Apparently there are people out there that feel since I've stopped updating the original version of this series, it's okay for them to take my hard work, change characters and one or two words, and slap their name on it. This is not okay, and if you do indeed find any stories like this, please refrain from flaming them and inform me right away. I will deal with them personally.
That said, enjoy the latest chapter.
CHAPTER FIVE – BOGGARTS AND TALONS
September went on rather uneventfully. It was the usual in their normal classes, with the exception of Defense Against the Dark Arts. Professor Lupin was definitely competent enough – he did not stutter or constantly point out pictures of himself – but he unfortunately had to catch them up on the basics of the class to make up for the incompetence of the two teachers they had previously. This made many of the classes drawn out, and it was easy to see the professor getting frustrated over things they should have known already.
Out of their new elective classes, Ancient Egyptian Magic was easily the hardest. Bobassa would literally pile the homework on them, and it was a miracle if they came out of his class without an essay to do. The poor pharaoh got the brunt of the abuse from that class, as the roly-poly man would give him extra work to make up for the fact that he was a native speaker of Ancient Egyptian. Malik, Hermione, Yuugi, and Atemu were often found in the library, working together to get through the more grueling work for that class, before joining the others to work on the rest of their homework.
Hermione, however, easily had the heaviest workload out of all of them. She would often be found working until the early hours of the morning, slaving over all her homework. One day, when they were on the way to the Great Hall after Potions, the seam on her back came undone, spilling her books all over the floor. Malik instantly bent to help her out, before looking at the titles of some of the books.
"Hermione, you have Divination, not Arithmancy today!" he protested. "You're going to hurt yourself carrying all of these around."
"I do need it," Hermione protested, snatching the book from him. "Besides, if all it takes to be 'good' in Divination is pretending to see death omens left and right, then I doubt I'll be in that particular class for much longer."
Divination was clearly the easiest out of all their classes. Professor Trelawney always seemed to gaze at Harry like he was going to fall over any moment. The boys quickly learned that the easiest way to get a good mark in that class was to predict grim futures constantly – the more outrageous, the more likely the professor would leave them alone.
Some day near the end of the month, when the Gryffindors filed into their Defense Against the Dark Arts class, they entered the class to find that Professor Lupin was oddly absent. They all sat down, pulling out their books and settling down for another session of boring note taking when he finally made his entrance. He set his tattered old briefcase down on his desk before turning to the class.
"You can put away your books and parchment," he announced. "We're going to have a hands-on lesson today."
A curious murmur went about the room as they started packing up. They had never had a "hands-on" lesson before, unless you counted the time when Lockhart let loose a whole cage full of Cornish Pixies. The class followed Lupin out of the room and down the halls of the school, coming to a deserted corridor where Peeves, the school poltergeist, was bent over a keyhole, shoving a wad of chewing gum inside. The annoying specter broke out into a song as soon as he saw Lupin.
"Loony, loopy, Lupin! Loony, loopy, Lupin!"
If this bothered the professor at all, he did not show it. Instead, he calmly removed his wand from his robes.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is a useful little spell. Watch closely now," he announced, pointing his wand at the keyhole. "Waddiwasi!"
The wad of gum shot out of the keyhole like a bullet, imbedding itself into Peeve's left nostril. The poltergeist sped away, cursing, as the class laughed.
"Cool, sir," Dean Thomas declared.
"Thank you, Dean. Shall we?"
They continued down the hall, finally arriving at the almost deserted staff room. Professor Snape was sitting back in a low armchair, too preoccupied with a piece of parchment in his hand to really pay the Defense Against the Dark Arts class much heed. He did glare at Lupin when the professor entered though, which was not much of a surprise. Everyone knew Snape preferred that class over Potions, not to mention that it had been hard not to notice the Potion Master's clear disdain for the scruffy professor.
"Hope we won't be disturbing you, Snape," Professor Lupin said courteously enough.
Snape grunted, turning his focus back to what he was reading. "Just to warn you, Lupin, I wouldn't give Neville Longbottom anything too difficult unless he's getting help from another student."
Though there was not much malice in Snape's voice, it still made Neville flush in embarrassment. True, he was not the best out of the Gryffindor class, but he did try.
