A/N: Just a small teaser to keep you entertained – both "Had I Known" and the "Lioness" should be –hopefully- updated within the week.This is a one shot I simply itched to do. It found no place in the main story, and it's more a 'what if' than any real part of the plot, but I always loved the boggart idea, and I've often wondered how our favourite students would react to being confronted with one of them after all they've been through.
It takes place in the „When A Lioness Fights" universe, approximately in the middle of NEWTs exams, that is in between Chapter 61 and 62, but doesn't contain any spoilers for both chapters, which is why I posted it early like I did.
Mind that it won't make much sense if you haven't read the main story, although you're of course welcome to read it anyway.
What Remus Saw
They were all well prepared, really. There was no reason to worry about anything. They had talked it through, and more than once.
There had been, after all, not only the exams themselves to be considered, but also the impression they wanted to convey through their performance. Harry would give his very best, of course, as would Ron and Neville. Being the Chosen One or part of his Ministry Crew entitled to certain abilities in the DADA department. Draco would earn his 'Outstanding', too, but keep back a bit, especially with the darker spells. They didn't want people to wonder about him, after all.
Hermione would be the most difficult, having to hide not only her abilities but also her reflexes, but she was a spy, after all, and didn't spies hide their reflexes all the time?
So they would be alright, all of them, what with all the preparation and strategy discussions they had had about this. They would be alright.
Or at least, that was what Remus had thought until they brought the boggart in.
It had been moments before the start of the exam, on too short notice to warn his students, and what would he have told them – be on your guard, there's boggarts waiting to announce your greatest fear to three prominent ministry workers?
Fears couldn't be controlled, after all. Fears were something you had to endure without any influence on them.
Merlin, what was he going to do?
He found himself feverishly remembering every nuance of the Obliviate-spells as Ron Weasley entered the examination room. Could he obliviate the examiners? What if they forgot the students' whole performance? What if they found out? His position with the Ministry was precarious at best, considering the little problem of his Dark-Creature-classification.
And wouldn't he only make it worse by trying to make them forget?
Ron did well on his shielding charms and the duel with the auror, but then that was not surprising. He had done nothing but duelling over the last weeks, after all, although no one in the room except Remus and Ron knew about that.
Ron seemed confident. But he didn't know yet that a boggart was waiting for him.
It simply wasn't right, Remus had told the examiners, forcing such an intimate thing on the students in an exam situation none the less.
They had, of course, argued that he himself had made boggarts part of his final year exams in third year, but that been another thing entirely, hadn't it?
After all, the students had been young then, too young – with the exception of Harry – to have seen many terrible things, too young to have developed secrets that needed keeping.
And of course, none of them had been part of a secret organisation sworn to fight Voldemort back then. None of them had prepared for a secret battle. None of them had pretended to be loyal purebloods while befriending muggleborns. None of them had been spies.
Ron paled when he saw the wardrobe that had been hidden behind a curtain till it was time for that part of the exams.
That had been another thing Remus had protested against – it simply wasn't right to spring it onto them like that. At least they needed time to prepare themselves for the boggart – he had thought about Hermione's mind tricks when he had told them that -, but the examiners had argued that one wouldn't have preparation time when being confronted with a boggart in the real world, would one?
And he hadn't known what to say to that.
As the door of the wardrobe swung open with an ominous sound, Ron's eyes flickered towards Remus' sitting place, who tried to convey his feelings of horror and regret without letting the examiners notice.
Then, the red head took a deep breath, planted his feet in a secure stance that he had learned during Order training, and concentrated on the thing to come.
Please be quick, Remus thought, over and over again. Be as quick as you can! Just laugh it off!
But he himself wouldn't have been able to laugh off what left the wardrobe, no matter how hard he had tried.
Hermione and Harry, although Remus barely recognized them through the layers of blood and gore that coated their bodies.
Arms outstretched, like zombies in a muggle movie he had once seen, they made towards Ron, stumbling, shuffling, their bodies a single, huge wound.
"You failed us, Ron," Harry rasped, the movement of his mouth causing deep gashes in his face to open and close. It looked as if he had ten mouths, all talking, gurgling, groaning at the same time, all of them blaming Ron.
"R…Ri…Ridikkulus," Ron whispered, ghastly white, but there was no strength at all behind the spell. One of the examiners made a gasping, sobbing sound, and one of them turned a deep, unhealthy green.
