The next day passed remarkably quickly, but I suppose that was to be expected since I spent most of it asleep. Rylie visited me periodically with food, but she knew to leave me alone. I don’t think she’d bought it when I told her I was ill, but she still left me be and I loved her for that.
I wasn’t sure what to do about my situation. I’d let Albus rile me up again, more so than ever this time, and I’d taken it out on the only person outside my circle of friends that I’d ever really felt close to. I felt miserably sorry.
When Monday rolled around, I tried to put off going to class. I sat at the Gryffindor table for breakfast, eating slowly in the hopes that I’d somehow be late.
Unfortunately, Rose had seen through me. “Come on, Tara,” she’s sighed. “Let’s just get to class. You’ll have to face Al eventually.”
Albus. I’d spent so much of the morning dreading seeing Mansir that I’d almost forgotten how much I didn’t want to see Albus. Bloody hell, and both of them in the same class? It was going to be a long day. Not to mention the fact that it was Monday.
Trying to make myself late wouldn’t have helped much anyway, since I had two classes and lunch to get through before even going to Defense.
“Fine,” I moaned sadly, letting Rose drag me off to class. I was vaguely aware of Albus’s eyes on me from across the hall as we left but resiliently avoided glancing his way.
The first two classes went by horrible quickly. Why do classes only seem to take ages when I want to leave, but then suddenly fly by when all I want is for them to drag slowly on? Rose once told me it has to do with the perception of time being affected by fear and apprehension- some scientists did some studies on it and compared it between different species.
If you ask me, science can go fuck itself.
She wasn’t there at lunch. I was starting to wonder why I even bothered anymore. I’m not sure that I even wanted to see her again anymore. I just wanted to know why she’d brought me up at Hogwarts. And who my father was.
Far too quickly, it was time for Defense. I ended up delayed by a minor tantrum in the Room of Requirement during which I had thrown a lot of things, broken a chair, and punched a mirror. I’d contemplated going to Pomfrey as an excuse to get out of Defense, but I couldn’t live with being that much of a coward, so I ultimately ended up conjuring some bandages, wrapping my hand, and calling it a day.
“Sorry I’m late,” I breathed, running into the classroom. Everyone had already broken off into groups to practice nonverbals.
“Detention, Ms. Rivers,” Mansir called coldly, not looking up from his desk. I gaped at him.
“Don’t,” he warned, meeting my eyes with a disappointed frown. “I’ve let you off far too many times.”
I slumped in defeat and nodded.
“Tonight, eight o’clock, with Filch. Don’t be late for that too,” he added with a bitter look.
I trudged over to the other side of the room, where Scorpius, Rose and Albus were practicing. “Hey,” I said quietly.
“Did Mansir just call you Ms. Rivers and give you a detention?” Scorpius asked me with wide eyes. “I thought you were his favorite.”
“I suppose I’m not anymore,” I shrugged, my voice hollow.
“Tara,” Rose frowned, glancing down at my bandaged hand. “Are you al-?”
“Someone want to catch me up?” I interrupted quickly. “What spells are we supposed to be working on?”
She studied me for a moment, no doubt wanting to press me for details, but realized it’d be a lost cause and sighed. “Nonverbal shields.”
“What happened to your hand?” Scorpius asked, lacking Rose’s tact.
“Doesn’t matter,” I bristled.
He raised his eyebrows. “Fine, fine.”
Albus remained quiet, watching me with a perplexing look that wasn’t angry, like I’d come to expect from him, but rather seemed scrutinizing. I looked away from him, my face heating up. He had a horrible way of looking at me like he could see the inner workings of my brain, the cogs and gears turning and catching on each other and breaking apart and falling with heavy crashes.
Rose and Scorpius apparently wordlessly decided it’d be best not to let Albus and I duel each other, so a minute later, I found myself shielding hexes from Scorpius.
We weren’t to use anything particularly dangerous, since we were all pretty new to nonverbals. Outside of the Patronus charm, however, I’d always been rather good at Defense, and I was blocking each of Scorpius’s hexes with ease.
