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The Girl in the Walls by Modest_K

Format: Novel
Chapters: 19
Word Count: 107,945
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Spoilers

Genres: Drama, Humor, Mystery, Romance, Angst
Characters: Albus, Dominique, James (II), Rose, Scorpius, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Rose/Scorpius, James/OC, OC/OC

First Published: 04/08/2020
Last Chapter: 10/15/2020
Last Updated: 10/15/2020

Summary:

 

Taralyn grew up in the Room of Requirement. She's the girl in the walls, more of a resident at Hogwarts than any other student. Now, she's determined to find out who her mother really was, why the woman raised her at the castle, and why she mysteriously disappeared without a trace. 

 

Which would be easier to investigate, of course, if she didn’t also have to deal with her best friend's dating drama, demanding Quidditch practices, Scorpius and Rose’s denial, and Albus Potter thinking he’s some sort of snogging god



Chapter 1: Albus Potter and the Three Bloody Favors
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I peeked my head out the passageway exit and into the hallway slowly, cautiously. As far as I could see, there was no one in sight. 

 

Breathing a sigh of relief, I crept out from the empty space and stepped into the corridor. Turning, I pressed on the corner of the nearest portrait- a man called Hallows, who was usually waltzing around the space of the painting without a partner. He was a bit of an odd bugger.

 

Upon pressing the right spot on the frame, the wall closed itself over the hole from which I’d emerged, covering up the passageway. 

 

Smiling to myself, I started down the hallway, making my way to the common room. 

 

“How’d you find that?”

 

I whirled around with a shrill scream.

 

Albus Potter was staring at me, now clamping his hands over his ears. “Ow, bloody hell Rivers, you want to wake the whole castle?”

 

“Well don’t startle me then, Potter,” I snapped back. “What the hell are you doing out so late under that stupid cloak?”

 

His face went white. “I don’t know what you’re on about.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Please, Potter, your brother’s let me use it before; I know it exists. And you weren’t anywhere in sight seconds before you spoke.”

 

“James bloody what now?” Albus demanded. “He’s not supposed to do that, it’s family only.”

 

“He said I was close enough,” I smirked. “Seeing as I spend more breaks with your family than my own.” Of course, spending them with my family wasn’t an option, but he didn’t need to know that. “Besides, do you expect me to believe you’ve never let Scorpius use it?”

 

He frowned. “Unbelievable. You haven’t told anyone, have you?”

 

I crossed my arms. “No, prat, I haven’t. Now I ask again- what are you stalking around at night for, Potter?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

I raised an eyebrow. “So I won’t be stuck listening to Liza Davies raving about shagging you during Potions tomorrow?”

 

“Jealous?” he taunted with a smirk. 

 

“You wish,” I glared back. Arrogant prick.  

 

“A little,” he shrugged, making me flush slightly. “Anyway, tell me about that passageway! Has that always been there?” He went over to the wall and rested a hand against it curiously. 

 

“I’m not answering your questions,” I snapped. 

 

“Does it have something to do with you living at Hogwarts full time?” he questioned. 

 

I froze. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said automatically, but I was sure my initial facial expression had given me away.

 

He continued smirking. “Yeah you do. See, everyone else might be keen on buying your little tales about your so-called family and why you never see them for holidays- but I’ve caught on. I’ve never seen you on the train outside of breaks where you come to our place, there are cracks all over your ‘family stories,’ and the day we met, you were at Diagon Alley with Professor Mansir! You don’t have any family, do you?”

 

 I concentrated hard on keeping myself from gaping like a fish. “I- Fine. I have no family. But that doesn’t prove that I live at Hogwarts.”

 

He merely shrugged. “Maybe not. But I have another very good reason to believe it. In fact, I’m certain of it.”

 

I shut my eyes tight as it dawned on me. “The map.” 

 

“For fuck’s sake,” I heard him sigh. “Has my family told you every bloody secret of ours?”

 

“Why would you check the map during school breaks?” I asked, opening my eyes to glare at him again. 

 

“Boredom,” he shrugged again. “I was hardly expecting to see anyone other than teachers show up, I opened it almost out of habit. But then there you were, strolling down the hallway in the middle of Christmas break.”

 

“When did you see that?” I frowned. “I haven’t stayed here for Christmas in years.”

 

“Third Year. But I’ve checked during some of the summers since, and you’ve kept appearing.”

 

“And you haven’t told anyone?” I narrowed my eyes in suspicion. 

 

He smirked. “I was waiting until I could use the information to my advantage.” Figures. “And now a lovely opportunity has presented itself.”

 

“Because you want to know about the passageways.” 

 

“Brilliant as always, Rivers,” he rolled his eyes. “Obviously. But I also want something else.”

 

“My living at Hogwarts isn’t a big enough secret to warrant anything more,” I growled. 

 

“Really?” he raised his eyebrows. “Because you’ve been friends with Rose for, what, six years now? And Dom considers you more of a sister than Victoire at this point. And yet you’ve never told either of them, have you?”

 

I seethed, hating to be in this position, with Albus Potter of all people. Stupid git. 

 

“Why not tell them, anyway?” he asked, surprisingly without his usual mirth. “I hardly think they’d care.”

 

“Your family has done enough for me, Potter,” I said quietly. “They already take me in for Christmas every year, and parts of summers sometimes too. I don’t need full time pity.”

 

He rolled his eyes. “They take you in because they like you Rivers, you know that.”

 

“Doesn’t matter.”

 

“Fine,” he smirked again. He leaned against the wall, his hands in his pockets. “Then in addition to revealing your secret passages, which I can’t believe aren’t on the map by the way, you have to owe me three favors.”

 

“What?” I hissed. “That’s insane.”

 

“Oh come on,” he argued. “You want me to keep your secret? Three favors, that’s my price.”

 

“Be reasonable,” I demanded. 

 

“I am,” he insisted. “Look, they won’t be anything illegal, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

 

I looked around desperately for some sort of escape, but we were standing completely alone, in a dark, empty corridor, just outside the entrance to the common room. There was no help for me there- just a cool breeze blowing through the dungeons, shockingly cool for it being September. 

 

“Nothing illegal,” I sighed, knowing I’d been beaten. “And nothing that could hurt someone.”

 

He raised an eyebrow. “Why would I have you hurt someone?”

 

“I don’t know,” I snapped. “I’m just drawing out limitations, here. Nothing illegal, nothing that would hurt anyone, and nothing that would completely humiliate me.”

 

Albus thought about it for a moment. “Alright. I would have quite liked to humiliate you, but I accept.”

 

He pushed himself away from the wall and held out a hand toward me. I stared at it distastefully for a moment before reaching out my own and clasping his. We shook briefly, him still smirking while I glowered back, before I pulled my hand away and rubbed it against the side of my robes, like I was trying to decontaminate myself.

 

He shot me a questioning look, to which I quipped, “Wasn’t sure if ‘prat’ was contagious- didn’t want to take any chances.”

 

He rolled his eyes. “You’re mental, Rivers.”

 

“Whatever,” I muttered, turning to enter the common room.

 

“Wait!” He called after me. 

 

I paused before I could reach the door and utter the password. “What?” I demanded, turning back irritatedly. 

 

“Why do you live at Hogwarts?” he asked in an uncharacteristically soft tone. 

 

I frowned, and for one odd moment, actually considered telling him.

 

Coming to my senses, I decided against it and turned back to the door, quietly murmuring the password before running inside. 

 


 

Small, eleven-year-old Taralyn could scarcely grasp the events of the day- just that morning, she’d thought she was going to have a perfectly normal day, raiding the kitchens, stopping by the library, maybe chatting with some interesting paintings. Now, she was strolling through Diagon Alley with her arms full of bags and a new wand in her pocket. 

 

When she and Professor Mansir stopped at Gringotts, she hadn’t known what to expect. Her mum had lived in the Room of Requirement- how much money could she have? She was especially surprised, then, to find a pile of gold across her vault. 

 

“Looks like your mum left you with more than enough to get you by,” Mansir had commented. 

 

Taralyn had just stared at it all in confusion. “I don’t… I don’t understand,” she’d said back. 

 

Who was her mother? She’d had more than enough money to provide for her daughter, apparently. So why had they lived in the castle? And why hadn’t she come back yet?

 

Taralyn shook the questions from her head as they moved on through Diagon Alley, collecting the rest of her school supplies. 

 

Once she’s acquired a wand, a cauldron, a few other supplies and her books, she begged Mansir to let her look through the Quidditch supplies. She’d always found the sport intriguing- she spent countless hours watching Hogwarts students flying around from the castle windows.

 

The two browsed the store for a bit, Taralyn excitedly looking through the brooms for sale. “I could afford one!” She informed Mansir with a smile. 

 

He rolled his eyes. “Doesn’t mean you should get one, Taralyn. First Years don’t usually make the Quidditch teams anyway- may as well save your money.”

 

She glared at him, but relented nonetheless, taking her hand off the handle of the broom she’d been admiring. A couple voices, suddenly, caught her attention.

 

“James, what do you need a broom for?” a young boy was asking. He looked about Taralyn’s age, with dark hair and bright green eyes. “You already have one.”

 

“For what I make the team, Al,” another boy rolled his eyes. He looked similar to the other one, though he was clearly a little older, and his eyes were darker. “I can hardly use that old thing I’ve been practicing on- I need something new to give me an edge.”

 

“Yeah, sure you’ll make the team,” the younger one snorted. “I watched you fall off your broom four times this summer.”

 

“Only because Fred pushed me off!” the other protested. 

 

“If he gets a broom, I ought to too,” the young one looked up at a red-headed woman that Tara assumed to be their mother. 

 

“Oh you ought to?” She raised her eyebrows. “Aren’t you both demanding today?”

 

“Please, Mum?” the older one pleaded.

 

“Maybe, James,” she smiled. “If you make the team, your father and I will consider buying you a new broom. Al, same will go for you if you want to try out.”

 

“Like he’d make it as a First Year,” the older one, James, snorted. 

 

“I could!” the other exclaimed. “Dad did. You’re just annoyed because you didn’t.”

 

The mother rolled her eyes. “Alright, let’s keep moving, yeah? You still have books to pick up.”

 

“Hey look!” James pointed toward where Taralyn was standing. “It’s Professor Mansir.”

 

The two boys and their mother headed toward them. “Hi Dexter,” the woman smiled. “Didn’t see you there.”

 

“Wotcher, Ginny?” Mansir smiled. “Hi James. This your brother?”

 

James grinned. “Yeah, this is Albus.”

 

“Hello,” the younger one smiled politely.

 

“Is this one yours?” the woman, Ginny, asked, gesturing at Tara, who stood beside Mansir timidly. 

 

He chuckled. “No, this is Taralyn. She’s just a First Year I’m helping since- er- her parents couldn’t make it.”

 

Ginny smiled, not having caught his stutter. “How nice!” She smiled down at Tara warmly. “Hi Taralyn. I’m Ginny Potter. Nice to meet you.”

 

“Hello,” Taralyn smiled back softly. 

 

“Why couldn’t your parents take you?” James asked her. 

 

“Don’t be nosy, James,” Ginny snapped. “Ignore him, love. These are my sons, James and Albus.”

 

Taralyn nodded to them politely. 

 

Albus gave her a small wave, while James regarded her curiously. “Are you Muggleborn?”

 

Taralyn shook her head. “My mum’s a witch.” She wasn’t actually sure who her father was, but it didn’t matter to the question, so she said nothing more.

 

“And you don’t already know who we are?” Albus raised his eyebrows. 

 

“Albus,” Ginny scolded. 

 

“Should I?” Taralyn questioned, making Albus frown.

 

“You must not follow much news,” James said in a matter-of-fact voice. “We’re famous.”

 

“Bloody hell,” Ginny moaned. “Excuse my rude and oh-so-modest sons,” she sighed. “They take after their uncle.”

 

“It’s alright,” Taralyn smiled sweetly, before lowering her gaze to meet those of the two boys. “I don’t follow celebrities much. Are you two pageant girls?” 

 

“Taralyn!” Mansir exclaimed. 

 

The boys’ faces slipped into scowls, while their mother burst into laughter. “I like this one,” she grinned at Mansir. “Well, we better be going before anything escalates. It was absolutely lovely to meet you Taralyn.”

 

“You too,” Taralyn beamed. “Bye ladies,” she waved at James and Albus. The two glared at her as they departed, their mother still chuckling. 

 

“How do you even know what a pageant is?” Mansir glanced down at Taralyn in amusement once the Potters were gone.  

 

She shrugged. “I found it in a Muggle Studies book I stole out of the library once.”

 

“All your reading and you really didn’t know who that family was?” he asked as the two left the store and walked back out onto the road.

 

“No,” she shook her head. “I haven’t gotten past the 1980s in my history reading yet. Why? Who are they?”

 

“No reason,” Mansir smiled. “You’ll find out eventually.”

 

 

 

Professor Mansir had been right, of course. Taralyn met the Potter-Weasleys on her first day at Hogwarts, standing in the entrance hall. She’d recognized Albus and greeted him as “Pageant Boy,” to his irritation. The girl beside him, a redheaded girl with large brown eyes, had giggled at the name before introducing herself to Taralyn as Rose Weasley. 

 

It wasn’t long after this interaction that she met the rest of the family. 

 

It started with Dominique Weasley. Like Albus, Taralyn was sorted into Slytherin. She’d read enough about the houses to know what it said about her character, but she hadn’t known about the stigma of the name. 

 

Little Taralyn was walking down the hall one day in early September when she experienced her first run-in with the prejudice. 

 

She’d been looking at her timetable with a frown, trying to remember the way to Transfiguration without taking any of the hidden passages. There were too many people to risk getting caught, so she wandered down the wide hallway with uncertainty. 

 

She hated the fact that she was running late. The last thing she needed was to find herself on the bad side of the teachers right off the bat. Only the day before, she’d found herself far outside of Slughorn’s good graces when Albus Potter had bumped her elbow as she stirred her potion. And it was obvious from the first second of class that the boy could do no wrong in the potion master's eyes, so the end result for Taralyn had been a failing grade on the potion and an afternoon cleaning up the classroom. 

 

Taralyn huffed at the memory. She continued on down the corridor, studying her class schedule along the way. While staring at the parchment, someone bumped into her shoulder, sending her flying to the floor. 

 

“Watch it, snake,” the boy had hissed, sneering as he turned to keep stalking down the hall. 

 

Taralyn glared at the boy, and drew her wand, but she didn’t yet know any spells to try on him.

 

Locomotor Wibbly!” She suddenly heard. The boy’s legs gave out, like jelly, and he fell to the floor with a grunt. “Git.”

 

Taralyn stared at her defender. The girl was clearly older than her by at least a couple years. Her strawberry blonde hair sat in gentle waves down her robes, her light eyes narrowed into slits. Taralyn couldn’t identify what it was, but the girl was obviously beautiful in a way that seemed unattainable, and the angry look on her face was chilling. 

 

“Have a problem with Slytherins?” The girl asked the bloke on the floor. “Think we’re all evil do you?”

 

“W-well,” the boy stammered. 

 

“My parents fought in the war against the Death Eaters,” the girl growled. “My uncle is Harry Potter himself- whose son, need I remind you, is a Slytherin.”

 

The boy nodded. “Y-you’re right. I’m sorry.”

 

The girl nodded to Taralyn. “Apologize to her too. Or I’ll curse your eyebrows off.”

 

He looked at her with a panicked expression. “I’m sorry for shoving you.”

 

The younger girl said nothing- she just nodded, still stunned.

 

“Come on,” the taller one smiled at her. The green of her tie made her eyes shine. “I’ll walk you to your class. Where are you headed?”

 

“Transfiguration,” Taralyn replied softly. 

 

“Great! Let’s go!” Taralyn followed quietly, the taller girl leading the way with an almost motherly air about her that Taralyn found herself drawn to. “I’m Dom, by the way, Dominique Weasley.”

 

“I’m Taralyn,” the younger one said. “Taralyn Rivers.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Tara,” Dom grinned at her. “Welcome to Hogwarts- and more importantly, welcome to Slytherin.”

 

“Weasley,” she repeated softly. “You’re related to a girl named Rose, right?”

 

She snorted. “Rose, and about fifty other cousins. My sister Victoire is a Seventh Year, my cousins James and Molly are all in second, Fred is in third with me, and Rose and Albus are in your year.”

 

Taralyn frowned. “You’re related to Albus Potter?”

 

“Yeah,” she shot her a somewhat challenging look. “Why?”

 

Taralyn shrugged, feeling brave for a moment. “I’m just sorry, is all. I’d hate to sure blood with the prat.”

 

She braced herself for the older girl’s wrath, which she had already witnessed to be frightening, when Dom suddenly burst out into laughter. “Not a fan, eh?”

 

“We may have gotten off on the wrong foot,” Taralyn admitted. “I called him a pageant girl and he knocked my potion off my desk.”

 

“A pageant girl?” Dom snorted. “Taralyn Rivers, we’re going to be excellent friends. Don’t worry about Al- he’s a prat sometimes, but I’m sure you’ll warm to each other eventually.”

 

Eventually. 

 


 

I turned over restlessly, pressing my face harder against my pillow. I had a horrible feeling about my run-in with Albus. I wasn’t sure what kind of favors he’d end up demanding of me, but I felt certain that he’d pick ones that would make me thoroughly miserable. 

 

I rolled over again, sighing with frustration. I was exhausted, but sleep seemingly wasn’t going to oblige me. 

 

“Tara?” 

 

I glanced over. Through the darkness, I could just make out the outline of Rylie’s figure. “Ry?” I whispered back.

 

“You’ve been thrashing for like a half hour,” my best friend replied quietly, not wanting to wake our other roommates. Zabini and Pritchard were cows during waking hours- disturbed from sleep they’d be right vicious. “Are you alright?”

 

I sighed. “Yeah. Don’t worry about it. Just had a weird evening.”

 

“You got back late,” she noticed. “Boy trouble?”

 

Even through whispers, I could hear the smirk in her tone. “Sod off,” I muttered. “It was nothing like what you want it to have been.”

 

“Damn,” she said. A moment later, she pressed, “But it was something to do with a boy?”

 

“Just a small row with Middle Potter.”

 

“Again? Blimey, Tara, we’ve only been back at school for a week!”

 

I sighed. “I know. But you know how it is.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, ‘he’s a prat,’ ‘he started it,’ ‘I was being perfectly pleasant’ blah blah blah.” I could practically hear her eyes roll. 

 

“Shut up,” I snapped quietly. “It’s true! You’ve seen how he acts.”

 

“That’s true. The flirting does get a little tiresome to watch.” She snickered softly. 

 

“We don’t flirt,” I growled. 

 

“He does.”

 

“Not seriously,” I frowned. “He does it to get a rise out of me.”

 

“Sure, Tara,” she yawned. “Well I’m off to sleep. Don’t let him get to you, alright?”

 

“I’ll try.”

 

I listened to her turn away before I let myself roll back onto my back, staring through the dark up at the ceiling, and listening to the lake water slosh against the windows. 

 

Trust Albus Potter to ruin an otherwise good day. 

 

I couldn’t believe he knew. And he found out in such an easy way. That stupid map made it so simple to catch me it made my blood boil. It felt like he’d cheated at a game we weren’t playing. 

 

Why did it have to be him of all bloody people? If it had to be someone with the map, why couldn’t it have been James? Or Lily? Either of them would have been much nicer to me about it. 

 

Stupid Albus Potter. 

 

I thought for a long moment about whether it was even worth the secret- surely by now I could tell my friends the truth about my home life, right? But I’d meant what I told him before. If Rose, Dom, James, Fred, or pretty much anyone else in that family knew that I lived at Hogwarts year-round, and that my father was non-existent as far as I was concerned while my mother had been missing for six years, they’d insist I come home with them for the entirety of all our remaining breaks. They’d worry and feel bad for me. 

 

I didn’t need anyone’s pity. And, truthfully, I couldn’t afford to leave Hogwarts for long. Not yet. Some childlike part of me that still remained deep down was holding out hope that she would come back. 

 

She. She who left me, alone and confused. She who I’d never been able to ask any of the big questions I’d wanted to ask for so, so long. 

 

I couldn’t help but silently seethe as I thought about the night she left. 

 


 

Crack

 

A little girl sat up in her bed abruptly, her light eyes wide with fright. The dark room was eerily still. The girl had never had a problem with darkness, really, but the sound of thunder and the sharp flashes of lightning had always frightened her. 

 

Her bed was large as it was, but holding someone so small, it could have been built for a giant. The duvet was heavily draped across the top. The girl had gathered it in her fists and pulled it tightly against her as she sat perfectly still, warily waiting for the next lightning to strike. 

 

Crack. She jumped. The roar of the thunder followed the bright flash so quickly that the girl felt certain it was striking the very room she slept in. 

 

She glanced to her left expectantly, as she always did when she was afraid. But unlike every other time, there was no one next to her. She took a shaky breath and looked around, though she couldn’t see much. The storm outside meant there was almost no light to seep through the window. 

 

“Mummy?” She called into the darkness. 

 

No answer came. 

 

The little girl frowned deeply. She thought hard for a moment: I need light

 

A moment later, torches lit themselves along the walls. The room brightened, revealing a small bedroom that had little more than the large bed, a wardrobe, and a shelf of books. The little girl’s mother was nowhere to be seen.

 


 

A:N

 

Oh look, another Albus/OC story. I'm such a sucker for this pairing and I have NO IDEA WHY. I know I'm not technically officially done with my last one yet since there's still an epilogue to come, but I couldn't help posting the start to this one since I'm very excited about it! So as you've probably noticed, this story is completely unrelated to my other next gen one. It was a random concept that popped into my head and suddenly I had like nine chapters done and figured I may as well start updating. 

 

So, let me know what you think! I'd love to read your reviews :)

 

Cheers x

 

Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize belongs to me.



Chapter 2: Complying with Blackmail Does Not Make Us Friends
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“Tara, love,” James sighed dramatically, dropping onto the bench across from me. “I need some advice.”

 

“Shouldn’t you be sitting at your own table?” I raised an eyebrow at him as I scooped some potatoes onto a plate.

 

“Shouldn’t you eat something other than carbs?” he shot back, gesturing at my plate that contained nothing more than potatoes, toast, and a piece of pie. “I didn’t even know they served pie at breakfast.”

 

Rylie, who sat to my right, snorted into her pumpkin juice. “She bribes the house elves to send her sweets at meal times.”

 

“Rivers,” James scolded mockingly. 

 

“I don’t bribe them!” I cried defensively, throwing Rylie a dirty look. “I ask.” Hillow the house-elf was always more than happy to oblige my sugar requests. “Anyway, what did you need advice on, Jamesie?”

 

He wrinkled his nose at the nickname while Rylie chortled. James shot her an irritated glance before turning back to me. “I heard you’re acquainted with Maya Deutch.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Oh Merlin, James. Tell me you’re not planning on asking out that bint.”

 

“Why not?” He frowned. 

 

“For one thing, she dated your brother last year,” Rylie informed him with a broad grin.

 

“Oh come on,” James moaned. “How’d I not know that? He’s my brother.”

 

“What about your brother?” Speak of the devil. Albus and Scorpius arrived and joined us at the breakfast table, Scorpius sliding in next to me and Albus sitting by his brother on the other side. The prick shot me a smirk and a wink before reaching forward to fill up a plate.

 

“You dated Maya Deutch last year?” James asked Albus.

 

Scorpius snorted. “‘Dated’ is a strong term.”

 

Albus shrugged. “We… crossed each other's paths once or twice.”

 

I rolled my eyes. What a git. “Told you, Jamsie. She’s a slag.”

 

“Has to be, to have slept with Al,” Scorpius smirked. I beamed at him. 

 

“Oi!” Albus protested. “Not true. I’ve dated girls of substance.”

 

“Are you including Deutch in that category?” Rylie grinned.

 

He paused. “Well- no.”

 

I smiled triumphantly at James. “There you have it, Eldest Potter.”

 

He sighed, leaning forward and resting his chin on his arms. “Bloody hell. Do you know how hard it is to find a girl who hasn’t already dated Fred, Albus, or myself?” He complained.

 

“Or Scor,” Albus added, looking thoroughly amused with his brother’s conundrum. 

 

“You’re really quite the family of manwhores, aren’t you?” Rylie deadpanned. 

 

“Malfoy’s not family. And Teddy wasn’t,” James argued. “And I doubt Hugo will end up so either.”

 

“Louis will,” I grinned.

 

“Louis already is,” Albus snorted in a rare moment of agreement for the two of us. 

 

The others continued to discuss James’s dating life. I looked up, distracted, as owls began to swoop through the Great Hall with morning mail. One, a lovely barn owl with a gorgeous white face, dropped a letter straight over my plate, nearly landing in my breakfast. 

 

Scorpius snatched it out of the air with Seeker-reflexes before handing it to me. I smiled at him gratefully before tearing it open.

 

Dear Tara,

 

You’ve been back at Hogwarts for a week and I haven’t heard from you once! If I don’t hear back from you, you’re getting a Howler. Don’t test me.

 

Graduate life sucks. I miss you all terribly and Victoire is driving me absolutely round the bend with her wedding plans- for fuck’s sake, I don’t care about what color the bloody napkins need to be! Like people can actually tell the difference between burgundy and maroon. I told her I’d be a rubbish maid of honor. It should have gone to one of the Delacour cousins, honestly. 

 

Anyway, tell me about Hogwarts! Malfoy took over as Quidditch captain, right? Tell him if he works you too hard, I’ll fly back to school just to beat him over the head with his own broomstick. 

 

I expect to hear all about your classes and my cousins and how annoying Al is and anything else you can think of! Write back soon, please, I’m dying over here. Tell everyone I say hello.

 

Love,

Dom

 

P.S. Keep an eye on Lou, would you? Curse away any particularly slaggy girls that go near him. I don’t want him turning into one of my other cousins.

 

I smiled, folding the letter. “Dom says hi,” I informed the group. “Oh and Scor, she said if you work us too hard at practice she’ll come back to Hogwarts just to beat your head in with your broom.”

 

The blonde rolled his eyes. “I won’t be working anyone too hard. Just hard enough.”

 

“Which still won’t be enough to beat Gryffindor,” James smirked. “Especially now that Lily’s playing.” He turned and looked across the Great Hall over at the Gryffindor table, where his sister sat with Rose and a couple others. 

 

“I’m surprised you let her play,” I grinned. “You barely let her even look at a broom up until last year.”

 

“It became an ethical dilemma,” James frowned. “It was either protect my baby sister, or let her play for the good of all of Gryffindor.”

 

Albus rolled his eyes. “That’s not at all dramatic.”

 

“You’re just jealous that she’s in my house,” James retorted. 

 

“We don’t need her,” I said confidently. “We’ll win regardless.”

 

“Assuming you don’t clobber Albus mid-air during a game again,” Riley snickered. “You almost got kicked off the team for that.”

 

Scorpius glowered from my other side. “Yeah, Tara. None of that shite this year.” Albus smirked across the table until Scorpius turned his glare to him. “You too, Al. I was there, I know you provoked her.”

 

Albus gaped at his best mate. “I did not.”

 

“Keep telling yourself that, Potter,” I snorted, standing up from the bench. “I’m off to Care of Magical Creatures.”

 

“I can’t believe you’re keeping that for N.E.W.T.s,” Scorpius shook his head. 

 

“It’s interesting,” I argued. 

 

“You’re bonkers,” James told me.

 

I glared. “You’re all annoying. Except Rylie,” I smiled at my light haired friend. She rolled her eyes and waved me off. 

 

As I left the Great Hall, heading for one of the courtyards that would lead outside. Before I could get very far down the hall, however, I heard someone call, “Rivers!”

 

I reluctantly slowed to a stop, turning to face him. “Potter,” I greeted coolly. “Following me, now? I have a class to get to.”

 

He grinned easily and strode up to my side, his hands resting leisurely in his pockets. “That’s fine, I’ll walk you there.”

 

I groaned, but continued by route outside anyway while he followed. “Must you?”

 

“You have yet to make good on the first part of our deal,” he reminded me. “You have to show me those passageways. I’ve simply come to make sure you haven’t forgotten.”

 

“Never,” I smiled sardonically at him. 

 

“Great. Want to meet up after classes tonight?”

 

“I don’t particularly want to,” I rolled my eyes. “But I will.”

 

“Brilliant! It’s a date.” The bastard winked at me. I resisted the urge to flick him across the forehead. 

 

“It’s not a date, prick,” I snapped. “It’s blackmail.”

 

“Hey, you could do worse,” he shrugged. 

 

“I really don’t think I could,” I narrowed my eyes at him. We were outside by then, walking through the grass down toward Hagrid’s hut. 

 

“That hurts, Rivers, really,” he held a hand to his chest dramatically. 

 

“Would you sod off already?” I sighed. “I said I’d meet you. Just leave me alone.”

 

Something unrecognizable flashed in his eyes briefly before he assumed his usual smirk. “Fine, fine. See you tonight, Rivers.”

 

I watched him go, his hands back in his pockets, while he whistled some familiar tune I couldn’t quite place. I scowled to myself. I didn’t want to share my passageways- they’d been mine alone for years. The only other people who knew about them- the house elves- didn’t use them. 

 

I sighed. He had no idea how much I valued the inner walls of Hogwarts- to him it was a fun new secret. To me? They’d been an extension of my home. 

 


 

The small girl, with bright blue eyes and soft brown hair, started to panic. Where could her mother have gone? The Room would make a loo if they needed one, and it was the middle of the night, so she could think of no other reason for the woman to leave. 

 

Taking another uneasy breath, the girl tentatively lifted the blanket and swung her legs over the side. She hopped down off the bed and made her way to the door. 

 

The girl stared at it for a long while. Her mother had made it very, very clear that she was never to touch that door, let alone open it. 

 

Her oldest memory of trying to leave was from about five years before. She must have been around four years old, and while she suspected she’d probably tried to leave many times as a toddler, that particular incident was the oldest one she could actually remember. 

 

She had been playing with a toy broomstick while her mother sat in a chair by the window, knitting. Something outside had caught her mother’s attention; the older woman stared out the window with a sad, wistful expression. 

 

The little girl dropped the tiny broom softly and crept toward the door. She giddily reached up for the knob, prepared to finally see what was outside. 

 

“What are you doing!?” her mother suddenly cried out. She pulled out her wand and flicked it quickly, and the little girl flew back from the door, landing harshly on the floor a few meters back. 

 

The mother stared in horror as the little girl sat up in a daze. “Merlin,” the young woman wailed. “Oh no, oh gods,” she ran forward and cradled the girl, who had started to cry. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” She stroked the girl’s head as the child sobbed. “I didn’t mean it. I just didn’t want you to leave. I’m sorry.”

 

The girl hadn’t gone near that door since. 

 

She wondered, often, what was on the other side, but she never again tried to leave. She did, however, ask constantly why she couldn’t leave. Her mother’s answer was always the same. 

 

“It’s too dangerous.”

 

Her mother would never elaborate, and if the little girl ever pressed for details, or begged to leave, her mother would either yell at her or burst into tears. 

 

But her mother wasn’t here, now. Where was she? Normally, the woman only left once a week, on Mondays, to stock up on food and supplies that couldn’t be created by the Room. The little girl was certain that it had been Thursday when she’d fallen asleep- so why was her mother gone?

 

The little girl took another step closer to the door, her hand reaching for the knob. Her breath hitched slightly when she finally grabbed hold and turned. She tugged briefly and, for the first time in her life, opened the door. 

 

Normally when her mother left, the woman made her stand far away from the door so that she couldn’t get a glimpse of what was outside. That made this the first time that she had ever seen the other side. 

 

To her astonishment, it was a corridor. She was inside some sort of massive building, with high ceilings and thick looking walls. It was like a castle of some sort, the little girl supposed. She’d seen enough of them in books to have a good grasp at what a castle should look like. 

 

She crept down the dark hallway, squinting to try to get an idea as to where she was going. The hallway seemed to stretch on forever to the young girl. For being almost ten years old, she was rather small. It just made everything seem so much more intimidating. 

 

Suddenly, she heard footsteps. With a small gasp, the girl darted sideways, feeling around for a wall. What she actually found astounded her. Her hand placed down on the corner of a picture frame, in which a knight stirred slightly in his sleep, and the wall seemed to shake slightly. 

 

She felt air where she had been leaning only a moment before, and suddenly the little girl was falling to the side. She gasped as she quickly moved her feet to steady herself before she could hit the floor. The footsteps were still coming, however. 

 

The little girl felt along the wall again, still barely able to see. Finally, she found some piece of stone that stuck out slightly, and the wall closed itself once more, leaving the girl encased in some sort of dark passageway. 

 

She listened as the footsteps came and went, until she at last let out a sigh of relief. Turning, she realized that the passage she stood in continued further down. She kept one hand on the left wall as she hesitantly started forward, grateful that she had never really feared the dark. 

 

Plus, in here, the thunder was hardly audible. 

 

The little girl picked up the pace a little, continuing down the passageway. She reached a few staircases at points, and let her feet carry her along, her curiosity outweighing her apprehension. 

 

She felt like she’d been traveling for years by the time she finally found another protruding rock in the wall to press against. This one opened another panel of a wall, and she all but tumbled out into a brightly lit room.

 

Looking around, the little girl was astonished to find that she was in a kitchen of some sort. The place was rather large, with a few tables lined along the wall she had emerged from, and a whole line of stove tops surrounded by shelves of pots and pans. 

 

The strangest part, however, was what inhabited the room. 

 

The girl recognized them from one of her books- they were house elves. She watched them with wide eyes as they scurried about busily, cleaning some pots and pans and working on what looked like breakfast. 

 

One of them noticed her staring from the corner and quickly ran up to her. The girl jumped back anxiously. 

 

“Hello Miss,” the creature smiled at her. It had weird, grayish-purple skin, and large eyes. But its face was friendly, which the girl found comforting.  

 

“Hi,” she said softly. It was the first time she’d spoken to someone that wasn’t her mother. 

 

“Miss can call me Hillow!” the elf squeaked in a high voice. “Can Hillow get Miss something to eat?”

 

The little girl’s eyes went wide. “Oh, er- sure! I’m not sure what I’d like, though,” she admitted. “Something sweet, maybe?”

 

Hillow nodded enthusiastically. “Of course, of course! Hillow will get you some treacle tart!”

 

The elf rushed off, only to return moments later with a plate that the girl tentatively took. “Th-thank you,” she said. 

 

“Miss is not needing to thank Hillow,” Hillow assured her. “Hillow is happy to help!”

 

“You don’t have to call me Miss, you know,” the girl said shyly. “I have a name.”

 

Hillow beamed. “What would Miss like Hillow to call her?”

 

The little girl hesitated. She wasn’t sure whether she could trust this creature. However, Hillow was clearly nice, and the treat she’d brought the girl smelled so amazing it made her mouth water. 

 

Finally, she smiled back at the elf. 

 

“My name’s Taralyn.”

 


 

I smiled at the memory. The house elves had always been kind to me. They were the first to get me interested in learning about magical creatures- hence my continuation of Hagrid’s class. Not a lot of students continued with it into N.E.W.T.s, since it wasn’t particularly essential for a lot of jobs. 

 

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to pursue something animal-related. I just enjoyed the class. 

 

That morning, Hagrid presented the small group of us with some relatively large birds called Diricawls. The birds ran around the enclosure Hagrid had set up, but none of them moved to disappear. 

 

“This lot’s not scared of yeh, see,” Hargid explained. “So they don’t got any reason to be runnin’ off.”

 

I saw in the grass, letting one of the birds run up to me happily. I ran a hand down its back and it squawked slightly. I smiled at it. 

 

“He likes yeh, I reckon,” Hagrid beamed at me. 

 

“I like him too,” I grinned. “So you said Muggles thought these guys are extinct?”

 

“Dodos, they called ‘em,” Hagrid nodded. “With the lot of ‘em disappearing at will, they convinced Muggles that they don’ exist at all!”

 

I looked at the bird, who ran itself under my hand in an almost cat-like fashion. “That’s amazing.” Hagrid left to help one of the other birds, who’d gotten a foot stuck in the fencing, while I kept petting the Diricawl near me. Another soon came to join us, and I found myself happily petting both. 

 

“They like you a lot more than me,” a nearby student complained- Alex Donnovan, a Ravenclaw I’d shared classes with for a long time. He reached out to pet one of the birds, but the Diricawl only snapped its beak at his fingers. “Bloody hell.”

 

I laughed. “Maybe they’re put off by the blue,” I gestured to his tie. “No one likes a nerd after all.”

 

He shot me a wry look. “Funny.”

 

Alex was a decent looking bloke, with light brown hair and chocolatey eyes. He had a bit of boyish cuteness about him, his somewhat curly hair looking soft- I for one could absolutely see myself running my hands through it. Of course, that meant almost nothing- I’d once caught myself fantasizing about running my hand through Albus Potter’s hair, and I considered him an obnoxious prick, so clearly the hair-thing could apply to anyone. Although, to be fair, I actually had once ran my hands though Albus’s hair- but I digress. I'm not supposed to think about that.

 

Still, Alex and I had always maintained a friendly disposition toward each other, and to be honest, I was starting to feel a little needy for attention. I hadn’t dated anyone since maybe January or February. 

 

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said no one,” I said softly, smiling at Alex. 

 

He raised an eyebrow. “That right? Didn’t know you’re into nerds, Rivers, I would’ve- ow!” He pulled his hand back, now bleeding from the Diricawl’s bite. “Fuck,” he muttered. 

 

“Yeh ought to get that checked out, Donnovan,” Hagrid tsked, coming back toward us. “That’s a right nasty bite.”

 

Alex shot the bird a dirty look. “Yeah, alright.” He stood up and shot me a parting grin. “We’ll continue this later then, yeah?”

 

“Definitely,” I agreed. “Go take care of your battle injury.”

 

He chuckled and waved his good hand at me before heading back up to the castle. I watched him go a little wistfully- bloody hell I needed a snog. 

 

I couldn’t quite figure out why it’d been so long. I supposed it was because I spent all my time with the Weasleys and Potters. At this point, the lot of them were essentially family to me, so dating one of them wasn’t appealing, and other Hogwarts blokes were typically too intimidated by them all to come near me. 

 

Or, at least, I hoped that was why. The other reason would have been that I was unappealing, and no one wants to think that of themself. 

 

I glared at the ground as I recalled the last time I’d been snogged. It was hardly something I wanted to think about. Instead, I pushed the memory away from my mind, and focused my attention back on the birds. 

 


 

I met up with Albus later that evening, being a woman of my word. I’ll admit, I had considered as many ways to get out of it as possible, but there was no use. He had the upper hand. 

 

We met up outside the common room after curfew passed, to make sure no one else would catch us. I’d told Riley I was going to the kitchens. 

 

“Evening Rivers,” Albus smirked. He looked far too pleased with himself for the mere act of existing. 

 

“Hi,” I grumbled, standing a few feet away with my arms folded. I knew the use of surnames was mutual, and that it would be weirder if we suddenly switched to first names, but it bothered me that he was the only member of his family who called me by my last name. For Merlin’s sake, it was a made up name. I didn’t like hearing it when it wasn’t necessary. 

 

“Don’t look too excited there,” he rolled his eyes. 

 

“I’m sorry,” I said sardonically. “I forgot how civil we usually are.”

 

“We could be. We have moments.” He was right, I suppose. We got along on rare occasions. 

 

“Very brief moments,” I said through gritted teeth. “Let’s just get this over with.”

 

He sighed dramatically. “Fine, fine. Show me your secrets, Rivers.”

 

I scowled, uncrossing my arms and walking over to the nearby portrait of Hallows, who was dancing around the frame per usual. “Most of the passages have hidden entrances along the paintings,” I explained. “Some of them are found from finding the right spots to push on the walls.”

 

“How’d you find them?” Albus asked, tilting his head, coming closer to watch me press the corner of Hallows’ painting. The wall, sure enough, slid away before us, revealing an opening to crawl through.

 

“None of your business,” I snapped. “Come on. Lumos.” I lit the end of my wand as he followed me inside. Once past the entrance, the passageway opened up so that we could stand properly. “They all have spots on the inside of the walls to press to close them.” I showed him this particular one, and we were suddenly standing in an enclosed darkness, the only light being that at the end of my wand. 

 

“So none of them open and close with magic?” Albus raised his eyebrows. 

 

“None of them,” I shook my head. “I suppose that’s why people like your grandfather never found them, despite finding the other passages. They were expecting to have to use magic.”

 

“You stumbled upon them while living here, then, didn’t you?” Albus guessed. “Did you live here even before starting Hogwarts?”

 

“I’m not answering your nosy questions, Potter,” I told him frustratedly, starting down the path. He followed me a little clumsily at first, until he remembered to light his own wand to see where he was going. 

 

“Fine, no more personal questions. How many passages are there?” He asked. 

 

“They’re all interconnected,” I explained. “So in a way… one.”

 

“That’s kind of amazing,” he said quietly. “How many entrances?”

 

“That I’ve found? About twenty,” I explained. “None of them lead into any of the other common rooms, only stopping outside them. About a dozen open up in classrooms, one is in the kitchens, one in the library, and the rest open in various corridors.”

 

“Wow.”

 

We continued along the way, stopping every once in a while for me to show him certain spots that opened up. One of the first ones I showed him was the entrance to the kitchens- he was elated at that spot. Continuing on, we headed up several sets of stairs along the way. 

 

“So have you told anyone else about these?” Albus asked. “Riley, Rose, James?”

 

“No,” I sighed. “I never even told Dom, and she was practically my Hogwarts mother.” I faltered as I said the words, realizing the oddity of them. My real mother was technically my Hogwarts mother, wasn’t she? We lived here. I took a deep breath, lucky that Albus hadn’t picked up on my stammer. “Anyway, let’s be real, if I told anyone from your family, eventually you’d all know.”

 

“That’s true,” he agreed. “The Wotter family runs on a hive mind.”

 

“I know,” I frowned as we turned a corner and started up another flight of stairs. “I can’t tell Lily anything anymore.”

 

“Why, because she told James about that arse Ashwell trying to get in your pants last year and the bloke ended up in the hospital wing?” Albus asked in an annoyingly casual tone. 

 

“Yes,” I said. “James didn't have to do that I could have handled it myself.”

 

“You were dating Henry Bradford at the time, weren’t you?” Albus recalled. “Why didn’t you tell him?”

 

“I did.”

 

“How did James end up being the one to beat the git up then?” He asked in a weird tone. I couldn't place what was off about it.  

 

“Because Henry wouldn’t pick a fight with anyone,” I rolled my eyes. “Which I was grateful for, because like I said, I could have handled myself.” He didn’t need to know that Henry Bradford was actually just a spineless loser. 

 

Albus said nothing for a moment as we continued down the dark hall. His eyes were squinted in thought, illuminated by our wands’ lights.

 

We passed by numerous more entrances. I showed him the way to the library, the different common rooms, the classrooms, and the other exits. 

 

“I didn’t like Bradford,” he suddenly said, breaking the silence. 

 

“I know,” I nearly smiled. “You were hardly subtle.”

 

“He was dreadfully boring.”

 

“Hence why we broke up.”

 

“I bet he was a rubbish snog, too.”

 

I glared at him. That was a step over the line. “Shut up, Potter.”

 

“Well? Am I wrong?” He looked at me challengingly. We stopped walking, standing about a foot apart in the passageway.

 

“You said no more personal questions,” I reminded him. “We’re almost at the last passage entrance- can you control yourself until then?”

 

“I was just a little curious,” he smirked. “But it doesn’t matter- your neglect to answer the question is an answer in itself.”

 

I groaned and started back down the path, moving more quickly this time. I just wanted to get to bed already.

 

“I didn't even need to ask, really,” Albus continued. “I was pretty sure you’d had better regardless.”

 

“Nope,” I shot back with a pointed look. “Every snog since has been just as horrible if not worse.”

 

He snorted. “I’m sure.” He sounded very unconvinced. 

 

“Just stop bloody talking already,” I snapped. We’d reached the last passageway entrance, up on the seventh floor. “This is the last one. The spot for it is here-” I pointed to the knot along the wall. “And it closes with a painting of a knight.”

 

“Got it,” Albus said quietly. “That’s all of them, then?”

 

“That’s it. Think you’ll remember them all?”

 

“Probably not,” he admitted. “But at least I remember the first one- I’ll have to get used to it before I remember them all.”

 

“Great. Feel free to start practicing then- I’m going to bed.” I turned away to start rushing back to the common room, my eyelids heavy. 

 

He reached out and grabbed my wrist before I could go. “Rivers,” he said quietly. “Sorry for bringing it up.”

 

“Bringing what up?”

 

“You know what,” he said, still in an unrecognizably soft tone. “I wasn’t supposed to- I said back during the summer that I wouldn’t bring it up- we’d agreed we’d pretend it didn’t happen. So I’m sorry.”

 

I stared back at him in surprise. The two of us didn’t usually apologize to each other. 

 

“I- it’s fine,” I said at last. “Thanks.”

 

He released my wrist, his face hard to read through the darkness; he’d lowered his wand considerably, making it hard to see his head at all. 

 

“I’d best start practicing finding these entrances then,” he said. “I’ll see you around?”

 

I nodded back. “Yeah. Er- night Potter.”

 

“Night.”

 

I headed back for the common room, trying not to focus on the way he’d leaned against the wall to watch me go, or the burning sensation along my wrist from where he’d held it. Mostly, I was just trying not to remember what had happened a couple months before that he’d chosen to bring up this evening.

 

I let out a frustrated sigh once I was out of earshot. Albus Potter would never stop irritating me. 

 


 

A/N:

 

Yay another chapter! Let me know what you thought! I promise the whole story won't constantly be back-and-forth between real time and flashbacks. It's just the first few. I like keeping information until it's actually needed for the purpose of this story. 

And now you know that Albus and Tara have had a snog-related run-in before!! Hope you enjoyed!

 

Cheers x

 

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize, it's all JK Rowling as always. 



Chapter 3: Albus Can Do a Patronus, Big Whoop
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Dear Dom,

 

It feels weird not seeing you here. I’m used to having you to complain to about Albus being annoying, and to help bother Scorpius about Rose, and to help me with my homework. Rose just wants to sit quietly in the library and make me read textbooks. N.E.W.T. exams aren’t even until next year, I’m not sure why she’s being so crazy. Did you honestly care this much about schoolwork your Sixth Year? I just remember you snogging Lysander and getting detentions with Fred all the time for pranking Molly. 

 

Remember that time we were so desperate for an interesting way to do homework that we attempted it up on our brooms? I wish I could do something like that again.

 

Sorry you’re getting dragged into wedding stuff- tell Victoire she’s a maroon. That’ll show her. And tell Teddy I said hi and that the Falcons don’t stand a chance against the Tornadoes this year. 

 

Miss you.

 

Love,

 

Tara

 

I sent the letter off with Long John, my lovely eagle owl, before departing the Owlery and heading to Defense Against the Dark Arts. 

 

Unfortunately, sending a letter off to Dom meant I was running a couple minutes late. I wasn’t too cut up about it- if I missed Dom’s deadline, she’d send me a howler, and that would be much worse than showing up late to Mansir’s class. 

 

I practically ran through the door, causing Mansir to break off mid-sentence as he lectured. “Miss Rivers,” he raised an eyebrow. “How nice of you to grace us with your presence.”

 

I waved a hand, quickly walking further into the classroom. “Yeah, yeah, I’m late, I’m sorry. I had an emergency to deal with.”

 

He smiled wryly. “I’m almost afraid to ask what constitutes an emergency in your eyes.”

 

I looked at him sharply. “Have you ever been on the receiving end of Dom Weasley’s rage? That’s what constitutes an emergency to me.”

 

He sighed. “Just go sit down, Tara.” 

 

I grinned, happy to have gotten off without a detention. Not that I’d been worried- Mansir wouldn’t dare punish me. 

 

There was, however, another downside to being late that I hadn’t considered.

 

I turned to look for Rose, to take my usual seat beside her, but as I got closer to the desk, I saw that my spot had been filled. “Scor,” I complained. “Rose is my partner.”

 

“You were late, Tara,” Rose smiled. “He beat you to it.” 

 

“Yeah Tara, go away,” Scorpius shooed, waving me off. I glared at him. He was lucky I was pulling for the two of them getting together or I’d have pushed him off his seat. 

 

“Fine,” I grumbled. I glanced around and groaned. The only other open chair was right behind Scorpius, and next to-

 

“Hey Rivers,” Albus smirked. 

 

“Just my bloody luck,” I muttered, reluctantly slipping into the chair beside the dark haired boy. “Hi.”

 

“You never seem pleased to see me,” he noted. 

 

“Shocking, I’m sure,” I rolled my eyes. Mansir continued to lecture about the Patronus charm. I wouldn’t bother with notes- Rose was scribbling away rigorously in front of us. Whatever she wrote down would be far more thorough than what I could have managed. 

 

“I think I’ve been perfectly pleasant this year,” Albus frowned, lowering his voice as Mansir talked. “I’d say you should be able to say hello without sounding like you want to hex my face off.”

 

“Blackmailing me isn’t what I’d call being pleasant,” I hissed back. 

 

“Eh. Nuances.” I noticed he wasn’t taking notes either. “I used the passages to get to class today,” he whispered with an almost giddy smile.

 

“You shouldn’t use it during the day,” I shot him an irritated look. “Someone could see.”

 

“I had the map, I was careful. Why’s it so important to you that it stays so completely secret, anyway?” He asked with a curious glance. “I mean, I get keeping it from most of the school, but not even telling your friends?”

 

Because it’s home, I wanted to say. My home. Instead, I just pinched the bridge of my nose and said, “None of your business, Potter.”

 

It wasn’t long before Mansir had the desks pushed aside so that us students could actually practice our patronus charms. He said it was unlikely anyone would succeed on their first day, but apparently the practical application of the patronus charm was deemed a necessary part of the curriculum after the war. 

 

I stood with Rose, Scorpius, and Albus, as we each tried to produce something. “Expecto Patronum,” I uttered, concentrating on the happiest thought I could manage. I thought about the first time I flew on a broom, and the freedom I’d come to associate with it.

 

Nothing happened. 

 

I knew it was pointless to get frustrated. No one else had managed anything either, even non-corporeal. 

 

Expecto Patronum!” Rose tried. Nothing for her either. She pouted. 

 

“You’ll get it,” Scorpius promised, seeing her crestfallen expression. “I guarantee you’ll be one of the first in this room to come close. 

 

Albus smirked. “I don’t know about that.”

 

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh really? You haven’t managed anything either yet, Potter, in case you haven’t noticed.”

 

He rolled his stupidly green eyes. “It’s called humility,” he informed me. “Dad made James and I learn this charm last year.”

 

“Come off it,” Scorpius said loudly. “You cannot.”

 

“I’ve heard a lot of talk, and seen a lot of nothing,” I agreed with Scorpius. “You’re full of dung, Potter.”

 

He fixed me with a level look for a moment before turning away and raising his wand: “Expecto Patronum!”

 

To my astonishment, and everyone else’s judging by the gasps I heard, a silver form emerged from the end of his wand. A fox, shining in the light that streaked through the classroom windows, ran forward, darting around the other students. It ran back toward us, circled me once, to my amazement and irritation, before finally fading away.

 

“Wonderful, Mr. Potter!” Mansir clapped his hands together, coming to join us.

 

“That was amazing, Al,” Rose breathed. “You have to teach me to do that.”

 

“Show off,” Scorpius grumbled, but he looked as awed as everyone else. 

 

Albus didn’t pay the lot of them any attention. He looked at me questioningly. 

 

“It- it was really good,” I said quietly, nearly choking out the words. I hated to admit it, but he’d pulled off some very advanced magic before any of the rest of us. Of course, he’d had Harry Potter himself to learn from. 

 

He beamed at my admission. 

 

“You’ll have to help me with the rest of them,” Mansir grinned, clapping Albus on the back. 

 

“Happy to, Professor,” Albus nodded. “I’m sure Tara would love my assistance.”

 

I narrowed my eyes at him, while Mansir chuckled. “I’m sure. Tell you what, Tara,” the professor looked at me. “Show up late to my class again, and I’ll assign you Mr. Potter here as a private tutor.”

 

“What?” I cried, while Albus’s eyes widened. “That’s insane. I’d rather get detention, thanks.”

 

“Then this would obviously be a much more effective punishment,” Mansir raised his eyebrows. “Consider it proper motivation to get to class on time.”

 

He wandered off after that with a large grin across his face. I glowered at his back, ignoring Albus’s snickering. 

 

“It’s not that bad,” Rose rolled her eyes. “Just don’t be late.”

 

“I’m always late to this class,” I pouted. “He’s never cared much before.”

 

She smiled and gave me a quick side-hug. “Poor Tara, facing potential punishment for doing something wrong,” she teased. “Imagine the horror.”

 

“Yeah, it’s about bloody time he stops taking your shite,” Scorpius snorted. “You’ve always been Mansir’s favorite- it’s absolute bollocks.”

 

“Not true,” I sniffed. It was, though. Mansir had always been lenient with me. He and McGonagall spent the most time at the school of all the professors, since he was her deputy headmaster. It meant that I saw the two of them during a lot of the school holidays. 

 

That and, technically, Dexter Manning was my legal guardian.

 

I remembered the first time I’d met them both. 

 


 

After her mother’s disappearance, Taralyn spent the next year or so adventuring around the castle. She’d discovered that almost the entire place was connected via tunnels hidden inside the walls. Taralyn traveled inside the walls for an entire year, hiding from the sight of anyone else in the castle. 

 

The house-elves had taught her about the castle. She’d learned it was a school called Hogwarts, where witches and wizards learned magic. This explained the foot traffic she could hear when she traveled inside the walls during the daytime- it sounded like there were quite a lot of people out there. 

 

She was always tempted to leave her hiding and meet someone, of course. But she always feared that if someone found her, she’d be taken away. And she wanted to ensure that she’d still be around when her mother came back. 

 

Of course, everything changed once she turned eleven. 

 

It wasn’t immediate. Her birthday was on July 20th, during what she understood to be summer. Her mother had given her years of primary leveled schooling, since there were little other means of entertainment when trapped in a single room her whole life. 

 

The Room, of course, was able to change depending on what Taralyn needed. Over that next year, it was constantly adapting, growing bigger, storing more books that Taralyn would sneak from the library she had discovered a passage to, and allowing for whatever else Taralyn wished to occupy her time with. 

 

After she turned eleven, she began to wonder about Hogwarts. She’d acquired a copy of Hogwarts: A History at the library, and had spent weeks reading through the pages, learning everything she could. She knew she was capable of magic herself- a few years before, she’d accidentally set a toy box on fire once when her mother had made her angry one day. There were other incidents, too. 

 

She wondered if she’d receive a letter to the school. Would it even find her? She wasn’t sure if it was possible for a letter to reach the Room of Requirement. 

 

She hoped so. She’d seen so much of the school already- she just hoped she’d get to actually experience it like a normal person. 

 

One morning, in August, Taralyn sat in a plush armchair, reading a Muggle book her mother had once bought her called The Witch of Blackbird Pond. It was an interesting read, especially because she found it fascinating that Muggles believed witches to be some sort of evil creatures. 

 

Her reading was interrupted by her stomach growling. She glanced down and smiled at herself, tossing her book aside. 

 

Time for a kitchens trip, she thought happily. She was meant to say hello to Hillow, anyway. The elf had been on a vacation the last couple days, but was meant to have returned by then. 

 

Stepping out into the corridor, she started for the knight portrait, listening to the sound of the Room of Requirement door slipping away. 

 

With only a few steps to go, however, a voice interrupted her. 

 

“Excuse me!” 

 

She turned sharply, her eyes wide at the sound. She knew it wasn’t a house-elf, and she knew each portrait along the wall well enough to know it wasn’t any of their voices either. 

 

No, sure enough, there was a man looking at her in confusion. 

 

“Miss,” he said slowly. “Are you- who are you?”

 

Taralyn stared up at the man fearfully. He looked massive compared to the small girl. He had sandy hair and dark eyes that looked thoroughly perplexed as they took in her presence. 

 

She said nothing, just staring at him in shock and indecision- she wasn’t sure if she should run, cry, or lie. 

 

“It’s August,” the man stated. “Students don’t stay here in the Summer.”

 

Taralyn glanced down at her shoes. “I, er- I’m not a student,” she admitted. 

 

He frowned. “How did you get here, then?”

 

Taralyn said nothing, refusing to explain herself. Her eyes darted around the man. She wondered if she could outrun him. 

 

“You’re thinking of bolting, aren’t you?” the man guessed, his lips twitching with amusement. “I’m maybe three times the size of you, so I guarantee you won’t get far.”

 

She glared at him. “I was not.

 

“Well, good. Because you need to come with me to see the Headmistress,” the man shrugged. He held a hand out expectantly. Taralyn raised an eyebrow at him. Did he expect her to take it? Not bloody likely, she thought. 

 

“Come on now,” he rolled his eyes, but lowered his hand. “Follow me. And again, if you run, I’ll catch you.”

 

Taralyn sighed, but nodded. She couldn’t believe she was interacting with a human that wasn’t her mother. It had never happened before. 

 

She followed him down the hallway, a little skeptically. Was she going to get kicked out? Where would they send her? What would they do to her?

 

She needed to go back. What if they kicked her out before her mother came home?

 

“Don’t let them kick me out,” Taralyn found herself begging quietly. “Please.”

 

The man glanced down at her in confusion as they walked. “Do you… live here?”

 

She nodded. 

 

“How is that possible?” He wondered aloud. 

 

She simply shrugged. She knew very little about why she was brought up in the Room of Requirement- her mother had always claimed that it was for her protection. 

 

“Well, we’ll see what Headmistress McGonagall has to say, I suppose,” the man replied. “You can call me Professor Mansir. I teach Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

 

“I’m Taralyn,” the girl tentatively replied. 

 

“Nice to meet you Taralyn,” the man smiled at her. She let herself relax slightly. His smile was kind. 

 

Eventually, they reached the office of Headmistress McGonagall. Mansir knocked twice before they heard a woman call out, “Come in.”

 

He slid open the door, gesturing for Taralyn to go in first. She slowly walked forward, looking around nervously. McGonagall was seated behind a massive desk, writing on a piece of parchment with one quill while a stranger looking one floated up in the air, scribbling names along a longer paper. 

 

“Good morning, Headmistress,” Mansir greeted. 

 

The older woman glanced up and noticed Tara with a start. “What is this, Dexter?”

 

“This is Taralyn,” Mansir, or Dexter as McGonagall had addressed him, gestured down at the girl. “I just found her leaving the Room of Requirement upstairs.”

 

McGonagall fixed Taralyn with a scrutinizing look. “Is that so?”

 

Taralyn flinched under her gaze. “Uh, yes, Madam. I’ve been, um… living there.”

 

“Is that possible?” Mansir asked the headmistress. 

 

She frowned. “I- I’m not sure how. Taralyn,” she addressed the girl. “How long have you been there?”

 

“My whole life,” Taralyn shrugged. “Mummy never let me leave.”

 

“Do you happen to know what your mum’s name is?” McGonagall asked. She looked highly alert, her quill having dropped to the desk as she surveyed the young girl. 

 

Taralyn shook her head. “No. She was only ever ‘Mummy’ to me. I don’t know where she is now- she hasn’t been back in a little over a year.”

 

McGonagall and Mansir exchanged worried looks. “That’s horrible,” Mansir uttered quietly. “Minerva, is this girl-?”

 

“On the list?” McGonagall finished for him. “I can’t be sure yet, but this quill will tell us.”

 

The headmistress picked up the floating quill and brought the list of names down to her desk. She scanned it briefly. “Here she is- Taralyn, with no listed last name.”

 

“How is that possible?” Mansir asked. 

 

“I’m afraid I’m again unsure,” McGonagall asked with a deep frown. She glanced back at the girl. “Miss… er, Taralyn. I’m afraid that this is highly irregular, and I’m not entirely sure how to proceed. According to this list, you’re a witch, meant to start here in the Fall.”

 

Taralyn nodded, having expected that part. The house elves had given her a strong understanding of how Hogwarts worked, and she’d spent enough time sneaking around to grasp the school’s schedule. “So… what happens to me until then?”

