I was the first one in my dormitory to wake up the following morning. Pushing the covers off of my face so I could actually breathe, I rolled onto my back and stared up at the ceiling for Merlin only knows how long. The cloud of sleep was still looming over me, but it always took me a long time to wake up in the mornings. With a groan, I untangled my limbs from the sheets and kicked them off of my legs. Sitting up, I tossed my legs over the side of the bed and rubbed the sleep from the corners of my eyes with the back of my palms.
With a sigh, I pushed myself off of my mattress and ambled over to the bathroom, which was on the opposite side of the room. Though I would be the first to escape should there be a fire or something else would happen, if I had to go to take a piss or my lunch was threatening to come up, then I would probably end up making a mess of my roommates belongings and I’m sure they wouldn’t like that at all. I tiptoed across the floor, hoping that the floorboards wouldn’t squeak obnoxiously and wake up my dormmates. But alas, since I had an never ending supply of bad luck these days, the floor creaked ominously beneath my foot and I cringed, squeezing my eyes shut tightly.
Amazingly, it seemed that none of them had moved an inch in their beds. Marlene McKinnon was snoring in her obnoxious way; Leanne Mason was nuzzled deep in her wool duvet; Alice Harper was, well, honestly, I couldn’t see much of her, since she was such a tiny little thing; and Lily Evans was lying in her bed, which was next to mine, looking incredibly peaceful. Oh how I envied them all with their capabilities of sleeping more than eight hours a night. With a glare around the room, I walked into the bathroom and shut the door behind me as quietly as I could.
The frigid air of the bathroom made goosebumps appear on my arms and legs as I turned on the shower and let the water warm up until it was a bearable temperature. I looked at myself in the mirror and grimaced; a white outline of what I presumed to be dried drool was caked on my cheek. It wasn’t exactly surprising, seeing as how I had always been a drooler more than a snorer. I tested the water and, once I was satisfied, I pealed off my wrinkled uniform and tossed it to the floor, stepping into the hot, steaming shower.
As the scalding water skittered across the surface of my skin, seeping into my muscles and relaxing the coils of tension held in my shoulders, I rolled my neck to side to side, enjoying the sensation. Though I had slept for nearly ten hours, it hadn’t been a very restful sleep at all. I had woken up several times in the night, my forehead drenched with sweat and my chest heaving. I couldn’t remember if I had any nightmares, but I highly doubted that any of them would cause me to wake suddenly like that; I very rarely woke up from “bad dreams”, at least not in the recent years of my life. But somehow, I had managed to get back to sleep within seconds of jolting myself awake. Although, it was only a matter of time before I would wake up again. It was strange, really, and I knew that it couldn’t be a good sign.
Then, like a load of bricks, I became painfully aware of the reason why every muscle in my body was so tense, why I could hardly sleep last night, and why I kept waking up at random. It was because of everything that had unfolded the day before. No matter how much I wanted to deny it, I couldn’t. Yesterday had happened. I had eavesdropped on Lucinda Matthews and overheard a conversation that wasn’t supposed to be overheard.
I leaned against the tiled wall, my eyes trained the slippery floor, watching the soapy water swirl down the drain. With a small sigh, I shut off the water and stepped out of the shower, grabbing a towel and securing it around my body. I nearly slipped on the floor, but managed to catch myself on the corner of the sink. I cursed under my breath, wondering when this horrible luck was going to leave me alone. I dried off as quickly as I could, seeing as how, despite the steam swirling around, the bathroom was still freezing cold. Once I was dry, I pulled a new, clean uniform on and lean over the sink to wring the water out of my hair.
Merlin’s beard, what had I gotten myself into? I shook my head to myself as I wiped off the steam covered mirror and stared at my reflection. Though the line of dried drool may have vanished, the purple bags under my eyes were still very visible and not very attractive, to say the very least. I leaned toward the mirror, examining my eye when someone banged on the door with their fist.
“Ouch!” I cried, seeing as how I had poked myself in the eye in my surprise.
