A/N: This one gets a little mature, just as a warning:)
Normally, I’m quite the early riser. I typically wake up before everyone else and have a couple hours of spare time before everyone joins me.
Christmas morning, however, that was not the case.
“IT’S CHRISTMAS!” Hugo’s voice rang down the hall. “Christmas, Christmas, everyone wake up!”
“I’m going to ring his neck,” Rose growled from across the room we were sharing.
“Shut the fuck up Hugh!” I heard from down the hall.
“Don’t swear at your son, Ronald!”
“Bloody hell, ’Mione, it’s five-thirty!”
“SHUT IT HUGO!” I bellowed myself.
Our door flew open a moment later, and the lights switched on, making Rose and me each groan in annoyance.
“Tara,” Hugo whined. “It’s-”
“Christmas?” I interrupted, sitting up to glare at him. “Is it? I had no idea, really.”
He grinned sheepishly. “Well, everyone seems to be up now… may as well get out of bed now.”
“Hugo,” Rose said in a low voice, sitting up in her own bed. “I’d find somewhere else to sleep for the rest of break. Because I will smother you in your sleep.”
Hugo let out a small, nervous laugh at his sister’s menacing tone. “You know, I just remembered, I had some things to take care of, er, downstairs. I’ll just, um…” he backed away quickly and all but sprinted out of the room.
“Nice job, Rosie,” I beamed at her.
She sighed. “Yes, but to what use? We’re all up now, aren’t we?”
“I guess we’ll just have to go make him regret it,” I smirked, an idea forming in my head.
“Oh gods,” Rose frowned, seeing my expression. “I hate that look. That’s your weird blend of a Rylie and Scorpius smirk.”
“They’ve each taught me some valuable life skills,” I said solemnly before swinging my legs over the side of the bed. “If you’ll excuse me, now.”
She giggled as I quietly made my way out of the room and down the hall. Years of sneaking around inside the Hogwarts walls paired with athleticism had me remarkably agile and quiet.
First, I stopped in the bathroom to pick up a couple necessary supplies. I filled my arm up with some rather colorful items before quietly letting myself out and heading down the hall.
I crept down the stairs, following the sound of Hugo rummaging around downstairs. He was in the sitting room from what I could hear, and was probably scoping out the pile of presents, trying to guess at what was inside of his. Sure enough, after silently stepping off the last step, I peeked around the corner and found him shaking one of the packages.
The git hadn’t bothered to turn the lights on downstairs, and the sun still hadn’t come up enough to light up the room (which goes to show just how early the prat had woken us all up). I used the dark to slip through the room, until I was only a couple steps behind him.
Finally, he put down his present and moved to turn around.
That was when I jumped him.
“Stop laughing at me, Lou,” Hugo mumbled, his arms crossed.
“I can’t,” Louis Weasley wheezed, holding his stomach as he doubled over laughing. “Your face!”
Hugo glared at me from across the table. “Thanks for this, Tara, thanks so much.”
“To be fair,” I smirked. “Your father was the one who made it stick with magic. I just drew it.”
“How’d you manage that?” Dom asked from beside me, grinning at her cousin as he attempted yet again to rub off the lipstick artwork off his face. It wouldn’t budge though.
“I tackled him,” I snorted. “Surprisingly easily, too.”
Louis laughed harder. “You got taken down by Tara, mate?”
“She snuck up on me!” Hugo protested, the tips of his ears red.
“You deserved it,” Rose said from my other side, grinning at her brother. “You woke us up too early.”
“I was simply embracing the Christmas spirit you were so desperate to spread,” I smiled, twirling the ends of my hair with my fingers.
Dom snickered. “He does look rather spirited.”
“I hate you all,” Hugo said, huffing. I couldn’t look at him without laughing. I’d drawn candy canes on either cheek, given him a red nose (like Rudolph, though it looked rather clown-like), and I’d tried to draw several ornaments that hung down his forehead, but he’d shoved me away before I could finish more than two.
The result looked horribly inappropriate. It would have looked lovely and Christmaslike if he’d have just let me finish. Now it was my fault that it looked like a pair of bollocks hanging down his face? The very insinuation was bollocks if you ask me.
Ron and Hermione had rushed downstairs at the sound of Hugo screaming at me that morning, and to my delight, Ron shot a sticking charm before Hugo could wipe the makeup off his face.
