The Filch Factor – Chapter Three: The Usual Suspects

Ever wondered why Dumbledore lets Filch remain as Hogwarts’ Caretaker? Well, so do I! Anyway…

A fanfic by A. Leon using the works of J.K. Rowling.

Note: If you want to read from the beginning, it starts here.

This is my second story about Harry Potter but my first inside the actual Harry Potter universe.
The timeline would be after Harry’s third year but before his sixth.
I feel compelled to tell you not to expect Harry in this story, though.

If you’re not familiar with the Harry Potter universe, realize that I’m going to use every trick in the book (or books in this case) and that includes the actual layout of Hogwarts castle. You potentially could look up everything in the various fansites but I encourage you to just enjoy the narrative. Pottergeeks will recognize most of the stuff anyways, and I do explain key elements here and there.

I wrote this a long time ago. As I go over it now I can see some flaws but I’m leaving most of it untouched.  I’m fixing grammar errors, and add some descriptions that would seem obvious to HP fans but not to casual readers. Of course I accept friendly criticism. There are some plot points that seem random. They’re not.

My main character is Minerva McGonagall, in case you haven’t noticed. Lines written in italics are her thoughts. If I use italics in a character’s dialog (between quotes) it means emphasis or spell casting.

Have fun 😉

Chapter Three: The Usual Suspects

“Ennervate!” said Madam Pomfrey for the sixteenth time, her voice almost a whisper as the spell failed yet again. She had tears in her eyes.

The nurse gently covered the small face, almost scared to disturb it. The huge bed made the little figure under the sheets seemed even smaller.

The Hospital Wing was deserted. Most of the beds had been unmade, the mattresses rolled up for the summer. The barriers had already been stored away.

Professor McGonagall was standing at the foot of the bed. Her own eyes were watery.

“I hate saying this, but I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do. The little one had his life taken from him.”

Pomfrey took out a handkerchief and dried her tears.

“They really do so much for us, the little ones… There’s a student in your house…” her voice broke.

“Hermione Granger” said McGonagall, putting an arm around her shoulders and steering her away from the sight of the bed. “She’s been talking to me too. Probably to everyone that hears her as well.”

Hermione Granger was a Gryffindor student who was campaigning for more rights and privileges for house-elves, although most people (or house-elves for that matter) seemed not to be interested by the idea.

“She has…? Perhaps, she’s right. We ask too much of these little ones…”

McGonagall leaded Pomfrey towards an unmade bed. The both sat in silence for a second.

“Poppy,” said McGonagall. “it’s very tragic but we need to know what happened.”

Pomfrey took another look at the covered figure. She choked back tears and look back at McGonagall.

“Yes, well… He’s young. He didn’t die of old age. There’s nothing to indicate he was suffering of any sickness. His life was forcefully taken from him, very recently. I’d dare say one or two hours from now. There are no marks of cuts or bruises. The bones are not broken…”

She made a pause. McGonagall was thinking how they didn’t even knew the elf’s name. She was sure Pomfrey had the same thought.

“The skin doesn’t show any coloration that would point to any obvious poisons. Professor Snape could help in that area, I can detect most poisons but he knows the more obscure ones.”

“Very well, Poppy. Try and see what you can do…”

Madam Pomfrey made a face.

“There’s something else.”

“Tell me.”

“I performed some exploratory charms, and there’s a scent of magic on him. Strong. And from the expression of horror on his face… I would say even dark.”

“You say he was killed by a spell.”

“I’m sure he was killed using magic. I don’t know if a spell would do that. Most hurtful spells leave some kind of evidence behind. You know any that don’t?”

“I can think of one.” said McGonagall sharply.

Pomfrey didn’t react immediately. When she did, her face was white.

“You mean Avada Kedav…? Oh, Minerva! Why would anyone mean to kill a house-elf?”

“I don’t know, Poppy. But since we have no evidence it was the killing curse, let’s first make sure it wasn’t anything else.”

