Chapter 13 : Shadowboxer
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I don’t know how long I sat on the floor with my knees gathered close to my chest, with my arms wrapped tightly around my legs, and my face buried against my thighs. I couldn’t stop the tears, no matter how hard I tried. Just when I thought I had gained control over myself, I would be hit by another monstrous memory and a fresh wave of tears would start streaming down my face.
I wiped at the tears furiously. I shouldn’t be crying; I had done enough crying over the past. I knew that I shouldn’t let the past come back, I shouldn’t let myself be overwhelmed by memories that I had spent countless hours sobbing about in Aunt Eliza’s arms.
This was stupid. I doubt that Dad would have wanted me to slump down against a wall right the middle of a corridor and sob my eyes out like a little baby over the mere mention of his death. He would have wanted me to be strong, to remember him in a positive way. He wouldn’t want me to be consumed by my tears. Then again, it was easier said than done.
If I was anything like my mum had been, from what I remember of her, anyway, she would’ve taken the low blow that Lucinda delivered and hurled one of her own right back. But my mum was brave to the point of stupidity, not to mention that she had an uncontrollable temper, a knack for starting fights, and an attitude that no one liked. At least, that’s what everyone said about her, anyway.
I squeezed my eyes shut tightly, trying to bring back memories of my parents happy together, but none came to mind. I wished that I was in my dorm, so I could open up my trunk and rifle through the mess that coated a good six inches of the bottom of my trunk. I knew that I had some pictures there; Aunt Eliza had put them there when I left for Hogwarts in first year so I could look at them in case I got homesick.
I knew exactly which photograph I would search for first. I would search for my parents’ wedding photograph. Aside from a picture that was taken at St. Mungo’s when I was born, that was the only one of my parents together. I knew that they loved each other, for some time and to a certain extent, anyway. But the marriage didn’t last very long.
The truth was that I didn’t remember much about my mum; she left when I was only one year old. If it weren’t for photographs, I doubt I would remember what she looked like. Though my dad never specified the reason why my mum left, he said that she was too much of a free spirit to settle down. While it had always been her dream to have a daughter, my dad said that she couldn’t commit so much time to someone other than herself.
Benjamin Ryan Briggs, more commonly known as my father, was a good man and an excellent father, if I do say so myself. He practically raised me from birth, seeing as how my mother felt that she had done her part, having carried me in her womb for nine months, gained seventy pounds doing so, and gave pushed me through a hole roughly the size of a Sickle. Although my dad did say that she was always up for a shopping trip for new baby clothes and she liked to flaunt me around at his office’s Christmas parties, that was pretty much the extent of her care for me. My dad did all the rest. I used to not believe him, but his sister-in-law, or Aunt Eliza, confirmed it.
So, when my mother left, it wasn’t that much of a change. My mother didn’t work, so the amount of money we had to spend didn’t change. We did move out of the flat that they bought together and Dad moved us into a modest, but cozy three bedroom home, which was twenty minutes outside of London.
To say that I was a Daddy’s girl would be an understatement. We did absolutely everything together. In my childhood, he was my hero. I wanted to be exactly like him, going as far as making him by me a mock-leather suitcase that looked exactly like his. As much as my world revolved around him, I knew that I meant so much more to him. I can still feel his arms wrapped around me in a tight hug that he would always give me before I went to sleep; I could still feel the small kiss he’d plant on the top of my head before he shut off the lights and closed the door, leaving it open a tiny crack in case I got scared at night.
We had a good life together, to say the very least. I was happy and I hope that my dad was happy. He looked like he was happy, anyway. Then again, I was a young, naïve girl who thought that rugby was the coolest sport in the world. You know, we actually went to matches together. A lot of them, too, seeing as how his company had a box.
She came back to visit once, my mum did. It was when I was eight years old. I could still remember the day. There had been a knock at the door and even though I wasn’t supposed to answer the door when no one was home, I did. When I opened the door, I was immediately swept into a person’s arms. But instead of embracing them in return, I started kicking and screaming that someone was trying to kidnap me. I ended up nailing my mother in the shin with my foot, sank my teeth into her shoulder, and pushed her down when she let go of me. Then I promptly slammed the door on her face and called my dad at his office.
