The Sugar Quill
Author: Thing1 (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Mr. Filch's Christmas Carol  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: This is merely a humble Christmas gift, offered up with thanks to JK Rowling, a *bravo* to David Bradley (who is entirely to blame for this), and sincere apologies to Charles Dickens.

MWPP with a decided twist.

To those of you familiar with the wonderful prose of Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol’, I hope you enjoy this. While I have not transferred all of that tale directly into this tribute, a good amount of the words and phrasing, the pace and the feel of that tale is both quoted and played with in here. Indeed, consider it a slight ‘warning’ if you will – as this is written in a Victorian prose, some of the wording and punctuation may seem a little off. I was amused by a note from my most excellent beta wolf Durayan which said "I am assuming the grammatical oddities…are Dickensian style. If so, ignore this. If not, um, fix them".

In no way do I wish to give the impression that I am Mr. Dickens, nor do I want it to be unclear that this parody is taken directly from his work in many places.

The intent of the original story has been done away with entirely, as you will see. Fear not; Filch remains as crabby and bitter as ever right through the end.

I own nothing you see on this screen save my rather appalling sense of humour.

 

 

˜

I have endeavoured with this magical little tale, to raise the ghost of a smile, which shall not put the readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their computer screens pleasantly, and no one bankruptcy of any other internet providers waylay it.

Their friend and faithful parodist,

T.1.

December, 2001

 

Stave 1: Arbuthnot’s Ghost

Sirius Black was dead: to begin with. Rather, there would be no doubt whatsoever about his immediate demise should Argus Filch find the little bastard before he had managed to successfully sneak back into the Gryffindor Tower. As he tricked a staircase into shifting before it was wont in order to try and make it to the 5th floor well in advance of his prey, Filch had to reluctantly admit that he would most likely have to settle for expulsion over expiration. But his pudgy face managed to suggest a ghastly grin as he pictured the parchment that would accompany the most wretched 13 year old to ever have plagued Filch’s life back to his parents’ home. The register of his banishment would be signed by the Head of Gryffindor House, the Deputy Head of the school, the Headmaster, and the chief Mugwump of the School Regents. Filch would sign it too: and it would be the best thing he had ever put his hand too. Sirius Black was as good as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! Filch didn’t quite seem to know, of his own knowledge, what there was particularly dead about a door-nail. He was inclined himself to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But he supposed the wisdom of his far more gifted wizard ancestors was in the simile, and his own untalented hands had no business disturbing it, or the wizarding world could well be done for. He therefore turned his thoughts pleasantly back to repeat in his mind, emphatically, that Black was as good as dead as a door-nail.

Filch wondered if young Black knew he was in for it this time. Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? He and his nasty friends may have managed to squeeze through the trick panel near the entrance to the kitchens, but Filch had seen them. Well, he had only seen Black clearly, but he had no doubt that the Potter brat and the odd little Lupin boy had gone before him. How could it be otherwise? They had been partners in crime from the moment their boats had hit the school grounds their first year. Their growing daring and utter cheek over the years had come to haunt Filch like no other fiend he could imagine. He hated them, and it was the dearest ambition of Argus Filch to give each of them a good kick.

Oh! but he was a unforgiving rigid hand at the rules book, Filch! a wheezing, suspecting, accusing, long-suffering, student-hating, covetous old grouch! Hard and sharp as a hippogriff’s beak, from which no spell had ever struck out anything stronger than weak tea; secret, and self-contained and as solitary as an oyster, save for the company of his ragged one-eyed cat, Mr. Dickens. The cold within him froze his features in a perpetual snarl, nipped his pointed nose that was forever poking into the students’ business, placed an angry flush on his pouchy cheeks, stiffened his gait; it made his bulging, pale eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out nastily in his grating voice. Filch carried this preternaturally chilled air of malice about with him always; his office and indeed the broom-closets of Hogwarts hung with his perpetual suspicion of mischief being managed just out of his grasp, and it didn’t dissipate one inch even now during the Christmas holidays when the hundreds of troublemakers were reduced to a few dozen left lurking the castle.

