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Chapter 28 : And they called it Puppy Love...
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The news that Tabitha Hart and James Potter were dating was the main source of gossip at Hogwarts for about two weeks before it faded into regularity. In that space of time, Tabitha learnt very quickly to ignore people whispering about her as she passed them in the hallways; and pay no attention to the dirty looks from girls who had obviously fancied themselves as the object of James’s affections, only to have their plans ruined by the blonde haired Quidditch chaser.
Despite all of her concerns about what other people might think of her, Tabitha found it mattered a lot less to her when she was with James, particularly when he was holding her hand. This was the extent of most of their public displays of affection, in part because Tabitha was so worried about flaunting their relationship in front of others and partially because James was determined not to be pushy and overbearing like Peter after Tabitha had explained that part of their relationship to him. They spent those early days of their new relationship talking a lot, about anything and everything, although now that she had started kissing James, Tabitha sometimes found it hard to stop. Of course it was always somewhere private such as the room of requirement, or occasionally the Quidditch pitch when she helped him to pack up the equipment after training (which she was much more willing to volunteer for these days); but conversations were still very prominent, and Tabitha found herself with a million questions about James.
“So exactly how long have you been interested in me?” She asked him one lazy Saturday afternoon when they sat in front of the fire in the common room. They were sharing a squashy loveseat, Tabitha leaning gently on his shoulder while he flipped idly through a Quidditch magazine. James laughed,
“To be honest, probably since first year.” He replied.
“First year? Really?” Tabitha was surprised to hear this.
“After that first time you yelled at me on the train, I was completely smitten,” He grinned. “I liked the way you looked when you got angry,” He added. Tabitha snorted derisively.
“Well that explains a lot,” She laughed. “So all this time you really have been trying to make me angry.”
“Of course I have Hart,” He smiled, kissing her lightly on the forehead. “But I didn’t really realise that I fancied you until sometime last year,” he continued. “You, of course were completely clueless and I had to result to annoying you to get you to pay attention to me.”
“Last year?” Tabitha once again sounded surprised. “Why didn’t you do something sooner?”
“Well to start off with I was pretty sure you’d hex me if I tried anything,” He began.
“Fair call,” Tabitha concurred.
“And I guess that I didn’t actually think you felt the same; so I suppose I was a bit worried that you might reject me. Better to stay with the relationship I knew, even if it was completely dysfunctional.”
“I like our dysfunction,” Tabitha mused.
“Yeah, well you’re not the one sprouting horns or getting punched,” James teased.
“So what changed your mind?” Tabitha asked, ignoring his previous comment.
“I dunno,” James said thoughtfully. “I guess this year things just started to feel different. When I touched you or looked at you, there were times where it felt like it was more than just me. It gave me the tiniest glimmer of hope.”
“You’re right, there was something,” Tabitha said, partially to herself as she thought about all the times James had looked at or touched her and her heart had started dancing the conga.
“Then of course stupid Smythe had to ask you out didn’t he?” James continued, a slight edge to his voice. Tabitha reached over and wrapped her hand around his gently. “I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to kill him.”
“Well I’m glad you didn’t,” Tabitha soothed. “Because then you would have been expelled.”
“And I never would have had the chance to wear you down until you were so annoyed you gave in to me,” James laughed.
They weren’t always a sweet lovey-dovey couple though; it simply wasn’t their style. Once every few days they would get into an argument, often ending in Tabitha trying to hit or jinx James, who got rather adept at casting shield charms.
“You are a complete prat, James Potter!” Tabitha snapped one day after Quidditch practise. They had just climbed through the portrait hole and she had turned back to shout the insult over her shoulder. The fight had been going on since the training session, when James had completely ignored Tabitha’s suggestion for a new strategy. She had given him the silent treatment until after they had packed up the equipment and he tried to hold her hand. Their argument had continued all the way across the grounds, up the marble staircase and through several corridors before they reached Gryffindor tower.