 

“We’ll have to arrange to have someone take you to Diagon Alley,” McGonagall sighed. “And we’ll have to contact the Ministry of Magic to find out what to do with you until the school term starts. I’d imagine they’ll have foster options for you-”

 

“No!” Taralyn cried loudly, making both adults jump. “No, please, don’t let them take me away!”

 

“Taralyn, we can hardly let you stay in that room,” McGonagall shook her head. “It’s entirely inappropriate. Hogwarts is a school, not an inn.”

 

“Please,” Taralyn begged. “Please. If Mummy comes back and I’m not here, she’ll be furious with me.”

 

The adults exchanged another look. “Taralyn,” Mansir said slowly. “We can’t even be sure that the woman will come back at all.”

 

Taralyn frowned. “Of course she’s coming back. Why would she leave me?”

 

No one had an answer for her. 

 

Mansir sighed and turned to McGonagall. “Minerva,” he said softly. “It’s less than a month until school starts. Surely we can let her stay until then? It’d be unreasonable to force her into foster care for just two weeks when she’ll be back here anyway.”

 

McGonagall considered it, while Taralyn beamed at Mansir gratefully. She decided she rather liked this man. 

 

“Very well,” McGonagall said at last. “But we’ll need someone to take her to Diagon Alley for supplies.”

 

“I can do it,” Mansir offered. “Why not?”

 

The older woman gave him a level look. “Are you sure about this, Dexter?”

 

“Of course,” he smiled easily. “Would you be alright with that, Tara?”

 

Taralyn nodded enthusiastically. “When would we go? And what’s Diagon Alley?”

 

“It’s where you’ll purchase your school supplies,” he explained, before breaking into a frown and looking back at McGonagall. “What about money?” He asked suddenly. “If her mum is gone, how is she to pay for school supplies?”

 

McGonagall frowned. “I’m not sure. This is a most unusual case. I’ve never seen anything like this occur before.”

 

“Did your mum leave you anything, Taralyn?” Mansir asked the girl. “Any money or supplies?”

 

Taralyn thought about it. “Oh,” she said suddenly, pulling out the chain she had around her neck. “She left me this. But I don’t see how it’d help.”

 

On the end of the chain, an old key hung. “That’s a Gringotts key,” Mansir raised his eyebrows. 

 

“Good,” McGonagall nodded. “You may take the girl to Diagon Alley, then. And Taralyn, I’ll allow you to remain in Hogwarts for the remainder of the summer. But we are going to be looking into options as to where to send you for other school breaks.”

 

Taralyn wanted to argue, but she suspected she ought to take what she could get for the moment. “Alright,” she said finally. “Uh- thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome,” the headmistress smiled ever-so-slightly. “It was… very interesting, to meet you. When you finish getting your school supplies, I’d like you to report back to my office so we may discuss your residency here further. We’ll have to place certain restrictions on your daily routine to ensure there’s some sense of structure to your staying here. I can’t continue to allow you to roam the school as you please without any supervision. Is that understood?”

 

“Yes Madam,” Taralyn nodded, though she really didn’t want to. She hardly wanted to sacrifice all her freedom just to be shadowed and cooped up. “I’ll be here.”

 

“Well, let’s get going then, Taralyn,” Mansir grinned. “We can take the Floo network.”

 

“That’s the fireplace traveling, right?” the girl asked, recalling it from a book. 

 

“Right,” Mansir nodded. He led her to the fireplace in the back of McGonagall’s office. “You’ll just throw down a pinch of dust and say, ‘Diagon Alley,’ alright?”

 

“Alright,” she nodded. She took a pinch of dust from the small bowl he offered her before she stepped into the fireplace. “Diagon Alley!”

 

The next few hours passed staggeringly quickly- going to Gringotts, getting her wand, stopping by the Quidditch shop, meeting the Potters. Professor Mansir was kind all the way, answering every question she could come up with about magic, Hogwarts, and the rest of the wizarding world.

 

By the end of the day, Taralyn felt an overwhelming surge of gratitude toward Dexter Mansir.

 


 

McGonagall had been adamant that they find somewhere to send me for the breaks, claiming it was entirely inappropriate for me to remain there as such a young child. 

 

The two of them were the only people in the world who knew I’d been brought up in the Room of Requirement, and I’d broken down in near hysterics when McGonagall suggested having me removed from the school during the breaks. 

 

Dexter Mansir, however, worked out a solution. A solution that entailed him becoming my legal guardian. He told me it was entirely a formality, that he did it just so I could stay at the school and have someone to sign any school consent forms for, and so that I wouldn’t have to be moved to a foster home. 

 

But truthfully, I think we both appreciated the arrangement as something more than just a legal association. We exchanged Christmas presents, he bought me my first broom, I told him about my friends, and my classes, and he told me about his Hogwarts days. 

 

This only made it more of a betrayal to me when he threatened to punish me with Albus Potter as a tutor. He knew as well as any of my friends that the bloke drove me bonkers. And while I knew he wasn’t supposed to give me special treatment, in the past he still sort of had. He called me Tara, the only teacher to do so besides Hagrid, he let me off the hook for tardiness (or rather he used to, apparently), and he gave me outside help with Defense work during the breaks. 

 

As the years passed, I spent a lot of time with him in my free time during the parts of breaks I didn’t spend with the Weasleys. And for my first couple years of Hogwarts, I didn’t go home with them at all, so we’d logged a lot of bonding time. 

 

No one at Hogwarts knew about the arrangement, save the teachers. I didn’t want other students knowing about my full time residence at the school. So, I went by a fake last name, and I didn’t call him “Dex” during classtime. The other teachers knew I lived at the school, but they didn’t really know why- just that I had no family to go home to.

 

Albus’s voice startled me from my thoughts. 

 

“I for one think you ought to show up late again,” he said with a smirk. “I think a tutoring session would be fun.”

 

“Leave her alone, Al,” Rose scolded before I could retort. 

 

“You can tutor me, Allie-bear,” Scorpius cooed in a horribly high voice. 

 

I snickered while Albus scowled. He’d dated quite a lot of girls, but the worst was by far this girl a year below us who’d called him “Allie-bear.” She lasted a whole week- about seven days longer than any of us thought he’d last with the girl. 

 

“Fuck off, Scor,” he muttered. 

 

Scorpius smirked and shot me a wink. “I just wanted some quality time,” he said innocently.

 

“No one wants to hear about your quality time with Potter, Scor,” I wrinkled my nose.

 

“Can you not make those jokes so loudly?” Albus complained. “There are more than enough jokes going around about the two of us as it is.”

 

“I heard the jokes about your dads were even worse back in the day,” I grinned. “Enemies turned lovers make for much more exciting rumors than friends turned lovers.”

 

“Shut it, Rivers,” Albus snapped. 

 

“Yeah, please Tara,” Scorpius frowned, looking disgusted.

 

I giggled. “Alright, alright, I’ll stop. Scorpius could do better anyway.”

 

“Oi!” Albus protested while Rose laughed.

 

“There there, Al,” his cousin said soothingly. “We’ll find you a nice bloke to replace Scor in no time.” 

 

“Not you too, Rosie,” he whined.

 

Scorpius scoffed. “Like he could replace me.”

 

“Unbelievable.”

 


 

I sat at the Gryffindor table that evening for dinner. I’d seen far too much of Albus the last two days, and decided I really wanted to enjoy a meal in peace. 

 

Rose and I sat with James and his friend Leo Wood, the Seventh Year brother of my friend Rylie. 

 

Rylie and Leo were an amusing set of siblings. Neither of them, interestingly enough, enjoyed Quidditch, to the immense displeasure of their father, Puddlemere United’s Oliver Wood. Oliver had to make do with bestowing his Quidditch obsession on his son’s best friend, since James practically breathed the sport. 

 

“So how’d she take it?” Rose was asking Leo with a smirk.

 

Leo frowned. “About as well as you’d expect. I told her that I was sorry but I didn’t see the relationship going anywhere, and the next thing I knew I was hanging by my ankle in my underwear. 

 

“No one let him down for twenty minutes,” James snorted. “I found him nearly passed out upside-down with his face purple.”

 

Rose and I erupted into giggles. “That’s what you get,” I told Leo through my laughter. “Don’t date crazy women.”

 

“How was I supposed to know Bridgett would be crazy?” he demanded. “No one warned me!”

 

“Her mum is Romilda Vane, Leo,” James chuckled. “That woman tried to feed my dad love potions when they were at Hogwarts.”

 

“What?” Rose cried with a wide grin.

 

“Bloody hell,” Leo moaned, dropping his head onto his folded arms. “How did you never tell me? I dated Bridgett for four months!”

 

“To be fair, you barely saw her all summer,” I pointed out, knowing he’d spent most of his summer hanging out with James and Fred. “So it was hardly four full months.”

 

“Still,” he frowned. “That was far too long. I need a rebound or something.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “Hey Rose, i don’t suppose-”

 

“No,” she and James simultaneously snapped. 

 

He grinned. “Kidding, kidding. Mostly. Tara?” He shot me a hopeful look.

 

“Keep dreaming, Wood.”

 

He pouted. “You wound me, ladies.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t take it personally, Wood, I’m sure you’d be a fun snog. But one, we’re friends, and two, Rylie would kill you.”

 

He shuddered. “Damn right she would. Without magic, too. She’d suffocate me in my sleep with a pillow, I reckon.”

 

“Besides, Tara has standards,” Rose smirked. Leo threw a piece of bread at her. 

 

“How about Emily?” James asked, gesturing to a pretty girl sitting further down the table. 

 

“Stay away from my roommates!” Rose demanded. 

 

“There are only so many women in Hogwarts, Rose,” Leo rolled his eyes. “You can’t limit my options like this.”

 

“You can have Maya Deutch,” James smirked. 

 

“That’s not a bad idea if you just want a quick rebound snog,” I said. 

 

Leo looked around thoughtfully, spotting the girl in question over at the Hufflepuff table. “Hmm…”

 

“Although she’ll probably spend the whole time mentally comparing you to my brother,” James made a face. “So there’s that.”

 

“I can live with that,” Leo shrugged, hopping off the bench. “See you lot around.” He strode over to the Hufflepuff table confidently. 

 

“He’s mental,” James rolled his eyes. 

 

“I’ll say,” Rose agreed. “I’m surprised he’d go after Al’s sloppy seconds.”

 

“He must be confident in his own abilities,” I mused. Albus had turned out to be even more of a ladies’ man than his big brother had. If Leo thought he could do better snog-wise, maybe I shouldn’t have turned the bloke down. 

 

“Honestly though,” she said. “After hearing so much about my stupid cousin.” She shuddered. “Gross.”

 

“Yes, can we please discuss something that isn’t Al’s snogging?” James complained. 

 

I said nothing, looking down at my plate. I’d spent the better part of the night before doing nothing but thinking about Albus’s snogging. 

 

Not that I wanted to. 

 

But after experiencing it once, it was just a hard thing to forget. 

 


 

A/N:

 

Another chapter! This one gives you a little more insight into Tara's early days. What do you think about Dexter Mansir and his relationship with Tara? What about her mentioning of a prior snogging experience with Albus? I promise it'll be brought up again, very soon. And since this chapter didn't have too much action, the next update will be super quick! Probably tomorrow!

Please feel free to leave me a review :) I love all the feedback and kind words, they keep so very motivated to keep writing!

Cheers x

 

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize, it's all JK Rowling. Except my mention of The Witch of Blackbird Pond, which is a book by Elizabeth George Speare that my elementary school teacher introduced to me (fun fact: her name was Mrs. Mansir). 



Chapter 4: I Just Wanted to Go on a Date
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September slipped into October quickly. The air started to cool, the pumpkins outside had grown large, and the students were now preparing for the upcoming Hogsmeade trip, which was to happen the first weekend of October. 

 

I was pleased to find myself with a date, for the first time in months. 

 

It’d happened after Care of Magical Creatures on Tuesday morning. I’d been on my way back up to the castle after an interesting lesson about Manticores. I was just thinking to myself that it was only a matter of time before Hagrid somehow managed to actually bring one into class, when I heard Alex calling after me. 

 

“Wait up, Taralyn!” 

 

I turned, smiling as he jogged to catch up to me. He fell into step beside me with a grin. “Hi Alex,” I greeted. “That was an interesting lesson, wasn’t it?”

 

“Definitely,” he nodded. “Hagrid has a real knack for selling us on dangerous creatures.”

 

“He’s going to show up with a Chimaera one of these days,” I chuckled. 

 

“I’m sure even then, you’d have the thing eating out of your palm like a domesticated cat,” Alex laughed as well. 

 

I shrugged. “I bet I would. I’m just that likeable.”

 

“I believe you,” he said softly, shooting me a sideways smile. I flushed slightly, saying nothing. He cleared his throat. “Er, so listen, I was wondering if you had any plans for Hogsmeade this weekend.”

 

I bit my lip to avoid smiling too eagerly. “No, I don’t,” I said calmly. 

 

“You want to come with me?” he asked, looking somewhat nervous. It was an adorable expression, honestly. 

 

“I’d love to,” I said. “Thank you.”

 

“Great,” he beamed. “I can’t wait.”

 

“Me neither!” I smiled back. 

 

We parted after that, just inside the castle entrance. I had a free period, while he had to head to History of Magic. Before leaving, he gave me a swift peck on the cheek and a quick wink. 

 

I watched him go, pleasantly surprised by the action. It was brief, and chaste, but it was also sudden and unexpected. I admired his initiative.  

 

“That was cute.” A wry voice interrupted.

 

I knew the voice without having to look. “What do you want, Potter?”

 

He strolled into view, his usual smirk plastered across his face, though it didn’t reach his eyes the same way it usually did. They were colder than usual. He leaned against a pillar with his arms folded, just in front of me. Standing in the courtyard, I could feel the brisk air from outside along my side. It tousled his hair more than usual. 

 

“I’ve been looking for you, Rivers,” Albus said slowly. “Because I need a favor.”

 

I stifled a groan. It’d been almost a month since I’d agreed to three favors in exchange for his silence regarding my living situation- I’d nearly forgotten I’d agreed to them. Frankly, I was surprised he’d waited so long to call one in.

 

“What is it?” I asked, closing my eyes in apprehension. 

 

He said nothing. 

 

I opened my eyes. “Well?”

 

His smirk was replaced by an anxious look of his own. He was watching me carefully. “Just… don’t freak out.”

 

His expression was unnerving. “What is it, Potter?”

 

“Promise you won’t get mad?” He pleaded. 

 

“No,” I snapped. “Tell me the stupid favor.”

 

“Promise not to maim me at least?”

 

“Again, no.”

 

He sighed heavily. “Alright, fine. For the record, I didn’t know you had a date when I came to find you.”

 

Uh oh. 

 

“Just say it,” I hissed. 

 

“I need you to come to Hogsmeade with me,” Albus sighed at last, at least having the dignity to look guilty. 

 

“Why the fuck would you need me to do that?” I demanded. Seriously? Minutes after I’d accepted a date from a nice bloke, he comes to me with this crap?

 

“Joy Clarke wanted me to go with her,” he sighed. “And I told her in a bit of a panic that I already had a date.”

 

Joy Clarke was a Fifth Year Gryffindor who’d been after Albus- and sometimes Scorpius, too- for years. The thing was, she was crazy enough that even he knew to stay far away from the girl. He’d made a very clear point about securing dates and plans for Hogsmeade well before she could corner him- I wondered how she’d taken him by surprise this time. 

 

“Clarke got the jump on you?” I raised my eyebrows. 

 

“She cornered me in the Prefects baths,” he frowned. “I was lucky I hadn’t stripped yet.”

 

I almost laughed, if not for the fact that I was still furious about the timing of his favor. “Potter,” I said slowly. “Please, please ask me something else? I was very much looking forward to my date.”

 

He shrugged. “Just reschedule. I’m sure Donnovan won’t mind.”

 

“Really?” I asked doubtfully. “You don’t think he’d mind me rescheduling our date so I could go to Hogsmeade with another bloke?”

 

“I get the feeling he’d take what he can get regarding you,” Albus said dryly. 

 

I flushed with anger and mild embarrassment. “You’re a prick, you know that?”

 

“I do, actually,” he shrugged. 

 

“Why me?” I asked, a little desperately. “Don’t you have a harem of bimbos to choose from?”

 

“She asked me who I was taking,” he sighed, “and I named you.”

 

Why?” I seethed. 

 

“First name to come to mind,” he shrugged. “For one thing, I can barely name any of those ‘harem’ girls you mentioned. And for another, I knew you’d be a guaranteed ‘yes’ because of our agreement.”

 

Dammit, Potter,” I growled. “Your timing sucks.”

 

“I’m sorry,” he rolled his eyes. “But it’s not like Donnovan would be much more exciting company than me.”

 

“He would be much more pleasant,” I snapped. 

 

Albus looked frustrated. “Well, too bloody bad! We had a deal.”

 

I groaned. “Fine! Fine. I’ll go with you. I don’t want to, but fine.”

 

“Good,” he nodded, though he still looked annoyed. 

 

“Great.”

 

“Terrific.”

 

“Yup.”

 

We glared at each other for a few seconds quietly until something else occured to me. 

 

“What are our friends going to think?” I wondered aloud. 

 

He shrugged. “Tell them we had a deal. You don’t have to give them specifics. If they ask, just say it was a deal so I’d teach you the Patronus charm or something.”

 

“That’ll go over well when we go to class and I’m still struggling as much as the rest of them,” I muttered. 

 

“Then maybe I ought to actually teach you,” he suggested, his eyes lighting up. 

 

“What?” I said sharply. “No.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because-” I broke off. I didn’t actually have a good reason other than not enjoying his company. But I didn’t think he’d really take that as a valid excuse. “Well- what would you want in return?”

 

“Nothing,” he said simply. “I think we have enough dealings going on as it is, figured I’d just help you out.”

 

I narrowed my eyes at him suspiciously. 

 

“Come on,” he sighed. “Is it really that unbelievable that I’d help you?”

 

“Kind of,” I frowned. 

 

“We’re sometimes friends,” he said in a strange tone. 

 

“Are we?” I raised an eyebrow. This was news to me. 

 

“You covered for me last year when I set off dungbombs in the Charms classroom,” he pointed out. 

 

I forgot about that. I’d convinced Flitwick that it was my roommate, Reyna Pritchard. Rylie and I slept in the common room that night. 

 

“I didn’t want you to get detention that week,” I mumbled. “We had a game that weekend, we needed you at practice.”

 

“That’s rubbish,” he contradicted. “Besides, you also jinxed McLaggen when he was being an arse to me that one time.”

 

“McLaggen’s an idiot,” I said defensively. “I’d jinx him for breathing in my direction.”

 

“It goes both ways, too,” he said, his voice rising as he got more worked up. “You even thanked me when I punched that bloke who came onto you at that restaurant Rose’s parents dragged us to in Muggle London.”

 

“That- that’s true,” I admitted. I’d been legitimately grateful to him for that. “You did also hide me from Henry’s sister when she came after me for dumping him.”

 

“See?” He grinned. “We can be civil.”

 

“Fine,” I sighed dramatically. “I suppose I’ll allow you to help me with Defense.”

 

“How kind of you,” he teased. I felt odd, the way I usually did in our moments of goodwill. “I have a detention tonight for sending a paper plane after Filch for the better part of an hour, so I can’t start today. Tomorrow, though?”

 

“Sounds good,” I agreed. 

 

“And then Hogsmeade Saturday,” he added, his old smirk returning. “For our date.”

 

“It’s not a date, git!”

 


 

“What’d you write about regarding the inconsistency of Veritaserum in trials?” Riley asked. 

 

“I talked about the difference between ‘sincerity’ and ‘truth,’ and how this affects the credibility of any statements given under the influence,” Rose responded, not glancing up from her parchment. 

 

“I love you, Rosie,” I said earnestly as I scribbled down some notes. 

 

“Of course you do,” she rolled her eyes.  

 

The three of us were working on Potions homework in the library, having a foot and a half long paper due in only a couple days. 

 

“Did you talk about the resistance some wizards have to it?” I asked. 

 

“Er- no, but I will now,” Riley grinned at me sheepishly. “Blimey, I ought to listen more in that class.”

 

“I’m surprised you made it to N.E.W.T. level Potions at all,” I teased. 

 

“Me too,” she snorted. She paused for a moment, dropping her quill. “By the way, Tara- unrelated to Potions, but is it true you canceled a date with Alex Donnovan?”

 

Even Rose stopped writing at that. “I’m sorry, what?”

 

I sighed, setting my own quill down. “Yeah, it is.”
 

“What the hell?” Rose demanded. “I didn’t even know you had a date to cancel!”

 

“It all happened within such a small time frame,” I defended. “I didn’t have the chance to tell anyone about the date before I had to cancel it.”

 

“I heard you canceled it because he walked in on you shagging Al,” Rylie said nonchalantly. 

 

“WHAT?” Rose shouted. 

 

“Miss Weasley!” the librarian scolded from behind her desk, glaring at us. 

 

“Sorry,” she muttered, turning bright right. Rose was rarely having to be admonished by faculty. She lowered her voice and hissed, “You what now?”

 

“I did not shag your stupid cousin,” I whisper-yelled back. “He bribed me to go to Hogsmeade with him to get out of going with Joy Clarke.”

 

“Bloody Clarke,” Riley rolled her eyes. “What a crazy bat.”

 

“She followed Al into the toilets, once,” Rose frowned.

 

“I think he said she caught him about to get into the baths, this time around,” I snickered. “Anyway, he said he’d teach me a proper Patronus if I went with him.”

 

“And you agreed?” Riley raised an eyebrow. 

 

“I want a good Defense grade,” I shrugged. 

 

“Well good,” Rose beamed at me. “You both ought to put a little more effort into your schooling.”

 

“I’m well on my way to the ‘Exceed Expectations’ I need to go into healing,” Riley rolled her eyes. “I don’t need an ‘Outstanding.’”

 

“I don’t even know what I want to do,” I admitted. 

 

“You have plenty of time,” Rose smiled. “At least it’s only Sixth Year. But keeping your grades up will give you way more options.”

 

“What’d Dom end up going with?” Riley asked me. 

 

I smiled. “You think Dom Weasley has a plan? Last I heard she was going to start an event-planning business, but she wanted to wait until after Victoire’s wedding so that she wouldn’t be roped into excess free labor.”

 

“Sounds like Dom,” Rose laughed. 

 

“I miss her,” I sighed. 

 

“Me too. I even miss Fred,” Rose said. “And I never thought I’d admit such a thing.”

 

“I bet James and my brother miss him more,” Riley grinned. “It’s like the Three Musketeers have been broken up.”

 

“Good,” I rolled my eyes. “Having one gone significantly lowers the likelihood of those boys accidentally blowing up the school.”

 

“True,” Rose nodded. “But can we back up a bit? So in order to learn a Patronus from Al, you had to agree to a date with him?”

 

“It’s not a real date,” I huffed. “Just a means of getting him out of Clarke’s clutches. I don’t know why he can’t just tell her outright ‘no,’ but apparently dragging me with him was his best option.”

 

“I don’t think that girl would accept a ‘no,’” Riley snickered. “But prepare yourself, Tara- I heard she hexed his last two girlfriends.”

 

“I don’t understand her obsession,” I sighed. “James is still here, can’t she just go after Older Potter? At least that one’s nice.”

 

“Al is nice,” Rose smirked. “Just not so much to you. Most of the time, anyway.”

 

“Great,” I deadpanned. “How lucky for me.”

 

“Don’t take it so poorly,” Riley waved a hand. “I don’t think he dislikes you as much as you believe.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “I know what you think, Wood, and you’re still deluded.”

 

“Sure, Tara,” she winked.

 

“How’d Alex take it, anyway?” Rose asked.

 

“Not well,” I scowled, remembering the conversation that had happened only an hour before.

 

“I’m really sorry,” I’d said with a pleading expression. “Is there any way we could reschedule?”

 

He’d raised his eyebrows. “You mean some way for you to work me in around your time with Potter? Not likely, Rivers.”

 

“It’s not like that,” I explained hastily. “Honestly, it’s not even a real date.”

 

“Then what the hell is it?” he questioned. 

 

“It’s more of a… business deal,” I said evasively.

 

He hadn’t wanted to hear much more after that. I groaned, dropping my head onto the table. Dating sucked. “Stupid Potter,” I moaned into the table. 

 

Rylie reached over to pat me on the head sympathetically. “There there, love,” she said soothingly. “We’ll find you a bloke that can withstand Albus’s sabotage sure enough.”

 

I grumbled. “He also needs to get through Lily’s interrogations, James’s pranks, Hugo’s questions, Scor’s threats, your approval of his looks, and Rose’s approval of his grades.”

 

“I do not screen your potential suitors’ grades!” Rose cried, affronted. 

 

“I do screen their looks,” Rylie shrugged, smiling sheepishly. “As for the rest… yeah, you’re going to die alone.”

 

“Great,” I sulked. 

 

“At this rate, you’re going to have to just marry in,” Rose snickered. “The Potters are available.”

 

“Funny,” I hissed. “Try again.” 

 

“They’re both hot,” Riley reasoned. “You could do much worse.”

 

“James is like a brother, and Albus is a prick,” I rolled my eyes. 

 

“You’d make beautiful children with either of them, though.” 

 

I wrinkled my nose at that. 

 

“Alright, I don’t want to spend my evening talking about my cousins procreating,” Rose complained, looking back at her essay. “Did you guys name any old cases that were compromised from Veritaserum use?”

 

I sighed in relief. Trust Rose to bring the conversation back to academics. 

 


 

The next evening, I met up with Albus in an empty classroom on the third floor to start practicing the Patronus charm. I was still annoyed with him about making me cancel my date with Alex, so I showed up a few minutes late just to annoy him.

 

When I finally strolled inside, he was pacing, looking at his watch. “Bloody finally,” he glared. 

 

“So sorry,” I smiled fakely. “Lost track of time.”

 

“I bet,” he rolled his eyes. “Let’s just get this over with.”

 

“Fine,” I nodded. “Show me how it’s done, Potter.”

 

He produced his Patronus, the silvery fox again leaping from his wand and running about the room gracefully. 

 

I watched it longingly. It was amazing magic, honestly. I had never seen a Patronus done prior to Albus’s that day in Defense. 

 

“How do you do it?” I found myself asking. “What makes it so hard?”

 

He shrugged. “It’s just all mental. I suppose it’s the concentration that makes it so difficult- figuring out what memories make it stronger, focusing all you can on one particular memory, and I suppose, having some natural ability.”

 

“What memory do you use?” I asked quietly.

 

He hesitated, clearly torn about telling me. It would be beneficial to my learning the spell, and to knowing what kind of memory to search for, but it’d also be a ratherpersonal thing to share with me. 

 

“I was eleven,” he said at last, not meeting my eyes. He hopped onto one of the desks, staring straight ahead. “It was the first day of First Year. I’d just been sorted into Slytherin, and I remember feeling so terrified about it. I mean, Dom was a Slytherin, I know, but everyone had always loved her regardless. She has the whole ‘part-Veela’ thing to help her out. But me? Harry Potter’s son, in Slytherin? It was frightening.” 

 

He took a deep breath. “I wasn’t sure what James would say. I mean, he’s my brother, you know? He’d always been my absolute best friend, but I remember how he teased me about ending up in Slytherin before we’d actually started, so I was petrified. But then, after the sorting, he pulled me out of the Great Hall and brought me to the Kitchens. He introduced me to the house elves, had them make me some treacle tart, and then showed me the Marauder’s Map. I guess Dad had given it to him his First Year.” He smiled at the memory, his voice far away, like he was recalling the story more for his own sake than mine. “The amount of happiness I felt knowing that my brother was completely accepting of my being in Slytherin and willing to welcome me into the school like that, was something I’ve yet to top.”

 

I couldn’t help but smile back. “That’s shockingly cute, Albus.”

 

He grinned sideways at me. It was lopsided, pulled up on one side. “Your turn then, Taralyn,” he returned my use of his first name. It was another one of those strange moments of civility for the two of us, those weird moments that reminded me that in some other world, we probably could have been friends. 

 

I wasn’t even sure why we weren’t friends. I was close with the entirety of his family, and Scorpius, and we were in the same house. I think after our first couple interactions went poorly, we just never bothered to try to be nice. 

 

“Alright,” I sighed. I thought about what memory to pick. There was the first time I’d held a wand in Diagon Alley, the first time I flew on a broom, the day I made the Quidditch team…

 

I settled on my sorting to start with, remembering the joy I’d felt at belonging to a group of peers for the first time in my life. 

 

Expecto Patronum!” I tried, putting everything I could into the memory. Nothing happened. 

 

“Try again,” he suggested.

 

I did. And again, and again, and again. I tried a dozen more times before groaning and looking at him helplessly. 

 

“What memory were you using?” Albus inquired. 

 

“My sorting,” I frowned. “I suppose it’s not strong enough.”

 

“Was that the happiest you’ve ever been?” He lifted an eyebrow. “You have to really dig.”

 

“I-” I paused, thinking hard. “I don’t know.” He looked like he wanted to say something, but was holding back. “Spit it out, Potter,” I snapped a little impatiently. 

 

He sighed. “I just- I don’t want to overstep here. We’re actually sort of getting along, and I’m trying really hard not to push your buttons.” I looked at him expectantly. “Alright. I just- I know I can’t really ask you to think of any family memories,” he said slowly, and I understood why he’d been hesitant to bring it up. “And I think your whole upbringing will probably make this a little harder than it’d be for others, right?”

 

“I’d imagine so,” I nodded, trying to keep my tone level. He was trying to be helpful after all. 

 

“So maybe try to think of something that’d maybe, I dunno, replicate the feelings you would have had if you’d grown up not here?” He asked carefully. I could see why he was walking on eggshells around me with this subject. I’d never actually confirmed that I lived here even before starting at Hogwarts- he’d only guessed at it. He was making a bit of a leap to bring it up now like this. 

 

Still, I couldn’t get mad. It was a good theory to attempt. I nodded at him, and shut my eyes to think. 

 

I fixed my mind on another memory- the first time I’d gone home with the Weasleys for Christmas. I’d stayed with Rose for part of the holiday, and Dom for the other half. At the massive family dinner, I’d received one of Molly Weasley Sr.’s handmade jumpers, a lovely green thing with a silver “T” on it. 

 

A slow smile spread across my face as I opened my eyes. 

 

I lifted my wand again. “Expecto Patronum!”

 

A small wisp of silvery mist burst out the end, briefly, but it was still more than I’d been able to accomplish not only that evening, but in the weeks it’d been since Mansir first introduced the charm to us. 

 

“That was something!” I cried out excitedly. 

 

“It was,” Albus agreed, smiling at me as he leaned against a desk with his arms folded. “It was probably still more than most of the people in our class could manage.”

 

“Wow,” I murmured. “I- thank you, Al.”

 

He looked mildly surprised. I suppose it was understandable; I don’t think I’d ever called him that before. 

 

“Of course, Tara,” he nodded back, dropping his arms. 

 

“I’m exhausted,” I realized. “How long have we been at this?”

 

“An hour,” he glanced at his watch. “Curfew just passed. Good thing we have an infallible way back to the dungeons,” he grinned at me widely. 

 

“That’s why you wanted to use this classroom,” I guessed. 

 

“Right you are, Tara,” he winked, practically prancing to the back wall. He had to hoist himself on top of one of the back counters to reach the right spot to press. 

 

A moment later, a small piece of the wall slid open. “I never get used to that,” Albus looked back at me. “It’s so cool.”

 

I smiled. “The people who built this place must have had a lot of fun.” I followed him over to the back of the room, even accepting his hand to pull me onto the counter before ducking into the passage. 

 

We lit our wands for light as the wall moved back into place, closing us in. “After you,” Albus gestured. 

 

“Chivalrous today, are we?” I raised my eyebrows as we started down the walkway. 

 

“I kind of owe it to you, I think. I’ve been feeling bad about fucking up your date,” Albus admitted. “Especially since it started some not-so-fun rumors about you and me. I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

 

“I know,” I sighed. “It’s fine. Alex wasn’t happy, but hopefully he’ll come around.”

 

“He’d be stupid not to,” Albus rolled his eyes. 

 

“Why’s that?” I questioned, looking at him sideways. 

 

“You’re out of his league,” he shrugged before looking surprised at his own words. I was surprised too. Civil was one thing, but he was being outright nice now.

 

We descended a set of stairs, making our way further down inside the castle walls. 

 

“Alex is cute,” I defended, albeit a little feebly. 

 

“So are puppies,” Albus snorted. “You want to date those too?” I take back what I said about him being nice. He’s a prat.

 

“Sod off, Potter,” I snapped. “Alex is kind, and smart, and funny, and I really wanted to go out with him.”

 

“There are plenty of kind, smart, and funny blokes,” he rolled his eyes. “Don’t you want something a little more special?”

 

“Special how?” I demanded, annoyed with him criticizing my dating choices.

 

“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Fun, passionate, maybe?”

 

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” I snorted. We made our way down another set of stairs. I kept my wand low to avoid stumbling over one of the steps. It was actually helpful to have him there in a way- it meant more light.

 

Suddenly, however, the light dimmed a bit, and I realized Albus had skidded to a stop. 

 

I glanced back. “What?”

 

“You think you’re a beggar?” He asked, his wide eyes bright in the wand light. 

 

“How many blokes have you seen gagging for a date with me?” I questioned. “Alex was the first to ask me out in ages.

 

“He was the first to actually succeed,” Albus corrected. “There are plenty who have wanted to.”

 

“Really?” I laughed humorlessly. “Somehow, I doubt that.”

 

“It’s true,” he frowned. “Donnovan was just the first to get past the- er- barricade.”

 

“What bloody barricade?” I demanded, walking back toward him.

 

“It’s not an actual barricade, calm down,” he rolled his eyes. “But you spend all your time with the likes of James, Leo, Scorpius, me even- and we have an unintended way of scaring males away from you.”

 

I groaned. “Well great, Potter, just great. As if I needed help to remain thoroughly alone. Thanks so bloody much.”

 

I leaned against the wall, seething. 

 

He watched me curiously. “You’re not alone, you know,” he said quietly. “You have tons of friends.”

 

“I know,” I muttered. “I didn’t mean friend-wise. It’s just- it’d be nice to sometimes feel wanted.” My cheeks burned with the admission. 

 

He said nothing for a while, instead just standing there watching me with an unreadable expression. 

 

I wasn’t sure why the hell I was telling Albus Potter of all people about my deepest insecurities, but here I was. He already knew more about me than anyone else at this point. And despite our tendency to row and annoy each other, I didn’t think he’d ever actually use any of this against me. He wasn’t a monster.

 

“Well,” he finally spoke. “Like I said, plenty of blokes are interested. They’re just scared of your friends.”

 

“Well I can hardly ditch my friends, can I?” I sighed. “Your family’s too bloody big. I’d never escape.”

 

A ghost of a smile crossed his face. “No, you’re quite stuck with us, aren’t you?” Was it my imagination or had he stepped closer? It was hard to tell in this lighting.

 

“Brilliant,” I rolled my eyes. “I’m going to die alone.”

 

“You won’t be alone,” he shook his head. No, yeah, he was definitely closer now. I tilted my head up and glared at him. I could see his eyes more clearly up close. The light from our wands had a weird effect on the color. 

 

“Again, I don’t mean friend-wise, I mean-”

 

“I know,” he cut me off. “Still. You won’t be.”

 

“Well if my options are limited to those who are willing and able to break the Potter-Weasley-and-apparently-Malfoy-and-Wood barricade, then yes, I will be,” I said bitterly. “Because apparently, even those who make it through are doomed to be driven away later anyway. 

 

He stared at me, looking a little perplexed, or- troubled? I wasn’t quite sure, since again, the lighting made it hard to read his facial expressions, but we were close enough for me to see that he was seemingly having some sort of internal conflict. 

 

“Tara,” he finally sighed, surprising me with his use of the nickname. “I’m sorry about making you cancel the date. But honestly, really, what did you want it that badly for? Donnovan’s boring.”

 

“What the hell do you know?” I snapped. “Your relationships last all of a couple weeks before you move on to whatever next slag comes along. Who are you to judge my choices?”

 

“I’ve never taken any of those relationships seriously and you know it,” he rolled his eyes. “I didn’t fancy any of those idiots.”

 

“Charming,” I glowered. “And anyway, what makes you think I fancy Alex?”

 

“What’d you want then?” he demanded. “A quick snog?”

 

“What do you care?” I shot back. “It’s none of your business.”

 

“So, if that’s what you’re after, you can do a lot better than Alex Donnovan,” he snorted. 

 

“Again, this is none of your business,” I snapped. “I don’t want a quick snog, anyway! I just wanted to go on this date and get to know someone a little better.”

 

He made a face. “Gross.”

 

“My ‘getting to know someone’ is quite different from yours,” I said dryly. 

 

“Still. You can do better than Donnovan,” he repeated. “He’s a passionless tosser.”

 

“Believe it or not, Potter, red-hot passion isn’t always an option,” I said, pushing away from the wall. “It’s not even essential. Why not settle for a little stability and ease?”

 

His face shifted again, a look of determination crossing his features. “Because you are neither stable nor easy.” He stepped forward and, to my astonishment, kissed me. 

 

He turned us so that we stumbled back to the wall, my back pressing against the stone as he held me in place, one hand on my waist, the other on the wall next to my head. Our wands fell to the floor, the lights going out. His lips were rough against mine, and while my brain was screaming at the rest of my body to shove him off and curse him to kingdom come, my body just didn't agree. 

 

Instead, my arms made their way around his neck like they had a mind of his own, pulling him closer. 

 

This, unfortunately, was familiar. The way he slid his hand along my side, the taste of his lips, the way he pressed against me to make me gasp enough for him to snake his tongue into my mouth- I remembered all of it. I hated realizing how much I’d missed it. I mean for Merlin’s sake, it’d only happened one other time, and we’d been shitfaced at the time, too. How could I miss a drunken kiss so much?

 

We weren’t drunk now, though, and really that only made it better. I sighed contently as he snogged me against the wall. He may have been an annoying prick, but dammit he felt good. I dragged my hands up into his hair, tangling my fingers in the soft locks. He pulled back just slightly, biting my lower lip gently in the process, before trailing his lips down my jaw and down to my neck. I gasped, my eyes opening, but it was pitch black in the passageway, leaving me unable to see anything. This just put all the more emphasis on the feeling of his lips across my skin, the warmth of his breath on my neck, and his hands squeezing my hips. 

 

Gods he felt good. 

 

Eventually, he pulled away, staggering away from me through the darkness. I didn’t move, staring in the direction of his ragged breathing, despite not being able to see him. Neither of us said anything- we just stood away from each other, catching our breath. 

 

I bent down shakily, feeling around the rough ground for our wands. They’d rollen a couple feet away after they’d fallen, but I found them soon enough. I rose, lighting my own and holding out Albus’s for him to take. 

 

His expression was impossible to decipher. “Thanks,” he said hoarsely, taking the wand. I nodded once, my heart pounding so hard I could feel it up in my head, while my stomach did somersaults. 

 

He lit his own wand, and with more light, I realized his face wasn’t lacking emotion, but rather had many. He looked confused, a little smug, nervous, and, well, bothered in a way that I could very much relate to at that moment. I was sure that if we had more light, the red in my cheeks would match most of his cousins’ hair. 

 

I cleared my throat. “I’m just going to, er… head back down, then,” I said lamely. 

 

He just nodded, not making any motion to follow. 

 

“Alright,” I said, feeling horribly uncomfortable. I tugged a little at my hair nervously. “I’ll see you, then?”

 

He nodded again, still saying nothing. He’d looked away from me, staring straight ahead at the wall, instead. 

 

I backed away a couple steps, suddenly unsure if I should really go, or if I should stay to talk. Ultimately, however, I opted to leave, turning away and starting down the passageway. 

 

The light behind me slowly faded away, until I finally turned a corner and felt the darkness consume me from behind. 

 


A/N:

Well that was wild!! Who's excited about this?? I am. I've been so excited to release this chapter, so I hope everyone enjoys it!! Tara sure did ;) 

Please feel free to leave me a review!! I love and appreciate all your feedback. Hope the quarantine isn't driving you all as insane as I've become. 

Cheers x



Chapter 5: Fake Dates Aren't Worth Food Poisoning
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Albus and I effectively avoided each other the rest of the week. I wouldn’t even have known if I were still meant to go to Hogsmeade with him Saturday if not for the note I received the night before that said, ‘10 o’clock, Entrance Hall.’ 

 

I couldn’t believe we’d snogged again. At least the first time around, I’d been able to blame it on alcohol and party craziness. This time it had just sort of… happened. 

 

Albus Potter was just way too good a kisser. It wasn’t even fair

 

The morning of Hogsmeade, I paced around the room, wondering what I was supposed to wear on a not-date with a boy I’d snogged twice but otherwise didn’t get along with. 

 

Riley noticed my conundrum, having found me staring over my bed- on which I’d laid out several outfit options- with a look of distaste. “Having trouble there, Tara?” she smirked, 

 

“Fuck off, Wood,” I growled. 

 

She rolled her eyes and walked over to my side to look down at the choices. “They’re all cute, for what it’s worth,” she grinned. “There a reason you’re fussing this much over what to wear on your fake date with Albus?”

 

“No,” I grumbled. “I just don’t want to send any wrong messages, is all.”

 

“I think you already did that when you let him snog your face off,” Riley snickered. 

 

I reached down for a pillow, hitting her in the face with it. “I regret ever telling you anything.”

 

“Well it was either telling me or Rose, and Rose would have told Scorpius,” Riley grinned as she tried to fix her hair that’d been disheveled by the pillow. “I suppose you could have written Dom, too, but then you’d probably have gotten a Howler by now.”

 

“I could have kept it to myself,” I muttered. “And should have.”

 

“Probably,” Riley agreed. “But now you have me to help you pick out an ‘I-don’t-want-to-date-you-I-just-couldn’t-help-but-snog-you-because-you’re-bloody-fit-as-hell outfit.”

 

“He’s not that fit,” I mumbled without conviction. She looked at me with a raised eyebrow. We both knew that was rubbish. “Fine, fine. He’s fit. And fuck he’s a good snog.”

 

“I’m almost jealous,” she laughed. “You hear so many stories, you can’t help but wonder, you know?”

 

“Honestly,” I frowned. “The stories hold up. And then some.”

 

“Blimey,” she looked awed. “And you haven’t even shagged him.”

 

“Can we stop talking about this?” I begged. “Just help me pick something.”

 

“They’re all pretty equally harmless,” she smiled. “I like the dress.”

 

“That’s the most date-like outfit here,” I protested. 

 

“Hey, it’s supposed to be believable to Clarke, isn’t it?” Riley raised her eyebrows. “Maybe you two will run into her there and Albus will have to snog you again.”

 

“You’re enjoying this way too much.”

 

“I am,” Riley giggled. 

 

“What are you doing for Hogsmeade, anyway?” I changed the subject, glaring at my clothes. 

 

“I’m going with Rose and James,” she shrugged. “I think Leo might join us later depending on how quickly he tires of the slag he’s going with- you know how my brother is. And I think Scorpius is coming with us too. I heard he had a date, but I’m pretty sure that was just a rumor.”

 

“It was,” I snickered. “I started it.”

 

Why?”

 

“Rose was jealous all week,” I shrugged. “Maybe it’ll speed things up for those two.”

 

“Evil,” Riley said, though she was grinning broadly. 

 

“Just don’t tell Scor, he’ll make me run laps at practice,” I winked. 

 

“Never,” Riley promised. “Now, back to your not-date-”

 

No, I don’t want to talk about it,” I moaned. 

 

“Come on, Tara,” she urged. “Go put on the dress. Who cares if things are awkward? Look cute for the sake of looking cute!”

 

“That’s a solid argument,” I grinned. “Alright, fine.”

 

I grabbed the dress, a long-sleeve white sweater dress that stopped about mid-thigh. Paired with a scarf, some tights and a pair of knee-high boots, it made for a cute Autumn look. 

 

I stepped out of the bathroom after changing and found a mirror. It looked like quite the date outfit, but I supposed it was better than under-dressing. 

 

“You look adorable,” Riley informed me. 

 

I smiled. “Thank you.” I’d pulled my brown hair into a long Dutch side bride and worn a small amount of makeup: just a light amount of eyeliner and mascara. 

 

“He’s going to want to snog you all over again,” my obnoxious friend winked. 

 

I glared at her. “I’m going to tell Leo you’re aren’t a virgin anymore.”

 

Tara,” Rylie hissed. “You wouldn’t dare.”

 

“Try me,” I shot back. “Mention Albus and me snogging one more time.”

 

“Alright,” she laughed, holding her arms up in defeat. “I’ll stop, I promise.”

 

Thank you,” I nodded. “Last bloody time I update you on this sort of thing.”

 

“Like you wouldn’t be doing the same thing to me,” she rolled her eyes. 

 

“Fair point,” I smiled. 

 

Rylie was genuinely my best friend. Rose and Dom were the closest to me of all the Weasleys, and I may have spent more time with their family overall, but Rylie was hard to compare to. Having grown up in the same dorm, with the same roommates to bitch about, and with so many shared traits and values, it was impossible not to consider her my closest friend. She was the type of person I could yell at, hug, punch, and laugh with all in a five minute span. 

 

After finally deciding on an outfit, I headed down to the Entrance Hall. Unlike our Defense session, I chose to be on time, not knowing how to tread considering the awkwardness of our situation. 

 

It was about five-til when I made it down there. Albus hadn’t arrived yet, so I waited along one of the courtyard sides, sitting on a wall and leaning back against a pillar. The morning air was refreshing on my face, and I closed my eyes with a soft sigh, letting my head rest back against the cool stones. 

 

I loved mornings. There was something so uniquely peaceful about them. Even on a Hogsmeade day, with students bustling about and excitedly making their way to the carriages, there was still a feeling of serenity in the air that only came with the crisp air of morning.

 

I opened my eyes with a slight smile. 

 

Turning my head slightly, I jumped slightly when I found Albus watching me. “Bloody hell,” I exclaimed, holding a hand over my heart. “You scared me, Potter.”

 

“Sorry,” he murmured. “You looked… happy. I wasn’t really rushing to ruin it.”

 

I regarded him with a perplexed look. “Oh. Well, alright.”

 

I swung my legs over, hopping down to an even level with him. He looked about as uncertain as I felt, his hands in his pockets and his hair a little extra messy, like he’d been tugging at it. Seeing it sent an exciting shiver down my spine as I remembered what had happened a few nights before, and the way it’d felt under my fingers. 

 

“Ready, then?” he asked, his voice taut with what I assumed with nervousness given the look on his face. 

 

I nodded wordlessly, falling into step beside him as we headed down to the gates. “Want to walk?” I asked suddenly. It was so nice out, and I figured if it got too cold, we’d be able to warm up with butterbeer later. 

 

“Sure,” he agreed. 

 

We passed the carriage loading area and continued up the road. I absentmindedly kicked a rock along the road. It rolled away, catching on divets in the ground and changing directions, stopping a meter or so away. Each time I caught back up to it, I kicked it again. 

 

I loved October. This early in the month, it was cold, but not snowy. The trees on either side of the road were different shades of orange, red, and yellow. One was even nearing purple. 

 

Albus looked straight ahead, though out of the corner of my eye I caught him turning his head toward me. 

 

“So,” he said after several minutes of silence. “Are we going to talk about it?”

 

“Did you want to talk about it?” I furrowed my eyebrows. “Because it hasn’t seemed that way.”

 

“You've been avoiding me just as much as I’ve been avoiding you,” he accused. 

 

I sighed. “True. I guess I just wasn’t sure what to say.”

 

He stopped walking abruptly. I turned to look at him questioningly. His expression was almost pained. “Look,” he said slowly. “I… I’m sorry.”

 

“You’re what?”

 

“I’m sorry,” he repeated, not meeting my eyes. “I shouldn’t have done it.”

 

I stared at him uncertainly. “Why did you?”

 

He frowned deeply. “I have no idea. The conversation had me somewhat worked up. I think part of me wanted to get a rise out of you, another part of me was annoyed with you, and yet another was remembering drunkenly snogging you on your birthday.”

 

I bit my lip. I didn’t want to admit just how much time I’d spent thinking about that incident myself. 

 

“Anyway,” Albus went on. “It shouldn’t have happened, and I’m sorry. I mean don’t get me wrong, it was awesome-” I hid a smile at that. “-but we spend enough time rowing as it is, I didn’t mean to add awkwardness on top of that.”

 

“It’s fine,” I said quietly, crossing my arms. “I probably didn’t help the situation, honestly. I wasn’t exactly shoving you away.”

 

“No, I do believe you were very much pulling me closer,” he smirked. 

 

“Shut up,” I mumbled. “Let’s just get to Hogsmeade already, I need some chocolate.”

 

We started back up the road, the mood remarkably lighter now that we’d at least acknowledged what had happened. I was surprised he’d apologized for kissing me, especially since I’d kissed him back just as enthusiastically. 

 

He’d also said it was awesome, which was hard for me to ignore. 

 

The first place we stopped at when we reached the village was Honeydukes, because as I’d said before, I very much wanted chocolate. 

 

I grabbed a bag and started to fill it up with chocolate frogs, liquorice wands, sugar quills, and pretty much anything else that looked good.

 

“You’ve got a real sweet tooth, don’t you, Tara?” Albus grinned. 

 

“Maybe I’m bringing some to Rylie,” I defended, holding the bag close to me.

 

He chuckled. “Because she couldn’t get any herself?”

 

Right. He had a point. 

 

I ignored him, bringing my sweets to the counter for purchase. To my astonishment, Albus brought his own chocolate up and dropped it on the counter next to mine. He smiled up at the owner, Ambrosius, and handed over some gold before I had time to think. 

 

“Thanks,” Albus nodded to him, before grabbing my bag and dragging me out of the store. 

 

I glared at him outside. “You didn’t have to do that, Potter,” I informed him. “I could have paid.”

 

“I know,” he rolled his eyes. “But if I’m going to blackmail you into dates, I ought to at least play my part, don’t you think?”

 

“Whatever,” I grumbled, taking my bag from him. “Thanks. I guess.”

 

“You’re welcome. I suppose,” he smirked. “Butterbeer?”

 

I nodded, and we started across the road for The Three Broomsticks. Looking around, I saw plenty of students I recognized, some occasionally staring at Albus and me in bewilderment- it was well known that we weren’t particularly fond of each other. 

 

I found one starer having just left Gladrags with her friends, all their arms full of bags of new clothes. Joy Clarke, flanked by Bridgett Vane-Bellows and Greta Boot. 

 

Joy was watching Albus and me, her eyes narrowed into slits. She leaned over and muttered something to Bridgett, who snickered. 

 

I felt a swell of irritation run through me. Making sure she was still watching, I looped an arm through Albus’s, bringing myself closer to him. He looked down at me sharply. “Clarke spotting,” I uttered quietly. 

 

He glanced over my shoulder at the girls watching us. Looking back down at me, he smirked. “Thanks.”

 

“Happy to help,” I shrugged. “Clarke’s insane.”

 

He leaned down closer, his ears brushing against my ear. “We could give her something to go really crazy over.”

 

I shivered slightly. “I think this is more than enough,” I breathed back. “She’s going to hex my hair off.”

 

He chuckled, his breath tickling my ear and neck. “Wouldn’t want that.” He reached his other hand over and ran it down my braid. “I like your hair.”

 

“I-” I stammered, not knowing how to respond. I let my eyes drift back to Clarke, whose smirk had slipped away and been replaced by a deep scowl. “I think she’s bought the act.”

 

He looked back at the girl, who was still glaring at us. He hesitated before straightening back up, but he kept my arm where it was. “Well that was fun,” he grinned. “Let’s get that butterbeer now.”

 

I let him lead me into the pub, not pulling my arm away until we were inside and out of Clarke’s view- to keep up the charade, of course, not because it felt nice to be so close to him. That would be ridiculous

 

We ordered a couple drinks and made our way through the pub. “There are the others,” Albus nodded. 

 

I followed his line of sight and saw Riley, Rose, James, and Scorpius sitting at one of the booths. “Thank Merlin,” I sighed. 

 

“My company not sufficient for you?” Albus lifted an eyebrow. His tone was light, like he was joking, but the humor didn’t quite reach his eyes. 

 

“I haven’t ditched you yet, have I?” I smiled slightly. He’d been nice so far- I figured I ought to return the favor. 

 

It seemingly worked, because his eyes lit up and he grinned his lopsided smile back at me. “No, I suppose not.”

 

We reached our friends’ table then. “Hey you two,” Riley smirked. “Enjoying your date?”

 

Albus rolled his eyes, sliding onto the bench beside his brother and Rylie. I joined Scorpius and Rose on the other side. “Funny, Wood,” Albus said dryly. 

 

“Has my brother’s company proven worth the Defense lessons?” James grinned at me.

 

“Clarke’s face was worth it,” I snickered before taking a sip of my butterbeer. It was warm, and sent a pleasant shudder through my shoulder and down my back. 

 

“That girl’s bonkers,” Scorpius shook his head. “You know at the start of the term she told me she’d been by the manor over the summer? She wanted to know why I hadn’t been there.”

 

“Who’s she more obsessed with between the two of you, I wonder?” Rylie asked, looking between Scorpius and Albus with a thoroughly amused expression.

 

“Oh definitely Al,” Rose smiled. A light flush had spread across her cheeks when I’d shoved Scorpius over toward her to make room for me. “She’s asked me so many questions about Al over the last couple years, and you wouldn’t even believe some of them.”

 

James scoffed from across the table. “If you ask me, she’s got some poor taste.”

 

“Thanks, James, love you too,” Albus frowned. 

 

“Just saying,” James shrugged. 

 

“Do you want creepy stalker girls of your own?” Rylie grinned at him. 

 

“You can have mine, mate,” Albus shuddered. “Bloody nutters.” James raised his mug to his brother with a good-natured grin. 

 

“And now those nutters are going to be out for poor Tara’s blood,” Rose frowned. “Great job, Al.”

 

He grinned. “Hey, she’s further ahead with her Patronus than you even, Rosie, so I’d say it was a fair deal.”

 

Rose looked at me in shock. “You can do one?”

 

I shrugged. “Noncorporeal.”

 

“That’s still great, Tara!” she exclaimed, smiling at me before looking at Albus. “Who knew you’d be a good teacher?”

 

“Who knew Tara would be a good student,” Scorpius snickered. 

 

“Or that she’d go through with the date,” James added with a smirk.

 

“It’s not a date,” I growled, ignoring Albus’s slightly hurt look. It’s not like it was any more real to him than it was to me. I tightened my grip around my mug of butterbeer.

 

Albus cleared his expression so fast that I wondered if he’d ever even looked upset. “Yeah, we’ll be back to tormenting each other in no time.” He shot me an amused grin. “Like she said though, it was worth the look on Clarke’s face.”

 

Riley laughed. “I’m so sad I missed it. Can we keep the facade going? Just walk into the Great Hall tomorrow morning and start snogging at the Hufflepuff table, right next to the bint.”

 

I colored deeply while the others erupted into laughter. Albus choked on his drink, his eyes wide, while I glowered at Riley. What a traitor.

 

James snorted. “The day Tara and Albus snog is the day I quit Quidditch and Malfoy stops bleaching his hair.”

 

I don’t bleach my hair!” Scorpius snapped. 

 

“The blonde is natural,” Albus quipped. “It’s the eight bottles of gel across our bathroom counter that we ought to be concerned with.”

 

I giggled with the others this time, happy for the change of topic. Rose glanced up at Scorpius’s head curiously. “That would explain the inhuman shininess.” She reached up and lightly touched the top of his head. 

 

“Stop that,” Scorpius complained. “Let’s all leave my hair be, yeah?”

 

“It was your turn in the cycle of making fun of friends,” Rylie grinned wryly. 

 

“Are you next?” he shot back. “Because I could bring up the treacle tart incident.”

 

“You bastard,” Rylie hissed. “You only know about that because you happened to have been there!”

 

“What’s the treacle tart incident?” James rested his chin on his hands, regarding Rylie curiously. I snickered to myself, being the only other one to know.

 

“You know Mason Davies? Liza’s brother?” Scorpius asked. 

 

“Scor,” Rylie moaned. 

 

“In Fred and Dom’s year, right?” James clarified. 

 

“That’s him,” I nodded. “Rylie had quite the run-in with him when she was about fourteen.”

 

“You’re both horrible people!” Rylie declared, picking her mug up and sipping at it in defeat. 

 

“She spilled it on him by accident and started hastily trying to clean it off of him,” Scorpius smirked. “Only her attempts to do so just ended up seeming like she was very deliberately feeling the bloke up.”

 

“I was not!” Rylie protested while the rest of us laughed. 

 

“I don’t know, Ry,” Rose giggled. “You’ve been gushing over how ‘dishy’ you find Mason Davies since we were twelve.”

 

“He is, but that doesn’t mean I meant to feel him up,” Rylie explained. She was smiling too now, despite the light skin of her face having turned completely red. 

 

“Sure you didn’t,” James grinned. “Just like you didn’t mean to flash me your knickers last New Years at the party.”

 

“I WAS DRUNK, YOU ARSE!”

 


 

“Taralyn Lee Rivers,” Collin Corner tutted. “You look shite.”

 

“Thanks, Collin,” I said wryly. “I’m really feeling the camaraderie of teamship.”

 

“Pay him no attention, Taralyn Betty Rivers,” Ethan Meadows grinned. “I think you look like an absolute princess.”

 

Collin and Ethan, the beaters on our Quidditch team, had been coming up with made up middle names for me since my third year, when I’d first joined the team. Since I didn't actually have a middle name, and told them as much, they’d taken it upon themselves to come up with various ones for me at every opportunity. 

 

Today, however, I was not in the mood. 

 

I rolled my eyes as I pushed past them and headed toward the rest of the team, who were gathered at the base of one of the goal posts. Scorpius nodded at me before turning back to a hushed conversation with Albus, who’d scarcely glanced my way. I wasn’t sure why that had bothered me so much.

 

I’d gotten almost no sleep the night before, as I’d spent my evening in the hospital wing. About an hour after dinner, I’d found myself emptying the contents of my stomach into the toilet at such an alarming rate that Madame Pomfrey had to replenish me with fluids. She’d advised me to take off Quidditch for a couple days, but I could hardly listen to the old bat. Scorpius would kill me. 

 

“Tara!” Eva Stevens, a Fifth Year who played chaser with Albus and me, exclaimed when I reached the group. “I’d heard you were sick.” I rolled my eyes. I wasn’t sure how word traveled so quickly. 

 

“I heard you were dead,” Byron Ledbury, our newest member said with wide eyes. He was a Fourth Year, and the only new player Scorpius had taken on this year to fill the Keeper spot Dom had left. 

 

“From who?” I raised an eyebrow. 

 

Byron frowned. “Er-” he gestured to Collin and Ethan, who’d caught up to me and joined the rest of us as we gathered around Scorpius. 

 

“Ignore them,” I told him. “They’re idiots.”

 

“I resent that, Tara,” Collin frowned. “We were trying to help.”

 

“How would that help?” I asked, unable to think of a single scenario where being presumed dead would benefit me. 

 

Ethan put a hand on Collin’s shoulder and grinned at me. “We figured if people thought you were dead, no one would bother continuing to mess with you.”

 

“Who was messing with me?” I hadn’t realized I had any particular enemies. 

 

“You didn’t hear?” Eva asked, looking surprised. “The reason you got sick was that Joy Clarke poisoned your dinner.”

 

Scorpius and Albus broke off their conversation to turn to the rest of us. “She bloody what?” Albus demanded. 

 

“Oh that’s rich, Potter, you’ve put me on a hit list,” I complained, lightly hitting my broom against my head. 

 

“It’s not my fault she’s insane,” he protested. 

 

“But it is your fault I was at Hogsmeade with you in the first place,” I snapped. The others exchanged glances, knowing a fight was coming. 