I sent back a Rictusempra, and Scorpius couldn’t get his shield up in time. Rose and Albus paused their own duel so we could all watch with amusement as the poor bloke laughed himself to tears on the floor.
I smiled as he laughed, and it was immediately relieving to do so. I hadn’t had anything to smile at in days.
I met Albus’s eyes and watched the glow of amusement slowly leave his eyes as his own smile slipped into a frown before he looked away.
My face fell. So much for that.
At a quarter to eight, I made my way to Filch’s office, prepared for an evening of monotonous cleaning or whatever it was he’d make me do. Honestly, I was almost looking forward to it. No one would be able to disturb me, I wouldn’t have to speak to someone- I could just sit and sulk in my self-pity party to my heart’s content.
But of course, that would be asking for too much evidently.
Filch was already waiting for me when I got there- along with Albus. Perfect, I thought bitterly. Albus looked troubled when he saw me, but like earlier, I noticed he was rather without the venom I’d been receiving for a fortnight.
“You’re here, then,” Filch barked. “About bloody time.”
I frowned. “I’m five minutes early.”
“Quiet!” He snapped. “You two will be reorganizing my files tonight. Some blasted student thought it’d be funny to rearrange the entire office. I want them first by date and then alphabetical. Understood?”
“Yes sir,” Albus said quietly. I simply nodded.
“Good. Get to it, then,” Filch commanded, before leaving to hunt down more misbehaving students. Honestly, given how much he forced students to do for him, I wondered whether he ever actually worked.
I bent down to the first cabinet in sight and started removing stacks of files. Albus did the same on his side. “We’ll have to coordinate a little,” I said softly. “To make sure we have them properly chronological.”
He nodded a little jerkily. “Fine. Hand me any from before the 70's, I’ll give you anything from then on?”
“Sounds good.” I hated how meek I sounded. I was the mad one now, wasn’t I? I was the one who stormed out in a rage at the team dinner! He should be sodding meek! Prick.
I read the names and dates on the files, handing some his way and grabbing some he left near me to move to a separate pile. At least the assignment took some attention- reading names and dates made it a lot easier to ignore how unsteady my heart had become and how harshly my breath was coming.
I looked over embarrassingly quickly. “Yeah?”
“I- I’m sorry,” Albus sighed, dropping the file he was holding against his lap as his shoulders dropped. “I’m sorry for being a prick the last couple weeks.”
A wave of relief washed over me. “Me too. I really didn’t mean what I’d said before.”
“I know,” he smiled weakly. “I didn’t even care about that until after the whole ‘friend’ thing.”
“Albus,” I said slowly. “I- I mean, you know that I-?”
“It’s alright,” he said softly, shaking his head. “I realized after you screamed me down in front of the team that I don’t really have the right to be a jerk just because we want different things.” My gut wrenched at his words. Did we want different things? “Right now, I’d just like to go back to after you asked me if we could be friends.”
“So, could we, then?” I asked hopefully.
He smiled fully this time. “Yeah. Why not? Although I for one think snogging only enhances a friendship, really- joking, Tara, bloody hell,” he moaned when I chucked a file at his head. “I think I got a papercut on my nose.”
“Good,” I snorted.
“Friendship with you is violent,” he rolled his eyes. “Which reminds me- what happened to your hand?”
My eyes drifted down to my bandaged knuckles and I swallowed hard. “Not important.”
“Tara,” he said reproachfully. “We’re friends now, aren’t we? You can tell me.”
“We’ve been friends for thirty seconds,” I argued. “That doesn’t automatically grant you access to all my trust and my secrets.”
“To be fair, I already know most of them,” he smirked. “Please?”
He pouted, and I was almost tempted to tell him. He was too bloody gorgeous for his own good; it was staggering.
“Can I ask you about a different secret?” He asked.
“Why do you want all my secrets, Po- Al?” I demanded. This had to be the nosiest human being I’d ever known.
He shrugged. “I like the idea of knowing everything about you when no one else does.” I cursed the mother I barely knew and father I never had for giving me pale skin, because I was certain Albus could see me color deeply at his words.
“Tell me one of yours first,” I requested after a pause.
He looked surprised. “Fine. Er- I guess… there’s this thing I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Something I’d like to do after Hogwarts.”
