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.
Author’s Note: We’re almost done! But before the big reveal… Let’s have a big action scene, shall we? Here we go!
Chapter Ten: Something Wicked This Way Comes
In the wizarding world of architecture, Castle Hogwarts had always been a case study. The legends said it had been built sometime around the dark ages by Grand Mason Tenebrius Talyn, a brilliant wizard house-builder whom historians cannot agree whether he was an obsessive joker, a follower of the dark arts, an insane genius or all three. It was also unknown what was the original purpose of the huge castle. There were several folk tales of how the four founders of what was to become the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had literally done battle with the building itself to make it hospitable again. Several modifications had been made throughout the centuries, including secret passages and chambers. It was known most of its original secrets remained unknown to that very day. The castle had been a witness to many battles, and it would stand through many more.
Severus Snape cursed under his breath.
The second floor had been cold. The third floor had been even colder. But as they took the steps to the fourth floor, the past ones almost seemed inviting. The fourth floor, as all floors above it, were in complete darkness. The charmed torches had managed to stay lit even when the fireplaces could not, but now it was more than cold that was putting them out.
Their wands lit up, illuminating just a few feet around them. All the paintings’ usual occupants were gone. A thin cover of frost permeated everything. The armors were frozen solid on their places, a quiet muffled moan came from them, as if they were trying to move and ran away but couldn’t.
Minerva McGonagall passed in front of a large mirror. Her reflection, distorted and dimmed by the frost, almost appeared threatening. She eyed it curiously, but didn’t stop.
“One dementor,” said Kingsley Shacklebolt, breaking the silence, “couldn’t affect the entire castle with this intensity, could it?”
McGonagall and Snape didn’t say anything right away. The Auror’s deep voice had almost made them jump, although they had kept their composure on the outside.
“No,” whispered McGonagall slowly, “it couldn’t. But this dementor is trapped and desperate. The room that contains it is very connected to the castle’s magic. The dementor is trying very hard to get out, and its powers are affecting the castle from within.”
They were approaching the library entrance. McGonagall stared at the closed door without slowing down.
“If I’d figure it out a second earlier… Bet Irma sealed the doors with every spell, hex and charm she ever learned,” she said more to herself than to anybody else, “Otherwise I’d just…”
Her voice trailed off as she started walking faster. Snape and Shacklebolt traded looks briefly before following her.
Snape was shaking, more due to the cold than to the urgency of their situation.
“It’s like it’s in the walls…”
Shacklebolt agreed, frowning. When he spoke again, his voice had become raspy.
“Could it be it’s inside the Chamber of Secrets?”
They all turned to McGonagall. The witch didn’t even blink.
“It can’t be opened without a Parceltongue.”
She stared openly at Snape, trying to see any reaction. She’d always wondered if he possessed that skill, but if he did or didn’t he wasn’t in the frame of mind to share. This wasn’t the moment for such questions anyways. She turned away and started walking again.
“Our destination tonight…”
They were now taking the stairs leading up again. She made a gesture towards the open space, where the staircases crossed each other.
“…is the seventh floor.”
They could see stalactites forming underneath the higher staircases as her wand illuminated the darkness briefly. Snape let out a moan.
“You know, I’ve always thought this place needs an elevator very badly.”
The Auror was not amused.
“I’m so glad that you grasp the gravity of our situation, Severus.”
Snape made a face of mock pity.
“You don’t get to leave the office often, do you, Kingsley?”
“Knock it off, gentlemen,” said McGonagall, “we have to hurry.”
But the stairs between the fifth and sixth floor had slippery ice, and they had to slow down and grasp tightly to the banister to avoid slipping. McGonagall was about to warn Shacklebolt of the trick step, but she never had to. Some stairs had a trick step to trip the unwary, but ice had frozen them solid.
Shacklebolt tried to use a fire spell, but McGonagall pressed them on. Time was very much of the essence. Somehow they made it to the seventh floor without nobody breaking any bones.
Snape stared at the light coming from his wand.
“We’re going to need our wands free to fight this thing.”
Shacklebolt turned off the light spell and pointed his wand upwards.
A ball of green light appeared, floating over them as they walked.
“It’s a cold light, won’t go off.”
McGonagall was impressed.
“Very useful, Kingsley.”
They treaded carefully. The floor was very slippery.
“Are you sure,” said Snape insistingly, “it’s only one?”
“That’s not very reassuring, Minerva.”
She stopped right next to a tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy. The tapestry usually depicted Barnabas trying to teach ballet to a bunch of trolls dressed in tutus. This foolish attempt resulted in them pursuing him with their maces up. Now all of them, including Barnabas, were huddled in a corner, hugging each other to keep warm.
“We’re here,” announced McGonagall. She turned to the wall in front of the tapestry. The greenish glow from Shacklebolt’s conjured ball made the location eerie.
