Boggarts, Lesson Two
Characters and basic plot belong to JK Rowling.
"I need to talk to you, Severus," he says, in that mild voice of his.
I grunt. The sort of grunt any half-wit will understand. I'm busy.
"Marking essays this early? You certainly waste no time, Severus."
"Unlike certain people I could name. And there is no need to add 'Severus' at the end of each sentence. I am painfully aware of the fact that you are addressing me."
"I taught your Slytherin third years today," he continues, in his artificially pleasant tone.
Lupin being pleasant about "my Slytherins". Something is amiss.
"We started with Boggarts. The Slytherins' Boggarts are frightening, Sev-… ahem."
"Very good, Lupin. Boggarts are frightening. I believe it says so on page 3 of 'The Dark Forces: a Guide to Self-Protection'. Do you think you'll be able to stick to the book up to page 394?"
"Three hundred…? I hope so."
"I hope so too. It would be a good idea to teach the students about dangers they might really face."
"Don't worry, I will. There isn't much danger, though, thanks to your talent in brewing…"
"Drop the flattery. The only reason I am preparing Wolfsbane is to prevent my students from being torn apart."
"If you have something of real importance to tell me, get along with it. I have work to do."
"So do I. This is work. It's about your Slytherins. What I meant is, their Boggarts frighten even me."
"Even you? Slytherin Boggarts frighten even Gryffindor werewolves, whereas Gryffindor Boggarts fail to impress sly and ambitious Slytherins. I wonder why that would be."
"I have a problem with Draco Malfoy," he says, evading my point.
So does Hagrid.
"Draco is incapable of giving his Boggart an amusing shape."
The Boggart remains undefined and the question, 'why can't one dress Lucius Malfoy in Augusta Longbottom's clothes?' unasked.
"How did Zabini fare?"
"Hardly better, I'm afraid."
"Your Slytherins have no sense of humour."
"They have something Gryffindors don't understand. It's called respect."
"Respect doesn't help fight a Boggart."
"Not the way you teach them."
"There is no other way."
"Gryffindors are limited in their approach to the world, aren't they? I'll speak to the Slytherins."
"Severus, I am the Defence teacher."
"Didn't you just ask me for help?"
"Not exactly help…"
"Don't worry. I am used to discussing DA with my students, since the teachers are always so inept. I'll take care of the Slytherins. For the Ravenclaws, you'll have to ask Professor Flitwick."
Vengeance is sweet.
"Slytherins, I want you to stay."
They sit down again behind their cauldrons, while the Gryffindors scramble out noisily.
When the door has slammed behind Longbottom, who has managed to dye the front of his robes purple, I sigh in relief. A few of the students sigh companionably.
"Now that we have a bit of quiet, how does the…?"
I interrupt myself and look at each student in turn. Even Crabbe and Goyle. You never know.
"How does… Lupin compare to last year's clown?"
"Different clothes," says Parkinson. The other girls snigger.
Draco is very absorbed in rearranging his Potions ingredients.
"Different clothes, indeed. Let's go through the first lesson."
I pull out the book.
"Boggarts. What do you know about Boggarts?"
"They take the shape of whatever frightens us most," volunteers Nott.
Draco is extremely busy with his ingredients.
"Why do they do that?"
"They feed on fear."
"Fear. Boggarts force us to face our fears. We are now in front of three elements which are not to be confused: the Boggart, the shape it assumes and the fear. The first mistake not to make is to confuse the Boggart with the shape it has taken."
Draco stares at his rat spleens.
"The second is not to fear fear."
"Fear fear?" repeats Davis.
"Though Boggarts have been classified by the Ministry as dark creatures, they are not, in themselves, dangerous. Fear is not dangerous."
Davis silently mouthes the words "fear is not dangerous".
"Fear, just as a wand or a broom, is not dangerous if you keep it under control."
"Do you mean it can be used as a tool?" asks Nott.
"Fear is an alarm. It tells you that you might be in front of something dangerous."
"But sir," says Parkinson. "A Boggart doesn't carry a sign saying 'Boggart'. How can we recognise if it's a Boggart or something really dangerous?"
"Who can answer this question?"
"It changes shape if there are several people around," ventures Zabini.
"But if we're alone?" insists Parkinson.
