“Naw, I don’ blame you, yer couldda been killed last time!”
“There is something I got for you,” Blanca said, “come with me.”
Hagrid followed her, surprised by her sudden bright mood, she went out into the yard and took a small bag for her pocket, she removed something from it and put it on the ground, in a few seconds, it grew to be an old-fashioned tool sharpener.
“Why it’s a tool sharpener, the old-fashioned type,” he said happily, Blanca was glad to see that he liked it.
“I just thought I’d get you something as a thankyou for healing Tawny.” She said in a quiet voice.
“Aw, c’mere you!” he engulfed her in another bone crushing hug.
A cough from behind them separated the two, Blanca looked up to see James with two funny looking bird-like creatures in each hand, he was muddy and he had bruises on his hands, “I found them Hagrid, they were a few hours into the forest, but the mother had not got to them yet.”
“Thank goodness,” Hagrid said as he got the creatures from him and put them in a cage, “thankyou James.”
“Hello Potter,” Blanca said.
“Hi, what are you doing here?”
“Just came to see Hagrid that’s all,” she said aloofly.
“Sorry for disturbing, I’ll just clean up and leave,” he said politely, much to Blanca’s surprise.
“It’s okay,” Blanca said kindly, “after all, you were doing something important right?”
“Yeah, kind of,” He said as he waved his wand at himself, clearing the mud and blood.
Blanca walked to the cage where the little birds sat, “What are they?” she asked.
“Harpies,” James said simply.
“What, aren’t they dangerous?”
“Not in their first few months,” James replied, “but these ones tried to escape, it’s a good thing I found them before the mother did.”
“Because,” the answer came from Hagrid, who had just emerged from the house carrying a large bucket of meat, “the mothers eat all but one Harpling. So, these little tykes wouldda been dinner.” He put a piece of meat in the cage and Blanca watched as they savagely tore it all up and gobbled it.
“Alright Hagrid,” James said, “I’ll see you later, I have stuff......”
“Aw! C’me on!” Hagrid protested, “At least stay fer lunch.”
James thought about it before uncertainly agreeing. Believe it or not, up to now, no one had gathered up the courage to tell Hagrid that his rock cakes were not great, let alone tell him he needed to give up making them. Blanca was slowly trying to inch away, praying she wouldn’t be noticed when she heard: “Yer too Blanca! I just made a fresh batch of rock cakes and I don’t think I’ll be able to finish them all by myself!”
Sighing, she slowly trudged back to the cabin, hating herself for coming in the first place.
“C’me on in, both o’ yer!” he waved them inside.
Once inside, Blanca picked the seat furthest away from James and started drawing imaginary lines on the table.
“’Ere you go,” Hagrid set large plates laden with soup in front of them, “Some mixed herb soup to start us off yeah,” he said in a jolly tone as he sat down to join them.
“It’s delicious Hagrid, thanks,” James said after taking a bite.
Blanca gingerly took a tiny taste and gave out an involuntary smile; this was one of the most delicious soups she had ever had, it was a mix of sweet, sour and salty textures and it practically slid down your throat. “This is great Hagrid,” she said, “What’s it made of?”
“Sharon weed and a dash of something called Xyio- something,” Hagrid replied, “I am not exactly sure what it does but the sign next to it said ‘Not Toxic’ and Professor Longbottom had allowed me to borrow some roots and herbs from your greenhouses.”
Blanca nodded, they had been studying the Xyiophalagus root the past week and it was known for its properties of fabricating the feeling of joy for a short period of time, usually given to patients suffering from chronic depression.
“It really is good,” Blanca said, her smile growing wider and wider as she spooned more of the soup.
“So, tell me, how was your day?” Hagrid asked, turning to James, who was also getting happier by the second.
“Well Hagrid, apart from hunting for those Harplings, which gave me a new group of scars I need to heal properly,” he held up his scratched arm, and started to laugh, causing the others to join him, “but aside from that Hagrid,” his voice was more serious, “I was with Jenna Hart this morning.”
“She’s a wonderful lass!” Hagrid boomed, “Not afraid to get her hands dirty during my classes!”
“Yeah, anyway,” he continued gleefully, “I think she is ready to finally go steady with me, this time for real!”
