Where Squibs Fear To Tread
a Harry Potter fan-fic
Chapter One of Eight: Sojourns with Squibs
(Apologies to Gilderoy Lockhart)
a sequel to "Squib Puppet"
Everything really belongs to J.K. Rowling
The moment I emerged from red-and-gold into the quiet Charms corridor the sleek tabby cat in my arms became a lovely woman.
It was after midnight. The term was all but over, the Leaving Feast only two days away. In a portrait on the wall across from us, a shepherdess dozed on a hillside surrounded by her slumbering sheep. No one else was nearby. The Castle was as silent as the Castle ever gets. Mrs. Norris was patrolling the corridors on her own tonight. If any students had been up to mischief, I would find out about it tomorrow.
I was still supposed to be on light duties but Poppy Pomfrey had given me permission to resume my lessons with Alastor Moody. The medi-witch had made the old Auror promise that he’d be careful with me.
Recently the lessons had demanded more of Professor McGonagall than they did of me, anyhow. Mad-Eye wanted to learn more about the Doors’ effect on Animagi. Moody had given me a simple assignment. I was to "learn to relax" while bringing passengers through a Door. Easier said than done, but I was trying.
Minerva’s task was more challenging. She and Moody were both trying to find out if an Animagus could slowly build up resistance to the Door’s protective spells after repeated exposures. Over the past few days Minerva and I had become old hands at going through Godric’s Door together.
Never one for taking unnecessary chances, Poppy had insisted that Minerva should practice Transfiguring in my arms many times before we went through the tapestry. The first time, when Minerva had emerged human and unconscious, I had known how to catch her without doing either of us an injury.
Now, I supported Minerva as she put her arms around my neck. Very wobbly but standing on her own two feet, she rested her head against my shoulder while she caught her breath.
"Professor?" I asked her anxiously, "are you all right?"
"Perfectly all right, Argus," she assured me.
"You did it!" I said, proudly. "You came out standing!"
"More or less," Minerva said. Her tone was wry. After several minutes, her breathing returned to normal. "Are you ready for another try?" she asked me.
Nodding, I held out my arms. Even as I did, she was simultaneously Transfiguring and leaping into them. With her cradled against my chest, I stepped backwards into red-and-gold once more.
The place inside the Doors is a realm that I only see when I travel with passengers. Godric’s Door is all red and gold within. Moving inside the tapestry has grown easier with practice, or perhaps I am merely getting used to slogging my way through. Carrying Minerva through this red and gold place was like wading through waist deep water.
We emerged into the Great Hall in back of the staff table. The house-elves who were busy dusting and sweeping under the silvery moon visible on the enchanted ceiling above, glanced over at us. Several smiled, but none of them paused in their work.
From the Great Hall we went to the trophy room. Nearly Headless Nick and the Grey Lady stood there, deep in conversation. Both ghosts nodded gravely when they saw us.
After that we went to the Astronomy tower. Each time that Minerva emerged from the tapestry she was human and wobbly, but she was also triumphantly awake and aware. Each time I held her while she caught her breath. I was proud of her progress but she seemed unsatisfied.
"Professor, what are you trying to do?" I asked her.
"Remain a cat," she gasped. "If it’s at all possible. But I can’t seem to manage it!" Removing her wand from her sleeve, she gave us some light. Her grey eyes behind the square spectacles were filled with concern. "Argus, are you all right? I’m sorry, it can’t be easy dragging me through time after time."
Her solicitude for me made my heart dance. Minerva and I have known each other for so many years. I couldn’t say exactly when I first noticed how lovely she is, or how clever. Or the way that she always manages to be fair, even under circumstances which are driving me into fits of rage.
But it’s the warm heart underneath her stern exterior that touches me most deeply. Few of the children in the Castle are perceptive enough to realize how much their Deputy Headmistress cares for them. Though her Gryffindors are aware of the pride that she takes in them and strive to be worthy of her regard.
I long to do the same. Minerva has always had my deepest respect and admiration. Admitting, even to myself, that she has my love as well had seemed very foolish before now. She’s a star quite beyond my reach. Recently though, I’d begun daring to hope otherwise...
Sternly, I forced my thoughts back to the matter at hand. She had asked me a question. Here I was, gaping at her like a mooncalf.
"I’m fine," I said. "You’re the least trouble of any passenger I’ve had yet. Animagi take less effort than children do, at least when the Animagus in question isn’t plummeting to his death."
"Speaking of the Pup," Minerva said dryly, "he’s not going to give you any peace once he discovers that it’s possible to fight the effects of the protective spells with practice."
