Of Boggarts and Broomsticks
Wow. Just...wow. I have no reasonable excuse for this massive delay. Just...sigh
...life. If you're still with me - all my love!
*Chapter Six: Of Boggarts and BroomsticksIn which Alex is a natural, Will gets invited to tea, and Uncle Neville saves the day.
The Hufflepuffs were a good-natured, easy-going lot who were mostly willing to accept people at face value (even if they happened to be wearing the same face) and the rest of Hogwarts was too busy to take much notice of two identical first years with different last names – even if one of them happened to be Potter.
By the second week of school, most people seemed to have forgotten that Will was Harry Potter’s son or that Alex was an anomalous American muggleborn. They soon became known simply as WillandAlex, and everyone treated them as though they’d always come as a pair.
This suited WillandAlex just fine, because neither of them had actually mentioned finding their long-lost twin to either of their parents and it just wouldn’t do for The Prophet
to run some kind of exposé before they had a chance to hash it out.
By a stroke of coincidence – not that Alex would admit to believing in such things, leprechauns be damned – the boys received news from home on the same day.
Their letters arrived with the rest of the morning post. Will solemnly accepted a brown-paper-wrapped parcel from a majestic Great Horned Owl (“Howard, he’s Dad’s.”) and Alex received a US Postal Service Priority Mail package (the sort you didn’t have to pay for until you mailed it) from an oddly twitchy barn owl.
Will’s parcel contained a long, chatty letter from their father that had them both laughing at his lurid and unflattering description of a visiting foreign ambassador to the British Ministry of Magic, whom Harry had been tricked into lunching with by his soon-to-be-ex-friend, Minister Shacklebolt.
(In Minister Shacklebolt’s defense, he really had no idea that in the Ambassador’s country, shaking hands over a nice roast was akin to a proposal of marriage.)
They shared Will’s assortment of sweets in lieu of breakfast. Alex’s box of goodies also contained a letter, but it was typewritten and annotated by several different voices. But the first page was from their mother. At Will’s insistence, he read it out loud. Hey, Baby!
,” Alex muttered under his breath.How old school is this? The last time I sent a letter was…I don’t even remember. I can’t believe you don’t get e-mail at that school!
How is school? I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there to say good-bye. The good news is, no apocalypse in Cleveland! Things weren’t as bad as we thought. There were these really ugly slime monsters, but totally slayable. Uncle Robin broke his arm but that was only because he slipped in a puddle of yuck. He’s in a cast but with Aunt Willow’s healing mojo he should be better in no time.
Everyone here misses you. Taryn flooded the kitchen when Aunt Willow told her she can’t learn magic until she’s eight.
You might want to get that owl checked out before sending him back. I don’t really understand owl training, but he looked a little twitchy to me. His name is Jareth because Uncle Andrew is going through a minor David Bowie revival phase.
Love and kisses!
There were letters from the rest of the family, but Alex folded them up to read later. He opened a packet of Twinkies (Uncle Xander’s contribution) and offered one to Will.
“I wish I could meet her,” Will said, his mood dampening even as he bit into the sugary treat.
“You will,” Alex promised through a mouthful of sweet processed goodness. He swallowed. “Should we write back and tell them?”
Will bit his lip, but shook his head determinedly. “Not yet. Dad will just worry.”
“Mom will freak out,” Alex agreed.
It would be best, they decided, to keep their secret for a while longer.
As everyone settled into their routines, Will and Alex started making more of an effort to socialize with the other Hufflepuffs in their year. They shared a dorm with five other boys, and the one thing they all had in common was Quidditch.
“What’s Quidditch?” Alex asked innocently one evening in the Hufflepuff common room. He had heard the strange word several times by that point.
The other boys goggled at him.
“Only the best sport ever!” cried Gabriel Wood-Smythe. “Potter, you haven’t told him about Quidditch?!”
He made this sound like a cardinal sin.
The other first year boys and a couple of the girls gathered around to watch as Gabriel went into an epic account of his favorite sport. By the time he had finished explaining the positions, equipment, and championship structure, half of the common room was listening in with amusement. Several of the older students took it in turns to interject loudly whenever Gabriel paused for breath, and by the time the speech was winding down, Alex realized that Quidditch was not a sport at all – it was a cult.
