27 March, 1974
It's getting worse for us Muggle-Borns here at school. Strange things keep happening to us. A girl named Mavis from Ravenclaw disappeared for a couple of days. She was found on the outskirts of Hogsmeade not knowing where she had been. It's the middle of winter, and she was dressed only in her school robes. The school hushed it up, but we know better. I think it was someone here at school, but what do I know.
There is a group of Muggle-Borns who have decided to meet quietly in one of the Transfiguration classrooms. I have been to some of the meetings. I am the only first year there, and it feels a little weird. I don't know if I want to keep sneaking into one of those meetings, because Mavis disappeared on her way back one week ago.
I am having problems in class again. I burned myself badly on my cauldron, because I let my mind wander. I don't remember doing it. I actually can't remember being burnt. Professor Slughorn had to pull my hand away from the boiling potion. He said he called my name over and over again, and I didn't respond. What's wrong with me? Did someone put some sort of curse on me? Should I go talk to someone? Maybe it's just inside my head.
Regulus is still being a pain in the arse, but I am not giving him a chance to get at me. I am following the rules of our little 'club'. Abbey normally walks me up to get my morning medication, but Alice, a Hufflepuff prefect in our little club, has taken to walking me up to my afternoon doses. Most of the attacks are taking place at night anyway.
Mum sent me a package for my birthday yesterday. Time seems to get away from me, and I forgot my birthday is on April 2nd. It included plenty of sweets for me to share with my dorm mates. Abbey has developed a taste for Muggle candy. Constance says they are planning something for my birthday, but I hate people making a fuss. It seems like my birthday parties turn out to be disasters in the making.
I am spending some time in the hospital wing again. It seems I now have a bed on reserve. Madam Pomfrey has to put me in one of the isolation areas where it can be kept dark when I have a headache. It seems like they are getting worse and not better. After the incident in Potions, my head hurt worse than the burn on my arm. Everyone made a bit of a fuss that day. Both Slughorn and McGonagall came by to pay a visit. I am sure mum went mental when she received the owl.
I need to work on some homework,
I wake up to the early spring sunshine in my dorm room and to the smiling faces of Abbey and Constance. I wonder why they are looking at me with such goofy grins. I suddenly realize it is my birthday.
"Happy birthday, Nell!" Abbey shouts, holding out a wrapped present. "Open mine first."
I eagerly tear open the package to discover it is a book called Jinxes for the Jinxed. It isa book full of quirky spells to get back at Regulus and his mates that are not taught here at school. I then open the present from Constance. It is a copy of Hogwarts, a History. I have been wearing the school's copy out reading it. I guess she thought it is time I had my own.
I really love my presents, and it is the first time in my life I have friends that are so close to me. This is probably the best birthday yet.
As we sit down to breakfast, I feel very tired suddenly. Abbey seems to notice that I'm not feeling well as I pick at my eggs without enthusiasm. I dismiss her and tell her I just didn't get enough sleep last night.
Since it is Tuesday, we have double History of Magic. Professor Binns' droning drives me up a wall even when I am not under the weather, but today I honestly feel like every word sounds like fingernails being scratched down the blackboard. I don't know what's wrong. I feel a migraine coming on, but it doesn't seem to materialize. My mind feels like it is a million miles away from my body.
I end up going through the motions of the rest of the day and make my trek up to Madam Pomfrey to take my medication at the end of the day. Alice keeps looking at me funny and asking what is wrong. Before I can say anything to Madam Pomfrey, Alice blurts out that I don't seem to be feeling well. I lie and say that I stayed up late studying. On the way to the common room, Alice tells me how I really don't look well at all, but I tune her out.
I find Abbey and Constance playing Exploding Snap in the common room, but I don't have the heart to join in. I just don't feel right.
"Nell?" Abbey inquires. It seems like her voice is coming from so far away. "What's wrong?"
I look around the room to realize it doesn't seem familiar any longer. The outlines of the walls are vibrating and the colors are too bright despite the dim firelight. I feel hot all of a sudden even though the fireplace is across the room. The air seems to be made of molten lead, and I struggle to breathe. I can feel hot tears rolling down my face as my pulse quickens.
"Nell?" someone inquires. "Are you okay?"
I feel a strong compulsion run from the room; however, my muscles suddenly jerk out of control, and I fall on the floor with a painful thud.
"Someone do something!" I hear a shout.
"I'm getting…" The voices drop into nothingness as the spasms in my body get worse.
