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dh2_sockpuppet in dh2_challenge

Sweep

Title: Sweep
Characters and/or pairings: Argus Filch
Word count: 1,450
Rating: PG-13
Highlight for Warnings: *Depictions of violence; character death *
Summary and/or prompt: In the aftermath of the battle, Argus does the only thing he can.

Author's notes: Inspired by the moment in the film in which Filch is seen attempting to sweep up the rubble after the Battle of Hogwarts. The moment got a laugh in the theatre I was in; maybe it wasn't so funny from the inside.

A zillion thanks to "S" for her beta work!



You sweep.

It's all you know to do here. It's all you have to offer: your tiny contribution to sanity, to a world in which words like "tidy" and "clean" still make as much sense as "dead" and "corpse".

When the battle began, you were excited—you couldn't help but be caught up in the frenzy of preparation and flight. Your blood, it hadn't pumped quite so fast in years; not since you caught sight—accidentally of course, you weren't no pervert—of them seventh-year boys skinny-dipping in the loch one early autumn evening.

The children—some of 'em—acted like it were a game, smiling and chattering as they rushed about, happy at the prospect of being allowed to brandish them bloody wands at grown witches and wizards, and you felt it, too. Or maybe it were hysteria. Any road, after the shock of hearing that horrible voice in your head—and everyone had heard it right enough, it weren't just you—had worn off, and before the first curse hit the barriers, it seemed to you like you'd stepped right into one of them Muggle pictures Mam sometimes made you go to with her when Dad were away. Which he were a lot when it came clear that there were no Hogwarts letter coming for Argus Filch. Funny how you ended up here anyway. If by "funny" you mean "thanks to the old Headmaster", who appeared with a job offer the week after your dad had left for good. Now they were dead, the Headmaster and your dad, both, but you were still here, weren't you? For the moment.

It didn't feel real, and you felt like one of them—whatchacallit?—actors, so you thought you should Do Your Duty, like they did in the pictures. Except in them pictures, the men Did Their Duty by putting on uniforms, picking up guns and marching off to wars far away. This war were coming to you, and the only uniforms were the ones on the students, and you knew that guns weren't much help against wizards, even if you had owned one and knew what to do with it.

As happened so often, it were Mrs Norris what gave you the thought and showed you the way. She wound herself around your ankles and biffed at 'em with her soft paws as if to say, "Remember me, Argus?" As if you could forget your only friend.

So you began trying to round up the castle's cats, to scuttle them to safety, and when you had collected a few, rolling and mewling their way behind you as you dragged the catnip teaser, you asked the Deputy Headmistress where to put 'em, so they'd be safe.

"I don't think it will matter, Mr Filch," she had said, and for once, her voice weren't full of irritation or dismissal, but kindness. "Best to let them go fend for themselves, I think."

And then it were real to you, because she were a right old besom, and no mistake, but she did have a proper care for the moggies, her.

When you watched the grown wizards and witches point their wands to the skies to create the protection, you were in awe. It were so beautiful, like a painting of light. The students, they were in awe, too, and for once, you felt kinship with them—all of you standing together in the courtyard, watching the orange beams weave their way over the towers and parapets, bright ribbons of hope against a dark and foreboding sky.

It didn't last. Neither the beauty nor the feeling of belonging.

First the curses began hitting the perimeter, then fear broke the fellowship. The students began pulling their wands, and you remembered again what separated you from them. From all of them.

Then, when the battle began in earnest, when them Death Eaters broke into the castle and brought them unspeakable things with 'em, you were helpless. Even the lowest student could fire a hex to irritate if not disable a foe, and get a chest full of sommat nasty for his trouble, like as not.

The first person you saw die were that little Gryffindor boy.

You were crouching near the central staircase, and the boy suddenly appeared out of nowhere to begin firing hexes at the Death Eater who had been advancing on you, wand drawn. He were holding his own against the big—witch or wizard, you couldn't say—when another one stepped out of the shadows. You saw him, but young—Corin? Colin?—had his back to him. You yelled, but it were lost among all the other shouts and booms and cracks of the battle. You even raised what would've been your wand arm—you' d seen the gesture so often by now, it seemed natural—but what could your empty hand do but point and bear witness to the murder of a sixteen-year-old boy who had served detention with you often enough, but whose name you couldn't even remember.

Forgotten by the Death Eater, you stayed crouched in your place behind the rail of the staircase and watched as your castle crumbled along with the bodies of good and evil, young and old, dust shrouding the lot until it weren't clear anymore what were human and what stone.

Then, after the horrible voice came again, and things were quiet for a time, you crept out of your hiding place and went looking for Mrs Norris. You must've been in the dungeons when that Potter boy made his final move and ended the war, because you didn't hear nowt until you emerged, eyes watering, into the Great Hall and saw the survivors, some smiling, some weeping, some bent over the sick and the dead.

So many dead.

And you wondered, now that the battle were over, what to do. There weren't nowt to do for the dead; you knew that right enough, but the injured? You had nowt even to wipe their brow with, nor a sip of water to give—you couldn't conjure it up out of thin air like the others could. Nor did you have nowt to offer the living; them with haunted, empty eyes already. You weren't one of them, nor did they like you. You'd made sure of that—contempt being easier to bear than pity—but now you wondered if it were the right course, after all. Mrs Norris were all very well and good, but you craved the touch of a human hand, the caress of a kind word; you knew it now, and suddenly. And any road, Mrs Norris weren't to be found, leastways, not on Hogwarts' grounds. You hoped she got away clean, but you'd probably never know.

