Chapter 16 : Man oh man it's Chapter Sixteen.
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a/n: I missed you all, and writing, so much. Personal life drama and intrigue have prevented me from returning until now.
Just know that I'm back, and so are Tiff and the gang!
A N N A L I S E*B A K E R
The first time I met Tiffany Walker was in the middle of October in our Seventh Year. That's not to say I'd never seen her before, or heard her name; Tiffany Walker is a girl who gets noticed.
Though I'd never held a conversation with her before, I seemed to already know quite a bit about her.
That tends to happen when you live in a castle with someone for six years.
Being a Ravenclaw myself, and a 'Claw who hopes to be a Psychologist one day, I like to observe people.
You can think it's weird, I won't mind.
My friends think I'm bonkers because I'm fascinated by human interactions.
I analyze my peers and make judgements on their character based on observations.
My mind notices the details and catalogs the information.
They're always in there, those little facts you notice about someone that spring to the front of your mind when you look at them.
But what I've always found interesting about Tiffany Walker now interests the rest of the student body as she becomes more popular.
Anyway, I've held a respect for Tiffany since the beginning of Second Year Potions.
Any slightly chubby twelve year-old who can be called a cow in front of the whole class by James Potter and be mooed at by his friends and still walk away, head held high with a superior smile on their face is worthy of some admiration.
That's just the way she is; confident.
She's taller now and very thin, with a delicate bone structure and graceful movements.
Trust me, I'm not the only one that's noticed.
She walks into a room and eyes follow.
Some people are just like that, y'know?
Electrifying and magnetic at the same time, with the ability to laugh at themselves and still seem above all the noise the rest of us are drowning in.
I guess I've noticed her more than others because I admire her and wish I had some of her qualities.
Is that too honest?
I tend to be that way.
She's got a sharp wit and a logical, discerning eye that cuts through bullshit. You can tell that just by looking at her, and hearing the way she speaks with her friends.
Speaking of, I've always found her friend choice to be a bit odd when it comes to Addie Campbell an Jennifer O'Conner.
They chatter around her about superficial nonsense while Tiffany just smiles and nods along.
Not very stimulating companionship, is it?
And now she has Prefect Kate Longbottom and Stephanie Abrams following her around.
She makes climbing the social ladder seem effortless.
"Are you staring at people again?"
"What?" I tore my eyes away from the back of Tiffany's head in Transfiguration class to look at Sarah, "Maybe."
She followed my previous line of sight and her face lit up, "Oooh, are you analyzing Walker?"
I shrugged, pretending to be focused on McGonagall.
She poked me, "Did you notice anything interesting?"
I shrugged again, dipping my quill in its royal blue ink.
She sighed and slumped back in her seat, "Well if you do, let me know. Maybe it'll give me a hint as to how she gets the three fittest guys in our year to drool after her."
Mackenzie on my other side gave a snorting laugh, whispering, "Good luck with that. I think it's something you have to be born with."
"Are you talking about her boobs? Because I really do think mine are getting bigger-"
Sarah's line of inquiry was interrupted by McGonagall's shrill reprimand, "Mr. Potter, if you would be so kind as to stop poking Miss Walker, maybe we could all focus."
James Potter and Tiffany simultaneously ran a hand through their perfect hair, bumping elbows and scrunching their noses at each other.
Merlin, the sexual tension between the two of them is stifling in a classroom this size.
McGonagall apparently noticed the same thing as she sighed, her mouth forming a thin line as she pointed a finger at the back row I was currently sitting in, "Potter, switch with Miss Baker. You need absolute focus if you want to get this transformation right."
Sarah and Mackenzie froze with wide eyes as they realized what the product of this information meant.
James Potter, hottest bloke to ever grace the halls of Hogwarts (according to Sarah), would be sitting between them.
I stood and gathered my things, smiling at my friends before making my awkward way out of my aisle and down toward James' previous seat in the front of the class.
I waited at the end of their desk while he whispered something in Tiffany's ear.
She smiled and swatted his arm while he grinned goofily at her before trotting off to torture my friends with his presence.
He is so in love with her.
Can she see that?
Tiffany looked up at me and smiled, running her hand through her hair again before scooting over to make room for me and all my things.
She and James must have been sitting mighty close to one another.
