By: Malena Esposito
Disclaimer: Any text that is a direct quote from the magical works of J.K. Rowling. All characters, places, objects, and spells are fully credited to her imagination.
“That’s where Filch has been keeping guard,” Ron muttered.
They looked at each other. The corridor was deserted.
“Can’t hurt to have a poke around,” said Harry, dropping his bag and getting to his hands and knees so that he could crawl along, searching for clues.
“Scorch marks!” he said. “Here—and here—”
“Come and look at this!” said Hermione. “This is funny…”
Harry got up and crossed to the window next to the message on the wall. Hermione was pointing at the topmost pane, where around twenty spiders were scuttling, apparently fighting to get through a small crack. A long, silvery threat was dangling like a rope, as though they had all climbed it in their hurry to get outside.
“Have you ever seen spiders act like that?” said Hermione wonderingly.
“No,” said Harry, “have you, Ron? Ron?”
He looked over his shoulder. Ron was standing well back and seemed to be fighting the impulse to run.
“What’s up?” said Harry.
“I—don’t—like—spiders,” said Ron tensely.
“I never knew that,” said Hermione, looking at Ron in surprise. “You’ve used spiders in potions loads of times…”
“I don’t mind them dead,” said Ron, who was carefully looking anywhere but the window. “I just don’t like it when they move…”
“It’s not funny,” said Ron, fiercely. “If you must know, when I was three, Fred turned my—my teddy bear into a great big filthy spider because I broke his toy broomstick… You wouldn’t like them either if you’d been holding your bear and suddenly it had too many legs and…”
He broke off, shuddering. Hermione was obviously still trying not to laugh. Feeling they had better get off the subject, Harry said, “Remember all that water on the floor? Where did that come from? Someone’s mopped it up.”
“It was about here,” said Ron, recovering himself to walk a few paces past Filch’s chair and pointing. “Level with this door.”
It was a loud day at the Burrow.
Three-year-old Ron, five-year-old Fred and George, and ten-year-old Charlie were all playing upstairs, while Mrs. Weasley was tending to two-year old Ginny. Her husband, Mr. Weasley was getting ready to embark on a journey to Diagon Alley with twelve-year-old Bill to collect his school things for his second year at Hogwarts. Seven-year-old Percy, of course, was locked in his room, reading books well beyond what the normal seven-year-old could comprehend.
But, considering they were a family of wizards, and a rather large one at that, one could hardly call the Weasley’s “normal.” In fact, such a remark could even be viewed as an insult by the eccentric redheads.
“Off we go!” called Mr. Weasley, motioning that he and his eldest son were about to leave.
“Be careful! Stay safe!” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed from the living room, her arms full with their only daughter.
“I know, I know.” Bill rolled his eyes. “Don’t let the goblins get you, watch out for werewolves, don’t spend too much money, and say the right street.”
“Good boy. I’d hate for you to end up at Knockturn Alley, that place’ll give you nightmares,” his mother warned.
“No, Molly, you’ll give him nightmares, talking like that,” Mr. Weasley said, directing Bill to the fireplace. “You remember how to use this, yes?”
“Say where you’re going, keep your elbows tucked in, eyes shut, and don’t fidget,” recited Bill, as if he had been told a thousand times.
He grabbed a handful of powder, tossed it on the ground, and spoke as clear as the sky outside. He vanished before his parents’ eyes.
“Come to think of it, where’s the rest of boys?” Mr. Weasley asked his wife as he prepared to do the same.
“They’re playing. Doing what, or where, exactly, I’m not sure.” Mrs. Weasley was particularly unbothered by this unknown information.
Mr. Weasley laughed. “As long as they don’t blow the house down.” And with another puff, he too had departed from the fireplace.
“Hmmm…” Mrs. Weasley wondered, staring at the spot that her husband and son disappeared from. “Where are they, anyways?”
And then she heard a scream from upstairs.
“Ron!” Fred wailed. “That was my broomstick! You broke it!”
“I’m sorry! It was an accident!” cried the three-year-old.
“That was my favorite! You broke it, Ron!”
Ron started to cry. He went on his bed to pout, grabbing his teddy bear for comfort. As soon as he was able to open his eyes again, his vision was blurred by his favorite toy, but it didn’t bring its usual comfort.
All of a sudden, the bear’s two, warm, black, eyes transformed into four beady, red ones. The soft muzzle shifted into glossy pincers, and the furry arms and legs thinned out and multiplied, causing a horrified Ron to drop the shape-shifting terror.
His cuddly companion had turned into an appalling arachnid, and had begun to change him around the room. Ron had had enough, but not even Fred could stop the spider.
“Fred!” he wailed, “Stop! Help! Get it away! Make it stop! Make it stop!”
“I can’t!” Fred said in sympathy. “I don’t know what to do!”
“George! Charlie!” Ron was trembling in fear, turning to his other brothers for assistance. Even Percy left his studies to see what the chaos was about.
By this point, Mrs. Weasley was rushing upstairs, not knowing what to expect.
“Ron!” she cried, passing baby Ginny to Charlie. “What is going on?”
