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Chapter 15 : An Interesting Couple
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“Does Smythe know you go around punching guys Tabby? He might not be so keen on you if he thinks you’re going to beat him up!” ~Rowan Bennett
After his fight with Lily in the common room, James disappeared until dinnertime. When he did return, he acted as though nothing had happened and reverted back to his same, smiling, joking self. The only indication that any argument had occurred was the triumphant smile on Lily’s face, but James simply ignored that. He hadn’t said a word about Tabitha going to the Ball with Peter, and she couldn’t help but wonder if he had forgotten about it. Tabitha couldn’t seem to forget about it though, with Peter shooting her little grins across the Great Hall at every mealtime. She felt a light fluttering in her stomach every time he did this, and as she would respond with a shy smile of her own, she couldn’t deny that having a boy pay attention to her was a very nice feeling.
This silent communication continued on until Wednesday afternoon. The sixth years were making their way across the lawns towards the castle after their Care of Magical Creatures lesson. The crisp air was full of chatter, mostly to do with the lesson they had just finished where Hagrid had allowed several students to actually fly on the Hippogriffs. Tabitha, having been one of those lucky few, was being bombarded with questions from her friends about the sensation. She was still trying to explain the differences between flying on a broomstick and riding a Hippogriff when they reached a staircase on the fourth floor. Reluctantly, obviously wanting to hear more, Rowan, Natalie, Annie and Rheydyn climbed the stairs, heading towards divination. Tabitha headed down the hallway towards Muggle studies, realising a second too late that she had been left alone with James. She stared straight ahead as they walked down the corridor, trying to decide if she should say something or just put up with the silence. James however, made the decision for her.
“So which do you prefer, Hippogriff or broomstick?” He asked. Tabitha looked over at him, her mouth opening to insult James, purely out of habit. Fortunately, before the words formed, she realised that he was genuinely trying to make conversation, so she simply replied,
“Broomstick, definitely. You have more control with a broomstick.”
“Yeah, that’s what my Dad always says.” James nodded thoughtfully.
“Your Dad’s ridden a hippogriff?” Tabitha asked, surprised. In all the stories she’d read about Harry Potter, that was one thing she’d never heard before. James grinned.
“Yeah, a couple times when he was at school. He says he didn’t really like it though. He reckons that…” But Tabitha never got to hear what Harry Potter reckoned, because at that moment, they turned a corner and met Peter Smythe, coming out of a classroom. He looked a little harried as he heaved his heavy bag over his shoulder, but his face broke into a wide and charming smile when he saw Tabitha.
“Hey! Hart, what a nice surprise!” He said, and Tabitha couldn’t help but grin back as she stopped in front of him. James stopped too. Peter glanced over at the dark haired boy who, despite being a year younger, was just as tall as the Ravenclaw. “Potter.” He said civilly.
“Smythe.” James nodded in reply. Tabitha looked awkwardly at the two boys, but before she could say or do anything, James turned to her. “I’ll see you in class.” He said, and then continued down the hall.
“I feel really rude, I haven’t had the chance to speak to you since Sunday.” Peter smiled at Tabitha after James had left. Her legs wobbled a little bit at the way not just his lips, but also his eyes smiled at her.
“Oh that’s ok, I mean it’s kind of tricky with us being in separate houses and years, you know not having classes together, and we both have Quidditch training and homework…” Tabitha could hear herself beginning to ramble and forced herself to stop talking when Peter chuckled softly.
“You are very right Hart. Actually I’m glad I ran into you because I was thinking that very thing.” He said. Tabitha, resolved not to start rambling like an idiot again, kept her mouth shut but looked up at him expectantly. “I thought, since the Ball is still over a month away, that maybe we could do something together before then. You know, to um…get to know each other better?” Tabitha couldn’t help but smile at the way Peter got nervous when he was asking her out, just like he did in the Owlerly. Her heart was now hammering in her chest though, she couldn’t believe that she had gone from never having a date for anything, to being asked out twice in a matter of days!
“That sounds really good. What did you have in mind?” She asked nervously.
“Well, there’s another Hogsmeade weekend coming up in a few weeks, maybe we could meet up for lunch or something?” Peter suggested.
“Sounds great.” Tabitha smiled. Peter’s eyes crinkled as he returned the expression.