She got up from the bed and started towards the door. Madam Pomfrey followed her halfway.

“I will be asking Severus to come by and give us his opinion as Potions Master. And Poppy, another thing.”

Pomfrey stood by the bed, her face full of sorrow.

“Yes, Minerva?”

“Do not let Filch touch the body. Make up any excuse, but don’t let him inside this ward. Understand?”

Without waiting for a response, McGonagall turned and close the door behind her.

She hurried back down the stairs. As she did so, her mind was racing.

Fact One: No one can Apparate or Dissaparate at Hogwarts.

She felt a cold chill ran through her spine. She hugged herself to warm up. Only Dumbledore could lift the restricting charm, could it be possible it had been weakened?

Fact Two: After Hagrid saw the students off, he closed the gates. Nobody has entered or left Hogwarts grounds in the last three to four hours.

She stopped. The castle was filled with secret passages. Had someone found a way inside? She had to make sure of that. But first she had to talk to Snape. Snape was the Potions Master. If someone was poisoned (or you’d need to poison someone) he’d be the one to ask.

McGonagall reached the first floor and called for Snape from the top of the stairs that led to the Entrance Hall, where the teachers had assembled. Snape detached himself from the group and joined her.

“Severus, could you assist Madame Pomfrey?”

“Me… You think someone would poison a house-elf?” said Snape skeptically. McGonagall gestured him to keep his voice down.

“We don’t know, Poppy can’t tell but there are no markings on the body.” she stressed her last phrase significantly and Snape opened his eyes a little wider, catching her drift. “Where’s Dumbledore?” she asked.

“He went to the kitchen, to question the other elves.”

She glanced over his shoulder at the other teachers.

“The big lug is outside” said Snape, knowing McGonagall had noticed Hagrid missing. “He wanted to make sure his circus of monsters is still breathing. We were all really concerned about them so we let him go.”

McGonagall frowned at his sarcasm. Snape rolled his eyes.

“Flitwick and I did tell him to check the gates are properly locked…” said in a bored voice. Then he was worried. “Wait, wouldn’t it be possible this is another case of Hagrid keeping another one of this little friends in here and not telling us about it?”

McGonagall knew she couldn’t cross out that possibility. Hagrid’s fondness for the most lethal of creatures was well known.

“The more reason for you to check for poisons. Just try not to be too crude about it with Poppy, will you?”

Snape made a futile attempt at looking offended.

“I will give her my best heart-breaking performance” he said, leaving with haste.

“Just act human!” she whispered hurriedly after him.

Dumbledore was climbing the stairs that led from the kitchen to the Entrance Hall. McGonagall hurried down.

“What did they say?” asked Flitwick.

“They’re really scared, Filius,” said Dumbledore. “They won’t leave the kitchen. They wouldn’t talk to me at first, and were hiding from view. I finally managed to get one of them, Dobby, to come out and talk to me.”

Dumbledore took a deep breath.

“Our unfortunate little friend’s name was Tigglut. Dobby says they never saw who did it. They felt it, I’m sure of that. Perhaps some of them even saw the body of their comrade. After it happened they all hid in the kitchen. They don’t really want to tell me what they felt, but it has shook them up so bad they won’t leave the kitchen.”

“What, they won’t clean?”

Everyone turned to look at Filch.

“I’m just saying.. I’m not cleaning the whole place by myself… sir.”

“You need not to concern yourself with cleaning for now, Argus” said Dumbledore. His voice had an unusual edge to it. McGonagall could tell from his reddened eyes, Dumbledore had been crying too. She was sure there had been more to his conversation with the elves that he had told them.

Filch found himself the target of too many dirty looks and walked away, muttering to himself.

Dumbledore turned to Madame Hooch.

“Did you find Irma?”

“She’s inside her library, crying, all huddled up in a corner. Apparently she found some pages of her books have been torn off.”

