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