The general loathing Argus Filch felt for the students was not going to be set back by the spirit of any season; not one of the young faces ever stopped near him to say, with gladsome looks, "My dear Mr. Filch, how are you?" They knew he despised them and returned the feeling; not one ever stopped to ask him what o’clock it was, nor what the better shortcut to the dungeons was so they would not be late for Potions. Even the crups of evil wizards seemed to know him; and when they saw him coming on, they would drag their owners into doorways and up courts; and then wag their tail stumps as though they said "Foul magic is better than no magic at all, dark master!"

But what did Filch care? It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowed halls of Hogwarts, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call "magic" to Filch.

But we are ahead of our story; it is necessary to come back from the moment on the staircase with Mr. Filch in pursuit of Mr. Black to consider the events which started the tale.

Now on this afternoon – of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve – old Filch was once more busy in his halls. For to him, they were his halls; they were his responsibility to keep clear and free from maliciousness. Indeed, Filch fancied he was all that remained most days in Hogwarts between order and utter chaos. He had sat in his office, working on his own business, listening for Mr. Dickens’ thin and distant ‘mee-rowr’ should some rule-breaking require his attention. The great clock in the front hall had only just gone four, but as it had been dark and storming all day, he knew full well that the troubles usually reserved for the evening hours must start early that day as the young witches and wizards were trapped in the castle with little else to do; and certainly they were lacking in the respect to simply force themselves to keep still for once!

The door of Mr. Filch’s office was open that he might keep his eye upon the corridor, should any of the students foolishly chance to pass by. He rose only to place another lump of coal on the fire, one eye always watching for movement; or worse, for some spell loosed by some young terror. Most of the students avoided this corridor for that very reason; and so surely had they let so much as a spark off their wand where Filch could see it, Filch informed them that it would be necessary for them to part with their freedom for an evening in a detention as nasty as he could make it.

"Ah, my dear Argus. A happy Christmas to you!" came a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Filch’s employer, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

"If you say so, Headmaster."

Albus Dumbledore simply smiled even as his eyes twinkled merrily and his breath smoked while he pulled a heavy winter cloak from his shoulders. Evidently, the Headmaster had been outside and had only just now returned.

"I do say so, Mr. Filch!" said Dumbledore. "You can’t mean to tell me that there is no sense of merry in you at all at this time of year. I seem to recall that you are always somewhat more chipper in the absence of the student body, are you not?"

Filch offered a weak smile, but declined further comment. Dumbledore did not miss his rather testy glance out towards the corridor, however, and gave a small sigh.

"I have spent the better part of the last hour tiring out some of the students who have remained with us by engaging them in a snowball fight. In fact, I think that save a few of the Slytherins, I had all of our young friends out there with me. There are many things in life, Argus, from which I have derived good, and Christmas holidays are among the best of those. I think it is a time when we can all find something to celebrate, don’t you?"

Filch gave a slight shrug, and then thinking for a moment, said stiffly "if it pleases you, Headmaster."

"Don’t be angry, Argus. Come! There’s a lovely dinner to look forward to tomorrow at the very least. Promise me that between now and then you will simply let the students celebrate in whatever fashion they see fit, and give yourself a well deserved rest."

Filch looked up at Dumbledore with an aghast expression, and shook his head so violently his jowls quivered.

"Sir? You are aware of exactly who has stayed with us this holiday?"

"As I have just told you, Argus, I have spent the afternoon with our remaining students. And had a very pleasant time of it. There is something very refreshing about the exuberance to be found in a clever young mind. It’s why I do so enjoy teaching, you know. And at times like this, I suppose it is best to show some liberality with those students who are trusted to our care." He gave Filch a neutral look over the rims of his spectacles.

At the ominous word "liberality" Filch frowned, and shook his head, and handed Dumbledore back a rather more darker look.

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Filch," said the Headmaster, taking up a confiscated Filibuster Firework that sat on the desk waiting to be placed in the depths of the filing cabinet, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some provision for the students who remain with us for the holidays, who suffer somewhat I am sure. Though we are not in want of common comforts here, we cannot offer them the very necessary comfort of their own homes."

"I can offer a few the dungeons," muttered Filch.

"Yes, indeed, but the Ministry may not agree with your ideas of hospitality and charitableness, Mr. Filch," said Dumbledore, calmly, as he placed the offending firework back on the desk and turned to exit. "Although I am under the impression that most of the student body is well aware of your ideas of "proper" detention; no doubt that keeps many a young mind in check, as I would venture to guess that the less daring of our wards would rather handle bubotubers without the benefit of gloves than risk the detection of yourself or Mr. Dickens."

