Chapter 38 : Stuart Boone
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“I was bitten after my seventh year at Hogwarts,” Boone began. “I graduated the top of my class, poised to enter the Ministry, and excited as well. My parents had died during my second year, so I had nobody. But that didn’t matter, because I was on the fast track for success, until I made the mistake of waltzing through a forest during a full moon. I am afraid I had that horrible belief of youth that nothing bad could happen to me. I was mistaken. I’ll spare the details, but after that, my Ministry career was over. My life spiraled out of control and I was soon living from full moon to full moon, stealing food when I could, sleeping in abandoned shacks and houses.”
“How old are you?” Matt asked, his voice cracking.
“Twenty-six,” Boone said.
Matt’s eyes widened. “But…but…”
“The grey hair? The wrinkles?” Boone said. “Results of living on the streets, and of awful transformations.”
“What about Wolfsbane?” Albus said.
“Can’t afford it,” Boone said, shrugging. “Simple as that.”
“But none of that explains why you’re pretending to be Professor Young,” Albus said.
“I’m getting there,” Boone said. “I told no one of my status as a lycanthrope, but everyone speculated on why Stuart Boone, the orphan who was going places, suddenly deserted his job at the Ministry and began living on the streets. Every menial job I applied for I was denied, due to my lycanthropy.”
Matt stared at Boone with such fear it was like he saw himself in twelve years, and Albus wished he could reassure him that he would never become Boone, without revealing that he was a werewolf as well.
“I then came up with an idea,” Boone continued. “I could not apply for jobs with my own identity, but I could pretend to be others. I tried it without Polyjuice twice, but I was recognized both times. I then attempted while Polyjuiced as a completely different person, and I secured a job. It didn’t last long, as I constantly missed work due to transformations, but it was a job, and I knew I could do it again.
“That was eight years ago, and since then I have assumed thirteen identities, Professor Young being the most recent. However, due to recent circumstances, I will have to find someone new. Pity, really.”
“But don’t people recognize the people you become?” John asked, still standing by the door.
Boone laughed. “I don’t use their names. I make up names. I never pick anyone particularly famous. Could you imagine if I became Harry Potter and waltzed into a shop to ask for a job? Although, you look an awful lot like Harry Potter.” Boone nodded to Albus.
“I’m his son,” Albus said.
Boone’s eyes widened and he suddenly looked nervous, as if he never should’ve started speaking in the first place. He stood up and began pacing the room, his eyes moving from Albus to the door and back again, as if he expected a team of Aurors to swoop in at any moment.
“Wait,” Kaden said loudly. “If you can brew Polyjuice, couldn’t you brew Wolfsbane? Wolfsbane isn’t that much harder.”
“Potions was my one difficulty in school. I do not brew my own Polyjuice. I purchase it.”
“Then why can’t you just buy Wolfsbane?” Kaden asked loudly.
Boone let out a short laugh. “Wolfsbane is easily ten times as expensive as Polyjuice and while it would make transformations easier, it wouldn’t help me in the job market. Polyjuice enables me to work, which enables me to buy more Polyjuice.”
“Illegally,” Albus muttered, an idea suddenly dawning on him. “Where do you buy it from?”
“An apothecary. I will not reveal which one.”
“It was you,” Albus said, his heart beating fast. “You’re the one we saw in Knockturn Alley last summer, not Professor Young. You were there buying Polyjuice.”
“Yes, that was me,” Boone said, furrowing his brow. “Clearly I was convincing.”
“But why did you pick this Shack?” Matt asked, his voice shaky. “Of all places, why this one?”
“I would’ve thought that obvious,” Boone said, gesturing to the room. “This place has been abandoned for decades. I would’ve moved in sooner if I’d been able to break through the enchantments. Awfully protected, for an abandoned house. And I am very curious as to why the four of you are so interested in it.”
“Never mind that,” Matt said. “How did you get in?”
“Tunneled in,” Boone said. “Took me weeks to do it, and I wound up in the closet downstairs. Had to work by night, you see. And then, after the Aurors completed their investigation, my tunnel was filled in. I had it covered with loose boards, but they still found it. Had to make a new one.”
“What about full moons?” Albus asked, knowing that Boone was never in the Shack during full moons. Matt would’ve encountered him.
“I Apparate to a forest a long way from here. I do not wish to endanger students or the residents of Hogsmeade.”
Albus looked at Matt. That explained why Matt hadn’t realized anyone was living in the Shack for so long.
“How long have you been here?” Albus asked.
