The Sugar Quill
Author: Ozma (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Squib Doors  Chapter: Chapter Two: Detention
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Squib Doors

Squib Doors

a Harry Potter fan-fic

by Ozma

a sequel to "The Squib and the Death Eaters"

Chapter 2 of 4: Detention

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

 

 

Detentions are supposed to make the students nervous. Not me. I live for detentions. Ask anyone at Hogwarts. Theyíll tell you about the horrid old Squib caretaker who exists simply to make the studentsí lives a misery.

It could not be nerves that were making me shake inside as I stared at the pair of young Gryffindors whoíd been sent to me for a detention. It had to be anticipation. Surely, that was it.

I regarded the serious, round face of the fifth year boy and the equally serious face of the red-haired, freckled fourth year girl and tried not to tremble visibly.

It was nerves. I admitted it to myself. I felt awkward, almost frightened.

Nearly two months had gone by since Iíd last had students for a detention. In that time Iíd been kidnapped and tortured by Death Eaters and rescued by Professors Snape and McGonagall.

My recovery had been slow. Some things were still not back to normal. My interactions with the students, for example.

Nothing truly major had changed. The students still despised me. I didnít mind since, in most cases, the feeling is mutual. The students still avoided me. I didnít mind that either. I could never get my work finished if I had the brats always underfoot.

(Look at Hagrid; children hanging about his hut at all hours. Itís a wonder he can get anything done!)

But, since Iíd been injured, I had noticed a different quality in the way the students avoided me. Some eyes were averted out of pity. Others seemed afraid of me, not because I am a grumpy and vindictive old man, but because the sight of me reminded them of the Dark things currently moving through the Wizarding world, despite all the Ministryís words of reassurance to the contrary. Terrifying things that could strike without warning, leaving broken bodies in their wake.

I had spent nearly a month in the hospital wing. Poppy had put curtains around my bed so that the students wouldnít gawk. It had been for their benefit as well as mine. I hadnít needed a mirror to let me know what a dreadful mess I was. Frightening children was usually something that I did not mind doing, but I hadnít wanted to do it that way.

My bed had been at the back of the ward, where the noise from the rest of the hospital wing was less likely to disturb me. But Iíd had nightmares, sometimes during the day as well. It was inevitable that some of the students had heard my cries. It was also inevitable that some of them had caught glimpses of me as Poppy had tended my wounds.

The details of what had happened to me had been left unclear. I was not supposed to remember anything about the attack, or my attackers. But, as always, the Castle was awash with rumors. And some of the rumors came close to the truth. Many of the students seemed to know that Iíd been left broken and nearly dead, by the Dark.

The two children now facing me had each suffered their own terrible encounters with the Dark.

Neville Longbottomís parents had been attacked and tortured by Death Eaters when he was only an infant. His Auror father and his gentle mother had been driven insane by repeated applications of the Cruciatus Curse.

Ginny Weasley had found a diary during her first year at the Castle. A fifty-year-old evil relic, belonging to the boy who would one day become the Dark Lord. Sheíd been entrapped, used against her will and nearly killed.

Neville and Ginny were both eyeing me with haunted expressions. Fellow survivors, they seemed to know that I would spend the rest of my life struggling against the aftereffects of what had been done to me. The evidence of their own, private battles seemed vivid in their young faces.

Or perhaps they were just two children who would simply rather be anywhere else. They could merely be nervous about the work they would be asked to do for me. I was being a foolish old man.

My voice still wouldnít work when I tried to speak to them.

Mrs. Norris came to my rescue. Leaping lightly down from my desk, she padded over to Ginny Weasley. Then, to my shock and amazement, she rubbed against the girlís ankles and purred.

"Mrs. Norris?" I exclaimed, finally managing to talk, even if the words came out in an indignant squeak.

"Hello, Mrs. Norris," Ginny said, at the same moment. She stroked my cat once, very lightly. Wisely, she didnít make a second attempt. Mrs. Norris isnít one to permit undue familiarity, least of all from students.