"It’s going to be difficult taking him over and over again, a creature his size," I grumbled. "I don’t fancy pulling him along on a leash. Perhaps I can find a saddle somewhere and ride him."
"It’s all very well for you to be amused," I said, testily, sitting on the Observatory floor. "Moody and the Pup don’t see you as Hogwarts’ own version of the Knight Bus!"
Still chuckling softly, Minerva sat beside me to rest. I frowned at her, though it was only for effect. I really liked to hear her laugh.
"Perhaps," she suggested, "you should offer us toothbrushes and hot chocolate. Or little paper sacks, in case of sickness." She paused, thoughtfully. "The Knight Bus could do with those as well."
I shook my head. "No paper sacks, thank you very much. You and the Pup don’t need them. I’m not planning to take any passengers who do."
Alastor Moody had said that he’d be tracking us this evening. He’d been mysterious about his methods. The absence of the red grapefruit-sized Secutus spells that he usually chased me with was puzzling.
Minerva and I were in front of a mirror on the fourth floor when we heard the clunk of Moody’s claw-footed wooden leg approaching. When Mad-Eye came into view he was accompanied by Callandra Moffitt.
That answered my question. Callandra had been diligently practicing her Searching during the weeks that I’d spent recuperating from Lucius Malfoy’s double Curse. She was now able to find many of her fellow Gryffindors, including her Head of House. I knew that it wasn’t me she’d been able to follow. Giving off no magical traces, I was quite invisible to Callandra’s Searching.
Obviously the child was up and around at this hour with both Mad-Eye’s and Minerva’s permission. Nevertheless, I frowned.
"She should be asleep!" I grumbled.
"Only two more days until she goes home," Moody said unrepentantly. "I mean to make the most of ‘em."
"What a time I had following you, Professor!" Callandra was saying to Minerva. "You’ve been all over the Castle. And there were times when you just disappeared!"
The girl turned to me, wide-eyed. "Professor Moody told me how you managed that, Mr. Filch."
"H-He did?" I wheezed. I knew that the old Auror considered the students of Hogwarts to be an untapped resource. I agreed with him, to a point, but I didn’t like the idea of him simply telling the child. What would the Headmaster say?
Moody gave me his knife-slash of a grin. "Albus said that I had his approval to add Miss Moffitt to the List," he told me, making me wonder if he could read minds. "The lass can keep a secret. Potter, Granger, Ron and Ginny Weasley already know. So does Longbottom."
"Neville too?" Callandra was delighted.
"Show her, Filch," Moody said gruffly. "Call your Doors."
"It’s all right, Argus," Minerva encouraged me, briskly.
I sighed. If Minerva approved as well, any protests that I made would be futile. Well, at least Callandra’s not finding out about my Doors in the middle of some life-and-death crisis, like all the other children did, I thought.
In answer to my summons, the other three tapestries appeared on the corridor wall beside red-and-gold.
"Professor Dumbledore wanted you to have a look at ‘em, lass," Moody said. "Tell us what you can."
Tentatively Callandra ran her hands along each Door. She was silent for many minutes. Minerva, Moody and I watched her with interest. I was reminded of the way that the Headmaster and Severus Snape had examined the Doors the day after I’d learned how to summon them.
The ways of Squibs like Callandra and me are a mystery to most wizards. We’re learning that not all of our talents are alike. Older and more experienced, I am able to identify many different types of spells more easily than Callandra can do. (Having spent so much of my life at this school hasn’t hurt, either.) But the child’s ability to distinguish one wizard’s magic from another’s can let her sense things that I cannot.
After a while Callandra spoke hesitantly. "I know you believe that each of these Doors was made by a different founder," she said. "And each one was definitely warded and used by a different person. But, under those traces, I think that they were originally the work of a single hand." As she spoke, Callandra’s slim brown hands rested on black-and yellow. "Hers."
Minerva and Moody looked surprised but I smiled. I thought of a workroom hidden somewhere in the Castle, a place that I’d only been able to reach through Helga’s Door. A Weaver’s room, filled with sunlight and the scent of flowers, though the loom was now empty and the spinning wheel now stood idle.
"She made her own Door and gave the other three theirs as gifts," Minerva speculated.
"An interesting bit of information for Albus." Moody’s gruff voice was pleased.
I saw that Callandra’s examination of the tapestries had tired her. The child was yawning.
"All right, lesson’s over!" I said, firmly. "Off to bed with you now!"
"You could bring me back to Gryffindor tower straight away," Callandra suggested shyly. "The Door’s protective spells won’t hurt people like us."
I glowered at her. Callandra might be a Squib like me but she’s also every inch a Gryffindor. Show any of Godric’s chosen something potentially unpleasant and dangerous and they can’t wait to try it.