“Almost a year. I moved in right before I began assuming Professor Young’s identity. Obtaining hairs was always easy. Young spends almost every evening in the Hog’s Head and after a few drinks, it’s easy enough to take hair while concealed in a robe and cloak. Nothing’s ever seen as suspicious in the Hog’s Head.”
“But why,” John began, finally walking away from the door, his wand still held high. “Why did you murder Michael Sheldon?”
Albus’s stomach dropped. He had been purposely avoiding that question, for fear it would send Stuart Boone into a murderous rage and yank a knife out of his robes in order to slice all of their throats, as he had done with Michael Sheldon and probably Thomas Cousins. Albus hadn’t known how he would bring it up, but the way John had done it was tactless.
“What?” Boone exclaimed, his face paling. “I never! Why would you think- I never murdered anyone! Never! I go through great lengths to avoid…I never, ever put anyone at risk!” He turned from the boys and strode to the window, resting his hands on the sill.
Albus was inclined to believe him. He had been honest with them so far, and while Albus certainly didn’t trust him on whole, his instincts were telling him Boone never murdered Michael Sheldon. Albus’s instincts, much like his father’s, were often right. His mannerisms were all off for a murderer faced with what he did.
“But you ran away from the scene!” John pointed out. “Elsie Willinson saw you!”
“She did,” Boone confirmed as he turned back around to face them. “She saw me running from the Shack. I needed to leave, before someone discovered me. Unfortunately the girl saw me. I would’ve Disapparated from the Shack, but for some reason it’s got anti-Apparition spells on it.” Boone took a deep breath.
“Likely story,” John said. “Why should we believe you?”
Boone sighed and shook his head. He held up his hands, which were covered by the too-long robes. Without a word, he lifted his arms and shook the robe sleeves down, revealing two mangled-looking hands, the fingers curled into the palms. He uncurled his fingers slowly, and as he did so, he winced with pain, unable to completely uncurl them.
“I can barely hold a wand,” Boone said quietly, “let alone a knife. And the dexterity required to force a man to the ground and slice his throat…it would be simply impossible.”
“Then why run?” John asked.
“Manus contracta.… What happened?” Matt asked simultaneously.
“Very astute. Years of transformations without proper medical care,” Boone said, ignoring John. “The transformations…they affect everyone differently. My bones simply do not fit back together the way they are supposed to when I transform. The condition is called manus contracta.”
Matt turned in horror to Albus and then back to Boone, but he didn’t say a word. Suddenly Albus felt that despite Matt’s issues with Wolfsbane, he was better off than Boone.
“I am deeply sorry that my fleeing the Shack is what cast suspicions on the real Professor Young. I assumed he would have an alibi-“
“He did,” Albus said, glaring at Boone. He might be innocent, but it was his fault Young was in Azkaban. “The Wizengamot chose not to believe it, due to the DNA they found laying around.”
Boone paled even further. “The hairs…I dropped them a few months ago after tripping over a tree root. What are the chances…found the body in the same spot…”
“Wait,” Matt said. “You were in the Shack when the murder took place? And then you ran to Disapparate?”
Boone nodded. “A coward’s choice. But you must understand, if I, a werewolf, were found at the scene of a murder, I would’ve been the number one suspect without any investigation. The prejudice…no one would’ve seen past what I am.”
“But your hands,” John said. “It wouldn’t be possible for you-“
Boone let out a harsh laugh. “You don’t think they’d find a way around that? Look what they’ve done to Professor Young. He’s sitting in Azkaban for a murder he didn’t commit, despite having an alibi and a respectable job. What do you think they would’ve done if they caught an unemployed werewolf who steals people’s identities in order to secure menial jobs? I had to flee. I had no choice.”
Matt looked very uncomfortable. He averted his gaze and stared at the floor. “But that means Sheldon wasn’t murdered here, in the Shack.”
“No, no, no,” Boone said quickly. “I would’ve noticed if he was murdered here. I do not know where the murder took place.”
“So you know what you’ve got to do now, don’t you? You may have thought you didn’t have a choice then, but you’ve got one now,” Albus asked, crossing his arms over his chest, glaring at Boone.
Boone’s face filled with fear. He stared back at Albus, as if pleading with him not to continue.
“You have to tell the Aurors what you did,” Albus said, ignoring the pained look on Boone’s face. “The man whose identity you stole is sitting in Azkaban, under the care of dementors, because of you, for a murder neither of you committed. Doesn’t that bother you?”
