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When I woke up the next morning, I felt like shit. My stomach was making angry protests of hunger and my throat was dry and scratchy. I threw the covers aside and shuffled into the bathroom, which was thankfully empty. I splashed some cold water on my face before looking at myself in the mirror. I looked like a bloody train wreck. My eyelids were puffy, making me look like someone had socked me in the face with brass knuckles.

I sighed heavily and took my hair down, shaking it out. When I saw how knotted and tangled it looked, I decided against pulling a brush through it and put it back up into a messy ponytail. I didn’t have enough energy to climb into the shower, so I brushed my teeth and tried to make myself look the least bit presentable. I didn’t want people running away as I walked down the halls, screaming that some twisted creature from the darkest depths of the Black Lake had emerged and was terrorizing the school.

I noticed that I was still wearing my uniform from the previous day and quickly changed clothes. My stomach gave an unattractive growl and the small creature called hunger clawed mercilessly at the walls of my stomach. I grumbled under my breath as I gathered up my books, stuffed them into my satchel, and left the dormitory.

Students were milling about the common room, scrambling to get their assignments done at the last minute before rushing off to the Great Hall to nab a few pieces of toast. I had homework that I knew was incompletely, but I was hungry enough not to care. Blowing strands of hair that fell in my face out of the way, I crawled through the portrait hole and started toward the Great Hall.

I didn’t bother looking for Remus, Lily, or, sadly enough, Sirius to see if I could sit with them. Instead, I found an empty spot at the Gryffindor table and plopped down beside a third year. He sent me an odd look and I could tell that he was scrutinizing my appearance. All right, so I might look like someone had sprayed bleach in my eyes and there wasn’t any water nearby, but there was nothing I could do about it. I dumped a spoonful of scrambled eggs on my plate, smothered them with ketchup, and stabbed at them angrily.

The morning post came and I suddenly remembered that I still had to get my letter to Aunt Eliza before the end of the day, otherwise she would send another letter and I would feel bad for not responding as soon as possible. I shoved down the rest of my eggs, knocked back a goblet of pumpkin juice, and took off for my first class of the day.

On my way out of the Great Hall, I slammed into, who else, but Sirius. He grabbed my elbow so I wouldn’t topple backward and crack my skull open. “Thanks,” I said, before shaking my head. “I mean, sorry.”

He smiled in his charming way, gave my elbow a squeeze, and let go. “I’ll see you in Potions.”

I nodded faintly, not really registering his words as I started for the first lesson of the day.

X - X - X

 

In Transfiguration, I had nodded off during McGonagall’s lecture, but instead of punishing me when I got caught, she asked me to stay after class. For the rest of the lesson, I mentally debated whether or not I would run out of the classroom as soon as the bell rang, but decided against it: McGonagall would call me to her office, as she was my Head of House.

When the bell finally did ring, I stayed seated at my desk, waiting for everyone to file out of the classroom. I couldn’t help but think that I was starting to make a habit out of staying after class to talk to teachers. First Professor Gilbert, now Professor McGonagall. Who was next, Old Sluggers? I shivered at the thought of having another unpleasant meeting with the Potions instructor and what methods he would use to rope me into agreeing to do something for him.

“Come forward, Miss Briggs,” McGonagall said in her brisk, clipped voice. It wasn’t a request, it was a politely put demand.

I left my stuff at my desk and walked to the front of the classroom, only it felt like I was walking toward the executioner. If she had asked me to stay after class from dozing off in the middle of her lesson, Merlin only knows what sort of punishment I would be dealt.

“Oh, I’m not going to bite,” she said, rolling her eyes in exasperation.

I took a step closer to her desk and put my hands behind my back, clasping my wrist in my hand. I licked my lips nervously and asked, “Do I get a detention?”

McGonagall looked up from the stack of papers she had been shuffling and sighed, taking off her glasses and pinching the bridge of her nose. “Miss Briggs, I wasn’t planning on giving you a detention, but if you want another one, by all means, I have my quill inked and ready.”

