Chapter 10 : A Hogsmeade Hallowe`en
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Tabitha woke up with a feeling of excitement on Saturday morning. She snuggled under the warm covers and grinned to herself as she thought about the day ahead. A trip to Hogsmeade with the girls, followed by the traditional Hogwarts Hallowe`en feast. It had all the makings of a perfect day.
Hearing the sounds of someone moving around in the dorm, Tabitha decided to check the time. Peering out from the drawn curtains of her four poster bed, she could see her little chicken-shaped clock on her bedside cabinet. The clock had been a present from her father, and always made Tabitha smile, especially when the alarm (which incidentally sounded like chickens clucking) went off. It was 7am. Tabitha looked around to room, still bleary eyed, wondering if Natalie had stumbled out of bed early and started getting ready for school, forgetting that it was the weekend. It wouldn’t have been the first time.
However it wasn’t Natalie, but Annie, moving around in the dimly lit common room. She was fully dressed and currently curling her hair around the tip of her wand.
“Annie! What are you doing?” Tabitha whispered across the room. Annie glanced up, the strand of hair still wrapped tightly around her wand.
“Oh, morning Tabby! I’m just trying out this new way of curling my hair. I read about it in Witch Weekly. You cast a heating charm and then you wrap your hair around the wand and leave it there for a minute and when you pull the wand out-” She slid her wand free of her hair which fell into a neat bouncy curl, “-voila! Instant curls! I thought it would be a nice style for today. I’m trying out different hairstyles each week to get ready for the Ball.” Tabitha smiled to herself and climbed out through the gap in her curtains as Annie continued to curl her hair on her wand. She tiptoed to the bathroom, deciding to let the other girls sleep a bit longer.
By the time she was showered and dressed, the others were awake and busily getting ready. Annie, her hair now a series of neat chestnut curls, had now moved on to make up. Tabitha glanced down at her simple jeans and cardigan ensemble and shrugged her shoulders. She never had been one for bothering much with clothes although Annie’s perfect curls made her run her fingers through her own messy hair in a half-hearted attempt to neaten it a bit. Deciding she had better get out of the way before she was forced to try one of Annie’s lotions, Tabitha slipped down to the common room to wait for the others. She found Rowan sitting by the fire and joined him on the settee. He held a book in his hands, but from the way he was staring vaguely into the flames, Tabitha suspected reading wasn’t really on his mind.
“Watcha do-in’?” Tabitha asked playfully, nudging Rowan with her shoulder. He started, and stared at Tabitha, clearly not having heard her sit down.
“Oh, um, morning.” He mumbled, “I was just, er… reading.” He glanced down at the book in his hands at the same time Tabitha did. It was upside down. Hastily, he turned it over and flicked a page, mimicking reading. Tabitha snickered.
“Smooth.” She chuckled. Rowan sighed and glanced at her. The usual, cheerful glint in his eyes was missing. Instead he looked rather troubled.
“Tabby, have you ever felt like someone was confusing you just by existing?” Tabitha raised an eyebrow in response, not sure where he was going with this line of thinking. “You know, you think you understand how you feel about them and then suddenly it all just…changes, and you don’t know what you feel anymore.” Tabitha squirmed slightly in her seat. She knew exactly what Rowan meant, knew exactly what that confusion felt like. She fought to keep her features calm and neutral. Rowan didn’t notice though, he was staring at the fire again, his eyes focussed on the glowing embers. Tabitha had the suspicion that Rowan’s question had something to do with Natalie, but she didn’t really know what to say so they sat in an uncomfortable silence while Tabitha racked her brains for some appropriate advice. She was saved from her predicament however, by a cheerful James, who approached at that moment and sat down on a squashy gold armchair next to Tabitha.
