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Chapter 22 : Their Greatest Fears.
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This chapter contains references to drug use, character death and family dysfunction.
For a moment, Rose stared at the trunk in amazement. She'd been so sure opening it would tell her what she needed to know or at the very least give her some idea as to how to proceed. This, however, told her less than nothing.
She hadn't time to stand around thinking, she reminded herself. She needed to get to class. Opening the trunk had taken less time than she'd feared it might, but there was still no time to be lost, especially after Fionnuala'd delayed her by bursting into the dormitory like that.
She slammed it back up on its rack quickly and hurried out of the dormitory and down the stairs from Ravenclaw tower, arriving in the Great Hall, just as the dishes were beginning to disappear.
"Did you find your quill?" Angie asked.
"My quill? Oh, yes, yes I did, thanks."
Albus looked at her quizzically, but she pretended not to notice. She'd tell him later, of course, but not here, not when half the school was hanging around to overhear them. And not when they'd only moments to get to their first class.
Professor Jones was waiting for them when they entered the classroom.
"I hope you all had a good Christmas." She smiled.
"Now, at the beginning of the year, I informed you that we would, after Christmas, start looking at some Dark Creatures."
Dora muttered something inaudible under her breath and one or two of the Slytherins giggled.
Professor Jones glanced at her sternly. "Do you want to share that with the class, Miss Nottingham?"
"Then perhaps you would keep quiet and pay attention when I'm teaching. I'm sure you're aware by now that I do not appreciate interruptions."
"All right. Now today, we're going to face a creature some of you may have already encountered." She gestured to a large case that stood at the top of the room. "I have a Boggart in here."
A couple of students shuddered involuntarily.
Professor Jones smiled. "Yes, I can see some of you are already familiar with the creature. Who can tell me what it is?"
Rose, Albus, Nathan, Rasmus, Dora, Danica and Scorpius raised their hands.
"It's a creature that turns into whatever you're most afraid of."
"Very good, Scorpius. Now can anybody tell me what spell one can use to defeat them?"
Less hands were raised this time, only Rose's, Nathan's, Rasmus's and Danica's.
"Very good. Can you expand on that? What exactly does Riddikulus do?"
"It turns the Boggart into something funny."
"That's correct. However, it's a little more difficult than that. You need not only to master the hand movement, which I will now demonstrate and say the word, but also to concentrate strongly on the form you want the Boggart to take. We won't worry about that for the moment, though. Firstly, I want you to practice the words and wand movement. Riddikulus," she added, demonstrating how to perform the spell.
"Riddikulus," the class repeated.
"Very good. Nathan, you're not raising the wand enough. Try it again please."
"Riddikulus," he said.
"That's better. Let's all try it again."
"Very good. Now, the next step is to think what it is you're most afraid of and then consider how you might make it entertaining. Of course, as with many of the creatures you'll encounter over the course of the next few months, defeating them here in class should be a good deal easier than facing them outside school might be. Can anybody give me a reason this might be so?"
Rose raised her hand, a little more tentatively than usual.
"Yes, Miss Weasley?"
"We wouldn't normally know in advance we were about to encounter a boggart, so we wouldn't have time to think what form it might take or how we could make that funny."
"Very good. Five points to Ravenclaw. Any other suggestions?"
There was a pause, then Albus raised his hand.
"Yes Mr. Potter?"
"We might not know it was a boggart."
"That's true. Depending on the specific form your boggart takes, it may be something you wouldn't immediately recognise as a fake. Any suggestions as to how you might check?"
Rose racked her brains, but no ideas occurred to her. Nobody else seemed to be able to think of any either.
Professor Jones smiled. "Well, if in doubt, it's always as well to assume what's threatening you is what it appears to be, especially if it's something truly harmful. The spells you'd use to defeat whatever creature the boggart appears as will generally repel it anyway. That said, there are some indications that you're facing a boggart and not the real thing. For one thing, while a boggart will cause many of the effects of whatever it assumes the form of, those effects will generally be milder. If a boggart were to appear in the form of a mandrake, for example, its cry wouldn't kill you, although it might cause some weakness or fainting. All right, lecture over. I now want you to spend a few moments thinking how the boggart might present itself to you and how you might combat that."