 

“If I recall, you were the one who put up the closeness act to make her jealous,” he narrowed his eyes. “You ought to take a little responsibility.”

 

“Oh fuck you, Potter, I didn’t want to be there with you at all!” I growled, getting angrier. And to think, we’d spent the prior day getting along surprisingly well. 

 

“Oh really?” He laughed hollowly. “Because you hardly seemed unwilling when you practically draped yourself over me-”

 

“For Clarke’s benefit, git, for your sake!” 

 

“Alright, that’s enough!” Scorpius interrupted, glaring at us both. “Remember me? The captain? This is a Quidditch practice, so let’s maybe play some Quidditch, yeah?”

 

I looked at him pleadingly. “But Scor, it’s his fault I ended up-”

 

“Stuff it, Rivers,” Scorpius growled. He was only ever rude toward me on the pitch. “It was his fault you were there with him, but you were the one who wanted to egg on Clarke. You’re both responsible, so shut up and let me lead the team.”

 

I lowered my head slightly, admonished. “Fine.”

 

“Sorry mate,” Albus murmured. I glanced up through my eyelashes and noticed him turn his gaze to me, but I ignored him. 

 

Scorpius nodded once. “Alright. Here’s the plan for today, then. Chasers, you’re running the same drill from a couple days ago. We know that Matthias Ashwell made captain this year-” I scowled at the name. Ashwell had been the bloke who’d attempted to force his way into my pants the year prior, until James had arrived and jinxed the prick all the way to the Hospital Wing. “-and we know he’s going to have them playing dirty this year. We already know from their game against Gryffindor that they regard the rules as guidelines more than anything, and that Hooch’s age is making her calls that much worse, so we need to be prepared.”

 

“Yeah, that old bat can barely stay on her own broom at this point,” Collin frowned. “What’s she doing reffing Quidditch?”

 

“It’s called denial,” Ethan snickered. “She isn’t quite willing to accept that she was never good enough to play professionally, so she needs to soak up every last second she can of teaching Firsties to fly and refereeing our games.”

 

“Cold, Meadows,” Eva frowned. 

 

“True though,” Ethan shrugged. 

 

“Doesn’t matter,” Scorpius snapped. “Everyone, hit the skies. If you aren’t throwing up by the end of practice, you weren’t working hard enough.”

 

I kicked off into the air with a frown, and found myself beside Albus as we ascended. “Remind me to write Dom later, would you?”

 

“What for?” He looked surprised I’d spoken to him. I supposed we hadn’t really talked much since leaving the Three Broomsticks with our friends the day before. 

 

“So she could come to Hogwarts and beat Scor over the head with his broom like she promised,” I said a little viciously. 

 

He snorted. “Sure. And er- I’m sorry. About Clarke, that is.”

 

It startled me that he’d apologized to me so many times in the last month or so. Since First Year, we’d argued all the time, and while it’d never been particularly venomous- we weren’t mortal enemies or anything- neither of us had ever apologized to the other as far back as I could remember. I wasn’t sure if all the apologies this term were because he’d matured, or because he’d been doing worse things to warrant them. 

 

It was confusing, honestly. 

 

“It’s fine,” I shook my head. “Scor was right- I egged her on.”

 

“Which was funny,” he smiled. “But I don’t think ticking her off was worth you getting ill. Do you want me to talk to her?”

 

Scorpius barked some orders at us then, to head to our positions to start running our plays. He himself would be dodging bludgers from Collin and Ethan- I was certain the two of them were looking forward to launching magical rocks at the blonde. They’d both been annoyed that a Sixth Year beat them both out for captain that year. 

 

I grinned wryly at Albus. “I think you defending me would just make her hate me more. Besides, if you actually stop to talk to her, she might jump you on the spot.”

 

“And you wouldn’t want that, would you?” he winked. 

 

I glared and opened my mouth to respond, but he sped off then to take his position between Eva and me, smirking all the way.

 

Conceited prat. 

 


A/N:

Another chapter! The not-date went surprisingly well, no snogging or murdering or anything too crazy. Next chapter is rather heavy, so I kept this one relatively light. Let me know what you thought! Favorite part? Favorite quote? Feel free to share!

Cheers x

P.S. Stay inside and healthy, folks!

 

Disclaimer: I'm obviously not JK Rowling, so anything you recognize is not mine. 



Chapter 6: This Was Probably Inevitable
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“What’s happening with you and my brother?” James asked me at breakfast one morning, a week after Hogsmeade. 

 

“Nothing,” I frowned, making a face. “Why?”

 

“You two don’t fight as much anymore,” Leo pointed out from beside James. “And Clarke and her minions keep hexing you.”

 

“So your assumption over us not fighting as much and me getting hexed by some maniacs is that something’s going on with Albus and me?” I raised an eyebrow. They didn’t have to know that the two of us had snogged in a darkened secret passageway and had still yet to really discuss it outside of Albus's apology the week before. 

 

“He flirts with you, like, constantly,” Leo rolled his eyes. 

 

“To be fair,” James pointed out. “He’s always done that.”
 

“Not true!” I argued. “He does not, and he didn't before, either.”

 

The two exchanged knowing looks, and I felt my irritation spike. “Can you go bother someone else, maybe?”

 

“You’re the one sitting at our table,” James rolled his eyes. “Besides, I needed your advice again.”

 

“Is this still part of your woman-hunt?” I asked. “You’re rather fixated on this, James.”

 

“I haven’t dated anyone in almost ten months now,” he frowned. “Not since Leah broke up with me.”

 

“Don’t mention that bitch,” I growled. “I hate her.”

 

“I think Dom might have hated her more,” Leo mused. “Remember the New Years ball? When Leah had the audacity to show up with her new hot-shot Quidditch star boyfriend like a week after the breakup?”

 

“No, Wood, I forgot,” James said dryly. "Thank Godric you've reminded me."

 

“Dom physically forced her out,” I snickered. “That was a good night. At least you don’t have to see Leah anymore, since she graduated.”

 

“True,” he agreed. “But anyway, I’ve had plenty of rebound snogs-”

 

“Shags,” Leo corrected. 

 

“-and I miss the whole relationship-thing,” James finished, his cheeks slightly reddening at the admission. It was a weird thing to hear from an eighteen-year-old bloke, honestly. But then again, James had never been like Albus or Fred, not really. He’d snogged some girls, sure, but he had always been significantly nicer, far less of a womanizer, and actually been in multiple relationships that weren’t just short-lasting physical flings. 

 

I smiled at him sympathetically. “You’re a unique one, James Potter. We’ll find you someone yet.”

 

Leo coughed, “Pansy.”

 

“Leo’s the one who’s going to die alone,” I rolled my eyes. Leo frowned at me, running a hand through dirty-blonde hair. He and Riley were really both gorgeous; it was unfair. For all my jokes, Leonidas Wood could probably land any girl he wanted. And frankly, so could James. “You know the issue, James, isn’t really finding a girl who would have you,” I said, buoyed by my realization. “It’s that you actually have standards. The issue is finding a girl who deserves you.”

 

He looked at me doubtfully. “I dunno, Tara.”

 

“I do,” I waved a hand. “The reason you haven’t gotten yourself a secure girlfriend since Leah is that you only ever ask me about popular, slaggy bints. Maybe let me pick your next date!”

 

He looked at me skeptically. “I dunno, Tara. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love you like a sister, but I’m not all too fond of your judgement.”

 

“Why not?” I frowned. 

 

“You’ve gone out with the most rubbish blokes possible,” Leo snorted. “Henry Bradford? Come on, now. And Alex Donnovan would have been exactly the same.”

 

“You don’t know that,” I defended. “He could have been nice-”

 

“No one’s denying his niceness, Tara,” James said. “But the bloke wouldn’t have been much more exciting than Bradford was.”

 

I said nothing, hating how similar their opinions were to what Albus had said about him. The idea of Albus being right made me want to punch someone. 

 

“My point,” James went on, recognizing I wasn’t going to say anything, “is that your dating judgment has proven concerning.”

 

“Fine,” I sighed. “How about I check with Rylie? She’s got a better eye for this sort of thing.”

 

“How would she?” Leo growled. “My baby sister doesn’t date, after all.”

 

James and I both snickered. “No, never,” I managed through my laughter.

 

“Rylie Wood is an angel,” James chuckled. 

 

“She is!” Leo exclaimed. The poor boy was so deluded it hurt. “She’s going to be the next Virgin Mary.”

 

“Leo,” James laughed. “If your sister was to be impregnated without having had sex, she’d give birth to the Antichrist.”

 

I giggled. “It’s true. She’s my best friend, and I love her dearly, but she’s no saint, Wood.”

 

He narrowed his eyes. “Oh we are so going to be having words.”

 

“Give me a heads up as to when that’ll be, mate,” James shivered. “I’d like to not be around when she murders you.”

 

“Who’s murdering Leo?” came Scorpius’s voice as he suddenly slid onto the bench beside me.

 

“His sister,” I smirked. “What brings you over here, Scor?”

 

“Albus abandoned me to chat up some Fifth Year,” he rolled his eyes, gesturing across the hall. I looked over and saw Albus sure enough sitting by a pretty girl with auburn hair, his elbow perched on the table and his cheek resting on his fist. He sat very close to her and wore an annoyingly easy smile. I watched the girl giggle at something he said and my stomach lurched a little. 

 

“Gross,” I muttered. Scorpius looked at me funny. 

 

“Are you-”

 

“I hate our family!” Rose suddenly cried out as she joined us at the table. “Seriously. I’m changing my last name. I’m over it.” I simply nibbled at a piece of bacon with little concern- I'd heard her make this claim about eighty times through out years at Hogwarts. Rose was a bit dramatic at times. 

 

“What happened?” Scorpius frowned across the table at her, his voice soft. 

 

Her shoulders dropped slightly as she took in his presence, the stress visibly leaving her body as he gazed at her earnestly. I rolled my eyes. They needed to get together already. 

 

“It’s just Molly,” she complained. “I got asked out by Darren Boot, and she went and wrote my dad about it, who then sent me a Howler warning me against dating before I’m twenty-five. Bloody Ron Weasley’s voice literally shook the library.”

 

Scorpius’s face darkened at the mention of Rose being asked out. I nudged him with my knee, shooting him a reassuring smile. He sighed, sending me a small smile in return. 

 

“Eh, Ron’s right, Rosie,” James shrugged. “No dating for you.”

 

“Sod off,” she growled. “I’ll date whoever I want.”

 

Scorpius was looking thoroughly defeated, so I suddenly stood up. “Hey, Scor, I just remembered I needed you to look at my broom for me. It’s been veering to the right for some reason.”

 

“What?” he demanded, standing abruptly as well. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner, Tara? We have a game soon!”

 

“See you guys,” I waved at Leo, Rose, and James. “I’ll talk to Ry for you, James!”

 

“Tell her I’m sending her to a convent!” Leo called after us. 

 

Scorpius followed me out of the Great Hall, demanding answers as to why I hadn’t told him about my broom troubles, and when they’d started, and how badly the veer was, and a bunch of other questions that I stopped listening to.

 

“Scor, my broom’s fine,” I shook my head. “I just didn’t think you wanted to listen to Rose talk about her dating life.”

 

He stared at me in surprise. “Oh. I- er, thanks Tara.”

 

I smiled back. “Anytime. Come on, let’s go to the kitchens. I don’t think you actually had any breakfast.”

 

“Don’t pretend we’re going for me,” he grinned. “You just want some sweets since there weren’t any at breakfast today.”

 

“You think you’re so astute, don’t you Malfoy?” I narrowed my eyes. He laughed and we headed down to the kitchens together. 

 

The house elves, as always, were happy to see us. “Tara!” Hillow called, running over and throwing her little arms around me. I hugged her back happily. 

 

“Hi Hillow,” I smiled warmly. “How are you?”

 

“Hillow is really good,” she bobbed her head quickly. “Just missed Tara! It’s been so long!”

 

“I know,” I said apologetically. “I’ve been a little distracted this term, I’m sorry about that.”

 

“Tara doesn’t have to be apologizing to Hillow,” the elf shook her head. “Hillow understands! Hillow’s been talking to Albus Potter lately. He said Tara has been busy with school and Quidditch and that she’s had a lot on her mind because he’s been a-” she broke up. “Hillow is begging your pardon, Miss, but Albus Potter used a word Hillow doesn’t want to repeat.”

 

Scorpius snorted from beside me, and I elbowed him sharply. “That’s alright, Hillow,” I smiled. “I should have visited sooner anyway. Although I’m sure whatever he said was perfectly valid.”

 

“Mister Potter talks about Tara quite a lot,” Hillow informed me. I shot her a strange look, meaning to ask her what exactly Albus was saying about me, but a moment later she hustled off to make us food. 

 

We took a seat at one of the tables after that. Hillow brought me a chocolate eclair, and made Scorpius some eggs. “So why is Al talking about you with a house elf?” Scorpius asked me through a bit of food. 

 

I shot him a disgusted look. “First of all, manners, Scor. Honestly, I know your parents brought you up more properly than that. And second, I have no idea why Albus is discussing me with house elves. It doesn’t matter.”

 

Scorpius looked over at the elf, who was happily singing to herself as she levitated some plates over to a cupboard. “You think she knows you snogged him?”

 

I choked on my eclair. “You know?”

 

“Of course I know,” he rolled his eyes. “I saw it.”

 

“How the hell did you see it?” I demanded, feeling a surge of panic rise in my chest. There was no way he could have seen us- it was impossible. Did Scorpius know about the passages? And if he did, how? And for how long? “And why didn’t you say anything?”

 

“You weren’t exactly hidden, Tara,” he snorted. “The Potters’ garden is hardly the most covert spot. Plus it was clear to anyone that you were both piss drunk.”

 

Oh. He meant the first kiss. The drunken one. 

 

I felt relieved- a drunken kiss at my birthday party was a lot easier to explain away than a completely sober one. 

 

Unfortunately, my relief apparently showed on my face, because Scorpius’s eyes widened. “Wait a second, that wasn’t what you were thinking of, was it?” I stayed quiet, trying to fight off the furious blush that spread across my cheeks. “You two snogged again?”

 

“Please don’t tell anyone,” I begged. “It was nothing. A weird, unexplainable one-off.”

 

He stared at me. “A one-off? Tara, this is the second time it’s happened that I know of-”

 

“There weren’t any others,” I quickly assured him.

 

“Doesn’t matter,” he shook his head. “There’s no way that’s the end of it.”

 

“Of course it is,” I frowned. Albus and I had done a good job at not bringing up the kiss since Hogsmeade, and he was obviously more than satisfied with his other options given what I’d seen at breakfast. 

 

“It’s not,” he insisted. “Al made you cancel a date just to go to Hogsmeade with him! You think he chose you randomly? And let’s not forget the fact that you agreed.”

 

“There was more to that,” I muttered. “It was closer to extortion than to a willing agreement.”

 

“Even if it was, he still went out of his way to get you out of going on a date,” Scorpius pointed out. I ignored the way my heart fluttered at the idea of Albus wanting to date me, because I didn’t want to date him. At all. 

 

“He didn’t even know I had the date when he told Clarke I was going with him,” I rolled my eyes. Scorpius was clearly reaching, at this point. 

 

He looked at me with a confused expression. “What are you on about? He didn’t tell Clarke you were going with him. She asked him to Hogsmeade and he just said that he already had plans.”

 

“What?” I hissed, looking at him sharply.

 

“I was there,” he explained. “He didn’t specify he was taking you. Which means he only asked you to go with him when he knew you had agreed to go with Donnovan.”

 

“Why the hell would he do that?” I demanded. 

 

“Why do you think?” he raised an eyebrow. I shook my head aggressively fast. 

 

“You’re jumping to conclusions here. I’m sure he just did it to get under my skin.” I couldn’t tell if I was trying to convince him or myself at this point. But either way, it seemed important to emphasize that he didn’t want to bring me to Hogsmeade just to keep me from a date. Because that would imply that he’d been jealous

 

And that would imply that Albus Potter had actual feelings toward me beyond loathing. But that was impossible. 

 

“Whatever you say, Tara,” Scorpius sighed, though I could tell he didn’t believe me.

 

I glared at my eclair, my appetite suddenly having disappeared. 

 

Completely impossible. 

 


 

I had a very rigid routine on Mondays. My friends must have assumed I had some sort of weird religion that set aside Monday at lunch for a time of self-reflection, because in all my years, I’d never had lunch in the Great Hall on a Monday. 

 

I’d have breakfast there, as always, I’d go to my classes as normal, and in the evening I’d attend Quidditch practices. 

 

But at lunch, I visited the Room of Requirement, every Monday for six straight years. 

 

One particular Monday, a few days after my annoying breakfast with Scorpius, I made my way upstairs straight after Potions class. None of my friends made any move to stop me- they’d all come to regard my Monday lunchtime departures as normal after all these years. I hadn’t told any of them, even Riley, why I always had to leave at that time, but it was a routine I couldn’t stray from. They;d given up on asking me about it.

 

The hallways became less and less crowded as I made my way up, since most students were headed down to the Great Hall. The seventh floor was completely abandoned- people didn’t usually go up there, anyway. 

 

I glanced around to make sure no one had followed me before pacing in front of the wall opposite the Barnabas the Barmy tapestry. I need the place I call home. 

 

A door appeared, as it always did, and I reached forward to pull it open despite my usual hesitance. One of these days, she’ll be here

 

Before I could tug it open, however, I heard a voice behind me that I had become all too familiar with. “What are you doing?”

 

I jumped, releasing the door. I didn’t have to turn around to see who it was. 

 

“Potter,” I said through gritted teeth. “I’m getting really fucking tired of that cloak of yours.”

 

I turned around slowly to face him. He had the cloak bunched up under his arm, his other hand dangling by his side limply as he stared at me. “I was curious,” he mumbled. 

 

“I don’t care,” I snapped. “You shouldn’t have followed me.”

 

“You come up here every week,” he stated, though there was a question in his tone. “Why?”

 

None of your bloody business,” I glared at him. Lunch wasn’t long- I needed him to leave me alone already. 

 

“Then open the door,” he challenged stubbornly. “Let me see.”

 

“No!” I cried. “Just go away. Please?” My added ‘please’ got his attention, since I so rarely used such niceties with him. 

 

He took a couple steps closer. “Come on, Tara,” he urged. “You can tell me.”

 

“Why?” I asked quietly, holding his gaze with an accusatory glare. “So you can have yet another thing to blackmail me with?”

 

He winced slightly. I thought about what Scorpius had said, how he implied Albus might actually like me. Well if you ask me, either Albus had a funny way of showing it, or Scorpius was as deluded as he was blonde, rich, and in love with Rose. 

 

“I just have something I need to take care of, and I need to do it alone,” I sighed. “Can you leave it at that?”

 

“No,” he shrugged. “Please let me see?”

 

“Why do you care?” I demanded. 

 

He faltered. “I- I have no idea. But only knowing part of your story drives me kind of insane.”

 

“Is that what I am to you, then?” I demanded. “A story for you to unfold? A sad mystery for you to decipher to deal with your own boredom over your monotonous life of breaking girls’ hearts and having no constructive passions?”

 

He frowned deeply. “Now hang on-”

 

“It’s not some big unraveling, Potter,” I went on, my temper rising still. “It’s not some epic secret for you to discover to try to find some way to reconcile with the fact that you’ll never live half as interesting of a life as your parents.”

 

“Hold on, that’s not-”

 

“My life isn’t something for you to play around with,” I bellowed. “I don’t need holding my secrets against me, forcing me on fake-dates that I don’t want to go on, forcing your way into passages I discovered, snogging me for no bloody reason just to pretend it never happened the next second, or following me around under that stupid cloak of yours! So just fucking leave me alone, alright?”

 

He glared back, his hand clenched into a fist. I knew I’d gone a little far bringing up his parents, but he’d pushed me to it. “You think that’s all this is to me?” he asked, his tone low as he came closer, until we were only a couple steps apart. “You think I did any of that just out of some erratic boredom that I couldn't channel into anything else? Fuck, Rivers, you think I meant for the whole snogging-thing to happen? I can bloody guarantee you I didn’t intend for it to, not like that.” His anger disappeared for a moment, replaced with a look of surprise. “Er- that is-”

 

“Not like that?” I repeated, my voice falling to a whisper. “What do you mean?”

 

He shook his head quickly, taking a small step back. “Nothing.”

 

“Albus,” I insisted, moving closer to him to retake the space he’d tried to add. “Tell me.”

 

“No.”

 

“Tell me, and I’ll show you what’s behind the door,” I implored. He paused and narrowed his eyes, studying my face, likely looking for some sign of dishonesty. I’d startled myself, too. I hadn’t meant to make such an offer- I didn’t want to show him that room, after all.

 

For a brief moment, I pondered why we'd each kept managing to surprise ourselves with our own words. Were neither of us capable of filtering out own speech?

 

He took a deep breath. “Well… I guess I just meant that, if I ever were to kiss you, it wouldn’t have happened that way.”

 

I looked at him with wide eyes. My stomach was cartwheeling about, while my heart pounded so loudly that I worried he could hear it too. “So you- you’ve thought about doing that, then?”

 

He raised an eyebrow. “Obviously I’d thought about it, since I did it.”

 

“Why?” I frowned. 

 

He sighed in frustration, running his hand through his hair. I gripped my robes down by my legs, not trusting myself to resist reaching up and running my own hands through it too. It wasn’t my fault it was so bloody soft. “I don’t really know why, Tara,” he uttered softly. “Maybe because it’d happened once at your birthday drunkenly, and I wanted to see if it’d feel as good sober?”

 

“Did it?” I asked, dreading the answer. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what I wanted his answer to be. 

 

“It was better,” he whispered back. He was so close to me now. I wasn’t even sure which one of us had stepped closer that time. 

 

His hand reached forward tentatively, brushing against my elbow before running slowly up the length of my arm. He tugged me forward gently, and I let him move me closer, until we were barely a toothpick’s distance apart. 

 

He leaned down, his forehead resting against mine. I felt my breath catch and I knew that if he moved to kiss me, I wouldn’t stop him. 

 

So I stepped away before he could. Seeing the hurt look on his face, I explained, “You wanted to see the room. I only visit it one lunch period a week.”

 

“Limited time,” he understood, the rejection clearing from his face. “You’ll really show me?” 

 

“I said I would,” I shrugged. I turned back to the door and pulled it open, stepping inside and allowing Albus to follow me. 

 

“Woah,” he breathed. “This is where-?”

 

“Yeah,” I said quietly as I let the door fall shut behind us. “Welcome to my home.”

 

The room looked the way it most commonly did. The far side was a bedroom of sorts, with a large four-postered bed, a wardrobe by the side, and the old toy box I’d had the Room make me as a kid sitting off to the side. At the front, where we were, was a couch by a fireplace, a plush chair by a window, and a bookshelf full of both magic and Muggle books. My mother and I had used to let the room change between bedtime and normal hours, to make it feel more like a normal home I suppose, but once she’d left, I’d taken to just having it all exist in one open space. 

 

“You really did grow up here,” Albus said, looking around with wide eyes. “I mean, I know I guessed at it, but while you did confirm living here in the present you never really admitted that you’d… you know… been here as a kid.” He looked simultaneously nervous and curious at the same time. There was so much apprehension in his expression that I felt sort of bad for him. 

 

“I did,” I nodded. “You were right.”

 

“Why here?” He asked, looking at me with an added emotion that I couldn’t quite work out. “Why did you grow up at Hogwarts?”

 

“She never said,” I replied softly, looking away from him. My feet carried me toward the couch, on which I collapsed sadly. Showing Albus the room had nearly distracted me from my original purpose of visiting- nearly. 

 

“Your mum?” He asked, joining me on the couch. 

 

“Yeah,” I sighed. “I used to ask her all the time. Eventually I gave up- she’d never tell me.”

 

He hesitated. “What- what happened to her?”

 

“She left,” I shrugged. I couldn’t believe I was telling him any of this. I suppose it was just nice to have someone to talk to about it all for once. He already knew most of it anyway; there wasn’t really any harm in sharing the rest at this point. I hoped. “I was ten. She hasn’t been back since.”

 

He stared at me. “Tara, I-” he stopped, clearly at a loss for words. I didn’t entirely blame him. 

 

“I keep checking,” I whispered, fighting the urge to cry. “Every week, I come back. Maybe I ought to come more, maybe I’ve missed her returning before, I don’t know. Or maybe she’s just never coming back at all.”

 

He reached forward and pulled me toward him, and I let him. I let him wrap his arms around me and pull me tightly against his chest, my knees curled up against his lap and my face buried in the crook of his neck. 

 

“I just can’t let myself believe she left for good,” I said, my words muffled as I spoke into his skin. “You know? It’s bad enough I never had a dad, but for my mum to just leave, without giving me any answers,” I paused, sitting up slightly to take a shaky breath. Thinking about it made me not just sad, but angrier than I’d ever thought possible. “I guess part of me keeps coming back because I want to know why. I don’t think I expect her to come back, but I just can’t help but look for a reason. I don’t even know her name.”

 

I leaned back down against him, relishing in his warmth. 

 

“That’s why you got so upset that day in the passages, isn’t it?” he asked quietly. “You were so fixated on the notion that you were alone, and that you’d stay alone. It wasn’t about finding a boyfriend, was it?”

 

A particularly determined tear forced itself out of my eye and down my cheek, until it dropped onto his shoulder. 

 

“Yeah,” I sighed. “I guess never knowing one parent and losing the other makes it a little hard to feel wanted.”

 

“You are, you know,” he murmured. “My entire family would have you in a heartbeat.”

 

“I know,” I whispered. I pulled back slightly, just enough to look him in the eyes. “You have a lovely family, Al.” 

 

He smiled, lifting a hand to my cheek and brushing a tear away with his thumb. “You ought to call me that more.”

 

“I can call you Al?” I asked with a watery smile of my own. 

 

He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, Paul Simon, you can call me Al.”

 

“I’m surprised you listen to Muggle music,” I said softly. I’d fallen in love with Muggle music myself during a visitation at Riley’s house one day. Her mum was Muggleborn, playing Led Zeppelin, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, and all sorts of other old bands and artists nearly all day long. 

 

“I heard you singing a Beatles song once at Rose’s house,” he admitted. “I don’t think I bothered with another wizarding song after that. You were singing While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and I had no idea what that was, so I looked it up on Dad’s computer and was hooked.”

 

“I never knew that,” I leaned back against him. 

 

“I couldn’t tell you,” he grinned. “You’d have held it over my head that I only found Muggle music because of you.”

 

“I’m still going to do that now,” I teased. 

 

“That’s fine,” he brought the hand that wasn’t curled around my side up to my face and stroked it gently, trailing his fingers from the spot where my hair ended down my cheek and to my lips. “Tara?”

 

“Yeah?” I breathed, feeling my face heat up as his fingers continued down to my chin and then slowly across my neck. 

 

“Can I ask you for favour number two?” his voice was hesitant. 

 

If he kept running his hand across my skin like that I probably would have agreed to fifty more favors. “Name it,” I sighed, both with pleasure from his fingers grazing my collarbone and from apprehension over the favor. 

 

“Kiss me?”

 

I lifted my head from his shoulder. His emerald eyes bore into my own with an earnestness I’d never seen before. For a moment, I doubted it. It was almost out of habit. I was waiting for the punchline, for the part where he’d laugh in my face, or insult me, or blackmail me. He had more than enough of my secrets to work with, after all. 

 

But as I held his gaze, that instinctual doubt faded away. He looked scared, but more than that he looked passionate. It reminded me of our conversation before the first time we’d snogged. He’d brought up Alex being boring, and asked me if I really wanted someone stable over someone passionate. 

 

Albus Potter would never bore me. 

 

He'd also asked, despite it being a "favour." He was giving me the choice.

 

I brought my hands up to the back of his neck, sliding them into his hair like I’d been dying to since the last time we’d kissed, and pressed my lips to his. 

 

This time was so much different than before. We weren’t angry, we hadn’t been mid-argument, and he wasn’t trying to make some dumb point. It was in a moment of honesty and sensitivity that I’d never thought to expect from him. 

 

But maybe I should have. He’d mentioned, once, that we’d always had moments where we were friends. Moments where we defended each other, and rescued each other. We practically thought on the same wavelength on the Quidditch pitch, making us unstoppable as Chasers. Even on our fake date, he’d paid for my sweets despite not needing to, I’d cozied up beside him to drive Clarke mad even though that hadn’t been asked of me with the favor, and we’d gotten along surprisingly well on a number of occasions. 

 

His passion furthered mine as he slid his hands up and down my back, playing with the end of my braid, moving his lips against mine. I pushed myself onto him further, and he groaned against my lips, holding me tighter. I could feel every inch of him against myself, his excitement both emotionally and physically evident. 

 

He pulled back for a moment, letting us both catch our breaths, but he kept his hold on me, and my hands remained in his hair. We breathed against each other for a moment, my eyes opening to find him watching me with a mix of worry, happiness, and lust that I’m sure my own eyes reflected back.

 

“I think lunch ended,” he whispered. 

 

I felt my lips tug into a smile and let out a breathy laugh. My smile seemed to ease the worry in his eyes, and he smiled back crookedly, the way I loved it. “I guess we’re late for class,” I murmured. 

 

“Well, since we’re already late,” he smirked. He pushed me back, lowering me so that I lay across the couch, and covered my own body with his before reaching down to kiss me again. 

 


A/N:

Oh boy, they snogged again! And Tara finally talked to someone about her mum! I loved writing this chapter. From the lighthearted bit at the beginning to help characterize James and Leo, to Tara showing Albus the place in which she grew up, to them making out again... it was all super fun!

So I hope you all enjoyed, and feel free to keep leaving those reviews because they make me sooo happy :)

Cheers! x

 

Disclaimer: I obviously own nothing you recognize. It's all JK Rowling's. Except for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" which is by the Beatles, and "You Can Call Me Al" which is of course by Paul Simon. Both are solid songs, by the way.



Chapter 7: So Maybe This Time I'm Just Moody
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We left the Room of Requirement together, our hands brushing against each other as we walked down the corridor quietly. While a large part of me was entirely focused on the fact that I’d snogged Albus again, another part couldn’t help but glance back toward the door as it faded back to a solid wall. 

 

Another week, another no-show. 

 

Albus caught me looking back and grabbed my hand, squeezing it once before releasing it. “I’m sorry she didn’t come,” he said quietly. 

 

“Not your fault,” I shrugged. “Thank you for um- for being there.”

 

“You’re thanking me for it?” He smiled. “Despite yelling at me over being there less than an hour ago?”

 

“Don’t get used to it,” I tossed my hair arrogantly. “I’ll find something else to yell at you over soon enough.”

 

“I bet you will,” he chuckled. Our hands grazed each other again, and he shoved both of his into his pockets, looking as awkward as I felt. “So where does this leave us?”

 

I sighed. “I have no idea. We’ve snogged twice- well, three times if the drunk one counts- we fight most of the time we aren’t snogging, and somehow you know all of my absolute deepest secrets that I haven’t even mentioned to my best friends.”

 

He let out a short laugh. “Well when you put it that way, we sound like a disaster.”

 

I looked at him a little sadly. “Can I suggest something?”

 

“Of course.”

 

I took a deep breath. “I just- on top of school, and Quidditch, and the whole trying-to-find-out-why-I-was-abandoned thing-”

 

“Just a day in the life,” he grinned. 

 

“Exactly,” I rolled my eyes. “It’s just that on top of that, our weird sometimes snogging, sometimes fighting thing is exhausting, you know?”

 

“Right,” he said, looking uncertain. “So…?”

 

We made our way down a set of stairs, heading toward the Defense classroom. We’d already known we had no chance of making it to Transfiguration. 

 

“So what if we just try to be friends for once?” I finally asked. “Normal, actual friends who don’t fight or snog.”

 

He didn’t say anything at first. I glanced over, wanting to gauge his demeanor. He looked troubled by the question, his eyebrows knitted together. As he caught me watching him, however, he quickly cleared it into an easy smile. 

 

“Friends it is,” he smiled a little tightly. 

 

“Great,” I nodded and smiled back, though I didn’t feel particularly happy. His reaction unsettled me. But seeing him upset also reminded me of something I’d meant to bring up before the whole snogging-each-other-on-a-couch thing. “Al… I’m sorry for what I said before showing you the room.”

 

He tilted his head. “What’d you say?” Students started filing out of the classrooms we were walking past now, the period having ended. We hastened our pace a little to make it down to the first floor. 

 

“I mentioned your parents,” I said quietly. “In a not-so-nice way.”

 

“Oh,” his face darkened. “That.”

 

“That,” I repeated with a nod. “I’m sorry. Honestly. It was out of line, and it wasn’t even true-”

 

“Maybe it was,” he shrugged. “Maybe that’s why I do any of the things I do. To- how’d you put it?- to reconcile that I’ll never live as interesting of a life as them?”

 

It sounded so much harsher to hear it repeated back to me. “Al,” I said, flushing with shame. “I really didn’t mean it. I was angry and trying to get a rise out of you-”

 

“I know,” he sighed in frustration. “I guess I’m just a little thrown for a loop right now.” I figured he wasn’t just talking about my apology, and suddenly I found myself regretting the friendship suggestion even more than I regretted the cruel words. 

 

Before I could say another word, we reached the Defense classroom. He quickened his pace, walking up to Mansir’s desk to drop off the paper we’d had to turn in before going to sit beside Rose. The redhead shot me a confused look. I just shrugged back helplessly. 

 

“You’re on time,” Mansir noted as I dropped off my own paper on his desk. 

 

I smiled weakly at him. “I am.”

 

“Are you alright, Tara?” he asked, frowning. I suppose he knew me well enough by that point to be able to assess my moods pretty adeptly. 

 

“It’s just Monday,” I said quietly.

 

He nodded in understanding. Aside from Albus, Mansir was the only person who knew where I spent my Mondays at lunchtime. “I’m sorry, Tar,” he said in an equally lowered voice. “If you need to talk, my door’s always open.”

 

“Thanks,” I nodded back, warmed with gratitude. I’d probably take him up on it- it’d been a rotten day, and rotten days always got a little better when I talked to Dexter Mansir. 

 

I sat behind Rose and Albus’s table, joined a minute later by Scorpius. “Alright, Tara?” he asked, raising an eyebrow and gesturing between Albus and me. 

 

I nodded. “I’m fine.”

 

“You missed class,” he frowned. “I know you disappear on Mondays for lunch, but you always make it back-”

 

“Just do me a favor, Scor? Leave it alone,” I pleaded. 

 

He studied me suspiciously for a moment, his eyes drifting to Albus, who was slumped in his chair with his arms crossed, and then back to me. “Fine, fine. You’ll be at practice though, right?”

 

“Of course,” I rolled my eyes. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

 

“Damn right you wouldn’t. I’d give you so many laps.”

 

“And then I’d write Dom, and she’d make you regret it.”

 


 

In the past, fighting with Albus had been a normal part of the day. It’d always been light arguing, really, never really anything vicious. We tended to just forget about them and move on, since we shared so many of the same friends and would have to see each other so often. 

 

Now, he was outright ignoring me. I wasn’t sure why he’d even agreed to my friendship suggestion if he was so immediately going to end up freezing me out. All I got from him were steely glares on occasion. 

 

It’d been almost two weeks since we’d snogged in the Room of Requirement and he still wouldn’t talk to me.

 

“Why does Albus look so mad at you these days?” Rose asked me one night. She’d joined Rylie and me in the Slytherin girls’ dorm, where the three of us sat on the floor painting our nails and catching up.

 

“Search me,” I muttered. “Who knows how Albus Potter and his brain work?”

 

Riley snorted. “Come off it, Tara. He’s mad because you shoved him into the friendzone and made a dig at him about his parents.”

 

I groaned. “Ry, why do I tell you anything?”

 

“Must be my warm, welcoming nature,” she smirked. I couldn’t help but laugh at that. 

 

“Tara,” Rose scolded. “What’d you say?”

 

“Just something mean,” I frowned. “The details don’t matter.” They did though. I felt horrible about what I’d said to him. I was also annoyed, however, that he’d been willing to overlook it while we were snogging, not really getting angry until I’d asked to be friends. 

 

“He’s pretty self-conscious about that,” Rose said. “You shouldn’t have brought it up.”

 

“I know that,” I cried, cursing as I spilled a bottle of nail varnish. “I apologized to him, and I’ve tried to talk to him again since, but he’ll barely even look at me without a glare.”

 

“What happened between the two of you?” Rose asked curiously. “I mean, beyond snogging at your birthday. Because I did see that happen, by the way.”

 

“I know,” I grumbled. “Scor told me.”

 

“Where was I during this party?” Rylie frowned. 

 

“I think this was while you were playing that Muggle drinking game with James, Fred, Dom, and Leo,” Rose grinned. “King’s cup, I think it was called?”

 

An amused smirk crossed the blonde’s face. “Ah, I remember now. You two missed a fun game. We pulled a card where you get to create a rule people have to follow the rest of the game, and we ended up outlawing pronouns and the word ‘the.’”

 

I snorted. “Is that why you were all talking like cavemen by the time I got back inside?”

 

Rylie giggled. “Yeah, like ‘Rylie draws card now.’ We were so scared of messing up and saying the wrong words that we ended up reverting to the most basic form of speech.”

 

Rose and I laughed with her. “Now I wish I’d played,” Rose admitted. “But back to the subject at hand- what is happening with you and Al, Tara?”

 

“Hell if I know,” I groaned. “We snog and then fight and then snog and then fight again. I thought I’d be making things better suggesting we just be friends for once- he’s the one who got all mopey about it.”

 

“Tara,” Rose frowned at me. “Of course he got upset about that. Al fancies you.”

 

I slipped, painting a whole streak of burgundy up the skin of my pinky finger. “He does not,” I denied quickly, shaking my head while grabbing a rag to wipe off the varnish. 

 

“Why else would he be reacting this way?” Rylie raised an eyebrow. 

 

I thought about that. “Well- I dunno. Shit.” Considering our years of rowing and his blackmail this term, he had a funny way of showing it. 

 

Come to think of it, however, he’d used two of his three favors already. One was for me to go on a “date” with him, and the other was… to kiss him. 

 

Huh. 

 

“Even if he does,” I finally said slowly. “It doesn’t excuse him acting like a tosser over my wanting to be friends. We’ve never gotten along, not really! How am I supposed to be willing to jump into dating the idiot?”

 

“To be fair, you have gotten along before, more than you realize,” Riley contradicted. 

 

“Yeah, you two practically share a brain when you play Quidditch together,” Rose pointed out. “And you’ve stood up for each other on more than one occasion when people are arses toward either of you.”

 

“Remember what he did to Ashwell when he came onto her?” Rylie asked Rose with wide eyes. 

 

“He didn’t do anything, James is the one who cursed him,” I corrected.

 

“James cursed him first, it’s true,” Rose said. “But you left. You missed the part where Albus took over and sent him to the Hospital Wing- and that was without magic.”

 

My jaw dropped. This was the first I’d ever heard of that. Albus had even implied it was James who had done that when the incident had come up a little ways back. He’d beat up Ashwell because of me?

 

“W-well-” I stammered. “Violence and occasional alliance aside, I have no interest in dating Albus. I would however like to be able to sit for a meal without him glaring daggers at me the whole time.”

 

Rose smiled sympathetically. “He’ll come around, Tara.”

 

I sighed. I hoped he would- with how much I’d been forced into his company this term, I’d actually started to enjoy his company. I was starting to miss him. 

 

“I don’t mean to change the subject so abruptly,” Riley suddenly said, looking toward the floor mirror that stood in front of where she sat. “But do you guys think I could pull off another color of hair?” She twirled her golden locks around her fingers contemplatively. 

 

“Are you taking the piss, Ry?” I demanded. “You realize you could color it puke green and you’d still pull it off, right?”

 

“Honestly,” Rose said, looking annoyed. “I couldn’t manage anything other than red.”

 

“I don’t know why you’d want to,” Rylie rolled her eyes. “Guys already trip over themselves for you, Rose. Although for what it’s worth, I actually think you’d make a decent blonde.”

 

“I think Scor likes it red though,” I said offhandedly. Rose glowered at me, running a hand through her red waves. 

 

“How about you, Tara?” Riley grinned wickedly. “You could probably pull off any color too, honestly.”

 

“Yeah?” I raised an eyebrow. “Like chartreuse? How about magenta?”

 

“Yes to both!” she exclaimed happily. “I’ve gotten really good at those kinds of spells, you know. Remember my little phase last year when I changed my hair color weekly?”

 

“I do,” I grinned. “But I’m still not letting you near my hair with a wand.”

 

“What about a nice emerald green?” Rose asked innocently. “Show off your Slytherin colors.” I shot her a warning glare, knowing full well she was thinking of something- or, someone- different when she mentioned green.

 

“What about just a little color?” Rylie pleaded with me.

 

“How did we end up here?” I complained. “I thought we were discussing your hair.”

 

“I’ve moved on to a more interesting quarry,” she smirked.

 

Rose laughed. “Quarry? Are you hunting her, Ry?”

 

“What does a little color even mean?” I frowned. Knowing Rylie, it wouldn’t be nearly as innocent as she tried to make it seem.

 

“I’ll show you!” she said excitedly. “Please? You trust me, right?”

 

I stared at her. I did trust her. She was stunningly pretty, and she had way more experience with this sort of thing than I’d probably ever have in my life. And, honestly, I could do with a bold change. 

 

“Fine,” I sighed. “Do what you’d like.”

 

She smirked victoriously and I prayed I wasn’t about to eat my words.

 


 

I felt a tug at my newly blue strand of hair and looked over with a glare. “Ow, Collin.”

 

“Sorry,” he said with wide eyes. “I was just admiring.”

 

Ethan reached up from my other side and poked at my head. I looked at him with an annoyed look. “You think it’ll feel different or something just because it’s blue? For fuck’s sake, guys.”

 

“How come you only colored one streak, Taralyn Mario Rivers?” Collin asked, tugging at it again, but more lightly this time. 

 

“Mario?” Ethan raised an eyebrow.

 

Collin shrugged. “She could pass for Italian.”

 

I sighed, just wanting to focus on my bloody food. We were having a team dinner in the kitchens, so that Scorpius could go over strategy and whatnot while it stormed outside. I was trying to focus on my chicken and potatoes, but our idiot beaters were just too caught up with the very small hair change I’d made. 

 

I’d only colored a strand about an inch wide- well, Riley colored it. We’d settled on a sapphire blue. She and Rose decided it’d best bring out my eyes, and I’d already adamantly declared I wouldn’t color it green, so it was the best option left. 

 

“I didn’t want a whole head of blue,” I rolled my eyes. “Can we go back to listening to Scor, now?”

 

“Yeah, no kidding,” Scorpius growled from the head of the table. “Enough about her stupid hair- er, not that it looks stupid Tara,” he added quickly, seeing my scowl. “It’s lovely.”

 

“Thanks,” I muttered, throwing down a drumstick and crossing my arms. 

 

He looked helplessly at Albus for backup, but the raven-haired boy just snorted and gave him a look that said you’re on your own.

 

“Oh come on, Tara,” Scorpius pleaded. “I don’t think your hair is stupid. I just wanted to go back to Quidditch talk.”

 

“It’s fine,” I sighed dramatically. “It’s just fine.”

 

He looked worried until he caught my lips twitching before rolling his eyes. “Alright-”

 

“Did we have to do this on a Saturday night?” Ethan whined. “There are better things I could be doing right now.”

 

“Namely me,” Collin whispered to me, making me smirk. 

 

Scorpius glared at Ethan. “Too bloody bad, Meadows. Show a little dedication, yeah?” He started back on his lecture about the Hufflepuff Chasers and how their best known tactics and ways of distracting Hooch while performing various illegal moves. 

 

“I think your hair looks really cool,” Eva whispered to me from Collin’s other side. “Makes your eyes look even bluer.”

 

“Thank you,” I grinned back. Finishing my food, I shoved my plate back toward the middle of the long table and rested my chin on my arms. 

 

“Scorpius,” Byron raised a hand. I raised an eyebrow. Seriously, with the hand raising? Next to him, Albus smirked a little. Our eyes met and we shared an amused look over the Fourth Year’s over-politeness before he remembered he was cross with me and looked away with a pained expression. 

 

“Yes, Ledbury?” Scorpius asked, looking pleased. I supposed Byron was the only member to show Scorpius any actual obedience and respect. 

 

Byron looked nervous. It was a good thing he’d done so well at trials- he was a very timid boy. “Well, I heard that the Gryffindors have a tendency to target players before games. Is that true?”

 

“They won’t do anything serious,” I assured Byron, ignoring Scorpius’s indignant expression as I answered for him. “They might try to hex you just to get in your head and mess with your morale, but they won’t hurt you or anything.”

 

“Lily might,” Albus said quietly, sitting diagonally from me with his arms folded. “She’s vicious.”

 

I fought back a smile. “Lily is kind of vicious.”

 

Eva laughed, some potatoes falling off her fork as she held it halfway toward her face. “She once transfigured my bitch of a sister’s legs into penguin feet because my sister said something rude about her.” I laughed lightly. Eva was not fond of her younger sister, a girl in Lily’s year who reminded me far too much of a younger Joy Clarke. 

 

“Lily’s pretty,” Byron said with a slight smile. His eyes widened as he realized that said girl’s brother was sitting at the same table as us and he frantically looked at Albus. “Er- not that I would- that is, I don’t actually-”

 

Albus chuckled. It was a relief to see him smile, actually. I was starting to think I’d broken his ability to do so, though I realize that’s a rather egotistical sentiment. “Relax, mate, I know she’s pretty. Besides, I don’t really have to play overprotective brother for a girl who could probably curse my lights out. I meant what I said when I called her vicious.”

 

“Noted,” Byron’s forehead wrinkled, an unsettled expression settling across his face. 

 

I felt bad for the kid. “She can be really sweet though,” I said with an encouraging smile. “You shouldn’t feel like you can’t talk to her.”

 

“But no need to go out of your way to do so,” Albus narrowed his eyes. His voice was a bit menacing, and I couldn’t tell if it was because he was warning Byron away from his sister or because he wanted to contradict me. 

 

Byron looked between us with a confused frown. “Um-”

 

“If you don’t make some effort to talk to her though,” I emphasized the talking point, sitting up and glaring at Albus, “you’ll miss out on someone great.”

 

“Or not great,” Albus growled, looking back at me. “She’s my sister, and I love her, but I’m sure she’s just as capable as any other girl of flirting with anything that moves and shutting blokes down for no reason.”

 

“Maybe you don’t know how to read a situation properly,” I snapped back. “Maybe Lily just wants to establish a normal friendship with a person before having them shove a tongue down her throat!”

 

“Maybe Lily is just a coward who’s scared of anything even remotely real because she has some hidden abandonment issues!” Albus retorted loudly. We weren’t even bothering to look at Byron now- the poor kid had been long forgotten. Actually, I think we’d forgotten about the entire room of others. 

 

“Maybe Lily’s fears are perfectly grounded yet completely irrelevant to the situation,” I hissed, standing up sharply, my chair making a harsh screech as it dragged back along the hard floor. “Maybe she just wants some semblance of normalcy, and doesn’t want some stupid prat to make things difficult for her!”

 

He let out a humorless laugh. “Oh, so Lily thinks Byron is just some stupid prat, then?” There was ice in his eyes and a venom that dripped with each word he spoke. This wasn’t like our old fights, the ones laced with a lightness I’d never really been able to notice until faced with something so dark and cold

 

My own temper just continued to spike. “No, dickhead, I think you’re a stupid prat!” I shouted, shoving my chair further out of the way before storming out of the kitchens. 

 

I slammed the door behind me for good measure, seething. Stupid Potter, ruining a perfectly civil Quidditch meeting just to be an absolute prick. I get that I’d made a rude comment to him a couple weeks back, but I’d apologized for it and offered friendship. His mood was his problem now. 

 

I marched down the corridor angrily. No one was around, so I made my way to the nearest passage entrance. There was a particular stone about a foot to the right of a suit of armor that I had to press to open the wall. 

 

Once inside the passage, I made my way up through it, following the walkway toward a set of stairs. Up, I thought. Up is good. Everything down included the kitchens, and the common room, and everywhere he could be. 

 

I found myself headed toward Mansir’s office. I hadn’t been by much this term, and figured I was due for a visit. Plus, he always had a way of making me feel better when I was upset. 

 

He was grading papers when I knocked on his door. 

 

“Tara?” he looked surprised to see me. “Come on in.”

 

I smiled gratefully. “Hi, Dex.” I dropped into one of the plush chairs on the other side of his desk. 

 

The office was small and rather homey, kind of like a home office, lined with bookshelves, a charmed gramophone playing some quiett music between two of them, and a low lighting that, set against the maroon wall paint, made for a rather relaxing effect. 

 

“You look… rattled,” he commented, looking up from one of the papers with concern. He set down his quill and opened the drawer to his desk, pulling out some chocolate. “Here.”

 

I smiled and reached forward. “Thanks.” I popped a piece into my mouth and relished at the sweetness, a warmth running through me as the milky flavor trickled down my throat. 

 

“So what’s been happening, Tara?” Mansir raised an eyebrow. 

 

“I just stormed out of a Quidditch meeting,” I frowned. “It’s been a weird term.”

 

“Why’d you storm out?” he sat forward, studying me carefully. I shifted slightly under his gaze; I never knew how to act when he became so… paternal. 

 

“I had a mild spat with Albus Potter,” I shrugged lightly, trying to pass the ordeal off as something mild. 

 

Mansir, of course, saw through me. “Normally those aren’t so bad that you come bolting to me,” he said wryly. “So I’m going to assume it was a little more than mild.”

 

“He’s just an arse,” I affirmed, glaring at the desk. “And I got tired of dealing with it.”

 

“And you’re sure it’s not just-” he hesitated, looking slightly uncomfortable. “I dunno, a flirting thing?”

 

I made a face and he shrugged, making me laugh. He was a little rubbish at dealing with teenage troubles. “It wasn’t that,” I assured him. “It was just sort of the fallout of an earlier issue we had where I said some mean things about him trying to live up to parents and today he said some things that hit kind of close to home for me.”

 

“Blimey. You two didn’t used to get so personal in your fights,” he frowned. 

 

“I know,” I sighed. “I’m not sure what’s changed.”

 

“Maybe it’s because you’re a little scared of actually liking someone,” Mansir suggested quietly. 

 

I felt my temper flare up. It was too close to what Albus had said. “I’m not scared,” I snapped. “And I don’t like him.”

 

He raised his eyebrows. “It was a suggestion, Tara, you don’t have to be so defensive.”

 

“I’m not defensive,” I growled… defensively. Nobody’s perfect, alright?

 

He rolled his eyes. “Tara, I’ve been your guardian for six years. I’d like to think I know you pretty well by now, and-”

 

“You’re my guardian as a legal formality!” I exclaimed irritably. He flinched, and for a moment a rush of guilt ran through me, but I was in too sour of a mood to reflect on it just yet. “You’re not my parent. You know me a little better than any other professor and we exchange Christmas and birthday gifts. That’s it.” It was low, and cruel and not even remotely true, but apparently I just wanted to pick a fight. 

 

He pinched the bridge of his nose, suddenly looking twenty years older than he normally did. “Fine, Taralyn. That’s fine. So what are you doing here, then?”

 

“Good question,” I flared, standing abruptly. “I’ll just go then.”

 

He said nothing, his expression hard but otherwise unreadable. I left his office in a huff, striding down the hall trying to ignore the way the rage was making my body shake uncontrollably, like some sort of physical toxin was running through my veins and bursting in some wild attempt to leave my bloodstream and fill every last bit of space in my body so violently that it caused my arms and legs to tremble. 

 

The worst part was that this rage, the hatred that I so desperately wanted to blame on Albus, or Mansir, or even fucking Collin for tugging on my hair earlier- it was mostly just directed at myself. 

 

And maybe a little at my mother. For some reason all I could think about in that moment was that two days later, I’d show up at the Room of Requirement and she still wouldn’t be there. She’d never show. 

 

I rounded a corner and slid down the wall, burying my face into my knees. The anger and regret and shame and guilt continued to build until it expelled itself through forceful sobs that made it difficult to breathe and caused me to feel irrationally dizzy. 

 

I felt like I was searing. I was in a cauldron, roasting over a fire, drenched with sweat from the heat as the water around me came to boil and the flames rose up around the sides. It spilled into the bowl and consumed me until I was soaking in wet heat and choking for air. 

 

Or maybe I was just crying. 

 


A/N:

 

I'M SORRY! *hides* I realize this was probably not what people wanted after the events of last chapter. I couldn't make it that easy for them, and Tara is an understandably scarred person who has some teensy issues to work through before she can properly engage in a functional relationship. Although she didn't really have to take it out on poor Dex. I have a lot of respect for single parents, but to be the single dad of an adopted daughter with abandonment issues as she goes through her hormonal teen years? Yikes. 

Anyway, I hope you otherwise enjoyed this chapter!! I promise things will get happier!!

Hope you're all well <3

Cheers xoxo

 

Disclaimer: I still own nothing you recognize, it's all JK Rowling as always. 



Chapter 8: Mondays Suck, But Sometimes They Get Better
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The next day passed remarkably quickly, but I suppose that was to be expected since I spent most of it asleep. Rylie visited me periodically with food, but she knew to leave me alone. I don’t think she’d bought it when I told her I was ill, but she still left me be and I loved her for that.

 

I wasn’t sure what to do about my situation. I’d let Albus rile me up again, more so than ever this time, and I’d taken it out on the only person outside my circle of friends that I’d ever really felt close to. I felt miserably sorry.

 

When Monday rolled around, I tried to put off going to class. I sat at the Gryffindor table for breakfast, eating slowly in the hopes that I’d somehow be late. 

 

Unfortunately, Rose had seen through me. “Come on, Tara,” she’s sighed. “Let’s just get to class. You’ll have to face Al eventually.”

 

Albus. I’d spent so much of the morning dreading seeing Mansir that I’d almost forgotten how much I didn’t want to see Albus. Bloody hell, and both of them in the same class? It was going to be a long day. Not to mention the fact that it was Monday. 

 

Trying to make myself late wouldn’t have helped much anyway, since I had two classes and lunch to get through before even going to Defense. 

 

“Fine,” I moaned sadly, letting Rose drag me off to class. I was vaguely aware of Albus’s eyes on me from across the hall as we left but resiliently avoided glancing his way. 

 

The first two classes went by horrible quickly. Why do classes only seem to take ages when I want to leave, but then suddenly fly by when all I want is for them to drag slowly on? Rose once told me it has to do with the perception of time being affected by fear and apprehension- some scientists did some studies on it and compared it between different species. 

 

If you ask me, science can go fuck itself. 

 

She wasn’t there at lunch. I was starting to wonder why I even bothered anymore. I’m not sure that I even wanted to see her again anymore. I just wanted to know why she’d brought me up at Hogwarts. And who my father was.

 

Far too quickly, it was time for Defense. I ended up delayed by a minor tantrum in the Room of Requirement during which I had thrown a lot of things, broken a chair, and punched a mirror. I’d contemplated going to Pomfrey as an excuse to get out of Defense, but I couldn’t live with being that much of a coward, so I ultimately ended up conjuring some bandages, wrapping my hand, and calling it a day. 

 

“Sorry I’m late,” I breathed, running into the classroom. Everyone had already broken off into groups to practice nonverbals. 

 

“Detention, Ms. Rivers,” Mansir called coldly, not looking up from his desk. I gaped at him. 

 

“But Professor-”

 

“Don’t,” he warned, meeting my eyes with a disappointed frown. “I’ve let you off far too many times.”

 

I slumped in defeat and nodded. 

 

“Tonight, eight o’clock, with Filch. Don’t be late for that too,” he added with a bitter look. 

 

I trudged over to the other side of the room, where Scorpius, Rose and Albus were practicing. “Hey,” I said quietly. 

 

“Did Mansir just call you Ms. Rivers and give you a detention?” Scorpius asked me with wide eyes. “I thought you were his favorite.”

 

“I suppose I’m not anymore,” I shrugged, my voice hollow. 

 

“Tara,” Rose frowned, glancing down at my bandaged hand. “Are you al-?”

 

“Someone want to catch me up?” I interrupted quickly. “What spells are we supposed to be working on?”

 

She studied me for a moment, no doubt wanting to press me for details, but realized it’d be a lost cause and sighed. “Nonverbal shields.”

 

“What happened to your hand?” Scorpius asked, lacking Rose’s tact. 

 

“Doesn’t matter,” I bristled.

 

He raised his eyebrows. “Fine, fine.”

 

Albus remained quiet, watching me with a perplexing look that wasn’t angry, like I’d come to expect from him, but rather seemed scrutinizing. I looked away from him, my face heating up. He had a horrible way of looking at me like he could see the inner workings of my brain, the cogs and gears turning and catching on each other and breaking apart and falling with heavy crashes.

 

Rose and Scorpius apparently wordlessly decided it’d be best not to let Albus and I duel each other, so a minute later, I found myself shielding hexes from Scorpius. 

 

We weren’t to use anything particularly dangerous, since we were all pretty new to nonverbals. Outside of the Patronus charm, however, I’d always been rather good at Defense, and I was blocking each of Scorpius’s hexes with ease. 

 

I sent back a Rictusempra, and Scorpius couldn’t get his shield up in time. Rose and Albus paused their own duel so we could all watch with amusement as the poor bloke laughed himself to tears on the floor.

 

I smiled as he laughed, and it was immediately relieving to do so. I hadn’t had anything to smile at in days.

 

I met Albus’s eyes and watched the glow of amusement slowly leave his eyes as his own smile slipped into a frown before he looked away. 

 

My face fell. So much for that. 

 

Mondays suck.

 


 

At a quarter to eight, I made my way to Filch’s office, prepared for an evening of monotonous cleaning or whatever it was he’d make me do. Honestly, I was almost looking forward to it. No one would be able to disturb me, I wouldn’t have to speak to someone- I could just sit and sulk in my self-pity party to my heart’s content. 

 

But of course, that would be asking for too much evidently. 

 

Filch was already waiting for me when I got there- along with Albus. Perfect, I thought bitterly. Albus looked troubled when he saw me, but like earlier, I noticed he was rather without the venom I’d been receiving for a fortnight. 

 

“You’re here, then,” Filch barked. “About bloody time.”

 

I frowned. “I’m five minutes early.”

 

“Quiet!” He snapped. “You two will be reorganizing my files tonight. Some blasted student thought it’d be funny to rearrange the entire office. I want them first by date and then alphabetical. Understood?”

 

“Yes sir,” Albus said quietly. I simply nodded. 

 

“Good. Get to it, then,” Filch commanded, before leaving to hunt down more misbehaving students. Honestly, given how much he forced students to do for him, I wondered whether he ever actually worked. 

 

I bent down to the first cabinet in sight and started removing stacks of files. Albus did the same on his side. “We’ll have to coordinate a little,” I said softly. “To make sure we have them properly chronological.”

 

He nodded a little jerkily. “Fine. Hand me any from before the 70's, I’ll give you anything from then on?”

 

“Sounds good.” I hated how meek I sounded. I was the mad one now, wasn’t I? I was the one who stormed out in a rage at the team dinner! He should be sodding meek! Prick. 

 

I read the names and dates on the files, handing some his way and grabbing some he left near me to move to a separate pile. At least the assignment took some attention- reading names and dates made it a lot easier to ignore how unsteady my heart had become and how harshly my breath was coming. 

 

“Tara?”

 

I looked over embarrassingly quickly. “Yeah?”

 

“I- I’m sorry,” Albus sighed, dropping the file he was holding against his lap as his shoulders dropped. “I’m sorry for being a prick the last couple weeks.”

 

A wave of relief washed over me. “Me too. I really didn’t mean what I’d said before.”

 

“I know,” he smiled weakly. “I didn’t even care about that until after the whole ‘friend’ thing.”

 

“Albus,” I said slowly. “I- I mean, you know that I-?”

 

“It’s alright,” he said softly, shaking his head. “I realized after you screamed me down in front of the team that I don’t really have the right to be a jerk just because we want different things.” My gut wrenched at his words. Did we want different things? “Right now, I’d just like to go back to after you asked me if we could be friends.”