“You cannot understand,” Boone pleaded, shaking his robes over his hands once more. “You, the son of Harry Potter, without any knowledge of the horrors I’ve been through. I wouldn’t expect you to. It is not a simple matter of waltzing into the Ministry and confessing what I’ve done. They will release Young, but at what cost to me? They’ll frame me instead, the Minister will pressure the Aurors and the Wizengamot, just as she did with Professor Young. They need a scapegoat, someone to blame in order to cover up their own ineptitude. That person will become me.”
“How can you stand it?” Albus exclaimed. “Knowing you put an innocent man in jail?”
“I am innocent as well,” Boone said. “Even if I confess to what I’ve done, and I’ve done a lot that toes the line of legality-“
“Toes?” John interrupted. “I think you’ve done more than just toe the line.”
“Fine,” Boone muttered. “But I never committed murder, and I never, ever will. I cannot rot in Azkaban for something I never did. Until one of you have been through what I’ve been through, you cannot understand the position I am in, how the Ministry sees me, and what that means-“
“I understand!” Matt shouted, jumping off the bed.
Albus stared at him, his mouth open in shock. Matt was standing in front of Boone, his chest heaving, his eyes filled with tears of frustration. Albus turned to John and Kaden, who looked as surprised as Albus felt. Was Matt about to reveal to Boone that he, too, was a werewolf?
“I understand!” Matt repeated. “And I would never, ever do what you’ve done. I would never steal other people’s identities and buy illegal Polyjuice in order to get a job I could only keep for a month or two. I would never let someone sit in Azkaban due to my own stupidity and cowardice. Never, ever!”
Boone let out another harsh laugh. “You have friends, family most likely, who love you and support you. That much is obvious, given the three friends you brought with you tonight. You go to Hogwarts, for God’s sake! We may have the same disease, but you and I are nowhere near the same. You have access to Wolfsbane. Do not stand there and compare us.”
Albus now understood. Boone somehow already knew that Matt was a werewolf, and Matt knew that he had figured it out as well.
“You know nothing!” Matt shouted. “Nothing! You don’t know that before I came here my dad lost his job because of what I am. You don’t know that my whole family uprooted their lives to make mine better. Wolfsbane doesn’t work for me. I’ve gone through the painful transformation since I was five. That’s over ten years. Longer than you have.”
Boone looked like he’d been hit in the stomach with a Bludger. He stared at Matt, a strange combination of mingled awe and guilt on his face.
“Wait,” Kaden said loudly. “How the bloody hell did this bloke know about Matt?”
“I had a hunch, from the moment I saw him,” Boone said wryly. “His eyes. The eyes are a dead giveaway for those with blue eyes. Not many people know about or think about the eyes, however. I’m lucky mine are brown. And I’ve met enough werewolves over the years to recognize the sickly look.” He turned from Kaden to Matt. “Your reactions to everything I’ve said confirmed it.”
Matt looked uncomfortable. “What happened to you isn’t an excuse for not doing the right thing now.”
“You’re a Gryffindor, aren’t you?” Boone asked.
“Yes. What does that have to do with anything?” Matt said.
“You seriously think you’d turn yourself in if you were in my shoes?” Boone said. “Think about it. Think long and hard.”
The room was silent for several minutes. Matt stared at Boone, never averting his gaze. Albus was surprised; he’d never seen Matt so confrontational, so courageous, so much like a stereotypical Gryffindor.
“Yes, I do,” Matt answered. “What you’re doing…it isn’t right.”
“Gryffindor,” Boone said simply. “Brave to the point of stupidity, brave even when it means risking your own life and livelihood.”
“And I suppose you were a Slytherin?” Matt asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Such contempt,” Boone said. “But yes, I was. We’re not all evil. What I’m doing, it isn’t evil. It’s self-preservation. You have to understand that. You, of all the people in this room, surely understand that.”
“I do,” Matt said quietly. “But that doesn’t make it right, and I always try to do the right thing.”
“Then we’ll agree to disagree,” Boone said simply. “I just have one question. Why did you come here tonight?”
Albus was immensely relieved Boone didn’t ask how they knew he was there. He wouldn’t mention the Map, but he couldn’t come up with a plausible alternative answer either.
“The Shack is mine,” Matt said, stepping closer to Boone. “You can’t live here. It doesn’t belong to you-“
“It doesn’t belong to anyone,” Boone interrupted.
“It belongs to Hogwarts, and while I’m there, it’s mine,” Matt said.
