Daisy sat in the hushed library, stealing glances at Jordan who sat across from her. He was focused, his brow slightly furrowed as he scribbled on his parchment. It had been about a month since Daisy stood up to Monroe and began her friendship with Jordan. Through a surge of empowerment, she started speaking up more in class and continued to excel in her Independent Study with Professor Aphor. In addition, her friendship with Jordan had evolved from amicable hallway conversations, to lengthy study dates. Although Jordan never made a romantic move on Daisy, or hinted at anything other than friendship, she appreciated his company and thoughtful insight.
“What are you thinking?” Jordan whispered, snapping Daisy out of her introspection.
“What? Nothing,” she said, her face warming. She went back to her Advanced Potions book, desperate for a word to focus on.
He smiled and went back to his parchment. “You’re thinking about something, Daisy. I can tell,” he said without looking up.
He looked her, his deep brown eyes holding hers. He raised one eyebrow, making her breath stutter-step. He continued searching her face—there was nowhere for her to hide. She felt her face blaze in embarrassment as she fought to control her hair color. After what seemed like hours, Jordan nodded like he finally understood everything he needed to know about her, and then went back to his homework.
She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. He read her without the use of magic. Until now, that was something only her mother could do. He looked up again and smiled—his full lips spreading over perfectly white teeth.
“It’s okay. I won’t tell,” he whispered, giving her a flicker of a wink.
“Te-tell what,” she managed to choke out. He only shrugged, continuing to read. Her face was molten. She was sure her hair was bright pink. What did he see? What did he know about her that she hadn’t already shared with him? Part of her felt like he was teasing but his confidence gave her fright—maybe he did know something more. Maybe he knew she liked him and was desperate to feel his lips on hers. Maybe he knew she was worried that it was all a dream—that she’d wake up and discover they weren’t really friends at all. Or maybe he knew she was a Metamorphmagus and was upset she didn’t tell him. Her mind took off in thought; as much as she wanted to reel it back, she couldn’t. She felt exposed. Naked. An invisibility cloak couldn’t keep her from Jordan Johnson’s penetrating stare.
Daisy and Jordan walked to Gryffindor Tower in silence. The halls were quiet save for a soft whoosh of wind seeping through the stone walls. The flickering of candles cast an ethereal haze over the castle. Daisy wanted to pressure Jordan for more information about what he thought he knew about her, but she didn’t. She stayed quiet, too nervous to ask.
“Still in thought, huh,” Jordan said with a chuckle.
His laughter set her off—who did he think he was, making fun of her like that? “Whatever, Jordan. You don’t know anything about me,” she snapped, holding her books tight to her chest. He cast a quick glance down at her as her face tightened in defiance.
He laughed again, “You want to hide but I see you,” he said, stopping to face her. “I see you because you don’t want to be seen. You hide in the shadows, afraid someone’s going to notice how smart, beautiful, and talented you are. I see you because I want to. I want to know you; I pay attention because you’re worth knowing.”
Daisy was sure she had turned into a fine mist and blown away from the sheer power of his words. She never experienced this type of friendship before—this closeness…to a boy. She’d thought she had been close to Howard, but somehow this was different. She talked to Jordan about everything—she couldn’t help it. Like telling him she wanted to open her own Potions Shop, she’d just blurted out—she never felt compelled to share that part of herself with Howard. She and Jordan talked about school, family, and life after Hogwarts. He told her how he wanted to try out for a professional Quidditch team even though his father already had a position for him at the Ministry of Magic. She told him how much she adored Professor Aphor and how having a Black instructor changed everything for her. Jordan was right—she did want to hide, but somehow he made it easy for her not to.
“I don’t know what to say,” Daisy said after a moment.
“I know something else,” he said.
“That you like me.”
“Of course I like you, Jordan. You’re my friend.”
“No, Daisy. That you like me as more than a friend,” he said. He took a step toward her, his gaze intent. She wanted to move but couldn’t—she felt like she had been hit with a Freezing Charm. He continued, softly, “I hope I’m not moving too fast. The last thing I want to do is scare you away; more than anything, I want you to know that I like you too…as more than a friend.” He was in her personal space, his eyes on hers. She felt safe. After a moment, she smiled; Jordan smiled back and grabbed her hand. It was warm to the touch, so large it enveloped hers. He gave her hand a soft squeeze, as his eyes slid over her face up to her topknot. He gave the briefest of pauses, a flicker of bewilderment—her hair had finally betrayed her.