“Are you almost done in there?” Marlene McKinnon’s husky voice shouted from the other side of the door. She banged her fist against the wood again in annoyance. “It’s nearly seven thirty and you’re not the only one who needs hot water for a shower.”
I opened the door, my left eye streaming, and squeezed past Marlene, who was muttering darkly under her breath. How was I suppose to know that I had been in the shower for nearly forty-five minutes? It certainly didn’t seem that long when I was standing under the water. Geez, some people just need to relax a little bit. Everyone was always so high strung around here.
You’re one to talk, Briggs.
I ignored that annoying little voice in my head that seemed to point out everything that I didn’t want to acknowledge and walked toward my bed. My roommates were all in various stages of getting ready: Leanne was balancing a mirror on her knee while she applied a light coat of eye shadow onto her eyelids; Alice was braiding her long, caramel locks into pigtails that hung on either side of her head; and when I glanced at Lily’s bed, not only was she nowhere to be found, but her bed was freshly made, like she hadn’t slept there at all. The only one who even acknowledged my presence was Alice, who was a very friendly girl, and smiled at me as I passed her on my way to my bed.
I dropped down onto my knees at the foot of my bed and opened my trunk, rummaging around for my hairbrush so I could get the knots out of my hair. Once I found it, I quickly tugged it through my wet hair, wincing as I pulled through several knots. I tossed the brush back into my trunk and slammed it shut once I had finished brushing my hair and placed my hands on the floor to look for my trainers. One was underneath my bed and the other one was laying next to my trunk. I snatched them up and, after I put on a pair of day-old socks, I stuffed my feet into my trainers and grabbed my school bag. I double checked to make sure I had everything before opening my bedside drawer and taking out a Chocolate Frog, shoving it into my school bag; I was saving it for my History of Magic lesson, a class in which my stomach always gave loud groans of hunger.
I left the dormitory as quickly as possible, seeing as how Marlene had just gotten out of the shower and would most likely be a total cow. Shutting the door behind me, I traipsed down the steps, nearly tripping yet again at the foot of the stairs, but I grabbed a first year by their robes and saved myself from the fall. It’s not like the first year noticed anyway. I rolled my eyes and walked toward the portrait hole. But as I was walking, I felt a pair of eyes on me and, when I glanced over my shoulder to see who was looking at me, I couldn’t find anyone. With a shrug of my shoulders, I climbed through the hole and made my way toward the Great Hall, where a nice heaping pile of scramble eggs, kippers, and bacon was calling my name.
Like always, I sat alone at the Gryffindor table. There were groups of friends on either side of me, yet I sat, completely isolated, in the middle of the table, surrounded by platters of food. The only time people ever talked to me during meals was when they needed something that I had and they had run out of. One of the fifth years asked if they could steal my pitcher of pumpkin juice for a few moments, since they had run out. Before I could give the go ahead, the girl snatched it up and walked back toward her gaggle of giggling, gossiping girlfriends. I know, I’m a mastermind at alliterations. She never came back with it.
I was eating a piece of toast, seeing as how they weren’t serving kippers this morning, much to my dismay, when the post arrived. A tawny owl came to a halt in front of me, an issue of the Daily Prophet in its beak. I took the paper from it and reached into my pocket in search of the seven Knuts I owe the bird. It held out the money pouch toward me, staring at me threateningly with its eerie, amber eyes. I only managed to grab five Knuts the first time and, as I dropped them in to the bag, the owl hopped onto my breakfast plate and lowered its head toward me. I was eye to eye with the beast and squirmed uncomfortably in my seat. You see, this was exactly why I didn’t own an owl and didn’t send many messages to anyone: I was, more or less, terrified of an owl biting my thumbs off, or any of my fingers for that matter, if it got irritated, but like this owl was now.