"If they would rather spend a week in the hospital wing," said Filch, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population of trouble-makers!"

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue his point, Dumbledore withdrew. Filch returned to his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him. However, it then dawned on Filch that the Headmaster had as good as told him that the halls and staircases would now be covered with melting snow, tramped about by young feet that seemed utterly incapable of stamping themselves clear before they deigned to cross the thresholds.

With an ill-will, Filch swiftly exited his office, pausing only long enough to shut up all five locks on the door, before he went to the nearest broom cupboard to collect a mop and see to the mess. As had been his suspicion, the entry hall and the first flight of steps on the grand staircase resembled nothing so much as the lake behind the castle. The wet stones flickered in the light of the hundreds of candles Filch had been unable to stop Professors Flitwick and MacMillan from decorating the entry with. Filch felt Mr. MacMillan’s time would have been better spent minding his house; indeed, it was the Gryffindors in particular that irked and bothered Argus Filch, and he found little comfort in the single irony that the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher should be responsible for the collection of monsters who currently made up Gryffindor’s roster.

"Bah!" cried Filch, even as he tackled the largest of the puddles. He paused only when his mop struck something. Filch bent over in a rickety fashion and felt along the stone until he grasped a sticky mess.

"Humbug!"

Filch had a particular loathing for all candy dropped on his floors, but these confections were without a doubt the worst of all.

Meanwhile the snow outside the doors thickened so, and as the darkness grew in the castle Filch could make out the faint sounds of footsteps from inner corridors as students made their way about. He saw the occasional flare of a wand light as students lit them to conduct them on their way, but stuck to his mop knowing that the Professors to a one had refused to accept detentions for ‘harmless’ spells over the holidays. The ancient walls of the entry, whose gruff old stone hung covered with portraits whose occupants were always peeping slyly down at Filch out of their frames, became invisible in the growing darkness. The cold became intense. Just as Filch finished his mopping, the house elves at last appeared to light the torches and set the great fire blazing. A few of the Ravenclaws emerged from the direction of the library, and set to standing in front of the fire, warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture. They carefully avoided Filch’s icy gaze as he passed them on his way back to the broom cupboard.

Filch took his dinner in his usual melancholy fashion; and having counted all of the heads in the hall twice to make certain none were missing, and then beguiled the rest of the early evening prowling the corridors with Mr. Dickens in order to glare at any young face that crossed his path, he went to his rooms to retire to bed. He occupied the chambers that had once belonged to his deceased predecessor; indeed, that had been the caretaker’s rooms since the founding of the school. They were a gloomy set of rooms, in a lowering corner of the tower farthest from the student chambers, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying that the room had been charmed there years ago for some unknown reason, and that the wizard at fault for this offence had forgotten to bring it back. Certainly there was nothing Filch could do to rectify this seeming oversight. The rooms were old enough now, and dreary enough, as Filch refused to allow the house elves to rework anything. Offended, they left him utterly to his own devices and indeed had even given up lighting the torches in the corridor, leaving Filch to struggle in the darkness; and even Filch, who knew its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands, even as he accidentally trod upon the left hind paw of Mr. Dickens, who had come unwisely up under his feet.

Now, it is a fact that there was nothing at all particular about the knot in the middle plank of the door to Filch’s rooms, except that it was very large. It is also a fact, that Filch had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in that place; also that Filch had as little as what is called fancy about him as any wizard in Great Britain, even including – which is a bold word – the members of the Werewolf Capture Unit and the driver of the Knight Bus. Let it also be borne in mind that Filch had not bestowed one thought on Arbuthnot, his predecessor to his position at Hogwarts, for more years than he could count. And then let any witch or wizard explain to me, if they can, how it happened that Filch, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knot, without its undergoing any intermediate transformation charm – not a knot, but Arbuthnot’s face.

Arbuthnot’s face. It was not an impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the corridor were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad malaclaw in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Filch impassively, with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and it’s livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part of its own expression.

As Filch looked fixedly at this image, it was a knot of wood again.