“What is it?” I asked, tilting my head. I wondered why what he wanted to do after Hogwarts would warrant secrecy.
“I want to sail,” he admitted softly. “I want to buy a boat and sail around the world once before actually having to start a job and get on with life.”
I smiled at that. “Really?”
He shrugged. “It’s stupid, I know, and kind of pointless. But ever since I was little and my dad took us to this muggle aquarium, I’ve been dying to live at sea for a bit. Maybe even pursue working in a lab or something. Can you imagine what kind of cool things could be down there that we haven’t found yet?”
I smiled back at him. “You should have stuck with Care of Magical Creatures, then. We learn about some of them.”
He made a face. “I know. I’ve been kicking myself for that all year. I only dropped it because Scor was too and I didn’t realize how interested I’d actually be in it later down the line.”
“You can still learn plenty about them, I bet,” I said encouragingly. “You just need to find some good books on the matter and learn on the side. You’re right, there are probably tons of cool creatures living in the sea that we haven’t discovered. And honestly, the non-magical creatures would be interesting enough to study in themselves.”
The more I thought about it, the more amazing it sounded. Working at sea, with creatures like dolphins? That was kind of the dream.
“Well thank you for not telling me it’s some sort of childish pipe dream,” Albus grinned.
“Of course not,” I smiled back. “You just owe me three favors, now.”
He laughed. “You should have asked for those up front. Too late now.”
“But I do have the secret,” I smirked.
“True. I still want another of yours, by the way.”
“What secret are you asking about this time?” I asked, rolling my eyes. I picked up some files to continue on with the detention assignment, handing a few over to Albus and taking the ones he sent my way.
“Why is Professor Mansir mad at you?” He asked. I hated the fact that Mansir had made his anger with me so blatant- I mean come on now, isn’t he supposed to be professional?
“I guess he’s just fed up with all my tardiness,” I said evasively.
He narrowed his eyes. “Alright. I don’t believe you, but I get the feeling I’m not going to get any more out of you.” I smiled slightly as I filed away another set of records. “Hey wait,” he said thoughtfully. “Wasn’t I supposed to be assigned to tutor you if you were late again?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, but here we are. In detention. What are you even here for, anyway?”
Albus frowned. “I was dumb enough to join James and Leo on a pranking mission. They wanted to charm the toilet seats in the bathrooms to bite people. But then Filch caught us and put us in separate detentions.”
I giggled. “I’m glad you got caught, I don’t want a bloody toilet seat biting my bum.”
He smirked. “No? Not into that sort of thing?”
I rolled my eyes and threw another file at him, to his amusement. “You’re a tosser.”
He laughed, and it was wonderful. It was light and genuine and made me feel thoroughly warm from head to toe. “Anyway,” he said a moment later. “Maybe I ought to remind Mansir about the tutoring thing. Make you work with me more.”
I glared at him. “Don’t you dare. I have enough school work as it is.”
“How’s that Patronus coming?” He asked with a knowing smirk.
“Horribly,” I admitted. “I think I’ve made completely backwards progress.”
He considered that for a beat. “Hm. Well if you really want, I could help you gain some more happy memories.”
His tone was suggestive, as was the way he wiggled his eyebrows at me, and it made me laugh. “Thanks, Al, but I will pass. Friends don’t generally snog, you know.”
“Who said anything about snogging?” He held a hand to his chest in mock-affront. “You just can’t keep your mind on anything appropriate, can you?”
“You’re a jerk,” I informed him.
“I bet one of our snog fests would help that charm of yours, though,” he smiled cheekily.
“It would not,” I laughed.
“Come on, it was good and you know it.”
“A good snog hardly equates to happy.”
“No, but at least you’ve admitted it was good.” He smirked.
I rolled my eyes. “You have who-knows-how-many girls here who spend all their time gushing about you and your snogging- why do you need my commendation?”
The question seemed to throw him for a loop. His smirk slipped and he looked temporarily stunned. “I- um...”
I smirked myself, enjoying having caught him off guard. I read the next file to place it onto the right stack- I’d created multiple, grouped by decade.
