The Sugar Quill
Author: Ozma (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Squib and the Death Eaters  Chapter: Chapter Two: The Scroll
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The Squib and The Death Eaters

The Squib and The Death Eaters

Chapter 2(of 3): The Scroll

a Harry Potter fan-fic

by Ozma

(takes place in Harry’s fith year.)

Everything in this story really belongs to J.K. Rowling

 

The gum-dissolving potion in the vial stung the tender skin under my clean, new fingernails. Ignoring the discomfort, I added the contents of the vial to my bucket.

Some miserable creature (either student or poltergeist) had left wads of gum stuck all over the undersides of nearly every banister on the main staircase! The gum might have been stuck there for the entire time I’d spent bedridden in the hospital wing.

The contents of the vial didn’t react to the cleaning potion as they ought to have done. Instead of the usual Mrs. Skower’s Magical Mess Remover (Extra Strength) frothing and foaming, the contents of my bucket appeared to be forming one huge soap bubble.

This bubble rose, drifting up and out of my bucket, a rather attractive variety of colors floating across its surface. It continued to grow alarmingly.

Cautiously, I stepped back.

The bubble expanded until it reached the size of one of Hagrid’s huge pumpkins. Then it began to quiver. Just as I flung my arms up to protect my face, it exploded.

There was a huge, wet SPLAT! A stench, not unlike rotting eggs, filled my office.

I held my nose and tried not to choke.

Mrs. Norris, who’d been standing directly behind me, had managed to stay completely dry. Her golden eyes looked me up and down, taking in my sodden condition. She flicked an ear at me, and began to wash one of her paws in a meaningful and deliberate way.

"I’ll take a bath later!" I said, testily. "There’s too much work to be done right now. And don’t look at me like that. This mischief was clearly set up while I was stuck in bed. You should have been keeping a better watch on things down here!"

Mrs. Norris gave me another long stare before resuming her wash. She had stayed up in the hospital wing with me. Poppy hadn’t had the heart to chase her away. When my condition had improved enough for me to start noticing things again, I’d been dismayed.

"If you’re spending all your time here then who’s watching my office?" I’d asked my cat.

Poppy had been quick to defend Mrs. Norris.

"Don’t be an ungrateful beast, Filch. The poor little creature was in such a dreadful state when you were missing. And then, when Professor Snape and Professor McGonagall brought you back half dead, she was beside herself!"

It wasn’t that I had lacked gratitude. I’d just been concerned over what sort of pranks might be cooked up during my absence.

My office had been vulnerable without someone I could trust to guard it. I’d tried to convince Mrs. Norris to reconsider her priorities, but she’d continued to watch over me as if she was afraid to let me out of her sight again.

Speaking of pranks, this was clearly a Welcome-Back- So-Glad-You’re- Feeling -Fit-Again "gift" from somebody. As I stood there, dripping, I decided that my galleons were on either Fred and George Weasley, or...

"Oi! Filch! Fiiiiiiilch! Did you like your surprise? Is your office all nicey-nice and clean now?"

Peeves.

From the sound of things, the poltergeist had been waiting somewhere not too far away from my office, listening for the sound of the SPLAT. Now he was coming in closer, to have a nice gloat.

Less than an hour out of the hospital wing and my life was already getting back to what I would consider "normal."

I looked over at my desk, hoping that nothing there had been ruined by the exploding bubble. There was only one piece of parchment on the desk and it looked unscathed. I breathed a sigh of relief.

That parchment had been a gift from Professor Flitwick. He’d charmed the parchment to instantly record the name of any student who had been put down for detention. I would have hated to see it ruined.

The Detention Parchment currently held three names. Three students who had been disrespectful in Charms class. I read the names and my heart turned to ice. Suddenly I felt anything but "normal."

I began to tremble uncontrollably. Memories I really couldn’t keep banished for long overwhelmed me.

Professor Snape had told Lucius Malfoy that he was going to use a Memory Charm on me. But that had been a lie to placate the other man, and to maintain the Professor’s dangerous role as a spy among the Death Eaters.

I remembered everything all too clearly; a bitterly cold night, three weeks ago, in the dungeon of a ruined tower. I remembered the faces, the voices, and the sharp knives and the pain.

Especially the pain.

The blood drained out of my face as I clutched the edge of my desk to keep from falling. I’d broken out in a cold sweat. My heart was beating too hard and I couldn’t breathe properly. I would not let myself be sick. I would not let myself be sick. I would not let...

