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Chapter 20: Getting the Ball Rolling
I only own my OC's and this storyline, everything else belongs to JK Rowling.
Chapter Image by NatashaC @ TDA
“I have heard that Hagrid’s blast-ended-skrewts are pretty good dancers.”
“Nah, that’s just a rumour. The flobberworms are the real party animals.”
~Tabitha Hart & James Potter
Annie was beside herself. In the five and a half years she had known her, Tabitha had never seen Annie as excited as she was the afternoon before the Yule Ball. The Ball was due to begin at 6 O’Clock so at half past three, Annie set out her makeup and beauty potions and forced Natalie into a chair.
“Right! Here we go girls! Biggest night of our lives!” She proclaimed dramatically. Tabitha and Rheydyn giggled, but quickly rearranged their faces into solemn expressions when she glared at them over her shoulder. For the next two hours, the sixth year dormitory was a hive of activity. Under Annie’s watchful eye, they applied makeup and styled their hair, swapped shoes and matched accessories. Tabitha had to admit that whilst it wasn’t her usual choice for how to spend an afternoon, she was having a lot of fun. At least the business of getting ready distracted her from thinking about James and the odd influence he seemed to be having over her lately.
About fifteen minutes before the Ball was due to commence, Annie smoothed out the folds of her robes and beamed at them all in approval. Looking around at her dorm mates, Tabitha had to admit they all looked pretty good. Natalie’s dark hair had been curled lightly with Annie’s wand curling technique, and it framed her face gently, causing her grey eyes to stand out. Her cobalt blue robes were fitted at the waist with a wide v-shaped neckline that was adorned with tiny blue stones.
Rheydyn, whose auburn hair gave her less choice for colour, was wearing autumn shades. The classically cut robes changed gradually from a light yellow at her shoulders down to a deeper, earthier orange-brown at the lower hem. A golden pendant in the shape of a leaf hung around her neck, completing the look. Her auburn curls had been straightened with liberal amounts of Sleekeazy’s hair potion and hung gracefully over her shoulders.
Annie’s custom-designed dress robes were a sight to behold, and Tabitha had to admit that what Annie lacked in Quidditch understanding, she made up for with her impeccable knowledge of fashion. The dark violet material formed what Annie had called a ‘sweetheart’ neckline. The robes were fitted to the exact shape of her torso, cinching in at her tiny waist with a satin ribbon. The full, flowing skirt was accented with ruffles of material in varying shades of purple. Annie had also chosen to straighten her hair, but she had then pulled it into a graceful twist on top of her head, giving her a very regal look.
Tabitha glanced down at her robes nervously, straightening the delicate fabric she wasn’t quite used to yet. Her neckline was a wide scoop that ran from shoulder to shoulder; the bodice was fitted like Annie’s but her skirt was a much simpler cut, flowing gracefully to the floor. The material was a soft, pale green, accented with a darker green thread that was woven throughout the fabric, forming a pattern of vines and leaves across the robes. Annie had pulled back her blonde curls, fixing them with several small leaves and flowers. Golden tendrils fell around her face and shoulders and Annie giggled that she looked a bit like a woodland fairy.
As the girls descended the stairs to the common room, Tabitha could feel her heart beating rather erratically in her chest. She had never been so dressed up in her life and she hoped that Peter would approve. Mitchell and Rowan were waiting near the portrait hole when the girls entered, their eyes lighting up at their dates. Tabitha had agreed to meet Peter at the foot of the marble staircase, but was going to wait for her friends, too nervous to walk down there alone.
“Where’s James?” Rheydyn asked, but before anyone could answer, they heard the sound of running feet on the boy’s staircase and James’s voice calling out,
“I’m coming! I was just – ” He appeared at the foot of the stairs in a set of black Wizard’s dress robes. His raven hair was brushed back neatly, and yet still managed to retain some of its scruffiness. Tabitha felt her breath catch in her throat because there was no way she could deny just how handsome he looked. She was very aware that she was staring, but she couldn’t seem to drag her eyes away from him. Curiously, James was returning her stare, his mouth half open, frozen on his unfinished sentence, his face holding a very odd expression as he took in her dress robes.
