Despite every urge to snog- no, Tara, not snog- to throttle Albus, I did end up catching back up to him so we could seek out the rest of the teachers and ask about Frodarian Frelling.
No one knew who’d killed him, to my dismay.
Madame Hooch told us he’d been a stellar Quidditch player, probably good enough to play professionally, even. Slughorn had no idea who he was, which meant he was probably a Muggleborn with mediocre Potions abilities. Neville didn’t remember the bloke at all, and neither did Pomfrey.
The only person who’d had any information of value was Hagrid.
“‘Course I remember Frelling!” Hagrid had boomed at Albus and I. “Nice bloke, he was. A bit odd, if I remember correctly, but a good man. He had a real knack for gettin’ on with all sorts of creatures.”
“I don’t suppose you know how he died?” I’d asked with a frown.
“’Fraid not,” he’d said.
“What about the rest of his Hogwarts life?” Albus had then asked for me. “We know he played Quidditch. Did he have friends that you remember? Family? A girlfriend?”
“I don’ know ’bout family,” Hagrid admitted. “But he did used to bring a girl down to visit some of the critters from time to time. Shy girl, she was, an’ they never came down together to see me, they’d only ever meet up there separately. Strange kids.”
“Do you remember who the girl was?” I’d asked, almost frantically.
He didn’t. He didn’t know who she was, and he didn’t remember what she looked like.
But I would bet anything that that girl was my mother.
Our lack of answers had me feeling a little down the next couple weeks, to the bewilderment of my friends. They didn’t know what was causing my sullen mood, but to my gratitude they didn’t pester me about it. Mostly they just tried to help me feel better with distractions.
“I’m on a mission,” Rylie announced to me in the dorm one night. I was working on a paper for Transfiguration, while she lay on her own bed reading Witch Weekly.
“Oh no,” I said, looking up from my homework with a frown.
“Don’t look like that,” she scolded. “It’s nothing bad. I just woke up this morning realizing that it’s been three weeks since my last snog, and that snog was James of all people. I think it’s time to change that.”
Rylie and James finally stopped ignoring each other about a week and a half after their kiss; they were opting to pretend it had never happened for the time being. Though curiously, James stopped asking me for girl advice around the same time.
“And who exactly are you planning on going after?” I sighed.
Rylie grinned at me over her magazine. “Not sure yet, actually. Someone outside the Wotter family, that’s for sure.”
“Really?” I asked wryly. “Because I heard Albus is available.”
She snorted. “Yeah, right. The day Albus Potter looks at someone that isn’t you, I’ll eat my toe.”
I flushed slightly. It was true that he and I had spent a considerable amount of time together. Since kissing me on the sixth floor the day I’d made up with Mansir, we’d found ourselves back to our weird friendship, overall ignoring that it’d happened. He was the only one who knew why I’d been down, so he’d taken it upon himself to try to cheer me up with surprise sweets, occasionally dragging me out of the castle to fly around the pitch, and accompanying me to the Room of Requirement on Mondays.
“We’re just friends,” I replied feebly, chewing on the end of my quill.
“Right,” Rylie snorted, looking unconvinced.
“We are!” I cried.
“Because that’ll hold up when you go home with the Weasleys for Christmas,” she shook her head. “Alcohol, mistletoe, Victoire’s wedding… it’s an absolute recipe for romance!” She looked thoroughly delighted at the thought.
“Well I’m sure James will spend most of his holiday at your place, hanging with Leo,” I shot back. “So maybe you can just snog James again!” I smirked as her expression slipped into a scow.
“Shut it,” she mumbled. “You can snog James.”
“I’d rather not,” I snickered. I had a slight preference for the other Potter boy, it seemed.
I looked back at my paper, a small frown returning as I thought about Albus. I wasn’t sure why I was so insistent on ignoring the kiss, but he’d not brought it up either. Did that mean he regretted it?
Thinking about Albus gave me stomach aches.
Rylie glanced over from her bed, noticing my change in mood. “Tara, are you alright? You’ve been… off, lately.”
I shrugged half-heartedly. “Nothing important. Just some stuff.”
“Alright,” she said uncertainly. “Just- I’m here for you if you ever need to talk. You know that, right?”