I took a gulp and shook my head, my eyes wide. “Oh no, Professor, I don’t want another detention,” I said quickly. “I just thought that it was the punishment for…well, falling asleep in class.” I averted my eyes to my shoes and poked at the ground with my toe.

I could feel McGonagall’s intense stare on me as I continued to look at my shoes as though they were some amazing new discovery. The fact of the matter was that they were old and worn, but they were my favorite shoes and I wasn’t willing to chuck them anytime soon.

When McGonagall spoke again, the tone of her voice had changed. Instead of sounding sharp, her voice sounded smoother, much more concerned. It wasn’t what I was expecting, to say the very least.

“Miss Briggs, are you all right?” she questioned.

“What do you mean?” I replied, puzzled.

The wheels in her brain seemed to be turning, as if she was debating if she should say what was on her mind or not. She straightened her shoulders and put her glasses back on her face.

“I know that you skipped out on your lessons yesterday after Charms. When your professors told me that you hadn’t shown up for class and, after checking with Poppy, you weren’t in the Hospital Wing, I thought they that were surely mistaken. But…” she trailed off, adjusting her glasses on the crook of her nose. “Well, you show up to class today, looking like you’ve been crying for the better part of a day, and then you fall asleep in my class. I’m sorry, Miss Briggs, but that isn’t your typical behavior and brings me to believe that something happened yesterday that upset you.”

I didn’t look up from my shoes, but continued to kick at the ground with the toe of my shoe.

“Well, Miss Briggs?” she pressed. “Did something happen that I should know about?”

I debated telling her about Lucinda approaching me in the halls. I wouldn’t benefit from it, but it would throw McGonagall off my trail. For now, anyway. But there was also the matter of actually proving that Lucinda had threatened me in the hall yesterday and delivered some gut wrenching blows.

My stomach twisted uncomfortably and I could feel tears burning in my eyes. I tried to push them back, but couldn’t. I took a sharp intake of breath, picked my head up, and looked McGonagall in the eye. “No,” I said, my voice cracking slightly. “Nothing happened, Professor. May I go now? I’ll be late for my next lesson if I don’t leave now.”

She stared at me for a few seconds before nodding her head. “Yes, you may leave. I’ll write you a pass so you won’t get in trouble with Horace.”

Armed with a written excuse in my hand, I made my way down the familiar path of the dungeons that led to the Potions classroom. I could sense the feeling of eyes constantly on me as I walked, but each time I turned around, there was no one in the corridors and I probably ended up looking like a crazed psychopath.

Slughorn had already begun his preaching when I entered the classroom. Everyone stared at me as though I was something to be dissected. Slughorn clicked his tongue at me as I approached him.

“That’ll be one detention, Miss Bri-,” he stopped talking when I held out a written excuse. He pulled a face, mumbled something under his breath, and took the slip from me.

Whirling around, I walked toward the table in the back of the class, where Sirius was lounging comfortably in his chair, his feet up on the table, and a quill hanging out his mouth. He looked like the picture perfect image of relaxation. I hated him for it.

He smirked at me as I sat down, waving his fingers at me in greeting. I smiled tightly back and set my stuff on my desk, pulling a sheaf of parchment out of my bag and throwing it in front of me. I rummaged around for a quill and an inkwell.

“Something bothering you?” he whispered under his breath as I settled myself into the lesson and began to scribble down the notes on the board that I had missed.

“Don’t want to talk about it,” I said through clenched teeth, pressing my quill against the paper so hard, it tore a small hole.

Sirius issued a small whistle and returned to his relaxed position. I rolled my eyes, blowing hair out of my face in annoyance. Today couldn’t get any worse.

At the end of the Potions lesson, as I was gathering up my things, Sirius stayed behind. I was curious as to why he was waiting for me, but made no indication of my curiosity. I continued to shove my belongings a little more roughly into my bag than necessary.

“Don’t forget,” Sirius said as we walked toward the door. “We have detention tonight at eight.”