“Great. Well we can talk details later, I’d better run or I’m going to be late for Potions.” He said, and with one last smile, he headed past her and down the corridor. Tabitha, realising she would also be late if she didn’t hurry, jogged down the hallway to her classroom, slipping inside the doorway just as Professor Northwood was about to start talking. A quick scan of the room showed Tabitha that the only remaining seat was next to James, and with an inward groan, she silently slid into the seat, bracing herself for the sarcastic comments about Peter. The comments however, never came. James kept his eyes forward, completely focussed on what Professor Northwood was saying about muggle currency. Tabitha watched him curiously for a moment, surprised that he hadn’t taken the opportunity to tease her, but eventually, she gave up and turned to face the professor. After a long detailed explanation of muggle money, banks, credit cards and Cash Machines, the Muggle Studies teacher pulled out a large box with various coins, notes and plastic cards.
“I should warn you that these items have been enchanted so that they will turn to dust if you try to remove them from the classroom,” Professor Northwood explained. “Just in case any of you had your heart set on a muggle shopping spree!” The class laughed politely at the professor’s joke as he began distributing the contents of the box to the tables. James picked up a ten pound note and looked at it curiously.
“Huh. Paper money. Is this for real?” He turned towards Tabitha, an inquiring look in his eye. Tabitha, who had watched these movements, jumped a little when he looked at her.
“Oh um…” She said, caught off guard. “Um yes it is. See how the larger amounts of money are banknotes and the smaller amounts of money are coins.” She reached across the table to pick up a few small coins and held them out to James. He held out his hand and she dropped the coins into his palm, clinking softly against each other as they fell. James looked the coins over carefully, investigating the pictures imprinted on the metal. Tabitha picked up a credit card and turned it over in her hands, not really paying much attention to it. After all, she had not only seen a credit card before but actually used her father’s card several times during the holidays (with his permission of course).
“So, how’s your boyfriend?” James asked casually, not changing the tone of his voice or looking up from the coin he was studying. In fact it took Tabitha a moment before she realised his question was not about their lesson at all. She pressed her lips together in a thin line and stared at the card in her hand.
“He’s not my boyfriend.” She replied, her voice tight.
“Sure he isn’t.” James said with a soft chuckle. “It's not like he's asked you to the Ball, smiles at you in the Great Hall or stops you in corridors for little 'chats', is it?” Tabitha felt her cheeks grow hot and she knew they had probably already turned an embarrassing shade of red. She didn’t think anyone had noticed the looks that she and Peter had been sharing at meal times. Almost completely out of habit, Tabitha responded the same way she always did when James made her feel embarrassed: with anger.
“Shut up, Potter.” She growled, tossing the credit card back on to the table and reaching out to pick up some of the coins that were still sitting on the table top. James chuckled under his breath, but Tabitha, who was sitting only a few feet away, still heard it. Her anger intensified in the way it only did when James was around, and before she realised what she was doing, Tabitha’s left hand balled into a fist and she punched James’s shoulder with all the strength she could muster.
“Ow!” James shouted, completely taken by surprise at the physical attack. His head snapped around towards Tabitha, the amused spark gone from his eyes. “What the hell did you do that for?” He rubbed his shoulder where he’d been attacked.
Tabitha winced as she rubbed her fingers with her right hand. She didn’t usually go around punching people (at least not seriously) so she hadn’t been expecting James’s arm to be quite so solid. Her fingers ached slightly from the impact. She glared back at James angrily. Stupid Potter and his stupid arm muscles! She grumbled internally.
“Mr. Potter and Miss Hart, would you kindly stop disturbing the class and focus on your work!” Professor Northwood appeared at their desk and Tabitha ducked her head, embarrassed, as the students at nearby tables turned to look at them.
“Sorry Professor,” James said, sounding incredibly sincere. Tabitha nodded her agreement, not taking her eyes off the wooden desk top in front of her.
“Yes well…just keep it down.” The professor muttered before striding across the room to assist two Hufflepuffs who had just raised their hands.
“Bloody hell Hart, you didn’t have to punch me!” James hissed angrily, once the teacher was out of earshot.
“Well maybe if you’d shut up and kept out of my business I wouldn’t need to!” Tabitha hissed back, looking up to glower at him. James returned the stare before turning back to the coins in front of him, muttering something that sounded like ‘can’t take a joke.’ Tabitha was tempted to snap back at him, but unsure that she would be able to resist the urge to hex or punch him again, she simply stared angrily at the side of his head for a few moments before crossing her arms across her chest and facing the front of the classroom. The pair did not speak again for the rest of the lesson and when the bell rang to signify the end of the lesson, Tabitha scooped up her bag, jumped off her seat and was the first to escape the classroom to the crowded corridor beyond.
“What’s got your wand in a knot?” Natalie asked when Tabitha stomped into the common room and threw herself down in an armchair with a loud sigh. Natalie was sitting with Rowan and Annie, having only just got back from Divination themselves.