A pang of guilt ran through me as I regarded my best friend. When had Albus become more of a confidante to me than Rylie? I felt horrible for not trusting her with my whole story, but at this point it was just easier to keep to myself.
“I know,” I said softly. “Thank, Ry. Come on, let’s find you a bloke to snog!” I tossed my essay aside, and she did the same with Witch Weekly, smiling widely at me.
“Yay!” she pumped a fist in the air. “You’re the best, Tar.”
“I know,” I said arrogantly, and the two of us left the dorm for the common room. She and I stood at the bottom of the stairs, surveying the area.
I saw Scorpius and Albus sitting at a table playing wizard’s chess and dragged Rylie over to say hello. “Evening,” I greeted, taking one of the open armchairs around their table.
“Hi Tara, Rylie,” Scorpius grinned. “Come to watch me crush Allie-bear, here?”
Albus scoffed. “Please, mate, I’m thinking ten moves ahead of you right now.”
“Actually,” I cut in before Scorpius could retort. “We’re looking for potential snog-buddies for Rylie.”
Rylie sat in the chair across from me, her arms folded. “Well I thought that was what we were doing,” she pouted. “Now we’re watching these two play chess. I want a snog, dammit!”
“Go snog Ethan,” Albus said absentmindedly as he ordered one of his pawns forward.
We turned toward the fireplace, in front of which Ethan and Collin were playing Exploding Snap together. A small puff went off as a card exploded into black soot across Collin’s face. Ethan laughed at him before wiping the soot off Collin’s lips and giving him a quick kiss.
“Thanks for that advice, Al,” Rylie glared at him.
“I gave you advice?” Albus looked at her with furrowed eyebrows. He genuinely seemed to have no idea what she was talking about.
“Your attention span is troubling,” Scorpius informed his friend with a smirk before sending his knight after one of the pawns.
“Actually,” Albus smirked as he had his rook take the knight. “It’s just focused on the right thing. Check, by the way.”
Scorpius cursed under his breath, while Rylie huffed from her seat. “Come on, guys, help me out here.”
“Go snog James or something,” Scorpius waved a hand, not catching her gobsmacked expression. “We’re busy.”
“Tara,” Rylie whined as I pulled a pillow out from behind me and laughed into it. My shoulders shook as I giggled, more than I had in weeks. “It’s not funny.”
I removed the pillow, trying to dry my eyes. “It is, though.”
Albus was beaming at me. I supposed it had been a while since he’d seen me happy. I don’t think I’d had a proper laugh since hitting our dead end in our questioning about Frelling.
“I thought it was funny too,” he assured me.
“Why is Rylie snogging James so funny?” Scorpius asked, clearly feeling left out. “Aside from the fact that Leo would shit himself.”
“That in itself makes it funny,” I grinned, not willing to betray Rylie’s secret.
She sighed heavily, leaning back against the seat. “None of you are any help.”
“I told you James is an option.”
“Not funny, Malfoy.”
“Tara seemed to think it was-”
“Checkmate, Scor,” Albus smirked.
Rylie had seemingly abandoned her sudden mission to find a snogging partner by the time Christmas break rolled around.
Seemingly being the key word there.
On the day we were to leave school, I was boarding the train with Rose, Scorpius, and Albus. Rylie had left ahead of us for some reason, though at the time I hadn’t thought to question it. I figured she was meeting her brother or something.
I’d made sure to say goodbye to Mansir earlier, wishing him a happy Christmas and promising to mail him his present.
I would miss him- I always missed Mansir when I left school. He’d become such a constant in my life for so long that it was always hard not seeing him.
I walked at the front of our little pack as we made our way down the train, looking for a compartment. Walking past one of them, however, I skidded to a stop, outright double-taking before slamming open the door.
Two people jumped apart so fast that one of them hit his head on the luggage rack while the other fell backwards onto one of the benches.
“Holy shit,” I exclaimed.
“Looks like someone took my advice after all,” Scorpius said from behind me.
James rubbed his head, looking both sheepish and dazed. I wondered if that was from the kiss or from hitting his head so hard.
Rylie, meanwhile, looked mortified, her face now dropped into her hands. “Dammit James,” she groaned. “This is all your fault.” She adamantly kept her face covered as she cowered in her seat, while James groaned in pain as he rubbed the top of his head.
