Chapter 6 : VI: Masterpieces Take Time
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“Benjamin?” I whispered in the empty dormitory, “are you okay?”
My imaginary friend didn’t answer.
“Benjamin, you’re really worrying me,” I continued softly. “First you freaked out on me Halloween night, and now you won’t say anything. What’s wrong?”
But Benjamin ignored me. He just continued to sit on the window’s ledge of the girls’ dorm, looking out across the grounds with a vacant look in his eyes. His legs were pulled up on the window ledge with him. The way he had his arms wrapped around his legs, he looked like a small child after he had been scolded and sent to the corner for a time out.
I reached out my hand to pat his head. For whatever reason Benjamin had that made him depressed like this, I wanted him to know that I would be there for him, just as he had always been around for me.
But as I reached forward, Benjamin turned his head away from me. Closing his eyes, he tilted his head away until his forehead rested against the window pane.
With reluctant understanding, I pulled my hand back towards myself. I checked the time instead.
“I have to get to Potions,” I said, taking an audible step backwards. “If you feel like, you know, talking or anything, feel free to find me. You know I wouldn’t hesitate to have a conversation with you in front of Snape.”
No reaction. It wasn’t like I was expecting one either, sadly.
“I’ll see you later then.” I turned to leave.
“I should have just let her get detention.”
That made me stop. “Her?” I turned back to face Benjamin. “Did you do something, Benjamin? Can you do anything with other people?”
I hadn’t meant to ask that. But Benjamin had been furious when he heard Peeves tell Dumbledore about how Sirius Black was actually in the castle and trying to enter Gryffindor Tower. Benjamin had turned white, muttered something I couldn’t hear above the crowd around me, and vanished. When I awoke yesterday morning in the Great Hall, Benjamin had returned to my side, but he looked defeated somehow. He only said that he couldn’t find Black. Once we were allowed back in our dorms, Benjamin had taken up this spot at the window. He had hardly moved since.
Now, Benjamin reopened his eyes. His left arm released his legs so he could weave his fingers through his brown hair. His lower lip trembled, though his voice remained emotionlessly even when he spoke. “Don’t worry about me, Mar- Sally-Anne. I must always protect you. I’m sorry I have failed you.”
And then I saw something I’ve never seen before: a tear fell from Benjamin’s eye.
He wasn’t crying. It was only that one tear. But I had never seen my imaginary friend act this way before in my entire life. He seemed to be taking the Sirius Black thing too personally. I wanted to know why he felt so, so guilty about all this, but I didn’t want to upset him further. That question, and millions of the like, bubbled in the forefront of my mind, but I knew I should wait until he was feeling better to ask him such things.
Wait. Bubbled? As in a potion?
“Oh no, I’m late for Potions!” I tore out of the dormitory and practically flew down all the stairs I came across.
I was still three minutes late as I entered Professor Snape’s class. Snape just continued his explanation of today’s potion as if I wasn’t tardy. Then again, I would have been surprised if he raised an eyebrow at me. While other professors sometimes gave me odd looks, Snape seemed to go out of his way to avoid looking at me. I was fine with it; no attention was better than what Harry and Neville had to endure.
Lavender and Parvati both gave me significant looks, silently scolding me for being late. I did my best to ignore them and instead searched my bag for my textbook and homework.
Fifteen minutes into the class period, we were finally directed to get started on our potions. Parvati volunteered to get the ingredients for Lavender and me. In the meantime, I grabbed a hair tie from my bag and started rearranging my hair so I wouldn’t burn it off.
“So look who decided to join us,” Pansy Parkinson said, leaning in towards me from her own table. “What’s wrong, Perks? What impossible lie do you have as your excuse for being late today?”
“Oh, you know, the usual. I was just trying to make myself as pretty as you. Then I realized that I’d need to be run over by the Hogwarts Express several times in order to make that happen.” I took my share of ingredients from the collection Parvati brought back and started work on squeezing the liquid from some newt eyes. It wasn’t as gross as it sounded.
Pansy’s pug-like face scrunched up even more as she tried to think of a comeback.
“Did I say several times?” I asked. “I meant an even dozen. That might do it.”
It was fun, watching her turn red as I insulted her. But really, she asked for it.
I quickly turned my focus to my friends and asked Lavender and Parvati how they liked Hogsmeade. I’d already asked them this a few times, but I wanted to talk about something positive to get my mind off Benjamin.
Of course, talk of Hogsmeade only brought us back to talking about the events after the Halloween feast. “I can’t believe he was actually inside the castle!” Lavender said in a hushed whisper.