Or maybe it could. With another roll of my eyes, I brushed past him and hurried down the hall. If I had detention tonight, I wanted to get as much homework done as possible so I wouldn’t get behind.

X - X - X

 

I had completed as much homework as I could before dinner. I scarfed down a plateful of mashed potatoes, seasoned chicken, and some green beans while I listened to Alice prattle pleasantly about a boy named Frank Longbottom. All I knew about him was that he had graduated the year before we had. Other than that, my knowledge of Mr. Longbottom was very limited. At least, it was until Alice opened her mouth and began to talk about him.

It made fine dinner chatter because I didn’t have to say very much. I sat with Lily, Alice, Marlene, and Leanne, and they would occasionally ask me a question about the day and accepted my presence but beyond that, I was free to eat without feeling like people were watching my every move. Although, as pleasant my roommates were, I caught myself casting glances at the end of the table where the Marauders sat. Even over the thick veil of conversation in the Great Hall, you could hear their laughter and it was the loudest as well as the most genuine. I was envious, to say the very least.

Once I had cleared my plate and drained my goblet of pumpkin juice, I was on my way to the Owlery. I had managed to write a response to Aunt Eliza’s letter and hoped that it would satisfy her for now. I told her in the post script that I would write a longer letter next time, that my work load had prevented me from writing more.

I hated going up the Owlery. I was surrounded by a hundred owls and I hated owls; they scared the crap out of me. I had been bitten by too many owls over the course of my life and all the bites that had been inflicted on me hurt. And then there was the unnatural fear I had of losing my thumbs to their sharp beaks. Besides, their beady eyes were just plain creepy.

I trekked up the winding stair to the Owlery, my breath coming in short pants by the time I reached the top. I pushed the door open and was pleased to find that it was empty. I looked around for an owl that I could send back and, much to my surprise, Leonidias was perched a few feet above me, licking his talons. Someone had obviously just eaten dinner.

I clicked my tongue in what I hoped was an affection manner. “Come here, Leo,” I cooed, trying to sound like I actually liked owls. “Come on, boy. I got a letter for you to bring back to Aunt Eliza.”

He blinked his amber eyes at me lazily before he gave a great flap of his wings and landed on my extended arm. The weight of him was heavy against my forearm and I could feel his sharp talons clinging onto my thin wrist through the fabric of my school robes. I stroked the top of his head with the back of my index finger.

“There’s a good boy,” I breathed as I pulled the letter out of my pocket along with some string.

Leonidias nuzzled against my finger and when I pulled away, he hooted at me. I stared at him curiously and he stared back, cocking his head to the side and blinking slowly. I stroked his head again and he nipped affectionately at my fingers. I gave a small squeak of fright.

“That was too close to the thumbs for comfort, buddy,” I said softly as I tied the letter to his left leg, which he had held out for me. His bird face was close to mine and I suddenly got freaked out. What if my nose looked like a mouse to him and he took it off with the sharp point of his hooked beak?

“All right,” I began. “You can go to Aunt Eliza now.” I patted him on the head with two fingers and moved my arm, hoping he would get the memo that I wanted him to fly off. The only problem was that he didn’t.

I began to panic. And just when I did, Leonidias started doing this weird jerky thing with his head and made a weird sound. I squealed again and tried to shake him off my arm, but I think that only pissed him off. The sound and the movement of his head began more violently.

Holy shit, he was going to attack me! What would I do without a nose?

Leonidias’ little owl body gave a great shudder and he made a loud coughing sound. A big ball of gray mass came sailing out of his mouth and landed with a plop on my shoe. Leonidias flapped his wings and took off into the night.

“Great,” I grumbled to myself as I shook the owl pellet off my foot. I cringed at the sight of it and walked out of the Owlery, wondering why I had even ventured up there anyway.

