Our first lesson for Defense Against the Dark Arts had to be the best lesson I had ever experienced! I mean, it was absolutely brilliant! Not only was it a practical lesson, and not only did I enchant my rattlesnake boggart so that couldn’t slither with a baby rattle attached to its tail, and not only did I get five free points for just participating in class, but we all got to see what Professor Snape looked like in a dress! Twice!
Okay, fine, so the boggart freaked out a bit and went from my rattlesnake to that giant eyeball that no one claimed. Professor Lupin did call out that we must have been confusing it, so it might have been a fear from someone in a previous class. If our Defense teacher wasn’t too concerned about it, then it must not have been a big deal.
Somehow, I was the last person to leave the teacher’s lounge. Lavender and Parvati were already reminding everyone else about their boggarts and how awesome they were during our walk back to our classroom.
I was just about to bring up the rear of our little group when I realized something: Benjamin wasn’t by my side. He had followed us silently here to the teacher’s lounge. He had stood with his arms crossed with a grim expression on his face while we each tackled the boggart. If he was going to disappear, he always made sure I was watching him as he faded.
So I turned back. Benjamin was still standing in the middle of the room, his back facing me as he looked at Professor Lupin. But then I noticed that Professor Lupin was looking at me, an unreadable expression on his face.
“Can I help you with something, Professor?” I asked. I turned around fully. Something told me that he wasn’t just casually watching his students leave.
“No, thank you Sally-Anne,” Professor Lupin said. He smiled weakly at me. “I was about to ask you the same. Do you think you forgot something?”
I glanced at Benjamin. He still wasn’t moving. The back of his head wasn’t very expressive. Oh well, might as well see how this new teacher reacts to elaborate stories now rather than in class. I always hated losing Gryffindor points because I find out too late that my professors can’t take a joke.
“Actually,” I said brightly, giving him my best win-the-teacher-over smile, “I think I forgot my imaginary friend in here. If I don’t bring him back with me, then my leprechaun gets upset and eats my homework.”
Uh oh. Here I thought Professor Lupin was going to be okay with pretend insanity. His eyes just widened and his mouth dropped a bit. He looked a bit horrified.
“Don’t worry!” I said, putting my hands up, palms open towards him, in an effort to reassure my teacher. Please oh please let him have better nerves than Professor Quirrell. “I keep my leprechaun well fed on clovers. I will do my best to get you something passable as homework.”
I should also do a bit of research on leprechauns. I had no idea what they really ate. Then again, I’d never claimed to have a leprechaun before.
That seemed to work. Professor Lupin regained his composure. Looking calm, and a little worn out, he said, “I’ll hold you to your word.” His eyes scanned the room. “So, what’s his name, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Uh, Larry,” I said.
“Yup, Larry. Larry the Leprechaun.” Wow, just five minutes ago I didn’t have a leprechaun, and now I did with a really cool name. I was brilliant.
“It has a nice ring to it,” Professor Lupin said. “And what of your imaginary friend?”
I just looked up at my teacher in astonishment. No one had ever cared about my imaginary friend’s name before. Then again, I always managed to distract most people with my more ridiculous tales. Maybe my leprechaun idea was actually weak after all.
“Benjamin. My imaginary friend’s name is Benjamin.”
This finally got a reaction from Benjamin. He turned sharply at me, his complexion a bit pale. Hazel eyes wide, he hissed, “Why did you tell Lupin my name?”
I tilted my head, frowning a bit. “Seems like saying his name is the magic word. C’mon, Benjamin, let’s go! Larry’s waiting for us.”
With a glance back at Professor Lupin, Benjamin marched past me and out the door, heading back to the classroom.
“He finally moved,” I said brightly. “Uh, the homework’s due on Monday, right? Okay, got it, bye!” I dashed out of the teacher’s lounge without another word. When I didn’t hear Professor Lupin yell at me for leaving so abruptly, I figured I must not have been in too much trouble. Oh well, I’ll find out during next Monday’s class.
