a Harry Potter fan-fic
a sequel to "Squib Doors"
Chapter 2 (of 7): Constant Vigilance!
Everything in this story really belongs to J.K. Rowling
The students at Hogwarts are not allowed to be out of their beds, running around the Castle corridors, using magic in the wee hours of the morning. I could give you two dozen good reasons why not, right off the top of my head without even needing to think. But "After Midnight, Itís The Staffís Turn!" is a reason that Iíd never thought about before.
Gasping for breath, a stitch in my side, I crouched just inside the door to the right-hand corridor on the third floor. Hagrid had long since found greener pastures for Fluffy, but the corridor still retained (if only to my senses) a softly whispered memory of waves on a beach and a faint tang of salty sea air.
My heart was pounding nervously. Thank the Fates, I hadnít run into any wandering students! Meeting Fred and George Weasley right now would be a nightmare. And I wasnít too willing to have Peeves see me either. Sneaking around the Castle corridors, actually worrying about who might see me, was giving me an extremely uncomfortable and unwelcome look at life in the Castle from the studentsí point of view.
Still, it wasnít being found by the twins or by Peeves that worried me the most...
I strained my ears, listening for the dull thump of a heavy staff and the distinctive clunk of a claw footed, wooden leg. Moody wasnít anywhere nearby from the sound of things. That didnít mean I was safe.
I focused my mind and heart on a silent plea.
On the wall, just across the corridor from me, a tapestry appeared. Nondescript and so faded I could barely make out its faint blue-and-copper hues, it was a very welcome sight. All I had to do was reach it.
Iíd barely gotten to my feet when I felt the whisper of magic against my skin. I looked up to see a red, pulsating ball of light, the size of a grapefruit, flying down the corridor towards me, swifter than a golden snitch!
Throwing caution to the winds, I ran towards the tapestry.
I did not see or even sense the second red ball of light. It came through the closed wooden door to the corridor, directly behind me. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor, dazed; the tapestry still beyond my reach. My back, still sore from a run-in with Professor Snapeís protective curses a week earlier, felt like it just had been struck with a heavy fist.
Both balls of light circled me, buzzing like giant, angry red bees.
Clunk.... clunk... clunk.
A weathered wooden staff appeared in my line of vision. On one side of the staff, visible beneath a long, black wizardís robe, was a normal foot in a normal boot. On the staffís other side was a wooden leg ending in a clawed foot.
"Didnít take a moment to look behind you," said a low, gravelly voice above me. "Did you, Filch?"
Still breathing hard, I shook my head.
I looked up into a face that appeared to have been carved out of wood by a sculptor who had very little idea what human faces were supposed to look like. Every bit of the face was scarred.
Mismatched eyes studied me sternly. One eye was small, dark and beady. The other was vivid blue, large and round as a coin.
"Can my Secutus spells hunt you, and your Doors, through wood? Through stone?" Alastor Mad-Eye Moody asked me.
"Yes..." I replied. Those cursed tracking spells of his were swift. They could pursue me anywhere. They seemed to know where my Doors would appear even before I did. Aurors know some tricks that most other wizards donít.
"Can your Doors save you if you canít manage to reach them?" the retired Auror growled at me.
"No..." I said.
He reached out a gnarled, scarred hand and pulled me to my feet. "What am I about to tell you ?"
"Constant Vigilance..." I said, rubbing my aching back.
"Yep. You should be ready for an attack at all times!" The beady eye narrowed, glaring at me. The bright blue eye rolled about madly, keeping the entire corridor in view.
"One more thing, Filch. Did I say that this eveningís lesson was over yet?" Moody grunted.
The tapestry was only a few steps away, but I didnít have time to move.
"Pendeo!" Moody growled.
I was jerked roughly up into the air. Helpless, I simply hung there, my feet dangling above the floor.
Wingardium Leviosa is the first levitating spell that Professor Flitwick teaches his students. Itís a powerful charm, but a witch or wizard can also use it for delicate work. There was nothing delicate about the spell Moody was using on me.
"I could be anyone..." Moody growled at me. "A Death Eater. The Dark Lord himself. And I could do anything that I wanted with you right now."
His harsh words sent shocks of fear through me. I still woke up trembling, from nightmares of rusty chains and bitter cold darkness, and sharp knives and blood.
Moodyís mismatched eyes bored into mine. He looked every bit as haunted as I felt. His staff thumped furiously against the floor. "Filch!" The old Auror lectured me. "Were you supposed to let me near you until I told you that the lesson was over?"
"No..." I said, miserably.
He leaned in close. "Just when you think youíre safe, thatís when you should be the most afraid. The strongest magic in the world canít protect you, if youíve let your guard down! Remember that!" He released his spell.
I landed hard on the stone floor, unable to suppress a yelp of pain.
"Now, Filch..." Moody told me, almost gently. "Tonightís lesson is over. Iíll see you again in a few days."
I didnít move until heíd clumped away.
When the last echoing clunk had faded, I got to my feet, rubbing the seat of my breeches. Thanks to Snape and his protective curses it had been a week since Iíd been able to sit down comfortably. Now, thanks to Moody, I would still need a pillow on my chair tomorrow.
