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Matters of the Hart by Flavia
Chapter 26 : Just Stick to the Plan
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 17


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I do not own the brilliance of JKR...I just have fun with it!


 

“What did that look like? James Potter being nice to Tabitha Hart. Wow.” ~Natalie Cooper



 

“Bertie Bott’s?”

“Ew, no. I always seem to get the tripe flavoured ones.”

“Pepper Imps?”

“Seriously?”

“Okay, how about Chocolate Frogs?”

“Ahhh…now you’re speaking my language!”

Natalie picked up a box of the sweets and handed them to Tabitha before the two girls continued to peruse the shelves of Honeydukes. They had spent the morning in Hogsmeade trying to keep out of the cold. Annie had disappeared with the handsome seventh year who had sent her a Valentine and Rheydyn had surprised them all by going on a date with Charlie, leaving the two friends to wander around the town together, gossiping and joking.

“Why hello there ladies,” A familiar voice cause Tabitha to whirl around on the spot, nearly knocking over a display of discounted Valentine’s chocolates. James and Rowan stood in front of them, scarves around their necks, and their cheeks pink from the brisk wind outside. James grinned at Tabitha’s startled face, as though he knew how much her heart was racing at the sight of him. Tabitha steadied herself and forced a calm smile on to her face. The truth was, her insides were dancing the conga at James’s smile. Tabitha had been avoiding James for the last few days, ever since their encounter in the Room of Requirement. Much to her mortification, she hadn’t been able to get that moment out of her head and it was slowly driving her insane. Her heart would race, her breath would catch in her throat and butterflies would dance around her stomach every time the memory crept into her mind. The most ridiculous part of it was that James was making her incredibly nervous, and yet he still made her furious. Tabitha was beginning to wonder if she had two personalities

“Fancy a butterbeer?” Rowan asked, as the girls paid for their sweets. He wrapped an arm around Natalie and planted a kiss on her forehead.

“Sounds good,” Natalie replied. They wandered out in to the street, where James paused, causing the others to turn and look at him expectantly.

“Actually, I don’t feel like a butterbeer,” He announced. He turned to Tabitha. “Hart, I have a challenge for you.”

“Oh?” Tabitha replied archly, “And what would that be Potter?”

“Well, I was wondering how brave you felt today,” He said, stepping towards her. “You up for the shrieking shack or are you going to chicken out?” He raised an eyebrow at her. It was intended as a challenge and that was exactly how Tabitha took it.

“I am not scared of some run down old house,” She said, meeting his gaze with determination. Rowan and Natalie stood watching the two of them, still and silent in the middle of the snow covered street.

“Well why don’t you prove it then,” James smirked; that was what did it.

“Right, if I come to your stupid haunted house will you shut up about it?” She snapped.

“Of course,” James replied, sounding shocked and offended that she would think anything else.

“Lead the way then,” Tabitha submitted.

“My pleasure,” James grinned, and with a steely glare at each other, they turned and marched down the road, leaving Natalie and Rowan shocked in their wake.

“Oh yeah, no problems, we’ll just be at the pub if you need us!” Rowan called sarcastically after them.

Although her legs were shorter, Tabitha managed to keep up with James, refusing to show any sign of weakness. The annoyance and determination she felt eclipsed any other emotions and Tabitha grasped on to that with all of her might. She realised that when she was focussed on her frustration and irritation with James, that anything else she may have felt was easier to ignore.

They reached the rickety fence that surrounded the property and James hesitated.

“You sure about this Hart?” He teased. “There’s still time to turn back.” Without slowing down, or even acknowledging his jibe, Tabitha marched past him, striding towards the dilapidated house in the distance. She stopped after about twenty feet and turned back to face James.

“Hurry up Potter!” She called. “Or are you scared?” That was enough to motivate James. In a few quick strides he had caught up with Tabitha and led her to the shack. As they reached the building, an eerie silence fell between them. Tabitha felt tingles run down her spine. It wasn’t fear, but rather the anticipation of sneaking into a supposedly haunted dwelling that caused her to shiver with excitement. The snow crunched beneath their feet as the housed loomed over them. Tabitha followed James up the rickety steps on to an old porch, eventually stopping in front of a weathered door.