To say that he was startled, or that his ears did not prick-up intently to listen for the tell-tale sounds of the young witch or wizard responsible for this rather paltry parlour trick, would be untrue. But he simply gritted his teeth as he heard no noise, put his hand upon the key he had relinquished, turned it steadily, walked in, and lighted the candle by his door.

Filch did pause, with a moment’s hope that he could still capture a sloppy rules-breaker who could not resist witnessing the reaction to his own handiwork, before he shut the door against the continued silence. He did look cautiously behind it first, as he half expected there to be something else going on with his door. But there was nothing there, so he said "wretched children!" and closed the door with a bang.

The sound seemed to resound through his rooms like thunder. Every corner appeared to have a separate peal of echoes of its own. Filch was not a man to be frightened by echoes; or even by the howling of a banshee or any other supernatural sound. He was far to concerned by the noises of the feet of the living. He fastened the door, and walked into the next room, cursing the appalling lack of manners and respect in the current generation. But before he could settle for the night, he did walk through his rooms to see that all was right. He had just enough recollection of the face to desire to do that.

Sitting-room, bedroom, bathroom. All as they should be. Nobody under the table, no sticking curses on the sofa; a small fire in his grate; spoon and mug ready; and a little bottle of firewhiskey (Filch had a cold in his head) upon the mantle. No student under the bed; no Ignius potion in the lav; no hexes on his dressing gown, which was hanging up in a suspicious attitude against the wall. Old cloak, two kappa-traps, washing stand on three legs, and a cauldron.

Quite satisfied, Filch went to his door and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his old coat, put on his dressing gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take his whiskey.

As Mr. Filch was obliged to make his fires by hand, they did not glow with the same fervour and intensity as those magiced by his comrades. He was obliged to sit close to it, and once again brood over the injustice of his situation, before he began to relax slightly in the sensation of warmth brought to his bones by the firewhiskey. The fireplace was an old one, decorated by some quaint artisan years ago who likely had never laid eyes upon the dragons that festooned the tiles, as they were entirely to soft around the edges and seemed quite unwilling to eat anything more challenging than a flobberworm. There were Antipodean Opaleyes , and Peruvian Vipertooths; Swedish short-snouts descending through the air on wings drawn like clouds, looking like particularly sickening Muggle child-angels, Romanian Longhorns, Liondragons, and Welsh Greens sailing off over the sea trailing fishing boats – and yet that face of Arbuthnot, seventeen years dead, came like the gaping mar of a Hungarian Horntail, and swallowed him whole. Knowing it had to be a trick, Filch brooded over who would bear the responsibility for such a basic, yet effective charm. If each smooth face of the students held a blank anonymity at first as he pondered this question, with power to shape some picture on its surface from the disjointed fragments of his thoughts, there would have been a copy of a certain third-year boy on them.

"Gryffindors!" said Filch; and stalked across the room.

After several turns, he sat down again. As he threw his head back in the chair his glance happened to rest upon a sneakoscope, a broken and disused one he had confiscated years ago that sat on the mantle, as it had been modified and used to communicate his presence to certain members of the Hufflepuff house. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw the instrument begin to spin. It spun so softly in the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it whistled out loudly, and flashed with a brightness only a magical spell could cast.

This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour. As Filch managed to overcome his shock, and reached for the impossibly spinning scope, it ceased as suddenly as it had begun. It was succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person had just lifted the trap door over the entrance to the secret passage from the dungeons that ran…straight to these rooms. Filch then remembered that he had recently heard young Bertha Jorkins bragging in a loud and stupid fashion about how she had, finally in her last year, managed to discover a means of shortcutting from the third floor. Her fellows had ignored her, but at the house table behind Miss Jorkins, Filch suddenly recalled clearly and with mounting horror how oddly still and quiet the younger boys had gone. Younger boys sporting the dreaded red and gold ties.

The trap-door fell shut with a booming sound, and then he heard a noise that sounded like nothing so much as a broom being dragged across wet stone. He started to hear the noise much louder, then coming up the passage, then coming straight for the door to his rooms.

"Oh, you just wait, whichever one you are!" muttered Filch, even as he carefully picked up Mr. Dickens and crept towards the door.

The scraping sound came to a halt, as Filch could clearly hear from his new position directly behind the entry to his rooms. There was a long silence as it seemed his prey was making a decision as to what to do next; for his part Filch stood, poised and clutching at his cat, eyes fixed greedily on the locks, watching for their enchantment, and straining to hear the faint whisper of "Alohamora".

