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Chapter 12 : Crushes & Clubs
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The next morning I made sure to wear my stolen treasure, both to prove myself to Tom and simply because I liked it.
“That’s pretty,” Marcella said, peeking out at me from the bathroom. “Did you get that in Hogsmeade?”
“That’s good…did you have a nice time with Tom?”
Her voice was oddly anxious, sounding as if she wanted very badly to say something, but was restraining.
“Yes, of course,” I said, flashing her a brilliant smile to indicate I had an absolutely lovely time with Tom.
“Oh…what did you do?” Marcella asked, attempting to sound nonchalant.
I raised an eyebrow. “Oh, you know…I think the real question is what did you and John do?”
Marcella laughed nervously and swatted at me. “Why would you say that?”
“Come on, I’ve gotta be in Potions in five minutes, and I know you’re just bursting to say something, so spit it out!”
“Ohhh,” Marcella very nearly bounced into the dormitory. “You have to promise not to tell anyone!”
“We kissed!” Marcella whisper-yelled, biting her lip afterward, waiting anxiously for my reaction.
“Cella!” I squealed, managing to inject the appropriate amount of girly excitement into my voice, “You’ll have to tell me all about it at lunch okay? Promise?”
She nodded vigorously and waved goodbye as I set off for options.
Holy mother of Merlin. Marcella had gone out on one date with John Avery and had already kissed him. A little wave of envy assaulted my insides as I crossed the maze of dungeon corridors to Professor Slughorn’s potion’s room. Not because she had kissed John Avery, no, it wasn’t that she had kissed him, it was because she had been kissed at all.
I was supposed to be the experienced one, the smart one, the one my friends always came to for advice and approval. How was I supposed to become grown-up and sophisticated when all the girls were squawking over Marcella and her oh-so-wonderful first kiss?
Perhaps it hadn't been wonderful.
Maybe John Avery was an awful kisser. I felt only a tad bit guilty for half wishing it was awful out of pure spite. But it wouldn’t matter. Either way, Marcella would be the one sharing her vast knowledge about kissing under the candlelight of our dormitory at midnight, with all of us in our dressing gowns piled onto one bed. And there was nothing I could do about it.
Annoyed, I tossed my bag down and slipped into my chair before the bell rang and Slughorn moved to the front of the class. His imposing belly brushed the blackboard as he wrote about Confusing Concoctions. Simple stuff, really.
This effectively gave me enough time to sulk over the mutiny that was currently putting my position of smarts-and-experience queen in jeopardy. The one thing I didn’t know any more about than the other girls was, well, boys. Sure, I came in more contact with boys than any of them, since Tom, bizarre and possibly homicidal as he may be, was essentially my best friend.
And Joey…well, Joey was an ex-best friend. I was planning on giving him the cold shoulder/death stare combination when I next saw him, due to his treachery of associating with Minerva McGonnagall. Clearly I knew less about boys than I thought, as I had lost one of my best friends to a bifocal-ed, arse-kissing broad that probably thought doing rune translations and writing Arithmancy essays was fun.
God, I’m going to end up an old maid. An old, wrinkled witch that, despite her brains and former beauty, ended up alone because she was apparently absolutely clueless. Oh, and she had never been kissed. That too.
Thankfully, Tom didn’t care about or notice my internal tirade, and he went about brewing his Confusing Concoction with impeccable efficiency and accuracy. Good thing too, as I had a funny feeling he wouldn’t understand if I tried to make him empathize with my girl problems. He couldn’t help, unless he was going to pull me into Hogsmeade on a romantic date and cure me of my current kiss-less condition.
Unlikely. I morosely flipped my fire on and filled the cauldron with water from my wand. A few of my classmates looked greatly impressed at this, but I barely noticed.
Kiss Tom. As if that would ever happen. Impossible, yet…
I found myself glancing furtively at the boy beside me, who was currently dicing a staghorn mushroom into perfect little cubes. He brushed a lock of hair off his forehead, offhandedly letting the blade of his knife pass close to his white face…his lips were rather nice, if truth be told. They looked quite soft, full, and nice if they were to be kissed…
The bottle of Knotgrass I had been holding slipped from my fingers and promptly shattered as it hit the dungeon floor.
