The Sugar Quill
Author: Ozma (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Squib Puppet  Chapter: Chapter Two: A Confrontation and A Cloister
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Squib Puppet

Squib Puppet

a Harry Potter fan-fic

by Ozma

a sequel to "A Squib’s Proper Place"

Chapter 2 of 5: A Confrontation and A Cloister

Everything in this story belongs to J.K. Rowling

 

 

"Tonight, you will bring the item to the Forbidden Forest, at midnight," the smooth voice in my head was saying. "You will come alone."

I had no strength to fight. I had to obey.

As I had done for the past three days, I moved mechanically through my cleaning chores, my manner grim and surly. I stayed away from other people as much as I could and barely took notice of anyone except to snarl at them.

At least until the argument. It was impossible for me not to notice that.

After their shared Potions class, their last class before dinner, Pansy Parkinson, Neville Longbottom and Callandra Moffitt had a confrontation directly in front of the broom cupboard where I was trying to put away my supplies. The door was nearly closed, and none of the children knew that I was there.

Their argument penetrated even the haze of my distress. I listened helplessly, unable to summon the strength of will to go out there and stop the dispute.

"Unbelievable... that we’re expected to actually study with the likes of you!" I heard Pansy Parkinson say venomously to Callandra Moffitt. "Gryffindor will accept anyone these days. What’s next? Muggles? At least Slytherin has standards!

"On the other hand, I take back all the things that I said about your family disowning you because of your little Squib-girl," Pansy continued, almost sweetly, clearly addressing Neville now.

"Your family will probably be pleased that you’ve found her! It was actually clever of you, finding someone who would be impressed by even your pitiful attempts at magic!"

"Neville’s magic is NOT pitiful!" Callandra said, heatedly.

"Only when compared with yours!" Pansy retorted.

"Compared with anyone’s!" Callandra shot back.

"You’re an expert, I suppose?" Pansy said, disdainfully.

"Squibs can feel how strong someone’s magic is. It’s one of the things we do!" Callandra told her.

"Callie’s good at any number of other things, besides," Neville put in.

"Name one other thing your little Squib can manage that a proper wizard couldn’t do much better!" Pansy said, furiously.

"Well, she can ride a hippogriff," Neville pointed out, mildly. "Unlike some ‘proper’ wizards I could mention, she knows enough to be polite first.

"Hullo, Malfoy," Neville added, a heartbeat later. "We were just talking about you."

Though frustrated by my inability to intervene, I was pleased that Neville and Callandra were doing well in the verbal wizard’s duel. But hearing the name "Malfoy" sent a tremor of fear through me. Terrified, I began rocking back and forth, hidden behind my supply boxes.

Then I heard a shrill mewing outside in the corridor, where the children were.

"Mrs. Norris?" Neville asked. "Is something wrong?"

My cat was nudging the cupboard door until the opening was wide enough to admit her. She came inside and began nuzzling against me anxiously. Holding her close, I reluctantly raised my eyes to the doorway. All four children were watching me with varying degrees of concern and consternation.

"Oh, lovely! He must have heard everything!" I heard Pansy mutter grimly. "We’re going to get detention!"

Neville and Callandra came into the cupboard, moving aside the boxes. Their faces were worried. I suppose that I must not have looked well.

"Come, Mr. Filch. Up you get," Neville said, very gently. "We’re taking you up to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey will find out what’s wrong with you. She’ll soon put you right again."

I shook my head, clutching Mrs. Norris against me. My grip must have been uncomfortably tight but my poor cat didn’t protest. Poppy couldn’t help me. No one could help me. I wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone about what was wrong. The voice had told me so.

Between them, Neville and Callandra got me to my feet. Reluctantly, I let go of Mrs. Norris though she stayed right at my side as I stood. Callandra and Neville wouldn’t listen to my protests that I was only tired.

"No, it’s more than that," Callandra said. "You’ve been hurt. I don’t know why you can’t feel it."

"The old man was a fool not to insist on having that girl as his apprentice," Draco was saying to Pansy. "Anyone can see the job’s become too much for the poor wretch."

My rush of fury at Draco was interrupted by a sudden, painfully vivid flash of memory. I saw the pale boy surrounded by tall trees, moving bravely to stand between an angry Dark wizard and me. I shivered.