I smiled and gently placed my things on the desk and my bag on the floor, feeling jittery from all the attention and taking a few breaths.
McGonagall stood a few feet in front of me with her arms folded, surveying the rest of the class, "Now that everyone is properly settled, I feel it is high time we get set to practical work before we waste any more time playing musical chairs. Partner up and get to work."
The scraping of chairs filled the room while I turned toward Tiffany who was already facing me.
She smiled, "Hey, I'm Tiff. It's Annalise, right?"
She held her hand out to me and I shook it, smiling awkwardly, "Yes, hello. Should we start?"
Tiff nodded and picked up her wand from the desk, taking a deep breath before pointing her wand at her eyebrow and saying clearly, "Crinus Muto." She looked over at me, lips quirked, "Anything?"
I smiled back, shaking my head, "Sorry, no."
She shrugged, "Ah well, let's see how you get on with it."
She was clearly unaware that us Ravenclaws have practiced close to the entirety of A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration already.
I took a calming breath, focusing on the color I wished my eyebrow to be and recited, "Crinus Muto."
I knew immediately it must have worked because Tiff let out a laugh of glee, "Anna, you did it first try! And you picked quite a lovely shade of maroon, might I add." She grinned and winked.
She's so nice.
Is there anything about her to dislike?
She really is very different from the rest of the Hogwarts population.
I grinned back at her, "Alright, let's see you go again. This time, make sure to focus on a very specific shade instead of a general color."
She nodded and closed her eyes, taking another deep breath before pointing and reciting once more.
Hello, lime green eyebrow!
Before I could even exclaim a congratulations similar to hers, Freddy Weasley came barreling over, jumping on top of our desk and scattering our possessions everywhere so he could sit facing Tiff, essentially straddling her but with a desk between them and shaking her shoulders, "Tiffybear! Your eyebrow is bright green!"
"Lime green." I interjected.
Tiff grinned at me and nodded, "Thank you, Anna. And Fred, if you could remove your crotch from the vicinity of my face, that'd be cool."
He winked at her, ruffling her hair and getting off the desk, "But really Tiff, congrats on getting that so quick. Now you can help me! Noah is just no help at all, the poor idiot."
Noah Parker, a row over, shouted, "I heard that!"
Tiff waggled her lime green eyebrows at Noah before turning back to Freddy, "If you really want help, ask Anna here. She got it first try and she's the reason I got it so quick."
Probably not true, but nice to hear all the same.
I felt my cheeks flush as Freddy Weasley turned his gaze on me, "You're a Ravenclaw, yeah?"
Good lord he is so handsome.
I nodded and he touched a finger to his chin and quirked his quizzical brow, "Are you, Anna… er-"
"Baker." Tiffany supplied, rolling her eyes and smilingly shaking her head.
"Right, Baker. Are you, Anna Baker, willing to divulge your Ravenclaw secrets to better the Gryffindor cause of a never-ceasing thirst for knowledge?"
I stared at him, mouth slightly open, until Tiff amusedly nudged me, "Just say yes."
Freddy's face returned to normal, "Great! Now teach me the secrets of the 'brows. I wasn't paying attention to darling Minerva earlier."
"Right, well, that was fun! Thanks for the help, love." Freddy declared, winking at me before trotting off at the end of the class with his eyebrows still hot pink.
He refused to change them back to normal.
Is it weird that I think that that's kind of attractive?
My cheeks still very flushed from Freddy Weasley calling me 'love', I packed up my things and pushed in my chair to make room for Tiff to get out.
She ran a hand through her hair again, smiling, "It was really nice to meet you Anna. See you next class?"
I blinked and nodded and she nodded back before heading over to where Kate Longbottom and Stephanie Abrams were waiting for her along with James Potter.
Who knew someone so pretty and popular would be so nice?
This adds a whole new element to my analyzing techniques.
Sarah and Mackenzie bombarded me as I left the classroom, Sarah gushing as we walked to dinner, "Holy. Hell. James. Fucking. Potter."
I rolled my eyes, "What about him?"
"I want to marry him."
I laughed with Mackenzie, "Alright, sweetie. We'll see what we can do about that."
