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 Eight: The Name of The Beast
Minerva McGonagall stood in the center of the Headmaster’s office. Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, stared at her with sad eyes as if apologizing for the absence of his master. McGonagall had gone to tell Dumbledore about the Voldemort connection. She had a nagging feeling it would’ve been old news to the wise wizard, but she really couldn’t see how he would’ve known.
She’d found the office empty. She could almost see the little specs of Floo powder sparkle in the fireplace.
“He’s not here, Deputy Headmistress.”
She needed not to turn to know it was the portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black, previous Headmaster of Hogwarts and least liked of them all, who had address her. The other portraits appeared to be asleep, but McGonagall knew better.
“Do you have any idea of his whereabouts, Phineas?”
He looked at her through half-closed eyes.
“He wouldn’t say. My guess is he’s gone to the Ministry. So, have you solved it yet?”
Phineas Black’s face could not hide his amusement. He was, after all, a former Slytherin.
“No,” she said with a whisper.
“Albus thinks very highly of you, Minerva. I hope you’re not about to let him down.”
That stung her. There were muffled protests – and some name-calling – from the other paintings. The other previous headmasters didn’t seem to be very fond of Phineas either. Phineas was not disturbed. He enjoyed taunting.
“You know… I could tell you what Albus is thinking if you ask. Or beg. Some students were pretty good at groveling in this office. It was repulsive… yet somehow I miss it.”
“Preposterous!” said Fortescue from another painting, “You cannot betray the Headmaster’s confidence like that. If Albus didn’t tell her, neither can you, Phineas!”
The portrait of Headmistress Dilys Derwent was calling her.
“Minerva, don’t rule out anything, dear. Nor anyone.” she told her.
Phineas Black snickered.
“That won’t help… She’s already ruled out her friends” he said, his voice almost a cackle. “So very typical of Gryffindor House…”
No painting appeared to be asleep now. Everyone was shouting at Phineas Black.
“You, sir, are a disgrace to the office of Headmaster!”
“Shut it, the lot of you!” he answered back to them.
McGonagall knew she wasn’t doing anything by being there. Leaving the paintings to gang up on Phineas, she left the office and descended on the spiraling staircase. As she headed towards her office she wondered what would Albus Dumbledore thought of her had she taken Phineas Black’s offer.
Snape was waiting for her on the first floor, outside her office’s door. She began speaking loudly the moment they were within earshot.
“Dumbledore is not in his office. I reckon he’s gone to the Ministry through the Floo Network.”
She opted not to tell him of Phineas Black’s offer. Snape’s frustration showed on his face.
“Did you learn anything from your little elf friend?”
“Yes. Dobby was the one to pick the box that I left for Filch.”
Snape seemed more annoyed than surprised. McGonagall knew the feeling.
“How do you reckon it ended up on the scene of the crime?”
“I guess someone took it back upstairs to lure someone. A trap for Tugglit – although I can’t imagine why. Or it was ment for any house-elf and Tugglit just happened to be the unlucky one.”
“Or Filch,” said Snape. “It had its name on it, after all.”
“That idea doesn’t agree with me. I’d dare say that someone has actually built Riddle’s mystery device and decided to test it out.”
“Minerva, I know you don’t want to rule out Filch but you sound like you want to rule out anyone but him, which is not fair. It is possible he was the intended victim. Maybe he dropped some cleaning fluid on Madame Sprout’s plants and she decided to obliterate him.”
“I’m laughing on the inside” said McGonagall sarcastically. “Madame Sprout didn’t leave the meeting, anyways.”
McGonagall let out her breath and opened her office, inviting him in.
“Step in and take a seat. You’ll find my chairs inviting, I’m afraid.”
Had Tugglit saved Filch’s life somehow? McGonagall couldn’t see Filch as the intended victim. Why not wait until all the staff left for the summer? Filch would’ve been alone. The murder of Tugglit on the very day of the last staff meeting kept everyone from leaving.
Snape’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Minerva, what are we going to do about that knife?”
McGonagall took the knife out of her pocket, still wrapped in her handkerchief.
“Might as well get it out of the picture as soon as possible, wouldn’t you agree?”
She unwrapped the weapon and dropped it on top of her desk for Snape to see.
Snape took out his wand and performed an exploratory charm.
“It’s not a weapon… there’s no deep hostility upon it. No deaths to hold it accountable from. Some recent action, but very minor. Nothing murderous.”
The knife glowed as it responded to Snape’s wand.
“It’s a tool. Sweat is upon it. The recent user is not the owner.”
He put away the wand and look at the knife.
“It’s very used. Once it was labelled elegantly but it’s old now, and the blade is more useless than ever. I reckon this was just put in the library to create confusion. It was definitely stolen from R. H.”
“So who put it there?”
Snape made a helpless gesture. He didn’t know.
“Definitely nothing sinister. Another dead end, I’m afraid.”
“So what do we know now? None of the house-elves saw the murder take place. They all felt something dark and foreboding on the corridors and hid. I’m not ruling out He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, just so you know”
“Minerva, I find your obsession over one suspect and one murderer very crippling.”
If Snape had ment his last remark to be a joke, he wasn’t enjoying it.
“I’m open to suggestions. Really.”
“Very well,” said Snape. “House-elves felt something wondering through Hogwarts Castle and hid. Ghosts got scared too. And guess what else I found out. Paintings are a mess. Every inhabitant is in the wrong painting. Did you know the Fat Lady is eating the fruit of the painting that leads to the kitchen?”
“What does that tell us?”