Someone coughed in a none-too-subtle manner, and the spell was broken. Tabitha looked down at her hands while James, looking slightly dazed, searched the room frantically. “Rheydyn!” He smiled, moving over and extending his arm to his date. “You look lovely.” Rheydyn blushed and muttered a word of thanks as she linked her arm with his. “Shall we?” James asked the group, and they all followed suit, climbing carefully out of the portrait hole.
Tabitha reached the top of the marble staircase and let her eyes scan the entrance hall. The vast room was buzzing with the excited chatter of the mass of students waiting there. She noticed Lily Potter in pale pink robes, laughing with her date, and Rose Weasley in periwinkle blue, hanging off the arm of a fifth year Hufflepuff chaser. Before long, her eyes found Peter, waiting at the foot of the stairs, next to one of the stone bannisters. With a nervous smile, Tabitha slowly descended the stairs, clutching the railing to steady herself in her new heels. The seventh year boy’s face lit up as she approached and he extended his hand to her as she alighted the last few steps.
“You look simply stunning.” He whispered, before leaning in to kiss her gently.
“Thankyou, so do you.” She replied, her nerves somewhat settled. And he did look handsome in dark green robes that seemed to compliment her own perfectly. She was wondering what she should next say, when the doors to the Great Hall opened, and Professor Longbottom announced that they could enter.
The four house tables had been removed, and were replaced with a series of smaller, round tables that would seat about a dozen people. The twelve Christmas trees seemed to shimmer in the candlelight and glittering, enchanted snow fell from the ceiling, although when it fell on their shoulders, Tabitha noticed it was neither warm nor wet and it disappeared after a few moments. “It’s so beautiful!” She gasped as Peter led her to an empty table. They had only just sat down when Natalie, Rowan, James and Rheydyn appeared.
“Mind if we join you?” James asked rhetorically, his voice overly cheery. The four Gryffindors sat down, Natalie shooting Tabitha a sympathetic look. Peter stared stonily at James, a look that James matched. “Smythe,” He nodded curtly.
“Potter.” Peter replied.
“Where’s Annie and Mitchell?” Tabitha asked loudly in an attempt to break the tension. It worked; Both boys turned their gaze to her.
“Annie’s just talking to Professor Sprout.” Natalie replied quickly. “We said we’d save them seats.”
A few minutes later, Annie and Mitchell made their way over to the table, followed by two of Peter’s Ravenclaw friends and their dates, who quickly claimed the remaining seats at the table. Tabitha breathed a small sigh of relief as various conversations broke out at the table amongst friends. Tabitha alternated from listening to Peter’s conversation with his friends, to chatting happily with Natalie, ignoring the looks both James and Rheydyn were shooting her way. It was a relief when food magically appeared on the tables and she could focus on eating, although she found that she didn’t have much of an appetite.
After the puddings had been served, Professor Sprout stood and clapped her hands for attention. A hush fell over the chattering students.
“I will not bore you with a long speech,” The headmistress began, “But I would like to say a few words. When I was approached earlier this year by an enthusiastic sixth year student –” Tabitha grinned at Annie who blushed slightly, “– my mind was drawn back to the last time Hogwarts hosted a Ball. It was several years ago, during an event known as the Triwizard tournament. I am sure many of you know the tragic story of that tournament.” Tabitha noticed James had tensed up, his eyes focussed on Sprout and she vaguely remembered something about Harry Potter and a student dying during that tournament. The professor smiled sadly and continued, “The purpose of that event was to promote international co-operation and inter-house spirit. It was with this in mind that I agreed to tonight’s event. I am delighted to see students from different houses spending time together, forming friendships and I encourage you to continue getting to know your fellow students in this way.” Peter squeezed Tabitha’s hand and smiled at her before looking back to the front.
