Shivering, I moved carefully across the icy floor of the corridor towards the closed door of Snapeís classroom.
a Harry Potter fan-fic
a sequel to "Squib Summer"
Chapter Two (of Two): Fixing a Hole
Everything in this story really belongs to J.K. Rowling
Shivering, I moved carefully across the icy floor of the corridor towards the closed door of Snapeís classroom.
"Professor!" I shouted, banging on the door. The wood was cold against my fist. Closing my eyes, I focused on Snapeís protective Wards. There was the expected Excutio spell, accompanied by a Duro Charm. But no hexes or curses, thank Merlin. "Let me in!"
The door opened.
"Of course, Filch. If only to save you the bother of breaking my door down," Snape said, sardonically.
The Potions Master was pale and weary. He looked as cold as I felt. But the aura of controlled excitement in him was palpable. And there was a glow of fierce, joyous satisfaction in his eyes. He moved back so I could enter.
My eyes swept anxiously around the classroom. The few remaining student tables and chairs had been moved back against the walls. A small empty white cauldron was in the middle of the floor, resting on a metal stand. The Bloody Baron floated near the white cauldron. His staring eyes held an expression both proud and triumphant.
I saw Azoth. The small black tomcat was enclosed within a heavily Warded protective circle. Despite his wizardís obvious efforts to keep him safe and comfortable, Azoth was agitated. His eyes glowed like cobalt lamps and his tail bristled with anxiety as he lashed it back and forth.
Severus had placed Azoth as far from a second Warded circle as he possibly could. The chill of a thousand winters seemed to be emanating from within its center. Resting on the floor inside it was a full-length oval mirror.
The Alchemistís Door.
I moved slowly past Severus to study his handiwork. I could feel the power radiating from the mirror. Focusing my senses on both Door and Wards, I stepped to the very edge of the circle.
The Baron was an icy presence at my side. "Caretaker," the ghost intoned. "Our task is complete."
"This mirror will be stable at any temperature," Severus said with justifiable pride. "My error lay in trying to create a Door that was not bound to the Castle. In my first experiment the spellís parameters were too broad. This Door..."
"...has been made to open within the Castleís boundaries," I finished for him. I was filled with foreboding.
"Professor," I murmured, my throat so dry that I could barely speak. "Surely you must realize what youíve done. Youíve created a portal leading into Hogwarts."
Snapeís voice managed to be the coldest thing in the room, which was quite an accomplishment. "My Door is heavily Warded, Filch."
Though I couldnít see him, I felt his angry gaze boring into my back. It was sharp as an icy knife. And I could hear the sneer in his tone as plain as day.
No one could say that Severus Snape didnít know how to cast protective Wards. The spells that sustained the circle were formidable. But the mirror was subtly draining the circleís power. Perhaps only a Squib would have been able to detect the flow of magic and the steady depletion of the Wards.
I turned to look at Severus. Heíd succeeded where everyone since Salazar Slytherin and Helga Hufflepuff had failed. And I had come to take his creation away from him, in the very moment of his triumph. My heart ached for the proud Potions Master.
"Your circle is strong," I agreed. "But it wonít hold indefinitely, and then anything will be able to get in. This Door will become a breach in our defenses. Your mirror cannot stay where it is."
"Do you intend to confiscate my Door?" Severus snarled at me. "You would DARE? Iím not a student who youíve caught with some forbidden trinket from your wretched List!"
No, he was certainly not a student. He was a grown wizard. And if I could avoid provoking him, he would remember that. I bit my tongue.
The Bloody Baron came to my aid. "I had hoped it would be otherwise," the Slytherin spectre said, grimly. "But your warning must be heeded." The ghost fixed me with his disconcerting stare. "Do what you must," he added. Then he vanished.
Poor Snape. He looked as if heíd been expecting the Baron to either support him or stay neutral. His expression was livid.
The Potions Master said nothing. And the silence stretched between us until it felt unbearable.
Severus could not feel his Wards getting thinner as the moments passed. But I knew that time was slipping away, time that we couldnít afford to lose. One of us had to speak. If he wouldnít, then it would have to be me.
