The Sugar Quill
Author: Wendelin the Weird (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Squib Sequestered  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: Thankfully, Filch is not my creation

Disclaimer: Thankfully, Filch is not my creation. Unfortunately, neither are Peeves, Dumbledore and Harry.

 

Caveat: The chances of this story accurately predicting the eventual fate of Filch are less than 0.1% - but can you resist seeing this ... despicable creature... get his comeuppance?

 

Squib Sequestered

 

Summary: The time has come for one man to answer for his atrocities under Umbridge's regime.

 

**********

 

August 1974

There was a loud knock on the castle door, and then absolute silence. The members of the staff looked at each other, as if checking to see if everyone had heard it. Overhead, the darkening ceiling of the Great Hall crackled and rumbled threateningly, raining down fat drops of water that didn't reach the floor of the room.

 

The new headmaster was the first to leap to his feet. Sweeping his long, white beard out of the way, he ran out of the hall as if he already knew that the man outside the door did not have the strength left in him to even knock one more time.

 

Seconds later, he was back. Trailing behind him, pulled by the power of his wand, was what seemed at first sight to be a corpse - a horribly mutilated corpse. Its legs hung in a grotesque position that, surely, no one with bones would have been able to manage. Blood clung fast to the body in spite of the rainwater, as if determined to mark the man with violence. Worst of all was the horrible smell of burning flesh, emanating from the charred head.

 

"Poppy," said the headmaster as he strode forward towards the staff table, "he is still alive. He has crawled here all the way from Hogsmeade. I think a bed is needed immediately."



At that, the corpse's lips began to move and speak in a whisper that seemed to come from beyond the grave. Help... Help me...

 

The woman at the end of the staff table jumped up, the momentary paralysis evaporating in the wake of a call to duty. "Who is -" she began, and then changed her question. "Heavens, Albus, why didn't he just Apparate to the gate?"

 

The headmaster told her, his eyes filled with an unreadable emotion, "He is a squib."

 

**********

 

Albus Dumbledore sat in his chintz armchair, making himself meet Harry's dull, vacant eyes. Albus made himself see the emptiness; he felt it reverberate through the bones of his own brittle body. No words would heal the rip in the world that Sirus Black had left behind him.

 

He followed Harry's gaze as it moved brokenly towards the window, and the Quidditch pitch. What did he see as he looked at what had, so many times, been a field of victory for him? In that field Harry had seemed to be his father's son more than anywhere else... certainly more than now, as he sat more silent and broken than James Potter had ever been.

 

Suddenly, Albus felt the boy's grief weigh down more heavily than ever. He had to say something... something...

 

So he said slowly, hesitantly, "I feel I owe you another explanation, Harry."

 

A hard bubble in his throat moved painfully upwards, threatening to sear the insides of his eyes with the pain, Harry's pain, but Albus continued.

 

"You may, perhaps, have wondered why I never chose you as a prefect? I must confess..."

 

No. He couldn't stop speaking now.

 

"... that I rather thought..."

 

Now he was struggling to keep the tremors out of his voice.

 

"... you had enough responsibility to be going on with."

 

The boy turned to look at him, but suddenly, Albus Dumbledore, the most powerful wizard in the world, was afraid - afraid of the reproach that those eyes might hold.

 

And that was when the pressure behind his eyeballs became relentless. A small teardrop escaped from the corner of his eye and made its way down his face, and was soon lost in his silver beard.

 

Determined not to shame himself further, Albus stared fixedly at his hands, which were now resting on his lap.

 

Harry cleared his throat. "It doesn't matter, Professor," he said, in a voice that echoed Dumbledore's own detachment of just a little while ago. There was not a hint of reproach in it. "I'll... er... let myself out."

 

Albus watched as Harry made his way slowly to the door, head bowed and shoulders bent, looking very small and very young.

 

"Goodbye, Harry," he said, as the boy pulled the door open. "I'll see you at the leaving feast."

 

Harry did not answer.