“I encourage you tonight, to make sure you thank the organisational skills and ingenuity of Miss Annie Moore of Gryffindor house, who inspired tonight’s festivities. And without further ado, I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening’s entertainment.” She waved her wand and the staff table vanished, being replaced with several gleaming musical instruments. A group of alternative looking wizards and witches trooped on to the stage and took up the instruments, launching into a pounding rock song. With a cheer, students moved to the dance floor, jumping around and dancing to the music. Peter stood up, tugging slightly on Tabitha’s hand.
“Shall we?” He asked with a bright smile. Grinning in response, Tabitha stood up and allowed herself to be pulled into the heaving mass of bodies. Song after song was played, and Tabitha danced until her feet ached. Eventually, when she could barely breathe, she leaned into Peter and suggested they take a break. Their table was now empty, so Peter suggested they head outside to get some fresh air. Tabitha was very warm from the exertion of dancing, so she agreed readily.
“Sprout and Longbottom have outdone themselves,” Tabitha sighed happily as they wandered out into the nearby courtyard, which had been covered in foliage and flowers for the evening. Large crystal orbs floated above them, full of glowing, dancing fairies, casting a romantic, glittering light across the plants. Peter gripped Tabitha’s hand as they wandered amongst the flowers towards a stone bench. As they sat down, he raised his other hand to stroke her cheek.
“You’re so beautiful Tabitha.” He whispered, his eyes staring intently into hers. “I can’t believe you’re my girlfriend.” He lowered his head closer and Tabitha felt her pulse quicken. “I’m so lucky.” He murmured before pressing his lips to hers. Tabitha parted her lips instinctively, returning the kiss as his hand cupped her cheek before moving to the back of her neck, pulling her closer. Tabitha’s hands snaked around his waist, pressing firmly against his back. Peters tongue skimmed gently across her parted lips and a shiver of excitement ran down Tabitha’s spine. Peter’s lips moved to the side of her mouth and along her jaw, leaving a trail of soft kisses down towards her neck. Another sigh escaped Tabitha’s lips as she tilted her head, allowing Peter to kiss her throat.
“You are so beautiful,” Peter murmured again as his lips danced lower, tickling her collar bone. He continued to spread kisses across her skin until she felt his lips on the soft skin just above her neckline. Tabitha’s breath caught in her throat as her excitement turned to a dull panic.
“Peter.” She whispered, only to be met with soft murmurings. “Peter.” She tried again, her voice louder and more frantic. Peter’s free hand was playing with the hem of her robes near her shoulder, inching it aside ever so slightly as he continued to kiss the tender skin there. “Peter!” She gasped, pushing him back with her hands. Finally understanding her meaning, Peter pulled back, his eyes smouldering but confused. Tabitha was breathing heavily and her hands shook as they pressed against his torso.
“Too fast?” He inquired, and Tabitha noticed that he, too, was slightly out of breath. She nodded nervously.
“Are you angry?” She whispered, watching him carefully. Peter’s eyes blazed for a second and then softened.
“No I’m not angry.” He said gently, lifting her hand and planting a kiss on it. “I shouldn’t have assumed.”
“Maybe we should go back inside?” Tabitha suggested, glancing back towards the castle doors and the light and laughter that spilled from inside. Peter stood slowly, pulling her with him.
“Of course,” He said. When they reached the doors, he let go of her hand. “You go on in, I’ll be there in a minute,” He told her. “I’ll get us some drinks ok?” He added. With a small nod, Tabitha turned and entered the Great Hall, still full of dancing students. She stood near the doorway and looked around, searching for her friends. She watched the dancers with some interest, smiling at the blissful look on Lily’s face and the shocked look on her date’s face who do doubt was wondering how he’d managed to nab such a gorgeous partner for the evening. Rowan was spinning Natalie across the floor, the two of them laughing as they tried to avoid careening into other couples. Even Alexander Shreve was dancing with one of his groupies, although Tabitha had to stifle a giggle at the scowl on his face. Clearly not everyone was enjoying themselves.
“I didn’t expect to see you alone tonight,” Said a voice in her ear. Tabitha looked up into the smiling eyes of James. “I thought you and Smythe were joined at the hip.”
“He just had to do something,” Tabitha replied, looking over James’s shoulder. “Where’s Rheydyn?”