“Okay, okay!” I said to the bird as it started to peck at my fingers, squeaking at the thought of my worst fear actually coming true. I squealed and ducked my head under the table while I turned my pockets inside out, searching for those damn Knuts. Then suddenly, something cold and wet was seeping into the back of my robe. I hit my head on the table as I resurfaced and saw that the impatient owl had knocked over my goblet of pumpkin juice. Thankfully, however, there hadn’t been much in it, so my robes couldn’t be that big of a mess.
I could feel several pairs of eyes on me as I gave the rest of my money over to the owl. It hooted indignantly at me, snapped its beak twice, and flew off. I glared after the bird and muttered under my breath as people went back to their breakfasts as though nothing had happened. Good, I didn’t want them looking at me anyway. I wanted to be invisible; I didn’t want people to start acknowledging my presence. I only had nine more months left of schooling, then I would be free to do whatever I wanted. And who knows, maybe I would shed my Invisibility Cloak.
I pushed back the sleeve of my robe and looked at my wrist watch. There was only fifteen minutes before the start of my first lesson, which was Ancient Runes, and was located on the complete opposite side of the castle. It would take me at least ten minutes to get there and that wasn’t including the possibility that the staircase might shift on me halfway up the flight.
With a sigh, I finished the rest of my toast, rolled up my copy of the Prophet and shoved it into my school bag. I would read it later, perhaps during History of Magic. I didn’t need that class anyway, but it was a requirement, so why not use the time to read the newspaper? Without so much as backward glance, I left the Great Hall.
X - X - X
Before I knew it, all my morning classes were over and it was lunch time. Once again, I sat by myself while I ate. You’d think that I would be bothered by it, but after six year of dining by oneself, you usually got used to keeping your own company. I wasn’t able to finish all of the morning paper in my History of Magic lesson, seeing as how we had a pop quiz, which I probably failed miserably. So, as I stuffed a sandwich into my mouth, I skimmed the paper, my eyes searching for any news on Voldemort or if anyone had been killed in the last twenty four hours. Thankfully, no one had been killed and, as I washed down the remainders of my sandwich, I headed toward my last class of the day: Double Potions.
When I reached the dungeons, I wasn’t surprised to find Severus Snape standing in front of the door with his books in his arms. He stared at me as I approached, but didn’t say anything. There was just a blank look on his face and I couldn’t help noticing a faint yellow outline around his left eye. Of course, I wasn’t brave nor was I stupid enough to ask how he had obtained the injury; he’d hex me into oblivion if I did. I could still feel his eyes on me as I leaned against the wall, trying to blend in with the wall. I wasn’t a chameleon, so it was a great deal harder to blend in with my surroundings.
I’d like to be a chameleon, though. That’d be pretty sweet, if you asked me. I mean, you could hide out all the time and no one would ever see you. Not that anyone ever saw me anyway, but I really would blend it with my surroundings; I really would be invisible, in a sense. I could slink along in the corridors at night, maybe sneak to the Astronomy Tower to observe the stars late at night, since I did enjoy star gazing. Oh! And I could sneak into the Restricted Section of the library and get as many books as I could and bring them back to my dorm.
A sharp elbow to the small of my back jolted me out of my thoughts and I picked my head up to see that nearly the entire class was waiting outside the door. I shifted my bag onto my other shoulder and stifled a sigh. Someone’s hand brushed against my own and a jolt of electricity shot through my body. I pulled my hand away from my side and crammed it into my pocket; my hand stung, but oddly enough, it wasn’t a painful stinging.
Seconds later, the door to the classroom opened and a large, curved belly came into view before the Potions instructor, Professor Slughorn’s, face was visible. A bright smile lit up his lips as he motioned for us to file into the classroom. Snape slithered into the classroom before everyone else and was in his seat by the time I had walked through the door. There was only one seat available, seeing as how everyone had pushed their way past me and into the classroom, and that was by my roommate, Lily Evans.
“Hi, Eleanor,” Lily greeted as she moved her books aside from me so I could put my own in their place.
