A sharp elbow to my side jolted me awake. Blearily blinking the sleep out of my eyes, I tried to focus on my surroundings, but found it nearly impossible; my head was spinning out of control and I didn‘t know why. It was darker than normal and everything was hidden in a thick, smoke like haze.
“Eleanor,” Lily hissed in my ear, the sound rattling my brain. Or maybe she was just shaking my arm with an alarming amount of strength.
“What?” I whispered back, yawning into my fist as I pushed my hair out of my eyes.
“You fell asleep in the middle of the lecture,” she said in a maternal fashion; it almost sounded as though she were reprimanding me like a bad child.
I furrowed my brow, looking about. “Is class over?”
“Yes,” Lily cried shrilly, her green eyes widening in exasperation. “Did you stay up late last night?”
I pushed my chair back, rising to my feet and stifled another yawn with my fist. “No,” I said, shaking my head. “Not any later than usual. I did stay up reading last night,” I added as an afterthought.
“I don’t like how you’re taking this so lightly,” Lily remarked, frowning. “Do you think you’re getting sick?” Without warning, her pale hand shot out and cupped my forehead. After a moment of thought, she shook her head to herself. “Nope, no fever.” She chewed her lip, a look of deep concentration glazing over her brilliant colored eyes. “Maybe you should go to the Hospital Wing. You could’ve eaten something that’s made you tired…or maybe someone put something in your pumpkin juice.”
I ducked out from under her hand and sighed, gathering my belongings and shoving them into my bag. While I was faintly concerned about the whole ‘something in the pumpkin juice’ bit, I didn’t want to stress myself out over nothing.
“Look, Lily,” I began, a bit unsure of what I should say and how I should word it. “I appreciate your…concern, but I’m sure it’s nothing. I feel fine, really.”
The vivacious redhead looked at me skeptical, raking her eyes over my appearance. Okay, so maybe I didn’t look the most acceptable today. I had woken up twenty minutes late, skipped a shower in time to get to breakfast, and only got a spot of pumpkin juice, which was warm by the time I got to the table. My hair was a tangled mess, held back by a thick, black Aliceband, which blended in with my hair color so well, it was almost as though it wasn’t there. My clothes were wrinkled, my socks didn’t match, and the sole of my left shoe was coming away from the rest.
“Are you positive?”
I nodded deeply. “Yes, I am.”
She still looked skeptical, but kept her comments to herself. “Your shoe’s untied, though. You might want to tie it otherwise you’ll trip.”
She had a point, but I still pulled a face at her, evoking a light chuckle. I crouched down, narrowly avoiding a head on collision with the edge of the table. My shoe really was untied and I struggled to get the little bunny ears just right. I was really nit picky about the bows I tied, specifically with the ones on my shoes. Call me crazy, but you already know that I’ve been doubting my sanity for the better part of my entire life.
I was in the middle of bringing the first loop around the second when Lily shrieked. I picked my head up too quickly and smashed it against the corner of the table. I felt the wood slice into the skin on my forehead, breaking it, and cried out in pain. Clutching my forehead, I stood up, staggering to the side as a wave of vertigo swept over me.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, my voice panicked.
“You have - you have - OH MY MERLIN!” she finished, her voice climbing higher and higher as she continued to stutter over her words.
“I have what? What do I have?” I questioned, my eyes widening with worry as I looked around; I could feel warm, sticky blood sweeping between my fingers from my head wound. Thanks a lot, table. I appreciate you being in the way - NOT.
Lily gulped and said in slow, deliberate tones. “You have gum in your hair.”
I stared at her, my heart skipping a few beats. Licking my lips cautiously, I said, “What?”
“Gum,” she repeated, looking pained as she spoke; she stroked my hair with a pale hand. “It’s in your hair.”
“Pardon?” I asked, not sure I heard what she had said correctly.
Swallowing, she said in slow, butchered words, “Someone deliberately put gum in your hair.”
“Well, what are you waiting for!” I cried, flailing my arms about like a windmill. “Get it out!”
Taking me by the shoulders, she spun me around so my back was to her. I could feel her hands in my hair, trying to pull the gum out. She gave a hard yank and I yelped. “My hair is attached to my scalp, you know!”
