The Way of the Squib
a Harry Potter fan-fic
a sequel to "Squib Wizard"
Prologue: Unofficial Observer
Everything in this story really belongs to J.K. Rowling
I ran down the left hand corridor on the first floor, just ahead of a glowing red, grapefruit-sized ball of light. Halfway down the corridor, a black-and-yellow tapestry waited. Behind me I could hear the triumphant buzzing of one of Mad Eye Moodyís Secutus spells. It would reach me well before I reached black-and-yellow. To make matters even worse, another red pulsating ball of light had just appeared directly between me and my Door. I was surrounded.
Or was I? Ahead of my pounding feet, the stone floor of the corridor suddenly shifted. Green-and-silver didnít appreciate being used as a doormat, I was certain. But it was for a good cause. Being caught by Mad-Eye Moodyís spells hurt. My job as Castle caretaker gives me enough backaches already. Without breaking stride, I jumped downwards, right through the corridor floor.
Momentum remains a problem whenever I use my Doors to jump through the floor. I have a tendency to emerge sprawling head over heels. Recently I had started lessons with Madam Hooch. Sheíd been teaching me how to fall without damaging myself too badly.
Madam Hooch knew that to me a broom would never be more than a cleaning implement. But she hadnít questioned the Headmaster when heíd asked her to teach me about falling. Her yellow hawk-like eyes had swept me up and down, taking in the fading bruises still visible on my face.
"Good idea," sheíd said, briskly. "Especially if Argus is not going to have the sense to keep away from Lucius Malfoy!"
Iíd sighed. The list of people who Needed To Know seemed to be growing all the time, but my Doors were still a secret from most of the people at Hogwarts. However, nearly everyone in the Castle appeared to know that Lucius Malfoy had thrown me down the front steps when I refused to obey his order to take him to the Headmaster immediately.
Madam Hoochís expression had been approving in spite of her words. Sheíd been glad that Iíd stood up to Malfoy. And she did her best to share her knowledge and training with me. Thereís an art to falling. Since even the best Quidditch players will fall, Madam Hooch was well qualified to teach me how to do it without breaking my neck. I was able to turn my tumble into a passable shoulder-roll when I emerged from green-and-silver, through a wall in the Charms corridor.
Getting my feet beneath me once more, I crouched behind a suit of armor to rest for a moment and catch my breath.
Straining my ears, I listened for the distinctive clunk of Moodyís wooden leg. To my relief I didnít hear it. But I had heard...something. Soft breathing, perhaps? And had that been a quiet footfall nearby? I scanned the Charms corridor. There was no one in sight.
Sometimes the ghosts do like to move about invisibly. But they donít breathe and no one hears them walking. And it couldnít be Peeves. Peeves hardly ever does anything quietly.
Was it a student out of bed, perhaps? My heart sank at the thought. I didnít want to be interrupted in the middle of one of my lessons with Moody! It hadnít happened yet, Iíd been lucky so far. I still wasnít sure what I would do if the situation actually ever arose.
Everything was perfectly quiet now. Or as quiet as the Castle ever gets at night.
I must have imagined those soft noises.
Stealthily I moved down the corridor in the direction of the main staircase. No red pulsating Secutus spells yet. I was still safe.
Near the top of the stairs was a statue, mostly hidden in the shadows. I didnít recognize it. A new addition to the Castleís decor? I was just wondering when the Headmaster had acquired this ugly thing, when I noticed the bright blue magical eye. Oh, no!
Wand outstretched, Mad-Eye Moody stepped forward. He looked pleased with me. This evening Iíd been able to elude him for longer than ever before. He also looked triumphant, as he cast a Stunning spell at me. Capturing me had gotten to be more of a challenge for him lately, and the old Auror thoroughly enjoyed a challenge.
Good. Because I still had one more trick for him, literally up my sleeve. Iíd been able to feel the surge in Moodyís magic even before heíd cast the spell. And I was ready.
The wooden filing cabinets in my office are nearly empty of parchments now. Iíd recently burned about thirty years worth of detention forms, each one a carefully hoarded grudge. But I still had a few file drawers with plenty of odds and ends in them.
One of the drawers is labeled "Confiscated and Highly Dangerous." I leave that one alone.