“Potter.” She growled darkly. Rowan smiled to himself.
“Did you need to ask?” He smiled at Natalie before turning back to Tabitha. “What did he do this time?”
“Oh…” Tabitha started, self-consciously. She didn’t really want to tell her friends about Peter, in case they teased her as well. “He was just being his stupid self. It’s ok, I punched him.” She explained, feeling slightly proud of herself as she remembered the way he had rubbed his arm after she had hit him. Rowan let out a loud guffaw while Annie stared at her, scandalised.
“Tabby! I can’t believe you did that!” She gasped.
“Oh Annie, it’s not like she hasn’t lost it at him before. Remember that time she hexed him in fourth year and he grew three extra pairs of ears?” Natalie said, and she and Rowan both burst into a fresh set of giggles. Annie shook her head slowly.
“Well hexing is one thing, but punching? Tabby would it kill you to act like a girl?” She scolded.
“Hey! I have a date for the Ball, don’t I? And anyway, I only punched him in the arm.” Tabitha defended herself. It seemed to have the desired effect, as Annie rolled her eyes and turned back to the magazine in her hands.
“Does Smythe know you go around punching guys Tabby? He might not be so keen on you if he thinks you’re going to beat him up!” Rowan laughed.
“He’s seen her on the Quidditch pitch.” Natalie reminded him as Tabitha’s cheeks turned pink. “Anyway, she’s perfectly sweet and charming most of the time. She can’t help it that Potter pushes her buttons!”
“He does not push my buttons!” Tabitha snapped. “It’s not my fault he’s a complete git!”
As Natalie and Rowan smiled knowingly at each other, Rheydyn came in through the portrait hole and sat herself down on the sofa next to Annie, smiling happily. “You look happy.” Tabitha commented, and the other three looked over towards the auburn haired girl at these words. Rheydyn smiled and looked down at her knees.
“I have a date for the Ball.” She said, in a quiet voice. Annie gasped excitedly, the magazine falling from her fingers to the floor.
“Who? Who are you going with?” She exclaimed, clutching Rheydyn’s arm.
“Only the best looking guy in the whole school.” It was James who answered the question as he threw himself down into an armchair opposite Tabitha. Four pairs of eyes turned to him, confused. Rheydyn blushed and continued to stare at her legs. James raised his eyebrows as though surprised they hadn’t instantly understood his words. “Me.” He explained. “Rheydyn’s going to the Ball with me.”
Rheydyn Campbell hadn’t looked so happy all year. Not since losing her best friend had she smiled so happily, or walked with such a bounce in her step. She moved around the castle with a dreamy expression that made many girls smile, and many more envious.
Tabitha was determined to be one of the girls that smiled at Rheydyn’s happiness, to be pleased about her apparent fortune in securing the coveted arm of the Gryffindor Quidditch captain. However, no matter how much she grinned at the girl with the auburn curls, she couldn’t quite make herself feel as happy for her on the inside as she was on the outside. Fortunately, in the wake of Annabeth’s letter, Tabitha had become quite adept at hiding the depth of her feelings, so no one suspected she was anything more than slightly appalled that Rheydyn could bear an evening in James’s company.
Oddly enough, Tabitha couldn’t shake the feeling that James wasn’t completely sold on the arrangement either. For the first few days he made the odd joke about the Ball, suggesting he turn up on a hippogriff or commenting how disappointed his fan club would be; but after the initial shock had worn off, he didn’t interact with Rheydyn much more than he had before besides occasionally sitting next to her in the common room or Great Hall. More than once, as he sat with Rheydyn on a sofa in the common room, Tabitha caught James’s eyes glazing over while he pretended to be interested in whatever discussion was happening around him. Despite the fact they made a ‘cute couple,’ what very few people failed to realise, was that Rheydyn and James had very little in common and weren’t really a compatible match. Whilst both were from Gryffindor house and shared an average intelligence, Rheydyn was a typical girl, interested in clothes and boys and gossip (this was why she got along so well with Annie). James, on the other hand, was very much a boy, consumed by Quidditch and pranks, and whatever stupid, dangerous adventures he could come up with. To the trained eye, it was scarcely a wonder that they found very little about which to converse.
It wasn’t much of a surprise then, on the Saturday of the next Quidditch match, one week before the Hogsmeade trip that Tabitha was supposed to be attending with Peter, that James was determinedly discussing Quidditch moves with Rowan as the Gryffindors made their way across the lawns to the pitch. Hufflepuff were playing Slytherin, which was usually a pretty one sided match, although there had been rumours about a new line up on the Hufflepuff team, and all of the school’s Quidditch players were eager to see what effect these changes might have on the team’s performance.
