Chapter 1: Because of a Boggart
Droplets of vermillion red paint sprinkled downward onto the shagged carpet. The dollops glittered internally with mysterious movement. Shapes melded between scarlet and gold, struggling to maintain their identity.
"Watch the brush. Remus, you're getting paint all over my floor."
Taylor's brother glanced at the mess apologetically. The siblings sat cross-legged on the ground amidst craft supplies. Aluminum paint cans, hog's hair brushes, and strips of poster board. On the nearby dresser laid the inspiration for Remus's recent artistic endeavor: the mandatory supply list from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for all second year students.
"Blast it. I really need to refine my artistic abilities." To illustrate his statement, Remus brandished the paintbrush through the air sending a vibrant spray of color across the room. Exasperated, Taylor pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Is a flashy Gryffindor banner even necessary?"
The young girl scrutinized the fresh stains on her bedroom floor. Growing up for years in a muggle orphanage had conditioned her to avoid sloppy crafts, especially permanent paints. Caning or endless hours of scrubbing were often the unpleasant after effects of creative splatter.
"I have school spirit! Besides, do we need an excuse to use magical paint?" Excitedly, Remus held up his homemade pennant. Blotchy golden lions flashed in the crimson background.
The enthusiasm in his voice urged the smile back onto Taylor's face. Notwithstanding the momentary annoyances, her foster family had become an integral part of her life. Memory harbored images of her haggard biological father, but the Lupins dulled the occasional ache left by abandonment. Despite nearly six years of separation, Taylor stubbornly refused to surrender the promises of paternal reunion. Summer in the Lupin household, therefore, was both peaceful and revitalizing after the course of life's unsatisfactory events.
In the aftermath of the previous academic year, Taylor and Remus spent a majority of their afternoons visiting the library, lazing in the park under evergreens, or barricaded in the townhouse. The mere fact they were wizards, fresh from their first year at Hogwarts, still seemed like a fantasy projected from the many books the pair devoured. A relatively whimsical year of learning magic had twisted into a severely disconcerting muddle of adventure, leaving questions unanswered and suspicions heightened. Damien Greer, formerly the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts, used the forbidden art of necromancy to locate the mysterious Faberge's egg, only to be devoured by hellhounds summoned by the elderly general store manager, Colby Katsinsky.
Taylor was expected to explain the story in various and, reluctantly, she obliged. In order to protect the innocent, she consistently censored her version of events. Fellow students, Sirius Black and Fionn Wilkes, also witnessed the happenings from similar perspectives, but it was Taylor who fell from the escape, accidentally stabbing their pursuer through the chest with her wand. Equally, it was the first year Slytherin who decoded the whereabouts of Fabergé's egg by means of a dream; though these experiences were shared with the headmaster Albus Dumbledore and his advocates only. Taylor chose to remain mute on the topic and in many conversations sheltered the truth from full exposure.
The warm summer air suppressed any desire for further adventure. Subterranean tunnels, corpses, and nightmares were rarely revisited. Surprisingly, though, Taylor missed the school and often reminisced with Remus about Quidditch matches and magically filled banquets. In good taste, the pair speculated about the possibilities of a new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor. Less morbidly, they missed the castle grounds, classes, and more importantly their friends.
Walking by the open doorway, Lyall Lupin fixed his yellow tie and peered inside.
"Do be careful with the magical paint Remus. Now, some see your mother and me out, will you?"
Taylor wrestled the paintbrush away from Remus playfully. She hurried out after the patriarch chased by the wrathful artist. Their mother, Hope, dusted off the squared shoulders of her husband tenderly.
"A reservation for dinner at Restaurant Boulestin. I feel so honored." Hope kissed the blushing man on the cheek.
Taylor closed her eyes to picture the scene. Modern Parisian in decoration, luxurious with plush wine colored carpets and curtains patterned in yellow brocade. Eventually, the couple would digest over conversation in the lounge portion, decorated by a square of hanging silk balloon lights. A prominent bottle of 1903 liqueur brandy de la maison shared between them, a graceful reminder of their younger years together. A marvelous celebration for an anniversary— Lyall's voice broke through her imagination.