“Morning Hart.” He nodded towards her as a gentleman in an old fashioned muggle movie might. Tabitha rolled her eyes – her standard response to James when she didn’t feel like fighting. It was usually the closest she came to being nice to him. James seemed to acknowledge this and continued talking. “Where are the other lovely ladies of the lion’s lair?” He asked cheekily. This appalling use of alliteration was enough to draw Rowan out of his stupor, and he looked over at James with a look that clearly said ‘oh please.’
“They’re still getting ready.” Tabitha replied. “I thought I’d escape before Annie forced some lip gloss on me.”
“Fair call,” James grinned mischievously. “I reckon your lips are pretty glossy anyway.” Tabitha blushed a bright shade of pink, and glared at James indignantly. Far from worrying him though, this seemed to delight James to no end. Tabitha tried to think up a witty comeback she could quickly throw at him, but the embarrassment his comment had caused her seemed to have filled her head with a strange fog. She took over Rowan’s game of staring at the fire instead, while the boys started up a conversation about their current Transfiguration homework assignment. When the other girls finally appeared in the doorway, Tabitha jumped up, relieved, and proceeded to lead them all down to breakfast. The boys followed, but by striking up a conversation with Rheydyn about what she wanted to do when they first got to Hogsmeade, she was able to avoid looking at or talking to James for the entire meal.
Around 9 o’clock, the older students began to filter out of the Great Hall and, after having their names checked off a long list by Professor Sinistra, the Astronomy teacher, the four Gryffindor girls meandered happily out of the school gates and along the road that led them to the small wizarding village. The boys had left them after breakfast to join Mitchell and Charlie. Probably planning to spend the morning buying joke supplies at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Tabitha thought to herself. She had to admit that she, like many Hogwarts students, loved the joke shop that was owned by James’s Uncle George. It was Honeydukes however, that she suggested they visit first. The other girls happily agreed and they filed into the crowded sweet shop.
The owners of the shop had decked it out for Hallowe`en with many a themed decoration covering the shelves or hanging from the ceiling. There was also a display of Hallowe`en sweets near the counter. Liquorice bats with little marzipan eyes fluttered lazily in one jar, while little sugar pumpkins sat in rows. The little card attached to the shelf told them that they had sherbet inside. The girls wandered around, tasting samples and breathing in the sugary scents until they felt light headed. Then, with bags full of sweets in hand, they headed down to Gladrags Wizardwear to look at dress robes. Tabitha hadn’t ever owned robes that weren’t black and meant for school. When she went home, she wore Muggle clothes, and she had never been invited to any sort of formal Wizarding event before.
Unfortunately, many other students were in the same predicament, and therefore, the clothiers were rather busy when they arrived. Annie automatically went into overdrive, pulling fabrics off the shelf and comparing them with various features such as her hair and eye colour. Rheydyn cheerfully joined in, holding robes in various hues up to herself and turning this way and that as she appraised her reflection in a nearby mirror. Natalie and Tabitha contented themselves with casually browsing a rack of dress robes that were in a quieter corner of the shop.
“What do you think?” Natalie grinned, pulling out a set of robes in a violent shade of fluorescent orange and holding it against herself.
“Hmmm,” Tabitha mused, pretending to consider the fabric. “I don’t think so Natty. It’s far too subtle for you.” Natalie laughed and returned the robes to the rack. They spent a good hour in the shop although after finding a set of robes she liked after 15 minutes, Tabitha quickly became bored as Annie discussed with the shop assistant, in depth, a set of custom made dress robes she was having designed. Tabitha supposed Annie was the queen of this whole Ball lark, and therefore should be allowed her little flights of fancy. Tabitha set herself on a small pouffe` near the window and watched the people walking past or milling about in the street. It was quite the fairytale picture, she thought, with the thatched rooves of the little buildings, the windows and doorframes all decorated for Hallowe`en with strings of paper bats and skeletons as well as carved pumpkins which grinned happily from several front steps. The ground was littered with leaves in various hues of red, orange and gold and Tabitha felt herself compelled to go and jump on them – even if there was a whole street full of shoppers watching!
