Feeling frustrated in class is nothing new to me. And feeling frustrated that I can hardly keep up in Transfiguration is certainly the norm in my life. But for some reason, I was heavily determined to not be the last student to figure out today’s lesson.
I looked around the classroom, hoping to find at least one person who was still having trouble. Sadly, even Peter Pettigrew was able to do his Transfiguration assignment with ease. He usually had to have someone help him out somehow. What was I doing wrong?
“Miss Kulinski,” Professor McGonagall said, walking up to my desk, her stern expression telling me that she was not impressed with my lack of skill. “Why have you not done what I’ve asked the class to do?”
The heat of embarrassment warmed my face. I glanced again at my classmates. But no, all of their lions were prancing around obediently around the room. The necklaces around each of their manes displayed a bronze eagle with a bluish shine around them. A few of the students called back their lions and tapped their wands to the pendants, making the eagles flap their small wings again and shining with an even brighter blue light.
“But Professor,” I said, “How am I supposed to transfigure the necklace when my lion will bite my hand off?” I then looked at my lion. He was the only cat in the room whose necklace was still a blue stone and not the desired bronze eagle. His golden orbs were focused on me and only me. Just by the intensity of the stare alone, I worried what would happen if and when he chose to pounce. I didn’t want to get eaten before Muggle Studies. A low rumbling sounded in the distance, but that could have been from thunder outside or the lion’s stomach.
“That, Miss Kulinski, is a task that your classmates have figured out how to work around,” Professor McGonagall said.
“Well, can’t you teach me how to do that too?”
Professor McGonagall stiffened. “If you are unable to even tame a lion by your sixth year-”
“But this is Transfiguration, not Care of Magical Creatures! Besides, lions aren’t magical!”
“-then I don’t think you’re qualified to be in my class.”
By now, most of the class had stopped playing with their own lions to pay attention to me. Several of the students snickered, not bothering to hide their amusement from me.
“But Professor-” From the corner of my eye, I saw my lion lick his lips. His eyes were now trained on my wand. I feared what might happen if I lost the protection that my wand’s presence provided.
“No buts, Marta,” Professor McGonagall said seriously. She reached forward and tried to pull my wand from my hand. “It’s quite obvious by now that we were mistaken in inviting you to Hogwarts. Kindly surrender your wand and we will return you to your father. It’s easier for everyone if Squibs like you do not have to feel the pressure of keeping up with witches and wizards like us.”
“But I am a witch! I can do magic!” I tightened my grip on my wand. “Fine, I’ll get my hand bitten off as I turn that stupid stone into a stupid eagle, okay?”
“I’m sorry, but this school does not allow underage Squibs to put their personal safety at risk. I will have to alert the Ministry.”
“But I am a witch! I play Quidditch! My father is a wizard! My mother was a witch! I’m a Pureblood witch!”
“Not likely,” Sirius scoffed in the back of the room. “It wouldn’t take a witch thirty-five minutes to properly use a levitation charm. We learned how to do that back in first year.” More thunder, louder this time, punctuated his statement.
“Sirius,” I gasped. How could he turn on me? He was the one who kept pushing me to practice my magic, to make it perfect.
I looked to the boy sitting next to him. Remus had his entire body turned away from me, the only student in the room not enjoying the show. He kept tapping his wand against his lion’s necklace. The tiny eagle’s wings looked like they would flap themselves off the body soon.
I turned my attention back to McGonagall. “But Professor, you knew my mum-”
“And Diana would be ashamed to have a daughter like you,” McGonagall said sternly. “Now give me your wand. The Ministry will be here in a few moments to escort you out of the castle.”
“No!” I tightened my grip on my wand. “Leave me alone!”
“Marta, let me take your wand.”
“Marta, please. . .”
As I struggled, the thunder became louder. The scene around me dimmed. The storm must have been moving fast, obscuring the light from the outside. Professor McGonagall must have done something, because I suddenly sensed a pang in my stomach.
“No,” I muttered, watched as the scene faded completely, leaving me in darkness.
The thunder’s sound changed, transforming into a low growl.
The rich scent of food filled my nostrils.
A warm hand was still clasped over my left hand as my wand clutched within was being pulled from my fingers.