“Sorry, sorry,” she apologized quickly. Lily’s tugs were smaller and not as sharp, but I could tell by the little whimpers she was making that she wasn’t making any progress. Soon, I too, began to whimper.
“Is it out?” I asked, biting the inside of my cheek. A drop of blood fell to the floor, whizzing past my eyes at the speed of light.
“You’re not going to like this,” Lily said softly.
I whirled around so quickly, I lost my balance. The world spun in a tight circle and I pressed my hand more tightly to my forehead, trying in vain to stop the steady flow of blood. Leaning heavily against one of the desks in the classroom, I asked in a petrified voice, “What am I not going to like?”
“I think I made it worse,” she was chewing her lip nervously and her eyes were pleading. Like she was silently begging me not to get angry at her.
I opened my mouth to speak, but the world tilted sideways a bit. I stumbled to the side and Lily was at my side, my elbow clutched in her hands.
“Eleanor!?” she cried frantically, her voice sounding far away. “Are you all right? Eleanor?!”
X - X - X
When I woke up, my head felt like an elephant had sat on it. I could feel the tears in my eyes burning as I struggled to crack my eyelids open a fraction of an inch; every single movement was killing me.
“Ouch,” I croaked, my voice rough and scratchy.
“You’re awake!” My eyes snapped open at the sound Alice’s friendly, slightly over enthusiastic voice. “Lily, she’s awake!”
I could faintly make out Alice’s head of honey blonde curls and her kind brown eyes. She was sitting in one of the uncomfortable orange chairs that were scattered throughout the…oh shit, I was in the Hospital Wing!
I sprung up from the bed, drawing myself into a sitting position. I prepared myself to experience a wave of vertigo, but thankfully, it never came. I leaned back against the fluffy pillows behind my back, glancing down. Good, I was still in my school robes. It couldn’t be that bad, could it?
“What happened?” I asked, not sure if I really wanted to know the answer to my own question.
“Do you remember anything that happened before we came here?” Lily questioned, biting her lip. I hadn’t even noticed that she had sidled on up to my bedside and perched herself on the edge of my mattress.
“Well,” I began, chewing the inside of my cheek as I struggled to recall my memory. “I remember that you woke me up at the end of class…and then we started freaking out because I had gum in my hair,” I stopped and my hand instinctively flew to the back of my head. My stomach dropped to the floor; several inches of my hair was gone. Eyes wide, I turned my gaze to Lily. “D-did Madam Pomfrey?” I paused and made the motion of scissors with my fingers.
Lily nodded her head. “It was the only thing she could do to get it out,” she answered solemnly.
“What do you mean?”
I thought that anyone of magical blood would be able to get something as simple as gum out of human hair. This wasn’t the first time I had gotten gum stuck in my hair. When I was six, one of the girls at the school yard spit gum in my hair and laughed at the sight of it waded pathetically in my dark locks. My dad had tried to get it out with peanut butter, but that hadn’t worked and neither did putting ice on it and freezing it. So, he did the only other thing he knew how to do; he cut my hair…by himself.
Yeah, it didn’t turn out very well.
“Well, she tried all the spells she knew, but nothing could get it out,” she sighed heavily and leaned against my legs, which were trapped beneath the scratchy sheet. “Alice and I…well, we have a theory,” I glanced over at Alice to see that she was gnawing on her full bottom lip nervously, her leg bouncing up and down.
“What is it?” I asked uncertainly, swallowing despite myself. It really wasn’t that dramatic of a situation, but still, I liked my hair long.
They shared a glance before Lily continued, “We think that someone put a powerful enchantment on the gum so it would be impossible to remove by magic, that you would have to resort to Muggle methods of getting it out. And Madam Pomfrey tried all those methods as well, but nothing seemed to work, so her only option was to cut out a big chunk of your hair.” She paused and stared at me for a long, hard second. “Do you know anyone who would purposefully stick gum in your hair?”
“No, not at -,” I stopped abruptly. It had suddenly become blatantly obvious who had stuck the gum in my hair. I snapped my jaw together so quickly, my teeth clicked together and a white hot lick of pain shot up along the line of my jaw. Ouch. Not exactly good for a headache.