He told me to call the police, and I did just that. When they tried to apprehend my mother, she shouted that I was her daughter and that I was “just sleepy” from my nap. How she knew that I had been sleeping on the couch was beyond me. One of the officers asked me to come forward and confirm what she said. It had been hard to tell if she was my mum at first because she had changed so dramatically in the span of seven years. Her face held many lines, her bloodshot eyes had heavy bags underneath them and she was rail thin. But I told them that she was my mum and they let her go. She waited inside the house with me until my dad got home from the office.
They had quite the row in the middle of the living room. Apparently, my mum hadn’t come back to see me; she came back to see if my dad would give her some money since she was “down on her luck”. I didn’t know until much later on in my life that my dad had actually been supporting my mother the entire time she left. I wouldn’t find out until much later that my mum would use the money he gave her to buy drugs.
I sniffled and took another angry swipe at my tears, but nothing seemed to stop the consistent flow.
No, I couldn’t think about the rest of it now. I would only cry more and I didn’t want that to happen. I groped the stone wall behind me, my fingers desperately searching for something that I could grip with my fingertips. I cried out in anger, another loud sob tearing through my throat as I pushed off the wall, struggling to get to my feet. My stomach clenched as my body racked with sobs. My legs were wobbly underneath me and I retrieved my satchel from the floor.
I took passages that I didn’t think many people knew about. I doubted that anyone would be roaming the halls anyway, lessons were currently in progress. I shook my sleeve back and looked at my watch. It was close to lunch, but I wasn’t anywhere near hunger. I wiped my face in earnest with the back of my hand and trekked back to the common room.
Thankfully, the Fat Lady admitted me without so much as a single word; I didn’t even have to speak the password, which was strange, even for the Fat Lady. As I crawled through the portrait hole, I felt another way of tears threatening to take a hold of me and drag me under. I took a deep breath and held it in my lungs, praying to Merlin that I would be able to make it to the seventh year girls’ dorms before I burst into tears.
There weren’t many students in the common room when I managed to stumble into it. However, two people that I didn’t want to see me were stretched across a pair of armchairs, looking quite comfortable as they played a game of Wizards’ Chess. I touched my face to see if tears had come yet, but none had; my face was dry.
I was halfway to the staircase when they noticed me.
I debated acting like I didn’t hear them and rushing up the steps, but I doubted that I could get away with it. I stopped walking, my shoulders pinching with tension as I waited with baited breath. I didn’t move as I heard them getting up from their positions in the armchairs and walking over to me.
A hand on my elbow made me jump out of my skin.
“How are you - Merlin, Eleanor, are you okay?!” Lily half shrieked once she saw me.
I didn’t say anything in fear that I would start crying, that I would start spilling my guts. I didn’t want their pity, I didn’t need their pity. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them and it certainly wouldn’t hurt me. In fact, I would probably benefit from it.
So, instead of speaking, I shook my head.
“Did something happen in one of your lessons today, Eleanor?” Remus asked quietly, his warm voice soothing.
I nodded. “Yeah,” I muttered, my voice rough. “That’s it.”
“Oh,” he replied, obviously not satisfied with my answer. “All right.”
“I’m going to go upstairs now,” I said to no one, already heading toward the stairs.
Neither of them tried to stop me. I think they were too stunned to do anything aside from stare at me incredulously. I guess they were baffled by the fact that I was actually capable of crying. I told myself that it was ridiculous to think something so…lowly of two of the most intelligent and kind people I had ever encountered in my life.
As I walked up the stairs, a sudden wave of exhaustion hit me like a load of bricks. I yawned into my fist and by the time I opened the door to our dorm, my eyes were half closed. I threw my bag to the floor and flopped down face first on my bed, not even bothering to kick off my shoes. Within seconds, I was out like a light.