All thoughts of leaf crunching were chased from her mind however, as she caught sight of a very odd looking figure loitering in the darkened doorway of a nearby building. He was dressed in dark robes, and he seemed to be waiting for someone, or something. Tabitha couldn’t help but think he looked a bit shifty, and watched him carefully as he moved slightly, as though looking down the road for someone. His face was shrouded in the shadow of the doorway though, and Tabitha wasn’t able to get a good look at him. Something about the man (at least she thought it was a man – she couldn’t really tell) made the hairs on Tabitha’s arms stand on end. She was considering going outside to get a better look at the person, but at that moment, Natalie came and plonked herself on a wooden chair opposite Tabitha. She was clutching a large paper bag like Tabitha’s, with the Gladrag’s logo emblazoned on the side.
“Well, what do you think?” Natalie asked, pulling out a corner of cobalt blue fabric. Tabitha could make out some little sapphires attached to a hem. She smiled appreciatively at her friend.
“Nice, that will suit you.” She said. Natalie beamed back at her. Tabitha turned to indicate out the window. “Hey Nat, do you see that–” She paused. She had been about to point out the mysterious doorway loiterer, but they had disappeared. She stared out the window for a moment more, before muttering “Never mind,” and turned back from the window again. Natalie raised one eyebrow at her, but didn’t ask further questions.
Eventually, Annie was satisfied with her initial plans for her robes and they all trooped out into the golden autumn sunshine.
“Three Broomsticks?” Rheydyn suggested, and they were soon sitting at a round wooden table in the cheerful pub nursing tall glasses of butterbeer. Tabitha was just contemplating how nice the day had been so far (despite the long wait at Gladrag’s) when four cheerful looking boys came bustling through the doorway. Rowan glanced over at their table, said something to the others and proceeded to make his way over to the girls. James stopped at the bar but the other two boys followed.
“Mind if we join you ladies?” Rowan asked, but before the girls could respond, they had all pulled chairs up and settled themselves at the table.
“Why did you ask if you were just going to do it anyway?” Tabitha asked in mock irritation.
“Because it was the polite thing to do.” Mitchell replied with a cheeky smile. “And we are nothing if not a gentlemen. What have you girls been up to today?”
“Honeydukes, Gladrag’s and now here.” Rheydyn said.
“Ahhh getting robes for the Ball were we?” He grinned. Tabitha found it amusing that Mitchell, as a boy, sounded more interested in the Ball than she was. Annie, who seemed to be called into action any time someone mentioned the ‘B’ word, began a little speech about her robes and how she planned to make sure everyone observed the formal dress code. Tabitha turned to catch Natalie’s eye and give her a knowing smile, but Natalie and Rowan had their heads together, laughing about something, stupid smiles on their faces.
“I wish he’d just make a move already.” A voice said in Tabitha’s ear. She gave a startled jump and turned to James, who had just pulled a chair up next to her. “He’s been moaning about his feelings and being confused for weeks now.” Tabitha looked back to her friends, who both certainly had a certain…glow about them. She too had been noticing things for weeks, but what Rowan had said to her that morning, and James’s current admission, made it seem very real.
Tabitha felt a little tug at her heartstrings. She cared about Rowan and Natalie a lot, and they were very alike – compatible some might call it. But seeing Natalie blush and smile at a boy that way made Tabitha feel like she was being left behind. Annie had been boy crazy almost as long as Tabitha could remember, but that was something she and Natalie had giggled about together. Now, if Natalie and Rowan were…well Tabitha didn’t really want to think about it. “As long as it doesn’t stuff up the Quidditch team, I’m ok with it.” James continued to mutter into Tabitha’s ear. She smiled wanly, thinking that it was so typical of James to make Quidditch as the top priority, although if she thought about it, he was right. They didn’t want something like this to spoil all the hard work they had been doing out on the pitch.