As I hobbled towards the tapestry door which had waited for me patiently, I heard a plaintive mew.
"Hello, my sweet," I said, softly. "Thank you for staying out of Moodyís way."
Mrs. Norris wound her way in and out, around my ankles. I held out my arms and she jumped into them, climbing up onto my shoulder. Her purring soothed me. I knew that she feared and disliked Moody, though she did seem to have warmed up to him a little since the year when heíd taught Defense Against The Dark Arts at Hogwarts.
"You donít like this, but itís necessary," I told her. "The Headmaster wants me to learn how to protect myself. I hope that Moody hasnít gone clumping off to tell Dumbledore that Iím a complete waste of his time."
Sighing, I looked at the tapestry in front of me. "You couldnít have appeared on the wall, right behind me?" I grumbled. "Oh, never mind. Just take me to the staff bathroom in the dungeons. Please."
A hot bath was just the thing to relieve my aches. Iíd been taking a lot of them lately.
The staff bathroom down in the dungeons isnít the most luxurious in the Castle, though Iíve never had any complaints about it. The place has a copper tub with taps all around it, big enough to swim in. Itís set on a rectangular platform. There are enough torches set in the wall to keep the place from looking too gloomy. (Thereís a staff bathroom closer to my rooms but the one in the dungeons is more private. Professor Snape is the only other person who uses it on a regular basis.)
The battle with the vine-beast had damaged the walls a bit but the plumbing was still intact and functioning. Luckily, the vines had left the tub alone.
Taking two towels from a wardrobe in the corner, I set them on the step and started filling the tub with the hottest water I could bear.
Mrs. Norris sat like a small, furry sentinel on the stone platform while I stood and waited for the tub to fill. When the water was high enough I slid myself into it, gingerly, and sighed. My cat busied herself with a bath of her own to keep me company.
"Iím really glad that I wasnít there to hear Moodyís first reaction when the Headmaster told him what he wanted him to do..." I muttered.
I could imagine what heíd said. An Auror, even a retired one, wasting his time on a Squib? Unheard of. But Dumbledore had been able to convince him, somehow.
A few days earlier when Iíd been summoned to the Headmasterís office Iíd found Moody waiting for me with Dumbledore, the matter already settled.
"Argus, you remember Alastor Moody. Alastor, you remember Argus Filch, our caretaker?"
Moody and I had both nodded. Iíd kept a tight hold on Mrs. Norris who was lying across my shoulders. Sheíd been afraid of Moody when heíd taught at the Castle. But now she simply regarded him with calm golden eyes.
Iíd tried to keep my face as unreadable as hers. I know that my looks arenít ever going to win me any prizes, (unless Witch Weekly ever decides to sponsor a "Least-Charming-Smile" award) but when it came to ugliness, Moody was in a class by himself. I knew it was rude to stare at him, but I couldnít help it.
Moody was probably used to being stared at anyhow, I thought.
Without preamble, Moody said, "Albus told me about what you can do with those Doors. Show me."
I gave the Headmaster an uncertain look and received an encouraging nod in return.
Nearly every space on Dumbledoreís office wall is crowded with portraits of old headmasters and headmistresses. But I found a small, clear spot and rested my hand against it.
A moment later the wall changed and shifted to accommodate a tattered tapestry with faint traces of black and yellow still visible.
Moody stepped up to examine the tapestry closely with his magical eye. I retreated back to where Dumbledore stood beside his desk. Watching Moody examine my Door like that made me feel a bit anxious.
"Headmaster, what is he doing?" I whispered. "Heís not going to harm it, is he?"
Dumbledore smiled, and shook his head.
"Filch," Moody said, gruffly, "Iíd like to see one of the other Doors now. Send this one away and call a different one for me."
When I reached out to touch the wall, he caught my hand. "Try to do it without touching the wall," he said.
"Iím not sure if I can..."
"Try," growled Moody.
Once more, I looked uncertainly at Dumbledore. I got another encouraging nod.
I eased Mrs. Norris off my shoulders and held her close, for luck. Shutting my eyes, I focused. Nothing happened for several, very long minutes. I could feel my heart beating hard and fast. Something in the room shifted, a moment before I nearly blacked out.
Dumbledore helped me over to one of the chairs in his office. The seat had a big, soft cushion. I gave the Headmaster a grateful look. He must have been talking to Poppy. Still clutching Mrs. Norris, I lowered myself carefully into it.
I hadnít been able to send the black-and-yellow tapestry away. But it had been joined by two of the others. The red-and-gold tapestry and the green-and-silver tapestry now flanked it.
"Iím sorry..." I said, hoarsely. "That wasnít what you wanted."
"Close enough," grunted Moody. His blue eye examined the three Doors while his other eye studied me. "Took a lot out of you, did it?"
I nodded. "Iíve never called them without touching the wall before. It was ...difficult."
"Youíll find it much easier by the time Iím through with you."
"Alastor has agreed to help you learn to work with the Doors," the Headmaster explained, resting a hand on my shoulder.
