The Sugar Quill
Author: Ozma (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Squib's Proper Place  Chapter: Chapter Three: Testing
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A Squib’s Proper Place

A Squib’s Proper Place

a Harry Potter fan-fic

a sequel to "To Save A Squib"

Chapter 3 of 6: Testing

Everything in this story really belongs to J.K. Rowling.

 

"I hope that Hagrid hasn’t got a Manticore or some other monster for Callandra’s test," I muttered. To my chagrin I discovered that I’d been nervously petting the huge black dog who rested in the grass beside me. Even worse, I’d just been about to scratch him behind the ears.

Fortunately, Sirius Black did not seem to have noticed. The Animagus was dozing.

But a moment later my frightened shout startled him onto his feet.

Callandra Moffitt, soon to be the first Squib ever admitted to Hogwarts (assuming that she survived the Professors’ tests) had just soared into the air above Hagrid’s hut! She was riding on the back of a pinkish roan hippogriff!

"Callandra!" My voice was a terrified squeak. What was Hagrid thinking?! What was the Headmaster thinking, allowing that oaf to test her, unsupervised?! I jumped to my feet, prepared to rush over to Hagrid’s hut and do... something.

The huge dog promptly grabbed my shirt-tail in his teeth. Sirius Black was recuperating from severe injuries. Even so, the beast was very strong. He pulled me over backwards.

For the briefest of moments the Animagus resumed his human form. "Calm down, Filch! She’s happy! Look!" Black hissed in my ear. A heartbeat later, he was a dog again.

It was true, I realized. Callandra’s face was filled with joy. Unlike most other children born into the wizarding world, she’d never been able to fly a broom on her own.

Callandra was now gracefully riding the hippogriff in a descending spiral over Hagrid’s hut.

"Good work!!" I could hear Hagrid’s shout from behind the hut as Callandra and the hippogriff made a (hopefully) safe landing. The paddock was hidden from Black’s view and mine. We could hear other, younger voices cheering. I realized that we’d never seen the students in Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class leaving to go back to the Castle.

That oaf! Had he actually made Callandra take the test in front of so many witnesses?

My heart was still pounding with fright when Hagrid led a crowd of children around the front of his hut, towards the dog and me. Hagrid’s class was made up of second year Ravenclaws and Slytherins. All the children from both houses seemed to be jumping around, talking and being generally boisterous.

Callandra was in their midst, grinning as if she’d just had the most wonderful experience of her young life. She was walking with a slim dark-skinned Ravenclaw boy. Her younger brother, Daniel. The boy’s face was as delighted as his sister’s, and full of pride in her accomplishment.

"Mr. Filch!! Did you see?" Callandra called over to me, her arm across her brother’s shoulders. "I rode a hippogriff! Wasn’t he lovely? It was so much fun!! Mum’s taken me up on her broom a few times but that was different!!"

Hadn’t the poor girl sense enough to realize the terrible danger she’d been in? Apparently not! I glowered at Hagrid. There were children all around me now, patting Sirius and chattering like a flock of magpies. A small Slytherin girl was tugging at my sleeve. "Mr. Filch? When can Henna and I see our kittens?"

"In two weeks, Lilith," I said, gruffly.

"How many female kittens are there?" Lilith Morgan went on, excitedly. "Henna is sure that she wants a female, but I’d take a male if there aren’t enough females." The girl sounded as eager and enthusiastic as young Creevey.

My head was beginning to throb. Rubbing my temples, I wondered if there was a special term that one could use for a group of noisy children. There was ‘brats’ of course, but these children weren’t actually misbehaving, they were only being loud.

Black was surrounded by children too, petting his back and stroking his head. To my relief, the Gryffindor Animagus showed no signs of snapping at the young Slytherins who were near him. He was even allowing young Malcolm Baddock to scratch him gently behind the ears.

"Alrigh’ the lot o’yeh! Time to get ter Transfiguration Class!" Hagrid bellowed. The sound made me clutch my head and moan. "Professor McGonagall..."

