The first thing it remembered was fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the darkness and existence, fear of what could happen and what never would. That was before it had been trapped, dragged away, broken and beaten, desperate to escape, but knowing it never could. It felt weak, even when it could reach out and touch the stars or contort into a thousand shapes. It felt broken even when it could roar. Most of all, it felt scared. Dread, crippling and complete, the kind few ever felt and many believed that had. They had no idea.
It could sense him. The human. It didn't feel like all the others, there was something different. The creature knew fear. This human feared himself, and what he might do if he ever slipped out of control.
A sound. Creaking and piercing, footsteps and nervous breathing. Short. Fast. Heart pounding. This one was crippled by everything. Self-doubt. The unknown. The known. The judgements of others. The opinion of himself. The creature could sense it all. Here stood a boy uncomfortable in his own skin, aching to be something he wasn't and unable to live up to the hopes of others.
Desperately, it scrambled against its bonds, crashing against its confines and screaming to be let out. Like a dragon yearning for the open sky, trapped by iron and caged by the ignorant.
"Don't worry, Neville. It's quite safe."
"Ar-are you sure, Professor?"
"You beat it once, I have complete faith that you would be able to do so again."
That calmed him. The creature dreamt of serenity, true peace, to be content with the world and have no worries. To be lost in a single moment. Bliss. Yet that was never its destiny, for fate had long since decided its path would never encounter such happiness.
"Professor, I was wondering," the young boy began, trying to mask the hesitancy in his heart. His words betrayed him. Some had mastered their gift, learned to cast a shadow over their deceit. The creature could always see it though, for it knew what lay in their hearts. "The Boggart, you said it shows you your worst fears, right?"
"Indeed it does."
That was a question the creature, the Boggart, as it was now called, had long since asked itself. Why? The obvious answer was not always the right one. Mist hid the memories, the introspection and the questioning, the quiet nights and search for answers. They had stretched back a millennia, long before it had even had a name.
"There are many theories, as I am sure you are aware. Some believe it to be like a Dementor. They think that a Boggart lives off our emotions, we provide it life. So if you were to find someone who had no fears, nothing to scare him, then you would have no Boggarts. There are others who think they're not really beings, but more of a connected consciousness. You strike off the head but another will always rise, so to speak."
"And what do you think?"
"It could be both, or it could neither. The truth is we'll never really know, I'm afraid."
He paused, drumming his fingers cautiously against the desk. The Boggart could see his trepidation, it moved within him, coiling from his heart, spiralling up to his mouth and locking off the words. Instead of trying to force its way free, the Boggart stayed quite still. It wanted to lash out, anxious of what it might hear, what truths this man might tell; but it also needed to know. It had never heard the speculations of those who could see it. Did they even know what it looked like? Could anyone?
"It strikes me that a Boggart is just as scared as we are," the man confessed. "I would propose that they have developed the perfect defence mechanism. No sentient predator could ever get near it, if it did, then the Boggart would simply reflect its darkest fears. Mirroring its mania."
Was that perhaps what it was? There was no choice, that much was true. It couldn't prevent it, or stop the darkness. The darkness always won, just as the darkness whispered in its mind. The creature could see their minds, their hearts and understand. Not just that. Sympathise. How else could it create the illusion without first experiencing the horror?
"Of course, no-one can really ask it. If we were to let it out this second it would -"
"Turn into Professor Snape."
Snape. The name that inspired nothing but dread. He thinks that's the worst. He thinks Snape is all he could fear. There was so much more. He's an idiot. A fool. The darkness could show him. It could wrap around his mind, warp his consciousness with a mere moment. Did he even realise how fragile he was? Could he possibly know?
"But does that mean what I think it means?"
"That really rather depends, Neville."
"Well, if it can't help itself and it's a defence thing, like you said, then can it talk to other Boggarts? Or would it just do what it does to us?"
"I must admit, I hadn't thought of it like that. To have compassion for your tormenter is always rather difficult. Your father was the same."
"You knew my dad?"
"Yes, your mother too. It was tragic, what happened. They didn't deserve it, not that anyone ever would, but your parents were two of the kindest people I've ever met."
There was something there. Something it hadn't seen before. It couldn't have seen. The boy. He had done it. How? A flicker. That's all it was, but enough to see. Two people. Still. Silent. Dead in all but name. A childhood without them and no life to look forward to either. Their fate had been sealed, and so had his. It shaped him, created him. He accepted it, yet denied it. Embraced, but pushed back. What was this?
And then it was gone, locked away again.
"Thank you." Was all he said but still no story, no hint of anything more. Surely this was his greatest fear?
"But to answer your question, I simply do not know. You would hope not, I suppose. For if it was true, it would be the loneliest experience one could imagine."
"No-one deserves that, Professor."
He pitied it. Whatever came next was unheard, lost in a sea of confusion. For the first time, someone understood how it felt. What the darkness meant and how it was impossible to keep at bay. The creature realised it had been longing for that all its life. And feared would never see it again, and indeed, never did.
AN: So I recently got asked to join a fanfic Quidditch team, so here is my entry for our competition. I'm Keeper for the Kenmare Kestrals and this was for the challenge to write for a monster I'd never written for. I chose the Boggart because I thought it'd be pretty cool to see how they think, and I hope you do too.