a Harry Potter fan-fic
Sequel to "Squib Summer"
Epilogue: Putting Out the Welcome Mat
Everything in this story really belongs to J.K. Rowling
Shortly after I had finished cleaning up the mess in the Potions classroom, the Professor came to me with a small wooden chest in his arms. The chest was locked. The protective spells that heíd placed on it smelled like burnt rubber and left a taste of ashes in my mouth.
"Take this, Filch," he said, stiffly. "Hide it somewhere."
Severus did not have to tell me what was in the chest. I knew. Salazarís letters to Helga. Along with the notes on the making of the Alchemistís Door.
"Yes, Professor." I studied him with concern. There were dark circles under his eyes. Guilt and anger (directed inward, not at me) were evident in his face and in the tension of his body. Judging from the way he moved, the wounds on his back were paining him.
I wanted to say something comforting, but nothing came to mind. Kindness has never been my forte. Though perhaps no one could have comforted Severus at that moment, not even the Headmaster.
"Iíll take care of it. Try to rest," I told him, gruffly. Then I turned away before he could snarl at me for telling him what to do.
Bearing the chest, I went through black-and-yellow to Helgaís Workroom. In a corner, beneath a pile of cheerfully embroidered cushions, I concealed the chest.
As I stood up, a long bundle bound with a yellow cord slid from the heap of cushions. It landed at my feet with a thump.
Unwrapping the bundle, I found a sturdy mat. It was woven of grass, the golden color of ripe wheat. At first glance it was very plain but the work was intricate and lovely.
Wrapped up inside the mat was another package. When I unwrapped it, I found a small green and silver bell.
A Weaverís work is ever subtle, but I was beginning to know the Ladyís spells well enough to understand what needed to be done.
Black-and-yellow brought me to the Fat Friar, who was with Myrtle. The two ghosts were in the corridor outside the ghost-girlís bathroom. Myrtle sounded quite happy as she prattled on about rose-colored glass blocks. I was impressed by the Friarís ability to look genuinely interested. (It did not occur to me to worry about what Myrtle wanted the glass blocks for until later.)
"Good afternoon, Mr. Filch. Is there something that Myrtle and I can do for you?" the Friar asked me, smiling. He nodded towards the bundle in my arms.
Iíd been looking for him, but there was no reason why Myrtle couldnít help me as well. In fact the more helpers I had, the better it would be.
After asking Myrtle and the Friar to spread word of what I needed to the house-elves and the other ghosts (and Peeves too, if he happened to feel agreeable for a change), I summoned green-and-silver.
Carrying the mat, I stepped through Salazarís Door into his Study. Despite the grey day outside, warm verdant sunlight filled the austere little room.
The way to the inner Chamber had been closed.
No matter how long and hard I stared at the Serpent Tapestry, all I could see was jungle. Trees, vines, creepers. There wasnít a single snake in sight. While the snakes were in hiding this tapestry was nothing more than a decoration. Only a Parselmouth could command the snakes to appear and demand entry, now that the Alchemistís Door was in place.
Unrolling the mat, I put it on the stone floor right in front of the Serpent Tapestry. As I watched, the mat seemed to blend itself with the floor. Unless one knew it was there, it was difficult to see.
I stood on the mat and stepped off it again, several times. Then I tapped my foot on it while humming a Celestina Warbeck ballad.
The little bell had been left on my desk.
Heading back through green-and-silver to my office, I waited. Soon ghosts drifted in and house-elves appeared, bringing me the news Iíd requested. Theyíd been stationed all over the Castle, up in the Astronomy Tower and the Owlery, down in the deepest dungeon storeroom. In the library, the kitchens, the hospital wing, the trophy room, even outside by the greenhouses and near Hagridís hut.
Iíd heard nothing in the Study. But everyone else had been able to hear the little bellís shrill ringing no matter where theyíd been. The bell had pealed over and over again, every time that Iíd stepped on the mat. Sir Nicholas reported that the sound had even set Fluffy and Fang barking madly.
