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.
Chapter Five: The House That Filch Cleans
In the mind of most of whom knew him, Albus Dumbledore was the most powerful wizard to ever held the office of Headmaster of Hogwarts. But if you got all those people together and asked them if Dumbledore’s apparent passiveness was due to age, was a ploy to seem weak to his enemies or was just a joke he played on everyone, nobody of them would ever agree.
And most, like Minerva McGonagall, could never even make up their own minds about that fact.
She had been explaining everything to Dumbledore. She had told him about the box she had marked herself. She had told him about the people that had left the meeting at one time or another. She had told him the way that Filch got lost. She had also told him about how all the ghost seemed to be missing.
Finally, Dumbledore had said: “I see”
He had taken a quill, had dipped it in ink, and had started writing notes on a piece of parchments.
Some minutes passed. For Professor McGonagall, it had seemed like a week.
“Thank you, Minerva. It has been most gracious of you. I must beg you to continue with your investigations.”
McGonagall felt glued to her chair.
“Albus, what did you found?”
“I have found nothing conclusive as of yet.”
“Perhaps now you could tell me what your suspicion is.”
Dumbledore bowed his head, raising one finger to touch his lips. He seemed to consider it briefly.
“No. That would be most damaging to your own investigation.”
McGonagall knew she had made some sort of face, because Dumbledore raised his eyebrows at her, guessing her plight.
“I’m afraid you must continue on your own, Minerva. I’m sorry to be secretive about this, but as I told you, I have no evidence whatsoever to support my claim. You, on the other hand, have all the evidence.”
“It doesn’t seem to lead me anywhere.”
“Are you saying there is nothing else you can do?”
McGonagall knew he was going to say that a second before he said it and almost wished he hadn’t.
“I can start questioning everyone. I’d hardly suspect most of them, though.”
“With that phrase you’re telling me there is someone who you would suspect of?”
She swallowed hard.
“I don’t think Hagrid would ever… I mean, ever since he was punished for bringing that spider creature… He wouldn’t hide anything inside the castle, I’m sure.”
She avoided Dumbledore’s gaze.
“Poppy, that is Madame Pomfrey, is a nurse. She would never hurt anyone… not intentionally at least. Filch, now…”
“My dear Minerva, you have named three people whom you consider had the chance, and two whom you feel or you consider, judging by their character, uncapable at least intentionally, of doing any harm.”
She remained quiet for a second.
“You’re telling me you’d rather suspect our caretaker than your friends.”
“I know very little of Mr. Filch, Albus.”
She tried to leave at that, but found she couldn’t.
“I also believe this investigation would go faster if you’d just tell me what your theories are.”
“Minerva, if you wanted this investigation to go faster, you should tell me directly why do you suspect Filch, instead of telling me why you would not suspect the rest.”
“He lost his way.”
“You just also told me he doesn’t have his cat, Mrs. Norris.”
“Yes, but he confused floors entirely!”
“An error that may or may not be related to this incident.”
“He dislikes elves. I don’t know if he could…”
Dumbledore brought his hands together, touching his fingertips.
“A few years after I became headmaster of this school, the previous caretaker, Sylas Blunt retired relunctantly. He was almost blind and insisted that the stairs kept trying to trip him. This was, unfortunately, very true. They didn’t like the way he stomped on them when he was angry, which was most of the time.”
“Argus Filch came to us on a cold winter morning. I was interviewing people for various staff positions on the town of Hogsmeade, at the Hog’s Head inn.”
“He had lots of recommendations. When he showed them to me, I found that the owners of all the houses in which he had served had given him a recommendation that could be seen, a very positive one, and hidden magicly from his stare, a second one that was not as favorable.”
Dumbledore had waved his wand at a teapot, which approached and very gently, began pouring tea in front of McGonagall and himself. As the tea was poured, a tea cup started to take shape.
“In fact, all of them were quite horrendous. They warned of his continuously bad mood. He was always respectful of the master of the house, albeit grudgingly. He couldn’t stand kids or teenagers, and longed for the days where flaying and shackling children was considered an acceptable form of discipline.”
