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“Miss Granger, may I ask a question?”
Oh shit, here we go. Class smart-ass, Craig Wellman. It was the last week of school and the Year 12s were getting feisty; we’d spent the school year preparing them for life after high-school, treating them like adults, loosening the apron strings and encouraging them to engage us as peers, if not as equals. It worked for most of them; at eighteen they can legally drive a car or drink a beer; though preferably not at the same time. Heck, they could fight in a war; they’re adults after all.
But there were always exceptions. Not every kid matured at the same rate; some of them were little more than overgrown twelve-year-olds with side-burns and hair on their chest. I know that sounds sexist and maybe it is; the girls for the most part were fine. But the boys? Oh my goodness, the boys! For a young teacher, check that; for a young female teacher; 5’4″ in sensible heels and 54 kilograms (118 pounds), some of these boys were double my size; it was challenging to give them a little adult responsibility and still maintain enough respect to keep control of the class.
And dick-heads like Craig Wellman did not help matters.
“Yes Craig,” audible sigh from me.
“Miss Granger,” he began in a refined British accent, snorting back a laugh before he could deliver the punch-line. “Can you give us the third unforgivable spell?”
Raucous guffaws from most of the boys; rolling eyes from the girls. Harry Potter jokes were nothing new to me; I’d shared a surname with J.K Rowling’s famous girl-witch, Hermione Granger, for over half of my life and believe me, I had dealt with worse than Craig Wellman’s dull wit over the years. A LOT worse.
“Well Craig,” I chirped brightly, not wanting to let him see that he had hit a tender spot. “They’re ‘Unforgivable Curses’, not spells,” that deflated him a little bit. “I’ll have to consult my ‘Goblet of Fire’ first-edition, but I believe the third Unforgivable Curse is Broomenema.”
That stopped him dead. A look of confusion crossed his face, momentarily stifling the giggles.
“Broomenema,” I smiled. “That’s when you turn the head of your broomstick into your ass. It’s not so much unforgivable as ill-advised.”
The class dissolved into screaming chaos. Bazinga! Gotcha, Craigie-waigie!
I’d taken a bit of a chance burning a student with a relatively ribald joke like that, but Craig was the class clown after all. It took him a few extra seconds to get it and then he was laughing out long and loud with the rest of them.
I walked through the rows of desks and used my physical presence to restore order; giving Craig a smile and an ‘I’m watching you’ two-fingered salute at my eyes as I passed him at the back of the class.
Just as the laughter was dying down, a voice chimed in from near the front. “If I was you, Craig, I’d give the bristle end a miss as well.”
More laughter from everybody, although I was pleased to note it wasn’t quite as raucous as for my joke. I did a quick scan to find the comedian: Josh Kerrigan. He’s tall – well, they all are compared to me – and has a trim, manly body for an 18-year-old, sandy blonde hair and a ready smile with nice, straight teeth. He’s not the captain of the football team, or a super athlete, or a nerdy genius; he’s just a normal kid; a normal, good-looking kid, with a ripped chest … okay, it’s possible I have a little crush on him.
As I walked back to the front of class, Josh held out his fingers at hip-level and I couldn’t help myself; I gave him a little low-five as I went past. It felt nice. Am I a bad teacher? I suppressed a pang of guilt as I thought about my fiancé for a moment. Am I a bad fiancée? I don’t think so; it doesn’t hurt to look, right?
Just a few more moments before the bell rang; I had planned to have a little fun with them and maybe give them an opportunity to learn something useful for a change. I still had time.
“Okay, one week of high school left, you lot,” I called out to a muted series of cheers. “So, I’m giving you,” pause for effect. “Homework!” Groans and grand ‘why me’ gestures all round. “Wait for it, wait for it!” I quietened them, trying to hide my smile. “And I want it on my desk,” another pause to build up tension, “next Friday morning in class.”
Stunned silence all round. Next Friday was the last day of school for the Year 12s; also known as Muck-Up Day. They would party all night Thursday, drinking alcohol and setting up practical jokes for the rest of the school to see when they came in; and even though the teachers would still turn up to class, tradition dictated that none of the students ever did.
Nobody was game to admit that they wouldn’t be turning up on Friday morning and they were trying to silently work out among themselves whether I was joking about the homework without tipping me off.
