Tackling the Boggart
Sirius sat in an empty compartment on the Hogwarts Express, gazing out the window at the students who were saying goodbye to their parents. Sirius had not even bothered; his parents were too wrapped up in Regulus to care. Sirius may have been the Black Family heir, but Regulus was the Black Family prince. He had been given a new broomstick, a Silver Arrows like James’s, so he could try out for Slytherin’s house team. If Sirius had even asked, he probably would have been laughed at. He managed to slip by his folks, unnoticed, onto the train and left to search out a vacant compartment for when his friends arrived. He had not seen James or Peter since he left the Potters, and he had not seen Remus at all.
He yawned widely and glanced at the door, hoping one of the three would suddenly materialize. He had to admit, he was very much looking forward to his third year. Third year students were permitted to visit the village of Hogsmeade on designated weekends. He had been there only a few times and never really had time to look at the shops he wanted to look at. He had gone into Honeydukes when he went with James and Peter the year before, but they were on a condensed time schedule. Now they were at their leisure. He couldn’t wait to get inside Zonko’s Joke Shop. He had discussed it with James and Peter and they had come to the conclusion that there would not be a quiet moment left in the castle once they were allowed entrance into Zonko’s. The Three Broomsticks was another place he was looking forward to visiting. It was basically the hangout for Hogwarts students who weren’t willing to go into the Hog’s Head, or did not want to be amongst the lovesick couples in Madam Puddifoot’s.
Yes, third year already seemed like it was going to be one of the best years at Hogwarts. He got to start his new classes and learn more interesting topics in his classes. Muggle Studies shouldn’t be too hard, and he wanted to see what creatures they would be working with in Care of Magical Creatures. Transfiguration was going to be extremely helpful; he knew this was the year when they would learn about Animagi. Defence Against the Dark Arts was debatable. If they had a good teacher it would be worthwhile. If they had a repeat of first year, there was no point in going to class. He wondered what had ever happened to Professor Jones. He had read the papers countless times to see if he could find anything. It seemed his former professor had not yet succumbed to the illness that was plaguing him.
He was broken out of his reverie by the compartment door sliding open. Remus stepped over the threshold, offered Sirius a small, tired smile, stowed his trunk away, and sat down. Sirius couldn’t imagine why his friend looked so tired; the full moon had been weeks ago. Nevertheless, he greeted Remus happily.
“Hey, how’ve you been?”
“Fine,” Remus replied vaguely, cracking his knuckles noisily.
“How was your summer?” The moment the question fell off his lips, Sirius knew it was stupid. James had said that Remus was having problems at home. How else was his summer supposed to be except bad?
Remus, however, did not seem to really register the question. “Good.”
“Is everything okay? At your house, I mean?”
Remus finally seemed to come to reality. “Not really.”
“Are your parents okay?” Sirius knew that if something ever happened to Remus’s parents, he would be devastated.
“Oh, they’re okay.” He shifted in his seat. “I mean, they’re not sick or anything. Just upset… worried.”
About what, Sirius did not find out, as James and Peter chose that moment to appear. They both greeted their friends merrily, James sitting down next to Sirius and Peter beside Remus.
“Hey,” they said together.
“Hi,” Sirius said, while Remus nodded. “So, what happened?” Sirius asked, turning back to Remus.
Remus looked uncomfortable, but answered anyhow. “My grandparents… they got really sick earlier this summer, that was why I couldn’t come and visit you three at James’s.”
“What are they sick with?” James questioned worriedly.
“We’re not exactly sure what’s wrong with my grandpa and my grandma has some Muggle disease called Cancer.” He glanced up from his lap and saw his friends looked shocked – both his grandparents at the same time? “My parents and I were back and forth between St. Mungo’s and some Muggle hospital in London.”
“I’m sorry, mate,” Peter said, unsure of what else he could say.
