Chapter 13 : The Letter
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“I will forever love you, my beautiful, precious little girl.” ~Annabeth Hart
Time was standing still.
The world had stopped turning, there was no dark, no light, no sound, no cold or heat. There was nothing except Tabitha and the envelope. An envelope, bearing her name; written in her mother’s handwriting. Tabitha wasn’t even sure she was breathing anymore, it just didn’t seem important.
Eventually, after what seemed like eons, Tabitha moved a shaking hand to the opening in the book before her. She wondered vaguely if it was maybe just an illusion and when she tried to pick up the envelope her hand would just hit the solid book cover. She held her breath as her fingers reached the tiny doorway, but they passed through without any trouble. The secret compartment was definitely real. It was an odd sensation to watch your hand disappear into a space that your eyes couldn’t detect. Tabitha’s fingers touched the smooth edge of the parchment, and holding it carefully, she pulled the envelope out of the book. Tabitha took a deep breath as her trembling fingers eased open the envelope and took out the piece of folded parchment inside. The same graceful handwriting covered the page, and like a hungry animal with a piece of food, she began to devour the words.
August 23rd, 2009
My beautiful darling daughter…
I hope that you will never have to read this letter. I hope that this is only a silly, worrisome, precaution that will never need to be used. But if it does become necessary for you to find this, then I am dead and you are very possibly in danger.
First of all, my beautiful Tabitha, I want to tell you how much I love you. You cannot know how much you mean to me, how I could (and often do) sit and watch you sleep for hours on end. Your father and I dream about our future with you and what you will achieve. I do not know when this diary will make its way to you, but I imagine you are school aged now. I know you will be the cleverest witch Hogwarts has ever seen (and I’m not just saying that because I am your mother!). You must know how proud I am of you and how much I will always love you.
Tabitha had to stop reading at this point because the tears were flowing from her eyes so quickly that her vision was blurred and she was worried that she would smudge the ink on the letter. Putting the diary and letter on her bed, Tabitha found the box of tissues on her bedside table and sat down. Reading that letter had been like seeing her mother again – like having her standing in the room. Her father had always told her how much her mother had loved her, but it was something else to see those words written to her by Annabeth herself. Tabitha felt sobering grief and delirious joy at the same moment…it was too much, and she was overcome with paralysing emotion. She drew her knees to her chest and rested her head on them. Her body racked with each heart wrenching sob that escaped her. She sat that way for some time, completely immersed in a cloud of emotion. Eventually though, curiosity got the better of her. Her mother seemed to know she might die, and was trying to warn Tabitha about something – she couldn’t turn away. She lifted her head from her knees and wiped her tears away with the sleeve of her robe. Eagerly, she turned back to the letter.
Secondly, my Tabitha, you must know that I currently have cause to fear for my life. Your father knows nothing of this and I love the two of you too much to frighten you with ‘what ifs.’ Your father knows that I work for the Ministry of Magic as a muggle relations liaison, but he does not know the extent of what I do. Tabitha, I am part of a secret task force, focussed on Wizards and Witches who are determined to continue the work of a man called Tom Riddle, who for many, many years presented himself to the wizarding world as Lord Voldemort. Riddle was defeated in the Battle of Hogwarts by a boy named Harry Potter, an old schoolfellow of mine. I too fought in that battle, when I was only 18 years old. I pray you will never have to witness the death and destruction I did during that time. Tom Riddle and his ‘death eaters’ were either killed in the battle or captured and taken to Azkaban, the wizard prison. However, some of those who were sympathetic to Riddle eluded capture and formed their own secret organisations, determined to continue on in the disgusting, prejudiced, anti-muggle mindset of their former leader. The ministry believed that these people would not be able to attain much power, but were still a danger to magical and muggle folk alike, and they sought to fix the problem. As a passionate pro-muggle advocate and junior officer at the Ministry, I was approached to become part of a team that were being assembled to seek out these offenders, bring them to justice and protect innocent muggles from their not-so-harmless pranks.