Neville and I looked at Ginny with astonishment.

"How often has she let you do that?" I demanded. To my knowledge, my cat had never permitted herself to be touched by a student before.

In the past there have been students who have attempted to get on my good side by making up to Mrs. Norris. She can see through that type even faster than I can. Those foolhardy students had been lucky to escape with any of their skin left intact.

"That was the first time sheís ever let me pet her," Ginny admitted. "But sheís purred at me before."

She blushed, making her face nearly as red as her hair. "Iíve talked to her sometimes. When sheís in the hall by herself. After what happened during my first year ...the Basilisk.... well, I just wanted to apologize to her. And since then sheís never seemed to mind if I speak to her. As long as she isnít too busy."

"The only thing sheís been busy at lately is getting underfoot!" I grumbled, giving my cat a dirty look.

I continued, gruffly. "And, as for what happened with the Chamber... Merlinís Beard, child! Everyone knows that none of it was your fault! Even Mrs. Norris and I know that."

I hoped that Ginny Weasley really knew, deep down, that it wasnít her fault. I hoped that people who loved her told her every time she needed to hear the words. I wanted to reassure her further, but I knew that my aptitude for kindness is about the same as my aptitude for magic.

But Ginny surprised me with a smile. A genuine one. I could see the tension beginning to leave her.

Neville had remained quiet, observing Ginny and me, but he also seemed less tense.

Well, good for them. Silly children. I was still as tense as a bowstring. My "conversations" with students usually consisted of me scolding and complaining, with very little participation needed from the brats involved. This was a new and uncomfortable experience for me.

"Lets get on with it, shall we? Canít hang about all night. Weíve got work to do..." Stiffly, I got up from my desk. I gave Ginny a tray bearing several large bottles of cleaning solution, and handed Neville a sack filled with rags. Picking up my toolbox, I lit a lantern and led the way out of my office.

As I stepped into the corridor I nearly fell over my own feet in order to avoid treading on a toad.

"Trevor!" Neville darted past me, nearly knocking me over as I was still off balance. "I thought Iíd left you back on my bed!"

The boy blushed as he looked up at me guiltily. "Sorry, Mr. Filch..." he said, putting Trevor in his pocket.

Usually I would have spent the next several minutes yelling about careless children who couldnít keep track of their pets. But I simply didnít have the energy. It takes a great deal out of me to shout at Neville.

I know, because Iíve it done so many times. Not as often as Professor Snape has done, but close. Without meaning to be, Neville is one of the most infuriating students at Hogwarts.

Neville is clumsy and unlucky (which was why Iíd given all the breakable bottles to Ginny to carry) but he is also earnest and brave and unfailingly good natured. Not to mention self-effacing. Iíve even heard him say that heís "almost a Squib".

I am glad that he doesnít know Iíve overheard him. The foolish boy might want to fall through the floor with embarrassment. Knowing him as I do, itís safe to say that he might actually, literally, fall through the floor. And then who would have to mend the hole? Me, thatís who.

You canít be "almost" a Squib. You either are, or you arenít. Believe me, I know. It really makes me want to give him a good, hard shake!

Neville Longbottom is, most definitely, a wizard. An almost unbelievably inept one sometimes, but a wizard. I could have told him that his magic was as strong as anyoneís (and certainly much stronger than mine!) but I knew the boy would never believe me. Thatís what infuriates me about him, more than anything else.

Holding the lantern, I led the way through the labyrinth of dungeon corridors. Our destination was several long passages away, but the walk took even longer than it should have because Trevor managed to get away from Neville twice.

The second time Mrs. Norris caught the toad before Neville managed to, and I had to snatch him away from her. This put my cat in a miserable temper.

"You canít eat that creature!" I scolded Mrs. Norris, while Neville and Ginny checked Trevor over to make sure that he was uninjured. "Not even the boy knows where itís been!"

