The Filch Factor – Chapter Six: The Unexpected Riddle

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 Six: The Unexpected Riddle

As a teacher, Professor McGonagall was used to program all activities within a schedule she could control. In her private life she was very much the same, preferring to keep surprises down to a minimum. Now she felt she was losing her grip and making a very poor job as Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts.

She would’ve felt better to conduct all the questioning related to the murder herself but that meant more time, and that wasn’t a luxury she or the entire staff could afford.

And so, despite her own best judgement, she had authorized Severus Snape to conduct one interview alone while she questioned Madam Pomfrey. Snape had, of course, chosen whom he considered his first suspect: Rubeus Hagrid.

After a warning that she now felt had not been stern enough, she had allowed it. Now she marched through the corridor that led towards the Hospital Wing with a knot in her stomach. She knew that Snape had very logic reasons to believe Hagrid responsible. Hagrid had been expelled as a student after he had been pointed out as the culprit behind the first Chamber of Secret Incidents. Dumbledore had believed in his innocence, but the fact that Hagrid had been harboring a new born Acromantula had not helped his case. Hagrid could lose his head over big and lethal beasts easily, throwing caution to the winds.

Severus, if you mistreat him you’ll have me to deal with, she thought to herself.

She knew Snape might be harsh, but she hoped he could remain objective. Now she had to push those thoughts to the back of her mind and concentrate on her own interview with Madame Poppy Pomfrey.

She stood at the door to the Hospital Wing. She reached out and knocked. After a moment of silence, she knocked again.

The large oak door creaked as it turned on its hinges.

Madame Poppy Pomfrey was sitting in a chair next to an empty bed. McGonagall remembered it was the very same where the small body of Tugglit had been. Although she had been there when Poppy had confirmed the death of the small house-elf, it felt like ages had happened since.

“Poppy?”

McGonagall walked across the deserted ward. Her steps echoed throughout the room.

“Poppy, are you okey?”

She touched the nurse gently on the shoulder.

“Hi, Minerva… I didn’t hear you knock…”

Pomfrey’s eyes were very red.

“They came along last nite… They took his little body to prepare it for the afterlife… I understand it’s not a ceremony non-elfs are allowed to watch… That happened during the night.”

She shook her head heavily.

“They allowed Dumbledore to witness that ceremony, though. They also asked for Filch to come. That was pretty strange, I must say…”

“Poppy…”

“I’m not a good person, Minerva.”

McGonagall smiled sadly at Pomfrey, patting her on the shoulder. Pomfrey would not look at her.

“You never did go looking for Irma, did you Poppy?”

Pomfrey was fiddling with her apron. She kept her eyes down.

“You went upstairs to the owlery to send a message to your boyfriend in Hogsmeade, didn’t you?”

Pomfrey turned to her, without daring to look up.

“Since when… have you known?”

“I had a suspicion, which was confirmed when you were seen you using the shortcut to the owlery that’s behind the tapestry on the seventh floor, next to the Fat Lady portrait.”

“I should’ve told Dumbledore… After seeing his body there, I couldn’t just tell him I’d lied about where I was going, not in front of everyone. I thought…”

“I’m sure he already knows.”

And he should’ve told me, thought McGonagall.

“What happens now?”

McGonagall sat down on the empty bed.

“Can you tell me what happened since the moment you left the meeting?”

Madame Pomfrey was brief. She had gone back to the hospital wing were she had spend a few moments writing the message she was going to send. Then she had gone upstairs and taken the shortcut to the owlery on the seventh floor. At the owlery, she had chosen a quick owl, tied the message to its foot and released it.

“Then I came back down to the staff meeting.”

“Did you see anyone during this time, Poppy?”

“No… Well, Peeves tried to send a water balloon my way on the sixth floor…”

Oh great, the sixth floor again.

“…I dodged it and ran.”

McGonagall grabbed her head with both hands.

“Something wrong, Minerva?”

“No, no… it’s just I’d like to be able to talk to Peeves. See, I’m sure he was on the fifth floor waiting to play a joke on anyone who passed by the statue of Boris. Madame Pince believes she heard someone who may have been Peeves, outside the -library which is on the fourth floor. This whole which-floor-is-which business…”

She waved her open hands in a gesture of frustration.

“He could’ve moved Minerva, he can float through walls and floors.”

