

"Who on earth could that be?" she asked. Moments later, a knock sounded on the dining room door and one of Zabini Manor's house-elves, Ginmey, looked around it.

"Yes, Ginmey?" Giselle asked.

"Apologies for the interruption, Mistress, but there is a man at the door, asking for Miss Rose; Peeley is watching them now." Ginmey said.

"For Rose?" Giselle asked, looking alarmed. "Did they give a name?"

"Yes Mistess." Ginmey nodded. "Rufus Scrimgeour."

A/N: Please review! :)