“You just have to know the right spells,” He smiled, pulling out his wand. Tabitha watched as he tapped several places around the door frame, muttering enchantments as he did so, finishing with a solid tap of his wand on the handle. The door clicked open with a creak.

“How did you…?” Tabitha asked, trying not to look impressed at what she had just witnessed.

“Oh you know, a bit of trial and error,” He smiled, only to be met by Tabitha’s disbelieving stare. “Oh ok,” He consented. “It took the best part of two years and a bit of help from Teddy Lupin. Satisfied?”

“Very,” Tabitha chuckled as James pushed the door open. They walked across the rotting threshold into a wide entrance hall. Tabitha got the impression that it had once been quite grand, but those days were long since passed. There were various pieces of broken furniture, much of which looked like it had been torn apart by some wild creature. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust, including the fragile looking staircase that led to the upper storey. Many of the floorboards looked as though they were rotting, while others were simply missing. Cautiously, Tabitha stepped forward to look around.

“Watch your step,” James warned, reaching out a hand to grab her elbow. Tabitha turned to look at him. “The floor’s a bit unsteady,” he explained. “Come on, I want to show you something,” he continued, leading her to a nearby doorway. They walked through and descended a very dark set of stairs. Tabitha felt the temperature drop and she realised they were descending in to some kind of cellar.

“Where are we going?” She asked, focussing on the moving shape of James before her as they reached the bottom of the steps. They were standing in a small, dark room with a dirt floor. “Merlin’s polka-dot boxers Potter; you’re going to murder me and leave my body down here aren’t you?” She joked as her eyes adjusted to the darkness.

“Not just yet,” James’s voice drifted back to her.

“So this is what you wanted to show me Potter; a dank little room in a decrepit old house? To call this an anti-climax would be a great compliment.” She mocked him.

“Hold your thestrals Hart, it’s not over yet,” He replied, reaching down to something on the ground. Much to her astonishment, he pulled open a small wooden trapdoor. James glanced up at her over his shoulder and grinned when he saw her surprise. “Now the real adventure starts,” he smirked at her before climbing through the hole. “Coming?” His voice drifted out of the dark chasm. Taking a deep breath, Tabitha crouched down and followed him. She found herself in a dark, narrow, low-ceilinged tunnel, her head touching the top.

“What is this?” She asked the darkness.

“Secret tunnel,” James replied. She could only make out his outline in the dimness that came from the opening behind them. “Leads all the way to Hogwarts.”

“Really?” Tabitha could not hide the amazement in her voice. “Where on earth does it come out?”

“Under the Whomping Willow,” James answered. Tabitha laughed.

“Well it would stop anyone trying to get in I suppose,” She smiled into the darkness, taking a nervous step forward. “It really goes all the way to the school?” She asked. It suddenly occurred to her how odd it was that there was a secret tunnel, hidden under a violent tree in the school grounds that led to a supposedly haunted house. She tried to keep her voice steady as she asked, “Is it quite safe?”

“Why don’t you find out?” James dared her. She hesitated, staring into the darkness before her, trying to muster the courage that seemed to be suddenly so elusive. Suddenly, before she could act, she felt a rough nudging against her shoulder. Taken by surprise, her feet slipped on the rocky ground and she pitched forward, hitting something hard, her arm crushed between it and her body. She tried once more to steady herself but fell with a thud to the ground.

“Ow!” Tabitha cried, grabbing her arm in pain as she climbed slowly to her feet. “Did you push me?” 

She heard James snicker nearby.

“Sorry Hart, it was an honest mistake. It is kind of dark in here.” Tabitha heard a scuffling noise that she assumed were his feet. She could feel a wall of dirt behind her and pressed her back against it, thinking it would be safest if she stayed in one spot. The fall had disoriented her and she couldn’t tell which way they had come. “Lumos,” She heard James mutter, his voice very close now, and when the light glowed from his wand tip, she saw he was standing only a foot away, facing her. “Hello there Hart, enjoying yourself?” He smiled at her. Tabitha blinked, blinded momentarily by the light. James seemed to understand her expression and lowered his wand.

“Thanks.” Tabitha replied. She was still nursing her left arm, and she winced a little as her fingers touched a tender spot. James caught this and he cast her a worried look.