Molly Weasley Sr. had smacked her son across the back of his head when she learned he’d charmed his own son, but I’d explained what had caused it, and she took a picture of Hugo to save for her family album. I just adored this family.
I could see Ron further down the table still pointing and snickering at his own son alongside George and Teddy.
For supposed grown men, the whole lot of them were horribly immature.
Looking a little past Ron, I caught Albus’s eye. He was sitting beside his sister and across from Fred and James, on the other far end of the table. He grinned when he saw me, gesturing toward Hugo and shooting me a thumbs-up. I laughed silently back.
“Don’t mess my sleep next time,” I said when I turned back to Hugo. “Now you know the consequences can be dire.”
Hugo simply scowled.
After lunch, the Potter-Weasleys and myself gathered by the tree in the sitting room of the Burrow to exchange presents. I’d spent the prior few days in Diagon Alley with Rose, Dom, and Rylie shopping for Christmas presents. It had ended up a multi-day task because of the sheer magnitude of the Wotter family. There were way too bloody many of them.
Most of them, such as the adults and the cousins I was less close with, received some generic things like lotions or socks. For my friends, however, I’d gone all out. Thank Merlin my mother had left me such a ridiculous pile of gold before she’d abandoned me forever.
I’d gotten Rose a bunch of books, because she’s a nerd, but also threw in a necklace with a plumeria on the end and a note that read, “because I know you hate roses.” She really did despise those flowers. We’d always enjoyed that we shared the same favorite flower.
“Oh my gosh,” Rose laughed when she opened it. “Quick, open yours, Tara!”
Rose had given me the same necklace. We giggled like idiots over our similar taste and immediately wore our matching plumerias.
To Rylie, I sent a bag of things she’d probably hate, just for laughs. It contained a golden snitch bracelet, an art set (she couldn’t draw or paint for shit), and a roll of toothpaste. But because I’m not actually a horrible friend, I’d picked a very expensive bag to hold it all in, a bag that I knew she’d love.
She’s sent me a lovely coconut body cream, a gorgeous pair of sapphire earrings that matched the streak in my hair nicely, and, predictably, a picture of Albus that had been published in Witch Weekly’s “Hottest Young Bachelors of the Year” article. I had to quickly hide that before anyone could see it. Stupid Rylie.
I bought her brother a bunch of products for George Weasley’s shop and added a note that he ought to test them all on the Potters since he was going to be staying with them in a few days.
He sent back and absolute mountain of sweets, for which I was eternally grateful.
I sent Scorpius an embroidered set of Quidditch robes that read “Captain” across the back- and a bottle of shampoo specifically meant to preserve bleached hair. He’d probably give me laps for it, but hopefully the robes would make up for it.
Scorpius sent back a letter, which nearly had me flying over to Malfoy Manor just to beat him over the head. It said, “Your gift this year is a list of things to work on over the break so that we beat Ravenclaw when we get back to school.”
Luckily for his own sake, since I was ready to murder him, he followed it with an envelope and an attached note that read, “Don’t kill me. Here, go buy some shoes or something.” Inside the envelope was a pile of galleons, enough to buy me twenty pairs of shoes if I really wanted to. Rich kids, I shook my head.
“What an idiot,” I heard Albus say from where he sat opening his own gifts. I glanced up and he showed me what Scorpius had sent him: a book called Quidditch for Children. I giggled at that.
“He just wants to help you,” I grinned cheekily.
“It’s fine,” Albus smirked. “I sent him Chess for Dummies, so I suppose we’re even.”
For James, I found a nice watch and a cologne that I thought smelled a little too woodsy for my own tastes- but I knew Rylie adored it. It might have made me a terrible friend, but I like to think it was what made me her best friend.
“What a romantic gift,” James cooed jokingly. “I should’ve gotten you a nice lingerie set.” I punched him in the arm. “Ow, bloody hell, woman, I didn’t. I got you roller blades!”
I snorted. “James, you should have let me open the gift before telling me. But also… why?”
He shrugged. “Seemed like they’d be fun!”
Oh they would be. McGonagall and Mansir were going to kill me when they caught me skating down the halls of Hogwarts, but I was very much looking forward to it.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Albus eyeing his brother and me with a hint of annoyance. I smirked to myself. Somebody jealous, Al?
