Unrequited (Part 1 of 2)
Argus Filch, caretaker of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, shuffled irritably along one of the castle’s many corridors. Trailing languidly behind him was his cat, Mrs Norris. Filch’s eyes narrowed menacingly at the sight of every Hogwarts student whom he passed. For as long as Argus Filch had been caretaker at the school he had waged a one-man war against its student populace. He knew, grudgingly, that a school needed students in order to function, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.
And he didn’t like it.
He didn’t like them.
Not one bit.
Filch had yet to meet a Hogwarts student whom he actually liked. Draco Malfoy had come close. The former Slytherin prefect did possess some qualities that Filch admired: deviousness, single-mindedness, and a definite contempt for the other students at Hogwarts. Especially that Harry Potter.
Filch shuddered at the very thought of the name. Once again grudgingly, Filch knew that the wizarding world owed an eternal debt to Harry Potter and those who fought alongside him in their overthrowing of Lord Voldemort, but again this didn’t mean that Filch had to like the boy.
Filch corrected himself mentally. Harry Potter was now a man. However, in Filch’s opinion: once a Hogwarts student always a Hogwarts student. This meant that his dislike for the Hogwarts student body didn’t end when they left school. He just kept on disliking students year in and year out. They would come, learn their trade, and move on out into the wizarding world, and Filch would remain at Hogwarts, getting older and more venomous with every new term.
Filch rounded the corner to where his office was, barked a warning at a couple of passing second years, and approached the door. He fumbled inside his dusty coat and produced a large iron ring of jangling keys. He never used to lock his office during the day. The threat of what he could and would do to any student foolhardy enough to trespass inside the caretaker’s office was, for a time, more than enough of a deterrent to keep his private quarters safe from intrusion.
Until the Weasley twins.
Filch shuddered again; the memory of a thousand pranks at his expense perpetrated by those two redheaded hooligans flashed in his mind.
One hooligan now. Filch knew that one of the Weasley twins had died in the battle for Hogwarts. He shook himself free of this thought. He didn’t like to think of those who died inside the school.
Filch wasn’t glad they were dead, but them being gone didn’t make him like them or their memory any more. They were all the same, he thought bitterly as he gruffly jammed the right key into the door’s lock and turned it with a grunt. They all saw him the same way.
Stupid old Filch.
Stupid smelly old Filch.
Stupid smelly old Filch the Squib.
Filch angrily jerked the door to his office open and slammed it shut once Mrs Norris had slunk inside. He shuffled over to a wooden board mounted on the wall where all of the castle’s keys hung from rows and rows of iron hooks. He placed the ring of keys he had been holding on to its hook, turned to face his shabby little office and slumped down heavily into his chair. A small cloud of ancient-looking dust erupted into the air as he sat down.
They were all the same, he thought nastily.
None of them knew.
None of them understood.
Filch sat in silence for a few moments, the only sounds the slightly wheezy purring of Mrs Norris as she wound her thin body lovingly around Filch’s leg, and the occasional spack of molten candle wax falling and cooling in the iron bobeches. Filch’s face was etched in hard lines of annoyance and frustration; the day’s dealings with the school’s troublemakers and rule-breakers oozing unpleasantly out of his unwelcoming expression. Then, his features began to soften; a faraway glaze slid across his eyes. Lost in thought, his eyes turned glassier still and with a heavy blink Filch spilled tears down his pouched and stubbly cheeks.
None of them understood.
Wiping away the tears with the back of his hand, as if fearful that someone might see, Filch reached into the recesses of his musty coat once again and pulled out a dirty patterned handkerchief. He blew his nose noisily and stuffed the foul rag back inside his coat. With a guttering sigh he opened his bottom desk drawer and took out a bottle of firewhiskey and a single, chipped tumbler.
‘Here’s to another night without you, my love,’ he said morosely, as he poured himself a generous measure. Mrs Norris looked up briefly from the stack of books that she had perched herself atop, momentarily curious at her owner’s voice, before settling down to sleep. Filch would never let on that one of the chief reasons he was in such a bad mood all the time was because he was often fighting off a hangover, but the firewhiskey helped.
However, nothing truly worked.
With a slightly trembling hand, Filch brought the battered glass to his lips and downed the contents in one. The welcoming numbing warmth flowed down his throat and he closed his eyes again, hoping that this time he would be able to forget, truly forget.
The problem was that there was still a large part of Argus Filch that didn’t want to forget. A part of him that knew he would not, could not, and above all should not forget. As painful as it was, he felt he owed it to her memory to never forget.
