Chapter 24 : End of an Era
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“Could you be any more obvious? What, are you taking lessons from Ron or something?” ~Ginny Potter
Much to everyone’s relief, Rose was released the next morning. After a night’s observation, Madam Pomfrey decided she had made a full and speedy recovery, the antidote potion having been quite effective. Heading down the marble staircase with Annie and Rheydyn, Tabitha noticed Rose and Hugo farewelling their parents in the entrance hall.
“Tabitha!” Hermione called out, spotting her across the room. She waved her over and Tabitha left her friends to shyly approach the Weasley family. Hermione wrapped Tabitha up in a warm hug. “You know we really can’t thank you enough.” She said, holding Tabitha out at an arm’s length.
“We were all just very lucky.” Tabitha replied, embarrassed at the attention she was getting. “We should really thank Professor Longbottom for giving Professor Sprout that plant,” she added. Hermione laughed in response.
"Ah, Neville saves the day again! He always did have a knack for it.” She winked over Tabitha’s shoulder at Ron who chuckled softly.
“I’m just glad Rose is ok,” Tabitha smiled, not really sure what the joke between Mr and Mrs Weasley was about. Before anyone could respond, Harry and Ginny appeared on the stairs with James, Lily and Albus. The family approached the small group near the door.
“Hey Harry, Tabitha here just suggested that it was really Neville who saved the day last night by giving ol’ Pamona that cactus thing,” Ron grinned.
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Harry laughed back, confusing Tabitha even further. James caught her bemused expression and shook his head slightly.
“Don’t worry. It’s some stupid private joke they have with Neville, something to do with when they were at school together. I don’t get it either,” He muttered.
“We’ll meet you two down by the gate, ok?” Hermione said to Harry and Ginny. She then turned to Rose and Hugo. “Come on you two, you’re not too grown up to walk your old Mum and Dad out.” And the four Weasleys trooped out the door. Lily, who had linked arms with Rose, went with them, obviously relieved that her cousin was ok.
“I’m hungry, I’m going to breakfast,” Albus announced with the single mindedness of a teenager. He gave his mother and father a quick hug and then headed off to the Great Hall.
“Nice to know we’re important people in his life,” Ginny smirked. She then turned to Tabitha. “It was lovely to meet you Tabitha, keep working on those Quidditch skills won’t you?”
“Absolutely,” Tabitha replied as she was engulfed in another hug. When Ginny let her go, Harry smiled and held his hand out.
“Fantastic to meet you Tabitha; you’re a wonderful young woman,” He smiled as they shook hands. “Everything James has told us about you is true.”
At these words, Tabitha blushed bright red. What did he mean by that? She wondered. She glanced at James only to notice he was looking positively mortified. Ginny rolled her eyes and sighed.
“We should be going. Enjoy the rest of your weekend Tabitha,” She said, grabbing Harry by the arm and yanking him out of the entrance hall. James hesitated for a moment before following his parents. As they walked through the door, Tabitha heard Ginny berating her husband. “Could you be any more obvious? What, are you taking lessons from Ron or something?” Feeling somewhat like she was under the influence of a confundus charm, Tabitha headed into the Great Hall for breakfast.
A little while later as she munched on sausages and chatted with Rowan and Natalie about Quidditch, she felt the movement of someone sitting next to her; it was James.
“Your folks gone?” Rowan asked through a half full mouth of scrambled egg. James nodded while Natalie gave her boyfriend a disgusted look and whacked him on the arm.
“Couldn’t you at least swallow your food first? You’re revolting.” She said.
“Is that so?” Rowan said, scooping an extra-large forkful of egg into his mouth before chewing it in Natalie’s direction.
“Ewwww!” She giggled, pushing him away. Under the distraction of Natalie and Rowan’s exchange, Tabitha felt a tapping on the side of her leg. She glanced down and saw James’s hand, holding a small, folded piece of parchment towards her. Tabitha glanced up to catch his eye but he was laughing at the antics of Rowan across the table. Before she could think about it too much, Tabitha grabbed the parchment and tucked it in to her pocket. She swallowed her last bite of toast and stood up.
“I’m going to go find Peter.” She announced, avoiding James’s eyes. “I’ll see you guys later.” As soon as she was out of the Great Hall, Tabitha ran up the marble staircase and stopped by a suit of armour. She took out the parchment and unfolded it. James had scrawled a very short message on it.