His colour changed, though, when, without a further pause, a spectre came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room directly through him. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, "I know him! Arbuthnot’s Ghost!" and fell again.

The same face: the very same. Arbuthnot in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, robes and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his robe-skirts, and the hair upon his head. The broom he drew with him was loosely clasped in his hand. It was old-fashioned and heavy, and it was made (Filch observed it closely) of oak and iron to hold the long bristles in their place. His body was transparent, so that Filch, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the clasp of his belt on his robes behind.

Filch had often observed that Arbuthnot had no bowels and was too soft on the students, but he had never believed it until now.

No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he looked at the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the knotted ‘kerchief worn upon his head, which wrapper he had not observed before, he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses. If there was one thing Filch watched more closely than the students, it was the spirits, and this spirit had never made itself known before.

"How now!" said Filch, caustic and cold as ever. "What are you doing in here? And what do you want with me? I’ll have the Headmaster put you out so fast you won’t know what it was that cursed you."

The ghost seemed to roll his eyes a bit, and set his broom down against the mantelpiece.

"Who are you?" demanded Filch.

"Ask me who I were."

"Who were you then?" said Filch, raising his voice.

"In life, lad, I were yer predecessor, Mescat Arbuthnot."

Filch looked at him doubtfully, even as the ghost plopped down in a seat and placed his feet upon the fire grate with a sigh.

"You’re not believin’me, then," observed the ghost.

"I’m not," said Filch.

"What evidence would ye have o’ my reality, beyond tha o’ yer senses?"

"I don’t know," growled Filch, stepping closer.

"Why do ye doubt yer senses?"

"Because," said Filch, "a little thing effects them. Years of witnessing the worst mischief one can imagine makes them cheats. You may be a homework project, a blot of potion, a crumb of a curse, a fragment of a mis-transfigured potato. There’s more spell than spectre about you, whatever you are!"

Filch was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in what passed for his heart, by any means waggish just then. The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting the apparition’s attention, and keeping down his own voice so that he could listen for the student behind this; for the very idea that someone was getting away with something disturbed the very marrow of his bones.

To stand, staring at those fixed glazed eyes, in silence for a moment, would play, Filch felt, the very deuce with him. There was something cheeky, too, in the spectre’s being provided with an infernal atmosphere of its own. Filch could not feel it himself, but this was clearly the case; for though the ghost sat perfectly motionless, its hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the shakings of suppressed laughter.

"You see this dust rag?" said Filch, returning quickly to the charge, for the reason just assigned; and wishing, though it were only for a second, to divert the vision’s rude gaze from himself. He pulled the object from his trouser pocket and waved it in the ghosts’ direction.

"I do," replied the ghost.

"But you are not looking at it," grumbled Filch.

"But I am seein’ it," chuckled the ghost, "notiwithstandin’."

"Well!" returned Filch, "I have but to swallow this, and be for the rest of my days persecuted by a legion of goblins, all of my own creation! I’ll choke to death on the sweets it holds and be free of this! Humbug, I tell you! Humbug!"

At this the spirit began to laugh so mightily that the very chair it sat on shook with such sound that Filch held tight to the mantle, to save himself from falling in a swoon. But how much greater his anger, when the ghost took off the kerchief on its head and made to wipe at tears in its eyes. This was no magic trick, but a true ghost; and now it was one more horror that Filch had to contend with.

"Why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?" moaned Filch, even as Arbuthnot’s ghost managed to control himself and stood, refastening the kerchief and tightening the knots so that it held its place.

"Nay, no’ everything is about ye, Argus Filch. Some spirits simply comes ta walk abroad among their fellowmen, and travel far and near. And they witness many things in their wanderings, and wi’ luck," here the ghost chuckled again and looked at Filch, "their travels ca’ be turned to happiness."

Filch looked at the ghost with a dawning sense of true terror, even as he clasped his hands together and shook them at the spirit.

"Happiness? When you are confined to this place? Mescat!" he said, imploringly, "Old Mescat Arbuthnot tell me more. Speak comfort to me! Surely you are not confined here!"