"This talent of yours could be a serious threat to the Castle if a Death Eater ever gets a hold of you," Moody said, gruffly. "You need to know how to fight back, with everything youíve got. Albus wants me to help you. I told him that we could start, tonight. Do you agree?"
Shocked speechless, I could only nod.
"Good. Put the cat down. Your first lesson is beginning now. The lesson wonít be over until I say itís over. Understand?"
I nodded again, giving Mrs. Norris a gentle nudge off my lap. She hissed indignantly and stalked over to the foot of the Phoenix perch behind the door. Fawkes, whoíd been sleeping, stirred and trilled a few soft, sympathetic notes to her. Curling up under his perch, she pretended not to take any further interest in the proceedings.
But she did keep one golden eye slitted open and fixed firmly on me.
"Ready? Good. Suppose Iím a Dark Wizard. I want to stop you from getting away from me. All Iíd have to do is this..."
His wand was suddenly in his hand. "Pendeo!"
I hung in midair like a prey animal, dangling from a wolfís mouth.
"Canít move, can you? Canít touch the wall either," Moody growled.
"Itís all right, Albus," he said to Dumbledore, who was watching him, one bushy silver eyebrow raised. "Donít give me that look. Iím keeping him up like this so he wonít hurt himself if he passes out. Heís stronger than he looks. Heís a Squib whoís managed to live to a decent age. Most of Ďem donít manage that. Sad, but true."
Wide-eyed, I stared at Moody. What? Most Squibs died young? No one had ever told me that. Why hadnít anyone ever told me that?
"Pay attention, Filch!" Moody barked. "I want you to call the fourth Door. The one that isnít here. Then I want you to send the other three away. Now."
By the time Moody said that we were through with my first lesson, I was limp, trembling and covered with sweat. But, I thought with satisfaction, Iíd managed to do most of the things heíd asked me to do. Without touching the wall once!
"Good. Youíll do," Alastor Moody told me, gruffly. I felt as if Iíd been awarded an Order of Merlin.
"Iíve got homework for you, Filch. Practice calling the Doors without touching the walls. Singly and in groups. Until you can do it easily. Got it? Good. Iíll see you again in a few days. Albus, Iíll be in touch, later."
Dumbledore had caught me as Moodyís spell let me go.
Tonightís lesson, my second, had been rougher than the first. As before weíd started off in the Headmasterís office. Dumbledore and Fawkes had been elsewhere and Moody was waiting for me, alone.
At his orders, Iíd also come without Mrs. Norris. Who wasnít very happy with me as a result.
"Filch, youíre a Squib," Moody began. "Iím not saying that to be offensive, Iím saying it because itís true. Youíve never received any magical training. Anything you know, youíve been able to pick up because you work at this school. Youíre probably not used to thinking of yourself as someone who could fight a Dark wizard on your own. Am I right?"
"Youíve got to stop thinking that way! I know it wonít be easy. But sometimes it doesnít matter how much magic you have. It only matters how well you can use what you have. What I want you to do is very simple. Weíre going to play a game. Hide-and-go-seek. Iím a Dark Wizard and you mustnít let me catch you. Not until I tell you the lesson is over. Understand? Good. Call your Doors. All four of them."
Hands at my sides, I did as he asked. No sweating, no trembling. Iíd been practicing.
The four Doors responded when I summoned them. The last one to appear, the green-and-silver, came just as I felt a tingle of magic at my back.
"Secutus!" I heard Moody say.
Turning around, I saw the old Auror, surrounded by hissing, angry looking red balls of light. They swirled around him, making him look even more fearsome than usual.
My reaction to the surge of magic that had preceded his spell made his ordinary, human eye widen. "Felt that, did you? Even before I spoke the actual spell. Interesting. Youíre full of surprises, arenít you? Now, stay still."
I couldnít have moved if Iíd wanted to. I was too frightened. All those buzzing lights were now flying around me! After doing that for what seemed like an eternity, they buzzed around my Doors too.
"My hunting dogs are getting a `scent,í" Moody explained. "All right, Filch. Letís see how long you can stay ahead of me. Pick a Door."
"I didnít do very well tonight..." I confessed to Mrs. Norris. "Oh, I managed to stay ahead of him and those ...things of his, at least for a while. But I let my guard down too soon."
I sighed. "Itís funny. I always thought that learning how to use a magical talent would be easy. But itís not."
"Not Easy" was an understatement. The bath had helped my aching muscles considerably, but I still felt so tired that I wanted to sleep for a month.
Instead I had to be awake to go to work in a few hours.
Climbing from the tub I let the water out, carefully rinsing the copper tub clean with the last of it. At least I could have a few hours sleep.
"Every lesson leads to one thatís harder..." I said, ruefully. "One minute Iím doing fine, and the next minute I feel absolutely hopeless. Iíll never be able to do what he expects me to do."
My voice got softer. "How can the brats stand this day after day? Much less have any energy left over to get into all the various forms of trouble they get themselves into?"
Wrapping one of the towels around my waist and drying my hair with the other, I moved wearily towards the blue-and-copper tapestry that waited patiently on the wall.
"My bedroom, please..." I yawned, stepping into my Door with Mrs. Norris padding softly beside me.
END OF CHAPTER TWO