"Filch! What in the name of Hecate are you playing at?" Severus was stalking, wild-eyed, through the press of disappearing house-elves and departing ghosts, all of whom had been thanked for their help.
"What was that infernal noise?" the Potions Master snarled. "I thought that perhaps the Castle was under attack! Are you starting a bell-ringersí society in your spare time?"
"We were testing the new Welcome Mat and Door Bell, Professor," I said, apologetically. "Forgive me. Iíd meant to let you sleep."
Snape looked dreadful. The noise had plainly done more than wake him. The unexplained ringing must have made him fear the worst.
"Lally?" I said to one of the elves who had not yet gone. "Please fetch the Professor a cup of tea."
"I donít want..." Snape began, but it was too late. Bobbing a curtsey, the house-elf had smiled, nodded and vanished.
Severusís tea soon arrived, accompanied by a cup for me as well. There was also a plate of little sandwiches. And a dish of cream for Mrs. Norris and Azoth to share. The two cats greeted it with approval when they padded into my office a short while later.
"Eat something," I suggested to the bleary-eyed Potions Master. "The house-elves will be disappointed if you donít. Or theyíll think youíre ill and start fussing at you."
It was an effective threat. Snape did not want to find himself at the mercy of a horde of anxious elves, all of them eager for someone to look after. He took a sandwich and sipped his tea.
"Youíre being terribly calm," he observed sourly.
"Iíve taken what steps I can. If the Dark Lord should happen to learn of the Alchemistís Door, if he should happen to talk his way past the Guardian, then open the Serpent Tapestry and emerge into the Study, we will know. The Evil One wonít be able to get any further. Green-and-silver is still the only known way to enter or leave that room. Even if Salazarís Door is there, he wonít be able to get through it. Consider what happened to you. Youíre merely the bearer of a Dark mark, not the Dark wizard who created it."
I saw a shudder ripple through green-and-silver which still hung on my office wall. Then the tapestry drooped in sorrow. Rising, I went to it and gave the poor thing a comforting pat.
"Itís not a trap," I said. "Itís more of a cul de sac. But it will serve, for now."
"Until September, at least." Snapeís tone was bleak. "Then I can bring Potter in there to see if he can control the Guardian."
Heíd told me that he intended to start researching possible alternate routes to the Study as soon as possible.
I shivered. "I donít think either Harry or the Evil One will be able to control that Creature. But Potterís chances at surviving a conversation with it are as good as the Dark Lordís."
"I wonít let anything happen to the boy, Argus," Severus said, stiffly. "The Guardian will have to kill me before it harms him."
Was that supposed to be reassuring? I wondered. But I kept that thought to myself.
Snape scowled into his teacup. "If the beast tries to attack Potter, the brat can always disappear," the Potions Master said. "Iíll have him bring that Invisibility Cloak of his along. It will improve his chances."
He gave me a snide look. "I nearly forgot. You donít believe me about that Cloak. Do you, Filch?"
I sighed. "As a matter of fact, Professor, I do. You were right. Potter does have an Invisibility Cloak. Iím sorry. I should have believed you."
Snape looked astonished for a moment. Then he raised an eyebrow. "What convinced you?"
"Itís a bit of a long story."
"Tell me. Iíve got time."
When Iíd finished my account of the experience that Potter and I had shared in Muggle London, Severus regarded me in silence for a while before he spoke.
"The Headmaster really admitted that he might have made an ill choice? That heíd been unfair? And that he would tell me so himself, if he could? What did he mean by that last, Argus?"
"I donít know," I said very softly.
Severus frowned, sighed, then frowned again. He went quiet once more.
"The Headmaster called the Cloak an extra form of protection," he muttered after a while, scowling. "Usually itís Potterís own arrogance and recklessness that gets him in situations where such protections are necessary."
He spoke again before I could protest that Potter wasnít arrogant. His tone was bitter and caustic. "This time, the arrogance was mine. I donít begrudge the boy any potential advantage if it will help him survive.
"Filch, if you ever tell Potter I said that, youíll regret it."