 

“So, could we, then?” I asked hopefully. 

 

He smiled fully this time. “Yeah. Why not? Although I for one think snogging only enhances a friendship, really- joking, Tara, bloody hell,” he moaned when I chucked a file at his head. “I think I got a papercut on my nose.”

 

“Good,” I snorted. 

 

“Friendship with you is violent,” he rolled his eyes. “Which reminds me- what happened to your hand?”

 

My eyes drifted down to my bandaged knuckles and I swallowed hard. “Not important.”

 

“Tara,” he said reproachfully. “We’re friends now, aren’t we? You can tell me.”

 

“We’ve been friends for thirty seconds,” I argued. “That doesn’t automatically grant you access to all my trust and my secrets.”

 

“To be fair, I already know most of them,” he smirked. “Please?”

 

“Nope.”

 

He pouted, and I was almost tempted to tell him. He was too bloody gorgeous for his own good; it was staggering. 

 

“Can I ask you about a different secret?” He asked. 

 

“Why do you want all my secrets, Po- Al?” I demanded. This had to be the nosiest human being I’d ever known.

 

He shrugged. “I like the idea of knowing everything about you when no one else does.” I cursed the mother I barely knew and father I never had for giving me pale skin, because I was certain Albus could see me color deeply at his words. 

 

“Tell me one of yours first,” I requested after a pause. 

 

He looked surprised. “Fine. Er- I guess… there’s this thing I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Something I’d like to do after Hogwarts.”

 

“What is it?” I asked, tilting my head. I wondered why what he wanted to do after Hogwarts would warrant secrecy. 

 

“I want to sail,” he admitted softly. “I want to buy a boat and sail around the world once before actually having to start a job and get on with life.”

 

I smiled at that. “Really?”

 

He shrugged. “It’s stupid, I know, and kind of pointless. But ever since I was little and my dad took us to this muggle aquarium, I’ve been dying to live at sea for a bit. Maybe even pursue working in a lab or something. Can you imagine what kind of cool things could be down there that we haven’t found yet?”

 

I smiled back at him. “You should have stuck with Care of Magical Creatures, then. We learn about some of them.”

 

He made a face. “I know. I’ve been kicking myself for that all year. I only dropped it because Scor was too and I didn’t realize how interested I’d actually be in it later down the line.”

 

“You can still learn plenty about them, I bet,” I said encouragingly. “You just need to find some good books on the matter and learn on the side. You’re right, there are probably tons of cool creatures living in the sea that we haven’t discovered. And honestly, the non-magical creatures would be interesting enough to study in themselves.”

 

The more I thought about it, the more amazing it sounded. Working at sea, with creatures like dolphins? That was kind of the dream. 

 

“Well thank you for not telling me it’s some sort of childish pipe dream,” Albus grinned. 

 

“Of course not,” I smiled back. “You just owe me three favors, now.”

 

He laughed. “You should have asked for those up front. Too late now.”

 

“But I do have the secret,” I smirked. 

 

“True. I still want another of yours, by the way.”

 

“What secret are you asking about this time?” I asked, rolling my eyes. I picked up some files to continue on with the detention assignment, handing a few over to Albus and taking the ones he sent my way. 

 

“Why is Professor Mansir mad at you?” He asked. I hated the fact that Mansir had made his anger with me so blatant- I mean come on now, isn’t he supposed to be professional?

 

“I guess he’s just fed up with all my tardiness,” I said evasively. 

 

He narrowed his eyes. “Alright. I don’t believe you, but I get the feeling I’m not going to get any more out of you.” I smiled slightly as I filed away another set of records. “Hey wait,” he said thoughtfully. “Wasn’t I supposed to be assigned to tutor you if you were late again?”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Yes, but here we are. In detention. What are you even here for, anyway?”

 

Albus frowned. “I was dumb enough to join James and Leo on a pranking mission. They wanted to charm the toilet seats in the bathrooms to bite people. But then Filch caught us and put us in separate detentions.”

 

I giggled. “I’m glad you got caught, I don’t want a bloody toilet seat biting my bum.”

 

He smirked. “No? Not into that sort of thing?”

 

I rolled my eyes and threw another file at him, to his amusement. “You’re a tosser.”

 

He laughed, and it was wonderful. It was light and genuine and made me feel thoroughly warm from head to toe. “Anyway,” he said a moment later. “Maybe I ought to remind Mansir about the tutoring thing. Make you work with me more.”

 

I glared at him. “Don’t you dare. I have enough school work as it is.”

 

“How’s that Patronus coming?” He asked with a knowing smirk. 

 

“Horribly,” I admitted. “I think I’ve made completely backwards progress.”

 

He considered that for a beat. “Hm. Well if you really want, I could help you gain some more happy memories.”

 

His tone was suggestive, as was the way he wiggled his eyebrows at me, and it made me laugh. “Thanks, Al, but I will pass. Friends don’t generally snog, you know.”

 

“Who said anything about snogging?” He held a hand to his chest in mock-affront. “You just can’t keep your mind on anything appropriate, can you?”

 

“You’re a jerk,” I informed him. 

 

“I bet one of our snog fests would help that charm of yours, though,” he smiled cheekily. 

 

“It would not,” I laughed. 

 

“Come on, it was good and you know it.”

 

“A good snog hardly equates to happy.”

 

“No, but at least you’ve admitted it was good.” He smirked. 

 

I rolled my eyes. “You have who-knows-how-many girls here who spend all their time gushing about you and your snogging- why do you need my commendation?”

 

The question seemed to throw him for a loop. His smirk slipped and he looked temporarily stunned. “I- um...”

 

I smirked myself, enjoying having caught him off guard. I read the next file to place it onto the right stack- I’d created multiple, grouped by decade. 

 

Frodarian Frelling- 2000

 

I stared at the name in shock. Frodarian Frelling. Frodarian. You don’t hear a name like Frodarian often- so when you do, you tend to remember it. 

 

“Tara?” Albus hesitated. “What is it?”

 

“Frodarian,” I whispered. 

 

“Come again?” he frowned. 

 

“I’ve heard this name before,” I said in a low voice. “Frodarian.”

 

“I can’t imagine there are very many Frodarians out there,” Albus wrinkled his nose. “I guess I can’t really judge someone’s name though, can I?”

 

I choked out a short laugh, but he could tell it was half-hearted. I was too distracted, now. 

 

Frodarian. 

 

Taralyn was crying. Not terribly hard- she was old enough to be past the phase of meltdowns after all. She was nine. 

 

She’d awoken from a rather frightening dream, one of monsters and panic and mayhem and death, topics far too dark to belong in the dreams of a young and innocent girl.

 

Once awake, she shook and sobbed for her mother. Her mother, a pretty woman with regally high cheekbones and a mostly young face, aside from the stress lines, cradled the girl in her arms to calm her down. 

 

“Please, please stop crying,” the mother pleaded. Her voice was laced with exhaustion. 

 

“It was s-scary,” the girl hiccuped. 

 

“It was just a dream,” the woman sighed in frustration. “You were up until one, Taralyn, please go to sleep. I’m so tired.”

 

“I- I c-can’t,” the girl sobbed. 

 

The woman turned away for a moment and muffled a groan with her sleeve. She took a deep breath before returning to her daughter. 

 

She started to rock the little girl, singing a soft song, the only Muggle song Taralyn would remember into her teenage years and use as a bridge to a whole world of music, and a song she’d find herself singing idly in the halls, and the shower, and while cooking meals, and even while flying: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

 

Taralyn drifted off, until she finally lay still enough for her mom to release her with a sigh and flop back onto her back. 

 

Taralyn, still not quite asleep, heard her mother murmur, “Bloody Frodarian, this is all your fault.”


 

I couldn’t breathe. I just stared at the name, my eyebrows furrowed in thought. 

 

“Tara?” Albus tried again, sounding worried. I looked at him, my eyes saucers. “What is it? Who’s Frodarian?”

 

“I- I’m not certain,” I said slowly. “But he knew my mother.”

 

What?

 

“He knew her,” I repeated. “Or at least, she knew him. They knew each other, I don't know.”

 

“How do you know?” He asked, throwing his file aside and moving to sit by me. 

 

“I remember her saying the name,” I said quietly. “She thought I’d fallen asleep. She said ‘Bloody Frodarian, this is all your fault’ after this time I’d had a nightmare and she had to get me back to sleep. She er- wasn’t all that pleased with motherhood, I think.” I bit my lip. 

 

He looked at me in alarm, sympathy flashing across his features. I saw his hand twitch, like he wanted to reach out to me, but luckily he kept it by his side. I was glad- if he touched me, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hold to the “friend” thing for long.

 

He seemed to recognize I didn’t want to talk about my mother’s parenting, thankfully, and went back to the prior topic. “So this Frodarian bloke. What’s the file have on him?”

 

I smiled at him gratefully and opened up the folder, scanning its content. I suppose I ought to have been concerned with the morality of reading through it, but I couldn't really be bothered. “Well, he started Hogwarts in the year 2000. There’s not that much of interest. Muggleborn, played Quidditch for Gryffindor, a few detentions, Prefect his Sixth Year, then-” I broke off. 

 

“Then what?” Albus demanded, his interest obviously piqued. 

 

I could feel the blood draining away from my face. My mouth went dry as I read the words, once, twice, ten times. Biting my lip again, I passed the folder to Albus. 

 

He scanned it briefly before his eyes rested on the part I’d read. “Oh,” he sounded almost as crestfallen as I felt. “He’s-”

 

“Dead,” I croaked. “The only person I could possibly connect to my mother is dead.” Of fucking course.

 

“Bloody hell,” Albus frowned. “Did you read how?”

 

I shook my head. “I saw he was dead and stopped reading. What happened to him?”

 

He hesitated. “Tara, I don’t know if-”

 

“Tell me,” I urged, my voice laced with desperation. “Please.”

 

The look on his face only widened the pit of dread in my stomach. “He was murdered,” Albus sighed. “When he was seventeen.”

 

Murdered?” I echoed. “By who? This would have been well after the war, right?”

 

Albus nodded. “It doesn’t say who did it, here. This is just the death certificate. He was Avada Kedavra’ed though.”  

 

I bit back the urge to sob. “Dammit,” I growled, punching the floor without thinking. I hissed in pain, pulling my hand back. I’d forgotten about punching the mirror earlier. 

 

“Tara!” Albus exclaimed. He reached over and gripped my hand, careful not to brush against the knuckles. “Let me see it.” I shook my head. He shot me an annoyed look until I relented, unwrapping the bandages. My knuckles were still covered in dried blood, and I suspected they were bruised underneath. 

 

He looked up at me, his green eyes wide with worry. “Tara…”

 

“It’s not a big deal,” I said quickly. “I had a- er- minor meltdown, is all.”

 

He frowned, pulling out his wand. “Tergeo.” The blood cleared slowly, fading into nothing until all that was left was the bruising. “Episkey.” And then the bruising, too, disappeared. 

 

I flexed and unflexed my fingers, pleasantly surprised to feel no more pain. “Thank you,” I murmured. 

 

He shrugged. “It was nothing. “I’m surprised you didn’t do that yourself, honestly.”

 

“I’m not good at healing spells,” I frowned. “Never have been. Figured I’d just wash it and let it heal on its own, but I sort of forgot about it.”

 

“Hence why you just punched the floor,” Albus smiled slightly. 

 

“Yeah,” I grinned back sheepishly. “Thank you again.”

 

“Anytime,” he nodded. He reached out suddenly and ran the strand of hair I’d colored blue through his fingers. “This is pretty.”

 

My eyes widened. “Thanks,” I said quietly, flushing and looking away. 

 

He looked back at the file. “Think Filch would notice if you kept that? Maybe we can do some digging, you know? Find out who he was. Maybe knowing would help us find your mother.”

 

Us. My heart fluttered wildly. 

 

“I- no, I don’t think he’d notice,” I said with a small smile. I couldn’t believe he wanted to help me with this. I didn’t think there was any ulterior motive- was this what friendship with Albus Potter meant? Because if I’d known that, I would have extended the olive branch years before. 

 

“Great!” He beamed. “We’ll find your mum yet, Tara.” 

 

I gawked at him. What the hell was happening to me? My bloody eyes were welling with tears like I was a fucking child again. 

 

Albus noticed my expression and his face slipped into one of panic. “Wait, Tara, don’t cry, I was just trying to help, I’m so-” 

 

His words were cut off when I threw myself into his arms, burying my face in his chest and hugging him tightly. 

 

When did Albus Potter become so nice?

 

We’d spent so many years insulting each other, competing with each other, driving each other around the bend- what exactly had changed? When had he become the one person who knew almost every single secret of mine, the person I cried against, the person wanting to help me find my mum? If someone had told me even two months before that I’d find myself sitting on a floor of student records wrapped around Albus Potter like he was my sodding lifeline, I’d have ensured they were shipped off to St. Mungo’s promptly

 

I pulled back, my head throbbing a little and my face damp. I was kind of amused to find him wearing a bewildered expression. “Sorry,” I said softly. 

 

“Don’t apologize,” he shook his head, a small smiling spreading across his face. 

 

“Have you always been like this?” I asked him, moving away to sit back beside him. I picked up the file for Frodarian and slid it inside my robes before returning to filing away the other ones. We did still have detention to finish. 

 

“Like what?” Albus scrunched his forehead. 

 

Nice,” I said like it was obvious. 

 

He snorted. “Not really. I don’t know if you heard, but I actually blackmailed this one girl earlier this term into promising me unquestionable favors in exchange for not revealing her most precious secrets.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “No kidding? The poor girl. Sounds like she ought to curse your face off.”

 

“No, no,” Albus grinned. “See that poor girl doesn’t realize that I was actually full of shit, and would never actually tell someone one of her secrets. I just wanted her to agree to the favors.”

 

“She sounds daft, and you sound like a git,” I decided. I was smiling though. His words could have been empty for all I knew, a way to smooth over the blackmail or just another sort of weird flirtation, but they were nice to hear, and I was finding that it felt remarkably good to trust Albus Potter. 

 

He laughed. “Maybe you’re right. Definitely about the first part at least.”

 

I reached over and flicked him in the head. 

 

“So how are we going to find out more about this Frodarian guy?” he asked me, still smiling. 

 

I thought about it. “Well, he started school here in 2000, right? And if he didn’t die until he was seventeen, then he would still have been going to school sometime around 2006 or so? So anyone working here at least seventeen years ago might know him.”

 

“Clever,” Albus grinned approvingly. 

 

“We just need to hope someone actually remembers him,” I sighed. “Seventeen years is quite a while.”

 

Albus thought about it. “Still, it’s definitely possible. We know Filch was here, but I don’t think he’d be much help. I know a lot of the professors and faculty were still here, actually- Slughorn, Pomfrey, Hagrid, Flitwick... Neville was probably working here by then too, actually, we could start with him. He’s my godfather.”

 

“Cool,” I smiled. “Sounds like a solid start to me.”

 

“Who else?” He looked thoughtful. “Hooch would be a good one to ask since he played Quidditch. I wonder when Mansir started.”

 

“2010,” I said immediately. 

 

He looked at me strangely. “Why do you know that?” 

 

Whoops. 

 

“It was a guess,” I smiled winningly, hoping he’d buy it. 

 

“Bullshit.” Welp. “How well do you know him?”

 

I groaned, dropping my head. “Dammit, Al, how have you actually managed this?”

 

“Managed what?” he tilted his head. 

 

“You’ve either worked out or forced out every last one of my secrets,” I complained. 

 

He grinned. “Does this mean you’re going to tell me why Mansir’s so mad at you? And why he’s the only teacher who calls you Tara?”

 

I glared at him. “I suppose. I take back what I said before, you’re not nice.”

 

“I already knew that,” he winked. “Now spill!”

 

“Nosy,” I muttered darkly. “Fine. Dexter Mansir is my legal guardian. He was the one who found me about a year after my mother left, and who arranged with McGonagall for me to stay at Hogwarts, he adopted me.”

 

Albus gaped at me. “Our Defense professor is your guardian?

 

I nodded. “That’s why he calls me Tara, and why up until today he never gave me detentions.”

 

“So what happened today?” he furrowed his eyebrows. 

 

“It was really what happened Saturday,” I frowned. “It was after the team dinner. I was a little worked up-” I shot him a pointed look and he smiled sheepishly. “-and ended up going to talk to him about it. In my state, however, I wound up taking out my anger on him with some really mean words.”

 

He raised an eyebrow. “How mean?”

 

“About as mean as my dig at you about your parents.” I grimaced as I thought about it- poor Dex. He was supposed to be the closest person to me outside of the Wotters and I’d thrown it in his face like a bitch. 

 

Albus shot me a sad smile. “I’m sure if you talk to him you can fix it.”

 

I sighed. “He seemed so angry today. He’s never looked at me like that.”

 

He shrugged. “You won’t know until you talk to him.” He had a point. I resolved that I’d find Mansir the next day and apologize. He needed to know he was actually important to me. 

 

“You’re right,” I admitted, though it pained me a little to do so. 

 

“Course I am,” he smirked arrogantly. “I usually am.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “You’re only ever way too nice, or an arrogant prat. Do you have no inbetween?”

 

“Not really,” his eyes twinkled. “But you love it. You’re the one who wanted me as a friend, after all.”

 

“Maybe I take it back,” I tilted my head with a smile. 

 

“Oh?” He raised his eyebrows. “Did you want to go back to snogging, then?”

 

“What? No!”

 

“Because that can be arranged.”

 

“Fuck off!”

 


A/N:

 

Yay they're civil again! I hope you enjoyed this chapter. It's fun revealing more about Tara's past in little pieces. Thoughts on this Frodarian guy they've found? Or on Al and Tara's new agreement for friendship?

 

Also, I don't know if you all read these notes, but I did just want to say that in the midst of quarantine and global pandemic, it can be really hard to keep up morale and to maintain mental health. I know I for one have been struggling lately. So I just wanted to say that if anyone ever needs to talk, I'm here! My username on the forums is the same as here, so feel free to look me up and shoot me a PM if you ever need someone to talk to about life, lock-up, fanfics, or literally anything else. I thoroughly understand that social distancing is brutal, and I am always here for you all :)

 

Anyway, feel free to leave a review! All feedback is always appreciated, you guys who have been leaving me reviews make my day every time. Thank you all a ton. 

 

Cheers! xoxo

 

Disclaimer: Of course anything you recognize is not mine, all JKR. Except my reference to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" again, which is still The Beatles. 



Chapter 9: Of Course There Was Going to Be a Quidditch Chapter
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Our game against Gryffindor arrived in early November. Scorpius had us practicing all week- rigorously. I’d come to regard the ache in my shoulders as normal somewhere down the line. We’d leave practices either drenched with sweat or drenched with rainwater. I was starting to forget what it was like to be dry. 

 

Our beloved captain also made team dinners mandatory all week. We took a couple in the kitchens, for privacy while we discussed strategy, but even the dinners we ate in the Great Hall had to be together. Scorpius was all about team unity and that sort of shite. I think he just didn’t want us talking to our Gryffindor friends, namely Albus’s family. 

 

“Bloody crazy bugger,” Albus muttered from beside me as he stabbed at his dinner on Friday night. “I stopped to talk to Hugo for two minutes and Scor physically dragged me away.”

 

I snorted into my pumpkin juice. “And yet somehow, he is still allowed to partner up with Rose in every class.”

 

“Hypocritical arse,” Albus narrowed his eyes. 

 

Scorpius, across the table, was so engrossed with his lecture to poor Byron on which Keeper pads brought the most protection but the least weight that he didn’t hear us talking about him. 

 

“He wouldn’t even let me say hi to Leo,” I said hotly. “Leo hates Quidditch, he’s hardly going to press me for team details.”

 

“You two talking about Captain Paranoid?” Eva asked from my other side, leaning around me. “Because I’m about ready to throttle him.”

 

“At least the game’s tomorrow,” Albus sighed. “I just want it over with. I’d like to actually converse with my siblings without Scor threatening me with laps and accusing me of siding with the enemy.”

 

“At least you were threatened first,” I told him. “I was just given the laps.Bloody favoritism if you ask me.”

 

“I’m a favorable boy,” Albus smirked, making me want to hit him. 

 

“I got laps too,” Eva complained. “He always lets you off easy, Albus.”

 

“They’re probably shagging on the side,” I said offhandedly. 

 

“POTTER’S SHAGGING MALFOY?” Collin asked loudly from his spot across from Eva. 

 

Several heads turned at his rather loud question, including that of Scorpius himself. It was immensely comical how quickly the whispers started as the other students in the Great Hall broke out into vigorous, hushed discussions about the “announcement.”

 

Scorpius glowered darkly at Collin, his face a mix of shock, abhorrence, and humiliation. Albus looked similarly outraged. 

 

“Corner,” Scorpius fumed. “After tomorrow’s game, you have laps until you die.”

 

Eva and I, meanwhile, had erupted into uncontrollable giggles. 

 

“Bloody stop laughing,” Albus snapped. “Fucking hell, everyone’s staring.”

 

“It was big news,” Ethan, who sat on Scorpius’s other side, snickered. “They’ve all been waiting for the official announcement for ages.”

 

“I will break your face with your own bat,” Albus growled. 

 

“And you’ll be joining Corner on his laps,” Scorpius added, still fuming. 

 

“This isn’t our fault,” Ethan frowned. “Tara suggested it first.”

 

Scorpius turned his glare on me. “Is that right?”

 

“Yeah, thanks a lot, Tara,” Albus grumbled. “I needed more bloody rumors running around about my social life.”

 

“I’m sorry,” I giggled. “Maybe this will save me, though. Clarke tried to turn my Charms textbook into a mouse the other day. Maybe now she’ll go after Scor.”

 

“She tried to turn your book into a mouse?” Eva asked incredulously. 

 

“Apparently,” I shrugged. “Because Rylie ended up getting in the way and it turned her book into a mouse.”

 

She grinned. “Poor Rylie. Did she retaliate?”

 

“Of course,” I laughed. “She threw the mouse at Clarke, and the scared thing clung to her head.”

 

“Stop talking about the bloody mouse!” Scorpius cried. A vein on his forehead throbbed as he glared at us. Bloody hell this boy needed to relax. “We have a Quidditch game tomorrow morning, people, we need to focus.”

 

“Sorry,” I mumbled. “For what it’s worth, I was making a light joke. Collin’s the one who screamed it to the Great Hall.” I smiled apologetically at Collin, who rolled his eyes and waved his hand. 

 

“Clarke wouldn’t try to hurt Malfoy anyway,” he chuckled. “She finds him even more fit than Potter. He just doesn’t have her preferred surname, so she prefers to stalk the latter.”

 

Between Albus and Scorpius, I’m still not sure whose face displayed more resentment over that comment. Poor Collin really was going to be running laps until he died. 

 

“Whatever,” Scorpius huffed. “Back to Quidditch, people! We need to talk about preparing for the game.”

 

He launched back into strategist-controlling-Nazi-captain mode, addressing each of us in turn with specific things to remember to think about and to employ during the following day’s game. Scorpius was one of my absolute best friends most of the time, but fuck if I didn’t want to punch him when Quidditch came up.

 

After dinner, the team split up as we headed back down to the dungeons. I think Collin and Ethan were mostly just scared of Scorpius, so they practically ran out of the Great Hall. Eva, in a show of surprising patience, let Scorpius continue to talk her ear off about her reverse pass, while Byron followed them along, listening with a somewhat awed expression. 

 

I fell into step alongside Albus in the back. He’d been quiet since Collin’s comment about surnames. “Sorry for earlier,” I voiced quietly. “I didn’t know Collin was going to scream it out to the whole school.”

 

He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter.” His voice was hollow, though, and his eyes were dark. I sighed, knowing it wasn’t the rumor about him and his best mate that had him so gloomy. 

 

“Clarke’s an idiot, you know,” I asserted. 

 

He smiled weakly. “Yeah. I know. And you’d think I’d be used to comments about my name at this point, right? I’m sixteen, I’ve obviously had plenty of years to get used to the whole ‘Potter’ thing.”

 

“It’s fair, though,” I frowned. “You might have had sixteen years to get used to being a Potter, but that means the world has had sixteen years to get used to it too. People shouldn’t still be so fixated on it.”

 

We rounded a corner and continued down the corridor. I noticed the two of us had slowed our pace considerably. 

 

“They are, though,” he sighed. “And it’s not going to stop.”

 

“I can’t pretend that I know what it’s like,” I admitted. “But I can see why it’d be frustrating. The expectations, the uncertainty of who’s real around you. For what it’s worth, I think there’s a fair amount of people who have gotten past your name.”

 

“Not as many as you’d think,” Albus said slowly. I wondered what kind of interactions he’d had to discover that. “Especially when it comes to girls. My best mate’s bloody Scorpius- my name ends up all I have to fall back on.”

 

“That’s not true,” I frowned. 

 

“You hear Collin earlier,” he reminded me bitterly. “Even my psycho stalker is only interested in me for my name.” Hearing him this insecure was new to me, and remarkably saddening. For Merlin’s sake, the boy was so bloody gorgeous it was ridiculous. 

 

“Then you just have to stick with those who don’t care,” I said firmly as we descended a set of stairs.

 

“Like those who ask me if I’m a pageant girl?” he asked, a real smile forming. 

 

“Exactly,” I smirked. 

 

“I guess I can do that,” he looked thoughtful. “Provided those in question don’t tire of my company, I suppose.”

 

“I don’t think they will,” I assured him, blushing lightly. 

 

He liked my answer, apparently, because his eyes lit up with delight. “Thank you,” he said softly. “Not for the pageant thing, obviously, but for saying all that just now.”

 

“Anytime,” I smiled back. It was the least I could do- he wanted to help me find my mother, and had actually kept every one of my secrets. Helping him in return came easily. 

 

He grinned. “So tell me one more thing. Is Scorpius really more fit than me?”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Depends who you ask.”

 

“I’m asking you,” he pointed out. “As an objective friend, of course.” An objective friend who’d snogged him three bloody times. And who would probably sure as hell do it again sooner or later. 

 

“Objectively, I’d argue that most girls at Hogwarts would agree that Scorpius Malfoy is the fittest bloke in school,” I said in a low voice so that the boy in question wouldn’t hear us talking about him only a little ways behind him. Although at this point, he was much further ahead of us than he had been when we started out of the Great Hall. 

 

“Most girls,” he repeated. “Does that include you?”

 

“I’m sure there are plenty of instances where I could be considered among ‘most girls,’” I answered diplomatically. 

 

“You’re really going out of your way to give me a straight answer on your own opinion here, Tara,” Albus smirked. 

 

“Don’t want to inflate your ego,” I answered without thinking. Oops, that about answers it. 

 

“I see,” he grinned widely, apparently enjoying himself. My face heated up. 

 

“I changed my mind. He’s much more fit than you, and you’re a stupid prat,” I mumbled. 

 

His laugh echoed through the halls, and I found myself smiling.

 


 

“Rivers scores!”

 

I pumped an arm up triumphantly, beaming as the Slytherin stands erupted in cheers- they were about the only ones. People tended to root against us. 

 

“Nice one, Tara!” Scorpius called from me from his perch, a few meters above me. He returned to scanning the area for the snitch. I waved to him before speeding off to catch the Gryffindor chasers. 

 

“The score’s now 40-20 Slytherin!” came Lucy Weasley’s voice. “My idiot cousins better pull it together!”

 

“Weasley,” came Mansir’s disappointed scolding. 

 

“If you don’t want biased commentating, Professor, stop letting students volunteer for this.”

 

James flew by her, the Quaffle under one of his arms, and flipped her off, ignoring the scoldings of Mansir, who sat beside Lucy in the commentator’s box. 

 

I flew after him, approaching from his left. Eva positioned herself between him and Lily, who flew up the middle, while their third Chaser was on the far right side of the pitch dodging Bludgers from Ethan and Collin. This opened the chance for me to slam against James, shoving him toward Eva. He glanced between the two of us, recognizing he was in a bind, and dove to try to lose us. 

 

I stuck to his side like glue, not letting him out of my range, while Eva stayed up to make sure he couldn’t pass to Lily. While pulling out of the dive, his grip on the Quaffle loosened, and I took the opportunity to check him again. 

 

The Quaffle slid out from under his arm and dropped, to be caught by Albus, who’d been waiting below per Scorpius’s play. We sped back around to the other end of the pitch. I flanked Albus, keeping myself between him and his brother. 

 

Once he reached the goalposts, he zipped across the goals and threw the Quaffle through the third hoop- another goal. 

 

“50-20 to Slytherin!” Lucy cried. “Dammit!”

 

“Weasley!” Mansir scolded again. I glanced over toward him, unable to help myself. He was watching me fly- me specifically. I swallowed hard, trying to focus back in on the game, rather than my guilt over the remark that I had still yet to apologize for. 

 

Unfortunately, my attention had not yet come back to the game, and I felt a Bludger collide with my left arm. I cried out in pain, certain I’d heard something crack. Oh gods, I thought. Don’t look at your arm. 

 

Scorpius called for a timeout, and Hooch blew her whistle. 

 

Albus flew over to me quickly, descending beside me. “Are you alright?” he asked, looking at my arm with a slightly nauseated expression. “Oh shit. No you are not.” Don’t look at your arm. 

We landed on the ground and were joined by the others a moment later. “Tara, that looks horrible,” Eva frowned. 

 

Don’t look at your arm. 

 

“That was my fault,” Ethan lamented. “I should have been there- sorry Rivers.”

 

“It’s fine,” I said through gritted teeth. 

 

“It’s not,” Scorpius growled, glaring at Ethan. “He should have been.”

 

“Forget it,” I shook my head. 

 

Pomfrey arrived, demanding I cease playing and follow her to the Hospital Wing. “Fat chance,” I snapped. “Just fix it enough for me to finish the game.”

 

“Are you mad?” Albus snapped at me. “Have you seen it?”

 

Nope, and i’m not going - my thoughts broke off as my eyes betrayed my brain and glanced down at my very broken arm. 

 

I bent over and threw up onto the field. Arms were not supposed to look like that. 

 

“Gross,” Collin wrinkled his nose. I wasn’t sure if he was referring to the arm or the puke. 

 

“I can set the bone,” Pomfrey said with a disapproving scowl. “But it still won’t be completely healed unless you come back to the Hospital Wing.”

 

“I’ll be sure to stop by after we win,” I said adamantly. “Fix it. Please.”

 

She sighed, but did as I requested. 

 

“Alright, guys, we only need twenty more points to be in a strong enough lead for me to catch the Snitch,” Scorpius said. “If we win by 150, then given how Gryffindor’s game went against Ravenclaw, we’ll be ahead of Ravenclaw almost guaranteed, whether they beat us in our game against them or not.”

 

“We got this,” I nodded, feeling a little dizzy from the pain. “They didn’t get my good arm.”

 

“You’re my favorite player,” Scorpius declared. 

 

With that, we returned to the skies. Ethan and Collin split up to either side of where we lined up, each glaring down the Gryffindor Beaters. I gripped my broom tightly, ignoring the sharp pains that shot up my arm, starting at my wrist and going all the way up my shoulder. 

 

Hooch blew her whistle, and the game was back on. Lily had the Quaffle- she sped off toward our hoops, where a nervous Byron was waiting. Albus and I flanked her- her mistake was actually her speed. She outflew her brother and their third Chaser, which meant she had no backup, allowing us to sandwich her. Stuck between us, Lily fumbled, and we shoved her back and forth between the two of us until she dropped the Quaffle. It fell towards Eva and James, who raced for it, but a well aimed Bludger by Ethan allowed Eva to snag it as James pulled back to dodge. 

 

“Nice,” I called to Ethan, who grinned back and nodded. 

 

“Thanks for the Quaffle, Lil,” Albus winked at his sister as we watched Eva speed off. She had the jump on James and Lily, and their third Chaser was rubbish, so it was no competition. Eva had all the time in the world to fake out their Keeper and score. 

 

“I hope you aren’t considering going home for Christmas, Al,” Lily growled at Albus. “Because I will shave your head in your sleep.”

 

She flew off to join her fellow Chasers while I laughed loudly at the frightened look on Albus’s face. 

 

The next time the Gryffindors came down our way, they managed to get a shot off, but it was saved by Byron- this did give us possession. Byron passed to Albus, who tucked the Quaffle tightly against him and zoomed forward, with Eva below him and me to his left. Lily dropped down to cover Eva, knowing Albus could drop it to her, while James engaged Albus in a shoving battle. They left me with the third Chaser, a Fourth Year named Miles. I wasn’t sure how he made the team, honestly. They must have been low on options since they’d lost a couple Seventh Years the year before. 

 

I pushed him inwards, toward Albus and James. He was surprisingly strong, shoving back against me with all his might- that was his downfall. I pulled back abruptly, and his momentum carried him further off to the side, out in the open for Collin to launch a Bludger at him which forced him into a roll. I shot forward, now open, and Albus tossed me the Quaffle, and I threw it through the closest hoop before their keeper could get to me. 

 

“Rivers scores again!” Lucy announced, sounding disappointed. “And wait, what’s happening over there? Looks like the Seekers see the Snitch!” 

 

We all turned to see Scorpius and Louis Weasley rocketing across the pitch, much faster than I honestly could have managed- Scorpius was a bloody good flyer. He and Louis shoved against each other, until Scorpius pulled ahead just enough to wrap his hand around the Snitch. 

 

“Malfoy has it! Slytherin wins, 170-20!” Lucy Weasley called out, though she did not sound pleased. 

 

My team flew to the middle of the pitch where we hugged and congratulated each other, making our way to the ground as the stands cheered (or booed, in some cases). I flew to Scorpius’s side and kissed his cheek in a sisterly fashion, to which he made a face. 

 

When we hit the ground, I let out a long groan, my arm feeling like it was about to fall off. Albus glanced over and raised his eyebrows at me. “Hospital Wing?”

 

“Yes please,” I smiled weakly, letting him drag me away from the supporters who’d come running onto the field. 

 

At least Pomfrey was quick with bones- I was hardly going to miss the after party. 

 


 

“Remember the last time we were drunk together?” I asked Albus with wide eyes as he twirled me around. 

 

He chuckled. “Do I ever. Why, you in the mood for round- what would it be now, four?”

 

He spun me into him and I elbowed him sharply, making him grunt. “No, prat!” I said loudly, though I was smiling. 

 

The music was loud, and the party was in full-fledge as people danced, and laughed, and snogged, and played games. Even a lot of the Gryffindors had shown up for the party- though where we were drinking in celebration, they were likely drinking to drown their sorrows. 

 

Over losing. 

 

Losers. 

 

I had already gone through about four shots, and I’ve always been a lightweight. I think that’s why I agreed to dance with Albus, as there’s almost no way I’d have said yes sober. Well, maybe. It was getting hard to tell these days. 

 

“Sure,” Albus smirked, pulling me back to him. The music was fast, but our dance was some sort of weird, uncoordinated mix of swing and club dancing. We’d spin together, but then he’d tug me close to him and I’d feel his entire body against mine as we swayed our hips along to the beat. Then we’d pull back and start spinning each other again like lunatics. 

 

As I mentioned, I’d had a few drinks. 

 

“You’re the one who wants it so badly,” I accused, pulling back and grabbing both his hands and making him twist back and forth with me like children dancing at a wedding. We were rubbish dancers, but it was too much fun to stop.

 

“Of course I do,” Albus laughed. “You’re bloody fit, Tara.”

 

I blushed deeply. “I think I need another drink.”

 

He laughed again. “Alright, come on.” He took my hand and dragged me over the drink table, where Rose and Rylie stood with James. 

 

“Hey Eldest Potter!” I exclaimed, pulling away from Albus’s hand and throwing my arms around his brother. 

 

James grunted. “Ow- hi drunk Tara. Always a pleasure.” He grinned down at me. “You two seem chummy this evening.”

 

“We’re friends now,” I informed the lot with a proud smile. “Friends who dance brilliantly.” I chose to ignore the way they all scoffed at that. 

 

Albus handed me a drink, and I smiled gratefully at him. “It’s true,” he confirmed. “We decided the constant bickering was a little tedious.”

 

“Thank Merlin,” Rylie laughed. “You two were bloody annoying. Nice game today, by the way. How’s your arm, Tara?”

 

I wiggled it around in her face. “Pomfrey made it perfect! See!?”

 

She pushed it away with another giggle. “I see that, love.”

 

“How’re you dealing with the defeat?” Albus asked his brother with a smirk.

 

James glared. “Shove off. You tossers got lucky.”

 

No,” I protested loudly. “We’re just awesome. Plus we have a brilliant captain!”

 

“Where’d he go, anyway?” Albus asked, whipping his head around to look for his friend. 

 

“He’s chatting up one of Rose’s roommates,” James snickered, pointing off to the side. 

 

I followed his line of sight and sure enough found Scorpius leaning against a wall beside Emily Prince, a pretty girl with straight black hair who I couldn’t believe would flirt with Scorpius, since she’d been Rose’s friend for years. 

 

“What are they doing?” I demanded. 

 

“Doesn’t matter, Tara,” Rose said warningly. “Leave them be.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing- Rose was supposed to be into Scorpius! He was supposed to be into her! This wasn’t right. 

 

“But-” I tried, but she shot me a pleading look and I let it go. “Fine, fine.” 

 

“Rylie!” Leo’s booming voice suddenly called. “What the hell are you wearing?” The older Wood child marched up to us with a scalding expression. 

 

Rylie glanced down at her dress. “Clothes?”

 

“Did he think she was naked?” I turned to James with wide eyes. “He must be drunk!” 

 

He chuckled. “You are drunk, love.”

 

Leo rolled his eyes at Rylie. “Ridiculously short clothes,” he snapped. “You look like a slag.”

 

“Uh oh,” Rose muttered. 

 

“Excuse me?” Rylie demanded, whipping her wand out. “I look like what?

 

“OKAY!” James said loudly, stepping between the Wood siblings. “Let’s not do anything hasty, yeah? She looks fine, Leo. And Ry, maybe don’t hex your brother during your house’s victory party?” 

 

Rylie glared at her brother. “Not even if he deserves it?”

 

“Come on,” Leo cried. “She’s going to have blokes hanging off her all evening, and I do not want to babysit her for this entire party.”

 

“Why the fuck do you think I’d need a babysitter?” Rylie demanded. “You’re only a year older than me, prat!” She sidestepped around James, her wand still raised. 

 

James snatched the wand away from her. “Alright, how’s this? I’ll babysit. Leo, go snog someone.”

 

“I don’t need a babysitter!” Rylie growled. 

 

I wavered in place a little as they bickered, dizziness starting to hit me. Albus glanced over, his amusement over the Woods’ argument slipping into a look of concern.

 

“Alright, Tara?” he asked with furrowed eyebrows. The others looked at me too. 

 

I nodded, though my hiccups gave me away. “I’m great!” I exclaimed. “Just- hic- enjoying the show.”

 

Rose frowned. “She needs some water.”

 

“Come on, Tara,” Albus tugged at my sleeve. “Let’s get you hydrated.”

 

“But I want to watch- hic- Ry curse her brother,” I pouted. Leo shot me an unamused look. 

 

“I’ll ignore that, since I know you’re drunk,” he said. I simply reached up and ruffled his hair for some reason until he pushed my arm away. “Oi! Al, get her out of here.”

 

“Come on,” Albus said again. I glanced up at him- or rather, them, since I was pretty sure there were two Albuses at this point. 

 

“Alright,” I said softly, letting him take my hand and drag me across the room. 

 

The others were still arguing as we walked away. I thought it was perfectly silly- Rylie didn’t look like a slag, she looked pretty! And Leo was just worried about her. Silly siblings. 

 

“So silly,” I said quietly to myself. 

 

“What’s silly?” Albus asked. 

 

“Just people,” I smiled. He led me out the door and away from the common room. “Wasn’t there water in there?”

 

“Yeah, but I think you need food, too,” Albus said, tugging me toward the passage entrance. “You’ve been drinking on an empty stomach, and you’re already a lightweight, so I think the Firewhisky is hitting you particularly hard.”

 

He glanced around to make sure no one else was around before pressing the spot on Hallows’s painting frame to open the wall up and guiding me into the passageway. “Lumos,” he murmured, and the two of us stumbled along in the dim lighting, Albus practically keeping me upright given my lack of coordination in my state. 

 

Soon, we reached the kitchens, Albus helping me out the opening of the passage and leading me to a table. 

 

“Mr. Potter! And Tara!” Hillow came bounding over to us happily. 

 

“Hi Hillow,” Albus greeted. “How are you?”

 

The house-elf’s eyes watered. “Hillow is great, thank you Mr. Potter!”

 

“Call me Al, Hillow,” Albus smiled. “Listen, do you think you could grab us some waters and maybe a sandwich or something for Tara?”

 

“Of course!” Hillow nodded quickly, wiping away her tears. “Hillow will be right back!”

 

She scurried off, and I reached over to smack Albus on the arm. “You made her cry!”

 

“From being nice!” he exclaimed. “That’s not my fault!”

 

“Both of you are quite nice,” I admitted. 

 

“Both of us?”

 

“I see two of you,” I explained. “I think I drank too much too fast.” A wave of nausea ran through my body, confirming my words. 

 

He snorted. “You think?” Hillow returned then with some food and a couple waters. Albus slid both glasses in front of me. “Here, drink up, Tara.”

 

I reached for the first glass and sipped at it gingerly. “Thanks,” I said after a beat. “You didn’t have to help me.”

 

“I did, actually,” Albus said quietly. I smiled at him as a light flush spread across my cheeks. 

 

“You didn’t used to be so nice,” I said almost accusingly. 

 

He rolled his eyes. “I know. We talked about this in Filch’s office, remember?”

 

“But you haven’t told me what changed,” I said, rocking back and forth on my chair. Unfortunately, I was far too drunk to be doing something like that, and I ended up tipping backwards with a squeak. 

 

Albus jumped up to try to catch me, but he’d been on the other side of the table when I’d started to fall and couldn’t catch me in time. 

 

“Oof,” I grunted as I hit the floor. 

 

“Tara,” he chuckled. “Are you okay?”

 

“Yeah,” I groaned. “Whoops.”

 

He bent down and reached around me, pulling me to my feet. I found that I rather liked having him so close. He was warm and his skin was soft and he smelled good. In fact, what was that? Cologne? Hair product?

 

“Er- Tara?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Did you just smell me?”

 

I jumped away from him quickly. Albus was smirking at me. “I- no,” I glared. “I was just... well, yeah. But it was just some mild curiosity.”

 

“I like drunk Tara,” Albus chuckled. He righted my chair and helped me lower myself back onto it, this time sitting beside me. 

 

“I thought you were drunk, too!” I frowned. “You danced with me!”

 

“I’m not entirely sober, but I’m definitely not drunk,” he rolled his eyes. “I danced with you because I wanted to.”

 

I gaped at him. “Why?

 

He raised an eyebrow at me. “The same reason I’ve snogged you multiple times, Tara.”

 

“Which is?” I pressed, leaning toward him intently, my elbows on my knees and my cheeks against my hands. 

 

He looked amused. “Can’t tell you that. You’re far too drunk, and I’d rather it be a conversation you remember.”

 

“Don’t you want to know why I snogged you?” I asked him with wide eyes. 

 

Albus stared at me levelly for a long moment. And then something odd happened. He leaned forward suddenly, sliding his hand around to the back of my neck, and pressing his mouth to my forehead. He held it there for a long time, his lips just below my hairline. I didn’t move, partially because it was the least dizzy I’d felt in an hour, and I worried moving would just bring it back, but mostly because I didn’t know how to react to such an affectionate touch.

 

After what felt like a lifetime, he pulled away slightly, his hand still tangled with my hair a little, his face only a breath away. “We’ll talk about it when you’re sober,” he said at last, his voice thick. 

 

I didn’t argue back. His eyes were soft and his hand was warm and I didn’t want to ruin the moment. Even in my state of drunkenness, I knew this wasn’t a normal interaction for us. 

 

I’d grown very familiar with our back-and-forth between arguments and snogging, and I’d even started to get used to friendship.

 

But the feeling I got from the way he’d kissed my forehead, from the look in his eye as he sat there beside me, and from the unexplainable tug in my chest as he handed me another glass of water? 

 

That was something foreign. 

 


A/N:

 

Hi everyone! Hope you enjoyed this chapter :) I didn't know how it'd go, writing a Quidditch game out, but I thought it was super fun actually and it turned out a lot less crap than I'd expected (I think). Let me know what you thought about it! Do you like Tara's teammates? 

 

Also, how about Al's softie moment? I liked writing that part. Although all it really did was remind me that I'm sitting alone in my bedroom in Quarantine relying on vicariously living through stories like this and TV shows. Anyway, thanks again to everyone who's been reading and reviewing!!! It makes me so happy every time to open up my page to new reviews, you guys are the best.

 

Cheers! Stay safe and healthy and happy, everyone! xoxo

 

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize, it's all JK Rowling. 



Chapter 10: I Swear I Haven't Always Been This Emotional
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I owed Albus Potter big time. 

 

Before walking me back to the party and helping me to the edge of the stairs leading up to my dorm, he’d slipped a vial of hangover solution into my hand. I hadn’t had the chance to brew any myself in the recent weeks- I figured I’d simply suffer the consequences of the party. 

 

But instead, while everyone else spent the next morning groaning and whimpering in pain and nausea, I felt terrific.

 

Others, however…

 

“Tara, I swear to Merlin, if you pull back the curtains to my bed and let that fucking light in one more time I will MURDER YOU!”

 

...were less terrific. 

 

“Come on, Ry,” I rolled my eyes, sitting on the side of her bed. “You’re not going to feel any better if you stay in there. Go throw up and then let’s go get some food!”

 

“Why bother eating?” She moaned, rolling onto her stomach and burying her face in the pillow. Her next words were muffled, but I understood them well enough: “I’m just going to throw it all up anyways.”

 

“Maybe Albus has more hangover solution,” I supplied. She lifted her head at that. 

 

“Is that why you’re so bloody annoyingly chipper this morning?” She demanded. “He gave you hangover solution?”

 

I smiled. “He did. I suppose it pays to be getting along with him, now.”

 

“I’ve never not gotten along with him, where’s my sodding potion?” She cried, letting her head fall back down on the pillow. 

 

I giggled. “Good question. Come on, then. Let’s go ask.”

 

“Tara,” she whined, facing me. “I can’t.”

 

“Sure you can, Wood,” I said, pulling at her blankets. “You’ll feel better soon, trust me.”

 

“No, Tara, I really can’t,” she said, suddenly looking panicked. “I can’t leave this room. Maybe ever again.”

 

“What?” I frowned. “What happened?”

 

“Can you two shut the fuck up?” Reyna Pritchard snapped from her own bed. She and Zabini were apparently nursing hangovers of their own. “Let us sleep for the love of Salazar.”

 

Sighing, I tucked my legs in so that I was sitting on Rylie’s bed entirely and pulled the curtains around us before casting a quick Muffliato

 

“Alright, now spill,” I commanded, looking at Rylie sternly. 

 

She looked like a dog that’d just torn up its owner’s favorite pair of slippers, and the guilty expression made me nervous. Reluctantly, she sat up, pulling her knees into her chest. “Well, while you and Albus were in the kitchens last night, I sort of… ugh, I don’t want to say it!” She dropped her forehead against her knees. 

 

“Come on, Rylie, tell me!” I urged. 

 

“IsngdJms,” she muttered incomprehensibly. 

 

“Come again?” I furrowed my eyebrows.

 

She lifted her head and sighed heavily. “I snogged James.”

 

“WHAT!?” I shouted. Good thing I’d Muffliato’d the others, because I’m pretty sure my volume would have woken the entirety of the dungeons otherwise. 

 

“Ow,” Rylie moaned, holding her head. “Don’t shout.”

 

“How the hell did that happen?” I demanded. 

 

“We were piss drunk,” Rylie explained. “Leo and I kept rowing after you left, and he finally went away to go find some poor innocent girl to defile to forget that he was angry with me, and I ended up alone with James.”

 

“Where’d Rose go?” I asked. 

 

She shrugged. “She left. She claimed it was because she was feeling ill, but I think she just didn’t want to see Scorpius flirting with her roommate.” I bit back a groan. Those two drove me bonkers. “Anyway, this left James and I to talk, and we both ended up drinking quite a bit more, and dancing, and eventually, well, snogging.”

 

“And?” I pressed.

 

“And that’s it!” She snapped. “It was a drunken mistake, and Leo would absolutely kill us if he knew about it. Oh gods,” she paled. “What if James already told him?”

 

I snorted. “James values his life too much; I’m sure he hasn’t said anything.”

 

“I hope so,” Rylie frowned deeply. “How did I let this happen?”

 

“Because you were drunk, and James is hot,” I suggested, probably unhelpfully. 

 

She narrowed her eyes. “Shove off. Like you and Albus weren’t off getting it on in the kitchens.”

 

“We weren’t!” I protested. “Honestly.”

 

Nothing happened?” She sounded somewhat disappointed. 

 

“Well,” I paused. “Technically not nothing, but as far as what you’re interested in, it was nothing.”

 

She cocked her head. “What the hell does that even mean?”

 

I shrugged. “He was just… nice. Weirdly nice. Like very un-Albus-like nice.”

 

“Albus is nice,” Rylie smirked. “Just not usually to you. Until this year, that is.” She obviously didn’t know he’d started the term off blackmailing me. Although, to be fair, he’d hardly really kept that up since the first favor. Unless kissing me in the Room of Requirement counted. 

 

“Well this time he was extra nice,” I tried to explain. I realized that a simple job of hydrating me and kissing my forehead didn’t sound like much when put into audible words. I know I’d been drunk when it happened, but I couldn’t get over how different it felt. It was this odd moment of complete serenity that I never thought I’d associate with Albus Potter. 

 

“He lurves you,” Rylie teased. I shoved her shoulder. 

 

“Shut up,” I rolled my eyes. “He doesn’t. And don’t think pestering me about one Potter will make me forget about you and the other one.”

 

“I didn't realize something was happening with Lily and me,” she replied innocently. 

 

Ry,” I warned. “I want more information! Do you fancy James?”

 

She looked helpless. “I- I don’t know. I mean, maybe? This is a bloke I’ve known for years, it’s weird to think about him this way now. He’s been Leo’s friend for so long, I mean the bloke was coming around my house back before I’d even started wearing bras.” I snorted at that. “What if I do? How would I deal with it? Leo would be furious.”

 

I didn’t know what to say; she was right, of course. Leo would be livid. I’d witnessed him curse many a boy for even looking too closely at his dear sister. And I was sure he’d feel awkward on top of being angry if his best friend dated his sister- bloody hell, this was such a cliche it almost made me sick. 

 

But thinking about it, Rylie and James would make one hell of a couple. I smiled slightly at the thought. 

 

“Why do you look happy right now, traitor?” Rylie exclaimed. “You’re supposed to suffer with me.”

 

“You laughed at me for an hour straight after Albus snogged me earlier in the year,” I pointed out. 

 

“You’re supposed to be the nice one,” she pouted. I rolled my eyes and simply laughed. 

 

“Fine, fine. Alright, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” I said placatingly. “The first thing you should be doing is talking to James about this.”

 

“No!” She cried. “I can’t talk to him- I don’t even want to look at him. Bloody fucking hell, I’m so embarrassed.”

 

“You that bad a kisser?” I smirked.

 

“Fuck you, I’m terrific, I’ll have you know!” She retorted. “I just don’t want to face him over it. At least, not yet. Please help me avoid him? Please?” She looked at me with wide, pleading eyes, and I knew I couldn’t say no. 

 

“Alright,” I soothed. “I’ll help you.”

 

She sighed in relief. “Thank you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to vacate my stomach.” She hopped off the bed and practically sprinted for the loo, the sound of her vomiting echoing through the dorm. 

 

Got yourself a real winner here, James, I thought. 

 


 

True to my word, I helped Rylie avoid James like the pathetic coward- ahem, reasonably embarrassed person- that she was. I managed to drag her down to breakfast; the Slytherin table was nearly deserted as our house slept off their hangovers from the party. 

 

About ten minutes into eating, James walked in beside Albus, the two looking remarkably similar with their disheveled dark hair and easy smiles. The two of them had clearly had hangover potions of their own, since aside from the bed heads they looked far better than Rylie. 

 

“Potter sighting,” I hissed across the table. 

 

Rylie, who’d been half asleep on her arm, shot up suddenly. “Shit! Coming toward us or Gryffindor?”

 

Albus and James turned toward our table as they walked, though they seemingly hadn’t spotted us yet. “Definitely our way,” I frowned. 

 

Rylie cursed again, glancing around a little frantically. Finally, she huffed and slipped down her seat and disappeared under the table. 

 

I rolled my eyes. “Really?”

 

“Shhh!” She snapped, already crawling away. “I’ll see you back in the dorms, alright?”

 

“Alright,” I chuckled, feeling silly now that I was sitting alone. 

 

The Potter boys reached me not long after, Albus shooting me a smile that made my breath catch while James looked at me questioningly. “Hey Tara,” he said slowly. “Am I crazy, or did I see Rylie drop under the table not twenty second ago?”

 

I froze, eggs falling off my fork. “Uh- no idea what you’re talking about,” I said, putting all my effort into not looking toward the end of the table, from which Rylie had emerged. She sprinted to the doors with astounding effort for someone so hungover. 

 

“Really?” Albus smirked. “Because I just saw her crawl out from under it and run away.”

 

I glared at him. “You must be mistaken, because Rylie was never here.”

 

James rolled his eyes. “I’m guessing she told you what happened, then?”

 

“No idea what you’re talking about,” I replied hotly, tossing my hair. “You’ll have to be more specific.”

 

“You’re a loyal friend, Rivers,” he told me, grinning. “But cut the shit. I told Al already, it’s not like it’s new information to anyone here.”

 

“Leo’s going to kill you,” Albus sang, filling his plate with bacon. 

 

“Shut it,” James growled. “He’s not going to kill me, because no one is going to tell him.” He paused, glancing at me. “Well, I’m assuming, at least.”

 

“Don’t worry,” I laughed. “Rylie would probably sooner shave her head than tell her brother you snogged her.”

 

He looked rather put out over that. “Is shaving her head really preferable to admitting to snogging me?”

 

“Have you met her brother?” I raised my eyebrows. 

 

He groaned and dropped his head forward onto the table. Albus pat his brother’s head sympathetically, though his smirk made the gesture seem a little dubious. 

 

“Cheer up, mate,” Albus said through a mouth full of food- and I’d snogged this gross idiot? “It could have been worse. You could have knocked her up.” He paused. “You didn’t, did you?”

 

“There’s a middle step between snogging and impregnating that you seem to be missing,” James hissed, shooting his brother an irate glare. “And since that didn’t happen, no I didn’t bloody knock her up.”

 

“Thank fuck,” he sighed as I amusedly reached for my juice. “I’m too young to be an uncle.”

 

I snorted into my juice, some of it spilling up across my forehead. James made a face at me. “Attractive, Tara,” he said dryly. 

 

“Fuck off,” I growled. “Go knock up Rylie.”

 

Albus laughed at that while James colored. “If Leo would kill him just for kissing her, what do you think he’d do if James actually impregnated her?”

 

“I daresay it’d be enough to have James begging to be Crucio’d,” I snickered. 

 

“Alright, I’m officially sick of you two actually getting along,” James said loudly, pushing himself up from the table. “I’m going back to my own house. Jerks.”

 

“Bye Jamesie,” I called after him as he stalked away to the Gryffindor table. “He must really not want to sit with us if he’s going over to where Leo’s sitting.”

 

Albus smiled crookedly at me, and I mentally cursed every deity to have ever been imagined, worshiped, or prayed to- one of them had to be responsible for making Albus Potter so nice to look at, and that was the one I wanted hanged, drawn and quartered by all the other deities. 

 

It was possible that I was slowly going insane. 

 

As I continued my mental ravings against the gods, Albus said something in reply to me that I completely missed. 

 

“Tara?”

 

“Sorry, what?” I shook my head quickly, trying to rid it of all crazy thoughts about murder and deities and shagging Albus Potter and kittens and pumpkin juice and every other random thought that had come along. 

 

“Distracted, there?” Albus asked, smirking. 

 

“No,” I said defensively. “I was just- thinking about something.”

 

“About what?” he pressed, looking like he was thoroughly enjoying himself. “Me, perhaps?” 

 

Yes. “No.”

 

He laughed. “I’m glad you’re an only child, you know. I would have hated to have to deal with an overprotective brother after our drunken snog. Or our sober ones, for that matter.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Shut up. And technically, I don’t even know with certainty that I am an only child. I haven’t seen my mum in quite a bit, remember?” I was pretty sure my dad was dead. I mean, we couldn’t confirm that Frodarian was my father yet, but it wasn’t much of a leap to guess at. 

 

“My whole family considers you part of ours at this point anyway,” Albus said. “Dom would sucker punch me if she knew.”

 

“That’s true,” I realized, my eyes widening. “Why haven’t I told her yet? I’d love to see Dom beat the crap out of you, come to think of it.”

 

Albus sniffed. “Thanks, Tara. It’s always nice to know you care.”

 

I felt another ache in my chest as he said that. He was joking, of course. But suddenly all I could think about was our conversation the evening prior, and the way he’d kissed me on the forehead so gently. Like he genuinely cared. Did I care? Beyond snogging, had Albus become something more to me after all?

 

Of course he has, idiot, my internal voice scolded me. Remember how you felt when he offered to help you find your mum? 

 

I had to hand it to myself; that was a good point. Albus Potter being a good snog was one thing- but being a good snog who helped me with my life problems and took care of me when I was drunk and helped me with my Patronus? That was dangerous. 

 

He was saying something that I wasn’t hearing again. I blinked at him. “Er- sorry, could you repeat that?”

 

He rolled his eyes. “Am I that uninteresting? Bloody hell.” Not to look at. “I was saying that we ought to go talk to some of the teachers today about Frodarian Frelling.”

 

The name startled me from my objectifying ogling. “Oh! That’s a good idea, actually.” 

 

Talking to the teachers was something I wanted to do before going to the winter break, and that was approaching quickly, seeing as it was already November. I felt a pang of guilt as I recalled my fight with Mansir, suddenly, and wondered if I should include him in faculty members to speak to. 

 

Albus shot me a knowing look. “Want to talk to Mansir, too?”

 

I frowned. “Have you always been so perceptive?”

 

“We’ve spent a lot of time together despite years of dislike,” he grinned. “I’ve found I know you surprisingly well.”

 

I sighed. “I do want to talk to him.”

 

“Want to go now?” he asked. He’d scarfed down as food at some point, and I realized I’d finished my own food too. 

 

“Er- not really,” I admitted.

 

“Come on,” he urged. “Might as well get it over with. Like ripping off a bandage.”

 

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Why do you want me to fix things with Dex so badly?” I didn’t mean to use Mansir’s first name- it slipped out. Usually I was under better control around other students. 

 

Albus shrugged. “I just think it’d make you feel better. You look so down every time we walk into Defense now.”

 

I looked away, that familiar feeling of something I couldn’t yet put into words returning, the same thing I’d felt the prior night after our trip to the kitchens. This unwelcome feeling was growing awfully persistent. 

 

“I suppose I could do it now,” I mumbled at last. 

 

“Want me to come with?” he titled his head. 

 

“I wish,” I said with another sigh. “But he doesn’t know I’ve told anyone about my, er- situation. It’d probably be weird if I go apologize to him with you there.”

 

“What if he doesn’t know that I’m there?” Albus asked with a wicked grin. 

 

“How-? The cloak,” I smiled in realization. “You’d really come with me?”

 

“If you want me there.”

 

“Thank you,” I said, relief surging through me. Facing my problems had never really been my strong point, and having someone there, even invisibly, would make confronting this one all the more survivable. “Seriously, I appreciate this a lot.”

 

“Comes at a cost though- two more favors,” he winked. I chucked a roll at him. “Kidding, kidding. Come on, Tara, let’s go!”

 

I followed him, albeit a little reluctantly because I was still scared. We made our way out of the Great Hall and started up the stairs for the sixth floor, where Mansir’s office was. 