I opened my eyes. No one was getting my wand! “Stupefy!” I cried.
“Whoa!” The surprised offender yelled out before the force of my spell propelled him away.
I blinked. The Transfiguration classroom had been replaced with the Gryffindor common room. The lions were gone. The study tables were all empty except the one I sat in the far back corner. The chair on the other side of the table, however, was overturned. A pair of black shoes were the only parts visible of the chair’s occupant.
“Sorry!” I apologized quickly, getting to my feet. I stretched to look over to see who I had attacked. There was no way anyone would not think that I was the one who attacked them. “I’m so sorry! I- Remus!”
At the sound of his name, Remus opened his eyes. He clutched his head in his hand, rubbing the top tenderly. “Good morning to you too, Marta.”
I rushed around the table and helped Remus out of the toppled chair. Just the touch of his hand clutched in mine made me feel warm. I made sure to break contact the second he was sturdy on his feet. I instead turned my attention to putting the chair back into a sitting position, attempting to avoid making eye contact.
“Remus, I’m so sorry! I thought, well, I dreamed, er, I mean-” My speech dissolved into incomprehensible chattering.
“Marta?” Remus waved his hand in front of my face. He then pointed back to the study table. “How about you stop trying to explain yourself and just eat your breakfast?”
It was only then that I saw the tray of food placed in the center of the table. A bowl of porridge, a bit of scrambled eggs, and two slices of toast. My usual breakfast. There was even a goblet of apple juice waiting for me.
“Just eat,” Remus said, sitting back in the chair that I had toppled him out of just a minute ago.
I sat down and took a few seconds to pile my Transfiguration homework to the side of the table. I kept my gaze on my meal, not wanting to look up at Remus. This was so awkward. For the past four weeks, Remus had been just nodding to me whenever we passed like I was any other classmate. And now he brought me breakfast?
Remus sat silently as he watched me eat my porridge. At least, I thought he was watching me. I sensed his eyes were on me, but I didn’t dare return his gaze. I kept my attention focused on how I could explain attacking him when I woke up. It was only when I started on my eggs that another question popped into my head.
“Remus, why were you trying to take away my wand?”
When I finally looked up at him, Remus realized that I had caught him staring. He jumped a little and glanced around the common room. It was deserted for a change. Then again, it was a Saturday morning and the weather was mild for late January. When he looked back at me, he kept his gaze on my forehead. He scratched behind his right ear. “Would you believe me when I say that I didn’t want you freaking out when I woke you up and blasting me with your wand?”
I laughed. “And yet that’s exactly what happened.”
Remus returned the laugh, finally lowering his gaze to meet my eyes. My heart fluttered a bit at the contact. “That’s what happened, yeah. Although your stunning spell needs some work. It’s supposed to render someone unconscious.”
“I’m working on it,” I grumbled, stabbing my fork rather forcefully into my last large clump of eggs. “My goal is to perfect it and use it every day against Sirius so I can get out of his ‘tutoring’ sessions.”
Remus’s smile remained the same, but his eyes twitched just slightly, as if pained at the reminder. “I thought you’d be enjoying your tutoring sessions with Sirius. He has an interesting approach to teaching. He’s all about the ‘hands-on’ approach, isn’t he?”
“Yeah,” I grumbled. But when I saw Remus slump a little more, I realized what Remus might have been implying. The thought alone made my stomach churn. “I mean, he doesn’t make me write lines or essays or anything like the professors. He gets a thrill out of seeing me struggle with the basics.”
“Of course,” Remus said. I had a feeling Remus wanted to ask something else, something in relation to Sirius and me, but he refrained.
I didn’t mind the next stretch of silence as I finished my eggs and nibbled on my buttered toast. I didn’t want to discuss Sirius and me with anyone. Just the thought alone made me almost lose my appetite. Thank goodness that Sirius didn’t seem to understand what being a boyfriend really meant. I mean, usually a month into my previous relationships, my boyfriend and I would usually be snogging in secluded areas of the castle and trying to be as close to each other as possible. The most boyfriend-like act Sirius had done with me is giving me chaste kisses on my forehead or cheek after ‘tutoring’ me from a decent distance away. Sure, Sirius was attractive, but I couldn’t see the two of us snogging the life out of each other.
