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Matters of the Hart by Flavia
Chapter 27 : Confusion
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 17


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I own nothing you recognise.

“For the record, I think you’re wrong; we would be great together.” ~James Potter



It was hard to tell who was more surprised, James or Tabitha. Neither of them had really expected this to happen – especially Tabitha. And yet, here she found herself, pressed up against the Quidditch captain she so despised, hidden behind a stone animal outside the library.

And she was loving every second of it.

James lowered his hands from the wall to her shoulders and pulled her closer. Tabitha wrapped an arm around his neck and kissed him harder, as though trying to communicate all of her anger and frustration through her lips. James let out a small chuckle. This was the wrong thing to do; it seemed to break the spell and Tabitha pulled back suddenly, gasping for air and glaring at him once more. 

“What did I do this time?” He asked, his hands still holding the tops of her arms. Tabitha could feel herself blushing furiously; he smiled at her cheekily. “Oh c’mon Hart, you can’t seriously blame this one on me…you made the move!” He said gleefully, laughing softly to himself.

“What is so funny?” She snapped, realising her arm was still wrapped around his neck. She pulled it down, but they were so close there was nowhere else to put it other than against his chest. 

“You are.” James murmured and kissed her again. Tabitha tried to remember why she had pulled away from him, but it was hard to think when he was kissing her like this. A little part of her seemed to be protesting, but that part of her was growing smaller and smaller as his hands wrapped around her back, pulling her into a close embrace. She slid her arms around his neck and leaned into the kiss, sighing contentedly as she did so.

This went on for a few minutes, neither really caring about what was going on around them until they heard Rowan’s voice.

 

“I’m sure they haven’t gone far.”

James pulled away first this time, turning his head in the direction of his friend’s voice. He kept his arms around Tabitha though, and they both waited, holding a single breath lest they be heard.

"What is with them lately? I mean I know they always bicker like an old married couple-” James looked down at Tabitha and smiled “-but this has gotten ridiculous. It’s only a matter of time before she crucios him!”

They stood there in silence, while their best friends continued to discuss their concerns. Tabitha’s feet were starting to fall asleep, but she didn’t mind. It felt nice being wrapped up in James’s arms like this. James must have been enjoying himself too, because he lowered his head and kissed Tabitha’s neck, just below her earlobe. Tabitha felt herself shudder involuntarily, and James smiled, continuing to nuzzle her gently. Tabitha could hear the blood rushing in her ears, but all her reasons for hating James seemed insignificant now. As he lowered his lips to her collarbone, she struggled to remember why she hated him so much. 

They heard Natalie and Rowan walk away, and James lifted his lips to Tabitha’s once more. 

“We should go.” She murmured gently.

“Mmmm,” James replied, but he pulled away, grinning at her. “We had better go find them. You want to tell them? Or shall I?” Tabitha's heart began to beat a little faster as her brain registered the meaning of his words.

“Um…I…well…” She mumbled. James raised an inquiring eyebrow. “It’s just…I’m not sure we should say anything.” She finished weakly. An odd look crossed James’ face. What was that? Tabitha wondered. Hurt? James grabbed Tabitha’s wrists and pulled her arms from his neck. 

“Geez Hart. Are you serious?” He hissed angrily. Tabitha just stared at him. “I can’t believe I actually thought I’d managed to get through to you! What was all this then?” He asked, motioning to the space between them, "Just some game?”

Tabitha frowned at him; she was hurt by his rant.

“I didn’t mean…” She whispered. “Not a game.” She added pathetically. James glared down at her eyes, and his face softened slightly. “I’m just…I’m not sure what this is.” She finished lamely.

“Well when you work it out, will you please tell me?” He replied. “Because as much as I’ve enjoyed this, I’m not going to be snogging you behind ol’ Buckbeak here for ever.” With one last lingering glare, he stepped out from behind the alcove and disappeared back down the hall.

Tabitha leaned back against the wall, covering her face with her hands. She stood this way for a while, waiting for her nerves to settle down and her heart to stop racing. She was somewhat disturbed by the events of the last quarter of an hour, and even more concerned about how much she had enjoyed it. 