“I wonder what Black was after,” I said, picking up a knife to start cutting up my carrots. Half the time, I felt like I was in a cooking class instead of Potions.
“Not what. Who.” Lavender looked over her shoulder, towards the side of the classroom with the boys and Hermione. “Have your parents told you much about him?”
I shook my head.
“A little,” Parvati said. “Just that he was one of You-Know-Who’s biggest supporters, though no one knew it until You-Know-Who was destroyed.”
Lavender nodded. “My parents have only said just as much. But I heard them talking over the summer. Being a prisoner must have messed with his mind somehow, because-”
I stopped listening.
Prisoner. . .
“The Eight of Swords. Restricted action. A prisoner. Perhaps another family member’s fate, the reason you were left alone and in need of a new family. . .”
Those were Trelawney’s words nearly two months ago. How could I have missed that?
But I answered my own question. I was so focused on the first card. Death. I already knew that death referred to my mother.
So could the Eight of Swords have referred to my father? Could he, could he possibly have been one of Sirius Black’s victims? Sirius Black killed my father, leaving my mother alone and she died of a broken heart when she gave birth to me. Could that be it?
Or maybe I was being too dramatic and too self-obsessed to think that Sirius Black, mass murderer and Dark Wizard, could have anything to do with me.
But where else could my father fit in? Betrayal? Devil? A failed plan? I didn’t want to think of that reading, but then again I couldn’t stop obsessing. What were those cards trying to tell me about my family?
“Sally-Anne, your potion!”
Lavender’s screech warned me as my greenish-orange potion was about to bubble over my cauldron. I wasn’t even aware that I had finished the preparation stage. I turned down the fire and stirred my potion, hoping it would cool down without becoming poisonous.
Pansy snickered from behind me. “Nice potion, Perks. Fantastic skill you have there.” She turned back around and laughed with Millicent Bulstrode and Tracey Davis.
I looked around for Professor Snape, but he was busy picking on Neville. I breathed a sigh of relief. The last thing I needed was for him to glare at my botched potion before turning his back on me without a word. I don’t think he’s even acknowledged my existence before.
I did my best to push the thoughts of my real family out of my mind for the remainder of class. Using Lavender’s and Parvati’s potions for comparison, I did my best to make mine look like theirs. But for the life of me, I couldn’t even remember what this potion was supposed to do. But as long as it was supposed to be sky blue in color, I was good. I collected enough in a vial to pass as a sample.
“Parkinson, you’re absolutely right,” I said, waving my vial in front of her on my way to Professor Snape’s desk. “I have fantastic skills.” I smiled at her aquamarine-colored potion before actually skipping to Snape’s desk and turning in my potion and my homework.
Amazingly, I was one of the first to have finished. I cleaned up my cauldron, returned all unused potion ingredients, and copied down the instructions for our next homework assignment. And I still had a few minutes to waste.
So I used my time wisely and pulled out my sketchbook. It was filled with sketches of people and animals (drawn from afar, obviously). More than half the people in my book, however, were actually different sketches of Benjamin in various stages of completion.
I couldn’t help but think of the real Benjamin sitting up in my dorm, sulking because of the attack two days ago. The drawing of Benjamin before me, however, showed a brighter side of his personality. I remember when he posed for this one. We were out on the grounds last year and I drew him standing before the Black Lake. The animation charm showed Benjamin’s hair ruffling in the wind and the grass creating beautiful waves. The drawing of Benjamin even raised his hand a few times to shield his eyes from the sun before lowering his arm and laughing at some forgotten joke.
“Ooh, I like this one the best.” Lavender, her things also put away, stood behind my chair and gazed at Benjamin’s image. “Have I told you before how much I envy your talent?”
“Just on a near-daily basis.”
The bell rang, signaling the end of class.
“Can I carry this?” Lavender asked.
“Sure.” I grabbed my bag and walked out of class with my two friends. Lavender remained completely absorbed in my sketchbook.
“You know,” Parvati smiled, “if we ever find out that this boy exists and you’re keeping him away from us, Lavender will go after him faster than Peeves can destroy the trophy room.”
“I certainly wouldn’t be the only one, I’m sure,” Lavender said.
Parvati just smiled. “Well, Sally-Anne’s drawings are incredibly life-like. Have you ever considered expanding your skills to something beyond pencil and paper?”
“You could start with painting a new portrait for Gryffindor Tower,” Lavender said flatly, approaching said object.