"Professor," I murmured. "Believe me, I understand what Iím asking of you. I would not do this if it wasnít necessary."
The Potions Masterís pale hands were clenched.
I sighed. "Moving your Door out of here is going to be difficult. And dangerous as well. I will need your help if I am to succeed."
As I watched, Snape slowly mastered his fury.
"Very well, Filch. What would you have me do?"
No one could have called his tone gracious. But he would do what had to be done. He always did.
"Professor Flitwick has Warded your classroom against the Foundersí Doors. I cannot summon green-and-silver to come to me here. And I must take the Alchemistís Door through Salazarís Tapestry. We need to bring the mirror to the tapestry somehow."
"Youíre going to take a Door through another Door?" Snape looked at me sharply. "Can you do that?"
I had been told to Ďput the thing away in its proper place.í And the Tapestry could be depended on to take me to wherever that was. My faith in the Castle was absolute. It would not to ask me to do the impossible.
Severus frowned, considering. "Well, attempting to remove Flitwickís Unreachable Charm would not be my first choice. That Charm is one of his more intricate spells. It would be safer for me to move the mirror out into the corridor. And my circle with it. ĎSaferí being a relative term, of course." His tone was dry.
"I trust that my circle has enough strength remaining to be moved?" he asked.
"Yes, Professor," I said, focusing on the Warded circle. "But, please donít be too long about it."
To my dismay, I could sense the presence of something Dark and nasty already probing at the Alchemistís Door. Apparently Azoth could sense it too. The little tomís fur was bristling. He looked like a small, black hedgehog.
Murmuring a sibilant spell under his breath, Severus walked around the edges of the mirrorís circle, tracing a complex pattern in the air with his wand.
Glowing bluish-white, the circle began to stretch and elongate. Undulating in a rather slug-like way, it flowed towards the open classroom door. The mirror moved with it, staying within the circle.
Even if I had not sensed the power needed to move both Door and circle together, I would have seen the toll that working the spell was taking on Severus. Despite the frigid temperatures in the room, the Potions Masterís thin face was shiny with sweat.
Hurrying ahead of the slowly moving mirror, I went to the classroom door. Green-and-silver still waited for me in the corridor.
"Let me float the mirror over to you, Filch. Do not reach for it, no matter what happens," Snape said, tightly. It appeared that he was becoming aware of the danger as well.
Did he take me for a Gryffindor or a Slytherin? Biting back an indignant reply, I simply nodded.
The Alchemistís Door had nearly reached the corridor when our luck ran out. The surface of the mirror tossed and rippled like the lake in a windstorm. Then a ghastly creature burst through the mirror into the weakened circle.
It was a monster that not even Hagrid could have loved, an abomination. It vaguely resembled a headless bear. Except for the fact that it had too many arms and a gaping, sharp-toothed mouth bisecting its belly.
I would have screamed but Azoth did it for me. The little catís heart-rending yowl was followed by a slavering roar from the bear-creature.
"Oh, Bloody HELL," Severus snarled, glowering at the beast.
Before I could stop him, Snape proved once again that Slytherins are just as reckless as Gryffindors. Growling a harsh shielding spell, Severus darted into the fading circle.
"Petrificus Totalis!" he snarled, aiming his wand at the thing, even as he ducked under its slashing claws.
His spells slowed the creature down quite a bit, but did not stop it. I saw blood drawn as the creatureís claws raked across the Potions Masterís back.
Teeth gritted in pain, Severus stayed between the monster and me. He floated the Alchemistís Door out of the circle. "Take the mirror and RUN!" he snapped. "This creature is nothing I canít handle on my own. Donít just stand there, you fool! GO!"
My arms wrapped tightly around the icy Alchemistís Door, I obeyed Severus. I was sick with fear for him, but I had my own job to do.
The mingled sounds of the beastís muffled roars and Severusís snarled spells followed me as I stumbled out of the Potions classroom. My slippered feet skidded on the frozen corridor floor as I stepped into green-and-silver.