I allowed bostancı escort myself a little smirk to let them know this was optional homework, although I really did hope that some of them would take it seriously and try to impress me.
“I want you to write me an essay,” I continued.
There was a much louder chorus of confusion this time. Mathematics teachers simply didn’t ask for essays.
“I want a thousand words,” I said, looking meaningfully at all of the eyes staring back at me with a mix of incredulity and apprehension, “on the most influential mathematician of the twentieth century.”
I expected some more groans but I didn’t get them; it was mostly just a confused silence. I think a lot of them had already decided that I was joking.
“Who’s that?” It was Josh asking; I hoped he’d take this seriously because he can be terribly bright when he applies himself.
“I want YOU to tell me,” I explained. “Do some research, pick a twentieth century mathematician and tell me why he or she was so influential.”
Then the bell rang. Perfect timing! Like a raft of migrating penguins they rose as one and spilled out the door with youthful Friday good cheer. As I packed up my stuff, I looked up and felt a little heart flutter to see Josh was lingering, trying to be the last to leave. Geez, get a hold of yourself Jeannie! He’s a kid!
“Miss Granger,” he began, walking up to my desk. “Are you coming to the fair in fancy dress? All the Year 12s will be.”
The senior school fair was on next Friday afternoon instead of classes; it was our concession to the fact that we knew none of them would be in class. At least if we offer them some fun in the afternoon then they might take it a bit easier on the booze in the morning and the night before. Sometimes it even worked.
That was sweet. Josh was discreetly reminding me that next Friday was Muck-Up Day and not to expect too much homework to be handed in.
“Now this isn’t a trick, is it Josh?” I smiled up at him. “I turn up to school, the only one in fancy dress, and you all get a laugh at my expense?”
“No Miss Granger,” he looked genuinely mortified. “Honest! Ask anyone.”
“I’m messing with you Josh,” I laughed. “I know about the fancy dress tradition.”
“Oh!” he looked relieved. “Good. Who are you coming as?”
“Well until today,” I said with a smile, “I was going to dust off an old Hermione Granger Red Dress that I had at Uni, but I’m not sure I want to give Craig the ammunition.”
“Ohhh, Miss Granger,” he said with genuine awe in his voice. “That would be really ti-i-ight!”
“What?” I cried, looking down with concern at my trim waist. “I haven’t put on any weight since Uni.”
“No, Miss,” he said earnestly. “Tight means good.”
“I thought ‘bad’ meant good,” I said, quite seriously, my hands still folded protectively over my stomach.
“Not anymore,” he shook his head. “‘Bad’ is bad again and ‘tight’ is good. And you would look really tight in Hermione’s Red Dress.”
Oh my God, my nipples just tingled. This was bad; and I don’t mean bad-as-in-good. I shouldn’t be getting the girly-love-tingles for an eighteen-year-old student, no matter how nicely his tanned skin stretches over his clavicle. Shit! Stop it, Jeannie! You’re getting yourself wet!
“Thank you Josh,” I said, resisting the urge to look away as I felt a blush rise to my cheeks. “You pay a lovely compliment. Now get going before you miss your next class.”
“Yes, Miss Granger,” he smiled at me and sailed out the door.
Chapter 1 – A Plain but Ambitious Girl
I wasn’t lying about the Goblet of Fire First Edition; I have First Editions of all seven Harry Potter books, courtesy of my father who collected them for me one by one when I was a child.
For eleven years I was just plain old Jean Granger; it was Dad who called me Jeannie – often with a snatch of David Bowie’s Jean-Genie – and it was only later that I insisted everybody use it, after J.K Rowling stole my name.
It was in 1997 that J.K. Rowling gave the world Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, or – as she was known to the teachers at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – Miss Granger. Hermione Granger, eleven years old, just like me; but a sassy little know-it-all whom we thought we might hate, until she redeemed herself by being a good friend to Harry and Ron. And then we loved her.
To have someone with my name – okay, maybe just my surname – and my exact age in what was becoming a famous kids’ story book; it was special. It was like having my own secret identity; a fantasy world that I could step into whenever I liked. And I enjoyed a small notoriety at school, too. Not as much as a kid called Potter might have enjoyed; but kids mentioned it; in a nice way.