Peeves chose that moment to come floating through my open office door. His already wide mouth was even wider than usual, with a self-satisfied smile.

Held captive by the dreadful memories, I stared at the poltergeist almost without recognition.

My battle with Peeves has been a very long one. Between myself and the poltergeist there has never been any quarter asked and no quarter has ever been given.

I suppose that I must have really looked like death warmed over. Even so, Peeves’ reaction to the state he found me in was unexpected. His sharp little face twisted with anger and fear, an expression I’d never earned from him before.

"Stupid old Filch!" he wailed as I clung to my desk and struggled to breathe.

He hurled himself like a bludger around my office and, in his wake, some of the drawers in my file cabinets burst open and papers scattered everywhere.

"Go ahead and croak!" Peeves shrieked. "I won’t even care! Wretched, smelly Filch!"

Mrs. Norris, fur puffed out all around her like a dusty halo, hissed at him. Then she leaped off the desk, straight at the poltergeist.

Peeves retreated back into the corridor.

"It wasn’t me..." he cried at her. "I didn’t do it! It was the boys who messed with old Filch’s things! The twins, they did it!"

Highly agitated, he flew away down the corridor. I could hear things falling and crashing as he flew past.

"Well..." I said weakly to Mrs. Norris. "What’s gotten into him?"

I realized that I’d somehow ended up sitting on the floor with papers fluttering down all around me.

"What a mess..." I whispered, resting my head on my knees.

Mrs. Norris pushed her little head anxiously against my hand.

"Don’t fuss at me, my sweet... I’m fine."

After some time, when I was able to move again, I started mechanically gathering papers. Keeping busy, that was the ticket. I wanted to feel angry at Peeves because of the mess, but I just felt dazed and wobbly.

"Argus! What’s happened in here?"

The sudden sound of someone else in the room made me jump with fright.

"Headmaster!" I gasped. "You startled me..."

Dumbledore’s blue eyes looked at me with concern from behind his spectacles.

"So I see. Forgive me. I went to see you in the hospital wing. Poppy told me that she’d released you. On the condition that you would restrict yourself to light duties, only." He frowned.

"I-I’m just tidying up my office a bit..." I said, faintly. "It was Peeves. He..."

"Yes, I saw Peeves when he passed me in the corridor," Dumbledore murmured. "He looked as if he’d had a bit of a scare himself. He was unusually quiet while you were recovering, you know."

He sighed. "Argus, I can see that you are still not well. You shouldn’t be up and around yet. I am bringing you back to the hospital wing."

"My work..." I protested.

"Will keep until you are strong enough to do it."

"Poppy said that I could get up."

"She has been reconsidering that decision. I had the distinct impression that you bullied and badgered her mercilessly to let you up out of bed this morning."

He was still stern, but there was a touch of humor in his voice. "And then, when that had no effect, you resorted to shameless begging until she took pity on you."

Poppy had told on me! Embarrassed, I stared intently at the pile of papers in my hand. It was true that I didn’t feel particularly strong or well yet. But staying in bed had grown unbearable. I needed to stay busy, to keep the memories away.

"Madam Pomfrey is aware that you were unable to make it from the hospital wing all the way down here to your office without needing to rest quite a number of times," Dumbledore continued.

How did she know...? It must have been the portraits! Poppy had probably alerted all of them to watch me for signs of lingering infirmity. I’d felt eyes all over me as I’d walked through the corridors. Wretched things. After I’d always taken such good care of them too!

"I promised to fetch you for her and bring you back upstairs. I do hope you’re going to come along quietly?" Dumbledore’s tone was deceptively mild.

"I can’t leave this mess..." I said.

Dumbledore picked his way carefully through all the papers scattered on the floor to look at my desk blotter. He read the three names on the Detention Parchment. I looked up to find him studying me with concern.

I realized that I was still shaking.

"Very well... we shall clean up first." His crooked nose wrinkled. "But the atmosphere in here is a bit ...pungent. Not particularly good for your health." Wandless, he made a tiny gesture with his right hand.

"Floreo," he said.

The wave of power that accompanied even the smallest use of his magic washed over me. Suddenly my office smelled as sweet as a rose garden.

I was about to thank him when he got down on his knees and began to help me gather up papers.

"Headmaster," I said, scandalized, "get up off the floor! You must have more important things to do..."