“True. Still, I’d like to knew where he was. Unfortunately, he has vanished as have all the ghosts at Hogwarts.”

“Do you think it has anything to do with this?”

“I’m pretty sure it has. Listen, Poppy, has Filch brought in Mrs. Norris?”

Madame Pomfrey rolled her eyes.

“No, Minerva. I had to take it upon myself to check on her. I almost regretted doing that.”

McGonagall raised an eyebrow. The nurse took her reaction as one of concern.

“Oh no, she’s ok! It seems to be a cold and all she needs is sleep. Filch is another story. I could barely examine her with Filch hovering all over me. He won’t bring her here, he feared the students would do something to her. Did you know he blames them for what happened with that nasty basilisk? Now he’s even more protective of her. He needn’t be, she’s a tough cat.”

“How long ago has she been sick?”

“A couple of weeks before the final exams, I believe. Filch swears some student poisoned her. I’ve been checking up on her when Filch allows me to. Filch seems completely at a loss without her, he’s not himself.”

“I would rather say he’s a lot more like himself than I can handle.”

Madame Pomfrey looked at her, confused.

“It’s nothing, Poppy. This will all get worked out. I’m sure Dumbledore will arrive to the truth before the day is done.”

McGonagall exhaled. There was a chime heard in the distance.

“One hour past noon. We should join the others for lunch.”

They walked outside of the Hospital Wing in silence. Several people were going downstairs. Nobody was talking. Professor Flitwick joined McGonagall and Pomfrey and walked alongside them.

Filius Flitwick was a short but lean individual(*), with an easy smile and a kind demeanor. He looked rather strange and out of character being serious.

“Minerva.”

“Yes, Filius?”

“If you have time for a word later…”

He left the phrase unfinished.

“Of course, Filius.”

“I wouldn’t want to intrude on your investigation.”

“I’d appreciate it if you would, Filius. I need all the help available. We all do. I will get back to you.”

They arrived at the Great Hall. She left Pomfrey with Flitwick and walked over to where Dumbledore was sitting.

“Good afternoon, Albus.”

She sat down beside him. Dumbledore smiled softly at her and looked around the room. Everyone was taking their seats. He waited for everyone to be seated before summoning the food.

When he finally did so, and the meal appeared on the table there were whispers of approval all around. The house-elves were definitely back at work in the kitchens. Roasted pork, rotisserie chicken, baked potatoes and caesar salad were on the menu.

Minerva found out she was hungry. She filled her plate and dig in, glancing around to find Snape. He was sitting on the far end of the Slytherin table, talking with Professor Sinistra. Hagrid was all the way across the room, sitting first at the Gryffindor table, eating heartily. Trelawny was beside him, waving her arms in grand gestures of doom and despair. Hagrid was very focused on his plate and wasn’t paying attention to her.

Well, at least they both came to eat. That’s a good sign.

“Good chicken” said Dumbledore, licking his fingers.

“Yes, it is. Any luck, Albus?”

“I’m consulting with the Ministry of Magic.”

“Oh? You think it’s time they’d sent an Auror here?”

“I’m afraid our relationship with the Ministry is rather tense at present. It’s very hard to get a direct response from them. Any news on your side?”

“Pomfrey didn’t go looking for Irma when she left the meeting.”

“Our dear Madame Pomfrey. The Hogsmeade salesman?”

“The very same.”

“I don’t like to intrude on our professors’ personal affairs, but Poppy is so easily swayed… And twice now, she’s read too much into a charming smile. I just hope she doesn’t get her heart broken again so soon.”

“Thrice. And you should’ve told me.”

“Minerva, I had no way of knowing it to be true. She’d died of shame had I asked her, so I thought she’d rather confide in you.”

“So are you confiding in me to tell me what is this suspicion of yours? And what is it that you’re asking the Ministry about?”

“I’m confiding in you to arrive to the answer based on the evidence. If my theory turns out to be completely wrong, you’re our only chance.”

McGonagall concentrated on her potatoes.

“The house-elves are back at work. I wouldn’t have thought they would after last night.”

“Their approach to death is something to be admired. They believe Tugglit is now receiving his reward on the afterlife for a lifetime of service, and although they’re sad for his passing they’re happy for his fortune in the beyond. This banquet is their celebration.”

McGonagall was impressed. She’d never thought house-elves would approach death like that.