“Marta? Were you listening to me?”
My head snapped up so much, I was surprised I didn’t snap my neck off my shoulders. “What?” Great, now I sounded even more stupid than usual, and I had no one to blame this blunder on but myself.
But as usual, Remus just smiled patiently. “Deep thoughts, Marta? No, I was asking you if you could explain how Apparition feels like. I think you’re one of the few people in our year that's done side-along before.”
I took a final sip from my apple juice to clear away the toast crumbs still scattered inside my mouth. “Let’s just say,” I said slowly, “that if I didn’t have such a strong stomach, I would have thrown up many times over.”
Now Remus looked genuinely worried. “It’s that intense?”
I nodded. “It’s over in a second, but it’s dizzying and feels like you’re trying to fit your entire body through a hole the size of a Knut.” I shook my head. “I usually Apparate with my father, and he’s not exactly the best at telling me our location before we go.”
“That’s okay,” Remus said quickly. “You don’t have to tell me anymore. I suppose we’re all going to find out what it’s like in a few hours.”
At that moment, Benjamin appeared and walked up behind Remus, frowning at my friend. His eyes then spotted the tray of food. “At least the half-blood served you breakfast. That is the perfect role for him, Marta.”
I frowned, looking away from Benjamin.
“Marta?” Benjamin’s voice softened. “Marta, are you still mad at me? Please, forgive me. I’ve told you I’m sorry.”
“So, Remus,” I said, sounding a little too chipper to be real, “where are your fellow Marauders?”
Remus smirked. “They, and most of the school probably, are discovering what happens to Slytherin students when their robes have been soaked in an invisibility potion.”
I snorted. “And let me guess- you don’t want to be blamed for their wrong-doings.”
“I'm a prefect,” Remus replied. But his grin suggested that he must have had a part in preparing the prank at some point.
“I don’t know whether I should feel grateful for the breakfast you brought me or insulted because you keep using me as an excuse to avoid detention.”
Remus’s grin brightened. “Who says both can’t be the right answer?”
“You’ve definitely been spending too much time with the other Marauders.” I reluctantly pushed myself off my chair and stretched. “And I need to get myself ready for our Apparition lesson today. Another fun day where I prove to the world that I lack any magical skill!” I picked up my book bag from the floor and shoved my Transfiguration homework inside. After working on it all last night, I only had it half-complete. Five hours and only half finished.
Remus sighed beside me. “You have to stop being so hard on yourself, Marta. You’re not stupid like you keep telling yourself. You’re not stupid at all.”
I pretended that I didn’t hear him as I made my way to the girls’ dormitories. I needed a shower and unwrinkled clothes.
“Marta, I said I’m sorry!” Benjamin followed me up the stairs. The only boy in history that could probably complete such a task. “Look, I already explained many times over that I just lost control of myself. I promise, I will never do anything like that again. Please, talk to me. Look at me. Anything.”
I entered the sixth year girls’ dorm, grabbed my bath things, and headed to the shower, relieved that no one was up here.
I was already showered, dressed, and brushing my hair back into a ponytail when I heard movement out in the hall. Panicking, I wrapped a hair tie around my hair and scrambled to get everything back into my trunk.
The door opened, revealing three of my roommates. Lily Evans was in the lead. She paused when she saw me.
“Excuse me, I was just-” I rushed around the three girls, escaping the dormitory before anything unfortunate could happen.
“You don’t have to leave the room when they show up,” Benjamin commented dully, following me back down. “And why haven’t you slept up here all month?”
I didn’t answer him. Remus, Sirius, and even James had asked me that very question. I told all of them that I tend to fall asleep doing homework in the common room.
I couldn’t tell anyone that I was protecting those girls, especially Lily, from Benjamin. From me.
The common room was crowded with chattering students when I arrived back downstairs. There was a group of students by the fireplace, where I could guess the Marauders sat and basked in their glory of humiliating the Slytherins. I just walked right past them and out of Gryffindor Tower. I decided to spend an hour in the library before reporting for our Apparition lesson. I probably shouldn’t have left my book bag sitting on my trunk, though.
