Chapter 12 : Dates and Doors
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“I’d hate to be your date Annie; I think the pressure would kill me.” ~James Potter
“…Oh and I could only remember 2 of the principal exceptions to Gamps Law of Elemental Transfiguration. I just don’t get transfiguration like I get Charms.” Michelle Harris, a Hufflepuff prefect finished explaining.
“I always found Transfiguration a bit tricky too. Although I’d rather be turning turnips into teacups than sitting in that Divination classroom.” Tabitha replied with a smile. The two girls were patrolling the fifth floor of the castle during their regular Wednesday night shift. Rowan was patrolling with Simon – another Hufflepuff prefect. With the exception of the odd student sneaking out of their common room after hours, patrols were usually very quiet affairs, and the two girls were happy to pass the time with friendly conversation.
“I’m so excited about the Ball – aren’t you?” Michelle changed topics, having exhausted the limits of the homework discussion. Tabitha shrugged.
“I suppose so. It should be fun.” She said, trying to sound enthusiastic. Michelle, getting caught up in her own train of thought though, didn’t notice any hesitation in Tabitha’s voice.
“I can’t wait. Mum bought me a new pair of dress robes – they’re lilac – and I’ve even got matching shoes.”
Tabitha nodded her head, not really sure how to respond.
“And last week, Simon asked me if I would go with him! I’ve been wishing he would ask me out since I saw him on the train in September. He’s gotten so cute over the summer…” Michelle sighed and launched an in-depth explanation of exactly why Simon was so wonderful. Tabitha smiled and nodded vaguely, getting lost in her own thoughts about boys and dates for the Ball.
When she had first signed Annie’s petition, Tabitha had experienced a sort of reckless excitement, spurred on by Annabeth’s diary entry. However, this had worn off pretty quickly, and her old fears kept trying to claw their way back into her mind. After watching Natalie and Rowan on Hallowe’en, the sparks between the two had become so blindingly obvious that Tabitha knew it would only be a matter of time before they worked up the nerve to do something about it. Tabitha couldn’t help but be haunted by the thought that she may end up going to the Ball alone.
Adding to this problem was the embarrassment Tabitha felt about her complete lack of experience with boys – in a romantic sense. The fact that she had been raised by a widowed, male, country vet, as well as her love and aptitude for Quidditch, meant that Tabitha had always been a bit of a tomboy and never really found boys hard to get along with. These friendships had never really developed into anything more, but as she wasn’t the boy-crazy, clothes obsessed being Annie was, this hadn’t really bothered Tabitha…until recently. She had, naturally, had a few crushes on various boys at school – mostly older students – just small schoolgirl nonsense. But when this year came along with everyone mad about Balls and dates, Tabitha found she couldn’t avoid a simple fact: She was 16 years old and had never had a boyfriend, been on a date or kissed a boy. This thought had been preying on Tabitha’s insecurities for weeks, and though she wouldn’t admit it to anyone, it bothered her.
Michelle was still chattering away, blissfully oblivious to Tabitha’s disinterest, when they came to the top of a staircase and met Rowan and Simon.
“Time’s up ladies.” Rowan smiled, showing them both his watch. Michelle yawned in response.
“Good, I’m exhausted.” She and Simon said goodnight and then headed downstairs towards their common room while Tabitha and Rowan turned to head in the opposite direction. They climbed the stairs in a companionable silence and were soon clambering through the portrait hole to a still crowded common room. Most students were still up, some studying, others playing exploding snap or Wizards Chess. A few just sat around chatting or reading. Annie was in her usual queen bee position on the floor by the fire, various pieces of parchment surrounding her crossed legs. Tabitha thought she looked like an oddly shaped island in a paper sea. Rheydyn was curled up in an armchair and Natalie was sitting on a nearby settee, both reading school books. All three girls looked up as Tabitha approached and plonked herself on the floor near a piece of parchment titled ‘Food.’ She glanced at the list of catering ideas and gave Annie a quizzical look.
“Aren’t the teachers taking care of this…or the house elves?” She asked. Annie sighed.