“What are you doing?” Tom asked, snapping me out of my foolish thoughts with a scathing gaze.
“Nothing,” I said quickly, mending the bottle and levitating it back onto my desk.
“Oh, Miss Harley, be careful,” Slughorn boomed from behind his desk. His eyes were twinkling and it was clear in his tone I could have flooded the dungeons and he only would have laughed and patted me on the head. “Good thing you know how to clean up after yourself, eh?”
“Yes, Professor. Sorry.”
I finished my potion and though it was correct and sufficient, it came nowhere close to Tom’s shimmering creation, which was exactly the cream-like consistency described in the book.
I collected my things and left for Ancient Runes—the only class besides Divination that I had without Tom—so I could make myself feel better taking it all out on Joey. And for once, I could be the best in the class.
Because for whatever Minerva bloody McGonagall might think, the only one standing between me and being first in the class was Tom Riddle.
“Hey Annie, how are you this fine morning?”
I resisted the reflex to correct him and studied my book with renewed concentration, determined not to even spare a glance at the person speaking to me.
If only I had someone else to talk to, if only I could strike up a conversation with someone else just to prove how invisible Joey McGill was to me right now. That would have shown him. But alas, he was the only one I could call a friend in the class, and he was an ex-friend at that.
“What, are you deaf now?”
To prove his assumption true, I raised my hand and struck up an intelligent, albeit unnecessary conversation with professor Mazzaro about ancient Celtic wizards. Joey’s snicker beside me sent irritation through my veins, but I did nothing but ignore him.
“Don’t tell me you’re mad at me.”
Oddly enough, he didn’t sound horrified at the idea that I might be mad at him, but gleeful.
I sniffed and inclined my chin ever so slightly, my only indicator that said, “Yes, I hate you right now.”
“Oh no, Annie, you’re angry with me,” Joey said, unable to keep a little smile off his face.
Not too far away, I caught McGonagall glancing hopefully at Joey. I threw her a withering look, which caused her to redden and turn away.
“What did I do to make you so upset?”
He knew very well what he did, and was a terrible actor; it showed in every syllable that he was enjoying it.
“It can’t be that…oh, it can’t be that I took Minnie to Hogsmeade, can it?”
I cracked. I couldn’t help it. There was only so much a girl could take.
“Minnie?” I asked, so much venom in my voice that even I was impressed with it.
Joey, though momentarily taken aback by my outburst, quickly regained his grin. “What?”
“First of all, why in the name of Merlin do you insist on giving everyone horrible, sickening nicknames? Second, why did you even consider asking that—”
I pointed at McGonagall, who was looking eagerly up at Professor Mazzaro, discussing her academic plans.
“—to Hogsmeade? And third, yes, I’m mad at you!”
Joey laughed. Laughed. I had just unleashed my fury on him and he just sat there laughing, his stupid freckled body just sitting there all smiley and cute and infuriating.
I stood up and let myself out of the classroom to go to the bathroom—Professor Mazzaro was apparently so enraptured in McGonagall’s tripe that she didn’t even notice me leave. Not too long after, I heard Joey follow me out.
“Anne, come on, I didn’t mean…are you really upset?”
I took a deep breath and turned to face him, my loss of self control far behind me and nothing but a pretty, forced smile plastered on my face.
“Oh, well…” Joey looked a little uncomfortable, and he scratched his hair in the way I had come to associate with his rare nervous moments. “I guess the point isn’t really to tell you, and she’s not as bad as you think…but I really only went with her to make you jealous.”
He grinned. “Yeah…well, it worked didn’t it?”
“But, I, you—”
I couldn’t believe Joey had come up with something so underhanded. How dare he play with me like that, make me believe he liked that McGonagall girl, embarrass me by suggesting that it had worked! It hadn’t worked, I wasn’t jealous…!