By the time we reached the gloomy dead-end passage with the small storeroom Iíd been heading for, I was in a foul temper myself. In other words, I felt perfectly normal. What a relief.

"Hardly one of the show-places of the Castle, is it?" I growled, when I saw the nervous looks on their faces. "Well, I come down here fairly often, and nothingís ever gotten me. The only thing weíll find down here is some hard work."

"Has Professor McGonagall told you anything about the job weíll be doing?" I added harshly.

Both children shook their heads.

"Itís going to be painstaking, and tedious!" I warned them, warming to my subject. "Itíll strain your eyes and get your hands dirty!"

I unlocked the door to a small, dingy storeroom with a dirt floor, crowded with crates and boxes and unidentifiable bits of lumber. An earthy, musty smell rose around us.

Neville and Ginny watched wide-eyed, as I set the lamp on the floor beside my tools and began wrestling a large, heavy crate out into the passage.

"Youíll probably get your fair share of splinters too, I should imagine..." I continued, wiping sweat from my face. "Not to mention smashing your fingers when we start hammering..."

"Mr. Filch?" Ginny interrupted me. "Professor McGonagall said that we were to help you. Please, why donít you let us get everything out? Tell us what we need. We can use a levitation charm."

"I am perfectly capable of moving a few crates and boxes!" I growled at her.

I knew that sheíd be all right with the levitation charm, but I was worried that poor Longbottom would drop something large and heavy on top of me. Accidentally, but that wouldnít make it any less painful. Iíd spent enough time in the hospital wing lately, thank you very much.

To my surprise, both children came forward to help me as I started moving the next crate. Denied the use of their magic, they readily put their backs into the job instead.

With the three of us lifting, it wasnít that heavy. Before long there were three crates out in the passage, and I was prying them open.

Besides a plentiful amount of cobwebs, dust and spiders, these crates contained empty paintings. Not blank canvases, just paintings vacated by their inhabitants. The frames were broken, the canvases were dingy, a few of them were torn, and the colors muted with grime.

"Where have the people in them gone?" Neville asked, sneezing. Trevor had hopped out of his pocket again, but the toad was staying nearby, apparently stalking the many scuttling spiders.

"Theyíre all over the Castle. Staying in other paintings, mostly, with friends..." I said. I paused to give Mrs. Norris an angry look. She appeared to be weighing the odds of making another successful go at catching Trevor.

"Donít even think it!" I said to her. "If you do, weíll never get any work done!"

Wide-eyed, Neville retrieved the toad. Trevor had a mouthful of spiders, and went willingly back into the boyís pocket.

"I was supposed to clean these up ages ago," I said. "But, with one thing and another..." my voice trailed off in embarrassment.

"Oh! This oneís lovely..." Ginny was examining a painting of a meadow filled with wildflowers. "Who lives in it?"

"Er... a maiden and a unicorn, I believe. The unicorn has been staying in a forest in one of the paintings near the prefectsí bath entrance. The wretched creature gives me dark looks whenever I walk by. I donít know where the maiden has gotten herself to."

"Iíll start with this one," Ginny said.

Neville selected a painting of a table, with a banquet spread out on it, surrounded by empty chairs.

"You must be getting plenty of dark looks from this lot," he said, sympathetically. "They ought to be terribly hungry by now..."

Before long I had them both set up with rags, bottles of cleaning solution and careful instructions.

"Only a dab of the potion is needed to clean off the dust and restore the brightness of the colors. Too much might damage the paint. And, for best results, try to move in the same direction as the brushstrokes!"

Ginny and Neville nodded and went to work willingly enough.

When I saw that theyíd gotten the hang of it, I turned my attention to fixing loose frames and mending rips in canvas.

I was squinting over my work, when I noticed a tingle of magic whispering against my skin. The light seemed to have improved. I looked up to see my lantern levitating beside me.

Globes of glowing light were also illuminating the area near Neville and Ginny.

"Miss Weasley! You are not supposed to use magic during a detention!" I growled.

