Chapter 25 : Moving On
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“If Rowan ever tried to drag me in to a broom closet I’d punch him in the face!” ~Natalie Cooper
Tabitha had learnt a lot about Annie since the beginning of their sixth year at Hogwarts. She had learnt just how skilled Annie could be when it came to hair and make-up; she learnt that Annie was exceptionally talented at designing dress robes; she learnt that Annie had the capabilities to inspire the whole school – including the teachers – to put on a massive event like a Ball; and now she had learnt that in the event of a break-up, Annie was the girl you wanted around.
After their trip to the kitchens, James had walked a silent and numb Tabitha back to the common room. As soon as Annie had discovered what had happened, she got herself into gear. Whatever Tabitha needed, Annie was there with it, whether it was tissue to dry her tears, chocolate or tea to drown her sorrows in, a listening ear or someone to badmouth Peter with. Tabitha had the feeling that if she asked her to, Annie would conjure a dart board with Peter’s photograph on it in a flash. It was tempting, but she never did ask for anything quite that drastic.
Surprisingly, Tabitha found that she started getting over Peter much quicker than she had anticipated. Certainly she was inconsolable for several days, leaving her dormitory only to go to classes and meals, and even then she kept her head down lest she run into Peter or see him across the Great Hall. Annie, Natalie and Rheydyn formed a protective cordon around her most of the time, with the boys helping out where they could. If Peter had wanted to get to Tabitha he wouldn’t have had much of a chance anyway.
James seemed determined to make Tabitha feel better by treating her in the same way he always had: by annoying her. One evening, not long after the break-up, when Tabitha was sitting in an armchair by the fire looking particularly miserable, James came and sat near her.
“You know Hart, I’m thinking of maybe asking Professor Sprout to have a statue made in my honour.” He said casually, resting his right foot on his left knee and staring in to the fire.
“Oh? And do tell, why would that be?” Tabitha asked, one eyebrow raised at his odd conversation starter.
“Well why wouldn’t she? Amongst other things I am devastatingly handsome and by far the best Quidditch captain that Gryffindor – no, that Hogwarts – has ever seen.” He puffed out his chest slightly, causing Tabitha to snort.
“You just keep telling yourself that Potter. And when you go to talk to Sprout about it let me know, I would love to come along and watch that train wreck.”
James also became increasingly interested in Muggle Studies, asking Tabitha for help with his homework constantly and insisting on sitting next to her in every class. At first she thought James was being stupid but she soon began to realise that he was actually quite a good study partner. Tabitha was amazed at how easily James could turn off his annoying-ness when he wanted. Of course they still bickered about every little thing imaginable, but as the days turned in to weeks and the calendar rolled over to February, Tabitha found that she noticed Peter’s absence from her life less and less.
Natalie had also helped this process along somewhat. During what Annie called her ‘mourning period,’ when Tabitha could only feel the pain and loss of no longer having a boyfriend around, Natalie was a quiet and dutiful friend, rubbing her back and sharing soothing words. But one night, about two weeks after the break-up, Natalie startled Tabitha as they were playing Wizard’s Chess in the common room.
“You know Tabby, I’m glad you and Peter broke up.” She said in a blasé sort of way, but she did peek cautiously up from under her dark lashes.
“Really?” Tabitha asked, surprised but not mad. “Why?”
“I dunno. Little things I guess, like the way he was so possessive of you,” Natalie tried to explain. “Whenever he was around he had to have a hand on you, almost like he was telling others that you were his property.” Tabitha pondered on this for a moment. She could see where Natalie was coming from. Peter was always holding her hand or slinging an arm around her shoulder, even when they were just studying quietly in the library.
“I suppose you’re right.” She said after she had instructed her bishop to take Natalie’s knight. “You could say he was very ‘hands on’.” Both girls giggled at this. “You know the day we broke up, when I saw him in the morning, he actually suggested we go find a broom closet!” Tabitha said. She hadn’t told anyone that, in fact she hadn’t thought about it herself, but suddenly she remembered the conversation they’d had that Sunday morning.