I bought Dom two vouchers to a new salon in London, with the added implication that we’d go together. We hadn’t hung out much beyond Christmas shopping, and I wanted to change that. For someone so strong-willed and tough, she sure did tear up a lot when she opened it.
“Tara,” she sniffed. “You’re the best. I can’t wait!”
I grinned back. “Me neither. We can go before I have to return to Hogwarts! It’ll be fun.”
“Brilliant,” she beamed. “Open mine, now!”
I pulled open a huge box, to find a pile of clothes. “Oh no,” I chuckled to myself. “What’d you do, Dommy?”
“I cleaned out a store,” she grinned wickedly. “Look at them all, go on!”
I did. There were three tops, each beautiful, a skirt, three sets of leggings, and at the bottom-
“Oh wow, Dom,” I breathed.
It was a gorgeous dress that I’d been eyeing one day on one of our shopping trips before I’d gone back to school. It was short, strapless, and black, flaring out after my hips. The skirt was covered in pretty white flowers.
“I knew you wanted it,” she squealed. “You’re happy?”
“Of course I’m happy,” I laughed, throwing my arms around her. “Thank you!”
“You better wear it on New Years,” Dom commanded. “That’s the condition that comes with the gift.”
“I can do that,” I smiled before glancing down. “Er- Dom, what the hell is this?” I pulled out the piece of clothing that’d been lying beneath the dress, holding it up with just two fingers. It was some sort of lacy pairing of lingerie, a deep green color lined with black. My face immediately heated up. Thank Merlin the grownups were having their own exchange across the room.
James burst out laughing. “At least I only joked about buying you lingerie- Dom actually did it.”
“They’re Slytherin colors!” Dom cried.
“You’ve got to have that house pride in the bedroom,” Rose snorted.
It took so much self control not to look a certain someone’s way at that moment.
Speaking of whom, the last person to open a gift from me was Albus. I’d spent ages trying to work out what to get him. After three days of ranting to Rose and Rylie about how impossible it’d be to pick something, I finally realized the perfect gift for him.
Now, watching him open it, I felt nervous. I hadn’t left a card- he’d know who it was from. I watched him scan the envelope for a name or some sort of label, but when he couldn’t find one, he shrugged and opened it.
Albus stared at the gift in surprise. “What’s that, Al?” Rose asked, seeing his face.
He pulled out a handful of paper. “It’s a brochure… and a voucher. For- bloody hell, for sailing lessons, this coming summer.” His eyes widened in shock and understanding.
“From who?” Lily demanded from her brother. “I want to sail, too, that sounds so fun!”
“Doesn’t say from who,” Albus said, though he had a small smile on his face that told me he knew exactly who had given him the lessons. “Looks like I have quite the interesting Summer to look forward to.”
As people continued opening their presents, Albus finally looked my way and caught my eye. He smiled widely at me and gestured toward the kitchen. I nodded and stood to meet him there.
Once away from the crowd of Weasley-Potters, in the emptiness of the kitchen, Albus pulled me into a hug. “Thanks, Tara,” he said softly.
“Of course,” I beamed.
He pulled away and looked nervous. “So, your present. It’s not really tangible.”
“Oh god,” I rolled my eyes.
He laughed. “It’s nothing like that. I swear. Nothing vulgar.”
“What is it?” I asked curiously.
He took a deep breath, his expression far more somber than it’d been only moments before. “Tara… I know who killed Frodarian Frelling.”
I stared at him. “You- you what?”
“I know who killed Frelling,” Albus repeated.
“How?” I asked immediately, though I found it odd that my brain didn’t first want to know who.
“I asked my dad,” Albus shrugged. “I didn’t tell him why I wanted to know, I just said that I’d found his name in the school records during detention and was curious as to how he died, since he’d been so young. So my dad went and found the Aurors’ file on the guy.”
My jaw dropped. He’d pulled Auror strings to get me this information? “So…” I asked slowly. “So who did it?”
“Technically, it was never confirmed,” Albus said. “The killers used Frelling’s own wand to kill him, so they couldn’t trace the spell source. According to my dad, though, they’re completely certain that it was a family called the Burkes, one of the big Pureblood families.”
“They’re certain?” I asked, my eyebrows furrowed. “Then how was it never confirmed?”
“There was no hard evidence, apparently,” Albus frowned. “My dad said that even though Frelling was last seen on the same street as their family home, and that he was a known ‘associate’ somehow of one of the Burke daughters despite being a Muggleborn, and had apparently left a letter in his room from the Burke family threatening him, there was nothing concrete enough for conviction and the Burkes were let go.”