"You killed us," Hermione now whispered, her hands pressed to her abdomen to close the huge wound, to keep her entrails from tumbling out. "You promised to stand by our side and you left us!"
"Ridikkulus," Ron whimpered, backing away from the bloody figures advancing on him. "Ridikkulus!"
"It was all your fault!" Hermione suddenly screamed, a broken, terribly twisted hand pointing at her friend, and Remus had to turn his eyes away from her as something wet, something glistening slipped from her body. Their feet left red prints on the wooden floor. "Just because you were jealous! Just because you couldn't accept reality! Just because you wouldn't grow up!"
It was too much for Ron, and Remus couldn't blame him.
"No!" He shouted, his wand falling from his lifeless hand, his face a mask of horror. "I didn't mean… I tried… I'm so sorry!"
And Remus had enough.
"I'm ending this now!" He told the examiners in a sharp voice and quickly stepped between Ron and the advancing corpses of his best friends. The boggart hesitated, stopped, and turned into a pale image of the full moon.
Remus easily disposed of it, then turned around to the sobbing Ronald Weasley.
"It's alright, Ron," He whispered. "It was just a boggart. He's gone now. Shhh, calm down…"
When Ron had quieted down, he turned to the examiners with a thunderous expression.
"Was that what you wanted to achieve?" He asked angrily. "This is the best friend of Harry Potter, for goodness sake! What did you expect him to see? Giant spiders?"
The examiners looked sheepish and more than a bit shocked, but at least they agreed to a ten minutes' break so that Remus could escort Ron to the chamber where the already examined would be waiting for their peers to finish, and where Minerva was supervising.
He would feel less terrible to leave Ron with his Head of House. Not to mention an Order member.
An hour passed and students went through their practical exams with varying success. Remus couldn't help but be proud at the level of skill his students displayed, although none of them came even close to the performances he had become used to from the Inner Circle members.
But only half of his mind was concentrating on the students that duelled and displayed their fears of spiders, drowning or splinching themselves. The rest of him was worrying about the candidates that were yet to come.
Harry, Draco and Hermione.
When Harry stepped into the room, Remus tried to catch his eyes and warn him, but Harry was too much concentrating on the things at hand, and after one of the examiners gave him a sharp look, he had to lean back and act as if he wasn't any more interested in Harry than in any other student, although his heart swelled when he watched him duel.
Harry performed flawlessly, and his eyes were shining with pride and elation as he walked over to the curtain as directed.
When he saw the wardrobe, he understood immediately, and all feeling vanished from his face, until it remained the cold mask Remus had so often seen on Severus and Hermione.
"A boggart?" Harry asked, his voice cool and very controlled. "Do you think it is wise to confront me with a boggart?"
"It's a standard part of the exams, Mr Potter," One of the examiners, a puffed up little man, answered.
Harry just nodded. "Very well," He answered, and Remus was proud of his composure.
When the wardrobe door opened, it was Voldemort who stepped out.
One of the examiners shrieked, and Remus sprung up from his chair, to rush and interfere immediately, but the tiniest shake of Harry's head stopped him.
Voldemort looked just as ghastly as Harry had described him, and Remus could feel cold fear building in the pit of his stomach.
But the Dark Lord's red gaze didn't turn to Harry. It was riveted to a spot to his left, where suddenly two figures in dark robes and white masks appeared. Their faces were hidden, but Remus saw the curly brown hair of the smaller figure and the blond, almost white hair of the other, and knew their identity.
"Avada Kedavra," The Dark Lord hissed, and both figures dropped to the ground without a word, without a sound, the green light of the Killing Curse playing on their white masks.
Harry closed his eyes for a moment, a muscle twitching wildly in his jaw.
Then, he opened them again, raised his wand, and said, in a clear, carrying voice: "Ridikkulus!"
Nothing seemed to happen, but suddenly, the Dark Lord bent forward to remove the masks of his fallen followers.
Remus leaned forward, readying himself to perform the Obliviate at any moment, for when the masks would reveal the faces of Hermione and Draco, all would be lost.
But instead of the shock he had expected to course through the examiners, they remained very still, and suddenly, Remus saw a cold, satisfied smile bloom on Harry's face.