Sarah looked imploringly at me as we sat down at the Ravenclaw table, "You spent all of the practical lesson with Walker. D'you think I stand a chance against her for James?"
Not a single chance. But I don't think anyone does at this point.
He only has eyes for one girl now.
"'Course you do! Anything's possible." I said, smiling at her.
Mackenzie leaned over and whispered in my ear, "She spent the whole practical lesson drooling. To be quite honest I think Potter was seriously frightened."
She giggled and I smiled, shaking my head.
Daniel Davies plunked down next to Mackenzie, kissing her on the cheek, "Hello love. Doing well?"
She grinned at her boyfriend and nodded, spooning potatoes onto her plate, "D'you have practice tonight?"
Daniel rolled his eyes, "Yeah, every night this week. Alex is going crazy wanting to beat Potter this year."
Sarah leaned over, hearing her new love mentioned, "What about Potter?"
Daniel leaned in closer, "Alex made us swear not to mention it but… since it's you three…"
"Just spill!" Sarah said excitedly, leaning so far in her hair was practically in my food.
Daniel rolled his eyes but obliged, pleased to be the center of attention, "Well, about a month ago the whole team went into the kitchens late one night after practice and we walk into see Potter and Walker leaning against a table talkin' and what not, covered in flour and chocolate and stuff. Alex flipped and pretty much demanded to have a pissing contest with Potter right then and there, but Potter wouldn't have it. So Alex hexed him and Walker slapped Alex and she and Potter left. Alex has been mad about destroying Potter ever since."
We all blinked at him as he finished his tale and he nodded, seeming pleased with our reactions to his story.
Sarah finally sighed and slumped on the table, "I don't stand a chance."
Mackenzie looked at her, "What makes you say that?"
She looked at Kenzie like she was crazy, "Well, obviously she and Potter have already been on a date."
"What makes you say that?" I asked, repeating Kenzie's words.
Now she looked at me like I was the nutter, "Everyone knows the kitchens are incredibly romantic!"
T I F F A N Y*W A L K E R
Dearest Tiffany Marie,
I miss you. And your letter came AGES later than I had anticipated! You almost broke your poor mother's heart.
Anyway, I think I can forgive you on the tardiness since your letter was full of such juicy gossip! I feel bad for all the other mums who get the standard 'yes mum, I'm doing well and making friends. send more treats' kind of letters from their offspring.
You and I just have a deeper connection, don't you think? And maybe because our age difference isn't as severe as other mothers and their children…
I smiled and rolled my eyes a little. Jeanine could sometimes cover two sides of parchment before she got to the point in a letter.
Right, so, you consumed alcohol on school property. AND you kissed a boy while intoxicated.
If I weren't your mother, I would give you a high-five. You're finally having fun!
But I am your mother, so, Bad Tiffany. Don't do it again.
Anyway, how was it? WIth James POTTER of all people?!
I rolled my eyes again, even larger this time. My mother will forever be a teenage girl at heart.
But Honey, in all seriousness, I know that snogging him must have felt like a huge betrayal to the little girl you used to be. He teased you once, but it was bad enough to leave a lot of mental scars, and that's something that he and you will have to come to terms with together.
You have grown up so much, Tiffany. You've become such an independent, strong, confident and gorgeous woman. Don't you think it's possible that he's grown up just as much as you have? That he's no longer the idiot little twelve-year old he used to be?
It's completely up to you how you choose to handle his presence in your life, but if he's determined to stay like you say he is, then consider giving him the benefit of the doubt.
He might surprise you.
As to why he wants to be around you all the time, from a mum's perspective and years of life experience, that boy is crazy about you.
Why wouldn't he be? You're spectacular, sweets. There's not another one like you out there.
Use your best judgement here, Tiffany. Try not to break his heart if you can help it.
I love you, write back soon.
She… she actually gave me the sincerest answer she possibly could have.
It's times like these that my chest aches when I think of her face and the crazy things she does.
"I don't know about you lot, but I could really go for some snackums right about now."
I slowly looked up from Jeanine's letter that was now lying on top of my Transfiguration essay to stare at Fred Weasley who was staring back with a devil-may-care grin that was dancing in the firelight.
I wasn't the only one looking at Freddykins like he was bonkers.