Frodarian Frelling- 2000
I stared at the name in shock. Frodarian Frelling. Frodarian. You don’t hear a name like Frodarian often- so when you do, you tend to remember it.
“Tara?” Albus hesitated. “What is it?”
“Frodarian,” I whispered.
“Come again?” he frowned.
“I’ve heard this name before,” I said in a low voice. “Frodarian.”
“I can’t imagine there are very many Frodarians out there,” Albus wrinkled his nose. “I guess I can’t really judge someone’s name though, can I?”
I choked out a short laugh, but he could tell it was half-hearted. I was too distracted, now.
Taralyn was crying. Not terribly hard- she was old enough to be past the phase of meltdowns after all. She was nine.
She’d awoken from a rather frightening dream, one of monsters and panic and mayhem and death, topics far too dark to belong in the dreams of a young and innocent girl.
Once awake, she shook and sobbed for her mother. Her mother, a pretty woman with regally high cheekbones and a mostly young face, aside from the stress lines, cradled the girl in her arms to calm her down.
“Please, please stop crying,” the mother pleaded. Her voice was laced with exhaustion.
“It was s-scary,” the girl hiccuped.
“It was just a dream,” the woman sighed in frustration. “You were up until one, Taralyn, please go to sleep. I’m so tired.”
“I- I c-can’t,” the girl sobbed.
The woman turned away for a moment and muffled a groan with her sleeve. She took a deep breath before returning to her daughter.
She started to rock the little girl, singing a soft song, the only Muggle song Taralyn would remember into her teenage years and use as a bridge to a whole world of music, and a song she’d find herself singing idly in the halls, and the shower, and while cooking meals, and even while flying: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Taralyn drifted off, until she finally lay still enough for her mom to release her with a sigh and flop back onto her back.
Taralyn, still not quite asleep, heard her mother murmur, “Bloody Frodarian, this is all your fault.”
I couldn’t breathe. I just stared at the name, my eyebrows furrowed in thought.
“Tara?” Albus tried again, sounding worried. I looked at him, my eyes saucers. “What is it? Who’s Frodarian?”
“I- I’m not certain,” I said slowly. “But he knew my mother.”
“He knew her,” I repeated. “Or at least, she knew him. They knew each other, I don't know.”
“How do you know?” He asked, throwing his file aside and moving to sit by me.
“I remember her saying the name,” I said quietly. “She thought I’d fallen asleep. She said ‘Bloody Frodarian, this is all your fault’ after this time I’d had a nightmare and she had to get me back to sleep. She er- wasn’t all that pleased with motherhood, I think.” I bit my lip.
He looked at me in alarm, sympathy flashing across his features. I saw his hand twitch, like he wanted to reach out to me, but luckily he kept it by his side. I was glad- if he touched me, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hold to the “friend” thing for long.
He seemed to recognize I didn’t want to talk about my mother’s parenting, thankfully, and went back to the prior topic. “So this Frodarian bloke. What’s the file have on him?”
I smiled at him gratefully and opened up the folder, scanning its content. I suppose I ought to have been concerned with the morality of reading through it, but I couldn't really be bothered. “Well, he started Hogwarts in the year 2000. There’s not that much of interest. Muggleborn, played Quidditch for Gryffindor, a few detentions, Prefect his Sixth Year, then-” I broke off.
“Then what?” Albus demanded, his interest obviously piqued.
I could feel the blood draining away from my face. My mouth went dry as I read the words, once, twice, ten times. Biting my lip again, I passed the folder to Albus.
He scanned it briefly before his eyes rested on the part I’d read. “Oh,” he sounded almost as crestfallen as I felt. “He’s-”
“Dead,” I croaked. “The only person I could possibly connect to my mother is dead.” Of fucking course.
“Bloody hell,” Albus frowned. “Did you read how?”
I shook my head. “I saw he was dead and stopped reading. What happened to him?”
He hesitated. “Tara, I don’t know if-”
“Tell me,” I urged, my voice laced with desperation. “Please.”
The look on his face only widened the pit of dread in my stomach. “He was murdered,” Albus sighed. “When he was seventeen.”
“Murdered?” I echoed. “By who? This would have been well after the war, right?”