Slowly, not understanding, Remus turned his head towards the fallen Death Eaters, only to find that their identity had changed. The man was still white blond and slender built, but the mask had revealed not Draco's, but Lucius' face, and the woman by his side was Bellatrix Lestrange, not Hermione.
"That will show you," Remus heard Harry whisper, before one of the examiners, his face still confused, used a spell to transport the boggart back into the wardrobe.
Remus had to admit that he was relieved by Harry's solution. Of course the scene had been potentially traitorous, but he doubted that any of the examiners had even remotely understood what was going on, and, Harry Potter being the student in question, he supposed they would simply blame it on his strange life, or perhaps the hint of madness that still surrounded him in the public eye.
But although he was relieved, he was not relaxed at all. It would be Draco's turn soon. And there was no way in the world, no chance at all, that Draco's boggart wouldn't betray his new allegiances.
There was simply no way that the greatest fear of Draco Malfoy could have anything to do with Harry Potter or Hermione Granger dying, or Voldemort taking over, or his father discovering his new friendships. All this would point directly to his new loyalties.
And it was even worse, this time. While the examiners would have attributed a warning from his side as pure favoritism in the case of Harry Potter, they would certainly start to wonder when he showed the same interest to Draco Malfoy, Slytherin prince and soon to be Death Eater.
Draco performed flawlessly – not that Remus had expected anything else -, exuding confidence and a careless, arrogant grace. No downright dark spell left his wand, but some of the spells he chose, and Remus could tell that the amount and timing of them was deliberately calculated, could be considered darkish at least, causing the examiners to frown.
But that frown would certainly turn into shock once they had seen whatever form his boggart took.
Deciding to disregard the rules in the face of an even greater danger, Remus coughed loudly while Malfoy crossed the room towards the curtain, and, as Malfoy's eyes darted towards him as expected, Remus mouthed 'boggart' at him.
Draco's eyes widened for the fraction of a second, but then he looked away, and nothing in his stance betraying that he had noticed the hint.
But the examiners certainly had. One of them turned around to Remus, glaring, and told him that he had had quite enough of his attitude, thank you very much. Before he could protest, Remus felt a notice-me-not charm build around him that would keep the students from seeing or hearing him.
Which meant that he wouldn't be able to warn Hermione. Nor would the other students. These were NEWT exams, after all, and the Ministry had had hundreds of years to make sure that no one had a chance to cheat.
Slowly, Draco approached the curtain. A spell from the chief examiner removed it, and when the wardrobe came into view, Draco's steps faltered.
He turned around to the examiners, and his face showed sudden fear, a fear so bone deep and exaggerated that Remus, used by now to Draco's mannerisms, identified it as a fake immediately. Albeit a brilliant one.
"Sir," Draco addressed the chief examiner in a whisper, his lips white with terror. "I should perhaps tell you that…"
But then the wardrobe door swung open directly before him, Draco whirled around and did what none of them had expected, not in a million years.
Draco Malfoy fainted.
He lost control over his body and stumbled, his head cracking against the opening wardrobe door, and fell against the dark wood, closing the door with his body.
It totally looked like an accident, Remus realized with wonderment. There was nothing suspicious about it – some of the students had, after all, nearly wet themselves when suddenly confronted with a boggart, and rumours had often identified Draco as a coward over the years.
As the Slytherin lay with his back against the door, his body twitching from the movements of the boggart on the other side of the wood, his head lolling to one side and his face deadly white, Remus applauded silently.
He watched as one of the examiners revived Draco, exchanging angry glances with the chief examiner that told Remus quite clearly that this would be the last year of examinations with boggarts, watched as Draco groaned, and touched his head gingerly, and asked what had happened as if he hadn't staged it all.
He remembered that Severus had sometimes done the same thing back when they were students, tripping and falling in the close proximity of the Marauders, always in plain sight with teachers present. Perhaps it was something that was privately taught in the Slytherin Common Room? A class called 'slipping to your personal advantage'?
He listened to the sad little story Draco told the examiners, about how he had once as a little child stumbled across a wardrobe with a boggart in it, and had been unable to do anything against it, not yet having a wand or knowing the spell, and that a house elf had rescued him more than half an hour later.
With a mixture of fascination and outrage, Remus watched how Draco coaxed the examiners into not taking points away for this failure, since a childhood trauma couldn't be held against him, and walk from the room with an 'Outstanding' result.
