Got this idea for some short fiction. It's a bit wacky, and even more nerdy than usual, but it burst into my head while I was revising Tied for Last and I was like dude. Let's do this. The intricacies of the Harry Potter world continue to fascinate me, and I love exploring them.
Myrtle Westing-Smith was the first person to die at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for sixty-seven years, four months, and six days.
The student who died sixty-seven years, four months, and six days before her did not have nearly so pleasant a death.
His name was Robert Terry, and his general demeanor glowed with cocky overconfidence. He swam naked in the lake in November. He started a secret society dedicated to the invention of useless potions. He slept with limbs sprawled wide, face to the sky and somehow half-smiling even in dreams. He was both remarkably naïve and remarkably forgiving. Also, he had far more friends than he knew what to do with, and his boisterous attitude and good looks won him more than a few enemies.
One enemy in particular was of note. This boy's name was Alexander Davies, and he was a Ravenclaw. A territorial sort of Ravenclaw, from a family that had never had much to speak of. The boy had a beautiful girlfriend. Her name was Alice, and she was far too good for Alexander Davies in practically every way, and he lived in perpetual terror of losing her.
In a way, it was not what Alexander saw that doomed Robert Terry. It was more what Alexander didn't see. He failed to perceive that Alice's desire for Robert Terry was rather superficial and schoolgirlish. It passed him by that Robert Terry was not the least interested in Alice, for Robert had Moira Elizabeth Jacoby to chase after. It did not strike Alexander for one moment that Robert Terry did not really deserve persecution.
Nonetheless, Alexander hated him.
To Robert Terry's great misfortune, Alexander was taller and broader and more muscular than he. Alexander also had a gentleman's traditional style about him, which was why he proposed a fistfight that February evening, on the seventh floor, when the two boys happened to run into each other.
Robert laughed. "Are you serious? Whatever for?"
Alexander drew his wand, stiff-backed and stiff-lipped and rigid in virtually every way. "Yes, I'm serious," he said, and his voice was clipped and unimpressed. "Terry, if you say no, I'm sorry for you."
Robert gave him an indignant look. "Sorry for me? Why?"
"Er, well, thanks for the offer, Davies, but I am going to have to say no. Why are you sorry?"
"Because," Alexander repeated, and punched him in the stomach. "I'll have to fight you anyway." He boxed Robert's face a few times, until drops of ruby blood littered the floor like flat polished stones.
Robert put up somewhat of a fight for a few ill-fated minutes. Then, when he realized he was hopelessly outmatched, he tried to run. This was the moment in which Alexander lost all respect for him. The bigger boy yanked on his arm, sending Robert careening in the opposite direction.
That was when the door materialized in the wall. Alexander gaped at it, astounded by Robert's good fortune as the other boy darted inside and slammed it behind him. How was that fair, that Hogwarts would just provide him refuge when he needed it?
Alexander scowled and plotted.
Then he locked the door from the outside, and walked away, thinking he would give the boy a good scare, and let him out in the morning.
That night, Alexander Davies had a terrible nightmare. And, on the whole, the Robert Terry encounter had been short enough that Alexander Davies forgot about it entirely until four days after the incident itself, when the Hogwarts administration launched a search for Robert Terry.
Alexander heard Robert's name and panicked. He realized exactly what he had done.
He had killed a boy. Without food or water for four days, Robert was surely dead. How had Alexander forgotten? He raced to the seventh floor and unlocked the door.
It swung wide slowly. Alexander walked in with dread hovering above him, expecting to see a starved and sunken body.
Instead, Robert Terry sat inside, holding a pasty and grinning widely. "Would you like something to eat? It'd be better than you punching me again, anyway."
Alexander gaped. "But… you…"
"Great, isn't it? I've decided to call it the Room of Requirement. Whenever I got bored, or hungry, whenever I needed something, it just popped up."
Alexander shook his head. "Everyone's looking for you. Come on."
"Hold on, let me just finish this." Robert popped the last of the pastry into his mouth and got to his feet, brushing crumbs from the front of his robes. "I hope you're going to apologize for locking me in here, Davies."
Alexander's face burned. But he said it. "I'm sorry. I really am."
Robert clapped him on the back. "Wonderful. Then all is forgiv—"
He walked through the door and died. He toppled face-first to the ground. He lay there for thirty-seven seconds before Alexander managed to react at all.
Victor Gamp was born three years after Robert Terry died. He went on to create the famous Law of Elemental Transfiguration; one of its principal exceptions is the conjuring of food. Namely, that it cannot occur, or not so much cannot as should not. For, one should note, even if one were unable to simply conjure food in its usual state, the conjuration of edible material is as simple as conjuring a bird, stripping it, and consuming it. However, once consumed, that bird will have none of the nourishing effects of food. As real as it may appear to be, the object itself is a falsification of legitimate sustenance, and thus its nutrients cannot be extracted by the human body. Great potioneers have attempted to understand the chemical interactions, or lack thereof, that perpetuate Gamp's Great Exception, but all have abandoned the attempt. Some things cannot be explained.
However, Robert Terry's Room of Requirement was created by the Founders in medieval times. Its magic was from the days of old, when magic was not to be analyzed or understood but to be used, an elemental and base form of its current refinement. When someone set foot in the Room of Requirement, it appeased them. It did whatever it needed to in order to satisfy its inhabitants.
And what Robert Terry most needed, though he did not realize it, was to live.
The Room of Requirement, until February 1876, could provide food. Indeed, it could. It guided Robert Terry's human body through the process of digesting, breaking down, and utilizing that food and its conjured nutrients, for it placed the ability to do so in Robert Terry's body. But once the boy left the Room's kindly jurisdiction – once he stepped through the door – it could no longer provide that happy assistance.
And so, as he left the chamber, every part of everything Robert had eaten during the last four days of his life disappeared. The energy drained from his every mitochondrion; the virility left his every cell; the nutrients abandoned his flesh; the proverbial light would have drained from his eyes had it been provided by adenosine triphosphate. For a moment, as his bodily functions failed, Robert experienced blinding pain, but only a moment, until his heart finished its final beat.
Alexander Davies fell to his knees and despaired. The relief which Robert's wellbeing had provided on such a temporary basis extinguished itself. Alexander was, once more, a murderer.
But at least he had been able to apologize to the boy he had murdered.
The greatest wizards of the day gathered the following afternoon and attempted to destroy the Room of Requirement. The effort was a catastrophic failure; wards of all sorts prevented their endeavors. So they simply altered it to align comfortably with Gamp's Great Exception. Never again would it generate an object that someone might be foolish enough to consume.
Alexander Davies never told a soul what he had done. But he figured the all-consuming guilt was worse than any punishment could achieve.
Once, he tried to charm away the guilt, tried to siphon it out of himself.
But emotion cannot be created or destroyed, as everyone knows, in accordance with Gamp's Second Great Exception.
Hope you enjoyed it.
Also, happy Independence Day!