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My Not-So-Imaginary Fiend by The Quiet Girl
Chapter 12 : XII: Answers Where Least Expected
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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 XII: Answers Where Least Expected

A bell rang out in the front of Perks-You-Up Pastries, signaling that we had a patron.

“Sally-Anne, could you take care of that?” Mum asked, busy measuring ingredients for her ninth attempt at a new pastry. She was being very secretive about it, not telling me even what kind of new treat she was creating.

“Sure, Mum!” I carefully finished taking a hot pan out of the oven, easing it onto the stovetop to cool. I then pulled off my oven mitts and tossed them onto the closest counter. I ran my right hip into the edge of another counter on my way out of the kitchen. I cursed as dull pain shot through the right side of my body. As I plowed through the doors leading into the stop, I winced at my mum’s reprimand about how I shouldn’t use swear words.

“Sorry for the wait,” I called, running my hands absently through my hair to make sure I didn’t look like a madwoman. There was only one person standing in the shop. “Welcome to Perks-You-Up Pastr- Professor McGonagall?!”

I stopped between the door I just came through and the front counter, not sure what to do. What was my Transfiguration teacher doing here?

“Hello, Miss Perks,” McGonagall said, turning her attention from the cakes in our front display to me. “I hope your holiday is going well.”

I opened my mouth to respond, but nothing came out. Then again, I didn’t know how to answer that. Since arriving home, I’d been keeping myself busy, whether it be baking, tending to the front store, or doing my homework into the late hours of the night. Anything to keep myself occupied.

Professor McGonagall continued to stare at me, waiting for a response.

I closed my gaping mouth, took in a deep breath, and tried again, asking the only question I could think of asking her.

“Professor, are you here to expel me?”

This was probably one of the rare times that McGonagall looked mildly surprised. Her eyes widened only a little before returning to normal size. “Not today,” she said evenly. “I am actually here to do some Christmas shopping. I usually see Mr. Perks minding the shop, though.”

“Dad’s off arranging for the necessary owls for tonight’s deliveries,” I said. “And Mum figures I’m now old enough to take care of the shop by myself.” I made a point of looking around the empty store. “A lot of our normal customers decided to just owl in their orders instead of picking out their treats personally. Hence the reason why Dad is still out and I’m up here just two days until Christmas.”

“Yes, I’ve heard business has been slow here for quite some time.”

McGonagall didn’t say anything else. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do now either. Maybe I should pretend to be my mum. “Uh, feel free to look around and, uh, shop.” I waved my arms out to indicate the whole store. “Just good luck in competing with other customers. I hope they won’t get in your way!”

“Actually, I already know what I need.” She pulled out a small bit of parchment. “Your father usually retrieves these for me.”

“Let’s see it then.” I took the list. Wow, there were a lot of pies. I decided to start at the top of the list, with a lemon meringue pie (I wanted some) and worked all the way down to a fruitcake (she could have taken our entire supply for all I cared).

It felt strange, to say the least, to take money from my professor. I had to remind myself that we were in my mum's shop and not in school.

“Thank you for your help, Miss Perks,” McGonagall said. There must have been a dozen boxes filled with pies, biscuits, and muffins. I didn’t know how she would carry them back to the castle without help until I saw her take out her wand.

“No problem,” I said, closing the register with a soft clink. “And I’m sure my mum appreciates the business.”

“Speaking of your mum,” McGonagall said slowly, “do you think you can call her out? I would like to speak with her.”

I felt all the color drain out of my face, leaving me feeling like I had been left out in the cold all night.

“I don’t plan to expel you,” McGonagall said, reading me easily.

The door behind her opened, announcing the arrival of another person.

“Dad!” I said. I felt my color return. While he and my teacher were about the same age, Dad stood taller than her by half a head. Even though I knew I was in no danger, his presence still comforted me.

“Hi, little girl.” Dad turned his smile from me to Professor McGonagall. “Minerva! Always a pleasure!” Dad took off his right glove and offered his hand to her.