“Benjamin!” I called. Benjamin was still walking at a brisk pace. The halls were otherwise clear. Our class was obviously dismissed before all of the other classes. And it seemed that all my friends were already gathering their books. “Benjamin, wait!” Feeling grateful that I was gifted with long legs, it only took me a few seconds to run and catch up with him. “Okay, what’s wrong? I’ve never seen you act like that around anyone before.”
“Now who’s not admitting the truth? But why are you freaking out? This was the best Defense lesson we’ve ever had. I don’t think I have any psychological problem with this new teacher. Do I?” I placed a hand on Benjamin’s shoulder. “You don’t, do you?”
The shoulder slumped under my touch. “Nothing’s wrong,” he said softer. He smiled weakly down at me. “Although I was shocked to see how shabby this new professor looks.”
“Is that all?” But while I smiled, I made a mental note of Benjamin’s odd behavior. I had to find out what his problem was.
“Yeah. Go on, I’ll come out if you forget to visit Pomfrey for dinner.” Benjamin then faded. When he was completely gone, my hand was left resting in midair.
But as I was about to enter the classroom, I nearly ran over Ron and Harry as they were leaving.
“Sorry guys!” I said, jumping aside.
“Sally-Anne, what took you so long to get back?” Ron asked.
“Oh, you know, seeing how the new teacher reacts to news that I keep leprechauns and the like.”
Ron laughed. “Nice boggart, by the way. But my spider was even better.” He and Harry walked off, Ron elaborating about something to do with giant spiders in the Forbidden Forest. I didn’t hear Harry talk much. Then again, neither he nor Hermione got to face their boggarts.
I actually had to wait outside the room for Hermione pass after the boys, her bag bulging at the seams. Then I had to wait for Dean, Seamus, and Neville. Fortunately, Lavender and Parvati stayed by my books and the three of us went to History of Magic together.
I actually didn’t mind History of Magic, unlike other students. Yes, having a ghost as a professor is only cool when he passes through the blackboard to enter the room. But his voice sounded so monotone, it would be enough to lull people into a permanent sleep.
But not me. Hermione always cringed when she saw my notes, but we were the only two people in Gryffindor to write down more than three lines per lesson. Yes, Hermione wrote down the main points Professor Binns recited that she could just as easily copy from the book. And I believed Harry and Ron copied her notes before the tests when she wasn’t looking. Everyone else only wrote new names and dates when Binns said them but nothing more.
I, on the other hand, have developed a super-awesome method to writing notes. I drew pictures. But not just any pictures. My History of Magic notebook was filled with so many drawing of goblins from last year, it would probably start another Goblin Rebellion if they fell into the wrong hands. I don’t think my illustrations are that bad, but goblins seem to enjoy rebelling for anything small that witches and wizards do that might offend them.
Half way through class, Seamus had fallen asleep over his closed textbook. Dean turned around in his seat to watch me draw a picture of the Ministry of Magic, with dates above each office according to when they were founded.
He actually snickered as I used my wand to make the stick figure picture of the minister pace back and forth in his office, his speech bubble switching between ‘Everything good is because of me’ and ‘I take no responsibility for the bad.’
“You forgot the bowler hat,” Dean whispered, pointing to the pacing minister.
“Sh!” Hermione shushed from the front, turning back momentarily. She then went back to taking notes.
“Sorry,” Dean and I whispered at the same time.
Lavender and Parvati continued playing tic-tac-toe beside me, oblivious to the lesson.
And Professor Binns continued in his monologue about the foundation of the Ministry of Magic.
Taking a final look at my notes, Dean scribbled something at the top of my drawing before turning back around. He started poking Seamus with enough caution to hopefully wake him without a sound.
I turned the notebook sideways as to read his cramped writing.
‘Seriously, draw the bowler hat.’
Smiling, I continued to expand my doodle until class was dismissed for the day.
“I can’t believe we have to go from Defense Against the Dark Arts, which is probably going to be the best class this year, to History of Magic, easily the most boring class,” I complained as I shoved my books into my bag and left with Parvati and Lavender.
“Agreed,” Parvati said, walking on the other side of Lavender. “Do you know what would be the best? If we had Divination after Defense Against the Dark Arts.”
