Life Lesson #38
Every girl can flirt. There are no exceptions. Every girl, no matter how innocent, has it in her to bat her eyelashes – just so; to look away – at the precise right moment; to look disinterested – yet mysterious. Some are still amateurs, yet they, too, have the power to entice – they merely have to let that instinct loose. And some … some are true and honest-to-God professionals.
I am one of them. I have perfected the art of flirting, and it has rarely failed me. I have made a sort of sport out of it – which damn near impossible prospect can I get next? It’s not like I don’t have a heart, I do. It’s just very well hidden, away from prying eyes or curious hands. My heart will not be touched easily, and it will not fall lightly.
But I digress. Hearts and emotions have little to do with the matter at hand. And that is – how to get a second glance. For starters.
At breakfast, for instance, when the entire school is assembled and almost ready to face the studious day, you can look around and spot a boy that you’ve been eyeing for a while now. He might have light, curly hair, a strong physique and a wide smile. No, wait, that one was last month. He was certainly a fun boy to have around, and skilled in a few matters that have nothing to do with Herbology, but flirting with him was too easy. This month, I would like a challenge.
At any rate, once the prospect has been spotted, he must be appraised. This appraisal can become an actual part of the flirting process. For instance, cocking your head slightly while scrutinizing the quarry will guarantee a second glance, provided that you avert your eyes disinterestedly and start up on your toast at once, though slowly. The prospect, then, has been hooked. He is intrigued – and now it is the appraiser who is being appraised. The rest of the day will be spent in a silent game of “who will come out on top”. Now, this entire day is crucial, because it will either end with you a definite and triumphant winner, or a very sad incompetent flirter. You must not give him any more attention than is necessary. He will come to you. Thus, at dinner, or perhaps later on in the common room, you will be approached and asked … something. At this point, it matters little what you’re asked, for you have come out on top. He is definitely hooked.
That morning, I was sitting with my best friend Emma, talking about Professor Thouran’s latest robes – the witch that teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts was notorious for wearing the latest fashions of the 18th century, all the while remaining completely oblivious to the date plastered to the classroom wall – when a small, yet significant, diversion took place. A gray cloud of smoke shot out of the middle of the Great Hall, disappeared and in its place scattered and flew tiny blue birds, chirping wildly, obviously distressed. Then about five of them flew up over the Slytherin table, plopped a few presents on the heads of Snape, Crabbe and Goyle, and flew out. I knew that it had to have been the Gryffindors – no one else could hate the Slytherins enough to let it potentially ruin their breakfasts. I laughed and decided to see exactly who the perpetrator was, just as McGonagall came striding past our table, furious and red, towards him.
The infamous Mr. Sirius “My Hair Is More Gorgeous Than Any Girl’s in This School” Black.
He looked nonchalant and innocent, as he took a small bite out if his toast and washed it down with pumpkin juice. I considered.
Did I hear myself calling for a challenge? Now, there was a challenge if ever I saw one. This challenge presented itself in a rather nice package. He was tall and broad-shouldered, lean and strong. He had light blue piercing eyes, a mischievous mouth surrounded by small laugh lines, and of course – that damn long black hair that would send any model witch back to her stylist. Yes. Yes, he would certainly do for a bit of fun.
I turned to Emma:
“Hey, Em, what d’you think? Bait him?” She knew my language very well, and even though she was never one to approve of such tactics – or the speed with which I changed prospects, telling me that if she’s happy with her one relationship with Daniel, then I could certainly settle down a bit, too – she glanced in Black’s direction. At that moment he was being hauled off for questioning by a still pissed off McGonagall, while his best friend Potter looked on, quite amused.
“Oh, Amanda. Can’t you think of it in any other way except ‘baiting’?” She looked at me in that familiar exasperated, “when will you learn” way. She will make a good mum one day, that one will, mark my words.
“Not when I’m doing this,” I answered, taking a bite off a sausage. Muggle psychologists must have been rolling in their graves. “When I fall for a bloke, then we’ll talk. Then you can close the lid of the coffin in which all my past dealings will lie and nail it shut.” She gave a sigh. “Look, I’m only seventeen. I’m not looking to settle down, I’m only looking to have a bit of fun while the world is going mad all around us. So, again I ask – bait him?”
“Well…” She looked in Black’s direction. He was standing at the Hall entrance, McGonagall’s raised finger flying in front of his face, looking pretty fetching when slightly disheveled. “Are you up to the challenge?”
“Then, may your power guide you!..”
I winked at her. This was going to be fun.