 

Along the way, I rehearsed what I’d say to him. I’m so sorry for saying you’re only my guardian as a legal formality. Obviously you mean more to me than that, you’re practically the only real family I have. I’m sorry for taking out an earlier fight on you and I hope you know that I am so genuinely grateful to you for everything you’ve ever done for me. 

 

That sounded good to me. Albus and I reached the outside of his office soon. After making sure no one else was around, he slipped on the Invisibility Cloak. I took a deep breath before knocking on the office door. 

 

“Come in,” came Mansir’s voice. 

 

I tentatively opened the door, making sure to widen it enough for Albus to slip through. “Er- hi,” I said quietly as I slowly headed inside.

 

Mansir looked up in surprise, before his expression turned wary. The last time I’d been in here, I’d snapped at him rather rudely, maybe for the first time in our lives. We didn’t generally fight in the past. 

 

“Tara,” he said carefully, and I took it as a sign of hope that he didn’t say ‘Miss Rivers.’ “What can I do for you?”

 

I thought of the speech I’d been working on in my head, and the thoughts I’d had on my mind for weeks. You’re not just a legal formality, you’re family, you’re special, I appreciate you, thank you for everything, please forgive me-

 

Predictably, I suppose, I simply burst into tears. 

 

Mansir jumped up from his desk in shock as I flung myself toward him, sobbing into his shirt. “Shh, Tara, bloody hell, it’s alright.”

 

“I’m-” sob “-so-” sob “-sorry!” I wailed, crying against him. 

 

Fucking hell, why had I told Albus to come with me? Now that idiot had seen me cry profusely like a sodding child

 

“I know,” Mansir said soothingly, brushing my hair back, letting me cry against him. “It’s fine, Tara, it’s alright.”

 

I stepped back, tears still running down my cheeks and my nose more than likely red. “You’re not just a formality,” I sniffed. “Honest.”

 

Mansir smiled at me. “I know Tara. You were worked up from your fight with Potter. I shouldn’t have taken it so personally.”

 

I took a shaky breath. “Okay. Good.”

 

“Honestly, I should have seen a snap like it coming considering it was Potter who had ticked you off,” Mansir went on, rolling his eyes. “The bloke’s been winding you up for years.”

 

“That’s because he’s a prat,” I supplied for the benefit of the invisible boy standing in that very room. 

 

Mansir snorted. “Sure, Tara. That’s why. Anyway, I think I only took it so hard because, well, let’s be real here, you’re some of the only family I have.”

 

I must have been near a certain monthly time, because I have no other excuse for what I did next. Shockingly enough, I started crying again. 

 

“Oh blimey, Tara,” Mansir laughed, pulling me in for another hug. “I didn’t mean to make you- shh, Tara, it’s alright.”

 

I let him console me for another minute or so, until I’d effectively cried myself out of tears. Wiping my running nose on my sleeve, I pulled away with a watery smile. “Sorry,” I said quietly. 

 

“No more apologies,” he waved a hand. “Like I said, I knew Potter had you worked up; really it was on me for taking you seriously after rowing with the bloke.”

 

“He and I aren’t that bad,” I said unconvincingly. 

 

Mansir raised an eyebrow at me, crossing his arms and leaning against the desk. “Really? Remember your Third Year when you set his textbook on fire, which ignited his desk?”

 

“He started that! He was making fun of my hair that day!” I argued. I’d cut my hair that day, I remembered. Since then, I’d let it grow out. 

 

“Because he had a crush on you, dumbass,” Mansir rolled his eyes again. I was secretly thrilled that we were back to a point of endearing bluntness, despite the insult. “Like you’ve had on him for who-knows-how-many years.”

 

I blushed furiously, hating that Albus was probably silently laughing at me at that particular moment. “Have not,” I mumbled. 

 

“Have so,” he shot back. “I’m close to sticking the two of you in detention for no reason just to make you work out your differences.” He’d actually already sort of done that without realizing it- at least he’d stuck me in detention. Albus being there and us working out our differences was coincidental. 

 

“That’s an abuse of power!” I cried. 

 

He smirked. “Respect your elders, Tara. Now don’t you have homework to do? You had Quidditch yesterday, and I’m sure there was some sort of party afterwards, so I’d imagine your weekend has been effectively devoid of schoolwork.”

 

I scowled. “Maybe.”

 

“Or would you rather be off snogging Potter?” he asked wryly. “We don’t have to have any talks do we?”

 

If I could possibly color deeper, I would have, but I genuinely believe I had already turned the most intense shade of red that a human being could manage. “I- no!” I spluttered, completely humiliated. “For fuck’s sake, Dex!”

 

He laughed, holding his hands up. “Alright, alright. Get going then, Tara. I still have about fifty papers to grade.”

 

“I hope you get carpal tunnel,” I hissed on my way out. 

 

“Good thing I can use magic then, right?” he called after me. 

 

I stormed out of his office, though this time it was in a fit of embarrassment rather than rage and regret, and this time Mansir’s laughter followed me down the hall. 

 

“Unbelievable,” I muttered to myself. 

 

I rounded the corner, and a moment later, Albus removed the Invisibility Cloak. To my annoyance, he was shaking in a fit of hysterical laughter. 

 

“Oh Merlin that was great,” he wheezed. “I’m so happy I was there to witness that.”

 

“Stop laughing at me,” I complained, practically trudging down the corridor. 

 

“I can’t,” he cried. “It was too funny. You’re so red, Tara.”

 

“I hate you.”

 

“Not according to ‘Dex’ you don’t,” he smiled cheekily. 

 

I let out an angry growl and punched him on the arm, hard. 

 

“Ow, Tara,” he moaned, finally no longer laughing. “Your arm is bloody strong.”

 

“Good,” I snapped. “I hope I broke yours.”

 

“Not quite,” he smirked. “I didn’t realize you were so into me that Professor Mansir would consider giving you the sex talk.” 

 

Could I Avada Kedavra myself? Would that work?

 

“I didn’t realize you had a crush on me in Third Year,” I raised a challenging eyebrow back, though it was probably a flimsy attempt at a comeback. 

 

He didn’t look phased. “That’s because you were as daft then as you were in Fourth and Fifth Year. At least this year you’ve started to see some sense.”

 

He shoved his hands in his pockets casually and strolled on as I slowed to a confused stop. Was he saying-?

 

“Albus!” I exclaimed, running a couple steps to catch up. He paused, turning to face me. 

 

“Yes, Tara, love?” he smirked back. I resisted the urge to smack it off his stupid face. 

 

“I-” I broke off, unsure of what to even say now. Mostly I just felt awkward, and embarrassed, and my face was still burning. “I’m confused,” I admitted. 

 

“I know,” he said, his smile becoming softer. “I’m enjoying it.”

 

“Why?” I furrowed my eyebrows. 

 

And then the bloody prick reached forward and kissed me. It was brief, lasting only a few seconds maybe. It was soft, and sweet, and just enough to leave me dying for more, yet feeling like I might float away. He pulled away far too quickly. 

 

“You’re cute when flustered,” he winked before turning away and continuing down the hall like nothing significant at all had transpired. 

 

I stopped watching and just watched him go. I myself was thoroughly perplexed, and still beet red. 

 

I resisted the urge to run back down the hall to Mansir’s office, drag the jerk out by his hair, and dropkick him. 

 

And that was nothing compared to the violence I found myself wishing on Albus Potter.

 


 

A/N:

 

Mansir just went full embarrassing-dad-mode on Tara and he doesn't even realize it. And Albus snuck in another kiss! And Rylie snogged James! Lots to talk about, isn't there!? Let me know what you guys thought about this chapter :) I love writing some of these side characters, I hope you all like them too. 

 

Just as a heads up, my updates are catching up to my current writing progress, and due to some business with work the last couple weeks I may not be able to get the super-fast updates up in as timely of a manner. I'll try for once a week, though. Sorry about that, everyone, and I hope that doesn't disappoint anyone <3

 

Thanks again to everyone who's been reading and reviewing! Love you all!

 

Cheers xoxo

 

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize. 



Chapter 11: Scorpius Deserved It
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 

Despite every urge to snog- no, Tara, not snog- to throttle Albus, I did end up catching back up to him so we could seek out the rest of the teachers and ask about Frodarian Frelling. 

 

No one knew who’d killed him, to my dismay. 

 

Madame Hooch told us he’d been a stellar Quidditch player, probably good enough to play professionally, even. Slughorn had no idea who he was, which meant he was probably a Muggleborn with mediocre Potions abilities. Neville didn’t remember the bloke at all, and neither did Pomfrey. 

 

The only person who’d had any information of value was Hagrid. 

 

“‘Course I remember Frelling!” Hagrid had boomed at Albus and I. “Nice bloke, he was. A bit odd, if I remember correctly, but a good man. He had a real knack for gettin’ on with all sorts of creatures.”

 

“I don’t suppose you know how he died?” I’d asked with a frown. 

 

“’Fraid not,” he’d said. 

 

“What about the rest of his Hogwarts life?” Albus had then asked for me. “We know he played Quidditch. Did he have friends that you remember? Family? A girlfriend?”

 

“I don’ know ’bout family,” Hagrid admitted. “But he did used to bring a girl down to visit some of the critters from time to time. Shy girl, she was, an’ they never came down together to see me, they’d only ever meet up there separately. Strange kids.”

 

“Do you remember who the girl was?” I’d asked, almost frantically. 

 

He didn’t. He didn’t know who she was, and he didn’t remember what she looked like. 

 

But I would bet anything that that girl was my mother. 

 


 

Our lack of answers had me feeling a little down the next couple weeks, to the bewilderment of my friends. They didn’t know what was causing my sullen mood, but to my gratitude they didn’t pester me about it. Mostly they just tried to help me feel better with distractions. 

 

“I’m on a mission,” Rylie announced to me in the dorm one night. I was working on a paper for Transfiguration, while she lay on her own bed reading Witch Weekly

 

“Oh no,” I said, looking up from my homework with a frown.

 

“Don’t look like that,” she scolded. “It’s nothing bad. I just woke up this morning realizing that it’s been three weeks since my last snog, and that snog was James of all people. I think it’s time to change that.”

 

Rylie and James finally stopped ignoring each other about a week and a half after their kiss; they were opting to pretend it had never happened for the time being. Though curiously, James stopped asking me for girl advice around the same time. 

 

“And who exactly are you planning on going after?” I sighed. 

 

Rylie grinned at me over her magazine. “Not sure yet, actually. Someone outside the Wotter family, that’s for sure.”

 

“Really?” I asked wryly. “Because I heard Albus is available.”

 

She snorted. “Yeah, right. The day Albus Potter looks at someone that isn’t you, I’ll eat my toe.”

 

I flushed slightly. It was true that he and I had spent a considerable amount of time together. Since kissing me on the sixth floor the day I’d made up with Mansir, we’d found ourselves back to our weird friendship, overall ignoring that it’d happened. He was the only one who knew why I’d been down, so he’d taken it upon himself to try to cheer me up with surprise sweets, occasionally dragging me out of the castle to fly around the pitch, and accompanying me to the Room of Requirement on Mondays. 

 

“We’re just friends,” I replied feebly, chewing on the end of my quill. 

 

“Right,” Rylie snorted, looking unconvinced. 

 

“We are!” I cried. 

 

“Because that’ll hold up when you go home with the Weasleys for Christmas,” she shook her head. “Alcohol, mistletoe, Victoire’s wedding… it’s an absolute recipe for romance!” She looked thoroughly delighted at the thought. 

 

“Well I’m sure James will spend most of his holiday at your place, hanging with Leo,” I shot back. “So maybe you can just snog James again!” I smirked as her expression slipped into a scow. 

 

“Shut it,” she mumbled. “You can snog James.”

 

“I’d rather not,” I snickered. I had a slight preference for the other Potter boy, it seemed. 

 

I looked back at my paper, a small frown returning as I thought about Albus. I wasn’t sure why I was so insistent on ignoring the kiss, but he’d not brought it up either. Did that mean he regretted it? 

 

Thinking about Albus gave me stomach aches. 

 

Rylie glanced over from her bed, noticing my change in mood. “Tara, are you alright? You’ve been… off, lately.”

 

I shrugged half-heartedly. “Nothing important. Just some stuff.”

 

“Alright,” she said uncertainly. “Just- I’m here for you if you ever need to talk. You know that, right?”

 

A pang of guilt ran through me as I regarded my best friend. When had Albus become more of a confidante to me than Rylie? I felt horrible for not trusting her with my whole story, but at this point it was just easier to keep to myself. 

 

“I know,” I said softly. “Thank, Ry. Come on, let’s find you a bloke to snog!” I tossed my essay aside, and she did the same with Witch Weekly, smiling widely at me. 

 

“Yay!” she pumped a fist in the air. “You’re the best, Tar.”

 

“I know,” I said arrogantly, and the two of us left the dorm for the common room. She and I stood at the bottom of the stairs, surveying the area. 

 

I saw Scorpius and Albus sitting at a table playing wizard’s chess and dragged Rylie over to say hello. “Evening,” I greeted, taking one of the open armchairs around their table. 

 

“Hi Tara, Rylie,” Scorpius grinned. “Come to watch me crush Allie-bear, here?”

 

Albus scoffed. “Please, mate, I’m thinking ten moves ahead of you right now.”

 

“Actually,” I cut in before Scorpius could retort. “We’re looking for potential snog-buddies for Rylie.”

 

Rylie sat in the chair across from me, her arms folded. “Well I thought that was what we were doing,” she pouted. “Now we’re watching these two play chess. I want a snog, dammit!”

 

“Go snog Ethan,” Albus said absentmindedly as he ordered one of his pawns forward. 

 

We turned toward the fireplace, in front of which Ethan and Collin were playing Exploding Snap together. A small puff went off as a card exploded into black soot across Collin’s face. Ethan laughed at him before wiping the soot off Collin’s lips and giving him a quick kiss. 

 

“Thanks for that advice, Al,” Rylie glared at him. 

 

“I gave you advice?” Albus looked at her with furrowed eyebrows. He genuinely seemed to have no idea what she was talking about. 

 

“Your attention span is troubling,” Scorpius informed his friend with a smirk before sending his knight after one of the pawns. 

 

“Actually,” Albus smirked as he had his rook take the knight. “It’s just focused on the right thing. Check, by the way.”

 

Scorpius cursed under his breath, while Rylie huffed from her seat. “Come on, guys, help me out here.”

 

“Go snog James or something,” Scorpius waved a hand, not catching her gobsmacked expression. “We’re busy.” 

 

“Tara,” Rylie whined as I pulled a pillow out from behind me and laughed into it. My shoulders shook as I giggled, more than I had in weeks. “It’s not funny.”

 

I removed the pillow, trying to dry my eyes. “It is, though.”

 

Albus was beaming at me. I supposed it had been a while since he’d seen me happy. I don’t think I’d had a proper laugh since hitting our dead end in our questioning about Frelling. 

 

“I thought it was funny too,” he assured me. 

 

“Why is Rylie snogging James so funny?” Scorpius asked, clearly feeling left out. “Aside from the fact that Leo would shit himself.”

 

“That in itself makes it funny,” I grinned, not willing to betray Rylie’s secret. 

 

She sighed heavily, leaning back against the seat. “None of you are any help.”

 

“I told you James is an option.”

 

“Not funny, Malfoy.”

 

“Tara seemed to think it was-”

 

“Checkmate, Scor,” Albus smirked. 

 

“SHIT!”

 


 

Rylie had seemingly abandoned her sudden mission to find a snogging partner by the time Christmas break rolled around. 

 

Seemingly being the key word there. 

 

On the day we were to leave school, I was boarding the train with Rose, Scorpius, and Albus. Rylie had left ahead of us for some reason, though at the time I hadn’t thought to question it. I figured she was meeting her brother or something. 

 

I’d made sure to say goodbye to Mansir earlier, wishing him a happy Christmas and promising to mail him his present. 

 

I would miss him- I always missed Mansir when I left school. He’d become such a constant in my life for so long that it was always hard not seeing him. 

 

I walked at the front of our little pack as we made our way down the train, looking for a compartment. Walking past one of them, however, I skidded to a stop, outright double-taking before slamming open the door. 

 

Two people jumped apart so fast that one of them hit his head on the luggage rack while the other fell backwards onto one of the benches. 

 

“Holy shit,” I exclaimed. 

 

“Looks like someone took my advice after all,” Scorpius said from behind me. 

 

James rubbed his head, looking both sheepish and dazed. I wondered if that was from the kiss or from hitting his head so hard. 

 

Rylie, meanwhile, looked mortified, her face now dropped into her hands. “Dammit James,” she groaned. “This is all your fault.” She adamantly kept her face covered as she cowered in her seat, while James groaned in pain as he rubbed the top of his head. 

 

“It looked pretty mutual from where I was standing,” Albus smirked from my left. 

 

“Just leave it, Al,” James warned, dropping onto the seat across from Rylie, still rubbing his head. 

 

I sat beside Rylie, shooting her a pointed look that made her sink further down on the bench. Albus took the spot beside me, Rose and Scorpius sitting across from us. 

 

“So,” Scorpius began with a smirk. 

 

“Another word, Malfoy, and I will break your nose,” James growled, crossing his arms and looking out the window. 

 

Scorpius kept smirking. “Touchy. I was only going to say-”

 

“Before he breaks your nose,” Rylie cut him off. “I’ll break your neck. So tread lightly here, Malfoy.”

 

“A lot of hostility in this compartment,” Scorpius mumbled, pouting. “I was only going to ask everyone about their Christmas plans.”

 

“Yeah right,” Albus snorted. 

 

“I was!” he replied indignantly. “I was going to ask everyone where’d they be going, if you were all excited for Victoire’s wedding, how nice of a snog James is-”

 

For Scorpius’s own sake, I shot a bat bogey hex his way. 

 

I figured it was kinder than whatever Rylie and James would have done to him. 

 

“You can’t deny you had that coming,” Rose said softly to him, smiling slightly. 

 

He couldn’t respond, finding himself doubled over as bats flew out of his nose. 

 

It was only a few moments later that the compartment door swung open to reveal probably the last person anyone wanted to show up, given recent occurrences. 

 

“There you lot are,” Leo said. “I checked like four compartments looking for you guys. Why has Scorpius been bat-bogeyed?” He dropped beside Rose and casually threw an arm around her, until she elbowed him sharply. Scorpius glowered at him between bats escaping his nostrils. 

 

“It’s Scorpius,” James shrugged like it was obvious. “When doesn’t he deserve to be hexed?”

 

“He was making a play for your sister, Leo,” Albus said with a smirk worthy of the Malfoy across from me. Scorpius looked at Albus in horror, who just shrugged back as if to say that’s what you get

 

I couldn’t help but go along with it. “Yeah, so I hexed him in her defense,” I nodded at Leo, who was now glaring daggers at Scorpius. 

 

Rose looked between Albus and me with a frown. “I need to stop surrounding myself with Slytherins.”

 

“You hit on my sister?” Leo demanded from a cowering Scorpius. At least the bats had ceased. 

 

“No,” he shook his head quickly. “I didn’t, James-”

 

“I tried to warn him,” James cut in, shaking his head sadly. “Have to look out for Ry, you know? But Malfoy’s incorrigible.”

 

Scorpius gaped. “What the fuck, guys?”

 

“What the fuck to you, mate?” Leo shouted at Scorpius, his own wand out. “Stay the bloody hell away my sister!”

 

“Yeah, Scor!” Rylie snapped, the corner of her lips twitching. She was never the best actor or liar- this was probably near impossible for her. “I’d like to keep my innocence intact, you know.” I almost lost it at that. Albus reached over and gave my wrist a subtle squeeze, warning me not to laugh. 

 

“Are you taking the bleeding piss?” Scorpius demanded from us. 

 

“Are you?” Leo raised an eyebrow. “Thinking you could get out of this?”

 

“Mate, I never-”

 

“Cut the crap, Scor, you’ve been sprung,” Albus sighed. “May as well apologize and ask for mercy.”

 

“Fuck your mercy, Al, I didn’t-”

 

“So you’d prefer no mercy, then?” I raised my eyebrows. “Because I have more hexes than bat-bogeys.”

 

“Oh come-”

 

“Might as well give it up,” Rose said to him with a sigh. “Next time, think before coming on to poor Rylie out of the blue.”

 

Prefect Rose Weasley joining in was officially too much for anyone to handle. Scorpius threw his arms up with an exasperated groan of defeat, while the rest of us erupted into laughter. 

 

Leo just stared at us all in confusion, his wand still out and his eyebrows drawn together. 

 

“The hell is happening?”

 

Poor Leo. 

 

“You’re a bunch of tossers!”

 

And I suppose poor Scorpius. 

 


 

I’d be staying at Rose’s house for most of the break, and then with Dom for the last few days. Normally, I stayed with Dom for longer, but with the wedding coming up, they needed space for Victoire’s planning frenzy. And, to be honest, I was far too scared to stay there before the wedding with the crazy Veela. 

 

We made our way off the train and found Ron and Hermione waiting with the Potters. “Rose!” Hermione cooed, pulling her daughter into a hug.

 

“Crushing me, Mum,” Rose mumbled. 

 

Hermione smiled at her as she pulled away before pulling me into a hug too. “And Tara! It’s so good to see you!”

 

“You too, Hermione,” I beamed back, feeling warmed from the hug. “Hi Ron,” I smirked. 

 

Rose’s dad raised an unimpressed eyebrow at me as Rose pulled away from him. “Taralyn.”

 

“I listened to the Cannons game the other day,” I said innocently. “They got rather demolished by the Harpies, didn’t they?”

 

“I hate you.”

 

“Ron,” Hermione frowned at him. “It’s just Quidditch.”

 

“But ‘Mione,” he pouted at his wife. “Taralyn’s bragging.”

 

“For good reason,” Ginny Potter smirked at her brother. “Wotcher, Tara,” she grinned, hugging me after she’d finished coddling her own children. James was running his hands through his hair, trying to put it back into place after she’d smoothed it down.

 

“Hey Ginny,” I said. “Hi Harry.”

 

“Tara,” Harry nodded back. “I was almost worried when I didn’t receive any owls about Albus and you blowing up a classroom this term; I thought one of you might have died.”

 

“We have a steady truce going,” Albus answered for me, grinning at me. 

 

“My god, I feel faint,” Ginny held a hand to her chest. 

 

“So dramatic, Mum,” Lily Potter shook her head. I hadn’t even seen her approach. 

 

“Lily!” Ginny exclaimed, pulling her daughter into a hug. 

 

“Mum,” she whined. “Gerroff.”

 

Hugo had also joined our gathering. “I don’t know why you all still insist on the big welcomes,” he rolled his eyes. “It’s been too many years and there are too many Wotters.”

 

“Hugo,” Hermione scolded. “At least pretend to be happy to see us.”

 

He laughed and gave his mum a quick hug. “I am, Mum, I am.”

 

I watched the families interact for a moment and felt a slight ache in my chest, the same way I did every year. 

 

What would life have been like if my mum hadn’t raised me in the Room of Requirement? Would we be here, like this, sharing a warm welcome and hug and catching up on the last couple months like the Weasleys and Potters? 

 

I stifled a sigh. 

 

“We’re going to head back to the Potters’ house if that’s alright with you all,” Hermione said to Rose, Hugo and me. “The others will be joining us for a welcome back dinner!”

 

“Never a quiet moment, is there?” Rose asked, but she was smiling. 

 

“Not in this family,” Ron snorted. “Let’s get going, then!”

 

We paired up with the adults, save for James who was of age, and apparated, first stopping at the Weasleys’ home to drop our trunks before heading to the Potters’ home. 

 

I adored their home; who wouldn’t? It was a massive house, with a huge garden and a Quidditch pitch out back. 

 

The best part about it, though, wasn’t the size- I mean I grew up in a literal castle. The best part was how homey it was. Harry and Ginny had gone to great lengths to keep the place from seeming stuffy or pretentious, so the place always looked lived-in and personalized. 

 

I found myself walking through one of the hallways while the other families gathered in the sitting room. There were animated pictures along the walls, showing the Potter children at different ages. 

 

I found one with a small James and an even smaller Albus playing on toy broomsticks together. In another, James and Albus held two sides of a blanket, Lily resting in the middle of it while they rocked her back and forth. She looked to be about three. 

 

In one of the photos, Ginny was throwing a small Lily into the air before catching her and planting a kiss on the laughing girl’s cheek. 

 

I smiled at that one a little sadly. 

 

“Alright, Tara?”

 

I turned and shrugged at Albus, who was watching me curiously. “Just looking through your pictures. They’re adorable.”

 

He smiled as he came to stand beside me. “You should tell that to Lily. She’s convinced they’re ‘embarrassing’ and is always begging Mum to take them down.”

 

“I like them,” I lightly touched the frame of the one of Lily and her mum. 

 

Albus glanced down the hall, and, upon seeing we were alone, stepped closer and slid an arm around my waist before planting a quick kiss to my temple. I looked at him in surprise. I thought we'd gone back to a friends-sort of thing, but his actions were remarkably affectionate. It reminded me of the way he'd treated me the night I'd gotten drunk after the Quidditch match. 

 

“You deserved better, you know.” His eyes were soft as he looked down at me. 

 

I said nothing. Did I deserve more? I wasn’t that nice. And I was relatively average in school. I didn’t have the slightest idea what I wanted to do after Hogwarts. Maybe my mum was better off without me. 

 

Still, I didn’t want to be a downer. So instead of arguing, or questioning our closeness, I just leaned my head against him and let him hold me for a moment. His warmth was appreciated.

 

I didn’t understand what we were anymore. Our back-and-forth between friends and something more was becoming more exhausting than our previous back-and-forth of rowing and snogging. I wasn’t sure what was holding me back from just letting things happen at this point. 

 

Standing against him like this, peacefully quiet, his arm around me and my head leaning back against his shoulder- it felt nice. We still hadn’t talked about the most recent kiss, which bothered me since we’d been pretty open about things in the past, but in that moment it was like things were different in a really, really good way. It was natural. 

 

A throat cleared, startling us both. I jumped away from Albus, while he stepped the other way, resulting in an obviously awkward amount of distance left between us as we glanced down the hall. 

 

“Sorry to interrupt,” Teddy Lupin smirked. He strolled down the hall toward us. “I thought I’d come see where you’d disappeared to, Tara, since I hadn’t really gotten to say hi yet. And Al, I thought you were off to use the loo?”

 

“Hi Teddy,” I mumbled, letting him give me a hug. Out of embarrassment and a touch of resentment at having been caught in a weird position, I didn’t hug him back. 

 

“So how long’s this been a thing?” He asked, looking between Albus and me with the same amused grin. 

 

“It’s not a thing,” Albus muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. “Go away, Ted.”

 

“Can’t do that, now,” Teddy shook his head. “Who knows what you’d get up to without proper supervision?”

 

I dropped my head into my hands. “Oh Merlin. Teddy, please just don’t tell anyone about this?”

 

Teddy pretended to think about it. “I don’t know, Tara.”

 

“Keep it to yourself, Lupin,” Albus snapped. “Or I’ll tell Victoire about the love letters you used to write to Aunt Hermione when you were ten.”

 

Teddy narrowed his eyes. “You really are a snake, Potter.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Tell me about it. This whole not-a-thing started with him blackmailing me.”

 

“Ah,” Teddy grinned again. “That sounds like a Potter-level romantic gesture.”

 

“Didn’t you propose to Victoire with a plastic ring you’d won at a Muggle arcade when you were drunk?” Albus questioned.

 

“That was the first proposal,” Teddy mumbled back, shoving his hands in his pockets. 

 

“The first of- how many was it, again?” I asked, tilting my head. “I’ve heard three, from Dom, but I’d wager there were more attempts we didn’t even hear about.”

 

“I know about at least two that you don’t,” Albus smirked at me. “So I’d say we’re at at least five now.”

 

“Alright,” Teddy said loudly. “Point taken, I’ll keep my mouth shut. I’m going back to the party.” He turned and grumbled as he walked back, his blue hair having turned a deep red as he muttered things about “stupid Slytherins” and “bloody teenagers.”

 

“Poor Ted,” Albus grinned. “Shall we go back to the others?”

 

“Probably,” I laughed. “He’s going to accidentally blab to someone if we aren’t there to watch him.”

 

We headed back toward the sitting room, where we found a plethora of Weasleys scattered about. Fred was catching up with James, the two looking deep in conversation about Quidditch as James gestured wildly with his hands. Rose and Lily had seemingly been cornered by Victoire and Fleur and were caught up in wedding talk. Ginny, Hermione, and Angelina were standing by the back doors with glasses of wine in hand- I eyed them enviously. I could go for a drink myself. 

 

Teddy had found Hugo, the two standing with Bill, Ron, and Harry. I spotted George animatedly talking to his daughter, Roxy, about something while she looked around desperately for an escape. Meanwhile, Louis was tugging his arm away from his sister- 

 

“Dom!” I called as I spotted her. She’d been trying to pat down Louis’s hair to his chagrin. 

 

“TARA!” She shouted, causing almost every head in the room to look her way as we both surged forward and crashed into a huge hug. “Oh my Merlin, I missed you so much,” Dom cried. 

 

“Missed you too Dom!” I said. “Hogwarts is not the same without you.”

 

“I bet,” she flipped her hair arrogantly. “How’s the team holding up without me?”

 

“Brilliantly,” I grinned. “The new Keeper’s got nothing on you, but Scor is keeping us plenty in shape.”

 

“More than plenty,” Albus mumbled as he caught up to us. “Hi Dom.”

 

“Hey Albie!” Dom said, pulling her cousin into a crushing hug. He flushed at the name. I smirked at him. 

 

“Yeah, hi Albie,” I snickered. 

 

“Fuck off,” he snapped.

 

“You two haven’t changed,” Dom chuckled. 

 

Oh, Dommie. If only you knew. 

 

Albus threw me a smirk when she turned her head and I struggled to keep myself from smiling back. “So tell me everything about Hogwarts!” Dom demanded, tugging me away from Albus. “I barely got any letters from you all term, I was so close to sending you a howler! I want boy gossip, and Rylie gossip, and Quidditch drama gossip, and all the other gossip! Start spilling!”

 

I laughed as she dragged me across the room toward the kitchen. “Fine, fine, I’ll start spilling, but first I need some wine.”

 

“That can definitely be arranged,” she grinned wickedly.

 


 

“You’re telling me Malfoy still hasn’t made a play for Rosie yet?” Dom demanded. We were sitting in the backyard in a hammock, glasses of wine in hand. The rest of the family was still in the house. 

 

I loved this spot. The garden behind us lit up as the sun went down, illuminating the flowers and hedges and fountains in a beautiful array of color. I was grateful it hadn't been snowed over yet, and the heating charms around us made the backyard feel nice. 

 

“Nope,” I shook my head. “They’re still dancing around each other like idiots.”

 

“Damn,” Dom sighed. “Fred and I had a bet. I owe him ten galleons.”

 

I laughed. “You bet on Scorpius growing a pair? Fred deserves those galleons.”

 

She snorted. “You have no faith in your friends.”

 

“None,” I shook my head, grinning. 

 

“And how has dealing with Albus been without me there to slap him into place?” Dom asked. She really had always been a good buffer to have around when we fought. Albus was somewhat scared of her. 

 

“Surprisingly well,” I said carefully. “We’re friends now.”

 

She choked on her wine, which, speaking from experience, just seemed painful. “Bloody hell, you’re friends now?”

 

“We are,” I nodded. 

 

“Friends?”

 

“Friends.”

 

She stared at me. “I’m shocked. Stunned. Flabbergasted, really.”

 

“It’s not that big a deal,” I rolled my eyes. 

 

“It really is, though,” she argued. “I’d honestly expect you to tell me you were shagging or something before telling me you’re friends.”

 

What!?” I exclaimed, nearly spilling my glass. 

 

She shrugged. “I figured you’d give into the sexual tension before you’d ever bury the hatchet.”

 

“Sexual tension,” I repeated, gaping at her. “You’re shitting me.” Alright, so maybe it wasn’t that surprising to hear. We’d snogged how many times now?

 

“Come on, Tara,” Dom sighed. “You can’t still be in denial over it. In fact, I need you to not be.”

 

“Let me guess,” I said wryly. “You have galleons riding on it.”

 

She smirked. “What can I say? Betting on my friends makes post-grad life worth living.”

 

“What were the details of this bet?”

 

“Well I thought that you’d have snogged by now,” she shrugged. “Fred thought you’d have shagged. Uncle George said you’re both stubborn arses and that nothing would ever happen between you two.”

 

George can suck a butt, I thought. Stubborn arses, my… arse. 

 

“So nothing happened?” Dom frowned. I knew I should tell her. I’d always told Dom everything. But if I told her she’d won her bet, then even more people would inevitably find out, and right now I just wanted to keep it to myself. 

 

Tell her, Tara, my subconscious yelled. 

 

I can’t, I argued. 

 

She’ll find out eventually, and it’ll be worse if you wait.

 

Not if she never finds out. Albus and I aren’t even together. 

 

You’re an idiot and a lost cause. Good luck out there.

 

“Tara?” Dom pressed. 

 

I sighed. 

 

“Nothing happened. Sorry Dom.”

 


A/N:

 

Hi everyone! I'm really happy I was able to get something out this weekend. I know not too much happened in this chapter, and it was probably not the most exciting, but I still liked writing it. It was a more of a chapter full of character moments I suppose, rather than any monumental events. Although, James and Rylie did kiss again. You'll find out more about them very soon. 

 

Rose and Scorpius are a bit of a late-game for me in this one. I love the two of them together, don't get me wrong, but I think having three couple things going at once would just be a bit much, and I like the idea of drawing it out more since they're already friends in this one. 

 

Thank you so much to everyone who left such supportive and kind comments on the last chapter! I'm definitely going to try to keep getting a chapter out once a week. I wish I could manage more than that, but I know you guys all have a lot going on to so I'm sure being busy is a pretty relatable issue right now. 

 

Anyway, hope you all enjoyed!

 

Cheers xoxo

 

-K

 

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize, as always :)



Chapter 12: I Get One Heck of a Christmas Present
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A/N: This one gets a little mature, just as a warning:) 

 


 

Normally, I’m quite the early riser. I typically wake up before everyone else and have a couple hours of spare time before everyone joins me. 

 

Christmas morning, however, that was not the case.

 

“IT’S CHRISTMAS!” Hugo’s voice rang down the hall. “Christmas, Christmas, everyone wake up!”

 

“I’m going to ring his neck,” Rose growled from across the room we were sharing. 

 

“Christmas!”

 

“Shut the fuck up Hugh!” I heard from down the hall.

 

“Don’t swear at your son, Ronald!”

 

“Bloody hell, ’Mione, it’s five-thirty!”

 

“Christmas!”

 

“SHUT IT HUGO!” I bellowed myself. 

 

Our door flew open a moment later, and the lights switched on, making Rose and me each groan in annoyance. 

 

“Tara,” Hugo whined. “It’s-”

 

“Christmas?” I interrupted, sitting up to glare at him. “Is it? I had no idea, really.”

 

He grinned sheepishly. “Well, everyone seems to be up now… may as well get out of bed now.”

 

“Hugo,” Rose said in a low voice, sitting up in her own bed. “I’d find somewhere else to sleep for the rest of break. Because I will smother you in your sleep.”

 

Hugo let out a small, nervous laugh at his sister’s menacing tone. “You know, I just remembered, I had some things to take care of, er, downstairs. I’ll just, um…” he backed away quickly and all but sprinted out of the room.

 

“Nice job, Rosie,” I beamed at her.

 

She sighed. “Yes, but to what use? We’re all up now, aren’t we?”

 

“I guess we’ll just have to go make him regret it,” I smirked, an idea forming in my head. 

 

“Oh gods,” Rose frowned, seeing my expression. “I hate that look. That’s your weird blend of a Rylie and Scorpius smirk.”

 

“They’ve each taught me some valuable life skills,” I said solemnly before swinging my legs over the side of the bed. “If you’ll excuse me, now.”

 

She giggled as I quietly made my way out of the room and down the hall. Years of sneaking around inside the Hogwarts walls paired with athleticism had me remarkably agile and quiet. 

 

First, I stopped in the bathroom to pick up a couple necessary supplies. I filled my arm up with some rather colorful items before quietly letting myself out and heading down the hall. 

 

I crept down the stairs, following the sound of Hugo rummaging around downstairs. He was in the sitting room from what I could hear, and was probably scoping out the pile of presents, trying to guess at what was inside of his. Sure enough, after silently stepping off the last step, I peeked around the corner and found him shaking one of the packages. 

 

The git hadn’t bothered to turn the lights on downstairs, and the sun still hadn’t come up enough to light up the room (which goes to show just how early the prat had woken us all up). I used the dark to slip through the room, until I was only a couple steps behind him. 

 

Finally, he put down his present and moved to turn around. 

 

That was when I jumped him. 

 


 

“Stop laughing at me, Lou,” Hugo mumbled, his arms crossed. 

 

“I can’t,” Louis Weasley wheezed, holding his stomach as he doubled over laughing. “Your face!”

 

Hugo glared at me from across the table. “Thanks for this, Tara, thanks so much.”

 

“To be fair,” I smirked. “Your father was the one who made it stick with magic. I just drew it.”

 

“How’d you manage that?” Dom asked from beside me, grinning at her cousin as he attempted yet again to rub off the lipstick artwork off his face. It wouldn’t budge though.

 

“I tackled him,” I snorted. “Surprisingly easily, too.”

 

Louis laughed harder. “You got taken down by Tara, mate?”

 

“She snuck up on me!” Hugo protested, the tips of his ears red.

 

“You deserved it,” Rose said from my other side, grinning at her brother. “You woke us up too early.”

 

“I was simply embracing the Christmas spirit you were so desperate to spread,” I smiled, twirling the ends of my hair with my fingers. 

 

Dom snickered. “He does look rather spirited.”

 

“I hate you all,” Hugo said, huffing. I couldn’t look at him without laughing. I’d drawn candy canes on either cheek, given him a red nose (like Rudolph, though it looked rather clown-like), and I’d tried to draw several ornaments that hung down his forehead, but he’d shoved me away before I could finish more than two. 

 

The result looked horribly inappropriate. It would have looked lovely and Christmaslike if he’d have just let me finish. Now it was my fault that it looked like a pair of bollocks hanging down his face? The very insinuation was bollocks if you ask me. 

 

Ron and Hermione had rushed downstairs at the sound of Hugo screaming at me that morning, and to my delight, Ron shot a sticking charm before Hugo could wipe the makeup off his face.

 

Molly Weasley Sr. had smacked her son across the back of his head when she learned he’d charmed his own son, but I’d explained what had caused it, and she took a picture of Hugo to save for her family album. I just adored this family. 

 

I could see Ron further down the table still pointing and snickering at his own son alongside George and Teddy. 

 

For supposed grown men, the whole lot of them were horribly immature. 

 

Looking a little past Ron, I caught Albus’s eye. He was sitting beside his sister and across from Fred and James, on the other far end of the table. He grinned when he saw me, gesturing toward Hugo and shooting me a thumbs-up. I laughed silently back. 

 

“Don’t mess my sleep next time,” I said when I turned back to Hugo. “Now you know the consequences can be dire.”

 

Hugo simply scowled.

 

After lunch, the Potter-Weasleys and myself gathered by the tree in the sitting room of the Burrow to exchange presents. I’d spent the prior few days in Diagon Alley with Rose, Dom, and Rylie shopping for Christmas presents. It had ended up a multi-day task because of the sheer magnitude of the Wotter family. There were way too bloody many of them. 

 

Most of them, such as the adults and the cousins I was less close with, received some generic things like lotions or socks. For my friends, however, I’d gone all out. Thank Merlin my mother had left me such a ridiculous pile of gold before she’d abandoned me forever. 

 

I’d gotten Rose a bunch of books, because she’s a nerd, but also threw in a necklace with a plumeria on the end and a note that read, “because I know you hate roses.” She really did despise those flowers. We’d always enjoyed that we shared the same favorite flower.

 

“Oh my gosh,” Rose laughed when she opened it. “Quick, open yours, Tara!”

 

Rose had given me the same necklace. We giggled like idiots over our similar taste and immediately wore our matching plumerias.  

 

To Rylie, I sent a bag of things she’d probably hate, just for laughs. It contained a golden snitch bracelet, an art set (she couldn’t draw or paint for shit), and a roll of toothpaste. But because I’m not actually a horrible friend, I’d picked a very expensive bag to hold it all in, a bag that I knew she’d love. 

 

She’s sent me a lovely coconut body cream, a gorgeous pair of sapphire earrings that matched the streak in my hair nicely, and, predictably, a picture of Albus that had been published in Witch Weekly’s “Hottest Young Bachelors of the Year” article. I had to quickly hide that before anyone could see it. Stupid Rylie. 

 

I bought her brother a bunch of products for George Weasley’s shop and added a note that he ought to test them all on the Potters since he was going to be staying with them in a few days. 

 

He sent back and absolute mountain of sweets, for which I was eternally grateful.

 

I sent Scorpius an embroidered set of Quidditch robes that read “Captain” across the back- and a bottle of shampoo specifically meant to preserve bleached hair. He’d probably give me laps for it, but hopefully the robes would make up for it. 

 

Scorpius sent back a letter, which nearly had me flying over to Malfoy Manor just to beat him over the head. It said, “Your gift this year is a list of things to work on over the break so that we beat Ravenclaw when we get back to school.” 

 

Luckily for his own sake, since I was ready to murder him, he followed it with an envelope and an attached note that read, “Don’t kill me. Here, go buy some shoes or something.” Inside the envelope was a pile of galleons, enough to buy me twenty pairs of shoes if I really wanted to. Rich kids, I shook my head.  

 

“What an idiot,” I heard Albus say from where he sat opening his own gifts. I glanced up and he showed me what Scorpius had sent him: a book called Quidditch for Children. I giggled at that.

 

“He just wants to help you,” I grinned cheekily. 

 

“It’s fine,” Albus smirked. “I sent him Chess for Dummies, so I suppose we’re even.”

 

For James, I found a nice watch and a cologne that I thought smelled a little too woodsy for my own tastes- but I knew Rylie adored it. It might have made me a terrible friend, but I like to think it was what made me her best friend.

 

“What a romantic gift,” James cooed jokingly. “I should’ve gotten you a nice lingerie set.” I punched him in the arm. “Ow, bloody hell, woman, I didn’t. I got you roller blades!”

 

I snorted. “James, you should have let me open the gift before telling me. But also… why?”

 

He shrugged. “Seemed like they’d be fun!”

 

Oh they would be. McGonagall and Mansir were going to kill me when they caught me skating down the halls of Hogwarts, but I was very much looking forward to it. 

 

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Albus eyeing his brother and me with a hint of annoyance. I smirked to myself. Somebody jealous, Al? 

 

I bought Dom two vouchers to a new salon in London, with the added implication that we’d go together. We hadn’t hung out much beyond Christmas shopping, and I wanted to change that. For someone so strong-willed and tough, she sure did tear up a lot when she opened it. 

 

“Tara,” she sniffed. “You’re the best. I can’t wait!”

 

I grinned back. “Me neither. We can go before I have to return to Hogwarts! It’ll be fun.”

 

“Brilliant,” she beamed. “Open mine, now!”

 

I pulled open a huge box, to find a pile of clothes. “Oh no,” I chuckled to myself. “What’d you do, Dommy?”

 

“I cleaned out a store,” she grinned wickedly. “Look at them all, go on!”

 

I did. There were three tops, each beautiful, a skirt, three sets of leggings, and at the bottom-

 

“Oh wow, Dom,” I breathed.

 

It was a gorgeous dress that I’d been eyeing one day on one of our shopping trips before I’d gone back to school. It was short, strapless, and black, flaring out after my hips. The skirt was covered in pretty white flowers. 

 

“I knew you wanted it,” she squealed. “You’re happy?”

 

“Of course I’m happy,” I laughed, throwing my arms around her. “Thank you!”

 

“You better wear it on New Years,” Dom commanded. “That’s the condition that comes with the gift.”

 

“I can do that,” I smiled before glancing down. “Er- Dom, what the hell is this?” I pulled out the piece of clothing that’d been lying beneath the dress, holding it up with just two fingers. It was some sort of lacy pairing of lingerie, a deep green color lined with black. My face immediately heated up. Thank Merlin the grownups were having their own exchange across the room. 

 

James burst out laughing. “At least I only joked about buying you lingerie- Dom actually did it.”

 

“They’re Slytherin colors!” Dom cried. 

 

“You’ve got to have that house pride in the bedroom,” Rose snorted. 

 

It took so much self control not to look a certain someone’s way at that moment. 

 

Speaking of whom, the last person to open a gift from me was Albus. I’d spent ages trying to work out what to get him. After three days of ranting to Rose and Rylie about how impossible it’d be to pick something, I finally realized the perfect gift for him. 

 

Now, watching him open it, I felt nervous. I hadn’t left a card- he’d know who it was from. I watched him scan the envelope for a name or some sort of label, but when he couldn’t find one, he shrugged and opened it. 

 

Albus stared at the gift in surprise. “What’s that, Al?” Rose asked, seeing his face. 

 

He pulled out a handful of paper. “It’s a brochure… and a voucher. For- bloody hell, for sailing lessons, this coming summer.” His eyes widened in shock and understanding.

 

“From who?” Lily demanded from her brother. “I want to sail, too, that sounds so fun!”

 

“Doesn’t say from who,” Albus said, though he had a small smile on his face that told me he knew exactly who had given him the lessons. “Looks like I have quite the interesting Summer to look forward to.”

 

As people continued opening their presents, Albus finally looked my way and caught my eye. He smiled widely at me and gestured toward the kitchen. I nodded and stood to meet him there. 

 

Once away from the crowd of Weasley-Potters, in the emptiness of the kitchen, Albus pulled me into a hug. “Thanks, Tara,” he said softly. 

 

“Of course,” I beamed. 

 

He pulled away and looked nervous. “So, your present. It’s not really tangible.”

 

“Oh god,” I rolled my eyes. 

 

He laughed. “It’s nothing like that. I swear. Nothing vulgar.”

 

“What is it?” I asked curiously. 

 

He took a deep breath, his expression far more somber than it’d been only moments before. “Tara… I know who killed Frodarian Frelling.”

 

I stared at him. “You- you what?” 

 

“I know who killed Frelling,” Albus repeated. 

 

“How?” I asked immediately, though I found it odd that my brain didn’t first want to know who

 

“I asked my dad,” Albus shrugged. “I didn’t tell him why I wanted to know, I just said that I’d found his name in the school records during detention and was curious as to how he died, since he’d been so young. So my dad went and found the Aurors’ file on the guy.”

 

My jaw dropped. He’d pulled Auror strings to get me this information? “So…” I asked slowly. “So who did it?”

 

Technically, it was never confirmed,” Albus said. “The killers used Frelling’s own wand to kill him, so they couldn’t trace the spell source. According to my dad, though, they’re completely certain that it was a family called the Burkes, one of the big Pureblood families.”

 

“They’re certain?” I asked, my eyebrows furrowed. “Then how was it never confirmed?”

 

“There was no hard evidence, apparently,” Albus frowned. “My dad said that even though Frelling was last seen on the same street as their family home, and that he was a known ‘associate’ somehow of one of the Burke daughters despite being a Muggleborn, and had apparently left a letter in his room from the Burke family threatening him, there was nothing concrete enough for conviction and the Burkes were let go.”

 

“Even though they still think they did it?” I asked.

 

“Yeah,” Albus nodded. “My dad said the Burkes even subtly admitted to it during questioning, but again, did it in a way that was ambiguous. It’s frustrated him for years.”

 

“Have they done anything since then?” I wondered. “Anything illegal or shifty?”

 

“Nothing more shifty than the other ex-followers of Voldemort,” Albus shrugged. “They married off their daughters to some other purebloods, they keep to themselves in their giant manor, and they treat the Auror department like it's a big joke to them.”

 

I glared at the floor. I didn’t understand what any of this meant. I thought I’d get answers from finding out who killed Frelling, like it would somehow answer all my questions about my parents. “I don’t understand,” I said at last. “Why would they kill him? For being a Muggleborn? I mean this was years after Voldemort’s death, so I don’t see why they’d bother. And who was the associate of his from within the family? My mother? I don’t get how she’d off him and then blame him for being left alone with me.”

 

“I don’t know,” Albus said softly, looking sad. “I wish I did.”

 

“This just doesn’t make sense,” I sighed. “Was Frelling my father? Because if he was, was one of the Burkes my mother? Or did my mother run because she was involved with him and knew he was a target of theirs?”

 

“And then we’d have to wonder why he was a target if not for knocking up your mum,” Albus guessed. 

 

“Which could include a world of possibilities,” I nodded. “This sucks.”

 

Albus looked miserable. “Yeah, it does. Shit, I’m so sorry, Tara, I thought this would be helpful, I didn’t realize-” he broke off, looking upset with himself. 

 

My entire demeanor shifted as I took in his guilty expression. “Al,” I said quietly. “Don’t feel bad. This was the most information we’ve found yet, and it was all thanks to you!” He wouldn’t look at me, so I tentatively reached out and turned his head toward mine. “Al,” I said again. “Seriously. Thank you. You have no idea how much it means to me that you’d help me investigate this at all- that you’d be here with me through all this confusion.”

 

“Well that part’s easy,” he said with a weak smile.

 

I kept a hand against his cheek, feeling his soft skin and keeping his smile fixed on me. He reached out and ran a hand down the streak of blue in my hair, letting his fingers gently slide through it. 

 

I tried to control my shaky breaths as I stepped closer and lifted my other hand to match the first on the other side of his face before pulling his face toward my own. 

 

This kiss was different from all the others. I suppose it was most similar to the small one he’d given me after the day I’d apologized to Mansir. It was full of something sweet; it was gentle, caring, kind, and everything else that I’d gone so many years not realizing completely encapsulated Albus Potter. 

 

But it also held our passion, and need, and suddenly I was pressed against the kitchen counter as his hands came to rest along my waist. His tongue entangled with mine while one of his legs ended up between my own and my hands found their way into his dark, soft hair. 

 

I sighed contently as he trailed kisses across my jaw, back toward my ear, making me shiver as he started to venture down my neck. 

 

The voices from the next room over were growing loud, causing Albus to pull away. We paused as we listened. It didn’t sound like anyone was coming our way, but clearly the family had finished with presents and were now progressing to the party part of the evening. 

 

I could hear the especially loud voices of Ron and George, which usually meant that alcohol had come into play. 

 

“Sounds like everyone’s a bit distracted,” Albus breathed into my ear. 

 

I looked up at him, his eyes dark as he grinned wickedly. 

 

I smiled back and nodded once, and the two of us snuck out of the kitchen and made a beeline for the stairs. I didn’t see anyone on our way there- everyone was clearly busy, and now that they were drinking, I suspected we wouldn’t be missed. 

 

Albus led me to his room, letting me in first and then locking the door behind us. 

 

I sat on the edge of his bed, suddenly overwhelmed with nerves. Recognizing my uncertainty, he sat beside me and gave me a quick kiss on the forehead before smiling reassuringly. “We don’t have to do anything, Tara,” he whispered. “Nothing you don’t want.”

 

“I want you,” I whispered back, meeting his eyes with what I’m sure was a matched expression of desire. 

 

He didn’t hesitate again. He reached forward and pulled me into another scalding kiss, his arms reaching around my back and pulling me close as I wrapped mine around his neck. 

 

Albus turned us and lowered me back onto his bed, hoisting me up toward the head of it. I let out a small squeak as I landed, and he chuckled huskily at the sound. He bent forward and captured my lips with his once more, and I was grateful for the bed because I felt positive that my legs would have given out otherwise. 

 

One of his hands interlocked with mine, while the other dug into my side. He started to kiss down my neck once more, making me gasp as he lightly nipped at the skin just below my jawline. 

 

I rolled my hips up needily, making him groan against my skin. He lifted his head and recaptured my lips, our tongues sliding together. Every inch of me was on fire, and every touch, kiss, bite, caress- they just fanned the flame, an inferno rising and sweeping over us both in a rush of need and a loss of control. I’d never wanted someone so badly- never felt so wanted. 

 

Some part of me was painfully aware that he was ridiculously experienced in this department, much more so than me anyway. He could easily have been as sentimental and caring with each other girl he’d ever snogged or slept with, right? This could be one big play, a con. 

 

But I didn’t think it was. You hear a lot of rumors about Albus Potter around Hogwarts, especially about his- er- ability regarding his ability in this area, but no one ever told me he could be so gentle. No one ever talked about how he’d sometimes pull away just to look you in the eyes and smile lightly before leaving small kisses on your cheeks and down to your chin, or how he could say your name so softly that it made you feel like your heart could sprout a pair of wings and fly away, or how he’d shoot you questioning glances before any particularly unchaste touches, always making sure you were okay. 

 

Something told me I hadn’t heard about any of it because it wasn’t the norm. It was just us. 

 

Even as our clothes were discarded, as he kissed down my collarbone and moved lower and lower until I was moaning his name, it wasn’t just carnal. It was a connection that I realized we’d been avoiding for too long. We’d spent years arguing, years that could have gone into building this, building this understanding, this bond, the mutual wanting that went beyond a physical need- not that the physical need was lacking by any means. 

 

And then we collapsed together, coated in sweat and shaking with pleasure, curled together while he ran a hand up and down my arm, his chest against my back.

 

I let out a breathy laugh. “I’d say that was a better intangible present.”

 

I felt his whole body shake as he laughed. “I’d say that was entirely tangible, Tara.”

 

I rolled over to face him, pleased to find his gorgeously green eyes shining as he smiled at me. “Fair point.”

 

“I did get you another present,” he said softly. 

 

“What is it?” I asked curiously. I wasn’t sure it’d top what had just happened, but he was welcome to try. 

 

He rolled away from me, pulling open the drawer to his bedside table. When he returned to me, he was holding a small box. “Happy Christmas, Tara,” he smiled, handing it to me. 

 

I took the box from him and quickly unwrapped it. Under the paper, the box was a light colored wood, sanded down until it was completely smooth. I ran a hand along the top, reading the small, engraved words: The Girl in the Walls.

 

I looked at him questioningly, but his face simply held a small, peaceful smile. Growing even more curious, I lifted the lid of the box. Upon doing so, music began to play. 

 

I laughed as “You Can Call Me Al” started to sound from the small box. “Where the hell did you get this?” I asked him, smiling. 

 

He shrugged. “I have my ways. I didn’t put anything in the box, since I figured the girls would probably get you plenty of jewelry of your own to fill it with, and I had no idea what you’d like.”

 

“Good call,” I nodded approvingly. “I’m terribly picky about jewelry.”

 

“Noted,” Albus smiled. “So you like it?”

 

“I do, Al, I smiled back. “Thank you.”

 

He leaned forward and kissed me deeply, pulling me on top of him. I giggled against him, putting the box down on his side table. 

 

“So you had your present for me up here the whole time?” I raised an eyebrow as I looked down at him. 

 

He grinned winningly. “I had a sneaking suspicion I’d have you up here at some point this break.”

 

“Cheeky tosser.”

 

“You love it,” he smirked, pulling me down toward him. 

 

He was right. I did love it. 

 


A/N:

 

Hi everyone! I'm alive! 

 

I cannot apologize enough for how long it's been. I've just been so busy with work, and my free time has mostly been going into spending time with my sister and trying to relax with some games and such. Crappy excuses, I know. I will be putting much more effort into getting back into a writing groove, because I've missed this site and this story terribly. I just sort of needed that break to devote a little more time to improving my mental health. 

 

Anyway, WHAT'D YOU THINK?? I feel somewhat awkward about writing that last bit, as I've definitely never done that before. I tried to make it not-too-detailed but still an existing scene. Let me know what you thought. If you want :)

 

I hope this major Tara-Al progress and another piece of the Frodarian Frelling puzzle make up for the absence!!! I promise to try to get updates out much more quickly in the future. 

 

Hope everyone's doing well!

 

-K xoxo

 

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize, it's all JK Rowling's. Except "You Can Call Me Al," which of course still belongs to Paul Simon. 



Chapter 13: Albus Has a Stuffed Corgi Named Sparrow
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A/N: HOLY SHIT, I KNOW, IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME, I APOLOGIZE AND I WILL TALK MORE ABOUT IT AFTER THE CHAPTER, AHHH I'M SORRY!


 

I didn’t see Albus again until Victoire and Teddy’s wedding, which was five days after Christmas. The morning of the wedding was absolute madness.

 

“Rose! Get in here already, I need to start your hair!” 

 

“Bloody hell Roxy, you can’t wear that to a wedding!”

 

“FRED! If you pull one more stunt before the wedding, I’ll make sure you never procreate again!”

 

“Lily, stop threatening your cousin!”

 

“WOMEN ARE NUTS!”

 

“Stuff it, Hugo!”

 

“Make me, Lucy!”

 

I chuckled to myself. Rose’s house had been deemed a headquarters of sorts for getting ready, so most of the family was over as everyone shuffled about from room to room. Most of the women were in Rose’s room, the bathroom, and Hermione and Ron’s room, since those were the largest spaces. The men, who needed significantly less time, were downstairs. Victoire had only selected Dom and two Delacour cousins as bridesmaids, but she still insisted on the rest of the family coordinating with colors and specially picked dresses, so the atmosphere was somewhat high strung. 

 

No one wanted to risk upsetting Victoire Weasley on her wedding day, so everything and everyone needed to look perfect. 

 

I myself was hiding in Hugo’s room with him, Ron, and George. I didn’t need long to get ready, and I was a little frightened of the Weasley family in times of chaos. 

 

“They are a bit bonkers, though,” George muttered. He looked rather amusing sitting on one of Hugo’s bean bag chairs, sunken toward the floor. 

 

“They’re not,” I defended, despite mostly agreeing with him. I have to be loyal to my own though, right? “It’s just a big day.”

 

“And yet,” Ron grinned as he lay on his back on his son’s bed, his head hanging off so that his face was starting to turn purple. “You’re hiding in here with us.”

 

“That’s because Tara’s scared of them,” Hugo snickered from the other bean bag. I myself was sitting on the floor in front of a mirror, plucking my eyebrows. 

 

“Not true,” I frowned. “There was more room in here, is all.”

 

“Sure,” Ron snorted. 

 

“Oi!” Fred popped into Hugo’s room. “Is this where we hide from the crazies?”

 

“Welcome, mate,” Hugo grinned. 

 

“Tara,” Fred said upon seeing me. “What are you doing here?”

 

“Fixing my eyebrows in the only room of the house that isn’t swarming with noise,” I smiled. 

 

“Ah, I see,” he nodded in understanding, a smirk crossing his features. “You’re scared of my cousins and aunts.”

 

“You are too,” I snorted. “At least I’m not supposed to be some sort of courageous Gryffindor. I’m all about that self-preservation.”

 

“Are you calling us cowards?” George demanded. “My missing ear says otherwise!”

 

“I fought off acromantulas!” Ron cried indignantly. 

 

“Uncle Harry said you cried during that,” Hugo smirked. 

 

“I heard you were saved by a car,” I added. 

 

“I did not cry!”

 

Harry, James, and Albus were all at Bill and Fleur’s place, getting ready with Teddy as his groomsmen, which was why they weren’t present alongside the other Weasley men. Bill, of course, was at Shell Cottage with Victoire, bless his soul. Percy was downstairs with Arthur, avoiding the chaos upstairs without having to sit in Hugo’s room with us degenerates. 

 

Unfortunately for me, my presence was soon summoned by Ginny and Lily Potter. “Is Tara in here?” came Ginny’s voice as Hugo’s door creaked open. 

 

“Hi Ginny,” I smiled. “What’s up?”

 

“Lily wants your opinion on her hair,” she explained. 

 

I stared at her. “Lily wants my opinion?” I was rubbish at that sort of thing- I usually just let Rylie do my hair back at Hogwarts. 

 

“You have the longest hair here, the only one with hair longer than Lily’s,” Ginny replied. “And it’s lovely! We’d love your input.”

 

“Er- I guess,” I said offhandedly, following her out of the room and ignoring the snickers of Hugo, Ron, George and Fred. 