X - X - X

 

Over the past few weeks, my stomach had been quite the war zone. It was always flipping and flopping, swooping and swirling uncomfortably nearly every day. It didn’t matter what situation I was thrust into it, but it just happened. I wondered how my digestion system handle all the newfound attention that seemed to be rained down upon it on a daily basis.

My stomach was doing the same old, same old: it was a huge flipping, swooping mess. I wrung my hands nervously as I walked down the final flight of stairs and made an immediate left down a corridor. There was a light at the end of the corridor and I followed it, walking as slowly as possible. Maybe it if took me a long time to reach my destination, it would go away. I wouldn’t have anywhere to go, so I would have to go back to the Gryffindor common room, where I could work on my homework and chat with Lily. You know, do something productive with my time aside from scrubbing and polishing trophies in a room that no one ever visited.

I could feel a grimace coming on as I came to a stop at the end of the hallway. Mister Pringle, the Hogwarts’ caretaker, was holding a lantern while his nappy, pregnant cat twisted around his knobby ankles. He held out his arm, holding the glowing lantern close to my face. I instinctively drew back, fighting off another grimace.

“Never thought I’d see ye here, Miss Briggs,” Pringle slurred, one of his eyes looking at the ceiling while the other was staring at me.

I didn’t exactly know how to reply without vomiting, so I chose to press my back against the wall and wait until Sirius came strolling down the hall. I looked at my watch. It was 7:58. Any minute now, he would show up. Unless he was ditching the detention. If he was, so Merlin help him! I rarely ever shouted at people, but I wouldn’t hold back on him.

Just as colorful thoughts of various forms of torture raced through my mind, he came meandering down the corridor, his hands shoved casually in the pockets of his trousers, his shoulders leaned back in the typical stance of relaxation. He was whistling, but I couldn’t quite distinguish the tune.

“Evening, Pringle,” Sirius nodded his head in acknowledgement.

The old caretaker scowled at him and tossed them a pair of dirtied rags. “Ye ter clean the trophies with no magic,” spat Pringle, thrusting a bucket of polish into Sirius’s arms. “Any magic be done, and I’ll kno’ it.” He tapped his nose and he, along with his fat cat, disappeared into the darkness of the corridor.

I shivered involuntarily. “Creepy,” I whispered.

Sirius nodded. “I know. You’d almost feel sorry for the old bloke if he wasn’t so damn twisted.”

I wasn’t exactly sure what Sirius meant by that, so I didn’t ask any questions. I looked at the rag in my hand and wondered how the hell I was going to clean anything with something so dirty. It was completely baffling; maybe they didn’t want us to get anything done at all. Maybe I should’ve brought some homework with me.

Sirius and I both tried to walk through the narrow doorway at the same time and ended up knocking shoulders. I winced as his arm crushed the bruises his girlfriend had left on my upper arms. His smile faltered slightly when he saw the look of brief pain that flashed across my face. I pulled my expression together, smiled back as pleasantly as I could, and stepped through the doorway first.

I had never been in the Trophy Room at Hogwarts as it didn’t hold my interests. I highly doubted that my mother would‘ve received any awards with she was at Hogwarts. She just didn’t seem like the overachieving type to me.

I had been expecting to find a room full of gleaming trophies on dark wood shelves that proclaimed prestige. Instead, it was a small, cluttered room with trophies on shelves, old desks, and the larger ones were set on the floor; there were a few cases in which trophies were protected by a sheet of thick glass. All in all, the trophies were far from gleaming.

“This is really…” I trailed off and took another look of the room, my face falling, “something,” I finished lamely.

Sirius chuckled from behind me and I heard the sound of metal clanking. He had pulled a trophy off a shelf and was looking at it in his hands, turning it over and inspecting the tarnished surface. He seemed disinterested with what the inscription read, tossed it over his shoulder, and went about his looking; the trophy landed with a loud clank on the floor and I winced. I suppose if we had until midnight to clean trophies, we could always do a little bit of investigating before we set out to work.