"You neednít worry, Professor. Even if I said anything to Potter, he wouldnít believe me."
That night on my way to bed, I went through green-and-silver to Salazarís Study. I had no wish to disturb the entire Castle, so I was careful not to step on the mat.
Soothing green-tinted sunlight shone down on me as I sat on the couch. Mrs. Norris, who had accompanied me, leaped up to settle herself on my lap. She purred softly, kneading my breeches with her claws.
My cat had closed her eyes, but she flicked an ear at me to let me know she was listening. I told her what I had surmised and said to Severus, in the hope of offering him some comfort.
"Slytherinís leaving tore away a piece of the Castleís heart, you know. The Alchemistís Door meant that he would have a swift way back if he ever needed one. Allowing its creation was a risk. But heís as much a part of this place as any of the other Founders. And so the Castle chose to take the chance."
I could not tell if Severus had found any consolation in what Iíd said. But I hoped so.
"Come, my sweet," I sighed. "Itís been a long day. And for now, weíve done all we can do."
For Chapter One:
Kazza: Thanks for reviewing! Azoth is definitely cute. (The little black cat would rather be seen as diabolical and mysterious, but he will continue to be cute for the foreseeable future.)
Acire: Thanks for reviewing! "Whatís he done now?" I like the way you put that. Snape may be a Professor and a grown wizard, but he can get into as much trouble as any teenager.** Thank you for the kind words on "Squib Summer" too. ** Dudley would say that his freaky cousin doesnít have enough sense to fear magic like any reasonable person ought to do. **Filch proposed the redecorating of Myrtleís bathroom and he feels honor-bound to see it through. He doesnít like to pawn his work off on the house-elves. He didnít expect the project to be so complicated, which is why heís in a bad mood.
Durayan: Thanks for reviewing! Yes!! One of the best things about Filch are his unique perspectives on the other characters.**Excellent point that Dudleyís upbringing has been pretty ghastly. Like you, Iíd love to see Dudley redeemed in canon.**Fortunately for Snape, the Castle doesnít mind the Alchemistís Door, provided its safely put away. Itís true that Fluffy doesnít like Snape, and most of the students donít either. But Dumbledore likes him and so does Filch and their opinions count for a lot too.
Jelsemium: Howdy, pardner!! Hagridís one of my favorite characters, I donít struggle with accents for just anybody.**Great Uncle Algie offered to teach Neville how to swim, but Grandmother Longbottom declined the offer and got someone else to teach Neville.**Iíd like to see a better relationship between Dudley and Harry too!**Pringleís appearance was really the Castle working through the filter of Filchís subconscious. Though in life, Pringle honestly thought that the professors could be worse brats than the kids. Not that he expressed such sentiments in front of his apprentice, because he believed in Setting A Good Example. But Filch was perceptive enough to pick up on this.
Ara Kane: Thanks for reviewing! Filch and Hagrid really are fun to write together. Each one finds the other frustrating, but after all the years theyíve known each other, thereís a bond between them too. (Every time I write a bit with Filch and Hagrid, I think of Robbie Coltrane and David Bradley. They did such a great job in their one scene together... really giving a sense that these two had years of history between them.)
Thanks for the kind words on the scene with Harry and Dudley! (Theyíre a bit like Hagrid and Filch; each one is a mystery to the other.)
Neville, Ginny and Callandra have all kept their promise to write to Filch. The three kids will be amused by Filchís replies... he vents a bit about the redecorating in Myrtleís bathroom. The girls will commiserate with Filch about the hard work, but their sympathies will be with Myrtle; Callandra thinks that shades of Ďroseí and Ďplumí sound pretty and the whole thing can be done with good taste. Ginny thinks that a change in decor will do Myrtle a world of good and is delighted that Myrtle wants to make the place truly her own. Neville will agree with Filch about all the pink and purple, but thinks that the caretaker would be wise not to stand in the way of a strong willed female with an Artistic Vision.