"You deserve nothing less than perfection tonight, my dear." The man looked at her with adoration. "Since the first time I met you—"
Intrigued, Taylor piped up. "How did you two meet?" Remus scoffed, hands deeply pressed into his pockets. Their son was more excited for a night without his parents, than her was listening to tender romance.
"Heavens! At the time, I was living in Wales and working for an insurance company. After a particularly stressful day at the office, all I wanted to do was enjoy some fresh air." Hope hovered near the front door, barring Lyall from exiting in embarrassment. "There was a reserve nearby, so I took to walking. Somewhere down the trail, I got turned around. Then, without cause this rugged vagabond burst from the underbrush toward me." She clutched her heart for effect, but smiled sheepishly. "I had never been so frightened in all my life. Frozen like a doe in headlights! Of course, this is where your father showed up to save the day."
"I had been conducting an expedition in the area. My objective was to document and catalog the indigenous Non-Human Spirituous Apparitions of Wales. Some reports had led me to believe that a particularly nasty boggart resided in the Long Wood Reserve."
"Boggart?" Taylor interjected with interest. Remus, who had evidently heard the tale innumerable times, nudged his sister in the ribs. A failed attempt to quell the curiosity.
A gleam of fascination twinkled in Lyall's eyes. Adventures and expeditions from the past shimmered in the shadow of his yesteryears. "Essentially, a boggart is a shape-shifting, non-being that takes on the form of its viewer's worst fear."
Taylor tried with difficultly to imagine a boggart. An authentic boogeyman. While the other children were busy fearing the tales of Old Bloody-Bones who lived in the cupboard under the stairs, I was preoccupied with the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. Supposedly, Daniel Babio peeped through a crack for a glimpse of the dreadful, crouching creature. Before settling into bed, he generously supplied us the gruesome details: Blood running down his face, the orphanage's boogeyman perched upon a pile of raw bones which belonged to children who told lies or cursed. There was never any proof though, monsters aren't—
Instantly, she regretted the vibrancy of her imagination. The leathery humanoid corpse, faceless except for a neatly pursed mouth reclined upon a living armchair. Broken insectival wings slumped asymmetrically, down to the floor. Hope continued the story to break the monotony of Lyall's work life and distract her children from boogeymen.
"Your father heard my screams and rushed to my aid like a white knight."
Her husband blushed. "I turned the man chasing her into a field mushroom with a wave of my wand. Simple defense really. I escorted her home, wishing to ensure her safety. It took me months to finally confess that the boggart had never posed any real danger."
"You are still my hero. It was a risk for you to expose your magic to help a frightened muggle woman, but you did so anyway." Hope smiled at him.
"And I would repeat that decision infinitely over." In the background, Remus swallowed imaginary vomit, as his parents cooed at one another lovingly. Even Taylor, who once indulged in a saucy romance novel, began to feel slightly uncomfortable as a bystander. The two children ushered the couple through the door and to their automobile. The lovebirds flew from the nest, leaving the chicks to wander aimlessly in the yard for a moment, before returning to the safety of the living room. Ever since Remus was attacked by a lycanthrope, Lyall and Hope rarely left the siblings alone for extended periods of time. His condition was, in some cases, unpredictable. A week prior, Remus had suffered through his monthly transformation, but recovered speedily in time for the couple's anniversary. They took advantage of the opportunity with hesitation, after gentle coaxing from their wards.
Without direction, Taylor circled the room several times. Alone and unsupervised, yet nothing worth doing. She considered writing to her friends. Loyal to their promises, her companions had scribed regularly with tidbits about their lives and desires about the upcoming year. The most recent letter from Fionn, which she practically memorized, hummed in her mind, waiting for reply.
Summer still seems to be progressing at a terribly slow pace. I have recently adopted some curious herbs and magical plants, with the hope of investing the remaining free-time into something productive. Compared to Hogwarts, my house feels like a bastille. Hopefully, you are faring better.
Patiently awaiting further correspondence,
Despite his occasional cold and calculated disposition, Fionn Wilkes was one of Taylor's best friends from Hogwarts. Consequently, he was the only companion Taylor had from Slytherin. Though their differences often landed them in heated arguments, there was little one would not do for the other. Even when Taylor discovered Fionn had practiced necromancy with Professor Greer, she kept the knowledge quiet from the headmaster. While Fionn and Taylor developed their friendship in unconventional ways, she was not as congenial with other Slytherins. The other students from her house usually formed elite fraternal cliques forged in pureblood. Taylor was not, however, socially stunted by the internal alienation.