“And not Potions in the morning,” Lavender added. “Sally-Anne, you should have been in Divination with us! We told you to take that class! Why did you have to be in Arithmancy?”
“All this again?” I sighed dramatically, looking up at the ceiling as we walked. At least they understood why I wasn’t in Care of Magical Creatures. “Look, I like numbers.”
“So do I,” Lavender said casually. “But I don’t have to study them. But Divination would really help you out in real life! It’s always a good idea to know the future!”
“And Professor Trelawney is amazing,” Parvati agreed. She cast a fearful look at Lavender. “But what do you think she means about October sixteenth?”
Lavender’s complexion paled two shades and her paced slowed just slightly. “I don’t know. I do hope it’s not too bad.”
I stayed silent about this. The future never fascinated me too much. Whatever will happen will happen. I wasn’t going to watch my step simply because of what might happen. In all honesty, I much preferred being in History of Magic. One could actually learn more about the future by studying the past.
I actually loved this one line my mum taught me when I was little: those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
And presently, I’ve seen Lavender get upset with Hermione for not being in love with Divination. I didn’t want my friends to abandon me just because we don’t love the same classes.
We actually had to split up on our way to dinner. Promising I would have breakfast with them tomorrow, I headed to the Hospital Wing by myself.
“You were pretty quiet with your friends.” Benjamin appeared beside me, walking at my pace.
“Making sure I go where I’m supposed to go?” I asked.
“Just protecting you. Doing my job.” He didn’t seem upset like he was after Defense class today.
I looked forward. It would still take me a few minutes to get to the Hospital Wing. “Lavender and Parvati still want me in Divination with them. I’m the only Gryffindor not in that class.”
“Is that a bad thing? I thought you loved Arithmancy. And you like to tease Hermione Granger about how ‘easy’ it is.”
I smiled, remembering the stunned look on Hermione’s face when I told her after our first lesson that I thought that class was the easiest thing since getting Sorted. She didn’t have to know that I’ve actually studied for that class every morning since then after she leaves our dorm. My goal, however pathetic, was to get a better grade than her in that class.
“And what about Ancient Runes? Mum has a few old books from her days here, so you can owl her and ask her for help on translations.”
Benjamin had a point about that. Both mum and dad were good in that subject. Sure, I didn’t officially inherit my brains from them, but some of their brilliance must have rubbed off on me in the thirteen years we’ve been a family.
“Okay, I get it. I couldn’t have been in Divination with them,” I said. I found the staircase that would let out at the entrance to the Hospital Wing.
“Talking to yourself again, Perks?” a voice drawled from the staircase leading down to the dungeons.
“Yeah, Malfoy,” I said, stopping at the first step. I looked down at the blond Slytherin, his arm still bandaged from whatever happened to him in Care of Magical Creatures. “I talk to myself. I mean, if I were to talk to you and your thugs, I wouldn’t even get half a decent dialogue going.” I turned to go back upstairs.
“You know everyone laughs at you, right?” Though Draco Malfoy tried to sound superior, I heard the annoyance in his voice that he wasn’t getting to me.
“Correction: everyone laughs with me. We all laugh at you.” I turned my grey eyes from Malfoy’s identical shade to the sling around his arm. It didn’t look like he was hurt at all.
I continued to go upstairs before Malfoy could order Crabbe or Goyle to harass me. Malfoy was Harry’s enemy, not mine. I was just glad that Pansy Parkinson wasn’t with him. Besides being obviously in love with Malfoy, she makes fun of any girl prettier or smarter than her. And, not to sound conceited, but I qualified as both.
“Spoiled brat,” Benjamin commented as we walked into the Hospital Wing. “Sally-Anne, you should have gone to the Great Hall while you were still sick. That way you could have thrown up all over him, getting rid of his smug attitude.”
“Now you tell me,” I sighed. Waving, Benjamin vanished as I called for Madam Pomfrey to feed me.
One word can best describe how I felt after successfully putting food down my throat nearly a week after my last normal mean: yum! As I ate a slice of pumpkin pie for dessert, I vowed never to get sick again.