The large oak doors opened as Hagrid came in, closing themselves behind him quickly and almost snatching Hagrid’s foot. They were tense as well. Hagrid happily reported all of Hogwarts’ collection of magical creatures were well and accounted for. The gates, he informed, remained as locked as he had left them.

“Minerva, Pomona, Filius… ” said Dumbledore as he turned around looking for Snape.

“I sent him to- I sent him with Poppy” said McGonagall, prefering to let Dumbledore guess out the rest and not announce her suspicions to anybody else.

Dumbledore nodded slightly showing he had already guessed perfectly.

He asked all the Heads to check each of their Houses again, and sent Hagrid to check the grounds that surrounded the castle, stressing that he remained close to it and not wander off under any circumstance. He split the rest off the staff to check the rest of the castle.

“But Hogwarts is huge… if something is hidden here, odds are we will never find it!”

“Fan out with exploratory spells” said Dumbledore. “You don’t need to physically cover every room, check those areas that each of you know as hiding places. And keep your eyes open.”

He didn’t said anything else, but everyone took out their wands defensively as they were leaving for their assigned areas.

Filch entered the hall again, carrying an assortment of brooms and mops.

“Argus… I already told you to forget about cleaning for now. Minerva, please join us for a moment.”

“Where is everyone going?” asked Filch, dropping all the cleaning equipment noisily.

“They’re going to inspect the castle, Argus.”

“But… I’m not done yet!”

McGonagall wondered how Dumbledore could be so patient.

“Nevermind that for now. Please show Professor McGonagall where you found the body. Minerva, you will inspect Gryffindor Tower afterwards.”

Filch made a face as if about to ask what body could he be referring to. Fortunately, -for him- he managed to realize that Dumbledore was talking about the house-elf he had dragged into the Staff Room without asking quick enough.

“Albus, I need to talk to you alone for a second” said McGonagall. “Mr. Filch, I will be ready to follow you in a moment.”

Filch took that as a cue to pick up his brooms and mops and carry them back to his office. McGonagall waited until he was gone.

“First, Filch starts complaining about having to clean the whole castle by himself, then he just can’t wait to start.”

“For Argus, complaining and working are almost the same thing. He can’t live without doing one or the other.”

She changed the subject.

“I’ve been thinking… no one can Apparate or Dissaparate at Hogwarts, right? The charm is still on?”

“Minerva, the charm is still on and it’s so old it’s actually harder to disable it, even for a few instants. You’re wrong, though. Apparating and Dissaparating is only restricted for wizards.”

“Yes, well, nobody else can-”

McGonagall just remembered it suddenly. House-elves were born with the skill to Apparate and they actually could do so inside Hogwart’s walls without any trouble. But even as the idea occurred to her, she dismissed it instantly. She could not imagine one house-elf killing another.

“Madam Pomfrey is very sure that the elf-” she interrupted herself for a second, “-that Tigglut was killed by magical means.”

“So am I, Minerva. I could feel it when I saw him.”

“Could it be someone using Avada Kedavra, the killing curse?”

“It is a possibility indeed.”

“If we find no strangers inside the castle, we will have to consider the killer is someone we know.”

“It is also very possible we do find something strange to Hogwarts and the culprit remains among us.”

McGonagall sighed.

“I can’t picture one of us using an unforgivable curse to kill an elf.”

“Perhaps neither did the attacker.”

“Are you saying… it could’ve been an accident?”

Filch had returned and was waiting at the foot of the stairs. Dumbledore motioned McGonagall to follow him.

“Minerva, I need you to conduct your own investigation and follow your instincts. I will do the very same.”

“You have a lead, Albus?”

“I have a very wild and outlandish suspicion, but just in case it turns out to be true I must follow it.”

“So now,” she said whispering “I have to follow one of my suspects along a dark corridor?”

“Look at it this way, Minerva. If you don’t come back, I will definitely consider putting him at the top of my list of suspects.”