And it sounded amazing.
“Where do I sign up?” he demanded eagerly. Will, who had long since given up on his potion’s essay, rolled his eyes.
For the first time, Gabriel’s expression turned sour. “First years aren’t allowed broomsticks,” he said miserably. “They make an exception if you make the house team, but no one makes the house team their first year. Except –” He looked at Will, a light dawning in his eyes.
“Except for Harry Potter,” one of the older boys finished, eyeing Will thoughtfully.
“He was the youngest seeker in a century to make the Gryffindor team,” Will recited dutifully.
“Da – he was a Gryffindor?” said Alex, surprised. He had never considered what house their father had been in.
Gabriel looked at him strangely. “You really aren’t from around here, are you?”
“Your dad teach you how to play, Potter?” the older boy pressed. “We’ve got a seeker, but we could always use some new talent on the pitch.” He stuck out his hand. “I’m Connor Jones, Hufflepuff Team Captain.”
Will shook his hand politely and tried to think of some way to let them all down gently. “I’m not great with heights,” he said lamely.
Connor, Gabriel, and pretty much the rest of the guys, were disconsolate. Alex’s own enthusiasm could not be dampened, however.
“How do I learn to fly if I can’t have a broomstick?”
Connor looked at him properly for the first time. His eyes darted to Will, and then back again. His miserable expression turned thoughtful once more. “Sorry, I didn’t catch your name…?”
“Sirius Summers,” Alex said, and then stopped abruptly, shocked at himself. Will was staring at him. “I mean, argh
, Alex. Everyone keeps calling me that; I’m starting to forget my own name!” He laughed brightly and they let it go.
“All first years get flying lessons.” Connor pointed to a notice pinned to the message board. “They start next week. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw are on Monday. If you’re still interested in playing after that, come watch the team practice. You’ll learn the rules that way.”
“Everyone stand by a broomstick and wait for my instructions,” a silver-haired witch named Madame Hooch barked across the pitch. She had sharp eyes and a whistle around her neck. “Everyone ready? Right then! Extend your arm out over your broomstick and say, UP
She demonstrated enthusiastically.
Alex followed her instructions and his broom practically rocketed into his hand. Will’s responded quickly too, as did Gabriel’s, to no one’s surprise. Some of the other students were having a more difficult time of it. One Ravenclaw girl’s was flopping around like a fish.
“You have to be forceful, but kind!” Madame Hooch told them. “Some of these old brooms need a little extra coaxing. Try again, anyone who didn’t get it the first time.”
She moved between them, helping the students who were having trouble convincing their broomsticks to cooperate. Finally, finally
, everyone was ready.
“Swing a leg over and wait for my whistle!” Madame Hooch called. “I want you to kick off gently, rise to about five feet in the air, and then touch back down. On my mark – one, two, three –” She blew the whistle loudly.
Alex couldn’t help himself. He kicked off hard and shot upwards with a whoop of joy. Beside him, Gabriel followed suite. They passed the five foot mark, and then the fifteen, then the fifty, before half of the class had even left the ground.
“GENTLEMEN, RETURN TO EARTH!” Madame Hooch roared, blowing her whistle several times in quick succession.
They descended quickly, looking chagrined.
“Sorry, Ma’am,” Gabriel apologized profusely. “Got carried away.”
“Hmmm,” Madame Hooch said, eyeing his sharply. “Don’t let it happen again, Wood-Smythe! I don’t care if both your parents are
international Quidditch stars. When you’re on my pitch, you follow my rules.”
“That. Was. Awesome,” Alex breathed as she turned back to the rest of the class, eyes alight with pure elation. “Do you think she’ll let us race later?”
Gabriel looked like Alex had just announced that Christmas had come early and it was about to start raining puppies.
“Merlin, help me,” Will muttered, rolling his eyes skyward.
A few days after Alex’s initial broomstick-hysteria died down, Will received an invitation for tea.
“It’s from Hagrid,” he said, glancing up at the High Table. The bearded half-giant beamed and waved, accidentally knocking his neighboring professor off her chair with his exuberance.