Eventually, Tabitha regained control of her body, but her mind continued to churn. Deciding she wasn’t going to achieve anything more that night, she stood up and headed back to the library. She paused in the doorway, scanning the room carefully, but James was nowhere to be seen. Tabitha quickly gathered her books and made her way back up to Gryffindor tower.

“Hey, where did you get to?” Natalie pounced on Tabitha when she entered the common room. “James came back without you but he wouldn’t tell us what had happened.”

“Oh…we were just arguing. You know what we’re like.” Tabitha muttered, ignoring the strange look her friend was giving her. Not waiting around for any more awkward questions, Tabitha climbed the stairs to the empty dormitory. She quickly changed in to her pyjamas and slipped into bed, pulling the hangings closed around her. 

She lay flat on her back, staring into the darkness as she replayed the evening over and over again. She remembered the feel of his lips against hers, the strength of his arms as they pulled her towards him. She could still remember the smell of his hair: a mixture of broomstick wax, toast and butterbeer. It would have been a perfect moment, except for the fact that it was with James Potter.

James Sirius Potter, the boy who had been her enemy since she was eleven years old; the person who made it his life’s mission to annoy her, to tease her constantly and provoke her into arguments. James Potter, who had made nasty comments about her boyfriend and had pushed her over in the shrieking shack, nearly causing her to break her wrist. He was the boy who inflamed her temper, who inspired her to hurl hexes in the corridors and become violent in her classes. 

Then again, he was also the captain of her winning Quidditch team, something he was exceptionally good at. He had a half decent sense of humour and could make her laugh when he wasn’t making her angry. He had a good heart, always looking after his siblings and cousins (even if it did drive Lily mad). An image flashed across Tabitha’s mind of James running to the hospital wing, an unconscious Rose bundled in his arms. He was kind and respectful to house elves and wasn’t afraid to stand up to bullies like Alexander Shreve; and something Tabitha certainly couldn’t deny was how safe she felt around him – at least when he wasn’t pushing her into dark tunnels!

Tabitha’s conflicted contemplations kept her awake for a long time, well into the night. At some point she heard the other girls come in and get ready for bed; she lay, still and silent, listening to the sounds of them moving around the dormitory.

“Tabby, are you awake?” Annie’s voice whispered, just on the other side of Tabitha’s bed hangings. “Tabby is everything ok? Nat said you were upset about something.” Tabitha didn’t respond, choosing instead to pretend she was asleep. It must have convinced Annie, because no more questions came and before long, all of the lights in the room had been extinguished. Tabitha continued to toss and turn, eventually drifting off.

After only a few hours of fevered sleep, Tabitha found herself wide awake once more. She peered out from her hangings to see a very dim glow at the windows. It was early – very early – and from the deep breathing that echoed around the room, her dorm mates were still fast asleep. Sleep had not cleared Tabitha’s mind like she had hoped, and her thoughts still whirled like a dark thunderstorm around her mind. Fatigued and frustrated, Tabitha crawled silently out of bed, pulled on some clothes and made her way down stairs. 

The halls of Hogwarts were silent and deserted in the early hours of the morning. Although she doubted if even Professor Sprout would be up so early, Tabitha wondered if she would get in trouble if a teacher caught her. She made it to the front steps of the castle without meeting another soul though, not even Peeves or one of the ghosts. She pulled her hat down snugly over her ears and tightened her scarf as she sauntered through the snow towards the Quidditch pitch. She retrieved her broomstick from the broom shed, not noticing the absence of another broomstick that usually lived in the Gryffindor cupboard.