“Don’t be, Pete. You’re not the reason they’re sick.” He slouched back in his seat and yawned. He hadn’t gotten much sleep the entire summer. Back and forth between hospitals, two violent transformations that had him in bed for three days after, how was he to get any rest? Then he was also worried about his father. His dad and grandparents had many disagreements – most of them about Remus – but he loved them and couldn’t bear the thought of anything bad happening to them. He and his mother had spent a good amount of time trying to cheer his father up, to no avail.
Sirius bit his bottom lip, thinking for a moment before breaking the uncomfortable silence that had fallen. “Hogsmeade? Did you three gets your forms signed?”
“Yeah, the second I got it my mum signed it,” James replied. “I can’t wait to get in there.”
“It’s going to be wicked,” Peter said excitedly. “Going wherever we want without having to meet our parents.”
“When’s the first trip usually?” Remus asked; glad to have something new to think about.
“Probably around Halloween,” Sirius answered, shrugging. He didn’t care when it was, as long as he got to go. “They put up the notices in the common room. Don’t you remember seeing them?”
Remus shrugged. He never really paid attention to the notices that he did not need to know. So they had Hogsmeade to look forward to. This would be the first time during the school year he got to visit the village on a night that did not contain a full moon.
“You know, this is the first time we’re not going to be in all the same classes,” James said.
“It’s only one,” Peter reminded him. “Doesn’t make much of a difference.”
“Yeah, but still… Hey, I wonder what classes Evans is taking.”
“What do you care?” Sirius laughed. The last time he checked, Lily Evans hated James Potter’s very existence.
“I think she’s taking Care of Magical Creatures,” Remus said, recalling Lily mentioning it during one of their tutoring sessions. “And Muggle Studies.”
“Why on Earth would she be taking Muggle Studies? She’s a Muggle-born!”
Remus shrugged. “She wanted an easy class.” He remembered Lily laughing, saying the Muggle Studies would be no problem, one less class to study for. This was the reason he and his friends were taking Care of Magical Creatures. It didn’t require much hard work. He shifted again in his seat. “New Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher again.”
“Yeah, I wonder what’s going to happen to this one,” Sirius speculated.
“Maybe they’ll fall off a cliff,” James mused, feigning thoughtfulness.
“Does anyone know what even happen to Jones?” Peter asked. They had heard nothing of their former professor’s condition since Remus brought them the news of the man’s transfer to St. Mungo’s.
“Oh, yeah,” Remus said, suddenly remembering. “He… died, early in August.”
James’s, Sirius’s, and Peter’s mouths dropped open at this pronouncement. How could that be? They had not read it in the Daily Prophet and they were fairly certain that the papers would jump on the opportunity to report the death of a former Hogwarts professor. It seemed so strange that he died so suddenly. It was also odd that James had not heard the news before Remus did. His father worked at the hospital, after all.
James was the first to recover from the shock. “Do you know what he died of?”
“I don’t know… But, didn’t your father tell you? He must have known.”
“No, my dad didn’t say anything about it.”
Remus frowned. “We heard it when we were visiting my grandfather. The Healers were talking about it.”
“Did you see him at all?”
“No… we stuck mostly to my grandpa’s ward.”
As Sirius opened his mouth, undoubtedly to ask another question, he caught James’s eye and refrained from doing so. They strongly doubted Remus would want to be reminded of being in a hospital all summer. Instead, they sat in silence, thinking about the passing of their professor. It didn’t seem fair that a kind man like Professor Jones had to die, while a horrible man, Professor Crane coming to mind, could live. It was strange how the world operated.
“I hate Divination!”
“We told you it was going to be a joke.”
“But it’s just so… I don’t even know how to say how bad it is.”
“Did you really think you were going to find something in those tea leaves, Pete?”
“Shut up, James.”
The boys were sitting at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, just tucking into their lunch. The class before had been their electives, in which the four boys had been separated as they went to their own classes. Peter was currently ranting about how terrible Divination was, and thoroughly regretting that he did not listen to his friends’ warnings the previous year. They had heard from the older students that Divination was a class best left avoided.