"Take me to wherever this wretched thing needs to be!" I gasped. "Please!"
Holding the mirror, I vanished into the Tapestry.
When the Alchemistís Door passed through the Tapestry, the mingling of their power rang through my bones and made my hair stand on end. Though my journey lasted no more than a heartbeat, it somehow felt endless. I could feel a deep bass chord throbbing all around me, echoing away into an unimaginable void.
Breathing hard as I emerged from the Tapestry, I half-expected to find myself in the gloom of Salazarís vast Chamber of Secrets. But Salazarís Door had brought me to another place entirely. An old place. As ancient as Rowenaís Library, Helgaís Workroom and Godricís Keep.
"Slytherins have more Secrets than anyone," Severus had told me, once. Now I understood what he must have meant.
Salazar Slytherinís other secret chamber was a small study. Simple and austere, rather like a monkís cell. Directly in front of me was a low couch. There were bookshelves on either side of it, forlorn and empty now.
After the terrible cold of the Potions classroom, the Study felt pleasantly warm. The sunlight filling the room had a greenish tinge to it, as though the light shone through a verdant skylight somewhere above. Anxiously, I looked around, searching for the place that the Alchemistís Door belonged.
There was a tapestry on the wall opposite me. It was a jungle scene woven in deep, rich colors.
At first I saw only trees, vines and creepers. Then I noticed the snakes. Every type imaginable, all different sizes. Some were plain, others gleamed like jewels. They twined together sinuously, weaving in and out of sight in a hypnotic swaying dance. Their eyes were bright with wisdom and mischief.
The Lady had not neglected Salazar Slytherin when sheíd woven her decorations for the other Foundersí secret rooms. But I knew that this was no mere adornment.
And somehow, I knew what I had to do. Taking a deep breath, I stepped through the Serpent Tapestry. The mirror reacted to this passage with a clear, ringing sound. The sweet purity of it made my heart ache.
For a moment the place that I found myself in seemed no bigger than a broom cupboard. Then I felt the walls rushing away from me as the area within them seemed to expand.
Breathing hard, I kept my grip on the mirror. This was the place that Salazar Slytherin and Helga Hufflepuff had made to safely hold the Alchemistís Door. A secret place filled with great and terrible power.
Ahead of me in the gloom I could see a plain wooden stand that appeared to have been made to hold the mirror. I couldnít tell if the stand was only a few steps away or much further off than that. But I had to reach it.
My attention fixed firmly on my goal, I stepped forward. Then, to my horror, I felt the mirror begin quiver and vibrate. Oh, no. Another creature was coming through...
The monster that emerged was the size of a bull-walrus, and segmented like a Skrewt. It had a multitude of legs, undulating beneath it like a fringed curtain.
The thing turned to strike, rearing above me. Three long beak-like protrusions extended from its head. These opened as the beast raised its head towards the sky. It emitted an earsplitting roar.
I cowered down, holding the mirror above me like a shield.
But the creature didnít attack. Its attention seemed fixed on something above us. I heard the roar became a shrill, wailing scream.
Shrieking in fear, the monster dove straight down at me. But I wasnít its target. It went through the mirror, back to wherever it had come from.
What had terrified the beast? With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I looked up, peeking nervously around the Alchemistís Door.
The space above me was limitless. Stars wheeled overhead. And something vast moved towards me, blotting the stars out as It came.
A swaying, sinuous shape... a monstrous Serpent. Blacker than night, a creature out of nightmare and myth. Maybe huge enough to curl itself around the Earth and grasp its own tail in its mouth.
It was still unimaginably far away, but coming closer. The jeweled eyes glowed, huge and pale as great silvery moons.
My heart nearly stopped beating. Weak with terror, I wrenched my eyes downwards. Then I shut them tightly. Hugging the mirror, I grovelled on the ground.
Blessed Merlin! Please donít let that thing eat me. I promise Iíll be kind to Myrtle. Iíll fetch her every pink and purple tile her ghostly heart desires...
I thought of Hagrid, channeling the Castleís power for an entire night. Heíd been given a task that only he could do and heíd kept right on going. Could I do any less?