“Oh come on Hart, just admit that you’re jealous about my captaincy even though you know I’m awesome at it.” He smirked at her as the portrait swung closed behind him. A few students looked up from their homework or conversations but most of them rolled their eyes and ignored the arguing; everyone was used to Tabitha and James fighting after all these years.
“Oh please Potter, like I’d ever be jealous of you,” Tabitha spat back at him, eyes blazing. “You are so arrogant, you can’t accept that someone else might have a decent idea once in a while!”
“Oh that’s rich coming from you, Little Miss I-think-I’m-the-best-chaser-at-Hogwarts! In case you hadn’t noticed, Professor Longbottom made me Quidditch captain, not you!” Now that he knew how Tabitha felt about him, James had become a lot more willing to stand up for himself in arguments. Of course, it also meant he was more likely to get slapped or jinxed, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when Tabitha whipped out her wand.
“Would you like a pair of giant ears to match that enormous head of yours?” She hissed. In a flash, James had his wand out and had cast an invisible shield charm around himself, he couldn’t be too careful where his girlfriend’s temper was concerned. Tabitha caught this movement and lowered her wand, obviously annoyed that she wasn’t going to be able to vent her anger by jinxing James. “You coward, always casting those stupid shield charms around yourself,” She grumbled.
“I’m a coward? You only jinx me because you know I won’t jinx you back!” James gave a cynical laugh, causing Tabitha’s eyebrows to knit together so tightly it almost looked like she had a mono-brow; it was clear that James had hit a nerve. He was right though, no matter how angry they got, no matter how heated the argument, James had never, ever tried to jinx Tabitha back. He would only cast a shield charm to protect himself and Tabitha knew this. Guilt gnawed at her because the truth was that when she was angry, she sometimes took advantage of his chivalry. James could see from her expression that his comment had been close to the mark and he waited with bated breath for her reaction. For a moment it looked as though she was going to keep shouting at him, maybe even using a few of the muggle swear words she had picked up over the years; then suddenly, and without warning, she seemed to deflate, as though someone had let the air out of her. With a defeated sigh, Tabitha turned on her heel and stomped off to the girl’s dormitories. Relieved, James removed his shield charm and moved towards a table to begin his Charms homework. He knew she would stew about it overnight and then in the morning it would all be fine again. Their fights were intense but they rarely stayed angry at each other for long; they both simply liked the kissing far too much.
The weekend before the last week of term, there was to be a Quidditch match between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Tabitha was exceedingly nervous because the outcome of this game would greatly affect the Quidditch cup. Gryffindor were only 70 points ahead of Ravenclaw, and the entire team knew that if Ravenclaw closed that gap with the points they won from this game (which they almost certainly would), then Gryffindor would have some catching up to do in their final match of the year. Tabitha was also a little jittery because she would have to sit in the stands and watch Peter play. It was easy enough to avoid him at school, avoid the guilt she felt about the fact that his accusations, whilst not exactly accurate, had been grounded in some semblance of the truth. They hadn’t spoken since that day, and as they were in different years and houses, avoidance was easy enough. But now Tabitha was going to have to watch him play, hear his name called out in the commentary and all while sitting next to James.
“You alright Tabby?” Natalie asked as they climbed through the stands to find seats, all of the Gryffindors rugged up against the cold wind. Spring had arrived although on the odd day winter returned, showing its reluctance to be dismissed quite so easily. This was one of those days and they had all donned hats and scarves to stave off the icy air. “You’re looking a little green.”
“I’m fine,” Tabitha plastered on a smile, pushing her nerves to the back of her mind, determined to enjoy the match. “I’m just a bit nervous about the results, you know?” Natalie nodded in understanding. Pretty much all of Gryffindor house were supporting Hufflepuff due to the points/Quidditch cup situation; however James had commented to Tabitha that he was supporting them because they were the better house and deserved their support. She had laughed at this; after his defence of a Hufflepuff had inspired her into publicly accepting a relationship with him, James had become quite eager to show his support for the black and yellow house. Though she rolled her eyes at his antics, Tabitha secretly liked the way he went to this sort of effort to impress her; and she felt that it showed just how much he understood her and the way she felt.