Peter moodily stabbed at his stew, not realising there was no point in doing so. “How were your classes?”
“Muggle Studies is great, but weird. Muggles have to do everything the hard way,” Sirius said, looking awed.
“It’s not the hard way for them,” Remus said, looking up from his plate of steak and kidney pie. “Arithmancy is great.”
“What do you do?” Peter asked, hoping it wasn’t as interesting as Remus thought. Divination couldn’t have been the worst class in the school.
“Right now, we’re using the number and letter charts to find out what our Life Numbers are.” He looked at James. “How’s Ancient Runes?”
“Not bad,” James said, pulling the bowl of stew away from Peter. “Save some for the rest of us. You’re starting to act like Sirius.”
Sirius, whose plate was piled three feet high, looked away innocently. “Anyway, I can’t wait for Care of Magical Creatures.”
“What do you think Kettleburn’s going to do with us?” Remus asked, shifting through the books in his bag.
“Probably something huge… like Hippogriffs,” James joked.
“I think Hagrid would do that, not Kettleburn,” Sirius said, weeding through the massive amount of food on his plate. He picked out a sausage and stuffed it into his mouth. “Bud be don hab it umtil Bursday.”
“You know what’s sad?”
“What, James?” Peter asked, glaring angrily at his Divination book.
“I actually understood that.”
Sirius swallowed with great difficulty. “What do we have next?”
Remus consulted his timetable. “Defence Against the Dark Arts.” He set the chart down. “That Handlin bloke didn’t look too bad.” The man had a friendly smile for the students when Professor Dumbledore introduced him. Professor Jones had done the same the previous year. Professor Crane only sneered at them. When they finished their lunch they headed to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom where they were joined by their fellow Gryffindor and Hufflepuff third years. Professor Handlin was sitting at his desk, reading, and looked up when his students entered.
“Good afternoon,” he said pleasantly. “Would you mind putting your books away? We will be heading to the dungeons.” The class exchanged curious looks; why would he be taking them there? This was Defence Against the Dark Arts, not Potions. Still, they packed up their books and followed Professor Handlin out of the room. The students whispered excitedly as they passed through the vacant corridors, down through the Entrance Hall and into the dungeons. Handlin did not take them towards Slughorn’s classroom; instead he veered off and brought them to a large encasement.
“What’s that?” Allison Abbot asked.
It was an elaborately designed case, decorated with slithering snakes and shimmering emeralds. Professor Handlin ran a hand along the side of it. “It’s a cabinet, but what that is, is not important. It’s what’s inside that we are concerned with.” And the cabinet shook violently. “Don’t be startled.”
“What’s inside?” Alice Gordon asked apprehensively.
“I think that’s something to worry about,” Sirius hissed in Remus’s ear. So did many other students. Peter was now giving the cabinet a wary look, as though it might attack at any moment. Allison Abbot also appeared to think that a Boggart gave sufficient worry. Some students, like Lily Evans, didn’t know what a Boggart was and, therefore, did not know what everyone was so scared of.
Professor Handlin rubbed his hands together and surveyed the class. “Now, Boggarts are shape shifters. They will take the shape of whatever frightens the person closest to it. It could turn into a giant snake… a banshee… anything that you may find terrifying. We have an advantage over this particular Boggart, as we are standing in a group. The Boggart will not be able to decide what shape it would assume. Who knows why this is an advantage?”
James’s hand shot up in the air.
“It’ll probably try to turn into more than one thing and that wouldn’t be very scary.”
“Exactly. Ten points to Gryffindor. In fact, should a Boggart attempt such a feat, it will turn into something quite amusing and that is the way we repel Boggarts. With laughter.” He raised his wand slightly. “Will you all repeat after me? Riddikulus.” The class repeated the incantation. “Very good. However, the incantation is not all you will need. You must think of whatever frightens you the most and turn it into something funny, something that will make you laugh. Will you all please do so right now?”
