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.”
“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.”
“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.
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!
P.S. Stay inside and healthy, folks!
Disclaimer: I'm obviously not JK Rowling, so anything you recognize is not mine.
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