Albus nodded. “It doesn’t say who did it, here. This is just the death certificate. He was Avada Kedavra’ed though.”
I bit back the urge to sob. “Dammit,” I growled, punching the floor without thinking. I hissed in pain, pulling my hand back. I’d forgotten about punching the mirror earlier.
“Tara!” Albus exclaimed. He reached over and gripped my hand, careful not to brush against the knuckles. “Let me see it.” I shook my head. He shot me an annoyed look until I relented, unwrapping the bandages. My knuckles were still covered in dried blood, and I suspected they were bruised underneath.
He looked up at me, his green eyes wide with worry. “Tara…”
“It’s not a big deal,” I said quickly. “I had a- er- minor meltdown, is all.”
He frowned, pulling out his wand. “Tergeo.” The blood cleared slowly, fading into nothing until all that was left was the bruising. “Episkey.” And then the bruising, too, disappeared.
I flexed and unflexed my fingers, pleasantly surprised to feel no more pain. “Thank you,” I murmured.
He shrugged. “It was nothing. “I’m surprised you didn’t do that yourself, honestly.”
“I’m not good at healing spells,” I frowned. “Never have been. Figured I’d just wash it and let it heal on its own, but I sort of forgot about it.”
“Hence why you just punched the floor,” Albus smiled slightly.
“Yeah,” I grinned back sheepishly. “Thank you again.”
“Anytime,” he nodded. He reached out suddenly and ran the strand of hair I’d colored blue through his fingers. “This is pretty.”
My eyes widened. “Thanks,” I said quietly, flushing and looking away.
He looked back at the file. “Think Filch would notice if you kept that? Maybe we can do some digging, you know? Find out who he was. Maybe knowing would help us find your mother.”
Us. My heart fluttered wildly.
“I- no, I don’t think he’d notice,” I said with a small smile. I couldn’t believe he wanted to help me with this. I didn’t think there was any ulterior motive- was this what friendship with Albus Potter meant? Because if I’d known that, I would have extended the olive branch years before.
“Great!” He beamed. “We’ll find your mum yet, Tara.”
I gawked at him. What the hell was happening to me? My bloody eyes were welling with tears like I was a fucking child again.
Albus noticed my expression and his face slipped into one of panic. “Wait, Tara, don’t cry, I was just trying to help, I’m so-”
His words were cut off when I threw myself into his arms, burying my face in his chest and hugging him tightly.
When did Albus Potter become so nice?
We’d spent so many years insulting each other, competing with each other, driving each other around the bend- what exactly had changed? When had he become the one person who knew almost every single secret of mine, the person I cried against, the person wanting to help me find my mum? If someone had told me even two months before that I’d find myself sitting on a floor of student records wrapped around Albus Potter like he was my sodding lifeline, I’d have ensured they were shipped off to St. Mungo’s promptly.
I pulled back, my head throbbing a little and my face damp. I was kind of amused to find him wearing a bewildered expression. “Sorry,” I said softly.
“Don’t apologize,” he shook his head, a small smiling spreading across his face.
“Have you always been like this?” I asked him, moving away to sit back beside him. I picked up the file for Frodarian and slid it inside my robes before returning to filing away the other ones. We did still have detention to finish.
“Like what?” Albus scrunched his forehead.
“Nice,” I said like it was obvious.
He snorted. “Not really. I don’t know if you heard, but I actually blackmailed this one girl earlier this term into promising me unquestionable favors in exchange for not revealing her most precious secrets.”
I rolled my eyes. “No kidding? The poor girl. Sounds like she ought to curse your face off.”
“No, no,” Albus grinned. “See that poor girl doesn’t realize that I was actually full of shit, and would never actually tell someone one of her secrets. I just wanted her to agree to the favors.”
“She sounds daft, and you sound like a git,” I decided. I was smiling though. His words could have been empty for all I knew, a way to smooth over the blackmail or just another sort of weird flirtation, but they were nice to hear, and I was finding that it felt remarkably good to trust Albus Potter.
He laughed. “Maybe you’re right. Definitely about the first part at least.”
I reached over and flicked him in the head.