"I am doing something important. I am preventing my caretaker from overworking himself until he collapses. And then I am going to make sure that he goes back to bed where he belongs."

"Will you put a Protective Charm on my office door to keep pranksters out?" I asked him, grumpily. "A suitably nasty one?"

"One that I consider appropriate, yes."

I sighed. It would have to do.

" Hmmm." Dumbledore said, examining the papers he’d collected. "Did you have these organized alphabetically, or by year?"

"By year, and then alphabetically."

"All right. I’ll take care of this lot. You sit and rest."

I stared at Dumbledore in shock, but Mrs. Norris was regarding him with approval. She jumped into my lap and began to purr. Automatically, I began to pet her.

"You could use a spell..." I said. "This will take you too long without one."

"No, it will not, provided that you keep resting until I’ve finished." He was using his "Headmaster" voice on me.

Obediently I sat still.

"Rather a lot of pages marked ‘Weasley,’ aren’t there..." Dumbledore murmured.

"There’s rather a lot of Weasleys. Mostly it’s Fred and George. They have their own drawer. Other Weasleys can be filed with the rest of the school, under "W," according to year. You won’t find any `Weasley’ papers marked `Percy,’ though. I never had the heart to punish him. Not only did he have a proper respect for rules, he has to live with the twins. Even I could never think of a punishment worse than that."

Dumbledore’s bushy eyebrows rose. "That’s rather harsh, Argus."

"Percy agreed with you, surprisingly enough," I admitted. "I gave him my opinion on the matter, once. He was terribly affronted. `They’re my brothers!’ he said. He doesn’t deserve the twins and they certainly don’t deserve him."

I was aware that I was practically babbling. But if the Headmaster insisted that I should sit still, then I felt I had to keep talking. Stillness was unbearable.

Dumbledore smiled, as if he didn’t mind my chatter. Then, as he picked up a new sheet of paper, his face changed. His eyes filled with sorrow.

I saw the student’s name on the paper he held, and flinched.

Cedric Diggory.

"He was punished just the one time," I said, miserably. "It was during his first Quidditch season on the Hufflepuff team. It had been raining. They all came in from practice dripping mud everywhere. I said all the things that I usually say. That I’d had enough, and I was tired and already had far too much work to do, and they had no respect..."

I winced. "You know how I get."

There was no tactful way to respond to that, and the Headmaster politely kept silent.

"And Cedric... he looked at me, stricken! Even before I gave them all detention."

I sighed. "Headmaster, he actually looked sorry for what they’d done. No one ever takes what I say to heart, but he did. For several years I hardly thought about that incident at all... but now I can close my eyes and see that look on his face.

"He made certain that the Hufflepuff team never left me a mess again," I continued softly. "For all the rest of his life."

"I have never regretted anything I’ve said to a student before." My voice cracked. "I’ve never regretted punishing one either. But now I wish that I could tell him that it was only a bit of mud. No harm done."

We were both silent for a while after that. Dumbledore’s expression was bittersweet, as if he was glad for another memory of Cedric.

"Please," I asked him, "you won’t tell anyone I said that, will you?"

"When necessary, I can keep secrets like a house elf, Argus," Dumbledore said quietly.

"Thank you," I murmured.

I’d started to tremble again.

Cedric Diggory had been killed by Death Eaters, on the orders of He Who Must Not Be Named. Not because he’d done anything to harm or anger them. The Death Eaters hadn’t cared about who Cedric was. Cedric had been nothing to them. He’d simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mrs. Norris mewed at me.

I realized that instead of petting her, I was rubbing at the ugly welts on my wrists; souvenirs of a pair of rusty, cursed chains. The Death Eaters hadn’t killed me like they’d killed that poor boy, but they hadn’t spared my life out of kindness, either.

The papers scattered on the floor had all been sorted into neat stacks. Dumbledore stood up to put each stack in the correct file drawer. After he’d done that, he crossed to my desk and picked the Detention Parchment up.

I watched him study the names on it.

Draco Malfoy

Vincent Crabbe

Gregory Goyle

Three boys who were all so very like their fathers.

"Headmaster," I whispered, "I know we’ve never seen eye to eye on the subject of punishment. But these three Death Eaters’ spawn surely deserve to be locked in chains and hung up by their ankles."

"Not for the evil things that their fathers have done, Argus." Dumbledore’s voice was very gentle. "You will not be handling their detention, at any rate. Severus has asked to deal with them himself. And I have agreed."