She cast a downward gaze, “What color is it?” she asked, almost inaudibly.
She refused to look at him as she slowly changed it back.
“Don’t,” he said, lifting her chin with his finger. “It’s brilliant. You’re brilliant.”
She beamed, freeing her emotions, not giving another thought to her hair. Jordan smiled and kissed the tip of her nose.
“A Metamorphmagus…,” he whispered, shaking his head with a smile. He squeezed her hand again as they resumed walking. “No more hiding. Okay?”
She held his hand tighter, allowing her head to rest on his arm. “Okay.”
“Settle down, please,” Professor Aphor said as everyone continued to clean up before being dismissed. “I have an announcement. Since all of you have shown exceptional growth this term, we will be having a Potions Tournament at the end of the month. It will be a process of elimination, starting with easy potions, moving to more advanced. The last man or woman standing from all of my classes, will receive 250 House Points and a trip to my Alma Mater, Uagadou School of Magic, where they’ll participate in the Mountains of the Moon Potions Tournament. I get the feeling some of you need to see a world beyond Europe,” she said with a smirk. “Make sure you sign up by the end of the week,” she added as the class buzzed with excitement.
“You have to win!” Emmy said, looking at Daisy. Daisy nodded as a ball of anxiety rolled around her stomach. She grabbed her books and started out.
“Miss Atwater, a word before you go,” Professor Aphor said over the classroom chatter. Daisy turned around and headed towards Professor Aphor who shimmered with excitement.
“So, what do you think?” she asked.
“Think about what?” Daisy said.
“About the tournament, Daisy.”
“I don’t know…I mean…” Daisy couldn’t find the words. Whatever confidence she’d recently acquired seemed to escape her. As much as she was proud of the work she was doing with Professor Aphor, she didn’t think she could beat Seventh Year Potions students, let alone travel to Africa and represent Hogwarts in an actual Potions tournament. Although the dungeon was lit as bright as Professor Aphor could get it, Daisy could feel the darkness beckoning her. The shadows that she spent so much time in were desperate for her return; it wasn’t as if she’d truly escaped anyway. Maybe one foot out—she could hold Jordan’s hand or answer a question in class, but she wasn’t really free. She could tell; the thought of letting her talent for Potions excel made her feel inadequate instead of empowered.
“What’s wrong?” Professor Aphor asked. “And please be honest.”
“I don’t think I can do it. I mean, I can try but I don’t think I can win…” Daisy’s voice trailed off.
“Why don’t you think you can win? Don’t you know how exceptional you are?”
Daisy didn’t respond. She knew Professor Aphor was going well above the call of duty to encourage her. She just couldn’t shake the feeling that this tournament was too much. The look in the professor’s eyes, even Emmy’s eyes for that matter—a look that expected her to win made Daisy want to crawl in bed and sleep for weeks. Professor Aphor let out a deep sigh.
“I can only do so much, dear,” she said after a long pause. “Only you can discover how brilliant you are. I encourage you to participate in the tournament but that’s all I can do...nothing more,” she said, softly. “You can go.” Daisy felt tears sting her eyes; she wanted to be brave, courageous—a true Gryffindor, but she couldn’t find the strength to do so.
Emerging from the dungeon stairs, Daisy ran into Emmy who looked panicked.
“Daisy! Hey!” Emmy said, way too loud.
Daisy frowned as she continued walking, “What’s wrong with you?”
“What?! Nothing,” she said, almost shrieking.
“You seem crazy,” Daisy said, almost grateful for the break of worrying about her own problems.
“Oh, ha ha. I had too much pumpkin juice, you know how I get. Sugar and all,” Emmy said, manic.
“What’s for lunch?”
“Are you hungry? You don’t look it. I have some snacks in my room—why don’t we go to the Common Room and I’ll get them,” Emmy said, trying to lead Daisy away from the Great Hall.
