A Squib’s Proper Place
A Squib’s Proper Place
a Harry Potter fan-fic
a sequel to "To Save A Squib"
Chapter 1 of 6: Two Squibs at Hogwarts
Everything in this story really belongs to J.K. Rowling
"Are you really going to just let him go hobbling out of here?" Sirius Black asked, his voice incredulous.
Severus Snape answered the Animagus before Madam Pomfrey had a chance to speak.
"Yes, Black, she is. Do you know why? Because unlike you, I can walk."
"I didn’t say that you were walking, Snape. I said hobbling," the Animagus replied in a sour tone.
"If you prefer," Snape replied, smug despite the bruises which covered most of his body. "At least I’m ambulatory. Which is more than can be said for you!"
Poppy had been able to mend Black’s many broken bones but the Animagus would need more time to heal from his internal injuries.
"That’s quite enough of out the pair of you!" Poppy Pomfrey scolded the two young wizards. The medi-witch looked in need of a strong headache potion. Separately Sirius and Severus were difficult patients. Together, they were completely impossible.
"You should have time for a nice, warm bath before teaching that class," Poppy told the Potions Master, sternly. "Make it a good, long soak, mind you!"
Then Poppy sighed. "I really hope that you won’t overdo things, Professor. You need your rest."
Severus was on light duties today, only permitted to teach one of his Potions classes. Professor Grubbly-Plank had flatly refused to take the fifth year Gryffindors and Slytherins.
The Potions Master looked insulted by the very idea that teaching one class would be overdoing things. Even if that class did include Neville Longbottom among its members.
(Fond of Neville as I am, I know that teaching him the subtle science and exact art of potion-making is not a task for the faint-hearted.)
After giving Poppy a somewhat stiff and painful nod, the Potions Master raised his wand and restored the glamour which concealed his injuries. The poor man walked as if he was twice the Headmaster’s age, but he was obviously glad to be leaving the hospital wing.
The Animagus watched him leave with poorly concealed envy on his own battered face.
If Black had been free to walk around the Castle in his human form, he would have volunteered to teach the Potions class, just to have something to do.
He’d always been a restless boy, unable to handle any sort of confinement very well. It amazed me that he’d been able to last twelve years in Azkaban, Animagus or not.
The Animagus and the Potions Master had been wounded rescuing a fifteen-year-old girl, a Squib named Callandra Moffitt from the Dark Lord and his followers. The Dark Lord had injured me too, shattering my right hand and right arm with the force of a Curse that hadn’t even touched me. My bones had been mended. But my arm and hand remained so painful that they were useless.
I had not forgotten Professor Trelawney’s prediction. "The thing that you fear will happen before the start of summer," she’d told me. For nearly two months I’d been worried that she’d foreseen something dreadful happening to Mrs. Norris’s unborn kittens. Had Professor Trelawney been foretelling my injury instead? Had she Seen that I would never heal properly? What use would a one-armed, one-handed caretaker be to this Castle?
Aware of my concerns, Poppy had reassured me that I would eventually regain the full use of my hand and arm. My reaction to the Skele-Gro was just a little bit slower than most. Rationally I knew that I could trust her. Poppy always tells her patients the truth even when the truth is unpleasant. But in my heart, I remained troubled.
Callandra and her parents, Reuben and Hyacinth Moffitt, were still visiting the Castle. Thanks to Black, Snape and myself, the girl had been returned to her family, frightened but unhurt. My satisfaction with this outcome was even stronger than my fear for myself. Callandra’s younger brother, Daniel, a Ravenclaw in his second year, was now with them too. I’d heard that all the Moffitts were currently in a meeting with the Headmaster.
Not many people knew the real story behind Callandra’s rescue. For the safety of everyone involved not many people could know the whole story. The official version released into the Castle’s grapevine was that Callandra had been saved from her kidnappers by the big black dog.