When Sirius got back to his seat to finish up whatever was left of his cold breakfast, I decided to launch right into it. Since I had already finished my two pieces of toast and glass of juice, I was ready to get to my first class, though some time still remained. I picked up my bag, walked around the table and went down the gap that divided the space shared by Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. I was walking slowly, making my walk deliberate, so no one would miss it. Indeed, I saw a few heads swivel my way out of the periphery of my vision. When I was level with Black, however, he merely turned his head once and went right back to talking to another friend of his. Hmph. Well, this was certainly not working out the way it usually did.
Walking out of the hallway, I was trying to come up with a reason. Well, he certainly wasn’t blind. He wasn’t attached – I’d never seen him with a girl for more than two seconds, except Evans, and that was a definite ‘no’, her last name was practically already changed to ‘Potter’. In fact … he seemed rather … like me. It would seem that our Mr. Black was going to be more of a challenge than originally anticipated. No matter. I have not once turned down a challenge, and I wasn’t about to now.
It was my lucky day when our Potions class was shifted around and we were now sharing it with the Gryffindors instead of Hufflepuff. Sirius was sitting with Potter – little surprise there – and that other boy, what was his name? He was one of those people that you sort of glossed over – very short, pudgy, nothing significant about him at all. Pettigrew! That was his name, Peter Pettigrew. Lily Evans was sitting a seat away from them. I knew of there being a last member to their little posse, Remus Lupin, but he wasn’t there. Briefly, I wondered where he was, but then put the thought out of my head. I had to concentrate on Sirius.
Sirius, however, was concentrating on his desk – not parchment, but desk. He seemed fidgety and unfocused. He wasn’t paying any attention to the Potions Master, and kept squirming in his seat. I watched him and wondered what the hell was going on. He leaned over to Potter and whispered something urgently. James, without even looking at him, shook his head once. Sirius sighed and turned back to the desk, fingering it with interest. I noticed Evans looking at him in both exasperation and sympathy. Well, this was most intriguing, of course, but it was still getting me nowhere. I had to change tactics, since clearly, Sirius wasn’t about to look up at me for no reason.
I was in luck. Potions had always been one of my best subjects – my superior cooking skills being no hindrance – and when the edgy Professor asked us a question, I raised my hand. I wasn’t trying to show off, because, after all, being in Ravenclaw, it’s hardly a necessity, but I needed Sirius to notice me.
“Yes, Miss Whickett?”
“Sir, the Monkshood is the same as Wolfsbane, and it is primarily used to placate, and later kill, werewolves on full moons.”
There, that had an effect – he must have noticed that I was speaking, since his head shot up at once and he stared at me, as if just noticing my presence. Well, good. I looked back at him, about to give one of my infamous enigmatic smiles, when I saw the way he was looking at me. It was chilling – he didn’t seem interested, he looked ready to kill. I turned away abruptly and looked out the window. I had no idea where that had come from, and it was one of the damn scariest things I’d ever encountered. I thought that my little challenge was completely dead in the water – and it’s not like I wanted him, after that. I certainly didn’t deserve the look he had just bestowed on me – it was completely uncalled for.
However, at the end of class, as we were all filing out, I saw him out of the corner of my eye and – I couldn’t help it – turned his way slightly. He saw me, too and smiled – almost, as if apologizing. I looked away, making a point of not smiling back, and left. There. That should serve him right, I thought. Maybe this day was going to grant me my wish, after all.
I didn’t see him next until lunch, and then only briefly as he sat down with Potter, Evans and Pettigrew (a relationship I shall never understand, by the way – perhaps Pettigrew had some secret talent that only Gryffindors were privy to). He didn’t notice me, and I was beginning to feel rather down. After all, I was me – by lunchtime, I had almost always succeeded in at least getting a second glance – an interested glance, not what Sirius was kind enough to have given me. But I was not going to give up. The more disinterested he seemed, the more I wanted to change his mind. I was going to seduce Sirius Black if it was the last thing I did.
By Herbology, I knew what I was going to do. It would require a certain loss of my usual aloofness, but it was damn well going to work.
Dinnertime came quickly enough, and I was going over the plan in my head when Emma sat down next to me, having come from the library.
“So,” she began, setting her bag down, “how’s the challenge going?” She sounded a bit weary. I made a mental note of talking to her about the importance of sleep to a teenage body.
“It will be done,” I answered, not wanting to give her full details. Even though Emma was my best friend, I didn’t feel like telling her this. I would tell her once Sirius had been thoroughly entrapped by my wiles. She merely nodded in response.
