Disclaimer: I am not J.K. Rowling, therefore I do not own any of the Harry Potter characters.
A/N: This is just a pretty weird piece I thought up while leafing through Prisoner of Azkaban, just a short story for me. This is set during the time in the book a day or so before Lupin teaches his first Defense Against the Dark Arts class at Hogwarts.
Oh, and I'm working on a longer Lupin fic too, so stay tune for that..... ^_^
It was a house elf who first reported it. Well, it wasn't really a report more than it was the poor elf running frantically down the hallways, screaming, "Monster! Big monster! Monster!!"
Remus Lupin was heading to his office at the time, and stopped the hysterical elf in its tracks. He quickly grabbed the house elf's shoulder as he dashed past him. Holding him steady, he said, "Whoa! Calm yourself there!"
The house elf jumped up and down as it struggled in his grasp, his wails of distress only growing louder. "Big! Fire! Very scared! Much- big- SCARY!" The last word was shouted at such a loud pitch that Lupin winced from the pain in his eardrums.
He tried his best to pacify poor creature. "Slow down, there's no monster out here now." he reasoned. "Now, what happened?"
"Monster! Big! Much scared!" The elf's oversized eyes blinked rapidly in fear as he tugged on the loose threads of the pillowcase he was wearing. A rare thing to see a house elf flustered in such a manner; the only other way one could be upset is if he displeased his master.
"Very big! Very scared!" He fidgeted some more and Lupin let him go, since holding him still wasn't helping.
"Do you want me to help get rid of this monster?" Lupin suggested sincerely, and the house elf paused in his ranting.
"Yes! Yes! Much so!" he squeaked in his high voice. "Finny be eternally grateful if you get rid of monster!"
"All right then," Lupin agreed. "Lead the way."
Finny nodded obediently and scampered down the hall on his stubby little legs. Lupin was led down the hall to where the staffroom was. The carved oak door was slightly ajar, as if someone had left there in a rush.
"T-there," Finny said shakily, pointing to the doorway.
Lupin took out his wand and slowly crept to the doorway. Looking through the narrow opening, he saw the crammed room, with its various chairs and small tables taking up most of the available space. At one end of the staffroom was a small counter and a cupboard where common spell ingredients were kept in case of an emergency. At the other end of the room was a towering, ancient wardrobe where some teachers kept their spare robes. The staffroom was completely empty, with not a soul to be seen.
He stepped back and addressed the house elf again. "Now what exactly did you see, Finny?" Lupin asked.
The house elf stuttered an unsure reply. "Very big," he repeated again, spreading both hands wide to express this point. "Lotsa heads with red eyes. Lotsa smoke and lotsa fire burn. Dragon monster." He shuddered to himself as he finished.
Lupin gestured to the doorway. "But I don't see anything in there."
"Of course you don't."
Both turned around in surprise to see Serverus Snape step out from one of the classrooms. "The idiot was scared out the little wit it had by a harmless boggart," Snape said smoothly. "It seems like one moved into the staffroom wardrobe."
"Oh really?" Lupin arched an eyebrow at the fellow professor. He and Snape were never on good terms, ever since Snape was convinced that Lupin tried to kill him in his wolf form years ago when they both went to Hogwarts as students.
"Saw it all," Snape said in a casual tone. "The elf was cleaning in there when he opened the wardrobe door. The boggart became a black hydra and scared the living daylights out of it." Snape chuckled to himself. "You should have seen it, Remus. That fool was tripping over his own feet in fleeing, screaming his head off like a crazed banshee."
"Only you would take pleasure in seeing fear in others." Lupin said haltingly, clenching his wand.
"Oh my, acting snappish are we? Tsk, tsk," Snape clicked his tongue in disapproval. "Well, you better go in there and get rid of that boggart then. You are the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, after all," he ended with a sneer in his voice. "Unless you need my assistance..."
"I'm perfectly capable of handling this on my own," Lupin replied stiffly. He suspected that Snape probably planted the boggart there on purpose, but didn't voice his opinion. Instead, he said to Finny, "I'll take care of the monster. It won't scare you again. Maybe you should head back to the kitchens, hmm?"
Finny nodded a bit too enthusiastically at this suggestion. "Oh, much thank yous to you, kind sir!" he cried, backing away down the hall. Then the house elf zoomed down the hallway and was gone in a blink of an eye.
Snape smirked at Lupin as he took his leave. "Have fun, Professor," he said tauntingly, with an exaggerated sarcasm towards Lupin's title. Snape always thought that he was more deserving of the job as Defense Against the Dark Arts. Well, Lupin would just have to prove him wrong. He could easily handle anything Snape could. It was only a boggart after all.
Lupin purposely ignored Snape's last comment and slipped wordlessly into the staffroom, closing the door behind him. He locked the door from the inside, so no one would disturb him while he removed the minor demon.
The temperature of the room was slightly cold; a preternatural sign that a spirit was present. The feeling was quite strong and Lupin wondered whether Snape was telling the truth that the creature was only a boggart. Yet a very experienced boggart could create an atmosphere that gave a person goosebumps, for it made scaring all the more easier if the person was already feeling uncomfortable.
