Chapter 8 – Chocolate Frog Cards
With a resolute gait Talia headed straight for the Headmasters office, she wanted answers and she knew that he had them. Dumbledore was the most intelligent person she'd ever met, and that included Father Fitzpatrick (and that was saying a lot), he would surely have the answers she needed. She arrived at Dumbledore's office, confident and tenacious, he would surely tell her all she needed to know; and how right Talia was. The stone gargoyle loomed before her, refusing to budge an inch. She blurted out every single password she could imagine, but it stood there unwavering.
By chance, or perhaps not, Professor Barrow was striding along the corridor and spotted Talia. "Well, Miss Grace, what are you doing here?" She smiled sheepishly at him, the way every girl at Hogwarts did. Professor Martin Barrow just happened to be on of the best looking wizards Talia, or anyone for that matter, had ever met. "Er hi Professor, I just—I mean I was looking for—"
"Professor Dumbledore, I presume, as you are standing in front of his office." He smiled warmly at Talia, who felt her knees gave slightly as she took in his chiseled features. She imagined running her fingers through his soft hair and before she knew it the Gargoyle had leaped out of its place to reveal the moving staircase. Professor Barrow had given the password for her and she never even noticed.
Blushing horribly and muttering some semblance of a thank you, Talia stepped onto the ascending staircase. She reached for the brass knocker that hung on the door to Dumbledore's office, slightly recoiling a bit at the look of it. The head of the gargoyle did not look very inviting, for a moment Talia wondered if she should leave or not. But a voice from behind the door, though it was slightly muffled, called to her. "Come in Miss Grace."
That man never misses a beat
Talia slowly opened the door to find Professor Dumbledore sitting at his desk; his half moon glasses were perched on the bridge of his nose, looking dangerously close to falling off. In his hand was a red, or at least it used to be, leather bound book. He smiled at Talia, directing her towards one of the chairs on the opposite side of his desk. "I daresay you had a difficult time getting in here. I'm afraid Monty is very strict on the rules."
"Monty?" Dumbledore laughed, with a twinkle in his eye that could match any star in the heavens, "Monty the Gargoyle, or at least that's what I named him. He won't actually give me his real name." Talia smiled; the headmaster had a way of making one forget their troubles. Dumbledore squinted his eyes at his student and snapped the book shut with a bang. "So Miss Grace, before we get down to business, would you like a Chocolate Frog?"
Talia felt a little uncomfortable, she was in this office twice since the beginning of the school year; that was more than the past six years combined. Talia wasn't used to adults, outside of Cromwell that is, treating her so informally. "Er, sure Professor." She gently took the box from her headmaster and laid it on her lap. He looked at her expectantly, so she opened the box.
He grinned at her, "The cards are quite fun, in fact they recently gave me my own card." Talia actually gasped for joy. It was a very big honor to receive your own Chocolate Frog card, they were only reserved for the very greatest wizards. She held the frog in the palm of her hand and it leaped onto Dumbledore's desk, where she promptly scooped it up. She didn't want it to ruin any important papers that he had on his desk. She took a small bite and grinned uneasily at her headmaster.
"So tell me Talia," she waited for the inevitable question of 'Why are you here?' but it never came, "which card did you get?" Talia was a little taken back by his question, who cared who was on the card? However, she was always polite to her elders, especially Dumbledore, and looked down at her card. "Er, Hesper Starkey, she was the first to use moon phases in potion making; she died in 1973." Dumbledore nodded at her and smiled, "Wonderful woman, Hesper, I taught her myself. She did well in Transfiguration but her best subjects by far were Astronomy and Potions. Very much like you Talia."
Talia was surprised, to say the least, she never thought that Dumbledore, being the important man he was, would ever take the time to follow her academic career. Blushing furiously she thanked her Professor, never losing sight of why she came into his office. "Professor, I want to ask you a question."
Dumbledore stood and walked over to a bookcase standing on the far left side of his office. He placed the red leather bound book into an empty space on the shelf. "Miss Grace, Talia I know what your question is but I'm afraid that I cannot answer it at this time." Talia was crestfallen and her face must have revealed it because the Headmaster's face softened. "But there is something I want to share with you. I have spoken with Sister Mary Thomas," this news gave Talia quite a shock, but Dumbledore either didn't notice or chose to ignore it, "a very lovely woman might I add, and she informed me that you have decided to search for your birth parents." Talia nodded mutely, she didn't understand why Albus Dumbledore would take an interest in her life, she was no one and he was the greatest wizard in the world!
Again Dumbledore continued, not giving attention to Talia's surprise, "You are a very special young lady Talia, your mother left you in an orphanage. You grew up in a home bereft of real family bonds, no others like you, with your special gifts and you still managed to blossom into a fine young lady. Unfortunately, that is more than I can say for others in similar situations."
Talia cocked her head slightly as a frown played across Dumbledore's lips. She wondered what he meant by that, but she pushed her natural inquisitiveness aside and smiled at her Professor, frowning did not become him and she did not want to be the cause of it. Almost as if he had read her thoughts he laughed at her, "This old face has seen many frowns, however, it is students like you who counter them with a million more smiles." This was probably the highest compliment anyone had paid Talia in quite a while and she blushed under his praise.