Room of Requirement. 30 minutes.
Tabitha bit her lip, wondering what this was about. They weren’t planning to go through the diary again until Thursday afternoon when they both had a free lesson. Folding the note again, Tabitha turned and started making her way towards the seventh floor. She had reached the fifth floor when she heard someone calling her voice.
We were both near her in the common room when it happened.” Tabitha replied, surprised at how much his reaction was irritating her. “She’d just been poisoned, I thought she was going to die! I really didn’t care who was helping get her to safety.” There was a slight bite in her tone and Peter obviously noticed it because he pulled back further, letting his arm drop from her waist to hang limply at his side.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.” He replied, although Tabitha wasn’t sure how much she believed that. “Look how about we spend today together? I’m sure we can find an abandoned classroom somewhere, or even a broom closet?”
Tabitha stared at him incredulously. Broom Closet? She thought to herself. Really?
“Look Peter,” She began, trying not to sound too offended at the suggestion that she would want to engage in a tryst amongst Filch’s dusty and smelly brooms and mops. “I have plans to spend the day with the girls, you know I’ve been neglecting them a bit lately.” She tried to ignore how easily the lie slipped out.
“Oh, yeah of course.” Peter replied, not looking entirely convinced. “How about we eat dinner together tonight then?” He suggested.
“Sure.” Tabitha replied. She tried not to clench her jaw when he leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek. “I’ll see you tonight,” and with that, she slipped around the corner and up the nearest staircase.
Despite being waylaid by Peter, Tabitha still made it to the Room of Requirement before James. The room always looked slightly different when she was the one who opened it, although she could never work out why. It was the slightest of differences, as though the couch was slightly longer or the fire not so warm. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, although she didn’t pause to dwell on it too much; the mere existence of the room was enough for one person – even a magical person – to wonder about.
She paced about the room slowly, wondering why James had asked her to meet him. She had her suspicions, although she wasn’t sure James’s mind had gone to the same place. She didn’t have to wonder for much longer though, because the door soon clicked opened as James slipped quietly in to the room.
"You came,” He said, spotting her across the room where she had paused mid-pace. “I wasn’t sure you would.”
“I figured you wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important,” Tabitha replied curiously. James nodded thoughtfully as thought trying to work out exactly what to say. Tabitha bit her lip, wondering if she should speak first and break the silence. In the end they spoke at the same time.
“Thank you so much for –”
“You were really fantastic –”
They both stopped mid-sentence and laughed awkwardly. James gestured a hand towards Tabitha.
“Ladies first,” He said.
"I just wanted to say that you were really amazing last night, the way you just acted straight away. You got Rose to the hospital wing and how you ever got to Professor Sprout so quickly I’ll never know –”
“But if you hadn’t known about that plant then I wouldn’t have realised to go to Sprout. And you were the one who said we needed to go to the hospital wing in the first place.” James interrupted. They both looked at each other a little sheepishly. “I guess we both played our parts,” He said. “We make a good team, Hart.”
"I guess we do,” Tabitha replied, her ears growing rather hot. She moved to the couch and sat down. “So is that all you wanted to say?” She asked.
"Um no, not exactly,” James said nervously, rubbing the back of his neck while he sat down next to her. “It’s about what happened last night but it’s not about Rose exactly.”
“Ok.” Tabitha watched him warily.
“Hart, do you realise that if Rose hadn’t dropped her first bottle of butterbeer then you would have drunk the poison?” He asked. Tabitha’s heart rate quickened. This exact thought had occurred to her in the middle of the night when she had been trying to sleep and the adrenaline of the evening was starting to wear off.
“It had crossed my mind.” She said quietly, trying to remain clam.
“Do you think that maybe we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of this being intentional?” James’s words were carefully measured and he watched her without blinking, as though expecting her to fall apart at his words.
“You mean,” Tabitha began, willing her voice to remain steady. “That whoever put the poison in that bottle meant for it to get to me?” She could feel her breath quickening but she focussed on taking deep measured breaths. She wasn’t going to let this get to her.
"It’s a theory,” James replied, concern reflecting in his eyes. “Are you ok?” He added. Tabitha took another deep breath and steadied herself. No, she wasn’t about to let one little idea turn her into a quivering mess. She was stronger than all of that – she simply had to be. She sat up straighter, squared her shoulders and looked James in the eye.