Lupin approached the wardrobe at an angle, so that he wasn't exactly face-to-face with it. As he stepped closer, the wardrobe shook suddenly, as if some wild creature was trapped inside. A little roar emitted from the bowels of the wardrobe and Lupin took a double take on the situation. Snape could have actually put a live baby hydra in there instead of a boggart, setting a trap to get rid of him and take his job. Yet would Snape dare do such a thing that could cost him is own position?
There was only one way to find out. Lupin positioned himself by a large leather chair - a good place to duck if a hydra's flame should come roaring at him - and flourished his wand, casting a simple opening spell.
The double doors to the wardrobe flew open and sure enough, the large presence of the full moon loomed over him. "Riddikulus!" he said almost automatically, and the sound of a swift crack snapped the air as the boggart changed. The moon became a great sphere of green cheese, which fell out of the air and splattered on the staffroom floor. Yet instead of finishing it off, Lupin shoved the disfigured boggart back into the wardrobe with a wave of his wand and shut it tight.
A class one, that boggart was. Hardly something to batter an eye at. Lupin smiled ruefully to himself. If Snape thought that bogeyman could overpower him, then he was the fool. In fact, Lupin made a little mental note to himself to talk with Dumbledore about keeping this boggart for awhile longer before destroying it. This simple monster could serve as a nice starter lesson for his first class.
Yet... something bothered him. A boggart so weak finding its way to Hogwarts? The school naturally had several protections against dark magic and so something even as insignificant as a boggart couldn't have gotten past the defenses. Unless, the boggart was assisted by a parent in moving into its first lair. That would mean that another, stronger boggart was present...
The coldness in the room increased as Lupin realized that Snape did succeed in tricking him. He was now locked in a room with a parent boggart, who would probably be very angry at the mistreatment of its child. The little hairs on the back of Lupin's neck raised on end, as he felt a cold sweat start. He tried to steady himself, but the room started spinning. His heart was beating too fast, racing too much blood to the brain and back again. This wasn't natural responses Lupin felt in this predicament; they were magically induced by the stronger boggart. A boggart's aim was to increase the fear response in its victims, so that when it scared them, a reaction of shock, or even death, could be expected. That's why boggarts could be so frightening. And that was also why one should never be alone when confronting a boggart, a mistake that Lupin discovered all too late.
Lupin took several deep breaths, and put a hand to his wrist, keeping track of his heart rate. Too fast, too fast... the dizziness grew worse, and Lupin found himself stumbling over a chair and nearly falling to the floor. This fear response was great, greater than he had ever felt induced by a boggart.
His eyes turned to the shut wardrobe, now still since the weak boggart was controlled. Could the parent be in there as well? No. Boggarts usually did not share hiding spots and preferred as much isolation as possible. But then where..?
Lupin swerved around, his wand held so tight that his knuckles were strained white. Behind him, the cupboard door creaked on its rusty hinges. It was wide open.
"Hello Remus." A shockingly familiar voice.
He braced himself as best as he could and slowly turned around to confront the boggart. Lupin turned around to see himself staring right back at him.
"What?" Lupin gasped, confused. The boggart's induced fear response grew and Lupin fell on his knees, grasping with his free hand onto the side of the leather chair. He held his wand arm out in front of him, yet he couldn't cast the Riddikulus spell in defense. How could he make a parody of himself? What was there to be afraid of?
Yet his body reacted in the opposite fashion, and Lupin felt the horror shock creep over him, paralyzing him into place. His double grinned at him wickedly.
"A bit frightened, are we?" it asked calmly. Only the sound of Lupin's labored breathing was the response. Its smile grew wider.
Lupin struggled to talk. "W-why?" he asked in a strained voice. "I-I don't...understand..." He gasped loudly and folded his arms over his chest. Too fast, too fast, too fast... a sharp pain was felt in his chest. The boggart's power of fear control was causing his heart to overload. One shock and Lupin could die of a heart attack. He looked up at the boggart as a dull throbbing pain was felt up his left arm.
The boggart smiled. It was the exact image of Lupin himself, right down to the same robes. He even held a little wand in his hand, a perfect replica of Lupin's own. "You're not scared of yourself, but what you can become..." Its voice was light and airy and seemed to float in the air like rising steam.
"A-a wolf," Lupin said shakily, and felt his heart thud harder, sending the sharp pain through his chest.
"You misunderstand me, Remus.... You can become more than a wolf..." His double lifted the sleeve of his arm to reveal a intricate tattoo of a cobra entwined around a bare skull. The Dark Mark. "So much more.."
"No." Lupin shook his head roughly. "Never," he spat through clenched teeth. The dull painful feeling spread from his left arm and chest to cover his entire body. His grating breath grew more pressured as the sweat poured from his forehead. The first symptoms of heart failure.
"Why do you think your soul changes so dramatically every time the full moon comes? Do you really think its all the wolf's savagery?" the boggart continued in its sickeningly steady tone. "The wolf form isn't an excuse, Remus, it's an outlet."