Okay, I was jealous at the time, but it hadn’t ‘worked!’ What did he mean, it ‘worked?’
“Are you still mad?” he asked, looking genuinely distressed now that he realized his little plan could have really pissed me off.
Was I mad? Sure, he had tried to trick me and made me ridiculously angry for a period of about 16 hours, but was I still mad?
After I thought about it I had to admit, it was pretty flattering he’d go to such lengths for my attention. That he wanted to grace me with all of his attention.
Tom’s face flashed through my mind. He barely gave me the time of day. Some attention would be nice.
“Come on, what do you say?” Joey asked, looking at me hopefully. “All I want is for you to come to Hogsmeade with me next time, and if you absolutely hate it, well…”
He trailed off grinning.
Maybe I could. I mean, what harm would come of it? I liked Joey, when I didn’t want to punch him in the face. Okay, maybe it would be a little bit of false hope because I would truthfully rather be with Tom, but...
Joey had gone out with McGonagall to get my attention.
Perhaps all it’d take to get Tom to notice I was a girl would be a little of Joey’s attention.
I smiled sweetly. “Alright, it’s a deal.”
I walked into the common room that evening to a strange sight. Tom was sitting at our regular table, but he wasn’t alone—Nott sat beside him, looking even more hulking than normal next to Tom’s slim form. Not knowing what else to do, I approached them and sat down, looking quizzically from one to the other.
“Oh, hello Anne,” Tom said cheerfully, demonstrating one of his frequent mood swings.
“What’s going on?” I asked, trying to keep the accusation out of my voice. Not that Tom had done anything wrong, really, it was just so strange to see him with another human being by his side instead of a book. Or of course, me.
“Nothing, I was just telling Nott about our adventure in Hogsmeade.”
“You…” I stopped myself from exclaiming. “…did?”
Tom nodded. “He appreciates the skill it takes to bring down one of Grindelwald’s top supporters.”
I looked at Nott. He nodded vigorously.
“He’s going to be assisting me in some…plans,” Tom said vaguely.
I nodded importantly and tried to come off like I knew what these plans were.
“And I’ll see him tomorrow with what we talked about,” Tom finished, raising an eyebrow at Nott.
“Yeah, yes, of course,” Nott said quickly, looking like a perfect fool with his stuttering and clear adoration for Tom.
I prayed to the gods that I hadn’t ever looked like that.
And with a final, cool smile, Tom dismissed Nott from our table.
“What exactly are these ‘plans’?” I asked, stung. Tom had been discussing some big campaign with someone other than me.
Tom looked momentarily amused, and then started rooting around in his bag. As always, he was going to let me beg and squirm for a bit before he answered me, just because he could.
“Please, do tell me, Tom. I want to help.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll help,” Tom told me, emerging from beneath the table with a list in his hands. On it were names I recognized, names of Slytherin students. Most were unblemished, but I recognized Nott’s name, which had been circled, and Brian Fentley’s, which had been crossed out. I found my name, and it too, had been circled.
Before I could ask him what it was, he said casually, “I plan on throwing down Grindelwald.”
Today was truly a test for my self control. I succeeded, for the umpteenth time that day, in swallowing my surprise.
“Are you questioning me?”
“Oh, don’t get all bothered, no. I want to know more.”
“Do you, now?”
“Of course, Tom,” I said quietly, scooting in toward him so he didn’t have to tell the entire common room as well.
He shrugged. “He’s the most powerful wizard in the world.”
I didn’t mention that most people thought Dumbledore was more powerful.
“Well,” Tom said, a little impatiently, “don’t you think it would take someone skilled and powerful to take him down?”
“How better a way could there be to grab the world’s attention?”
I didn’t need to ask what he meant. I understood. The one who finally conquered Grindelwald would be famous forever. A legend, really. Tom wanted that glory, that recognition.
Being Slytherin’s heir wasn’t enough for him. He wanted more.
