Daisy was on a roll; her cauldron softly bubbled with perfection. She waited before instinct told her to stir twice, clockwise. She did so and the once-green liquid turned a beautiful pearl color. She smiled to herself then looked to her book for more instructions. She looked at Emmy who was on the verge of a breakdown.
“More wolfsbane,” she whispered. Emmy gave a curt nod and went to work.
“Very nice, Daisy,” Professor Aphor said. Daisy froze in shock—she didn’t see the professor looking on. “How long did you wait before stirring?”
“Two minutes; I know the book says to wait three but I couldn’t help it,” she said, unsure. She eyed Professor Aphor, who wore an elaborate head wrap that Daisy couldn’t take her eyes off of; her bracelets clinked as she held her hand out for the stirrer. Daisy quickly handed it over.
“No, you did a great job—instinct is everything when it comes to potions. This is near perfect, my dear,” she said, giving the concoction a swirl before handing the stirrer back. Daisy took it, doing all she could not to beam like an idiot. Professor Aphor gave her a look, then continued on. Daisy took a deep breath, trying to slow her heartbeat.
“How’s this?” Emmy asked, panicked.
Daisy gathered herself to look at Emmy’s potion; it was a murky grey. She looked at her with a small smile.
“Bollocks,” Emmy hissed.
“Miss Atwater, can I see you, please?” Professor Aphor asked after she dismissed class. Most students had already packed and left; Daisy gave Emmy a worried look.
“I’ll see you back in the common room,” she said before leaving. Daisy took a breath and walked up to Professor Aphor’s desk which was littered with everyone’s potions. Professor Aphor picked up Daisy’s bottle, examining it closely.
“This is perfect,” she said. Daisy gave her a shy smile. “Do you realize how difficult this potion is? I assigned it with very low expectations, never for a second thinking someone could actually pull it off. You should be very proud of yourself—100 points to Gryffindor,” she said with a confident nod. Daisy was speechless—after an awkward moment, the professor cleared her throat.
“I’m sorry. Yes. Thank you, Professor,” Daisy choked out, she turned to leave.
“Wait,” Professor Aphor gave a soft, rich laugh. She seemed to relax in her chair, oozing a more languid confidence. “Am I your first Black professor?”
Daisy paused, taken aback yet excited at being engaged in conversation, “Yes, I’m sorry for making you feel weird. I just…”
Professor Aphor held up her hand, “No, I understand completely. I had the privilege of having Black instructors during my time at Uagadou. I’m pretty sure I can count on my hand how many students of color there are here, let alone Black. I’m going to say this: you are exceptionally talented at Potions. I’ve taught at a lot of institutions and haven’t come across a talent like yours in a very long time. Have you chosen a career yet?”
Daisy buzzed with nervous energy, she didn’t want to sound stupid in front of the professor. “I have, I just…I don’t want to be trapped in an office. A lot of my mates want to work for the Ministry but I’m not sure,” she managed to say. “I’d like to…I don’t know…” She wanted to share her inner most dreams with Professor Aphor but she wasn’t sure if it was appropriate.
“Go ahead,” Professor Aphor encouraged.
“I’d like to own a potions shop. Maybe create specialized potions for women—I don’t know…” she trailed off, deciding she did indeed sound dumb.
“It’s a brilliant idea! I think we’d benefit from a shop like that. Plus you’d own your own business which is key in my book,” she said with a smile. Daisy instantly felt at ease. “Look, I feel you can handle a heavier workload of Advanced Potions if you’re up for it. Maybe we can work independently; there are a few things you need to master in order to start creating your own potions. How about it?”
Daisy opened her mouth but nothing came out. All she could do was nod furiously. Professor laughed, “I’ll talk to Professor McGonagall for approval and we’ll go from there, okay?”
“Yes. Thank you, Professor,” Daisy said before turning to walk away. She grabbed her books and scurried out of the dungeon as quickly as possible. She didn’t want to melt into giddy, delightful screams in front of the Professor. No, she’d save that for her room. But first, she had to send an owl to her mum to tell her the news.
“More Potions?!” Monroe shrieked at dinner. The Great Hall buzzed with evening energy.
Daisy scooped some potatoes onto her plate and smiled, “Yes. I need to know more and she’s willing to take time with me.”
“It’s fantastic. What did McGonagall say?” Emmy asked.
“She’s up for it as long as my grades stay strong.”
“God, you’re like a Black Hermione Granger,” Monroe said, annoyed. “Asking for more work? Who does that?”
Daisy’s face prickled with embarrassment; she wanted to snap back with a pithy one-liner but the lump in her throat prevented her from doing so. Her head spun with questions, mainly, what was wrong with Monroe? Why was she acting like a strappy cow all of a sudden?
“Hermione Granger is a Gryffindor legend—Daisy should be proud to be like her,” Emmy said before Daisy could gather herself for a response.
“I guess,” Monroe said, as she flipped her hair over her shoulder. Daisy shoved a spoonful of potatoes in her mouth; she looked at Emmy whose face was flush with indignation.