"Iím not using magic to do the work," she said earnestly. "Just to make things a bit easier for all of us. You were straining your eyes. You needed more light, but we need the light too. This seemed the best solution."

I had to admit, the child had a point.

"I like having the extra light..." Neville admitted shyly. "Brightens the place up a bit."

He had a point too.

Both of them were wise enough not to press me any further. At least not with words. But there were looks of entreaty on their grubby faces. They were working hard, diligent and uncomplaining enough to impress even Helga Hufflepuff. These were good children, as Minerva had told me.

I did not know that those globes of light and the levitation charm on my lantern were the first spells used in this little dead-end passage, in front of the small storeroom with the dirt floor, in a dragonís age. I had absolutely no idea what I was setting in motion. I was thinking "What harm will it do?"

Merlin help me, I was trying to be kind.

"All right, keep the lights. And keep the lantern up for me too, if itís not a strain for you," I muttered.

I consider everything that happened afterwards to be all my fault.

*******

Professor Snape has often said that Neville Longbottom is too dangerous to be allowed to use a cauldron. Professor Snape should consider himself lucky that heís never been near Neville when the boy is using a hammer.

(Though Severus certainly would have known better than to offer to hold nails in place for Neville while the boy hammered...)

"OW!!" I shrieked, clutching my right hand.

Mrs. Norris, who had been in a snit ever since Iíd refused to let her eat Nevilleís toad, gave me a smug look that told me I deserved what Iíd gotten.

"Oh! Mr. Filch! Iím sorry!" Poor Neville looked crushed. Not half as crushed as my poor fingers.

A good and patient old man would have reassured the boy with some kind words. But Neville was stuck with me, which is Nevilleís usual sort of luck. So the words that he heard werenít kind at all, as well as being not suitable for childrenís ears.

"I didnít mean to hurt you!" the boy said, miserably. "Here... let me..."

His wand was out, and moving before I could say anything coherent. He took my injured hand in his. There was a tiny flash of light. I waited for my hand to turn into a flipper or a toadstool, but instead something cool and soothing seemed to wrap itself around my throbbing fingers.

It was a perfect little cooling charm, very neatly done. Not bad, for a boy who considers himself "almost a Squib."

"There," Neville said. "Does that feel better?" He looked at me, anxiously.

"No magic! Youíre supposed to be having a detention!!!" I snarled, yanking my hand back to cradle it against my body.

"Iím really sorry, Mr. Filch!" he repeated. "I should have been more careful!"

Nevilleís face was white. He was looking at me as if heíd done something far worse than accidentally whack my fingers with a hammer.

He continued to sustain the cooling charm around my hand.

Ginny Weasley had just tapped in a final finishing nail. She set the newly repaired frame against a stack of other finished ones and came over to us.

"How bad is it? May I see?" she asked me, gently.

I glowered at their decidedly grubby, concerned faces, and repressed a weary sigh.

Brats I can handle, any day of the week. The rude ones, the defiant ones, the sly ones. Children who look down their magical little noses at me, who treat me as if I am nothing more than the dirt under their feet. Anything those little wretches can give me, I can take and give right back again!

But what, in sweet Circeís name, am I to do with the other sort? The good ones...

"Oh! Mr. Filch... Iím sorry! We didnít realize we were tracking in all this mud..."

"You should have used those sharp eyes of yours then, eh, Diggory? Thatís what Seekers are supposed to do, isnít it? Of all the inconsiderate..."

"Iím really sorry, Mr. Filch..."

So am I, Cedric. So am I.

"Neville," I said quietly. "It was an accident. You meant no harm."

I held out my damaged hand to show Ginny, gingerly flexing my fingers. My right index finger was bruised blue and blood had welled up under the nail, but the boyís cooling charm had eased the pain.

"Donít fret," I said gruffly, "Iíve had worse."

Neville winced. "I know."

It was the first time that any student had said anything on the subject to me. I didnít know what to say in reply.

"I was in the hospital wing back in December," Neville went on. "Forgot to step over a trick stair and sprained my knee..."

