Chapter 1 : I: Back to Hogwarts
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“I’m dying! I’m dying, and nobody cares!”
“Miss Perks, you are not ‘dying.’ And you’re certainly not going to die under my watch.” Madam Pomfrey clicked her tongue softly before pulling a potion in a dark, round glass vial off her shelf. “Please stop exaggerating. Here, try this one.”
I frowned at the matron. Did she not just see what happened when she gave me the last potion? We had been at this all day. I was forced to come straight from home and miss the trip from London on the Hogwarts Express.
Okay, so let’s ignore the fact that I live in Hogsmeade and skipping the train is actually easier on my parents. But I was brought here at ten o’clock this morning. All I’ve seen of the castle was the Hospital Wing and the only person I’ve encountered was standing next to my bed. This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I thought about returning to school.
Madam Pomfrey handed me the potion expectantly.
I just stared at it. The potion was actually brown. Brown! Gross. “You know,” I said weakly, “looks like the potion in this vial is going to taste vile. Get it? Vial, vile?”
“If it helps your system, it can look like whatever it wants.”
I took a deep breath. Held it. And downed the entire potion in one gulp. It actually wasn’t as rancid as I expected.
I released me breath.
So far, so-
I threw up.
The brown mess flew out of my mouth, mixed with the pungent smell of stomach acid. And as I glanced at the mess I just made, my gag reflex made me feel like I was going to puke again. I heaved, but only small dribbles escaped my mouth. My stomach had been empty all day because of whatever illness I had. Fortunately, I had tied up my black hair hours ago to keep the mess to a minimum.
“Interesting,” Pomfrey hummed to herself. She looked down at her watch. “Just under four seconds. You kept that one down for longer this time. I might be on the right track.” She pulled out her wand and waved it lazily over the bed and front of my robes. My vomit cleared itself instantly, though the faint scent of acid lingered in the air. Or maybe it was just in my nose.
“I’m dying,” I whined, throwing myself down against the bed. “I’ll never be able to eat again!”
“Miss Perks, I promise you will not starve to death,” Pomfrey reassured me. “Just wait right here while I check some of my potions in the back.” She shuffled away, mumbling to herself.
“Oh sure, tell me to wait while I’m dying over here! I haven’t eaten anything all day! We just proved that my stomach is empty! I’m going to die looking like a raisin!”
“Please stop being so overdramatic,” Pomfrey called out. “It’s making it difficult for me to think.”
“I can’t help it!” I crossed my arms, glaring at the dull ceiling overhead. When my stomach made a gurgling noise, telling me it wanted food, I groaned loudly.
It seemed to take Pomfrey forever to finally come back from her inner office with another set of potions and the like balanced on a tray. “Now I think-” she started.
But I didn’t get to hear what she was thinking. A tiny owl flew through one of the open windows and circled around Pomfrey’s head twice. It dropped a tiny scroll on her tray before flying back out again.
“That can’t be good,” I muttered.
Pomfrey set the tray on an empty bed and examined the note. Her lips pressed together as she read. “Oh really now,” she muttered.
“What is it?” I asked. Eying the potions, which looked like they would induce nausea anyway, I didn’t care what prolonged my next exposure to them.
“Professor McGonagall wants me to look over a student in her office,” Pomfrey said. “Something must have happened on the ride here.” She shook her head in annoyance. “The term hasn’t even started yet but students are falling ill left and right! Terrible way to begin a year. Terrible way.”
And then Pomfrey left the Hospital Wing without another word to me.
I looked around the empty room.
I frowned at the potions.
“Oh, don’t mind me,” I muttered sarcastically. “I promise not to go anywhere. Sure, the opening feast is going to start soon, and I’m going to miss the Sorting, but that’s not a problem. I mean, what kind of person would I be if I decided to join my friends and puked over everyone?” My stomach growled, louder than I’ve ever heard it growl before. “Honestly, what did I do to deserve this?!”
“You went to the Hog’s Head yesterday. I told you not to go. Mum and Dad told you not to go. You really need to work on your listening skills, Sally-Anne.”
I looked up at the source of the voice. While I knew no one had entered the wing, a boy currently stood beside my bed. His brown hair hung long over his ears and forehead, almost blocking the hazel eyes that looked down at me with concern. The Gryffindor robes he wore were a bit disheveled. Then again, I had told him last year that wearing his clothes too neatly made him look stiff.
“Benjamin,” I groaned. But I still smiled up at my imaginary friend. “You’re not going to say ‘I told you so’ again, are you?”