“Well technically yes. But I feel that I should at least be giving suggestions. We do want this to be a perfect evening after all.”
“I’d hate to be your date Annie; I think the pressure would kill me.” James joked as he and Rowan joined the girls. Rowan sat next to Natalie with a shy smile. James sat down next to Tabitha on the floor. Tabitha subtly shuffled a few inches to her right, away from him. Annie ignored James’s comment and continued drawing on the parchment in front of her – Tabitha could see it was a sketch of her dress robes.
“Have you picked a lucky winner yet?” James added, shuffling closer to Tabitha. She glared at him and moved again, ever so slightly to the right. Annie didn’t look up from her sketching but did answer this time.
“I’m still trying to decide.”
“Oh you’re not still considering Donovan Thornund are you?” Natalie asked.
“Donovan Thornund? No way Annie, he’s almost as bad as Shreve!” James exclaimed. He used this little outburst as an excuse to sneak closer to Tabitha again. Irritated, she dug her elbow into his ribs as hard as she could. Instead of retreating however, James simply gave her a cheeky smile and dug his elbow into her ribs. The two of them engaged in a silent elbow war for a few moments until Tabitha glanced up and saw Rheydyn watching them. Her face didn’t wear the amused expression she would have seen on Natalie or Annie’s faces though. Tabitha thought she almost looked cross. With one last push from her elbow, Tabitha scooted away from James and shot him a warning look, lest he try to sneak closer again. Tabitha looked up at Rheydyn out of the corner of her eye, but she had returned her focus to the Charms book in her lap. Annie was still chattering away, oblivious to the exchange that had just happened.
“So I’m just trying to choose between Peter Smythe and Mitchell.” She finished with a flourish of her quill.
“Our Mitchell?” James asked. “Aw, go with him Annie, he’s a good guy.”
“But then again Peter has those dreamy eyes.” Tabitha said, more to annoy James by contradicting him than anything else. James’s head shot up towards her, but she ignored his gaze. “And he was so sweet and gracious after we beat Ravenclaw, came to check on me the next day to make sure I wasn’t too badly hurt.” James was still staring at her and now, so was Annie, with a thoughtful look on her face.
“You know,” she said, “if I go with Mitchell, maybe you could go with Peter.” All heads now turned to Annie who was sucking on the end of her quill. “I think he might fancy you Tabby.” Tabitha felt her cheeks redden slightly as five pairs of eyes turned to scrutinise her response. The cheeky smile was now wiped from James’s face, Rheydyn looked mildly curious, Rowan and Natalie both wore amused grins but Tabitha kept her gaze on Annie, who stared at her expectantly.
“Well…I mean I suppose…if he asked me…” She stuttered, wishing they would all look away. Embarrassed, Tabitha looked down at her hands, waiting for the scrutiny to pass. She noticed her hands had become clammy and she felt oddly like someone had dropped an ice cube down her back. Embarrassed at this reaction, Tabitha was reminded of her thoughts from earlier in the evening. Truth be told, she had to agree that Peter was quite handsome and very friendly, but she seriously doubted he would ever actually ask her out. After a few minutes of these awkward thoughts, Tabitha braved a look up and noticed that her friends had returned to their tasks. Taking the opportunity to escape, she reclaimed her bag from a corner of the room and settled down with Advanced Potion Making, ignoring the occasional glances shot at her by James and Rheydyn.
It wasn’t until the next afternoon that Tabitha got the chance to finally have a good look at Annabeth’s diary. She had been distracted all day, her mind constantly flipping back and forth between nervously considering what Annie had said about Peter and impatiently anticipating her free lesson that afternoon, when she would finally be able to inspect the diary alone.
The whole Peter thing had her in two minds. Firstly, the idea that a boy might actually want to take her to the Ball was a comforting one. She wouldn’t be the only dunce there without a partner and she wouldn’t feel quite so awkward when Natalie and Rowan made eyes at each other or when Annie and whomever she decided on shimmied out on to the dance floor.