Supporting me, Neville glared at Draco. "Mr. Filch will be all right soon, and the job isn’t too much for him! You’ve got a very short memory, haven’t you, Malfoy? Either that or you’re ungrateful. Mr. Filch can always do whatever needs to be done. Have you forgotten how he pulled those vines off your arm?"

Malfoy locked eyes with Neville. "I know what I owe the old man. I haven’t ...forgotten."

Draco’s voice trailed off. He was glaring at Callandra, who had started looking back and forth from Malfoy to me as soon as the boy and I were standing close enough together.

"What is it, Squib-girl?" Draco sneered.

Ignoring his tone Callandra said hesitantly, "Malfoy...? A-Are you all right?"

"Oh, please!" Draco snapped. "Are you going to tell me that I’ve been `hurt’ too?"

I had another terrible flash of memory. Draco, white with fear, crouching beside me shuddering, while I wept helpless tears of pain.

Callandra frowned. "No. At least not like poor Mr. Filch has been. But there’s still something... wrong."

Pansy eyed Callandra, looking both troubled and mistrustful. "Ignore her, Draco. She’s only trying to upset you!" the blonde girl said. But her hand, which rested on Draco’s shoulder, tightened in fear and concern.

I felt afraid too as I looked at Callandra.

Draco snorted. "Your highly touted Squib-senses must not be working right, you silly girl. I’m fine. No one has done anything to hurt me!" His self-assured manner made Callandra falter. But Draco’s grey eyes were shadowed.

Callandra’s dangerous, I thought, and the anger behind the thought did not seem to belong to me. More dangerous than she knows. Suddenly I was filled with fear. I knew that I had to get as far away from Callandra as I could. Could the voice in my head force me to harm her?

Black-and-yellow appeared on the corridor wall near me, in answer to my unspoken wish. But I did not use my Door. Neville knew my secret. Callandra, Draco and Pansy didn’t.

"Let me go! Please. I-I need to lie down," I whispered, stepping back, away from the children. "There’s no need to bother Madam Pomfrey now. If I don’t feel a little better by tomorrow morning, I will go to the hospital wing. I promise," I added, looking at Neville and Callandra’s worried faces.

Ignoring their protests, grateful that Neville and Callandra were good children, too polite to try to take me anywhere against my will, I moved off down the corridor as quickly as I could. Mrs. Norris followed me. As soon as I found a deserted stretch of corridor, I summoned black-and-yellow and escaped to my rooms.

*******

Six weeks ago, in a much happier time, Minerva had been my guest. The two of us had admired Mrs. Norris’s newborn kittens and talked. I remembered the touch of Minerva’s hand, strong and warm in mine.

How I wished that Minerva was beside me now. I wanted to go to her and pour out my fears. Even if that meant she’d discover that I was a coward. And even worse, a traitor. I knew that I was about to do something terrible. I was not alone in my mind, somehow... I felt helpless to stop myself.

You will speak of this to no one. The smooth whispering voice had filled my head until I could hear nothing else.

Alone, except for Mrs. Norris and the eight kittens, I stared at the stoppered glass vial clutched tightly in my hand. It contained several long silvery strands of the Headmaster’s hair. I longed to throw the vial away or destroy what was in it. Instead, I slipped it carefully back into my pocket. More desolate and alone than I’d felt for many years, I broke down and wept.

Black-and-yellow, which had not left my room since I had used it to enter, suddenly shifted position to the wall nearest me as if to attract my attention.

Weeping, I got up and stumbled through the tapestry without any clear destination in mind. The kittens followed me, scampering around my feet like overactive dust-balls. Their mother, clearly worried about me, padded softly at my heels.

All of us emerged into a chamber that I had not seen for decades.

I stared around me in wonder. In truth, I had forgotten that this place existed. Long ago, this sanctuary had been very familiar to me. The passing years seemed to have left no changes inside this peaceful haven. Gentle sunlight still filtered down from somewhere far above onto the waters of a small splashing fountain.

Either the room was really open to the sky, or it was enchanted to appear that way. The air smelled faintly of freshly blooming flowers. This hidden workroom was an ideal place to rest, but this was not a cloister that had been made by someone who could bear to sit idle.

An empty loom still stood in the center of the room. Nearby was a familiar spinning wheel. Examples of a talented weaver’s crafting were in evidence along the walls. Beautiful tapestries were everywhere. Each one was a familiar old friend. All the scenes showed various wizarding folk and magical creatures going about the day-to-day business of their lives. The one nearest me showed a pair of courting dragons and then the mated pair and their nest, full of eggs.