James, Noah, Steph, Kate, Scorpius, Rose, Albus, and Ted Oakwood had collectively glanced away from their respective schoolwork to question Fred's sanity with furrowed brows and quirked mouths.
"Freddy," Rose began, setting her quill down and readjusting herself on the throw pillow she was perching on, nearest to the fireplace, "It's close to midnight. Eating this late is bad for your digestive system."
He threw her a look of disgusted confusion, "What are you?"
Rose colored and I tossed a wadded up first version of my essay at Fred's face, "Don't be a bully just because you've got the grumblies."
James smiled and leaned back on his hands, his shoulder brushing against mine.
We're all sitting in a powwow circle around a couple of coffee tables shoved together in front of the fireplace.
It started like this:
There I am, banging out my schoolwork to the best of my ability, squished down low in an armchair by the fire with Steph and Kate occupying the couch.
Just a few of Gryffindor's wholesome Seventh years pressing their nose's to the grindstone to succeed.
Anyway, it's around nine p.m. and the common room's pretty packed.
Steph says something about Gryffindor's quidditch practice ending soon and, in the most cliche way possible, just as she's finishing up her sentence the team comes trooping in. Next thing I know, innocent ol' Tiffany has a James-shaped lump slumped on top of her, moaning and groaning about how tired he is and sore and all that bull. Noah then comes to perch on the edge of my chair and asks if I've done the Charms summary that's due the next day and, coincidences of all coincidences, none of us have.
So Kate squishes up next to James on the couch while Freddy leans against my knees and Noah and Scorpius perch on cushions across from us.
Another twenty minutes or so go by where we surprisingly apply ourselves until Kate informs the boys that they smell like trolls so they troop upstairs to change and in the mean time, Rose comes through the portrait hole with Alby.
They've been studying in the library, shocker of all shockers.
Rose lights up upon seeing me and runs over to give me a hug which she just loves to do.
Rose loves me.
She sees that we're doing schoolwork and announces that she has reading she can do to be prepared for her lessons the next day and bullies Alby into overachieving with her.
They take the spots previously occupied by the Seventh year boys and Scorpius.
The aforementioned boys and Scorpius come back to find their seats swooped upon.
They cry foul.
Rose gets sassy.
Alby gets uncomfortable.
Tiff + Kate + Steph laugh.
They say they want the couch.
Kate, Steph, and Rose refuse.
There is figurative bloodshed.
A decision is reached: no one will get the couch.
The common room is emptier now, no one cares that the couch is being pushed aside and cushions thrown on the floor to surround two large coffee tables.
Ted Oakwood shows up at some point.
Jeanine's letter does too.
So there's the very detailed account as to how we ended up powwowing in the common room.
I'm sure you all cared enough for that in-depth trip into the past of an hour ago.
"I'm not being a bully, Tiffany Walker. I'm simply posing my existential woes to the group as a whole; what are any of us, really? Why are we here, now, in this place? What's the purpose of our existence if not to gorge ourselves on tasty snackums?" Fred's on his knees with his arms spread wide, head thrown back toward the ceiling as though speaking straight to the heavens.
We laughed while Fred grinned and shot us a cheesy wink with matching finger guns before settling back on his pillow. "Right," he said, pointing at each of us in turn, "who will be the brave soul to fend for our group and grab the grub?"
Kate spluttered, "After all that whinging you're not going to go and get it for yourself?"
Fred flapped a hand around in the air in front of him, scoffing, "First off, Katharine, existential woes are a legitimate form of communication and are therefore not whinging. Second of all-"
"I'll go." I sighed, stretching and standing up slowly.
I need a serious break from studying.
I've been at it for hours!
Well, two and a half hours.
Two hours and fifteen minutes too long if you ask me.
"I'll come with." James offered, and it seemed to me as he packed up his bag that he purposely didn't look at his friends who, at least in Freddy's case, were giving him smirky looks.
Steph poked me in the side, "Don't forget we've got Astronomy class in forty-five."
I blew her a kiss and she shot me a wink.
Once James was ready we took the group's food requests and waved goodbye before heading out the portrait hole.
"Thanks for coming with James." I said as we headed down the corridor, bumping his arm with mine.
Ever since I stopped being a flip-floppy bitch and decided that James and I could be friends, I've been saying his name all the time when I talk to him.