After one of the many boring hours in my life, I left the creepy gaze of Madam Pince and headed down for the Great Hall. I had planned to read a book about Apparition, but that part of the bookshelf seemed picked clean. The only book I found on the topic was So You Left Your Leg In London: A Splincher’s Guide to Pulling Yourself Back Together Before You Bleed to Death.
That book was not encouraging.
“Oof! Sirius, you tosser! Get off me!”
But Sirius kept his arms wrapped around my shoulders. I was once again reminded how awkward it was to ‘date’ someone the same height as me. Sirius did not make the most comfortable boyfriend backpack.
“So, we’re off to our first Apparition lesson,” Sirius said loudly. “We’ll be spinning off to new locations before we know it!”
I groaned, knowing that I’ll never be capable of Apparating solo. Just give me a broomstick or some floo powder and I’ll be ready for travel.
But as I silently listened to Sirius talk about all the cool places that he would be able to go once he turns seventeen and can Apparate, I noticed several people, mostly girls, were giving us nasty looks. Or maybe they were just directed at me. I knew what they were thinking. How could the oddball outcast of Gryffindor snag the hottest bloke in the school? If only they knew the dangers of dating a Marauder. Hm, maybe that was why Lily constantly rejected James’s advances.
When everyone arrived, the four main tables in the Great Hall had been cleared away. Every sound echoed a lot more, though the ceiling still looked out of place, being a perfect sky blue among the stone architecture.
“This is indeed new,” Sirius commented from over my right shoulder.
“Hey, Pads! I don’t think we’re supposed to do side-along Apparition until we can do it ourselves!”
Sirius turned us around to see James, Remus, and Peter approach us. “Prongs,” Sirius whined, “don’t you think I’m talented enough to Apparate perfectly on my first try?”
“Sure, and get Marta Splinched all over the room,” Remus said. He rolled his eyes. “Not a pleasant sight anyone would look forward to seeing.”
“Least of all me. Get off!” I ducked out of Sirius’s grasp and spun around to face him. “Thank you.” I brushed off nonexistent dust from my shoulders. “I’m perfectly capable of Splinching myself, thank you very much.”
Well, we didn’t have to wait long for the rest of the school to arrive. Everyone seemed to cluster according to their Houses, talking excitedly or nervously about the upcoming lesson. Some people, like me, had already done side-along with their parents and everyone else would ask them about it. Fortunately, no one bothered to ask me.
Our instructor arrived and gave us an opening speech. I intended on listening to him, but Benjamin chose that moment to reappear before me.
“Marta, don’t keep ignoring me.” He walked around from behind me, his left hand trailing to rest on my right shoulder. His hazel eyes held sincerity within them. “You can’t ignore me forever. I know it. Look, I lost control. We know you’ve snapped at some points too. But you’ve never been mad at me for this long.”
“-like to call the Three D’s. They are Destination, Determination, and Deliberation-”
“And Dreadful-ation in my case,” I muttered to myself. If this were a class we’d be graded on, this really would be the third D on my grades.
At last, after listening to the old wizard finish speaking, he charmed hoops to appear throughout the hall, giving each person room to spin, twirl, and fall flat on their face. I mean, what else were we going to do in our first lesson?
“And now, on my mark,” the instructor said (I wished I paid attention to get his name), “Apparate!”
Focusing mostly on my own ‘fourth D,’ it didn’t surprise me to find out that I only turned around like a fool and didn’t go anywhere. I looked to everyone else, expecting to see at least someone having done something.
Nope, nothing. Lily, on the other side of the room, was still standing straight, with just a few strands of hair out of place through the sea of black cloaks. Between the two of us, quite a number of students were either on the floor or just on their knees from spinning.
I then glanced at the Marauders. Nope, nothing from them either. James and Sirius were looking at each other, silently disappointed that they didn’t do anything. Remus, on the other hand, looked perfectly calm as he helped Peter get up from the floor. It seemed as if neither of them did anything either.
“Alright, that’s alright! No one Apparates on their first go. Alright now, we’re going to reset and try again. Remember the Three D’s!”