Sirius was supposedly a stray that had been hanging about Hogsmeade. He’d been adopted by Hagrid, though he was obviously very fond of Harry Potter as well.
According to the Hogwarts grapevine Severus and I had both been injured in separate mishaps that had nothing to do with Callandra’s kidnapping and rescue. Snape had ‘hurt his back a bit’ while moving supplies in his office. And I’d broken my arm and hand falling off a ladder.
When Sirius heard Poppy say that I would also be allowed to leave the hospital wing he regarded me plaintively.
"Argus, you’re not allowed to do even very light cleaning!" Poppy told me, looking stern. "Read a book. Go for a walk outside. Or just spend time sitting quietly with Mrs. Norris. Anything, as long as it’s relaxing!"
I was frankly horrified at the notion of relaxing. I’m not very good at it. Keeping busy is what I prefer to do; it’s in my nature.
"As for you," Poppy told Black , her tone both stern and sympathetic, "Transfigure yourself into ‘Snuffles.’ It’s not safe to be seen any other way."
With a sigh, the bedridden Animagus obeyed.
Poor Severus did not have an easy lesson with his fifth year Gryffindors and Slytherins. Severus had limped into the classroom to find the children doing one of the things they did best--fighting.
"You’re going to have the fifth year Gryffindors for a detention this evening!" Severus told me angrily, via my office fireplace.
"All of them? What did they do?" I asked.
"Longbottom and Weasley made a vicious and unprovoked attack against Vincent and Gregory!" Professor Snape snarled. "And the others were stubborn about defending them! I took fifty points from Gryffindor. And I trust you to make their detention as unpleasant as possible!"
Dusting is quite unpleasant, I thought. No child really enjoys doing anything so tedious. Not even Potter, who is quite good at it. Obeying Poppy’s orders, I did not help the Gryffindors. That evening, my useless right arm in a sling, I restricted myself to supervising their work on the fifth floor corridor.
Mrs. Norris was curled up on the floor, safely out of range of all the flying dust. She was due to have her kittens any day now. My cat was beginning to look like a small, grey stuffed pillow. She was clearly very anxious for the whole pregnancy business to be over.
While they worked, the children explained the reason for their fight with the Slytherins.
"Pansy Parkinson started it, the stupid little cow!" Ron Weasley said, angrily. The gangly redhead was making me regret my decision to allow the children to use magic to help them clean. The boy was so furious that his floating dust-cloths were creating a dust storm.
"Pansy is awful!" Lavender Brown agreed indignantly. "Saying such rude things about poor Callandra."
Neville Longbottom’s round, usually gentle face was full of anger and pain. "Callandra is not ‘unsuitable,’ or ‘useless,’ or any of the other things that Pansy said she was!" the boy growled. It was a tone of voice I’d never heard from Neville before.
"Of course she’s not," Parvati Patil told Neville, also indignant. She gave Hermione a proud look. "Callandra is worth ten of Pansy, just as Hermione said."
Hermione sighed and looked over at Ron, who was now sneezing and covered with dust. "It might have ended there if you’d just ignored Pansy, Ron."
"How could I ignore her when she’d just called you a Mudblood?" Ron demanded, between sneezes.
"You should have ignored Crabbe and Goyle then. I think they might have been coming over to restrain Pansy. You and Neville didn’t have to tackle them." Hermione said.
"It was great though," Dean Thomas said, grinning. "You were both brilliant!"
"Neville," I said, worried, "you and Ron really did attack Crabbe and Goyle?"
"Knocked them right down." Dean’s grin widened.
I studied Neville and Ron anxiously, but neither boy had a mark on him. It was surprising. Ron had always been tall and wiry and Neville had grown a great deal over the course of the year, but neither Gryffindor was a match yet for Crabbe and Goyle in either size or brute strength.
The young Gryffindor knights must have made up for the size difference with sheer ferocity in defense of their young ladies’ honor. Both of them were too gentlemanly to strike Pansy. But her hulking protectors would have been considered fair game.