The class went quiet as every screwed their eyes shut, thinking rapidly for what they feared the most. It was rather obvious for many, their worst fears instantly coming to mind. Some, like James, had a little more difficulty, but managed to come to a decision in the end. When the class was ready, they fell to the back of the room while Handlin decided who he should call up first.
“Let’s see now… Sirius Black, why don’t you come up first?”
Sirius looked surprised at being called first, but strode to the front, determined. He faced the cabinet and Professor Handlin tapped the knob. The door burst open and out stepped a giant whose head scraped the ceiling as it crouched over. Sirius raised his wand. “Riddikulus!” There was a loud crack and the giant was now the size of a mouse. The class roared with laughter.
“Good job, Sirius,” Handlin commended. “Now the Boggart will turn its attention to the rest of us. Remus Lupin, come forward.”
Remus clapped Sirius on the shoulder as they passed. The Boggart rounded on Remus and with another loud crack the mouse disappeared and was replaced with a silvery orb hovering in mid air. The class watched as Remus stayed frozen for moments, before saying, “Riddikulus!” The orb disappeared and a white balloon deflated, flying around the classroom as the students laughed appreciatively.
“Wonderful!” Handlin laughed.
The Boggart became a banshee, wailing loudly. Crack. The banshee now had a clothespin attached to its mouth. Crack. The Boggart now became a sphinx, rearing its head. Crack. The sphinx was now a kitten, purring.
“It’s confused,” Handlin told the class. “James Potter, your turn.”
James, frowning slightly, stepped forward as Lily Evans returned to her place in line. Ever since he had been a small boy and had seen pictures of them, James had been terrified of Dementors, the guards of the wizard prison, Azkaban. He had never encountered one, and doubted he would be severely affected by them, but that did not stop him from being scared. The Boggart found James and with another crack it became a black, hooded figure.
The room went cold. James had an idea of what he was going to turn it into, but he couldn’t remember. His mind had gone foggy. What had it been? The Dementor drew closer to James, who stepped back slowly. The room was eerily quiet, so much so until Peter’s voice broke through.
Professor Handlin stepped in front of James and the Boggart turned on him instead. James did not linger to see what it turned into when it saw Handlin; he wanted to see why Peter had shouted. He didn’t see until Handlin cleared through the crowd of students.
“Don’t worry, he’ll be alright,” Handlin was saying, stooping down onto his knees. James peered around the professor and saw that Remus was slumped against the wall, his face a pasty white, seemingly coming out of a doze. “Move back,” Handlin said to the students. “Give him room to breathe.” He fished for something in his pocket. “Eat this.” Remus groggily took whatever it was Handlin had given him and bit off a small piece. “Come on, stand up now.” He helped Remus to his feet. “Let’s see… five points to everyone who fought the Boggart. Class dismissed.”
The class began dispersing, except for James, Sirius and Peter, who moved toward Remus instead of the exit of the dungeons. “What happened to you?” James asked concernedly.
“I don’t know,” Remus mumbled, his eyes wide, biting off another piece of the chocolate the professor had given him. “I heard things in my head and I think I passed out.”
“It was the Dementor,” Handlin said from behind them. “Even in Boggart form, it has the effects of a real one. They make people relive their worst memories. Some are affected more than others, depending on what has happened to them. It’s understandable why it affected you in such a way.” He peered closely at his student. “Are you alright?”
Remus nodded, staring down at the floor. “I’ll be fine.” He slung his book bag over his shoulder. “C’mon.”
Defence Against the Dark Arts was their last class of the day, so when they emerged into the Entrance Hall they saw flocks of students heading to the Great Hall for dinner. Remus, who was not hungry, turned away from the dining hall and headed for Gryffindor Tower. Sirius nodded James and Peter on, saying he would catch up with them later. James and Peter hesitated, but Sirius had already turned and followed Remus up to the common room. Remus covered ground fast and was already a good way ahead of Sirius. He probably wanted to avoid the questions of those who had seen him in Defence Against the Dark Arts.