We were actually at our tower before I realized it. But the Fat Lady was gone. She didn’t want to guard Gryffindor Tower after what had just happened to her. It was understandable, really. And I didn’t mind not having to endure the Fat Lady’s cold attitude towards me.
But yesterday made me appreciate the Fat Lady more than I realized. Because her replacement, Sir Cadogan, simply made me wish I was anything but an awesome Gryffindor.
Sir Cadogan was mental. Completely and utterly mental. I think he took his new job way too seriously. I mean, he challenged practically anyone and everyone to a duel. Lines would form outside the common room as people tried to shout the password at him while he was busy acting like a nutter. Getting in after dinner last night was brutal.
“Hurry, say the password,” I whispered to Parvati, trying to stand behind her before Sir Cadogan could notice me. But being the tallest of us three, I couldn’t easily hide behind any of my friends.
“Piddly-” Parvati started.
“Who goes there, those who attempt to enter-!” Sir Cadogan finally saw us and drew his sword. As he waved it back and forth once, his helmet fell forward with a loud clank.
“Honestly,” Lavender groaned. “Piddly widdly-winks! Piddly widdly-winks!”
But the knight couldn’t seem to hear anything while trapped inside his helmet. He stumbled a bit as he tried to pull the visor of his helmet back into place.
“What?” he called. “What? Who goes there? Intruders who attempt to trespass-”
“Sally-Anne!” Lavender turned to look up at me. “Come on, he’ll listen to you a lot faster than us!”
“Fine!” I gave up hiding behind Parvati. I waved to get his attention. “Cadogan, we’re Gryffindors-” I paused to point to my badge and tie colors, “-and we have the password: piddly widdly-winks.”
Sir Cadogan’s eyes widened. “Oh, my lady, it is you!” Sir Cadogan knelt on one knee and bowed his head forward, causing his helmet to snap shut again.
Lavender giggled at the knight’s actions. Parvati too was smiling.
“Piddly widdly-winks!” I said as soon as Sir Cadogan’s helmet was back in order.
“Of course, fair maiden! Anything for you!” And with that, the door opened to allow us access to Gryffindor Tower.
“Finally,” I huffed, leading the way inside.
Lavender caught up with me first, though she was still giggling. “So?” she asked.
“What did you do to make him fancy you so much?” She punctuated her question with another round of soft giggles.
“I have no idea,” I groaned. There was no point in denying the fact that he treated me different from everyone else. The thirty other Gryffindors trapped outside the common room after dinner last night knew it was my presence the sped up Cadogan’s willingness to let people in.
“His picture used to hang on a wall on our way to Divination,” Parvati said. “So you never saw him before yesterday.”
But I didn’t respond. Benjamin was missing. The windowsill was empty. For some reason, this struck me as odd. I mean, he could have disappeared at any time yesterday but didn’t. So why did he choose to leave now? And without telling me? Could he be gone for good?
“Sally-Anne?” Parvati put her hand upon my shoulder.
I jumped. “Yeah?”
“You looked a million miles away,” she said. She handed me my closed sketchbook. “Lavender and I are heading up to lunch. Will you be okay?”
“Oh, you know me,” I said, smiling brightly. “I’ll be the life of Defense Against the Dark Arts! I probably just need some food.”
“Just stay away from the sweets, please,” Lavender called from the door. She then left. Parvati followed her a second later.
I looked at my book bag on my bed. My Defense Against the Dark Arts and History of Magic books were already inside. I must have packed them automatically while thinking of Benjamin. Either way, I was ready to head down to the Great Hall and eat with Dean, Seamus, and Neville. I had already missed breakfast this morning.
So I surprised myself. I took my sketchbook, a pencil, and a pillow to the windowsill. I sat where Benjamin had been this morning, though when he had moved or where he had disappeared to was beyond me.
“Benjamin,” I whispered, looking across the school grounds. I thought about everything that he has done this year. He freaked out when we found out Sirius Black was in the castle. He seemed terrified about that stray dog last Saturday. He actually moved something in the real world despite being imaginary. And he had a strong dislike of Professor Lupin. All these oddities made my brain start to hurt.
“Why are you confusing me like this?” Knowing I wouldn’t get an answer from Crookshanks (who was napping on Hermione’s bed thank goodness), I opened my sketchbook to a blank page and started drawing.
But I didn’t sketch Benjamin this time. I glanced at the window. Seeing a transparent reflection of myself, I started my drawing.
The sound of graphite against parchment filled my ears as a face emerged from the blank sheet. I took several more looks at the window. I wasn’t used to drawing female faces. But I did my best.