“Talking to Annie,” He replied, indicating a table across the room where Annie and Rheydyn sat, heads together and giggling. “An in-depth analysis of every single outfit here tonight isn’t really my thing.” He grinned at her and Tabitha couldn’t help smiling back, despite herself. Critiquing every single pair of robes wasn’t exactly her idea of a fun night either. Before she could respond however, James reached over and took her hand.
“I think it’s about time you danced with me Hart,” He grinned waggling his eyebrows at her; Tabitha hesitated.
“I…well…Peter will be back in a moment.” She stuttered, glancing over her shoulder to look for Peter. He was nowhere to be seen.
“C’mon Hart, one dance won’t kill you,” James said, pulling her towards the dance floor. With a sigh, Tabitha shot one more look across the room and then allowed herself to be led to the crowd of dancing students. As she turned back to James, the music slowed to a gentle rhythm. The couples around them drew closer and before she could respond, Tabitha felt James pull her towards him, his arm wrapping around her to rest on her back. She considered pulling away from him, worried about how Peter would react should he walk in and see James holding her so close, but her body had other ideas, and before she realised what was happening, Tabitha’s left hand had reached up to rest on James’s shoulder. Her chin rested gently on his shoulder next to her hand.
“See, it’s not so bad, I’m not the worst choice of dance partner,” James murmured in her ear as they rotated slowly on the spot. Tabitha’s heart was pounding in her chest and she was sure James would be able to feel it, but she forced herself to take a deep breath and respond in a light voice.
“I don’t know about that Potter. I have heard that Hagrid’s blast-ended-skrewts are pretty good dancers.” She teased. James laughed.
“Nah, that’s just a rumour.” He replied, a smile evident in his voice. “The flobberworms are the real party animals.” Tabitha giggled in spite of herself. James moved the hand that was holding hers so that their fingers were entwined. It felt very intimate and yet the comfort she felt whenever he held her hand stopped Tabitha from protesting. They continued to sway in tight circles, silence falling between them.
“Why do we argue so much Hart?” James asked, his voice much softer and no longer teasing. Tabitha shivered as his warm breath danced across the skin below her ear.
“Because you’re a complete, arrogant git.” She replied, trying to sound sarcastic but not quite succeeding. James loosened his grip on her just enough to pull back and stare in her eyes. The air seemed to be charged with something and Tabitha wondered briefly if someone had accidentally cast a rogue spell.
“Really, Hart? After all these years you’re still hanging on to that?” He asked. She wasn’t sure, but Tabitha thought she could see hurt in his eyes. “Aren’t we past that yet?”
Despite the fact she had spent a lot of time outside in the freezing air without a cloak, Tabitha suddenly felt very hot. Her hand tingled where James held it, she was having trouble breathing and the way James was looking at her was making her legs feel weak.
“What the bloody hell to you think you’re doing Potter!” Peter’s angry voice broke through the air and Tabitha looked up to see him storming across the dance floor towards them. “Get your hands off my girlfriend!” He reached their side, looking positively formidable. James simply raised an eyebrow at him, not looking worried in the slightest.
“That’s not a very nice way to talk Smythe.” He said, not loosening his grip on Tabitha. “You heard what the Headmistress said, inter-house spirit, wasn’t it?”
“You slimy, little prat,” Peter growled. “I leave Tabitha alone for five seconds and you crawl out of your little hole to try and steal her.”
“Steal her?” James laughed. “She’s not a possession Smythe. And for the record, she agreed to dance with me!”
Tabitha was vaguely aware that the people around them had stopped dancing and were watching this exchange with curiosity. Before the humiliation could go any further, Tabitha let go of James’s hand and stepped back from him. James dropped his arm and let her move back, watching her, although Tabitha forced herself to avoid his eyes.
“Could the two of you please stop talking about me like I’m not here?” She said. The two boys watched her, waiting for her to continue. Tabitha looked from James to Peter and back again, not really sure what to do. “I need some air,” She said eventually and, turning away, she quickly made her way through the crowd of students.