Rugs, woven in colorful patterns, decorated the floor. The overall effect was pleasant, busy and cozy. The place had a long-deserted feel to it. Yet there was no dust anywhere. Delighted by their new surroundings, with unfamiliar sights and smells to investigate, the kittens scampered everywhere.

Semyon and Briar chased each other across the floor and then began playfully wrestling together. Bastet leaped lightly up onto the fountain’s edge to see if there were fish swimming in the water. Beatrice, Paladin and Pellinore sniffed curiously all around the loom, while Juno batted inquisitively at the spinning wheel. Azoth, slinking through the shadows like a miniature panther, found his way to an empty basket near the distaff. He curled up inside, purring contentedly, claiming it for his own.

Mrs. Norris kept a motherly watch on her kittens. But she followed me to the fountain’s edge. Still weeping silently, I sat on the cool stone and rested my head in my hands. My cat jumped up beside me, looking at me with worried golden eyes.

"I’ll be safe here at least for a little while, my sweet," I told her, wiping at my eyes. "I have always been safe here."

It was true. Maybe within this chamber I could find the strength to ignore the compelling voice for a time.

*******

As Apollyon Pringle’s young, scared apprentice, I had first found this room many years ago. I’d been sure that my life could not ever get any worse. I had just spilled an entire bottle of undiluted Bundimun secretion while attempting to mix some cleaning solution.

When he discovered what I’d done, Pringle would be furious with me. He already had little use for a clumsy Squib. Now I had wasted his valuable cleaning supplies! He’d beat me for sure. Maybe with the cat o’ nine tails he was always threatening me with instead of just his belt.

I’d fled. The nondescript tapestry I’d stumbled through hardly registered. All I’d seen was the cool fountain, with water I could use to get the sticky mess off my hands.

*******

This place had been my refuge many other times. Always when I felt that I’d had taken more than I could bear. Hogwarts Castle could have easily swallowed the entire village where I’d been born. Learning how to find my way around, let alone how to keep this place clean, had taken me years.

The fountain chamber had always been a safe place for me to stop and think and catch my breath until I felt able to get back to my work again, and face whatever I was hiding from.

But gradually over the years, I had lost this room. Or perhaps I had just stopped needing to find it.

Well, I needed this sanctuary now, more than ever. I was grateful to have been brought here again after so many years. I finally knew whose secret place this was.

"Sweet Lady," I whispered, softly. "Greatest of the Hogwarts Four. Though I suppose you would have likely dismissed that notion. Glory does tend to get in the way of simply getting things done."

I sighed. "I was never one of your chosen, though I suppose I might have been. Severus said so and I trust his instincts. I’ve always felt at home here. Thank you for being so kind to me."

Miserably, I took the vial out of my pocket and studied it.

I would stay here as long as I could. Hopefully, I would figure out what to do before midnight came.

********

The Owlery is a large, circular stone room located at the top of the Castle’s West Tower. None of the windows have glass in them, which makes the place very drafty. The hundreds of perches which rise all the way up to the ceiling were nearly empty. Most of their occupants had taken wing, to hunt. (I’ve always been grateful that this place isn’t one of the rooms that I am expected to keep spotlessly clean. Replacing the straw in here at regular intervals is a big enough job.)

The windows are set rather high in the walls. They take a bit of climbing to reach. Pulling myself up, I settled onto a broad stone sill, mercifully free of regurgitated mice. Far below me in the darkness, the Castle grounds led down to the dark, shadowy mass of the Forest.

Come to the Forest at midnight, the smooth, insistent voice in my head whispered endlessly. I knew that I would not be able to resist the compelling power of its command for very much longer. It was only a few minutes past eleven thirty at night.

I reached into my pocket. My fingers closed around the glass vial. Then I jerked my hand back as if the vial had burned me. Desperately, I tried to think of other things. The voice in my head mustn’t know what I meant to do. I had thought of a way to avoid obeying the voice.

Looking around me at the Owlery, I shuddered. Years ago, one of the kittens from Mrs. Norris’s first litter had probably died here. Either the foolish little beast had been mistaken for prey by an owl, or he had simply managed to fall out of one of the windows.