Benjamin laughed, his voice not echoing off the walls. I had long gotten used to the hollowness of his words and sounds. His eyes twinkling, he responded, “I don’t have to say it when you just said it for me.”
“Well, how was I to know I’d pick up something there?” I asked quietly. I watched the door, making sure Pomfrey wasn’t coming back too soon.
“Sally-Anne, it’s the Hog’s Head. The bartender doesn’t strike me as having the cleanest establishment.” Benjamin sat at the foot of my bed. The bed didn’t move in the tiniest bit. “What draws you there? Can’t you just go to the Three Broomsticks instead?”
I shrugged, not feeling as happy to see Benjamin anymore. “I just like seeing all the different types of people to wander through Hogsmeade. And the Three Broomsticks doesn’t draw the same crowd as the Hog’s Head.”
“Sally-Anne, you know you can’t hide anything from me.” Benjamin reached forward and held my hand. His warm fingers relaxed me. “I’m your imaginary friend, remember? I’m only here to help you.”
I looked away from the door and into Benjamin’s eyes. I considered what I could say next. But the full truth would only sound stupid and pathetic.
“I know you only want to help me,” I said softly, “and I love you for that. But really, I’m just interested in seeing more worldly witches and wizards. I’ve never left Hogsmeade unless I’m going to London. And that’s just to go to Diagon Alley and King’s Cross. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with a Muggle before.”
Benjamin sighed, shoulders slumping a bit. “Okay. I’ll stop asking now. You’re not ready to admit the truth to yourself. But I just wanted to remind you that you tend to get sick really easily. You have to take care of yourself.” Benjamin looked away. “I can’t do anything to help you get better.”
“You’re keeping me company. You know I hate being alone.”
Benjamin nodded, though he didn’t look back at me. “You know,” he said slowly, “you wouldn’t be forced to stay here with only an imaginary friend for company if you didn’t go to the Hog’s Head last night. You could have been down in the Great Hall with your real friends.”
“Are you going to keep going back to that?” I grumbled. My stomach then did the same thing. I groaned. “Talking about food makes me hungry! I want to eat something!”
“Then you should have been more careful about your health.” Pomfrey bustled through the doors and made a straight line for my bed. “What is the problem with you students refusing the treatment you so obviously need?”
“I have no idea,” I said dryly. I sat still as Pomfrey waved her wand over my throat and chest, different colored sparks bursting from her wand every few seconds. Apparently she decided on a different approach to finding out what was wrong with me while she was gone.
“So, who was the student in question?” Benjamin asked curiously.
“So who doesn’t want to share the Hospital Wing with me?” I asked for both myself and Benjamin.
“Harry Potter,” Pomfrey said, putting down her wand and picking up a salve and some sort of powdered ingredient. “Dementors on the train, no less! Count your blessings, Miss Perks, that you weren’t there to be affected.”
“Yay me,” I sighed, though my fingers had turned cold just thinking about them.
“Dementors are set to start patrolling Hogsmeade at night tonight anyway,” Benjamin remembered. His complexion had paled. “The sooner Sirius Black is found and sent back to Azkaban, the better!”
I only smiled weakly, having heard Benjamin say things of a similar nature about the murderer dozens of times over the summer. Then again, his words often reflected how much he wanted to protect me like an older brother.
“I think I know what’s wrong with you,” Pomfrey said, turning her attention back to me. The salve had gone from eggshell white to a glowing pink hue. “You have an infection at the base of your esophagus. Whatever touches it triggers your system to expel everything in your stomach in hopes that it will expel the infection as well.”
“That’s just lovely. And knowing this helps us how?”
“Roll up your left sleeve.” As I complied, Pomfrey continued, “Until the infection goes away, you’re going to have to see me every day at mealtime so we can get some food in you.”
“Wait, what?” With the left sleeve of my robes pushed up as high as it would go, I simply gawked at the matron. “How exactly do you plan for me to eat without food going down my throat?”
“I will enchant the food into your stomach,” Pomfrey said calmly. She started rubbing the salve over my left elbow.
“And why are you treating my elbow when something is wrong with my digestive system?”
“Any Healer knows the connection between the dominant elbow join and the esophagus,” Pomfrey said dismissively.
“But I’m right handed, not a lefty.”
Pomfrey stopped, looked at me, then sighed. “Please roll up your right sleeve then.”
As I did what I was told, I smiled and asked, “But if you really want me to, I can practice writing with my left hand. I can try to be ambi- amba- ana-”
“Ambidextrous,” Benjamin supplied.