“You say that every time you leave me,” Madam Pomfrey said, vanishing the cleared plates with a flick of her wand. “Do me a favor and take care of yourself, Sally-Anne. No one would want anything bad to happen to you.”
“Yeah, one disaster-magnet third year is enough, right?” I asked, thinking of Harry. I waved. “Thanks for dinner! See you in a few weeks!”
I laughed as I went back to Gryffindor Tower. Arriving before anyone else in my year, I grabbed a table near the back and pulled out my Defense book. I started reading up on boggarts. It was rather dull compared to the lesson from this afternoon.
By the time Parvati arrived, followed shortly by Lavender, I was half finished with a new drawing in my sketchbook.
“So, are you fully cured now?” Parvati asked, pulling up a seat next to me and opening her Divination book.
“Ate a half hour ago and not so much as a hiccup,” I said proudly. “Beware breakfast tomorrow, for it shall be mine!” I raised my quill to the air like a scepter with this proclamation.
“Sally-Anne, there aren’t any professors around, so you don’t have to do all the dramatics,” Lavender said, sitting beside Parvati.
I lowered my arm. “Okay, okay, sorry Lavender. Force of habit.” I shrugged a shoulder, tucked a few strands of loose black hair behind my ear, and continued my sketch.
“So are you doing any homework tonight or are you going to see if the professors will accept pictures instead of essays again?” Lavender asked, rolling her eyes. She was just jealous that a few teachers sometimes took my drawing as extra credit. Flitwick especially said I have a gift with a quill.
“Got bored with boggarts,” I explained, “so I thought I’d draw something that has absolutely nothing to do with them.”
I turned my book around, showing them the sketch of Benjamin I was doing from memory. His hair wasn’t completely right yet, but I had his main facial features done.
“Oh, him again,” Lavender said. But she sounded a little dreamy as she looked at him longer than she used to last year. “Are you sure he’s not based off anybody?”
“Nope,” I said proudly. When she and Parvati were done staring, I turned my book back towards me and continued my sketch. “He is purely a product of my imagination.”
“Then I envy your imagination.” Lavender sighed before starting her own work.
The three of us worked just so long (I did end up writing that summary about boggarts after all, though it was shorter and Parvati’s and Lavender’s), then we spent the rest of the night playing Gobstones. Even when Benjamin materialized to help me, I lost in the most pathetic way. It was just a normal night for the three of us.
By the next morning, though, I was actually excited about waking up early for once. Know why? Because I was finally going to have a normal breakfast!
“Breakfast, breakfast!” I called, opening the curtains around my friends’ beds and letting the morning light pour into our dormitory.
“Sally-Anne!” Lavender grumbled, pulling her pillow over her face.
“Close the curtains!” Parvati shouted at the same time, pulling the sheet over her head.
“Just stop yelling!” Hermione yelled. However, she was the only one to get up and start her day.
“You don’t get it!” I said excitedly, going to her bed simply because she was the most awake. “I get to eat breakfast this morning! I don’t have to go to the Hospital Wing! Yay! I’m so excited!”
“Really, I couldn’t have guessed,” Hermione said dryly. She grabbed her bath things and disappeared into the bathroom.
“Oh Lavender!” I spent the rest of the morning hopping between Lavender’s and Parvati’s beds, asking them what sort of breakfast I should have first. Neither seemed too keen on helping me decide. And somehow, Hermione managed to escape down to the library without me pestering her too badly.
It seemed to take my friends forever to finally get dressed and down to the Great Hall. And, of course, when I saw the spread of food just waiting for me, I decided that it would be unfair for me to choose only a few items. So I ate it all!
“You’re going to be sick later,” Parvati winced as she saw me fill my plate for a fourth time with different breakfast items.
“No I won’t,” I promised her before I resumed my work on food.
“I don’t know who is more disturbing to watch eat,” Lavender said, leaning forward to look down the table. “You or Ron.”
Benjamin then showed up sitting beside me. He also looked a bit fearful as he watched me eat. “Sally-Anne, listen to your friends. You’re going to make yourself sick.”
But I knew I wasn’t going to be sick. I wasn’t.
An hour later, though, I felt sick.