X - X - X
I didn’t wake up until six thirty. I still wasn’t hungry, so I didn’t bother going downstairs to the Great Hall for a bite to eat. There was also the fact that I probably looked atrocious that stopped me from leaving the room. I wasn’t sure how long I simply laid in my bed, my blankets pulled around me, and stared off into space. There weren’t any tears left in my ducts and my eyes were itchy and scratchy.
Deciding that I was wasting valuable time, I pulled my Charms book out of my bag and studied for the exam we were supposed to take today. It was a pointless attempt, really, but I just needed something to do, even though I wasn’t absorbing any of the information I was reading.
The door opened around seven o’clock and Lily poked her head into the room. She smiled in a warm, almost maternal way when she saw me. I tried to smile back, but my lips quit halfway through. She nudged the door open with her toe and I saw that she had some food with her. Well, not just some food, but a lot of food.
At the sight of the tray of food, my stomach gave a growl. Maybe I was hungry after all.
“You’re up,” she said timidly as she set the tray down on my bed. “I thought that you might be hungry, so I brought you some food.”
“Thanks,” I replied, my voice barely a whisper.
She twisted her hands nervously, watching me while I ate. Normally, I would’ve been bothered by it, but I didn’t really care now. “We were worried about you when you didn’t show up for dinner,” Lily said finally. I could tell that she had been wanting to say that for a few minutes now.
I looked up from my soup, blinking. “Who was worried?”
She sent me a dubious look. “Alice and I, of course. Who else would be worried about you?”
She had a point. There was no one else would should rightfully be worried about me, but something in my stomach wanted someone else to care. And my brain didn’t have a hard time figuring out who. I knew it was stupid to think such thoughts of grandeur, but it was nice, you know?
Almost immediately, Lily paled. “Oh Merlin, I didn’t mean it like that, Eleanor! Honest.”
I tried to laugh, but it ended up sounding like a car engine dying. “It’s okay, Lils, I know you didn’t.”
She smiled in her hesitant manner and tucked hair behind her ear. “Well, I’m still sorry nonetheless. Remus asked about you, though.”
Against my will, I brightened. “Really?”
Her timid smile broke into a wide grin. “You fancy him, don’t you?”
“No,” I said vehemently, although the color of my cheeks and ears suggested otherwise. She sent me a look and I sighed. “Okay, so maybe just a little bit.”
Instead of taunting me like girls normally do when obtaining a piece of information, Lily merely nodded her head curtly and reached forward, grabbing a dinner roll, and tearing it in half. She stuck half into her mouth and held the other in her pale hand. While she chewed she said, “He’s a good guy, Remus is.”
“I know,” I muttered, nodding my head, refusing to make eye contact with her now that she knew.
A tense silence fell over the room while I finished my dinner and Lily ate her roll. I sipped noisily on my pumpkin juice to fill the silence, but nothing seemed to help. The air was full of too many questions with answers I didn’t want to divulge to anyone just yet. I tried to ignore it, we both did, really, but it was just too hard.
It was Lily who cracked first.
“Why were you really crying, Eleanor?” she asked, biting her lip nervously. “You obviously didn’t have any exams today, otherwise I would’ve known about them, since Alice and I have nearly every class between us with you.”
I picked my head up suddenly and glared at her. “I don’t think that’s any of your business.” The tone of voice I used was too foreign, too cold, too defensive. I could already feel a shift going on around me and I didn’t like it.
“Sorry,” she apologized quickly. She rose gracefully from my bed and started toward the door. Lily hesitated when she reached the door and turned around, biting her lip nervously, “You can tell me if and when you’re ready. I’ll be here to listen, okay?”
I bobbed my head, showing that I heard her. She sent another smile my way, muttered another apology and left the room. Probably to report back to Remus.
I sighed, drained the rest of my pumpkin juice, setting the dinner tray on my nightstand. I threw my hair up into a messy bun and burrowed underneath the covers, pulling them over my head and falling into a fitful sleep.
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