I opened my eyes though I stubbornly refused to look up again. Whether It chose to eat me or ignore me, the Serpent would do as It willed. There was nothing I could do except try to go about my business.
Tottering to my feet, I staggered forward with the mirror. The mirror stand was much closer now, almost within reach.
A reverberating, thunderous hiss like the grating sound of whole mountains falling down filled the air. I imagined the vast Serpent so far above me, its maw gaping as wide as the sky.
Whimpering, I longed to cover my ears. But it would have meant letting go of the mirror.
Merlin, protect me. Let me do what Iíve come here to do.
At last I reached the stand. My hands shook as I settled the Alchemistís Door onto it. There. The job was done.
I longed to run back to the Serpent Tapestry. But I didnít have the strength. Anyhow, I suspected that running wouldnít be the wisest thing for me to do.
Trembling from head to foot, I moved at a walk. Though I did not look up, I felt the dreadful, pressing weight of the Serpentís gaze on me.
Just as I reached the Serpent Tapestry, the Creature hissed at me again. The sound turned my legs to jelly and my blood to water. But then I was safe, back in Salazarís Study.
The couch looked so inviting. I wanted to curl up and sleep for days. But I had to find out what had happened to Severus. I stumbled towards green-and-silver.
The Potions Classroom was warmer than it had been. The bear-creature was gone. Severus had got rid of it though heíd destroyed the remainder of the student desks in the process. The room was a total shambles.
Severus was sitting cross-legged on the floor, slumped against the wall. Azoth, released from his protective circle now that the danger was passed, was curled in his wizardís lap. The little cat purred softly as Severus stroked him.
Silently, I stumbled over to sit on the floor near them. I rested my head on my drawn-up knees. It was a while before Snape broke the silence.
"Are you all right, Filch?"
"Iím not hurt, Professor. How are you?" My voice was muffled.
"Iíve been better."
When Severus spoke again, his voice was harsh. "If youíre going to tell me that I shouldnít have made the accursed thing, you neednít bother. You were right all along. I should have listened to you."
Hmmph. I would have got around to saying ĎI told you soí eventually. But the guilt and self-loathing in poor Severusís voice had killed any satisfaction that I might have got out of it.
"At first I only meant to read Slytherinís notes," he said, miserably. "Purely as an intellectual exercise, since the Alchemistís Door has been a legend for centuries. But then the work seemed so... possible."
He sighed. "Once I began, I had to persevere. Every difficulty, every setback only made me more determined to succeed."
Despite the situation, I smiled. He hadnít changed in all the years Iíd known him. Too inquisitive, determined and stubborn for his own good... that was Severus. I put my hand on his shoulder.
"Itís Salazarís Slytherinís fault as much as yours," I said, gruffly. "Now at least we know why he wanted his Door hidden away."
At my insistence, we went up to the hospital wing. I wanted to clean and bandage his wounds.
Azoth stayed near Severus as the young wizard removed his torn robes and the shirt beneath. The gashes on his back were nasty-looking, but at least they werenít too deep.
Snape did not go into detail concerning his defeat of the bear-creature. The battle had been swift and to the point, he told me, grimly. All that mattered was that the Alchemistís Door had been put away somewhere safe and well guarded.
"I can venture a guess as to where you must have taken it. There were references to another Chamber in Salazarís letters," he murmured. "And a Chamber within a Chamber."
He paused, but I said nothing.
"A guardian was mentioned briefly, but there were no details given as to its nature. Did you see it? What was it, Filch? A serpent of some sort, Iíd imagine. Another Basilisk?"
My hands shook. The bandages seemed to knot themselves around my fingers. I realized that I was trembling all over.
One of Snapeís dark eyebrows rose as he twisted to look at me. "That bad? Worse than a Basilisk?"
Closing my eyes tightly, I nodded.
A guardian, was it? Doubtless I had been permitted to enter the inner Chamber only because the Serpent had recognized me as a fellow-guardian. Would It have spared me otherwise? I hadnít been able to answer when It spoke. Only a Parselmouth could possibly...