I felt like I was going to puke, and not because I got a new infection or whatnot. It felt like if I moved the wrong way, my stomach was going to explode. That wasn’t the best feeling to have when we were told to plant puffapod seeds. When we had to add fertilizer, I wondered if Professor Sprout would get too upset with me if I accidentally added semi-digested sausages instead of dragon dung.
“We told you you’d be sick,” Lavender whispered, now seeming to be amused at my discomfort.
“That’s right. We told you.” Benjamin didn’t bother appearing as just his voice reached my ears.
But I survived Herbology without puking. I actually felt a bit proud of myself for that small achievement. I had thrown up enough times within the week to last me all year. And as I walked with our class to Transfiguration, I started to think that I might want to take it easy for lunch later. Maybe only two plates of food instead of the six I had for breakfast.
We took our normal seats in the back of Transfiguration. And while Parvati wrote out her notes beside me, I spent my time drawing a strange diagram of me puking on puffapod seeds and them growing incredibly fast, swallowing me in their puffy blooms. If I had colored ink, my page would have been swallowed be a sea of pink.
“Miss Perks, your chair has four legs. Please use all of them.”
Having McGonagall address me shocked me so much, I nearly fell off the back two I was already on. The front legs landed on the stone floor with a loud thump. Looking up from my drawing (which should have been my notes), I saw everyone in class was looking back at me except for McGonagall.
“Sorry ‘bout that,” I muttered. As everyone else turned to look forward, I leaned closer to Parvati. “How does she do that?” I whispered softly.
“And Miss Perks, please don’t distract your classmates.”
Parvati smiled weakly, as if to silently say that it was Professor McGonagall. It should have been enough of an explanation. But I always felt like this teacher had a sixth sense about me. I could never get away with anything with her. It felt like she actually knew what I was about to do before I did it. If it weren’t for the fact that she expressed her disgust for Divination on our first day, I would have sworn that she could see the future.
I shared my thoughts with Parvati after class as we made our way down to lunch.
“She just notices habits,” she answered without a second thought. “That’s what teachers do. Remember Wednesday night? Professor Sinistra told you to stop aiming your telescope at Ravenclaw Tower.”
“I wouldn’t have looked if they had been asleep like they were supposed to be,” I defended myself. I followed Lavender to a spot somewhere in the middle of the table. “If a light’s on somewhere past curfew, I feel obligated to look and see if everything’s all right.”
“And what did you see?” Lavender asked.
“Nothing,” I sang, trying to make it sound like I did see something more than a group of boys studying for their O.W.L.s after just a few days back at school. Then again, those were fifth year Ravenclaws. What else was I supposed to expect from them?
“So when you don’t get attention, you seek it,” Lavender said, “and when you get attention, you wonder why you did. Is there no pleasing you?”
“Nope!” I smiled broadly, even straightening to sit tall on the bench. “I am a troubled child. Ooh, pass the sandwiches! I love cucumbers!”
Lavender reluctantly passed the plate. “Are you going to slow down?” she asked, holding the food just out of my reach.
“Yes, yes,” I said. I tried grabbing the plate. “I’m still mostly content from breakfast. I promise not to eat six plates.”
“Try to stick with one.”
“One?! I was thinking about two!”
“We’ll see what happens.” I stretched my arm forward, but Lavender just leaned back and away from me. “Please!”
“Just give her the plate, Lavender,” Parvati sighed. “Maybe she has to learn her lesson the hard way.”
“And then we’re going to have to listen to her complaints,” Lavender said, reluctantly placing the cucumber sandwiches in front of me.
I actually did my best on slowing down. I took a bite, talked a bit, swallowed, talked a bit more, then repeated the cycle. Lavender seemed upset that I spoke with my mouth full but she didn’t say anything about it.
I just happened to be looking around the hall as I finished my second cucumber sandwich. My eyes landed on the staff table. Professor McGonagall was there, eating her own lunch. She seemed to be in a serious discussion with Professor Lupin. I wondered what they were talking about up there.
A crazy idea emerged through the other odd ideas that usually run through my head. What if they were talking about me? That ominous thought was enough to make me lose my appetite.
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