For Chapter Two:
Ara Kane: Thanks for reviewing twice! And thanks for the kind words on Salazarís Study! The other Foundersí secret chambers were places where they could relax and do whatever they liked to do best. Salazar needed a place like that too. I wanted to show another side to him.
Robert: Thanks for reviewing! I hope to continue writing, but Iím not sure how the events of OoP will affect my ideas. (Iím hoping for more inspiration, but I donít know how far Iíve strayed from canon.) Rabbitís "Another Snape Meets The Dursleys Story" is one of my favorites too! "No one thumps on my cousin except ME!" is Classic Dudley.
Mr. Roberts III: Thanks for reviewing! Itís really fun to have Filch annoy Snape by pointing out what the Potions Master and The Boy Who Lived have in common.
Portia: Thanks for reviewing! I like the image of Snapeís journey down the slippery slope beginning as an intellectual exercise. It fits him.
Mincot: Thanks for reviewing! My two sons get the credit for the monsters who came out of the mirror. They like to come up with monsters for me. Whenever they see me writing, they ask if I need a new monster. The boys were so happy when I wanted TWO monsters in the last chapter! Theyíre into science fiction, fantasy, Anime and gaming, so theyíve got a lot of different sources of inspiration.
Murasaki99: Thanks for reviewing! I know that the boys have read LeGuin, so itís possible. The thought of Filch making the monster seem boring, so Severus would lose interest made me laugh. "Honestly, Professor, itís a sensible monster.... as monsters go. It asked me to fill out forms before it would let me pass..."** Azoth answers Greyís Ďmeowí with a purr.
Sreya: Thanks for reviewing! The Serpent was a monster that my kids didnít come up with, that one came from my own nightmare.
Jelsemium: Thanks for reviewing again! I appreciate the vote of confidence, but my skin isnít nearly thick enough to handle the rejection that comes with trying to write professionally. Thanks for saying what lines you really liked!
Mary Anne: Thanks for reviewing! My family went away right after Easter, so I wanted to make sure that I posted the next chapter as quickly as possible. Otherwise I would have had to leave that poor cliff hanging for over a week!** ĎCold fireí is a perfect way to describe Snapeís excitement!**The vast Serpent appeared in a nightmare of mine. I was all alone on this vast featureless plain, and this HUGE thing was coming down from the sky to get me. It kept getting bigger and bigger, and it was still so very far away. I woke up all sweaty with my heart pounding. First thought: thank God that was only a dream! Second thought: I wonder how I can use that thing in a story? ** Hagridís such a cool and impressive character! It always bothers me whenever I see him not treated well in a fic, so I try hard to do him justice.**I also love the idea of Dudley rebelling by becoming a nicer person.
Jessanndi: Thanks for reviewing! Azoth would be delighted to claim you. (The world is his. The world just doesnít know it yet.)
Stephanie: Thanks for reviewing! Jelsemium and I are in the very early stages of writing the next story, which will feature Harry and Snape working together.
The Good Doctor Monaco: Thanks for reviewing! The Serpent wasnít a pet really, it was more of a companion for Slytherin. They liked to talk.** Snape is aware of Harryís skills, he wishes to see them used to everyoneís best advantage. ** Say "hi" to Whiskers for me! Good luck to Morty in his new home!
LizBee: Thanks for reviewing! Oooh, you want to draw green-and-silver? That would be so COOL!!!
Karie: Thanks for reviewing! "Chamber:Reloaded," I like that! Poor Myrtle has not yet discovered how hard it is to get tiles in the right color...
Aristyar: Thanks for reviewing, and for all the kind words! I donít know what Rowling may have planned for Filch in future canon, but I can really identify with him so far. Whenever anyone says that they see Filch in a new way after they read my stories I feel so good!
Jestana: Thanks for reviewing, and for passing the message along! Iím canít be sure what effect OoP is going to have on my fan-writing, beyond the story that Iíve already started with Jelsemium. But the fact that thereís a Headmaster, Caretaker and Groundskeeper all at the same time might come up later.** Yes, Slytherins can certainly be brave and Gryffindors can be both ambitious and sneaky! The two Houses have plenty in common.