“Yes, I’m hungry, Emmy and I don’t want snacks, what’s wrong with—” but before Daisy could complete her thought, she saw Monroe and Howard walking hand-in-hand down the hall. Monroe giggled like a Third Year as Howard puffed out his chest. She kissed him on the cheek which led to them snogging for a full minute before she led him up the stairs and out of sight. Daisy felt like she had swallowed a handful of Puking Pastilles.
She looked at Emmy, who was on the verge of tears. “She’s a cow, Daisy. And he’s a…a…I don’t know what but they deserve each other. And, you have Jordan so who cares what they do,” she said, her voice cracking. Daisy felt dazed; although her brain told her feet to move, the message got lost in translation. She heard Monroe’s distinct giggle in the distance as her stomach grew a bezoar-size knot in her stomach. Emmy’s voice seemed to fade as Daisy’s brain finally moved her down the hall. She felt her tears melt into her cheeks as her pace increased to a run. She wanted—no, needed to be alone.
Daisy sat on the cool steps of a desolate, hidden stairwell and cried. She couldn’t stop the heaving, couldn’t stop the pain, the hurt, the rage. As much as she didn’t like Howard, seeing him with Monroe made her feel infinitesimal. Insignificant. Invisible. On top of that, as much as she wanted to make Professor Aphor proud and compete in the Potions Tournament, she just didn’t feel good enough. Smart enough. Like all of her hard work wouldn’t materialize when she needed it to—that she was occupying a space made for someone else. She took a deep ragged breath and cried. She succumbed to the darkness, reestablishing her place in the shadows. Although it felt uncomfortable—that she shouldn’t be there, that maybe she’d outgrown that place, she still felt at home.
Later, Daisy climbed through the portrait hole, her eyes swollen from crying. It was late. The Common Room was dark, dimly lit from a low fire. It took her a moment to realize Jordan had fallen asleep on the sofa—curled into a ball. As much as she didn’t want to admit it, she knew he stayed up waiting for her. She eased in to watch him, standing near but not too close. His face was beautiful in the warm light—relaxed, peaceful. She felt guilty for him liking her—like she was an inconvenience. As much as she wanted to pull away from him, she found herself inching closer. After a moment, she thought better of reaching out to touch his face and turned around to tip out when—
Daisy stopped, closing her eyes in self-admonishment. Why didn’t she just go up to the girls’ dormitory when she walked in? She turned around and gave him a small smile. He let out a sigh and stood, walking to her with relief on his face.
“I was worried about you,” he said, moving in for a hug. Daisy took a step back, not wanting to be touched, especially by him.
“Jordan, I can’t,” she whispered. He didn’t say anything, just stood, looking at her. “Please stop looking at me like that.”
“What do you want me to do, Daisy? Walk away?”
“Yes…” she said, more to herself than him.
“Why?” he asked, his voice deep with disappointment, bordering on irritation. She didn’t answer for an extended pause.
“I just…I don’t feel like…” she couldn’t seem to find the words. How could she explain that she didn’t want her darkness to rub off on him? That she didn’t want him to become lost in the shadows?
“Tell me that you don’t like me. That our friendship means nothing to you. That you’re going to throw it away because you’re having a tough go of it,” he said, his words coming out faster with intent and concern.
“I can’t get out of this, Jordan,” she said, almost pleading. “I can’t break this. The darkness has me. I can’t escape…”
He took a step toward her, “I’m here, Daisy.”
“But I don’t want you to be,” she snapped. “You can’t save me, Jordan. I looked to Howard for that—to make me feel better, like I was important. All I ended up doing was losing myself in someone who didn’t see me.”
“I. See. You,” Jordan said, taking another step, closing the distance between them. “I’m not trying to rescue you, Daisy. You can’t lose yourself in me because I won’t let you; I don’t need that from you.”
Daisy shook her head in an attempt to make his words disappear.
“I need you to be you,” Jordan continued. “To see yourself. But like you said, you’re in the dark. Let me be the light so that you can see how magnificent you are,” he said, softly.
Daisy closed her eyes, fighting a wave of aggressive tears. Why was he doing this? This sort of attention made her uneasy; it pulled her out of her dark, safe space to a world that she was unable to control.
“Look at me, Daisy,” he said with calm authority.