“Kevin.” She shook my dad’s hand politely. “I was just wondering if I could see Anna for a moment.”

As if on cue, the entire shop shook. Bright purple smoke seeped through the cracks of the door leading into the kitchen in back.

“Maybe her tenth try will be the charm,” I said weakly. I didn’t really want to go in back now.

“Sorry,” Dad apologized to McGonagall, “Anna’s been working on a new recipe for the last few days. You wouldn’t want to meet her after she’s failed nine times in a row.”

“I know I don’t want to go back there first,” I said brightly. I then fluttered my eyes up at Dad, hoping he would get the message.

He sighed reluctantly. “Very well. Happy Christmas, Minerva.” When Dad opened the doors, the purple smoke spilled into the room. It formed into a thin layer around our ankles.

I went to the front of the shop and pushed the door open with my back, letting the smoke dissipate more until it was nearly gone. Unfortunately, because it was winter and there was snow on the ground, I started shivering instantly. “Merry Christmas, Professor,” I said, trying to keep my chattering teeth silent. “Don’t worry about the smoke, it’s harmless.”

After McGonagall left with her purchases floating along ahead of her, I added, “I hope,” under my breath.

The streets of Hogsmeade looked deserted. It was doubtful that anyone would come along any time soon. I was the only sign of life. I just hoped the purple smoke would clear out before I turned blue myself.

It took a few minutes for the inside of the shop to look clear. Teeth chattering, I finally closed the door. Considered for a moment. Then flipped the sign to display the word ‘Closed.’ I knew from the past few days that no one would come and be disappointed (Professor McGonagall had been a surprise). I took a step back and looked straight at the door.

Sirius Black stared back at me, silently screaming at the camera for his mug shot in Azkaban prison.

“No, don’t,” I told myself, locking the door and turning away from the madman and towards the kitchen. “Stay busy, remember?” I told myself. “Just keep yourself busy with other things and you won’t make yourself throw up again.” But already, the lunch I had just an hour ago was churning in my stomach. “No, stop it! Let’s check on Mum and Dad. My real parents. The ones that love me. That’s all that matters, remember?” Maybe if I said it often enough, I could forget about my biological parents and the insanity that came along with their true identities.

With a quick shake of the head, I pushed those nausea-inducing thoughts away and moved towards the kitchen, looking for something useful to do. I put on a smile, forcing myself to move on.

And I was nearly hit by a flying mixing bowl. I ducked just in time, the metal object smacking into the doorframe and crashing to the floor. I jumped again just from the banging sound alone.

“Yikes,” I muttered, looking around the room. “Looks like something besides a tasty treat exploded in here. Hey, if I open my own pastry shop when I get older, can I call it Tasty Treats?”

“Sally-Anne, not now,” Dad said grimly.

I caught sight of Mum and my smile dimmed, realizing that jokes were not a good idea. Mum sat on the floor in front of the oven she had been working over, raw dough and flower splattered over her robes. Broken eggs littered the ground, the yolks oozing from their shells and all across the floor. Bits of what I could only hope was chocolate had melted in her hair, which had escaped her normally tidy bun.

“It’s not working,” Mum whispered, her voice soft and quivering. “Why isn’t it working?”

“You’re just making new treats,” I said, grabbing a broom and shuffling some of the mess away. All I ended up doing was coating the broom with egg yolks, flour, and sugar. “It’s not the end of the world.”

“It shouldn’t be this hard for me to make these blasted pastries!” Mum snapped. Then, as if the outburst was too much for her, she bowed her head forward and sobbed softly.

“Anna,” Dad whispered, kneeling onto the floor. I cringed as I heard more egg shells break under his knees. “You’re too stressed. Maybe if you take a few days off-”

“Dad’s right,” I said brightly. “You’ve already baked most of the orders anyway. I can make whatever else is needed, and Dad can arrange for them to be shipped out tonight or Christmas Eve. Just take a few days off and-”

“No.” Mum raised her head and looked at Dad, her tears drying. “That’s sweet, but I’ll only drive myself mad if I do nothing for even a day. There will be time to relax once Christmas is over. Kevin, help me up please. I need to figure out what I’ve been doing wrong. Sally-Anne, can you clean up the kitchen?”

