When Neville rounded the corner he saw the three children literally stuck in place to the floor just outside Mr. Malleus’s office. They burst into frantic explanations (“It’s not what it looks like!” “Please, you’ve got to listen!” “We can explain!”).
Mr. Corntassel waved his wand and their feet instantly became free from the hex that had held them fast. This caught Will in mid-tug and sent him flying onto his backside. He scrambled back upright as Mr. Malleus bellowed, “What’re you doing?”
It was then that he noticed the wisps of purple smoke escaping beneath the door of his office. Fuming, he snatched a huge brass key from his pocket and opened the door.
Everyone coughed as more purple smoke briefly filled the hallway before dissipating. Behind the smoke, the room was pitch black.
Fuming even more, Mr. Malleus pointed his wand into his office and cried “Lumos!”—but nothing happened.
Mr. Corntassel said, “Apparently they’ve managed to get their hands on something they shouldn’t, Mr. Malleus. Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, perhaps? Or some other sort of Deluminating artefact?”
Principal Towne nudged Mr. Malleus out of the way and began to poke his head into the darkened room.
“Be careful, Principal Towne!” Kate shouted. “There’s something in there!”
Dana spoke up. “It’s what we’ve been trying to tell you. There’s something in there—something horrible!”
“Is there, now?” Principal Towne said. “And you know this because…?”
The three blushed and studied the hardwood floor. Finally, Will said, “B-because we sneaked in.”
“Impossible!” Malleus shouted. “I locked that door myself, and I assure you it takes more than a simple Unlocking Charm to open it.”
“But they did open it, Jacob,” Mr. Corntassel said, his voice casual and steady. “I was here. I saw them. Kate performed as expert an Alohomora as I’ve ever seen from a second-year. The door virtually burst open before her wand.” Mr. Malleus’s expression went from furious to dumbstruck.
“Then they went inside,” Mr. Corntassel continued, “and suppose one of you tell us what happened next?”
Will cleared his throat. “Well, uh. You see, we uh—we were afraid someone had, uh, put something in your office.”
“We weren’t exactly sure what we were looking for,” Dana chimed in.
“Then we opened your closet,” Kate said, finding fresh courage, “And we found it!” Kate eyed Mr. Malleus as if she had just delivered conclusive evidence he was a murderer.
“Found what, exactly?” Madame Glapion asked.
“Well, that’s the thing….” Dana began. “It moved awfully fast….” The three grew silent.
Mr. Corntassel jumped in. “Perhaps I can be of some assistance here. Will, tell us what you saw when you opened the closet door.”
“A-A snake, Mr. Corntassel. A rattlesnake, only it was as big as a man!”
“How about you, Kate. What did you see?”
“It wasn’t a snake. It was a vampire! I’m certain of it.”
“I see,” Mr. Corntassel mused. “Tell me, Kate, have you ever seen a real-live vampire?”
“Then how are you so sure that’s what you saw?” Kate had nothing to say. Mr. Corntassel scratched the side of his head and said, “Hmmm,” in a way that was obviously intentional.
The light began to dawn on the other teachers’ faces.
Madame Glapion next questioned her Fairgarland student. “Dana, what did you see in Mr. Malleus’s office?”
Dana blushed. “It was Mr. Rainey!”
Will and Kate blurted, “What?”
“He was throwing History of Magic textbooks at me! Except Goblins kept popping out of them and clawing at my ankles!”
“So,” Mr. Corntassel continued, “What do you think was really in that closet?”
The question met three blank stares until finally Kate gasped, “A boggart?”
Mr. Corntassel grinned and nodded. “A boggart.”
“Wait a minute!” Mr. Malleus interrupted, “Don’t you think I’d know if there were a boggart in my closet?”
“Of course you would, Jacob. That’s why I waited until you were away from your office before I put it there! I noticed it down in my root cellar just before the Quodpot game on Saturday and figured I’d offer it to you later. As it turned out, I needed it first.”
Mr. Malleus stormed into his office. There were shouts of “Lumos Maxima!” and then “Ridikkulus!” Then they heard the sound of a closet door slamming shut and the metal latch being turned. Everyone—student and teacher alike—could now see that Mr. Malleus’s office was a complete mess.
“Er…We must have, uh, knocked some things over, you know, trying to get out…” Will mumbled.
“That must have been when I bumped your…darkness thingy,” Kate added.
“And…uh…somebody must have broken…whatever it was that made the smoke,” said Dana.
“I assure you, none of you are leaving campus tomorrow until my office is put back the way it’s supposed to be!”
“Don’t worry, Jacob,” Mr. Corntassel said, “I’ll clean up the mess. And by my calculation,” there was a sparkle in the old Indian’s eye, “it looks like my debt to you is paid.”
All eyes jerked suddenly up to Mr. Corntassel’s grinning face.