“Crap, did I really hurt you?” He asked. Tabitha didn’t respond, torn between the dull ache in her arm and the desire to not let James see her do anything that could be construed as weakness. James watched her for a moment longer and then gently reached out and took her arm in his hands. The moment they touched, Tabitha felt goose bumps run along her skin. James lifted his wand to her arm and examined it carefully. His head was bent, looking carefully at her wrist, and Tabitha was all too aware of how close he was. “I don’t think it’s broken.” He murmured, his warm breath tickling her skin. Tabitha felt her heart rate increase rapidly.

Oh dear Merlin! She thought, what on earth is happening to me? I mean c’mon Tabby…it’s James Potter for goodness sake! He tucked his wand into his pocket, the lit tip poking out of his robes and casting a dim glow across them. His fingers were strangely soft and they held her wrist in a gentle yet firm grip. He looked up and met her eyes, their faces now only inches apart. Tabitha felt trapped, standing between the boy she had despised for so long and a solid wall of dirt. And yet, she felt a thrill of excitement course through her veins. 

“Does it look ok?” She breathed, trying to keep her voice steady.

"I think you’ll be ok.” James replied. He was staring at her quite intensely, and Tabitha could see the same look in her own eyes, reflected in his. He lifted his free hand and brushed a golden curl off her face, tucking it behind her ear. Tabitha shivered. James smirked at the involuntary movement, and in that expression, Tabitha remembered why she was so annoyed at him. Forgetting about the pain in her arm, she pushed him away from her and turned to storm off down the tunnel. She had only gone three steps though, when her foot caught on a rock and she tripped. A strong hand caught her around the waist and hoisted her back to her feet before she fell face-first into the hard dirt floor for the second time. The arm turned her around and she found herself once more face to face with James, his arm still around her waist. He smirked at her again. “Am I making you nervous Hart?” He chuckled. Tabitha tried to step backwards, but he didn’t loosen his grip. She glared at him, fuming; partly because she hated him and partly because she hated the fact her heart was still beating like a jackhammer. 

Tabitha opened her mouth to give some snappy retort, to tell him to let her go, when he suddenly ducked his head and pressed his lips against her own. Tabitha took in a short gasp of air at the surprise attack, but against her better judgement, she felt her own lips pressing back against his. They were, after all, so soft and warm…

No! Wait! Tabitha Hart, this is not happening! Her inner voice screeched. Tabitha pulled her head back, breaking the lip lock and startling James. He stared at her, obviously surprised she had ended the kiss so quickly. Tabitha took a step backwards, and this time he dropped his arm, letting her go. Tabitha looked at both ends of the tunnel. 

“Which way is out?” She demanded, her voice oddly firm, considering her insides were trembling. 

“That way.” James replied weakly, pointing to his right, her left. Tabitha turned and made her way swiftly out of the tunnel. Just as she reached the wooden trapdoor, she became vaguely aware of the sound of footsteps behind her. With a sudden urgency, she pulled herself out of the gap, ran up the basement stairs and took off across the entrance hall of the shrieking shack.

“Hart! Hey Hart! Wait!” She heard him call, but Tabitha kept moving forwards. She reached the door and yanked it open, the cold winter air blasting across her face. She could hear James barrelling up the stairs as she ran across the weathered veranda. “Hart, please just stop would you?” He called again. Tabitha kept moving, down the steps, along the snow covered path…

“Tabitha!” She froze. Like the wind-up toy chicken she’d had as a child, her legs just stopped. She turned on the spot and saw him, standing at the top of the steps. 

“What did you call me?” She asked, as though he had said a bad word.

“Well it is your name isn’t it?” He replied sarcastically, slowly descending the steps. A crow on a nearby branch cawed loudly.

“You’ve never called me that before.” She said, wanting to run away again, but not remembering how to make her legs work. He walked along the path towards her, closing the distance between them. He stopped about a foot away from her. He was close enough to touch, yet he didn’t move to do so.

“You wouldn’t stop. I figured I should take drastic action.” He finally responded, with a small shrug. “Look you’re obviously hurt. Please just let me take you to the hospital wing and then I promise to leave you alone.”