The world seems to come back into some sort of focus as I hear voices around me. I'm very tired and can tell I am covered in bruises. My mouth has an odd copper taste to it. I attempt to move my tongue, but it feels like it is stuck to the roof of my mouth. Unbidden tears roll down my cheeks, and there is nothing I can do stop them.
"Nell, come on." I sense someone lifting up and half carrying me out of the room by someone. "Hey, wake up!" It sounds like a boy talking to me.
Everything is now a confusing tangle of noises and sensations as I am dragged further along somewhere. I wonder where I am going, because all I want to do is go to sleep.
Someone is holding me now, but I don't like it. My protests are met with some quiet, comforting words. It takes too much energy to fight any longer. I allow darkness to take me over.
There are muffled voices coming from far away. I think I hear my name mentioned several times, so I force my eyelids apart with a moan. My head is splitting with the worst migraine I have ever had in my life. The room is dimly lit, and it takes me a few moments to orient myself. I'm in my usual bed in the hospital wing. As I look across the room, I see that the door is cracked open slightly with several people talking in urgent, low tones.
I really want my mum more than ever, but I remember from her last letter that she has left for Canada to visit my aunt. The thought causes me to break out into tears again. I don't like to cry. But right now, I feel so lost, confused and miserable.
Someone must have heard me wake up, because I hear someone call my name. The voice belongs to Madam Pomfrey. She moves over to my bed and turns up the lamp; however, I cringe because it is making my headache worse.
"Nell, what's wrong?" she asks, pushing stray hairs off my forehead.
"My head hurts," I complain thickly. I make an attempt to sit up, but she puts a hand on my shoulder to prevent me from moving. "I think I'm going to be sick." She puts a basin on the bed, but my stomach manages to hold itself together.
"I don't want you up just yet." She measures some potion out of a bottle and hands it to me. "This should make you feel better."
"What happened?" I inquire tearfully. It hurts to think. My brain just doesn't seem to be working right at the moment. I can only remember being in the common room after dinner with Abbey and Constance.
Madam Pomfrey puts down the bottle, and sits on the bed. She peers into my eyes asking, "What do you remember?"
"I just didn't feel well all day, and when I got into the common room…" I have to stop for a moment to think, but my head hurts too much to put words to the images running through my head. "Then nothing." The tears fall in earnest as she pats my back in circles to comfort me. "Are you sending me back to that hospital?"
She reaches out to brush some more stray hairs off of my head and says, "No, not right now." She smiles as my eyelids become very heavy. "We will talk in the morning when you feel better."
I settle back as the lamp is extinguished. Sleep rolls over me like a tidal wave as Madam Pomfrey leaves the bedside; however, I don't hear the door close right away. There is an unfamiliar voice coming from the doorway.
"It was only a matter of time. With that sort of injury that was one of the expected outcomes. I think we can leave her here for the moment, but…" The voice cuts out as the door shuts, and my mind shuts down from exhaustion.
I have seen a steady flow of visitors this morning, but none of them are any of my friends. Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore came in this morning to check in on me. They didn't ask me about what happened. I thought they would be giving me the third degree like Madam Pomfrey did; however, they just asked about how I was feeling. Although, I have to meet with the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall when I leave the hospital wing. I don't know why. It's not like I blew up the Potions classroom again, right?
The same Healer that saw me over Christmas holidays at St. Mungo's has been here to look me over. I asked why I am in the hospital wing and not there, but the only answer I get is that I am better off here in a familiar environment.
Many of the same tests I was given over the holiday are performed again, but this time I pay more attention to the adults around me. After the Healer does a particular test, his face looks rather grim as he writes down the results and shows them to Madam Pomfrey. I ask if everything is all right, but the Healer gives me a forced smile, telling me it's nothing to worry about.
I thought we were done after all the poking and prodding, but I'm wrong. Next comes a barrage of questions. What did I eat? How well did I sleep? Did I take any potions during class or from another student? How bad was my headache that day? How much did I remember before passing out? It goes on and on for about an hour. Again, I ask why this matters, and no one will tell me anything. As both adults leave the room, I break down into tears.
I have my back resting against the wrought iron headboard, sobbing uncontrollably. I don't understand what is wrong with me, and why no one will talk to me about it. Why did Mum and Dad have to go to Canada before Easter?
Madam Pomfrey must have heard me, because she comes into my cubicle looking very concerned. "Nell?" She sits down on the edge of the bed and pulls my chin up so that she can look into my eyes. "What's wrong?"
"I'm scared, and I want to go home." I start sobbing again, and she pulls me into a hug, rubbing my back in comforting circles.