“It looked pretty mutual from where I was standing,” Albus smirked from my left.
“Just leave it, Al,” James warned, dropping onto the seat across from Rylie, still rubbing his head.
I sat beside Rylie, shooting her a pointed look that made her sink further down on the bench. Albus took the spot beside me, Rose and Scorpius sitting across from us.
“So,” Scorpius began with a smirk.
“Another word, Malfoy, and I will break your nose,” James growled, crossing his arms and looking out the window.
Scorpius kept smirking. “Touchy. I was only going to say-”
“Before he breaks your nose,” Rylie cut him off. “I’ll break your neck. So tread lightly here, Malfoy.”
“A lot of hostility in this compartment,” Scorpius mumbled, pouting. “I was only going to ask everyone about their Christmas plans.”
“Yeah right,” Albus snorted.
“I was!” he replied indignantly. “I was going to ask everyone where’d they be going, if you were all excited for Victoire’s wedding, how nice of a snog James is-”
For Scorpius’s own sake, I shot a bat bogey hex his way.
I figured it was kinder than whatever Rylie and James would have done to him.
“You can’t deny you had that coming,” Rose said softly to him, smiling slightly.
He couldn’t respond, finding himself doubled over as bats flew out of his nose.
It was only a few moments later that the compartment door swung open to reveal probably the last person anyone wanted to show up, given recent occurrences.
“There you lot are,” Leo said. “I checked like four compartments looking for you guys. Why has Scorpius been bat-bogeyed?” He dropped beside Rose and casually threw an arm around her, until she elbowed him sharply. Scorpius glowered at him between bats escaping his nostrils.
“It’s Scorpius,” James shrugged like it was obvious. “When doesn’t he deserve to be hexed?”
“He was making a play for your sister, Leo,” Albus said with a smirk worthy of the Malfoy across from me. Scorpius looked at Albus in horror, who just shrugged back as if to say that’s what you get.
I couldn’t help but go along with it. “Yeah, so I hexed him in her defense,” I nodded at Leo, who was now glaring daggers at Scorpius.
Rose looked between Albus and me with a frown. “I need to stop surrounding myself with Slytherins.”
“You hit on my sister?” Leo demanded from a cowering Scorpius. At least the bats had ceased.
“No,” he shook his head quickly. “I didn’t, James-”
“I tried to warn him,” James cut in, shaking his head sadly. “Have to look out for Ry, you know? But Malfoy’s incorrigible.”
Scorpius gaped. “What the fuck, guys?”
“What the fuck to you, mate?” Leo shouted at Scorpius, his own wand out. “Stay the bloody hell away my sister!”
“Yeah, Scor!” Rylie snapped, the corner of her lips twitching. She was never the best actor or liar- this was probably near impossible for her. “I’d like to keep my innocence intact, you know.” I almost lost it at that. Albus reached over and gave my wrist a subtle squeeze, warning me not to laugh.
“Are you taking the bleeding piss?” Scorpius demanded from us.
“Are you?” Leo raised an eyebrow. “Thinking you could get out of this?”
“Mate, I never-”
“Cut the crap, Scor, you’ve been sprung,” Albus sighed. “May as well apologize and ask for mercy.”
“Fuck your mercy, Al, I didn’t-”
“So you’d prefer no mercy, then?” I raised my eyebrows. “Because I have more hexes than bat-bogeys.”
“Might as well give it up,” Rose said to him with a sigh. “Next time, think before coming on to poor Rylie out of the blue.”
Prefect Rose Weasley joining in was officially too much for anyone to handle. Scorpius threw his arms up with an exasperated groan of defeat, while the rest of us erupted into laughter.
Leo just stared at us all in confusion, his wand still out and his eyebrows drawn together.
“The hell is happening?”
“You’re a bunch of tossers!”
And I suppose poor Scorpius.
I’d be staying at Rose’s house for most of the break, and then with Dom for the last few days. Normally, I stayed with Dom for longer, but with the wedding coming up, they needed space for Victoire’s planning frenzy. And, to be honest, I was far too scared to stay there before the wedding with the crazy Veela.
We made our way off the train and found Ron and Hermione waiting with the Potters. “Rose!” Hermione cooed, pulling her daughter into a hug.