“A broom closet?” Natalie asked, astonished. “What kind of girl does he think you are?”
“I know!” Tabitha replied. “I mean yes ok we did have the odd snog in an empty classroom but a broom closet? It’s just a bit tacky.”
“If Rowan ever tried to drag me in to a broom closet I’d punch him in the face!” Natalie said and they both laughed again. Natalie’s face sobered and she smiled at her friend. “You’re better off without him Tabby. You know that right?”
“You know, I think I do.” Tabitha replied with a small smile of her own; and she really was starting to believe it.
The date for the next Hogsmeade weekend went up and with it came a challenge from James.
“So Hart, you going to be brave enough to come and check out the Shrieking Shack this time?” He asked her as they were walking down to the Great Hall for lunch after Muggle Studies one day. “Of course, if you’re too much of a chicken, I’ll understand,” He added, giving her a look of mock sympathy.
I’m not afraid of your stupid little cubby house Potter,” She shot back at him, although she refused to tell him whether or not she was going to go to the Shrieking Shack.
Tabitha and James continued to study the files in Annabeth’s diary, and the more they read, the more they understood why Annabeth believed someone was working on the inside. In the older files, there would be the occasional report on a raid or an operation that wouldn’t quite go according to plan; just small things like signals not being relayed properly, or someone not being where they should be. But the more they read, the more common these little ‘mistakes’ seemed to be. As she and James read and discussed these, often at length, Tabitha couldn’t shake the feeling that she was missing something, like that one elusive piece of the puzzle that couldn’t be found.
“Maybe it’s under the sofa cushions.” James joked when she shared this analogy with him. He then made a big show of pushing her off the sofa so he could check.
“You’re such an idiot,” Tabitha told him from where she was now sitting on the rug. “Look, I just meant that I feel like the answer is right in front of us, that these files are telling us who the rat is, but I can’t work it out.” She picked up the file she had been reading and flipped through it again. “Something is not right here,” She sighed. “There are just too many mistakes for it to be a coincidence. Someone was definitely sabotaging them.”
“Well I think we’ve established that,” James rolled his eyes as he picked up another file that he had read several times already and sat down on the now rearranged cushions.
“Oh shut up, you’re no help at all.” She grumbled. James laughed and teasingly poked her with his foot. Tabitha stuck her tongue out, only causing James to laugh louder.
The week before the Hogsmeade visit, Tabitha found herself facing a bump in her Peter-free road: Valentine’s Day. As February 14th crept closer, Tabitha started to feel more and more despondent about not having a boyfriend. She knew it was stupid and she knew that she didn’t really want to make up with Peter, but she couldn’t escape the relationship reminders that the day brought with it. On the morning of Valentine’s Day, Tabitha dragged herself from bed and forced herself to dress and do her hair, determined not to look sad and depressed no matter how she might feel; she wasn’t about to give Peter the satisfaction of seeing her miserable.
“Good Morning Gorgeous!” Rowan greeted Natalie, kissing her lightly on the lips when the girls entered the common room. Natalie kissed him back and then glanced at Tabitha uncertainly.
“Hey, don’t stop on account of me!” She laughed, holding up her hands in surrender, although she did slip out the portrait hole as quickly as she could with Rheydyn and Annie. They made their way to the Great Hall, Tabitha choosing to sit facing the Ravenclaw for the first time since her break-up with Peter. She saw him sitting with a group of his friends, and squared her shoulders, resolving to look strong and happy as she put some bacon on her plate. She looked up to talk to Rheydyn, but noticed that she was deep in conversation with Charlie, giggling slightly more than necessary and playing with a strand of her hair.
“All I can say is thank Merlin they don’t decorate for this holiday like they do with Christmas and Hallowe`en,” James commented as he slid into the empty space next to Tabitha, Natalie and Rowan taking up the space across the table from them. Tabitha smiled as she imagined pink hearts floating from the enchanted ceiling.