She could feel her pulse in her ears; she slowly opened her eyes, locking them on his. The fire smoldered to the point that although she was looking at him, she could barely detect the details of his face. Jordan stepped into her space; she could feel the heat of his body as he reached one arm around her, resting his hand on the small of her back to bring her closer. Their bodies touched. She felt the energy in her body shift directions. She couldn’t define it but she knew something was different.
Jordan brandished his wand and whispered, “Lumos.” Suddenly they were bathed in light; it chased the darkness of insecurity away, leaving truth. She could see his eyes and as she clung to him, she felt like she could see herself—the way she should be seen: Strong. Empowered. Intelligent. Tenacious. Beautiful.
“Kiss me,” she whispered, boldly. And without hesitation, Jordan placed his lips on hers. She breathed him in as he tightened his grip around her. Their lips and tongues melded into a hot, passionate connection of recognition and assurance. She didn’t feel rescued by Jordan; she felt seen by him and rescued by herself.
Daisy walked into the Potions dungeon a few days later to find Professor Aphor standing over a small bubbling cauldron. She looked up out of concentration and locked eyes with Daisy, smiling broadly.
Daisy’s hair was released into an enormous, thick and curly pink Afro. Her robes were open to expose a unique take on her school uniform. Instead of a baggy sweater, tie, shirt and dark pants, Daisy wore a fitted, crisp white shirt, and V-neck sweater with a bow-tie in Gryffindor colors, a dark pencil length skirt that hit a her knee and cute Mary Jane heels. She stood in confidence, the room seemed to brighten with her in it.
“Miss Atwater…” Professor Aphor said, her grin even bigger. She opened her arms and instinctively, Daisy ran into them. She hugged Professor Aphor with all of her might with the professor returning the intensity.
“Thank you,” Daisy said as Professor Aphor slowly rocked Daisy back and forth, softly stroking her hair.
“My pleasure, dear girl. It’s been my absolute pleasure.” After a moment, they pulled away, both wiping away stray tears.
“You…” Daisy started, but couldn’t finish as she was choked up with emotional gratitude. Professor Aphor grabbed her hand, giving it a squeeze. “You are everything,” she managed to get out. Professor Aphor smiled through her tears, unable to say much in return. “Thank you for seeing me. For taking me in. For encouraging me, teaching me, taking time with me. I mean, I know the term’s not over but…” she trailed off.
“I often wondered why I took the position here at Hogwarts,” Professor Aphor said. “I had a very good position in research but when Headmistress McGonagall contacted me, something told me I had to accept. Now I know why…it’s purpose. I’m supposed to be here for moments like this.”
Daisy smiled, and nodded. They sat in silence for a few moments, enjoying the purpose and significance of the moment. They heard a rustle, and looking at the door, they found Jordan standing, slightly embarrassed to have broken the moment. Daisy beamed as she motioned him in.
“Professor, this is Jordan Johnson,” Daisy said, almost giddy. Jordan and Professor Aphor shook hands, as she sized him up.
“So you’re Jordan,” she said. “Why aren’t you in my Potions class, young man?” Jordan gave a shy laugh, ever so slightly melting Daisy’s heart as she watched him fidget under the professor’s intent stare.
“I wasn’t good at it, ma’am. But believe me, when you arrived, I was upset that I had,” he said.
“It’s alright,” she said, with a cheeky smirk. “You make up for it by adding a positive presence to Daisy’s life.”
He nodded, slightly relieved. “I hope so. She’s special.”
“Yes she is,” Professor Aphor agreed. Daisy exploded with warmth at watching them together. There was a familiarity—kinship that she dwelled in as they all stood together. Although she loved her family in London, there was something special about creating a second one at Hogwarts.
“Oh, Professor, I forgot,” Daisy said.
“Is it too late to sign up for the Potions Tournament?”
“No, absolutely not,” Professor Aphor said, proudly.
“Good because I’m in the mood to travel—it’s time to see a world beyond Europe,” she said, confidently.
Daisy was different—evolved. She felt steady, fortified, strengthened. Although it took her some time, she finally saw herself—the bright shining Potions star with the world at her fingertips. She was confident in her ability to manifest a bright future; she was sure purpose would follow her everywhere she went because that what happens when a Black girl does magic.