Once they had settled on the firm wooden benches, James wrapped an arm around Tabitha and she snuggled happily into him, glad for the combination of his warmth and his body.
“You two make me sick,” Rowan teased, before leaning over to kiss Natalie gently. Tabitha only laughed and wrapped an arm around James’s waist.
“I have a surprise for you,” James whispered, only just loud enough for her to hear.
“You do? What is it?” Tabitha whispered back.
“If I told you that it wouldn’t be a surprise, then would it.”
“Well then why did you tell me about it just now?” Tabitha looked up at him condescendingly.
“To heighten your sense of anticipation,” James teased, shaking his head as though he was disappointed with her. “You and your need for instant gratification, don’t you realise that the wait will make the end result all that much more exciting?”
“Yeah. Ok. Whatever. You sound like an Agony Witch from one of Annie’s magazines!” Tabitha teased him back, although her curiosity was inflamed; whatever could he have in store for her? She didn’t have much time to wonder about it though, since the Ravenclaw team chose that moment to fly out on to the pitch, putting her ever so slightly on edge. As Hugo called out the names of the players, Tabitha watched the blue and bronze blurs stonily, noticing that both she and James tensed slightly when Peter’s name was announced.
It was an exciting match, the score was much closer than Tabitha had anticipated. Hufflepuff’s new line up had improved the house’s chances of actually winning the match, even if they couldn’t win the cup. After the first half an hour, Tabitha had almost screamed herself hoarse, jumping up and down with excitement every time Hufflepuff scored a goal. The highlight of the game was when Alexander Shreve accidentally hit himself in the head with his own beater’s bat, although to James’s disappointment, he didn’t knock himself out or fall off his broom. Every time Peter’s name was mentioned, Tabitha flinched a little bit, and James would squeeze her hand comfortingly. Whenever he managed to put the quaffle through one of the rings, Tabitha felt a little unsure as to how she should react. If she was too enthusiastic it would look odd but if she sat in stony silence with her arms folded, she would look bitter. She compromised with three unenthusiastic claps for each goal; it was enough that she managed to pass herself off as a disappointed Hufflepuff fan.
Eventually, after the lead had changed four times, John Gable, the Ravenclaw seeker, surprised the entire crowd by diving out of nowhere to catch the snitch and end the game. It happened so quickly that the Hufflepuff chaser who was about to shot for the goals, looked around in surprise when the Ravenclaw keeper suddenly shot past her with a cheer, completely abandoning his post.
Tabitha was certainly feeling a bit despondent about the game, particularly the fact that Ravenclaw had taken the lead in the Quidditch cup standings. Ravenclaw were now 190 points ahead of Gryffindor and if the lions hoped to win the cup again, they were going to have to score at least 200 points in their final match of the year. Tabitha tried not to look too worried or disappointed as the crowd of students began to pour out of the stands and across the laws, back towards the castle.
“Don’t worry, we can win this,” James said comfortingly as they descended the steps. Tabitha gripped on to his arm tightly, the Quidditch stands still made her a little nervous although she doubted that whoever was trying to kill her was going to try the same method twice. “We’re going for a walk,” James told the others when they reached the lawns.
“We are?” Tabitha asked, her voice sounding amused. Their friends gave each other knowing looks that clearly meant they were expecting James to need a shield charm very soon. It wasn’t necessarily wise to tell Tabitha what to do.
“Yes, because I have a surprise for you, remember?” James replied, his voice confident. And he was right to be because, instantly, Tabitha’s face softened.