"Oh," I said.

"You look much better now," Neville told me.

"You really do..." Ginny said, earnestly. "I caught a cold," she explained, "just before Christmas. I went to the hospital wing so Madam Pomfrey could give me some Pepperup potion."

I looked at them, seeing only kindness and sympathy in their young, dirty faces. I still didnít know what to say.

For a while there was only silence.

"You donít have to keep on doing that, if itís too much bother." I nodded to Neville, indicating the cooling charm he was still keeping around my fingers.

"Itís all right, Mr. Filch."

Neville kept the cooling charm going, while Ginny finished fixing the last of the broken frames. He continued to hold it, while he and Ginny packed up my tools, the cleaning potion, and their dirty rags. He finally stopped when I told him to, so I could pack the refurbished paintings back up in their crates to bring back to my office.

With Nevilleís cooling charm added to the lights that Ginny had already conjured, and the levitating spell sheíd used on my lantern, this little dead-end corridor now seemed awash with magic.

The earthy, musty smell from the storeroom with the dirt floor seemed to have gotten stronger. More pungent. And there seemed to be another odor underneath. Almost like something had died.

I wasnít the only one whoíd noticed. Ginnyís freckled nose was wrinkled. Neville held his nose pinched shut as he watched me packing up the crates. Mrs. Norris paced around all of us, looking uneasy, ears and whiskers twitching.

"Ugh!" Neville said. "Whatís that?"

"The smellís coming from the storeroom," Ginny said, also pinching her nose. "But why didnít we notice it before? That doesnít make sense..."

Waving her wand, she motioned one of her floating lights over to the open door leading to the smelly storeroom.

Mrs. Norris was suddenly between Ginny and the storeroom door. The girl had to stop to avoid stepping on her. But Ginnyís floating light, unhindered by Mrs. Norris, continued on its way into the dark, little room.

The globe of light flickered and began to fade. Just before it went out, it seemed as if something long and sinuous had moved in the dark.

Mrs. Norris hissed loudly, and lashed her tail.

"D-did you mean for it to go out?" Neville asked Ginny, nervously.

Ginny shook her head. " I think that something in there just ate my light!"

I had come over to stand between the children.

The passage seemed much gloomier than before, with only the glow of my oil lantern and Ginnyís remaining floating light to illuminate the place.

"You said that there was nothing down here!" Neville reminded me.

"Iíve never seen or smelled anything remotely like that down here before!" I said.

"We could do with a bit more light," Neville murmured. He waved his wand, murmuring "Lumos."

The tip of his wand glowed brightly, lighting up the area just inside the storeroom. The children, Mrs. Norris and I all saw the dirt floor rippling as if something large, with many tendrils were moving, just under the surface.

Suddenly, what looked like a long, thin vine shot up from the storeroom floor. Clods of hard-packed dirt flew. The stench of decay became even stronger. The vine moved horribly fast, snaking out towards Neville.

"GET BACK!" I shouted, darting forward to slam the storeroom door closed.

The door was made of heavy wood. We heard the vine-thing strike it with a thud. The door held. But we could hear a rustling, pattering sound from within the room. As if the vine were snaking out along the inside of the door, probing for weak spots.

"What is that thing?" Neville gasped. "Is it a Bundimun? Arenít they supposed to smell terrible?"

"Bundimuns infest hovels that are never cleaned! They feed on filth!" I snarled, highly affronted. "Moldering messes! Dung!! Slime!!! Perhaps I may have let the Castle go, a bit, during these past two months, but a Bundimun?! I never...! Of all the rude, impudent....!"

Poor Neville was cowering under my verbal assault, but Ginny spoke up.

"Iíve never heard of a Bundimun that shot vines out of the floor," she said. "Arenít they supposed to look like a sort of fungus? With eyes?"

"I wouldnít know!" I replied, drawing myself up, angrily. "I have never seen a Bundimun in my entire life!"