Shifting slightly in her seat Talia realized that he would not give her the answers she wanted. "I'm sorry to have bothered you Professor." She made to stand up and move towards the door but he stopped her with his words. "Now Miss Grace, I think you can do better than that." Confused and a mite shocked Talia wrinkled her nose, wondering what in the world he was talking about.
Again he laughed at her, a joke that he kept to himself but would soon share with Talia. "I may not be able to answer your questions about Mr. Zidraw, but is there anything else you would like to ask me?" There was a question that had been burning within her since the beginning of the school year, but she didn't know whether or not she should ask him. His eyes twinkled knowingly as she stammered, attempting to find the words. "I—I was wondering if, well if you could help me find my mother? I am still not sure whether she was a muggle or a witch."
Dumbledore lowered himself into his overlarge cushy leather chair and tipped his chin into his fingertips. "That's better, now isn't it? I was wondering when you'd get around to asking me. I thought that maybe the day that Hagrid was hurt you might bring it up. That is why I asked you here alone, but I daresay you had other things on your mind."
Talia was, for lack of a better word, completely floored by his frankness, he knew she would ask and he was waiting patiently; she should have come to him earlier.
"Can you help me Professor Dumbledore?"
He removed his fingertips from his chin and gestured to her lap, "What you seek is right in front of you." Talia was puzzled as she looked down at her lap; the Chocolate Frog card lay gently and forgotten upon her thighs. She lifted it up looking at the witch staring back at her and smiling.
"Your mother." Dumbledore finished, nodding as shock consumed Talia's body. The questions she had longed to ask filled her brain. "Why did she leave me?"
"I will tell you what I am able to about your mother; she left you to save your life. Your mother had fallen in with an unsavory crowd, to say the least. When she found out that she was pregnant with you she came to me for help. I helped her to disappear and start her life anew as a muggle. She took on the name of Eliza Bennett and moved to a small town just outside of Falmouth."
Talia's jaw dropped, so she was right about Eliza Bennett! "But Professor, the records said that her baby died!"
Dumbledore nodded pensively, "Yes, that is what the records say." Talia began to understand what he was saying as her face dawned with comprehension. "So the records were doctored, but why?"
"Your mother was hunted down by those she once foolishly considered friends. Luckily I have an ear for these things and was able to warn her. She faked your death and left you on the steps of Cromwell Orphanage before running from these evil wizards. She knew you would never be safe as long as you were with her." Almost as if reading her thoughts, Dumbledore answered her next question without her having to ask it. "Upon her death her true identity was revealed, thus ending the hunt for her." Talia nodded as she tried to absorb all of the information thrown at her. The questions that filled her mind only a moment ago, flew out just as quickly. Dumbledore understood this as he rose from his seat. "There is time Talia, anything you wish to know, my door is always open."
Talia clasped the card in her hand, holding it to her chest as if it was actually her mother. "Thank you Professor." She looked down at the floor sheepishly with tears filling her eyes. "Thank you so much." Dumbledore nodded and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I must ask you to keep this to yourself. The men that hunt her are still out there and if they knew about you I—"
But Talia interrupted him, "I won't say a word Professor." He smiled at her, "I know you won't." Talia left Dumbledore's office that afternoon, feeling more alive than she ever had before.
"Well, Hagrid was no help." Sirius complained as he, James and Lily were making their way back to the Gryffindor common room. It was slow going since James was still a bit sore from his run in with the ground of the Quidditch Pitch.
Lily looked thoroughly disturbed as she guided her arm around James' waist, just in case he felt weak. "I have been patient with this long enough, because of what happened; but I cannot let you two go running off in search of an adventure. Between Voldemort and this mystery wizard, who knows what kind of danger is out there."
Sirius sucked in his breath deeply; he knew he had to convince Lily that they were only asking around for what happened. "Lily, we aren't doing anything wrong, I promise!" Lily huffed at Sirius' response, "Well, that would be a first."
She stopped walking and turned to look James directly in the eye. "James Potter, if you are serious about marrying me then I have to tell you that you must put a stop to this." Lily's eyes were pleading with him. "James, please I cannot lose you!" Sirius watched, a little embarrassed at the moment being had between James and Lily. He felt out of place and to be honest, a little shocked. James had never said anything to him about wanting to marry Lily. Sure he joked about it and everyone knew he'd been in love with her since first year, but to actually say those words, 'Will you marry me?' that was unbelievable.
James looked down at the ground as Sirius waited awkwardly for his answer. "Okay Lils, I will not go running off after this wizard." Lily seemed satisfied with his answer and helped him continue along. By the time they had reached the tower the awkward silence was almost too much to bear. Lily must have realized what she said because her face was almost as red as her hair, "I am going to go to the library. I need to work out Flitwick's homework for tomorrow." She exited the room making her way up to the dorms. Sirius flopped on his favorite chair by the fire. James seemed to be looking for any type of distraction to avoid talking about what had just happened.
