The goblin-made ring glittered exquisitely on her finger, its reassuring weight symbolic of the comfortable future Claudia had finally, against all odds, secured. She flexed her hands, wrists to fingertips, towards the ceiling of the practical lab, then bent fully in half and pressed her palms onto the floor. Long, dark blonde hair spilled over her shoulder from its ponytail, tickling the toes of her bare feet. Bright cyan nail polish added splashes of color amidst the contrast of her pale skin and dark attire.
In duelling club she could hold her own against any of the other students at RMI. While it was still fun, and good practise to duel others, the seventh year needed to spend time alone to improve her expertise. At the start of the day, before classes, the practical lab was usually empty for her to use. She laid out mats and organised a cluster of dummies, and began readying her muscles for movement. In Claudia’s experience, duels didn’t usually facilitate an opportunity to limber up beforehand, nor were they often executed in hip-hugging cropped leggings and a sports bra, but if offensive spells were included as part of an exercise regime, people seemed more accepting of her interest in them. In here she could stretch, she could cast spells, and she could obliterate the dummies set up around the room without invoking too much speculation.
Her reputation within the school was anyone’s guess these days. From barely audible wallflower, to queerphobic sociopath, from anxious mess to popular party hostess, her social status within the school was complex and confusing to follow. Now Claudia had better control of her image. Barely anyone was still at school who’d remember or care that she had a disinherited older brother with a nonbinary love interest. Claudia kept her own interests in the dark arts, especially necromancy, to herself, only practising in the passageways when nobody else was around.
The news of her engagement to Nathaniel Fontenot this summer was public, and so was the fact that she’d inherited her grandparents’ millions, but these were facts she was happy to share. She was less eager to reveal that she still hadn’t fully mastered her animagus transformation, but it was only a matter of time until she could turn into a poison dart frog and back again at will. Then she would be able to drop the excruciating one-on-one sessions she and Professor McKindy had endured in each other’s company for far too long. She admired his skills as a wizard, but—for reasons that were evident to anyone who knew even a little about either of them—had never really gotten along with her Head of House.
As for her friends, well, perhaps it was just as well Claudia had a lot of studies and extracurriculars to distract her. Alena and Darlene were still her friends. Marley and Remington had gone on a date together which was … well, honestly it was weird. Claudia had been friends with Marley on and off for years, and more steadily with Remy for a shorter duration, and now the two of them had this other (rather unexpected) connection that Claudia couldn’t be a part of. It was unsettling. What if they went on lots of dates and enjoyed each other’s company more than hers? What if they broke up and it was awkward being friends with either of them? Then there was Connor. Claudia was trying to be as cordial with him as was permitted by the circumstances … which involved him detesting her other friends, and displaying feelings that, at times, were decidedly beyond platonic for Claudia, which she, at times, returned. She had a fiancé now. It was complicated.
Claudia uncurled her spine, bringing her nose from her knees back up to its usual height. She moved her feet apart, wider than her shoulders, then reached again to touch the floor.
The door opened. Claudia looked to the side, allowing an angled view of the doorway. She surveyed the newcomer with dark brown eyes outlined in dark brown liner and mascara. “I was just preparing to begin a dueling practice,” she explained, standing upright.