"Actually, I was hoping that Neville would assist me in this operation," Lupin replied. He led all of them to the end of the room, past where Snape was sitting, to an old wardrobe that wobbled as they approached. Some of the students backed off.
"Nothing to worry about," Lupin assured them, "it's just a boggart."
Apparently, this was something to worry about. A handful of Yuugi's peers around him let out frightened gasps. Neville looked like he was going to pass out from terror.
"Boggarts like dark, enclosed spaces," the professor continued, ignoring their reactions. "Wardrobes, the gap beneath beds, even grandfather clocks. This particular one moved in yesterday, and I asked the headmaster to leave it for all of you to practice what you've been catching up on.
"Now, who can tell me what a boggart is?"
Not surprisingly, Hermione's hand was the first one up in the air.
"It's a shape-shifter," she answered, sounding like a textbook. "It can assume the shape of whatever it thinks will frighten us the most."
"Precisely!" Lupin exclaimed, making Hermione glow. "So, this boggart has not assumed a form, as he doesn't know what will frighten the person on the other side of this wardrobe. All ready, we have a great advantage over it. Harry, why is this?"
Harry bit his lip, trying to think, and rather caught off guard by being called on. Hermione bouncing on her feet next to him was not exactly helping him, however.
"Um… because there's so many of us, it won't know what shape it should be?"
"Right you are, Harry," Lupin congratulated. "I once saw a boggart that tried to frighten two people at once. It turned into some half-slug thing. More amusing than frightening.
"And this brings us to what we need to do. What really finishes a boggart off is laughter, and to laugh at a monster that turns into our fears, we must force it to assume a shape that's amusing. The charm is rather simple. Repeat after me… riddikulus!"
"Riddikulus!" the class repeated as one.
"Perfect," Lupin complimented. "Now, this is where you come in Neville. Tell me, what is it that you're afraid of the most?"
Neville's eyes darted between Snape, still sitting in his chair totally oblivious, to Professor Lupin. He moved his mouth, but nothing came out.
"Sorry, didn't catch that, Neville."
Neville looked back at Snape again before giving him his answer: "Professor Snape."
Over in his chair, Snape raised an eyebrow as the rest of the class laughed. Professor Lupin's expression turned thoughtful, before he shot the other professor a look that was meant to be apologetic, but was really rather amused.
"Neville, I believe you live with your grandmother?"
"Yeah…" Neville answered, nervous. "But, I don't want it to turn into her either."
Lupin chuckled. "No, not that, Neville. What sort of clothes does she wear?"
Neville stared at him, wondering where this was going. "A tall hat with a stuffed vulture on top. A long dress, usually green, and sometimes a fox-fur scarf. Oh, and a big red handbag."
A disgusted look appeared on Malik's face. "Where the hell does your grandmother get her fashion sense from, Neville?"
Neville grinned sheepishly as the class laughed again.
"All right, then, Neville," Lupin continued after the students settled down. "Can you picture those cloths in your mind?"
"Good," the professor replied, "because when the boggart comes out of the wardrobe, it will assume the form of Professor Snape. At this time, you will raise your wand – like so – and cry 'Riddikulus'. If all goes well, we'll have a Professor Snape in a green dress."
Snape's parchment flopped over, and he pursed his lips in annoyance. The class failed to notice, however, as they were too busy laughing at the thought of the oily, darkly garbed professor in a green dress and vulture-topped hat.
"Now, if Neville is successful," Lupin cut in, "the boggart will turn its attention to the rest of you. I want you all to now think of the one thing you fear the most, and a way to make it funny."
Atemu pursed his lips, trying to think. He was not even sure what he was afraid of – he never really thought of it before. How was he supposed to make something funny, when he did not even know what that something was? Yuugi tugging on his sleeve quickly brought him back to the real world, in time to see Snape looming over Neville, threateningly, reaching into his robe for his wand…
"R-r-r-riddikulus!" Neville stuttered.
