I owed Albus Potter big time.
Before walking me back to the party and helping me to the edge of the stairs leading up to my dorm, he’d slipped a vial of hangover solution into my hand. I hadn’t had the chance to brew any myself in the recent weeks- I figured I’d simply suffer the consequences of the party.
But instead, while everyone else spent the next morning groaning and whimpering in pain and nausea, I felt terrific.
“Tara, I swear to Merlin, if you pull back the curtains to my bed and let that fucking light in one more time I will MURDER YOU!”
...were less terrific.
“Come on, Ry,” I rolled my eyes, sitting on the side of her bed. “You’re not going to feel any better if you stay in there. Go throw up and then let’s go get some food!”
“Why bother eating?” She moaned, rolling onto her stomach and burying her face in the pillow. Her next words were muffled, but I understood them well enough: “I’m just going to throw it all up anyways.”
“Maybe Albus has more hangover solution,” I supplied. She lifted her head at that.
“Is that why you’re so bloody annoyingly chipper this morning?” She demanded. “He gave you hangover solution?”
I smiled. “He did. I suppose it pays to be getting along with him, now.”
“I’ve never not gotten along with him, where’s my sodding potion?” She cried, letting her head fall back down on the pillow.
I giggled. “Good question. Come on, then. Let’s go ask.”
“Tara,” she whined, facing me. “I can’t.”
“Sure you can, Wood,” I said, pulling at her blankets. “You’ll feel better soon, trust me.”
“No, Tara, I really can’t,” she said, suddenly looking panicked. “I can’t leave this room. Maybe ever again.”
“What?” I frowned. “What happened?”
“Can you two shut the fuck up?” Reyna Pritchard snapped from her own bed. She and Zabini were apparently nursing hangovers of their own. “Let us sleep for the love of Salazar.”
Sighing, I tucked my legs in so that I was sitting on Rylie’s bed entirely and pulled the curtains around us before casting a quick Muffliato.
“Alright, now spill,” I commanded, looking at Rylie sternly.
She looked like a dog that’d just torn up its owner’s favorite pair of slippers, and the guilty expression made me nervous. Reluctantly, she sat up, pulling her knees into her chest. “Well, while you and Albus were in the kitchens last night, I sort of… ugh, I don’t want to say it!” She dropped her forehead against her knees.
“Come on, Rylie, tell me!” I urged.
“IsngdJms,” she muttered incomprehensibly.
“Come again?” I furrowed my eyebrows.
She lifted her head and sighed heavily. “I snogged James.”
“WHAT!?” I shouted. Good thing I’d Muffliato’d the others, because I’m pretty sure my volume would have woken the entirety of the dungeons otherwise.
“Ow,” Rylie moaned, holding her head. “Don’t shout.”
“How the hell did that happen?” I demanded.
“We were piss drunk,” Rylie explained. “Leo and I kept rowing after you left, and he finally went away to go find some poor innocent girl to defile to forget that he was angry with me, and I ended up alone with James.”
“Where’d Rose go?” I asked.
She shrugged. “She left. She claimed it was because she was feeling ill, but I think she just didn’t want to see Scorpius flirting with her roommate.” I bit back a groan. Those two drove me bonkers. “Anyway, this left James and I to talk, and we both ended up drinking quite a bit more, and dancing, and eventually, well, snogging.”
“And?” I pressed.
“And that’s it!” She snapped. “It was a drunken mistake, and Leo would absolutely kill us if he knew about it. Oh gods,” she paled. “What if James already told him?”
I snorted. “James values his life too much; I’m sure he hasn’t said anything.”
“I hope so,” Rylie frowned deeply. “How did I let this happen?”
“Because you were drunk, and James is hot,” I suggested, probably unhelpfully.
She narrowed her eyes. “Shove off. Like you and Albus weren’t off getting it on in the kitchens.”
“We weren’t!” I protested. “Honestly.”
“Nothing happened?” She sounded somewhat disappointed.
“Well,” I paused. “Technically not nothing, but as far as what you’re interested in, it was nothing.”
She cocked her head. “What the hell does that even mean?”
I shrugged. “He was just… nice. Weirdly nice. Like very un-Albus-like nice.”
“Albus is nice,” Rylie smirked. “Just not usually to you. Until this year, that is.” She obviously didn’t know he’d started the term off blackmailing me. Although, to be fair, he’d hardly really kept that up since the first favor. Unless kissing me in the Room of Requirement counted.