“Can’t you or Dad do it?” I turn the broom upside down, showing off the bristles. “I’d only be able to spread around the mess. Unless you want to buy extra-strong insect repelling potions come spring.”

“I guess I’ll do it,” Dad said, shaking his head in mock disappointment at me for not doing a chore. “But first I need to figure out how to get your mother up-”

“Use a levitation spell on me and you’re sleeping downstairs until New Year’s,” Mum threatened lightly, some of her positive spirit returning.

“Wouldn’t dream of using magic on you,” Dad said. He took hold of her outstretched hands and pulled her to her feet easily. I couldn’t help thinking that the act was impressive for a man in his seventies. I wondered if Muggles his age had as much strength as him. “Besides,” he said, lowering his voice, “I used my natural magic on you when we first met, remember?”

“Ah, yes, how could I forget?” Mum giggled.

“Dad, make sure you’re ready to vanish vomit when you get around to that cleaning spell,” I warned sarcastically. “I’m starting to think I might be suffering from occasional bulimia.”

“To be continued in January,” Dad sighed. He gave Mum a quick kiss before getting started on cleaning the tragedy that used to be our kitchen.

Mum had me fetch her a muffin from the front of the shop, then spent the next ten minutes telling Dad and me about her previous eight disasters. I stopped paying attention after the second explosion.

Instead, I deliberately focused my mind on making a castle out of pots, pans, and a million cooking utensils. Yes, I know I’m thirteen. But I wanted to look busy, and getting started on a batch of brownies seemed like too much work.

“Maybe it’s not your approach, but the very ingredients itself?”

Dad’s question found its way into my head just as I was using a small rolling pin as a drawbridge.

“What do you mean?” Mum’s voice didn’t sound upset anymore. Then again, she had eaten half a tray of mini-muffins. They were from the same batch that I made just before running to the front of the shop to take care of McGonagall.

Dad approached Mum, the kitchen now sparkling clean. “You’ve worked with the same ingredients,” Dad said. “Measured them differently, but what if one part is causing your new creation to fail? No matter what you try or how hard you work, your new pastry will end in-” He paused, looking around at where the mess used to be. “Well, I’d have to clean up again. And I’m not saying that you do this tonight, but think about it. Go back to the beginning, look at what you’re adding. Or maybe what you’re missing.”

Mum looked at Dad, thinking about his words.

“Kevin,” she said sweetly (perhaps a little too sweetly), “I have been doing just that!” Luckily, she still laughed. “We’ll call it a night for the shop. No one’s been coming in.”

“We have the delivery forms to prove it,” Dad agreed. He picked up a roll of parchment. “How about we go over these together? Madam Kole said she’d send over the owls at three o’clock. And you, little girl-” Dad raised his voice to get my attention. When I looked back at him, I half expected him to scold me for playing with Mum’s equipment. Instead, “I expect you to do some of your homework. And do it well! Your Mum and I don’t want to see you until supper.”

“Unless you have a question about your homework,” Mum added. She looked up at Dad. “We don’t want her to think we don’t want her around.”

“Don’t worry, Mum, I can feel your love for me.” I walked over to them and started a group hug between the three of us. When I released them, I added, “I can also feel that you’d rather get pastry order forms from my teachers, not disciplinary notices.”

“That’s my girl.” Dad patted my head. “Now clean up your mess down here before heading up. We don’t want your- whatever that is- to crash in the middle of the night. That’s all we need, dementors investigating our shop because of an odd noise.”

Mum and Dad headed upstairs a full two hours before sunset. Sure, it was only approaching two o’clock in the afternoon, but what did you expect two days after the shortest day of the year? Before I headed upstairs myself, I went to the front of the shop to look out the window. No one walked the streets. Even Professor’s McGonagall’s footprints had been blown away by the winter weather outside.