“Hey, Lily,” I replied, smiling in response as I sat down. “You weren’t saving this seat for anyone, were you?”
“No, I wasn’t,” she said with a shake of her head and a small sigh. “None of my friends were good enough in enough at Potions nor did they have the desire to continue.”
I took off my bag and set it down on the floor by my feet. I had to bite my tongue in order to restrain myself from pointing out that she actually had friends. I opened my mouth to ask her how her day had been when Professor Slughorn stood up, his chair scraping noisily against the cobblestone.
“All right, all right, settle down children," he said, chuckling to himself like he always did, his chins - yes chins, he just doesn’t have one; he has several - swung back and forth dangerously.
Surprisingly, the class actually quieted down for once. Although, I could hear a few people snickering, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who it was. After all, Black and Potter sat two rows behind Lily and I.
“As you know, we’ve been researching various ingredients and their powers and the effects they have in potions over the past few weeks,” he looked around the classroom and began to pace in front of his desk, “along with researching these ingredients, you all have been making potions all by yourselves. But now, I think it is high time that you pair up, so you can start making more complicated and complex potions.” A murmur of interest rippled through the class at these words. Slughorn laughed excitedly. “Now, now, calm down.”
A hand shot up in the air and Slughorn called on the person. “Who are our partners?”
“Good question, Miss Greengrass. The person sitting next to you will be your partner from here on out,” Slughorn replied, smiling so widely, his eyes were drawn into small slits.
Another rush of voices rippled through the class, some of them happy, while others sounded a little bit more disappointed, including two very distinct voices behind me. I resisted the urge to smirk as I heard James Potter sighing wistfully at the prospect of not being partnered with Lily.
Speaking of Lily, I turned to look at her and saw that she, too, was sighing, only I’m sure she was sighing in relief.
“Glad Potter’s not your partner?” I asked her, seeing as how she obviously overheard the boys conversing behind us.
She nodded vigorously. “You have no idea. I’ve had to work with Potter before and it was miserable.”
“Don’t you have to work with him now? Since you are both Heads?”
Again, she bobbed her head. “Yes, I do. But thankfully, the only thing we have to do is arrange the Hogsmeade trips and patrol schedules for the Prefects and that doesn’t take much time at all.”
I glanced over at my shoulder to look at them - them being Black and Potter, of course - and saw that they were now struggling to hold back their laughter. What weird blokes, those two were.
“Is he really that bad?” I questioned, turning back around to face her. Potter didn’t seem like such a bad guy to me. Sure, he was a bit arrogant at times, but at least he had his redeeming qualities. And he actually tried to talk to me several times in first year, but gave up when he saw that I wasn’t going to respond.
Lily shrugged her shoulders and opened her mouth to say something when, yet again, Professor Slughorn interrupted.
“Your first assignment will be to find a potion to brew together. There are a few requirements, however, for this project and they are the following: one, the potion must take at least one, but no longer than three months to brew; two, before beginning said potion, it must be researched and you must turn in an essay with all the information on the potion of your choice; three, I must approve your choice of potion; and four, the potion must be legal and, no, Mister Black, Polyjuice Potion is not an exception to the last rule.”
The Gryffindors in the class laughed while the Slytherins scoffed louder than necessary, which made me roll my eyes. They were all for dramatics, those Slytherins were. Slughorn smiled, took a deep breath and spread his arms out wide, which wasn’t very far at all. “So does anyone have any questions?”
A few hands went soaring up into the air, Lily’s included in the bunch. I sat there, not really paying attention to the inquires being made or the answers that Slughorn was providing since I didn’t have any questions myself. However, when Slughorn called upon Lily, I snapped myself out of my incredibly pointless thoughts about the perks of being a chameleon. I mean, she was my new Potions partner and it would be rather rude if I didn’t pay any attention to what she had to say. I didn’t want her to have to do all the work, even though I was pretty good at Potions.
“Yes, Miss Evans?” Professor Slughorn said, positively beaming at her.