"Was wondering what was keeping my students, Hagrid." Minerva was suddenly there, a lovely island of calm in a sea of chaos.

"They was jus’ watching with me," Hagrid said, beaming. "Callie’s passed her Care o’ Magical Creatures test."

"Excellent," Minerva smiled. She held out a hand to Callandra. In her other hand she carried a sack which seemed weighted down with an assortment of bulges.

"It’s time for your Transfiguration test," she told Callandra briskly.

The children all became quiet, as if Minerva had used a silencing spell on them. I was as surprised as the children were. I was going to say something in protest, but Daniel Moffitt spoke up before I could find my voice.

"Professor McGonagall? You know that Callie’s a Squib..." he said, a protective arm around his sister’s waist. "She can’t..."

Minerva’s smile became gentler. "Callandra will not be asked to Transfigure anything, Mr. Moffitt. Her talents in the area of Transfiguration are somewhat ...different."

Biting her lip nervously, Callandra was looking at me for reassurance. I desperately wanted to give her some, but I was as puzzled as she was.

Minerva was looking around at the young Ravenclaws and Slytherins. "You may sit down on the grass, if you like. Please make sure to give Miss Moffitt some room," she began.

"It’s all right, Daniel..." she added, as Callandra’s brother seemed reluctant to leave the girl’s side.

Shortly, Callandra and Minerva was the only ones standing. Hagrid, Black and I were seated with children all around us. I was clutching at Black’s fur, nervously.

Reaching into the sack, Minerva pulled out a small rubber ball and a ceramic flower pot. She handed both to Callandra.

"Both of these are actually the same. I have Transfigured one of them," Professor McGonagall said. "Can you tell me which item is not in its true form?"

Poor Black yelped as I inadvertently clutched too hard at his fur. This was worse than the hippogriff! What was Minerva thinking?

No, Minerva was always fair. I knew that. I trusted her. Minerva would never ask Callandra to accomplish an impossible feat. But as far as I knew, the ability to tell if something was Transfigured or not was a power reserved for only those witches or wizards most skilled at Transfiguration.

The young Ravenclaws and Slytherins knew this too. None of them could have done what Minerva was asking of Callandra. I doubted that I could have done it. Then again, I’d never tried...

Callandra stood, brow furrowed. She breathed deeply, turning the ball and the flowerpot over in her slender hands.

"Professor?" she said quietly, after what seemed like a very long while, "I think they’re both really flower pots."

"Excellent!" Minerva said, as if she’d expected no less. But the other children, Hagrid and I all sighed with relief. I saw Daniel Moffitt’s shoulders sag with released tension. Stewart Ackerly, who was sitting beside Daniel, clapped him on the shoulder.

Minerva handed Callandra a small pennywhistle and an empty ink bottle.

"They’re really pennywhistles," Callandra said, after a few moments of thoughtful examination. She sounded a bit more confident now.

When her test had ended, Callandra had been able to tell the UnTransfigured items from their Transfigured counterparts, nine times out of ten! The young Slytherins and Ravenclaws applauded her when she was done.

I realized that both Hagrid and Minerva were using their tests for Callandra to serve a dual purpose. They were exploring the girl’s abilities and showing them off to other children too. Their risks had paid off, but what an awful chance they’d both taken! I’d been so afraid for Callandra that now I thought I might be sick.

When Minerva dismissed the children for lunch, they departed in a noisy, laughing group. Daniel was proudly holding his sister’s hand. Minerva, Hagrid, Black and I were left behind.

"Argus, are you all right? You’re as pale as Nearly Headless Nick," Minerva said.

"No, I’m not all right," I muttered, aware that I was surrounded by Gryffindors. Most of Godric’s chosen seem to thrive on risks. If they don’t take foolish chances at least once a day then they think the entire day’s been wasted.

"I’ve just been frightened out of my wits!" I blurted out. "Did either of you think about what could have happened if poor Callandra had failed? In front of all those other children? Including her own brother?