“Yeah, you’d have to be insane to wander the streets at a time like this.” I glanced down at the wanted poster on the door again. “And I hope you get caught!” I said, poking my finger at the man’s nose.

In my room, I really did try to start my homework. Mum and Dad’s voices wafted in from the kitchen, no doubt busy with organizing the order forms and figuring out how to get the owls in and out as quickly as possible. Dad was better at the paperwork. To me, it just looked like adult version of homework.

But while I tried to figure out which Goblin rebellion or Giant war I was supposed to be reading about, the words Dad said to Mum about her newest pastry idea circled around my mind. I decided to give up on homework for that night when my essay became a drawing of a goblin and a giant at a party with cone hats and eating slices of cake.

Go back to the beginning, look at what you’re adding. Or maybe what you’re missing.

The beginning. What’s missing. What started my family curse? Why can’t I focus by myself anymore without thinking back to it? How can I fix this without just becoming another one of Benjamin’s victim?

“Oh my god!” I pushed myself away from my desk. Only then did I realize that I was balanced on two legs of my chair. I toppled from my seat and landed on the floor.

“Sally-Anne, are you all right?” Mum’s voice echoed out from the kitchen.

“Yeah,” I shouted back. I stood up and rubbed the back of my head. It felt a little tender. “Just fell off my chair!”

“We gave you one with four legs, sweetie!” Mum yelled back. “Please use all of them!”

“Okay, okay!” But I didn’t sit down again. I couldn’t. A new idea had penetrated my brain. It made me jumpy, nervous. It was so genius, I knew that I had to share it with someone before I forgot.

I grabbed my winter cloak and tucked my wand inside. I might be underage, but with dementors and a murderer on the loose, I wasn’t going to leave myself defenseless.

I was out of my room not even a minute after falling out of my chair. “Bye, Mum! Bye, Dad! I’m going out!” I got to the stairs and started running down them.

“Whoa, whoa!” Dad stood as I turned to look back up to the kitchen. “Who said you could go out?”

“There’s at least another hour and a half before sunset,” I said, bouncing on my toes as I spoke. “I need to get out of here! No offense, but walking back and forth between the front of the store and the kitchen isn’t enough for me. Please, oh please, just let me go out!” I pulled out my wand. “If I come across anything or anyone dangerous, I won’t be defenseless!”

Dad looked down at Mum for a moment, then back at me. “I want you back before three thirty,” he told me. “And don’t talk to strangers or do unnecessary magic! We don’t want you getting into trouble.”

“Yeah, yeah, got it, bye!” I couldn’t waste time listening to my parents’ safety rules. I’ve heard it all before anyway. What was important was that I get into Honeydukes undetected.

Hogsmeade was like a ghost town. Except that there weren’t really any ghosts floating around. Half the shops I ran past looked closed. Honeydukes was one of the exceptions, though no one was inside the shop.

But I didn’t go through the front door. I slipped in the back. Took the secret passage through the basement. Ran hard and fast through the tunnel, using my wand to light the way. Yes, I knew I was breaking the law by using my wand for light. But it would take me hours to stumble through the tunnel in the dark. Besides, Hogsmeade and Hogwarts were so magical anyway that I doubted the Ministry could detect one small spell. A few students were even staying at school during the holiday, so my magic shouldn’t register.

“Why am I back at school?” I asked myself rhetorically as I peeked out from behind the one-eyed witch statue’s hump. “I must be mental.” I paused. “My imaginary friend hasn’t even appeared before me yet and I’m still talking to myself. Yes, I am mental. I am also State the Obvious Girl! Shutting up now.”

No Filch, no professors, no ghosts, and no Peeves. My way was clear. I had about forty minutes to get home before my parents would start worrying about me. And I had about an hour until I would start worrying about myself. I only hoped a certain Defense Against the Dark Arts professor didn’t go home for the holidays.

I probably should have thought about that before deciding to sneak into Hogwarts.