The cup floated towards McGonagall but kept a respectful distance. She took it by the ear and sipped her tea quietly.
“But there were a couple of things he did well. He was effective, almost in an obsessive manner, in having all spaces clean. He didn’t evade responsability, no matter how much he complained of it. In fact, he seemed to be complaining all the time, without ever stopping.”
“Hogwarts castle is made of tons and tons of charmed wood and stone. It was crafted by a very devious mason who designed its very structure to contain, host and estimulate magic.”
“Argus Filch was born in a very poor wizarding family, on which he was one of the many who had been born magicly impaired. He knew of the existance of magic, seen its effects, knew its powers. He perhaps, at one time, yearned for its touch. But as so many of the ones we call squibs, he has always been denied its use. There are some wizards for which he will always be considered an inferior, but even then he’d rather stay within the wizarding community. To live the regular life of a muggle, in his mind, would be conceding defeat.”
McGonagall stared at her empty cup. Was she too suspecting Filch because she considered him inferior?
“I know Argus Filch’s demeanor. In the case of a very large, enchanted castle, it is almost an asset. The castle accepts him as someone who would always look out for it, who would dust it and scrub it with a passion. The place is known to keep its inhabitants guessing, and as a school, it seems to play as many pranks on its students as they do on themselves. Filch would keep them both in check, and he will always remain on the castle’s side.”
“He wasn’t accepted at first. He got lost every time, confounded and hoodwinkled by it. With time, the many charmed rooms, corridors and stairs of Hogwarts finally got bored with Argus Filch. After that, they accepted him as it was more fun to prey on the innocent and the naive students.”
Dumbledore took a sip of tea before continuing.
“That is not to say, that Filch has not give me any reason to believe he is trustable around students. He would love no less than to inflict corporeal punishment, which believe me, I would never condone. However, the fact that he dreams of it keeps many students from wandering into the most dangerous parts of the castle. At least, most of them.”
McGonagall smiled at the thought of three students from her own house of Gryffindor whose escapades had brought huge trouble, saved lives, and most usually, both at once.
“Mr. Filch may not harbor the best of thoughts for house-elfs. This is not to say he loathes them. I doubt he believes his life, or his work, which are the same thing for him, would be better without them. Of course he would never admit it, not even to himself. No, I’m afraid I’d have to say Argus would never hurt a house-elf… intentionally.”
“But accidentally,” said McGonagall, clearing her throat. “He would.”
“The intentions that we find completely justifiable may lead us to the worst of accidents, specially when we keep them to ourselves.”
McGonagall hesitated for a second.
“Could it be that someone is acting under the Imperius curse?”
“That is, I’m afraid, something else that we should consider. To use Professor Trelawny’s expression, dark times are upon us.”
“During the meeting, Poppy went to look for Irma at the library and never found her. Irma told Snape she was there all the time. She also told him she heard someone talking outside her library at some point, but she couldn’t make out the voices.”
“People miss the obvious when they’re looking for something else.”
McGonagall wondered if Dumbledore enjoyed being cryptic.
“What about the ghosts, Albus?”
“That is even stranger to me, Minerva. Whatever would frighten the dead would have to be really dark indeed. I haven’t managed to contact any of them. Sybill has offered to help in that matter, but her talents don’t seem to include necromancy.”
McGonagall bit her lip to avoid laughing at the mention of Professor Trelawney’s offer.
She tried to press Dumbledore onto telling her something about his own investigation, even hinting at the fact that he hadn’t leave the office. Dumbledore avoided her questioning effortlessly. Finally, she gave up. After receiving his wish for a good night’s rest, she took her leave.
Hogwarts was quiet. It was always like this on the summer, without the noise of the students talking in the halls and the sounds of young feet running up and down the steps. There was no laughter, no shouts, no giggles, no shrieks. Even when they all would be silent, one could still hear the swishing sound of the robes as the students moved around from one class to the other. From time to time, one would hear a scream from one of the victims of Peeves’ latest prank. You’d hear the hushed whispers of the paintings as they passed on the latest rumors, or the cackle of armors as some student would fall for one of the stairs’ trick steps.