“I don’t see anything, Minerva,” said Shacklebolt whispering, “where is it?”
She closed her eyes, concentrating.
And then, right in front of her, where there had been only a blank wall, a door was now visible.
Snape and Shacklebolt were stunned.
“It’s called the Room of Requirement, it changes with…”
There was a loud banging noise coming from inside. All three of them raised their wands. An otherwordly howl started to be heard.
“Right…” said Shacklebolt, his voice a bit high-pitched. He coughed twice.
“Bloody hell, that’s a dementor for sure…”
He murmured something inwardly, waving his wand as if writing in air.
“I left a charmed quill with a parchment with the minister, so I could write him a message from here.”
He stopped waving his wand.
“I just hope he remembers to check it.”
Snape glanced at Shacklebolt with a look of pure venom.
“We’re all holding our breaths on that one, Kingsley,” said Snape. “Minerva, how do you want to do this.”
“It’s a dementor. Our scope of spells is very reduced. You don’t like it, Severus, but I’ll borrow a page from Remus Lupin on this one.”
Snape didn’t hide his distaste.
“You mean, the Patronus charm. You know of course, it works only once if at all. It drains your stamina, which means it becomes weaker with every re-casting. You can’t do any serious spellwork after it, and if you did any beforehand it’s hard to get the charm working at a decent strength. You’re right saying I don’t like it.”
He looked hesitantly at the door.
“It’s your call though.”
Shacklebolt cleared his throat.
“I’d like the chance to state ministry representation. Dementors are oath-bound to Askaban, and if confronted directly by an Auror, it might recall its duty.”
McGonagall nodded. Snape rolled his eyes.
“It’s worth a shot. Don’t give me that look, Severus, it is!”
McGonagall decided Shacklebolt would go first. He would call upon the oath of the Dementors to guard Askaban. After that, Snape will try casting a gravity-augmentation hex. If he was successful, McGonagall would use binding spells, but if he was not, she would go for the Patronus Charm. If she failed, it was up to Snape or Shacklebolt, if any were still able, to try to use incapaciting hexes or containment spells. Of course, depending if any of them were still conscious.
“If my wand drops, Kingsley leads. Right, Severus?”
“I’ll be charmed to do so.”
Severus smile seemed more like a threat, but McGonagall had no time for etiquette.
“Right. Snape and I enter first, then we flank you as you go in, Kingsley.”
She grabbed the door handle, ready to open it.
“Remember,” said Shacklebolt, “to keep your wands down during my statement. Make yourselves look official. These things work for the Ministry, after all.”
“You could offer it severance pay, Kingsley,” said Snape with scorn, “or a better dental plan.”
They ignored Snape’s remark. McGonagall took a deep breath.
“Ready yourselves. We go. Now.”
She turned the handle and stepped inside.
The Room of Requirement’s chosen appearance was that of the insides of a highly fortified vault, three stories high. The walls were made of what looked to be thick slates of steel that ran between tall and imposing stone pillars. However, the smooth steel surfaces were razed by clawed marks, obviously made by the reluctant inhabitant of the prison. The floor was covered with rubble and debris, and both the ceiling and the floor made of solid concrete had huge cracks.
It was floating in the very center of the huge room. It was a dementor, a huge creature whose aspect was covered by a ghostly floating black cloak. Its only visible feature were the two huge pair of skeletal hands with long claw-like fingers. It was moving spasmodically, having sudden contorsions and howling madly, as if its incarsuration had accentuated its already violent demeanor.
And right then and there, McGonagall, Snape and Shacklebolt forgot all about the cold.
Asuming an official air aside Shacklebolt, McGonagall and Snape flanked him. Shacklebolt addressed the dementor.
“Guard of Askaban! Keeper of the fortress!”
The creature stretched its neck, apparently caught off guard.
Huddled in a corner of the room, was the trembling figure of Argus Filch. He kept his face buried in his knees, his arms embracing his legs. McGonagall couldn’t help but feel sympathy for him. She could tell he was still scared, and at least that told her his will to live and his soul were intact.
“Kingsley Shacklebolt, Auror of the Ministry of Magic addresses you. You have a duty to Askaban prison. Acknowledge your duty. Fall in, guard of Askaban!”
The dementor’s large claws, opened up. Its head bowed slightly, then craned to the side. It was measuring Shacklebolt up.
“Fall in, guard of Askaban!” repeated Kingsley, as loud as he could.
The dementor slowly drifted downwards and forward, towards the Auror.
As he got closer and closer, McGonagall knew this was not going to work. It wasn’t going to be that easy. This dementor had gone mad with being imprisoned. This thing was out of control, and it was not going to fall in.
It all happened too fast. The dementor hit Shacklebolt with the back of its hand, sending Shacklebolt flying against the wall. Even in its fury, it had had some reluctance to hurt an Auror. Had it used its claws, Shacklebolt would’ve been bleeding for sure.