I felt sick.
"No one could pass that terrible creature on any business save the Castleís... except a Parselmouth," I choked. "Do you realize what that means? The Alchemistís Door is barred to all, except The Dark Lord himself! Oh, Sweet Merlin in a cloven pine, weíre doomed."
"Pull yourself together, Filch," Snape said, sharply. His eyes glittered. "The Dark Lord isnít the only Parselmouth in the wizarding world, is he?"
"Wh-what?" I wheezed.
Snapeís tone was bitter as bile. "Donít be stupid. You know perfectly well who Iím talking about."
My mouth fell open.
"Donít look at me like that," he said. "Potter can talk to the guardian, canít he? He can tell the thing to stop any other Parselmouth from getting through."
"No! We canít send him in there. That thing is much too dangerous!"
"Since when has that ever discouraged Potter?" Severus demanded. "And what do you suggest we do instead? Parselmouths are rather thin on the ground."
"I canít bring the boy to the Alchemistís Door," I said, stiffly. "The path I used is closed to him."
Harry could certainly talk his way through the Serpent Tapestry, but only green-and-silver could reach the Study. I would not take a Gryffindor through Salazarís tapestry.
"I expected as much," Snape said, grimly. "But Potter and I should be able to find an alternate route to this guardian. Donít shake your head at me, Argus. Of course I intend to accompany Potter! Did you really think Iíd allow the boy to go on his own?"
"Professor, if you had seen that Creature youíd never...!" My voice trailed off. Describing the vast Serpent to Severus would probably only serve to encourage him. Where rushing into danger was concerned, he was every bit as bad as Potter.
"We canít ask Harry," I protested instead. "He has too many burdens on him as it is. He mustnít find out anything about the Alchemistís Door, the other Chambers and the Guardian!"
Snapeís eyes glittered. "What a splendid suggestion, Filch," he said, sarcastically. "Weíll attempt to conceal everything from the boy and his little friends."
He scowled. "You know as well as I do that if Potter, Weasley and Granger remain true to form, theyíll have found the inner Chamber by Christmas."
Severus glowered at me. "Potter eludes those who try to protect him as handily as he eludes his enemies. We might as well use that to our advantage, for once."
Numbly, I sat on the bed next to his. Azoth settled onto my lap. I stroked the little tom, too upset to speak.
"With Potterís assistance, we may even be able to use the Alchemistís Door to trap the Dark Lord," Snape murmured. "Ensnare a Parselmouth with a Parselmouth."
He closed his eyes, wearily. "Iíd do it all on my own, if only I could. Believe me, I donít like the idea of using the boy any better than you do."
I believed him. He looked completely wretched.
"At least if Potter accompanies me I can protect him, foolhardy brat that he is," Snape said. He massaged his temples.
"Heís not a brat, Professor." The words were out before I could stop them. "He has a good heart."
Snape looked as if he didnít know whether to laugh or sneer. "Joined Potterís fan-club, have you?"
"You know me better than that," I said, crossly. "Itís not because heís famous. I canít help but feel for him. Heís too inquisitive for his own good. Not to mention stubborn. Trouble seems to follow him, no matter what he does. But he always tries to do the right thing.
"Puts me in mind of someone else I know." I gave him a pointed stare.
Severus glowered at me. You canít possibly mean what I think you mean, his expression said plainly. After a moment, he looked away.
"We neednít rush off to fetch the boy to Hogwarts just yet," he said, changing the subject. "Voldemort knows nothing about the remaking of the Alchemistís Door. I never spoke about it to anyone, except for Minerva and you. That should buy us some time."
To think that I had begged Dumbledore to bring Harry back to Hogwarts for the summer.
How glad I was now that Iíd failed! Let the boy enjoy his time with Sirius and Minerva. Let him look forward to a visit with Ron Weasleyís family in a few weeks. I hoped that Harry Potter would not come anywhere near Hogwarts until the start of the September term.
End of Chapter Two
To Be Concluded in the Epilogue....
aurendel: Thank you for reviewing! Jelsemium and I are busily tossing ideas around for the next story after this one.