It makes the both of us smile.
He swung his arm around my shoulders and pulled me to his side, "'Course. Besides, I feel like this is the first time we've been able to hang out just the two of us since detention. Abrams and Longbottom have stolen you."
It's a little bit true.
Over the past week Steph, Kate, and I have done everything together.
It all started the night after the incident with Jen.
They came into the dorm where I was moping with Arnold and they smiled and told me to follow them to the Kitchens.
There, we had sappy heart-to-hearts where I told them everything that was going on and they smiled and laughed and sighed at all the right places.
I even talked to them about how distant and rude they had seemed for the past six years.
It got real.
Steph said that they had thought that I was just another crazy fangirl like Jen who would try and use them to get to the Wotters, and Kate blushed and said that when Freddy and James talked about how much they liked me, they realized they'd made a huge error in judging me so quickly.
It seemed like a flimsy excuse to me, but they looked genuinely apologetic and it's not like they bullied me for the past six years, they just kept their distance.
I can't condemn them just because they didn't want to be friends with me before now.
So I told them that it was alright, and maybe not to judge Jen and definitely not Addie so quickly because they really aren't so bad.
Steph gave me a look and said that after what I had told them about how Jen was acting, they didn't want to be around any part of someone so jealously catty.
I thought they might be shamelessly taking my side in the matter because of our budding friendship, but it was nice to have the support nonetheless.
It's not like Addie's been around to talk to, and I genuinely like Kate and Steph.
I rolled my eyes at James, "I see you every day, silly. We have almost all our classes together."
He smiled down at me, dimple and all, "Yeah, but it's just not the same. Especially since Fred has been talking about you nonstop pretty much since the start of term. I guess it's hard to avoid the fact that you've been busy this past week. Freddy has in fact said so many times."
I laughed, "That's just because he likes to keep tabs on me like a creeper."
James boomed out that laugh of his and and pulled me closer to his side, "You're not wrong about that. So you are coming to the party on Saturday?"
I nodded, "Yeah, Steph and Kate have talked me into it. We're going to Hogsmeade after classes tomorrow to get slutty dresses."
James colored and cleared his throat, "That's… er, nice."
Freddy and James have a lot of similarities, but Gryffindor chivalry is definitely one of their major differences.
While Fred and I have literally zero boundaries when we talk to each other, James has a firm gentlemanly disposition when it comes to even things so casual as girls in revealing dresses.
At least, in front of me he does.
In front of his guy friends, I'm guessing not so much.
But I like that quality in him.
It's refreshing in a chivalrous way.
I laughed, "Only joking, James. "
He nodded quickly and shot me a quick grin, "I know it. Hey, uh, are you bringing anybody? To the party, I mean?"
My stomach squirmed as I looked up at him, "I don't think so. Should I be?"
He raked his free hand through his hair, "Oh, no! I was just wondering, is all. I mean, some people are bringing dates. Fred is, and Dom too. Rose as well, I think... And, well, me."
The squirming stopped and felt a bit more like lead as I brought my gaze from him to the floor and back up again, "Oh, yeah?"
He swallowed and nodded once, "Yeah."
I hitched on a smile, "Who's the lucky lady?"
He scratched the back of his neck, looking down the hall, "D'you know Samantha Wesson? Sixth Year Ravenclaw?"
I nodded a little too vigorously, "Yeah, she's brilliant from what I hear. Haven't talked to her much myself but she seems lovely."
James swallowed and nodded too, cutting his gaze down to mine, "Yeah, thanks."
We stared at each other for a moment. Not walking, just looking, and I opened my mouth to say who knows what when-
"Hey you goons! Wait for me!"
Freddy came pounding down the hall after us.
I laughed and James raked a hand through his hair.
Freddy pulled me out from under James' arm to spin me around, "I missed you Tiffybear."
I fought free from his grasp, "I saw you five minutes ago you freak."
He flapped his hand, "That was homework, that doesn't count. You've been MIA for a week now!"
I shook my head at James and Fred, "You boys are needy."
They made sounds of protest as we continued down the hallway, "We are not needy, Tiffany Marie Walker. We just happen to casually notice your absence and just as passively desire your presence around ours from occasion to occasion." Freddy said imperiously.