Another is labeled "Confiscated, but Probably Harmless." One of the items in that drawer had been a small hand mirror that Iíd once taken from a nasty little chit named Rita Skeeter. (The mirror had seemed ordinary enough. But it had looked to me as if Rita had been trying to use it to reflect a curse at one of her classmates.) The mirror fit snugly into the palm of my hand, just as it had fit into Ritaís. And Moodyís Stunning Spell would reflect much as Rita had tried to do all those years ago with her curse.
Mad-Eye Moody froze as his own Stunning Spell bounced back and hit him. His magical eye swung about crazily. His normal eye rolled back in his head. I was alarmed to see that his nose was trickling blood. Just how hard had he meant to hit me?
I hadnít realized how close he was standing to the top of the stairs. Horrified, I watched him falling backwards into emptiness!
Had Moody ever played Quidditch? I had no clue. Had anyone ever taught him how to fall? I didnít know. And even if someone had, he was Stunned and completely helpless. He was going to break his neck!
I didnít know which of my Doors was there for me, when I stepped back. I didnít think about it. I just stepped backwards into one of them and emerged halfway down the flight of stairs. Stopping Moodyís fall entirely would not be possible. But I could try to prevent him from injuring himself too badly!
Iíd once seen Madam Hooch catch a terrified first year whoíd fallen from her broom. Sheíd flown underneath the girl, allowing herself to be knocked off her own broom a few feet from the ground to cushion the childís fall. Neither of them had suffered anything worse than bruises.
Moody hit me with the force of a bludger. I was able to keep him from striking his head as we tumbled down the stairs together. Iíd already sent whichever Door Iíd used away. (Another journey through my Doors was the last thing Mad-Eye needed.)
At the landing, near the foot of the stairs, there was a pedestal with a heavy Grecian amphora on top. Moody and I slammed into the pedestalís base. The amphora started to shake. It was heavy enough to do terrible harm if it fell on us.
A proper wizard could have caught the amphora with a spell, but I couldnít. The best I could do was curl protectively over my helpless teacher and hope to cushion him from this impact too.
Body aching from my tumble down the stairs, eyes squeezed tightly shut and heart pounding, I waited for the crushing blow.
It didnít come.
After a few anxious moments I dared to open my eyes. The amphora was now completely steady on its pedestal. But it was not exactly in the center. The ring of dust made that obvious. (I couldnít help a flush of shame when I noticed the dust. All the recent havoc in the dungeons has put me so very far behind with my dusting!)
Someone or something had saved us, catching the heavy thing before it could fall and putting it back! Someone or something that I couldnít see.
"Whoís here?" I wheezed, my heart still beating hard. "I know youíre here!"
Silence was my only answer. I couldnít even hear anyone breathing. I looked up and down the stairs but nothing was moving.
"Filch?" he said weakly.
"Iím here," I said. "Are you all right?"
There! Iíd heard it again. A very soft sound, as if someone was moving close by. Perhaps someone who was as concerned about Mad-Eye as I was.
The Aurorís magical eye was rolling about crazily again. I couldnít tell if it had rested in any one direction longer than the rest. And Moody did not tell me if he saw anything unusual.
"Donít get yourself into a state, Filch," Moody said gruffly. "Itís just your cat."
Mrs. Norris came slinking silently up the stairs, moving out of the shadows towards us. But I knew it wasnít her that Iíd just heard.
"Keep alert, Missy," I whispered to her as she came softly over to me. "Weíre not alone on these stairs."
Her small grey ears began to swivel about like Moodyís magical eye.
I didnít know how long Mrs. Norris had been nearby, but if sheíd been in the vicinity for more than a few moments then sheíd probably seen the falling amphora stopped by our invisible savior.
The old Auror watched my cat, speculatively.
"What in Medeaís Name did you do to me?" was the only thing he said. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket to dab at his bloody nose.
"I just reflected your own spell back at you," I told him.
Relieved to see that he was recovering, I was beginning to feel the first stirrings of resentment at the powerful Stunning Spell. Heíd meant to use that spell on me!
"With this," I said.
The small mirror, unbroken, lay at the foot of the stairs. Wincing, I got up and fetched it to show him. The old Auror looked pale and dazed. But his magical eye swiveled to study the mirror.
"Nasty little thing," he growled. "Whereíd you get it?"
"It was confiscated from a student. Itís been in a drawer in my office for years. Itís just a mirror, isnít it?"