 

For many minutes, Albus sat right where he was. His mind was blank, and he found himself breathing deeply, automatically trying to relax and prepare for the tasks ahead of him, as long years of practice had taught him to do.

 

First, deal with the casualties.

 

Tonks was in St. Mungo's. Ron, Hermione and Neville were already in the hospital wing. Remus was in Arthur Weasley's care. Kingsley Shacklebolt and Moody, unable to openly reveal their affiliation to the Order yet, were calling in sick at work.

 

Second, deal with the miscreants.

 

Umbridge was already under Poppy's watchful eye. Kreacher was imprisoned in Grimmauld Place. The only person left to deal with was Argus Filch.

 

Images flashed through Albus's mind, like an electric projector flipping quickly through photographic slides. Rain and mud stained robes on a writhing man... the acrid smell of a recently burned scalp... shins that had been broken in thirteen places.... and a voice that whispered over and over again, "Help me... Help me..."

 

 

*************

 

The old caretaker of Hogwarts didn't care what happened in the world. He didn't. Who cared that Dumbledore was back at the helm again? Not he. Why, he didn't even care that Madam Umbridge was as good as sacked - or that his erstwhile ally was too unbalanced for this to even matter to her.

 

He prowled about the corridors that morning with thunderclouds trailing behind him. The shots of firewhiskey he had taken when he heard that Dumbledore was back had thawed his chest from the shock of it and loosened the muscles of his face. His bottom lip hung open lopsidedly, and his jowls drooped around the side of his mouth, turning the expression into a slovenly sneer.

 

When he saw a third year rushing down to breakfast, brushing her hair hurriedly as she ran, he roared oaths and maddeningly ineffectual curses at her. He would have dragged her bodily into his office and given her a detention if that hadn't meant having to inform Dumbledore of his reasons for doing so.

 

And then he saw Potter. He seemed even farther away from the world than usual, and he looked as if he had been in a brawl. His robes were crumpled and reeking of stale air, and his hair was sticking up worse than usual. It was obvious that this boy had been out of bed all night.

 

Argus began to hobble towards him, wishing he could find some solid proof of him having been out of bounds, something for which he could punish this cocky young pest... and his eyes immediately caught something. Potter’s shoelaces were undone, and seemed to be soaked in some dark liquid which left a trail on the floor as he walked. Argus examined the trail; it was blood.

 

He felt a molten pleasure in the pit of his stomach, and felt his face belatedly arrange itself into a smirk.

 

"Potter!" He bellowed.

 

The boy stopped dead, but didn't turn around.

 

Argus began to limp slowly towards him. "Been fighting all night, have you?"

 

The boy's back stiffened.

 

Argus had reached him by now. He reached a hand out and grabbed Potter by the shoulder and jerked him around. "Look at me when I'm talking to you, boy," he growled.

 

The boy said nothing.

 

Argus's lip quivered. He waved his hands in front of Potter's face and shouted, "CAN YOU HEAR ME, YOU FILTHY -"

 

The boy spoke, his voice cold and carefully precise. "Yes, I was fighting all night. Can I go now?" His face twitched slightly once, as he finished speaking. And then it was as blank as ever.

 

Argus felt his mouth stretch across his face. "Go? Oh no, boy, I think not, oh no... A confession... Aha, come with me, come with me."

 

He began to hobble towards his office. Why had he been so despairing just a while ago? He still had his punishment forms, didn't he?

 

From behind him, Potter spoke tonelessly. "I'm going to my dormitory, sorry."

 

Argus turned on him, still grinning grotesquely. "You don't have a choice, boy. I am a member of the staff. When I tell you to come with me, you come with me!" Ah, Madam Umbridge would have been proud of his smiling demeanour even as he upbraided this abominable boy.

 

Potter seemed to take no notice, however. As if in a daze, the boy simply began to walk towards Gryffindor Tower. Argus spat and began to limp after him, the grin slipping off his face as easily as a greased mask.

 

And that was when the ink pellet hit his face. "Whaa -" Argus squeaked, even as a ping pong ball zoomed right into his mouth, cutting him off.

