During a practice Quidditch match, Stephen Cornfoot was hit by a Bludger. Not only was he hit by it, but it had broken his arm and left him sprawled on the floor, crying in pain. His best friend, Kevin Entwhistle, and Kevin's girlfriend (also, Stephen's good friend) Lisa Turpin had carried him out of the field with the help of the team captain, Roger Davies. They had brought him to the Hospital Wing, which is why he was there the moment Anthony Goldstein was brought in because of a Potions accident and placed into the bed next to his.
"Hey there, Tony," Stephen said, happy he was no longer alone in the room, because, of course, Terry Boot and Michael Corner arrived into the Wing by Anthony's side. "How are you?"
Anthony let out a gurgled sound before raising his arm and letting it fall next to him.
"Er, Madam Pomfrey says he can't answer, but understands what we say," hurried Terry. "We were making a Potion and something went wrong."
"It was my fault," said Michael dejectedly. "I mean, I know you aren't the best at Potions, Terry. I should've supervised you."
"Honestly, Mike, it's obviously my fault," said Terry. "I'm the one who's bad at it, I should've been more careful!"
Suddenly, Anthony produced another strange sound, frowning at his best friends.
"I think Tony's trying to tell you to shut up," said Stephen, smiling at his friends. "I agree with him."
"Right, sorry," said Terry. "How are you feeling, Steve?"
Stephen sighed, trying to move his fingers.
"Not good, but Madam Pomfrey says I'll be just fine after a few hours. The damn Bludger caught me by surprise."
"What happened?" asked Michael.
"Well, I was guarding the posts, minding my own business, when Kevin hit the Bludger in Roger's direction, trying to stop him from scoring. Davies ducked out of the way and the damn ball hit me in the hand."
"Oh," said Michael. "Well, at least you didn't fall from your broom. That would've done more damage. Where are Kevin and Lisa?"
"Kevin went off to Hogsmeade to bring me some sweets," said Stephen with a grin. "I think he feels guilty about what happened. Lisa told me she was going to come over as soon as she finished her Arithmancy homework, which I hope is soon."
Michael set on Stephen's bed, adjusting his covers slightly.
"God, I'm just happy Rita Skeeter doesn't report on Hogwarts Quidditch," he said. "Two years ago, when that Appleby Arrows Seeker got injured, she reported it as a hate crime!"
Stephen laughed loudly.
"I can just see it," he said. "'Stephen Cornfoot, Ravenclaw's Keeper, got injured by a Bludger, not because he was playing Quidditch, but because he's black!"
"That would be a read," said Terry. "I suppose they'd forbid Bludgers around anyone who wasn't white."
"I suppose Su's brother, Kai, would be happy. He always complains about Bludgers flying right past his face."
"I'll file a racism complaint next morning," Stephen said, yawning loudly. "Merlin, I think Pomfrey's given me a Sleeping Draught. When Lisa comes, tell her to wake me."
With that, he felt himself drift into sleep.
When he woke up, Stephen realised that there was a heavy weight pressing down on his bed on one side. Looking over, he noticed Lisa was lying next to him, seemingly reading a book under the light of her wand. In the next bed, Anthony was sleeping, while Michael and Terry sat in chairs on the other side of his bad, whispering something.
Stephen moved a bit, realising that he could now move his fingers as well.
"Hey, you're up," Lisa whispered, putting her book down to the nightstand next to his bed. "I thought you'd never wake up. By the way, you snore."
Stephen snorted, getting up in a sitting position with her help.
"I do not snore," he said, raising his arm and stretching. "What time is it?"
"It's almost midnight," Lisa answered. "Madam Pomfrey examined you about half an hour before. She said your hand was fine, but that she'd like to keep you for the night, just to make sure there were no complications."
"Oh," Stephen said, waving at Michael and Terry, who had noticed he was awake. "Did Kevin come?"
"Yeah, he was here a couple of hours ago," replied Lisa. "He'd brought you some Bertie Bott's."
"Mmm, my favourite!" said Stephen, licking his lips.
"Steve," whispered Terry. "I hope you don't mind, but I took a bean that tasted like strawberry. You know I can't resist them."
"It's perfectly fine, Terry," said Stephen. "I prefer the odd-tasting ones either way."
He took a Bertie Bott and made a face.
"See? Dirt," he said, grimacing while he chewed. "Anyway, I know a way you could make it up to me."
Terry looked at him in question.
"Well, you could tell us a story," Stephen said, smiling at his friend. "Something to pass the time, I suppose."
Terry nodded, a smile gracing his face.
"Sure," he said, "but we have to be quiet. I don't want us to wake Tony up."
Along with Michael, he carried their chairs to Stephen's bed, carefully placing them down. Lisa brought her wand closer to the two of them, so they could all see each other clearly.
"Actually, Terry, I'd like to tell the story for once," she said. "I have one that my Dad told me about during the holidays."
"Sure, Lisa," said Terry, seemingly happy that he didn't have to be the storyteller this time. "I'd like to hear it."