“That guy!” Alex said, delighted. “Say yes! Oh, can I come?”
“He says I can bring a friend,” Will read off the parchment. “We should take Jareth. Maybe Hagrid can do something about the twitching.”
Alex winced. He had sort of forgotten about Uncle Andrew’s owl. “Good idea. Do you think he’ll be able to help?”
“Hagrid’s really good with animals,” Will assured him. He scrawled a hasty reply on the back of the message and sent it back.
It was a Saturday, so the plan was to meet at Hagrid’s hut for some tea and snacks.
“Just don’t touch the rock cakes,” Will warned. “He sends some every Christmas and they’re exactly like they sound.”
Since it was such a nice day, they spent most of the morning outside. Both boys had a decent work ethic and were of the joint mindset that it was best to get unavoidable tasks like homework out of the way as quickly as possible. They sat with a few of the other Hufflepuffs in one of the outdoor courtyards and dutifully wrote their charms essays for the following week. They were finally beginning on the theory for levitation charms and had been promised the practical lesson sometime before Halloween.
They ran into Amaryllis on their way to lunch, and learned that she, too, had received an invitation from Hagrid for tea but wasn’t bringing anyone with her. They made plans to walk down together that afternoon.
“Hagrid was friends with Mum and Dad, and Uncle Harry, when they were at Hogwarts,” Amaryllis explained to Alex as they walked across the grounds. “He’s really very sweet – he asks me round for tea once a month or so. I suppose I’ll have to take up Care of Magical Creatures next year.” She sighed. “I hope it won’t be too bad.”
“Are you kidding me?” said Alex. “I can’t wait for that class!”
“Hagrid’s not considered the best teacher,” Amaryllis told him. “He brings a lot of really dangerous animals to class. Sometimes they explode.”
Alex grinned, completely undeterred.
“I heard he’s gotten better,” Will said charitably. “He sends Dad his lesson plans sometimes, asking for advice.”
When they reached Hagrid’s hut, Amaryllis knocked loudly at the door. It swung open almost immediately to reveal a beaming Hagrid.
“Come in, come in!” he boomed, ushering them all inside. Alex only made it a few steps past the threshold before he was bowled over by a small polar bear.
“Esmeralda, get off! Let ‘im up!” Hagrid dragged the creature off of Alex.
“S’okay,” Alex gasped, winded and covered in drool. “Kind of like getting a hug from my Aunt Faith, only wetter!” He wiped the back of his shirt sleeve across his face.
Hagrid laughed uproariously and set about pouring them all tea. Esmeralda, who it turned out wasn’t a bear but the largest dog any of them had ever seen, with a lustrous yellow-white coat and gleaming black eyes, butted her head against Alex’s leg until he reached down to pet her.
To everyone’s relief, there were none of the infamous rock cakes. Unfortunately, Hagrid’s snap biscuits were similarly unpalatable and had to be pocketed for disposal at a later date. No one minded, and they all had a good time sitting around Hagrid’s scrubbed wooden table, listening as he spun tales of their parents when they were children at Hogwarts. Alex was particularly taken by the story of Norbert, the Norwegian Ridgeback, and Hagrid’s brief foray into the world of illegal egg smuggling.
“Err, forget I told yer about that,” Hagrid said quickly, rubbing the back of his neck. “I should never ‘ave taken those eggs. Don’t ye go gettin’ any ideas!”
All in all, it was a very pleasant way to pass the afternoon. When the sun finally began to set, Hagrid bundled them out the door with his assurances that he would take a look at Uncle Andrew’s poorly owl first thing in the morning, and a parcel each of extra biscuits for “a midnight snack if’n yer get hungry later.”
(It’s possible that they made a small detour to the lake, but if the Giant Squid had a taste for Hagrid’s baking, he wasn’t telling.)
*Dark leaves rustled whishwhishwhish all around. A strong wind moaned in the distance, muffled and distorted by the thick foliage.
Will pushed forward, anxiety prickling at the back of his neck and curling into his gut. The small glow of his wand tip did little to illuminate the path ahead; the shadows and leaves and tree trunks all twisted together in the dark, and only the inconsistent shafts of moonlight that fell through breaks in the clouds and overhead vegetation gave him any sureness of footing.