 

Choking, he rubbed his eyes free of ink and looked up, only to find Peeves zooming round and round in dizzying circles around his head, cackling madly. Potter was nowhere to be seen.

 

"Filthy, foolish, flaky Filchy," sang Peeves. "Squelchy squeaky mulchy Filchy!"

 

Argus lost his head. The firewhiskey was making his head throb slowly, and the ping pong ball seemed to be lodged behind his teeth. Incoherent noises escaped his wide open mouth, and he grabbed a torch hanging from a bracket nearby and hurled it at Peeves.

 

Peeves dodged it easily, cackling harder than ever.

 

"Filchy Filcher, ping pong eater,

Loves Dolores but cannot keep her!"

 

Argus had now pulled a sword free from a suit of armour, despite its loud, clanging protests, and began to take swipes at Peeves with it.

 

Peeves bobbed around the corridor, keeping just within reach until the sword came swishing at him, and then zooming away, turning cartwheels in the air. Argus, boiling over with rage, swung his sword towards him like a racquet, but missed and slashed a lion in a painting instead. The lion roared and leapt into the next frame, frightening a nude lady bathing in a pool so much that she began to scream.

 

"Argus!" a deep voice boomed into the commotion.

 

Immediately, the nude lady stopped screaming, the lion looked around its new surroundings and settled itself near the pool, and Peeves zoomed away from Filch's reach and stood at attention in midair.

 

Argus looked behind him, and saw Dumbledore standing by the broken torch bracket, his eyes narrow and utterly devoid of good humour. The sword dropped from Argus's hand with a loud clatter.

 

"Explain yourself," said Dumbledore, evenly.

 

Hatred surged through Argus as a strangled sound escaped him. He jerked a thumb at his wide open mouth, the green ping pong ball still stuck behind his teeth, and glared at Dumbledore.

 

The headmaster squinted at him through his half-moon glasses, and then said, "Waddiwasi."

 

The ball slid smoothly out of Argus's mouth and pelted towards Dumbledore, who caught it easily before it could lodge itself up his nose.

 

"It was Peeves!" Argus said, explosively. "He threw ink pellets on my face - and that ball! He is uncontrollable!"

 

Dumbledore merely looked pointedly at the fallen torch, which was lying in a corner. The carpet around it was on fire.

 

"Well..." Argus sputtered, unable to believe that Dumbledore seemed to blame him for this. "Was I supposed... just... ignore him?" He demanded.

 

"I was merely enquiring as to what happened," Dumbledore said, waving his wand to put out the fire. Argus followed the movement of his wand, and the hatred intensified.

 

"I told you what happened, headmaster," he wheezed. "I was dealing with a student who was out of order, and Peeves not only interrupted me, he also attacked me. I merely tried to fight him off the best I could."

 

At this point, Peeves, who had been watching the scene from near the ceiling, interrupted in his slickest voice.

 

"Begging your pardon, Your Headship, but a nasty temper he's got, this Filch. Punishing students all morning, he was," he said, gleefully. "Not fair, Professorhead, oh no, he isn't."

 

Argus hardly listened to him. The firewhiskey was going into its next stage of operation, and his head was buzzing pleasantly. He began to sway back and forth on the balls of his feet. An annoying little tune popped up in his head, and he began to hum it in a high, whiny tone.

 

Dumbledore turned his attention from Peeves, and simply looked at Argus for a full minute.  "You are inebriated, Argus. We will continue this conversation in your office."

 

Then he turned on his heel and led the way down to the ground floor.

 

**********

 

Albus's expression was solemn as he faced Argus across the desk. Both men sat in silence, tension brewing in the air.

 

"Why don't you expel Peeves?" Filch asked suddenly, as if for him, there had been no silence at all.

 

Albus raised his eyebrows. "Do you think him dangerous, Argus?"

 

"Yes," Filch spat.

 

"Come now, Argus. Ink pellets, dungbombs, mischievous rhymes which I must admit are rather amusing - these are not dangerous acts, surely?"