Once again Remus realized how much he had underestimated the Slytherin.
Behind his notice-me-not spell, Remus watched his students come and go, sometimes proud of them, sometimes irritated when they disregarded little things he had warned them about, or recommendations he had made.
He was not overly worried about Neville, who hadn't been nearly as involved in Order business as Ron, Harry or Draco, but the boy's duelling skills were up to 'Outstanding' level, and his boggart was not connected to Order business at all.
It was an empty, padded ward Remus recognized as belonging to the Psychiatric station of St. Mungo's. He had seen it last when he had visited Frank and Alice Longbottom a few years ago, and his chest tightened with compassion as he saw Neville gaze at his greatest fear – to suffer from the same madness as his parents.
But Neville, a far cry from the frightened little boy that had put a vulture hat on his Snape-boggart's head so many years ago, just tightened the grip on his wand and performed the spell flawlessly, filling the ward with characters that clearly belonged to 'Alice in Wonderland'.
Before the Mad Hatter could offer anybody tea, however, the boggart was returned to his cupboard and Neville left the room, his head held high and two red spots dancing on his cheeks.
Which left only Hermione to worry about, and worrying Remus did.
There was no way her boggart wouldn't be connected to Voldemort, and if it was too revealing…
He watched her enter, fully engrossed in her exams personality that made Remus grin whenever he saw her like this. The old Hermione had been a sight to behold, overeager, always excited and tense, always curious and quick to question, but Remus had become so used to the new Hermione he had gotten to know over the last months that this act disturbed him more than reminded him of former times.
Her duelling skills were fitted perfectly to the bushy haired know-it-all she had once been, displaying a wide range of spells that topped even Harry's knowledge, but executing them with neither Draco's elegance nor Harry's force of will.
She obviously enjoyed her performance, and the quick, worried glances she would shoot at her examiners every other second nearly made Remus crack up. But his amusement quickly faded once she finished the duel and the chief examiner ordered her to approach the curtain with the wardrobe behind it.
She stood before the curtain with a questioning, slightly worried expression in her face, her wand gripped tightly.
Nothing in her face or pose changed, however, when the wardrobe came into view, and only Remus' knowledge of how fast she understood and adapted to new situations told him that she had understood.
But she made no move away from the wardrobe, just cocking her head to the side expectantly, nothing but the usual exam tension showing on her face.
The door opened slowly, and out stepped – nothing but a whirling, grey thing, blurry and indistinct. The boggart had not taken a shape at all, it seemed unable to determine what her greatest fear was – but that had never happened before! There was no way to stop a boggart from entering your mind – or at least there never had been.
Hermione blinked, once, and cocked her head even more, and suddenly the grey shape turned into Minerva McGonagall, fast enough so that the examiners might not have noticed anything at all.
Minerva was clutching a large pile of papers to her breast, and her voice and face was stern as she looked at Hermione.
"Miss Granger," The boggart said disapprovingly. "I don't know how you did it, but you failed every single one of your NEWTs!"
Remus felt his jaw drop, and his shock deepened when he saw Hermione's lower lip quiver and her eyes moisten. Her hand trembled as she raised her wand and swished it at the boggart.
"Ridikkulus," She whispered, and suddenly Minerva's hands lost her grip on the papers and they began dancing around her, whirling around as if in the grasp of an invisible wind.
As one of the papers landed on Minerva's head and the formidable Gryffindor's face heated in embarrassment, Hermione gave one loud, satisfied bark of laughter, and the boggart exploded into a thousand fragments.
Suddenly realizing that he had forgotten to breathe, Remus took a deep gulp and started to cough. It was impossible. Utterly impossible.
But then, he had seen it. Hermione Granger had managed what every textbook declared to be out of the question.
Their Master Spy had fooled a boggart. And she had done it with a laugh.
Her face very serious and apologetic, the perfect expression for an anxious little know-it-all, Hermione turned around to the examiners, and Remus thought his rips would burst with suppressed laughter.
"I'm sorry, Sirs and Madam," She said in a very small voice. "But I'm afraid you will need a new boggart."
A/N: I've always found that the boggart was the Kobayashi Maru test of Harry Potter (and when you don't know what I'm talking about, it's clear that you aren't a Star Trek fan). It's very enlightening how characters deal with it, and, as Hermione proved, it can be a great deal of fun.