Ron said nothing. He was still in the same panicked state, at a loss for words.
“Arania exumai!” Mrs. Weasley withdrew her wand, using the incantation to blast away the spider.
Ron let out a huge sigh of relief, hugging his mom.
“What happened?” she asked in a soothing voice.
Ron hiccuped with tears.”We—we were playing—and I broke—broke—Fred’s br-broomstick—and he got mad—and turned my bear—into—into a spider.”
“There, there.” Mrs. Weasley said, holding his son. “Fred didn’t mean to. He might’ve been mad, but he wouldn’t have done it on purpose. He can’t have; he can’t control his magic yet.”
Fred was surprised his mother came to his defense so quickly, but appreciated it all the same. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” he joined in. “I didn’t mean to, I promise Ronnie. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, Freddie,” Ron sighed in relief, becoming engulfed in his brothers arms.
“Now,” Mrs. Weasley said, taking Ginny back from Charlie. “Is everyone else okay?”
George, Percy, and Charlie nodded in unison, still astounded at the recent events.
“Gosh, wait until your father gets home…” Mrs. Weasley pondered the thought. “If only he had left a few minutes later, he’d be able to get you a new teddy bear…”
“When the boggart burst out of this wardrobe, Neville, and sees you, it will assume the form of Professor Snape,” said Professor 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.”
There was a great shout of laughter. The wardrobe waddled violently.
“If Neville is successful, the boggart will likely shift his attention to each of us in return,” 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 would force it to look commercial…”
The room went quiet. Harry thought…What scared him most in the world?
His first thought was Lord Voldemort—a Voldemort returned to full strength. But before he even started to plan a possible counterattack on a boggart-Voldemort, a horrible image came floating to the surface of his mind…
A rotting, glistening hand, slithering back beneath a black cloak…a long, rattling breath from an unseen mouth…then a cold so penetrating it felt like drowning….
Harry shivered, then looked around, hoping no one had noticed. Many people had their eyes shut tight. Ron was muttering to himself, “Take its legs off.” Harry was sure he knew what was about. Ron’s greatest fear was spiders.
“Everyone ready?” said Professor Lupin.
Harry felt a lurch of fear. He wasn’t ready. How could you make a dementor less frightening? But he didn’t want to ask for more time; everyone else was nodding and rolling up their sleeves.
“Neville, we’re going to back away,” said Professor Lupin. “Let you have a clear field, all right? I’ll call the next person forward…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 at the 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—now!”
A jet of sparks shot from the end of Professor Lupin’s wand and hit the doorknob. The wardrobe burst open. Hook-nosed and menacing, Professor Snape stepped out, his eyes flashing at Neville.
Neville backed away, his wand up, mouthing wordlessly. Snape was bearing down upon him, reaching inside his robes.
“R—r—riddikulus!” squeaked Neville.
There was a noise like a whip crack. Snape stumbled; he was wearing a long, lace-trimmed dress and a towering hat topped with a moth-eaten vulture…swinging a huge crimson handbag.
There was a roar of laughter; the boggart paused, confused, and Professor Lupin shouted, “Excellent! Ron, you next!”
Ron leapt forward.
Quite a few people screamed. A giant spider, six feet tall and covered in hair, was advancing on Ron, clicking its pincers menacingly. For a moment, Harry thought Ron had frozen. Then—
“Riddikulus!” bellowed Ron, and the spider’s legs vanished; it rolled over and over; Lavender Brown squealed and ran out of its way and it came to a halt at Harry’s feet. He raised in wand, ready, but—
“Here!” shouted Professor Lupin, suddenly hurrying forward.
The legless spider vanished.
Since the beginning of Ron’s third year at Hogwarts, he and the rest of his class had been thoroughly enjoying Defense Against the Dark Arts as opposed to other courses, such as Divination, Potions, or Care of Magical Creatures.
This was largely due to Professor Lupin, a rather shabby-looking fellow, but regardless, the best teacher they had yet.
Unlike previous teachers of the class, Professor Lupin had a very hands-on approach. This caused a swarm of excitement every time the students opened the door.
Today, the lesson was fear—facing fear. Using a boggart to demonstrate, the lesson consisted of a new charm, Riddikulus, that cast the phobia away. For Ron, that meant spiders. He had been afraid of them for as long as he could recall, the memory still etched in his brain…Just thinking of the horrific incident made him shudder…
But, today, Ron decided, was the day to square off against those spine-chilling spiders, one swish at a time. He decided to turn his tension into titillation.
If Neville can do it, he thought, I most definitely can…
Ron imagined how he could possibly make the awful aphid into something comical.
As soon as he stepped in front of the most feminine Professor Snape that anyone would ever see, the boggart turned in a hairy spider, bigger than he.
He froze for a second.
No, you can do this, Ron pushed himself. No legs, no legs…
No more legs, no more legs…
As far as Ron was concerned, he had faced his fear. His decade-old fear. He’d have to write to his mother immediately, he was so proud of himself. He did it. The ginger boy fought the fear. Fearlessly.