“Tabby!” A familiar voice called and Tabitha turned to see Natalie running up to her. Without a word, Tabitha led her friend into the entrance hall where she sat on the marble steps and lowered her head to her knees. Natalie sat next to her in silence while Tabitha tried to put her thoughts in order. After her breathing had slowed to normal, Tabitha raised her head and turned to Natalie.
“What the hell was that?” She asked. Natalie shook her head, clearly just as confused. Tabitha lowered her head again and massaged her temples. “Oh sweet Merlin, this is insane!” She moaned.
“Why were you dancing with James?” Natalie asked. Tabitha opened her mouth to speak but she couldn’t come up with an answer. She was saved by Annie, who came dashing through the double doorway, holding her frilly skirts up to avoid tripping over.
“Merlin’s pants Tabby! You’re the talk of the entire Ball!” She gasped, throwing herself down on the step below Tabitha. With a frustrated groan, Tabitha threw her hands in the air.
“Really? Oh that’s just great! Gryffindor prefect causes screaming match at Hogwarts social event. Professor Sprout’s going to love me isn’t she?”
“Tabby it’s not that bad, really.” Natalie soothed, patting her on the back. “People get into fights at school all the time. I’m sure people will forget about this by tomorrow.” Tabitha smiled at her friend, slightly reassured.
“Rheydyn didn’t look too impressed.” Annie said, biting her bottom lip worriedly. Tabitha let out another groan, any reassurance flying out the open doors.
“Rheydyn.” She whispered. “She’s going to hate me.”
“No she won’t,” Annie said. “Just explain it to her, she’ll understand.”
“I wish I understood.” Tabitha mumbled to herself. They were interrupted at that moment by Peter, who walked through the doors from the Great Hall, a frustrated look on his face. The three girls looked over to him as he walked towards them, stopping at the foot of the stairs. Natalie and Annie turned back to Tabitha with expressions that clearly said ‘what do you want us to do?’
“It’s ok guys, you can go back to the Ball,” Tabitha said, smiling weakly. They stood up, watching her cautiously as they made their way across the hall to the cheerful chatter of the next room. Peter sat on the steps next to Tabitha, leaving a space between them. She watched him but he didn’t turn to her, choosing rather to stare straight ahead. Tabitha wanted to speak, wanted to say something that would fix the whole ridiculous situation, but she couldn’t seem to find the words. Her brain was a jumbled mess of confusion.
“I’m so sorry.” Peter’s quiet voice startled Tabitha.
“What?” She asked.
“I’m sorry.” He repeated, turning to look at her. “If I hadn’t been so full on out in the courtyard then you wouldn’t have felt the need to dance with Potter.” Tabitha stared at him is shock. “And I shouldn’t have overreacted in there like that. Potter just gets under my skin, you know?” He looked at her expectantly and Tabitha managed to nod her head mutely.
“He tends to do that.” She mumbled. In more ways than one, she thought to herself.
“I really like you Tabitha.” He said, offering her a shy smile. “And when I saw you dancing with someone else, I just got so jealous.” Tabitha felt a feeling of warmth go through her as she reached out to take his hand. She couldn’t help but find him endearing when he was being so sweet with her.
“It’s ok.” She smiled, shuffling closer to him. Peter squeezed her hand and smiled down at her. Bravely, Tabitha raised a hand to Peter’s neck and lowered his head so that she could kiss him softly on the lips. It was a sweet, gentle kiss, and it reminded Tabitha of the first time Peter had kissed her in the sixth floor corridor. She pulled away with a smile on her face. Peter smiled back and then wrapped Tabitha up in a warm hug. Over Peter’s shoulder Tabitha noticed someone standing near the doorway, watching them. James looked up and caught her eye and Tabitha was sure she saw the same, slightly hurt expression cross his features. Then, without a word, he turned and walked back into the Great Hall, leaving Tabitha more confused than ever.
AN: So there it was, the Yule Ball. What did you think? Worth waiting for? Was it everything you thought it would be? Thanks for all your lovely reviews, they always make me smile like an idiot. Please leave a review :)