Without breaking our embrace she says, "You're going to be fine. Your parents are going to be here tomorrow, and we will discuss what we can do to make you feel better." She pulls away to retrieve a handkerchief and offers it to me. "Nell, I think we have found the reason why your head hurts you so much. The problems you have been having can be controlled with some specialized potions. So, I want you to stop worrying about it."
My sobs have dried up slowly as we sit for a few minutes in silence. Unfortunately, my little outburst has given me another migraine. Madam Pomfrey notices that I am rubbing my right temple very hard, and she excuses herself for a moment. I am left alone with my thoughts burning through my brain.
"Why is everyone dancing around the way I blacked out on Tuesday night? I keep asking about it, and all I hear is about my ruddy headaches."
Madam Pomfrey walks in with my dinner and several potions. They are both thick and bitter but I manage to choke them down. I'm surprised they don't spoil my appetite; however, I notice halfway though my beef stew, I am ready to nod off.
My hand is still wrapped around my spoon as my eyes droop shut, and someone enters the room. I hear the clink of china hit the bowl; feel the warmth of my covers being moved, and a familiar voice from outside the door.
"We will be meeting with her parents and the headmaster around eleven tomorrow, Poppy." Even my fuzzy brain can recognize Professor McGonagall's voice. "All of her teachers will be there to discuss the situation and the arrangements that need to be made."
"Poor child," I hear Madam Pomfrey whisper. "But, children are resilient. She needs her rest." The door shuts softly as their footfalls retreat.
I don't have time to process what they have said, because I am too sleepy to care.
"Nell…" I feel someone stroke my forehead, and my eyes pop open. It's Mum smiling down at me with Dad standing behind her. "How are you feeling?"
I don't answer her right away, but I reach forward into a tight embrace. "I missed you." The words come out as a whisper. Mum is holding me so tight, she is almost crushing me.
Madam Pomfrey walks in with my breakfast and morning medication, looking pleased with our reunion. "You had better eat everything on that plate, young lady," she says, watching me down the last goblet of potion.
Mum gives her a bemused look as she inquires, "I don't know how you got that down her. I couldn't get her to take grape-flavored cough remedy as a little child."
Both women exchange smiles, and Dad clears his throat to catch my attention.
"How has school been going, love?" he inquires. "Your marks have been rather high lately."
They seem to be avoiding the entire reason why they are here. I wonder if I should bring it up at all. "Class has been fine."
Mum switches the topic away from school quickly. "Your cousins in Toronto send their love."
"I know Auntie doesn't," I grumble without thinking.
"Eleanor, that is rude," my mother chides. "Your aunt cares a great deal for you. Was rather worried when we had to come here to…" She stops short, softening the look on her face.
"Hello, I'm Jacob Stowe from St. Mungo's." The Healer that has been examining me pops his head through the partially open door. "I believe we met over the Christmas holiday," he says, shaking my father's hand heartily. Mum looks fit to burst. "How are you feeling today, Eleanor?"
"Fine," I say flatly. He pats me on the top of the head and smiles benignly.
"If I could speak to you for a few minutes while Eleanor finishes her breakfast, I would appreciate it," the Healer says, ushering my parents towards the door.
Mum gives me a quick peck on the cheek as she leaves and promises she will return in a few minutes. I am left with my stomach churning with all sorts of horrible thoughts.
It seems like forever since my parents have left. The silence in the hospital wing is oppressive, and I feel restless. I have decided to finish some homework that is due at the end of the holidays. I don't want to fall any further behind my classmates.
"Nell." My head snaps upward as hear my name is being called from the door. It's my parents, but they are not alone. Madam Pomfrey, Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, and the Healer who always has that sappy grin on his face.
My heart is in my throat as the room fills up with adults. Professor Dumbledore draws up chairs for everyone, but Mum insists on sitting on the side of the bed with me. She is holding my hand as if I were going to slip away from her somehow. I notice that it looks like both my parents have been crying. The last time I saw Dad cry was when my Gran Howard died last year.
"Nell, darling, we need to have a chat about what happened on your birthday." Mum is now stroking my hair as she tries to comfort me. "Now, it's nothing you've done wrong, but I need you to listen to what we have to tell you."
"Mum?" I inquire in near panic. "What's wrong?" A lump has developed in my throat as my heart hammers hard in my chest. The room seems to be closing in on me.
My mother reaches out to hold me in her arms as she explains, "You need to understand you are going to be fine, but we found out why you have had so many accidents and headaches."