“Ambidextrous,” Pomfrey said not even a second later.
“Yeah, that,” I said. “But you always make that mistake with me, thinking I’m a lefty. Why is that?”
“All finished,” Pomfrey said, ignoring my question. And by the time that I realized that she didn’t answer my first question about the connection between elbows and esophagi, she was already enchanting a simple plate of dinner to magically vanish from the dish and supposedly reappear in my stomach. She was muttering the incantation, so I couldn’t get a grasp on what she was doing.
All I knew was that by the time the meal was cleared, I didn’t feel like I was going to die anymore.
“You will have to see me for all your meals,” Pomfrey said as she began putting her things away. “And under no circumstances are you to consume anything until I give you permission. The salve I used will fight the infection, but only if you don’t trigger it with food or beverage.”
“So I’m not even allowed a drink of water?” I shook my head. “I need food! This is torture!”
“If I cannot trust you with these simple instructions, I can always keep you here until you are over the infection.”
I winced. “How long would that take?”
“Four days. Five days maximum.”
“Five days here? In the Hospital Wing?!” I shook my head. “Please, I’m begging you, don’t keep me here! I want to sleep in my bed! I want to see my friends! Heck, I even want to go to class tomorrow morning! Don’t force me to stay here!”
Pomfrey crossed her arms, though she looked a bit amused with my antics. “Then do I have your word? Nothing goes into your mouth until I say so?”
“Don’t worry, Sally-Anne,” Benjamin said, “I’ll make sure you don’t succumb to temptation.”
“Let’s see now,” I said, standing up and tapping my first finger to my chin in thought, “I can assign the gnomes and dwarves in my trunk to hide my secret stash of treats that I packed this morning specifically to defy the orders I didn’t know you’d give until now. I will ask one of my friends to get his brother to loan me a dragon to stand guard outside the Great Hall and forbid my entrance. My imaginary friend will nag me to death if I even touch a pastry. I will even enlist some of the ghosts to converge on me if they see me eying a jelly bean the wrong way. The-”
Madam Pomfrey held up a hand, rolling her eyes. “That’s enough dramatics from you, Miss Perks. Just giving me your word is good enough for me.”
I just shrugged. “Okay. I promise not to eat or drink anything. You want that in an Unbreakable Vow too? No? Okay. I look forward to seeing you at breakfast tomorrow morning! Imaginary friend, let’s gather us some ghosts!” I turned and exaggerated my march out of the Hospital Wing.
Once the doors closed, Benjamin appeared, hiding his pink face with his right hand. “Sally-Anne, never was I more grateful that I’m not real. You embarrass me.”
“I’ll let Pomfrey know that I embarrass you so much,” I said. And despite spending way too much time in the Hospital Wing, I managed to have the energy to skip through the halls, grateful that I was free. For a few hours, I was afraid I would be confined to the Hospital Wing for the rest of my days.
But when I got to the seventh floor, I didn’t feel like skipping anymore. There was a crowd of Gryffindors at the portrait of the Fat Lady. And that crowd was dwindling. In fact, everyone had gone inside by the time I was close enough to call out for someone.
“Wait!” I shouted, hoping someone at the end of the group could hear me. “Wait for me!”
But when I got there, the portrait was closed. And I didn’t know the password for this term. “Oh, come on, let me in!” I complained loudly.
But for some reason, the Fat Lady never seemed to like me. She frowned at me. “Password?”
“I don’t know it!” I said in frustration. “I was in the Hospital Wing all day! But you know me!”
And that was the problem. The Fat Lady knew me. She never seemed pleased to open the door before. Now that I was locked out, she looked content.
“Oh honestly,” I groaned, “what did I ever do to you?”
Benjamin appeared beside me, looking up at the Fat Lady. “Shame that she doesn’t like you.”
“Any way you could get the password from inside?” I whispered to him so no one could hear but Benjamin.
Benjamin shook his head. “If you can’t hear it, I can’t hear it. I haven’t the foggiest idea what it could be this year. Sorry.”
“This is the best first day back.” I sat myself down on the ground next to the portrait, ready to wait all night for someone to come looking for me. Benjamin sat beside me, preventing me from remembering that I was all alone.
I actually didn’t have to wait too long. Ten minutes at best. The portrait opened slowly. Parvati Patil looked out at me. “Sally-Anne,” she called, “the password this year is ‘Fortuna Major’.”
