My eyes were burning. It’s not like I was exhausted. It’s just that my eyes needed some rest. And I wasn’t going to sit up with my eyes closed. My right arm made a more acceptable pillow. Besides, I was able to keep my quill positioned over my notes in my left hand, so I could still write. Anyway, I’ve never been a superb note-taker in the first place. Lectures had a history of making me sleepy.
I just couldn’t explain away the drool that was soaking half of my desk.
“I told you that five o’clock in the morning was not an acceptable time to go to sleep.”
I took a deep breath, telling myself to ignore Benjamin. Ignore Benjamin. Ignore-
“Miss Kulinski,” Professor McGonagall said, standing in front of my desk, “have you heard a single word I’ve said?”
“No,” I said, sitting back in my chair. No way of getting out of trouble today. I wiped the last bit of drool from the corner of my lips.
I know other students like Professor McGonagall. I mean, she’s stern and all, but she’s also fair. But her looks scare the hell out of me. Not to mention that she expects everyone to be able to keep up. And no matter how many excuses someone prepares for her, she doesn’t allow exceptions to the rules. I really wish I had dropped Transfiguration when I had the chance.
I felt the entire class’s eyes on me as McGonagall went to the front of the room to resume teaching. Nearly all us Gryffindors were in this class, every Ravenclaw, three Hufflepuffs, and half of Slytherin House. Yes, I realize it’s a big class.
“Merlin, it’s not as if they haven’t seen you get in trouble before,” Benjamin commented. He was freely looking around from the front of the room.
“Just stop talking,” I mumbled under my breath, even though I knew Benjamin would just ignore me if he heard anything.
After five minutes, I was about to fall asleep again. I propped my head up on my right arm, trying to take notes. I spent more time doodling in the margins, but at least I was still conscious.
“Marta, Minerva’s giving you weird looks again.”
I sat up straighter in my seat, yawned with my mouth closed (a task I’ve perfected since taking Transfiguration), and tried my hardest to pay attention. I only had ten minutes of class left. I could do this.
“You know,” Benjamin said, sitting in front of me on my desk, “I can remember all this Transfiguration stuff for you. You don’t have to take notes.”
“I do if I want to do it myself,” I breathed, moving my lips as little as possible. “Now move!” I couldn’t see the front of the room through Benjamin.
Benjamin laughed. “You wouldn’t have passed more than two O.W.L.s without my help last year. You might look like her, but you don’t have the brains your mother did.”
I closed my eyes, telling myself not to shout out. Benjamin wasn’t real. Benjamin wasn’t real. Benjamin-
I was jerked out of my thoughts by McGonagall announcing tonight’s homework. I scribbled the assignment under a doodle of the Whomping Willow and shoved my stuff unceremoniously into my bag.
“Miss Kulinski,” McGonagall called from the front of the room. “A word please.”
I nodded, heading to the front of the class. I caught Remus’s eye as he looked back at me, but then James pushed him ahead as the Marauders tried to catch up with Lily.
Even sitting behind her desk, McGonagall still intimidated me. “That’s the third time you’ve fallen asleep in my class this month.”
“And may I ask what is the reason for your fatigue?”
“I was up late doing homework.”
McGonagall pressed her lips together. “Transfiguration is indeed a difficult subject. Are you absolutely certain that you would like to continue with this class?”
“Tell her yes,” Benjamin said, leaning close to me on my right side. “Yes, you can keep up, and that it won’t happen again.”
“I thought I was doing fairly well,” I said.
“Your homework does get consistent ‘E’s,” she said, “but you practical performance-”
“We can work on that tonight. Just tell her-”
“I’ll work harder on my practical skills,” I promised.
“I’m also giving you a detention for tonight,” McGonagall said. “Come back to my office at seven thirty. I will also be sending a letter home to your father.”
“Psh. Right, like that man cares how much you get in trouble. And it’ll take days for the letter to even get to him. When will these professors learn that Kazik just doesn’t care?”
“Yes, Professor.” I got the impression that McGonagall was finished with me, so I headed for the door out. The seventh years were already waiting outside the classroom.
I nearly ran over Matthew on my way out. He had been talking to one of his friends, but he stopped as soon as he saw me.
“Marta,” he said, “hi.” He offered a small smile.
“Would you look at that?” Benjamin walked around to stand behind my ex-boyfriend. “It’s Mr. Mudblood-in-my-Family himself.”
