“Is everything okay?” Professor Aphor asked Daisy a few evenings later, during their Independent Study.
Daisy looked up from her cauldron which gurgled lazily, “What? No, I’m fine,” she said. Truth be told, she was on autopilot, tuned out for most of her day. Her heart was still smashed from Howard and she was tired of dodging nasty comments from Monroe. It was getting dark sooner, now that the season was changing. The sky swirled with pinks and purples as she turned the page to Professor Aphor’s Potions Manual. It turned out her Independent Study was the only thing she truly looked forward to.
“Let it sit; this needs about forty-five minutes to brew. Come, have some tea,” Professor Aphor said, leading Daisy to her desk. The professor had transformed the dungeon into a warm workspace; although the stone walks held onto the cold, she draped the ceilings with rich fabrics, and adorned every corner with candles.
Daisy sat and watched Professor Aphor work in silence; after a moment she returned with two tea cups, milk and sugar. Daisy took a sip and immediately felt lifted. She eyed Professor Aphor who smiled.
“Now, tell me what’s going on.”
“Nothing. I always get extra focused as we move into the term,” Daisy lied. Professor Aphor didn’t respond; she examined Daisy closely. All of a sudden, Daisy felt compelled to tell the truth. It was a familiar feeling—one she felt with her mum. It wasn’t of magic but trust.
“My boyfriend dumped me and one of my best friends is acting weird,” she blurted out.
“Catty. A downright cow, if I’m being completely honest…” Daisy muttered into her teacup. Professor Aphor laughed.
“Girls can be like that sometimes. I suspect she’s jealous of you. You’re talking about Miss Galveston, correct?”
“Yes, how did you—”
“Miss Leighton is a true friend, I can tell by the way you interact in class. Miss Galveston on the other hand…she’s struggling to find her place. For some girls, that negativity spills out onto those closest to them. Especially when they’re friends with someone who has yet to recognize their beauty and talent,” Professor Aphor said. Her tone was matter of fact and kind. Daisy’s face warmed; she dipped back into her cup of tea.
“I don’t think Monroe is jealous of me; she wasn’t this way when we first met. I’m not sure what happened,” Daisy said with a thin shred of hope.
“Trust me, and I hope this isn’t too harsh, your friendship probably won’t last the year.” Daisy didn’t respond so the professor continued. “You’re a stellar potions maker, Daisy. You’re exceptionally smart and have yet to tap into your value. This is okay; I find that Sixth Year is a time of transition for students; you’ll find your way. And this boy…”
“He dumped me with no warning; I still don’t know why.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it; as you evolve, he’ll rue the day he walked away from you.” Daisy looked up; the professor’s words reached her core and lit her up from within. Before she knew it, her mouth was open.
“You’re amazing. You’re just so confident and among all of these…” Daisy didn’t know how to finish her thought without sounding rude.
“White professors?” Professor Aphor offered with a smile.
“Yes. I don’t know how you do it,” she said.
“I had to find my way just like you, Daisy. And when I did—when I recognized and owned my value, no one could stop me.” Daisy nodded, her eyes staying on Professor Aphor’s beautiful Afro.
“I wish I could wear my hair like yours,” she said, more to herself than the professor.
“Why don’t you?”
“I don’t know. I never wear it down; I feel like if I do…”
“You’ll stand out.”
Daisy nodded, “I can change my hair color as well.”
“Really? You’re a Metamorphmagus?” Professor Aphor asked.
“Yes. I have been ever since I was a little girl. Gave my parents a fright,” Daisy said with a laugh.
“You’re Muggle-born, then?”
Daisy nodded, “My family’s great; very proud of me being a witch.”
“That’s good to hear. As for your hair, I know how difficult it can be being different, but you’re going to have to own it at some point, dear. You’re special. There’s no use in hiding it. If I hid, I wouldn’t be here with you. We can’t slink along the shadows; there are people we’re meant to help by just being ourselves. Think about it…” Professor Aphor said with a sense of finality. Daisy smiled and finished off her tea. She felt better. Stronger. Ready to move forward and perhaps bring some clarity to the fuzzy feeling she’d been having.
Daisy walked back to the Gryffindor Tower lost in thought; so lost in fact, that she didn’t hear Jordan Johnson next to her.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked.
“Jordan,” she squeaked, surprised. He smiled, which made her heart stop and speed in a totally different direction.
“Did I scare you? I’m sorry,” he said.
“It’s okay,” she said, trying to calm herself. “What did you ask me?”
“If you’re feeling better. The other night you—”
“Oh, right. Yes, I am, thank you. And thanks for sending Emmy to get me; that was nice of you. How did you know we were friends?” she asked.
“You only hang out with Emmy, Monroe, and Howard from Hufflepuff,” he said as if all handsome Seventh Year boys knew this information.
“Oh,” she said with a pause. “I didn’t think you paid attention to any year below yours.”
“I don’t. I pay attention to you,” he said. Daisy stopped in front of a row of windows showcasing Hogwarts manicured lands and sparkling lake. Jordan stopped and looked at her; she blinked several times. Clearly it was time for her to wake up. She shook her head. Maybe Professor Aphor slipped something in her tea to make her hallucinate.