Daisy remained quiet for the rest of dinner. As the girls squeezed through the halls heading for the Gryffindor Tower, she saw Howard standing by one of the many gleaming trophy cases. She rushed over to him, desperate for a friendly face. He was dirty from Quidditch practice; his hair was mussed and his practice robes were caked with grime.
“Hey, I haven’t seen you all day. How was practice?” she asked. She noticed he wasn’t as jovial as usual; he was actually stoic—he didn’t look at her.
“Oh. Well, I’ve got good news: I’ve been invited by Professor Aphor to do a Potions Independent Study. I’m so excited,” she said, rocking back and forth on her heels. He didn’t respond, his eyed continued to scan the crowd of students heading back to their common rooms.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Did I—”
“We have to break up,” he said with very little fanfare.
“What?” she whispered. Clearly she misheard him; she strained her ears over the hallway noise to get a better understanding. Her heart sped rapidly as she stood, frozen.
He finally looked at her, his hazel eyes cold and distant, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I’ve got school and Quidditch. Besides, you’re adding more Potions homework so you’ll never be around anyway,” he said.
“I can manage my time, Howard.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he snapped. It took Daisy a moment to realize her mouth hung open. First Monroe and now Howard; her head began a dull ache. She swallowed but her mouth was still dry.
“Where is this coming from? You don’t seem like yourself,” she managed to say.
“I don’t seem like myself. Ha. What a laugh. You’re the one who’s changed. You used to be…I don’t know—different,” he seemed at a loss for words. Daisy waited for him to elaborate but was distracted by a low whisper of giggles coming from behind. She turned to see Howard’s mates looking on. Her face blazed with mortification. Instinct told her to slap him but instead she turned on her heel and walked away as fast as she could.
The lump in her throat returned as tears clouded her vision. She kept her head up as she walked towards the Gryffindor Tower; unfortunately, she wasn’t going to make it. A tear escaped as she hurried to the nearest girls’ restroom. She turned the corner and bumped into something hard; she looked up and saw Jordan Johnson, a Black Seventh Year Gryffindor boy, staring down at her. He was nothing short of beautiful—she always thought so. Jordan was around 6’3; he had straight white teeth, neatly cut black hair and disarming dimples. Daisy always fancied him, but from a safe distance. He was the last person she wanted to see, especially in her present state.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled as she maneuvered past him.
“Are you okay?” he called after her. She didn’t stop to respond.
Daisy sat in the last stall and wiped her puffy eyes with a soggy tissue. She wondered how she could be so happy earlier in the day and a pile of tears moments later. Howard was her first boyfriend—the first to hold her hand, the first to kiss her. She could still remember how his mouth tasted as he planted his lips on hers one rainy day in the Owlery. Her body reacted to the memory—filling with warmth that soon evaporated like a thin mist. She was dumped and, to make matters worse, in front of his friends. Daisy couldn’t keep from replaying it over in her mind; she couldn’t erase the humiliation as she saw their foolish faces, witnessing her hurt. A whimper escaped her throat again; she felt like crap, like she’d never mattered to Howard at all. Like she may not matter to anyone—
“Daisy, you in here?” she heard Emmy ask. She took a deep breath, stood and opened the stall; Emmy rushed over to her, concern on her face.
“How did you find me?”
“Jordan Johnson told me; he said you looked upset,” she said, softly rubbing Daisy’s back.
“Howard broke up with me.”
“He didn’t really have a reason,” Daisy said, looking in the mirror. Her eyes were bloodshot and the roots of her hair were turquoise. She immediately turned them black and splashed cold water on her face. Her hair still changed colors anytime she experienced intense emotions—mood hair, her mum once called it. Emmy handed her a paper towel then pulled her in for a hug. The lump returned but Daisy swallowed it down.
“He’s a wanker,” she whispered. “Forget about him…”
They separated; Daisy wiped her nose again and gave Emmy a bleary smile.
“Easier said than done. I just don’t understand…”
“What’s to understand,” Emmy said. “Boys are stupid, especially Howard. You did nothing but follow him around the whole time you were together, being the perfect girlfriend and this is how he repays you? Jerk.”
Daisy’s eyes widened in shock, “I followed him around?” Emmy didn’t give an immediate answer. Daisy’s heart sunk down further, “You’re right. I followed him around. Merlin’s Beard, I’m such a loser.”
“No! You are not a loser,” Emmy said, shocking Daisy out of her state. “People like Monroe and Howard…they’re happy putting others down. They like it. It makes them feel good. You are beautiful, smart, and sensitive, Daisy. I can’t wait until you see that for yourself.” Daisy opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. She could feel Emmy’s passionate energy reverberating off her skin—she gave her a big hug.
“Let’s get out of here,” Emmy said as they pulled apart. “The last thing Howard deserves is knowing he made you this upset.” She grabbed Daisy’s hand and led her out of the dim restroom and into the light.
To be continued…