The question was harder than Rose had expected. The truth was she wasn't quite sure just what it was she most feared. Hurriedly, she tried to think of the worst thing she could imagine. Getting expelled from Hogwarts, maybe? She wasn't sure she could say she really feared it though, because she didn't really think it too likely to happen. Failing an exam then? That was rather more probable, but much as she'd hate it, she didn't really think it was what she most feared. She tried to think bigger, more harmful. What about the A.W.L. succeeding? It'd be terrible to live in the kind of world they advocated. She wasn't exactly sure she'd say she feared that either though. It seemed a little too distant. It didn't really impact on her directly. Then what about another wizarding war? That thought sent shivers down her spine. Maybe that was it.
"All right." Professor Jones interrupted her thoughts. "I'm now going to release the boggart. I want you all to stand back here and then come forward to face it one at a time."
Most of the students seemed only too anxious to stand as far back as possible. From the glances that were being passed back and forth around the classroom, it was clear most of the class hoped somebody else would go first.
Apparently realising it was unlikely there'd be any volunteers, Professor Jones called on Abric to come forward.
He did as he was told and a member of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement stepped out of the case.
Rose started to giggle. She honestly thought that was funny enough already.
"RIDDIKULUS," he shouted.
"I am arresting you for erm improperly cut hair." The boggart rubbed its own head. "This is how an acceptable hair-do should look."
Professor Jones nodded. "Mr. Potter."
Albus stepped forward and the boggart turned into James. Rose stared in amazement. She knew James could be a jerk and that he liked to pick on Albus, but surely Albus wasn't actually scared of him.
"You're such a loser," the boggart-James scoffed. "I'm ashamed to have you as my brother. You've no friends, you're useless at Quidditch..."
"Ri..iddikulus," Albus managed.
"...and you can't jive like I can."
The boggart-James started to dance around the room, swinging its hips. The class was in hysterics.
"Well done, Albus." Professor Jones smiled. "Miss Ravensdale."
The boggart turned into a vampire, who tripped over its own cape and fell flat on its face.
The captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team appeared.
"As a result of your performance recently, I am dropping you from the team."
"Dropping you, dropping you, dropping you from the team, from the team, from the te-e-eam," he sang.
Scorpius conducted him with his wand.
Rose stepped forward, a little apprehensively. She still wasn't quite sure what she'd face.
To her dismay, the boggart assumed the form of Hugo, lying dead on the classroom floor.
For a moment, she paled. He was her little brother. It was her job to protect him.
It wasn't real, she reminded herself, but good God, how did you make a dead body humorous?
Finally, an idea occurred to her and she raised her wand.
The top half of the body rose from the floor, as if the dead boy was sitting up, then sank down again and the legs rose up, the corpse continuing to rock crazily.
"Good. Miss Lewis."
Angie stepped forward and the boggart assumed the form of a girl in her mid-teens, who, like the boggart-James spoke with a sneer.
"You're going to have to come home now and leave that fancy school of yours. Mum's taken another overdose and this time it's killed her. That's right, she's dead and it's all your fault. If you'd been here at Christmas, you could have prevented it. So that's that. We're all going to be taken back into care and you don't think social services are going to let you run off learning magic tricks, do you?"
Angie seemed to have frozen to the spot. Tears formed in her eyes.
"Mr. Bagshot, take your turn, please." Professor Jones came over and placed an arm around Angie's shoulder. "Are you all right?"
Angie bit her lip and nodded.
"Go and sit down. It's all right. This happens sometimes. I'll talk to you at the end of class. All right?"
Angie nodded again and did as she was told. She was clearly trying to avoid breaking down completely.
Rose went over to join her. Professor Jones wouldn't normally tolerate students wandering around the class without permission, but Rose was pretty sure she'd make an exception in this case.
"Are you all right?" she asked quietly, sitting down beside her.
Angie nodded, but the truth was she didn't look it.
"Angie..." she began.
"Rose, please, just leave me alone." She turned away.
Rose faltered, unsure as to how she should proceed. She certainly didn't want to risk upsetting Angie any more and yet she wasn't sure she should just take her at her word either.
She was still debating the matter when Professor Jones began drawing the class to a close.
"Very well done, everybody. A very good first attempt. I know you didn't all get the opportunity to fight it, but the rest of you will have your chance in the next class. Please tidy up now and make your way to your next classes." She came down to where Rose and Angie were sitting. "You too, Rose," she said gently. "Angie, you can remain behind for a moment."
Reluctantly, Rose got up, casting a final glance in Angie's direction. She didn't like just leaving her, but Professor Jones was right; she ought to get to Transfiguration.
In the Transfiguration classroom, she paused at Professor Blackburn's desk.
"Professor Jones asked Angie to remain behind a few moments." She shifted awkwardly, wondering whether or not she should say any more.
"Yeah, she was scared by the big nasty boggart," Dora muttered.