I clenched my jaw closed, fighting the urge to jump past Matthew to get to Benjamin. But I locked my eyes on Benjamin’s, letting him know that he won’t get away with having such foul language.
“I see,” Matthew said coldly. When I looked back at him, his eyebrows were furrowed, the smile gone. “Excuse me, Kulinski.”
My anger at Benjamin evaporated as I realized what Matthew’s tone and words meant. “No, Matthew, I’m sor-”
But Matthew had already disappeared into the classroom.
“I hate you,” I hissed under my breath, walking away from the other seventh years. “You know that? I hate you with a passion.”
“You say that, but do you really mean it?”
“Let’s just say that if I had a choice between being your friend and being Voldemort’s, I would choose the latter.”
“That’s okay- we can be Voldemort’s friends together.”
I stopped, looking up at Benjamin. “Excuse me?”
Benjamin laughed. If he were real, his voice would have echoed in the empty hall. “You really can’t take a joke, can you?”
"That wasn't something worth joking about. You disgust me." I continued on my way to the Great Hall.
“Okay, after lunch, we can practice your transfiguration skills. You’re supposed to make your fingernails change colors. I can tell you where you’re going wrong. Then we really need to finish that Herbology essay. You should finish that and be able to take a nap before your detention tonight.”
“I still have Muggle Studies to get to after lunch,” I said, lowering my voice as we entered the Great Hall.
“I don’t think you have any further homework besides Herbology and Potions,” Benjamin continued. He raised his voice so I could hear him above the clatter of the hall. “Charms was finished early last night, so that’s all good.”
I sat alone in the Great Hall, eating my lunch as Benjamin laid out a study schedule. He kept insisting that I had the rest of the afternoon free and that was a beautiful thing about being a sixth year.
I decided to give up telling him I had another class today. I just allowed him to recite today’s lecture and key points while I mentally reviewed the intricate Muggle transportation system I was supposed to know for class today.
I looked up. Smiled. “Hi, Remus,” I said. I indicated the bench where Benjamin was sitting. “Company would be extremely appreciated right now.”
Benjamin scowled as Remus moved through him. He finally disappeared as Remus plopped his school bag on the bench beside him.
“So,” Remus said, “you fell asleep in class again. Fourth time this month?”
“Third time,” I corrected him. “I got lucky last week when my numb leg woke me up with the feeling of pins and needles attacking me. Sure that wasn’t a misfired prank I felt?”
Remus chuckled. “Under McGonagall’s nose? We’re not that stupid.”
“Really now? Could have fooled me. Marta, let’s go to the common room.” Benjamin now stood behind Remus, his arms crossed.
“You never know about Potter or Sirius,” I said.
We both looked down the table. Sirius was trying to build a pyramid of peas on his tongue. Peter and James were cheering him on. Others near them were laughing and pointing happily.
“So,” Remus said, looking back at me, “how are you doing in Transfiguration?”
“Tell him you’re doing just fine and let’s go!”
“I suck. As usual.” I picked up a biscuit but didn’t bite into it yet. “The only thing I can do right is write acceptable papers. I don’t know why I stick with it, actually.”
“Because Transfiguration, however complex, can open a lot of doors to you once you finish at Hogwarts.”
“Well,” Remus said slowly, “maybe you just need a tutor. If you know the workings behind magic, you just might be lacking in practical technique, and a tutor-”
I looked down at my plate, finally dropping the biscuit. “Matthew used to be my tutor,” I said. It felt like my intestines were scrunching together into a tight ball. “But now that he hates me, I don’t think I can just walk to the Ravenclaw common room and ask for help.”
“I already told you, I can be your tutor until we find someone else.”
“Marta, Matthew can’t hate you,” Remus said. He reached across the table and patted my hand. “When people break up, they might just need some time to adjust.”
I rolled my eyes. “Thanks, Remus. But I don’t think Matthew could handle me.” I pulled my hand away from Remus’s. I studied them as my fingers intertwined with each other. “I hate being known as ‘weird.’”
Remus was silent. I caught sight of him looking down the table to the other Marauders.
“So,” I said, straightening in my seat, “why aren’t you sitting with your friends?”
“But I am.” Remus smiled down at me. “Besides, I can’t get in trouble for anything they’re about to do if I’m not sitting with them.”