Jordan smiled, “Are you okay?” he asked, amused.
“Why would you pay attention to me?”
“Why not?” he smiled, and resumed strolling toward Gryffindor Tower. She had to run to catch up with his long strides. “How’s Howard by the way?”
“We um…we broke up,” she said, still swirling in the moment. She was sure her feet weren’t touching the ground. She looked up, eyeing Jordan’s profile—he was easily the most handsome boy in school. She shook her head again—the dream was so real. She wanted to reach out and grab Jordan just to hold on to whoosh of adrenaline that was overtaking her.
“That’s too bad,” he said, although she was sure she saw a smile play at his lips. “What are you doing out so late?”
“I’m taking an Independent Study with Professor Aphor,” she said.
“The new Potions professor? I hear she’s brilliant,” he said.
“She is,” Daisy replied.
“Bollocks. I hate I dropped Potions,” he paused, thinking to himself. After a brief moment, he replied, “Is this indie study on top of your regular Potions class?”
“Yes. She thinks I have…talent,” Daisy said, somewhat embarrassed. “And I told her I would like to own a potions shop when I graduate so…”
“That’s great, Daisy. Taking the initiative to prepare for your future,” he said. He sounded so mature, she wondered if all Seventh Years sounded like this.
“What are you doing out so late?” she finally asked after a moment.
“Library,” he said. “As usual.”
“I don’t see many guys like you,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“You know…athletic yet…nerdy.”
“Nerdy!” he said, in mock-offense.
Daisy laughed, matter of fact, she found it was easy to laugh with Jordan. “You know what I mean; you’re serious about your studies. I think that’s great,” she said softly.
“Of course I am; as are you.”
“Right. Well…I’ve always been into books…” she said, stopping herself.
“Me too. They calm me,” he said.
Daisy smiled, brightly, “Me too!” she said with a giggle. Jordan looked at her and smiled. The warmth behind his eyes stirred something inside of her. She felt like she could tell him anything—that for some reason, she mattered to him.
“Maybe we can study together sometime,” he said.
Daisy’s voice escaped her; all she could do was smile and nod.
“Are you coming our Quidditch match?” he asked.
“Yes, of course,” she said as they reached the Fat Lady.
“Parsnip Quigglebottom,” Jordan said. The Fat Lady gave him a wink and pulled the portrait.
“So I’ll see you there?”
“Sweet. Night, Daisy,” he said before heading to the boy’s dormitory. Daisy stared after him, mystified by their encounter. Before she went off the deep end, she tried to pull herself back, deciding he was just being nice because he saw her having a meltdown the other night.
“Pull it together, Daisy. He’s not into you like that,” she said to herself before retiring to the girls’ dormitory.
“The Jordan Johnson? Merlin’s Beard, Daisy, he’s gorgeous,” Emmy said as they sat in the common room. Daisy worked on her History of Magic homework while also helping Emmy with Potions.
“He was just being nice,” Daisy said, although her heart suggested more. She looked at Emmy who held her gaze intently. “What?” she said after Emmy wouldn’t look away.
“Daisy, are you blind? He likes you. He was adamant that I find you that night,” Emmy said.
“No. Adamant. He was genuinely worried about you. Omigod! Why didn’t I see it before? He likes you!”
“Who likes her?” Monroe asked without an invite into the conversation. Both Daisy and Emmy froze. Monroe stood before them, hands on her hips. Her makeup and robes looking perfect as always. “Did I misspeak? Who likes you?” she asked again, sitting down.
“Nobody. Emmy’s just trying to make me feel better. You know, Howard and all,” Daisy said, thinking quick on her feet. After a moment, Emmy nodded.
“Ugh, Howard. Such a waste of time,” she said. “You’d do better to be single for a while; don’t need anything distracting you from…Potions.”
Daisy looked at Monroe then to Emmy. It was one thing to always put her down about Howard but now Potions, the one thing that gave her purpose? She’d had enough.
“What’s your problem?” she asked, sitting up straighter in her chair to hold Monroe’s gaze.
“What?” Monroe asked, eyes wide in fake shock.
“Ever since I started my indie study you’ve been nothing but nasty. Like it offends you that I’m studying hard.”
“What are you playing at—taking extra classes like you’re special or something. I mean, who does that?” Monroe said, looking to Emmy for consensus.
“Smart people do,” Daisy snapped. Monroe drew back in shock as Daisy continued. “And I’m not going to be put down for it. If you have a problem, you can find someone else to hang out with.”
Monroe opened her mouth but nothing came out; her face was pink as she stood and walked off. Daisy went back to reading her book, her hands shaking.
“Psst,” Emmy said after a moment. Daisy looked up. “That. Was. Brilliant!” she said with a squeal.
Daisy shook her head, “I shouldn’t have gone off like that,” she said.
“Are you crazy? That’s exactly what you should’ve done. You stood up for yourself, Daisy and it was bloody amazing!”
Daisy smiled and went back to her reading; her hands stopped shaking as she took a deep breath. If felt good to stand up for herself—come what may, she was proud to be on her own side.