Almost daily, she received letters by muggle post from the quick-witted, fiery Gryffindor Lily Evans. Despite the historical animosity between their houses, the pair were inseparable. They partnered in classes, held private study sessions, and explored the outer perimeters of the castle together. Lily too had written to Taylor and waited patiently for response.
My day instantly becomes wonderful, whenever I see your letter in the mail! Having a pen pal is thrilling business really. I met up with Severus just the other day. He was ever so apologetic about the way he has been acting. You can expect to see us three to cause plenty of trouble together next semester. Nothing intense though. We wouldn't want reputations, like certain other unmentionables. Please write soon! Miss you.
Though she had little to say, Taylor settled on forwarding polite replies. "I need to write back to Lily and Fionn. If you need me, I'll be upstairs—"
"Shoot. That reminds me. There is a letter in the kitchen for you. Sorry, I meant to tell you earlier. I forget about the muggle post most days." As if to lighten the mood, Remus stretched his legs across the couch and scratched his chin.
Taylor folded her arms in protest. "Thanks. You're something helpful."
"You're welcome." Remus grinned cheerfully. She left her brother and moved into the kitchen. Robert F. Scott stared unblinkingly up from the stamp on Lily's letter. The British polar explorer frozen in time by the Royal Mail. Taylor reached for the drawer concealing the letter opener, when a rustle near the window startled her. A boggart?!
An owl fluttered against the windowpane. An owl, blimey—nearly gave me a heart attack. Against the nocturnal backdrop, the jet-black bird was difficult to see; only the bird's florescent yellow eyes were discernable. Flipping the latch open, Taylor opened the window and allowed the owl to drop a letter attached to a small, brown papered parcel on the sill. After a proud coo, the bird departed.
"Oi, there's a package for you! From James— what's Potter sending you? Now I'm nervous." Taylor shook the package lightly, an ear cocked for malevolent reverberations. "I should withhold this for further inspection." She entered the living room to deliver the bundle.
"Who are you, the new Postmaster General?" Remus scoffed and held out his hands expectantly.
"At least I let you know when your mail arrives."
"Clever. Toss over the parcel." Obliging her brother's request, Taylor pitched the small package toward his open palms. Once situated, Remus pulled at the strings. The knots binding the letter to the bundle loosened, permitting to the contents within to roll onto the couch. A wrinkled, mauve fig settled next to an astounded Remus. "James's promised to send me a shrivelfig from his mother's garden—I'm actually surprised he remembered. Not quite Abyssinian, but fascinating nonetheless. After writing the summer essay about it, I expected something grander." The faint odor of lavender wafted charmingly from the ripe fruit.
James Potter, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew and her brother were inseparable. All from Gryffindor, the group paraded around the school scouting for ways to cause mischief. Sirius and James were ringleaders of misconduct, stirring up a circus of chaos for teachers and Slytherins alike. Their pompous attitudes and imposing presences annoyed Taylor, but circumstance allowed an alliance to form between them. A black sheep in her Slytherin house, Taylor carefully treaded the finer lines of blood traitor.
A smile twitched across Taylor's face as she attended to the neatly adorned letter on the kitchen counter. Soundlessly, she left Remus in the sitting room, alone to inspect the shrivelfig and the attached notelet in privacy. Upon entrance into her room, the dry splotches of bewitched paint began to flicker in a hospitable frenzy. On the comfort of her mattress, Taylor delved into the envelope:
My supply list came in! I'll be in Diagon Alley on the twentieth. If you happen to be there, meet Severus and I outside Sugarplum's Sweet Shop. Noon. I cannot wait to catch up in person.
Excitement, at the thought of reunion, pooled in Taylor's abdomen, stirring the eagerness and anticipation for the forthcoming academic year. Patiently waiting for owls to carry the correspondence had become cumbersome, an inconvenience which was easily averted when the students returned to Hogwarts. Conversations were only a stair climb away or tabletops apart. Secretly, she even desired the occasional heated interaction with Gryffindors like James Potter or Sirius Black. With a smile, Taylor folded Lily's letter and tucked it neatly into her tattered nightstand edition of A History of Magic.