“They had a beautiful ceremony last night. It was simple and quiet yet very ominous in its own way. They wanted Argus Filch to be part of it, but he excused himself.”

“Why did they asked for Filch? That was a little bizarre. Do you think it was because Filch found the body? Or perhaps they relate to him as the caretaker?”

“My dear Minerva, you’re very welcome to ask them.”

“I hadn’t thought on questioning them… Do you think they’d talk to me?”

“I asked Dobby. He’s willing to talk to you whenever you decide to call him.”

She cleaned out her plate.

“Thank you, Albus. I will.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Snape leaving the table. She glanced at the pudding that had just appeared.

“Save me some dessert, will you Albus?”

She didn’t wait for his response. She left the Great Hall at a quickened pace, trying to appear unhurried but not quite achieving it. She reached him halfway through the Entrance Hall.

“Severus…”

“Let’s talk in the courtyard, Minerva. Could we?”

He seemed rather annoyed. They walked out into the courtyard. It was cloudy, but some rays of light were filtering through the clouds. There was only a slight breeze.

Snape walked up to the tall tree in the middle of the courtyard and turned around to face McGonagall.

“I still say he’s guilty.”

McGonagall’s face lighted up.

“Yes! You cleared him!”

Snape shook his head enfatically.

“No, no, no! Didn’t you hear? I’m saying he IS guilty of something!”

“What I see is that you now see he couldn’t have done it. I knew you’d see it my way.”

“Are you mad, woman?? I’m telling you he’s done something!”

“Severus, listen to yourself! You’re saying he couldn’t be the guilty party, whatever you suspect he’s done you’re sure he’s not the main culprit!”

She would’ve hugged him, but she knew he’d probably explode of rage. He was so furious that his moustache and beard were twitching out of sync(*).

“I’m sorry, Severus.” she said, trying to make amends for her happiness.

He turned around and paced a bit away from her.

“Our resident sasquatch did exactly what he said he was going to do. He wouldn’t look at me straight in the eye, but I’m sure he’s got something up his sleeve. His bags are packed for a long trip, so I’d say he’s planning on getting some new foreign exotic creature that will bring about doom, but…”

He turned around, his face finally calm and composed.

“…he doesn’t seem to be keeping any new monsters here. Yet.”

McGonagall folded her arms and leaned against the tree.

“What did he tell you?”

“He left the meeting for the very same reason than all of them did. He was bored half to death by your report. No, he didn’t admit it but that’s a given.”

McGonagall decided to let Snape get away with that remark.

“He took his time checking on every inhabitant of his freak sideshow. After that, he walked back to the castle. He saw nobody, an it appears he’s telling the truth. He continuously tried to convince me that Filch might have more to do than him, but he’s biased.”

“Why would you think that?”

“I found out from Madame Sprout that he and Filch had a little run-in. About a month ago, Pomona asked Filch to check up on one of the greenhouses that was abandoned to see if it could be restored back to working condition. Filch ordered Hagrid to keep his monsters away while he did so, making a not so subtle remark about how that greenhouse ended getting trashed after one of Hagrid’s beasts got away from him. Hagrid responded in some fancy fashion, and Filch told Pomona that Hagrid was interferring with his work. Pomona then spoke to Hagrid asking him to keep his beasts clear off the greenhouses. He took it all in without saying a word but not very pleased.”

“Ah, so that’s why Hagrid jumped at Pomona Sprout during the staff meeting!”

“Yes, another huge mistery solved.” he said, his voice full with sarcasm. “Too bad we don’t seem to be any closer to solving the one that is keeping us here. Did you find out anything from Pomfrey?”

“She never went looking for Irma, she went up to the owlery.”

“To the owlery? Why?”

“It’s nothing. She just wanted to send a message.”

“Couldn’t she wait until after the meeting? What was so important?”

“Some personal note. It’s not important Severus, ok?”

They stared at each other for a second.

“Right. It’s not important.”

He sounded unconvinced, but McGonagall preferred not to push the issue.

“So did Hagrid see anybody, any ghosts? Peeves?”

“No.”

They were silent for a bit.

“Do you remember when Dumbledore sent us all out to search the castle?”

Snape’s voice was neutral.

“I stayed behind, Severus. Albus asked me to.”

