"I'm not going to do this." Draco Malfoy stood glaring at Professor Lupin with his arms crossed, wearing his arrogance like armor.
"You most certainly are," said Lupin. "This time you have an advantage: you know what it's going to look like. I've given you a week to imagine how to make your father appear ridiculous. That's the only way you'll defeat this boggart."
"There isn't anything to imagine. My father has never looked ridiculous in his life." Draco glanced away and sat down, the arrogance seeming to crack a little. "Even if it is just a boggart, he isn't the kind of man you can make fun of."
"Draco," Lupin said gently. "He's exactly the kind of man you can make fun of. Lucius Malfoy has no sense of humor whatsoever. He is ripe for ridicule."
"Have you ever actually met my father?" Draco said angrily.
Lupin sat beside him. "As a matter of fact, your father and I were at Hogwarts together."
"Let me tell you a story about him."
Draco rolled his eyes and propped his face on one hand, the picture of a martyred thirteen-year-old.
Lupin took this as a signal to proceed. "Lucius was a few years ahead of me, already a prefect when I first arrived at Hogwarts. Slytherin, of course, and I was in Gryffindor."
"Gryffindor." Draco was too discouraged to produce a proper smirk, but he managed to load it into his voice. "Of course you were."
"I had a gang I went round with; our two leaders were a lot like the Weasley twins. The pranks we got up to! I'm horrified to think of them now, but we were young. What did we know?
"By the time we were your age your father was in his seventh year and the four of us had a long-standing vendetta going with him. We pranked him whenever we could, and he was docking us points with special fervency. I won't say we never deserved it, but he took real delight in persecuting Gryffindors."
Lupin saw Draco's angry expression and forestalled him, "I eventually became a Gryffindor prefect and I daresay I did the same thing to Slytherins. Injustice in awarding and docking points is a fine old Hogwarts tradition." Draco subsided.
"Well. We were barely six weeks into fall term and the four of us were plotting an especially clever vengeance on him for something he'd done—I forget what. Our little group of third-years were determined to skewer that stuck-up Slytherin prat and do it publicly."
Lupin's tone was so full of light self-mockery and Draco was so astonished at hearing such terms applied to his overwhelming father that he just sat there, unable to say a word.
"One of my mates was quite gifted at Transfiguration, and he spent the last two weeks in October practicing a very special spell. On the night of the Halloween Feast we were waiting in the main entryway outside the Great Hall when Lucius and his cronies came strutting in, making a big entrance as usual. James took out his wand and cast his spell, and suddenly Lucius had a lion's tail over a yard long sticking out from under his robes."
"What?!" Draco's eyes went round and his mouth dropped open. "No, that can't—"
"Oh, yes it can," Lupin chuckled at the memory. "He didn't notice at first. The people walking behind him started to point and mutter, and as he walked past the House tables there was more talking and laughing. He finally realized it was all focused on him, and he whipped around to see what was happening behind him—" Lupin was laughing openly now, "—and the tail—" He had to stop and catch his breath. "—the tail whacked three or four of his friends who were walking beside him. He whipped around again and it whacked more of his mates. He finally spotted the tail, and he grabbed it and yanked—"
Lupin completely broke down laughing while Draco stared wide-eyed. Seeing the boy's expression Lupin said, "Well, that had to have hurt."
"Ah, yeah." Draco's voice was shaky, still too disbelieving to laugh.
"He finally managed to get it all shoved under his robes—the entire Hall was in hysterics—and for a minute it seemed as if he wanted to continue on to the Slytherin table. But he looked up and saw everybody's faces, and he turned round and walked, very fast, back out of the Hall." Lupin shook his head. "I'll give him this, he didn't run. He kept as much of his dignity as he could. Which wasn't a lot."
Draco's face struggled between a big grin and open-mouthed horror.
"We were waiting for him at the door of the Hall. We hooted and waved as he came out, and he knew immediately we had done it. He whipped out his wand with a glare that should have killed all four of us on the spot, but we scattered into the crowd and escaped."
"But—he came back to the Hall after he got rid of the tail, right?"
"Well, that's the thing. It took him almost three months to get rid of it. One of the teachers could have done it right away, but Lucius had been skiving off Transfiguration all term and Professor McGonagall insisted he undo the spell himself as extra credit. As for us, she gave all four of us detention for a week—which meant James missed a Quidditch match and we lost to Slytherin. She also awarded twenty points to Gryffindor House for James, a third-year, for having cast such a complex and powerful spell."
Draco finally gave an awkward laugh. "He had to go around the school with a tail—"
"—until mid-January. That meant he couldn't go home for Christmas break because he didn't want his family to see it. His father heard about it, of course, and was furious. The rumor went round that old Abraxas Malfoy sent Lucius a Howler in the Slytherin common room. He didn't want to humiliate his son in front of the whole school, but he didn't mind doing it in front of his housemates."
Draco was actually laughing now, holding one hand over his mouth as if to conceal it even from himself.
"You see, Draco," Lupin put a hand on Draco's shoulder. "Your father wasn't always formidable and terrifying. He was once just like you. And someday, with work and self-discipline, you might be just as formidable as he is." Lupin dropped his hand to his lap and looked down. "I just hope you put your abilities to better use."
Draco wasn't listening to Lupin's attempt to give his tale a moral. He was thinking about his father walking around for almost three months with a lion's tail. A lion's tail put there by a third-year Gryffindor.
"So." Lupin rose from his seat. "Are you ready to give it another try?"
Draco looked up a little uncertainly. He let out a whoosh of air, and stood. "All right. I'll try it." He shook his shoulders and rolled his head around to loosen his muscles, then took a defensive pose, his wand ready. Lupin went to the boggart's cabinet and prepared to open it.
Draco's eyes were hard and his brows drawn down. The door began to open and the long pale hand appeared. Focus. Self-discipline. Lion's tail. The Malfoy smirk was back.