There was a loud, shrill mew from Mrs. Norris. Her golden eyes held an impatient look. She stalked down the passage, and then turned to look back at us.

"Sheís right, Mr. Filch," Ginny said. "We shouldnít hang about here. Whatever that thing is, we should go and tell someone about it."

"Yes..." I growled, still glaring at Neville. "The Headmaster should know."

Under my anger I felt an undeniable twinge of fear. It couldnít actually be a Bundimun, could it? Surely I hadnít let the Castle go that much..? What would Dumbledore say to me?

My heart beating hard, I went to retrieve my toolbox, the lantern, the rag bag, and the bottles of cleaning solution.

The Headmaster would have to be informed about this, as soon as possible. But I couldnít tell him right away because...

Ginny and Neville were standing by the three crates of paintings.

"Mr. Filch?" Neville asked me, timidly, "You arenít planning on having us carry these crates all the way back to your office, are you?"

It must have taken a lot of courage for him to speak to me after the way Iíd just been yelling at him. Poor Neville. None of this was his fault.

"No, theyíre too heavy," I said, without looking at him. "The two of you can use your levitation charm. It will be much faster."

Yes, I was the one who told them to use the levitation charm. I hardly even gave the matter a thought. I was trying to recall something else, something important. I couldnít tell Dumbledore about this right away because....

Behind me I heard two young voices saying "Wingardium Leviosa!"

Warm tendrils of magic brushed against my back.

The thing behind the storeroom door pushed against the wood. It creaked alarmingly. Then, without warning, the door gave. It didnít splinter, it crumbled. As if something had eaten away at it from within.

Long, thin vines, sickly green in hue, snaked out of the storeroom, where they were rooted in the dirt floor, bringing with them a stench of decay. Ignoring me, the vines coiled out towards the children.

Ginny and Neville didnít run. It wouldnít have done them any good. The vines had them cornered against the dead end wall.

Both young Gryffindors had the presence of mind to lower their crates carefully, even Neville. Then Neville and Ginny attacked. I heard them shouting cleaning charms, scouring charms, the sorts of things one is supposed to use against a Bundimun infestation.

Unfortunately, the vines seemed undeterred. Perhaps this thing was simply too big.

I didnít wait to see what the children would try next. These were young Gryffindors after all, and they were likely to do almost anything as long as it was foolhardy and dangerous.

Dropping everything except the bottles of cleaning solution, I ran forward.

Giving the bottles a shake I began spraying the cleaning solution on the vines. Wherever the liquid touched them the vines turned black and withered. The ugly things twisted about like angry snakes. But they didnít show any real interest in me until I got between them and the children.

Then there were vines all over me, foul, stinking things. My ribs felt like they were being crushed. I gasped in pain. A tendril wrapped itself around my throat and I couldnít breathe at all.

"Accio Mr. Filch!" I heard Ginny shout.

Her spell wrapped around me, even stronger than the vines, wrenching me free. I felt myself flying towards her.

As Ginnyís spell released me, she tried to stop me from falling and both of us ended up in a heap on the passage floor.

Then I heard Neville. He sounded nothing at all like a frightened boy. It was a young wizardís voice that shouted "INCENDIO!"

The terrible wave of heat that accompanied Nevilleís spell made me cower protectively over Ginny. I could only hope that Mrs. Norris had run off somewhere safe.

The vines burned. And burned. And burned.

Now the passage was filled with smoke as well as a terrible stench. Since the air was slightly better near the floor, the three of us stayed there, choking, until the vines were destroyed.

"Iím glad that once seems to have done the trick," Neville said faintly, after a while. "Because I donít think I can do that again."

"Once was fine, Neville," Ginny told him, sincerely. "Once was perfect!"

"Neville, if youíre `almost a Squibí then Iím a house-elf!" I wheezed. The praise was heartfelt. The boy had more than earned it.

Even through the smoke, I could see Neville blush, thanks to the glow of Ginnyís remaining floating light. Shyly, he pulled Trevor out of his pocket to make sure that the toad was unhurt.