"He’ll be too easy on them!" The cry wrenched itself out of me before I could stop it.

Dumbledore’s voice was sad. "Severus only favors the Slytherin students in front of the other houses. In private, among his own, he can be quite ...harsh. The Slytherins expect that from him. They do not respect weakness."

If possible, my tremors became even worse. I knew how "harsh" Snape could be.

"Many of the students in Slytherin house require careful handling. Severus is the one who can do that best. They are still children, undecided between the Dark and the Light. Many of them face tests and trials unknown among the members of the other houses. Severus knows that difficult path all too well."

"Is that what you were coming to tell me, Headmaster?" I asked bitterly. "That these three ...children would not be mine to punish?"

Mrs. Norris lay still under my nervous hands. I could feel her gentle breath and her small heart beating. Slowly, I was able to get my trembling under control.

"No, Argus. As I said, I’d expected to find you still in the hospital wing. I was actually coming to see you there for quite a different reason."

He took a deep breath. "I promised Severus that I would discuss something with you once you were feeling a little better. It is a difficult matter..." he warned me, "involving your recent ordeal."

The blue eyes behind the half-moon glasses studied me intently. I felt as though he could see right through me.

"It’s all right, Headmaster..." I whispered. "I’m listening."

"Lucius Malfoy had a scroll in his possession. Severus has it now. It is a very nasty piece of Dark Magic, of a type that Severus has not seen before. Most of the scroll is indecipherable. A potion can be used to make it readable. The potion must contain..."

"Squib bits." I said, before he could continue. "Hair... nails...skin." I shivered again. "I heard them discussing it, that night."

Dumbledore looked grim. "I told Severus that the scroll should destroyed. But he feels that we should try to read it first. Severus is concerned that the scroll may not be only one of its kind. We have been able to translate just enough of it to learn that the danger it represents could be very great. Perhaps this scroll, or another like it, might reveal a way to break through many of the protective spells around Hogwarts Castle."

I looked at him, my eyes full of fear.

"I had to admit that Severus had a valid point." Dumbledore said. His voice had grown very gentle again. "Argus, I do not like to ask you this, after what you have been through. But a single strand of your hair and a small sliver from one of your fingernails is all that would be required."

I flinched. "Will he...? Is Professor Snape going t-to...?"

"Severus has agreed that it would be best if you were to cut your own hair and nails for him."

"Gracious of him," I muttered.

Once Severus Snape had been one of the few people I truly trusted. Now, even though I knew he’d risked his life to save mine, I could hardly bear to be in the same room with him. It wasn’t something I was terribly proud of, but it was true all the same.

I snorted with disgust. Snips and slivers had been all that the Death Eaters had really needed from me. All that blood and pain for nothing... except, possibly for their amusement. I felt ill.

"I told him that he would have to agree to abide by your decision. If you refused, then your word would be final," Dumbledore continued.

There was a long pause. "He’s agreed to destroy the thing after you and he have read it?" I whispered. I could still remember Lucius Malfoy’s mocking voice. "If you fail," he’d said to Professor Snape, "then I will not stand between you and Lord Voldemort’s displeasure."

"If he destroys that scroll, they’ll kill him," I said. "Did he tell you that?"

Dumbledore suddenly looked closer to his age than I’d ever seen him look.

"Severus intends to make the scroll’s destruction look like an accident. The activating spells are quite tricky, even for someone with his talent and skill. I have asked for his assessment of the risks involved. He is certain that he will be punished. But he does not think he will be killed."

I felt even more ill.

Snape was doomed to suffer whether I helped him or not. Helping him seemed the only decent thing to do. As long as he wasn’t going to come near me with anything sharp. He was really asking for very little.

"Tell him I agree." My voice was so faint I could barely even hear myself. "Does he need those things now? I have a small pair of scissors and a pair of nail clippers in my desk drawer. Would you get them for me, please?"

Dumbledore did as I asked. I managed to keep my hands steady. It took me only a moment to cut off a piece of new fingernail and a strand of my hair.

I handed them over carefully, watching as he sealed them inside a small glass vial he conjured up.

"Thank you, Argus," he said, very gravely.

******

Taking Mrs. Norris (who wouldn’t have let me leave her, anyhow) I went back to the hospital wing without making a fuss.

By the time that Poppy finally considered me fit enough to leave for good, the school was mostly empty of students because of the Christmas holiday. At last I could finally get some real cleaning done! The fact that there wouldn’t be a lot of annoying brats underfoot made things even better.