“You better.” She turned to Filch. “Mr. Filch, please lead the way.”

Muttering under his breath, Filch gestured forward and start walking. McGonagall followed him at a distance, as Filch sometimes seemed to stop, talk to himself and start off on a new direction.

He seems confused, thought McGonagall, or perhaps he’s nervous because he knows I don’t really trust him.

Filch had stopped on the sixth floor and led her to a corridor leading south. After making a few turns, he stopped at a corner.

“Here…” he started saying. Then stopped talking and looked around, confused. Muttering to himself he started walking again. McGonagall followed him.

It wasn’t like Filch to get confused. Then again, he didn’t have…

“Mr. Filch” said McGonagall all of a sudden. “Where’s Mrs. Norris?”

Mrs. Norris was Filch’s cat. Filch was taken aback by the question, but continued walking.

“She’s not feeling too good, Professor” said Filch, turning another corner.

Where was Filch going? He was heading downstairs again. McGonagall considered telling Dumbledore to sack Filch and just hire Mrs. Norris.

Filch took the stairs back to the fifth floor, past a statue familiar to McGonagall and towards a corner. A box with stuff was thrown on the floor, toppled sideways. Its owner had evidently dropped it.

“Here is where it- where he was, the little rascal, yes. Poor thing.” said Filch.

McGonagall didn’t believe his feeble attempt at sympathy for a second. She suddenly felt very cold.

“Thank you, Mr. Filch. Could you please check all windows on the above floors are closed?”

Filch argued that he couldn’t leave that mess on the floor. McGonagall assured Filch she would allow him to clean it afterwards. Filch said in a loud voice that he couldn’t wait all day. They ended up shouting loudly at each other. Finally, Filch muttered something to himself and left. McGonagall was fuming.

That’s why I’d rather doubt him than Hagrid, she thought.

Filch was not very keen on house-elfs, not that he ever minded them cleaning for him. Still, she wouldn’t put it past Filch to do something nasty, but murder?

McGonagall pointed his wand at the place where the small box was. There was magic, and also fear. The house-elf had encountered death in that very spot.

So Tugglit ran here, thought McGonagall, wait a minute…

She looked at the box, and then at the corridor.

Nothing seemed to have fallen off as he came over here. It didn’t appear as he was running.

She was still feeling very cold as she leaned and turned the box over. On its side, it was marked with the name FILCH. It was the very same box she herself had filled earlier on the evening. She closed her eyes, as tears began to flow.

What is this doing on the fifth floor?

She looked at the spot, then at the statue a few paces from it. She hastily dried her eyes with the sleeve of her gown. The picture of the Fat Lady was on the seventh floor, two floors up.

She had left it inside the Gryffindor Tower, on the boys’ dormitory! Why would he bring it out here? Why hadn’t he just apparate downstairs with it?

She looked around.

Peeves was right behind this statue as I passed on earlier, he sounded about to play a prank on the next person who passed by him. He didn’t dare do it to me, but he would surely do it to an elf.

She touched the statue of Boris the Bewildered, wishing it could tell her what happened. Hadn’t Peeves being screaming his head off at some point during the meeting?

“PEEVES!” she shouted at thin air. She waited. Nothing.

Then she remembered that Professor Binns hadn’t been at the meeting. Come to think of it, as Filch led her throughout the castle she hadn’t seen Nearly Headless Nick or the Fat Friar…

Where are all the ghosts?

***
Harry Potter(tm) and all associated materials are property of J.K. Rowling
My thanks go to the Harry Potter Lexicon at http://www.hp-lexicon.org

Note: If you want to read from the beginning, it starts here.

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  1. #1 by Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz on April 20, 2010 - 11:04 pm

    Fave line: Snape made a futile attempt at looking offended.

    I am blaming Mrs. Norris

  2. #2 by NTI on April 21, 2010 - 5:08 pm

    Zzzzz… huh what? Oh ok 🙂

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