“Imagine if they made everyone wear pink robes all day,” She laughed, causing James and Rowan to both wrinkle their noses in disgust.
“Or made us all take love potions so we followed people around all day,” Rowan put forward.
“Or served love-heart shaped pancakes for breakfast,” Natalie suggested.
“Or gave us that awful pink tea that they serve at Madam Puddifoot’s,” James mused. The other three turned to him with surprised looks.
“How do you know what they serve at Madam Puddifoot’s?” Rowan asked slowly, sounding like he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer.
“Oh…well…I, um, well you know…” James stammered, suddenly becoming very interested in his pumpkin juice.
“You’ve been there before haven’t you?” Tabitha squealed before bursting into peals of laughter; she was soon joined by the others, who were only further encouraged by James’s red face.
“I went in fifth year when I was going out with Katie Chang from Ravenclaw,” He mumbled in to his tea, causing his friends to burst in to a fresh round of laughs.
“So how many times have you been? Or are you a regular customer there?” Tabitha teased.
“He probably pops in every week or so,” Natalie grinned before depositing a mouthful or porridge in her mouth.
“Madam Puddifoot herself probably knows him by name!” Rowan chortled.
“And calls him ‘Jamsey Wamsey’!” Tabitha giggled.
“Oh, shut up Hart!” James playfully shoved the laughing Tabitha. She pushed him back, still laughing, when her eyes met another pair across the room. Peter was staring at the four Gryffindors laughing and joking together. When their eyes met, he raised an eyebrow and shot her a contemptuous look. Tabitha felt a pang of hurt in her chest and her breath caught in her throat but she refused to look away; she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. Eventually, the boy sitting next to Peter asked him a question and he looked away, much to Tabitha’s relief. She let out a slow breath and looked away from the Ravenclaw table.
“Just ignore him Tabby,” Rowan said, causing Tabitha to realise that her staring competition with her ex-boyfriend hadn’t been a private affair.
“He doesn’t deserve your attention,” Natalie added. She looked around the table until her eyes met James, who had an odd expression on his face. At that moment, the sound of the morning owl post filled the Great Hall, causing most people to glance up. Many students had sent gifts and cards to their friends and those they hoped would be more than friends, so it was a busy morning. Tabitha was surprised at the small pile of envelopes that ended up in front of her. She looked over at Annie, who was surrounded by a small army of owls. Tabitha watched was she opened an envelope, read the card and blushed bright red. Annie peeked down the table at a handsome seventh year, before turning back to her pile of Valentines.
Most of the cards were from her friends, one even being from her father; however there was one card that had no name. It was a small, simple, heart-shaped card that simply said: You are more incredible than you realise. Happy Valentine’s Day Tabitha.
“Did you get one like this?” Tabitha asked Natalie, who was gushing over the bracelet Rowan had sent her. “It doesn’t have a name on it.” Natalie took the card and read it, turning it over to check the back.
“Looks like you’ve got a secret admirer Tabby,” She grinned, handing it back over. Tabitha blushed slightly as both of the boys turned to look at her.
“Woo, go Tabby!” Rowan teased. “See, you don’t need Smythe – guys are lining up to go out with you!"
“It’s one Valentine,” Tabitha muttered as she slipped the card back in its envelope. “I’d hardly say that constitutes a line.” She laughed derisively. James raised his eyebrows at her before shaking his head and turning back to his breakfast. He didn’t speak to her again until after Potions that afternoon.
“Hey, Hart. I was thinking we could work on that Muggle Studies essay this evening; maybe in the library?” He said, giving her a pointed look.
“Haven’t you finished that already Potter?” She sighed, trying not to smile. “Alright, I suppose I can take pity and help you out.”