Blanca felt something deep inside that hurt, but it was quickly masked away by the happiness she felt for James, “That’s just wonderful James!” she said happily, “This calls for a toast!”
“Yeah!” Hagrid agreed, lifting up his large mug, he raised it up and boomed, “To my dear friend James!”
“And to his happiness!” Blanca chimed in, “May true love prevail and may you live a long happy life full of wonderful wonders and magical everything!” she giggled.
“Aw guys, that’s too much,” James said, placing a hand on his heart, “you guys are the bestest friends I ever had.”
“Oh, that’s just touching,” Hagrid said, pulling a rag from his pocket and wiping his tears away, “Who’s ready fer the next course? We havin potaters roast!”
“Yay!” Blanca and James both cheered.
“And you Casablanca dear, anything interesting today?” Hagrid sung.
Blanca giggled, “Oh, Casablanca, I love that name........... I love it I love it I love it!” she said, “Anyway, I met my daddy today,” she said happily.
“Wow!” the other two marvelled.
“Yes, and it turns out he has a girlfriend!” she chortled, and after the other two finished, she continued, “I think she’s just lovely the woman he’s with!”
“Whuz her name?” Hagrid asked.
Blanca looked at him for some time before whispering, “I don’t know!” and bursting into a fit of giggles.
The rest of their lunch was a happy one and when they had finished, James and Blanca left the cabin arm in arm, singing jolly tunes from Professor Flitwick’s glee club. They were halfway towards the castle when the effects of the Xyiophalagus wore off; Blanca felt like she had been dipped in an ice cold well and she had this heavy feeling of melancholy.
“What the bloody hell are you doing holding my arm Thomas?” James spat.
“What do you mean I’m holding you arm? You’re the one holding mine!”
“Whatever. Just let go!” he dropped his arm to his side.
“I’d want nothing more than to be rid of your slimy presence Potter,” she hissed, and with a huff, she started to march to the castle when James held her back, “WHAT?”
“Give this to Al will you?” he held out a tattered old piece of parchment.
“Exactly what do you think I am James Potter? Your servant?” she scoffed, “He’s your brother isn’t he?”
“You’ve never had a problem with helping him out,” he replied.
“Just so you know, we don’t talk anymore.” Blanca retorted.
“If you hadn’t opened your big mouth and told him about that night, maybe you two would still be friends!”
“What the hell do you care?” Blanca’s hands were raised above her head.
James inched towards her “You and Al have been friends for a very long time and even if I don’t show it, I happen to give a shit about my brother and I know he cares about you.”
“So why don’t you get off your high horse and go and make things right,” he whispered, “this could be your peace offering.” He shoved the parchment in her hands.
“Why should I trust you?” Blanca asked.
“Because you know I’m right, and I know that because you are still standing here,” he said.
Someone coughed behind them and Blanca spun around, “What?” she asked a little too rudely at Jenna who was standing behind her.
“I came for James,” Jenna said, completely ignoring Blanca’s rude answer.
Blanca turned to James, “Your whatever is here for you,” and turned to leave.
“Hey!” Jenna replied, sounding offended, “I can hear you!”
“I wasn’t whispering!” came the reply.
Blanca burst into the entrance hall and made a bee line for her dorm, once in, she rummaged through her trunk and until she found her quill and parchment. Deciding that doing her assignments was the best way to spend the day, she threw her things on the bed and proceeded to look for her text books. The door opened and in walked Mel, she had her work gloves on and they were streaked with mud.
“Hullo,” she said as she untied her dirty blonde hair, “you’re back already.”
“Yeah,” Blanca said quietly.
“Something tells me something happened on that visit with your dad,” she observed.
“Nothing really,” Blanca replied, “just my dad brought a girl over.”
“That’s great!” Mel beamed, “You must be happy for him right?”
Blanca looked at Mel as though there was something wrong with her, “What do you think?”
“So you don’t like her?” Blanca simply blinked at her friend, Mel furrowed her brows, “But you should be happy that he’s found someone.”
“I’m afraid she might hurt him,” she replied, “besides, what would someone like her want with someone like my dad? I mean, he’s old!”
“Who is it?”
“Wow,” Mel marvelled.
“Wow? Really Mel?” Blanca asked.
“Love knows no age,” Mel said dreamily, “the heart wants what the heart wants, and besides, your dad is really nice. I think it’s only right that he’s happy sometime.”