Not finding her lost kitten inside the Castle, poor Mrs. Norris had slipped outside to search. Her heartbroken crying over the small crushed body she had found on the grass far beneath the tall West Tower still haunted me. Hagrid had helped me bury the tiny corpse, visibly irritated by my lack of tears. I’d been irritated with him, too. The kitten had been dead and my tears would have changed nothing. Falling to pieces never changes the unpleasant facts of life. I could not let myself fall to pieces now, either.

On my way here from Helga Hufflepuff’s hidden workroom I had managed to slip away from Mrs. Norris and the kittens. As always when we roamed the Castle together, the inquisitive little creatures had soon darted off to investigate various curiosities that had caught their fancy. Dancing dust motes, dropped quills, brightly polished suits of armor, loose threads on carpet runners.

Thankfully, at least none of them seemed to be as reckless as their long-dead brother. Though Mrs. Norris would still have a bit of a job to round them all up.

I found comfort in the thought that this batch of kittens would probably be quite safe. Most of the beings inside Hogwarts seemed to be kindly disposed towards them. Even Peeves.

*******

I had Ron Weasley to thank for Peeves.

The very first time that Peeves had set eyes on the helpless little waddling fluffballs, the poltergeist had chortled with wicked glee. "Ooooh! What have we here?"

Images of Mrs. Norris’s vulnerable babies trapped in dark, hidden places as a "joke", or struggling with heavy things "mischievously" tied to their tiny tails had frightened me. Grabbing the nearest threatening item (a mop handle that I’d just finished repairing,) I had advanced on the poltergeist. "Stay away from them, you...!"

Peeves had not been the only one interested in the kittens. Hermione had been there, as well as all the children who had definitely been promised a kitten. Some of their friends had come too.

While most of the children had grabbed for the kittens, anxiously protecting them from Peeves, Ron, who had come with Hermione, had considered the problem from an entirely different angle.

"Wait, Mr. Filch!" Ron had said. "You know that the kittens wouldn’t have been born if it wasn’t for Peeves."

"So?" I’d snarled, swinging my mop-handle at the laughing poltergeist.

"Well," the boy had said, "doesn’t that make Peeves sort of like their godfather?"

Highly annoyed, I’d growled, "It most certainly does not!"

And then I’d seen the look on Peeves’ usually wicked little face. The wretched creature was stunned and delighted. Moved, even. As if he’d just been given the keys to the Castle and had been invited to sit at the Staff table beside Dumbledore at the Welcoming Feast.

"I’m sure that Peeves wouldn’t play any pranks on his own godkittens," Ron said, matter of factly.

"Godfather!!" Peeves had crowed, clearly delighted both by the boy’s suggestion and by my look of anger. He’d thrown out his chest proudly and turned somersaults in mid-air. "I’m the kitties’ godfather and there’s nothing that Mean Old Filch can do about it!"

Unseen by the happily dazed poltergeist, Ron had grinned at me and given Hermione a wink.

I’d been skeptical at the time. But Weasley’s clever move had worked. The poltergeist had never teased the kittens or harmed them in any way. In fact, the more outraged I acted over the notion of the kittens having a poltergeist for a godfather the more Peeves seemed to dote on them.

*******

Thinking about Peeves and his unlikely but cleverly arranged protectiveness towards the kittens helped to ease some of the turmoil in my battered mind.

Slowly I stood up, balancing on the sill.

Then from behind me on the floor of the Owlery I heard a plaintive mew. Followed by a soft, anxious voice.

"Mr. Filch! What are you doing? Please come down from there! Please!"

It was Ginny Weasley.

My heart sank. I began to tremble. Oh, Sweet Merlin, no! This was difficult enough already.Turning my head I saw my small red-haired friend standing with my cat at her side.

"Go away, Ginny, child. It’s very late. You should be asleep," I whispered, my hand tightening on the vial in my pocket.

"No. I’m not leaving. You’re going to have to come down from there and give me detention," Ginny said.

"I-I can’t." I said, miserably. "Please. Just go."

"You don’t really want to do this," Ginny said, walking slowly closer with Mrs. Norris still pacing her. "I can see that."

Shaking my head without speaking, I shivered. I couldn’t explain, couldn’t tell Ginny that I wasn’t alone in my own mind. The voice would give me no peace unless I did what it said. Not while I lived.

"Don’t take out your wand, child," I whispered. "If you try to use magic to stop me, I’ll know before you start. And I won’t give you the chance."

Ginny stopped walking. In the moonlight I saw that her eyes were full of tears.