Although, had she forgotten him?
Filch scowled at this thought, poured himself another firewhiskey and downed that one, just as the first. He screwed his face up as the fire fought its way inside him, his fingers tightening on the tumbler for a second. Reaching out with his other hand, Filch picked up a framed photograph that, unlike everything else in his tumbledown office, was spotless and gleaming. Not a single speck of dust could be seen on the photograph or the frame. Even so, Filch opened another drawer in his desk and brought out a yellow duster. He fastidiously polished the glass surface over the photograph and the frame surrounding it, all the while never taking his bleary eyes off the woman posing for that picture all those years ago.
Filch put the photograph down and gazed at it for several long, silent moments. The woman in the photograph was young, pretty and smiling out at the world. Being a photograph taken in the wizarding world, she occasionally waved or preened her hair. Her clothes and hairstyle were both decades out of style, so this was an old photograph.
Old and beautiful.
Beautiful and haunting.
Filch let out another long, deep sigh as he continued to stare longingly at the pretty young woman who was looking up at him.
She had looked at him like that for real once.
Many a Hogwarts student would laugh at the thought of Argus Filch ever being a young man, and they would positively wet themselves at the further thought of him ever being in love. But that was what he was, once. Young and in love.
Always with her.
Her name was Angela. For a time she was Filch’s next door neighbour. Filch didn’t keep up with his neighbours; he was too ashamed. The stigma in those days, today too, Filch thought angrily, of being a Squib, a wizard who couldn’t do magic, was too painful to bear. So he kept himself to himself. That had suited him, and the other residents of the small village of Mumbly on the Wold, down to the ground. At first, Filch kept to himself because he was practising magic in secret, determined to master the art that had eluded him all his life. He wanted to fit in, so desperately did he want to be like all the other witches and wizards that he sent off for every mail order course on learning basic magic that he could find. None of them worked though. Nothing worked. So, over time, Filch gave up, and he stopped keeping to himself because he was learning magic and started keeping to himself because he just didn’t want to have anything to do with other people.
They can’t laugh at you if they never see you, he used to think.
Then Angela had moved in next door.
Filch had never felt anything like it before and had not since. The moment he accidentally laid eyes on her when he stormed to the window to see what all the racket was when she was moving in he was smitten. He fell completely in love with her, despite his by now ingrained dislike and mistrust of other people in general. He knew nothing about her and yet wanted to find out everything he could about her. The problem was, though, that she was a beautiful young witch, and he was just grumpy Argus Filch, the stupid Squib. However, Filch would have gladly stayed a Squib for the rest of his life if it meant being able to get close to Angela. She enchanted him. She intoxicated him. Yet they had never even spoken two words to each other.
This is how it continued for several years.
Filch’s life had new direction now. Before, he had devoted his time to trying to learn magic so that he could finally fit in with wizarding society. However, with that dream long dead his life was now consumed with Angela. Filch felt as if he was walking on air each time he thought of her, and he went completely giddy whenever he was able to catch a glimpse of her; sometimes when she was in the garden, other times through a window as she was moving through her house. He wanted so much to be able to talk to her, but what would he say? He longed to think of a credible excuse that could send him round to her house so they could meet in person, but each time that thought danced in his mind an additional thought came sidling nastily up after it.
Why would she want to talk to you?
Filch hated that thought but he could never seem to shut it out of his mind. If only he weren’t a Squib, he’d bemoan to himself, he could ask her to borrow a spell book, or some cauldron polish, anything. But Filch was a Squib, and he hated himself for it. He hated it even more now that it became another reason why he felt he could never talk to his beloved Angela.
He wanted her to be his so badly that he could think of nothing else. Sometimes, he would sit and daydream of the life that they could have together, if only the fates would allow it. They would fall desperately in love with each other; get married; buy a house together; have children, all of the things that had never interested Argus Filch before he set eyes on his neighbour. Always though, the daydreams would end and he would be left with the cold light of reality shining incontrovertibly on the fact that she was not his, and that she may never be his.
Filch had wondered, though.
Just what if?
Filch continually ricocheted mentally between the hope of maybe one day being with Angela and the despair of that being perhaps just a fool’s dream. He would practically convince himself one way or the other and then something would happen to send him into the same spinning madness of uncertainty.
That’s how it had been that one spring morning.
Filch was standing at an open upstairs window, shaking a rug out into the clean spring air, his face turned away from the dust. As he let the rug fall to rest he heard the click of a window latch. He turned his head to see.