“Huh? What do you mean about-?”
“Idiot Marauders, nine o’clock.”
I looked to my left. Sirius had just closed his mouth around the pyramid of peas and started shooting them off one-by-one towards the Slytherin table. Even from the distance, I could hear the soft thuds as each pea left Sirius’s mouth.
“That’s disgusting!” I shrieked.
“You think that’s bad? Look to the Slytherin students.”
I did. I caught sight of one pea and watched as it landed on a Slytherin girl. She yelled out as the lone pea multiplied into two peas, four peas, eight, sixteen. And they stayed attached to the front of her robes. And they just kept multiplying.
“Like I said,” Remus hummed, studying the cuff of his robes, “I felt like staying out of trouble for today.”
At this point, most of the students in the Great Hall were either screaming or cheering, depending on one’s attitude towards Slytherins. I caught sight of Slughorn as he entered the hall to help his students. McGonagall entered from behind him but headed straight for the Marauders.
“So, you were saying that you currently lack a tutor?” Remus said, as if the last two minutes never happened.
“Yeah,” I said. I knew where Remus was trying to go with this. I smiled. “Do you know anyone who’s super-smart and talented with anything magic-related?”
“I might know someone-”
“Ugh, no, Marta! I forbid it!”
I didn’t have a chance to stop him. Or even think of what I might have been able to do if I had time. The bench Remus was sitting on overturned, sending Remus flying backwards and smacking his head against the Hufflepuff table’s bench.
I stood as the area around us became quieter than the surrounding hall. Several students looked back and forth between Remus and me.
“Remus?” I called, feeling suddenly cold, “are you alright?”
I breathed a sigh of relief when Remus sat himself up. He rubbed the back of his head, wincing. “I’ll be fine,” he grumbled. “What-?”
“He deserved more than just a bump to the head,” Benjamin said. But he also had a twisted grin on his face as he stood over my only friend.
“I have to get to class,” I said. I grabbed my book bag and ran out of the hall, nearly toppling McGonagall on my way out.
“Awe, you left when I wanted to actually stay,” Benjamin complained. He ran beside me. But, as always, he didn’t sound the slightest bit winded as he ran.
I stopped, turning to Benjamin. “What is your problem?” I yelled. “You’ve been acting weirder than usual for the last few weeks. Why can’t you just leave me alone? Or better yet, just go away?”
“I already told you. I’ll always be by your side.”
I pulled my book bag back, then swung it forward. Hard. It collided with Benjamin’s jaw, snapping his head back. He stumbled, hit the stone wall, and fell to the floor.
“I HATE YOU!” I shouted at him. “That doesn’t even cover the foul language, or the way you treat my fellow classmates, or the other dozens of things you do to make my life miserable! I just want to be normal! But I can’t with you constantly screwing with my life!”
Benjamin opened his eyes. His nose was once again dripping blood, but he smiled. “You’ll never be rid of me, Marta. Never.”
“I have to get to class,” I said. “I’m not going to waste my time talking to you.”
Benjamin sat up. I just noticed the scrape on his chin. “You might try to ignore me, but who else would you have?” His eyes flickered to the right, where we had just come from the Great Hall. “Ooh, there’s my favorite Marauder.”
I looked, my heart sinking. Peter Pettigrew stood alone in the hallway. He was obviously also on his way to Muggle Studies.
“Uh, hi Pettigrew.” I put the strap of my book bag back onto my shoulder. “Uh, what’s going on?”
“Who- who- who were you j-just talking to?” Peter stuttered. He looked ready to run.
“Uh-” I glanced down to Benjamin, who wore a wide smile. “The Bloody Baron?”
Peter yelled out in fear and ran the other way.
“I think his nickname suits him, don’t you? ‘Wormtail?’ He has the backbone of a worm and turns tail when anything scary is going on. It’s not as if he’s never seen a ghost before.”
“I wish you were a ghost. Then I could report you to the Ministry for harassment.”
“Nope, not a ghost.” Benjamin stood and tapped the side of my head. “I’m all in your mind. I come from right here, see?” He continued tapping my head.
I turned quickly. Put the palm of my hand up Benjamin’s already-broken nose. Then proceeded to class as my imaginary friend bled unconscious on the floor.