What we have discovered, however, is that these groups are neither weak nor easy to capture. They are the worst kinds of criminals, full of malice and determined to eradicate muggles. They are also very dangerous because they have nothing left to lose and are therefore reckless and destructive. They are resolved to terrorise muggles and any magical folk who may get in their way. Worst of all though, is the fact that they seem to be highly organised, which is why it has taken us much longer than anticipated to disband their groups. We have taken down several key members and are working to infiltrate them, but this is dangerous work. Of course we use a high level of protective charms, so that our identities and our loved ones are protected. The thought of putting you in harm’s way frightens me more than anything else Tabby. But we have concerns, and reason to believe that there is one amongst us who is not all that they seem. Members of our task force have been hurt or have vanished, secret information seems to be leaking out somewhere. On more than one occasion we have been ambushed by those we sought to surprise, as though someone told them we were coming. I do not name that person here in case I am found out, but I will enclose this letter in my old diary using an undetectable expansion charm. I will continue to include copies of all of my files and case reports in here in the hopes that if anything should happen to me, one day Tabitha, you might be able to solve the mystery. I am sealing the diary using the filiostendo charm, which means that only you, as my daughter, will be able to open it. To reseal the diary, use the incantation filiotego.
Finally, my child, I am not giving you this information that you might avenge my death. Rather, I fear for your safety. I have cast over you and your father a spell that will offer you protection whilst you live as muggles. I know that this will mean your father is forever protected, and I am sure you, as I, will find great comfort in this. Unfortunately Tabitha, even as a young child you are already showing signs of magical ability. I will not force you to live as a muggle against your will, nor will I suggest it to your father. You are a child of magic and you must be given the opportunity to develop and control your gifts. Should you choose to live as a witch, then you are in danger of being sought out by those who seek me. Hogwarts is the safest place I know, but there are still dangers. The information I am passing on to you is to help you to protect yourself. I have given you all that I can my love, and yet it does not feel like enough.
My beautiful daughter, remember this: in all that you do, show love and compassion to those around you, whether they are weak or strong, your friend or your enemy. Be strong and stand up for what you know is right, because life is not worth living if you have given up on truth. But lastly, Tabitha, and I hate to say this but I am living in a dangerous world and you must be warned: be careful who you trust, sometimes those who wish to harm us are closer than we realise.
I will forever love you, my beautiful, precious little girl.
Tears were once more streaming down Tabitha’s cheeks; she couldn’t seem to control them, no matter how hard she tried. The piece of parchment fell to the floor as she lowered her head to her knees. She could hear the sound of her own blood throbbing in her ears as it rushed around her body. Her heart felt like it was expanding and contracting over and over again, and her head was crowded with thoughts and questions.
My mum was murdered? Does Dad know? What does he think happened? Who killed her? Are they still out there? Are they trying to kill me?
Tabitha’s head shot up and she looked feverishly around the room as though expecting a sinister looking person to be standing in the corner with a wand pointed at her. She picked up the letter and read it again. Hogwarts is the safest place I know… She was in the place her mother said was the safest, somewhere she would be protected. Tabitha noticed that the rushing in her ears was subsiding though her chest still ached. She wrapped her arms around her torso as though trying to warm herself up, give herself some semblance of comfort.
For ten years she had longed to feel closer to her mother. That morning she would have willingly chopped off her left arm for a personal letter, written in Annabeth’s own handwriting. Now she was just confused. The feelings of joy and love she felt coursing through her veins at reading the messages of love and affection from her mother were all she had imagined and more. Nothing had ever felt so wonderful, not the first time she visited Diagon Alley, or flying on her broomstick or winning the Quidditch Cup. No good feeling she had ever experienced quite matched up to this. Tabitha had never felt so loved.
And yet, Tabitha had never felt as scared as she did now. Her mother’s letter had as good as told her there was someone trying to murder her. Falling off her broom and breaking her arm on Saturday seemed like a walk in the park compared to the prospect of a dark wizard wanting her dead. A shiver ran down Tabitha’s spine. Up until this point in her life the scariest thing she had endured was an exploding cauldron in Potions or being chased by an angry animal or perhaps the danger of being beaten up by Alexander Shreve; but those things had never really proposed a real danger. There had always been someone there to take charge in those situations and provide protection: a professor, her father or even her friends. In this situation she was completely unprotected, vulnerable, alone. There was no-one to come in and save her from a situation that was far too serious for a 16 year old girl to deal with. The only other person who even knew about this was Annabeth, and she had been dead for ten years! How was she supposed to help?