“Eleanor?” Alice said. “Do you know who did it?”
I automatically shook my head. “No,” I answered mechanically. “I don’t.”
“Oh,” she looked crestfallen. “I was looking forward to exacting revenge.”
Before I could stop myself, I started laughing. They both stared at me like I was insane, but before long, Lily’s lips were twitching and small giggles were escaping her. Pretty soon, we were all laughing.
It was at that moment that I knew I had cemented my friendship with Alice and Lily.
X - X - X
It turns out that when you get a head injury, even a minor one, the Hogwarts nurse goes berserk and won’t let your friends stay for longer than an hour at a time.
“Open up,” she said, holding a spoonful of a nasty looking concoction.
I grimaced. “Do I have to?” The last potion had been incredibly grotesque and felt like I had been swallowing frogs.
“If you want that wrist of yours to heal, then yes, you have to,” Madam Pomfrey replied sternly, touching the spoon to my mouth, which I hesitantly opened. “The quicker you take it, the easier it goes down.”
Yeah, that was easy for her to say. She wasn’t the one gulping down nasty potions. Once she was satisfied with how much medicine I had consumed, she left me to my own devices, which wasn’t much. When one was confide to a miniscule, hard mattress, there wasn’t much else to do aside from twiddle your thumbs and ponder the beginnings of the universe.
There was only one other student in the Hospital Wing and he was getting ready to leave. It was a third year Hufflepuff by the name of Lloyd and when I asked him what happened, he said that he had got himself burnt by some plant or another in Herbology. Then he asked if I even went to this school and I stopped talking to him.
Breathing a sigh, I glanced down at my wrist, which was bound and in a sling. Apparently, after Lily had told me the extent of the damage done to my hair, I passed out. I thought it was from the shock of the news that she had made my hair worse, as if it were all possible, but Madam Pomfrey assured me that it had been from the blood lost. The cut I had received when my forehead had a scuffle with the corner of a desk was deep enough that she said there was a chance that I would have a scar on my forehead. Oh joy. In falling, I had fractured my wrist, too.
Today was just my lucky day, wasn’t it?
I leaned back against my pillows and tried to get some shut eye. Not that I was tired, I just didn’t have anything to do. Lloyd had left the Hospital Wing for dinner and my stomach growled. I was hungry, but from what I could see, Madam Pomfrey had already taken her dinner into her office. What about me? Wasn’t I going to get fed?
I contemplated throwing the covers aside and walking down to the Great Hall by myself, but with my luck, I would run into Lucinda and she would beat the living crap out of me. It honestly wasn’t worth it; I was hungry, but not that hungry. My wrist throbbed painfully, but I was thankful that I didn’t have to regrow any of the bones. Madam Pomfrey had mended the bones in my wrist, but it still had to be put in a sling. Stupid thing. I’d probably end up getting even more hurt with this damn thing on my arm rather than it doing any good for me. Things always happened that way for me, if you couldn’t tell already.
I sank deeper into the pillows, hoping that my growling stomach would soon silence itself and I would drift off to sleep. I could feel the pin pricks at the backs of my eyes, blurring my vision. The potion Madam Pomfrey had given me was working; it was putting me to sleep. Or it was trying to, at least.
I fluffed up the already fluffy pillows for something to do and settled back upon them again, my shoulders sinking into the massive amounts of feathers. The pillows were comfortable and seemed to radiate a small amount of heat that felt pleasant against the back of my neck. I shifted around in the bed, making use of what limited space I had, trying to make myself a little more comfortable. I lay my head back on the pillow and closed my eyes.
I could do this. I could fall asleep.
I thought of the most sleep alluring images and sounds that I could. I pictured the ocean, which I had never been to, in my mind’s eyes and I could practically hear the steady call of the gulls. It was a calm, peaceful feeling as the waves came crashing down on the rocks in my semi-dream/fantasy.
I was on the brink of sleep when my stomach growled obnoxiously, reminding me of my previous hunger. All thoughts of sleep evaded me and the beach was replaced with a hefty plate of poultry and, my favorite, mashed potatoes. Yum.