"Well, great!" she said, immediately clamping her hand over her mouth as she realised she was a bit too loud. "Sorry."
The four of them got comfortable. Stephen sat up a bit more, while Lisa put her blonde hair into a ponytail and snuggled into him. Michael and Terry sat back in their chairs, looking at her.
She cleared her throat and began.
"Once upon a time, there lived a poor miller and his daughter."
"Oh, he didn't have an evil wife?" asked Michael with a grin. "Too bad Kevin's not here to hear the story where there is no evil step-mother."
"Yeah, Kevin..." Lisa said, seemingly deep in thought. "Anyway, the miller spent most of his free time in a pub."
"Well, god forbid he spends any time with his daughter," said Stephen. "So, what happened to him?"
"Some of the workers in the pub were bragging about their kids," said Lisa, annoyed at the interruptions. "So, the miller was drunk already and he blurted out, 'Well, my daughter can spin straw into gold!'"
Terry and Michael laughed quietly.
"He's a bit of a tosser, right?" asked Michael. "I mean, who brags about something like that? It's impossible."
"Well, of course the father was lying," Lisa said impatiently, "but he was absolutely knackered! Haven't you ever said something stupid while you were drunk?"
Stephen smiled sheepishly, but Terry and Michael shook their heads.
"We don't drink," Terry said. "It's a sort of a pact."
"Smart of you," Lisa said. "Anyway, back to the story. The highly intelligent town citizens believed the miller and word of his talented daughter soon reached the King, who summoned her into his castle."
"What was the girl's name?" asked Terry. "Most characters in Muggle fairy tales have odd names."
"Definitely," Lisa said, smiling mysteriously. "But this girl's name is never mentioned."
"Well, we have to name her something!" exclaimed Stephen, before he was shushed by Terry. He rolled his eyes, whispering, "Sorry. Anyway, maybe she could be Strawerella. Goldiestraw? Goldspinner?"
"Shut up, Steve," Lisa said, smiling at him. "We'll think of something. So, the King told her that he'd heard of her and that she had to spin gold for him or that she would die."
Everybody stared at her.
"All right, the award for the biggest wanker in this story goes to the King," said Stephen. "He didn't even ask her if the bloody rumours were true!"
"I know, the King was a right arse," said Lisa. "But, our hero, poor Goldiestraw—"
"Hah, I knew you liked it!" Stephen exclaimed, before being shushed again. "Sorry."
"Well, it serves the purpose," said Lisa. "Anyway, she was locked in a room filled with hay. There was just a small window which allowed light to come in. The King told her that she had to spin all that straw into gold by the morning. If she failed, he'd have her executed. She sat down on the ground and started crying."
"God, why do the heroines of these stories always sit down and cry?" asked Michael. "Get up, woman, and do something productive! Look for some sort of a way out!"
"I agree with you, Mike," said Terry, "but please be quiet. Tony will wake up."
Michael threw a quick glance at his sleeping friend, before turning back to Terry.
"He's sleeping like a baby," he said fondly. "So, what happened when the girl started crying?"
"Well, a tiny man appeared out of nowhere," said Lisa, "as if he had just Apparated. He said 'I have heard your problem, and I can fix it.'"
"Er, he knew the way out of the locked room?" asked Stephen.
"He could kill the King?" suggested Michael.
"He could explain the truth to the King?" asked Terry, frowning at Michael.
"No, he could spin straw into gold," replied Lisa.
The three boys laughed loudly, but stopped when they saw Anthony moving. When they deduced he was still asleep, they grinned at Lisa.
"Lisa, turning straw into gold might not be impossible, but it's highly improbable," said Terry. "You'd have to be a very, very talented alchemist to do that."
"Well, this little guy could do it," Lisa said defensively. "Just go with it! Also, stop interrupting or I'll strangle all three of you!"
"Oh, Lisa, you're too sweet to do that!" Stephen said. "You wouldn't strangle me! You'd have no one to have tickle wars with!"
"Just try me, Cornfoot," she said, glaring at him. "I'm a descendant of Dick Turpin, I know how these things work. Anyway, the little man asked the girl what she would give to him in return. She gave him her necklace."
"Why did a poor miller's daughter have a necklace?" asked Michael. "Jewellery was expensive back then."
"I reckon it was just an inexpensive thing, plastic or something," said Lisa. "Anyway, the little man spun the straw into gold and disappeared. The next morning, the King was ecstatic to find so much gold in the room."
"But let me guess, it wasn't enough?" Stephen asked bitterly.
"You're absolutely right," Lisa said with a smile. "The King ordered Strawerella to spin more straw into gold, or she'd die."
"Again?" asked Michael. "God, that bloke's greedy!"
"Very," replied Lisa. "Anyway, the girl was locked in the room. She fell to the floor and started crying once again."
"But the little man appeared again?" asked Terry.
"Yes, he did," said Lisa. "He once again asked her what she would give to him if he helped her. She gave him her last possession, a golden ring. Once again, he spun all of the straw into gold."
"Why does he need her things?" asked Michael. "I mean, you'd think someone who could spin straw into gold would be very rich."