"It wouldn't be a good idea to try Lupin's method," sniffs Greengrass. "Imagine we tried the Riddikulus thing on a real… say a real vampire. Wouldn't it attack us?"
"It might. And, what is worse, you would have let it see your fear by confusing it with a Boggart. You would have admitted your weakness. Now imagine you are alone, you have a vampire in front of you and you don't know if it's a real vampire or a Boggart. What do you do?"
"If we don't treat it as a Boggart, we treat it as a vampire," deduces Nott.
"And the way we treat a vampire is… ahem, exposed in a further lesson. For reference, garlic wards off vampires. Anyway, when in doubt whether you are facing an authentic Boggart or a vampire, treat it as a vampire."
"What happens if it's a Boggart and you treat it like a vampire?"
"Usually, the Boggart will react as a vampire."
"Usually?" repeats Nott.
"There have been cases in which the wizard or witch have broken through their fear, by responding calmly and without panic. In this case, the Boggart changes its shape."
"And we have to respond to the new shape?"
"Exactly. It becomes easier then, as we know for sure that we are facing a Boggart."
"So you do the Riddikulus charm?"
"If you can."
Draco is sitting perfectly still.
"A Boggart may assume the shape of something very dangerous, something not to be trifled with, such as a vampire, as Miss Greengrass mentioned, or a werewolf."
"In this case, you can use the Riddikulus charm only if you are perfectly aware of the distinction between the Boggart and the shape it has assumed. If there is any confusion in your mind, address the shape, not the Boggart… What's funny, Miss Parkinson?"
"L-Longbottom," she stammers.
The class has gone completely silent.
She tries to explain,
"It wouldn't have helped him to treat his Boggart as if it was you."
"Nothing will ever help Longbottom if he doesn't help himself. Silly Boggarts require silly solutions… As a matter of fact, let's use Longbottom's Boggart as an example. The Boggart Mr Longbottom was facing was not I. Had I been standing in front of Longbottom, all his Riddikulus charm would have achieved would have been to get him in detention."
I allow one minute for laughter.
"He has shown you his weakness," says Nott.
"What should Longbottom do next time he sees me, if he doesn't know if he is seeing the Potions master or a Boggart?"
"Call his grandmother!" giggles Parkinson.
"And if that were not possible?"
"Be more careful in class."
"Show you respect."
"That's the opposite of what Lupin taught him," remarks Greengrass.
"Indeed. And one more thing: he should become aware of his fear."
"Wasn't he all the time?"
"As we all know, Gryffindors are rather lacking in self-awareness."
Draco is twiddling a flagon. His injured arm doesn't seem to bother him too much. I must mention this to Narcissa.
"Now you should know that Muggles do not see Boggarts. This means that a very frightening Boggart is a sign of strong magical power. It is also a sign that you are capable of facing your fear. You may do this by using the Riddikulus, if you are perfectly aware that you are addressing the Boggart and not its shape. Or, if you choose to defend yourself against the shape your Boggart has taken, use garlic against vampires, and against werewolves… see page 394 of your book… By the way, did you get to see Lupin's Boggart?"
"It looks like a mouldy grey cheese!" says Parkinson cheerfully.
"Why would Professor Lupin be afraid of a mouldy grey cheese?'
"Beats me!" she says, just as cheerfully.
"Are you sure it's cheese?"
Zabini frowns. Nott cocks his head. Parkinson giggles.
Draco finally looks up.
"I want you to think about all this. Before I let you go, remember: Boggarts are not dangerous. They cannot hurt you. They are useful creatures who reveal our fears to us and give us opportunities to practice facing them safely. Know that fear and Boggarts will always be with us, but their shapes are ever changing… Now I'll tell you something you aren't supposed to know."
Even Draco smirks in Slytherin complicity.
"Lupin came complaining to me that he couldn't teach you to face Boggarts. I told him I would teach you. I'll give you a trick. You know the Boggart Lupin keeps in that wardrobe is a Boggart, not a vampire, a werewolf… or myself."
"Or a mouldy cheese."
"Exactly. Nor any of the shapes it might take to frighten you. This Boggart has no connection to what really frightens you. Concentrate on the Boggart itself, not on the shape. Make this Boggart as ridiculous as possible. Turn it into Longbottom or a mouldy cheese."
I don't need to add "or Lupin in Trelawney's clothes". They have got that message.
I hope they get the other one.