Heaving a sigh of annoyance, I sat up and pushed my hand through my hair. I frowned when I came upon the massive chunk missing. I hadn’t realized it went up that high. I could feel the color leaving my cheeks as I ran my hand through the missing clump.
The entire back side of my hair was missing for the most part, the longest of hairs coming to rest at the nape of my neck, right above the small, fine baby hairs. I cringed as I felt around some more. It was longer on the left side than on the right, which would prove to be problematic. I was going to have to get my hair cut. Aw, crap!
The burning sensation in my eyes told me that I was on the brink of crying. Over my hair. Oh vey, I was being overdramatic, not to mention incredibly pathetic. Maybe it was just my hunger getting the better of me. I tended to become overly moody whenever I was hungry, something that Aunt Eliza always teased me about. A small smile flickered briefly across my face at the thought of her. Just like every other time I thought about her, a painful jolt shot through my chest, right where my heart was.
A tear escaped the corner of my eye and I swiped at it angrily. This was stupid; I shouldn’t be getting upset over a missing chunk of hair. Granted, the chunk was approximately the size of China and would need to be fixed before lessons tomorrow, but things could be worse. For one, I could be dead, courtesy of Lucinda, but I wasn’t. Nope, I was still alive and kicking, breathing in air and circulating blood through my system. Unfortunately, just because she hadn’t killed me didn’t mean that she hadn’t exacted her revenge upon me. Although what she would be avenging was beyond me. I was quite certain that it had been she who had stuck the massive wad of gum in my hair. I had thought so in the classroom and my suspicions had been confirmed when Lily said that there was no spell to get it to unstick; I knew that Lucinda was very good at Charms, which was the exact opposite that I could say for myself.
“Oh vey,” I muttered under my breath, scrubbing my face with my hands. I tried to forget my hunger and made another attempt at going to sleep when Madam Pomfrey came shuffling over to my bed. As she leaned over me, I could smell the intoxicating scent of roasted chicken on her breath and immediately hated her for it. I could’ve eaten that roasted chicken; I loved roasted chicken.
“How are you feeling, Miss Briggs?” she asked, grabbing my arm and flipping it over.
“All right, I guess,” I shrugged. “I am a bit hungry, though.”
She grabbed her wand and prodded the valley of my elbow with the tip. A red spark shot out of the end and disappeared into my skin, the red growing brighter and brighter by the second. She stared at the crook of my elbow for few more seconds before giving a nod of her head. “That seems about right.”
Hello? Had she not heard my comment about my hunger?
Madam Pomfrey stuck the palm of her cold hand against my forehead and I shivered. Without warning, she pulled down one of my eyelids and blew into my eye. My eyelid struggled to close as water quickly rushed into my vision.
“I think you’ll be ready to leave tomorrow.”
My eyes widened. “Tomorrow? Why do I have to wait until tomorrow? I took all the damn potions you wanted me to, my wrist is on the mend, and my head it okay!”
“No, your head is not okay, Miss Briggs,” she corrected smoothly, a fleeting look of shock on her face at my curse. “You might have a concussion.”
“Isn’t there some sort of potion available that fixes concussion? Concussion-Be-Gone?! Something?” I asked desperately.
I really didn’t want to spend the night in the Hospital Wing. Ever since my dad had…well, died, I hadn’t done very well in hospitals. We, as in Aunt Eliza and I, had spent the better part of three days in the hospital when my dad had…yeah, because he was in a coma. I was there when he died. The smell of antiseptics burned in my nose to this day. I couldn’t remain in a place that smelt like the very place my father had died. Especially not since Lucinda the Bitch had reopened that particular wound that was well on its way of successful healing, albeit a small amount of scar issue.
Another tear leaked out of my eye and I prayed to Merlin that Madam Pomfrey didn’t see it.
Thankfully, she hadn’t. “I’m sorry, Miss Briggs, but I have to keep you overnight for the potion to take full effect. If there was brain damage and I sent you back to your dorm…I would lose my job.”
Way to be concerned about my health, lady. I really appreciate it.
“As for that wrist of yours,” she scuffled around the edge of the bed and lightly took my hand in hers. She poked at my wrist and I winced. “See? It’s still tender. Try doing lessons with a gimpy arm.”
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