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I've been reading the entries in deathtocapslock, which is a group for picking apart the Harry Potter series and the logic fails and writing flaws thereof. I just reached the chapter of Prisoner of Azkeban where Lupin has the students face off against a boggart, and looking back, I really wonder what Lupin would have done if any of his students had feared, say, their mother shrieking at them for letting someone come to their bed at night and do that stuff to them...

But that also started me thinking about boggarts in general, which led to this ficlet:

Light stares at the rattling cupboard thoughtfully. He isn't sure whether to be pleased or concerned by how easy it was to get hold of a boggart.

The teacher's well-meaning advice echoes in his ear. "A boggart will become your greatest fear. It can't touch you, though - just find a way to laugh at it, and it'll go away!"

But how do you laugh at your deepest fear, when you don't even know what it is?

Decided, he reaches for the door and flings it open. Once he knows, he can defend against it, and then he'll be the usual best-in-class and - and -

The thing rushes out in a swirl of black fog. Light watches intently.

His greatest fear... is...

The boggart pauses, floating in front of him.

Does he fear failure? Defeat? Loss?

It stays there, unchanging.

Light's breath catches in his throat as he realises why. "No," he whispers. "No. No." He steps forwards, tries to force it to change, tries to force it to stop showing him - "No!"

He doesn't notice the door opening behind him, doesn't pay attention to the footsteps, too invested in trying to make this boggart, this thing, stop lying -

L watches in surprise as the boy two years below him who is his rival, already whispered about for matching his perfect scores, screams at the unformed boggart, "Stop it!"

"Did no one tell you the counterspell?" he asks, and Light spins with wild eyes, completely unaware of the tears streaming down his face.

"It's lying," Light insists, and for the first time since they met L pities him.

"It is showing you exactly what it is meant to, Light-kun." L steps closer to the boggart, changes it from its formless shape to his guardian, Watari, dead on the floor. "Riddikulus." The form vanishes, and the boggart sulkily floats back into the cupboard.

Light stares at him like a frightened (wounded) animal. L meets his eyes. "I believe Light-kun is unique. I've certainly never heard of anyone else with such a fear."

"And what is it?" Light asks desperately.

"The fear that so little of your personality is real, you aren't even enough of a person to be afraid of anything."

Relief and terror mix on Light's face, and then he swings at L.

They go to the infirmary together. The nurse shakes her head at them, not even bothering to ask what started the fight this time because it happens so often.

A week later, L overhears the teachers chatting about the latest class. Apparently someone in Light's class had been completely overwhelmed by their boggart, and Light had stepped forwards and dispelled it easily.

"It was strange, though," the teacher muses. "His fear must have been very different - I've never seen a boggart take so long to go from one form to another."