“Crushing me, Mum,” Rose mumbled.
Hermione smiled at her as she pulled away before pulling me into a hug too. “And Tara! It’s so good to see you!”
“You too, Hermione,” I beamed back, feeling warmed from the hug. “Hi Ron,” I smirked.
Rose’s dad raised an unimpressed eyebrow at me as Rose pulled away from him. “Taralyn.”
“I listened to the Cannons game the other day,” I said innocently. “They got rather demolished by the Harpies, didn’t they?”
“I hate you.”
“Ron,” Hermione frowned at him. “It’s just Quidditch.”
“But ‘Mione,” he pouted at his wife. “Taralyn’s bragging.”
“For good reason,” Ginny Potter smirked at her brother. “Wotcher, Tara,” she grinned, hugging me after she’d finished coddling her own children. James was running his hands through his hair, trying to put it back into place after she’d smoothed it down.
“Hey Ginny,” I said. “Hi Harry.”
“Tara,” Harry nodded back. “I was almost worried when I didn’t receive any owls about Albus and you blowing up a classroom this term; I thought one of you might have died.”
“We have a steady truce going,” Albus answered for me, grinning at me.
“My god, I feel faint,” Ginny held a hand to her chest.
“So dramatic, Mum,” Lily Potter shook her head. I hadn’t even seen her approach.
“Lily!” Ginny exclaimed, pulling her daughter into a hug.
“Mum,” she whined. “Gerroff.”
Hugo had also joined our gathering. “I don’t know why you all still insist on the big welcomes,” he rolled his eyes. “It’s been too many years and there are too many Wotters.”
“Hugo,” Hermione scolded. “At least pretend to be happy to see us.”
He laughed and gave his mum a quick hug. “I am, Mum, I am.”
I watched the families interact for a moment and felt a slight ache in my chest, the same way I did every year.
What would life have been like if my mum hadn’t raised me in the Room of Requirement? Would we be here, like this, sharing a warm welcome and hug and catching up on the last couple months like the Weasleys and Potters?
I stifled a sigh.
“We’re going to head back to the Potters’ house if that’s alright with you all,” Hermione said to Rose, Hugo and me. “The others will be joining us for a welcome back dinner!”
“Never a quiet moment, is there?” Rose asked, but she was smiling.
“Not in this family,” Ron snorted. “Let’s get going, then!”
We paired up with the adults, save for James who was of age, and apparated, first stopping at the Weasleys’ home to drop our trunks before heading to the Potters’ home.
I adored their home; who wouldn’t? It was a massive house, with a huge garden and a Quidditch pitch out back.
The best part about it, though, wasn’t the size- I mean I grew up in a literal castle. The best part was how homey it was. Harry and Ginny had gone to great lengths to keep the place from seeming stuffy or pretentious, so the place always looked lived-in and personalized.
I found myself walking through one of the hallways while the other families gathered in the sitting room. There were animated pictures along the walls, showing the Potter children at different ages.
I found one with a small James and an even smaller Albus playing on toy broomsticks together. In another, James and Albus held two sides of a blanket, Lily resting in the middle of it while they rocked her back and forth. She looked to be about three.
In one of the photos, Ginny was throwing a small Lily into the air before catching her and planting a kiss on the laughing girl’s cheek.
I smiled at that one a little sadly.
I turned and shrugged at Albus, who was watching me curiously. “Just looking through your pictures. They’re adorable.”
He smiled as he came to stand beside me. “You should tell that to Lily. She’s convinced they’re ‘embarrassing’ and is always begging Mum to take them down.”
“I like them,” I lightly touched the frame of the one of Lily and her mum.
Albus glanced down the hall, and, upon seeing we were alone, stepped closer and slid an arm around my waist before planting a quick kiss to my temple. I looked at him in surprise. I thought we'd gone back to a friends-sort of thing, but his actions were remarkably affectionate. It reminded me of the way he'd treated me the night I'd gotten drunk after the Quidditch match.
“You deserved better, you know.” His eyes were soft as he looked down at me.
I said nothing. Did I deserve more? I wasn’t that nice. And I was relatively average in school. I didn’t have the slightest idea what I wanted to do after Hogwarts. Maybe my mum was better off without me.
