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Chapter 5 : Out of the Shadows and into the Limelight
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The second week of school starts back at Alchemy. Purposely, I take my time getting from the Great Hall to class.
As the last person to enter a classroom, it is customary to be subject to the stares of every single person in it. Knowing Arden Yang shared the same class, I walk in slowly.
I am stared at. I look around the room to find my victim. Finding my victim, I give Yang a sly wink. Any thoughts he had flies away from his mind as the thought of me being a desperate cat-lady flies away from everyone else’s minds, but the fear of me still remains.
He blinks, red creeps up his face, and he shifts uncomfortably. In the silence of the room, his gulp is loud. I hear gasping and murmuring as I take my place next to Al, who is trying to hide a laugh. Scorpius snorts attractively. Rose looks at him confused. James gives me a discrete thumbs-up.
“Good Morning, class. I’ve graded your papers and will hand them back to you shortly.”
Professor Cunningham looks at me pointedly. I don’t think she likes my essay.
“To inspire good behaviour and hard work in this class, I have taken the best essay and the worst and will read them out to you as examples. This is so you all know what to do and what not to do.”
First, let me congratulate Rose Weasley on a job well done. Miss Weasley, you received the only O in the class.”
“Miss Weasley’s essay goes as follows:”
“Alchemy is one of the most ancient of all the branches of magic. It is an ancient science that involves the transmutation of one substance into another. . . “
Professor Cunningham reads Rose’s essay out loud.
“Now, that class, is what you should do. Congratulations, Miss Weasley.”
“Thank you, Professor.”
“Now for the least impressive of the essays:”
“Alchemy is an antiquated branch of magic. Calling it a science would be inaccurate. Science is constantly improving. Alchemy is not. Science takes into account the most recent data and applies them to old concepts. Alchemy does not fulfill these requirements. So, in an attempt to right that, here are what should be the modern basic principles of Alchemy.”
The worst? Honestly?!
Cunningham pauses to laugh at my words.
“We cannot move forward in Alchemy, if we continue to accept the four basic elements as the foundation of all Alchemical concepts. Instead, we must first study particle physics and the behaviour of subatomic particles. Only then can we gain a true understanding of transmutation. . .”
I glower at her as she reads my words and deems them ridiculous.
“Miss Kluge. I honestly expected more from you. Professor Slughorn and Professor Amelio told me you were a bright, young girl. I should inform him that you are very much the opposite.” Cunningham hands me my essay and the class gasps as they find that the words belong to me.
I keep quiet, but resolute in my beliefs.
Outside class, I have been making more progress with Yang. By late September, we manage small-talk.
For Care of Magical Creatures, Professor Hagrid has us get into groups to take care of a magical creature for a month.
Al, Clinton, and I name our Knarl, Darwin.
On a cloudless, late September weekend, Al and I walk to the Quidditch pitch to remind Clinton of our duties. We need to feed Darwin.
The Ravenclaw team is just wrapping up their practice session when we arrive.
“OI, MATE! Enemies not allowed on pitch during practice!” Clinton hollers to Al while descending from the skies.
Clinton greets us and whispers, “Yang’s over there. Any plans for him right now?”
I look over to where Clinton is pointing. Yang is breathing heavily after a long practice session.
“I’ll walk over to the shade. When he’s within a metre of me, say something to embarrass him.” I wink and walk away.
Once in the shade, I give Yang a small wave. He starts walking over to me, not breaking eye contact.
“Yang! Invite me to the wedding, when it happens! Could you do that, mate?” Clinton shouts at his teammate.
Yang’s cheeks flush with red.
His pupils dilate to adjust from the burning glare of the Sun to the darkness of the shade.
He is still breathing hard, no doubt his pulse is erratic.
He takes his gloves off and I see a shiny sheen of sweat coating them.
I hadn’t counted on that, but all the better.
I give a small smile.
“Annett, hey! Good Morning! I mean, Good Afternoon! How are you?”
“I’m well, Arden. Thank you. And yourself?”
“I’m great! I just got the Lightningbolt XX. It’s a fastest broom in the world! Did you see me try it out? Do you want to see me try it out?”
I step closer to him, look down, and look up again from under my eyelashes.
“Maybe another time, Arden. I have a Knarl to take care of right now. I'll see you around,” I say softly.
I see Arden smile uncontrollably wide as I walk back to Clinton and Al.
“What was that about?” Al asks me. His and Clinton’s faces are wrought with equivalent confusion.
“I played with his hormones.” My grin is wrought with unconstrained mischief.
Clinton and Al urge me to explain myself more explicitly as we walk towards the stables where Darwin lives.
“When an individual feels love, certain hormones—adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine—are released. Among other things, they cause pupil dilation, sweaty palms, flushing of cheeks, and an increase in pulse, which is associated with heavy breathing. Let’s call these the “symptoms of love.” Do you see where I’m going?”
The boys tilt their heads like confused puppies.
“Yang already had such hormones in his system because he just exercised. His pulse and breathing rate were already high after Quidditch practice. His palms were already sweaty. By having him move to the shade, his pupils need to dilate to adjust to the light, or lack of it. Because you said something that embarrassed him, his cheeks flushed. While his body did this, I had him focus solely on me by maintaining eye contact. Somewhere in his subconsciousness or his consciousness, I associated these symptoms and the release of those hormones with me. I’m not an expert on this, I’ve just read about theories. Theoretically, it could work. Maybe if it happens on multiple occasions, it could train his body to react that way just by looking at me. This might affect his feelings for me enough to build up his level of attraction, leading to his asking me out sooner.”