Sirius emerged in the boys’ dormitory just as Frank was leaving to go down to dinner.
“Is he alright?” Frank whispered to Sirius.
“Yeah, he’ll be fine.” Sirius stepped aside, letting Frank through, and found Remus sitting on his bed, scrawling out a letter. His brow was furrowed and his hand moving oddly fast for someone who had just collapsed. “You okay?” Sirius asked, sitting down beside his friend.
Remus nodded, his writing now ceasing. “I just… needed to write to my dad.”
Sirius knew what Remus was telling his father; Mr. Lupin would want to know what happened. “Remus… what did you hear?”
Remus’s quill paused in mid-sentence. “Myself.”
“Yelling… I think it was the night I was bitten.” He finished the sentence in his letter and folded it. “I don’t ever want to hear that again. Once was enough.”
“Can’t blame you for that.” Remus knew that Sirius had followed him to the Shrieking Shack when they were trying to confirm that he was a werewolf. He had rarely ever seen him right after the transformation was over, not even when he had stayed at the Lupins’ over Christmas. He knew what the screaming was like; he knew why Remus would never want to hear it again.
“Everyone probably thinks I’m crazy, don’t they?”
“No, they were just worried.” Sirius chanced joking. “But if the Slytherins had been there…”
“Thank Merlin they weren’t.” He tied the folded letter together with some string he had been knotting around his fingers. “I’m going to go up to the Owlery.”
“I’m going down to dinner.” Sirius stood up, rubbing his growling stomach.
“How on Earth could you be hungry? You ate the entire table for lunch.”
“I have an iron stomach.”
“I heard that.”
“I meant you to.”
The boys separated as Sirius went down and Remus up. Remus was not hungry, and he doubted there would be any food left by the time Sirius got to it anyway. The chocolate had made him full and he didn’t feel like sitting in the Great Hall. News traveled fast in Hogwarts and it was only a matter of time before the wrong ears heard about what had happened in Handlin’s class. He could only imagine the looks on the Slytherins’ faces, soon they would all be wondering why Remus Lupin fainted in front of a Dementor. Sirius was right; it was a good thing the Slytherins had not actually been there.
The Owlery was filled with the incessant hooting of the owls as they slept or communicated in their language unknown to humans. He manoeuvered his way through the straw and droppings on the floor, searching for an owl to send his letter. At the far end of the Owlery was a Barn Owl, looking rather lonely and bored. Remus wove his way around to the owl, who readily held out his leg. The owl nipped his finger once the letter was attached and swept off into the late afternoon sky. Remus watched the owl as it became nothing more than a speck, and was broken out of his gaze by the door opening and closing.
“Oh, hullo, Remus.”
Lily was holding a colourful package, searching for an owl large enough to carry it. “My dad’s birthday is this weekend,” she explained. “I wanted to make sure it got home on time.”
“Happy birthday to your dad, then.”
Lily grinned. “He hates being reminded it’s his birthday. He hates ageing.” She spotted an appropriate owl high above in the rafters. She coaxed it down by producing a handful of food. “Are you feeling better?” she asked as she allowed the owl to peck the food out of her palm.
“Yeah, Handlin gave me something for it.”
“That was scary, what happened. Do you know why you… fainted?”
“Dementors… they make people relive their worst memories.” He hesitated, he wasn’t sure if he wanted her to know more than that. Lily, however, seemed to guess what was coming next.
“And sometimes they’re so bad no one can take it?”
Lily finished tying the package to the owl and sent him off. “At least you probably won’t be coming across any Dementors again,” she told him optimistically.
“Well, I’m going to go down to dinner, unless Sirius has eaten everything.”
Remus laughed. “He just went down, you don’t have a hope.”
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