There was a noise like a whip crack, and Professor Snape stumbled. He was suddenly wearing a long, lace-trimmed green dress along with a towering hat topped with a moth-eaten stuffed vulture. A gigantic red handbag swung from his shoulder, and a fox-fur scarf dangled about his neck, also looking like it had seen better days. There was a roar of laughter from the class; the real Snape slammed his parchment onto a nearby table hard enough for it to make a snapping-like sound before storming out. No one noticed, too busy laughing to really care.
"Parvati! Forward!" Lupin shouted
Parvati Patel jumped forward; ready to take on the creature, as Neville gratefully stood back. The fake Snape rounded on her, and with another crack, there was a bloodstained, bandaged mummy. Its wrapped faced turned to her as it dragged its feet toward her, raising its stiff arms…
"Riddikulus!" Parvati cried.
The bandage unraveled and got tangled around the mummy's feet; it fell face first, its head rolling off.
"I find that highly offensive," Atemu joked, a slight smirk coming to his face.
"Atemu!" Lupin roared.
It figured; the pharaoh darted past Parvati, still trying to think of something he was afraid of, not to mention how to make the nameless fear humorous. The headless mummy turned its focus to him and…
He supposed he should have seen it coming. There was a crack like a whip as the boggart changed again, and Atemu could dimly hear the class scream in terror and surprise as the fear he had been trying to think of finally loomed up before him. The creature growled softly at him as he stood frozen, his wand held up and his eyes widening as he stared at the long curved horns coming out from just behind cruel red eyes. Just above his head, the dragon head snapped at him from the creature's crotch, threatening to take a bite of him…
Yuugi's shout snapped him out of it. Atemu closed his eyes and looked away, waving his wand blindly.
Whatever the massive monster that was Zork turned into must have been rather humorous, for the whole class burst out laughing. Atemu did not pause to see what it was though, quickly turning around and rushing out of the room.
"I never thought I'd see the day."
Atemu groaned softly at the familiar voice behind him, curling his arms tighter around his head in a protective little ball. After leaving the room, he had fled to the library, hoping the quiet of the massive amount of books would help still his rapidly beating heart. It did not seem to help much, however, and the fact that rumors flew through the school like wildfire did not help Kaiba's presence behind him.
"I don't want to hear it, Kaiba," he muttered into the table.
The thump of a bag somewhere near him on the table proved Kaiba could not take a hint and go away.
"I wouldn't have thought you of all people would have been afraid of a dragon-penis god."
Atemu groaned. "Go. Away."
Kaiba chuckled in amusement, bringing out his laptop for some quality spreadsheet time. Despite the business work though, he kept an eye on Atemu, who remained there despite the steady stream of key clacking.
"You know… I expect that more from the twit in my head than from you," he finally said. There was a long pause, before Atemu finally lifted his head, not looking at him.
"I just felt…" he began. "When I saw Zork, it felt like everything I've done up till now had been a horrible lie; that I was still standing there under him, without any weapons or summons… so helpless, just waiting for him to end everything… and…"
He buried his head back in his arms. "If… Yuugi hadn't said anything, I don't know what would have happened."
There was another long pause, during which the steady key clacking gradually slowed down, before stopping all together. After a moment, Atemu felt Kaiba's hand on the back of his head, giving him an awkward pat.
"…you're still here," he finally said after a moment. "So the things you've done up till now still mean something."
Atemu blinked slowly, processing what he said, before letting out a soft sigh. "Thanks… thanks, Kaiba."
Kaiba let out a noncommittal noise, patting his head again before going back to his typing.
Everyone was still talking about their fantastic Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson the following Monday. Harry was annoyed by it, though; apparently, Lupin had prevented him from having his try against the boggart. Atemu wished it had been the same with him, but then again, the professor probably stopped Harry from having a turn because he was afraid of Voldemort showing up in the middle of the class. He pointed this out to him, but that did make Harry any happier. His fear was not Voldemort; his fear was the dementors, and he told them as much as he, Yuugi, Hermione, Ron, Atemu, and Malik made their way down to Hagrid's hut for Care of Magical Creatures.
"Yes, Voldemort does frighten me," he consented, "but all he can do is kill me. Those dementors can do far worse than that."