"The only thing better would have been if Malfoy had been knocked down too," Dean went on. "What was wrong with Draco, anyhow? Off by himself, like that... not even noticing that his girlfriend had just landed herself in the middle of a fight? Much as I can’t stand Malfoy, that’s not like him."
"Draco’s just had bad news from home," Harry Potter said, quietly. "His father’s ill."
Unlike all the others, Potter was actually doing a good job with his dusting. At the moment he was using a cleaning spell to remove the dust from Ron’s hair, face and clothes rather than the suits of armor and the paintings, but it was a start.
"His father must be terribly ill if Draco’s too distracted to pay any attention to Pansy," Parvati said. "Maybe that’s why she was in such a snit. Neville, surely you don’t you believe a word she told you. You’re certainly not a disgrace to your family, and you know that your gran would never really disown you!"
"Disown you?" I asked, looking at Neville wide eyed.
"B-because of Callandra," Neville said, angrily.
"My mum married a Muggle and her family didn’t disown her," Seamus Finnegan pointed out.
"But, Seamus, your mum never told your dad she was a witch." Dean pointed out.
"I’m not talking about my dad’s side, just my mum’s," Seamus said. "Anyway, both sides of the family get along all right now."
"Neville, your gran didn’t disown you when she thought you were a Squib, did she?" Hermione’s voice was gentle and reasonable. "Why would she object to Callandra?"
I was relieved to see that Hermione’s words were able to penetrate Neville’s worry and anger.
"Just don’t let your great uncle Algie dangle Callandra out of any attic windows," Ron said.
Neville looked ferocious again. "He’d better not try it."
If Neville’s great uncle had any sense, he would not tangle with a fifteen-year-old in love.
I was wondering more about the eventual meeting between Neville’s formidable grandmother and Callandra’s fierce mother, Hyacinth. I almost missed what Neville said next.
"I hope that the Headmaster really is going to let Callandra stay at the Castle," the boy murmured wistfully. "Everyone says that Professor Dumbledore’s been talking to her parents about it all day, trying to make arrangements."
"Callandra is being invited to stay?" I asked, softly. I was surprised and pleased. "For how long?"
"Well, for years of course," Seamus told me. "You can use the help, surely. Especially now. With your arm and all."
"The h-help?" My words came out in a whisper.
"You haven’t heard anything about this, Mr. Filch?" Lavender said in surprise. "Everyone’s been saying that Callandra is going to be your apprentice!"
"What??" I gasped. "No!" I knew that Callandra’s mother, Hyacinth, would never allow such a thing. She wanted better things for her daughter, and I did not blame her. No wonder the Moffitt family had been with the Headmaster all day. Hyacinth Moffitt was probably fighting the idea tooth and nail!
The fifth year Gryffindors all stared at me, surprised by my reaction. Even Neville looked upset with me.
"But you seemed to be rather fond of Callandra, Mr. Filch..." Lavender said softly, after a few moments.
"I am. She’s a good child," I said, struggling for the right words. Most of the Gryffindors were regarding me indignantly. I felt surrounded and besieged. I gave Mrs. Norris a desperate look but she just glared. The expression in her golden eyes said plainly, Don’t bother me, I’m pregnant. You’re on your own!
"A young girl spending her days scrubbing floors and toilets," I said, miserably. "Cleaning old gum off the stair railings, enduring Peeves’ endless taunts..." I shook my head in dismay. Worse than anything else was the thought of shy, pretty Callandra shut away from the sun in a gloomy dungeon office.
"But, Mr. Filch," Dean Thomas pointed out, "you do those things."
"It’s all right for me. I’m an old man. She’s just a child!"
"What about our detentions then?" Ron wanted to know. "The bedpans? The trophy polishing? The floor-scrubbing? Watching us clean doesn’t seem to upset you!"
