121 The Boggart in the Close
"Now, then," said Professor Lupin, beckoning the class toward the end of the room, where there was nothing but the old wardrobe where Arth appeared out of once during his expeditions on the staircase of randomness.
As Professor Lupin went to stand next to it, the wardrobe gave a sudden wobble, banging off the wall.
"Nothing to worry about," said Professor Lupin calmly because a few people had jumped backward in alarm. "There's a boggart in there."
Neville gave Professor Lupin a look of pure terror, and Seamus Finnigan eyed the now rattling doorknob apprehensively.
"Boggarts like dark, enclosed spaces," said Professor Lupin. "Wardrobes, the gap beneath beds, the cupboards under sinks. I've even met one that had lodged itself in a grandfather clock. This one moved in yesterday afternoon, and I asked the headmaster if the staff would leave it to give my third years some practice. So, the first question we must ask ourselves is, what is a boggart?"
Arth and Hermione put up their hands.
"It's a shape-shifter," she said. "It can take the shape of whatever it thinks will frighten us most."
"Couldn't have put it better myself," said Professor Lupin, and Hermione glowed while Arth clicked his tongue.
"So the boggart sitting in the darkness within has not yet assumed a form. He does not yet know what will frighten the person on the other side of the door. Nobody knows what a boggart looks like when he is alone, but when I let him out, he will immediately become whatever each of us most fears.
"This means," said Professor Lupin, choosing to ignore Neville's small sputter of terror, "that we have a huge advantage over the boggart before we begin. Have you spotted it, Harry?"
"Er — because there are so many of us, it won't know what shape it should be?"
"Precisely," said Professor Lupin. "It's always best to have company when you're dealing with a boggart. He becomes confused. Which should he become, a headless corpse or a flesh-eating slug? I once saw a boggart make that very mistake — tried to frighten two people at once and turned himself into half a slug. Not as remotely frightening."
"The charm that repels a boggart is simple, yet it requires force of mind. You see, the thing that really finishes a boggart is laughter. What you need to do is force it to assume a shape that you find amusing."
Arth had a sudden thought.
What if what you feared was the true identity of a boggart? What would happen?
"We will practice the charm without wands first. After me, please . . . riddikulus!"
"Riddikulus!" said the class together.
On second thought, it probably wouldn't work. The boggart would just appear as what we imagined the true image of the boggart to be.
"Good," said Professor Lupin. "Very good. But that was the easy part, I'm afraid. You see, the word alone is not enough. And this is where you come in, Neville."
The wardrobe shook again, though not as much as Neville, who walked forward as though he were heading for the gallows... or maybe a therapist.
Maybe... what if you video recorded a boggart in an enclosed space? Since the camera has no sense of fear, it could capture the true identity of a boggart. However, electrical devices wouldn't work in the magical grounds of Hogwarts.
Arth made a mental note to research on how to make a magical video recording device.
"Right, Neville," said Professor Lupin. "First things first: what would you say is the thing that frightens you most in the world?"
Neville's lips moved, but no noise came out.
"Didn't catch that, Neville, sorry," said Professor Lupin cheerfully.
Neville looked around rather wildly, as though begging someone to help him, then said, in barely more than a whisper, "Professor Snape."
Arth gave a barely audible snort.
Why would anyone fear Professor Snape? It was like fearing a dragon, who would be afraid of such fascinating beasts?
Nearly everyone laughed. Even Neville grinned apologetically. Professor Lupin, however, looked thoughtful.
"Professor Snape . . . hmmm . . . Neville, I believe you live with your grandmother?"
"Er — yes," said Neville nervously. "But — I don't want the boggart to turn into her either."
"No, no, you misunderstand me," said Professor Lupin, now smiling. "I wonder, could you tell us what sort of clothes your grandmother usually wears?"
Neville looked startled, but said, "Well . . . always the same hat. A tall one with a stuffed vulture on top. And a long dress . . . green, normally . . . and sometimes a fox-fur scarf."
"And a handbag?" prompted Professor Lupin.
"A big red one," said Neville.
"Right then," said Professor Lupin. "Can you picture those clothes very clearly, Neville? Can you see them in your mind's eye?"
"Yes," said Neville uncertainly, plainly wondering what was coming next.
"When the boggart bursts out of this wardrobe, Neville, and sees you, it will assume the form of Professor Snape," said Lupin. "And you will raise your wand — thus — and cry 'Riddikulus' — and concentrate hard on your grandmother's clothes. If all goes well, Professor Boggart Snape will be forced into that vulture-topped hat, and that green dress, with that big red handbag."
He didn't think that the sight of Professor Snape in a dress would be pleasing, none the less funny. Plus, once Professor Snape got a word of it, Neville would experience hell.
"If Neville is successful, the boggart is likely to shift his attention to each of us in turn," said Professor Lupin. "I would like all of you to take a moment now to think of the thing that scares you most, and imagine how you might force it to look comical..."
"Everyone ready?" said Professor Lupin. "Neville, we're going to back away. Let you have a clear field, all right? I'll call the next person for- ward... Everyone back, now, so Neville can get a clear shot —"
They all retreated, backed against the walls, leaving Neville alone beside the wardrobe. He looked pale and frightened, but he had pushed up the sleeves of his robes and was holding his wand ready.
"On the count of three, Neville," said Professor Lupin, who was pointing his own wand at the handle of the wardrobe. "One — two — three —"