"I suppose it's only symbolic," said Lisa. "The little guy wasn't exactly nice. This was probably his way of asserting his dominance over the girl. See, the next morning, the arsehole King told her that, for one more night, she had to spin straw. If she managed to get gold again, he'd marry her."
"I think I'd rather die than be married to that arse," said Stephen with a grin.
"Well, unlike you, dear Goldspinner was really afraid of death," said Lisa. "As soon as the door closed, she once again fell to the floor and started crying."
"All right, she's got to be faking it by now!" Michael exclaimed. "She knows that's the formula to make the dwarf appear, so she pretends to cry!"
"Maybe you're right, Mike," said Lisa, "but maybe she's just over-emotional, as most girls in fairytales are. Anyway, the little man did appear again. He asked her what she'll give to him if he helped her, but she said that she ha
++d nothing of value left. He told her that she had something he wanted very much."
"Er, this isn't going where I think it's going, right?" Terry asked with a grimace.
"Thankfully, no. He asked her to promise him her firstborn."
There was complete silence in the room.
"...The fuck?" Stephen asked. "He asked her to give him her kid? I really hope she said no."
"Well..." Lisa hesitated. "Not exactly. You see, she thought about no one being able to predict the future. You know, what if she dies before having kids or summat. So, yes, she promised him her firstborn."
"Idiot!" said Michael. "What the hell is wrong with her?"
"What a terrible mother she'll be," said Terry. "I'll have to give a copy of this story to Wayne."
"Hey, but what about dwarf-guy?" asked Stephen. "Why would he want her kid?"
"Well, maybe he can't have kids of his own, so he takes hers?" suggested Michael. "He's still a tosser, though."
"The characters of this story are all a bunch of gits," said Stephen. "The father, the King, Strawerella, the little guy..."
"I know," said Lisa. "The next morning, the girl showed the King all the gold she supposedly spun, so he married her. For years, they lived in peace in harmony..."
"When he finally stopped trying to kill her, I hope," muttered Stephen.
"... and after a few years, she gave birth to a son. Soon after, the little man appeared again."
"Uh-oh," said Michael.
"Exactly," replied Lisa. "The Queen had sort of forgotten about her promise, but..."
"She forgot that she promised someone her kid?" Stephen exclaimed, no longer caring about waking Anthony up. "How do you forget something like that? Was she completely daft? Did she have that Muggle thing, Alzenheimer's disease?"
"Er, that's Alzheimer's, Steve," corrected Terry. "Also, please be a little quieter."
"I agree, the Queen was a bit of a moron," said Lisa. "Anyway, the little man told her that she had to keep her promise."
"Did she start crying?" Michael asked bitterly.
"Well, she did start begging," answered Lisa. "The dwarf didn't want to negotiate, but finally he gave her an ultimatum: if she guessed his name, she'd get to keep her kid."
"Is he insane?" asked Stephen. "Okay, he obviously is, but still, there's more than a billion possibilities!"
"Exactly, it was completely impossible," said Lisa. "That's kind of the point. Anyway, the Queen started immediately, 'Is your name _? Is your name _? Is your name _?' Each time, the little man would grin and shake his head. It went on like that for a few days and the little man finally said that she had only one day to guess, and if she didn't, he'd take her son."
"God, he's a sadistic little bastard, isn't he?" asked Michael.
"Obviously," said Lisa. "That night, one of the Queen's servants was going through the woods and he saw the little man dancing around the fire. He was singing,
'Today I brew, That my name is Rumpelstiltskin!'"
Tomorrow I bake,
The Queen's son I take!
That my name is Rumpelstiltskin!'"
"That's his name?" exclaimed Anthony from his bed.
Everyone looked at him.
"Er, I've been awake for a while," he said, scratching his neck and adjusting his glasses.
Smiling at her friend, Lisa continued, "Yep, his name was Rumpelstiltskin. That's also the name of the story."
"No wonder he asked the Queen to guess his name," said Stephen. "That's absolutely impossible! That's not even a name!"
"And what the hell does 'tomorrow I bake' mean?" asked Michael. "Er, it doesn't mean what I think it does, right?"
"Well, some people do think that it meant he was going to eat the kid," Lisa mumbled.
"Okay, that's just disgusting," said Stephen. "This guy really is creepy."
"Definitely. Anyway, the servant immediately ran to the Queen and told her what he heard Rumpelstiltskin singing. The Queen was ecstatic about the news and tomorrow, when he came to her, she said, 'Is your name _? Is it _? Well, I'm at loss then, unless your name is Rumpelstiltskin!' Rumpelstiltskin screamed, grabbed his leg and pulled so hard he opened some sort of a portal to Hell. He managed to get stuck in it, so the Queen and her son lived happily ever after."
"Yeah, with a hole leading to Hell in their bedroom," said Anthony, snorting with laughter. "And a little dwarf stuck in it, yelling and cursing."
"That was ... odd," said Michael.
"Well, look on the bright side," said Lisa. "At least Terry isn't the only weirdo around now."
Terry threw a pillow at her.