McGonagall didn’t manage to sleep very well that night. She dreamed that Hagrid had hidden a huge monster in the library that looked like a giant house-elf. Filch was trying to scare it with a mop. The giant elf reached down and ate him. Then she was a fly trying to hear in on Madame Sprout, Madame Pomfrey and Madame Pince’s conversation. They had brought out one of the accounting books of Hogwarts and attempted to squash her down with it.
She barely remembered getting up, getting dressed and going downstairs for breakfast. Some of the house-elves had decided to prepare it, perhaps at Dobby’s insistance – or perhaps he had tried to do some sort of breakfast noodles, and they decided they had to intervene.
McGonagall was dozing off. Her face was careening dangerously over her scrambled eggs with toast.
Severus Snape appeared and sat down. He drummed his hands on the table. McGonagall opened her eyes, startled.
“Very well. Today we interrogate. I have set up an interrogation schedule for today. It’s strange. It’s summer, we don’t have classes or students, yet everybody has wanted to appear busy.”
“And a good morning to you too, Severus. You’re unusually chipper this morning, aren’t you?”
Snape hardened his face a little. He straightened out his robes gently and stared at his nails. He appeared like someone who’s been caught doing something shameful, and McGonagall suppressed a smile she knew would have made Snape leave the table.
“I’m just a bit anxious to get away from all this…”
He waved his hand at the room in general, who were perfectly aware of his contemptuous gesture.
McGonagall bit hard on a piece of toast as Snape finished his phrase. She had almost choked on it trying not to laugh. She took a drink of orange juice to wash it down and looked at Snape’s cool demeanor with amusement.
“When did you do all this?”
“Minerva, it’s past ten in the morning. You’re in good company, though. Most people slept in late as well. You took your time talking to Dumbledore last night, or perhaps I should say he did. I’m guessing he didn’t say anything new?”
“No. He believes that if he tells me his guess, I will be influenced by it and not focus on the evidence.”
“How very typical of him.”
“Where is he, by the way? Did he already had his breakfast?”
“He must have had it summoned directly to his office, is my guess.”
McGonagall had finished her eggs and was drinking a cup of coffee.
“How do you propose we go about it?”
“Well, I know how you would go about it, Minerva. You’d start trying to rule out the people who you’d want to be innocent of guilt. It is so very Gryffindor of you to do that, and it also takes longer. I propose we go about it in a more Slytherin kind of way.”
Snape’s voice had started out cool and scornful but as he talked, McGonagall could tell he was excited at the idea of detective work. She could sense a very slight apprehension in his voice. Boredom was a common enemy for them both, and although McGonagall mourned the death of poor Tugglit the elf, she couldn’t help feeling the same way.
She was very curious about what he was going to say next, and she knew he knew it.
“I’m game. What would be a more Slytherin kind of way to go about it?”
“You concentrate on achieving the objective, without ulterior intentions. You forget trying to save your friends or maintaining good relations with the help or anybody’s feelings. You just focus on the end goal. Which is, finding the culprit, not clearing friends.”
“All which, in the case of our interviews – don’t say interrogations, Severus, please – translates to…”
“Choosing the guilty person first.”
“You mean… Argus Filch?”
“Of course. This is your investigation, not mine. If I were in charge, I would’ve chosen a BIGGER suspect.”
McGonagall needed not to ask whom Snape was implying.
“I will make a request” he added quickly. “After we question your first suspect, we question my first suspect.”
She finished her coffee and fiddled with the empty cup in her hands.
“Hmm… Could you wait? After Filch, I want to clear up this little Pomfrey-Pince situation. It’s bothering me. Then we can go on to your suspect.”
“I’ll bet you it has nothing to do with anything.”
“Perhaps it don’t, perhaps it does. It just nags me.”
“You’re in charge. Shall we?”
They stood up and left the table. Every pair of eyes was glancing at them. They left unhurriedly, trying not to call attention to themselves. It was a courteous attempt, although completely pointless.
McGonegall would have preferred to interrogate Filch in the confines of her own office, knowing Filch would feel out of place and umcomfortable enough to let something slip. Snape told her Filch had claimed to be very busy refiling his banned items catalog.