The child looked hopeful, Minerva looked encouraging and Moody looked smug. He’d promised that he’d never ask me to take passengers again, or trick me into doing it either. He never had to. He was adept at getting others to do their own asking.
"Argus," Minerva said patiently, "we’ll never learn what effect Godric’s Door will have on her unless you try. Don’t worry. According to all our theories Callandra should be fine."
"Theoretically," Moody mused, "you ought to be able to take her through any of them. Not only Godric’s Door."
"No!" I snapped. "She’s a Gryffindor! I’m taking her through red-and-gold!"
I hadn’t yet tried taking anyone through the ‘wrong house’ Door. The thought of doing such a thing gave me a feeling of disquiet. Not as strong as the foreboding I felt at the thought of what would happen if I lost my grip on a passenger inside a Door, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
I realized what I’d said and bit my tongue.
A short while later, after bidding Minerva and Moody good-night, Callandra and I emerged from red-and-gold directly in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady.
Our journey had been instantaneous. Just as Moody had predicted, Callandra was no more affected than I was. My relief left me weak at the knees. Guesses and theories are all very well but after what happened with Severus I can’t help but fear for the safety of anyone who is coming through with me for the first time.
"That was fun!" Callandra said enthusiastically. "It’s a wonder that you walk anywhere."
"Walking’s good exercise," I said gruffly. "The Doors do me a favor by coming when I call. It wouldn’t be right to take advantage of them." Thanking red-and-gold, I sent the Door away.
Callandra smiled at me. "Good night, Mr. Filch," she said.
Bidding her good-night, I headed off down the corridor.
The night had been a busy one, and it wasn’t over yet. I hadn’t reached my room when I heard an urgent mew from down around my ankles. Mrs. Norris, clearly agitated about something, had found me. There were matters demanding my attention that wouldn’t keep until morning.
Summoning a Door at random, (it was blue-and-copper who came) my cat and I emerged into the corridor beside the stone gargoyle that guards the entrance to the Headmaster’s chamber.
Standing next to the gargoyle was Harry Potter.
END OF CHAPTER ONE
My thanks to Katinka, (creator of the concept of Weavers), and to those who reviewed the last chapter of "Squib Puppet!"
Chambraigne: Thank you for reviewing!
Murasaki99: Thank you for reviewing! The idea of Narcissa getting adventurous with catnip made me laugh. As did the thought of Severus giving Lucius a toy mousie as a distraction. (Now I’m picturing Lucius curled up in a beam of sunlight in a chair at Malfoy Manor, purring away.) Thanks for the kind words on Minerva/Argus!
Ara Kane: Thanks for reviewing! Yes, Lucius definitely deserves to cough hairballs for a while.
One of the things I enjoy about the Filch-eye view of the Potterverse is seeing the adult characters from perspective that is quite different from Harry’s.
B. Nonymous: Thank you for reviewing! Azoth will appear later in this story. Fred and George appeared very briefly in "A Squib’s Proper Place." The twins levitated an exhausted, quill-riddled Snuffles up to the hospital wing.
Pogonia: Thank you for reviewing! It wouldn’t occur to Draco to blame Snape for Lucius’s troubles... Draco believes that Lucius and Severus are on the same ‘side.’
House-elves are formidable creatures, despite their enslaved status. Winky was able to keep Barty Junior in line for a long time. And Dobby was able to wreck Lucius’s plans. The elves seem to be able to use their magic against any witch or wizard except their own master.
I like writing grumpy characters, it’s very cathartic!
Kellibus: Thank you for reviewing! Sirius and Severus can get along quite well as long as no one remarks on it. (Luckily Poppy and Argus were too surprised to say anything about how well the boys were getting along.)
Jestana: Thank you for reviewing! Yes, Sirius shook himself dry just to get Severus soaked. The relationship between Filch and Minerva will progress a bit in this story.
Lilac: Thank you for reviewing! I’m glad that you’re liking Argus and Minerva. It took me by surprise when I first realized that I was writing an attraction between them. When I stopped and thought it over, I realized that they do have a lot in common. Both are very orderly, by-the-book, yet more soft-hearted and emotional than they appear to be on the surface. Both are strict and feel that actions should have consequences. They’re honest and direct-- one always knows where one stands with them. They’re both "cat" people too.
Ron’s one of my favorite characters. I like seeing him shine!
Durayan: Thank you for reviewing! Severus fondly thinks that Azoth is his pet, but we know better. :-) I still have this story and two more to go before I run out of stuff. Hopefully by then I’ll have something new started.
Aurianna Parker: Thank you for reviewing! Of course you can use something similar to the Doors in your story! I’d be flattered.