“Even though they still think they did it?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Albus nodded. “My dad said the Burkes even subtly admitted to it during questioning, but again, did it in a way that was ambiguous. It’s frustrated him for years.”
“Have they done anything since then?” I wondered. “Anything illegal or shifty?”
“Nothing more shifty than the other ex-followers of Voldemort,” Albus shrugged. “They married off their daughters to some other purebloods, they keep to themselves in their giant manor, and they treat the Auror department like it's a big joke to them.”
I glared at the floor. I didn’t understand what any of this meant. I thought I’d get answers from finding out who killed Frelling, like it would somehow answer all my questions about my parents. “I don’t understand,” I said at last. “Why would they kill him? For being a Muggleborn? I mean this was years after Voldemort’s death, so I don’t see why they’d bother. And who was the associate of his from within the family? My mother? I don’t get how she’d off him and then blame him for being left alone with me.”
“I don’t know,” Albus said softly, looking sad. “I wish I did.”
“This just doesn’t make sense,” I sighed. “Was Frelling my father? Because if he was, was one of the Burkes my mother? Or did my mother run because she was involved with him and knew he was a target of theirs?”
“And then we’d have to wonder why he was a target if not for knocking up your mum,” Albus guessed.
“Which could include a world of possibilities,” I nodded. “This sucks.”
Albus looked miserable. “Yeah, it does. Shit, I’m so sorry, Tara, I thought this would be helpful, I didn’t realize-” he broke off, looking upset with himself.
My entire demeanor shifted as I took in his guilty expression. “Al,” I said quietly. “Don’t feel bad. This was the most information we’ve found yet, and it was all thanks to you!” He wouldn’t look at me, so I tentatively reached out and turned his head toward mine. “Al,” I said again. “Seriously. Thank you. You have no idea how much it means to me that you’d help me investigate this at all- that you’d be here with me through all this confusion.”
“Well that part’s easy,” he said with a weak smile.
I kept a hand against his cheek, feeling his soft skin and keeping his smile fixed on me. He reached out and ran a hand down the streak of blue in my hair, letting his fingers gently slide through it.
I tried to control my shaky breaths as I stepped closer and lifted my other hand to match the first on the other side of his face before pulling his face toward my own.
This kiss was different from all the others. I suppose it was most similar to the small one he’d given me after the day I’d apologized to Mansir. It was full of something sweet; it was gentle, caring, kind, and everything else that I’d gone so many years not realizing completely encapsulated Albus Potter.
But it also held our passion, and need, and suddenly I was pressed against the kitchen counter as his hands came to rest along my waist. His tongue entangled with mine while one of his legs ended up between my own and my hands found their way into his dark, soft hair.
I sighed contently as he trailed kisses across my jaw, back toward my ear, making me shiver as he started to venture down my neck.
The voices from the next room over were growing loud, causing Albus to pull away. We paused as we listened. It didn’t sound like anyone was coming our way, but clearly the family had finished with presents and were now progressing to the party part of the evening.
I could hear the especially loud voices of Ron and George, which usually meant that alcohol had come into play.
“Sounds like everyone’s a bit distracted,” Albus breathed into my ear.
I looked up at him, his eyes dark as he grinned wickedly.
I smiled back and nodded once, and the two of us snuck out of the kitchen and made a beeline for the stairs. I didn’t see anyone on our way there- everyone was clearly busy, and now that they were drinking, I suspected we wouldn’t be missed.
Albus led me to his room, letting me in first and then locking the door behind us.
I sat on the edge of his bed, suddenly overwhelmed with nerves. Recognizing my uncertainty, he sat beside me and gave me a quick kiss on the forehead before smiling reassuringly. “We don’t have to do anything, Tara,” he whispered. “Nothing you don’t want.”
“I want you,” I whispered back, meeting his eyes with what I’m sure was a matched expression of desire.
He didn’t hesitate again. He reached forward and pulled me into another scalding kiss, his arms reaching around my back and pulling me close as I wrapped mine around his neck.
Albus turned us and lowered me back onto his bed, hoisting me up toward the head of it. I let out a small squeak as I landed, and he chuckled huskily at the sound. He bent forward and captured my lips with his once more, and I was grateful for the bed because I felt positive that my legs would have given out otherwise.