“But he caved in at last, and will meet you in your office.”
She gave him a questioning look.
“I just told him you’d interr- talk to him inside his office and in the meantime, I could look over his banned items inventory since I’ve always thought he could use a better filing system for it. He changed his mind quickly.”
They were now in the first floor. They took the corridor that led to McGonagall’s office and found Filch already waiting for them at the door.
“Professor McGonagall, Professor Snape. Glad to help.”
It took a few seconds for McGonagall to remember that the twisted face that Filch was making was supposed to be a smile. Filch kept bowing his head while McGonagall opened the door and led them all in.
Snape was still outside. He didn’t seem like wanting to come in.
“I think I’ll…”
“…come in and talk with us” she said, finishing for him.
Snape twisted his mouth into a grimace. McGonagall knew Snape did not consider Filch innocent of all guilt, just unworthy of his time and, therefore, boring.
Snape stepped inside but remained close to the door, leaning against the wall. McGonagall sat at her desk and waved at the chair in front for Filch to sit in. Filch examined it for second before he sat, as if it was jinxed.
“I just clean the place.”
McGonagall opened her mouth to say something, but somehow no words came out.
“I just clean it. It’s jinxed. I can’t undo that, I’m… not a wizard. Can’t do magic.”
“Why don’t you just tell us what happened.”
“I found him, that’s all. Thought it was another of them tricks. Sometimes it plays tricks on me.”
“You mean, you thought it was another joke by Peeves?”
“Yes. That’s it. Darn poltergeist. We need to get him out. There are these guys from New York that we can call, they’re not cheap but perhaps the Headmaster could bring them with magic and get a discount…”
“Let’s not stray from the subject at hand, Mr. Filch. You thought it was Peeves playing a joke on you. What happened then?”
“Well, not just him, no. And not the students only either. Although they do things too.”
McGonagall rubbed the bridge of her nose with her thumb and index finger. She was going a headache soon.
“Not just him what? What things?”
“I though it could just be another of them tricks. Besides Peeves, I mean. Like I said, sometimes it plays tricks on me.”
McGonagall hoped Filch was not trying to confess he was an alcoholic.
“What plays tricks on you?”
“The house… the castle.”
Behind Filch, Snape rolled his eyes. He then looked at McGonagall, pointed his index finger at his own head and made a circular motion around his ear. McGonagall ignored him with difficulty.
“It used to play with me like that, you know. It made me see things. It’s alive somehow.”
“So you though it was a trick…”
“It is not normal!”
Filch was standing up. Snape smoothed the robe close to his side pocket where his wand was hidden.
“I mean, it is a wizard house- castle. But it is very, very special. It almost feels like… like a place unlike any other. And those students ran around with their dirty feet and their dirty hands and they touch everything. They stain everything. They move around like they own the place, as if it means nothing to them. They know nothing about it! They’re unclean, dirty, little creatures!”
“Mr. Filch” said McGonagall in a very calm but firm tone. “Please sit.”
Filch sat down slowly. He bowed his head down low.
“You left the staff meeting. Where did you go?”
“I was sure Hagrid hadn’t closed the doors so I went to check.”
The question had come from Snape. Filch turned his head to look at him.
“He hadn’t, but the doors had chosen to close on their own.”
“It’s what they usually do, don’t they?” added Snape venomously.
McGonagall scowled at him and turned to Filch.
“What did you do then?”
“I saw a window unopened and went to close it. Students leave all doors and windows unopened, they don’t care. I decided to check them all.”
McGonagall had a thought.
“Did you see any ghosts while you were checking doors and windows?”
Mr. Filch appeared to be confused by the question.
“I just clean. I don’t look for ghosts. There are these guys in New York…”
“Nevermind that. What did you do when you arrived at the fifth floor?”
“I checked all the windows there.”
“Were any of them unopened?”
Filch stared out into a space for a moment.
“Perhaps one. A couple, I think, yes.”
“What made you approach the statue of Boris, the bewildered?”
“I was checking windows…”
“I don’t believe there are windows near that statue.”