“Well, I was talking to Professor Sinistra at breakfast. During that search she ran into Irma Pince on the third floor. She told me our dear librarian was running back upstairs.”

“You mean… she was outside of the library just after everything took place?”

“No, Minerva. She was SEEN outside just then, but we don’t know how long she had been outside already – where are you going?”

McGonagall had started to walk back inside at a quickened pace. Snape had to run to catch up.

“We can’t let more questions pile up. I’m going to see Irma. You’re free to come along if you wish.”

“I agree completely. I have a few questions for Madame Pince myself.”

They almost raced each other upstairs to the fourth floor.

Both McGonagall and Snape knew Irma Pince could not be in any other place than the Hogwarts library. The doors were closed, but they went in anyway without knocking.

The place was deserted. The bookcases were draped in plastic for the summer. The chairs had been set upside down on the tables. They walked inside a few paces and stopped. There was sobbing coming from somewhere.

“In there” said Snape, pointing to the Restricted Section.

The Restricted Section of the library contained all sorts of books that required expertise in handling, such as most of the materials of Defense of the Dark Arts, as well as certain forbidden books that were kept solely for reference material but not for actual use. Taking out a book from this section was reserved only for students of the last years, with some books only available throughout a teacher’s written permission. Other books were not allowed ever to be touched at all.

Irma Pince was sitting at a table with a large number of what appeared to be ripped pages and empty spines on one side and complete books on the other.

“Reparo!”

As she repaired yet another book, she moved it from one side to the other. McGonagall noticed that the repaired books rested on a thick piece of cloth, set up like a small crib. Madame Pince also took each remade book with both hands temporarily holding it like a newborn child.

She only then noticed McGonagall and Snape.

“It was time you two got here. Have you found out who did this to my books?”

“Sorry?”

She raised from her seat and turned to face them, addressing McGonagall. She had been crying.

“Dumbledore commissioned you to find out who committed this horrible crime against my library, did he not?”

“Actually…” began saying Snape.

“He asked us both.” said McGonagall, interrupting him with a look.

Pince turned to Severus, her face apologetic.

“I’m sorry, Severus. Bless Dumbledore for putting you both on the case.”

“No problem… Irma” said Snape in his most uncomfortable voice ever.

Pince went back to the table and sat down, carefully looking at the torn pages and selecting them into a new book.

“So, do you have any… suspects?”

There was a murderous edge in her voice as she said the last word.

“Well…” said Snape, quickly glancing at McGonagall, “we obviously suspect Peeves. Have you seen him at all tonight?”

She let out a small cackle and both McGonagall and Snape took a step back cautiously.

“PEEVES! Yes, well I was sure this was his work too… until I found-”

She interrupted herself and turned her head to one side.

“Sorry, of course. You don’t know! How clumsy of me!”

She got up and walked over to a small desk in the corner, her hand fumbling with keys inside her pocket.

“I locked it up. Haven’t touched it! Perhaps one of you or Dumbledore knows a way for it to reveal its owner.”

With her back to them, she put a key inside the lock and opened a drawer. She then took out her wand and pointed it inside.

Out of the corner of her eye, McGonagall noticed Snape’s hand had instantly gone to his own wand and shook her head negatively at him. Reluctantly, he put it away.

“…leviosa.”

She turned to them. Floating in mid-air was knife. It had a very crude wooden handle and the blade was slightly rusted. It had been sharpened in a very clumsy manner, and it had scratches all over it.

The knife floated over to them and stayed there.

McGonagall searched in her pocket and brought out a handkerchief. Without looking at Snape (she was sure he was making a face of some sort) she grabbed the knife with it. There were initials on the handle, apparently carved with great care long ago, but now they had faded and were barely recognizable.

“R. H.” read McGonagall.

“Yes, I saw that too. You see why I now believe it wasn’t Peeves at all? He wouldn’t need tools to shred my precious…” she choked. “Anyway, I believe this will bring you closer to the real murderer.”

McGonagall didn’t say anything but she could tell what Snape was thinking as clear as if she were reading his mind.

Rubeus Hagrid.

Who McGonagall knew was innocent. This was an attempt at framing him, and a very poor one at that! Apparently the same thought had already crossed Snape’s mind as well, as he let out a sight.

McGonagall wrapped the knife in the handkerchief and put it away in her pocket.

“Irma, on the night in question…”

“Which night? There were many.”

“Many?”