Dad walks over to the other side of the bed to stroke the back of my head. My father who always seems so strong in the face of anything looks as if he wants to burst into tears.
Mum takes a deep, shaky breath and pulls my chin over to her face so I can look her in the eye. "Nell, your brain is constantly sending out little messages all over your body. Sometimes it sends out too many for it to handle, and for a few minutes, it gets out of control. It's called an epileptic seizure."
There was a girl in our primary school who once had a seizure at school. She never came back to class after that day. Her parents had to transfer her to a special school. I can't believe this could be happening to me.
"Am I going to have to leave school?" I inquire tearfully.
"I see no reason for you to discontinue your studies," says Professor Dumbledore. "There are some accommodations we can make for your condition."
"You are going to have to take some special potions, but they should also help your headaches. I need you to promise me that if you feel unwell for any reason, you will see Madam Pomfrey," Mum says.
"There are some new rules in place to assist you should you have another seizure," Professor McGonagall explains. "If you feel unwell, you are to ask your teachers if you may step out of the room for a moment. You will then go to the hospital wing to see Madam Pomfrey until you feel better. We feel it is best that you have one of your friends walk you to the hospital wing. I believe Miss Bones will not mind."
"What if I have one in class?" I inquire. My voice barely comes out as a whisper. Tears of shame are falling down my cheeks. I want to crawl into a hole and stay there.
Professor McGonagall continues with: "Your teachers will remove the other students from the room, and Madam Pomfrey will be summoned."
"As I was explaining earlier to your parents and teachers, we have had a great deal of success with the potion you are being prescribed. You will be able to live a normal life." The Healer walks over to the bed and kneels down to my eye level. "You will not be allowed to test potions in class on yourself. Professor Slughorn understands why we need to do this. You need to understand that eventually you will learn when you are about to have a seizure. Some people get an odd smell; they will hear things, feel odd sensations, or make strange movements. It becomes like an early warning system for you. If you can learn this, we can stop one from happening. I'm afraid to say you may need to stay in the hospital wing for while after you do have one. We need to observe you very carefully. Have you noticed how tired you are?" He inquires.
I nod my head stupidly as he continues his speech.
"It takes time for your body to return to normal. You are likely to be very tired and sore for a day or so after one. Nell, it's going to take a little experimenting to get your potion dose correct. I need you to be patient with this process, okay," he explains gently.
He turns to address my teachers and Madam Pomfrey, "As I discussed earlier, her potion may cause her to be rather drowsy at times until she gets used to it. It can also cause her to be a bit nauseated right after taking it. Unfortunately, I am going to have to start her out on taking it three times a day."
My whole world is crashing in on me, but they are telling me it is going to be all right. "Why is this happening?" I ask tearfully.
"The brain is a funny thing. Sometimes epilepsy can be caused by an injury, or there is no reason." Madam Pomfrey speaks up. "Just remember, if you want to talk, I will be happy to answer any questions."
I have so many questions stirring in my brain, but I'm too upset to voice them. I know that I'm not going to leave school, but I have had this bomb dropped on me. Mum wipes the tears off of my face; however, I can't find any comfort in her embrace. I wonder how long my parents knew there was something wrong with me. Is this why she went mental last year after my riding accident?
The Healer stands up to move away from the bed. I notice through my tears that he is whispering to Madam Pomfrey. I'm tired of secrets. I want to know what's going on. It's making me angry.
"Nell, you need to relax, darling. Everything is going to be all right. Your father and I are here for you," my mother whispers into my ear, trying to comfort me. "You can still be here at school with your friends and have a normal life like everyone else."
"But I'm not like everyone else," I whisper tearfully.
A glass of amber-colored liquid appears in front of my face. "Nell, this is your noon medication. I'm afraid this first dose is a bit strong. It might make you a bit sleepy."
I drink it, because I know Madam Pomfrey will find a way to get it down me. It is cool and sweet. Suddenly, a sense of calm and peace rolls over my body. I don't feel anxious any longer.
"I shall see you in class on Monday, Miss Howard," Professor McGonagall says, walking out of the room with Professor Dumbledore.
A second tidal wave of sensations hits my body. My eyes want to close on their own accord, and I lack the conviction to keep them open. I have so much I want to say, but the little consciousness I cling to is ebbing away.
"I think she took it better than I expected," Mum says from far away. I can still feel her holding me. "She's always been the brave one"
"I think you both should get some rest. You had a long journey to get here. She is still very tired from her seizure. This combined with her dose of potion will probably keep her asleep for most of the day." Those are the last words I hear as the world drops away, a world that has been changed forever.