“Thanks,” I said, getting off the floor and following her across the common room and up to the girls’ dormitories. The last I saw, Benjamin watched me leave and vanished when he was no longer necessary.
“So what happened to you?” Parvati asked, opening the door to the third year girls’ room for us.
“Picked up something nasty last night,” I said. Lavender Brown was already changed into her pink nightgown. Hermione Granger, on the other hand, was still in her robes, kneeling in front of her trunk and rummaging through all of her school books. “I spent an excellent first day back cooped up in the Hospital Wing!” I went to the fourth and final bed in the dorm. My trunk was already in its proper place. “But I heard something interesting happened on the Hogwarts Express.”
“Oh, it was horrible!” Lavender said. She hopped onto her bed and faced me while kneeling on the foot of her bed. “Dementors were on the train!”
I ended up sitting on my trunk as I listened to Lavender share what happened to her, Parvati, Dean Thomas, and Seamus Finnigan in their compartment. Lavender might have gotten too descriptive for me. My fingers felt ice cold and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.
“Now I’m really glad I’m sick,” I said once my friends were done talking. If I had been there, Harry definitely wouldn’t have been the only one to pass out.
“You’re not contagious, are you?” Lavender asked, eyes wide.
I shook my head, finally deciding it was time for me to change for bed as well. “You really think Pomfrey would let me out of her sight if I was?” But when I tossed my cloak across my bed, something hissed and a ginger blur leapt off my comforter.
“Blimey! What was that thing?” I shrieked.
“Meet Crookshanks,” Lavender said dryly.
“Sorry, Sally-Anne!” Hermione apologized. In the time Lavender and Parvati were talking, she had changed into her own pajamas and opened one of our old second year textbooks. But now she jumped off the bed and knelt before the nightstand between our two beds. “I got him just yesterday from Diagon Alley. I didn’t know he crawled onto your bed.”
“No worries,” I said. “He’s on this side, Hermione.” I saw the large fur ball curled up between the nightstand in question and the wall. I put my hand out slowly, letting him smell me. “Sorry I scared you, Crookshams-”
“Crookshanks,” Hermione corrected me immediately.
“Crookshanks. Right. Sorry, little cat.” I paused, seeing that this wasn’t a little cat. “Okay, time to come out now.”
It happened before I could process anything. I only pulled my scratched hand back after I realized that Crookshanks’s paw moved in the first place. I also backed up a few steps before the cat could try to give me matching scratches.
“Oh no! Bad Crookshanks!” Hermione safely reached forward and pulled the little beast into her arms. “I’m sorry,” Hermione said again. “He was friendly when he met Parvati and Lavender. Did he hurt you?”
“No blood,” I said, examining my right hand. Nope, just a few bright pink scratches that would probably linger for a few hours. I looked down at Hermione and Crookshanks. “Just don’t expect me to pet-sit for you. Animals just don’t like me.”
It was true. Neville’s toad Trevor seemed to run away- or hop away- whenever I came across him. Harry’s owl Hedwig almost pooped on me a few times last year. And Ron has absolutely forbidden me from even thinking about handling his rat Scabbers.
“I’m sure he’ll warm up to you in time,” Hermione promised me. She put the cat down on her own pillow, then sat back down on her bed and picked up her book again. It was our second year Transfiguration book.
“If you say so,” I shrugged, making a mental note to avoid the feline. “But why are you studying everything we learned last year? Dumbledore’s admitted that he knows that we do our best to forget everything we learned the year before.”
Hermione went to a page in the middle of the book somewhere and started reading. “Are you forgetting that I was petrified for the last few weeks of term last year? I missed out on hours of study time. I refuse to let something as small as an attack get in the way of my grades.” As she leaned against the headboard, her left hand reached out to scratch Crookshanks between the ears.
I looked across the room to Parvati and Lavender, checking to make sure I heard our roommate right. I knew I had heard right when I saw Lavender roll her eyes and fully lay down. Parvati sighed, shrugged, and started to pull her hangings closed, pausing only long enough to ask if I wouldn’t mind turning out the lights when I was ready.
“Lumos,” Hermione whispered a moment after the request. She looked a bit awkward, petting her cat with one hand while holding her illuminated wand in the other so she could see the book propped up by her knees.
As I silently changed for bed, my mind went over what Hermione said about the attacks on Muggle-borns last year. I had no solid evidence about my own blood status. Of course, that’s to be expected when you were adopted as a newborn and there isn’t any information about your parents’ identities. When the Perks reminded me that I was born in St. Mungo’s, however, I had a strong clue that my mother must have been a witch. But that knowledge didn’t stop me from going everywhere with at least two friends.