"Lies..." Lupin growled. He leaned against the chair weakly, feeling his strength being drained out as the pain grew. Faster and faster and faster.... his heart, oh God, his heart... it was going to stop, wasn't it?
"Admit it. How many poor, innocent animals did you kill during the last full moon? A few dozen rabbits, a couple of deer. Like the taste of blood on your tongue, Remus? Like the thrill of letting life slip from beneath your jaws?"
"No!" Lupin tried lifting his head to look at the boggart in the eye, but the pain of that act was all too much. The boggart kneeled down and lifted up Lupin's chin, so that they were eye-to-eye. It was like looking into a mirror, the illusion was so perfect.
"You know it's true." A deadly whisper, paced and measured so that each syllable could be heard perfectly. "You love to kill. You love death. You love to cause pain and destruction and ruin. It's all inside there." The boggart lifted a finger and pressed it to the center of Lupin's chest. Lupin gasped in agony. "Locked away where no one can know it but you, every time the moon is full."
The boggart leaned in closer, so that its mouth was at Lupin's ear. And in a soft, dangerous voice it whispered, "You are evil, Remus. You are evil and damned just like any Death Eater. Just like Voldemort. And you welcome it, Remus, you welcome the darkness of it all."
Lupin stared at himself, his hazel eyes growing wide with disbelief and horror. Then his labored breath suddenly stopped. His eyes rolled up toward the back of his head and he slumped forward, hitting the floor. A few moments passed, and his limp body did not move. The boggart rose to its feet, grinning. So very few people knew Lupin's true fear. And now they'll never know.
Walking back to the cupboard, the boggart started change back to its real, shapeless form, thinking its work done. However, a small sound was heard behind it, accompanied by a strangled hiss.
With a noiseless screaming coming from the boggart's mouth, it changed instantly... into himself dressed up as Professor McGonagall. God, that was bad. On the floor, Lupin grinned to himself as he kept his wand pointed at the boggart.
"Riddikulus," he said again, with more strength in his voice.
The boggart changed into him in an all-out cross-dressing outfit, spiked heels and all.
"Riddikulus!" Lupin said louder. he felt his heart slow down as the boggart's fear attack was dissipating.
That was the worst - himself in lady's underwear. Now, that was a bit much. Lupin had to get his mind out of this state of thought!
"Riddikulus!" he cried, laughing out loud, evoking more rapid changes, shouting out the spell faster and faster as he tried to fluster the boggart on his own. He could feel his heart grow steadier and the pain recede from his body. The cold sweat was soon gone, and Lupin's cheeks flushed as he spell-casted and imagined himself in the oddest of situations. In doing so, Lupin tried to recall as many embarrassing situations he could think of to put the boggart in, and that not only weakened it, but made Lupin blush as well.
Finally, the last change - himself admitting his wild desire to be Snape's constant companion forever and ever - was too much. The boggart kneeled over and suddenly, exploded into a cloud of smoke and was gone. The boggart was defeated.
Lupin chuckled to himself and he wiped tears from his eyes. He was fighting for his life, true, but Lupin never realized how many awkward situations lurked in his imagination. It could almost be seen as disturbing.
Stepping out of the staffroom, Lupin whistled to himself as he walked down the hall. He never felt better in his entire life. From the shadows, Snape appeared, as if he was waiting for him. He had a stormy look on his face. Snape had been expecting Lupin to run out of the room in hysterics, not strolling out merrily.
"So, how did it go?" he asked bitterly.
"Simply wonderful." Lupin grinned at Snape. "It was only a boggart, Serverus. Nothing that I couldn't handle."
Snape cursed under his breath. "Did you check the cupboard?" Snape asked pointedly.
Lupin stopped in his tracks. "Well, yes I did," he said cheerfully. "And you should have seen the surprise that awaited me there! Now," Lupin put an arm around Snape's shoulder and pulled him off to the side of the hall. "Don't you find it odd," he said speculatively, "that such a high-class boggart could have appeared on school grounds? A parent and its child. Strange, but I thought Hogwart's protection spells were better than that." Lupin put a hand to his chin in thought.
"Do you think," he mused, "that someone could have actually introduced such dangerous creatures on school grounds and deliberately planted them in the staffroom?" He clicked his tongue. "Tsk, tsk, tsk. Someone could easily lose their job for something like that."
Snape quickly jumped away from Lupin, his face bright red. "You wouldn't..." he stuttered.
"Another stunt like that and I just might," Lupin winked at his old enemy. "So you just might be careful where you hide those boggarts, eh?" Then he continued walking past Snape, whistling joyfully as other teacher quickly backed off and walked in the other direction.
Yes, it was only a boggart, Lupin thought to himself. Playing with my fears....
However, as soon as Snape left, Lupin pulled up the sleeve of his arm. No Dark Mark, no evil, no nothing. Lupin sighed in relief and headed to Dumbledore's office. Whether he would ever report that boggart incident to the headmaster he didn't know, but nevertheless, he knew that he would have to save that class one boggart for his students.
Learning how to defend yourself from your fears can be a very useful thing indeed.