“I’m in,” I said lightly, tossing my feet up on the table, attempting to convey a confidence and ease I most certainly didn’t feel about trying to kill the most dangerous dark wizard in the world.
“Splendid,” Tom said, attention gone from me now, focused on his list of names. I leaned in and watched him a cross out a few more names.
“What’s that for?”
He didn’t answer, only hesitated for a moment above another name, then eventually crossed it out.
“Are you starting a club or something?” I asked, somewhat childishly.
Tom snorted. “Yes. I am starting a club.”
“I could sense his sarcasm, but I didn’t care. “And what is the point of this…club?”
Tom put his quill down, a smirk playing at his lips, the same lips I had allowed to rob me of my good sense not too long ago. Determined not to go drifting off somewhere again, I focused my sight on his dark, challenging gaze.
Not the best decision. His eyes were just as distracting.
My heart quickened, but I kept my resolve and held his stare.
“Total world domination,” he said, cocking his head thoughtfully, the mock clear in his voice.
He was, most obviously, joking. But somehow, I knew not to laugh.
“That sounds like a brilliant objective to me,” I said, matching his facetiousness with a half smile of my own; I kept my eyes steady though, locked with his.
“Bold statement, Anne,” Tom said, raising an eyebrow. “Are you sure you could partake in something so daunting?”
I smiled. “Who else is going to be your vice-president?”
Tom laughed. The only way I knew it was genuine was that it was a little off, high. Different from the golden fake one he’d force whenever required in public.
Tom released me from his gaze and wrote a small “V.P.” next to my name, just to appease me and at the same time, cause me to feel a little foolish. I shook the feeling off.
“So who else are we recruiting here?” I asked, studying the list. “And why’d you pick Nott?”
“He’s obedient,” Tom said bluntly, so I had to check he was not joking again. It didn’t seem he was. “Easily impressed.”
“Is that why you told him about what happened in Hogsmeade?”
“Mmm. Have you met Avery yet?”
“No,” I said, “But I probably will soon. He and Marcella are dating I guess.”
“He’s a possibility…he seems of at least average intelligence…except for that.”
“Tom! Marcella is my friend,” I said, though secretly feeling a little surge of joy at Marcella’s already crossed out name. I noticed Rachel’s, however, was still free of any marks. “How come you crossed her out?”
Tom looked at me like I was an idiot even to ask. Again, I understood. The idea of Marcella joining a secret club devoted to (in jest only, of course…) dominating the world was laughable.
“You can cross out Rachel then as well, she and Marcella are quite the same.”
“No, I don’t believe I will,” he said.
“Why not?” I asked, annoyance seeping into my voice.
“Her father owns Borgin & Burke’s,” Tom said, glancing up at me. “She could be useful.”
I didn’t have anything to say to that, as it was irrefutable. To my chagrin, Rachel’s name remained resolutely on Tom’s list of potential club members.
I was not the only girl with potential, in Tom’s eyes. I couldn’t stand it.
And there began a little crack in my friendship with Rachel Burke. A little fault that at the time meant nothing, but would grow to be one of the most vile and brutal parts of me.
Winter came late that year; it was only a few days till’ Christmas when the snow finally began to fall on my big empty house. Nana had insisted I come home and spend Christmas with her, as my parents would more than likely drop in to see me this year.
I didn’t care. I hadn’t received so much as a letter from them all year. They hadn’t even attempted to console me of my grandfather’s death, and the worst part was, I never expected them to. I wondered if they even knew he had died.
I hated being away from Hogwarts, upstairs alone in my chilly room with no one but Scarlett to keep me company. Nana was preparing the house for our Christmas dinner, which at this point looked like it was going to consist of the maids, her, and myself.
On Christmas Eve, both my parents (oh, the shock that gave me) popped in for about an hour. My mother barely let go of me the whole time, and she seemed to want to know every detail of my life at Hogwarts. I told her about Marcella and Bess and Rachel, I told her about Joey. I told her I was second in the class to my best friend, Tom Riddle.