“Well this time he was extra nice,” I tried to explain. I realized that a simple job of hydrating me and kissing my forehead didn’t sound like much when put into audible words. I know I’d been drunk when it happened, but I couldn’t get over how different it felt. It was this odd moment of complete serenity that I never thought I’d associate with Albus Potter.
“He lurves you,” Rylie teased. I shoved her shoulder.
“Shut up,” I rolled my eyes. “He doesn’t. And don’t think pestering me about one Potter will make me forget about you and the other one.”
“I didn't realize something was happening with Lily and me,” she replied innocently.
“Ry,” I warned. “I want more information! Do you fancy James?”
She looked helpless. “I- I don’t know. I mean, maybe? This is a bloke I’ve known for years, it’s weird to think about him this way now. He’s been Leo’s friend for so long, I mean the bloke was coming around my house back before I’d even started wearing bras.” I snorted at that. “What if I do? How would I deal with it? Leo would be furious.”
I didn’t know what to say; she was right, of course. Leo would be livid. I’d witnessed him curse many a boy for even looking too closely at his dear sister. And I was sure he’d feel awkward on top of being angry if his best friend dated his sister- bloody hell, this was such a cliche it almost made me sick.
But thinking about it, Rylie and James would make one hell of a couple. I smiled slightly at the thought.
“Why do you look happy right now, traitor?” Rylie exclaimed. “You’re supposed to suffer with me.”
“You laughed at me for an hour straight after Albus snogged me earlier in the year,” I pointed out.
“You’re supposed to be the nice one,” she pouted. I rolled my eyes and simply laughed.
“Fine, fine. Alright, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” I said placatingly. “The first thing you should be doing is talking to James about this.”
“No!” She cried. “I can’t talk to him- I don’t even want to look at him. Bloody fucking hell, I’m so embarrassed.”
“You that bad a kisser?” I smirked.
“Fuck you, I’m terrific, I’ll have you know!” She retorted. “I just don’t want to face him over it. At least, not yet. Please help me avoid him? Please?” She looked at me with wide, pleading eyes, and I knew I couldn’t say no.
“Alright,” I soothed. “I’ll help you.”
She sighed in relief. “Thank you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to vacate my stomach.” She hopped off the bed and practically sprinted for the loo, the sound of her vomiting echoing through the dorm.
Got yourself a real winner here, James, I thought.
True to my word, I helped Rylie avoid James like the pathetic coward- ahem, reasonably embarrassed person- that she was. I managed to drag her down to breakfast; the Slytherin table was nearly deserted as our house slept off their hangovers from the party.
About ten minutes into eating, James walked in beside Albus, the two looking remarkably similar with their disheveled dark hair and easy smiles. The two of them had clearly had hangover potions of their own, since aside from the bed heads they looked far better than Rylie.
“Potter sighting,” I hissed across the table.
Rylie, who’d been half asleep on her arm, shot up suddenly. “Shit! Coming toward us or Gryffindor?”
Albus and James turned toward our table as they walked, though they seemingly hadn’t spotted us yet. “Definitely our way,” I frowned.
Rylie cursed again, glancing around a little frantically. Finally, she huffed and slipped down her seat and disappeared under the table.
I rolled my eyes. “Really?”
“Shhh!” She snapped, already crawling away. “I’ll see you back in the dorms, alright?”
“Alright,” I chuckled, feeling silly now that I was sitting alone.
The Potter boys reached me not long after, Albus shooting me a smile that made my breath catch while James looked at me questioningly. “Hey Tara,” he said slowly. “Am I crazy, or did I see Rylie drop under the table not twenty second ago?”
I froze, eggs falling off my fork. “Uh- no idea what you’re talking about,” I said, putting all my effort into not looking toward the end of the table, from which Rylie had emerged. She sprinted to the doors with astounding effort for someone so hungover.
“Really?” Albus smirked. “Because I just saw her crawl out from under it and run away.”
I glared at him. “You must be mistaken, because Rylie was never here.”
James rolled his eyes. “I’m guessing she told you what happened, then?”
“No idea what you’re talking about,” I replied hotly, tossing my hair. “You’ll have to be more specific.”
“You’re a loyal friend, Rivers,” he told me, grinning. “But cut the shit. I told Al already, it’s not like it’s new information to anyone here.”
“Leo’s going to kill you,” Albus sang, filling his plate with bacon.
“Shut it,” James growled. “He’s not going to kill me, because no one is going to tell him.” He paused, glancing at me. “Well, I’m assuming, at least.”
“Don’t worry,” I laughed. “Rylie would probably sooner shave her head than tell her brother you snogged her.”