I took a turn about the room, glancing at various trophies. The ones that caught my attention were the ones that were behind the plates of glass. These were the trophies that gleamed like I had imagined they would in my head. These were the ones that obviously were of very high standing and only awarded for the utmost important reasons. The only name I recognized on the plaques of these special trophies was that of our Headmaster. Judging by the amount of plaques that read the inscription Albus Dumbledore, he must’ve been quite the student. I had heard things about wise wizard, some of them believable and others over the top, but I never doubted his powers.

“Catch!”

I turned around to see that Sirius had tossed…well, I wasn’t sure what he tossed at me, but I blindly reached out and, miraculously, I managed to catch whatever it was that he had thrown at me.

“I thought they might be relatives of yours,” he nodded his head at the plaque in my hands.

I looked down at the plaque to take a better look. The inscription was coated with dust and once I wiped it away, the writing was still difficult to read. I furrowed my brow and read the small metal plate out loud, “Daphne Briggs.”

“Ring any bells?” Sirius asked, crossing the room and standing next to me, reading the plaque over my shoulder. He was, again, standing so close that I could feel his body heat. Did he not know the limit of personal boundaries? Did he miss the lesson of personal bubbles?

I shook my head. “No. My dad was - I, uh, I mean he is - a Muggle and doesn’t have any magical blood in his family, at least that’s what he told me when I asked. Besides, I got my magical blood from my mum.”

“Oh,” he frowned, dragging a hand through his hair. “Sorry, I thought that she might’ve been related to you or something.”

“There’s no need to be sorry,” I said, handing him the plaque. “I guess we should get started.”

Sirius chuckled, but nodded his head all the same, returning the mysterious plaque back to its position on a dusty shelf. I didn’t exactly know what I was doing. This wasn’t my first detention, but this was the first time that I had ever been assigned to polish the trophies in the Trophy Room. The first and only detention I got was when Professor Binns had caught me sleeping in his class. I got the pleasure of helping Hagrid, the gamekeeper at Hogwarts, pick some belladonna in the Forbidden Forest for Slughorn’s Potions class.

I had been nervous about entering the Forbidden Forest, but Hagrid that told me that there was no reason for me to be scared, not with him around. While we were out in the forest, we saw an unicorn. That was the first and only time I had seen a unicorn before fourth year when Professor Kettleburn showed them to us. Because of Hagrid, I had displayed “impressionable knowledge” of how to handle unicorns in my Care of Magical Creatures class and was award with ten points for Gryffindor by Kettleburn. I wished I had been assigned that punishment tonight; I really liked Hagrid and I knew that I would’ve had a few good laughs.

“I’ll start with the trophies over here,” he said, gesturing to the wall of tarnished trophies to his left and my right. “And you can start over there.”

I nodded my head and fumbled with my hands. “I, uh, I know this is going to sound stupid, but exactly how to do you polish the trophies? I mean, I know you have to get some polish on the rag and you rub it all over the trophy, but…” I trailed off helplessly.

Sirius smiled understandingly at me. “Just grab a few trophies, place them in front of you, and polish them. Then get up, get more, and keep repeating the cycle. Once you get a good pile going around you, put them back on the shelves and get more. You’ll get used to it.”

I did as I was instructed, loading my arms up with five or six large trophies and picked a spot on the ground that was relatively free of clutter. One of the trophies dropped to the floor before I could set it down and another two followed. I clenched my jaw to keep from crying out in frustration and sat down with a small huff.

Sirius came to sit down close to me, putting the bucket of polish in between us. I pulled my rag out of the back pocket of my skirt and dipped a large portion of the corner in the polish. Sirius followed suit and we polished trophies in silence for a good half hour. I made several trips to get more trophies for polishing and brought a good amount back to their shelves.

For my first time polishing trophies, I thought that I was doing a pretty good job at it. We hadn’t even been at it for forty five minutes and I had already scrubbed seventeen trophies until they gleamed like they were brand new. I glanced over my shoulder at Sirius’s pile and my eyes widened.

“Holy shit!” I exclaimed.