The six Gryffindors arrived at the hut, to see that Draco and the other Slytherins had already gathered for that day's double lesson. The blonde haired boy had his hands in his pockets, despondent as usual, while Ecillia was practically glued to his hip. Their little group ignored them though, huddling over with the other Gryffindor students that were gathered by a wooden fence.
"Hagrid said he's got something special to show us today!" Seamus whispered in excitement, rubbing his hands.
"Just as long as it isn't anymore flobberworms," Ron commented dryly.
"Oh, Weasel, don't want to see your best friends anymore?" a snobbish voice behind them asked. They did not even bother to turn around.
"Bug off Ecillia," Ron snapped.
Ecillia was never one to take a hint though. "This place has seriously gone to the dogs," she said loudly. "Especially with that idiot teaching classes. I should tell my uncle about it, see what he can –"
"Bloody hell, shut up, Ecillia," Draco finally snapped.
"Oh, something wrong, Draco d—"
Lavender squealed suddenly in delight, cutting her royal annoying-ness off. On the opposite side of the paddock, being led around by Hagrid, were a dozen of what had to be the most bizarre creatures in the magic world. They had the bodies, hind legs, and tails of a horse, yet the front legs, wings, and heads of an eagle. Hagrid steered them toward the fence where everyone was waiting, and the class backed up as they came to a stop.
"Hippogriffs!" Hagrid exclaimed, waving a hand at them. "Beau'iful, aren' they?"
Yuugi, Harry, and Malik went closer to the fence to get a better look at the creatures, though the rest of the class seemed content with hanging back nervously. Hagrid was right; once you got over the shock of seeing something that was half horse and half bird, they really were magnificent.
"Now, firs' thing yeh gotta know abou' hippogriffs is, they're proud," Hagrid instructed. "Easily offended, hippogriffs are. Don't never insult one, 'cause it might be the last thing yeh do."
Ecillia, Crabbe, and Goyle were not paying attention, and Harry got a sinking feeling they were plotting on how to disrupt the lesson.
"Yeh always wait fer the hippogriff ter make the firs' move," Hagrid kept going, not noticing the three of them talking amongst themselves. "It's polite, see? Yeh walk toward him, and yeh bow, an' yeh wait. If he bows back, yeh're allowed ter touch him. If he doesn't bow, then get away from him sharpish, 'cause those talons hurt.
"Right… so, who wants ter go first?"
The whole class took another step back at the proposition. Even their little group had their misgivings, save for one of them. Feeling a bit reckless, Malik raised a hesitant hand, announcing he would do it before he vaulted over the paddock fence.
"Good man, Malik!" Hagrid roared. "Right then, let's see how yeh get on with Buckbeak."
He pulled a steel gray hippogriff away from the others, slipping off its leather collar. The class behind the paddock seemed to be holding its breath as the creature approached the Egyptian – who seemed far too short in comparison to the beast – eyeing him skeptically. Ecillia was watching him with narrowed eyes, as if daring him to mess up.
"Easy now, Malik," Hagrid said quietly. "Yeh've got eye contact, now try not ter blink… Hippogriffs don' trust yeh if yeh blink too much…"
Malik's eyes instantly started to water, but he refused to blink; Buckbeak was staring at him with his large, yellow eyes, just half expecting him to mess up. He swallowed, feeling the contents of his recent meal churning in his stomach.
"Tha's it," Hagrid was saying. "Tha's it, Malik… now bow…"
Malik bent down at the waist, not taking his eyes off of the hippogriff. He hesitated a moment, before he came back up and waited, but the animal was still staring at him haughtily.
"Ah…" Hagrid began, sounding worried, "right, back away now, Malik. Easy does it –"
Just as the Egyptian was about to relocate himself to the other side of the fence in less than a few seconds, the hippogriff suddenly bent its scaly front knees into an unmistakable bow. Malik's face lit up; he did it!
"Well done, Malik!" Hagrid exclaimed. "Now yeh can touch him! Pat his beak, go on!"
After that, Malik was not so sure he still wanted to be within striking distance of the animal. Despite his misgivings thought, he walked up to the animal and carefully patted his beak. Buckbeak closed his eyes lazily, enjoying the special treatment. Meanwhile, the rest of the class broke out into applause, except for Ecillia and her entourage, who looked disappointed. Draco merely smiled softly.