"I hav’ none ta give ye," the ghost replied. "It comes from ot’er regions, Argus Filch, an’ is conveyed b’other ministers, t’other kinds of men. Nor can I tell ye wha I would. A verra little more time is all I’ll being permitted to yah. I’m goin’ back to me rest, back t’me quiet stay, and will no be lingerin’ here with the likes of you. In life me spirit roved abroad and kept firmer hand on the wee ones than ye have ever done." Here the ghost raised an eyebrow at Filch, but ignored his enraged glare; he then continued. "My weary journey here mindin’ the clever little brats is behind me! But as of late, I have felt a bit a pity for ye. Filch, you must heed me now; I’ve only a short while were I ca’ be bothered with this."

"I will," said Filch, now wondering at what this ghost had to say. "But don’t be hard on me! Headmaster said to rest, and I’ve a mind to do that!"

The phantom glanced at the ceiling, as if to look above him through the floors to Albus Dumbledore’s office, far from this place, and gave a little huff.

"He’s differn’ than what I ever had to work with, I can tell ye. But here now; how it’is that I appear before ya in a shape that ye can see, I’ll not be sayin’. I have sat invisible beside ye many and many a day."

It was not an agreeable idea. Filch shivered, and wiped the perspiration from his brow.

"That has proved ta be a bit o’penance," grumbled the ghost. "I am here t’night ta warn ya, that ye may yet have a chance t’prove ta these young things they are not bein’ as clever as they are thinkin’."

Filch tried to offer a dim smile. "Well, I can see how we would want to stick together on this issue, Arbuthnot!"

Arbuthnot’s ghost ignored him, and reached to pick up his discarded broom with a lazy hand.

"I have recently moved ta live beneath t’hearthstone in Gryffindor Tower," he began, then halted as he watched Filch give an involuntary flinch. The ghost gave a most unpleasant smile.

"Aye, I can imagin’ that y’would look like tha," he said coldly. "Quite the clever little ones, they are. And why I’m here is to be tellin’ ya that tonight y’will be disturbed by three pranks."

Filch’s countenance fell almost as low as were possible, his jowls sagging even more prominently.

"Is this the comfort you mentioned, Mescat?" he demanded, in a biter voice.

"Aye, ‘tis."

"I – I think I’d rather not," said Filch.

"Ha! They have quite the little scheme worked up, I’ll tell ye. Prove yerself, Filch. Without stopping them now, ye’ll have nay peace till th’leave. Expect the first one as t’clock tolls one."

"Can’t they just get it all over at once?" growled Filch.

"I ‘spect they regard this as a greater sport. Expect the second t’build upon the first, and then on. Look ta see me n’more, and look, fer yer own sake, ya remember’ what I’m tellin’ ya. Utter monsters they are, but as clever as ever a student who ran here."

The ghost moved to go, but paused before gliding through the doors and looked back at Filch.

"Now, I would be lyin’ if I dinna say tha I was secretly hoping the wee bastards get away with this. I’ve done what I felt I had ta. Good night, an’ a happy Christmas to ya, Argus Filch!"

As he said these words, the apparition walked backward from him; and at each step it took it grew fainter; so that when the spectre reached the door it simply vanished from view, rather than glide through the beams.

Filch followed to the door; desperate in his curiosity. The locks still held firm, the door still remained tightly shut. Though Filch could not charm it himself, he had Dumbledore’s assurance that the wards on his rooms were as strong as those on any adults’ at Hogwarts. Filch gave in to speculation; he flung open the locks and opened the door to stare down the corridor, still convinced in his mind that the visit had been nothing more than a shadow cast by some imp.

The corridor was dark and cold: there was nothing to be seen. Even Mr. Dickens, who came to stand next to him and peer himself into the emptiness beyond seemed to sense no malice, or no dark spirits, or spells. Filch hesitated only a moment longer, then bent down to raise his pet into his arms, and once more closed the solid door. Again he set the locks, again he hesitated a long while listening for further disturbance. And being, from all the emotion he had undergone, or the fatigues of the day, or his glimpse of the invisible world, or the odd conversation with the ghost, or the lateness of the hour, much in need of repose; he went straight to bed, without undressing, knowing he would need to be up soon, and fell asleep upon the instant. Mr. Dickens sat upon his pillow, tucked his paws up carefully under his chest; and stared into the darkness listening for a hint of any further disturbance.

//
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