“I can get there by myself. It’s my arm that hurts, not my legs.” Tabitha snapped, taken off guard by the kindness in his voice. Nevertheless, he reached out an arm towards her. “Get away from me!” Tabitha barked at him angrily before she turned on her heel and stormed back down the path towards the village. James sighed deeply before following her. She considered yelling at him again but he had enough sense not to talk to her so she kept her mouth shut. Tabitha fumed silently in her own head instead. Stupid James Potter! What is he playing at? I mean first he tricks me into that stupid tunnel, pushes me over causing bodily injury, tries to act all sweet and kind about it and then he bloody kisses me! She was furious, and yet when she remembered being so close to James that she could count his eye lashes, and the sensation of his lips against hers, she felt an odd swooping sensation in her stomach. 

“Tabby? What’s wrong?” Tabitha looked up at Natalie’s concerned voice. Her inner grumblings had taken her all the way back to the village. She was standing on the road in front of the Three Broomsticks. Natalie and Rowan had just come out of the pub, joined by their gloved hands. Tabitha vaguely noticed James was still next to her.

“I hurt my arm.” She mumbled. “I’m going to see Madam Pomfrey.” And with that she set off down the street once more. James continued on behind her, like a loyal puppy dog. Natalie and Rowan shot each other a mutual look of concern and took off after them. Not wanting to discuss anything, Tabitha picked up her pace until she was almost jogging towards the castle. The others followed in silence, although the two lovebirds continued to shoot each other confused glances. Tabitha reached the stone steps and marched herself up to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey was sitting at her desk, filling up small glass bottles with a purplish liquid and looked up in surprise at the sound of Tabitha’s stomping. 

“Miss Hart, whatever is the matter?” She asked. Her trained eyes were already taking things in, making a quick assessment. 

"I’ve hurt my arm Madam.” Tabitha replied, indicating to her left arm, which she held against her chest. The dull pain she had noticed earlier was starting to burn now. James, Natalie and Rowan came through the door just then, all slightly out of breath, their cheeks and noses pink from the cold air.

“Blimey Tabitha, you can move quickly when you want to!” Rowan gasped. Madam Pomfrey glared at them as she gingerly lifted Tabitha’s arm away from the rest of her body.

“What happened dear?” She asked in her gentle-and-motherly-yet-no-nonsense tone. Natalie and Rowan joined the nurse in her inquiring stare. James looked at his feet.

“I tripped.” The injured girl replied calmly. “I tripped over a tree root and fell against the trunk.” James’ head snapped up and he regarded her curiously. Tabitha ignored this and followed Madam Pomfrey to a bed, where she was instructed to sit.    Her friends waited with her, although none of them spoke while Tabitha was examined, bandaged and administered a sprain-reducing potion. Finally, half an hour after arriving, the four Gryffindors left the hospital wing. Once they were in the hallway, Natalie found her voice again. But she didn’t speak to Tabitha, she turned on James instead.

“What did you do to her? Tripped on a tree root my left foot! I can tell by the guilty look on your face that you caused that injury!” Her voice got higher as her anger increased. James stared at her in utter shock – Sweet, jovial, fun-loving Natalie had never spoken to him like this before. Rowan put his hand gently on her arm. Natalie glanced at him and then pulled her arm away, linking it instead through Tabitha’s uninjured one. Without another word, the two girls headed up the nearest staircase. Neither spoke for a while, not even realising where they were headed until they reached the Owlery.   There, surrounded by sleeping birds, Natalie turned to her friend. “What the hell happened, Tabby? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you that mad before, not even at James.” Tabitha looked confusedly at her friend. Had she really looked that mad? Sure she had felt cross, but it was more the frustration and confusion that was eating away at her. She was surprised then, when she spoke, that her voice came out calm and steady, albeit very quiet.

“It’s nothing Natty, James just pushed me, that’s all.” She said.

“HE WHAT?” Natalie almost exploded. Several owls nearby gave her an annoyed look and fluttered up to higher perches. “He pushed you? Oh I’ll kill him…” She turned to storm back down the stairs but Tabitha stopped her.