"Thank you, Ginny. Now, please pick up Mrs. Norris. I really don’t want her to jump up here with me. She could fall."

"If I do that, will you come down? Please? If you die, Mrs. Norris will miss you so much. I will too."

"Ginny..."

Mrs. Norris allowed Ginny to pick her up and cradle her. My cat was crying, too, the same heartrending sound she’d made over her dead kitten. My heart ached and I was horribly afraid, but I wasn’t going to cry. I’d cried enough already. Tears would not change what needed to be done.

There was another rustle of movement in the dark Owlery. Behind Ginny and Mrs. Norris I could hear other people.

Suddenly, three more children were hurrying out of the shadows. And moving towards me even faster than the children was a huge black dog. Quickly, I turned away from the concern and fear I saw in the children’s faces and in the dog’s pale eyes. Resisting the voice for as long as I had done had taken all my strength. I couldn’t let anyone stop me.

"I’m sorry," I whispered.

Forgive me, I could hear the smooth voice in my head murmur. I knew that these words had not been meant for me. But the sorrow and regret in the voice tore at me, unexpectedly.

With my eyes tightly shut and the potion vial clutched in my right hand, I stepped off the sill into the emptiness beyond.

*******

Just as I started to fall a pair of powerful jaws clamped tightly around my left arm. The huge black dog had made a truly prodigious leap. I don’t know if the Gryffindor Animagus thought that he could possibly hold me there. If so, he was sadly mistaken.

The two of us plummeted downwards together towards the ground far below.

*******

I could hear the four children screaming in grief and fear. Their voices cried out the dog’s name and mine.

No...! I needed to die, but not poor Black. I already owed the Animagus my life, several times over. I could not take him with me! It was wrong. Suddenly, red-and-gold was directly beneath us.

A heartbeat later, the huge dog, his jaws still clamped tight around my left forearm, tumbled with me, down into the Door.

 

END OF CHAPTER TWO

 

 

Author’s Notes:

 

Mr. Roberts III: Thank you for your reviews on "A Squib’s Proper Place!" One of the unique things about Filch is that he has an outsider’s perspective on all the houses. He does tend to feel a bit prejudiced in favor of Hufflepuffs (his father’s house) and Ravenclaws (his mother’s house). So his snide comments tend to be aimed primarily at Gryffindors and Slytherins.

The Hat only had Callandra to Sort so it just made up a short song. Otherwise the song would have been longer than the Sorting.

Thank you for reviewing "Squib Puppet!" I liked writing the scene between Lucius and Draco. It’s fun to show a softer side to both of them while (hopefully) not contradicting canon.

Kazza: Thank you for reviewing! Snape would hate the thought of being perceived as ‘kind’. But Filch is aware that there’s kindness in him. (The caretaker is wise enough not to point that out, as it would annoy Severus.)

Murasaki99: Thank you for reviewing!! Lucius is doing this on his own, taking advantage of an unexpected opportunity. He was aware of Draco’s worries over him and just wanted to visit his son and set the boy’s fears to rest. Then Filch walked right into his hands. Being extremely out of favor with Voldemort at the moment, Lucius hopes to get back into his Master’s good graces by using Filch to get something that can be used against Dumbledore.

Szandra: Thank you for reviewing! The background characters in stories often fascinate me. Making Filch real while staying true to canon was what I hoped to do, so your praise means a lot.

Erika Stallings: Thank you for reviewing! Well, it’s only a small H/G moment. Not romantic or anything, just Harry and Ginny working together to achieve a common goal. (I love reading H/G, but don’t think I’d be very good at writing it.)

Stephanie: Thank you for reviewing! Callandra knows that something’s wrong with Filch, but she has no idea what.

ada: Thanks for reviewing, and for all your kind words! It’s fun to look at a familiar world from a different point of view.

B. Nonymous: Thank you for reviewing! Callandra doesn’t have enough experience with Unforgivables to diagnose what’s hurting Filch. But, some of her fellow Gryffindors do. And they’ve been listening to her worries along with those of Ginny and Neville.

Pogonia: Thank you for reviewing! Moody might have figured out what was wrong but he didn’t have the opportunity. Filch needs his grumpy side, he’d be lost without it!

Rabbit: Thank you for reviewing! And thank you for the new chapter of ‘Balance!’ Filch humming while he works... that’s as scary as Cheerful! Severus!

 

 

 

 

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