Tabitha walked out on to the pitch, mounted her broom and kicked off from the ground, relishing in the icy bite of the freezing wind on her face. She zoomed through several laps of the pitch before she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. Someone or something was on the pitch with her. Spinning around, she pulled her broom to a stop only to face James, balanced on a broom halfway across the pitch. Instantly, Tabitha felt a swooping sensation in her stomach that had nothing to do with the fact that she was fifty feet in the air. She stared at him for a moment longer, noting the irony of the fact that she had come here to stop thinking about James only to run straight in to him. James pointed towards the ground before turning his broom that way. She hesitated for a moment, but Tabitha knew she was going to have to face him eventually so she followed suit, alighting nervously next to him when she reached the ground. She wasn’t sure what to say so she was happy to follow James to the stands where they sat down next to each other and stared straight ahead, resisting the urge to look at each other. 

“I couldn’t sleep,” Tabitha said eventually, causing James’s head to snap towards her. “I thought a fly might clear my mind.”

“Me too,” James smiled pallidly at her. “Any luck?”

Tabitha let out a sigh and looked at him sideways.

“I don’t know.”

They sat in silence for another minute before James spoke again.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” He said quietly. Tabitha gave an emotionless laugh.

“I probably deserved it. Merlin knows I’ve yelled at you enough times over the years.” She said. James chuckled quietly to himself.

“I always get a bit worried when you’re not mad at me,” He grinned. “Although this violent streak you’ve developed I could live without.”

They sat in silence for a few more minutes, watching as the world around them lightened ever so slightly with the rising sun.

“I meant what I said last night though,” James eventually said not looking at her. “About working out what this is; I’d kind of like to know.”

Tabitha didn’t know what to say to him, didn’t know what to tell him because she didn’t really know herself.

“I still don’t know,” She admitted. “I’m sorry,” and she really was. James continued to stare straight ahead.

“You kissed me,” He stated.

“I know,” Tabitha sighed as a rather vivid memory of it came back to her.

“A lot,” He added.

“Look Potter,” She sighed. “You and me...we’re…well we’re not exactly great together are we? We are always trying to kill each other and last night was, well I don’t know what it was but I don’t think it’s something you can base a relationship on.” She said this all in one breath, and now that she’d started to speak, she inhaled deeply and continued before she lost her nerve. “And after everything that happened with Peter, I’m not sure I could handle all of this again. He really hurt me.” She whispered the last four words, afraid of admitting something so private. James listened to this in silence, still staring stoically ahead. He didn’t reply for a minute, as though contemplating his response. 

“You know what,” He finally said. “I think that’s a load of crap.” Tabitha shot him a surprised stare but he continued to look across the Quidditch pitch. “I don’t know if you are scared or if you are just so used to hexing me that you don’t know how to do anything else, but there is something between us and there has been for a while now. I know Smythe is an idiot and he treated you really badly but I am nothing like him – I thought you realised that. I would never speak to you like he did, or give you such little respect. If you’re going to reject me then fine, I’ll deal with it, but you need to be honest with yourself first.” He finished his speech and stood up, calmly moving past her. When he reached the stairs he turned back. “And for the record, I think you’re wrong; we would be great together.”



Tabitha sat in the Quidditch stands for a long time, well after the sun had risen into the sky. Eventually, she realised that if she didn’t hurry she would be late for Herbology so she made her way back up to the dormitories to have a shower. Everyone else was in the Great Hall eating breakfast and Tabitha was thankful that she didn’t have to answer any uncomfortable questions. Pulling on her school robes, she grabbed her bag and ran down to the greenhouses, getting there just as Professor Longbottom opened the door. Annie raised an eyebrow at her quizzically, but Tabitha simply slipped onto a stool at one of the benches and took out her books. She was acutely aware of James sitting nearby but she couldn’t work up the nerve to look at him.

She was grateful for the excuse to focus on her work so she didn’t have to talk to anyone, except for a few non-committal platitudes when Annie pressed her. She continued on through most of the day like this, completely lost in her own thoughts. James’s words seemed to be following her around the castle, haunting her with their honesty. She knew he was right; there was something going on between them and when she looked back over the school year, it was blindingly obvious. He made her laugh, she got tingles every time he touched her, he made her feel safe and most importantly, she trusted him. As she sat in a Transfiguration lesson, not paying any attention to Professor McQuillen’s voice, a series of images flashed across her mind. James throwing himself in front of her to stop a speeding bludger; James standing at the foot of her bed in the hospital wing, eyes full of concern; Dancing at the Ball with him, their fingers interlocked; Peter calling her a liar while James defended her honour; standing in the kitchens, surrounded by broken plates, James comforting a distraught house elf; Sitting on the sofa in the Room of Requirement, her body wracked with sobs while James held her tight and comfortingly.