"She might have been hurt by that hippogriff!" I said, glowering at Hagrid. "Or," I looked at Minerva, "what if she couldn’t do what you asked of her? They might have turned on her! Taunted her, or worse! Not her brother, but the others. Particularly some of the Slytherins!"

I didn’t realize that I was shaking until Minerva put her hands on my shoulders.

"I’ve had the benefit of Hermione Granger’s considerable research," Minerva explained. "When two similar inanimate objects are placed side by side and one of them is Transfigured, a Squib can nearly always tell which item is in its true form and which item isn’t. It’s been documented."

"I didn’t know that," I confessed. "Lately all Hermione and I have talked about are the kittens..."

"Callandra did very well, Argus," Minerva said, gently. Her grey eyes seemed to fill my whole world. "I had confidence that she would."

"I’m sorry, Minerva." I should not have doubted her.

"As fer the hippogriff," Hagrid reassured me, "he’s a good ‘un. Very used ter people, he is. Callie’s a polite girl. Knows how ter follow directions. Curtsied ter him like a proper lady. Very respectful. Never doubted her fer a moment!"

Quite pleased with how the testing had gone, the big man was now sitting cross-legged on the ground. One large hand rested gently on the Animagus’s back.

"It did her a world a’good ter succeed in front a’ so many witnesses," Hagrid continued. "Yeh saw her face, Filch."

I had to admit that he was right. Callandra was far braver than I’d ever be.

Fang had followed Hagrid over from the hut, to see what his master was up to. The boarhound was nose to nose with the Animagus, both huge dogs sniffing at each other in a friendly fashion. After a moment, Fang flopped down next to Black, with a gusty sigh.

"I-I really should go and check on Mrs. Norris. It’s been ages," I whispered, summoning red-and-gold. I was still a bit shaky, though the danger of my being sick was receding.

"Argus, wait. I’d like a word," Minerva said. Gently but firmly she took hold of my left arm before I could step through my Door.

"You may meet me outside my room, if you’d like, Professor," I said. I had wanted to be alone, but I couldn’t just walk away from Minerva when she wished to speak to me. "Perhaps Mrs. Norris won’t object if you come in. For just a little while. She’s fond of you." I knew that Minerva of all people would know how to behave around a new mother and kittens.

"Very well, Argus," Minerva said. "I shall see you shortly."

Glancing at Black and Hagrid, I saw that Hagrid was grinning for some reason that I could not fathom. And Black was grinning as well, the way a dog grins; dangling tongue and eyes dancing.

Wondering what in Merlin’s name the two of them were smirking about, I spoke to Hagrid.

"You’ll see that he gets back to Poppy in the hospital wing, won’t you?" I asked, nodding towards the Animagus. "Snuffles is not allowed to exert himself too much. And keep him out of mischief!"

I stepped through red-and-gold.

*******

As expected, Mrs. Norris had not offered any objections to a brief visit from Minerva. A short while later Professor McGonagall and I were admiring the eight newborn kittens as they nursed. I’d meant to refill Mrs. Norris’s food and water, but one of the house-elves had been there first. So I contented myself with simply watching my cat and her brood. Minerva did not mind sitting on the floor next to me. She enjoyed looking at the kittens as much as I did.

Minerva praised the kittens’ healthy appetites, a compliment that clearly won her a great number of points with Mrs. Norris. I thought it clever of Minerva to immediately commend the kittens on the one thing that the voracious little fluffballs could do really well. But Minerva found additional laudable traits and proceeded to admire them with sincerity too. She observed how the kittens jostled for position with energy and boldness, it was clear that they were healthy and strong, they were sure to be clever and patient hunters...!

"This one clearly knows an exemplary litter of kittens when she sees them!" Mrs. Norris was obviously thinking, as she gave me a satisfied look.

"You seem much better now, Argus," Minerva said. "I apologize. Hagrid and I were not expecting you to be there to see Callandra’s tests. We did not wish to frighten you."