“Yes, I’m alright,” She said, relieved that her voice sounded stronger and braver than before. “But if someone poisoned that one bottle of Butterbeer, how on earth did they know it was going to end up in my hands?” She continued. “Is there a spell to make sure an object gets to a certain person?”
“I’m not sure,” James shrugged. He sat deep in thought for a few minutes. Eventually, an uncomfortable expression crossed his face. “Maybe they got to someone in Gryffindor? Who was it that gave you the drink?” He asked. Tabitha considered this for a moment, delving through her memory of the night before. In the excitement of everything that had happened, being handed a drink seemed very insignificant.
“Charlie,” She finally realised. “He gave all of us butterbeers, remember?”
“Oh yeah,” the memory resurfaced in James’s mind. The two students looked at each other awkwardly and then once again spoke over the top of each other.
"Charlie wouldn’t –”
“It couldn’t be –"
They both let their words trail away.
“I share a dormitory with Charlie,” James said. “He’s a great guy, he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“Yeah, it seems a bit ridiculous,” Tabitha laughed.
“Unless,” James mused, causing Tabitha to look up at him in slight alarm.
“Well what if he was under the imperius curse?” James suggested warily. Tabitha’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open.
“Imperius? No way! Who would do that? It’s an unforgivable curse!” She gasped
“That doesn’t mean people don’t do it,” James countered.
“But here, at Hogwarts?”
“Dad once told me he saw people use unforgivable curses here when he was at school.”
“They were in the middle of a war!” Tabitha exclaimed. “From what I’ve read, some of the kids at school back then were children of death eaters, and some were even training to be Death Eaters themselves!”
“And who do you think is after you? The tooth fairy?” James snapped. Tabitha gasped and he instantly realised his mistake. “Oh crap, Hart that didn’t come out right! I didn’t mean…”
“No it’s ok, you’re right,” Tabitha whispered. “If these people are trying to…well…they’re not going to be nice about it, are they?”
“It still could have been an accident,” James suggested desperately. Tabitha looked up at him, an idea having jumped into her mind.
“Your Dad and Neville went to talk to the house elves last night. Do you know what they said?” She asked. James frowned and shook his head slowly.
“Not much. Dad said they didn’t tell them a lot but he’s going to look into it. That’s all he told me.” He told her. Tabitha chewed on her lip and thought for a moment.
“Do you know where the kitchens are?” She finally asked. James raised his eyebrows at her.
“Because I think we should go and talk to the house elves, see what they have to say. I know your Dad’s an auror and everything, but maybe they missed something.” She explained. When James didn’t respond she added, “We have to do something, we can’t just sit here!”
“Oh alright, I’ll take you to the kitchens!” James said, standing up with a sigh and pulling Tabitha to her feet.
“How did you find out where the kitchens are?” Tabitha asked as she followed James downstairs. James laughed in response.
“Well that’s my little secret Hart,” He said, pulling aside a tapestry so they could slip through a hidden passage way.
“I suppose I’ve just never been hungry enough to go looking for it,” Tabitha mused. “I don’t have the appetite of a hippogriff.”
“Hey! My mum says I’m a growing boy!” James retorted in a mock little-boy voice. They reached the other end of the hidden passage and James pulled the tapestry aside for Tabitha to walk through. She laughed as she passed him.
“Well with a head that size –” Tabitha froze in the hallway she had just entered. Standing about ten feet away with an angry expression, was Peter. James dropped the tapestry, and it fell soundlessly back across the entrance.
“Peter,” The word escaped Tabitha’s mouth in a whisper. “I…I…”
“Spending the day with the girls are we?” Peter’s voice came out as a whisper too, but his voice was laced with anger. “I know Potter’s a bit of a nancy, but I hardly thought that was what you meant.”
“Peter, it’s not what it looks like,” Tabitha managed to string a sentence together.
“No? What is it then Tabitha? You tell me you’re spending the day with your friends and I find you sneaking around hidden passages with a boy who is obviously obsessed with you. Clearly I’m mistaken though so please, explain it to me.” Peter’s walked forward slowly, his voice laced with anger and sarcasm. He closed the gap between them until he was only a few feet away.