He turned around to look at me, a smirk on his devastatingly handsome face.


This really isn’t helping you out, Briggs.

“How often do you polish trophies?” I asked, unable to help myself.

Sirius laughed. “How many detentions do you think I’ve had over the years?”

“Good point,” I said, chuckling softly before returning to my polishing.

There wasn’t enough polish on my rag, so I blindly reached behind me to smother my tattered towel with some of the thick goop. My hand brushed against Sirius’s and we both turned around at the same time to look at each other. We laughed softly before we turned out attention back to our work.

By the time Pringle came to fetch us, we had polished nearly all of the visible trophies in the room. He seemed surprised, but didn’t say anything as he leered at us, jerking his head in the general direction of the door.

I pushed myself off the floor and wiped the small beads of sweat that had gathered at my hairline, unknowingly smearing my forehead with polish. I handed my rag to Pringle, who pulled it out of my hand quickly and stuffed in into his overcoat pocket.

“If yer not back to yer common rooms in five minutes, I’ll kno’ it.” He tapped his nose the same way he had when he had left us to our own devices, his cat twisting between his ankles.

Sirius and I walked down the corridor and I started to make a right when he grabbed my elbow and pulled me in the opposite direction.

“Where are we going?” I asked, perplexed. I stumbled over my foot and Sirius steadied me instinctively.

“I know a shortcut,” he said, not even bothering to look at me over his shoulder.

He held fast to my elbow as he lead us down a darkened corridor. He stopped at a tapestry hanging on the wall, stuck his hand behind it and felt around. Once he found what he was looking for, he gave a sharp push and I heard the distinct sound of stone sliding out of place. “Ladies first,” he swept into a low, ostentatious bow.

I squeezed through the small opening in the wall and, seconds later, Sirius was pressed against me tightly. The space was dark and narrow, and there was barely enough room for one person, much less two. I tried to become one with the wall, but it just wasn’t happening. I sighed in frustration.

“Follow me,” Sirius whispered, blindly reaching back for my hand. I gave him my wrist instead and his hand closed around it, giving a small tug forward.

I hit my head on a low hanging beam and cried out in pain. From then on, Sirius told me exactly when to duck. Several times, he had to let go of my wrist and physically force my head down so I wouldn’t collide with one of the beams.

When we reached the end of the cramped passageway, he pushed on a wall of stone and it shifted out of place. There was a tapestry hanging in front of it and he pushed that aside as well. He crawled out of the small space first and held out a hand to help me. I didn’t take it and struggled to hoist myself out of the narrow space without scraping my elbows along the side of the rough stone.

Once I managed to get out of the small space, we walked down a short hall, took an immediate left, and were in front of the Fat Lady. I glanced at my wrist watch and saw that only three minutes had passed. It had felt like an eternity in there. Sirius supplied the password and let me crawl through the portrait hole first.

I stumbled my way out of the hole and caught myself on an armchair. Sirius rolled his eyes, shaking his head to himself. “You really are hopeless, aren’t you?”

“Not hopeless, just clumsy by nature,” I corrected.

He grinned as we walked to our respective staircases. “Good night, Eleanor.”

I smiled at him, nodding my head in response, and trudged up the spiral staircase to the seventh year girls’ dormitory. When I opened the door, Lily and Alice were still awake. They were wearing hopeful expressions on their faces.

“So,” Lily implored. “How did it go?”

“Fine,” I replied, loosening my tie and pulling it over my head.

“That’s it?” Alice asked dubiously.

“That’s it,” I answered, kicking off my shoes. “What else were you guys expecting?”

They exchanged meaningful looks that I didn’t like before returning their gazes to me. “Nothing,” they said in unison.

Alice crawled off of Lily’s bed and slithered into her own. I quickly changed into my pajamas, tied my hair back into a ponytail, and climbed into my warm covers.

“Night,” Lily said through a yawn.

“Good night,” I replied as I turned over onto my side and closed my eyes. For some strange reason, my wrist felt like it was burning.

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