“Yeah, and I think it’s only right that I go and study right now,” she replied as she got up to collect all her material.
“But we have Quidditch practice today, remember?” Mel said.
“Remember you asked Bernie to talk Mosley into having us switch our practice days with them?”
“Shit!” Blanca whispered, “So practice is now?”
“Yeah, that’s why I came up here, to get ready lady captain!” Mel replied.
Blanca nodded, “I must have forgotten, I’ll be there,” she said, throwing her belongings back in her trunk.
“Hurry, everyone’s ready,” Mel said as she grabbed her robes and disappeared out the hatch door.
Blanca got her Quidditch robes and climbed out of her dorm room, half way across the common room, she was stopped by Eli Smith, he was a Second year and everyone called him a ‘dorky saddie’, resulting in his awkward timid behaviour and shyness. He never really spoke to anyone apart from his two friends and Blanca was surprised he was actually trying to speak to her.
“Hello Smith,” she replied.
Eli blushed a brilliant red and looked down, hands in his pockets, he started shuffling his feet, “Um, I kind of wanted to ask you something Thomas, I hope it’s not a bad time-”
“Actually, I have to go to Quidditch, but I have a bit of time. What is it?”
“Well, it’s about the dance coming up........” Eli's voice was barely a whisper.
“Yes, what about it?” Blanca asked.
“Well, I was wondering if............. I was wondering if maybe, well if it’s okay with you, I hope you don’t get offended by this but-”
“Eli, get on with it already!”
“You know my name?”
“You had something to ask?”
“Yeah, I was wondering if we could go together,” Eli mumbled quickly.
“But Smith, its girls ask boys, you can’t ask me,” Blanca explained.
“Yeah, I know,” he mumbled, “and that’s the problem.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not dumb Thomas; you know no one is going to ask me.”
“So you decided to ask me instead?”
“Yeah,” Eli mumbled.
“I’m sorry Eli, but I can’t go with you,” Blanca replied, “it wouldn’t be fair that I didn’t ask the person of my choice and......and, well........”
“It would be socially awkward,” Eli finished for her, Blanca looked down ashamedly, “it’s okay,” Eli smiled, “you have your reasons, and besides, you were nice enough to even spare me five minutes. Well I have to get going now,” he said quietly.
“Thanks for understanding,” Blanca said. She climbed out of the barrel door and stood on the spot for a few seconds before climbing back in. “Bloody hell,” she muttered to herself, she knew she might regret this later but decided to go on with it anyway.
“Smith!” she called to a downcast Eli who was slowly trudged to his dorm, Eli turned round and his face dropped even more when he saw who was calling him.
“Would you like to go to the Opening dance with me? You know, just as friends?”
“Is this because you feel sorry for me?”
“Of course not! You’re a sweet kid, and I think only a super dumb person would pass up the chance to hang out with you, so what do you say?”
“But I thought you had someone to ask?”
“Who him? Nah, I changed my mind, he’s not all that anyway!” Blanca dismissed.
Eli gave a small smile, which grew wider as he nodded his head continually, “Okay, we’ll go together then?”
“Good, see you later then,” Blanca said as she climbed out of the barrel door and sprinted to the Quidditch pitch. ‘Well, that should at least bring me some good karma.’ She thought as she ran to the pitch.
Blanca had already found practice had started without her, Bernie had organised the team and they were doing laps around the pitch, at her sight, Bernie dismounted his broom and jogged towards her, “I kind of started practice without you, I hope you don’t mind,” he said.
Blanca shook her head, “Not at all, it was the right thing to do,” she replied, “sorry for being late.” Blanca made to mount her broom when she lost her balance and fell flat on the ground.
“Are you okay?” Bernie rushed to her side.
“Yeah, yeah I’m fine, just lost my balance there,” she mumbled.
“If you’re not feeling well, I think the team would understand if you skipped this one out.”
“I said I’m fine Macmillan, now let me be,” Blanca retorted, she barely walked two steps when she doubled over in pain, the whole place was spinning and the last thing Blanca heard was Bernie yelling for help.
Blanca woke up in a dark room, wondering where she was, she was beginning to panic when she saw the white curtains and realised she was in the Hospital wing.