He looked rather put out over that. “Is shaving her head really preferable to admitting to snogging me?”
“Have you met her brother?” I raised my eyebrows.
He groaned and dropped his head forward onto the table. Albus pat his brother’s head sympathetically, though his smirk made the gesture seem a little dubious.
“Cheer up, mate,” Albus said through a mouth full of food- and I’d snogged this gross idiot? “It could have been worse. You could have knocked her up.” He paused. “You didn’t, did you?”
“There’s a middle step between snogging and impregnating that you seem to be missing,” James hissed, shooting his brother an irate glare. “And since that didn’t happen, no I didn’t bloody knock her up.”
“Thank fuck,” he sighed as I amusedly reached for my juice. “I’m too young to be an uncle.”
I snorted into my juice, some of it spilling up across my forehead. James made a face at me. “Attractive, Tara,” he said dryly.
“Fuck off,” I growled. “Go knock up Rylie.”
Albus laughed at that while James colored. “If Leo would kill him just for kissing her, what do you think he’d do if James actually impregnated her?”
“I daresay it’d be enough to have James begging to be Crucio’d,” I snickered.
“Alright, I’m officially sick of you two actually getting along,” James said loudly, pushing himself up from the table. “I’m going back to my own house. Jerks.”
“Bye Jamesie,” I called after him as he stalked away to the Gryffindor table. “He must really not want to sit with us if he’s going over to where Leo’s sitting.”
Albus smiled crookedly at me, and I mentally cursed every deity to have ever been imagined, worshiped, or prayed to- one of them had to be responsible for making Albus Potter so nice to look at, and that was the one I wanted hanged, drawn and quartered by all the other deities.
It was possible that I was slowly going insane.
As I continued my mental ravings against the gods, Albus said something in reply to me that I completely missed.
“Sorry, what?” I shook my head quickly, trying to rid it of all crazy thoughts about murder and deities and shagging Albus Potter and kittens and pumpkin juice and every other random thought that had come along.
“Distracted, there?” Albus asked, smirking.
“No,” I said defensively. “I was just- thinking about something.”
“About what?” he pressed, looking like he was thoroughly enjoying himself. “Me, perhaps?”
He laughed. “I’m glad you’re an only child, you know. I would have hated to have to deal with an overprotective brother after our drunken snog. Or our sober ones, for that matter.”
I rolled my eyes. “Shut up. And technically, I don’t even know with certainty that I am an only child. I haven’t seen my mum in quite a bit, remember?” I was pretty sure my dad was dead. I mean, we couldn’t confirm that Frodarian was my father yet, but it wasn’t much of a leap to guess at.
“My whole family considers you part of ours at this point anyway,” Albus said. “Dom would sucker punch me if she knew.”
“That’s true,” I realized, my eyes widening. “Why haven’t I told her yet? I’d love to see Dom beat the crap out of you, come to think of it.”
Albus sniffed. “Thanks, Tara. It’s always nice to know you care.”
I felt another ache in my chest as he said that. He was joking, of course. But suddenly all I could think about was our conversation the evening prior, and the way he’d kissed me on the forehead so gently. Like he genuinely cared. Did I care? Beyond snogging, had Albus become something more to me after all?
Of course he has, idiot, my internal voice scolded me. Remember how you felt when he offered to help you find your mum?
I had to hand it to myself; that was a good point. Albus Potter being a good snog was one thing- but being a good snog who helped me with my life problems and took care of me when I was drunk and helped me with my Patronus? That was dangerous.
He was saying something that I wasn’t hearing again. I blinked at him. “Er- sorry, could you repeat that?”
He rolled his eyes. “Am I that uninteresting? Bloody hell.” Not to look at. “I was saying that we ought to go talk to some of the teachers today about Frodarian Frelling.”
The name startled me from my objectifying ogling. “Oh! That’s a good idea, actually.”
Talking to the teachers was something I wanted to do before going to the winter break, and that was approaching quickly, seeing as it was already November. I felt a pang of guilt as I recalled my fight with Mansir, suddenly, and wondered if I should include him in faculty members to speak to.
Albus shot me a knowing look. “Want to talk to Mansir, too?”
I frowned. “Have you always been so perceptive?”
“We’ve spent a lot of time together despite years of dislike,” he grinned. “I’ve found I know you surprisingly well.”
I sighed. “I do want to talk to him.”
“Want to go now?” he asked. He’d scarfed down as food at some point, and I realized I’d finished my own food too.
“Er- not really,” I admitted.