“Yes, it has been going on for some time now. I can’t even finish repairing them! I leave the library for a few seconds and it happens again!”

Her voice was trembling with rage.

“How many times has the library been vandalized?”

“The first time? That was more than a month ago, and at that time I was sure it had been Peeves – I had heard him cackling madly as I ran back. Then there were several more times after that… perhaps three or four.”

“When did it happened last?”

“Two nights ago. Yes, it was just the night before the staff meeting. Ah! you’re thinking it might have something to do with the killing of the house-elf?”

McGonagall and Snape let out a huge sight they didn’t know they had been holding in. Madame Pince raised a finger at them.

“You know, Dumbledore should really put someone to investigate that too.”

Snape suddenly found some books on the nearby shelves terribly interesting and turned around to look at them. McGonagall bit her tongue and coughed politely.

“Irma, just in case both incidents are related, did you see anyone on the night of the staff meeting?”

“I was in here all night. At some point, I heard someone talking outside but I couldn’t tell who it was. Severus, didn’t I tell you this sometime yesterday?”

Snape turned around, mustering every bit of strength to keep his face straight.

“Yes, Irma. You told me. You also heard Peeves scream a while after that, didn’t you?”

She nodded. McGonagall intervened.

“Did you leave the library to investigate?”

“No, Minerva. I didn’t”

“Are you sure, Irma? This is important.”

She was silent for a second.

“I did walked out for an instant, but it was a long time after that.”

“Did you see anything?”

“I walked over to the stairway and leaned over the handrail. I saw Mr. Filch carrying a sack, going downstairs.”

“What did you do?”

“I closed the library and went downstairs myself.”

“We never saw you in the Staff Room.”

“I… I went back up before reaching it.”

“Why?”

Irma waved at the books on the table behind her.

“I couldn’t leave them alone.”

“Irma, are any books missing?”

“I’m still reconstructing a few. There are a lot with pages missing.”

“Pages? Not entire books?”

“Well, right off the top of my head there’s a couple of transfiguration manuals missing.”

McGonagall cleared her throat.

“Ahem, well I might have those…”

She had to turn around to avoid the librarian’s furious gaze.

“What I meant, Irma, is if there’s any books missing from the Restricted Section.”

“Pages. Pages are missing. Then again it’s possible they will still turn out… only one book is completely missing from this section, but it’s not even a book.”

Snape perked up.

“Not a book? What is it then.”

“It’s not important, I don’t even know why I brought it up. A student’s essay that was stored here is missing.”

“A lot of non-important things happening lately” said Snape, glancing sideways at McGonagall.

She glanced back defiantly and turned back to Madame Pince.

“Why would a student’s essay be in the restricted section?”

“When a certain essay contains sensible information, which is the case with Defense of the Dark Arts projects, it gets put here if the Headmaster concludes it could be misused either accidentally or intentionally. This one had a very stern warning, although it got very high marks. But all and all it’s just a student’s essay.”

“What was it about?”

“I looked it up a while ago in the records, it was a paper on controlling dark creatures… a project for Defense of the Dark Arts that was finally rejected by the Headmaster because it used too much of the dark arts themselves.”

“Sounds very much deserving of the Restricted Section to me” said Snape.

“No, it’s not!” insisted Madame Pince. “Students do that just to impress their teachers. It’s just some stupid essay that was made ages ago by some sixth-year named Fiddle… Middle…”

“RIDDLE??? You mean TOM RIDDLE???”

“Yes, that was the name!”

McGonagall and Snape were in complete shock. Pince looked at them, confused.

“Why…? Is that important?”

Tom Riddle.

Or as the wizarding world would come to know and fear him… Voldemort.

***

(*) Author’s note: in case you haven’t noticed by now, Flitwick and Snape in this story look very much like J. K. Rowling originally conceived them and not like in the movies. That is, Filius Flitwick is NOT a stocky goblin-looking Snow-White-dwarf-reject but just a short man. I love Alan Rickman’s interpretation of Severus Snape and I think he’s got the mannerisms just right, but the real Snape in my mind has a mustache and a goatee beard, as you see in the book illustrations. On the other hand, my Minerva McGonagall looks exactly like in the movies.
***
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 27, 2010 - 10:28 pm

    Love the interrogations…And I was waiting for Voldemort to show up sooner or later…..what happens next?

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