“Oh yeah, I forgot!” She beamed, biting her lip with excitement as she looked up at him. Relieved they weren’t going to have to witness another fight, the other Gryffindors continued on their way up to the castle, while James led Tabitha towards the lake. They walked along hand in hand for some time, neither one speaking, just enjoying each other’s company. Eventually, when the noise of the crowd of students had died away and the lawns around them were empty, James spoke.
“Ok, time for your surprise,” He grinned, turning and pulling her back across the lawns.
“Where are we going?” Tabitha asked, completely confused.
“Well you know that day I took you to the shrieking shack?” James began. Tabitha nodded with a smile, how could she forget the first time he had kissed her? James took the look of understanding on her face to mean he should continue. Well remember how I said the tunnel leads all the way to Hogwarts? The entrance is under the…”
“Whomping Willow,” Tabitha finished for him as she looked up in surprise, realising that’s exactly where he’d been leading her. Towering over them and waving lazily in the breeze, was the humungous, violent tree. It looked perfectly harmless, but Tabitha knew that if they got any closer that the tree would get extremely defensive. Without another word, James pulled out his wand and levitated a small stick lying nearby. Tabitha watched in surprise as the stick floated towards the tree and pressed hard against a knot at the base of the trunk. Instantly, the branches of the Whomping Willow froze as though they’d been hit with a stunning jinx. With a grin, James pulled on Tabitha’s hand, leading her towards the trunk. There was a small hole underneath one of the exposed roots, barely big enough to squeeze through, but James slipped through, helping Tabitha to climb in behind him. The tunnel was extremely small here and James and Tabitha almost had to crawl through it. They made their way down the tunnel for a while, before James stopped and sat on the dirt floor, pulling Tabitha close to him. She curled up against his shoulder as he lit the tip of his wand to cast a warm glow over them.
“It’s not quite the room of requirement, but I thought you might like it,” James said. “It’s sort of…special, you know?”
“You big sentimental softie,” Tabitha laughed, smiling up at him. “But yes, it is special. After all, we had our first kiss in here.”
“If you can call it that,” James chuckled in response. “If I remember correctly, I broke your wrist and then when I tried to kiss you, you ran away screaming!”
“It was just a sprain and there was no screaming,” Tabitha smirked. “Anyway, I wasn’t running away from you.”
“Really? You could have fooled me,” James replied curiously. “What were you running away from then?”
“Myself,” Tabitha sighed. “The fact that I enjoyed kissing you scared the daylights out of me. And then you said my name…”
“I said your name?” James asked, obviously confused.
“Yeah, you called me Tabitha for the first time. It almost broke my resolve,” Tabitha grinned up at him. “It was pretty irresistible.”
“Well if I’d known that, I would have used your name more often…Tabitha” He smirked devilishly before leaning down to kiss her. Tabitha felt her heart rate speed up as it always did when James kissed her, and yet sitting with him in this dark tunnel made it feel even more exciting than usual. Her arms snaked around his neck and he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her closer.
Sometime later, Tabitha and James finally emerged for air, both out of breath. Tabitha giggled as she ran her fingers through her hair, which had become messy and tangled. James grinned and flattened his own mess of hair.
“We should probably get back, the others will be wondering where we got to,” Tabitha smiled, turning to head back through the tunnel.
“Wait, I just want to do one more thing,” James said, pulling her hand so that she turned back towards him.
“What’s that?” Tabitha asked with a smile.
“Just this,” James smirked as he leaned forward and kissed Tabitha once more, all thought of returning to the castle disappearing from their minds.
AN: Ok so I know I haven't updated this story in forever and I'm very sorry, but I've had the worst case of writers block with 'Matters of the Heart'. I'm still not really past it yet and I don't love this chapter but I'll do my best to work through it for you all :) I have been writing my other fic 'Animal Magnetism' though, so if you haven't checked it out yet, you should definitely do that!
Have a Merry Christmas and I'll try to update soon in the new year.
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