Mr. Roberts III: Thank you for reviewing! Dudley may be a spoiled brat, but I choose not to see him as a heartless monster. Dudleyís sense of responsibility towards Harry is his reaction to what happened to Harry in "Squib Summer." They may not get along, but Harryís always been one of the constants in Dudleyís life. Now Dudley thinks that his freakish cousin doesnít worry nearly enough about all the freaky things that are obviously Out To Get Him.**Filch tried to imagine how his office would look, if redecorated by Myrtle. And then he had to lie down for a while.
Szandara: Thank you for reviewing! Itís fun seeing the Castle as its own entity. The place has plenty of personality!** Yes, Dudley may not be filled with sweetness and light, but I like to picture him as having some decent impulses.
Stephanie: Thank you for reviewing! I grinned when I wrote that bit about Filch wishing Dudley had hit Sirius with his Smeltings stick.
Jessanndi: Thank you for reviewing! Sometimes I plan my stories ahead of time, but sometimes I donít know whatís going to happen beyond a very general idea The characters are always surprising me.
Murasaki99: Thank you for reviewing! Filch agrees with you about the ghost-brats and the professor-brats. No rest for the grumpy! It was fun showing Hagrid using some POWER. I think heís a pretty awesome individual. (Oooh, Molly Hunter! I remember devouring her books!)
The Good Doctor Monaco, Whiskers and Morty: Thank you for reviewing! Yes, Hagrid is tough and resilient. The nebulous Evil Thing wasnít expecting Hagrid to be there... he was supposed to have left already.** Dudley is someone I feel sympathy for. Itís not entirely his fault that heís spoiled. I hope that Rowling will show him growing up into his own person, not a carbon copy of his parents.** The Alchemistís Door has its own place within the Castle and the Castle wants it to be put away.
LC: Thank you for reviewing both here and on ff.net! I thought Dudley was cute with the Smeltings stick too. ("Stupid, freaky wizards! Donít even have enough sense to be scared of magic!")**I could drag an IV bag and a pole around with me to hold my daily required coffee intake, but that would get cumbersome. I suppose Iíll have to keep using my cup.**Itís heartening that the rude customer called back to apologize. He must have felt really bad about whatever it was that he said or did.
Mincot: Thank you for reviewing! "The power that earth and stone would have after generations of human magical contact and infusions." I like the way you put that.**Iíve never been unlucky enough to have to tile a bathroom, but Iíve seen it done. Youíre absolutely right.
Karie: Thank you for reviewing! I can picture Dudley really enjoying the internet... a whole world out there, beyond his parentsí narrow minds!** Myrtle has an artistic VISION. All the colors she chooses will complement each other, provided the tiles and the paint arrive in the correct colors.
Jestana: Thank you for reviewing! And another thank you to your mom, for the lovely review that she wrote for "Squib Caretaker!"** The Castle is aware of the Darkness growing in the wizarding world. Feeling "awake" and uneasy, it took to Noticing people.
Julie: Thank you for reviewing! Seeing Filch onscreen is an experience for me too. Whenever one of his scenes comes on, I squeal happily. When heís upset over Mrs. Norris I feel very sorry for him. (I love the little cast interview with David Bradley, and the additional scene-snippet with the Kwikspell letter! And itís so cool that the main menu screen on the second DVD has that little picture of him that reacts to everything going on around it.)
LizBee: Thank you for your reviews on both the epilogues of "Squib Summer" and Chapter One of "Squib Guardian!" I feel sorry for Dudley. His parents havenít done him any favors by spoiling him. And his eating habits are very unhealthy too. I hope that Rowling will redeem him somehow.** Filch and Minerva are fun to write.
Manda: Thank you for reviewing! Whenever anyone changes their opinion on Filch it makes me so happy! He works very hard and doesnít get nearly enough respect...**Redecorating is an ordeal. My parents had our house completely redone when I was little and our lives were upside down for months. Those memories have stayed with me all these years.
Richard: Thank you for reviewing! I love the thought of Dudley charging into battle brandishing his Smelting stick too!