The problem was, whenever she thought about Peter coming near her, she broke out in to a cold sweat. Not because Peter made her nervous – despite the fact he was strikingly good looking she’d never thought of him as more than a Quidditch rival and general acquaintance – but the idea of having a date for anything tended to leave Tabitha with the impression that she had eaten too many chocolate frogs. The mere thought of a boy actually standing in front of her and asking her on a date made her legs fell a little less stable than usual and she didn’t dare consider what kissing said boy would be like!
However, all of these thoughts were chased from her mind as she headed back to the common room at the start of the last lesson of the day. Caught up in her own excitement, Tabitha expected the common room to be empty, so she didn’t notice the person sitting by the window; therefore she virtually jumped through the ceiling when she heard that person call her name. Heart thumping, Tabitha spun around to face an amused looking James.
“Where are you off too in such a hurry?” He asked with the smirk that seemed to be reserved for her.
“Oh…I um, have something I need to do upstairs.” Tabitha replied weakly. James raised his eyebrows and she knew he didn’t believe her, but she stood her ground, hoping her conviction might help it seem more believable. James stared at her in silence for a few moments and Tabitha began to wonder if she could simply make a quick getaway. The stairs were, after all, only a few feet away. She turned and started moving towards the staircase, but as she did, James asked her,
“So has Prince Peter asked you to the Ball yet?” Tabitha’s heart skipped a beat. She felt herself hesitate for a fraction of a second. She had assumed that nobody noticed how embarrassed and awkward she got at the thought of being asked on a date, although, she realised, if anyone was going to work out her humiliating weaknesses and use it to tease her, it would have to be James. The urge to turn around and insult or hex him rose up inside her, but in a rare stroke of maturity she decided to ignore this comment and continue up the stairs. James watched her retreat with a frown on his face, wondering if she had noticed the distinct edge to his voice.
Once on the stairs, Tabitha broke in to a run, simultaneously wanting to separate herself from James and his awkward questions and wanting to get her hands on the diary. She made sure to close the dormitory door behind her, and after retrieving the old book from under her pillow, Tabitha settled herself on the stone windowsill near her bed, it was just large enough for her to curl up there and watch the trees in the forest dancing in the breeze. The glass let off a slight draught, so Tabitha pulled her robes tighter around herself before pulling out her wand and setting on the stone ledge beside her. Slowly, she turned to the back of the diary and opened the cover, half expecting the mysterious words to have disappeared. But, squashed into the corner, in miniscule script, was the word, what Tabitha could only assume was a spell.
She gripped her hand around her wand and pointed the tip at the book. She gave one last glance to the door, even though she knew all of her dorm mates were in lessons, opened her mouth, and in something that was only slightly more than a whisper, she said the word.
Looking back on it, Tabitha didn’t really know what she expected to happen. But it certainly wasn’t what happened after she had murmured the incantation.
The back cover of the book began to glow, softly at first, then it grew into a brilliant shade of orange. Tabitha felt like it should have been getting hotter in her hands, but the temperature never changed. It glowed like this for about ten seconds, but it felt like much longer. Then, the glow began to fade again, but now the inside of the back cover of the book resembled a very small door, with a tiny little brass ring for a handle. Tabitha raised a shaking hand and hooked one finger through the ring. She gave it a soft tug and it opened easily to reveal a compartment, roughly twice the size of a shoebox. Tabitha gaped at the opening in surprise. She lifted the book to see if the outside had expanded too, but it still looked like the same, old, plain diary.
Tabitha carefully lowered the book to her lap again and peered into the hidden compartment. It was full, almost to the top with what seemed to be mostly aged files, similar to the ones her father kept for the records of all the animals he attended to. There were a few loose pieces of parchment too, tucked in amongst the pile. Sitting at the very top, about half an inch below the opening was a sand coloured envelope. Tabitha recognised the writing on the envelope at once to be her mother’s, but what stunned her the most was the fact that the writing spelled out one simple yet extremely familiar word: Tabitha.
Sorry, I couldn't help myself =D
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