The deeper he went, the denser the forest seemed to become.
A soft hissing hung on the air, rising up through the crunch of leaves and his own heavy breathing. Forward. He had to keep moving forward. He felt blindly for a gap in the branches as the moon slid back behind the clouds. He stumbled over the uneven ground, plummeting forward – and found himself held in place by strong fingers. He looked up wildly, and found himself staring into a pair of gleaming yellow eyes and –
Will jolted awake with a gasp.
He lay on his back staring up in the dark. His skin felt hot and he was out of breath, his heart beating like he’d just run a marathon.
of curtains being drawn back.
,” a soft voice incanted.
Will looked to the bed beside his and met Alex’s worried gaze in the dim pool of wand light.
“The same dream again?”
Will nodded, not trusting his voice just yet. His throat was dry and scratchy. He grabbed the glass of water on his bedside table with shaking fingers and downed several gulps.
“That’s the third time,” Alex said. He kept his voice low so as not to wake the other boys. “Will…”
“I know,” Will sighed. “I think they’re trying to tell me something.”
Alex clambered across to Will’s bed and drew the curtains around them. “Have you always had dreams like this?”
“You believe me?” Will said in hushed surprise. He had always been careful to keep his strange dreams to himself for fear that others wouldn’t believe him.
“Mom sees things in her dreams, too,” Alex whispered. “Pro-prosthetic?”
“Prophetic. She – she does?”
“It’s a Slayer thing. Maybe you get them, too?”
“But you don’t,” Will said.
“No, but I can hear a lot better than you,” Alex said with a shrug.
Will looked at him funny. “What?”
“You weren’t making any noise or anything, just now,” Alex said. “But I could hear your heart beat. It woke me up.”
Will considered this, and the idea that maybe his crazy dreams weren’t so crazy after all. They were real. They came from his mother. They were something she had passed on to him, to Will alone.
Their conversation had disturbed Mr. Cat, and he emerged now from his second most preferred sleeping position under the covers at the foot of Will’s bed. He flopped down between them to allow for easy-access petting. Will obliged and rubbed his belly.
“We need to research,” Alex decided finally. “Come on, let’s go.”
“William, your funky dreams may hold the key to defeating the forces of darkness,” Alex said solemnly, doing his best Giles impression. “Plus,” he said in his normal voice, “I’ve been waiting for an excuse to check out the castle at night.”
“Yeah, me too,” Will admitted, already swinging his legs over the side of the bed and reaching for his robe.
Alex grinned. “To the books!”
By this point, both boys would have sworn up and down that they could find the library blindfolded.
Unfortunately, things have a tendency to look very different at nighttime. This is especially true in enormous, magical castles, and Hogwarts was definitely the biggest, most magical.
They would have found it no problem if they hadn’t been forced to take a detour to avoid Peeves, the castle’s resident poltergeist, and then found the staircase they’d taken in their haste had moved off. Stuck in their new route, they quickly realized they were in a part of the castle they had never been in before. They thought they might be somewhere near the 6th floor, but that was a dubious guess as every staircase they came across seemed to be leading down. Will tried to do a navigational spell, but since neither of them knew which direction the library was actually in, it wasn’t very helpful.
“We are so lost,” Alex groaned.
“I think it’s left…” Will said uncertainly, looking back and forth down the hall.
“Did we try this one yet?” Alex asked, reaching for the knob on the door in front of them. It turned, but the door was stuck. “Give me a hand with this.”
“I don’t think we –”
The door came unstuck abruptly and Alex fell backwards into Will and knocked them both to the ground. He climbed off his brother and started to apologize when a movement behind him caught his eye and he spun around, immediately going on the defensive.
A petite woman with long, honey-blonde hair stepped out of the closet. She was carrying a bloodstained sword. Seeing him, she lowered her weapon and blinked in the dim wandlight. “Alex?”