I quickly finished my dinner and gathered up my things. I was going to wait for Sirius outside of the Great Hall, but not make it look like I’d been waiting. I had to assess the situation before anybody else left for their common rooms, so I walked out before anyone had a chance to.
There was a large window situated to the left of the entrance door, with a spacious window seat. The sun was setting and the orange sun was just level with it. It was actually quite pretty, and I let the uncharacteristic admiration of something as trivial as a sunset take over for a moment, while I sat on the seat and waited for Mr. Black.
He didn’t take long, as his long legs came into view before he did, five minutes later. He seemed to be in a rush, but before he had a chance to run off and escape, James Potter came to my rescue – unbeknownst to him, of course. He put a restraining hand on Sirius’ shoulder and said something to him quietly. I had always found it quite amazing how easily best friends could placate and manipulate their counterparts, and James Potter was no exception. With a few well-chosen words that were, unfortunately, spoken much too quietly for me to hear, James stopped Sirius running off. I seized my chance. Again.
“Sirius?” I asked, putting on my best seductive tone, and slowly sliding off the window seat. I admired my technique even as I practiced it.
He turned his head my way and gave a small smile. He seemed nervous and jumpy, but it was my best chance and I had to take it.
“Yes?” he asked.
While I walked over to him, I thanked Potter silently once again as he, Evans and Pettigrew walked away, quickly telling Sirius they’d meet him back in the common room. Sirius, then, turned his full attention to me.
“I wanted to ask you a few things, if you wouldn’t mind.” Lower eyelashes for a bit longer than usual, then resume normal batting rhythm.
“Ummm…okay…” He seemed uncomfortable and not like his usual self. Perhaps I was getting through to him already.
“I have a few questions about Defense. Thouran’s not very good at explaining hexes, but I know that you don’t have any problems with them.” I was, of course, lying. Hexes were nothing, just like everything else we learned in that class. Swish and flick and your opponent is lying prone on the floor, unable to move an inch. Sirius raised one eyebrow.
“What? Am I hearing right? Ravenclaw’s top student asking a mere brash Gryffindor for help? In an academic subject?”
Oh, very funny, Mr. Black.
“I’ll have you know that apart from hexes, I need no help with anything – not a Ravenclaw top student for nothing.”
“Well, then, my apologies, Miss Whickett.” He gave a slight bow and quirked a smile.
“Yes, yes, apology accepted. Besides, you heard my answer in Potions – I know my magic.” Uh-oh. Wrong move on my part (astounding, but true). He immediately became uncomfortable once again and looked down, cheeks paling.
“Yeah, listen, Amanda, I didn’t mean to be such an arse back there, but it’s … I … umm … well … I can’t –”
“It’s all right, Sirius, perhaps you have some mysterious reason of your own as to why Monkshood is such a sore point with you.” I decided to be gracious. Whatever it was he was trying to tell me while stammering was his business and his business only. I had no part in it, and didn’t want to. No deep, dark secrets were going to be revealed today – at least, not if I had anything to say about it.
“Right…” Still looking around and not at me. “Anyway, sorry. What was that question you wanted to ask me?”
“Yes, now to the business at hand...” In a very subtle manner I brushed my fingers against his robes as I moved in closer and guided him to the nearest hallway. The entrance space was fast being filled with people and I definitely didn’t want this to be interrupted. He quickly followed my lead – so quickly, in fact, that I almost stumbled over him as he practically ran away when I touched him.
Huh. Well, that was a new, and not entirely pleasant, development. We’d have to work on the whole “if you want this you will have to touch me” thing.
I continued undaunted, as if I hadn’t noticed his hasty retreat. After all, it was all about dignity. I straightened up my robes.
“It’s about the flying hex. The hand motion in it is very similar to the one in the tickling charm, and for some reason I get them confused. However, Thouran said that there was –”
Sirius appeared to be half-listening to me as he leaned away a bit and strained his neck to look down the hall. What the hell was he looking for? I was getting rather mad. This was not going the way it was supposed to!
“Sirius? You still with me?” I waved my hand in front of his face, and he snapped back to the reality in front of him, which was a rather put-out me.
“Er…Sorry, Amanda, I didn’t mean to… I’m a little … er … never mind, go on, I’m sorry.” He raked a hand through his hair and I became even more frustrated, because he looked especially good like that. Damn him.
“Are you ok?” Another move I had found over the years – talk about them. It’s worked like a charm every time.
“Yes, I’m fine, don’t worry about it. Seriously, go on.”