Still, I didn’t want to be a downer. So instead of arguing, or questioning our closeness, I just leaned my head against him and let him hold me for a moment. His warmth was appreciated.
I didn’t understand what we were anymore. Our back-and-forth between friends and something more was becoming more exhausting than our previous back-and-forth of rowing and snogging. I wasn’t sure what was holding me back from just letting things happen at this point.
Standing against him like this, peacefully quiet, his arm around me and my head leaning back against his shoulder- it felt nice. We still hadn’t talked about the most recent kiss, which bothered me since we’d been pretty open about things in the past, but in that moment it was like things were different in a really, really good way. It was natural.
A throat cleared, startling us both. I jumped away from Albus, while he stepped the other way, resulting in an obviously awkward amount of distance left between us as we glanced down the hall.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Teddy Lupin smirked. He strolled down the hall toward us. “I thought I’d come see where you’d disappeared to, Tara, since I hadn’t really gotten to say hi yet. And Al, I thought you were off to use the loo?”
“Hi Teddy,” I mumbled, letting him give me a hug. Out of embarrassment and a touch of resentment at having been caught in a weird position, I didn’t hug him back.
“So how long’s this been a thing?” He asked, looking between Albus and me with the same amused grin.
“It’s not a thing,” Albus muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. “Go away, Ted.”
“Can’t do that, now,” Teddy shook his head. “Who knows what you’d get up to without proper supervision?”
I dropped my head into my hands. “Oh Merlin. Teddy, please just don’t tell anyone about this?”
Teddy pretended to think about it. “I don’t know, Tara.”
“Keep it to yourself, Lupin,” Albus snapped. “Or I’ll tell Victoire about the love letters you used to write to Aunt Hermione when you were ten.”
Teddy narrowed his eyes. “You really are a snake, Potter.”
I rolled my eyes. “Tell me about it. This whole not-a-thing started with him blackmailing me.”
“Ah,” Teddy grinned again. “That sounds like a Potter-level romantic gesture.”
“Didn’t you propose to Victoire with a plastic ring you’d won at a Muggle arcade when you were drunk?” Albus questioned.
“That was the first proposal,” Teddy mumbled back, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“The first of- how many was it, again?” I asked, tilting my head. “I’ve heard three, from Dom, but I’d wager there were more attempts we didn’t even hear about.”
“I know about at least two that you don’t,” Albus smirked at me. “So I’d say we’re at at least five now.”
“Alright,” Teddy said loudly. “Point taken, I’ll keep my mouth shut. I’m going back to the party.” He turned and grumbled as he walked back, his blue hair having turned a deep red as he muttered things about “stupid Slytherins” and “bloody teenagers.”
“Poor Ted,” Albus grinned. “Shall we go back to the others?”
“Probably,” I laughed. “He’s going to accidentally blab to someone if we aren’t there to watch him.”
We headed back toward the sitting room, where we found a plethora of Weasleys scattered about. Fred was catching up with James, the two looking deep in conversation about Quidditch as James gestured wildly with his hands. Rose and Lily had seemingly been cornered by Victoire and Fleur and were caught up in wedding talk. Ginny, Hermione, and Angelina were standing by the back doors with glasses of wine in hand- I eyed them enviously. I could go for a drink myself.
Teddy had found Hugo, the two standing with Bill, Ron, and Harry. I spotted George animatedly talking to his daughter, Roxy, about something while she looked around desperately for an escape. Meanwhile, Louis was tugging his arm away from his sister-
“Dom!” I called as I spotted her. She’d been trying to pat down Louis’s hair to his chagrin.
“TARA!” She shouted, causing almost every head in the room to look her way as we both surged forward and crashed into a huge hug. “Oh my Merlin, I missed you so much,” Dom cried.
“Missed you too Dom!” I said. “Hogwarts is not the same without you.”
“I bet,” she flipped her hair arrogantly. “How’s the team holding up without me?”
“Brilliantly,” I grinned. “The new Keeper’s got nothing on you, but Scor is keeping us plenty in shape.”
“More than plenty,” Albus mumbled as he caught up to us. “Hi Dom.”
“Hey Albie!” Dom said, pulling her cousin into a crushing hug. He flushed at the name. I smirked at him.