"Thank you, Ginny," I said. "You saved my life."

Very much to my surprise, the girl hugged me. Gently, because sheíd seen what the vines had done to my ribs. I was going to be very sore tomorrow.

"Are you all right, Mr. Filch?"

"Iíve been worse. Youíre not hurt, are you? Either of you?"

Neville shook his head.

"Iíve been worse too," Ginny said. She managed to smile.

Mrs. Norris padded softly out of the smoke. She wound her way around all three of us, making impatient little mews.

"I thought that you would have had the sense to run, my sweet..." I murmured.

"I think it must not have been a Bundimun after all," Neville said, thoughtfully. "You donít need a spell like `Incendioí for Bundimuns..."

Ginny stood up, waving her wand.

"Zephyr!" she said. A small wind sprang up and the air began to clear a bit. Turning, she inspected the three crates with the paintings. They had escaped being damaged by either the vines or Nevilleís spell.

Ginny, Neville and I were relieved about that.

Mrs. Norris was still agitated. She was nudging at all three of us with her head, hissing and glaring. She was behaving as if the danger had not yet passed.

I knew enough to respect her judgment.

"She thinks that we shouldnít linger here, and sheís probably right. Come along," I said.

Nevilleís powerful spell had taken a great deal out of him. I took his arm to help him up.

"We should go and tell Professor Dumbledore about whatís happened," Neville said.

"We wonít be able to talk to the Headmaster tonight. He had a meeting with the Minister... Iíve only just remembered," I said.

"Iím glad that I didnít know he was gone before," Neville murmured wryly.

Ginny nodded. "Things never seem quite so bad if I know heís in the Castle somewhere," she said.

It was an opinion shared by the majority of the various beings inside Hogwarts Castle. Things were never as bad as they could be, as long as the Headmaster was somewhere about.

"Iíll speak to Professor Dumbledore in the morning. Itís late. Your detention is over. The two of you should be getting off to bed," I said gruffly.

Once more the children levitated the crates.

My tools and my lantern were still lying where Iíd left them, near the storeroom, so I went to get my things.

The lantern had gone out, and I relit it. When I saw what the light revealed I caught my breath in horror.

The vines that Neville had destroyed had been only runners! The root of the thing was still intact somewhere under the ground. New vines, thin and sickly green, had spread across the dirt floor.

Worse, they appeared to be gaining some purchase on the stone walls of the storeroom! As before, the vines didnít react to me at all. But, as the children approached, I could see the hideous things quiver.

Why did those foul things only go after the children and not bother with me, unless I got in the way? There was only one obvious reason, wasnít there?

"Neville! Ginny! Put the crates down! Ginny, put out your last light! DONíT USE YOUR MAGIC!! That thing isnít dead and IT EATS MAGIC!!!"

They were good children, they listened. Unfortunately it was already too late. As I watched, a thin green runner wound its way through the storeroom doorway.

It twisted up along the stones of the passageway wall. It seemed to be finding places in the stone to grip as it moved.

My bottles of cleaning solution were empty. Neville didnít have enough strength for another Incendio...

And the Headmaster wasnít here to pull anyoneís chestnuts out of the fire...

"Leave the crates, children! Just hurry!"

I moved forward, holding up my lantern, so they could see into the storeroom, and observe what was growing in there. I stood between them and the door as they went past.

"RUN!!!" I hissed.

The three of us ran, leaving everything but my ordinary, non-magical lantern.

Mrs. Norris led the way out down the dead end passage. When we reached what should have been the main corridor, we stopped and stared in shock.

The passage only went a little way and simply ended at a blank stone wall. There were no doors, no openings, no possible way out.

We were trapped.

I know the twists and turns of Hogwarts Castle better than almost anyone living. And I had never, in all my years as caretaker, seen anything like this before.

"This is very bad, isnít it, Mr. Filch?" Ginny said, in a small voice.

END OF CHAPTER 2

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