I also probably should have thought of how I was going to explain my presence in the school before I knocked on Professor Lupin’s office door.

Oops, too late. Lupin opened the door, looking a bit paler than usual. His eyebrows instantly shot up as he realized who I was.

“Hi, Professor!” I smiled, doing my best to look like everything was normal. “How are you?”

“What are you doing here?” Lupin asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be at home?”

“Yeah, but I live in Hogsmeade,” I said. “I walked over.” Walked, ran, what difference did it make? “May I come in, Professor? I-” I looked around. No one was in the classroom and I couldn’t hear anyone walking out in the halls. “I had a spark of inspiration about an hour ago that I had to share.”

Lupin pressed his lips together. He didn’t look too keen about the idea. But he eventually opened the door and let me inside.

“Do your parents know you’re here?” Lupin asked.

“If you’re talking about the Perks, then they think I’m just wandering the streets of the village before sunset. If you’re talking about my biological parents, then my mother is actually dead and can’t give an opinion and my fath-” I hesitated. I didn’t want to share my suspicions about who I thought he was. If Lupin already knew, then I didn’t want confirmation. If he didn’t know, I didn’t want to freak him out more than necessary. “Short answer: no. No one knows I’m here but you.”

“But why did you come to me?” Lupin asked. He walked around to stand behind his desk, the afternoon sunlight hiding the flecks of grey in his hair.

“You already know about Benjamin,” I said, getting excited now. The idea I just had was still strong in my mind. “You said you tried to help Marta Kulinski break the curse, that it exists in my blood now.”

Lupin nodded. He looked around, away from my gaze.

“I’m guessing that you couldn’t find any counter-curse,” I continued, prompting him to say more.

“Er . . .” Lupin looked uncomfortable to speak.

“Professor, please!” I pleaded. “Look, I haven’t seen Benjamin in days, if that’s what you’re worried about! The last time we spoke, I was just overwhelmed. Nothing could surprise me now.”

I waited for what felt like an entire minute. That was probably the longest sixty seconds of my life. What if Lupin decided not to help me? What if he couldn’t? What if I ran out of time waiting for him to make up his mind and I couldn’t get home before the dementor patrols?

“All right. I’ll help you.”

I almost thought I imagined him saying that. “Really?” I asked, my voice squeaking in joy.

Lupin nodded. “Marta wanted you to live a happy, care-free life. She didn’t want you burdened with the curse like she was. But seeing how you already know and I didn’t get directly involved until just now, I think it best that I help in any way I can.”

“Oh, thank you!” I clapped my hands together. “So, what did you and Marta try to do to break the curse?”

Lupin shook his head, which made my happiness fade for a moment. “We didn’t even know it was in her blood at first. We thought it was something else. Benjamin tricked us into thinking we had destroyed his true source. He then said or did something to Marta, because just a few weeks after we thought we were rid of him, Marta . . .” A touch of pink colored his cheeks. “Uh, I really shouldn’t share this part of what happened-”

“I know you dated my mother,” I said. “I got a letter from Erin Sanderson. She said you two were a couple for a while. Did Benjamin cause you to break up?”

“Yes.” Just a short answer.

I sighed. “Professor, it’s okay. You’re not going to offend me. So, Benjamin didn’t want you to date my mum. Why?”

“I’m not a Pureblood,” Lupin said, the blush still slightly visible on his face. “Anyway, I figured that Benjamin must reside in her pure blood. And now in your pure blood as well. But I’ve been looking for a way to break blood curses for sixteen years now.”

“Speaking of blood,” I said, “that brings me to my idea. You apparently haven’t found anything to cure me.”

Lupin shook his head. “If I had, I would have said something to you much earlier. Or at the very least told you about the cure when you stayed after class the other day.”

“Well, it’s probably because the cure for my curse doesn’t exist anymore,” I said, now getting into the reason why I was back in school during a holiday. “Benjamin, the real one anyway, lived nearly a thousand years ago. There might have been dark spells and curses and the like in existence back then, but the people who knew about them died out long ago, taking the knowledge with them. With the loss of the spells and curses, there was a loss of the counter-spells and counter-curses as well. With me so far?”