While Transfiguration was packed with students, Muggle Studies only had six students. Yes, six. Three Hufflepuffs, two Gryffindors, and a Ravenclaw student. Our professor, Charity Burbage, was quite passionate about Muggles. She had started during our third year and her lectures were one of the few that didn’t put me to sleep. And her homework assignments, though challenging, were the only ones I actually wanted to do outside of class.
I mostly ignored Peter’s trembling beside me as I listened to Burbage and how Muggles use a combination of public transportation to not just travel through cities like London or all over England, but how Muggles everywhere frequently travel all over the world. I especially wanted to learn more about ‘helio-flopters.’
“They’re called ‘helicopters,’” the Ravenclaw boy whispered to me. I think his name was Kevin Jones. “They’re quite impressive to see in action.”
“Really?” I looked down at our textbook. “I wish these pictures moved like all our regular books.”
“They’re supposed to be the kind of books Muggles use,” he said. “Sh, Professor Burbage is going into a long speech again.”
Burbage was still in the middle of recounting her experience in being flown in a ‘helicopter’ when the bell rang, signaling the dismissal of class.
“Glad to see you stayed awake in at least one class today,” Kevin teased me before leaving the room.
“Sure, don’t let me forget this morning,” I complained loudly. “One out of two, must be a record.”
“See you later.” He walked off.
“Half-blood.” Benjamin stood leaning against a wall just outside the Muggle Studies classroom.
“I know,” I muttered as Benjamin walked beside me. The rest of the class had gone the other way down the hall. “Would it hurt you to stop analyzing every bloke I come in contact with and calling out their blood status?”
“But you’re a Pureblood.”
Benjamin showed no signs of my attack on him earlier, and Muggle Studies left me feeling content. When we got back to the Gryffindor common room, I agreed to Benjamin’s earlier study plan and finished my Herbology essay due tomorrow. I just copied down whatever he was spouting out. I then practiced the color-changing spell on my fingernails. I accidentally cast a nail-growing charm instead and had to cut three centimeters of overgrown nails before I could practice any more.
“Alright, time for detention,” Benjamin announced at a quarter past seven.
“It’s already that late?” I asked, looking at the time. “But I’m hungry!”
“We can get you something from the kitchens once your detention is over. Minerva can’t keep you too late if she doesn’t want to be blamed for you falling asleep in your Tuesday classes.”
“I’m still hungry now,” I groaned. But I still packed up my stuff, walked it up to my dorm, and made my way to McGonagall’s office.
“Get over it.”
“I hate you.”
“Yah!” I screamed. Turning around, Sirius was standing right behind me. And I mean directly behind me. The toes of his shoes must have been touching the heels of mine when he spoke.
“Just thinking out loud again,” I said quickly. Then I realized I didn’t really answer Sirius’s question.
But Sirius shrugged and pointed the way I was going. “We’ve got detention in five minutes. Let’s go.”
I fell in step with Sirius. “What did you get detention for?”
“Shooting peas at the Slytherins.” Sirius rose his arms above his head, stretching as we walked. “I tried telling Minnie that I was bored at lunch, so she said I could have a detention tonight to entertain me.”
“So that’s why Remus sat with me,” I hummed.
“Sirius Black is a Pureblood.”
“Shut up,” I hissed.
Benjamin smiled, then disappeared completely.
“Come again?” Sirius asked.
“Nothing. So, what do you think Professor McGonagall will have us do tonight?”
Sirius shrugged, lowering his arms. “Dunno. I suppose we’ll find out in a few seconds.”
We arrived in McGonagall’s office. She still had fourth-year homework to grade, but assigned us each to write lines. Mine? ‘I must not fall asleep in class.’ One hundred times.
“Mr. Black-” McGonagall said, turning to him.
“Please, call me Sirius,” he insisted, smiling. “We’ve known each other for years, Minnie. There’s no need for such formalities.”
“Mr. Black, please write ‘I will not shoot peas at my fellow classmates.’ And please stop calling me by my first name.”
“Then don’t use my surname. Fine, fine, I’ll do it.” Sirius slumped in his seat before getting to work.
I got started on my punishment first, but even this task was making me sleepy. I’d rather have detention with Filch. Even my poor magic skills are better than the caretaker’s. I leaned on my desk and just watched as my left hand absently copied down the line time and time again.
“I need to have a word with Professor Flitwick,” McGonagall announced when I was nearly half-way done. “You two, keep working. And don’t use magic to complete your task.” She was looking directly at Sirius as she said this.