“Goodnight, everyone,” I whispered as our dorm went dark and I found my way into my bed. As sleep overtook me, thoughts of my ‘real’ parents and what might have happened to them drifted away. I was a Perks now. And like our name suggests, we try to look for the brighter side of everything.
Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find the bright side of my illness when morning came and I had to force myself to the Hospital Wing instead of the Great Hall.
And trust me, I had five days to look.
“This is so annoying,” I groaned a few days later, waiting for Pomfrey to do her usual thing to a plate of food. It was just a cucumber sandwich, but even that looked like it would taste like heaven at the moment. “You said I could eat in four or five days! I want to eat something! I want to drink something! Do you know how hard it was to take my shower this morning? Let alone brush my teeth?” Yes, I would be willing to eat my toothpaste at this point.
But Pomfrey just enchanted a goblet of water into my system before banishing the dishes away.
“Third year stinks,” I grumbled as Pomfrey then pointed her wand at my chest and started her usual mini-fireworks show. “Did you know I had to endure double Potions this morning? With the Slytherins? Whose bright idea was that anyway?”
“If you’re done complaining,” Pomfrey said, “I have some promising news.”
“Promising sounds good.” I stopped jabbering and listened.
“It appears that the salve did its job. Your infection seems to have gone. I would still like to see you for dinner as a precaution. If you can keep your meal down, then you may eat as much as you please.”
“YES!” I cheered, jumping up and dancing. “Finally! I’ve missed the Great Hall and all the delicious food! I can’t wait to tell everyone the great news!”
Madam Pomfrey smiled. “So, are you going to return the dragon yet?”
“She’s talking about your dramatics from the first night here,” Benjamin’s voice reminded me, though he didn’t materialize.
“Oh, right,” I said. “Yeah, I’ll tell Ron to get rid of it for me. And after Defense Against the Dark Arts, I’ll get my gnomes and dwarves to return the food and stuff. And tell the ghosts to do their own thing. Anything else?”
“I think you forgot about your imaginary friend,” Pomfrey said, chuckling as she passed me my bag.
“Yeah, I’ll tell him to go away,” I said. “Now that I’ll be free to socialize over meals, he can go back to Imaginary Friend Land.”
“Tell him to send me a postcard then,” Pomfrey joked as I left the wing.
“I’ll send an imaginary post card via my imaginary owl,” Benjamin said sarcastically as we walked to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.
“That would be funny to see,” I laughed. I arrived just as Lavender and Parvati walked up from the other direction. “Hey guys, guess what? I’m cured!”
“Finally,” Lavender said. “So we can stop turning you away from the Great Hall?”
“Yup. Though I have to eat in front of Pomfrey tonight, just in case I still have something and still puke.”
“Please, Sally-Anne, we just ate,” Parvati said, frowning a bit as we walked into the otherwise empty room.
The rest of our class showed up shortly after us. I didn’t care to keep tabs on them, though. I was too absorbed in listening to my two girl friends talk about Divination and how I should have taken that instead of Ancient Runes or Arithmancy.
And because Benjamin wanted to see who was dumb enough to accept the job this year, Benjamin remained at my side. Or rather, he sat on the front of my desk while listening to us girls talk with rapt attention. When the door from the professor’s office opened, however, he looked back. His gasp broke my attention away from that of my real friends.
“I can’t believe it,” Benjamin whispered, paling noticeably. He frowned at the man who walked to the front of the class and placed his tattered briefcase on the desk.
“Who is that?” I whispered to Lavender.
“Right, you weren’t at the feast,” she remembered. “He’s the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Professor-”
A/N: Hello everyone! I am The Quiet Girl, and thank you for giving this story a chance. This is the sequel to another story of mine, My Not-So-Imaginary Friend (M). I’m planning on writing this story so you can understand it without reading the first one, but I would suggest that you look into it anyway so you can know more about Benjamin and the origins of my interpretation of Sally-Anne. If you’ve already read it, then I hope you continue to enjoy.
This is also my first real venture into Hogwarts-era. I’ve never written anything with the Golden Trio or their contemporaries. If at any point you think I’m not writing them canon, please point it out to me. If I do something right, also point it out! I wanted to expand into another era besides Marauders and this story seemed like an ideal place to start!
(I know I promised some of you that this would be out in October 2012, so please forgive me for not getting this done until early November!)