 

Ginny and Lily had monopolized one of the bathrooms. Product and makeup was sprawled out across the counter, Lily seated on a chair they’d brought inside. Like the Potters, Rose lived in a huge house, which meant a lot of bathroom space.

 

“Hey Lil,” I smiled as I followed Ginny inside. 

 

Lily beamed at me in the mirror. “Tara! I’m glad you’re here.” Her face was coated in some sort of mask, and her fingers and toes were sparkling with fresh coats of paint. 

 

“Not sure why,” I admitted. “I can barely do my own hair.” I sat on the closed toilet beside her, not sure where else to place myself. Ginny stood behind her daughter, looking into the mirror. 

 

“Don’t me stupid,” Lily rolled her eyes. “You always look great. Besides, all we’re asking for is your opinion here.”

 

“I’m surprised Victoire didn’t give you some specific hairstyling instructions,” I said.

 

“We have to incorporate braids somehow,” Ginny replied, holding strands of her daughter’s hair and moving them about thoughtfully. “We’re trying to decide if we should do a crown, or some sort of half-up-half-down look, or an updo.”

 

She playfully maneuvered Lily’s hair into different directions as she described their options, making the younger one giggle lightly. 

 

I couldn’t help feeling a twinge of envy as I watched them any more than I could help the sudden rush of a nearly-forgotten memory. 

 

“Hold still, Taralyn,” the little girl’s mother scolded, though she wore a small smile.

 

“But Mummy, it hurts,” Taralyn complained. “You’re pulling it!”

 

“Only because you’re moving,” her mum rolled her eyes. “You said you wanted your hair done like the princess in your book, didn’t you?”

 

“Yes,” Taralyn pouted. 

 

“Then stop fidgeting, love, and let me finish.”

 

Taralyn sighed, but did as she was told- inasmuch as a seven-year-old ever does what they’re told. She flinched a couple times as her hair was pulled back into tighter coils. 

 

The Room of Requirement looked similar to its usual state when they were relaxing during the day hours. Taralyn was sitting in a chair by the window, watching the snow fall, while her mother worked on the girl’s hair. 

 

“Mummy?” Taralyn asked after a moment.

 

“Yes?”

 

“How come you never braid your hair?” Taralyn asked.

 

Her mother didn’t say anything at first. And then: “I haven’t had a reason to.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because we don’t see anyone else,” her mother explained, pulling another lock of hair into place.

 

“Oh,” Taralyn said quietly. “Well how come you leave it so long?”

 

“I like long hair,” her mum shrugged. “My mum wore hers long too.”

 

“Where’s your mum?” Taralyn asked with wide eyes. “Is she my grandmum?”

 

“Yes,” the older woman said softly. Taralyn was too fixated on a stuffed bear she’d been holding to catch the watery glisten that had taken in her mother’s eyes. “She is. And she’s far away, love.”

 

“Oh,” Taralyn said again, a little sadly. “How come she doesn’t visit?”

 

Her mother said nothing, biting her lip. Quickly, she conjured a mirror and held it for her daughter to take. “Here, Tara, look.”

 

Taralyn took the mirror and caught her breath at the sight of the braid that sat across the top of her head like a crown- just like the pretty girl had worn in her picture book. 

 

“Wow,” she breathed, looking at her mum with wide eyes. “I love it! Thanks Mummy!”

 

Her mother smiled down at her with a mix of endearment and relief. “Of course, love. You look beautiful.”

 

I shut my eyes. “Wear it up,” I said at last. 

 

“You sure?” Lily asked, holding her hands to her hair. “I was sort of leaning toward the crown, myself.”

 

“Trust me,” I shook my head. “Crowns are overrated.”

 


 

The wedding was, of course, beautiful. Victoire had a large setup near her family’s home at Shell Cottage, just along the beach. An arch was set up at the end of the aisle, looking like it was made out of a soft colored driftwood, with a white fabric draping off of it and light blue flowers woven into the corners. 

 

The ocean lay behind it, waves crashing down steadily. Victoire had been lucky that the day was clear. Of course, she’d had the whole area charmed to repel cold and wind, so we would have felt comfortable regardless. But really, it was a nice day out considering it was December. 

 

I sat between Rose and Lily. “Anyone want to start placing their bets on what goes wrong?” Lily whispered to us.

 

“Lily,” Rose frowned. “We’re her cousins, we shouldn’t-”

 

“Ten galleons says Teddy says something horribly inappropriate during his vows,” I cut Rose off, smirking. 

 

“I can’t bet against that,” Lily giggled. “It’s inevitable.”

 

Fred, sitting in the row in front of us, turned around and grinned. “I’ll bet against it. He’s too chicken to pull that during the wedding. Also, I bet you another twenty that Victoire’s already pregnant and that that was why she finally agreed to marry him.”

 

“You’re on,” I shook his hand. “Although good luck finding that out. Whether you’re right or wrong, she’ll kill you for asking.”

 

“Fair point,” Fred said thoughtfully. He turned his head and whisper-shouted, “Oi! Hugo! I need you to do me a favor!”

 

Lily and I snickered, while Rose rolled her eyes, but I still caught a small, amused smile. 

 

Soon, the whispers died down as the procession began. The crowd turned excitedly. A set of wide curtains had been set up behind the rows of chairs, and a moment later, they parted just enough for the first of the party to start through, the mother of the bride, Fleur Weasley. She looked peaceful as she gracefully walked down the aisle, smiling at the guests. 

 

After Fleur took her seat, Teddy came next. He grinned at everyone as he walked down, shooting some of the Weasley cousins finger-guns like a twelve-year-old until he reached the end of the aisle. I heard a camera snap during his walk, and couldn’t wait to hear VIctoire snap at him over it. She wouldn’t mean it- she loved his childishness. 

 

Next came the groomsmen and bridesmaids. Harry, being Teddy’s best man, walked Dom, the maid of honor, down the aisle. Dom beamed at me and waved as she walked by, and I smiled widely back. She looked gorgeous in her soft, burgundy gown (that would apparently match the napkins because they were, in fact, burgundy and not maroon). 

 

Behind them came James, walking one Delacour cousin, and then Albus walking another. I swallowed the instinctive jealousy that came with watching Albus escorting the beautiful, tall, blonde, her arm tucked inside his elbow. I knew it was just part of the wedding. 

 

It did help that as he walked by us, he shot me a subtle wink and a smirk. I bit back a smile and felt myself color. He looked gorgeous in his dress robes. 

 

The flower girl and the ring bearer were an adorable set of twins, the children of the older Delacour cousin. I cooed alongside Rose and Lily as we watched the little four-year-olds children clumsily walk down the aisle. The boy kept trying to hold his sister’s hand, but she kept tugging it free so she could throw petals out of her basket. The guests all laughed at that. 

 

And finally, Victoire made her entrance, with Bill Weasley standing by her side. For the second time that day, I struggled to push aside selfish thoughts about how I’d never have my father to walk me down the aisle at my own wedding. 

 

Assuming, of course, that I would ever actually allow myself to properly fall in love and get married. The likelihood didn’t seem great, admittedly, since the idea of love had always struck me as remarkably fleeting. 

 

I suppose a wedding isn’t the best place to have been thinking about such a thing. 

 

Victoire looked radiant, even more so than usual, which was saying something since she was easily one of the most stunning human beings I had ever known. Her dress clung to her, mostly, until it flared out near the bottom with a long train trailing behind her. But really, it was her own glow that made her so beautiful. She was radiating pure and genuine bliss with every step. 

 

Bill looked like he was already crying. I smiled at that. 

 

And then, I turned toward the front, just for a moment, to catch Teddy’s face as he took in the woman walking down the aisle to pledge herself to him forever. He looked so in awe, so struck with love and disbelief, and happiness, that for a moment, I started to reconsider every hangup I’d ever had about love and marriage. 

 

If love was what brought that look about… well, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. 

 

Soon, she reached the front, and after kissing her father on the cheek, she moved to stand beside Teddy. 

 

Their vows were as expected. Victoire’s were long, mushy, and a little predictable. Teddy’s were silly, yet sweet. 

 

“-and from that day on, I swore you’d be the woman I’d bone for the rest of my life.”

 

And there was the comment I’d been waiting for. I smirked as Fred turned around and slid me the owed galleons with a grumble. Beside Rose, Hermione shot us a scolding look, while the other Weasleys all either snickered or groaned in exasperation at Teddy’s comment. Poor Victoire looked mortified. 

 

After the ceremony, we were moved to a larger area of tables that were arranged around a dance floor, still outside, but also still charmed to stay warm. The spot was surrounded by tall posts, string lights hanging between them all. Against the sky, which was darkening as dinner was served, the lights almost looked like they were floating, like in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. 

 

“That was a gorgeous ceremony,” Rose sighed, as she sipped at her wine. 

 

“Until Teddy’s ‘boning’ comment,” Lily laughed. 

 

“That was about as romantic as I’d expect from Teddy Lupin,” I snorted from between them, scooping up a large bite of mashed potatoes. 

 

“It was better than almost every word out of George at his wedding,” Ron said from a few seats down, smirking. “Angelina was furious.”

 

“Your own vows weren’t much better, Ronald,” Hermione said wryly from Rose’s other side as she elbowed her husband. “I think your language was definitely worse than ‘bone’ if I remember correctly.”

 

“Oh god, don’t talk about it,” Rose said, putting her fork down. “I’ll lose my appetite.”

 

“You should hear the things my mum has said about herself and my dad,” Lily wrinkled her nose. “Are all parents so disgustingly open?”

 

“I think we’re just cursed,” Rose shook her head. “Tara? What about yours?”

 

I froze. I’d nearly forgotten that everyone still thought I had a normal family, after the time I’d spent talking to Albus about the truth. “Oh- er, no. But then again, I don’t talk to them much.”

 

“I can’t believe I haven’t met them after all this time,” Rose shook her head. “You practically live at my place.”

 

“You don’t want to,” I mumbled. “They’re- not very personable.”

 

“Fair enough,” she smiled. I loved Rosie for her politeness. She’d never push me on something I didn’t want to discuss.

 

After dinner, plates were magically cleared away by waiters, and people began to leave their seats to mingle while others took to the dance floor. Victoire and Teddy had already shared their first dance, and they’d now yet to leave each other’s arms. 

 

I stayed in my seat while Rose and Lily went off to find some of their other cousins. I rested my arms on the back of the chair as I watched Teddy and Victoire sway together. The way they looked at each other really was something. The more I saw of them, the less convinced I remained of my take that love was fleeting and not worth pursuing. 

 

I think one minute of the happiness shone on their faces might have made all potential pain down the road worth it. 

 

“I can’t believe I haven’t had the chance to talk to you yet.”

 

I shivered slightly, despite the warmth of the reception area. I hadn’t heard his voice in days. Turning around, I found him smiling at me, his hands in his pockets. Blimey, he looked good. 

 

“Hi,” I said softly, smiling at him. 

 

“Hey,” Albus cracked a grin- his lopsided one, my favorite. He held a hand out. “Want to dance?”

 

My eyes widened as I looked around. One of the Delacours had swept Rose into a dance. James had pulled his sister onto the floor to join him. Other Weasleys were either dancing or refreshing themselves at the bar, but everyone was still in view. 

 

“Come on,” Albus rolled his eyes. “It’s a dance, Tara, not a kiss. Although-”

 

“Alright, alright,” I cut him off quickly, taking his hand. “Let’s dance.”

 

He smirked and led me to the floor, pulling me toward him. One of his hands held my own, his other resting on my waist. I was grateful for his lead- I had no bloody clue how to dance. “You look beautiful, by the way,” he said softly. 

 

I smiled as my cheeks heated up. “Thank you, Al. You don’t look half-bad yourself.”

 

“I know,” he said arrogantly. “Vic and Dom’s cousins told me so.”

 

My smile slipped as my eyes drifted toward the head table, where the cousin Albus had walked down the aisle was talking animatedly with Dom. I couldn’t help how my expression darkened as I took in her stupidly perfect face. He followed my gaze and chuckled. 

 

“She’s got nothing on you, you know,” he informed me, grinning at my jealous reaction. 

 

I rolled my eyes as he spun me around. “She’s part Veela.”

 

“All the same,” he tilted his head at me, smiling still. I don’t think he’d stopped smiling since he’d found me. 

 

“I think you’re biased,” I countered.

 

“You have no idea,” he said in a low voice. Bloody hell, he was really on a mission to make my insides melt, wasn’t he? “Do you know how badly I want to kiss you right now?”

 

“Please don’t,” I sighed, despite how loudly the rest of me was screaming ‘please do!’ “Your family would go berserk.”

 

“Dom would probably punch me,” he nodded. Still, he pulled me a little closer, his hand moving from my waist to wrap around me further and rest on the small of my back. 

 

“No she wouldn’t,” I snorted. “She’d demand galleons from Fred, since they have a bet going about us.”

 

“What?”

 

“She bet on us snogging,” I shrugged, not divulging the rest of the details. 

 

“And Fred bet against it?” Albus raised an eyebrow. “He’s been taking the mickey out of me about you for years, that doesn’t sound right.”

 

“He bet we’d be doing… more than snogging,” I admitted, coloring again. “And wait, what do you mean years?”

 

Albus’s eyes widened. “Nothing. I said nothing.”

 

“You did not say nothing,” I narrowed my eyes. “Explain.”

 

“Nope.”

 

“Please?” I frowned. He’d pulled back slightly, but still held me as the next song started. We’d danced through a couple songs at this point, neither making any moves to stop. If he wasn’t going to stop us, I was hardly going to move away. He smelled good. 

 

“It was nothing,” he said again. “Really, just ignore me.”

 

But I couldn’t. Fred had been teasing him for years… about me? Had Albus liked me? For years? Where the hell had I been?

 

Please,” I tried again, pouting. He was making a deliberate point to avoid my eyes. 

 

“Not going to get me with a cute pout,” he said adamantly, looking away. “I’m far too macho.”

 

I snorted. “Is that right? That why you slept with a plush corgi until you were twelve?”

 

His gaze snapped back onto me, his eyebrows drawn together. “Who told you that?”

 

“I can’t betray my informant like that,” I smiled secretively. 

 

“It was either Lily or Scorpius,” he guessed, eyeing me with a scrutinizing glare. 

 

“Not necessarily,” I smiled innocently. “I could have found out about Sparrow all on my own.”

 

“Scorpius,” he growled. 

 

“How’d you know?” I demanded.

 

“Lily didn’t know its name,” he explained. “That bastard. I’m writing Leo tonight and telling him Scor shagged Rylie.”

 

I giggled, hiding my face against his shoulder to avoid laughing too loudly and ruining the peace of the slow song. “I can’t decide if you should worry more about Scorpius killing you for doing so, or Leo killing you when he finds out you’re full of crap.”

 

“I can take them both,” Albus boasted. “Bring it on.”

 

“Ah, right,” I teased. “Because you’re so macho.”

 

He tugged me a little closer. “Exactly.”

 

A chill ran down my spine at the proximity, and the way his voice came out as almost a growl. Bloody hell this boy had far too much of an effect on me. 

 

I nearly gasped. That gave me an idea. 

 

“Albus,” I said slowly, lifting my head and leaning so that our cheeks were nearly touching. “I’d still like you to tell me what you were talking about a moment before.”

 

He snorted. “Not happening.”

 

I let my cheek brush his, leaning just slightly forward so that my lips were almost against his ear. “You sure?” I asked softly, smiling as I felt his jaw clench. “What if I make it worth your while?”

 

He swallowed, hard from what I could tell. “Still no.”

 

I couldn’t very well seduce him with his entire family present- we were already closer than normal- but I’d have to risk it. Biting back a frustrated huff, I instead kept myself smiling and whispered, “I don’t think you understand, Al. I’m only curious- telling me would bring some immense satisfaction that I’d be entirely obliged to return.” His breath hitched at my words, his grip on my hand tightening.

 

I leaned back to a normal distance, letting him ponder my offer. There was obvious conflict in his expression, but his pupils had grown drastically to my delight. Maybe I’d weasel some answers out of him yet. 

 

Over his shoulder, Dom was dramatically waving her arms at me as she tried to catch my eye. I lifted an eyebrow at her questioningly. She gestured to Albus and me and shot me a what the fuck are you doing type of look. I just bit my lip and shrugged at her. 

 

Great, I thought. There’ll be no getting around explaining myself now. 

 

If I told her even one thing about whatever my relationship was with Albus, it was inevitable that I’d wind up caving and telling her near everything. I was sure I could rely on her discretion- at the very least, she wouldn’t want to lose galleons to Fred- but for some reason I’d just been very hesitant to tell her about Albus and me.

 

“You make a compelling argument,” Albus said at last, his dark eyes sweeping across my face and down to my neck, before dropping lower.

 

I smirked. “So you’ll tell me?”

 

“I’m considering it,” he mumbled, still eyeing me hungrily. It was driving me a little crazy, which was not supposed to happen. I needed to remain in control here to get my answers or I’d wind up letting him ravage me for nothing

 

Alright, so maybe it wouldn’t be for nothing. Mutual pleasure was one very valid motive. But still.

 

“Do I need to sweeten the pot?” I asked with a small smile, trailing my hand that was on his shoulder up to the back of his neck and playing with the ends of his hair.

 

He let out a long breath, his eyes shutting for a second before he seemingly remembered we were among his entire family and shook himself out of the state. “How so?” he asked.

 

“Did you see Dom’s gift to me for Christmas?” I whispered, grinning widely. 

 

His mouth fell open slightly, his eyes dropping again, surveying me intensely, as though a strong enough glance would let him see through my dress for confirmation. “Don’t bloody tell me…”

 

“They matched my dress rather well,” I said lightly..

 

“Tara,” Albus warned. “I’m very close to dragging you out of here right now.”

 

“I’d be tempted to let you,” I smirked, “if you were to tell me what you were talking about before.”

 

He let out another long breath. “I don’t suppose I could call in that third favor now, can I?”

 

I fought back the urge to thump him on the head. “We’d be inching dangerously close to prostitution at that point, so no, you can’t,” I said adamantly.

 

“Damn,” he sighed. “It was worth a shot. Well, alright then. I’m still going to need to call it in anyway- the favor is for you to not run away when I tell you, alright?”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Why would I run? I’m making you tell me.”

 

“I just don't really trust you not to run on instinct,” he shrugged.

 

“I won’t run,” I said impatiently, though a large part of me was ecstatic that he’d actually just used up the last of his favors.

 

“Alright, well, good,” he sighed, releasing his hold on me just long enough to run a hand through his hair. “I suppose I was going to have to tell you how much I fancy you eventually, so might as well do it now I suppose.”

 


 

A/N:

Ok, here goes. I'm so very sorry for disappearing for so long!!! I'm sure this year has been hectic for nearly everyone. It was bad when I last posted, and it's only really gone to more shit, and my mental health was just shot. To be honest, I hadn't felt like posting, writing, reading, or doing much of anything for a while. I'm kind of slowly getting back to some sense of normalcy, but I will definitely say that updates won't be as quick as they once were. Hopefully it doesn't take numerous months again, but it all depends. I for the life of me couldn't guess at what each coming day is going to entail for me mentally, it's all over the place. I'm going to start therapy soon though once I figure out some insurance stuff, I'm looking for a new job that I will hopefully like better, I only have one more accounting class, and my birthday's tomorrow! So today's a good day. 

 

I realize I've probably lost so many readers in taking so long, and I'm so incredibly sorry for making anyone think I'd abandoned the story. Every once in a while I'd go back and read the super kind reviews and they always make me feel so good and so guilty for not being here. I'm going to make more of an effort!

 

Anyway, if anyone's still reading this, thank you so much. I love and appreciate you and I will do my best to get more updates out. I actually have plans for a new story, too, which is probably a bad idea for my productivity but it comes from my recent head space and I think that it could be very important to me. So we'll see. 

 

Again, sorry for such a long wait. I hope you enjoyed the chapter nonetheless and I look forward to what the future may hold!

 

-K xoxo



Chapter 14: We Take Capture the Flag Very Seriously
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 

“-and then he was over all day on the 29th, and he probably would have stayed if not for that wedding, so thank Merlin for Victoire Weasley-”

 

I nodded absentmindedly, letting my feet skim the floor as I glided around on my broom. 

 

“-and Mum kept looking at me, like she knew something was up, and it was so awkward-”

 

“Mhm,” I hummed softly, drifting around in another circle. 

 

“-and it’s not like Leo plays Quidditch, so they spend all their time hanging out inside, and Leo doesn’t know about anything that happened, so he always insists I join them for everything-

 

“That’s nice,” I nodded again, circling my blonde friend once more. 

 

“-and then my arse of a friend came over to save me only to circle me on her broom for an hour while tuning me out!” 

 

I froze as Rylie’s voice rose, shaking me out of my stupor. “Oh shit,” I said, my eyes wide. “I’m sorry Ry.”

 

To my relief, she looked less annoyed and more amused. “It’s fine. I can’t say I really expect you to pay attention, I suppose. You’ve had an eventful break yourself, haven’t you?”

 

I flushed, but a small smile spread across my face nonetheless. “A bit.”

 

Rylie was sitting on the floor of her bedroom, working on a large puzzle. Not really having the patience for the things myself, I’d let myself zone out as I rounded the room on my broom. I was just happy that she had such a large bedroom, giving me room to fly around. Oliver’s Quidditch career had paid off rather nicely. 

 

“Well if you’re going to daydream, could you at least do it on the floor?” Rylie raised her eyebrow. “You’re making me nauseous.”

 

I laughed and dismounted, joining her on the floor beside the puzzle. The shaggy white rug was soft and fluffy, and incredibly comfortable. I rolled out on my back, looking up at the ceiling happily. Unlike Rose’s room, which was princess-like and always far too clean, Rylie’s room gave off a laid-back vibe that I appreciated. 

 

The walls were a soft blue, and there were posters of both wizarding and Muggle bands on the wall by her bed. On the other side of her room was a long desk, on which were piles of clutter, ranging from books to games to some cute collectibles of characters from movies she liked. 

 

Her ceiling was the coolest part- it was charmed to look like outer space, with stars and planets drifting about. Rylie adored astronomy. It was the only class she’d kept taking this year that I’d opted out of. 

 

I turned over back onto my stomach and glanced down at her puzzle progress. 

 

“Er- Ry?” I frowned. “Your puzzle seems off.”

 

“That’s because it’s magic,” she grumbled, frustratedly moving a piece around trying to decide where it should go. “The picture keeps moving.”

 

I snorted. “That sounds impossible. Why get it?”

 

“It was a gift,” she rolled her eyes. “I figured it’d be only kind to actually try it out.”

 

Her tone gave her away. “A gift from who?” I asked innocently. 

 

“A person,” she said evasively, still glaring at her puzzle. 

 

“A hot person, perhaps?” I ventured, grinning at her. “With dark hair, maybe? Tall? Plays Quidditch? Maybe his name rhymes with Tames Totter?”

 

A smile broke out across her features as she chucked the puzzle piece at my head. “Fuck off.”

 

I laughed, sitting upright and looking at her curiously. “So he was here the other day?”

 

“I did mention that,” she smirked. “You were busy daydreaming about your new shag buddy.

 

“Oi!” I protested, throwing the same puzzle piece from before back at her. “Uncalled for, Wood.”

 

“Hey, if the two of you won’t label yourselves, I can’t be held accountable for using whatever words I see fit to describe the situation,” she shrugged. 

 

“Shag buddy?’” I quoted with a frown as I absentmindedly ran my hands over the white fluff of the carpet. She really did have a lovely room. 

 

“Would you prefer fuck friend?” 

 

“Would you prefer I go downstairs and tell James you’d like a word?” I shot back. “I’m sure he and Leo have tired of their baking attempt by now.”

 

She snorted, dropping a puzzle piece from her hand. “The house hasn’t caught fire yet, so they probably haven’t even gotten around to turning the oven on yet.” 

 

The puzzle moved again, figures shimmering as what I think was an eyeball passed by one of the put-together corners. 

 

I smiled. “Well then, that’d make him all the more free to come hang out with us, yeah?”

 

“I hate you.”

 

I laughed, reaching over and starting to help her find some of her needed pieces. She was hardly a quarter of the way done- clearly my best friend needed some help. 

 

A tap at the window, however, distracted us both. We turned to find an owl waiting outside, a gorgeous barn owl that I recognized instantly. “That’s Rose’s,” I smiled. “She miss me already?”

 

“I don’t see how she could,” Rylie teased. “You’re a terrible house guest.”

 

“Your parents love having me,” I contradicted as I stood up and headed for the window. I slid it open enough to reach for the letter, giving Rose’s owl a few pets and letting her hop inside. 

 

“That’s only because you’re a Quidditch star,” Rylie rolled her eyes, crossing her arms as she sat up and away from her puzzle. “Dad loves you, and James, too. He thinks you’re the Quidditch-loving children he was denied of all his life.”

 

I laughed as I opened the letter. “Fair enough.”

 

“What’s Rose say?”

 

Dear Tara,

 

I realize we only just saw each other at the wedding yesterday, and that you’ve hardly been at Rylie’s for more than a few hours, but I’m bored! 

 

I asked Albus to hang out, but apparently he’s going to hang out at Scor’s place soon. He asked if we’d want to join! I think Scorpius mentioned his parents are out for the day, so we’d have the whole manor to ourselves. Let me know!

 

Love,

Rose

 

“She wants us to come hang out with her and the boys at Malfoy Manor,” I informed Rylie as I finished scanning the letter. 

 

“Oh goodie,” Rylie made a face. “A whole afternoon of fifth-wheeling.”

 

“I’m sure we’d stay through the evening, too,” I supplied, earning another puzzle piece thrown at me. 

 

“I suppose it’s better than lying on the floor doing nothing,” she sighed, standing up and stretching. “I’ll owl her back.”

 

“Sounds good,” I smiled. 

 

“Have you seen Albus since the wedding?” she asked me as she scrawled out a quick reply for Rose. 

 

I shrugged. “No. The wedding was yesterday, and I came over here first thing in the morning.”

 

“That’s true,” she grimaced. “I know because you woke me up at nine.

 

“Nine is hardly that early,” I grinned.

 

“Will it be weird?” she asked, sending the letter off with Rose’s owl and closing the window. 

 

“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “I mean, it’s sort of weird, having so much out there between us, but… I don’t know.”

 

“You planning on giving him an answer tonight?” She raised her eyebrows. 

 

I frowned. “I don’t know, Ry. I wasn’t actually ready to think about this yet.”

 

“You should!” She exclaimed. “The two of you would be great together.”

 

I didn’t answer her. I just stared at the rug, instead, crossing my arms. 

 

She groaned. “I don’t get it. What’s holding you back?”

 

“Wish I knew,” I mumbled. 

 

“Are you still seeing Dom tomorrow?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“You going to tell her you slept with her cousin?” Rylie asked with a knowing look. 

 

I summoned my broom silently and went back to drifting around the room. “No choice, really. She saw us dancing at the wedding, and we weren’t being as… discreet, as we could have been. She’s going to be so mad that I didn’t tell her first.”

 

Rylie smiled. “Thank you, by the way. For telling me. For always telling me so much.”

 

I felt a wave of guilt sweep over me. Rylie might have known more than most regarding my love life, but she still knew nothing about my family, my upbringing, or even where I lived. I felt like a fraud. 

 

“Of course,” I murmured, skidding to a stop. I’m a rotten friend, I thought. 

 

 She smirked then. “So what happened during the dance, then? I know he told you he fancied you, but what clued Dom in?”

 

“I had to get a little close to him,” I admitted sheepishly, “to get him to tell me that he fancied me.”

 

Rylie looked delighted. “TARA! What a minx. Poor Albus, he’s only a bloke, you know.”

 

I snorted at that. “Oh, right, poor innocent Albus.”

 

“I never said innocent,” she said, still looking thoroughly amused. “He’s shagging you, isn’t he?”

 

I groaned. “Alright, let’s just go. I can’t take this anymore.”

 

“You just want to see Al.”

 

That does it. 

 

“Oi!” I called down the stairs once we’d left Rylie’s room. “James, Leo! Want to come to Malfoy Manor with us? Al and Rose are there!”

 

“Sure!” I heard James yell back. 

 

I turned to Rylie with a smirk of my own, while she gaped at me. “You’re an evil, horrible, awful woman,” she informed me. 

 

“I try, love.”

 


 

I’ll be honest- I had mentally prepared for a multitude of outcomes as a result of the group gathering at Scor’s house, especially since James and Leo wound up inviting Fred to join us. 

 

What I hadn’t expected, however, was an intense, highly competitive game of capture-the-flag. 

 

“I forget the plan.”

 

“Of course you do, Fred, you were barely listening to it in the first place.”

 

“I guess you lot just bore me, Jamesie-poo.”

 

“Up yours, Weasley.”

 

“Can you two shut the fuck up for a second?” Rylie hissed. “You’re giving poor Tara anxiety.”

 

“It’s not anxiety,” I rolled my eyes. “It’s just irritation.”

 

“It’s Fred’s fault,” James frowned. “He’s not taking this seriously.”

 

“Sure I am,” Fred argued. “I just don’t need rigid plans and schemes to win. I thrive off pure boldness.”

 

Rylie and I exchanged an exasperated look. “Gryffindors,” I muttered to her.

 

“Honestly,” she sighed. “Scorpius probably has the other team under strict directions wherever they are.”

 

“Doesn’t matter,” Fred said confidently. “We can win regardless. We just need to play to our strengths.”

 

“I agree,” I snapped. “Hence the plan.

 

“Right. Remind me what that is?”

 

I sighed in frustration. Fred, Rylie, James and I were huddled in one of the guest rooms on the third floor of the manor. We had five minutes left until it would be exactly half past 1, at which time we would be allowed to leave the room and try for the flag, which had been on the first floor in the kitchen. 

 

Scorpius, Al, Leo, and Rose were across the house in the library, similarly prohibited from leaving until half past. 

 

The rules were simple: Get the flag and bring it back to your team’s base, with no magic allowed. The prize was bragging rights- in a house full of only Gryffindors and Slytherins, that was worth plenty. We were a prideful bunch. 

 

“The plan,” I began slowly, for Fred’s sake, “is for me to go straight for the flag, while you, Fred, come from the east stairwell. If I know Scor, and I like to think that I do, he’ll assume that whoever we send in first is meant to be a distraction. But I also think that he knows I would guess at said assumption. So, we send in you, Fred, as our backup distraction. 

 

“When they don’t see James, who let’s be honest, is our best physical asset-” James smirked at that. “-they’ll probably send Leo or maybe Albus to look for him. James, however, will have made his way into the dining room and will be hiding behind that fancy cabinet with Mrs. Malfoy’s china and shit. With at least one of them distracted as they look for James, one on me, and one on Fred, that’ll only leave one person remaining, and I bet that one person would be Rose.”

 

“Rose?” Fred scrunched up his nose. 

 

“She’s the least likely to make it past any of us with the flag,” I explained. “So Scor will probably send her in for the flag, thinking the rest of them will be distractions enough for the rest of us.”

 

“Isn’t that basically what we’re doing?” James questioned. “Except with Rylie instead of Rose?”

 

“But the difference,” I grinned, “is that we’ll have you hidden in the dining room outside the kitchen. Rylie will be seen with the flag by Rose, who will inevitably call out that she has it, and then Ry will run straight to you and pass you the flag. You can beat Rose in a foot race easily, so it’s just a matter of the rest of us maintaining our distractions over the others.”

 

Fred groaned. “My head hurts.”

 

“Just make for the east stairwell, and then run for the flag after me,” I snapped. “One of their guys will likely tackle you, just wrestle with them long enough for Rylie to get the flag to James.”

 

James snorted. “Are you going to wrestle too, Tara?”

 

I narrowed my eyes. “If I have to. They’ll be too afraid to hurt me to really fight back, it’ll be easy.”

 

Rylie giggled. “That’s my ruthless best mate.”

 

“You got this, Ry?” James raised an eyebrow at her challengingly. I grinned in delight as she colored, having not really talked to him directly since our arrival at the manor. 

 

“I got this,” she mumbled, though her eyebrows were set together in a determined manner. 

 

“Well good. Because the doors are set to open in about thirty seconds,” Fred nodded to the clock. 

 

“Alright team, let’s fuck shit up,” I said confidently. 

 

“Hell yeah,” James cheered. “Team James!”

 

“We are not team-”

 

The doors swung open, breaking off my protest. “GO!” I hissed instead. I ran for the main stairwell, Fred swinging a right at one of the hallways and running for the further stairs. James was ahead of me- he’d have to be first down the stairs in order to hide before being seen.

 

To my relief, he was able to turn down the hallway to the dining room before we could be spotted. A moment later, I saw the shadow of one of the others coming from the other direction, just as I burst through the doors that led to the massive main sitting room. The kitchen was only one room away. 

 

I was a few steps away from it when a pair of arms snatched me around the waist and lifted me up. 

 

“OI!” I protested, elbowing at my kidnapper. 

 

Ow, cut it out Tara,” Albus moaned as I struggled against him. It was pretty pointless, honestly. He had a lot of muscle over me. 

 

“Then you ought to let me go,” I suggested, flushing at the contact. He was holding me in the air, my body completely pressed against his as I fought. There was a small voice inside that was screaming at me to just stop fighting and to enjoy the proximity. 

 

Blimey he smelled so good. 

 

“No can do, love,” he murmured in my ear, making me shiver. 

 

“Well, we can hardly talk about yesterday like this, now can we?” I managed. It was a low blow, but I wanted a win. 

 

Ahead of us, I watched Leo and Fred wrestling on the ground at the foot of the kitchen doors. I wasn’t sure where Scorpius was, but Rose peeked her head around the corner of the sitting room, looking to see if anyone was in a position to stop her. 

 

Al’s grip on me had loosened. “You want to talk about it right now, do you?” he asked, sounding suspicious. 

 

“What?” I asked, mustering as much of an affronted tone as possible. “You think I’d seriously use our relationship status for the sake of a stupid game, Al?” I turned my head to glare at him accusingly. 

 

He frowned, letting me down slowly, though he kept his hands on my arms. “Tara, I didn’t mean to-”

 

“RYLIE HAS THE FLAG!” Rose’s voice came yelling. 

 

Yes, I cheered inwardly. But I made the mistake of letting my satisfaction show visibly. 

 

“You fucking manipulative arse!” Al exclaimed. I expected him to let go of me and go after Rylie at this point, but instead, he surged forward and lifted me up, throwing me over his shoulder. 

 

“PUT ME DOWN, POTTER!” I yelled, hitting his back with clenched fists. 

 

I felt his laughter as he walked me toward the back door that would lead out into the gardens. “Hell no, Tara, you wanted to talk, so we’re going to talk.”

 

“There’s a game going on, prat!”

 

“Too bad.” He slid the door open and closed it behind us. I felt the brisk air hit my cheeks and shuddered at the drastic drop in temperature. 

 

“It’s freezing, Al!”

 

“Then we better make this quick, yeah?”

 

I groaned, still futilely hitting at his back. “This is ridiculous. They’re going to wonder where we’ve gone, you know.”

 

“They won’t,” Albus replied, and though I was still slung over his back I could practically hear the smirk. “This was all part of the plan.”

 

“What bloody plan involves kidnapping me?” I demanded as Albus carried me further away into the gardens. 

 

“You think we didn’t know you’d be mastermining your team’s operations?” Albus laughed. “Rylie wouldn’t have bothered, Fred’s not smart enough, bless him, and James would trust you when it comes to going against Scorpius. And let’s be real, Gryffindor’s might think they’re competitive, but this is a Slytherin’s game. So we’re taking their most Slytherin player out of the equation.”

 

We reached a bench off near one of the fountains on the other side of some hedges, on which Albus dropped me down. “Run, and it’s back over the shoulder,” he warned me, sitting down beside me. 

 

“What else did this stupid plan involve?” I asked, crossing my arms and glaring at a snow-covered bush across the walkway. 

 

“Don’t call my plan stupid,” he smirked. “I’ll admit, not seeing James in any of the main rooms threw me off a bit, but if things go my way, Scorpius should have handled both Rylie and my brother by now, which would mean Leo just needs to hold down Fred long enough for Rose to get the flag upstairs.”

 

Your plan?” 

 

Albus looked pleased with himself. “You figured Scorpius would make the plan, I’m assuming.”

 

“He’s our captain,” I frowned. “It made sense.”

 

He shrugged. “You know his planning too well after years of Quidditch. It was our best bet to let someone else plan this out.”

 

I scowled. “I hate you.”

 

He raised an eyebrow, sending me another wolfish grin. “Do you? Because I’ll admit, I do actually want to talk about yesterday.”

 

“I don’t,” I lied. “I have a flag to steal.”

 

With that, I jumped off the bench, making a beeline for the door. Unfortunately for me, Albus was faster. He once again reached around my waist and hoisted me off the ground like I weighed nothing. 

 

“Dammit Al!” I growled. “Stop fucking manhandling me!”

 

“I told you not to run,” he laughed as he carried me back from where we’d come. “Aren’t you cold? The sooner we have this conversation, the sooner you get to go inside.”

 

“I don’t think this is legal.”

 

Albus snorted. “You going to turn me in? Call the Aurors?”

 

“Nah,” I said lightly. “I’ll just write to your mum.”

 

“Fuck.”

 

I laughed at that despite myself as he placed me back onto the bench. 

 

He looked at me for a moment, his expression becoming more earnest. “Can we actually talk about it now? Please? Because I told you I bloody fancy you, and replied with, ‘Oh’ and barely spoke to me the rest of the night.”

 

I flushed, my cheeks probably even more red in the cold. “I didn’t mean to sound so…”

 

“Disinterested?”

 

“I’m not disinterested,” I said quickly, almost frantically. I had no idea how to explain myself. “Al, I just have no idea how to go about this. Everything about us changed so much in such a short span of time, and I don’t date much, and everything that’s happened with you has been so much more intense than my last relationship-”

 

“That’s because you’ve only dated pansies, but go on,” Albus interrupted, smiling slightly. 

 

I rolled my eyes. “You’re not wrong. But my point is that this has all been quicker and stronger than I’d really expected or been prepared for.”

 

Albus thought about that for a moment. “I can understand that. But can I ask one thing?”

 

“Sure,” I said carefully. 

 

“What exactly do you want?” He asked, looking serious. “Because I’ve been pretty open with you so far, I’d say, and I still have no idea where we stand.”

 

I took a deep breath. “I- I don’t know what I want. And I feel like shite about that, because you deserve someone who has some semblance of an idea as to what they might want, and I don’t want you to feel like you’re wasting your time on me.” I avoided looking at him as I spoke, feeling saddened by my own words. “I’m a mess, Al. I’m a mess, and I have issues and you’re so sodding nice, and I’m mucking everything up by throwing you all over the place, snogging you one second then reverting us back to friends, then sleeping with you, and you have fangirls and such good music taste, and you’ve helped me so much with all the Frodarian shit, and-”

 

Luckily, he had the sense to shut me up with a kiss by then. 

 

I sunk into him, not realizing how much I’d been craving him since Christmas. Our dance at the wedding had been like one teasing taste, but I wanted all of him. Thoughts of my mother, and Rylie and James, and capture-the-flag: they were buried, and all I could think about was how good Albus felt and how warm his hands were on my cheeks despite the icy air, and how soft his lips were on mine. 

 

He pulled away a few moments later, leaning his forehead against mine. “There’s a chance you’ve been overthinking things,” he breathed, smiling. 

 

I let out a choked laugh. “Probably. I’m sorry about that.”

 

“Don’t be,” he shook his head. “We can slow down, Tara. Honestly, it’s not a big deal.”

 

I frowned. “I don’t know if I even want to slow down.”

 

“It sounds like you might,” he pointed out. “I think the physical aspect of the relationship just distracts you from your doubts.”

 

“You’re pretty distracting,” I agreed in a mumble. “But don’t let it go to your head.”

 

He grinned my favorite sideways smile. “No promises. And Tara, look, we don’t have to label ourselves, or do anything that feels too quick to you. I mostly just wanted to know if you fancied me back.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Of course I fancy you, prat.”

 

He laughed, pulling me into a hug. I leaned my face in the crook of his neck, savoring the warmth of being pressed against him. 

 

“Can we not tell anyone though?” I requested quietly. “Just for now. You have too many cousins, and I don’t want to get hounded. And Lily kind of scares me.”

 

Albus snorted. “She’s fourteen.”

 

“She’d still beat me to shit for sleeping with you without dating you first,” I frowned. 

 

“You could always just date me,” Albus suggested cheekily. “Just to save yourself.”

 

Dating Albus. It sounded like a lovely, perfect fantasy to be honest. Being able to snog him in public, whenever I wanted, or being able to curl up together on a couch in the Slytherin common room- thinking about it made me smile. 

 

But for every image I had in my mind of Albus and me, there’d be another, further down the line, of me entirely alone. What if things went wrong? We shared the same best friends, his family was practically my own. It’d ruin everything. 

 

“Tara, don’t have an aneurysm,” Albus said softly. “I was mostly joking.”

 

“I feel like a bitch,” I mumbled. 

 

“You’re not a bitch,” Albus rolled his eyes. “Just a bit of a chicken. But I can wait, honestly.”

 

I opened my mouth to protest against the chicken comment, but honestly, he was probably right. I hated how complicated this had all become. 

 

“I’m sorry,” I said instead, a horrible pit in my stomach. 

 

Albus brushed a knuckle against my cheek with a somewhat sad smile. “It’s alright, Tara.” 

 

Was it? 

 

“You were never supposed to be so nice,” I whispered, feeling a strong urge to cry. Why couldn’t I just say ‘fuck it’ and date the bloke? 

 

“I’m not as nice as you keep claiming,” he chuckled. “I blackmailed you, once upon a time.”

 

“Details.”

 

He laughed again, pulling me in for another kiss before standing from the bench. “Come on. The others are probably done by now, and you’re turning blue.”

 

That reminded me of a question I’d had earlier. I accepted his offered hand and he pulled me up beside him. “Oh right- what was your plan for having Scor ‘handle’ James and Rylie?”

 

Albus snorted. “He was supposed to lead them into one of the rooms and lock them in together. I figured they’d distract each other enough for us.”

 

My eyes widened at that. “Do you think he pulled it off?”

 

Albus shrugged. “Possibly? It’s his house, he had a home field advantage.”

 

“Al,” my tone was urgent. “They could be doing who-knows-what by now.”

 

He seemed less perturbed than I felt. “That was the idea,” he said as we headed back to the house. “We’ve already seen them snog.”

 

“But Leo is here,” I explained. 

 

“Oh,” Albus realized as we reached the back door. “Shit.”

 

“You better pray Scor didn’t actually manage to trap them,” I warned. “Or there will be a shitstorm waiting for us inside.”

 

“Great,” he frowned. “Now I’m scared.” He pulled the door open cautiously, gesturing for me to go first. I suspected this was out of fear more than chivalry, the pansy. 

 

I stepped inside. 

 

Sure enough, a shitstorm awaited. 

 


 

A/N:

 

Honestly, with my writing no longer being ahead of my postings, I should probably stop leaving these on cliff hangers haha. But OH WELL, here we are. I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter! I was so incredibly grateful for the warm welcome back I received, and for any new readers too! Writing again has me feeling ten times better, so I think updates should remain relatively timely for now. I'm feeling motivated, and that hasn't happened in months. Things are looking up, gang! I know this year is tough on just about everyone, so if anyone ever needs to talk about anything, I'm here for you all!!! I have a new story coming soon, that might be kind of sad at points, but it's very much from the heart and something I need to get out into the world. 

 

Thanks for reading, and reviews are always appreciated :)

 

-K xoxo

 

Disclaimer: Anything you recognize here is JK Rowling's as always. 



Chapter 15: Everyone Is Getting On My Nerves
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Albus and I had barely made it through the door when we found ourselves facing a very loud confrontation. 

 

“NEWSFLASH, Leo, you have zero right to dictate what I do!” Rylie was yelling at her brother. 

 

The remaining members of the teams were standing around in the sitting room. Rose stood by Scor, her hands clasped together under her chin as she nervously watched Rylie and Leo. James stood next to Rylie; he and Leo each had their wands out. Fred, to my surprise, was standing by with the flag draped around his neck, which would have amused me if it weren’t for the fact that my best friend was screaming at her brother, and seemingly on the verge of tears. 

 

Leo pinched the bridge of his nose. “I don’t want to dictate what you do, Rylie, honestly. But for fuck’s sake, do you have to screw around with my best mate? Can you not see why that’d upset me?”

 

James looked pained. “Leo-”

 

“Don’t, James,” Leo growled, raising his wand warningly. Albus stepped forward toward his brother instinctively, protectively. I, being the more cowardly of the two of us, went to stand by Fred.

 

“Mate, please, just-”

 

No,” Leo snapped. “I don’t want to hear you talk right now.”

 

“Fucking hell, Leo, we were snogging,” Rylie cried. “That’s hardly the end of the world, get a grip. You’re making it a much bigger deal than it needs to be.”

 

Leo raised an eyebrow. “Am I? How long has this thing been going on for?”

 

“There’s no ‘thing’ going on,” she retorted, sounding exasperated. “We’ve snogged a few times, that’s it.”

 

“That’s worse!” Leo shouted. “You’re just fooling around, then! You think I want to watch either of you deal with the aftermath of this shit when things go sour?”

 

“How do you know things will go sour?” James questioned, finally managing a whole sentence. 

 

Leo narrowed his eyes at his best mate. “Because you’re you, and she’s she. The only way this ends is either one of you being hurt, both being hurt, or just sheer awkwardness that would make everyone around you both feel fucking weird!” 

 

I hated how much his worries about Rylie and James reflected my own about Albus and me. 

 

“You’re forgetting the fourth option,” Rylie said stubbornly. “Where we don’t get hurt, and we stay happy, and you get to watch two people you love be happy together.”

 

“Then what is this?” Leo demanded. “Love? Are you dating? Are you going to date? What’s your fucking endgame, Ry?”

 

“We haven’t even had the chance to discuss it with each other yet, let alone with you!” Rylie exclaimed. “Maybe if you’d calm the fuck down, we can all have a nice, rational discussion.”

 

Leo ignored her and turned to James. “What’s your play here, James?”

 

James looked like this could possibly have been the worst day of his life. I’d never seen him fight with Leo before- I couldn’t imagine fighting with Rylie like this. It must have been horrible. “I don’t have a play, Leo,” he sighed. “I fancy your sister. We’ve snogged. We haven’t talked about it. That’s everything.”

 

Rylie gaped at James. Apparently they hadn’t gotten to a point of admitting to fancying one another. To be fair, Albus had only just beat a similar sentiment out of me not five minutes prior. 

 

“I- I fancy you too, James,” she mumbled, blushing furiously. 

 

I caught Rose’s eye, and we smiled at each other. 

 

“Well thanks for the heads up, mate,” Leo muttered bitterly. He sounded tired. “Look, this just… this sucks, and I don’t really feel bothered to talk about it with either of you at the moment.”

 

Leo,” Rylie tried, but he was already heading to the fireplace.

 

“I’ll see you guys later,” he shook his head. With that, he took a scoop of Floo Powder and a moment later, Leo was gone. 

 

The room was painfully quiet. James looked positively miserable. “I’d better go home too,” he sighed, not looking at Rylie. She simply nodded at the floor, tears spilling over her eyes and down her cheeks. My heart wrenched at the sight- Rylie never cried. 

 

James nodded half-heartedly to the rest of us before Flooing home. 

 

“I should go after him,” Albus murmured, looking as stricken as we all probably felt. James and Leo had never fought before. This was just… well, in Leo’s words, this sucked

 

“See you, mate,” Scorpius nodded to him, his face solemn. Albus smiled back grimly as he ducked into the fireplace. He sent me a quick look that made me want to snog his face off before he Flooed back to his own home. 

 

“For the record, I got the flag,” Fred commented uselessly. “Sorry, sorry,” he said quickly as we all shot him murderous looks. 

 

“You want to come back to my place, Ry?” Rose asked. “I’d imagine going home would be- er- not ideal.”

 

Rylie looked at her gratefully. “That’d be lovely. Thanks Rosie.”

 

I felt sad that I couldn’t offer her my home. 

 

We left Malfoy Manor, gathering in Rose’s bedroom for the remainder of the day. Rylie sat on Rose’s bed, while the latter sat behind her and brushed her hair. I watched them with a surprising twinge of irritation, but it wasn’t directed at them. 

 

I felt a very sudden loathing at the fact that I wasn’t playing the proper best friend role. I should have been able to bring Rylie back to my house, and let her eat my food on my bed. I felt so useless. 

 

I sat on the floor, leaning against the wall, humming absentmindedly. I wished I could have spent just a little longer with Albus- I’d scarcely admitted to fancying him before having to go. And wanting to see him only made me feel more selfish, more horrible of a friend.

 

I opted for a small change in scenery, pushing myself off the floor. “I’m going to get some water,” I informed the girls. “Either of you want anything?”

 

“Chocolate?” Rylie asked with a pathetic pout that made me smile slightly. 

 

“All the chocolate I can find,” I promised her as I made for the door. 

 

Downstairs, I began rummaging through the Weasley’s cupboards and fridge in search of something chocolatey for Rylie. I found some cocoa powder and milk and decided I’d bring her some hot chocolate. 

 

While waiting for it to heat up, I sat at the breakfast bar, resting my head on my arms. 

 

“Having a rough time?” came Hugo Weasley’s voice. 

 

I glanced back at him as he started making himself a bowl of cereal. “A bit.”

 

“I heard things with James and Leo have gone tits up,” he explained. “Al wrote me.”

 

I sighed. “Rylie’s a mess. And don’t say tits up, you’re too young.”

 

“I’m fifteen,” he snorted, joining me at the table a couple seats down. “How was it? When Leo caught them?”

 

“I didn’t see the initial reaction,” I shrugged. “Albus was holding me hostage outside for a game. But we did get back in time to witness lots of yelling.”

 

“Yeah I bet it was for the game,” Hugo said quietly with a smirk.

 

“Fuck off, Weasley.”

 

“And you’re concerned about my language?” he laughed. 

 

“Go away,” I snapped, reaching for my water and taking several gulps. Maybe I could just drown myself if I drink enough, then I don’t have to deal with nosy fifteen-year-olds. 

 

“Are you shagging Al?”

 

I choked on my water. “What the fuck, Hugo?”

 

He shrugged innocently. “I was just curious.”

 

“About my sex life?”

 

“And my cousin’s,” he defended. “It was an innocent question.”

 

“I don’t think any question including the word ‘shag’ can be classified as innocent, Hugo,” I rolled my eyes, deliberately avoiding the question. 

 

He sat quietly for a few moments. Then: “Didn’t he snog you on your birthday?”

 

“Did everyone fucking see that?” I asked angrily. “It keeps getting brought up.”

 

“You weren’t hidden,” he replied, sniggering. “Didn’t you also cancel a date for him?”

 

Fuck off.

 

“Do you think he loves you?”

 

To my relief, Rylie’s hot chocolate was ready, so I pointedly ignored the questioning Fourth Year and instead hopped off the stool to retrieve it. I topped it with some cream and chocolate shavings. 

 

I carried the mug with me, still refusing to dignify Hugo’s nosy questions with a response. But I couldn’t help but think about it on my walk upstairs. 

 

Could Albus love me? I know he fancies me, but… no, fuck that, love would be way too far. We couldn’t even stand each other until recently! Shit, what if he does though. What would I say? ‘Oh thanks Al, but sorry that I will never be able to say it back because the idea of love makes me want to hide under my bed or hunt down my mother and beat her over the head with a broomstick because it’s a fleeting concept and people who love me evidently leave later down the line.’ He’d think I’m a nutter! 

 

To be fair, he probably already thought I was a nutter. 

 

My thoughts were cut off as I made my way back into Rose’s room. “Hot chocolate for a Miss Wood?” I smiled. 

 

Her face lit up. “Tara, you’re a legend.”

 

I beamed. No better to way to clear your head of stressful thoughts than to make your best friend smile. 

 


 

Dom owled me the next day to accompany her to the nail salon, to redeem the vouchers I’d gotten her for Christmas. I hadn’t talked to her since the wedding, when she’d watched me dance and flirt with Albus, and I was absolutely terrified. 

 

We met up at the nail salon. Dom was particularly fond of Muggle salons because the process was longer and felt more “legitimate” in her eyes. I thought that was sort of a load of shit, but I wasn’t going to say anything. 

 

“Tara!” Dom called, waving at me as I crossed the road. 

 

“Hey Dom,” I grinned as I reached her. She threw her arms around me tightly. “Oof, ow Dom. You’d think we hadn’t just seen each other a few days ago.”

 

“Well, we didn’t really see much of each other,” she pointed out dryly. “You were busy hanging off of my cousin.”

 

I colored, ignoring the dig and opting to simply open the door for us. This was going to be a long day. 

 

To her credit, Dom didn’t interrogate me off the bat. Once we were settled in our chairs, and the manicurists began to work on our nails, she first started talking about the event planning business she’d been working on starting up. 

 

“Any luck on getting the seed money from you dad?” I asked her curiously. 

 

She nodded enthusiastically. “Luckily, he’s all for it. Vic tried to talk him out of it, the bitch, but then Teddy pointed out that it was very me, at least more so than any rubbish Ministry job, and Dad agreed.”

 

“That’s awesome, Dom!” I beamed. “I can’t wait to see what kind of things you put together.”

 

“I hope it’s good,” she sighed with a dreamy smile. “I can’t stand the idea of working for anyone but myself.”

 

“You could never,” I sniggered. “You’re too controlling.”

 

“Watch yourself, Rivers,” she narrowed her eyes at me, though a visible grin tugged at her lips. “Mind who you insult. Especially when I’ve been so well behaved.”

 

I played innocent. “I have no idea what you could possibly be referring to, Miss Weasley.”

 

She rolled her eyes. “Cut the shit, Tara,” she snapped. The lady working on Dom’s toes looked up sharply at the language, but said nothing. 

 

“There’s no shit,” I said defensively, earning another glare from the manicurists. They were grown women, they could deal with it. 

 

“I want to talk about Albus!” Dom demanded. “I’ve held off to get small talk rubbish out of the way, now spill.”

 

“I don’t think I’d refer to your career as rubbish,” I said absentmindedly, trying to focus on not laughing as the woman scrubbing my foot hit a particularly ticklish area. This was why I didn’t usually come to these places. 

 

Tara,” Dom growled warningly. 

 

I sighed. “Fine, Dom, fine. What about Albus?”

 

“How long have you been together?” She demanded. 

 

“We aren’t, technically,” I responded truthfully. Albus and I hadn’t come to any sort of understanding on what we were, after all. 

 

“You’re being intentionally difficult,” Dom snapped. “Tell me the full truth. None of your evasion tactics.”

 

“I don’t evade.”

 

“You are literally evading right now,” she countered. 

 

“Miss, I need you to stay just a little more stead-” the manicurist tried to say to Dom, but promptly stopped talking when Dom turned her glare on her. 

 

“Dom,” I reprimanded. “Don’t take your strop out on the nice salon people, yeah?”

 

“Yeah?” Dom mimicked. “Just fucking tell me already, Tara! What’s happening with you and Albus?”

 

For a moment, I contemplated jumping out of my chair and shoving my face in one of the foot baths until I drowned. That would be a right embarrassing way to go, though, wouldn’t it? Drowned in a foot bath? 

 

“Tara!” Dom urged, looking more annoyed by the second. 

 

“Alright, alright,” I conceded, not wanting this to escalate in a nail salon. If I kept pushing her she’d dump varnish all over my head or something. I took a deep breath. “Well, where do I start?”

 

“The beginning?” Dom pressed, looking excited. 

 

I bit my lip. How much was I willing to share? I wasn’t really interested in dropping the truth about my family just yet, so I decided I’d stick with the abridged versions I’d given Rose and Rylie.


“Alright,” I said again. “So near the beginning of the term, Albus offered to help me with my Patronus charm in exchange for going on a fake date with him to help him escape Joy Clarke.”

 

Dom wrinkled her nose. “That slaggy stalker girl who fancies Al and Malfoy?”

 

“Precisely,” I nodded, smirking slightly. “Just as slaggy and stalkerish as ever.”

 

“Gross.”

 

“Absolutely,” I agreed. “So anyway, before the fake date, we had wound up along one evening and got into a row that somehow resulted in snogging-”

 

“I KNEW IT!” Dom yelled. The nail workers glared at her, and she just shrugged sheepishly. “Sorry. Go on, Tara.”

 

“-and things were awkward for a bit. But then he apologized, and we went on the fake date, and I don’t know. It got a little flirty I guess. And then there were a couple other moments where we wound up snogging again-”

 

“Fucking hell,” Dom exclaimed. “You were really full of shit when I first saw you over the break then.”

 

“Very much so,” I smiled apologetically. 

 

“Have you slept with him?”

 

“Er…”

 

Dom’s eyes bugged out her head. “YOU SHAGGED MY COUSIN AND DIDN’T TELL ME?” 

 

Everyone in the salon turned to stare at us, looking scandalized for the most part. A few women looked amused, but most of them just looked pissed off. 

 

“Dom,” I hissed. “Keep it down a little, please.”

 

She glared at me. “You have no right to make any requests of me, Rivers.” Her manicurist looked like she wanted to throttle us both at this point, and I really didn’t blame her. 

 

“Dom,” I sighed. “I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you. I just didn’t want to say anything to anyone until I knew what was going on.”

 

“What do you mean?” She narrowed her eyes. “You shagged him and still don’t know what’s happening with you two?”

 

“Not really,” I shrugged, answering honestly. “I mean we fancy each other I guess, but beyond that-”

 

“The fuck do you mean ‘beyond that?’” Dom questioned. “Just bloody date the bloke!”

 

“It’s not that simple,” I mumbled, not knowing how to defend myself. I suppose to the outside ear, it was simple. We fancied each other, we’d snogged, we’d fucking had sex, so dating should naturally come next, right? In fact it probably should have come sooner.

 

I didn’t know how to explain that I simply had no faith in the concept of dating as a whole, and didn’t want to ruin anything with a person I’d come to really, really care about by attempting something doomed to fail. 

 

“It is,” Dom insisted. “Do you know how long Al’s fancied you? I know you guys fought all the time, but it was so obvious. You can’t just string him along now.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “I’m not stringing anyone along, Dom.”

 

“No,” she deadpanned. “You’re just sleeping with the bloke but refusing to date him.”

 

“Come off it, Dom,” I snapped. “Like you weren’t worse at Hogwarts. How’s Lysander, by the way?” It was a low blow, but she’d started to irk me. 

 

Dom and Lysander had a weird relationship. They’d been very on-off through her fifth and sixth year, but by seventh, they decided to just get together and make it official. Until, of course, they graduated and Dom dumped him out of the blue, throwing everyone for a loop. 

 

“Shut up, Tara,” Dom glowered. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

“Exactly!” I argued. “Because you wouldn’t tell me! And now you’re forcing all this Al stuff out of me- hypocrite much?”

 

“You’re being a right bitch today,” she informed me, frowning deeply.

 

“You’re being unfair,” I countered. “Look, I know the Albus stuff probably sounds simple, but it’s just not.

 

“I think you’re just being a coward,” Dom said, crossing her arms. 

 

“Probably,” I rubbed my temple, not bothering to deny it. 

 

“So then suck it up and grow a backbone!” She exclaimed. “This is stupid!”

 

“It’s not stupid,” I growled. “Honestly, Albus was perfectly reasonable when we had our last talk, I don’t know why you’re handling it worse than he would. He’s the one who’s actually involved.”

 

She rolled her eyes. “You’re so daft, Tara. Obviously he won’t tell you if you’ve upset him, he’s too bloody infatuated.”

 

“I don’t think you’re giving him enough credit,” I frowned. 

 

“I don’t think you’re giving him enough credit,” Dom shot back. “Why won’t you date him?”

 

“Why’d you dump Lysander?”

 

“None of your fucking business!” She cried. 

 

“This can’t be a one-way friendship, Dom!” I retorted. “You can’t demand answers out of me and give me none of your own. How can you be this hypocritical?”