"Do you have to clean like a Muggle every single day, boy?" I asked, getting angry now. "A little hard work never hurt anyone, and the prospect of doing a bit of menial labor for punishment should be enough to deter you brats from doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing anyhow!"
My voice was shaking. "It would be different for Callandra. It wouldn’t be a punishment for just a few hours, but her job! Years of back-breaking chores, morning, noon and night."
I looked over at Neville. My young friend’s face was both angry and troubled.
"That can’t be what you want for her!" I said.
"But what if she won’t be allowed to stay in the Castle any other way?" Parvati asked me, before Neville had a chance to answer.
"It’s not as if she could be admitted here as a student," Seamus said. "Her name was never on the List. No letter. No wand. No magic."
I was silent. They had a point.
"But Squibs do have magic," Hermione Granger said.
"It’s true," she went on, as everyone turned to look at her. "They’re not the same as Muggles. I’ve been doing some reading..." she added, unnecessarily.
"They’re not proper wizards either..." Ron said, looking at me apologetically. "Sorry, Mr. Filch," the boy muttered.
I shrugged. He wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t been hearing all my life. And at least he did have the courage to say it to my face.
"Squibs are very sensitive to magic," Hermione said. "More so than regular witches and wizards. And they’re immune or invisible to certain spells. Quite a number of spells, really. The spell that creates the List for Hogwarts is one of that type. That’s why Squibs’ names don’t appear."
Her voice got softer. "Squibs are safest when they’re hidden. Dark Wizards have always wanted to cut them to bits and make use of their magical immunity. Why do you think the Death Eaters took Callandra?"
I shuddered. I wasn’t the only one, either.
"You’ve been doing research in the Restricted Section..." I said, glaring at her.
"Professor McGonagall gave me permission," Hermione replied. "As it happens, there’s more information on Squibs there than there is in any other section."
"That must be why you were kidnapped, Mr. Filch. Back in December!" Parvati said. Her voice was gentle and sympathetic.
The details of my kidnapping were supposed to be a secret, but naturally these children would make the obvious connections. Minerva’s young lions were too clever to do otherwise. My kidnappers were supposed to have used a memory-charm on me, and the reasons for my attack were presumed to be a mystery even to me. But the whole school knew that Professor Snape had brought me back to Hogwarts, a half-dead bloody mess.
Dwelling on those memories could still make me feel ill. Angry and impatient with myself, I knelt to stroke Mrs. Norris, who had finally waddled over to rub against my ankles. Lowering myself to the floor, I cradled her in my lap.
Neville’s voice was gentle too. At least my young friend didn’t sound angry with me any more. "If a Squib’s best protection is to remain hidden, then neither you or Callandra have that protection any longer," he said quietly. "Callandra needs to be here, surrounded by witches and wizards. She’d be safer here than anywhere. I’m sure you can see that."
"I do want Callandra to stay," I muttered. "I just don’t want to see her have to break her back, blister her hands and rub her knees raw in the process. It’s not fair."
The young lions were all looking at each other, grinning now.
"You’ve always said that you’d like nothing better than to see the lot of us hung up by our ankles in the dungeons," Ron said, dryly.
"That’s different! Callandra is a good child!" I retorted, glaring at him. Then I sighed. I had a sinking feeling that my cover was blown as far as these particular Gryffindors were concerned.
Potter, who had been very quiet till now, spoke up. "Everyone’s been saying that Callandra’s going to be your apprentice, but it’s really just a rumor," the boy pointed out. "And rumors can lie. What if Professor Dumbledore really has other plans for her? What if she’s going to be invited to stay here as a student?"
Everyone was looking at him now. Including me.
"Maybe the story about Callandra being your apprentice started because no one could imagine any other place for a Squib at Hogwarts," Harry went on. "But the Headmaster likes to give everyone a chance, doesn’t he? Dumbledore has been talking to her family all day! It wouldn’t take that long just to make arrangements to take her on as your assistant."