“I was wondering how long we have to research our potion and write our essays.”
“Oho! Thinking ahead, you are, Miss Evans, as always.” He gave an almighty chuckle, causing his chins to jiggle like jelly. I bit back a laugh and beside me, Lily was struggling to hold back her smile. “You will have three weeks to find and research your potion, and you’ll have another two weeks to write your essays, including our lesson time.”
“And how long do the essays have to be?” Lily asked.
“At least two feet long,” Slughorn answered.
While my eyes were all but bugging out of my head, Lily just nodded and quickly wrote down the information she had just obtained on a spare sheet of parchment. All around me, people seemed to be whispering about the absurd length of the essay. But hey, we were getting two weeks to complete it. And it’s not like we couldn’t get a head start on it.
“Any more questions?” Slughorn addressed the class at large. When he saw that no one else had their hand raise, he nodded to himself. “You have the rest of this period to discuss with your partner the possible potions you can brew. Do try and keep the noise level at a respectable level, please Misters Black and Potter?”
“Yes sir!” The pair of them chimed together, though the looks on their faces weren’t very convincing. If anything, it only spelt trouble. They were obviously planning something and, whatever it was, it couldn’t be good, judging by the expression of glee on Potter’s face; his warm, hazel eyes were glinting behind his wire-rimmed glasses.
“Oh no,” muttered Lily under her breath. She had obviously seen the same thing I had and was now shaking her head in dismay. “They will be the end of us all, I tell you.” Tucking a strand of vibrant, dark auburn hair behind her ear, she pulled her copy of Advanced Potion Making toward her and flipped to the index. “So,” she didn’t look up from her book as she spoke, “do you have suggestions for a potion we can brew?”
Oh Merlin, how I hated being put on the spot. This was precisely why I sat in the back of all my classes if it were at all possible or I took classes that required very little talking, considering it wasn’t exactly my thing.
“Erm…not yet?” I said hesitantly.
Lily chuckled to herself and smiled. “Don’t worry. I don’t have the slightest clue what legal potion we could brew. And, not to brag or anything, but I’m supposed to be some sort of potions genius.”
I laughed half-heartedly at her attempt at a joke. She didn’t seem to notice, as she continued to flip through the book. I should’ve been looking through my book as well, but I couldn’t. Instead, my eyes were trained on Professor Slughorn’s desk, where none other than James Potter was standing, his head bent toward the fat, balding man, apparently whispering something to him. Judging by the look on Slughorn’s face, he was eating up whatever Potter had to say and something told me that it wasn’t a good thing.
Shaking off the odd feeling, I pulled my book toward me and began to flip through it, looking at the text but not really reading it. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Doesn’t make much sense, but it’s true. I could barely concentrated, seeing as how I had much bigger things on my mind. For some reason, staring at Potter while he conversed in hushed tones with Professor Slughorn had reminded me of what had happened in the library the day before. And that was something I was trying so very hard to forget.
Before I knew it, Professor Slughorn was announcing the class was over in three minutes, so we might as well pack up our belongings. I slammed my book shut and grabbed my bag off the floor, accidentally knocking my head against the leg of the table. Rubbing the newly forming goose egg on the side of my head, I sat back up and shoved my book into my bag, along with my quill and anything else I had gotten out during the class. The bell rang and everyone made their way toward the door.
“Oh, Miss Briggs!” Slughorn called out. I was halfway toward the door when he had called my name and, if I pretended I hadn’t heard, I could rush back to the common room straight away and start on that Ancient Runes essay I still had to complete.
“Miss Briggs!” he shouted, a bit louder this time. Several heads swiveled in his direction and I knew I couldn’t escape now. With a sigh, I stopped where I was and left people walk around me. Slughorn smiled at me and beckoned me toward him with a chubby finger. Reluctantly, I obeyed and stopped a few feet in front of his desk.
“Yes Professor?” I asked what I assumed was an innocent voice.
Judging by the look on his face, I wasn’t going to like what was coming.
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