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.
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.
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.
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?”
“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.”
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.
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!
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).
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