Snape’s hex came fast and McGonagall knew Snape had been ready before the dementor had hit Shacklebolt. The figure of the dementor was flattened against the floor, as the hex increased its weight a thousand times. McGonagall pointed at the dark creature with her wand.
McGonagall could not finish the binding spell. The dementor hit the ground very hard with both his hands. The ground shook, and the witch lost her balance and fell to the ground. Snape managed to remain standing, but the dementor faced him and from its hood a strong gust wind blew, knocking him against the wall. But Snape was determined not to be defeated so quickly.
McGonagall quickly assessed Snape had combined the gravity hex with a floating charm. Sure enough, the dementor was flattened again, but this time against the ceiling. It didn’t stay there, though. It recovered quickly by sliding along the roof and then onto the wall, at incredible speed. It reached the floor and, still flattened, glided underneath Snape. Then it recovered its volume, sending Snape flying through the air like if he had been bounced off a trampoline.
McGonagall drew breath, gathering up her strength and focusing all her resolve. She pointed her wand at the dementor, but she was too late. Its left arm shot towards her, the claws fully extended. She threw all her weight sideways, barely dodging the sharp claws.
“Vade Retro Momentum!”
Shacklebolt had got up, and performed an illusionary spell, reversing the direction of the dementor’s impulse. The dementor flew backwards, but stopped right before hitting the wall. It then released a chilling scream that pierced all of their eardrums.
Snape had managed a silence spell while lying on its back. He rose quickly, trying to get his hair out of his face and finding the dementor. The dementor huffed powerlessly, then it ran its claws across the steel wall, the screeching sound breaking the silence spell. It turned towards its nearest victim, McGonagall. But the witch had needed only a few seconds to get ready, and Snape had given her enough time.
The air shook with force of the charm, as a bright light started to come out of McGonagall’s wand. It glowed brighter and brighter and from it, the shape of a huge feline flew outwards, towards the dementor. It had the shape of a huge lynx, its muscles tensed up, pouncing at the dementor. The dark guard of Askaban threw its clawed hands in the air, attempting to protect itself from it. The patronus clawed at him, leaving streaks of light behind him. Light was escaping everywhere, and McGonagall saw small firebug-like dots of light that escaped through the wounds inflicted by the patronus. Little small spirits of happiness and hope collected by this dementor through the years, some going back to their imprisoned owners, others possibly floating away to meet those passed away… perhaps in the realm of the afterlife.
The dementor, its stature a full twice the size of a human being was slowly shrinking. The lynx kept slashing at it until the light filled the room, blinding them all.
Slowly, McGonagall felt the light die away and opened her eyes again. She had dropped to her knees, but she didn’t remember when. Shacklebolt was next to her, offering his hand to help her get up. Snape was a few paces away, looking at the distant corner where the dementor was. It was not larger than a regular human now. It was floating a few inches from the floor, spinning slowly. Its bowed head was swaying from side to side as it spun. Its hands were joined together so that the sleeves covered them, almost like it was praying somehow. It was the picture of complete defeat and submission. The frost and the ice were now gone. The thing had been left powerless.
McGonagall tried to get up by herself but her legs were shaking. She accepted Shacklebolt’s arm and smiled. It was a very tired smile, and she got to see an equally tired one in Snape’s face. It was strange to see him smile that way. Shacklebolt was also smiling, but his was smile of guilt and shame. The auror felt responsible for letting them go through such an ordeal due to a creature employed by the ministry itself. McGonagall knew his thoughts, and wanted to reassure him and tell him she knew his was a different department and Azkaban was not his jurisdiction, but she found she had no strength to speak.
“Thank you… oh, thank you, headmistress…”
She turned to see Filch in the corner, who was now stretching its legs, trying to get up and failing clumsily.
Finding strength, McGonagall steadied herself, reassuring Shacklebolt with a pat on his shoulder that she would be ok for herself. She walked towards Filch, then past him and towards a book that was lying on the floor amidst the debris. She picked it up.
“Mr. Filch,” she said, “you’ve been very lucky.”
He opened his mouth, but McGonagall quickly added,
“And very stupid.”
Filch’s eyes darted from her to the book, then back to her.
She interrupted him with a gesture.
“There’s no need. I know exactly what you did and didn’t do.”
Filch was in awe at her. Snape cleared his throat.
“Minerva, I believe it’s time for you to share with the rest of the class.”
Snape’s voice had recovered his usual sarcastic tone. Shacklebolt chuckled.
“I, for one, would love to hear it what happened here.”
Shacklebolt was still trying to gain back his breath. His gaze was not leaving the defeated dementor, still spinning on the corner. He was wearing a winning, but tired, smile.
“Me too, Kingsley.”
They all turned around at the familiar voice. Albus Dumbledore was standing at the doorway.
“Perhaps over a cup of tea?”
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.