It was a relief to finally be back in my own rooms, and sleeping in my own bed. Most of the students would probably be shocked to learn that Mrs. Norris and I do not actually live in my little dungeon office. We do not sleep among the file cabinets, and we do not spend all of our waking hours plotting to make the students’ lives miserable.

(All right, we do spend some time plotting against the students; everyone needs a bit of fun. I can’t spend all my time cleaning, can I?)

The rooms that Mrs. Norris and I call home are small, but quite pleasant. They’re located on a lower floor of the castle.

We have a window with a view of the lake. Mrs. Norris isn’t really the sort of cat who likes to sun herself in front of windows, but she gives in to the temptation every now and then.

In the middle of my first night back in my own bed, I woke up abruptly.

Every nerve in my body was tingling. Something, somewhere, was calling me. But it was inside me too. I could feel that something whispering in my ears, gliding up and down my spine, rushing through my veins along with my blood.

I knew I should be able to recognize what I was feeling. It was familiar. Almost like...

Magic!

All my life, I have been able to feel everyone else’s magic. Spells have danced across my skin, blown through my hair, and made my nose itch. Though I can feel magic, smell magic, and practically taste it, I have never been able to do a single spell on my own.

But this magic had its roots somewhere deep inside me. A part of me that had been crippled and silent all my life was suddenly awake, and singing! This magic was all mine!

And yet, someone else was using it.

I knew exactly who that someone was. Black eyes in a pale face, framed by hair darker than midnight! I could almost see him, down there in his dungeon, bent over a scroll. (Unlike me, he actually does live down in the dungeons.)

Severus Snape!

I knew he’d told Dumbledore that he was trying to read the scroll only to understand its dangers. But I also remembered him telling Malfoy that he would wait until I was healed, so he could "experiment" with me.

I was furious. What was he playing at? I would not let him steal my magic!

Hardly aware of what I was doing, I got out of bed.

Clad only in my long, grey nightshirt, not even bothering with my slippers, I went out of the rooms that Mrs. Norris and I share. I stalked barefoot through the cold, dark castle corridors.

I had no lamp, but I needed none. Below me, in the dungeons of Hogwarts, my magic waited! It drew me like a moth to a flame.

Mrs. Norris was padding softly after me. I heard a small, worried mew.

"It’s MINE, my sweet. He doesn’t need it!" I hissed.

I had hardly seen Snape since the night he and Professor McGonagall had rescued me from the Death Eaters. I’d been avoiding him. He’d been avoiding me too. I hadn’t known if he was doing it out of respect for my feelings, or for some reasons of his own. Now I knew.

Moving through the Castle as effortlessly as a ghost, and just as unaffected by the cold, I was soon down in the dungeons, standing in front of the door to Snape’s rooms.

A strong protective ward on his door stopped me in my tracks.

No! It wasn’t fair! He couldn’t keep me out here! He couldn’t keep me away from what was rightfully mine! My hands curled into fists.

Proper wizards have wands. I’ve never had one. They just don’t respond to me. But powerful wizards like the Headmaster can do wandless magic. I’ve seen (and felt) Dumbledore do spells without a wand any number of times.

For the first time in my life I could feel power crackling through my body. I thought I could focus it like the Headmaster did. I tried to remember the spell that Professor McGonagall had used to break the dungeon wall the night she had helped Snape free me from the Death Eaters.

"Destruo!" I shouted.

I felt the power flowing outward, through me.

Snape’s wards were very strong. They might have held, but for the fact that I could feel my magic, the part of it that was in there with him, attacking his door from the other side.

He had not guarded against an attack from within.

The results were quite satisfying. Snape’s door blew open with a mighty crash.

Unfortunately, it smashed right off its hinges, falling towards me and Mrs. Norris. I stayed in front of her, frantically reviewing all the spells I’d ever heard.

"Pulveris!" I cried, and the pieces of the door crumbled into a cloud of dust.

It made a horrid mess. I didn’t care.

Snape had been sitting, hunched over a thickly scrolled up piece of parchment. Near him, a small cauldron was simmering. He stared at me. His black eyes were fathomless.

"Filch...?" he said, sounding shocked.

" Good evening, Professor!" I hissed. "Or should I call you thief? Magic Stealer? Give me what’s MINE!"

 

END OF CHAPTER TWO

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