The Shape of Fear
Teddy Lupin had been waiting for this day for a long time. Fist clenched eagerly around his wand, he sat as high as the chair would allow and fixed his eyes beadily on the shaking trunk perched precariously on the Defence Against the Dark Arts’ teacher’s desk. The other students exchanged whispers, confusion from some and anxiety from others. Professor Xenos tapped his wand absently on his desk a few times until a hush fell, leaving the students to crane their necks forward to better eye the trunk.
“Boggarts,” began Xenos stoutly, tapping his wand against his thigh this time, “are fairly damn scary things. Who would care to tell me why?”
A few half-hearted hands crept up and Ted’s joined them. As usual, Xenos’ stared around at them with unfocused eyes and answered himself.
“It takes the shape of what you fear most, isn’t that terrifying?” he exclaimed brightly, suddenly and conveniently registering the trepidation forming on the students’ faces.
The trunk shot onto the floor with a loud bang and the first couple of rows bopped uneasily as some jumped in their seats. Ted was instead filled with excitement and he lurched further over his desk to get a better view. Fluttering his wand a few times and enjoying the stupefied expressions staring tremulously towards the front of the classroom, Xenos cleared his throat expertly.
After letting the silence hang, punctuated by the taps of the quivering trunk on the floor, he explained, “But not to worry, even if you’re paralysed with fear, you’ll have some friends with you, won’t you? How will that help?”
He was met was a few stony grimaces. Unperturbed, Xenos ploughed on.
“Say, if there is more than one person tackling a Boggart, there will be more than one fear in the room. The poor wee beastie can’t make up its mind and – poof! Sometimes a very strange result. But there is one important thing about giving Boggarts the boot…”
“Why would they need a boot?” hissed a vagrant from Slytherin near the back of the classroom.
Ted ignored this and said loudly, “Laughter, sir. Isn’t that what gives them the boot?”
Xenos blinked, and the other students followed suited. No one had ever managed to give him an answer in class before. The Professor perused a book lying flat on its spine and corrected calmly, “It is described as ‘sounds of mirth’ in your text book, Mr Lupin.”
“Which is laughter,” Ted pointed out, grinning as he remembered Harry recounting such a lesson that Ted’s father had given some years ago.
“Don’t interrupt my theatrics,” Xenos shot back.
It was Ted’s turn to blink.
“If there are no more interruptions…”
The class mutely shook their heads, Ted among them, and the Professor continued, “…I will ask each of you to quickly write down what your worst fears are. That might take you five minutes, unless you are deluded into thinking you are fearless – in which case, that will take you your entire life. Then underneath write what could possibly make your fear into something funny.”
“Something funny, sir?” someone queried in confusion.
“Yes,” Xenos said testily, “Say, if I feared snakes, I could think of tying it up in knots.”
“Can I use that?”
“Think of your own answer, Mr Heaney! I will not always be there to supply you with answers, certainly not when you move into your own home and open your desk drawer to find a Boggart lurking in there among your old quills…Ah, I digress. After you have done that, perhaps another five minutes, I will collect all your answers and dump it into my hat,” he brandished a musty lime coloured top hat, “then just like a lucky prize draw, I will pick out one to deal with the Boggart! Oh…perhaps you ought to put your names down, too! You’ll need another five minutes to remember how to spell your names.”
Quills immediately appeared and scratched frenetically across parchment – well, some did, others just tapped their desks not unlike their Professor and frowned uncertainly at each other. Ted Lupin, as he had been waiting for this opportunity since the day he heard the story of Remus Lupin’s first DADA class, and fuelled with daydreams of doing his father’s memory proud, cheerfully noted down several things he supposed he feared and the counter attacks.
Fifteen minutes later, Xenos swept through the room collecting the bits of parchment in his disgusting hat, which would growl ominously if a student hesitated too long. Once this was finished and the Professor was scrabbling through the hat for a victim, Ted watched avidly and, although no one in this class knew the shoes he had to fill, he wanted to prove just how good Lupins good be.
“Well isn’t this perfect,” drawled Xenos, “Mr Lupin, it’s your few moments of fame.”
Ted bounded to the front of the classroom, holding out his wand at the trunk. He turned to the teacher for confirmation, asking, “It’s ‘riddikulus’ isn’t it? No, hey, don’t answer that, I’ll say ‘yes it is’.”
Xenos did not look at all impressed at being mocked in this fashion, but he parroted coyly, “Yes it is. I would say break a leg, but I might sound too sincere.”
A solid kick delivered to the trunk snapped it open, allowing the Boggart to spring from its prison. Some of the class let out breaths they had been holding, expecting the worst. Floating in front of Ted was a mirror, bearing his own reflection. Horrified and fascinated, he watched the image distort and bend, making his limbs melt away and his face to lengthen and shorten by turns.
Spiders, he could have dealt with. He’d heard from a certain Ron Weasley how to fix that sort of Boggart. The wooden spoon from his younger days of his grandmother’s spankings could have been dealt with, despite the trembling that those memories drew.
“R-Ri…” he mumbled.
“It’s getting the better of you, Mr Lupin!” Xenos snapped.
Ted backed away from the mirror as it drew ever nearer and he said frantically, “But I f-faced this fear, Professor!”