“Oh, that sweet little boy from the train station,” my mother recalled, thrilled she actually knew about something going on in my life. “He’s smart too? My, Anne, he sounds like a good person to be friends with.”
“He is,” I agreed, privately wondering what mother would say if she knew he enjoyed Imperiusing unsuspecting people and stealing the possessions of witches he knocked unconscious.
“That’s good you’re keeping your grades up, you’ll want to get a good, steady job when you’re older,” my father decreed, taking a drag on his cigar.
“Of course. A job like yours.”
He laughed. Only my mother noticed the sourness in my voice. She excused us both and had me take her upstairs, as if it were not her house. I showed her Scarlett and she smiled, scratching the kitten behind her ears.
“Anne, I, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to see you after, well…after.”
“After Grandpa died.”
“Yes,” she sat down on my bed, absentmindedly still stroking Scarlett. “I’ve just been—”
“Busy. Yes, mother, I know.”
She looked taken aback. “Anne?”
“Are you alright?”
She didn’t ask again, but only looked at me jadedly. It was like looking in a mirror, we were so similar. A mirror that turned me older and weary looking, and changed my eyes to a deep brown.
“I just hope you’ll understand, at least someday, why we’re gone so much. And I hope you know we still love you with all our hearts, that things…they just have a tendency to get out of hand sometimes.”
“Okay,” I said dryly. I wished she’d leave. I didn’t want to be here at all, I wanted to go back to Hogwarts where it was warm and exciting, where I was important and I didn’t have to be told I was still too young to understand anything. I missed Tom already. I was bored.
She stood up and hugged me. I hugged her back. She was my mother, of course I still loved her. Somewhere, I loved her. But not here, and not today. I couldn’t summon up any love for her as she left me yet again, leaving a sack of gold for me instead of staying.
It was with no regret that I went back to Hogwarts, to what was slowly becoming my real home. I shared this sentiment with Tom, mostly because I couldn’t help but tell him, but also because I knew he’d feel the same. The little spark of in his eyes as he nodded his agreement confirmed it.
Oh, how alike we were. Surely there was nothing we couldn’t do together.
“This had better be the best day of my life, Joey McGill,” I teased, pulling my earmuffs down over my ears.
Joey feigned intimidation. “Oh, I wouldn’t want the princess to be displeased! I’ll do my best, Your Highness.”
I giggled, and nudged him with my shoulder as we followed the rest of the Hogwarts upperclassman out of the front gates and down to Hogsmeade. I had warmed back up to Joey shortly after the McGonagall incident (it was impossible not to) and was now rather enjoying his company.
True, it had been unbearably awkward when I told Tom I was going with Joey; I had done my best to be flippant and flirtatious about it, but it came out rather pleadingly. I hadn’t even evoked the right response in him. He simply raised an eyebrow and shrugged. He didn’t even care.
Whatever, I was going to enjoy myself at least, regardless of whether or not Tom was wilting in jealousy somewhere. I had the strong suspicion he wasn’t.
“First stop, Three Broomsticks for Butterbeer,” Joey said, catching my gloved hand and leading me toward the pub.
“Oh, are we holding hands now?” I asked, blinking up at him.
He grinned. “Do you object, Princess Anne?”
I honestly had no objection. His hand was warm on my own, so I did nothing but turn my head away and make him laugh.
He insisted on buying my Butterbeer and pulling out my chair; we downed at least three bottles apiece and I left hiccupping but very warm and giggly.
“Zonko’s *hic* next,” I said, pointing at the joke shop and speeding up to get out of the snow. Joey opened the door for me.
We picked out various explosive school supplies, I nearly decapitated Joey with a Fanged Frizbee, and he got me back by almost getting my nose with a Nose-Biting Teacup. The shopkeeper finally cracked when we somehow managed to unpin a Dungbomb and let it drop, causing the entire store to collectively groan at the putrid odor; Joey said he didn’t do it, but I had my doubts.