“It tells us that something strange got loose, or was let loose in the castle the night in question. Let’s say a wizard came in an performed the Killing Curse. That would make him or her a murderer but not a malevolent presence that would scare everybody off. Minerva, do you remember the word ‘control’ in Riddle’s essay?”
“We have to search for the murdering hand and the murdering mind separately.”
“Yes!” said Snape, raising a fist in the air.
McGonagall’s face darkened with an alarming thought.
“Severus, you realize that means anybody of us may be the murdering mind. He or she never didn’t have to be there to make it happen.”
They were both silent for a moment.
“Very unlikely,” said Snape, “if I were to commit a murder using an entity and not by my own hand, I’d still want to be there to see it all happened smoothly. Wouldn’t you?”
McGonagall chose not to dwell on Snape’s logical, yet sinister, explanation.
“Still,” she added, “you would do it if you could see it at a distance.”
“You’re thinking someone was astro-projecting instead of sleeping through your exposition. Very well, I suspect Dumbledore then. On top of that, he’s escaped too.”
“Be serious, Severus.”
“Very well, how about me?”
Minerva raised her characteristic eyebrow.
“You didn’t do it.”
“Why? Why wouldn’t I do it? I find an essay written by Riddle about a very powerful device or custom-made charm, steal all the material needed to craft it, trash Pince’s little paper friends so it looks like the work of Peeves, get bored during your very, very interesting intervention, fall into a trance to astrally project myself, and try out my new found powers against a house-elf. What would prevent me to do so?”
“Severus, you were paying attention to me.”
“Are you sure of that?”
“Of course. You wanted me to finish because you were eager to speak, remember?”
She got up and made an impersonation of Snape grimacing.
“DEFENSE… OF… THE DARK… ARTS!” she said in her very best Snape-like voice.
Snape dropped his head on the desk with a loud thud.
“I’m never going to live that one down, am I?”
“Oh hush, you do that every year and bounce right back up.”
She sat down, drumming her fingers on a book absent-mindedly.
“Let’s put aside the mind and focus on the hand for a moment. Could it be someone under the Imperius curse?”
Snape raised his head. The Imperius curse made someone obey commands without question and without ever remembering them.
“I doubt Riddle would get top marks for the Imperius curse. And if there was some variation, we’d have heard about it already. No, I think you’re going about it the wrong way.”
“What do you think we should do?”
“Well,” said Snape, “I say we start looking into the bestiary. In fact, I’ve already started.”
McGonagall gave him a suspicious look.
“I haven’t said Hagrid’s name, Minerva. With the control device or charm or whatever it is, everybody is a suspect.”
“That’s not what I was thinking, Severus. How did you get Irma to allow you to browse her books given the current state of events? Or did you just swipe some?”
“I told her the other books would be glad to assist us in trailing the murderer of their other library inhabitants.”
McGonagall had to give Snape credit for his craftiness.
“I’ve gone through Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them three times already. I don’t have a clear winner.”
He took out the book and handed it over to her. McGonagall skimmed through the pages.
“Of course there’s our old friend the basilisk. One sight and you would die leaving no marks on the body. It would mean the Chamber of Secrets has been opened again, and that there was a second one we never saw. Very much out of the question, right?”
“But… his gaze can kill without leaving marks. And ghosts are affected by a basilisk, remember?”
McGonagall remembered Nearly Headless Nick floating staticly.
“True, Severus. But the Chamber of Secrets is sealed. I’m sure Albus made sure of that.”
“We also have the centaur”
McGonagall opened her eyes very wide.
“Centaurs have never…” she started saying.
“…used the Killing Curse,” said Snape finishing for her. “Yeah, I know but they can do magic without needing a wand. No possible motive for a centaur to ever kill a house-elf, right?”
What if Tugglit stole something that belong to a particularly violent centaur?, thought McGonagall. It was too much of a longshot. Centaurs were not dark nor foreboding.
“How about a boggart?”
“Boggarts can play the part, but they can’t do spells, or mimic the magical means of another beast. I suppose they can hit you if they changed into something big like a troll, though.”
“Remember house-elves are more sensitive magically and physically. Butterbeer makes them drunk.”
“That’s grand. Now we also have to look into beings that won’t kill a wizard but may be deadly to elves.”
McGonagall searched her memory.
“What about a Lethifold? It would look dark and menacing.”
“It would. But it lacks a malevolent aura. The elves never saw it, they felt it. The infamous Living Shroud is almost extinct these days. It became an overused joke for some.”
Snape examined his cleanly cut nails.
“Besides a Lethifold is out of the question. They engulf the victim whole, they don’t leave a trace nor a body.”
McGonagall remained silent.
“Curious isn’t it?” said Snape, “They’re nothing but black cloaks floating in mid-air, and they’re scared by the Patronus charm. One would say they’re related to the-”
Snape interrupted himself. McGonagall was raising up from her seat slowly, her expression was one of complete horror.
“The cold. How stupid of me! Severus, it was cold around various parts of Hogwarts. In the summer! And it was very cold where Tugglit was killed! Our culprit is not in Fantastic Beasts because it is not categorized as a beast although it should be!”
Snape raised up from his chair too.
“Minerva, it’s impossible…”
“You know it’s true. This has to be Dumbledore’s theory, he didn’t go to the Ministry. He probably was trying to get answers from them initially but they took too long. He went to Azkaban Prison to see if any of them is missing! One of them must have remained here after the Sirius Black incident!”
Snape’s jaw dropped. McGonagall’s voice was shaking.
“It’s a dementor, Severus. Inside Hogwarts. With us.”
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.