You don’t know her mother! I thought. But I felt hopeful. Could the boy be right?
"Pringle, the one who was caretaker before you. Was he a Squib too?" Harry asked me.
I shook my head. "Hardly. Old Pringle was a proper wizard who’d failed at his studies. He wasn’t too pleased by the idea of training a Squib to do his job, either. Thought it was a dreadful insult."
"You may have been the first Squib here, then," Harry said. "Just like Professor Lupin was the first werewolf-student. If a werewolf can come to school, why not a Squib?"
"At least Professor Lupin has a wand, and can do proper magic! What will Callandra do about Transfiguration? Or Charms?" Parvati asked.
"If Squibs are very sensitive to magic, then Callandra might be able to manage Divination," Lavender murmured, naming her favorite subject.
"Or Arithmancy." Hermione said, naming hers.
"Or Care of Magical Creatures. Or Study of Ancient Runes," Dean said, thoughtfully.
"Or Potions." Neville shuddered. "Or Herbology," he added, brightening a bit. "I could always help her with any spells that she needs to do, if her magic isn’t strong enough."
It was the first time I’d ever heard Neville speak of his magic with any confidence. I could not help smiling.
I wondered how Callandra would fare in Defense Against the Dark Arts. She could not protect herself the way the rest of the children could, but there were other ways. Could Mad Eye Moody tutor her as he tutored me? And how would another Squib react to a journey through a Door, I wondered, with a sudden flash of curiosity. Not that I’d want to take such a risk with Callandra, unless it was to save her from Death Eaters...
"She can certainly fall asleep in History of Magic as easily as the rest of us do," Seamus said, grinning.
Quite deeply moved by the young Gryffindors’ willingness to accept Callandra as one of them, I fought to control my emotions. It soothed me to stroke Mrs. Norris, who responded with another contented purr.
Thinking about my own early days in the Castle was something that I very seldom did. I’d had to work hard to show fierce-tempered old Pringle that I could do whatever he asked of me, even if I was ‘nothing but a Squib.’ I’d had to prove myself just to be allowed to mop the Castle floors and scrub the toilets.
If Potter was right, then Callandra would be an experiment, the first Squib witch that Hogwarts had ever trained. Callandra was fortunate that she had friends willing to accept her. She would need them. And every shred of courage and strength she possessed.
The Gryffindors finished cleaning the corridor, eventually. After I dismissed them, I summoned red-and-gold. With Mrs. Norris cradled in my left arm, I stepped through the tapestry into the hospital wing. My right arm and hand were aching, despite the fact that I hadn’t been using them for anything.
Poppy gave me a pain-killing potion. Then she gently palpated Mrs. Norris.
"Six kittens at least," Poppy told me. "Quite a litter! And they should arrive very soon now. Keep a close watch on her, Argus." She stroked my cat, who had permitted the examination with quiet dignity.
Mrs. Norris’s resigned manner was much the same as ‘Snuffles.’ The injured Animagus was permitting himself to be petted and crooned over by a group of Hufflepuff first-year girls who had come for some Pepperup potion and remained to fuss over the "poor sweet doggy".
Black looked like he missed Harry, who always came to visit with his godfather in the evenings. Detention had made the boy late. I knew that Potter would be down from Gryffindor tower as soon as he cleaned himself up a bit. But I couldn’t say so in front of the other children. I hoped that Harry would not mention the fact that Severus had given him detention. The Animagus might bite the Potions Master the next time they met.
Poppy gave me a small vial of pain-killing potion.
"This is for Severus. I know that he has plenty of his own. But I’d wager a stack of galleons that he’s not looking after himself properly," she said. "I want you to go and check on him for me," she added softly.
Stepping into the corridor again, I used my Doors in a way that I rarely do. "Take me to Professor Snape, please," I asked green-and-silver. A heartbeat later I found myself in the dungeon corridor outside Severus’s classroom.