“She’s awake,” someone whispered and they went closer to her, Blanca’s eyes were adjusting to the light when she recognised Mel and Rose huddled by her side, she looked around and to her dismay there was no sign of Al.
“Hi guys,” she whispered, “what happened?”
“Well, you came to the Quidditch pitch and you collapsed,” Mel explained.
“MadamLark says it’s an allergic reaction to something you took, she won’t tell us what.” Rose explained, “But Blanca, I think its trouble.”
Before Blanca could reply, Madam Lark walked in, followed closely by Professors McGonagall, Sprout and Longbottom, after a few seconds, Hagrid came in, he looked really nervous.
“Okay girls,” McGonagall said, “could you excuse us now?”
Rose and Mel quickly rushed out and McGonagall and Sprout sat where they had been.
“How are you feeling now?” Sprout asked.
“Okay, I guess,” Blanca replied.
“Do you know why we are here?” McGonagall asked, Blanca shook her head, “Well, earlier today you lost consciousness and were rushed here because of a chronic allergic reaction you had.”
“Professor, with all due respect, I think everyone has had allergies, so what’s so special about this?”
“Do you know the herb Xyiophalagus?”
“Well, you happen to be allergic to that herb, and you must have consumed it sometime within the past twelve hours,” McGonagall continued, “now, we do not serve that in the meals and it was confirmed that you did not have breakfast or lunch in the great hall today.”
“Yeah, I skipped both meals.”
“Professor Hagrid says you joined him for lunch and that he is the one that put the herb in your meal, and Professor Longbottom confirmed that a few branches were missing from the plant.”
“What’s wrong with the herb?”
“Under no circumstances must the herb be used on school grounds, it is harvested here for educational purposes only and must be used only at St.Mungo’s,” McGonagall replied, “So any use of the herb here is prohibited!”
Blanca glanced at Hagrid, he looked very scared, this would not be the first time he messed up and he obviously was afraid he would lose his job this time, “Does the herb leave any traces of consumption?” she asked innocently.
“No,” came the reply.
“Then how did you know it’s what I took?”
“The herb leaves a signature distortion to the blood cells of someone who’s allergic, that’s how come you were diagnosed,” Madam Lark replied.
“Okay then,” Blanca replied, and with a sigh, she said, “what are the consequences of taking this herb without permission?”
“The perpetrator will have to face a suspension of some sort, depending on the situation.”
Blanca glanced at Hagrid before replying, “I did it, I took the herbs from the greenhouse on Thursday,” she said, “Professor Hagrid had nothing to do with it, we had discussed the herb at lunch today and that was it, I think he must have gotten confused about it, especially after what happened to me.”
“This is a serious responsibility you’re taking,” Sprout said, “are you sure?”
Blanca nodded, “Yes, I was near the plant during Herbology when I nicked some of the leaves, I wanted to see if what we had learned about it was really true.” She said, “I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt and I’m really sorry Professor,” she said to professor Longbottom.
“Well then, Professor Longbottom, this is in your jurisdiction,” McGonagall replied, “you can take over.”
Neville nodded thoughtfully, “Well, since she said it was not meant to harm anyone, and because of the fact that I had not given out the prohibition of the plant, I’ll say she gets two weeks suspension from Herbology only. And one hundred and ten points from Hufflepuff.”
“Fair enough,” McGonagall said, she gave Blanca one last look before getting up and stretching her robes, “Well miss Thomas, this case is closed, we hope you get well soon.” And with that, she left the room, followed closely by the other professors, before he left, Hagrid looked back at Blanca and mouthed a ‘Thankyou’ to her, Blanca smiled at him before he left the room.
“You know she knows you’re lying,” Madam Lark said as she fluffed Blanca’s pillow.
“So nothing,” she replied, “nothing can be done to prove it and Veritaserum can only be used if the case was connected to a murder plot or anything that will endanger the school’s well being.”
“Then good,” Blanca answered.
Madam Lark gave Blanca a critical look before saying, “You know, for someone who’s as obnoxious as you are, I’ll have to say you are quite loyal.”
“Yay, thankyou,” Blanca said tonelessly, “Now when are they taking you back and returning Madam Pomfrey?”
Lark chuckled lightly, “You don’t vex me.”
“Oh drat,” Blanca drawled.