“Yes, I follow,” Lupin said. “I think a few of the ghosts here are nearly as old, but I doubt they would be able to help-”

I shook my head. “My dad said something earlier to my mum about baking. We have to go back to the beginning to see what’s missing.”

“Time travel?” Lupin asked, his eyebrows shooting up. “The only time travel I know of has a five hour limit. Otherwise, one risks destroying themselves.”

“Time travel?” I echoed him. I hadn’t even considered the idea. “No, I didn’t even think of that. I didn’t think something like that was possible. Actually-” I turned my right hand over to expose my wrist. Or more importantly, to show off the blood vessels visible through my skin. “Benjamin exists here, right?”

“Yes. I think we established that.”

“Just hear me out. Benjamin is in here. He was also in my mother’s blood. And in my grandmother’s blood. And my great-grandmother’s. Long story short, I’m the forty-seventh generation to have Benjamin in my blood.”

“Yes,” Lupin said, though it came out much slower as he thought about my concept.

“That means I inherited the cursed blood of all those ancestors,” I continued. “All the way back to the first person Benjamin Gaunt, that was his real name, right, cursed.” I dug into my robes and pulled out the folded list Lupin had sent me anonymously weeks and weeks ago. “Right down here. Marta Pontem.”

I watched Lupin as he considered in my idea. He looked doubtful. Then again, I was trying to teach something to my Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. How often did that happen? But finally, the confused haze over his eyes cleared. “I think I underst-”

NO!

“Eep!” I jumped forward and spun.

Benjamin stood directly behind me, his eyes wide and furious, his complexion paler than Lupin’s. His nostrils flared as he breathed hard.

Stop this useless quest!” he yelled at me. “Just accept your fate!

“Benjamin’s here, professor,” I said, summoning my Gryffindor courage. “He’s looking just as evil as he did when we had our last chat.”

Don’t you get it?!” Benjamin demanded, stalking forward and taking hold of my arms. His iron grip kept me rooted in place. I started to lose feeling in my fingertips.

“Sally-Anne, what’s happening?” Lupin withdrew his wand and pointing it at Benjamin. Actually, any curse would just skim off Benjamin’s back if he were a solid being. I had to remind myself that I was the only one who could see him.

“Benjamin has me in a terribly tight grip. Nothing to worry about.” My voice sounded calmer than I felt. Then again, I could only hope I could keep my lunch down. “I think I’m on to something just now. Why else would he appear and tell me to stop?”

You silly little girl!” Benjamin shook me slightly, though not enough to churn my now-upset stomach too badly. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I will do whatever is necessary to keep myself in existence!

“Isn’t a thousand years too long of a life?” I asked. I forced myself to look at Lupin. I tried to smile, but it felt more like a grimace. “So, you think my idea might work? Channel the part of Marta Pontem inside of me and see if she knows what Benjamin Gaunt might have-?”

Don’t!” Benjamin snapped. “And stop talking to him!

“Why should I?” I asked. “He’s my Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. You’re a curse. And he’s known about you longer than I’ve existed! If Professor Lupin can’t help me, then no one could.”

You’re wrong. I will not allow you to associate with a . . . with a . . .” Benjamin hesitated.

“With a what?” I asked. “My mother’s old boyfriend?”

Benjamin turned to face Lupin, a look of pure hatred written across his face. His lips trembled. He took a deep breath. When he spoke, he called out only one word:

WEREWOLF!

I felt like someone set off a million firecrackers in front of my face. There was a blindingly white flash of light, paired with an enormous explosion of deafening sound. I stumbled backwards for a moment, frightened when I thought I was deaf and blind. The giant dots in front of my eyes soon started to fade.

“Benjamin?” I asked.

But he was gone.

I then looked to Professor Lupin.

He looked as white as a corpse.

“Did you see that?” I asked him.

Lupin began panting. I then realized that he must have been holding his breath. Half a minute went by before he nodded.