"No, it’s my fault," I protested, embarrassed. "I shouldn’t have been so foolish. You and Hagrid both want her to succeed, you wouldn’t have set her up for failure and humiliation."

Minerva was smiling at me, her hands both behind her back. I felt a whisper of magic as she performed a wandless conjuring spell. When she brought her hands out in front of her, she was holding a small china shepherdess and a silver teaspoon.

"Which one is Transfigured?" Professor McGonagall asked me.

Nervously, I took the two small items from her, turning them over in my hands as Callandra had done. There seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary about the shepherdess. But, did the teaspoon seem a bit... slippery when I compared the feel of it to the china figure?

"The spoon," I said, putting them carefully on the floor beside me.

Minerva slid her wand out of her sleeve and Transfigured the spoon back into its real form.

A small china shepherd now stood beside the shepherdess. They were a perfectly matched pair.

"Got it in one!" she told me smiling. "See? It’s quite easy for you, just as it was for Callandra."

I blushed.

"No witch or wizard who hasn’t studied Transfiguration for many years could do the same!" Minerva continued. "Of course, picking out one Transfigured item from many dissimilar, unTransfigured items is quite a bit harder than that. And being able to detect a Transfigured animate object is far more difficult still. But my test was an adequate start. I’m sure that Callandra can learn those things in time."

Her grey eyes were shining. "I was concerned that there would be nothing that I would be able to teach her," Minerva confessed, quietly. "And I did so wish to work with her. I’m sure that we’re both going to learn a great deal."

Minerva’s pleasure delighted me.

"Albus and the Moffitts have decided that Callandra’s studies must be highly individualized to best suit her needs," she said. "Wherever possible, she will take classes with the other children her age. But she may be taking some classes with the seventh years! Her parents both work with Ancient Runes, and Callandra’s knowledge in that area is quite advanced..."

Her voice trailed off. She was studying me. "Are you sure that you’re quite all right, Argus?"

"I’m fine," I said, though my voice was a bit husky. "I was just thinking. The way that the other children were all solidly behind her... no one taunted her. They really wanted her to do well. I wasn’t expecting that. I feared for her."

"I’m sure that Callandra will have to face taunts and teasing, Argus. All children do. But the second years of both Ravenclaw and Slytherin are a particularly fine group of children. Callandra’s brother is well-liked among them. And Severus assured me that none of his second year Slytherins are from families with ties to the Death Eaters. Hagrid and I made quite sure that we could let those children witness two of Callandra’s tests without undue cause for worry."

I sighed. "The Slytherins with ties to the Death Eaters are going to find out about Callandra’s presence at Hogwarts soon enough. But this school is the safest place in the wizarding world. They won’t be able to get to her here. At least not easily."

Minerva’s expression had turned both sad and pensive. I knew that she was thinking of Cedric Diggory, as I was. We both knew that no place in the wizarding world was completely safe these days. Not even Hogwarts.

"I’ve been safe here, for the most part," I said. Taking Minerva’s hand in mine seemed like the most natural thing in the world. I wanted to comfort her.

"I usually tell myself that my parents brought me here and convinced Headmaster Dippet and Apollyon Pringle to take me on simply because they wanted to make sure that I had a secure position," I murmured. "And it was one of their reasons. But not their only one.

"They never told me," I continued, even more softly. "But they must have known, somehow. About Dark magic and Squibs. Mum was always reading. She and Dad must have brought me to Hogwarts to keep me safe from Grindelwald."

Even after he’d been gone for so many years, saying his name still frightened me a bit.

"I never figured that out ‘til I started thinking about it, only a few months back. It worked, didn’t it? If Grindelwald was looking for Squibs he never found me. Nor did any of his followers."

Minerva squeezed my hand, gently. "Finding you was quite a task for a number of years, Argus. You hid yourself away so well. From the students, from nearly everyone. You worked hard, but you were rarely seen."