“Come on,” he urged. “Might as well get it over with. Like ripping off a bandage.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Why do you want me to fix things with Dex so badly?” I didn’t mean to use Mansir’s first name- it slipped out. Usually I was under better control around other students.
Albus shrugged. “I just think it’d make you feel better. You look so down every time we walk into Defense now.”
I looked away, that familiar feeling of something I couldn’t yet put into words returning, the same thing I’d felt the prior night after our trip to the kitchens. This unwelcome feeling was growing awfully persistent.
“I suppose I could do it now,” I mumbled at last.
“Want me to come with?” he titled his head.
“I wish,” I said with another sigh. “But he doesn’t know I’ve told anyone about my, er- situation. It’d probably be weird if I go apologize to him with you there.”
“What if he doesn’t know that I’m there?” Albus asked with a wicked grin.
“How-? The cloak,” I smiled in realization. “You’d really come with me?”
“If you want me there.”
“Thank you,” I said, relief surging through me. Facing my problems had never really been my strong point, and having someone there, even invisibly, would make confronting this one all the more survivable. “Seriously, I appreciate this a lot.”
“Comes at a cost though- two more favors,” he winked. I chucked a roll at him. “Kidding, kidding. Come on, Tara, let’s go!”
I followed him, albeit a little reluctantly because I was still scared. We made our way out of the Great Hall and started up the stairs for the sixth floor, where Mansir’s office was.
Along the way, I rehearsed what I’d say to him. I’m so sorry for saying you’re only my guardian as a legal formality. Obviously you mean more to me than that, you’re practically the only real family I have. I’m sorry for taking out an earlier fight on you and I hope you know that I am so genuinely grateful to you for everything you’ve ever done for me.
That sounded good to me. Albus and I reached the outside of his office soon. After making sure no one else was around, he slipped on the Invisibility Cloak. I took a deep breath before knocking on the office door.
“Come in,” came Mansir’s voice.
I tentatively opened the door, making sure to widen it enough for Albus to slip through. “Er- hi,” I said quietly as I slowly headed inside.
Mansir looked up in surprise, before his expression turned wary. The last time I’d been in here, I’d snapped at him rather rudely, maybe for the first time in our lives. We didn’t generally fight in the past.
“Tara,” he said carefully, and I took it as a sign of hope that he didn’t say ‘Miss Rivers.’ “What can I do for you?”
I thought of the speech I’d been working on in my head, and the thoughts I’d had on my mind for weeks. You’re not just a legal formality, you’re family, you’re special, I appreciate you, thank you for everything, please forgive me-
Predictably, I suppose, I simply burst into tears.
Mansir jumped up from his desk in shock as I flung myself toward him, sobbing into his shirt. “Shh, Tara, bloody hell, it’s alright.”
“I’m-” sob “-so-” sob “-sorry!” I wailed, crying against him.
Fucking hell, why had I told Albus to come with me? Now that idiot had seen me cry profusely like a sodding child.
“I know,” Mansir said soothingly, brushing my hair back, letting me cry against him. “It’s fine, Tara, it’s alright.”
I stepped back, tears still running down my cheeks and my nose more than likely red. “You’re not just a formality,” I sniffed. “Honest.”
Mansir smiled at me. “I know Tara. You were worked up from your fight with Potter. I shouldn’t have taken it so personally.”
I took a shaky breath. “Okay. Good.”
“Honestly, I should have seen a snap like it coming considering it was Potter who had ticked you off,” Mansir went on, rolling his eyes. “The bloke’s been winding you up for years.”
“That’s because he’s a prat,” I supplied for the benefit of the invisible boy standing in that very room.
Mansir snorted. “Sure, Tara. That’s why. Anyway, I think I only took it so hard because, well, let’s be real here, you’re some of the only family I have.”
I must have been near a certain monthly time, because I have no other excuse for what I did next. Shockingly enough, I started crying again.
“Oh blimey, Tara,” Mansir laughed, pulling me in for another hug. “I didn’t mean to make you- shh, Tara, it’s alright.”
I let him console me for another minute or so, until I’d effectively cried myself out of tears. Wiping my running nose on my sleeve, I pulled away with a watery smile. “Sorry,” I said quietly.
“No more apologies,” he waved a hand. “Like I said, I knew Potter had you worked up; really it was on me for taking you seriously after rowing with the bloke.”
“He and I aren’t that bad,” I said unconvincingly.
Mansir raised an eyebrow at me, crossing his arms and leaning against the desk. “Really? Remember your Third Year when you set his textbook on fire, which ignited his desk?”