 

"That's not all he can do! He unscrewed a chandelier on Dol- Madam Umbridge's head. I saw him!"

 

"Ah. And you believe her to be ... less dangerous than Peeves?"

 

Filch flushed. "It could have easily been any one of us - even," he added, a glint in his eye, "your precious students."

 

"I have no reason to suspect that Peeves would seriously endanger a student, Argus. He has been a part of this castle for two hundred years without any lasting harm done to any student."

 

"BUT HE HAS HARMED ME!" Filch screamed. "HE UPENDS VASES AND BREAKS CHINA, AND WHO HAS TO CLEAN UP THAT MESS? ME! -”

 

Albus simply looked at him. "You will control yourself, Argus," he said icily.

 

But rage and firewhiskey had left Filch beyond the reach of words and threats. "You don't know what it's like!" He yelled. "I... scrubbing the floors, cleaning up the messes... your precious students and that Peeves!"

 

He got up from his chair and rounded on Albus, shouting incoherently. "You don't know... you can't know... You, with your wands and your magic! And I...!" Argus broke off, sputtering, and close to tears of frustration.

 

Albus sensed that the outburst wasn't over. He stayed silent.

 

After a minute, Filch said, in a bitter voice scarcely higher than a whisper, "Do you know what the teachers do to punish... your precious students? They are made to polish shields, scrub floors, clean the bedpans... without magic." He stopped and looked into Albus's face. "Do you know how they are cleaned when there are no students in detention?"

 

Albus looked away, trying to distance himself from the bitterness oozing out of the man in front of him. Then he turned and looked Filch dead in the face. "Then why do you choose to stay in this job, Argus?"

 

Filch's mouth opened and closed, and opened again, but no words came out. His eyes, which so often were simply flat and bitter, took on a turbulence alien to them. Albus could almost see that violent night in them, the night that bigtry and pitiless malice had tortured, slashed and burned this man.

Albus had broken twenty years of silence on the subject between them, but he knew he had done the right thing by bringing it up.

 

"When I gave you this job, Argus, it was only to protect you, only for a while. I thought I was doing the right thing by sheltering a man from the attacks of his family. But I was wrong, Argus," he said, an unbearable pain quite unconnected with Argus Filch washing over him all over again. "I made a mistake."

 

"No," whispered Filch.

 

"I prided myself as a great judge of character. I thought that in shelter, you would find the strength to heal and find your way back into the world, away from this sanctuary, which should only have been a crutch."

 

"No," said Filch, much louder, now looking terrified.

 

"I told you that, Argus. You and I both knew you were unsuitable for this job. You were only to stay here while you recovered...there are many things that people with your limitations have managed to achieve. But instead," Albus continued, "you have fed your bitterness with insecurity, and insecurity with hate. You have come to hate the world, and everyone in it, Argus."

 

"No... no..." Filch was now openly sobbing. "I don't hate you. I am grateful..."

 

"You misunderstand me, Argus. I am not asking for your gratitude. But you do hate my... yes, my precious students..."

 

Filch stared at him, sobbing, unable to say a word.

 

"You are a member of this school's staff. It is your duty to have the welfare of these students at heart. You do not."

 

Argus erupted again, with the last of his anger and energy and hate. "So what am I supposed to do? What should I do when they leave stink pellets in my drawers?"

 

"My staff are allowed to decide their own punishments for students, Argus. But there is a line between punishment and torture. You do not seem to know the difference."

 

Filch sneered. "My punishments are all approved personally by you."

 

"Ah, but you are wrong there. Your punishments have to be approved by the head of the school. And when Dolores Umbridge -"

 

Filch started, but said nothing.

 

"... was the head of the school, you co-operated with her in endangering the students' health - even the students' minds."

 

Filch's voice began in a murmur and gained steadily in strength as he continued. "Madam Umbridge was the best thing that ever happened to Hogwarts! She understood - she knew the importance of discipline."

