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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

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