“What are you two whispering about?” Annie’s voice carried across the table. Tabitha, assuming that Annie had also noticed Rowan and Natalie’s odd behaviour turned to her dark-haired friend, ready to give a look of moral support. However, when she twisted her head, she found that Natalie and Rowan were no longer huddled together, but were sitting a respectable distance apart, both starting at her with smug smiles. A quick glance around the table revealed four other pairs of eyes staring straight at Tabitha and James. Far too late, Tabitha realised that her head was inclined towards James, almost touching his. She’d been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn’t realised how close they were sitting, or how it must look to an outsider. Tabitha sat bolt upright and tried to shuffle her chair away from James a little.
“Just Quidditch.” She replied, hoping the half-lie was convincing. It may have passed as plausible if James hadn’t, at that moment, shot her shifty smile and muttered,
“Erm, yeah, Quidditch.” His voice was slightly higher than usual and sounded rather nervous. Tabitha glared at him, and he winked at her conspiratorially. That sneaky, rotten, arrogant little… her thoughts rambled on murderously. The whole table continued to stare at them. Rowan looked like he was holding back laughter; Natalie’s eyebrows were raised so high they had disappeared under her fringe; Rheydyn and Annie shared an excited, girlish look and Mitchell and Charlie were grinning at James like he’d just won some great prize. Tabitha just picked up her glass and drained the rest of her Butterbeer, hoping they would all get bored. When they continued to stare at her, she decided another tactic was needed.
Tabitha glanced around at her friends incredulously and let out a laugh.
“Oh please you guys! You actually think? Me and…” She waved a finger back and forth between herself and James and burst out laughing again as though it were the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard.
“Hey!” James protested, looking genuinely offended. Rowan, no longer able to keep his laughter in, snorted loudly, which set Tabitha off with genuine chuckles this time. Before long, they were all giggling and James, despite still looking slightly affronted, even joined in. With relief, Tabitha and her friends soon headed back up towards Hogwarts, leaving the boys to go ‘play’ at the shrieking shack. The word ‘play’ had come from Annie, and the boys hadn’t appreciated it, but it was Annie, so she got away with it.
The rest of the afternoon was whiled away in the common room, the girls chatting companionably as they read magazines or wrote letters. Natalie and Tabitha got out their Honeyduke’s bags and started a game at one point, tossing various sweets in the air and catching them in their mouths. Annie ‘tsked’ a few times but contented herself ignoring them. Natalie won the game after catching 16 sweets in a row over Tabitha’s 11. As the afternoon wore on, other students began to trickle back in, most burdened with bags from Honeyduke’s or Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, the occasional Gladrag’s parcel thrown in. Eventually, Natalie suggested they head down to the Great Hall for the feast.
The Hall was decorated lavishly for the occasion, as it always was. Hundreds of Hagrid’s pumpkins had been carved and filled with candlelight. Most of these floated above the tables but a few of the larger ones sat at various points around the room on pedestals. Clouds of bats flapped around the enchanted ceiling, which mirrored the slightly overcast night sky outside. The girls took a seat near the middle of the table and helped themselves to the mountains of food before them. The Hall was full of happy, relaxed chatter and all around the room, faces glowed and eyes sparkled in the strange, orange pumpkin-glow. Eventually, bellies were filled and dishes were wiped clean. Tabitha, fulfilling her prefect duties, hung around to shoo a few straggling first and second years back to the common room, and then headed that way herself.
After a long but mostly enjoyable day, Tabitha couldn’t keep her eyes open for very long, and was soon bidding her friends good night. She changed into her pyjamas and crawled into the warmth of her blankets, snuggling down against her pillow. Tabitha started to drift off almost instantly, but just as her mind reached the border between asleep and awake, a small thought crossed her mind. She saw, in her mind, the image of the strange cloaked figure, lurking in the doorway at Hogsmeade. Her mind, hazy from tiredness, managed to wonder briefly who the person was and what they had been doing before she drifted off into the blissful oblivion of sleep.
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