“He started that! He was making fun of my hair that day!” I argued. I’d cut my hair that day, I remembered. Since then, I’d let it grow out.
“Because he had a crush on you, dumbass,” Mansir rolled his eyes again. I was secretly thrilled that we were back to a point of endearing bluntness, despite the insult. “Like you’ve had on him for who-knows-how-many years.”
I blushed furiously, hating that Albus was probably silently laughing at me at that particular moment. “Have not,” I mumbled.
“Have so,” he shot back. “I’m close to sticking the two of you in detention for no reason just to make you work out your differences.” He’d actually already sort of done that without realizing it- at least he’d stuck me in detention. Albus being there and us working out our differences was coincidental.
“That’s an abuse of power!” I cried.
He smirked. “Respect your elders, Tara. Now don’t you have homework to do? You had Quidditch yesterday, and I’m sure there was some sort of party afterwards, so I’d imagine your weekend has been effectively devoid of schoolwork.”
I scowled. “Maybe.”
“Or would you rather be off snogging Potter?” he asked wryly. “We don’t have to have any talks do we?”
If I could possibly color deeper, I would have, but I genuinely believe I had already turned the most intense shade of red that a human being could manage. “I- no!” I spluttered, completely humiliated. “For fuck’s sake, Dex!”
He laughed, holding his hands up. “Alright, alright. Get going then, Tara. I still have about fifty papers to grade.”
“I hope you get carpal tunnel,” I hissed on my way out.
“Good thing I can use magic then, right?” he called after me.
I stormed out of his office, though this time it was in a fit of embarrassment rather than rage and regret, and this time Mansir’s laughter followed me down the hall.
“Unbelievable,” I muttered to myself.
I rounded the corner, and a moment later, Albus removed the Invisibility Cloak. To my annoyance, he was shaking in a fit of hysterical laughter.
“Oh Merlin that was great,” he wheezed. “I’m so happy I was there to witness that.”
“Stop laughing at me,” I complained, practically trudging down the corridor.
“I can’t,” he cried. “It was too funny. You’re so red, Tara.”
“I hate you.”
“Not according to ‘Dex’ you don’t,” he smiled cheekily.
I let out an angry growl and punched him on the arm, hard.
“Ow, Tara,” he moaned, finally no longer laughing. “Your arm is bloody strong.”
“Good,” I snapped. “I hope I broke yours.”
“Not quite,” he smirked. “I didn’t realize you were so into me that Professor Mansir would consider giving you the sex talk.”
Could I Avada Kedavra myself? Would that work?
“I didn’t realize you had a crush on me in Third Year,” I raised a challenging eyebrow back, though it was probably a flimsy attempt at a comeback.
He didn’t look phased. “That’s because you were as daft then as you were in Fourth and Fifth Year. At least this year you’ve started to see some sense.”
He shoved his hands in his pockets casually and strolled on as I slowed to a confused stop. Was he saying-?
“Albus!” I exclaimed, running a couple steps to catch up. He paused, turning to face me.
“Yes, Tara, love?” he smirked back. I resisted the urge to smack it off his stupid face.
“I-” I broke off, unsure of what to even say now. Mostly I just felt awkward, and embarrassed, and my face was still burning. “I’m confused,” I admitted.
“I know,” he said, his smile becoming softer. “I’m enjoying it.”
“Why?” I furrowed my eyebrows.
And then the bloody prick reached forward and kissed me. It was brief, lasting only a few seconds maybe. It was soft, and sweet, and just enough to leave me dying for more, yet feeling like I might float away. He pulled away far too quickly.
“You’re cute when flustered,” he winked before turning away and continuing down the hall like nothing significant at all had transpired.
I stopped watching and just watched him go. I myself was thoroughly perplexed, and still beet red.
I resisted the urge to run back down the hall to Mansir’s office, drag the jerk out by his hair, and dropkick him.
And that was nothing compared to the violence I found myself wishing on Albus Potter.
Mansir just went full embarrassing-dad-mode on Tara and he doesn't even realize it. And Albus snuck in another kiss! And Rylie snogged James! Lots to talk about, isn't there!? Let me know what you guys thought about this chapter :) I love writing some of these side characters, I hope you all like them too.
Just as a heads up, my updates are catching up to my current writing progress, and due to some business with work the last couple weeks I may not be able to get the super-fast updates up in as timely of a manner. I'll try for once a week, though. Sorry about that, everyone, and I hope that doesn't disappoint anyone <3
Thanks again to everyone who's been reading and reviewing! Love you all!
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.
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