A slight shiver ran down Tabitha’s spine as she realised how much James meant to her. Her relationship with Peter had been fun and exciting, but when it came to James there was something else, some sort of spark. Maybe it was the way he could push her buttons or the fact that he seemed to know her better than she knew herself. Tabitha wasn’t sure, but she was beginning to realise that she couldn’t imagine her life without James in it.

And yet, she couldn’t reconcile herself completely to the idea of a relationship with James. She had been at loggerheads with him for so long it would feel odd to suddenly become the opposite of that. There was also the fact that he liked to tease and frustrate her constantly, and seemed to find her anger amusing. He can be such an arrogant prat, Tabitha told herself, remembering the way he liked to flaunt his Quidditch captaincy in front of her, although when she was honest with herself she had to admit that he did seem to respect her as a member of the team. He was the son of Harry and Ginny Potter, two exceptionally famous personalities in the wizarding world, and that could be a bit overwhelming although having met his parents, Tabitha knew that the Potter’s were an extremely normal and down-to-earth family. She found herself clutching at straws to come up with reasons why she and James would never work, and the excuses were starting to sound pretty pathetic – even to herself. The truth was that as much as Tabitha was her own person and appeared strong-willed and confident most of the time, she was terrified of what other people would think of her if she suddenly started dating James Potter. She knew her friends would support her, Annie would think it was super exciting and Natalie would just want her to be happy; even Rheydyn seemed to be moving on from her crush on James. But there were other girls, girls who wouldn’t be too pleased if she started holding James’s hand and kissing him in public. It seemed so shallow, but Tabitha truly dreaded the idea of being hated. And she knew that the hatred from the Ravenclaw table would only intensify if Peter’s accusations became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Peter’s belief that she had been going around with James behind his back would only be further supported by a real relationship. It was enough drama to drive the most level headed person completely insane. 

“Miss Hart, would you care to practise the Avis spell or are you already an expert at N.E.W.T level conjuring spells?” Professor McQuillen’s voice startled Tabitha out of her contemplations, causing the students at the desk nearby to turn around in surprise. 

“Sorry Professor, I’ll get right to work,” Tabitha replied sheepishly, picking up her wand and waving it the air. A few yellow feathers burst from the end. “I guess I need that practise,” She shrugged. Professor McQuillen gave her a grim smile and wandered to the next table. Tabitha sighed as she glanced across the room and met a pair of golden-brown eyes. James sat watching her over his shoulder. Embarrassed, she quickly looked down at her desk top, wishing she knew what on earth she was going to do.

After skipping breakfast and only grabbing an apple on her way to hide in the library during lunch, Tabitha was famished when dinner rolled around. She stopped in the wide doorway of the already busy Great Hall, assessing the Gryffindor table. Rowan and James were sitting with Natalie and Annie. She spotted Rheydyn sitting a little further down the table and considered sitting with her until she realised Charlie was also there and they appeared to be deep in conversation. Tabitha wondered how suspicious the others would be if she sat alone for the meal.

While she was still considering the least awkward place to sit and wallow in her emotional turmoil, Tabitha was distracted by a scuffle across the Great Hall. A small Hufflepuff boy tripped over someone’s bag and pitched headfirst into the back of a rather large Ravenclaw at the next table. Unfortunately for the boy, who couldn’t have been any older than a first-year, the person he had collided with was Alexander Shreve. The sixth-year stood, his beater’s body towering over the tiny form of the startled first-year. 

“Oi, what’re you playing at squirt!” He growled, causing all of the students in hearing distance to turn around curiously. The young Hufflepuff opened and closed his mouth like some demented fish, obviously unable to speak. “Well? I was eating there –” He gestured wildly at the table behind him. “–And you’ve interrupted me. What have you got to say for yourself?” 