Professor Flitwick had placed his Unreachable Charms around Severus’s office and classroom. Severus and I were both grateful for that. The Unreachable Charm was a lot less painful than the sort of violent curses that the Potions Master preferred to protect himself with. I was sure that I still had some scars left from the porcupine quills.
The classroom door was slightly open. I could hear voices within. The one speaking sounded very young and uncertain. So unlike the usual superior drawl that I didn’t recognize Draco Malfoy’s voice at first. Moving softly towards the open door, I peered inside to see Severus and the boy.
"...he didn’t want me to know that he was ill," Draco was saying, plaintively. "But Mother wrote me anyhow. She knew I’d miss his letters. Mother won’t say what’s wrong with him. I’ve been owling her all day and she won’t tell me what’s happened to him! Don’t I have a right to know? He’s my father."
"Your mother is wise, Draco," Severus said wearily. "Let her be."
"You do know what happened to Father!" Draco said, triumphantly. I saw him lean forward to clutch at Snape’s arm. "Professor, please. You can tell me what happened. I won’t tell Mother that I know!"
The worried boy’s grip must have been painful. Either that, or Snape deliberately allowed the glamour that hid his terrible bruises to falter for a moment.
Draco’s gasp of mingled shock and pity was audible from where I stood.
"Your father is very strong, Draco. Nothing was done to him that he could not endure and survive," the Potions Master said. He allowed the pain to show clearly in his voice, though his wounds were concealed once again.
Afraid for Lucius, Draco had come to Severus for reassurance. He hadn’t found it. But perhaps he’d gotten the information he was seeking after all. The boy’s back was to me, so I could not see his face. But he was trembling. Though he was badly shaken, Draco’s first response was still to reach out to his mentor. Offering the support he hadn’t been given.
Severus retreated, withdrawing into himself. "You have studying to do, Mr. Malfoy," he said, harshly.
Draco’s hand fell back to his side. Even before the boy stepped back from his Professor, I was retreating into green-and-silver again, so I would not be seen.
The Door took me to my own room. I lingered long enough to put Mrs. Norris down gently on the bed. Then, still holding the potion and the liniment that Poppy had given me for Severus, I went back through the tapestry. The classroom door was still open. But Severus was alone now.
He was sitting at his desk, his face buried in his hands.
"Professor?" I asked softly. "May I come in?"
He looked up, dark eyes raking over me. The glamour was down and the sight of his battered face made me wince.
"I thought I saw your shadow in the corridor a few moments ago. Don’t deny it!" he snarled.
"I’m not denying it," I said. "I didn’t mind if you saw me, as long as the boy didn’t."
His real anger wasn’t aimed at me, I knew.
"Poppy sent you some things..." I continued.
He waved impatiently at a corner of his desk. Then he buried his face in his hands again. "Draco," he said, harshly, "won’t be a boy for much longer. He’s going to have to choose his path."
Anguish and shame mingled in his voice. "I meant to frighten him, Filch. I wanted him to see the handiwork of the Dark Master that he’s being groomed to serve. No one else can make the decision for him. Not Lucius. Not me. The Dark Lord wants his followers to know they had a choice and that they gave themselves to him freely."
Involuntarily, he rubbed at his left forearm. The Dark Mark hidden beneath his sleeve was a wound more painful than any of his bruises. Unlike them it would never fade away.
"I haven’t done enough for Draco. I’ve taught him all the wrong things." Snape’s voice was quiet, but I could hear his pain. "I’m going to lose him forever. He’s going to Fall."
"You weren’t lost," I said softly. "Not forever."
He shook his head, tears in his voice even if they weren’t on his face. "I wouldn’t wish my life, my choices, on anyone. I wanted Draco’s path to be easier than mine."
He sighed, bitterly. "You couldn’t possibly understand."
I thought of Callandra and my own fears for her. I did understand. Better than he knew.
END OF CHAPTER ONE