“Thanks Hart, you’re so kind,” James replied sarcastically, also trying not to smile as he brushed past her. Tabitha was in a good mood for the rest of the day although she wasn’t quite sure why. She told herself that it was because of the anonymous Valentine she had received earlier that day, although somehow that didn’t quite seem to fit. She wasn’t about to question it too much though, and just enjoyed the rest of her afternoon.
After dinner, she and James wandered back up to the common room with the others, under the pretence of getting their Muggle Studies books. Tabitha slipped the diary into her bag before following James back out of the portrait hole. She started to head in the direction of the Room of Requirement, but James grabbed her hand. “I’ve got a quick detour for us to make.” He said, pulling the confused Tabitha along with him. He led her down to the kitchens, where they met a gaggle of enthusiastic house elves.
“Mr. Potter! Miss Hart! How nice of you to visit!” A small elf named Bitsy, whom Tabitha met on her previous visit to the kitchens, greeted them joyfully. “Come, sit by the fire and Bitsy will get you something to eat!” She chirruped.
“Oh Bitsy you are so great,” James smiled, ducking down to her level like one would a small child. “But we actually have some studying to do. We were wondering if you could grab us a few snacks to take with us?” Bitsy gave James a coy little smile before bobbing a quick curtsy.
“Of course Mr. Potter, quick as a flash.” She said, before bustling through the busy kitchen. James was about to stand back up when another house elf, even smaller than Bitsy, came trundling by. He was carrying about 50 clean plates in a precarious stack. Unfortunately, the stack meant he didn’t see James’s bag, which he promptly tripped over. Plates flew everywhere, smashing against walls and the stone floor, while the poor little house elf was splayed amongst the mess. James quickly pushed himself forward on to his knees and reached out a hand to the elf.
“Are you ok mate?” He said as he effortlessly helped the shaking creature to his feet. “I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have just left my bag on the floor like that.” The house elf stared with his saucer-like eyes at James, who was still kneeling, watching him with a worried expression.
“I…I…I is sorry Mr. Potter sir,” The elf stammered. “I was not seeing your bag, I is a clumsy house elf.” He looked like he was about to cry.
“Not at all,” James reprimanded him gently. “The fault was completely mine. You were just trying to do your job and I come barging in, leaving my things lying about. I am the one who is sorry.” The house elf continued to stare at James, dumbfounded. Tabitha felt a slight pattering in her heart as she watched the kind way in which James spoke to the creature. “Now, let’s get these plates cleaned up shall we?” James continued when it became apparent that the house elf was not going to speak.
“I’ll get it,” Tabitha offered, glad for the distraction. It made her uncomfortable when she saw this side of James; she wasn’t sure what to do with it. She waved her wand in the direction of the plates and muttered, “Reparo.” The pieces of china flew together, forming themselves into a neat stack, which the house elf caught deftly before winding his way back through the kitchens. At this moment, Bitsy came back, a small basket in her hands.
“Bitsy is sorry for taking so long,” She apologised, handing the basket to James.
“Not at all Bitsy, you are an absolute star,” James replied with a smile, before pushing himself back on to his feet. “Have a good night you lot,” He called to the room at large as the two students slipped back out in to the quiet hallway and began their descent to the seventh floor. “Thanks for your help in there,” James said, as they trudged up a staircase. “I mean they’re house elves, they could have fixed the plates themselves but…”
“It’s the principle?” Tabitha finished his sentence. James smiled at her.
“Exactly. I mean they’re not humans but that doesn’t mean they’re not people, you know what I mean?” He said. Tabitha nodded; she knew exactly what he meant. They had reached the room of requirement and she waited patiently while James opened it up for them.
“Your Aunt was big on House Elf Liberation, wasn’t she?” Tabitha asked once they were safely inside with the door locked behind them. She remembered how appalled Hermione had been when Ron had suggested interrogating the house elves about Rose’s poisoning.