"Righ' then, Malik," Hagrid continued. "I reckon he might' let yeh ride him!"
Malik's head came up, eyes widening in worry. "R-ride?"
"Sure! Yeh climb up there, jus' behind the wing joint," the giant of a man explained, "an' mind yeh don' pull any of his feathers out, he won' like that…"
Malik fought back a gulp. He had never ridden anything before, except during broom flying lessons in his first year, something he was fairly good at, though not as good as most people he had seen. Swallowing loudly, he put a foot on the top of Buckbeak's wing, hoisting himself up onto his back. He looked around as the hippogriff stood up straight, not sure what it was he was supposed to hold onto. Everything in front of him was covered in feathers.
"Go on, then!" Hagrid exclaimed, slapping the hippogriff's hindquarters.
Malik hastily settled for wrapping his arms around the hippogriff's neck as the twelve-foot wings flapped open on either side of him. They soared upward, and he shut his eyes tightly in fear as the creature's wings beat uncomfortably against his legs, making him feel like he was about to be thrown off any minute.
After a moment, however, he got up enough courage to open his eyes, and beheld the awesome sights around him. Below, he could see the others, pointing up at him excitedly, just to the side, the forbidden forest stretched out, not looking as "forbidden" in the daylight. Before him, Hogwarts castle loomed, just hiding the lowering sun. He bit his lip in excitement as the hippogriff flew around, hesitantly unwrapping his arms and balancing himself, letting the wind beat against him.
"Woohoo!" Malik whooped in excitement, before letting out a worried noise as the creature dipped back down. All too soon, the ride was over, and he and Buckbeak landed roughly back in the paddock. He whispered his thanks to the hippogriff before jumping off.
"Good work, Malik!" Hagrid congratulated as almost everyone cheered. "Okay, who else wants a go?"
The rest of the class climbed cautiously into the paddock, much to Hagrid's delight. He untied the other hippogriffs one by one, and soon students were bowing to the creatures. Ron and Harry had decided to practice on a chestnut colored one, while Hermione and Atemu were already patting the black one they had bowed to. Neville had to keep running away from his, as it obviously did not like him very much. Yuugi's bronze one had taken to him almost immediately, and every time he went to check on the others, the creature butted him lightly, demanding more petting.
Ecillia, Crabbe, and Goyle had taken over Buckbeak, dragging poor Draco along with them and making him bow before the animal. It warily returned the bow, and the blonde was happy to pet its head gently, slightly amused by the creature. Ecillia was petting the creature's beak, a disdainful look on her face.
"This is very easy," she declared, loud enough so Malik could hear. "I knew it would have been, if that foreign freak could do it. You're not all that dangerous at all, are you, you big ugly brute?"
What happened next went very fast. Next thing Draco knew he was being knocked aside by the creature's massive front legs. A moment later there was a flash of gray talons, and Ecillia let out a high-pitched scream. Soon, Hagrid was wrestling Buckbeak back into his collar while trying to get to where she was curled up on the grass, blood staining her robes.
"I'm dying!" she wailed pathetically. "I'm dying! That monster's killed me!"
"Yer not dyin'!" Hagrid objected, lifting her up in his arms.
Hermione went to open the gate to the paddock, and as the giant of a man passed, Draco could see a long, deep gash on Ecillia's thin arm. Blood splattered onto the grass as Hagrid ran with her back up to the castle. The rest of the class followed, with Hermione locking the gate to the paddock behind them. The Slytherins in the class started shouting about Hagrid, demanding him to be fired and other such ludicrous things, before they went off to their own common room in the dungeons. Yuugi and the others started for the library, hoping they could catch Seto or Ryou in there before dinnertime.
"Do you think she'll be all right?" Draco asked, a bit nervously.
"'Course she will. Madam Pomfrey can mend just about anything," Harry said. "You know that, Draco."
"Yeah, but…" he trailed off, kicking at the ground. "She did it on purpose, I know she did! When my father finds out about this, Hagrid will probably end up back in Azkaban!"