 

Albus surveyed him magisterially from behind his half-moon glasses. "You used her Incisivus Quill on students during your own detentions. You procured unauthorised stocks of Coercive Concoction in order to help her get the staff on her side through illegal means. You obtained a ministry approval for whipping as a punishment, and attempted to use it on Dennis Creevey before the Inviolable Incantation I have placed on all students came into effect. During my absence, Argus, at every turn, you have attempted to do the cruel, the underhand, the torturous."

 

"They deserve it! If I punish them, it's because they take advantage of me! I'm a squib, and they know it, and they torment me. They deliberately leave messes on the floors. I can't clean it with a wave of my wand, can I?  Just this morning, Potter was leaving a bloody trail all along the corridor, and you tell me -"

 

At the mention of Harry's name, Albus sat up, and Filch seemed to realise he had made a mistake.

 

"What did you do to Harry this morning?" Albus asked, his voice low and threatening.

 

The firewhiskey that Albus could plainly smell on him had made Filch bold. "He confessed! He admitted he was fighting all of last night, and he was leaving a bloody mess on the floors, and I'm going to give him a detention. The boy admits it, do you hear me! He conf -"

 

He stopped blabbering when Albus stood up, towering over Filch. There was absolute fury in his stark blue eyes as his hands grabbed the front of Filch's robes and pulled him close, so that the old caretaker’s face was inches from his own long, crooked nose.

 

"How dare you!" Albus whispered. "How dare you even -"

 

And the next moment, Albus had let go of Filch, leaving him stumbling to regain his balance. The wizard seemed to shrink physically as he sat back down in Filch's chair and rubbed his temples with his fingertips.

 

There was a silence even longer and heavier than the first. Then Albus raised his head. "I ... apologise for my temper."

 

Filch, frightened and bewildered, seemed dumbstruck.

 

But Albus's next words seemed to send a shock ringing into his very core. "I'm afraid I can no longer keep you in this school."

 

Filch's face was wiped violently blank - an absence of expression that was frightening to see on a human face. He stood stock still for a few seconds, and then sank weakly to his knees, tears streaming involuntarily down his sagging jowls.

 

Albus turned away as an uncharacteristic revulsion swept over him. "Don't worry. You needn't leave the school. You may stay here for as long as you wish. But I refuse to leave the care of my students in your hands any longer."

 

**********

 

Argus looked up at Dumbledore as he said those words, and rose slowly to his feet. Dumbledore might think him a weak and piteous man, and he might be right. But Argus recognized alms when they were thrown at him, and some last stirring of pride made him rebel against it.

 

"No." It had been years since his voice had been this firm.

 

He saw the surprise in Dumbledore's eyes and drew his strength from it. Never mind that Hogwarts, to him, was the only safe place in the world. Never mind that he had been driven to near madness - near death - by the world outside these walls. Never mind that. He would find a way to get by on his own.

 

Argus Filch had tenacity - he had needed that to ferret out the perpetrators of the various michiefs to which he had been subjected. He had experience in disciplining children, and a very good idea of the methods that were most effective in this task. Surely, the world outside had uses for his unique expertise?

 

*********

 

It was months later that Albus read in a muggle newspaper about the arrest and incarceration of 'Archie Filch', a day care worker who had repeatedly used the cane on four year olds who 'refused eat without making a mess'.

 

Albus closed his eyes. How could he have let a man such as Argus Filch wander free?

Filch saw threats in creatures like Peeves and in the mischief of young students, when they couldn't have hurt him in any lasting way. Albus had seen a threat in Filch, a squib who could no more have harmed his students under the protection of his enchantments than a pixie could hurt a hippogriff. Albus had fallen prey to the very weakness of which he had accused Filch.

 

But that day he had hurt Harry... Harry...

 

And he sat still in his armchair, an old man in an ornate office whose shoulders stooped lower and lower each time he read that article in the motionless muggle newspaper on his desk.

 

 

Apology: Dear Professor Dumbledore, I'm sorry for putting you through so much guilt and pain. I'm a bit mad at you for all that happened in OotP, but not as much as this fic makes it seem.

//
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