“Yeah, hi Albie,” I snickered.
“Fuck off,” he snapped.
“You two haven’t changed,” Dom chuckled.
Oh, Dommie. If only you knew.
Albus threw me a smirk when she turned her head and I struggled to keep myself from smiling back. “So tell me everything about Hogwarts!” Dom demanded, tugging me away from Albus. “I barely got any letters from you all term, I was so close to sending you a howler! I want boy gossip, and Rylie gossip, and Quidditch drama gossip, and all the other gossip! Start spilling!”
I laughed as she dragged me across the room toward the kitchen. “Fine, fine, I’ll start spilling, but first I need some wine.”
“That can definitely be arranged,” she grinned wickedly.
“You’re telling me Malfoy still hasn’t made a play for Rosie yet?” Dom demanded. We were sitting in the backyard in a hammock, glasses of wine in hand. The rest of the family was still in the house.
I loved this spot. The garden behind us lit up as the sun went down, illuminating the flowers and hedges and fountains in a beautiful array of color. I was grateful it hadn't been snowed over yet, and the heating charms around us made the backyard feel nice.
“Nope,” I shook my head. “They’re still dancing around each other like idiots.”
“Damn,” Dom sighed. “Fred and I had a bet. I owe him ten galleons.”
I laughed. “You bet on Scorpius growing a pair? Fred deserves those galleons.”
She snorted. “You have no faith in your friends.”
“None,” I shook my head, grinning.
“And how has dealing with Albus been without me there to slap him into place?” Dom asked. She really had always been a good buffer to have around when we fought. Albus was somewhat scared of her.
“Surprisingly well,” I said carefully. “We’re friends now.”
She choked on her wine, which, speaking from experience, just seemed painful. “Bloody hell, you’re friends now?”
“We are,” I nodded.
She stared at me. “I’m shocked. Stunned. Flabbergasted, really.”
“It’s not that big a deal,” I rolled my eyes.
“It really is, though,” she argued. “I’d honestly expect you to tell me you were shagging or something before telling me you’re friends.”
“What!?” I exclaimed, nearly spilling my glass.
She shrugged. “I figured you’d give into the sexual tension before you’d ever bury the hatchet.”
“Sexual tension,” I repeated, gaping at her. “You’re shitting me.” Alright, so maybe it wasn’t that surprising to hear. We’d snogged how many times now?
“Come on, Tara,” Dom sighed. “You can’t still be in denial over it. In fact, I need you to not be.”
“Let me guess,” I said wryly. “You have galleons riding on it.”
She smirked. “What can I say? Betting on my friends makes post-grad life worth living.”
“What were the details of this bet?”
“Well I thought that you’d have snogged by now,” she shrugged. “Fred thought you’d have shagged. Uncle George said you’re both stubborn arses and that nothing would ever happen between you two.”
George can suck a butt, I thought. Stubborn arses, my… arse.
“So nothing happened?” Dom frowned. I knew I should tell her. I’d always told Dom everything. But if I told her she’d won her bet, then even more people would inevitably find out, and right now I just wanted to keep it to myself.
Tell her, Tara, my subconscious yelled.
I can’t, I argued.
She’ll find out eventually, and it’ll be worse if you wait.
Not if she never finds out. Albus and I aren’t even together.
You’re an idiot and a lost cause. Good luck out there.
“Tara?” Dom pressed.
“Nothing happened. Sorry Dom.”
Hi everyone! I'm really happy I was able to get something out this weekend. I know not too much happened in this chapter, and it was probably not the most exciting, but I still liked writing it. It was a more of a chapter full of character moments I suppose, rather than any monumental events. Although, James and Rylie did kiss again. You'll find out more about them very soon.
Rose and Scorpius are a bit of a late-game for me in this one. I love the two of them together, don't get me wrong, but I think having three couple things going at once would just be a bit much, and I like the idea of drawing it out more since they're already friends in this one.
Thank you so much to everyone who left such supportive and kind comments on the last chapter! I'm definitely going to try to keep getting a chapter out once a week. I wish I could manage more than that, but I know you guys all have a lot going on to so I'm sure being busy is a pretty relatable issue right now.
Anyway, hope you all enjoyed!
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize, as always :)
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