“I WAS checking windows,” repeated Filch, “when I heard a noise and went to investigate. And that’s when I saw it. Him.”
Snape waved a hand at McGonagall. She knew he didn’t see any reason in questioning Filch, but she had to make sure.
“What did you do when you found Tugglit?”
Filch raised his head and leaned closed to the desk.
“The elf, Mr. Filch.”
“Right. It shouldn’t have been there. That was not the place for an elf. Soiling the floor like that. I didn’t think it was real, but it was solid.”
“Did you touch him?”
Filch muttered something.
“What was that?”
“I kicked it. Just a few times, to make sure it was real.”
McGonagall covered her face with her hands. She was horrified.
“I went down to see the Headmaster and try to tell him that thing was up there. He wouldn’t come up, and I wanted to finish up quickly, so I put it on a sack and brought it down for him to see.”
“Where did you get a sack?”
Filch turned to Snape, who had asked the question.
“I’m sorry, sir?”
“During the meeting you where not carrying anything, as I recall.”
Filch looked at his shoes as if the answer was written there.
“I guess I went to look for it inside my office before I went upstairs again.”
McGonagall stood up, feeling she need air. She paced about the room for a second. She then leaned against a wall and drummed her fingers on top of a filing cabinet.
“Did you at any time, see anybody else, Mr. Filch?”
Filch raised his eyes to meet hers. Then he stared at the surface of McGonagall’s desk as if the answer was there. Suddenly became livid. He raised from the chair with a jump, and suddenly he was screaming.
“That’s not… It’s not… I DIDN’T DO IT!”
McGonagall and Snape exchanged looks.
“We’re not accussing you of anything, Mr. Filch”
It took Filch a few moments to calm down. Had he not realized what the interview was about until now? Hadn’t he imagined that he would be a suspect of the murder of the elf he had himself dragged downstairs?
“Those children… I know what they say behind my back. I just want them… If they would just…”
He was almost in tears. McGonagall felt sorry for him, but found she couldn’t be completely sympathetic to his plight. If Filch dreaded students so much for the way they saw him, why was he so uncaring himself?
“Just a few more questions, Mr. Filch. Then you can go back to your duties.”
Filch sat down. He wouldn’t look at McGonagall or Snape and kept his eyes glued to the desk in front of him.
“Did you see anybody?”
Filch took a deep breath.
“I saw… Madame Pomfrey.”
“When?” asked McGonagall and Snape at the same time.
“I’m not sure. But it was earlier, before I found the body. The elf.”
Snape approached Filch’s chair.
“This is important, Filch” he said gravely, “do you recall where did you see her? What floor?”
“Are you sure about that?”
He considered for a moment.
“Yes, I am. Seventh floor.”
McGonagall frowned. She addressed Filch carefully.
“Mr. Filch, yesterday when you were showing me where you found the body you got floors confused and took me to the sixth floor. I must ask you if you’re certain about seeing Madame Pomfrey on the seventh floor.”
“On what floor is the painting of the Fat Lady?”
“That would be seventh floor. Did you see Madame Pomfrey close to the painting?”
“She was looking at a tapestry that was close to it.”
McGonagall raised an eyebrow.
“Mr. Filch” said Snape, “Thank you very much for your time. Your help has been priceless.”
“Hope Mrs. Norris gets better soon.” added McGonagall.
Still confused and somewhat dazed, Filch left McGonagall’s office.
McGonagall sat at her desk, letting her face rest on her hands. Snape dropped himself on the chair in front of her and let out a huge sigh.
“Well, that was a half hour of our lives we will never see again.”
McGonagall had no energy to phrase a rebuttal.
“Poppy went to look for Irma and never found her. The library is on the fourth floor. Why would she walk all the way to the seventh?”
“You believe our dear caretaker is lying or has lost the little mental matter he had left?”
McGonagall unlocked her desk drawer. Inside was the Remembrall she had found inside Gryffindor Tower. She took it out.
“I believe” said McGonagall, “it is time I talk to Poppy Pomfrey.”
In her hand, the device was glowing a bright red.
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.