One of his hands interlocked with mine, while the other dug into my side. He started to kiss down my neck once more, making me gasp as he lightly nipped at the skin just below my jawline.
I rolled my hips up needily, making him groan against my skin. He lifted his head and recaptured my lips, our tongues sliding together. Every inch of me was on fire, and every touch, kiss, bite, caress- they just fanned the flame, an inferno rising and sweeping over us both in a rush of need and a loss of control. I’d never wanted someone so badly- never felt so wanted.
Some part of me was painfully aware that he was ridiculously experienced in this department, much more so than me anyway. He could easily have been as sentimental and caring with each other girl he’d ever snogged or slept with, right? This could be one big play, a con.
But I didn’t think it was. You hear a lot of rumors about Albus Potter around Hogwarts, especially about his- er- ability regarding his ability in this area, but no one ever told me he could be so gentle. No one ever talked about how he’d sometimes pull away just to look you in the eyes and smile lightly before leaving small kisses on your cheeks and down to your chin, or how he could say your name so softly that it made you feel like your heart could sprout a pair of wings and fly away, or how he’d shoot you questioning glances before any particularly unchaste touches, always making sure you were okay.
Something told me I hadn’t heard about any of it because it wasn’t the norm. It was just us.
Even as our clothes were discarded, as he kissed down my collarbone and moved lower and lower until I was moaning his name, it wasn’t just carnal. It was a connection that I realized we’d been avoiding for too long. We’d spent years arguing, years that could have gone into building this, building this understanding, this bond, the mutual wanting that went beyond a physical need- not that the physical need was lacking by any means.
And then we collapsed together, coated in sweat and shaking with pleasure, curled together while he ran a hand up and down my arm, his chest against my back.
I let out a breathy laugh. “I’d say that was a better intangible present.”
I felt his whole body shake as he laughed. “I’d say that was entirely tangible, Tara.”
I rolled over to face him, pleased to find his gorgeously green eyes shining as he smiled at me. “Fair point.”
“I did get you another present,” he said softly.
“What is it?” I asked curiously. I wasn’t sure it’d top what had just happened, but he was welcome to try.
He rolled away from me, pulling open the drawer to his bedside table. When he returned to me, he was holding a small box. “Happy Christmas, Tara,” he smiled, handing it to me.
I took the box from him and quickly unwrapped it. Under the paper, the box was a light colored wood, sanded down until it was completely smooth. I ran a hand along the top, reading the small, engraved words: The Girl in the Walls.
I looked at him questioningly, but his face simply held a small, peaceful smile. Growing even more curious, I lifted the lid of the box. Upon doing so, music began to play.
I laughed as “You Can Call Me Al” started to sound from the small box. “Where the hell did you get this?” I asked him, smiling.
He shrugged. “I have my ways. I didn’t put anything in the box, since I figured the girls would probably get you plenty of jewelry of your own to fill it with, and I had no idea what you’d like.”
“Good call,” I nodded approvingly. “I’m terribly picky about jewelry.”
“Noted,” Albus smiled. “So you like it?”
“I do, Al, I smiled back. “Thank you.”
He leaned forward and kissed me deeply, pulling me on top of him. I giggled against him, putting the box down on his side table.
“So you had your present for me up here the whole time?” I raised an eyebrow as I looked down at him.
He grinned winningly. “I had a sneaking suspicion I’d have you up here at some point this break.”
“You love it,” he smirked, pulling me down toward him.
He was right. I did love it.
Hi everyone! I'm alive!
I cannot apologize enough for how long it's been. I've just been so busy with work, and my free time has mostly been going into spending time with my sister and trying to relax with some games and such. Crappy excuses, I know. I will be putting much more effort into getting back into a writing groove, because I've missed this site and this story terribly. I just sort of needed that break to devote a little more time to improving my mental health.
Anyway, WHAT'D YOU THINK?? I feel somewhat awkward about writing that last bit, as I've definitely never done that before. I tried to make it not-too-detailed but still an existing scene. Let me know what you thought. If you want :)
I hope this major Tara-Al progress and another piece of the Frodarian Frelling puzzle make up for the absence!!! I promise to try to get updates out much more quickly in the future.
Hope everyone's doing well!
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize, it's all JK Rowling's. Except "You Can Call Me Al," which of course still belongs to Paul Simon.
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