Clinton and Al stare at me, amazed.
“Merlin’s Lederhosen!” Al’s exclamation bring forth giggles that bubble in my chest. I lose control of my facial muscles to breakout grinning.
Another class, another essay, another telling off by Cunningham. I continue to stay mute.
“Honestly, Annett, my dear! This is a magic course. I do not appreciate another essay concerning this muggle science nonsense.
“First you give me an essay about particle physics, now this electron configuration nonsense. Please follow the textbook!”
I relax all my facial muscles but my eyebrows. They form one, straight line, broken only by the skin between my eyebrows. It was a look that told her that if she believed me to be a delinquent, then I wasn’t going to change her mind.
“I really don’t appreciate you disrespecting the textbook. I will not stand for it. From this essay onwards, I will just give you T’s. See if that changes your mind about the textbook.”
She would give me a Troll! Hypocrite.
To disrespect a science is to refuse to explore it more, to refuse to expand the public’s knowledge concerning it. I am respecting Alchemy. I’m trying to put my own perspective on it. I’m trying to update it. I’m trying to provide aid to the wound that is lack of progression. I will vie for Modern Alchemy.
I do respect the textbook. I read it. Then, I combine knowledge I have gained from it with my knowledge of muggle science and advanced transfiguration. Then I maul the textbook with my own notes. Now the information it contains is updated. My textbook is now progressive. Cunningham’s class, however, is not.
In the Great Hall a week later, after adding more notes to my Alchemy textbook, I sit down next to Al for dinner. The Weasleys, the Potters, the Malfoy, and the Corners have started eating as well.
From my left, Scorpius nudges me. I see hints of mischeif in his face. He points. I follow his point to Arden Yang who is walking over to our direction. His face tells me that Roxanne, James, Fred, Clinton, and Carter will all be getting their money back right on schedule.
A hush descends upon this side of the Great Hall and I look around to see the eager faces of those who are involved in the bet.
Yang looks at Dahlia and Daisy who give him encouraging nods and four thumbs-ups.
I put on a harmless face and turn around, “Good Evening, Arden,” I say softly.
“G-Good Evening,” the pitch of his voice increased sharply at the end of the last word.
He is breath is quick, his pupils are dilated, and his palms are sweaty.
“Do you. . .need anything?” I asked. I raise my left eyebrow and lift the corners of my mouth just slightly.
“Umm. . . Yes, well, so, I was. . .I was wondering if, if, if, if, if you would like to go out with me to Hogsmeade.” He pushes the words out of his mouth the way one would push a giant out of a human-sized doorway.
I wait until his question has fully escaped his chapped lips before dropping my smile and the altitude of my eyebrows completely.
He licks his lips and gulps. He looses his eyebrows to his hairline.
Being devious with a secret flair for dramatics, I let the tension build in the room. I let the silence start crushing him. I keep my eyes right on his, willing him to stay in his place.
Slowly, I lift my right hand. Yang’s eyes start flickering from my hand to my face. His breath quickens.
“Arden. . .” I will his eyes to stay on mine and as it does, I relax my eyebrows and gently touch his arm, “I’d love to.”
I watch him slowly process my words and give him a chance to calm down. Instead, he breathing kept its pace, but his face split into a smile as he tells me when and where he’d meet me.
I nod and he runs to Daisy and Dahlia who give him high-fives.
“She is good! I like her,” Fred says with delight. “As a fellow mischief maker, of course, Albie. I wouldn’t hit on the secret love of your life.”
“Did you see his face? Priceless!” Lily squeals.
“So. . . You’re really going out with him?” Rose asks.
“I hope you didn’t think that my fun stopped there, I’m not done with him, yet.”
“With your help, we could actually declare a prank war with the Incog Imp before Freddie and I graduate.” James turns to me thoughtfully.
He’s asking me to engage in a prank war against myself!
I nearly choke to death with laughter on my tea.
Al pats my back with a bemused expression.
“How can you tell if a prank is done by the Incog Imp?” Carter asks.
“The Incog Imp usually signs the pranks. Puts “Incog Imp” somewhere in the prank scene to claim it. I’ve been studying this character for years now.” James takes on the persona of an expert on the subject-matter.
“What have your studies unveiled?” I ask.
“Absolutely nothing. . . except the genius this anonymous prankster must possess. I mean you’d think the professors would be able to find out by now, but. . . nothing! It’s very impressive.”
The reason I have not yet been caught is that I take extra pains to make sure nothing can be tied back to me. Most of my labour is done manually. If I use a spell, it cannot be directly connected to the prank committed. I use simple spells to carry out more complex tasks. Not even the Ministry, who probably monitors every single spell I perform, could trace the prank to me. My pranks are more complicated than just the work of a single spell. Mrs. Norris keeping her not-dull eye out for me also helps me out. So does Ginkgy's gossiping. Although, Gingky doesn't know I'm much of a prankster.
“Let us all convene in the Room of Requirement after dinner today. Al, you can show Annett the way.” Roxanne orders us.
What in the world is a Room of Requirement?
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