“It’s not…I thought if I told you I needed to speak to him that you would get angry…we weren’t…”
“Angry? Really, why would I get angry? This complete git is just trying to get his manky paws all over you and as much as you claim to hate him, you always seem to be together! Stop lying to me Tabitha!” Peter was clearly furious at this point, something Tabitha had never seen nor expected from him. Her mind was whirling with the accusations he was throwing at her and yet ridiculously, a certain phase kept echoing in her ears: obviously obsessed with you. What did Peter mean by that? Before she could form her thoughts in to a response, she realised that James had come to her rescue.
“Leave her alone Smythe! She has not been lying to you! When she says nothing has been happening you might want to believe her, isn’t that what boyfriends do, trust their girlfriends?” He snapped, stepping forward and pulling himself up to his full height.
“Oh save your breath Potter,” Peter spat. “It’s obvious what’s going on here, I’m not stupid.”
“I’d be careful throwing statements like that around Smythe, because you are clearly a complete moron!” James scoffed.
“Peter, please!” Tabitha managed to say, causing both boys to turn towards her. “Peter, I swear nothing happened. We were just talking about something and we came through that passageway as a shortcut. You have to believe me.” Peter stared at her and for a moment, Tabitha thought his face would soften and he would give her one of his crinkle-eyed smiles. However, a sneer twisted his features and he glared at her resentfully.
“Actually Hart, I don’t have to do anything. I thought there was something between us but if you would rather get off with an idiot like this, then that’s your choice. I’m not hanging around just to be second best to him. It’s over.” And with these bitter words and a final glare, Peter turned and stalked down the hallway.
“Peter, please!” Tabitha pleaded, running a few steps down the corridor after him, but his long legs carried him quickly and when he didn’t turn back at her cries, she stopped and leaned against the wall, tears filling her eyes. Certainly there had been times when she had felt Peter was overbearing, but she had genuinely cared for him and now it was all over. Peter had been her first date, her first boyfriend and her first kiss. And now it would seem she was being forced to face her first break-up. Tears trickled down her cheeks and she hastily brushed them away with the back of her hand. She felt a warm hand on her shoulder, startling her.
“You alright?” James asked, his voice gentle. Tabitha sniffed and looked up at him. His face was full of concern as his eyes searched hers for some indication of how she felt. Tabitha shrugged and frowned at him.
“Not really,” She replied, her voice thick as more tears spilled over on to her cheeks. James looked suddenly very angry.
“Bloody git," He said. "You know what? If he’s so stupid that he won’t believe you then you’re better off without him.” He had meant it to comfort her, but Tabitha felt a surge of anger rush through her.
“What the hell would you know Potter? You always hated him but he was good to me. He was sweet and kind and a good boyfriend and now I’ve thrown it all away!” Angrily, she threw his hand off her shoulder. James didn’t move; he simply stood there, watching her, which only served to inflame her anger. “What the hell was I thinking, traipsing around the school with you? Have I completely lost my mind?” She swatted at the tears that were still trickling down her face and let out a frustrated growl. She turned to face James who still hadn’t moved, just letting her have her rant. The fact that he was just standing there seemed to make here even angrier still, so she shoved him in the chest. “Say something Potter! You know this is all your fault don’t you?” She roared at him. The physical contact seemed to force James out of silence.
“My fault? How do you figure that one?” He yelled back at her. “That complete arse treats you like dirt and it’s somehow my fault?”
“Yes Potter it is your sodding fault because…because…” But Tabitha couldn’t seem to come up with a reason why it was James’s fault. As James watched, the fire seemed to go out of her and she slumped against the wall, sliding down until she was sitting on the floor, her knees pulled up to her chest. She lowered her head to her knees and started to cry. James walked over and sat beside her, resting an arm across her shoulders. After a few minutes, Tabitha lifted her head and stared at James with puffy, red eyes. “Sorry I yelled at you.” She mumbled. “I just can’t believe he wouldn’t believe me.” James didn’t speak at first, then he smiled at Tabitha gently.
“C’mon Hart, we can still go down to the kitchens. The house elves have always got plenty of comfort food on hand.”
AN: So this chapter took a litle longer so I'm sorry you had to wait, but life's a bit crazy at the moment and work is taking up a vast majority of my time so my writing is suffering somewhat. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, all of you who never really liked Peter are probably dancing for joy right now and for those of you who liked Peter, well I'm sorry, this chapter was a necessary evil. But please stayed tuned because there's lots happening in the next three chapters...!
As always, I love reading your reviews and thankyou to all of you for reading and enjoying this story so much. Please keep reading and reviewing.
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