“So how are we going to find out more about this Frodarian guy?” he asked me, still smiling.
I thought about it. “Well, he started school here in 2000, right? And if he didn’t die until he was seventeen, then he would still have been going to school sometime around 2006 or so? So anyone working here at least seventeen years ago might know him.”
“Clever,” Albus grinned approvingly.
“We just need to hope someone actually remembers him,” I sighed. “Seventeen years is quite a while.”
Albus thought about it. “Still, it’s definitely possible. We know Filch was here, but I don’t think he’d be much help. I know a lot of the professors and faculty were still here, actually- Slughorn, Pomfrey, Hagrid, Flitwick... Neville was probably working here by then too, actually, we could start with him. He’s my godfather.”
“Cool,” I smiled. “Sounds like a solid start to me.”
“Who else?” He looked thoughtful. “Hooch would be a good one to ask since he played Quidditch. I wonder when Mansir started.”
“2010,” I said immediately.
He looked at me strangely. “Why do you know that?”
“It was a guess,” I smiled winningly, hoping he’d buy it.
“Bullshit.” Welp. “How well do you know him?”
I groaned, dropping my head. “Dammit, Al, how have you actually managed this?”
“Managed what?” he tilted his head.
“You’ve either worked out or forced out every last one of my secrets,” I complained.
He grinned. “Does this mean you’re going to tell me why Mansir’s so mad at you? And why he’s the only teacher who calls you Tara?”
I glared at him. “I suppose. I take back what I said before, you’re not nice.”
“I already knew that,” he winked. “Now spill!”
“Nosy,” I muttered darkly. “Fine. Dexter Mansir is my legal guardian. He was the one who found me about a year after my mother left, and who arranged with McGonagall for me to stay at Hogwarts, he adopted me.”
Albus gaped at me. “Our Defense professor is your guardian?”
I nodded. “That’s why he calls me Tara, and why up until today he never gave me detentions.”
“So what happened today?” he furrowed his eyebrows.
“It was really what happened Saturday,” I frowned. “It was after the team dinner. I was a little worked up-” I shot him a pointed look and he smiled sheepishly. “-and ended up going to talk to him about it. In my state, however, I wound up taking out my anger on him with some really mean words.”
He raised an eyebrow. “How mean?”
“About as mean as my dig at you about your parents.” I grimaced as I thought about it- poor Dex. He was supposed to be the closest person to me outside of the Wotters and I’d thrown it in his face like a bitch.
Albus shot me a sad smile. “I’m sure if you talk to him you can fix it.”
I sighed. “He seemed so angry today. He’s never looked at me like that.”
He shrugged. “You won’t know until you talk to him.” He had a point. I resolved that I’d find Mansir the next day and apologize. He needed to know he was actually important to me.
“You’re right,” I admitted, though it pained me a little to do so.
“Course I am,” he smirked arrogantly. “I usually am.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re only ever way too nice, or an arrogant prat. Do you have no inbetween?”
“Not really,” his eyes twinkled. “But you love it. You’re the one who wanted me as a friend, after all.”
“Maybe I take it back,” I tilted my head with a smile.
“Oh?” He raised his eyebrows. “Did you want to go back to snogging, then?”
“Because that can be arranged.”
Yay they're civil again! I hope you enjoyed this chapter. It's fun revealing more about Tara's past in little pieces. Thoughts on this Frodarian guy they've found? Or on Al and Tara's new agreement for friendship?
Also, I don't know if you all read these notes, but I did just want to say that in the midst of quarantine and global pandemic, it can be really hard to keep up morale and to maintain mental health. I know I for one have been struggling lately. So I just wanted to say that if anyone ever needs to talk, I'm here! My username on the forums is the same as here, so feel free to look me up and shoot me a PM if you ever need someone to talk to about life, lock-up, fanfics, or literally anything else. I thoroughly understand that social distancing is brutal, and I am always here for you all :)
Anyway, feel free to leave a review! All feedback is always appreciated, you guys who have been leaving me reviews make my day every time. Thank you all a ton.
Disclaimer: Of course anything you recognize is not mine, all JKR. Except my reference to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" again, which is still The Beatles.
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