"All right, Rose, thank you for telling me," Blackburn replied, ignoring Dora.
That lesson was well underway when Angie entered the classroom, still looking a little upset.
"Sorry I'm late, Professor. Professor Jones kept me because...well, I'd a bit of a problem with the boggart in class."
Blackburn nodded. "I know, Angie. The others told me you were speaking to her. Are you all right?"
"Really?" Blackburn's tone was gentle.
Angie shrugged. "Sort of."
"If you want to take a break for a while..."
Angie shook her head decisively. "I'd rather participate."
Blackburn nodded. "All right. It's up to you."
Rose had hoped she'd have a chance to speak to Angie after class or even in History of Magic, where Binns never seemed to notice or care if they whispered, but at the end of class, Blackburn again pulled Angie aside, meaning she was the last to reach the History of Magic classroom and when she did, she sat down on the other side of the room from Rose, between two Hufflepuffs.
As the day passed, no opportunities to talk to her arose. She continued to walk and sit alone. When she didn't even turn up to lunch, Rose began to worry, a worry which only increased when she neither appeared at dinner or returned to Ravenclaw tower with her classmates.
"Where could she be all this time?" she eventually wondered aloud.
"Seriously, it's been three hours since classes finished," she continued. "I wonder if I should go and see if she's in the library."
"Maybe she just wants us to leave her alone," he said quietly.
"Maybe so, but it's been way too long now. She's missed lunch and dinner. And Defence Against the Dark Arts was first thing this morning, for crying out loud. She can't keep avoiding us forever."
"Well, she'll have to come back at curfew," he said, but he sounded a little doubtful.
She did however, return right at the last moment and she headed straight for the dormitory.
Rose followed her.
She was sitting on her bed, her knees pulled up to her chest.
Angie sighed. "Yeah."
Rose sat down beside her.
"Are you all right?"
"Where were you all this time anyway? I was beginning to get worried."
"All evening?" Rose asked incredulously.
She nodded. "She sort of let me hide out there. I didn't exactly feel like facing everybody."
Rose thought for a moment.
"I guess she'd know how it feels to have your personal business broadcast like that."
"Yeah, she pretty much said that," Angie agreed.
There was a moment's silence.
"Honestly though, Ange, nobody cares what your family is like or about any of that stuff. Well, except maybe Dora and after all, if she says anything, you can always kick her again."
For the first time that day, Angie half-smiled.
"She did deserve that, didn't she?"
"Definitely," Rose agreed.
Angie paused for a moment, twisting a scrap of the blanket around in her hand
"I just wanted to leave all that stuff behind me," she finally said quietly. "You don't know what it's like to be part of the local family of no-hopers. When people talk about your family, it's for all the right reasons. They're not speculating about whether your mum will turn up drunk to the parent-teacher meeting or what the police want with your brother."
"That's true," Rose said slowly, "but you know, my family's come in for its fair share of criticism over the years. Only last summer, the Daily Prophet was hinting my mum wasn't showing enough concern for people's safety."
"Yeah, but none of that stuff's true, is it? They're trying to discredit your mum because everybody looks up to her and they want to make out she's not as great as everybody thinks. That's different from everybody looking down on your family and not being able to argue with any of it, because most of it's true."
For a moment, Rose didn't respond. Angie had a point. She didn't know what it'd be like to know people had good reason for criticising your parents. It must be much like what Scorpius and the kids of some of the other Death Eaters had to deal with. She remembered his comment about almost wishing he was a Muggle so nobody'd know what his family had done in the past.
"OK," she said finally, "you're probably right, but honestly, by tomorrow, everybody'll have half forgotten about it. Well, maybe not forgotten exactly, but something else will have happened to distract them. You know what this place is like. We don't go very long without some form of excitement. And like I said, nobody's going to care anyway, at least not anybody with any sense. It's stupid to judge people by their families. Albus's dad's godfather came from a family steeped in the Dark Arts and his grandfather died fighting against them. And look at Scorpius. His dad and granddad were followers of Voldemort. Whatever your family might have done, it can hardly compare with that."
Angie smiled. "I suppose so."
Rose touched her arm. "So will you come down to the common room?"
She shook her head. "I'm not really in the mood, Rose. It's usually chaos down there. But I'll tell you what; I wouldn't mind a game of scrabble if you still have it with you."
"Yeah, it's here somewhere."
She located the scrabble board and the two girls started a game. Angie remained quiet, focussing on the letters, but she did seem a little more cheerful.
I really enjoyed writing this chapter. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much.
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