Boone furrowed his brow. “But why would you need a-“ He cut himself off, realization dawning on his face. “Oh. This Shack…is where you transform.”
Matt nodded. “You can’t live here.”
To Albus’s surprise, Boone smiled. “If I leave, will you agree not to mention what has happened here tonight?”
Albus held his breath as he watched Matt and Boone. He knew that this was Matt’s battle, that whatever Matt decided would be the only decision. Albus, John, and Kaden would respect it, whether they agreed with it or not, because suddenly, more than just Young’s incarceration was at stake. Matt’s emotional state for his next two years of Hogwarts was also at stake.
“No,” Matt said quietly.
Boone’s mouth fell open and he shut it quickly, shaking his head. “Excuse me?”
“I said no,” Matt said. “I won’t keep your secret.”
“Then we’re done here,” Boone said. He stepped closer to Matt, so that they were only a foot apart. “If I could have my wand.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Matt said, the tip of his wand only inches away from Boone’s chest. “Or didn’t you hear the noise downstairs?”
“Amanda,” Albus whispered, remembering what he told Amanda before they left. He hadn’t realized enough time had passed for them to miss curfew.
The smile vanished from Boone’s face and was replaced by a look of utter panic. He turned to look at the window, and for a few seconds Albus thought he was contemplating jumping from it in order to escape. But he must’ve realized doing so would be stupid without a wand, as he’d definitely break a leg, and he froze in place instead.
The door flew open, causing Kaden, who was still standing next to it, to jump and run across the room to the bed. Albus’s dad and Uncle Ron stood in the doorway, taking in the scene with their wands raised. Head Auror Johnson, Albus was happy to see, was not there.
“Albus!” Harry shouted as he rushed into the room.
“Dad,” Albus said as his father joined him at his side.
“Who’s this?” Ron asked, gesturing to Boone with his wand.
Boone had sunken to the floor and was now quivering in his too-large robes. Both Aurors seemed utterly perplexed by the scene. Albus, Matt, John, and Kaden all still with wands, pointed at the cowering figure of a strange, unarmed man.
“He’s the reason Professor Young was framed for murder,” Albus said, and launched into an explanation of how he and the other boys had come across Boone, and everything Boone had told them since.
Boone remained on the floor, shaking more and more as Albus continued. Albus attempted to ignore him, but he began to sob partway through and Albus found he felt sorry for him, something Albus attempted to push out of his mind but somehow couldn’t. Still, he made it through the whole story, answering every question his father posed.
Matt had resumed his seat on the bed, seemingly unable to take his eyes off the sobbing Boone. His own shaking had subsided somewhat, but he was still pale and had lowered his wand. Kaden sat next to him, a look of disgust on his face. John remained close to the door, still vigilant as he pointed his wand at Boone.
“Get up,” Ron said, staring down at Boone once Albus finished. Boone struggled to his feet and Ron took hold of his arm.
Harry, meanwhile, searched the wardrobe and retrieved a cauldron of Polyjuice and a vial of short, black hairs. Albus felt sure they would match Professor Young.
Ron conjured a pair of handcuffs and shoved Boone against the wall. “You’re under arrest,” he said as he put the cuffs on, “for identity theft.” Ron read Boone his rights and Boone continued sobbing.
“B-but you d-don’t understand!” Boone shouted. “It was my only choice! I h-had no ch-choice!”
“Take him in,” Harry said. “I’ll take the boys back to the castle.”
Ron nodded and directed Boone out of the room, following behind him with one arm on Boone’s cuffed hands and the other gripping his wand tightly.
The room was silent after Ron and Boone left. The boys remained rooted in their spots as Harry stood vigil in the doorway, waiting for the sound of Ron and Boone leaving the Shack. There was a loud crack, and Albus knew his uncle must’ve lifted the anti-Apparition wards temporarily.
“Let’s go,” Harry said quietly.
This time Harry led the group through the tunnel back to the Hogwarts grounds, followed by John, Kaden, Matt, and finally, Albus, who brought up the rear. None of them spoke as they walked, the only noises being the crunching of branches beneath them and Matt’s hitched breathing. As he walked, Albus was overcome by the awe of what they’d just done. They’d discovered evidence that would free Professor Young from his wrongful imprisonment. If Albus had been able to do that as a fifth year, what would he then be able to do as an Unspeakable? He found it strange to think about.
A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews! Only one chapter left. I finally got a banner for this fic, made by the wonderful Avalanche at TDA, and it's beautiful!
manus contracta is Latin for contracted hands.
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