Moody shook his head. "No. This thing was made for casting spells. And itís got a defensive spell on it too for good measure. It reflects magic back with nearly twice the original force. Circeís Pigs, man! Did you really think that I was going to use a spell that strong on you?"
"I figured that you might have gotten carried away," I said. I was ashamed of myself.
He sighed, chagrined. "Listen to me, Filch. You are one of this Castleís defenders. As much as any other adult wizard here. Those Doors give you access to magic that no one else can use. Iím trying to teach you that you have claws and how to use Ďem. Thatís the whole point of these lessons. Iím not trying to kill you!"
"I know. Iím sorry."
"Youíve done very well. Iím proud of you. Tonight youíve earned ten out of ten."
I couldnít help grinning proudly.
"Which student did you take it from?" Moody asked me, rubbing his head.
I told him.
"Figures..." he growled, but I wasnít listening.
Iíd just heard someone gasp, quite distinctly!
"Whoís there?" I cried.
Both Moody and Mrs. Norris were no help whatsoever. Moody was staring into space. It almost seemed as if he were deliberately trying not to look anywhere in particular. Mrs. Norris was calmly washing her right front paw, with an attitude as casual as Moodyís. Cats and Aurors love to keep secrets.
"That does it!" I snarled at Mad-Eye. "Iím tired of everyone around me always knowing more than I do! Mrs. Norris canít tell me who else is here, but you can. You just wonít!"
Moody looked at me as if Iíd lost my mind.
"All right. Fine. Donít tell me!" I grumbled. "Itís probably one of the ghosts anyhow! Probably the Baron. As long as it isnít Peeves! Whoever it is, itís someone that Mrs. Norris isnít objecting to, and I trust her judgment. Itís just maddening... the way that you enjoy secret plots, and wheels turning within wheels... name one other person who is as infuriating as you are!"
"Albus," Moody said, promptly.
"I am going to tell him you said that!" I said, outraged at such disrespect.
Moody grinned. "Please do."
I continued to glower for a few moments, then I sighed.
"Do you want to keep it?" I asked him. "The mirror, I mean."
"Itís yours, Filch. Why would I take it away from you?"
"Because," I pointed out, "I thought that it was just an ordinary mirror. I couldnít test it with magic or use any spells to see exactly what it was capable of doing. Maybe Iíve got some other things in my "Harmless" drawer that I should reclassify."
"Iíll be glad to take a look at your collection, a little later. Right now, I donít feel up to it." He rested his head in his hands, massaging his temples.
I watched, feeling sorry for him.
"Sounds like youíve amassed quite an unofficial little arsenal over the years," Moody murmured.
Stricken, I said, "But I would never use anything that I knew was dangerous!"
He sighed. "Thatís not the point Iím trying to make, Filch. I donít disapprove of your arsenal. Quite the opposite. Unofficial things have a very important place among anyoneís most valuable resources. Youíve got to learn how to use any advantage youíve got. Unofficial weapons. Unofficial sources of information. Unofficial connections."
"For example," he went on, "the students arenít supposed to know about your Doors. Thanks to those tapestries you can come closer to Apparating within the Castleís defenses than any other wizard at Hogwarts. Neville and Ginny have been sworn to secrecy. They canít tell any of the other children. But isnít it true that it was really Ginny who figured out that a powerful wizard-repelling spell is what makes the Doors unusable for any witch or wizard whoís not a Squib?"
I nodded warily, wondering what he was getting at. I knew all this.
"None of the students can know about your Doors, officially. But the students are one of Hogwartsí greatest resources. Full of intelligence, energy and ideas."
"Full of tricks and pranks and mischief!" I retorted. "Youíre not suggesting that I start telling students, are you?"
Moody smiled. "Of course not. Youíre not ready to take such a suggestion seriously. But I hope that you will consider my point. Donít overlook any advantage, any source of possible help. Xiomara Hooch and I are not your only teachers. You can learn from anyone. Even the students."
That brought me up short. I knew he was right about learning from the children. Both Neville and Ginny had taught me a great deal already.
"Good," he said, approvingly. "You are thinking about it. Thatís all Iím asking. Now give me a hand up and help me find my staff. Weíll go and have a look at that treasure trove of yours."
END OF PROLOGUE
Authorís Note: Next time, Harry gets a more visible role...