“No! Natalie, please don’t. I don’t think he meant to hurt me. It was an accident and he…well I think he felt bad. He was actually nice to me.” The last bit came out as a barely a whisper. Natalie raised her eyebrows.

“Really?” She couldn’t hide her surprise. “Wow…he must have really felt bad.” Tabitha nodded mutely. Natalie let out a small chuckle. “What did that look like? James Potter being nice to Tabitha Hart. Wow.” Tabitha grimaced as she remembered exactly what it had looked like, and felt like.

“Let’s just drop it ok?” She said. “And James and I can go back to hating each other.”


Stupid prat…won’t stick to the stupid plan. Tabitha thought to herself three days later. Of course, she hadn’t actually told him the plan. The plan being that she and James go back to hating each other and continue bickering like they had done for the last five and a half years. The problem was, James wasn’t showing much emotion towards Tabitha at all. He kept eyeing her warily when they passed in the hall or the common room, and it was making Tabitha nervous.

What made her more uneasy though, was the frequency with which she found herself lost in thought, back in that dark tunnel, a black haired boy only inches away from her…

Oh this has got to stop!

Tabitha quickly scribbled something on a piece of parchment. She stood up from the library desk where she had been trying to study and left the large room, dropping the parchment on James’s potions book on the way past. She disappeared into the hallway and stopped, leaned against the cool stone wall and waited. A few minutes later, he appeared in the corridor, a questioning look on his face. “We need to talk,” She hissed. 

“Yeah, I got that impression,” He replied impassively. This frustrated Tabitha; she wanted to slap him until he smirked at her again! She grabbed his arm and dragged him into an alcove behind a large statue of a hippogriff. It was a small space, but it hid them from any curious eyes that passed.

“Can you just please stop!” She snapped at him, once they were out of sight.

“What? I’m not doing anything!” He protested.

“Exactly! You aren’t doing anything at all…it’s weird.” 

“Well I didn’t want to upset you. I mean last time we spoke you practically bit my head off.” He reminded her. Tabitha let out a frustrated sigh.

“Yeah well that’s because you had just tried to kiss me!” She growled. James couldn’t help himself. The old self-satisfied smile flittered across his eyes and settled on his lips.

“I knew that’s what had you all upset,” He grinned at her. Tabitha glared at him, but before she could form a retort, she realised just how close they were standing. It was just like in the tunnel, only lighter…and with a hippogriff. James seemed to notice too and his smirk widened. “That why you pulled me in here Hart?” He whispered, taking a step closer to her. Tabitha stepped backwards and felt her back touch the stone wall. “Can’t stop thinking about it?” He teased. Tabitha glared at him, annoyed at how close to the truth he was. James took another step towards her and lifted his hands, placing them against the wall on either side of her shoulders. Tabitha’s blood seemed to freeze up a little bit, although her ears suddenly became very hot. She tried to take a deep breath, but it felt like all of the air had been sucked out of the room. She raised her hands to his chest to push him away, but it was as though they had forgotten how. She wasn’t sure how long they stood there, his arms imprisoning her, and her hands against his chest. Half of her wanted to shove him as hard as she could and storm away, but the other half of her was secretly wishing he would lower his head and try to kiss her again. James didn’t move though; he stood watching her intently, daring her to leave. She got the feeling that if she wanted to, he wouldn’t stop her. But still she didn’t move.

And then, as though somebody else entirely had taken over her body, Tabitha moved forward, stood on her tip-toes and kissed James Potter.



AN:Ahhhhhh!  They kissed!  Are you as excited as me?  Was it worth the wait?  I actually wrote the scene in the tunnel waaay bak when I'd only written about four chapters.  I had this idea and I knew I had to get it down.  I'm so excited that I finally get to share it with you all.

I'm sorry for the cliffy...well I'm not really because I do love a well-placed cliffhanger, but I'm sorry if it makes you sad or frustrated.  I just want to say a huge "Thank You" to everyone for their lovely support for this story.  You have no idea how much it makes me smile when someone takes the time to tell me that they are enjoying the story, or even to point out their favourite bits.  You guys motivate me to write and to improve as a writer. 

Ok, enough of the sappy stuff!  Thanks for reading, and I hope this chapter made you smile or brightened your day a little bit.  Jabby 4eva!
 


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