Hmph. That didn’t work the way it was supposed to. Well, now, really, what was going to work on this frustratingly unbaitable boy? I tried the very last resort, something which was very difficult to pull off unless one was a professional. If it didn’t work, I would have been left looking like a complete and desperate loony. It had to be very precise.
I leaned up against the wall, and carefully and imperceptibly began to lift up my robes – just ever-so-slightly, no need for more than a few extra inches of calf. I looked into his eyes, hoping that the intent was showing clearly in them, and waited a moment before opening my mouth to continue talking, when he proved that my very last resort had just gone to hell in a hand basket faster than you could say “shag me”.
“Amanda, are you all right?” he asked, sounding so damn concerned. I was officially at the end of my rope. I had never encountered anyone so spectacularly immune to me – or to anyone! – before. Was I losing my touch? Was I trying too hard? What the hell was going on?
“Sirius?” sounded a voice to our left, quite suddenly. It was Sirius’ friend, Remus Lupin, who had been missing all of today. This one, I’d given up on trying to figure out a long time ago. He was a mystery wrapped in a slim, often even frail looking package with shadows under pretty hazel eyes. He sounded unsure, as if he didn’t want to interrupt, yet … there was something else. I looked back at Sirius. And then I knew.
I am not a romantic person. I don’t believe in love at first sight, I don’t read sappy poetry, and I have never come even close to being in love. I have read books – fine books – where love was described as something otherworldly, something that somehow went beyond some regular boundaries. What a bunch of crock, I used to think. Half of the couples of Hogwarts wouldn’t last at all, I always knew, because this was all just child’s play. They certainly wouldn’t last a hundred years, the couples’ life spans.
But at that moment, when Sirius Black turned to Remus Lupin, I knew. Something in the air shifted. Sirius, who immediately stopped fidgeting and looking nervous, looked like he had forgotten everything, but the figure standing a few feet away from us. The smile that crept over Lupin’s face was heavy with something I had yet to experience.
“Remus,” Sirius said, and his very voice changed. Most people wouldn’t have noticed the change, but I did. Over the years, I have trained myself in listening to the slightest of shifts in tone and gestures – and even though I had never really encountered that particular tone, I felt the change. And that was all the answer I needed. Sirius Black was taken – in a very large, otherworldly, incomparable, unchanging way. He may not even have known it just then, but I did.
I backed away.
This seemed too … important, too big to want to move between. I wouldn’t have stood a chance – and you know the strangest thing? I suddenly didn’t want one.
“James was wondering where you’d got off to, we were just planning on going to –,” Remus trailed away as he looked at me. I straightened up and smiled. He lifted one eyebrow and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sirius blush. Blush. Oh, he was gone. Sirius Black wouldn’t blush in front of Voldemort if he had stripped him down and pulled out his own wanker. Yet here, in front of this thin boy, his cheeks turned a bit red and his lips made a very guilty smile. And he didn’t even have anything to feel guilty about.
“Hi, Remus, I was just asking Sirius a question about Defense Against the Dark Arts! He answered it, so I will just … er … be going! Yes, I’ll see you later Sirius.” I had completely lost my cool because of the sudden fear that I had managed to mess things up, but one look at Remus put those fears to rest. It would take more than Amanda Whickett to ruin what these two had.
Just as I was about to leave, feeling rather humbled, if not humiliated, I had a sudden thought and stopped in my tracks. It was an uncharacteristic thought, and I knew I’d probably regret it later, but what the hell. The moment just sort of called for it.
I turned to Sirius, looking him straight in the eye, and said:
“You know, Sirius, I had thought that you were the easy shag type. I commend you. This one’s a keeper.” And I walked off, practically hearing two jaws drop behind me. When I was sufficiently far away for them not to give a damn about where I was now, I turned around. They were getting ready to leave – Remus had extended his hand to Sirius, and Sirius took it without hesitation. However, instead of following Lupin, he drew him closer and touched his lips to Remus' forehead. I saw Remus close his eyes and give a small smile. He squeezed Sirius’ fingers slightly and Sirius responded. And that was all they needed. No words of love were spoken then, because, apparently, neither one needed that kind of shallow reassurance.
I walked away feeling horribly soppy and not like myself. These two were going to last a lifetime and beyond. They were going to battle out the worst for one another, if it came to that. You ask me how I knew it from those ten seconds? Simple – it was in the air. Yes, I, Amanda Whickett, cynic extraordinaire, have declared that it’s as easy as that to tell, because it was a feeling. It was a feeling of prickling sparks in the air that connected those two boys – I merely caught the aftershock.
Quickening my step, I walked outside. I desperately needed a fag.
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