“But…I didn’t…it was an accident…” The boy stammered hopelessly, cowering in Alexander’s shadow. Tabitha’s blood ran cold as she stared at the tiny boy who was now visibly shaking with fear. A quick glance at the staff table told her that the few teachers there hadn’t noticed the altercation yet. Tabitha started to panic, somebody needed to do something. She was about to storm over there herself when a familiar voice cut through the air.

“Hey Shreve, haven’t I told you before to pick on someone your own size?” James was standing now, facing Alexander with an angry glare on his face. 

“Stay the hell out of this Potter, it’s none of your business,” Alexander snarled, glancing up at James before sneering back at the terrified first year. Obviously James didn’t agree with this because in the next heartbeat, James jumped up on the bench next to him, marched over the top of the Hufflepuff table and jumped down the other side, swiftly positioning himself between the young boy and Alexander. Tabitha gasped, her hands now covering her mouth as she stood, stunned and still in the doorway.

“Actually Shreve, when you pick on innocent first years, it becomes my business,” James replied in a calm voice, although Tabitha could hear the angry edge to it. He had pulled out his wand and had it pointed in front of him – an obvious warning. The Hufflepuff boy took a few hurried steps backwards before his friends reached out their hands and dragged him on to the bench, safe in their fold. 

“Oh stop playing the hero Potter,” spat Alexander. “I wasn’t going to hurt him…much. Anyway, he’s just some little Hufflepuff, no great loss there.” Tabitha’s eyes narrowed in fury at this; however it was James who spoke the words she was thinking.

“For your information Shreve, there is nothing wrong with being a Hufflepuff. Some of the greatest wizards and witches out there were Hufflepuffs.  I’d rather be a Hufflepuff than a stupid, self-obsessed Ravenclaw any day. Now are we going to drop this or am I going to have to hex you?” James stared at Alexander until he rolled his eyes and slouched out of the Great Hall, shooting Tabitha an annoyed glare as he passed. But Tabitha was completely oblivious to Alexander, or anyone else for that matter. She couldn’t drag her eyes away from James, who was now crouching down to talk to the young Hufflepuff boy, making sure he was alright. Tabitha’s heart was pounding and her hands were shaking as James’s words ran through her mind, ‘Some of the best wizards and witches out there were Hufflepuffs…I’d rather be a Hufflepuff than a stupid, self-obsessed Ravenclaw…”

Just like that moment in the train six years earlier, James’s words caused her to lose all rationality and give over to her feelings, only this time his words and her feelings were the complete opposite. Her thoughts clearer than they’d been all day, Tabitha found her feet carrying her across the room towards James. He stood up as she approached, watching her cautiously. At least half of the eyes in the Great Hall were on them as she reached him. Without hesitation, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed James square on the lips. He rocked back slightly from the force but soon regained balance, wrapping his arms around her and kissing back. When Tabitha pulled away with a blushing smile, James simply grinned back at her. She became very aware that the conversation had disappeared and everyone (including every teacher) was staring at them. Tabitha briefly took in Peter, who was clutching a fork, his knuckles white; Professor Longbottom, a huge grin on his face and the small Hufflepuff boy James had defended, looking completely puzzled. The stunned silence around them was broken by Natalie.

“About bloody time!” She exclaimed, causing nervous giggles to break out around the hall. With a sly grin, James wrapped his hand around Tabitha’s and whispered in her ear.

“You hungry?” He asked.

“Famished,” She replied, and hand in hand, they wandered over to the Gryffindor table.




AN: Ok, so they've finally got their act together... for now!  I hope you liked this chapter, I know it was fairly low on action and there was a lot of thinking and feelings, but I felt like that was important for Tabitha's development.  It just wasn't realistic for her to kiss James and then suddenly forget that she hated him, so she had to work thorough it.

Thanks to everyone for your reads and reviews, it just makes me happy to hear how many people like this story, I'm so glad you're all enjoying it.  Please keep reading and reviewing and I'll get the next chapter up as soon as I can.
 
 


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