"Like a proper house-elf," I said, a little bitterly. Thinking about my early days at the Castle was not something that I enjoyed doing. Hard work and pain are the best teachers. It’s something I often tell the students here. Hard work I learned about from my parents, particularly my dad. Apollyon Pringle had taught me about pain.

Though, to be fair to the fierce old man, he’d saved most of his true ire for the students. He’d never once put me in chains. And Pringle hadn’t even beaten me very often once I’d proved to him that I could do things the way that he wanted them done.

"Work hard, boy. Keep your head low. Know your proper place. And we’ll get along fine." Well, no one was ever going to tell Callandra those things. Her place at Hogwarts would never be the same as mine.

Minerva was pulling me to my feet.

"We’ve nearly missed lunch, and you already missed breakfast this morning," she said. "We’d better hurry."

As we stood up, her hand slipped from mine. But her smile continued to warm me.

I felt a rush of contentment that was quite separate from the joy I already felt for Callandra.

Sirius Black and any mischief that he might be planning for poor Severus were the furthest thoughts from my mind.

 

END OF CHAPTER THREE

Author’s Notes:

Mr. Roberts III: Thank you for reviewing, and for all your kind words! I’ve always enjoyed writing as a hobby. It’s fun and there’s no pressure involved, which helps to keep me happy and reasonably sane.

Yes, thanks in part to my job, I find it impossible not to identify with Filch.

"You get one vote, once." I like the way that you put that!

Lilac: Thank you for reviewing! Actually, you’re the first one to say ‘great wizard of Ozma!’ (<Blush> It’s very original!)

Filch had found Lily’s old sketch-book, and gave it to Ginny to give to Harry. Lily was using a Muggle pencil, so the sketches don’t move or anything. Harry enjoyed looking at the sketches with Ginny. There were quite a few of James, Sirius, Remus and Peter, as well as Lily’s girl friends, one of Petunia, the one sketch of Filch, some still-life drawings of items around the Castle and a scattering of ‘Lily Potter’, ‘Mrs. James Potter’, ‘James and Lily Potter’ and ‘Mrs. Lily Potter.’ Harry has the sketch-book in his trunk now, with his other things.

I have a soft spot for Neville too. His quiet kind of bravery impresses me very much. ‘Glamour’ is a term I’ve seen used in other fantasy-writings to describe a spell that alters one’s appearance. JKR hasn’t used it in the Potter books, but I’ve read it in both published stories and fan-stories. Most often the spell is used by faeries, but I supposed that a wizard would be able to use that sort of magic too.

Callandra gets to meet Moody later in this story. In the story after this one she’s taken through a Door. Voldy!! LOL!! Tommy-Boy wouldn’t like that at all, but I love it!

Julie: Thank you for reviewing! I am delighted to see that so many readers are willing to give grumpy old Filch a chance. His perspective on the world within Hogwarts is such a unique one, and he interacts with everyone in the Castle. There’s so much potential in him.

B. Nonymous: Thank you for reviewing! Yes, Callandra will get to meet the Sorting Hat in a later chapter.

Giesbrecht: Thank you for reviewing! I have a feeling that both Mrs. Norris and Crookshanks have some Kneazle in them. Since Kneazles may have up to eight kittens in a litter, it seemed like a good number.

Murasaki99: Thank you for reviewing!! Isn’t it amazing that so much cuteness can be contained within a tiny kitten? I love the image of Sirius being sent to canine obedience school. (He’d probably incite a canine rebellion!)

Filch isn’t brave enough to tell Snape what his glamour spell smells like to a Squib. (Maybe if he owled Severus from Borneo...) Callandra couldn’t summon the Doors on her own or ask them to take her to specific rooms or people. (The Doors became Keyed to Filch slowly, over many years. They come when he calls because they choose to, which is why he says ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’)

Sabre: Thank you for reviewing! I like the idea of Squib students too!

Megan: Thank you for reviewing! It’s fun taking a look at Harry’s world from Filch’s POV.

//
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