 

“Don’t call me a hypocrite, Tara,” she seethed. 

 

“Then don’t act like one,” I frowned. Coming from me, the biggest secret-keeper and therefore hypocrite of all time. 

 

Dom jumped out of her seat suddenly, making the manicurists cry out in surprise. She sent a vial of varnish onto the floor in the process and stepped away from the chair. “I’m fucking done with this shit, Tara. You can have a nice salon appointment without me, I’m going home. And the only reason I won't be screaming to the world what happened is because I would owe Fred galleons.”

 

“Dom,” I protested. But she had already made a beeline for the door. 

 

I stood to follow her, but the woman who had been working on my feet cleared her throat. “Er, miss, someone still has to pay for your appointment.”

 

I realized Dom had left with the vouchers, which meant I’d have to pay out of pocket. 

 

Bollocks. 

 


 

Between Rylie and James fighting with Leo, and Dom fighting with me, I was growing exhausted. I had just wanted a nice break from school with my friends where I wouldn’t have to deal with the usual drama. 

 

Instead, the drama had increased tenfold and I was left wanting to slam my head in a door. 

 

After the salon, I wasn’t sure where to go, so I wound up finding my way to Diagon Alley. I headed to the Leaky Cauldron, craving butterbeer, and planted myself at a table in the back to sulk in peace.

 

I wasn’t much in the mood to go back to Rose’s house yet; it was just a little crowded, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see them all at that moment. I was just angry, confused, and tired. I wanted to go home. 

 

Home? What home? Came a pesky inner voice. 

 

Fuck off, I told it. Not helping

 

The inner voice was right, of course. I didn’t have a real home. 

 

I supposed there were all those stupid sayings like, home is wherever you make it, home is where the heart is, and all the other sentimental crap out there about homes. Honestly, though, I wanted a real home, with a normal bedroom and a kitchen and my own decorations, and a sodding dog

 

I ran a hand through my hair, my frustration building. Normally, my next best thing would be Rose’s house, but I needed a break from that crowd. But, as I took a swig from my mug, I realized I had a better option. 

 

Making my decision, I chugged down the last of my butterbeer and stormed off to the fireplaces available for the Floo Network. 

 

I grabbed a pinch of Floo Powder. “Hogwarts.”

 

A moment later, I was stumbling into Headmaster McGonagall’s office, coughing as I inhaled a nice puff of dust. 

 

“Miss Rivers,” her voice came a moment later. “I didn’t expect to see you back so early.”

 

McGonagall was sitting at her desk, a quill in her hand and her spectacles resting low on the bridge of her nose as she looked at me curiously. 

 

I cleared my throat. “Er- yeah. It’s been a weird break. Is Dex around?”

 

She smiled slightly. “I believe he’s in his office.”

 

“Great!” I beamed. “Thanks Professor.”

 

She nodded once, her expression returned to the usual stern focus I was used to seeing on McGonagall as she returned to her work. 

 

Outside her office, the corridors were empty. Not many students stayed at the school during the break, so it was easy to sneak into the passageways without getting caught. 

 

I had no real reason to, of course, but I felt at ease inside the walls. 

 

Finding one of my hidden entrances, I sealed myself inside, lit my wand, and started through the passageway. It felt good to be back. I appreciated being able to share my secret with Albus, honestly, since he’d proven better company than I’d originally imagined, but it really was nice to have a moment alone in the first place I’d ever felt comfortable and happy. 

 

I wandered down the path with ease, knowing every crack in the floor, every step, every hollow and groove. I could have put my light out and I still would have known where to go. 

 

I paused in my steps and smiled to myself. 

 

Maybe I was home. 

 

I felt a lot more at ease by the time I left the walls near Dex’s office. The change in environment was incredibly welcome. I absolutely loved the Potter-Weasley families, but there were so many of them, and having a moment to take a breath alone was refreshing. 

 

The door to Dex’s office was open. I poked my head inside, knocking against the doorframe. 

 

Dex looked up at me in surprise. “Tara? The hell are you doing here?”

 

I snorted. “Hey, Dex.”

 

He obviously hadn’t been expecting any company- a radio was blasting the play-by-play of an Arrows and Magpies game, while his bunny slipper clad feet were up on the desk, a treacle tart in front of him. 

 

Dex glanced between the dessert, his slippers, the radio, and me. “I was- grading papers.”

 

“Right,” I rolled my eyes, hopping into the seat across from him. “You get my present?” I grinned cheekily. 

 

He smirked. “Yeah, I did.”

 

“Has it proven useful yet?” I asked, stifling a snigger. 

 

“I’m not answering that,” he shook his head, taking his feet down and sitting up. “You’re not seventeen yet.”

 

I raised my eyebrows and eyed his treacle tart suspiciously. “Dex…”

 

He snorted. “Don’t even think about it.”

 

I pouted, crossing my arms. “Fine, fine.”

 

I’d gotten Dex a cookbook for Christmas, called Baked. As one could probably guess, it was a cookbook for edibles. This particular book was great, because in addition to normal desserts, like the treacle tart that was currently resting on Dex’s desk, it also had recipes for wizarding world snacks. 

 

“I don’t even want to know where you found that bloody book,” Dex laughed.

 

“It was just a bookstore,” I waved a hand. “I may not be able to buy weed yet-” He frowned at the word ‘yet.’ “-but there’s no law against me buying the cookbook.”

 

“Fair enough,” Dex sighed. “You want your present?”

 

I clasped my hands together excitedly. “Yes.

 

He opened a drawer to his desk and pulled out a small parcel wrapped in green paper before handing it to me. “There you are.”

 

I looked at it curiously, shaking it lightly like a child. I could feel something inside, but not well enough to give away the contents. 

 

“Open it, you nutter,” Dex grinned. 

 

I glared at him but listened nonetheless. I tore off the paper- I never understood people who open their presents so daintily, it’s just paper- and was met with a box. 

 

As I pulled off the lid, my eyebrows shot up. “Woah.” It was a very old and even more expensive looking watch. “Dex, how much did this cost?”

 

He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter.”

 

I smiled, pulling it out of the box. “This is brilliant.” However, as I started fastening it around my wrist, I noticed something was underneath the box. I clicked the watch into place, taking a moment to appreciate the leather, before picking up the box. “Oh you fucking arsehole!” I exclaimed, glaring at my guardian. 

 

Dex sniggered as I pulled out a Harry Potter bobblehead. “I thought it was funny.”

 

“If someone sees me with this, I will never hear the end of it,” I complained. “Oh gods, what if Al sees it?”

 

“He your boyfriend now?” Dex asked curiously. 

 

“Fuck off,” I mumbled, flushing red again. I hadn’t forgotten our last conversation about Albus Potter, the one of the boy in question had overheard. 

 

Dex simply laughed, shaking his head. “Tara, I ought to give you detention for that kind of language.”

 

“Try it,” I narrowed my eyes. “I’ll tell the headmaster to have you drug tested after you have your little treacle tart, there.”

 

“Snake.”

 

“Absolutely,” I agreed, grinning winningly. 

 

He laughed. “What are you doing back so soon, anyway? I don’t usually see you until the end of the break, you have a few more days left.”

 

I groaned. “Everyone’s annoying me. Leo’s being a prick, which means Rylie’s sad, and James is sad, which makes everyone sad, and Dom’s being a bitch to me, and Rose’s house is too crowded with moping girls and nosy teenage boys, and-”

 

“Point taken,” Dex held a hand up. “Maybe you do need some of this treacle tart.”

 

“Are you offering?” I asked hopefully. 

 

“Not even a little,” he snorted. “As me again in five years, maybe.”

 

I pouted. “That’s just no fun.”

 

“I’m both your guardian and a professor, Tara,” Dex snorted. “If you expected any answer other than no, then you’re not as smart as I thought.”

 

I had half a mind to throw the Harry Potter bobblehead at him. “Sod off.”

 

He chuckled again, and I couldn’t help but smile. He may have been a horrible influence with no real idea as to how to raise a kid, but I cared a lot about Dexter Mansir, and at that particular moment, I felt extremely grateful to have him in my life. 

 

“Thank you, Dex,” I said quietly. 

 

He raised an eyebrow. “For the bobblehead?”

 

I smiled. “Yeah. For the bobblehead.”

 

And for being here, I thought. For giving me some semblance of a home.  

 


A/N:

 

Yay a new chapter! Hope the wait wasn't too bad. I have so many writing projects going at once right now, it's probably going to bite me in the ass at some point. I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Not as much Al, sadly, but I needed to give their drama a break to make room for everyone else's drama. More Al next time ;) He may or may not stumble upon Dex's Christmas gift to Tara and take the mickey out of her. 

 

Hope everyone's well!

 

-K

 

Disclaimer: Anything you recognize isn't mine, it's all JK Rowling. 



Chapter 16: Cold Hands and Warm Lips
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I couldn’t hide at Hogwarts for the entirety of the last part of the break, as my stuff was still at Rose’s house. It was a nice day, however, catching up with Dex and just wandering the snow-covered grounds. I was very fond of the cold, and Hogwarts around Christmastime was the perfect place to be in such weather. 

 

Rose questioned me for ages when I returned to her house, but let it go when I told her I’d simply gone home for a bit. 

 

“I can’t believe I’ve still never met your parents after all these years,” she’d mused. 

 

I felt like a right jerk. 

 

I also hadn’t seen Albus since we’d all been at Malfoy Manor, which bothered me immensely. I’d sent him an owl during my brief stay at Hogwarts, letting him know what had happened with Dom and telling him that I was sorry for being a noncommittal bitch. 

 

He hadn’t responded. 

 

Not a single letter from Albus Potter for the rest of the school break. I couldn't understand what had happened- we'd been on perfectly normal terms at Malfoy Manor- for fuck's sake he'd gotten me to admit to fancying him! I wasn't sure what the silent treatment was all about, but it effectively ruined the last part of my holidays. 

 

 

“Tara,” Rose sighed the morning we were meant to return to Hogwarts. “It’s time to get up.”

 

“I’m good,” I mumbled into the pillow. “Tell everyone I said hi and that I’ll be completing my Sixth Year from right here.”

 

She snorted before snatching my pillow away. I grunted lightly as my face sunk against the mattress. “Rose,” I pouted, lifting my head. 

 

“Get your arse up, Tara,” she rolled her eyes. “You’re supposed to be the morning person of the two of us.”

 

“I haven’t been feeling like much of one lately,” I protested, though I sat up nonetheless. It was true- I had taken to sleeping in for those last couple days of the holidays. Fighting with Dom, comforting Rylie, and stressing over Albus not writing me back had me feeling very unmotivated to leave the bed most mornings. 

 

She shot me a sympathetic look. “Tara, I’m sure things will be fine.”

 

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh yeah? Heard from Dom recently?”

 

She bit her lip. “Well, no. But it’s Dom, she gets in strops all the time. Just give her some time to cool off.”

 

“I guess,” I mumbled, standing up to get myself dressed. We had to leave for the station in a few minutes. “I can’t even properly apologize to her because I’m pissed at her too.”

 

“I know,” Rose rolled her eyes. “You’re both angry little secret keepers who don’t like secret keepers. Now get a move on and get dressed! I don’t want to make Rylie wait for us on the train.”

 

Rylie had gone home while I was at Hogwarts after her mum had owled her. She’d kept in touch with Rose and me, saying her mum and dad were being very supportive while Leo remained locked in his room, refusing to talk to her. 

 

“You’re right,” I sighed, hurrying to pull on some pants and change my shirt. “Have you heard from anyone on how James is doing by the way?”

 

Rose shrugged. “Sort of. Lily owled me and said he’s absolutely gutted over the fight. Leo’s his best mate.”

 

I groaned. “Leo’s being stupid. I have half a mind to punch him in the nose.”

 

“You can’t solve everything with violence, Tara,” Rose reprimanded, though she wore a small smile. 

 

“Sure I can,” I argued. “Quidditch, arguments, hunger- all of those are solved with violence.”

 

“Hunger?” Rose lifted an eyebrow. 

 

I grinned cheekily. “Remember when Scorpius took the last blueberry muffin at breakfast?”

 

She rolled her eyes. “How could I forget? He still swears you gave him a concussion.”

 

“He deserved it. The muffin stealing prat.”

 

We left for the train station with Rose’s parents and brother shortly after I managed to dress myself. Thank Merlin I’d already been packed. 

 

“Bye Mum, Dad,” Rose hugged her parents. “I’ll see you at Easter.”

 

“Take care Rosie,” Ron sighed. “Keep kicking school’s arse and swearing off boys.”

 

“Yes, Dad, of course,” she nodded with feigned earnestness. “No boys until I’m thirty.”

 

Yeah right, I thought. Like you weren’t ogling Scor’s bum all day last we saw him. 

 

I hugged Ron and Hermione as well. “Thank you for having me,” I said to them, feeling a tug of emotion. “I didn’t mean to stay so long this year.”

 

Hermione waved a hand. “You’re always welcome, Tara, you know that.”

 

“Dom’ll come around eventually, you know how she is,” Ron supplied helpfully. 

 

I lifted an eyebrow at Rose, who held her hands up. “I didn’t say anything about the fight.”

 

“I did!” Hugo grinned. “And more.”

 

“Anything he said is rubbish,” I growled. 

 

“We know,” Ron snorted. “He’s always been full of shite.”

 

“Ronald, we’re in public.”

 

“Sorry, ‘Mione.”

 

We found Rylie on the train, in a compartment to herself. I felt horrible about not having been there enough for her when things went to shit with her brother. 

 

“Ry!” I cried, throwing myself at her inside the compartment. 

 

“Tara!” She squealed as I landed on top of her. “Fuck, you’re not as light as you look.”

 

I flexed dramatically as I sprawled out across the bench, half lying across her lap. “I do work out.”

 

Rose giggled and sat across from her. “Alright, Rylie?”

 

She shrugged, smiling lightly. “I’m okay. Mum and Dad were a lot more understanding about everything than Leo. He’s still being a tosser.”

 

“What about James?” Rose asked. 

 

Her smile slipped. “James and I have talked a lot through owls, which is nice. But I haven’t seen him in person since the fight. He’s devastated that Leo’s so upset with him.”

 

I frowned. Poor James. “I hope Leo comes around soon,” I said. “I could try to talk some sense into him, if you’d like.”

 

Rylie let out a snort of laughter. “What kind of talk would that be, Tara? A peaceful one, I’m sure.”

 

“Well I definitely wouldn’t shove a broom up his arse, if that’s what you’re asking.”

 

“What’s this about brooms up arses?” came Lily Potter’s voice from the doorway.

 

I lifted my head slightly. “Hey Lil. We were just talking about your brother and Leo.”

 

She frowned, dropping down beside Rose. I couldn’t help but let my eyes wander past her and into the hallway, hoping in large part to see Albus not far behind her. If Lily was on the train, surely he was too. 

 

Why the hell hasn’t he owled me back? 

 

“James is a mess,” Lily sighed. “How are you doing, Rylie?”

 

Rylie looked mildly uncomfortable. She had far less experience with the youngest Potter than I did, and being part of what had caused Lily’s brother so much unhappiness probably had her feeling very nervous around the infamously tempered girl. “I’m managing.”

 

“Where is James?” Rose asked softly. 

 

Lily shrugged. “Somewhere further down the other side of the train. Al went with him. He hasn’t left James’s side all week.”

 

My gut squirmed at the mention of Albus. If he was glued to James, then I supposed it made sense that I hadn’t been able to see him yet. 

 

Selfishly, I still couldn’t help but be somewhat annoyed that he hadn’t sent me even the smallest of letters. 

 

“Leo apparated here,” Rylie mumbled as I lay back against her lap. “He didn’t want to come with Mum and Dad and me. I can’t believe he’s being such a prick to James about all this. I feel awful.”

 

I reached up and gave her shoulder an affectionate tickle. “It’s not your fault, Ry. Leo’s overreacting.”

 

She sighed. “I know. Hell, I think he knows. He just doesn’t know how else to deal with it.”

 

Lily huffed. “Well I for one am sick of blokes. They’re getting on my nerves.”

 

“Trouble in Lily-town?” Rose raised an eyebrow at her younger cousin.

 

Lily snorted. “Nothing I haven’t been able to handle. But between your brother, my brother, half my cousins, and the sodding shitheads that I’m not related to, they’re all tossers.”

 

“Cheers,” I muttered. “Though for what it’s worth, Byron Ledbury thinks you’re pretty.”

 

She raised an eyebrow. “Keeper Byron Ledbury?”

 

I nodded. “He let it slip during a meeting once.”

 

Lily smirked. “I don’t think I could date an enemy player while James is still in school. Maybe next year.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Bloody Quidditch nuts. Speaking of whom, where’s Scor?” I looked at Rose. 

 

She shrugged. “He probably went to find Albus.”

 

“Over you?

 

Rose shot me a look that very clearly read: drop it. Valuing my life- Rose is quite good at hexes- I shut my mouth. 

 

We continued with light gossip for the remainder of the train ride to school, which was a nice distraction for all four of us, since evidently none of us were having the best day. 

 

I tried to resist looking at the door too much. Every time I did, I half-hoped I’d see Albus in the hallway, though I wondered what I’d do if I did see him. Yell at him? Hit him? Snog him?

 

It was a tossup, honestly. 

 

Eventually, we made it back to the school, and filtered out of the train toward carriages. I still didn’t see Albus or James. 

 

We did finally see Scorpius, however, who all but chased us down on our way into the Great Hall. 

 

“Oi!” he called from behind us. 

 

Lily had left to catch up with some of her dormmates, leaving Rose, Rylie and me. We turned to find Scorpius running up to us. 

 

“Hey,” he panted when he reached us. He didn’t address her directly, but he was very much looking at Rose rather than the group. 

 

“Hi,” she smiled. “We missed you on the train.”

 

“I was with Al,” he explained. “It was a depressing train ride, let me tell you. James Potter can brood.” He caught Rylie’s crestfallen expressions and quickly continued, “not over you, Rylie. Leo’s just being an idiot.”

 

“Yeah,” Rylie mumbled, looking away. I looped an arm through hers reassuringly. 

 

“Let’s get some food, Ry,” I said. “Rose can catch up with Scor for us.”

 

I smiled at the two and sent them a not-so-subtle wink that made them both color. “See you, Tara,” Scorpius mumbled. I pulled Rylie over to our table, watching Scorpius and Rose continue to chat in the entrance way. 

 

“You should look for Albus,” Rylie suggested as we took our seats. 

 

I glared at her. “I’m not leaving you all alone, you loon. Now eat some sweets.”

 

“Yes ma’am,” she raised her eyebrows. 

 

Still, I couldn’t help but stare at the door throughout the entirety of the meal. Neither of the Potter boys ever showed. 

 


 

I went for a broom ride later that evening. Rylie had gone up to the dorm to sleep off the massive amounts of food we’d inhaled, so I told her I’d see her later and went down to the pitch. 

 

The sun was still setting, so it wasn’t too dark yet. It was very cold, however. I regretted not bringing my gloves or a scarf with me, but I couldn’t be arsed to go back up and get them so I simply grabbed my broom from the locker room and took off. 

 

The breeze increased drastically to a harsh wind as I zipped off around the pitch. The cold felt like it was slicing my face up a bit, but I took it because the speed was refreshing and exhilarating. I hadn’t flown much since before the break, aside from once when I’d flown to Rylie’s house. This was very much needed. 

 

I lost track of how many laps I took. I started to mix up my direction, weaving between the goal hoops, looping around, diving and climbing. I probably had the stupidest grin on my face, I was having so much fun up there. 

 

The sun fully set, and darkness set it, but I didn’t stop. I was just turning around to start on laps again, wanting to push my speed, when another figure shot up past me. 

 

I turned with a start, watching them fly by me. They were a shadowy blur in the night sky, but I knew the flying style well. 

 

I took off after him, bending over low and accelerating fast. He had a slightly better broom, but I was the better flyer. 

 

I followed him closely, approaching from behind. He dove at various intervals, and I followed, and once he tried to shake me with a full loop-de-loop, but I stayed on him. I could’ve passed him, but I wanted to keep up the chase for a bit, just to see what he’d do. 

 

He sped by the far end’s goal posts with me still on his tail. I was pretty sure I’d seen him glimpse back at me a few times, but it was hard to tell in the dark. It was weird to me at first that the stadium lights weren’t on, until I realized we were probably pushing curfew. People weren’t expected to be out here flying at this time. 

 

Eventually, he pulled up by the bleachers, and lowered himself until he could hop off and sit down. 

 

I followed him reluctantly, slowly coming to a stop just in front of him. I could see him more clearly now, even in the dark. It was clear out tonight- the stars and moon cast lights of their own that reflected off his face. 

 

He watched me hover in front of him. Now that I’d stopped, the wind had too, and up here the world felt painfully quiet. 

 

“Hey Tara,” Albus finally said softly. I'd missed hearing his voice more than I'd care to admit. 

 

“Hi Al,” I said unsurely. 

 

“Join me?” He asked. I couldn’t really make out his expression, which annoyed me. 

 

“I’m quite comfortable, actually,” I lied. Truthfully, my hands were probably permanently frozen to the broom after flying around in the cold for so long. It took a lot of self control to keep my teeth from chattering. 

 

Albus frowned. “Please? You look freezing, I’d feel better if- shit, Tara, where are your gloves?” He exclaimed when he noticed my hands. 

 

“Forgot them,” I shrugged. 

 

He sighed. “Come here.” He wasn’t asking this time, and I surprised myself by listening. I floated close enough to drop down and sit on the bench beside him, but I didn’t unclench my fists from the broom. Albus tentatively reached over with his gloved hands and pried my fingers from the handle, and mostly because the cold was starting to hurt too much, I let him. 

 

He managed to get my hands loose, and my broom fell onto the bench in front of us with a soft thud. He pulled my hands up to his mouth and breathed warm air onto them. 

 

He removed his scarf, a green and silver striped one, and wrapped it around my neck. “Jesus,” he frowned, holding my knuckles under his chin. “You’re fingers are fucking cold.”

 

“It’s a tad brisk out,” I said quietly. 

 

“Just a bit,” he agreed. “I saw you on the map and thought you were mental.”

 

“I wouldn’t rule that out,” I said wryly. 

 

“Never,” Albus smiled slightly. He looked at me with his eyebrows furrowed, his gloved hands still rubbing over my own as he tried to warm them up. 

 

“I haven’t seen you in a bit,” I blurted out, wanting to kick myself for it. 

 

His smile slipped away, and he looked pained. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not coming to see you, and for not getting back to you.”

 

“You were preoccupied with your brother,” I shook my head, trying not to care. 

 

“You’re still angry,” he guessed. I hated how perceptive he could be when it came to me. 

 

“I’m trying not to be,” I said, biting my lip. “I know it’s stupid of me.”

 

He kissed the same knuckles he’d held tucked against his neck. “Not stupid. I should have said something.”

 

“Why didn’t you?” I whispered, feeling like a needy, selfish bitch for asking. James was his brother, his best mate. Of course he’d wanted to be with him. 

 

Albus sighed. “Dom cornered me before I got your letter.” I wasn’t expecting that answer at all. “She gave me an absolute earful about how I was stupid for letting you play me around- I told her that wasn’t the case, by the way- and she said I ought to take better care of my own feelings, which just made me vomit into my mouth a little.”

 

“Gross.”

 

“And I told her to get lost,” he went on, ignoring me. “But I dunno what happened. Your letter came, and I briefly wondered if Dom was right, and this was all while I was trying to help James deal with his best mate not speaking to him over the whole Rylie debacle-” Albus broke off and took a breath. “So I figured I would just wait until we got back to address the stuff about you and me.”

 

I was terrified of what came next, but my curiosity forced me to ask, “And?”

 

He smiled slightly, kissing the hand he hadn’t before. “And, as I already thought before, Dom can fuck off and stick her nose in someone else’s business.” He dropped my hands and instead reached up and cupped my cheek before pulling me in for a kiss. 

 

I sighed against him as he slipped an arm around my waist and pulled me closer, in part because he was warmer than I was, but mostly because I’d missed him more than I’d expected. It was just so very easy to relax into the arms of Albus Potter. And fuck his lips were warmer than mine. 

 

Still, when he pulled away, I couldn’t help voicing my doubts. “What if Dom was right?” I asked quietly. “What if I’m just messing you around? What if I hurt you?”

 

He laughed slightly as he pulled off his gloved and slid them over my own hands. “If you hurt me, it’d only be because you were afraid of me hurting you. So I just need to prove to you that that won’t happen, and we’re golden.”

 

I couldn’t help but smile at his optimism. “Al, you could do so much better.”

 

“That’s rubbish.”

 

“It’s not,” I insisted, resting my forehead against his. “I’m not nice, I’m lying to almost everyone I know about my upbringing for no reason other than sheer embarrassment, my own mother didn’t want me, and for all I know it’s in my fucking blood to run away from people I care about.”

 

Albus pulled away slightly and studied my face. “Tara,” he said, his voice thick. “That. Is. Rubbish.

 

“But-”

 

“Let me finish,” he shook his head, moving his hands so that they rested on either side of my face. “You think you’re not nice, but you care about people fiercely. I’ve seen you break someone’s nose for insulting Rylie, I’ve seen you change the subject when Rose brings up guys she’s dating just to save Scor’s feelings, I’ve seen you break down in tears over upsetting Mansir, and I’ve been personally helped to feel better by you on multiple occasions where I’d been down. Your mother, and I hate saying this so I’m sorry, left because she isn’t nice. That’s not in your blood; it has nothing to do with blood. She left you, and I’m sorry about that. But you have a whole lot of people in your life right now who have no intention on leaving you, ever. And as for the lies- they’ll understand once you explain. I did.”

 

Like every other time that Albus was inexplicably nice to me, I felt an overwhelming urge to cry. If I cried, the tears would just make my face colder than it already was, so I simply bit my lip and nodded, blinking the tears away as best I could. 

 

“If you keep doing that, I’m going to bite it off myself,” Albus murmured, reaching a thumb out to brush against my lips. 

 

I let out a strangled, watery sort of laugh before kissing him again. He pulled me into his lap, my arms wrapping around his neck. 

 

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled against him once I pulled away.

 

He looked confused. “For what?”

 

“Being a coward,” I said in a small voice. 

 

Albus kissed my temple. “I can be patient.” 

 

Sure, for now, I thought. What happens when I never give in? When I keep refusing to openly date him and love him properly, like a normal girl? What happens when he can no longer keep waiting on me?

 

I said nothing, instead, and leaned against his chest while he traced circles on my back over my coat. We stayed like that for quite a while, until Albus eventually decided we needed to go inside. 

 

“You’re going to freeze to death,” he frowned. “No more flying without gloves in the winter, please.”

 

“Fair,” I agreed, standing with him. “Scorpius would kick me off the team.”

 

“I’m glad your priorities are still in order.”

 

We made our way back to the castle, his now bare hand holding my gloved one. I didn't take his gloves off until we were back inside. We snuck into the passageways to avoid getting caught out past curfew, and as the two of us started down the dark, hidden corridor, I couldn't help but think about how long it'd been since we'd both been in those walls together. 

 

“I haven’t been in here for a while,” Albus commented, our hands intertwined and our wands out for light. “I missed it, actually.”

 

“I have,” I said lightly. “I visited Dex over the break.”

 

He looked surprised. “I didn’t know that.”

 

“It was right after the Dom fight,” I sighed. “She made me mad, and Rose was comforting Rylie better than I could, and fucking Hugo is a pain, so suddenly I just sort of ended up here.”

 

Albus laughed. “What’d Hugo do?”

 

I groaned. “He’s just a nosy prick who’s far too interested in other people’s sex lives.”

 

Are you shitting me?” 

 

“I wish,” I rolled my eyes. “What a git.”

 

“I’ll punch him later,” Albus promised. I smiled at that. 

 

“You should be careful, since I now know that you’re capable of hospitalizing people,” I smirked. 

 

“What are you talking about?” He glanced at me, looking confused. 

 

“Remember that row we had a while back?” I asked. 

 

“The one after you made a mean comment about my parents and then shoved me into the friend-zone?” He raised his eyebrows. 

 

Good thing for the dim lighting of our wands, because I flushed deeply. “Al, I’m-”

 

“If you apologize, I won’t snog you tonight,” Albus cut me off. “I remember the row, go on.”

 

I frowned but continued anyway. “Well at some point Rylie and Rose were trying to convince me that you fancied me and they told me that it was you who put Ashwell into the hospital wing, not James.” 

 

“Those snitches,” he snorted. 

 

“I still can’t believe I never knew that,” I shook my head. We rounded a corner that led to some stairs, which would take us down near the common room. 

 

He shrugged. “Ashwell was a prick, he deserved it.”

 

“He did,” I smiled. “But you and I didn’t exactly get along back then.”

 

He squeezed my hand once. “And look at us now.”

 

“I really didn't see this coming,” I said in amusement. “To think it started with blackmail.”

 

Albus laughed. “And you think I’m nice.”

 

“You are,” I cried. “I don’t know why or how you hid it from me for so long, but you have to be the nicest person I’ve ever known.”

 

A small smile played at his lips in the soft light of our wands. “Remember our fake date?”

 

“The one you told me you’d already told Clarke about when in reality you hadn’t until Alex asked me out?” I asked, grinning. 

 

He groaned. “I’m going to kick Scor’s arse. Are any of our friends capable of keeping their fucking mouths shut?”

 

“Nope,” I laughed. “They’re all just nosy rats.”

 

“Apparently,” Albus growled. “Also, do me a favor and don’t bring up any more blokes you dated or almost dated.”

 

I snorted. “That’s easy enough for me, there aren’t many. For you, however-”

 

“Shut up,” he rolled his eyes. “I haven’t dated much.”

 

“You’ve snogged a fair bit.”

 

“Everyone needs practice.”

 

I smiled slightly. His practice did pay off for my benefit, after all. “I feel like a real greedy bitch asking you not to snog other girls when we aren’t even technically dating.”

 

Albus smirked. “I guess I’ll just have to go snog some other girls.”

 

“Try it and I’ll curse your lips off,” I threatened. 

 

He chuckled, pressing his face into my hair for a moment as we walked. “You’re bonkers, Tara.”

 

“That’s mean.”

 

“Told you I’m not nice,” he smiled cheekily as we descended a set of stairs. 

 

“You are,” I argued. “Maybe your methods were a little off earlier this year, but I can’t remember the last time you did something like that.”

 

Albus shrugged. “Guess I figured not being nice wasn’t really getting us anywhere.”

 

“Although it did get you a couple snogs, come to think of it,” I said thoughtfully. 

 

I glanced up at him again to see him smirk. “That’s true,” he said. “Good snogs, too. One was in these very walls, wasn’t it? That was a fun one.”

 

“It was okay,” I lied. 

 

He ceased walking, pulling me to a stop with him, and raised an eyebrow at me. “That right?”

 

I grinned cheekily. “That’s right. Perfectly mediocre, really.”

 

His eyes narrowed as he stepped closer, backing me against the wall. “I changed my mind. You aren’t nice.”

 

“Told you,” I whispered. 

 

“Mediocre my arse,” he growled. 

 

“I dunno,” I sang, trying not to show how flustered I was as he rested his hands on the wall on either side of my head, pinning me in place. 

 

His face shifted to a more perseverant expression. “I’ll just have to do better-” he planted a small kiss at the corner of my mouth. “-to convince you-” Another kiss at the other corner. “-otherwise.” 

 

And then he snogged the living daylights out of me, and Merlin it was anything but mediocre.

 

“Your room?” he pulled away, smirking. I knew he didn’t mean my dorm.

 

“My room,” I breathed, nodding. 

 

He grabbed my hand again and practically dragged me up to the Room of Requirement, stopping periodically along the way to kiss me roughly. 

 

I had to consider myself convinced. 

 


 

A/N: Not a crazy eventful chapter, but it had some nice mushy Albus/Tara time, and I live for those moments. Especially in the midst of a pandemic, which is a fucking awful time to be single. I gotta live vicariously through my own characters. Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed the chapter! Next one will expand much more on the stuff with Tara's mother and Frodarian.

 

Feel free to leave a review, they are very much appreciated and always make my day. They do wonders for my motivation!

 

Stay safe everyone xoxo

 

Disclaimer: No one or thing you recognize belongs to me, it's JK Rowling. 



Chapter 17: I Finally Have a Lead
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N: HAPPY OCTOBER!!!!


 

Not to sound like a mushy buffoon, but I would be hard pressed to name something better than waking up in the arms of Albus Severus Potter. 

 

He was warm, and soft- well, mostly soft, if I’m being honest- and I woke up feeling more relaxed than I had in days. 

 

We’d stayed in my personal room in the Room of Requirement, the one I’d only ever let him see. I still found it genuinely amazing that he’d somehow become the one person to weasel his way into my private life and extract every last one of my secrets. 

 

I rolled over and yawned, unintentionally waking him in the process. He stirred beside me, his arm draped across my stomach. 

 

After a yawn of his own, he lifted his head slightly, seemingly trying to get his bearings, before he froze. 

 

“Tara… tell me that isn’t a bobblehead of my father.”

 

I followed his line of sight toward the shelf to the right of the bed. 

 

Shit, I thought. Forgot about that. 

 

Albus laughed at me for the better part of the next twenty minutes as we got ourselves out of bed and headed down to breakfast that morning. I’d explained to him that the present was from Dex, as a stupid joke, and he simply kept laughing. 

 

“Remind me to thank Mansir later,” he sniggered across from me at the breakfast table, wiping a tear from his eye. Stupid git. 

 

“Fuck you,” I growled, stabbing at my eggs angrily. 

 

“Always knew you were more interested in my genetics than the rest of em,” he smirked, winking at me. 

 

“I will stab you with a butter knife.

 

“Where? In the forehead? Carving a lightning bolt?” He challenged, still looking far too delighted with himself. He shook his head in mocking disappointment. “So obsessed, Tara.”

 

“Go fuck the giant squid, Potter,” I snapped loudly, earning a few looks from people within earshot. 

 

“Ooo, Al has a new lover?” Scorpius grinned as he slid onto the bench beside me. “I knew he was into the squid, I saw him making eyes at it once.”

 

Albus rolled his eyes and chucked a roll at Scorpius. “Come off it, mate, you’re the one who jumped the thing.”

 

My glare melted away as I recalled the memory fondly. Scorpius hadn’t actually jumped the giant squid, but rather had been pushed into the lake by Dom. He’d only been twelve, and he swore up and down for years that the squid had tickled his bum. 

 

“You guys suck,” Scorpius frowned as we laughed at his expense. “Fucking Dom, I loathe that woman.”

 

“I’ll tell her you said that,” I smirked at him. Well, for a moment at least, until I remembered that she and I weren’t on speaking terms. 

 

My smile slipped and I returned to scowling at my breakfast.

 

“Morning,” came Rose’s voice a moment later, joining the three of us. She plopped down beside Albus and stole one of his slices of bacon. 

 

“Oi,” Albus slapped her hand away. “Hands off my food.”

 

She shrugged, nonplussed. “So… I have detention tonight.”

 

My fork fell to the floor with a sharp clang, Albus whipped his head toward her so fast I worried he’d gotten whiplash, and Scorpius choked on his coffee. 

 

“You what?” I demanded. “You got a detention?”

 

Rose Weasley does not get detentions. 

 

She sighed, looking shockingly casual for having just gotten her first detention in her five and a half years of being at Hogwarts. “I did.”

 

Albus and I stared at her with utterly gobsmacked expressions; Scorpius got a grip before us and grinned widely. “Please tell us what you did.”

 

Rose fixated him with a scrutinizing look. “No.”

 

His smile slipped. “No?”

 

She shook her head, grabbing another piece of Albus’s bacon. “Nope.”

 

Nope?” Poor Scorpius looked like he was going to burst a blood vessel. 

 

She huffed. “Stop repeating me, Scor, I’m not telling you what I did.”

 

I gaped at her. “Will you tell me?

 

“Not a chance.”

 

“I’m your cousin,” Albus pointed out. “Surely I get some sort of special familial treatment.”

 

“It’s because you’re my cousin that you’ll be the last person here I ever tell,” Rose shrugged, the corners of her mouth just barely turned up. 

 

Shit. She knew how juicy this information would be. She was enjoying this. Rose Weasley was so much more evil than people realized. 

 

“Rose!” I whined. “Please?”

 

She snorted. “No, Tara. I only even brought up the detention at all because you and I were supposed to hang out with Rylie tonight, and I needed to explain my absence.”

 

Scorpius banged his face on the table a few times. “Rose. Please. You’re killing me.”

 

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be dramatic.”

 

“KILLING ME!”

 

Albus looked frustrated. “Shit, I can’t even think of anything I have on you to get you to talk.”

 

She smirked at him very uncharacteristically. “Of course you can’t. You have nothing on me.”

 

Scorpius brightened, sitting back up. “I do!” I eyes him suspiciously, unsure of what he could possibly have over Rose that I wouldn’t already have known about. 

 

She frowned at him, her confidence slipping. So maybe perfect Rose Weasley did have something to hide. “You do not.”

 

He looked ecstatic, which I decided was a crucial mistake on his part. First rule of blackmail, gaslighting, and any other applicable means of fucking with someone as smart as Rose Weasley: never let your true elation over any sort of advantage show. “Oh I absolutely do. It’s good, too.”

 

“What is it?” I demanded, feeling incredibly left out. “Spill the tea, Scor!”

 

Scorpius glared at me. “You get nothing, Tara, you didn’t even tell me you shagged Al.”

 

My jaw dropped and I turned to Albus with an accusatory glare. He himself looked like he wanted to send his best friend to St. Mungo’s with the inability to walk, speak, or procreate as he asked, “What the fuck happened to, ‘Don’t worry, Al, I won’t say anything,’?” 

 

Scorpius simply shrugged at him. “I needed leverage.”

 

I pouted, feeling thoroughly defeated. It wasn’t like I could stay mad at Albus, since I’d already told Rylie and Dom, but I didn’t want my sex life to spread around the school like an aggressive herpes outbreak at a music festival. Or wildfire. I can use normal similes. 

 

Rose looked unsurprised about the revelation, which made me suspicious. “Did you already know, Rosie?” I asked with narrowed eyes. Of course she did. Scorpius was not a strong willed person when it came to Rose Weasley.

 

She smiled slightly. “I might have heard something. Not from you, however, so you have no right to ask me about my detention cause.”

 

I turned to Scorpius, who had already pushed himself down the bench away from me, sitting beside a couple Second Years. They stared at him wide-eyed like he was some sort of popular, handsome Quidditch star. Alright, so maybe he was, but he was also a git. 

 

“You fucking big mouth,” I hissed at the aforementioned git. The Second Years’ facial expressions shifted from awe-inspired to thoroughly terrified, and they slid further down the table themselves. If this kept up, someone was going to eventually scoot onto the floor.  

 

He held up his hands defensively. “Oi, it’s not my fault. Al told me, and you both know I can’t keep shit from Rose. She’s scary.” 

 

I groaned, running my fingers through my hair. “Fucking hell, we’re like the worst group of friends I’ve ever seen.”

 

It was weird; at once, we all seemed to grasp how amusing the situation was. We kind of were awful, but none of us could really hold it against each other because no one really had the moral high ground here. Everyone was holding some sort of leverage or threat over one another all at once. 

 

I started to giggle, which set off Albus, and Rose eventually joined us. Scorpius stayed where he was, watching us like we’d all gone mad. 

 

“I’m glad you can all find the humor in the fact that we’re all hypocritical arses,” he smirked. “But I’d still like to weasel information out of our dear Rose, if you don’t mind.”

 

“Up yours, Malfoy,” she snapped. I was caught by a surprise snort, not entirely prepared for Rose’s harsh reply. Rose’s anger always sort of amused me when I wasn’t on the receiving end. “I’m not telling you.”

 

“Fine,” he shrugged innocently. “Then I suppose you won’t mind me telling your loving father about-”

 

“WAIT!” Rose cried, all traces of annoyance replaced by panic. Apparently she’d guessed at his bargaining chip. “I know what you’re going to say. Scor, please.”

 

His smirk widened, his eyes lit up in amusement. He looked like the most quintessential Malfoy. “Thought so.”

 

She glared at him. “I need to stop hanging around you Slytherins.”

 

Albus chortled. “You do spend more time here than at your own table, don’t you?”

 

“The food’s no different, so Rosie must love our charming company!” I exclaimed with a smile. 

 

“Yeah, Tara,” Rose scoffed. “Charming is the word I’d use to describe you lot. Doesn’t matter anyway, because if Scorpius leaks my information, I’ll never spill my detention details. So what’s more important to you here, Malfoy?” She brought her elbows onto the table and rested her chin against her fists with a victorious smile. 

 

He stared at her at a loss for words. Albus caught my eye across the table and grinned at me. We were very likely thinking the same thing: Rose Weasley owned poor Scorpius Malfoy. 

 

“I’ll get it out of you eventually,” the blonde in question finally mumbled. “I’ll figure it out.”

 

“We’re bad influences on her,” Albus whispered loudly across the table to me. 

 

Rose simply shook her head in exasperation. Before she could make a retort, owls started pouring into the Great Hall, catching our attention. I didn’t really concern myself with them, since it wasn’t like I was expecting mail. 

 

Albus, however, did receive a letter. He cursed as it dropped into his bowl of cereal, milk splashing back up at him. 

 

Scorpius and I sniggered while Rose took pity and waved it all away with a quick flourish of her wand. Albus smiled gratefully at her before eagerly tearing at his letter. 

 

“Who’s that from?” Rose tilted her head. 

 

“Dad,” Albus murmured, his eyes scanning the letter quickly. His eyes widened suddenly, his expression unnerved. 

 

“Everything okay?” I asked, preparing for bad news. 

 

He looked up at me in surprise. “Yeah. Yeah, it’s fine.”

 

“You sure?” Rose asked skeptically. “You looked like you saw something- I dunno, shocking?”

 

He waved a hand. “Don’t worry about it. Just some disappointing Quidditch stuff.”

 

Scorpius looked aghast. “Oh god, was it the Tornadoes? Tell me something good, Al, please.”

 

Albus pushed away from the table with an easy grin. “Can’t do that, I’m afraid. Sorry Scor. Hey Tara, walk with me?”

 

I stood quickly, a pit of concern only growing in my stomach, making me queasy. “Er- yeah, sure.”

 

Rose and Scorpius watched us with confused expressions for a bit until Scorpius started pestering Rose about her detention again. I heard her sigh as I walked away. “For Godric’s sake, Scor, stop asking.”

 

I headed to the doors of the Great Hall, joining Albus at his side once I was past the table. “What was in the letter, Al?” I demanded as he steered us out the doors. 

 

“A lead,” he grinned. “A lead about Frelling.”

 

I let out a sigh of relief and punched him in the arm. 

 

“Ow!”

 

“You scared me, prat,” I mumbled. “I thought something bad happened.”

 

He smiled. “Worried about me?”

 

“Well yeah, you fucking dunce!” I cried as he led me to the courtyards outside. It was chilly, I found, and once again I had no scarf. 

 

He chuckled, slipping his hand into mine. At least I had gloves on this time- wouldn’t want to lose any fingers. “See, Tara, you’re nicer than you give yourself credit for.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “I just punched you and called you a dunce.”

 

His grin only widened. “You’re awfully determined to prove me wrong about your own compassion for some reason.”

 

“Stop distracting me, Al,” I squeezed his hand. “What was in the letter, and where are we going?”

 

“We’re going to go talk to Hagrid,” Albus explained. “You’ll see in a few minutes.”

 

I felt my excitement growing. Finally, we had a lead. We might actually get some answers! 

 

I was dying to know more about Frelling. Given context clues, it wasn’t an unlikely assumption to guess that he was my father. From what Albus had found out from his father, he associated with one of the Burke girls. If one of them was my mother, it would explain why he was killed, since the Burkes were an infamously evil family of Pureblood loons.

 

But it wouldn’t explain why my mother left me all alone or why someone from that family would even allow herself to get involved with a Muggleborn in the first place. 

 

We reached the hut quickly; when he opened the door, I could feel the heat leaking out. Hagrid was happy to see us, per usual. “Al! Tara! Alrigh’ yeh two?”

 

“Hi Hagrid,” Albus smiled while I waved happily. “Could we possibly have a word?”

 

“‘Course!” Hagrid boomed happily. “Come in yeh, it’s righ’ cold out there.”

 

We headed inside the hut, and my neck was grateful for the warmth, despite my usual preference for colder weather. 

 

“Sit down, then,” Hagrid pointed to the table. “I’ll make some tea.”

 

“Thank you,” I smiled. I liked Hagrid’s hut. It was surprisingly cramped for belonging to someone who was half-giant, but it was homey and smelled kind of like pine nuts and log fires. 

 

I looked at Albus expectantly, since I had no idea what we were here to ask. 

 

“So Hagrid,” Albus started, lacing his hands on the tabletop. “Remember when we asked you about that Frodarian Frelling bloke earlier in the term?”

 

“Aye, I ‘member tha’,” Hagrid nodded. “Righ’ sad what happened ter him. I’m ‘frain I don’ have much more ter offer yeh on him.”

 

“You left something out though,” Albus insisted. “My dad said that even though the last place Frelling was seen alive was outside the Burke home, his body was found here at Hogwarts.”

 

“That righ’?” Hargid looked shocked. “I didn’ leavin nothin’ out, Al. I had no idea.”

 

Albus frowned. “Really? Dad said the body was found on the grounds.”

 

Hagrid just shrugged as he placed a couple mugs of tea down. “Hones’ly, I didn’ know. It’s a shame, though, he was a good bloke. I told yeh he brought that Slytherin girl down to see some of the more excitin’ animals.”

 

“A Slytherin girl?” I raised my eyebrows. “You didn’t mention her house last time. You really didn’t know who she was?”

 

He shook his head. “Sorry, Tara, I don’ know. She was quiet, ‘course, most Slytherins were back then as they were all a little uneasy after the war an’ all.”

 

“Would anyone else on the staff know about the body?” Albus asked. “Pomfrey at least? You would think a dead body would be taken to the hospital wing, right?”

 

Hagrid thought about that. “Well actually, come to think of it, Pomfrey weren’ always the healer here after the war.”

 

“What?” I raised my eyebrows. “I didn’t know that. Who else?”

 

“Hannah Abbott, briefly,” Hagrid said thoughtfully. “Bu’ I don’ think that was during Frellin’s years. That was a while later.”

 

“It would be 2006,” I said a little insistently. “That’s around the year he died.”

 

Hagrid thought a little longer until his face suddenly cleared. “Oh! I ‘member now. Yeh’ll be righ’ surprised, actually.”

 

And, once he told us, right surprised we were indeed.

 


 

“This is ridiculous,” Albus complained, dropping onto the couch in the Slytherin common room that night. “We’ve looked everywhere.”

 

I frowned, sitting beside him. “The library, the Quidditch pitch, the kitchens, the common room, the dorms… I’m blanking on where else he could possibly be post-dinner time.”

 

“I haven’t seen him since breakfast, actually,” Albus commented. “The hell has that bloke been up to today?”

 

“Stalking Rose, I’d imagine,” I snorted. “He follows her like a puppy.”

 

“That’s because he’s a pansy,” Albus smiled. “I guess we just need to check the map for Rose then-” he broke off and sat up abruptly around the same time I slapped a hand to my own forehead. “We’re idiots,” he grinned at me. 

 

“We’re actually so dumb I want to hurt us both,” I agreed, unable to hold back a smile. 

 

Albus laughed. “Well, let’s not get violent yet, we need to save our energy to find Scor.” He pulled the map out of his pocket, looking around to verify that the common room was empty. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

 

I eagerly scooted closer to watch the map come to life. It amazed me every time, the magic that had gone into that piece of parchment. It was a quick search for Scorpius Malfoy- most people were in bed at this hour. 

 

Albus and I had spent the better part of the day looking for Scorpius- well, we may have gotten distracted by each other once or twice, but that’s neither here nor there. Somehow, we’d forgotten about the map.  

 

After the bulk of our searching, I’d spent the evening with Rylie in our dorm, and obviously Scorpius wasn’t there, so I hadn’t had any idea where he could have been.

 

“There he is,” I pointed at an empty classroom. “With Rose. And Mansir?”

 

“Detention,” Albus realized, sniggering. “Bloody idiot got himself thrown into detention with Rose.”

 

I groaned, rolling my eyes at our whipped friend. “Oh come on, Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy. Have some fucking dignity.”

 

Albus laughed, wrapping an arm around my waist. “Don’t badmouth the poor sap, he’s just a pathetic bloke.”

 

“You can’t tell me not to badmouth him while calling him a sap and pathetic in the same sentence,” I grinned at him, the chill of the dungeons unnoticeable with my proximity to Albus. 

 

He smirked. “I guess I’m very nice.”

 

I rolled my eyes again but let him kiss me nonetheless. We had some time to kill before Scorpius would get back from detention, after all. 

 

Albus moved his other arm to join the first behind my back and pulled me on top of him. We kissed like that for a little while longer, one of my hands sliding up and behind his neck and into his hair while the other rested happily on his abdomen. 

 

His own hands had just started to make their way down my back toward my bum when a small shriek made me jump away from him. 

 

I missed most of the couch as I flew off of him, and wound up rolling onto the floor. “Ow,” I groaned. 

 

Rylie stood at the base of the stairs with her hands clamped over her mouth and her eyes wide. “Shit, sorry guys.”

 

I sat up and glared at her. “Thanks, Ry.”

 

She lowered her hands, revealing a Scorpius-worthy smirk. “To be fair, love, you decided to snog your not-boyfriend on the couch in the common room, where anyone could find you.”

 

“It’s after hours,” Albus pointed out, crossing a leg over his knee and relaxing. He looked annoyingly proud at having been caught, which would have annoyed me if it weren’t for the fact that I was sort of relieved to see him react to something like a normal teenage boy for once. His niceness and wisdom was too weird to deal with. 

 

“Yeah,” I nodded, still sitting on the floor. “You ought to be in bed.”

 

You ought to be in bed,” Rylie sniggered, strolling to sit on the arm of the couch on the far side of where we’d been. 

 

“Sod off,” I mumbled, grabbing a pillow and throwing it at her. “What are you doing down here, anyway? I saw you getting ready for bed!”

 

She certainly didn’t look the same as when I’d left her- she’d brushed her hair, changed out of her pajamas, and I was pretty sure wearing makeup. 

 

She blushed slightly. “I’m meeting James.”

 

“Oh are you?” I smirked, crossing my arms and sitting up a little, leaning against the couch. 

 

“Shut it,” Rylie demanded, coloring deeper. 

 

Albus chuckled. “How clandestine, Wood. Don’t let us stop you.”

 

“I would have loved for you not to have stopped me,” she pointed out, standing up. “I could have gone blind if I’d been just a few minutes later!”

 

I snorted while Albus looked away. I hadn’t seen him blush much before- it was a nice change. 

 

“Go get him, Ry!” I cheered, winking at her suggestively. 

 

“I’m not sleeping with him,” she laughed. “Fuck off. We’re just getting some late drinks.”

 

“He sneaking you out to Hogsmeade?” Albus asked, looking a little worried. I shot him a questioning look. 

 

“Yeah,” Rylie nodded, looking nervous. “Here’s hoping we don’t get caught, yeah?”

 

“I’ll say,” he mumbled under his breath. I wondered what he meant by that until I realized that the Marauders’ Map was sitting in his pocket still. Did James know that?

 

“Er-” I opened my mouth to warn my best friend, but I had no idea what to say. The map wasn’t my secret to tell. “Have fun,” I decided. 

 

She smiled at me. “I will, Tara.”

 

“Behave,” I added. “Use protection.”

 

“Fuck off! Nothing’s going to happen!”

 

“Sure,” I winked again, extra obnoxiously. 

 

“James will tell me later anyway if you do,” Albus grinned at her.

 

She looked between the two of us with a scowl. “I’ve decided I rather hate you two together. Just an awful pairing, honestly.”

 

I giggled. “Love you, Ry.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” she waved a hand at me; as she turned to leave she threw a middle finger our way, making us both laugh. 

 

Once she was gone I turned to Albus with a sigh. “Are we bad friends? What if they get caught because we have the map?”

 

Albus shrugged. “I was just wondering that. I think James has the cloak though, for what’s worth. I just wasn’t sure what he’s told her, and we’re not supposed to leak the information to non-family.”

 

“I knew about them,” I pointed out. 

 

He thought about that. “That’s true. You have a weird way of getting people to trust you, you know.”

 

“Which is rubbish,” I made a face. “Since you’re the only person who knows my own secrets.”

 

“I’m special,” he smirked proudly. I threw a pillow at him. 

 

A moment later, the common room door opened again. Rather than Rylie returning with a detention, as I’d feared, Scorpius had come back. He looked irritated, which was weird, but we didn’t have time to question his mood.

 

“Scor!” I said excitedly, pulling myself off the floor. 

 

He looked surprised to see us, his scowl disappearing. “Oh- hey guys, what are you doing up?”

 

“We need a word,” Albus said, nodding to the armchair across from us.

 

Scorpius raised an eyebrow. “Am I in trouble?”

 

“No,” I rolled my eyes. “Why, should you be? You seem a little put-out.”

 

“Had a small row with Rose,” he mumbled as he joined us, sitting in the chair. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

Albus and I exchanged a glance. I don’t think either of us know the proper protocol here- Scorpius never rowed with Rose. It just didn’t happen. They were best friends, they never fought. 

 

“Scor-” I started. 

 

“You wanted to talk to me?” He interrupted. Evidently he really didn’t want to talk about it. “Go on, then.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed a leg over the other, folding his hands together in his lap. 

 

I bit my lip, feeling guilty. Luckily, Albus took over. “We had a question about your dad,” he said slowly. 

 

This obviously wasn’t what he’d expected, as Scorpius looked thoroughly confused. “What about him?”

 

“Your dad’s a healer, yeah?” I asked. 

 

“Right,” he nodded slowly. “What of it?”

 

“Did you know he worked here briefly?” I asked, trying to keep myself front talking too quickly. I was incredibly eager. “In the early 2000s, just for a bit.”

 

Scorpius nodded again. “Yeah, he’s mentioned it before. It was part of getting in some smaller experience before starting at St. Mungo’s. Why?”

 

“We need to talk to him,” Albus said quietly. “It’s important. Is there any way you could get him to meet with us?”

 

Scorpius still looked perplexed, studying us for a few seconds of drawn out silence that was driving me a little mental. I’m not a particularly patient person. 

 

Although, I suppose I’d been waiting on my mother for six years, and if that’s not patience then I don’t know what else it could be. Well, other than maybe delusion. 

 

Finally, he nodded. “Yeah, I can do that. On one condition though.”

 

“What condition?” I asked warily. 

 

“If he agrees to meet up, you bring me with you to see him,” Scorpius said looking smug. “And you fill me in on what’s going on.”

 

I tried to fight back a scowl. No one could ever doubt Scorpius was a Slytherin, any more than they could doubt I was. Albus was a bit of an anomaly. 

 

I’d have to tell Scorpius the truth about my mother if I told him why we were meeting his father. He’d know that I was lying to everyone for years, over something that shouldn’t even have been that big a deal. I had no idea how he’d take it. 

 

Albus reached a hand down and rested it on my shoulder reassuringly. I looked up at him gratefully. He’d support me, at least I could be certain of that. 

 

I looked back at Scorpius, who was watching me carefully, curiously. 

 

“Fine,” I sighed. “I’ll tell you. But you can’t tell anyone- not even Rose. I mean it.”

 

He raised his eyebrows slightly, but his expression was earnest. “I won’t.”

 

And so, I told him. 

 


 

Scorpius owled his father early the next morning. Draco Malfoy was quick to reply to his son, which I was grateful for. He told Scorpius we could meet up with him in Hogsmeade for lunch. 

 

“I can’t believe you never told us,” Scorpius said as he, Albus and I walked down the hidden passage that’d take us into the village. 

 

“I know,” I rolled my eyes. “You mentioned that.”

 

“Not that I didn’t have my suspicions that you were lying about your home life, but still,” Scorpius frowned. I had no idea what to say to that. “You grew up at Hogwarts. That’s mental.” He looked at Albus with an irritated glance. “And how long have you known?”

 

Albus shrugged. “Longer than you, probably. I guessed she lived in the castle a while back and she confirmed it for me at the start this year.”

 

“Figures,” Scorpius snorted. “You paid Tara an unhealthy amount of attention, didn’t you?”

 

Albus scowled, not answering. I smiled to myself, letting my hand graze his. He looked at me uncertainly and I winked, making him smirk. 

 

It was surprisingly easy to make Albus happy, I’d noticed. 

 

Draco Malfoy met us in the Three Broomsticks, near the back in a corner out of earshot of the other patrons of the pub. 

 

“Scorpius,” he smiled at his son. 

 

“Hey Dad,” Scorpius grinned lazily as we reached the back table. His father stood to give Scorpius a quick hug. 

 

“Albus, Tara,” Draco nodded at us. I smiled and waved back tentatively. I’d met him a handful of times, but he always intimidated me. 

 

“Thanks for meeting with us,” Albus said quietly. 

 

“Happy to,” Draco said as we each took a seat around the table. “Though when I got an owl at the crack of dawn from my son, my first thought was that someone had been maimed or killed.”

 

“Why’s that?” I asked, confused. 

 

“Scorpius doesn’t write home,” Draco said, a slight, amused smile playing at his lips. 

 

“Shame on you, Scor,” Albus smirked. 

 

I snorted. “Yeah, because you’re writing your parents every week, aren’t you, Al?”

 

He shot me an unimpressed look while Scorpius sniggered. “Anyway.

 

“Right,” I nodded. “Business.” I looked at Draco, who regarded me curiously. It was hard to shake how much he looked like Scorpius- it was eerie, honestly. “So, Mr. Malfoy-”

 

“Draco’s fine,” he shook his head. “Mr. Malfoy makes me feel old.”

 

“To be fair-” Scorpius started, but quickly backtracked when his father glared at him. “Never mind, never mind. You look so good, your hairline has never been thicker.”

 

I slapped the back of his head. “Would you shut it? Important shit to deal with, here.”

 

Draco smiled more fully, looking like he appreciated me a lot more when I wasn’t being polite. I could get on board with that sort of adult. 

 

“We heard,” I continued, looking at Draco. “That you were the healer at Hogwarts when the body of Frodarian Frelling was found.”

 

Draco looked taken aback. “That was unexpected, honestly. But yes, I was.”

 

“Do you know who killed him?” I asked, though we already sort of knew that from what Harry Potter had told Albus. 

 

Draco’s eyebrows drew together in thought. “Well, sort of. You probably could have asked your father-” he nodded at Albus. “-about this. The Aurors are pretty sure they know who did it.”

 

“The Burkes?” Albus asked. “He mentioned them. We weren’t sure if you’d have more information since you’d actually tended to the body.”

 

Draco looked confused. “No, not really. Can I ask why you want to know?”

 

“He was supposedly an… associate, of one of the Burkes,” I said carefully. “One of the daughters. Do you know anything about that?”

 

“Not in any more detail,” he admitted. “But I do know that the same daughter went missing not long before he died. Maybe a few weeks before?”

 

My stomach dropped. It had to be her. It had to be. 

 

“How do you know that?” Scorpius looked surprised. 

 

“My parents were- familiar with the family,” Draco explained, looking upset at the memory. “We obviously didn’t make the best friends back in the day, but the ties have been severed now.”

 

“What were they like?” I asked quietly. 

 

“Awful,” he said bluntly. “Horrible, cruel people. At least my own mother loved me, and my father was just spineless. Those people were sadistic, powerful, and so sure of themselves, even after You-Know-Who fell.”

 

“And that daughter of theirs?” I persisted. “The one who disappeared?” 

 

Draco shrugged. “I never learned why. And I didn’t know her personally, since she was younger than I was, but one day she just sort of vanished. I have a theory on why, but only a theory.”

 

Most of this was just confirming what I’d already suspected: Frodarian Frelling was my father, a Muggleborn. He knocked up a Burke daughter, forcing her into hiding from her Pureblood family. They found out and killed him. 

 

But why did she leave me? I thought. It was the big question. It was the question. 