Right, three D’s are for Transfiguration, Potions, and Apparition lessons. Focusing on my three D’s, it was no wonder that my second round went just as uneventful. At least I remained on my feet.
“How does everyone else make this look so easy?” Sirius grumbled next to me. He crossed his arms as he looked down at his hoop, as if it might be a Slytherin hoop in disguise. “I mean, you just spin and arrive somewhere else.”
“I’m just doing this because my grandfather is paying for the lessons,” I shrugged. “I don’t plan on getting my license.”
Sirius’s head snapped to look at me. “What? You don’t want to Apparate?”
“Apparate where?” I looked back down to the hoop. “We’re got broomsticks, floo powder, and Portkeys, not to mention the Knight Bus. I don’t see the purpose of Apparition.”
The professors called for quiet as we were directed to try again. And again. And again.
Near the end of the lesson, the only sign of an Apparition lesson was a lot of students getting dizzy from so much spinning. Honestly, though, I do a lot more insane maneuvers in a Quidditch game than I did with my feet on the ground.
“I’ll tell you what, Marta,” Sirius whispered to me. “If you move by Apparition, just by a little bit, I’ll abstain from ‘tutoring’ you tonight. How does that sound?”
Now this proposition caught my attention. I looked back to him. “You won’t hex me?”
“Jinx me? Curse me? Enchant me? Perform the smallest amount of magic to bring me discomfort?”
“Nothing,” Sirius promised. He smiled brightly, his eyes actually twinkling. For a tiny moment, his expression made me not resent keeping him on as my boyfriend.
“Make it a whole week and we’ve got a deal,” I said.
“A week?! What am I supposed to do with you for a week if I can’t hex you?”
“Ooh, I can think of a lot of things Sirius and you could do together in just one week.”
I, on the other hand, remained silent as I stared him down.
Sirius groaned. “How about just the weekends off? Monday through Friday is fair game.”
“Fine. But every weekend I Apparate, not just today.”
“Done.” Sirius held out his hand to seal the deal.
“As long as this isn’t an Unbreakable Vow,” I muttered, taking his hand in mine. We shook, then turned our attentions back onto our own hoops.
“Oh sure, no pressure anymore.” Benjamin walked around to stand on the opposite side of the hoop. “You just have to move magically. Something that no one has done at all today. Hardly anyone Apparates in their first lesson. I heard that it took the group two years ago three lessons for just one person to Apparate anywhere. Don’t worry, I’m sure Sirius has a plan for you tonight. Should be loads of fun.”
I clenched my fists, trying to focus past Benjamin. I preferred it when he was trying to apologize to me. Did he really think I would forgive him and go back to talking to him if he alternated between apologizing and antagonizing?
I spun, thinking about appearing in the hoop.
I felt myself turning faster than usual. Maybe this time-
This time I ended up on my back on the floor.
“I don’t think ‘Speed’ falls under the three D’s,” Sirius teased. He offered to help me up.
“I just have to do something before the end of our lesson in-” I checked the time. “Seven minutes. Fantastic.” I spun as soon as I got back into position, not caring if everyone was supposed to try to Apparate together. The more often I practiced, the sooner I would figure it out. At least, that was my logic.
Six minutes remaining. I tried again, but the only thing I had to show for it was a bruised bum, and no one would really want to see that as proof.
Five minutes. I started feeling a little dizzy as I spun repeatedly.
Four minutes. Sirius told me to take it easy, wincing as if pained by my continued attempts.
Three minutes. Benjamin laughed when I tripped over the hem of my robes and landed on my elbow. At least I didn’t have Quidditch practice today.
Two minutes. I felt my face warm as some students nearby laughed, probably amused at how hard the dumbest girl in our class was trying.
One minute. Last chance. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and turned on the spot. I thought for a moment that I felt something.
But when I opened my eyes, I was not inside the hoop. I was in the exact same spot I had been in all day.
“Alright, everybody, alright, time’s up for today!” The Ministry wizard gathered everyone’s attention, refocusing us towards the front of the hall. “We still have eleven more weeks, and by that time many of you will be ready to take your Apparition tests. Until we meet again, don’t forget the Three D’s-”
“Did you hear that?” Benjamin asked lazily. “Many of you. Not all of you. You’re a superb flyer, Marta, don’t let Apparition get to you. There are many other modes of transportation available to you. You said so yourself.”