“Yeah,” James replied, unpacking the food from the basket. “Still is. Dad and Uncle Ron are pretty big on it too, though maybe not to the extent that Aunt Hermione is.” He grinned as he handed Tabitha a bottle of pumpkin juice, “Though I’m not sure anyone could care about House Elves more than her. To House Elves,” he laughed, holding his bottle in the air. Tabitha mimicked him before they clinked their bottles together.
“Have you seen that report from August 24th?” Tabitha asked an hour and a half later. She didn’t look up but continued to scan the page in her hand.
“Um….is that the one about the raid on that shop in Knockturn Alley?” James asked, shuffling through a pile of files.
“Yep, that’s the one,” She replied, finally looking up from her seat on the sofa. James, who was sprawled on the floor, propped himself up on his knees and handed her the piece of parchment.
“You on to something?” He asked as she took the page from him.
“Hmmmm…not quite sure,” She replied, scanning the new page before comparing it with the first one. James continued to watch her as she compared the two pages in her hand with several spread out on the sofa next to her. “Oh. My. Merlin.” She whispered, causing James to sit up a bit.
“What? What did you find?” He asked.
“It’s…I’ve worked it out,” She gasped, looking up to meet his eyes. “The rat, the person on the inside. It’s Wilson.” She laughed, not a humorous laugh, but one of relief. James felt his eyes widen and he quickly climbed to his feet.
“How do you know?” He asked, stepping towards her with his hand out to take the page from her. Suddenly, his foot slipped on a piece of parchment, causing him to slide forward and lose his balance. Tabitha instinctively reached out and grabbed his arm to stop him from falling but he was stronger and heavier than her and already falling backwards at a fast rate. Tabitha felt herself yanked from the sofa and pulled down to the ground with James. They landed with a thud before Tabitha realised the position they were in.
James was lying flat on his back, various pieces of parchment surrounding him. Tabitha, who had been pulled down directly on top of him became all too aware of her body. Her legs straddled his hips and she was splayed across his chest, their faces less than an inch apart, foreheads and noses touching. Tabitha took a short breath and forgot to exhale as her eyes met James’s. Their torsos were pressed together and she could feel his rapid heartbeat, racing with her own.
“Hi,” James whispered, their faces so close that his breath danced across her lips.
“Hi,” She whispered back.
She wasn’t sure how long they stayed in that position. It felt like hours, though in reality it was less than a minute. But Tabitha couldn’t seem to pull herself away from him. She hadn’t been this close to a boy since she had broken up with Peter and she had almost forgotten what it felt like. The way her insides were tap dancing and her pulse was drumming were not at all unpleasant; but the thing that held her attention was the look in James’s eyes. They were blazing, the golden flecks glistening as he stared intensely at her.
A piece of wood on the fire suddenly crackled loudly, causing Tabitha to jump. Her forehead smacked painfully into James’s, causing both to cry out in pain. The spell broken, Tabitha pushed herself off of James and sat on the floor with her back against the couch, rubbing her head. James sat up slowly and slid next to her, rubbing the heel of his hand against his forehead.
“Sorry,” Tabitha said. “Are you ok?” She added, pulling his hand away so she could get a good look at his forehead. There was a slight red mark but otherwise he seemed fine. James reached over and brushed her hair off her face, tucking it gently behind her ear as she studied his brow. “Just a bump, I think you’ll survive,” she stuttered.
"Good to know," He smiled at her, causing a ripple of excitement to run through Tabitha’s veins. She pushed herself away from him, heart pounding.
“We should clean this up and get back to the common room.” She said, her voice ever so slightly unsteady. “It’s almost curfew and I have rounds in half an hour,” She added. She crawled around, scooping up pages and piling them together hastily, forcing herself to ignore the fact that James was still watching her.
AN: So, I thought I'd better get this chapter out while I have some time. I'll try and get the next one out soon because the next chapter is pretty exciting...well I think so anyway :)
Thanks for all the reviews, I'm so glad you're all enjoying it. Please keep reading and reviewing!
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