Sounds from outside my dorm, the girls from other years, snapped me back to reality. Checking my watch, I had fifteen minutes to get down to Defense Against the Dark Arts. I didn’t want to be late for two classes in one day.
I met up with my friends outside Defense Against the Dark Arts. I stood by Parvati and Lavender, but they had their heads together, most likely discussing whatever happened during their lunch with Professor Trelawney. I was used to being left out of the conversations until near dinnertime. At least this gave me more time to think about my sketch.
A minute before the bell would signal the start of our next lesson, the door opened itself. As my friends and classmates filed in, I looked over their heads. Professor Lupin was across the room in front of the blackboard, wiping it clean as quickly as he could. While the center was clear, small phrases and individual words filled all the still-untouched corners.
“Don’t mind me,” Professor Lupin called cheerfully to the chattering class. “We’re going to be continuing our unit of water creatures with this grindylow this afternoon. So please turn to chapter five-”
He erased the phrase ‘frustrating, isn’t it?’ from the top right corner of the board.
“-and we’ll start by observing one up close and see what differences you can pick out between him and kappas.”
The question ‘Don’t you know?’ was gone with Lupin’s last swipe of the board.
Well, now I knew what I had saved from splattering all over the path to Hogsmeade on Saturday. That thing in the water tank didn’t look happy to be on display for a class full of teenagers. But while I had fun drawing Boggarts and Red Caps, kappas had been a little boring to me. And I certainly didn’t want to draw two water creatures in a row.
So I took out my textbook with the class. Turned to chapter five. But instead of pulling out my notebook, a quill, and a bottle of ink, I dug out my sketchpad and a pack of colored pencils. I figured that it wouldn’t take me too long to finish this. I just wanted to add color. And an eyebrow. Yeah, she should have two eyebrows.
At one point, Parvati saw me drawing and tried to nudge me to pay attention. I ignored her and kept working on my own project. I picked out a brown colored pencil and started shading in the fringe and moved to the rest of the girl’s hair. I had decided to draw the hair long, like mine, but I was practically rubbish at drawing realistic looking wavy hair. Straight hair, like Benjamin’s, was a lot easier.
Each new line from the pencil or fresh addition of color brought my picture closer and closer to life. I checked my own Gryffindor tie and colored her robes identically to mine. I made her lips soft pink that nearly blended in with her skin tone. Finally, she was almost finished. Finished, except for the eye color.
“Excuse me, Sally-Anne, but that was the bell.”
The raspy voice of my professor broke me out of my creative daze. I jumped up, looked around, and panicked. The classroom was now completely empty except for Professor Lupin and myself. Outside the room, I could hear other students walking the halls to their next classes.
“Uh, sorry,” I winced. At least that explained why my leg felt like it had been kicked. Wow, I really had been out of it, hadn’t it?
“You’re fine.” Professor Lupin still stood at the front of the class, right by the blackboard. He indicated the charts and facts. “Do you need time to copy this down?”
“No, I’ll get the notes from Parvati later. Or if she doesn’t have them, I’ll let Hermione’s cat attack me and have Hermione give me her notes as a way to apologize.” I leaned back, wondering if that plan would really work.
“Or you can just look in the book,” Lupin said.
“Nah, too easy.” I put said book back into my bag.
Lupin erased the board in three broad strokes. He then grabbed something from his desk and brought it over to me. “I would suggest you use your book as something more than a paperweight. Might make your homework easier to complete.”
I took the roll of parchment and glanced at the top. “A six?” I slumped.
“Afraid so. I’m sorry, Sally-Anne, but kappas wouldn’t really make great pets, nor can you keep them in your bathtub.”
I laughed. “Just checking to make sure you read those essays you assign!”
Lupin smiled with me. “Luckily, the picture you turned in made up for your essay.”
“Two extra points!” I beamed up at Lupin. “Thank you!”
“I only gave you those points because you showed me that you not only knew what kappas look like, but your animation charm showed it swimming in a realistic way. Now, if you had conveyed that knowledge to me in your homework . . .”
“I might have gotten a twelve out of ten?!”
“You wouldn’t have to rely on extra credit to bring your work up to average.”
I leaned back in my chair, kicked off until I was on two legs, and let the top of my seat rest against the table behind me. “Essays are too boring to write all the time,” I whined. “Couldn’t you give us a choice? Either draw something incredible and mind-blowing for homework, or do that.” I pointed to the essay.
“From what I hear, you should be grateful that I can give you any extra credit.”
“Oh well, worth a try.”