We were expelled to the street laughing so hard that pain gripped the sides of my abdomen and I had to clutch Joey for support. We escaped to Honeydukes and I impressed Joey by withstanding the burn of an acid pop, and he in turn managed to suck on a Blood Pop without vomiting. Finally he bought me a little heart shaped box of chocolate that I teased him about until he decided to punish me for my cheek and wallop me in the back with a snowball.
We were engaged in active warfare all the way back up to the school, both of us catching a fair amount of snow in our hair, down our robes and in our shoes.
“I surrender, I surrender,” I yelped, throwing my hands up and laughing, backing up against the wall of the castle.
Joey held the enormous snowball even higher. “Are you sure?”
“You’re not planning some sneak attack are you? That’s something you’d do, Annie…”
“I swear, I’m finished,” I gasped, catching my breath from our long upward climb and battle.
He grinned and let the snowball drop after one more moment of leaving me in suspense. We were back into the warm entrance hall and we climbed the spiral staircase aimlessly, no destination in mind. We argued for a while about the fairness of our battle until Joey said,
“I let you off easy! It was a fair fight and I didn’t even make you do anything humiliating when you surrendered!”
“What on earth would you make me do?” I asked.
“I want you to yell ‘Joey is the king!’ so the entire floor can hear,” he decided.
“I won’t,” I said immediately. “You are not, you cheated.”
“I didn’t cheat, you’re just a bad loser,” he said, poking me in the side and making me giggle. A grin spread across his face. “Oh no, you’re ticklish?”
Before I could beg him not to, I was being tickled until I could barely breathe, hanging onto a windowsill for support.
“Jo—Joey, is th, th, the king!” I gasped, barely able to get the words out and slapping his arm away the second he stopped. “I hate you, that’s horrible, and cheating again!”
“Matter of opinion,” he said, “Will you forgive me?”
“Please?” he looked at me hopefully with his pretty blue eyes and I couldn’t bare to upset him.
“Fine. You’re forgiven.”
“Knew it,” Joey said, scooping me into a hug now instead of trying to tickle me to death.
His hug was preferable. I smiled into his shirt, appreciating how very warm he was.
At least someone around here liked me and wanted to be with me and hug me. I don’t think Tom had ever so much as patted me on the arm voluntarily.
I tried to practice my Animagus abilities a bit when I finally retired that night, but I was so utterly exhausted that my efforts were fruitless. I changed and climbed into bed, my body relaxing as soon as it hit the mattress, but my mind refusing to sleep.
I was thinking about Tom, as I often did before I fell asleep. I hadn’t seen him all day, and it was unnerving. I didn’t like it at all.
I drifted off eventually into a fitful sleep, fell into a vivid dream.
I dreamt I was in a cave, watching the scene from a vantage point high above the ground. A lone wolf paced nervously in the corner, and I couldn’t blame her; poisonous looking serpents slithered everywhere, the ground was covered in their writhing, scaly bodies. They created a sea of green that took over the entire cave floor; all but the small patch of ground the wolf was nervously pawing at.
They didn’t attack, but they didn’t leave her alone. She had nowhere to go, yet she was reluctant to strike first at the hundreds of snakes encircling her.
I wanted to warn her. I knew the snakes were only biding their time. I tried to shout down to her to run, to tear up the snakes with her claws and powerful, sharp teeth.
She could win.
I continued to yell until I was hoarse and still the wolf couldn’t hear me. I woke only when finally, one of the snakes got bored and struck out at her, digging it’s poisonous fangs into her beautiful fur coat.
I woke in a sweat with her terrible cry of pain, and it took me a long time to realize it was only a dream, that it was only an imaginary she-wolf who was killed by snakes. I was safe in bed. I went back to sleep.
I remember that dream to this day. How could I forget? Isn’t it funny how your own mind can try and warn you of things to come? Too bad I was always too arrogant and deaf to listen.
A/N: Ohhh lots of different things going on! Haha Annie's life is getting more complicated, no? As always, I'd love to hear whatever you're thinking :)
Thanks for reading!
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