I had already read the paperback twice, but Dad ordered me a First Edition of Harry Potter and ümraniye escort bayan the Philosopher’s Stone and gave it to me for Christmas. I treasured it.
J.K. Rowling was like my personal fantasy writer; giving Hermione, and by extension me, new adventures for the next three years as I went through puberty. She was even beginning to hint at a love interest with either Harry or Ron, which was deliciously appealing because I was getting interested in boys too.
And then they made the movie.
Actually, it wasn’t too bad at first. I was fourteen when Philosopher’s Stone was released as a movie and Emma Watson, the actress playing Hermione – was only eleven, so nobody saw the resemblance. When Chamber of Secrets came out the following year, a couple of people, adults mostly, made the connection; I had a few people say “You know, you Granger girls DO look a little bit alike.”
But a year later when Emma Watson was thirteen – goodness knows what it was like for her going through puberty on a movie screen – and with her face and body changing shape, it became clear that we were more than just a little bit alike; we could have been sisters. The sort of sisters who looked like twins.
Added to the coincidence of our shared age and surname, looking like the “real” Hermione should have made the fantasy even more special; and for a while it did. Until the trouble.
I turned sixteen in the year Chamber of Secrets was released at the movies. I didn’t have a boyfriend – I never had had one – but things seemed to be changing on that front. Without really understanding what was happening, I found myself arriving early for each class at school so that I could stand outside and wait for the teacher to come; and there was a boy doing the same thing. His name was Rick.
Goodness knows how shy kids ever hook up, because Rick and I spent five minutes alone together, three times per day. In complete silence! I looked at my shoes. Rick looked at the ceiling, or at his watch, or anywhere but me. For pity’s sake, why didn’t one of us have a wing-man, or wing-woman, whatever!
This must have gone on for weeks, and it probably would have kept going on if one day I didn’t look at my watch, lose my grip on my books and then spill them with a shriek all over the floor in front of Rick. It’s possible that I orchestrated it; I don’t remember. Okay, I DO remember, but I’m not telling.
Anyway, I mouthed some suitable sixteen-year-old curse like ‘bugger’ and went to ground to start picking everything up; as did Rick, according to plan, if there had been a plan which there wasn’t, so there! We both collected half an armful of my books and stood up, looking at each other for what might have been the first time and still not saying anything. C’mon Rick, meet me half way!
“Here you go,” he smiled and gave me a ‘happens all the time’ kind of look. Well, it was a start.
“Thanks,” I whispered, looking back down at my shoes, “… Rick,” I finished belatedly, looking back up to accept my stuff as he handed it over; my battered copy of Goblet of Fire on the top. Way to go, Miss Cool!
“You’re reading Harry Potter?” he asked, fingering the dog-eared edges of the paperback.
“Mmmm,” I affirmed. The jobs of the debate team were under no threat from us for the time being.
“That’s kind of funny,” he said tentatively, as if to suggest that it was only funny in a very austere kind of way, and that he would cease to find it funny at very short notice if I told him it wasn’t in the least bit funny.
“Because of the whole,” I gestured roundly at my face and hair, which Emma Watson might have been interested to see if she was ever curious what she might look like in three years’ time.
“Yeah,” he said, brushing away some tremendously persistent invisible lint on his sleeve. “And because of the name, you know?”
“Jean?” I asked, frowning with mock confusion.
“Huh?” he looked confused too. “No. Um? Granger. You know, like Hermione.”
“I’m pulling your leg, Rick,” I smiled at him.
“Oh!” he smiled back. “Yeah, good one Jean.” He tried out my name for the first time, pausing as if tasting it, seeing if he liked the feel of it on his tongue. It seemed that he did because he smiled again, wider this time. “I read them too,” he said. “They’re good.” Who said the art of conversation is lost?
The exquisite torture of our first exchange – if that’s what you can call it – was mercifully snuffed when some more students arrived for class and we fell back into our gender roles of pretending each other didn’t exist.
But with the ice broken, we talked freely for the next week in five minute snatches before class, and not always about Harry Potter. We tried the usual conversational gambits: teachers, other kids, pop stars, TV shows; but it was when we started telling each other about our families that I realised we were kartal escort in a relationship of sorts.