“With you? More like six tries.” Lupin looked up to the wall behind me. “Aren’t you supposed to be in your next class soon?”
“History of Magic is just a seventy second dash from here,” I said dismissively. “I’ve got time.”
Professor Lupin just shook his head, though he didn’t bother to stop smiling. His eyes landed on my still-open sketchpad. “So, and I hesitate to ask this because I’m quite aware of the multitude of answers you could give me, but what was more fascinating than paying attention in class today?”
“You just had to spoil my fun,” I pouted, turning my book around so Lupin could see it properly. “I started this during lunch and wanted to finish it.” I let my chair fall onto all four legs before getting up. “I actually got the hair to turn out a lot better than I expected, but the eyes-” I hesitated. “I wasn’t sure what eye color to give her.”
When I looked back up, though, Professor Lupin was deathly pale. He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t blinking. I wasn’t even sure if he was breathing.
“Professor?” I asked.
But he didn’t say anything. He picked up the sketchbook and stood straighter than before.
“Professor Lupin?” I glanced to the open classroom door. The hall outside had quieted. Most everyone was probably in class, waiting for their next lessons to begin. I should have been heading to History of Magic by now. But I didn’t want to leave without my sketchbook.
“Excuse me?” I looked back to my professor.
“Her eyes. They were blue.” Lupin put the sketchbook down on the table between us gently, turned, and headed up to his office.
I looked down at my sketch. Picking it up, I looked at the girl. My features, but with straight brunette hair.
My best guess at what my mother must have looked like.
My thoughts seemed to stall for a moment.
Then, it was as if someone cast the Lumos spell in my head. “Wait, Professor Lupin! Did you-”
The office door closed with a soft click.
“-know my mother?” My voice died down to a murmur.
The bell rang, signaling that I was late to History of Magic.
“At least Binns never takes attendance anyway,” I sighed, heading up towards Gryffindor Tower instead of the ghost’s class. As I climbed the stairs, taking the long way so I wouldn’t be caught cutting class by any of my other professors, I couldn’t take my eyes off my drawing.
“Piddly widdly-winks,” I said to Sir Cadogan when I reached his portrait.
“Correct, my fair young maiden.” Sir Cadogan again knelt down on one knee as his portrait swung forward. It would have been more flattering, actually, if his helmet hadn’t clanked closed on him for the millionth time and his fat pony hadn’t jeered at the knight’s expense.
“Hold up a tick.” I walked around to stand in front of Sir Cadogan’s portrait, leaving the Gryffindor common room open to anyone who might wander past. Luckily, no one would be around unless they were ditching class like me.
“Yes?” Sir Cadogan got back to his feet. He held his helmet open as he looked down at me.
I turned my sketchbook around to face him. “Do you know this girl?” I asked. “She has blue eyes, but I’ll finish it later.”
Sir Cadogan squinted at the picture. “But of course!” He stood up straight, puffed out his chest, and released his helmet. Predictably, the visor closed not even a second later.
“You do? What’s her name?” At last, I might get a clue about who my mother was.
“Sadly, I was never formally introduced to this one.”
My shoulder had started to slump when I heard this. But his last two words struck me.
“Yes.” Sir Cadogan finally seemed to secure his visor. I hoped it would stay up properly until I was gone. “I have seen many students in Hogwarts over my centuries of protecting the castle.”
I honestly didn’t think Sir Cadogan could protect a ladybug, but I kept those thoughts to myself.
“And in all my time, I have never failed to notice those witches whom share such fair and noble features such as yours. Kind souls, all of them, each with a passion and a desire to live a full life expressed within their eyes. Such potential, I have no doubt that all of them went far in life. As will you, kind lady.”
Another non-answer. I turned the sketch of my supposed mother around and looked down at her. Professor Lupin and now Sir Cadogan confirmed that this person existed. Or at least that I got the hair style right.
But maybe, and I was stretching things here, maybe my mother looked like her other ancestors. If I could find just one of their pictures somewhere, maybe I could trace her family tree up to my mother.
“Great,” I grumbled to myself as I climbed through the still-open portrait hole. “I skip History of Magic so I could spend the next hour flipping through every single page of my History of Magic textbook looking for a picture or drawing of someone who looks like me. Can I make this year any more confusing for myself?”
Please, if there was an answer to that, I didn’t want to know.
A/N: Peeves told Dumbledore about Sirius Black and the Fat Lady incident in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) by J. K. Rowling on page 161. Additionally, I quoted Trelawney from this story, back in Chapter 3 (which you see in italics). Just being safe! Any thoughts you’d like to share?
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