James nodded along and I rolled my eyes, "Alrighty then."
Freddy poked me, "What was in that letter you got?"
I purposely did not make eye contact with James, "Oh, just random ramblings from Jeanine."
"Her mum." James said before I could, looking straight ahead of himself.
"You call your mum Jeanine?"
James shot me a grin as I rolled my eyes up to the ceiling, "Yes."
Fred snorted, "My mum would have a conniption if I tried to call her Angie."
I smiled at him, "My mum's a little… new age, I suppose."
I guess innovative is a good word for Jeanine's parenting methods.
"Well since we live in the medieval ages in this beloved castle of ours, I can say that I've never heard of something so blasphemous."
I shoved Fred, "Our ancestors would be proud."
He waggled his brows and sighed. "Good merlin I will miss this place."
James gave him a smilingly questioning look, "You'll be in Hogsmeade next year at the joke shop. You'll be ten minutes away."
Fred sighed hugely again, "It just won't be the same."
James and I exchanged amused glances before he asked, "What are your plans for next year Tiff? I don't think I've heard you say."
I sighed, "Well, McGonagall and Flitwick want me to think of being a curse breaker for the Auror office, but…"
They blinked at me, shocked, before Fred spluttered, "But what? McGonagall's and Flitwick's are the highest opinions you can get when it comes to those kinds of recommendations. That would be incredible!"
I know he's right.
But is more learning and rigorous training really what I want to do right when I leave Hogwarts?
"I'm just not sure yet, is all." I shrugged, pushing a hand through my hair.
James nudged me, "Don't worry about it, you've got months and months left to make a decision."
I smiled up at him and nodded.
The end of the year feels ages away.
"Merlin's fucking pants, it's fucking freezing!"
Nothing like the dulcet tones of Steph Abrams to break your concentration while stargazing.
I giggled as Kate gave her a reprimanding look while Steph stuck her tongue out at her.
"I told you to bring a coat, it's the middle of October!" Kate sighed, readjusting her telescope.
"Well I lost the cardigan that Ted loaned me and all my other ones aren't warm enough." Steph replied, looking around for our professor before taking a treacle tart out of the box from my kitchens raid earlier and taking a happy bite.
"Cast a warming charm, then." I suggested, squinting at the sky before filling in my chart.
"Meh. Maybe I'll just steal James's coat. He's not even wearing it!" She exclaimed, pointing at James on the other side of the Astronomy Tower.
He was indeed only wearing his oxford, sleeves pushed up to his elbows as they so often are.
"Probably because he cast a warming charm like any sane person would." Kate muttered to me.
I laughed and waggled my eyebrows.
A calm few minutes passed while Steph was off asking for James's coat, a content silence filling the space between Kate and I before she nudged me, saying quietly, "Hey Tiff? That girl over there has been staring at you."
I looked in the direction her cocked head was indicating and noticed Anna Baker looking intently at me.
I smiled at her and she blinked, startled before hesitantly smiling in return.
I turned back to Kate, "That's Anna Baker, she's nice."
Kate raised a brow, "Well, she sure likes to look at you."
I shrugged, "She likes to look at everyone. Haven't you noticed?"
Kate looked slightly abashed, "I've actually never noticed her before."
"Well, trust me, she's noticed you. That's just the way she is."
Kate continued to look curiously at Anna while Anna adjusted her telescope and I let my gaze wander around the Tower.
There was James and Ted Oakwood, laughing at some shared joke while they filled in their charts, and Anna's group of Ravenclaw friends studiously applying themselves, and then there was Addie, all by herself.
Jen hated Astronomy so this was the one lesson Addie and I had just the two of us.
And now it was just her in the spot we used to share.
"Tiff? Where are you going?"
I looked back over my shoulder as I walked in Addie's direction, "I'll be right back."
My heart pounded in my throat as I approached Addie, thankful that she was so focused on the sky she hadn't noticed me yet.
She finally looked up from her telescope when I was just a few feet away from her.
Her eyes widened when they spotted me, but she didn't say anything.
I cleared my throat, blurting the first words that came to head, "Hey Addie, like what you see?"
And by that I meant the stars.
Her expression told me that it didn't come across that away.
Oh merlin, I think the Spontaneous Tourrettes are back.
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