Almost immediately though, Tabitha knew the answer to this question. She glanced down at the letter, still clutched tightly in her hand. Just looking at her mother’s neat and elegantly formed writing gave courage to Tabitha. Of course! Her mother hadn’t written this letter so that her only daughter would spend the rest of her life huddling in a room, afraid to face what might be waiting. Annabeth wanted to warn her, to help her protect herself and maybe even (Tabitha shivered again) fight. Tabitha unwrapped her arms from around her body and pushed herself on to her knees, turning to face the bed. The diary sat on her duvet, where she had left it, still open to the back cover and the secret compartment. Tabitha looked down at the contents of the compartment, really looking at the pile of parchment and files for the first time and finally seeing it for what it was: her only weapon against what might be out there. Tabitha reached a hand out towards the top file, but as her fingertips touched the smooth, gold-coloured folder, the bell rang, signifying the end of classes. Tabitha, having been in a silent room for some time, jumped at the sudden loud noise, her heart thumping wildly. She realised that the final lessons for the day had finished and before long the Gryffindor tower would be full of students again. Not ready to share this secret with anyone, not even her best friends, Tabitha quickly folded her mother’s letter and placed it back into the compartment. She gently closed the tiny door and after retrieving her wand from where she had left it on the windowsill, she pointed it at the book and muttered the incantation that Annabeth had provided, “Filiotego.”
Immediately, the book began to glow a brilliant orange again. Tabitha watched as the tiny door faded away and once more, the inside cover of the book resembled exactly that. He heart still beating a little more enthusiastically than normal, Tabitha returned the diary to its usual hiding place and stood up. She walked over to the dormitory door and opened it an inch, straining her ears to listen. She could make out several muffled voices of students in the common room, but as yet, no one seemed to be coming up to the dormitories. Moving quickly and quietly, Tabitha slipped down the hallway to the girl’s bathroom. Luckily, it was empty. Tabitha assessed her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes were slightly puffy and still a little bloodshot from all the crying she had done in the last hour. Turning the tap, she splashed cold water on to her face, hoping it would work quickly. After she had drenched her face to the point where her cheeks were starting to turn numb and the hair around her face was lying limp and wet, she stopped the flow of water, took a towel and patted her face dry. Using a warming charm, she dried the damp strands of hair around her face with her wand and then reassessed her appearance. There was still some slight puffiness around her eyes, but Tabitha doubted that anyone would notice that, unless they were watching her very carefully.
She left the bathroom and ducked back by the dormitory to see if her friends had come up to their sleeping chambers, but the room was still empty. Making sure her face showed her usual expression of happiness, Tabitha descended the stairs, hoping that she gave of an aura of normalcy. The sixth years were sitting by the window where James had spoken to Tabitha earlier. The books spread on the table in front of him suggested he had been studying. He looked up at her curiously as she approached and she flushed with embarrassment as she realised he was probably wondering what she had been doing upstairs all that time. She fought back the blushing though and smiled cheerfully (she hoped) at her friends.
“Hey Tabby, enjoy your free lesson?” Natalie asked. Tabitha nodded mutely, not entirely sure what else to say. “What did you get up to?” The dark haired girl asked. Tabitha froze, mentally kicking herself in the shins for not having taken two minutes to come up with a decent lie. She felt James’s eyes boring into her, and she knew he wanted to know the answer more than the person who had asked it.
“Oh, not much.” Tabitha replied, her voice surprisingly calm and measured. “Just a bit of reading. Herbology stuff.” The last addition seemed to make her story believable enough, her friends were used to her having her head buried in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi or something similar. She was relieved when they nodded in acceptance and continued their discussions. Tabitha let out a small sigh of relief, which caught in her throat when she realised James was still staring at her, one eyebrow raised. She stared back at him for a moment, frustrated at his sudden aptitude for observational skills.
“Who’s hungry?” Rowan asked, the volume of his voice indicating that he was addressing the group. Tabitha turned towards him, grateful for an excuse to look away from James.
“I am starved.” Natalie replied with a smile. The others nodded and murmured in agreement and they all began to make their way across the common room to the portrait hole. Tabitha followed them, watching Annie’s hair bounce around as she giggled animatedly to Rheydyn about something that had happened in Divination.
“So what were you really doing upstairs?” The voice was barely louder than a whisper in Tabitha’s ear. She didn’t need to glance over her shoulder to know it was James. She kept her eyes forward, pretending not to hear him. Not usually deterred easily, James surprised her by letting it drop. Instead, he picked up on his usual pastime of teasing her. “So Hart,” he said, his voice now a normal volume for two people walking down a corridor, “You have a date for the Ball yet? My offer still stands. You know, to save you the humiliation of having to go with a Ravenclaw.” Tabitha rolled her eyes at him and shook her head slightly.
“Potter, I thought we’d gone over this. I’m out of your league so you really should just let one of your groupies out of their misery and ask them.” She smirked at him. Infuriatingly, James returned the smug smile.