It was the last period before lunch and we were just about to lose our privacy outside the classroom by the arrival of some more kids when Rick looked at me with a panicky desperation in his eyes.
“Jean,” he whispered urgently. “Do you want to (gulp) sit on the oval at lunchtime … with me, I mean.”
He took a few dry swallows trying to get that out and now the other kids were right there, so I couldn’t answer without breaking some rule that existed only in my head. I licked my lips a couple of times, looked at him with wide, excited eyes and nodded. He smiled, relief washing over his features as he took a step away so that he could concentrate more fully on the task of straightening his cuffs.
I remember every minute of that day in exquisite detail, but for the life of me I have no recollection of what we learned in that hour before lunch. I don’t even know what subject it was. I do remember watching Rick for a while (a fairly long while) sitting two rows in front and one to the left. I could see his ear, the side of his neck and the corner of his lips. I wondered what those lips might be like to kiss.
I watched the second-hand make its final, tortuous circuit of the clock face before the twelve o’clock bell and felt my heart-rate steadily lift as adrenalin surged through my system. I thought my life as someone who had never had a boyfriend might be in its final moments. I was wrong, sadly; but at the time it was a sweet feeling that I will never forget.
I fetched my sandwiches from my locker and stepped out into the sunshine in front of the school oval. Rick was standing by the football goals watching for me, and for one breathless, terrifying moment I thought he was going to wave and yell ‘Hey Jean, over here.’ But he didn’t, of course. He just stood there, smiling; and I walked towards him, smiling; maybe blushing too.
“Where do you want to sit?” he asked simply.
“How about in the shade?” I nodded at a row of elms that lined one side of the oval near the long-jump pit. The contrast between the shade and Sydney’s bright November sunshine lent that row of trees what was probably a false sense of privacy. Neither of us was ready to sneak off behind the shelter sheds just yet, but nor were we quite ready to share our fledgling romance with the rest of the student body.
We sat. We ate. We talked about the sort of stuff we always talked about in our thrice-daily five minute rendezvous, and as usual it lasted about five minutes. I know what I was thinking, and I’m certain he was thinking the same thing. I longed for the courage to tell him that I liked him; that I wanted to sit closer to him; and that if only he would ask me to be his girlfriend then I would say yes. Oh God, yes.
We sat looking at each other in awkward silence for a minute and then Harry Potter came to our rescue. I had brought an old Chamber of Secrets paperback with me out of habit more than any intention to actually read; but in desperation Rick gestured to it, “Do you want to read?” he asked.
“Um,” I didn’t want to read, but I didn’t want this ‘date’ to turn into a train-wreck either. “But you don’t have a book.”
“We can read together,” he smiled at me. “If you don’t mind.”
Oh. You. Genius! He would have to sit right up close to read with me. A big sunbeam smile lit up my face.
“Okay,” I grinned. “Do you want to go back to the start?”
“Nah,” he waved away the suggestion. “I’ve read it before. A few times.” Join the club, buster. I could almost recite it.
I was leaning on one arm and sitting with my legs folded to the side; Rick moved beside me and mirrored my pose so that our arms crossed over behind us and brushed whenever one of us moved, which we both did. A lot! I held the book open with one hand and rested it on my knee, and Rick had to lean so close that I could hear him breathing. At the end of each page I turned my head to look at him and see if he had finished too, and when he looked up our faces would be inches apart.
I would have given anything at that moment to know the secret sign that movie stars use to let their screen-lovers know they are ready to kiss.
After a couple of pages, I was getting sloppy with my book-holding and had allowed the spine to close a little. Without saying anything, Rick reached in and closed his hand around mine, adding the pressure of his own thumb in the fold to open the book wider. Could he hear my breathing? He could hardly miss it; I sounded like a steam engine.
Holding my hand and with the backs of his fingers resting lightly on my bare knee, I thought I might explode. I didn’t want that moment to end. When I finished the next page, I was going to open my lips and shut my eyes when I looked up. He was either going to have to kiss me or turn the page his own damn self! But we never got there.
“Miss Granger!” The unmistakable sarcastic tones of a school-ground bully; in our case: Alan Chester. Alan thought he was funny, but he wasn’t; he was just an asshole who people laughed at when he was bullying anyone else but them.
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