He sauntered over to the message board, "Hey Padfoot, they've announced the first trip to Hogsmeade, it's on Halloween day." "It's always on Halloween," was Sirius' placid response. James walked over to his friend and sat across from him with a sigh. "Listen Padfoot, you were the first on my list of people to tell. It just kind of happened suddenly." Sirius rolled his eyes and let out a very forced laugh. "You think that's what I'm worried about. I'm just trying to work out how I'm going to find out what's happening by myself."
James winced at Sirius' comment and Sirius was glad at it. Let him squirm…if he's going soft on me I'm better off alone
"Padfoot, you won't have to do anything by yourself. Sirius' face broke out into an unbelievable grin at James' words. "Why, you mean to say that you are going back on your promise to Lily?" he asked in a mock serious tone.
James gave Sirius a sly look which changed into one of mock surprise, "Come on Black, you of all people should know I never go back on a promise. I told Lily I wouldn't go running off after our mystery wizard. I never said anything about walking…" Sirius laughed heartily at this and for a few minutes they went back and forth with their lovely banter.
"Or skipping…" James laughed.
"Or traipsing…" Sirius answered with a slap on his knee.
Peter and Remus came in, interrupting the moment between the two Marauders. "What's going on Marauders?" Peter asked jovially. He and Remus were in the better spirits seeing Sirius laughing; though they were still a bit weary lest he blow up once again. James seemed to be feeling much better and the four Marauders sat in front of a roaring fire discussing what they should do.
Sirius was in a hearty mood, all of his past anger had dissipated, leaving him free to enjoy the rest of the beautiful Sunday evening. He had an hour before dinnertime so he decided to take a stroll along the grounds.
It had proven quite difficult to slip out of the common room with Peter in his face asking questions about their plans every two seconds. Remus and James were a little bit easier to escape from. James had made up some silly excuse about studying so he could join Lily in the library. Remus seemed to be content with reading his book and placating Peter.
The sun had set but the moon was barely visible in the sky, in a few hours time the moon and the stars would light up the night sky. This made Sirius think of Talia; he hadn't seen her all day and he wondered if she was okay. She seemed to have taken the news of Zidraw's death very hard, almost as if she knew him. He shrugged off his thoughts about her.
You're turning into bloody James…who knows soon you'll be asking her to marry you
He walked along the bank of the lake and made his way over towards the cliffs; standing there basking in the crisp autumn air Sirius felt the inexplicable urge to leap off the cliffs into the water. He wanted to see if he would be able to swan dive; in his mind he was half serious about it too. He lingered there for a moment, contemplating whether or not the fall would kill him when something caught his eye. He noticed a figure coming out of the Forbidden Forest.
Ducking down quickly, so as not to be seen, he wondered if his chance had come. Who was it? He held his body low to the grass, lifting his head up to try and see who it was. He even considered changing into the dog, but if someone saw him he'd be toast. All he could do was try to stay as invisible as possible. A trait he would find very useful later in life. He watched as the person continued marching straight up to the castle; this couldn't possibly be someone who didn't belong here. No one would be as stupid and brazen to attack Hogwarts head on with Dumbledore here.
The light from the windows of the castle shown on their face and Sirius received a shock… Talia? Now what would she be doing in the Forbidden Forest, especially at this hour? He hesitated a moment, wondering whether or not he should approach her. Maybe she wanted to be alone, but throwing caution to the wind he called out her name. He wasn't just interested in what she was doing in there, there was another reason he wanted to speak with her. Sirius watched as Talia swirled around scanning the grounds for the source of the call. Remembering that he was lying in the middle of the grass, Sirius stood up and waved to her.
He started to walk forward as she bent down to the ground and stood up straight, making her way over to him. "Hey, what are you doing?" Sirius asked as nonchalantly as possible. She answered in the same tone, "Nothing much, just on my way to dinner." Talia obviously did not want to talk about why she was in the forest and Sirius didn't press it; they had just begun speaking again and he didn't want to ruin it.
"Great, I'll come with you. Are you feeling better from this morning?" He smiled as they began to make their way back up to the castle. Her answer was short and her demeanor revealed nothing as to her mood, "Yeah, thanks."
A silence lingered in the air around them and Sirius figured it was as good a time as any, "I wasn't sure if you noticed but the next Hogsmeade weekend has been announced." She laughed, it was nice to see a smile on her face and it put Sirius at ease. "Yeah I heard about it." He grinned, knowing that the odds were terribly in his favor. "So do you want to go with me?" A look of shock registered across Talia's face, "Oh Sirius, I thought since the fight—I well, I kind of told George I would go with him."
Sirius was completely taken aback, he had never actually been turned down by a girl before. "George who…that Prefect from Ravenclaw?" Talia nodded affirmatively and Sirius was at a loss for words. "I'm sorry Sirius, I just thought that you were angry at the time and he asked. I didn't…" Talia trailed off and Sirius could tell that she was genuinely sorry and completely uncomfortable.
He put on his best smile and shrugged nonchalantly, "Forget it, it's fine." The entered the Great Hall and those were the last words spoken between them for the rest of the night.
A/N: Thanks to all my reviewers...you're are the best!!! I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know what you think!!! :-) Moe
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