But as soon as the door closed, Sirius pulled out his wand.
“Sirius, we’re not supposed to use magic-” I started.
“Hold you hippogriffs, I’m not using magic for this.” He waved his hand over his mostly-finished paper. “But you’ve got ink smeared all over your left hand.”
“Comes with being a lefty writing with ink,” I said, a touch of sarcasm in my voice.
“Here.” Sirius conjured a wet handkerchief and passed it to me.
“Thanks, Sirius.” I put down my quill and took a short break.
“I also have these.” Sirius reached into his robes and pulled out a couple of bagels. “Not much,” he admitted, “but it’ll keep us from starving. I was expecting a worse detention.”
“Thanks again, Sirius.”
“Hey, what are teammates for?”
“Teammates. Right.” I took a bite of my bagel and started working again. I got into a pattern of taking a bite, writing a line, and taking a bite. But then- “Sirius, I’m thirsty.”
Sirius, making his own bagel zoom across the office, looked over at me. “So? Conjure a goblet and use the water charm.”
“I’m nearly as useless as a Squib,” I sighed. “Can you help me?”
Sirius retrieved his bagel. “You do remember that last month, we spent the entire time learning about how to conjure things out of thin air, right?”
“Uh, yeah. Sure.” Really? We learned how to conjure things like that last month? Maybe I do need to drop Transfiguration. I couldn’t remember what today’s Transfiguration class had been about. But I knew today’s notes had a doodle of the Whomping Willow on them.
“Then you’ll remember that conjuring something as small as a goblet filled with water was part of the homework. Not that I did it.” He shrugged.
“Forget it, I’ll visit the Black Lake after detention.” I went on to write a few more lines for McGonagall.
Sirius groaned. For a moment, I thought I might have made a fool of myself in front of a third Marauder today. No wonder I can count all my friends on my thumbs. But he got off his chair and walked around to stand behind me. He took my left hand in his.
“Remember the nonverbal spell?” Sirius asked.
I thought for a moment. And then it came to me. “Yeah.”
“Then do it.”
I took a deep breath. Did the spell. And, big surprise here, nothing happened.
“I’m too stupid to be in Transfiguration.”
“No, you don’t have the right wand movement to your hand. Here.” Sirius took my left hand, then hesitated.
“You don’t have to-” I started.
“Shush.” To my right, I saw Sirius do something with his right hand a few times. Then his grip tightened on my left. “You just have to reverse the movements that everyone else does. Think the spell again.”
I did. And a simple silver goblet clanked onto the table.
“Okay,” I said, trying to keep my jaw from falling, “instead of right and then point, it’s left and then-”
But Sirius shook his head beside me. “Left and rights might be getting you confused. Maybe when Minnie shows us what to do in class, think of it as ‘inward’ and ‘outward’ motions. See? Less confusing.”
My jaw fell again. “Where have you been for the last five years!”
Sirius smiled proudly. “Figuring out how to cast a delayed duplication spell and sticking charm simultaneously on peas?”
We laughed. Sirius made sure I cast the water charm, then went back to finishing his lines. He finished his punishment a few minutes before McGonagall returned. She was just checking his paper to make sure he didn’t magic the work done when I finished with my assignment.
“Thanks again, Sirius,” I said as we walked out of detention together. “So, you heading to the kitchens?”
“Nah, us Marauders keep a stash of food in our dorm for late-night detentions.” Sirius waved. “Besides, Prongs would skin me alive if anything happened to the best Keeper any team has seen in years. Night then, Marta.”
“Night, Sirius.” We separated at the stairs; he went up to Gryffindor Tower as I went down to the kitchens.
“’Night, Sirius’,” Benjamin mimicked me, appearing at the landing. “You two had a nice detention together. And Sirius Black is also a Pureblood.”
“Shut up.” I walked straight for the bowl of fruit.
“Maybe Sirius Black can be your new tutor.”
“And maybe you can just fade into a distant memory of my mind.” I tickled the pear.
Benjamin laughed. “We’ll see what happens, Marta. We’ll see.”
A/N: Can I still blame Benjamin for the delay in this chapter? I had to tone him down a bit. Opinions are always welcome! Thanks in advance! (And I’ll try to be better, I promise!)
Write a Review My Not-So-Imaginary Friend: III: Maybe You Just Need Some Rest