Tabitha and Natalie, following the boys, were engaged in their own Quidditch related conversation, whilst Annie and Rheydyn trailed behind, discussing the latest issue of Witch Weekly. They were only attending the match because everyone else was, and Tabitha couldn’t help but notice Rheydyn wasn’t even trying to be interested in the sport.
“Well Rose said she’s trying to perfect a move called the ‘Wronski Feint.’ Apparently her mum told her about it; saw it at the World Cup once or something.” Natalie commented to Tabitha as they approached the tall wooden stands. “Rose was pretty surprised – didn’t even know her mum knew anything about Quidditch! But she looked it up and it’s a real move.”
They slowed down and joined a line of students filing into the stands and James glanced over his shoulder at Natalie’s comment.
“Yeah she told me about that. I didn’t know Auntie Hermione liked Quidditch either, Mum, Dad and Uncle Ron always joke that she only went to Quidditch matches because she didn’t want to be left out.” He said, his glance darting quickly to Rheydyn and back as he said the last sentence. “It’s a pretty tricky move though – dangerous too. I told her not to use it unless she was totally confident. Mum will kill me if one of my cousins gets hurt because of me.”
“Oh but you let me try dangerous moves all the time; it’s ok if I get hurt is it?” Tabitha asked, an amused tone in her voice.
“Well Hart, you’re not family you see. It’s no skin off my nose if you get killed.” James teased. “Anyway, I don’t exactly encourage you to be dangerous. I can’t be blamed for your hero complex – throwing yourself in front of speeding bludgers and picking fights with Alexander Shreve.”
“Yeah. Right. I’m the one with a hero complex.” Tabitha replied sarcastically. They began to climb the wooden stairs now, making their way to the section of the stands where the Gryffindor students usually sat. Natalie had moved forward to talk with Rowan. The day was unusually bright and sunny for winter and the weather seemed to be putting everyone in a happy, playful mood. Tabitha couldn’t help but feel content as she watched a black crow soar overhead and settle at the top of the stands. James appeared to be in a good mood too and opened his mouth to contradict Tabitha’s comment when a familiar voice called out,
Tabitha and James both turned to see Peter, sitting on a wooden bench in the stands a few steps above where the sixths years were currently waiting on the stairs for the line to move. Tabitha smiled at him and waved. He wore a navy blue cloak and had his blue and bronze Ravenclaw scarf tied neatly around his neck. His eyes seemed to sparkle in the sunlight as he smiled down at her, and Tabitha felt her stomach give a quick flip. She raised her hand and waved back enthusiastically, trying to ignore the fact that she could literally sense James tensing up next to her. Peter stood as the Gryffindors climbed a few more steps.
“Nice conditions for it.” He commented, “Who are you supporting?” Tabitha opened her mouth to answer, but it was James who spoke first.
“Hufflepuff.” He said. “Hart always supports Hufflepuff, no matter who they’re playing. She even feels guilty supporting her own team when we play Hufflepuff.”
Tabitha stared at James, her mouth still open. Peter looked at the two of them, confused.
“Really?” He finally asked, when no-one else spoke. Tabitha looked at him, still unsure of what to say.
“Her mother was a Hufflepuff.” James explained, and once again, Tabitha turned to him, surprised.
“I didn’t know that.” Peter said conversationally as the line began to move again. “You’ll have to tell me all about it next week when we go to Hogsmeade, Tabitha.” He smiled as Tabitha climbed the steps in front of James. She turned to talk over her shoulder as she stepped up.
“Definitely. We’ll talk about – ” But Tabitha’s words turned into a surprised scream as the wooden step snapped under her foot. The wooden plank collapsed and she felt her body falling through space, her vision a blur of wooden beams and flashes of colour. She heard the gasps and screams of other voices, intermingled with her own and then suddenly her body stopped. It wasn’t the solid impact she had expected but rather it felt as though she had landed in an invisible net. Her head however, hit something hard. Tabitha heard a painful sounding crack and someone scream her name as her thoughts drifted into murky darkness.
AN: Ok so I know this is sort of another cliff hanger, but it flowed really well ending the chapter there...so I'm sorry! I'll try and get the next chapter up soon but I'm going away to visit family so it might be a week or two before I get the chance.
An immense 'Thank You!' to everyone who is reading this story and a big sugary cupcake and warm hug for all of you who are reviewing! I just love getting your reviews and it makes me so happy to know other people are enjoying this story as much as I am. So thankyou and please keep reading!
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