“You’re out of my league? And you’re always telling me how big my head is…bit hypocritical aren’t we Hart?” They had reached the Great Hall at this point and, feeling weary from an afternoon of emotional strain, Tabitha tried to slip into a seat between Natalie and Annie to avoid having to continue a conversation she knew would only tire her even further. James, guessing she would do this however, headed down the other side of the table, sitting directly opposite her. Tabitha glared at him as she scooped potatoes on to her plate. He smirked at her again, obviously pleased with himself for annoying her.
Tabitha ignored him as she ate, fixing her eyes anywhere but at the dark haired boy opposite her. Her gaze fell on a group of Ravenclaws sitting at their table across the hall. Amongst them was a tallish boy with brown hair and mesmerising hazel eyes: Peter Smythe. As Tabitha watched them, Peter looked up and caught her eye. He smiled at her, and Tabitha’s cheeks suddenly felt very warm. She smiled back shyly and then looked away, slightly embarrassed. James, noticing the change in her expression, glanced over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of the seventh year boy, still smiling across the hall. James shot him an annoyed glare and then turned back to Tabitha. He looked as though he was going to say something, but thought better of it and chewed on a piece of bread instead. Tabitha turned her attention to her dinner, now trying to avoid the gaze of two boys, although after the meal, as he was leaving the Great Hall, Tabitha couldn’t help but notice Peter flashing her the same friendly smile. If James noticed this exchange, he still said nothing.
However, as she was making her way back up to the common room later, James spoke to her once more. She had decided to skip dessert, using it as an excuse to leave the table before the others. Annabeth’s letter had been playing on her mind for most of the meal. She found pretending to smile and chat with the others exhausting, and the dull ache of a headache was forming behind her eyes. She was walking down a quiet hallway, when she heard soft footsteps behind her. Assuming it was just another student making their way back to their common room, Tabitha was taken by surprise when she felt a strong hand wrap around her own and pull her behind a statue of a house elf. Tabitha, her mind full of her mother’s warnings, gasped in shock and fear and spun around to face her attacker. She stopped suddenly when she realised it was only James, the expression on her face turning from panic to annoyance.
“What the hell do you want Potter?” She snapped, her heart beating rather quickly. She channelled her fear into anger and aimed it at James. “It’s not enough to irritate me constantly, you’ve got jump up from behind and startle me now?” To his credit though, James didn’t smirk at her in the way he usually did when she was yelling at him. His eyes were soft and concerned, in the way that made Tabitha’s stomach lurch uncomfortably. She opened her mouth to continue telling him off, but she found herself at a loss for words. James watched her carefully for several moments before speaking.
“I just wanted to check that you’re ok.” He said, his voice quiet and gentle. Tabitha felt her heart rate pick up again as he spoke. “You might have fooled the others but I know you were upset when you came downstairs earlier.”
“Oh was I now?” Tabitha replied, trying to keep an icy tone to her voice, but both she and James heard the slight waver. “What are you, a mind reader now Potter? And you don’t even take Divination!”
“Your eyes were all puffy.” He stated simply. Tabitha, about to say something else, snapped her mouth closed in surprise. She could not believe that James had noticed something like that when her best friend had bought the ‘I was reading’ lie. She glanced down, not sure what to say. That’s when she noticed it.
James was still holding her hand.
There, hanging between them, like it was the most natural thing in the world, was her left hand, clasped firmly in his right. She stared at the hands in disbelief. I’m holding James Potter’s hand? His hand was calloused from playing Quidditch but it was warm, and the way it curled securely around her own was not an unpleasant feeling, in fact it was oddly comforting. James followed Tabitha’s glance and saw what she was looking at, and yet neither of them let go.
“I’m ok, really.” Tabitha managed to choke out, her heart still racing. James watched her silently, as though he still didn’t believe her, but Tabitha wasn’t ready to share what she had experienced that afternoon with anyone yet – much less James Potter. She gently pulled her hand from his and wordlessly stepped out of the alcove and back down the hall. She glanced over her shoulder once, when she reached the end of the passage, but James wasn’t following.
AN: Ok...I need to take a deep breath. Posting this chapter was really scary because I worked pretty hard on it. I haven't done a lot of serious writing like this and I hope it didn't come across as too fluffy. I would really love your feedback on the story and this chapter in particular.
Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou to all my beautiful readers out there who are enjoying my story. The love for Tabby, James, Natalie, Annie and Rowan just warms my heart so much! I am completely in awe of all the wonderful reviews...you just can't imagine what they mean to me or how much they motivate me. Thankyou to all of you for reading and I hope you've enjoyed this installment.
Giant Squishy Huggles for everyone!
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