“Mom?” Alex said in disbelief. “Mom, what are you – Mom
Buffy stumbled forward, clutching her chest. Beneath her fingers, a dark stain was spreading rapidly across her shirtfront. Her sword clattered to the floor. “Alex,” she moaned, falling to her knees before them. “Help me
To the boys’ horror, she collapsed and went still.
!” Alex screamed, lunging forward. His foot caught on the hem of Will’s robe and he tripped. His head cracked sickeningly against the stone floor tears sprang to his eyes. He rolled away, seeing stars. He heard Will yelling his name, and then there was a flash of light and a loud BANG
!. He scrambled blindly to his hands and knees, desperate to reach his mother.
“Calm down, Alex,” a new voice said, and someone larger than Will hauled him to his feet. It was Professor Longbottom.
“My mom!” he gasped, trying to break away.
“Shh, it wasn’t real,” Professor Longbottom soothed.
“What?” Tears of frustration were stinging Alex’s eyes. “I saw her! She was right there! She was dy-dying!” he hiccupped.
“Alex,” Professor Longbottom said firmly. “I promise you what you saw wasn’t real. It was a boggart. They’re a type of spirit that infests dark spaces. They assume the appearance of whatever you fear most. In my case, an old potions professor,” he tried to crack a joke.
“It wasn’t her,” Will said, but his voice was choked. “It wasn’t her,” he repeated.
Professor Longbottom looked from Alex, who was now clutching the front of his robes in a death grip, to Will, who was leaning against the wall, sheet white and visibly shaking. He realized that this was the most realistic image of Buffy Summers that Will had ever seen, and swallowed thickly. A blood-covered boggart was a terrible way to meet your mother.
“Come here,” he said softly, extending his free arm to pull Will into a hug. Will burrowed into his side as Alex buried his face in his chest. Professor Longbottom held them tightly until their breathing returned to normal, and then gently pulled away. “All right now?”
Alex wiped fiercely at his eyes and Will clenched his teeth.
“How do you kill it?” Alex demanded roughly.
“Laughter,” Professor Longbottom said with a wry smile. “There’s an incantation – you have to turn the
boggart into something you find humorous. But later. It’s gone now. Come on, I’ll walk you back to your dormitory.”
The boys sat in front of the dead fire in the common room for a long time before heading back up to bed.
“It looked so real,” Alex said, pulling his knees up and wrapping his arms around them.
“She looked older than in the picture. Her hair was different.”
Alex looked up. “What picture?”
“The one Dad gave me of Mum. Don’t you have one of Dad?”
Alex shook his head. “Mom didn’t have one. I…I’ve never known what he looks like,” he said softly.
Will smiled a little. “Everyone says I – we – look just like him, only without glasses.”
“Dad wears glasses?” Alex said in a tiny voice. He hadn’t known that. He wished he had known that.
“I’ll show you a picture in the morning,” Will promised. “Of him, and the whole family. I have tons. Dad’s very big on scrapbooking. I’ve even got pictures of our grandparents and a lot of other old people I’ve never met.”
“Mom only has a couple of Grandma Joyce,” Alex said regretfully. “She died before the old Hellmouth collapsed, and Mom lost most of her old stuff. She looks nice, though.” He perked up slightly. “And there’s still Giles! He’s like, the oldest person I know. He knows everything. I bet he’s heard of booger demons.”
“Boggarts,” Will corrected automatically.
Alex cracked a grin. “Yeah, I know. I like it my way better.” A thought occurred to him. “Was Professor Longbottom’s boggart really his potions professor?”
Will thought back. “I only saw it for a second,” he admitted. “But I don’t think so. It was definitely a person, but they were still lying on the ground, only…” He frowned, trying to remember. “I think their hair changed? Red, maybe? It was hard to see.”
“I guess it would be rude to ask,” Alex decided. “No one wants to talk about their worst fears.” He shuddered, remembering the sight of Buffy’s broken body. “I don’t think I could make up anything funny if I met that boggart again.”
Will, who until that evening couldn’t have said what his worst fear might be, now knew, without a doubt, that it was the thought of some demon getting to his mother before he ever got to meet her.
Neither of them dreamt well, that night.
I’m actually not sure that Boggarts can imitate human speech, but I don’t remember it ever being expressly said that they can’t.