 

“What’s your theory?” Albus looked as enthralled with the conversation as I felt. 

 

“I think she had a child,” Draco said. I caught my breath. He hit the nail on the head. 

 

“Why’s that?” Scorpius asked, his eyes flickering toward me. 

 

“Well, after she resurfaced a few years ago, she came into St. Mungo’s because she’d been throwing up-”

 

Wait, WHAT?

 

I cut Draco off sharply. “What do you mean after she resurfaced?”

 

Albus’s hand caught my wrist under the table, his eyes wide. 

 

Draco looked at me in astonishment. “Did I not mention? Her disappearance wasn’t permanent. She came out of hiding a few years back.”

 

“When? Specifically?” I asked, a little frantically. There was a chance I was going to throw up when we got back to the school. 

 

“About six and a half years ago, I think,” Draco said after thinking about it. 

 

I shut my eyes and took a shaky breath, Albus’s grasp on my wrist being the only to keep me from punching the table.

 

“And then what?” I demanded, opening my eyes. “Why’d she come back? What was she at St. Mungo’s for?”

 

Albus lowered his hand from my wrist to my hand, interlacing our fingers while his thumb stroked the back of my hand. 

 

“I don’t know why,” Draco frowned. “She refused to tell us why she was back, or where she’d been. She was in St. Mungo’s over some food poisoning, though the symptoms were similar to pregnancy, so we had her tested. Her body showed signs of having carried before. I couldn’t tell if she’d actually had a kid, or lost it.”

 

Or abandoned it, I thought bitterly. 

 

“I’ve seen her a couple times since,” Draco went on. “She came in once or twice just for little, benign things.”

 

I paused. “Did she have to fill out forms? Like, basic information, address, that sort of thing?”

 

“Of course,” Draco said slowly. “Why?”

 

“I need to find her,” I whispered, sending him a pleading expression. “Please. Please can I have the address?” Albus squeezed my hand again.

 

Draco looked troubled. “Thing is, I could lose my job over that. We’re not supposed to just give out patient information.”

 

“Dad,” Scorpius spoke for the first time in a while. “Please.”

 

“I’m desperate,” I urged. “Please, Mr. M- Draco. I need to talk to her.”

 

I couldn’t think of a time I’d ever begged like this. When did I get so sodding desperate?

 

“Can I ask why?” Draco asked, his eyes narrowed. I was sure he was putting it together; it wasn’t much of a leap. 

 

“She’s my mother,” I breathed. “Please, please help me contact her.”

 

Albus and Scorpius watched him intently as he studied me. I wondered if he thought I resembled them- if I looked like the rest of the Burkes. Maybe I looked more like Frelling.

 

Frelling. Burke. My parents. I shuddered slightly, feeling more than a little overwhelmed. 

 

“Alright,” Draco said at last. “I’ll find out what address she put down and I’ll send it to you tomorrow.”

 

I sighed in relief, a massive weight off my chest. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

 

“Just do me a favor and don’t tell anyone, yeah?” Draco smiled slightly. “I rather like having a job.”

 

“Of course. I like people not knowing I’m parentless and related to crazy Pureblood fanatics,” I smiled back. “No offense.”

 

Draco snorted. “Scor, bring your friends around more often. This one’s funny.”

 

Scorpius smirked. “All my friends?”

 

“Yeah, fine, even Weasley,” Draco rolled his eyes. “Since I’d bet galleons she’s going to pop out my grandchildren one day, might as well.”

 

Scorpius spluttered while Albus and I burst into sniggers. “What the fuck Dad?”

 

Draco looked at Albus and me. “Am I wrong?”

 

“Not in the slightest,” Albus managed through his laughter. I leaned against his shoulder, giggling. 

 

“Alright, alright,” Scorpius snapped, thoroughly red. “Let’s go back to school, tossers. This is why I don’t bloody write home.”

 

Draco smirked at his son. “I’m sure.”

 

Scorpius hugged his dad goodbye, despite suffering humiliation, before Albus and I each shook his hand. “Thank you again,” I said to him.

 

“Happy to help,” Draco nodded. “Keep Scor out of trouble if you can. And get him to ask that girl out already.”

 

“Come on now, leave me alone,” Scorpius complained as we started for the door.

 

“We’ll try,” Albus promised over his shoulder. “We’ll get you those grandchildren.”

 

“That’s your cousin, Al!” Scorpius cried. 

 

“My future godchildren are going to be gorgeous,” I smiled dreamily, holding a hand over my heart. 


“I hope Al knocks you up, you gits.”

 


A/N: Yay! We might actually get to meet her mum! Let me know what you guys thought about this one :) I made it longer and meatier for you all. 

 

I have a special treat for you guys next update. It's a surprise though. 

 

Also, now that it's OCTOBER, the best month of the year, I am STOKED!! My other WIP, Dear Julia, is a lot more Halloween themed (with like death and gore and the likes) so if anyone's up for a bit of a slasher-dark-comedy, you should totally check it out. I'm getting genre whiplash from writing these two stories at the same time though, let me tell you. 

 

Alright, cheers everyone! xoxo

 

Disclaimer: Anything you recognize is JK Rowling's as always!



Chapter 18: Rose Weasley Isn't Very Sweet
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Rose Weasley

 

 

When I was eleven, and had an old, weird, dusty hat thrown atop my head to determine where I’d “belong” for the next seven years of my life, I had no idea what to expect. 

 

Well, that’s not entirely true. I was my parents’ daughter, after all. Gryffindor was obviously a contender. 

 

But it wasn’t as cut-and-dry as it’d been in our parents’ day. Back then, Weasley and Gryffindor went together like Scorpius and hair gel. Our generation threw all our parents for a loop. First Victoire was sorted into Hufflepuff, and then Dom into Slytherin. Molly broke the trend further by winding up in Ravenclaw, and Albus of course joined Dom among the snakes. 

 

Roxy wound up a Ravenclaw too, though that wasn’t for two years after my sorting. 

 

When the hat was placed upon my head, he’d said, “Hmph. You Weasleys used to be so easy. What are they feeding you these days?”

 

Apparently, I was brave and determined enough for Gryffindor, intellectual and witty enough for Ravenclaw, loyal and diligent enough for Hufflepuff, and ambitious and resourceful enough for Slytherin. 

 

One would think that being so well-rounded would make me happy. One would be wrong. 

 

Usually it just left me confused. The hat told me to pick a house, and I told it Gryffindor, because I was eleven and wanted to follow the bulk of my family, where I’d feel the least alone. 

 

Of course, Albus had always been my best friend, practically since the womb since our birthdays were so close together. Mum sometimes jokes that he and I would kick at the same time and that she and Aunt Ginny would think we were talking to each other. 

 

Personally, I think they’re both nutters. 

 

Still, we were close. I wound up sticking close by him from day one, and because of that, I very quickly received the presence of Scorpius Malfoy in my life. Dad told me on my first day of school to beat him on every test- he had a mental rivalry pictured in his head from the moment we saw the Malfoys on the platform. 

 

Sorry, Dad. 

 

He got over it eventually. Though I think he nearly shat himself when we went to the Potters’ home for dinner during my first Christmas break and found Scorpius sitting at the table playing gobstones with Al. 

 

Being Al’s best friend meant seeing a lot of Scorpius Malfoy, but that was never a problem- it turned out that he was great, and that we got along perfectly. The same couldn’t be said for my next closest friend- the lovely Taralyn Rivers- and Albus. 

 

But look how they turned out. 

 

I was more surprised they hadn’t gotten together sooner. When Scorpius had dragged me over to the window to point out that they were drunkenly snogging over the summer at her birthday party, I actually audibly whooped. 

 

It may have been that very whoop that drew the crowd that gathered to watch them. So I suppose it’s sort of my fault that so many people knew about that kiss. 

 

But I also remember hearing Fred mutter to James, “I always thought it’d be Rose and Malfoy, honestly.”

 

Given that I’d heard it, it was a safe assumption that Scorpius heard them as well. In any case, we’d both opted to ignore it. 

 

Scorpius Malfoy is great. Honestly. In every possible way, he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known. He’s the right amount of confident without being a prick, he’s brilliant, he’s funny, and I'd be blind not to acknowledge that he's bloody fit. 

 

But best-friends-turned-lovers sounded so frustratingly cliché. Was it so wrong for me to avoid it? 

 

If I let myself become involved with Scorpius Malfoy, there wasn’t a single scenario I could imagine that resulted in anything other than falling in love and growing old together- I know, I know, the horror. 

 

I keep trying to tell everyone that I’m not as sweet as they make me out to be. 

 

I just didn’t want that. I didn’t want to be boring. 

 

People think about me, Rose Weasley, and they think about a polite, friendly bookworm who studies too much and worries even more so. In everyone’s defense, yeah, I spend a lot of time in the library. Excuse me for wanting to be informed. 

 

But I was so tired of being another Hermione Granger. I was tired of being the bookworm who forces her friends into the library and studies too much and dates less often than her younger cousins. 

 

I wanted to go on an adventure. I wanted to know how much history could exist in places Muggles wouldn’t have thought to look. I wanted to explore. I didn’t want to just get married and have children and continue what was definitely on its way to a legitimate army of Weasleys. 

 

Besides- Scorpius could go after any girl he wanted. And he’d not made a move on me, so it was hard to believe he was actually interested in anything beyond friendship. He could do better. Joy Clarke had certainly made that clear to me. 

 

“Earth to Rose Weasley!” 

 

I shook myself out of my internal fit. 

 

“Sorry,” I smiled at Scorpius. “You were saying?”

 

“Well, I was more asking,” he said off-handedly. “You were glaring at your breakfast like it was your uncle Percy giving you the ‘Come work for me’ speech. You alright?”

 

I made a face at that. Uncle Percy was constantly telling me he could get me an internship at the Ministry. Mum had accidentally bragged to him about my grades once and he’d decided I was to be his protégée, what with Molly wanting to go into healing and Lucy hating school altogether. 

 

Uncle Percy was just one amongst everyone who expected me to be boring for eternity. 

 

“I’m fine,” I nodded at Scorpius. “Just thinking.”

 

“That’s rather dangerous,” he commented, smiling lightly. 

 

“That’s rather mean,” I shot back. 

 

He shrugged. “Maybe a little. What are you thinking about? Your detention?”

 

I narrowed my eyes. “I’m not telling you what it’s for, Scor.”

 

He pouted at me, his eyes widening and his lip jutting out dramatically. It took an astounding amount of willpower to stay strong. I’m pretty sure Voldemort would have melted over that look. 

 

“Sorry,” I managed, shaking my head. “Not telling.”

 

He sighed. “Dammit. Not even if I threaten to tell your dad that you rode a motorcycle over the summer?” He’d hinted at that earlier, when Al and Tara were still here. 

 

“I’d murder you,” I hissed. “So you wouldn’t dare.”

 

“True,” he agreed, grinning cheekily. “It was worth a shot.”

 

“Can you let it go, please?” I sighed. “I’m asking you, as my friend, to respect my wishes and drop it.”

 

His smile slipped as he took in my expression. “Yeah,” he said earnestly. “I’ll stop, promise.”

 

“Thank you,” I nodded. 

 

“You nervous, though?”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Why, because perfect Rose Weasley has never had a detention and therefore must be freaking out about it?”

 

His eyebrows shot up so high they could have launched off his face. “I wouldn’t call the girl who falls on her arse every time she tries to ride a broom or who eats like her father perfect, to be honest. Are you sure you’re alright?”

 

“Sorry,” I said again, feeling guilty. His ability to call me imperfect made me indescribably happy, especially when the words were coupled with a look of such care. “I’m fine, honestly, just a little wound up.”

 

“No worries,” he said, though he was still frowning. “I didn’t mean anything by it, Rose. Even Rylie freaked out when she got her first detention; I figured it’d be normal.”

 

I smiled slightly. Rylie had a flair for the dramatics, though it felt bad to think about her like that when she was stuck in her weird James-Leo drama. The poor girl was miserable; she and James both loved Leo so much. He needed to chill out and forgive them. 

 

“I guess I’m just not worried because it’s with Mansir,” I shrugged. “I’ve heard he makes them easy, and he’ll go easy on me for being friends with his favorite anyway.”

 

Scorpius nodded. “He is a bit biased. Do you ever wonder if she has something on him to make him favor her like that? I can’t imagine she’d shag a professor, so I don’t think it’s that.”

 

Ew, Scor,” I wrinkled my nose. “I know it’s not that. I think they know each other outside of school. I don’t think she ever goes home, despite what she tells us.”

 

Scorpius didn’t look as shocked as I’d wanted him to seem. Had he worked out that our friend was full of shit too? It would make sense. He was smart.

 

“Yeah, I get that feeling too, actually,” he admitted. “She won’t say, of course, but she’s got some sort of weird family history, I reckon.”

 

“Do you think she’s ever going to tell us the truth?” I asked quietly, trying to keep my voice steady. It wasn’t like I enjoyed being lied to by one of my best friends for five and a half years, despite the fact that I’d gone along with it for her sake.

 

Technically, I’d asked some questions to try to catch her in her lies, or at least guilt her into confessing. But I had never addressed it directly, because regardless of my earlier rant about me not being that nice, I wouldn’t ever try to make my friend uncomfortable or unhappy.

 

Scorpius shrugged. “Maybe. She has her reasons for not telling us, and I don’t think any of those reasons are personal.”

 

“Why then?” I asked. 

 

“Maybe she’s embarrassed?” He asked. “Or sad. Whatever the case, if she wanted us to know she’d tell us. I’m sure she will one day when she’s worked through her shit.”

 

I stared at him. “You’re strange, Scorpius Malfoy.”

 

He smirked at me. “Why, because I’m not as nosy as you?”

 

Cute, I thought wryly. “I’m sorry,” I scoffed. “Which one of us has spent the better part of a meal hounding the other about their detention tonight?”

 

He chuckled. “Touché. I suppose I can be nosy too.”

 

“When it concerns me, you mean,” I grinned at him triumphantly. 

 

He looked taken aback, his face reddening a little. I felt a small rush of satisfaction in rattling him. Maybe I didn’t let it show as clearly, but usually it went the other way around. 

 

I took pity on him and changed the subject. “I can’t believe she didn’t tell me she’s shagging my cousin.” I made a face. 

 

He snorted. “I forcibly beat it out of him, for what it’s worth. We were at the manor before you lot came over, and he was acting weird. Daydreaming and grinning randomly, it was genuinely frightening.”

 

I laughed. It was hard to picture Albus acting like such a priss, but if anyone could bring out that side of him it’d be Tara. He’d fancied her forever. 

 

“I’m glad they’re finally figuring things out,” I said. “Maybe slowly and a little dysfunctionally, but they’re getting there.”

 

Scorpius chuckled. “At the very least, they make for quality entertainment.”

 

“Scorpius Malfoy, you’re a rotten person,” I grinned, raising my pumpkin juice to him in a toast.

 

“Rose Weasley, you are remarkably awful as well,” he winked back, clinking his goblet against mine. “People just don’t generally realize it until the poor suckers have either been cursed or yelled at.”

 

“And yet you still hang around me,” I pointed out. 

 

“I like that you’re awful,” he smirked. “You could have been a hell of a Slytherin.”

 

“I could’ve been,” I agreed. “The hat said so.”

 

He gaped at me. “Seriously?”

 

“Technically, it said I could have been in any of the houses,” I admitted. I hadn’t told anyone about my sorting before, but Scorpius had a tendency to get anything out of me. It went both ways, really. 

 

He shook his head in mock disappointment. “You chose wrong then, Rosie.”

 

I flushed the way I usually did when he called me Rosie. Outside of the Weasley-Potter family and Tara (and sometimes Rylie, depending on my mood), he was the only person who could get away with it. 

 

I’ll be honest: Scorpius making me blush was really interfering with my plans on not falling for the bloke. 

 


 

I tried to avoid him the rest of the day. It was a Sunday, which meant no classes, so that should have made it easier for me. Scorpius, unfortunately, was determined to keep me in his sights all day. 

 

“Rose,” he panted, having run to catch up with me. “Bloody hell, have you stopped moving once since breakfast ended?”

 

I smirked, relishing in the unease that crossed his features as I did so. “Sorry, Scor, I thought you were supposed to be some sort of athlete. Can’t keep up?”

 

“We’ve been friends since we were eleven, Weasley,” he growled, falling into step with me as I strode down the corridor. I had intended to lose him by getting into Gryffindor tower and hiding out there for the day, but he’d just follow me in now. “I know when you’re being intentionally evasive.”

 

“And yet you follow me anyway,” I pointed out. 

 

“I’m not going to keep asking you about the detention, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Scorpius assured me. “I just thought you might want some company.”

 

I regarded him suspiciously. “I don’t want one word about it then. Understood?”

 

He frowned to himself. “Can I at least ask why you won’t tell me?”

 

I sighed in resignation. “Because it was a small moment of impulsivity on my part, and I don’t feel like sharing it with the world.”

 

Scorpius raised an eyebrow. “Impulsivity? Most wouldn’t think you had that in you.”

 

I realize that, I thought bitterly. But instead, I simply said, “That’s probably true.”

 

“Of course, most people are right idiots,” he went on, smiling slightly. “I’m not sure how everyone was so quick to forget who jinxed that Hufflepuff bloke Matthews after our game against them last year.”

 

I coloured slightly. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

He snorted. “Right. You’re definitely not the one who literally vanished the bones from his right arm.”

 

“Nope,” I shook my head adamantly. “But whoever did do that was probably in the right anyway. He’d been getting away with fouls all game.”

 

“He wasn’t even playing against your house,” Scorpius pointed out, looking thoroughly amused. 

 

“He hurt my cousin,” I defended. “And you. I had to-” I broke off, realizing I’d just confessed. Bugger, I thought. Always, he always manages this. 

 

Scorpius burst into laughter. “Oh Rosie, how you fooled so many idiots into thinking you’re sweet is beyond me.”

 

“I’m sweet,” I argued for the sake of arguing. “I’m sweet all the time!”

 

“Some of the time,” he corrected. “In some cases. When your friends are hurting, for instance. But when you’re ticked off you might be the scariest person I’ve met.”

 

We reached the Fat Lady’s portrait by then, and I uttered the password to her before she swung open to let us inside. Scorpius followed me to my favorite table by the window. It was furthest from the fireplace, so people tended to avoid it in the winter, but I had always been fond of it. I liked the cold- probably from too many years of hanging out with Tara, who was always dragging Rylie and me outside for snow angles and snowball fights and the like. 

 

“People shouldn’t tick me off then,” I grinned at Scorpius as he sat across from me. 

 

I pulled out some Charms homework and started for a quill, when we were interrupted. 

 

“Oi!” came Hugo’s call. He skipped up to us and dropped into one of the unoccupied seats to my right. “Hey sis. Hi Malfoy.”

 

“Hi Hugo,” I rolled my eyes. “What can I do for you?”

 

“You always assume I want something,” Hugo complained, crossing his arms. “I could be here just to say hello to my darling sister who looks exceptionally pretty today and her equally lovely friend Scorpius whose hair is particularly shiny in the light of our common room.”

 

“The fuck do you want?” Scorpius snapped impatiently. I bit back a grin at his bluntness, despite the fact that he swore at my little brother. 

 

“I need a small favour,” Hugo admitted. “It’s nothing major. The tiniest of inconveniences, really.”

 

I sighed. So much for Charms homework. “What is it, Hugh?”

 

“Well,” he started slowly. “I’m being held hostage here, see.” I lifted an eyebrow at that. He didn’t exactly look like a hostage to me. 

 

“That right?” Scorpius asked, his mouth pulled up into a smirk. “You look quite free, mate.”

 

Hugo sighed in exasperation. “Well, yeah, looks that way at first. But you see the girl behind me, by the fireplace? Don’t look at once!” He quickly exclaimed as Scorpius and I both glanced behind him. “One at a time, bloody hell.”

 

“Get to the point,” I demanded. 

 

“She’s making me study for this rubbish Potions test tomorrow, see,” Hugo explained quickly, his voice hushed. “She says if I leave, she’s going to- well, she didn’t really specify actually, she gave me an ‘or else.’ In a scary tone.” 

 

“Well good,” I snorted. “You’ve spent too much time with James and Louis. You should be studying.” Ugh, I thought. No wonder people have such a stereotyped opinion of me. 

 

“Well, Rosie dearest,” Hugo smiled tightly. “I’d agree with you, normally. Actually, no I wouldn’t. But that’s not the point. There’s this giant Fifth Year named Darren Montague who I’m supposed to meet down in the Entrance Hall in five minutes to buy his- comic book.”

 

I narrowed my eyes at the way he stumbled over the words. “Didn’t know you read comics.”

 

He nodded nervously. “Well, yeah, it’s a dorky hobby so I didn’t want it getting out. But the thing about Montague is that he hates getting stood up. So I really need someone to bring him five galleons for me and bring back the h- comic book.” He pulled the money out of his pocket and dropped it onto the table in front of us. 

 

I simply shook my head and retrieved the quill that still sat in my bag. “Sorry, Hugo. I have Charms homework.”

 

Hugo didn’t look nearly as put-down as I’d anticipated. “Bugger,” he snapped his fingers. “That’s too bad. But Scorpius, you aren’t doing homework now, are you?” He shot Scorpius the most hopeful look I’d ever seen, one far too pleading-worthy to be over a comic book. I kept sneaking suspicious glares his way. 

 

Scorpius looked uncomfortable. “Well-”

 

“You’re my favorite friend of Rose’s, you know!” Hugo added with wide eyes. “Honestly, it’d mean so much to me, and I’m sure Rose here would be grateful to you for helping me out.”

 

I resisted the urge to snort- he was really playing up to the “pathetic but cute little brother” role. He was also very much manipulating Scorpius’s friendship with me. 

 

Sometimes I think all of us Weasleys were really destined for Slytherin with Dom and Albus. Other than James, maybe. And Lucy. 

 

Scorpius sighed. “I- yeah, okay.”

 

“Brilliant!” Hugo beamed. “Thanks, mate! I owe you one. I better get back now, Angie thinks I was just catching up with my big sister.”

 

He stood from the chair and swiftly bent over to give me a peck on the cheek before nodding to Scorpius with a grin and heading back to the fireplace. 

 

I looked at Scorpius sharply. “You didn’t have to agree, Scor.”

 

“I know,” he mumbled, picking up the galleons. “He just seemed so hopeful.

 

“You’re a sap,” I informed him, smiling despite myself. How could I not? He was doing something nice for my idiot brother who had very deliberately taken advantage of him. 

 

I suppose I should have warned him that Hugo was probably full of shite, but I was too curious about what was really going down to say anything. 

 

Instead, I simply bid him farewell as he headed out the portrait hole. 

 

On his way out, my roommate Emily returned to the common room from wherever she’d been. I watched their brief exchange. She smiled at him and said hello, and he paused in the doorway long enough to ask how she was. 

 

It was the smallest, most meaningless exchange. And yet it made my blood boil. 

 

All I could suddenly think about was the time he’d chatted Emily up during that one Slytherin after party where Tara had gotten adorably hammered and Leo had yelled at Rylie. 

 

And yet, when Emily passed me on her way to the dorms and shot me a happy smile and wave, I returned it. It was easier to keep up a pretense. 

 

While waiting for Scorpius to come back, I let my gaze drift out the window. It wasn’t snowing, but the grass was still coated in powder from the days before, and a light breeze was tossing it around gently. 

 

I wondered what Tara and Al were up to- I had a feeling that Albus was privy to the truth about her home life that I’d never been trusted with myself. I wondered if Rylie knew too. 

 

It was frustrating, feeling left out. I wasn’t sure if it made me selfish to want more from my friends, but sometimes I couldn’t help it. Albus and Scorpius were undeniably best mates, despite my closeness with each of them separately, and the same went with Tara and Rylie.

 

It was hard not to feel like the extra one. And I hated feeling like that, because I knew they all loved me. I was being irrational, but I couldn’t help it. 

 

“Rose?” 

 

My thoughts were interrupted as I turned to see Dylan Perry, Seventh Year roommate of Leo and James. I’d had some interaction with him since we were both Prefects, but not much. 

 

“Hi Dylan,” I smiled politely. “What’s up?”

 

Dylan was cute, with sandy colored hair and chocolatey eyes. “Honestly?” He grinned a little. “My mates bet me five galleons that I’d be too chicken to come over here and ask you out.”

 

My eyebrows shot up. How forward. “Oh. Is that right?”

 

He nodded, smiling with a bit more confidence, seemingly enjoying having thrown me off. “So how about it? Hogsmeade next weekend, maybe?”

 

Normally, I’d probably have turned him down. He was cute, but I hadn’t really gone after his type before- supposedly he’d slept with half his year, and a third of mine. 

 

But suddenly, the image of Scorpius and Emily flashed through my mind once again, and so I smiled back. “I’d like that. Sounds fun. Hopefully I’m worth five galleons.”

 

He laughed at that. “Rose Weasley, you are invaluable, I assure you.” He winked at me before heading back to his mates. 

 

I looked down at my untouched homework with a pleased grin. Invaluable. 

 

It was a welcomed ego boost. 

 

Just then, the portrait hole door swung upon, and a disgruntled Scorpius Malfoy strode inside in what could only be described as a huff. 

 

“Weasley!” he growled. At first I thought he’d seen my exchange with Dylan, and that that was why he was angry. He wasn’t looking at me though- his glare was on my brother across the room, who shrank toward his friend Angie rather pathetically. 

 

“What happened?” I frowned, standing and moving to stop him from throttling my brother. 

 

“Your brother’s a cheater,” Scorpius rolled his eyes. “And sent me to complete illicit dealings for him.”

 

What?

 

“He was buying recycled homework from Montague, not a stupid comic book,” he explained to me. I rounded on my brother with a furious glare. 

 

Malfoy,” Hugo hissed, scrambling away from my searing gaze. “I picked you because I didn’t think you’d snitch me out!”

 

Scorpius raised an eyebrow. “Why the hell wouldn’t I snitch you out?”

 

“I thought there was potential in you,” Hugo shook his head in mock disappointment. “Al would have helped me.”

 

“I might have helped you,” Scorpius replied in an annoyed tone. “Maybe. If it weren’t for the fact that you gave me zero warning about the matter. I got caught.

 

“Shit,” Hugo breathed. “Am I in trouble?”

 

“No you idiot, I am!” Scorpius snapped. “I got detention when I was supposed to be drafting Quidditch plays tonight.”

 

I rolled my eyes. Trust Scorpius to be angry over his precious captaining time rather than being tricked into buying recycled homework for a Fourth Year. 

 

“Oh,” Hugo said quietly. At least he had the decency to look embarrassed and guilty. “Well- thanks for not ratting me out to the staff, then.”

 

“Yeah yeah,” Scorpius crossed his arms, still pissed. “But you owe me.”

 

“Fine, yeah totally,” Hugo nodded quickly. “Anything you want!”

 

Scorpius smirked slightly, lacking any playful mirth. This was a Malfoy smirk. “I’ll let you know exactly when I want something then… mate.” 

 

With that, he made his way back to our table by the window. I turned to my brother and drew my wand. 

 

Hugo shuffled backwards across the floor, his friend Angie looking both amused and annoyed with him. “Rosie,” he pleaded. “Wait, don’t-”

 

Hugo puked slugs for the next twenty minutes. 

 


 

Professor Mansir was kind, and I was grateful that our detention was with him. And, truthfully, I was happy Scorpius wound up there with me. Lonesome detentions are the worst. 

 

“Alright, delinquents,” Mansir grinned. We were lucky we got the chill professor for our detention. “You’ll be cleaning without wands for the evening.”

 

“Super,” Scorpius muttered. “I love cleaning.”

 

“Well great,” our professor smirked. “You’re in for a fun evening, then.” I stifled a laugh. No wonder he got on so well with Tara.

 

We dropped our wands into a bucket he offered us before leaving for his office, directing us to some rags and mops. Tara once told me Mansir had a tendency to sit in his office and pretend to grade papers when he was just listening to Quidditch, so I imagined we wouldn’t see him for a while. 

 

I sighed and moved to grab a rag. This could've been worse, but the Defense classroom was covered in soot and dirt and all sorts of rubbish. 

 

“I can’t believe I’m in detention because of your brother,” Scorpius sulked, lazily dragging a rag along a desk. 

 

I grinned at him. “I can’t believe you took the fall for him.”

 

He shrugged. “He’s in my debt now. That’s how you really get people.”

 

“You shouldn’t have told me what happened then,” I smiled slightly as I scrubbed at some soot stains. “You could’ve used that as a threat- more concrete than owing a favour.”

 

Scorpius gaped at me. “Rose Weasley, your ingenuity and inner evil will never not amaze me.”

 

I blushed, smiling widely as I cleaned. A compliment from someone like Dylan Perry might make me smile a little, but a compliment from Scorpius always made me outright weak at the knees like I was Joy Clarke or something. 

 

“I can’t believe you won’t tell me what got you thrown in here,” he said softly, looking over at me with a curious smile. 

 

I bit my lip. Maybe it was because the statement came on the heels of complimenting me, but suddenly I wanted to tell him. I hadn’t before, I didn’t want to tell anyone. But this wasn’t anyone. It was Scor. 

 

“I punched someone in the face,” I blurted, my eyes widening at my own confession. 

 

Scorpius dropped the rag he’d been holding. “You punched someone?” I cringed at the shock and level of his tone. 

 

“I know,” I held a hand to the side of my face. “I know, it was insane.”

 

Who?

 

I chewed on my lip, sitting at one of the desks in defeat. “Matthias Ashwell,” I lied.

 

Clearly he wasn’t expecting that, as his jaw visibly dropped. “The bloke Albus beat to shit after he tried to get in Tara’s pants last year?”

 

“The same,” I nodded, going with it. “He cornered me outside the library and said some suggestive things that I will not repeat. I don’t know why I didn’t hex him, but suddenly I had punched him in the face just as McGonagall caught me.” I hated how easy it was to lie. I didn't think I'd be able to, not to Scorpius. 

 

He didn’t need to know who I actually punched, or why. I wasn’t too keen on explaining to anyone that I’d let a bint like Joy Clarke get to me. 

 

“-then just help me out Weasley!”

 

“No, Clarke, I’m not going to set you up with my cousin.”

 

“Then how about-”

 

“No! Not Scorpius, either.”

 

Joy let out a frustrated groan. “Weasley, come on. There’s no reason for you not to help me. Obviously you can’t do anything with your cousin, and let’s be honest, Scorpius Malfoy is a hot, intelligent, Quidditch captain extraordinaire. He’s hardly going to go after someone as boring as you- no offense.”

 

That was when I punched her. 

 

Scorpius let out a low whistle. “You got caught punching a bloke by old Minnie? That’s rough. Why didn’t you want to say?”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Because I can already hear the questions I’d get. ‘Why didn’t you use magic?’ ‘Since when are you violent?’ ‘Are you PMSing?’ It’d be annoying.

 

“That last one would be Hugo, right?” Scorpius asked with a feint grin. “But honestly Rose, you have to admit it was a little out of character.”

 

My eyebrows drew together. “And what character would that be?” I demanded, looking at him sharply. 

 

He held his hands up in surprise. “Easy. I didn’t mean anything by that, Rose.”

 

“Well, I want to know,” I said stubbornly. “What’s my character? Because you’re the only person who’s supposedly aware that I’m not the sweetheart they all suspect, yet you’re just as shocked as anyone else would be over me hitting someone.”

 

Scorpius frowned. “That’s not fair. I’d be shocked if most people I knew suddenly punched someone in the face.”

 

“You wouldn’t have been if it was Albus,” I pointed out, still ignoring the rag beside me. Cleaning felt pointless at that moment. 

 

“He’s beaten the bloke up before!” Scorpius argued. “It’s different.”

 

“What if it was Tara?” I questioned. “Would you have been shocked?” He hesitated a bit, and that was all I needed. “You wouldn’t have,” I shook my head before he could offer up a lie. “And probably not if it was Rylie, either. Or Lily. Or James. Or Leo. Or anyone else we know.

 

Scorpius ran a hand over his face tiredly. “You’re overreacting, Rose.”

 

My temper flared. “I’m not. Admit it, Scor, for all your talk on how ‘Slytherin-like’ you like I am, you still don’t think I’m the type to stick up for myself. You think I’m boring!

 

“That’s not true!” He protested. “I’m shocked you punched a bloke. That’s it.”

 

“Well I did,” I shot back stiffly. 

 

“Great!” He threw his hands up. “I don’t know why you’re coming at me for being surprised. Was I supposed to say, ‘Ah, yes, typical Rose move, punching someone?’”

 

“I don’t know!” I snapped. “Just… shut up.”

 

He shook his head in frustration. “Rose, you started a row for nothing. And you’ve been lost in thought all day. What’s up with you?”

 

“I’m just getting a little tired of the expectations around me,” I growled. “I have to be so sodding nice all the time. And studious. And obedient.”

 

“No one expects it of you, Rose,” Scorpius frowned, coming to sit at a desk closer to me. “You read a lot and you’re nice to people, and prior to today, you hadn’t had a detention. People aren’t exactly making their assumptions with so little to go off of.”

 

He lifted a hand toward my shoulder but I pushed it away. “I don’t care,” I said, feeling angry for some inexplicable reason. Seriously, what is wrong with me today? I thought. “It’s getting irritating.”

 

He sighed. “Well, Rose, what do you want?”

 

“Excitement!” I cried. “I want to start living a little, Scor!”

 

“Well what’s stopping you?” he demanded, standing up and moving away from me. Apparently he was angry, too. Not that I blamed him, I wasn’t exactly behaving normally. “You think your life’s so bloody boring, then why don’t you do something about it?”

 

“Nothing’s stopping me!” I retorted, crossing my arms. “In fact, I’ve got a tour of this museum scheduled over Easter Break where I get to talk to some explorers and wizard archeologists about their findings and their trips abroad. I’m going to see the whole ruddy world. And I’ve got a date next week!”

 

His anger vanished almost immediately, and it looked like he’d been punched in the face. I regretted throwing that in his face immediately, but it’d been said and I couldn’t take it back. 

 

“Well good for you then,” he muttered, before turning away and grabbing another rag. I watched with a deep frown as he glared at a desk, haphazardly wiping at it.

 

I turned away from him too. It’s better like this, I told myself. Scorpius means stability. And I don’t want or need stability. 

 

But as I listened to his harsh breathing as he angrily cleaned the remaining tables, my heart hurt. 

 

I hadn’t meant to take my sudden mood out on Scorpius of all people. He’d only ever meant well. He was right- I'd started a fight for nothing. I was angry for nothing. 

 

Part of me wished he were wrong when he’d admitted I wasn’t sweet. 

 


 

A/N: Well that was different! And so hard to write, holy crap. I hate changing POVs to be honest, it's insanely difficult. Anyway, this was a fun break from Tara's story! I really wanted to start expanding on Rose and Scorpius, since I've been neglecting them a little. Don't be too cross with me for making them fight. Rose is going through a bit of a tough time- she's sixteen, it happens. Thing's will work out. Maybe. Or maybe not, who knows??

 

I hope you liked the change up! Let me know!

 

Next chapter will be Tara per usual. 

 

Cheers xoxo

 

Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine, it's all JK Rowling's. 



Chapter 19: One Friend Comes Around While Another Goes Nuts
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Three things I absolutely and completely loved were Quidditch, the cold, and Scorpius Malfoy.

 

And yet, every time I attended a winter Quidditch practice, there were suddenly three things I absolutely despised: Quidditch, the cold, and Scorpius fucking Malfoy.

 

I suppose, in his defense, that he was in a bad mood that wasn’t really his fault. From what Albus had been able to beat out of his best mate, Rose had become cross with him rather abruptly and then sprung the news that she’d be going on a date.

 

That date turned into more dates. And those dates turned into a relationship that lasted about a month, leading into February. In fact, Rose and Dylan Perry had only just broken things off about a week before our practice.

 

The trouble was, she procured a new boyfriend three days after the other one ended.

 

I wasn’t sure what was up with Rose these days, but she’d turned into a whole new person. She was on this weird mission for excitement seemingly out of nowhere. We’d had a party a couple weeks back and she’d jumped into the frozen lake on a dare! I couldn’t have been paid enough to try something like that.

 

I couldn’t even be properly worried about Rose’s mental state because I was too busy worrying about the thoroughly broken-hearted Scorpius Malfoy. He was crushed that she’d changed so quickly and kicked him to the curb without a second thought, and Albus and I were doing our best to comfort him.

 

Off the pitch, he was brooding and sad.

 

On the pitch?

 

“DID I TELL YOU TO STOP? LAPS, RIVERS!”

 

I hated him.

 

I returned to running with a deep scowl across my face. At least Collin was running with me. He’d made a light joke about the weather and Scorpius had deemed that an atrocity deserving twenty laps.

 

I at least sort of deserved mine- I cracked at some point and whacked my captain with Ethan’s bat.

 

I was halfway through my assigned forty laps.

 

“I’m dying, Tara,” Collin wheezed. “I’m built to hit things, not run.”

 

I laughed slightly, as much as one could when their lungs felt like bursting. “We’ll die together, mate.”

 

I glanced up and watched Albus and Eva weaving between the obstacles Scorpius had charmed to float up over the pitch, each holding Quaffles. Ethan was launching Bludgers at Byron, who was pulling off some impressive dodges.

 

“I know he wants the cup and all,” Collin panted, “but surely he realized we have to be alive to compete for it?”

 

I shook my head. “I don’t think this has-” I broke off as I took another strained breath. “-much to do with the cup.”

 

“Weasley?” Collin guessed as we rounded the east end of the field.

 

“Yeah,” I agreed.

 

“QUICKER ON THE TURNS, POTTER!”

 

“FUCKING HELL, MEADOWS, I’M GOING TO TAKE YOUR BAT!”

 

“LEDBURY, I COULD SCORE ON YOU, AND I’M A SEEKER.”

 

“Ethan’s going to punch him so hard,” Collin mused. “His temper’s much shorter than mine.”

 

“I hit him with a bat,” I pointed out. “I can’t speak on other people’s tempers.”

 

“Fair,” Collin sniggered.

 

“IF YOU TWO ARE ABLE TO TALK SO MUCH DOWN THERE, YOU OUGHT TO BE RUNNING FASTER!”

 

“Never mind, I’m going to hit him,” Collin growled as we picked up our pace. I ultimately had to leave him behind. I was a much faster runner, and Scorpius would accuse me of slacking if I kept by Collin the whole time.

 

After the disastrous practice, we gathered outside the locker rooms.

 

“Guys,” Scorpius sighed in exasperation. “That was a cluster fuck.”

 

“Not our fault,” Ethan muttered darkly, glaring at our captain.

 

Scorpius turned on him. “Something to say, Meadows?”

 

“Scor,” I warned before Ethan could provoke him into a fight. “Come on. We’re exhausted, and you’re taking your mood out on everyone else.”

 

Scorpius frowned, leaning against the hilt of his broom. “I know.”

 

Albus and I exchanged a look. I hadn’t expected an admittance. “Mate…” Albus tried unsurely.

 

“Sorry guys,” Scorpius mumbled. “I’m just- tired.”

 

Everyone looked relatively understanding- we’d all seen the change in dynamic between Rose and him. Eva walked forward and put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s fine,” she said softly. “Just maybe don’t kill us over it?”

 

He glanced at her as she offered him a small smile. He took a deep breath. “Right. I suppose I could try and keep you lot alive.”

 

Collin snorted. “Kind of you.” I elbowed him.

 

Eva shot Collin a warning look of her own before turning back to Scorpius. She was probably the best equipped to be speaking to him, honestly. She was much more tactful than the rest of us. “Look,” she said quietly. “We love you as our captain. You’re great at it when you’re behaving normally and you win us games. Just try and keep that in mind when you’re running practices? We’re here for you, whatever you need.”

 

Her hand slipped down his shoulder a little to rest on his upper arm.

 

I raised an eyebrow, again locking eyes with Albus, who smirked a little. Was Eva trying to hit on our captain? That reeked of complications.

 

Scorpius’s gaze lingered on her hand for just a moment too long before he swallowed and nodded. “I’ll keep that mind,” he finally said, looking around at the rest of us. “Thanks, guys.”

 

Once dismissed, the group disbanded and started up toward the castle. Collin shoved Ethan into a wall before running off, the latter chasing him with a laugh. Eva stayed by Scorpius’s side, talking to him softly about something. It made me a little suspicious.

 

I sighed, thinking about how much drama had overtaken my friends and me. Between Rose going insane, Scorpius moping, Leo still not speaking with James or Rylie, and my mind constantly settling on a letter from Draco Malfoy under my bed containing an address I was desperate to visit, I just wanted a moment away from it all.

 

“Wait, Al, can you give me a hand with something?” I asked before he could follow the others. He looked back and nodded, walking back over to me. Byron continued on alone, though I was pretty sure he’d thrown us a knowing look before hurrying after the others.

 

“What’s up?” Albus strolled over and leaned against the wall of the locker rooms with a curious expression.

 

“Just needed... um-” I paused, trying to think of an excuse.

 

Albus smirked. “Me, perhaps?”

 

“Shut up,” I mumbled, looking away. “Conceited prat.”

 

He laughed and leaned in to kiss me. I happily drew him closer, wrapping my arms around his neck. His cheeks were red from the cold but his embrace was always warm.

 

“You know,” he mumbled against my lips. “It’s much warmer in the locker room showers.”

 

I pulled away, grinning wickedly before grabbing his hand and tugging him after me. He followed with visible enthusiasm.

 

Albus was right.

 

The showers were much, much warmer.

 


 

“I had the most interesting conversation with Joy Clarke today,” Rylie informed me at dinner.

 

“Oh no,” I rolled my eyes. “What’d she say?”

 

“She offered me twenty galleons to go up to the boys’ room and knick a comb,” she sniggered into her goblet.

 

James, sitting beside her, snorted. “Who the hell does she think uses a comb in that dorm? Has she seen Al’s hair?”

 

“Oi!” Albus protested, patting at his hair. I resisted the urge to run my hands through it, given that we were in public at the dinner table.

 

We weren’t even making much of an effort to keep things private anymore. We’d still only snog in private, but we were never exactly hidden.

 

I wasn’t sure anymore that I’d actually say no if he ever did ask me out properly. I could probably have asked him, but I was just sort of content as we were.

 

“Had to be for Scorpius then,” I grinned at them. “He would use it with his gel, right?”

 

“Definitely,” Rylie agreed. “Though I have no idea what she plans on doing with it.”

 

“Needs a hair for Polyjuice Potion, obviously,” a familiar voice chimed in casually as someone dropped into the seat beside me.

 

Rylie choked on her water (I think it was water, hard to say with Rylie) while everyone else simply stared.

 

“What?” Leo frowned, helping himself to a roll and some butter. “She probably hoped Albus would use it and that she could turn into him and tell Tara to get lost. Or turn into Malfoy and tell Albus to go for Clarke, or something equally stupid.”

 

We all continued to stare at him.

 

“Leo- what are you doing here?” Rylie asked when she’d found her voice.

 

Tell Tara to get lost? I thought with a frown. Does everyone know about Albus and me at this point?

 

His casual demeanor slipped slightly. “Er- just thought you all might be missing my handsome face?” he attempted a winning smile in Rylie’s direction, but his sister just continued to stare at him.

 

James looked apprehensive, but there was definitely a light of hope there too. I couldn’t imagine how much he’d missed talking to his best mate for a month and a half. I would’ve gone mad by then.

 

“Leo…” Rylie frowned.

 

He sighed, and dropped his food. “Look, Ry, James… I- I’m sorry, alright? I’m sorry I overreacted a little-”

 

A little?” Rylie hissed, her eyes in slits.

 

A lot,” Leo amended, his voice at least three octaves higher. “I overreacted a lot. And I’m sorry for that, it was just-” he broke off to let out a frustrated huff. “It was weird, okay? My best mate and my sister? It was so weird to me, and I hated that you’d do it without telling me.”

 

“I should’ve said something,” James admitted quietly, his first words since Leo had sat down.

 

“I should’ve listened,” Leo replied, smiling slightly.

 

“Polyjuice Potion you say?” Albus mused. I elbowed him sharply, making him wince.

 

“We all could have handled it better,” Rylie said reluctantly. I don’t think any of us were particularly fond of admitting to our shortcomings. “But Leo, what about now? Are you going to be okay with us dating?”

 

“I mean, I still think it’s weird,” Leo said thoughtfully. “But… yeah I can handle it.”

 

A wide smile broke across James and Rylie’s faces. I wasn’t surprised they’d be so quick to forgive him. Everyone missed Leo. It was like our little family was missing that one drunk uncle who dances on tables at weddings.

 

James, being a dramatic and slightly insane bugger, actually stood from the bench and hopped across the table to tackle Leo in a hug.

 

Oof!

 

He sent Leo to the floor, the both of them lying there like absolute pansies.

 

Albus looked mortified. “James, for fuck’s sake, you’re making us all look bad.”

 

“When you say ‘us,’ do you mean men or Potters?” Rylie asked, smirking.

 

“Both,” Albus shook his head as we watched the two idiots wrestle around on the floor. But like the rest of us, he was smiling.

 

Leo shoved James off of him. “Fucking hell Potter, I’m glad we’re mates again too, but hands to yourself.”

 

“Is one Wood not enough for you, mate?” Albus smirked at his brother, who whacked him across the back of the head before climbing back across the table.

 

I glanced at the head table and saw Mansir watching us in amusement. Of course he said nothing about James crossing the top of a table… twice.

 

Leo hopped back into his seat on my right. “We’re a hot commodity, us Woods.”

 

“Tell me about it,” I smirked. “Your dad’s a total DILF.”

 

James burst out laughing while Rylie let out a cry of disgust. Leo audibly gagged.

 

“I didn’t need my appetite away,” Albus muttered, glaring at his plate. I placed a hand just above his knee under the table to appease him.

 

“Rose would have agreed with me,” I defended myself. “Where is that woman, anyway?”

 

“I believe I passed her canoodling with that bloke she’s been seeing on my way here,” Leo stated, wrinkling his nose.

 

James and Albus both scowled. “Great,” the former uttered darkly.

 

“She’s acting so weird,” Rylie frowned. “What’s up with her?”

 

“Search me,” I shrugged. “Anyone seen Scor, by the way?”

 

“He’s with Stevens,” James nodded down the table. The rest of us turned, and sure enough, Scorpius was near the other end of the table, sitting with Eva. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this development, but it was hard to feel too upset about it since he was actually smiling for once.

 

“That’s new,” Rylie commented, her eyebrows furrowed.

 

“Well, so is Rose’s attitude,” I shrugged. “I can’t exactly blame him.”

 

“Still, it’s kind of weird that he’d go for someone on the team,” Albus noted as we all stared at them like the awful, nosy friends we were.

 

“Yeah, who’d ever do that?” Rylie snorted. I kicked her under the table as Albus glowered at her.

 

“It is a little odd,” I admitted. “He’s the captain.”

 

“Ethan and Collin are laughing about it,” Albus noticed, pointing. The two in question were indeed watching Scorpius and Eva flirt like the rest of us, their heads close together as they sniggered.

 

“We’re a mature team,” I said fondly. “It’s why the cup is ours.”

 

“In your dreams,” James growled. “We beat Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff will be a sinch, and we’ll be back up against you for the cup.”

 

I frowned. Our game against Ravenclaw was rapidly approaching, only a week away. I was surprisingly nervous about it, since Scorpius had been acting like a nutter and practices had been so rough.

 

At the very least, however, we’d be in shape.

 

“Sorry James,” Albus smirked. “We’ll be taking that cup, thanks.”

 

The two brothers entered an obnoxious stare-down while Rylie rolled her eyes. “Well this is just lovely,” she said sardonically. “because I love Quidditch and all, but I’d much prefer- well, anything.”

 

I laughed and stood from the table. “Let’s find Rose and see if she’ll join us for a girl’s night! It’s been ages since we did that.”

 

Rylie nodded enthusiastically, standing with me. “Perfect! Let’s do it.”

 

She bent down to give James a quick peck goodbye, ignoring Leo’s protests. I smiled at the boys, blushing as Albus winked at me, before Rylie and I departed from the Great Hall.

 

“Leo mentioned he saw her on his way down,” Rylie said. “Think we can find her and pry her off Jordan- at least I’m hoping it’s still Jordan.”

 

I sighed. “I’m pretty sure he’s best mates with Louis. Rose’s cousins are going to murder her one of these days.”

 

Rylie snorted. “If she denies us a girls night, I’ll murder her.”

 

We found Rose- still attached to Jordan, as expected- somewhere on the third floor. They weren’t exactly hidden- they were just leaning against a wall of one of the wide corridors.

 

“Rose!” I exclaimed.

 

She and Jordan jolted apart in surprise. She turned to us with wide eyes. “Oh- hey Tara, Rylie.”

 

Her hands were still resting on Wess Jordan’s chest, who was looking rather proud of himself. I could hardly fault Rose or Jordan, really. They’re both attractive people.

 

Still, it was hard not to be biased. I’d spent years waiting on Scorpius and Rose getting together, and this was really putting a damper on progress.

 

“Hi,” Rylie smirked. “Busy?”

 

Rose laughed. “Well, a little.” Wess looked pleased with her answer.

 

“Well too bad!” I declared. “We’re stealing you away for a girl’s night.”

 

She rolled her eyes. “Must I?”

 

I nodded enthusiastically, grabbing her wrist and pulling her away from Wess, who reluctantly removed his hands from her arse. Honestly, I thought. We’re in public. First Years don’t want to see this.

 

Well yeah,” Rylie said. “Especially if you want to hear about Leo making up with us!”

 

That got the redhead’s attention. “What? Let’s go!” Rose pulled back to kiss Wess goodbye and then headed off with us toward the dungeons. “What happened?”

 

“He apologized!” Rylie exclaimed, beaming. I was happy to see her this enthusiastic again- the fight had been messing with her morale far too much.

 

Leo Wood apologized?” Rose questioned doubtfully as we descended some stairs.

 

“Well first he sat down and tried to converse with us like nothing had changed,” I snorted.

 

“That sounds more right,” Rose laughed. “Bugger, I can’t believe I missed it.”

 

“You seemed a little preoccupied,” Rylie grinned cheekily. “How’s Jordan?”

 

“Jordan is fine,” Rose said, flushing. “Better than Dylan Perry, anyway.”

 

“Is he really?” My eyebrows lifted. “I’d imagined Perry to be quite good.”

 

“Me too,” Rylie added, her eyes wide.

 

“Jordan’s got a hidden talent,” Rose winked at us and we all giggled.

 

We reached the common room and ran up to the girls’ dormitory. Luckily Reyna Pritchard and Mari Zabini weren’t there- they tended to rain on our girls’ night parades by throwing snide comments our way and eavesdropping.

 

Rylie dropped onto my bed, despite her own being four feet away, and summoned a pillow to rest her head on. I sat underneath her head on the floor, my back against the frame. Rose sat across from me, leaning against a dresser.

 

“So what else has everyone been up to?” I asked, mostly looking at Rose. Glancing up, I saw Rylie eyeing her with similar curiosity.

 

Rose looked between the two of us and sighed. “Was this ever really meant to be a girls’ night? Or just an interrogate-Rose-night?”

 

Shit. She’s onto us, I thought. I tried to signal a mental Run! to Rylie but she didn’t seem to pick up on my telepathy.

 

Instead, the two of us simply looked at Rose with sheepish smiles.

 

“Can you blame us for being a little curious?” Rylie asked Rose.

 

Rose sighed again. “I suppose not. Look, I’ve been trying to have some fun these last few weeks, alright? I was getting bored of the usual thing.”

 

“The usual thing being… what?” I frowned, not understanding.

 

Rose looked a little irritated. “The usual thing being me known as the girl whose nose is stuck in a book, surrounded by couples and best friends, while the world around me expects nothing short of perfection. I’m tired of being boring.”

 

I scoffed. “Rose, come on. No one thinks that.”

 

“Yeah,” Rylie added. “I don’t associate with boring people.”

 

“Half of the school wants in your pants!” I pointed out. “First and Second years are genuinely afraid of you. That’s nothing close to boring.”

 

Rose frowned and shook her head. “Look, I appreciate all that, but you two are hardly unbiased opinions here.”

 

“Is this what you and Scor fought over?” I asked cautiously. “He won’t give me any details.”

 

Rose fiddled absentmindedly with a jumper that had been left on the floor. I think it was one of my Weasley ones, actually. “Scor and I fought because he’s in denial over thinking the same thing about me as everyone else.”

 

“Rose Weasley you are actually delusional,” I deadpanned. “Scorpius probably knows you better than anyone, and the boy worships you!”

 

“I’m sure,” she snorted. “I saw Stevens and him on their way in from your practice today, and they looked plenty cosy.”

 

I groaned, leading to Rylie hitting me with her pillow. “Rose,” she said carefully. “He only even started talking to her because you- well you sort of ditched him.”

 

“I didn’t ditch him!” Rose argued. “We were only ever friends, and now I’m just spending my time with more people. I can’t let Scorpius keep me to himself forever.”

 

“Sure you could,” I shrugged. “My nieces and nephews would be beautiful.”

 

Rose glared at me, and I wished I’d stayed quiet. “Look,” she said slowly. “I’ve been very supportive of both of you screwing around with my cousins and more or less leaving me in the dust. Can you pretend to be happy for me actually having some fun for once? Maybe it’s a phase, maybe I’m being a bitch, but can you just be there for me anyway?”

 

I looked up and exchanged a glance with Rylie, who half-shrugged. We looked back at Rose and set her tentative smiles. “If that’s what you want Rosie,” I smiled sadly. “I’m sorry if you felt like we’d been leaving you behind, by the way. It wasn’t intentional.”

 

“I know,” Rose sighed, looking less angry and more rueful. “And honestly, you weren’t that bad. I did have Scor. I’m just… I want to try something new for a while. And unfortunately I don’t think that’s something that he’d be on board with, so it’s easier to not be his friend right now.”

 

Because he tells you when you’re being a nutter? I wanted to say. I didn’t though, because she was right- we’d not been the best friends.

 

Especially me.

 

“I’m sorry,” I said again, my guilt eating away at my stomach.

 

She shot me a half smile. “I know. And honestly, I’m okay. Like I said, maybe this is all a phase. But I’m having fun, and that’s something I’ve been needing.”

 

“That’s fair,” Rylie nodded, looking equally guilty. Which to me was rubbish, since Rylie had been dealing with a massive fallout with her brother for over a month.

 

“Don’t look so guilty,” Rose waved a hand. “I’m fine. It’s about time you both started dating some decent blokes anyway.”

 

“Technically-”

 

“Tara, if you say one thing about how you’re not ‘technically’ dating him, I’m shaving your head,” Rylie warned me, pointing her wand down at me.

 

I cringed covering my head. “I’m staying quiet.”

 

Rose laughed, looking significantly more like her usual self. “I missed these nights.”

 

“Me too!” I cried. “Come’ere Rosie, we’re painting your toenails green.”

 

“Why green?” She complained as I grabbed her ankle and started tugging her toward me despite her efforts to kick me.

 

“Slytherin colors,” Rylie winked. “We’re making you one of us.” She phrased the last words like she was a cult member and it made me snort.

 

“Fine, then I’m painting your nails scarlet,” Rose smirked at me.

 

“No!” I moaned. “Get Rylie! She’s dating a Gryffindor. Red looks crap on me.”

 

“No one looks crap in red,” Rylie rolled her eyes at me as she hopped off my bed and reached under her own for her box of nail varnish.

 

“I do,” I said stubbornly. I didn’t, really, but Albus would hardly find traitorous colours attractive on me, would he?

 

“Why haven’t you just told Albus you’ll date him?” Rylie asked curiously as she pulled out some red and green vials.

 

I shrugged, crossing my arms and legs. “I dunno. At this point, to be completely honest with you, I probably would.

 

One of the vials slipped out of her hand, luckily not breaking, as my two best mates gaped at me.

 

“Really?” Rylie squealed.

 

“Finally!” Rose beamed. “What changed?”

 

I shrugged again, hating being the conversation’s focus. Couldn’t we go back to interrogating Rose? “I guess it just feels like not much would change? Other than getting to snog him in public, that is.”

 

“Gross,” Rose wrinkled her nose.

 

“We found you against a wall, filthy hypocrite,” I smirked at her. To my satisfaction, she coloured deeply. Rose was easy to embarrass, even during her weird rebellion phase or whatever was happening with her.

 

I couldn’t really fault her for her fears or feelings, though. No one’s worries and insecurities are worth dismissing. Everything Rose was feeling was valid, especially with how wrapped up Rylie and I had been with our respective Potters.

 

The only ill feelings I fostered toward Rose were regarding Scorpius. I wished she could pursue this new life-of-excitement she craved without hurting him.

 

“You miscreants,” Rylie teased as she started on Rose’s toes. I was glad, because she was much better at this than I was. I just liked to be present for the experience.

 

“Yeah,” I snorted. “Okay, Ry. Like you don’t sneak out at night to meet James who-knows-where.”

 

She blushed. “We haven’t even shagged yet, we just hang out.”

 

“You haven’t shagged him?” I cried, moving my hands to hold my head in shock and grunting as my elbow hit the bedpost on the way.

 

“You’re dating James Potter!” Rose added with an equally scandalized expression.

 

Rylie shrugged, painting another of Rose’s toes. “We agreed we’d take it slow. We don’t really want to risk mucking anything up since we sort of share Leo.”

 

“Fair enough,” I breathed. “But wow.”

 

She smiled dopily. “Yeah. He’s been incredibly nice to me. It’s actually insane how just genuinely good he is.”

 

Must be a family trait, I thought.

 

“They’re good boys, those Potters,” Rose said softly, smiling at us. “I’m sorry, by the way, for having a go at you two. You’ve had plenty good reasons for being distracted.”

 

“Doesn’t matter,” I shook my head. “No reason’s good enough to leave you behind. We adore you, you know that? We wouldn’t insist on pestering you so much if we thought you were boring.”

 

“I once watched you hex Greta Boot’s teeth blue,” Rylie laughed. “She didn’t even notice! It took until the last class of the day for a professor to finally point it out to her. That is not full behavior.”

 

Rose and I giggled. “She had it coming,” Rose grinned. “She was being a bitch.”

 

“What’d she do?” I tilted my head. “Ten galleons says it was something to do with Scor.”

 

“Fuck off, Rivers,” Rose rolled her eyes. I smirked, knowing I’d been right.

 

“Did she ask you for the brand of hair gel he uses?” Rylie asked seriously. “Because I’ve been asked that on three separate occasions, and you’re a lot closer to him than I am.”

 

I laughed again. “Poor Scor. The fangirls need to cut him some slack.”

 

“He doesn’t even enjoy the attention,” Rylie agreed.

 

Rose let out a single laugh. “Until recently.”

 

To be fair, that’s sort of your fault, I thought. And in any case, I wasn’t sure that Scorpius having a conversation with a girl over dinner could be considered enjoying fangirl attention. Eva actually had some substance.

 

Still, we opted to drop the subject.

 

“So what are you getting Albus for his birthday?” Rylie suddenly asked me. “It’s coming up, right?”

 

I groaned, grabbing at a tube of silver polish. “I don’t know. What the hell would he want?”

 

Rose snorted. “I’d say you, but he already has that.” I uncapped the nail polish and painted a streak of silver across her cheek, making her squeal. “Tara!”

 

Rylie sniggered. “I like the look of Silver on you, Rosie. Slytherin looks good on you.” She gestured at the emerald paint that covered our Gryffindor friend’s toes and then the silver on her face.

 

I thought about how much better both Scorpius and Rose’s moods had been before whatever the hell they’d fought over. I had to agree with Rylie- Slytherin looked good on Rose.

 


A/N: Yaayyy Leo's being good again! Rose is... in a funk. She'll figure it out. Let me know what you thought about this chapter! It might have seemed a little fillery in a way, but I wanted Rylie and James to have a win, and next chapter will be exciting because it'll be Albus's birthday. 

 

Cheers everyone!

 

Disclaimer: Anything you recognize isn't mine, all JK Rowling as always. 



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