“Wait, so Benjamin was able to make himself known in the real world, and not just through my eyes?” When Lupin remained still, I asked, “Are you okay, professor?”

“Did . . . Did you hear what Benjamin said?” I could barely hear Lupin’s voice.

“He said ‘werewolf,’” I answered. “And he was looking at you.” I hesitated. “Wait, are you a werewolf?”

Lupin nodded once. “I would understand,” he said slowly, “if you don’t want to speak with me anymore-”

“In all honesty, sir,” I interrupted him, “I only skimmed the chapter about werewolves, but I know that they only turn into moon-worshiping wolves once a month during the night of the full moon. I think my curse is a little worse than yours.”

“You’re not afraid of me?” Lupin asked softly.

“No.” Honestly, it’s not like anyone went missing under his watch as Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Unlike last year’s excitement. A new question formed in my mind. “Did my mother know?”

“Yes. After she told me about Benjamin, I told her about my lycanthropy.”

I just looked at him. I couldn’t even try to repeat that last word, let alone know its meeting.

“Lycanthropy,” Lupin repeated, his voice going back to as if he were giving out definitions in class. “The term that describes someone who transforms into a werewolf during the full moon.”

“That makes no sense. Couldn’t you just call it ‘werewolfism’ or something?”

Lupin’s lips hinted at a possible smile. “You aren’t acting like normal people who learn of my condition.”

This made me smile for real. “I’m not a normal person,” I said. “Besides, when I have a thousand-year old curse of my own that has a consciousness and will of its own, nothing else seems as scary.” I looked around the office again. “What happened to Benjamin anyway?”

“He probably used too much power to make himself heard by me,” Lupin said. “You may have a few days holiday from him.”

“Merry Christmas to me then!” I cheered.

I then looked past Lupin and out the window over his shoulder. The sun was just at the horizon, starting its daily descent to the west.

“Oops!” I checked my watch. “It’s three thirty-five! My parents are going to kill me!” I backed up to the door of Lupin’s office. “I have to get back home before sunset. I don’t want the dementors to get me. But professor, think about what I suggested. I’m going to check over my mum’s old Hogwarts books during the holiday.” I opened the door. “When the new term starts, I’ll try to have a plan ready, and you can check to see if it’s possible!”

“And your assigned homework!” Lupin reminded me. “Don’t forget to do your regular homework first!”

“Thanks, Professor!”

I bolted through the school and the secret passage back to Hogsmeade faster than I had ever moved before. This new idea, this brilliant plan, lifted my spirits so much, I felt like I could have flown by sheer willpower alone.

 




 

A/N: I’m so terribly sorry for the nearly two month delay! I know that making excuses is not even an excuse for being gone for so long, but here’s what happened in case you’re the tiniest bit curious:

Draft 1: My original plan had Sally-Anne going to Hogsmeade with her friends for the Christmas visit. But it felt too much like I was repeating Chapter 5. And half way through writing it, I got stuck. My characters didn’t seem to want to move after a certain point.

Plot Outline: Looking for inspiration to move onward, I looked at the outline I had been following and realized that I didn’t have enough time to explain everything I wanted to get out. After reworking it a bit, I ended up adding four chapters!

Draft 2: I pushed back the starting events to the train ride home. It was going fine, but when I wanted to push the plot forward, I felt like I wrote myself into a corner. I decided to skip ahead of that scene to the next one, which eventually lead to-

Draft 3: The story you have before you! Sadly, I couldn’t fit in any of Sally-Anne interacting with her friends, but I did move the plot forward some. And what I didn’t use in the previous drafts will be mentioned somewhat in the next chapter (I think).

And so that’s the long and boring story of what went into the creation of the chapter before you! Now that I’ve posted an update, I feel worthy enough to allow myself to indulge in those wonderful reviews some of you have left for me. Thank you everyone for your patience and for sticking with me for this long!


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My Not-So-Imaginary Fiend: XII: Answers Where Least Expected

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