How was I supposed to listen to the final words on Apparition when Benjamin was continuously talking to me. Did he think those words would help me? My mind turned from his gloats to the Three D’s once again.
Destination. Anywhere away from Benjamin was fine by me.
Determination. I always wanted to get away from him, and Apparition was the fastest method.
Deliberation. This was no accident or wandering of the mind, I wanted to get away now!
I took a step forward. Turned. And this time, I felt a bit of compression as I turned into nothingness, seeking my way through space towards my destination on the other side of the hall.
When I stopped, though, the hall was dead silent. I thought for a moment that I offended the Ministry wizard by attempting to Apparate out of turn.
But something was different. The wizard was closer to me now. In fact, I was near the Ravenclaw students. But weren’t they at the front of the hall before?
I turned around to look for Sirius, but he and the other Marauders were on the other side of the hall.
I spotted Benjamin in the back corner near Sirius. His jaw still hung open. “Marta,” he gasped, his voice the only sound in the hall. He looked back to where I had been only moments ago. “You didn’t leave any part of yourself behind.” He looked back up to me. He spun in a graceful manner, Apparating right next to me. Closer, his hazel eyes were also still wide. “You Apparated perfectly!”
I sensed the professors were converging on me. Hushed voices started echoing around the hall, undoubtedly talking about me. My heart started hammering against my chest, realizing that I might not only have done something right, but I did it before all of my other classmates.
“Marta, I’m so proud of you!” Benjamin continued, his expression now looking overjoyed. He placed both hands on my shoulders. “You have no idea how wonderful it is, you being the first to Apparate so quickly and all-”
No. The last thing I wanted was for Benjamin to be near me. I took a step back from him, freeing myself from his grasp. And before the professors could touch me, I spun, my destination set for the exit to the Great Hall.
I stumbled slightly on my second successful Apparition. I surveyed my classmates again. Many of them looked at me in shock. Even the professors, who were still gathered where I had just been, didn’t bother to hide their surprise.
I did a quick inventory of my person. Once I knew I hadn’t left any part of myself behind, I turned away from the hall and ran through the castle. Through the castle, towards the Quidditch pitch. I needed to do something that I knew I was good at, something-
“Marta! Wait for me!”
Fine. Who was I kidding? I needed to get somewhere Benjamin couldn’t follow. Why did I think that Apparating would keep him from me?
“Marta! Wait up! Merlin’s beard, Moony, why does she always have to retreat here?”
“At least she’s predictable, Pads!”
I tried opening the broom shack, but a hand closed the door before I could summon my broom. I turned around to face Sirius. “You promised! No tricks today and tomorrow!”
“I’m not going to do anything,” Sirius said, his cheeks slightly flushed from running through the castle after me. He looked behind him. “Hurry up, Moony, we don’t have all day. I’ve got detention right after lunch.”
I looked over Sirius’s shoulder to see Remus jogging to catch up with us. He seemed to be more out of breath from the run.
“Why did you two come after me?” I asked.
“Because the professors will be pissed if they don’t check to make sure you’re alright after Apparating twice,” Sirius said. He nodded his head back to Remus. “It was his idea to chase you here, though.”
Remus smiled weakly. “If you don’t want to be found, you have to come up with a new hiding spot.”
I could only shrug to that. There was no way I could tell them this was the only way I could get away from Benjamin.
“Let’s get back inside,” Sirius suggested, putting his arm over my shoulder. “It’s not a bad thing to be the first person to Apparate, Marta.”
“I suppose,” I said slowly. I looked around. Benjamin stood on the side of the path, his arms crossed. He didn’t bother hiding that smug smile from his lips.
I looked away from Benjamin. I'd learned that Benjamin kept his distance whenever Sirius touches me. I kept my gaze on the ground, pretending to scan for obstacles in my path so I could avoid seeing Benjamin's arrogant expression. And Remus's sorrowful eyes.
Write a Review My Not-So-Imaginary Friend: XI: Indoor Apparition is Usually Considered Rude