Madam Lark had become the new school nurse when Blanca was in her third year after Madam Pomfrey had retired. She was very kind to the students and was not as strict as old Pomfrey was; five foot two, a kind round face, short curly red hair, this plump woman was a ray of sunshine through the dull greyness of Hogwarts. But Blanca, who had a very close friendship with Madam Pomfrey before she left, had made it her mission to drive Madam Lark away in hopes of bringing Pomfrey back. She had realised that her plan would not work by the end of third year and so gave up, but this did not stop the love-hate relationship between her and Lark. So even though these two liked and respected each other, it did not stop them from bickering once in a while.
“You know, the side effects of Xyiophalagus include horrible mood swings,” Lark said kindly, “I think what you need is some rest.”
“When do I get out of here?”
“We can release you tomorrow,” came the reply, “if you’re good, you can go today.”
“What, and miss all this?” Blanca gestured to the dull Hospital wing, “Why would I do that?”
Madam Lark ignored the last comment, instead, she removed an envelope from her apron pocket, “This came for you earlier.”
“Thanks,” Blanca replied as she tore open the envelope.
It was from the Witch Weekly, the letter was short and went straight to the point, it said that they could not interview her because of permission issues and were sure to get back to her as soon as they has confirmation that the interview would be legalised.
“Oh great,” Blanca muttered, her father had got to them quick enough to stop the interview from happening. Blanca was going to pocket to letter when she realised for the first time that she was in the hospital gowns.
“Madam Lark,” she called to the middle aged woman who had gone to her office.
“What is it?” came the reply.
“My clothes, I can’t find them.”
Lark emerged from where she was sitting, “You’re not going anywhere any time soon, why do you need them?”
“I’m planning a great escape from this place,” Blanca retorted.
Lark folded her arms, “Seriously?”
“Okay, there is something really important in my jeans pocket that I need,” Blanca replied, “and it’s crucial for the mending of a friendship on the rocks.”
“Now I wonder who would be dumb enough to go back to being friends with you.”
“Hey, that’s against regulation!” Blanca protested, “Staff in care are supposed to be nice to their patients! At least Madam Pomfrey knew something about that.”
“I’ll decide to ignore the last statement,” Lark replied as she summoned Blanca’s clothes from the shelf they had been sitting, “Here you go.”
Blanca quickly got her jeans and removed the piece of parchment from the pocket, “Here, I’m done,” she said, giving the jeans back to Lark.
“Yes, your highness,” Lark replied sarcastically.
Blanca studied the parchment closely, what importance would it have to Al, and who said anything about James telling the truth about it? She did not know why she was trusting him on that but she just did.
“Lark, can I ask you something?” Blanca asked hesitantly.
“That’s Madam Lark to you missy,” Lark replied.
“Madam Lark,” Blanca said painstakingly, “can I ask you something?”
“Well, when I was.... you know, out of consciousness or whatever, did Albus come?”
“No, only the two girls and Macmillan were here,” came the reply, “why?”
“Nothing,” Blanca said quietly, then after some thought, she said, “Madam Lark, what do you think of me?”
“Are you sure you’re asking me that question?” Lark asked.
“I need an honest answer, please?”
“Okay. I think you are an obnoxious, insufferable, mean, stubborn, spoilt brat,” Lark replied simply.
“Oh,” Blanca said quietly.
“Yeah, but I think you’re also kind............. well sometimes, you know, when you feel up to it, and also, I think you are loyal, you’re smart and well, you’re honest. Which is something most people aren’t.” Lark continued, “Anyway, what do you care what I think?”
“Nothing,” Blanca replied quietly, “what time am I good to get out of here?”
“Tomorrow,” Lark replied.
“But I’m fine! I feel fine!” Blanca protested, “why can’t I just leave now?”
“Because I still need to monitor you,” Lark replied, “and make sure you don’t do anything stupid.”
“When was the last time I did something stupid?”
“Do you really want me to answer that? Cos I’ve got a whole file in my office,” Lark said.
“Fine,” Blanca huffed, “at least what time is it?”
“It’s nearly midnight.”
“Midnight! Goodnight then.” Blanca said.
“Thankyou for the dismiss, highness,” Lark said as she got up from where she was seated.
“Goodnight Madam Lark,” Blanca said.
“Goodnight Blanca,” she replied kindly.
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