“Facing a fear does not make it go away! Do you want to look like a complete twit in front of your class mates?”
“Too late,” the Slytherin from before chortled.
Ted’s eyes narrowed and his hair burned into a furious red. It wasn’t something he could help, being a Metamorphagus like his mother had been, and it was embarrassing in that it signalled if he was being successfully taunted by someone. Launching himself forward at the mirror and thrusting out his wand, almost spearing his own reflection, he mustered up all his strength and anger and shouted, “Riddikulus!”
His reflection exploded into the image of an extremely ugly garden gnome, much like the one he had seen traipsing over the back lawn of the Potters’ house, which blinked several times at the class before erupting into song. The nasal voice grated over a particularly cheesy Celestina Warbeck number for a few moments, until accompanied by the gnome tap dancing from side to side. The class howled appreciatively – except for Sean Heaney who slumped from his chair to the floor.
“Oh dear, it looks like Mr Heaney didn’t quite anticipate his fear,” Xenos noted calmly and expelled the already twitching Boggart himself, “I would give you ten points for Gryffindor, Mr Lupin, except that it took you a little longer to find your feet. Five points, then. Class dismissed, report for duty next week – same time, same place, be ready because I might choose any one of you to face your worst nightmare!”
The class scuttled outside into the corridor, exchanging the usual tirades about how unstable the DADA professor was – perhaps five years in the post was a little too long. They would never know that this thought never crossed the minds of those DADA students before the defeat of Voldemort. A cursed job? How absurd.
Ted shuffled along with some of his friends, offering slyly, “Hey, Sean, I didn’t know you were afraid of old music.”
“Garden gnomes, actually,” Sean defended insistently, but sniggers followed him down into the Great Hall for lunch.
Sliding in beside his friends, Ted poked a few Yorkshire puddings as he tried to make up his mind which was the best. He spared a thought for the house elves who had prepared it, smiling a little as he thought of Mrs Weasley’s – Hermione Weasley, that is – various rants on the subject.
The back of his neck felt uncomfortable hot, and Ted turned around just in time to hear a Slytherin call, “Are you afraid of your own face, Teddy Bear? I’m not surprised, I’d die of fright if I were you and looked in the mirror. Ha!”
Ted stabbed an unfortunate Yorkshire pudding with his fork and resisted the urge to hurl it across at his tormentor. He settled for throwing it against his plate before stomping outside. His stomach rumbled in protest, but he was in no mood to face the many curious students who wouldn’t understand why he was afraid of his own reflection. They would never get it.
“I thought him calling you a teddy bear was a wonderful compliment,” a sweet voice announced from behind him.
He glanced back and slowed his steps, smiling despite himself. “You’d think anything was a compliment, Vic. But then I guess that’s because you only ever get compliments. ”
Victoire Weasley shrugged off-handedly, grey eyes neutral. “My mother would be appalled to hear you shorten my name like that. I cannot help being called nice things, I ‘ave some Veela in me, you know.”
Ted waited for her to fall into step beside him and they companionably left the castle for a short walk to the lake. The sun was weakly beaming past grey clouds and the wind whipped past their school cloaks, a frosty reminder of the approaching winter. Although she was a year younger than him, Victoire was already taller and thinner. Whenever he pointed this out, she would quickly cite the reason as her Weasley heritage.
“The tall and lanky curse,” she had called it. “So powerful and evil that not even mon père can break it.”
The silence stretched comfortably between them, but Victoire was not content with being out of the loop. She said tentatively, “Why izit you fear your own reflection, Teddy? It cannot be for your face, for I think your face well enough, depending on the day of course, whatever you change it into.”
Ted gazed at her and decided that if it was someone his age he could trust, it was her. He explained shortly, “I no longer have my original face because I’m a Metamorphagus…I sometimes fear that if I look in the mirror, I won’t be able to see anything of my parents there. I’ll just be a stranger without any connection to them. No one could ever say ‘oh hey you look like Remus or Tonks’. It’s like the one thing I could have had of them, but don’t.”
“Oh Ted…” Victoire murmured sadly, “I’m sure you have much of your parents – ”
“I know, I know. I faced this whole thing ages ago. And I’m sure I’m much like them inside, too. I just thought I was over it. Guess it’s like what Professor Xenos said. Facing the fear doesn’t make it go away.”
“It perhaps means you just learn to live with it,” she supplied helpfully.
“Or maybe Boggarts help us find ways of maintaining our fears…” Ted mused.
At this, Victoire laughed lightly in the musical way that she always did. “Next thing we know, Professor Xenos will insist zat they are important learning tools for life.”
“How ridiculous,” Ted said dryly.
They began climbing the slope back up to the castle, working briskly so that they would not be late to their next lessons. Chill swirls in the already lukewarm breeze drove them even faster towards the shelter of the castle. Once inside, they relaxed and followed scattered groups up to the Gryffindor tower. It was hard not to notice the vacant expressions of some of the boys they passed. Victoire snorted in the back of her throat. “I am glad you do not stare at me, like others do.”
“I don’t think any Metamorphagus could disguise their jaw hitting the floor,” he joked, “I like my dignity far too much, Vic.”
“I’m sure you’re just modest."
They exchanged warm smiles, quickly glancing away when their hands brushed briefly.