You turned away from the scene; it were too painful to keep watching. Not just because of the death and misery, but because you didn't belong, and you'd never belonged. And, you old fool, it weren't because you were a Squib, neither, or at least not all down to that. It were because you wanted it that way, or told yourself you did. The old Headmaster, he didn't just give you a job, did he? He had been giving you a chance to belong. Old Pringle, he had told you his stories about the people in the castle and the times they had, and now that you think on it, most of those stories and times had nowt to do with magic. To be sure, there were some, even in the cloister that were the school, what turned their noses up at a Squib. But not all. Not all. Not until you turned your nose up at them first.

That boy that died in front of you, he knew you were a Squib, but he lost his life protecting you just the same. He counted you among the Good Guys, even if you never had a gentle word for him as he scrubbed the trophies or pried that blasted gum from the bottoms of the desks.

As you paced out into the entry hall, you felt a sudden and strong urge to do sommat. To be part of these people what had Done Their Duty and survived it. To Do Your Duty.

And then you spied it; that little pile of rubble near the foot of the central staircase, and you knew what to do.

So you move your broom across the floor of the corridor outside the Great Hall, and if its bristles smear thin, accusatory streaks of blood over the stone, well . . . you'll take a scrub-brush to that, right enough. Wash it all away. Clean. Fresh. New.

You sweep.

~FIN~

Comments

Ohhhh this is lovely. So true to character, heart-breaking and real. Thank you for showing me a different, softer side of Filch.

Bravo.
So good! Filch is such an interesting character and it's nice to see that he knows just how much Hogwarts and all those bloody students he disliked so much mean/meant to him.

Well done!
I really loved the voice of this. Second-person narrative is definitely a style that, when done well, is chilling and maudlin and perfect all at the same time. I really like that you had Colin sacrifice himself for Filch, just out of the goodness of his heart and his belief in doing the right thing. Filch is really given a strong personality there, one I hadn't thought he was quite capable of.

The part about the cats damn near broke my heart.
Oh, excellent! I think I held my breath throughout. And yes, it made me sniffle a little. Poor old Filch.

(I hope Mrs. Norris is OK!)
Very nice internal monologue - totally believable.

I too giggled when he began sweeping.
Great voice for Filch. And his concern for the cats - of course he would.

The perspective of the battle through his eyes is utterly convincing; even he would have felt part of it all, in that brief moment just before they realise what a battle really is.

Excellent story -- perceptive insights, spot-on Filch voice, great lines. Like tetleythesecond, I loved that Filch-sweeping moment in the film, not to laugh at him, but because of exactly what you show here: his pride in his job, his desire to do do "sommat" for the cause.

The second person works well, too, as do the little moments of perfect Filch-humor (he's not the only one who hears voices, ha!) and the poignant connections to the Muggle world.

Here are just a few of the lines I loved:

so beautiful, like a painting of light. The students, they were in awe, too, and for once, you felt kinship with them—all of you standing together in the courtyard, watching the orange beams weave their way over the towers and parapets, bright ribbons of hope against a dark and foreboding sky.
That the feeling can't last is sad but so believable.

but what could your empty hand do but point and bear witness to the murder of a sixteen-year-old boy who had served detention with you often enough, but whose name you couldn't even remember.
Argh!

dust shrouding the lot until it weren't clear anymore what were human and what stone

Great job.
Wonderful job of humanizing Filch! It's so easy to dismiss him - not because he's a Squib, but because he works hard to make himself disliked... as he himself realizes here.

And then it were real to you, because she were a right old besom, and no mistake, but she did have a proper care for the moggies, her.

LOL at this bit. McGonagall would care for the cats, wouldn't she?
Oh, that's a fascinating character study! I hadn't thought about what it would be like for him to be caught in the middle of that battle but unable to fight magically. :(( And his concern for the cats was beautiful.
Oh this is stunning! I've had goosebumps throughout the entire thing. You captured his mournful and slightly-desperate feelings here so perfectly. A lovely insight into who Filch might be
Aw, this makes me feel so sad for him. That he knows he pushed everyone away and only now regrets it. Thanks for such lovely insights into Filch's character!
Oh, this made me shiver. So lovely and poignant!
Oh, wow, it's a long time since a piece of fanfiction made me cry but this, this was wonderful in its execution and content. Thank you.
Just beautifully done! You made me tear up with this. FIlch's helplessness in the face of this battle, and then Colin's sacrifice on his behalf... *sniffs*
The scene in the movie made me chuckle. Your character study made me smile and cry at the same time.
:)
Lovely, lovely story. Not only do you make Filch real, but the battle as well. As someone sitting on the sidelines unable to fight, it seems he's able to see what's happening in a way the others can't.

And I love how Filch grows in this story, craving some human interaction and realizing it's his own fault for feeling alienating. Somehow, I expected Mrs. Norris to just show up at the end. But not knowing whether she escaped or died is much more realistic and poignant. Well done.
This was lovely and actually made me teary. Good gawd, but it made me teary. I love that you took one of my favorite little bits of the movie (Filch sweeping up with Mrs. Norris) and expanded it into a truly beautiful piece that finally made poor Argus seem human.

I especially loved the bit about the cats and this: Funny how you ended up here anyway. If by "funny" you mean "thanks to the old Headmaster", who appeared with a job offer the week after your dad had left for good. Now they were dead, the Headmaster and your dad, both, but you were still here, weren't you? For the moment.
Really beautiful, Mystery Author.
That moment in the movie made me cry, actually, and this is a wonderful vision of what Filch might have been thinking then. Great narrative voice too.
I loved it all, but especially this:

You'd made sure of that—contempt being easier to bear than pity—but now you wondered if it were the right course, after all.

secretsolitaire pointed me here, and I'm sure glad she did. You did a wonderful job with this. I hope Mrs. Norris comes home to him.

August 2011

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