Chapter 46 : Irma Pince
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By: dim at best
Beta read by: canadianstar and Jessi_Rose
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Title: An Old Book Opened
Rating/Warnings: 12+, Mild Language
For the Staff: Being a part of this whole surprise was a blast! Writing my first character sketch was a bit challenging at times, and gave me plenty of headaches, but I knew that the Staff deserved it. Without them, a bunch of writers wouldn't have a home. As Hogwarts is to Harry, HPFF is to me. Thank you, I hope you like this!
Madam Irma Pince loved books. They were her everything – books had given her adventure, romance, friendship, knowledge, comfort, and most importantly, books were what had given her a job and a home. Irma’s life revolved around books, and she saw no problem with that.
Books were the single most important things in her life. To her, no question could be solved without a book – books held the answer to everything. Books were a fountain of knowledge, and held the power to transport its reader to another world.
However, what Madam Irma Pince never realized, was that books were not a substitute for real life.
In all the years she’d worked as librarian at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, she’d never opened up to anybody. Irma saw herself as a tightly bound leather book, one that anyone had yet to read, and her analogy was quite correct.
Nobody in the school, even her colleagues, knew what her favourite colour was. Nobody knew when she took her tea, or how she took it. Nobody knew the story behind the feather duster she brandished, and nobody knew when her birthday was. In fact, it was Irma’s strong suspicion that half the school didn’t even know her first name was Irma.
She wasn’t too concerned about her animosity within the halls of Hogwarts. She figured, quite logically, that the less that was known about her, the better things would be in the long run. It was a terrible thing when something, or someone, became too attached – she should know.
You see, Madam Irma Pince was not always stingy and irritable. Her life once hadn’t revolved around books, or been all about them. Madam Irma Pince had been young once. She’d been young, she’d been in love, and she’d been married.
It had been a happy marriage, and, as she thought back, a foolish one. Sure it had been filled with love and happiness – but it had also been so carefree and impulsive, with no thoughts to the future. No consideration of the consequences, and no preparations for adulthood.
Alistair hadn’t been handsome, smart or sensible – but he’d been funny, and, believe it or not, Irma used to love to laugh. When they were both seventeen, he’d convinced her to elope. They were adults, he’d said, and could take care of themselves. Live off love was the theme of it all, and Irma had been caught up within its romance.
But dark times had taken her Alistair away from her, and she’d been left isolated and without money. She’d roughed it in those days, and had learned to never take things for granted. She’d mourned for Alistair, but she never let his death consume her. She distracted herself with novels that Alistair had left behind. And so, her love of books began.
A year after Alistair’s death, Irma heard of an employment opening at her alma mater, Hogwarts. They were looking for a responsible adult to become Guardian of the Hogwarts Library, and Irma rushed to apply. She managed to get the job, and she never looked back.
She remembered a visit from her parents, some years after she’d taken up post as librarian. They’d said they could hardly recognize her. She was so serious and so thin, so consumed with her love of books.
Irma had brushed it off as useless mollycoddling that parents tend to do. But now, Irma wondered if they were right.
She could barely see her old laughing self within the frail woman she was today. She was sure that if Alistair ever saw her, he’d be appalled that he’d married such a woman, and Irma wasn’t sure if she would blame him.
She’d been so happy to lose herself within books that she’d never stopped to question the wisdom behind this action. Now, nearly fifty years later, the actions of a certain caretaker were making the doubt finally creep in.
Argus Filch was a kind man, a man whom she knew to be a loving soul, despite his gruff exterior. He loved his cat, he loved his school, and Irma was proud to note that she had never ever seen the man mistreat a book.
Over the years, the two had struck up a tentative friendship. She’d instantly known of his affections toward her, however, back then she’d decided that his crush would only last a moment. A passing fancy, if you will. Irma figured that nobody could ever like her in that way for a long period of time, therefore, befriending Filch wouldn’t hurt.
Now, Irma was surprised to find that she returned the man’s feelings.
They were frighteningly similar. He was devoted to his cat, she was devoted to her books. He loathed the students at Hogwarts, she held the same dislike. He was all for corporal punishment, and she too saw it as a form of justice. The two were both outcasts in the professor social group, yet both held an unwavering loyalty to Dumbledore.
Yes, Irma Pince and Argus Filch were quite the match.
But this bit of information scared Irma. There was the matter of Alistair of course, and the rumors that would no doubt fly once the pair were seen together, but most importantly, there was the fact that a romance with Argus Filch would not be in a book. It wouldn’t be written out for her to follow, or be a part of some great storyline. Irma would have to live it in real life – and that terrified her.
It was one muggy day in February, as Irma was pondering the pros and cons of going out with Argus, that it happened.
The day had started out normal enough. She’d woken, dressed, eaten, and opened the library. She’d just begun to repair the damaged books some careless (and now punished) students had broken, when she’d fallen into an Argus Filch daydream.
It was quite uncommon for Irma to daydream, especially during working hours, yet lately she’d found the caretaker invading her thoughts at all hours, with daydreams related to him becoming more and more frequent.
A loud crash and some cursing snapped Irma out of her reverie.
Irma hurried out of her library, for she considered it her’s, and into the corridor. The very subject of her daydream stood there, covered head to toe in Stinksap, and looked furious.
“Argus! What happened?” Irma’s eyes watered from the foul stench of the sticky liquid.
“Bloody kids is what happened,” he muttered savagely, “you know how they are. A couple of Gryffindors jinxed this suit of armor to spew out Stinksap”
“That’s awful,” Irma said sympathetically, practically gagging from the smell in the air.
“I’m just grateful that Mrs. Norris wasn’t here to get covered with this … stuff.”
A nasty scowl fixed itself onto Argus’ face, and although there was nothing remotely attractive about Filch at the moment, Irma found herself falling a bit more for the stinky man in front of her.
“I’ll clean it for you. Scourgify!”
Irma waved her wand, and instantly the sap disappeared. She closed her eyes in relaxation, and took a deep lemon-scented, stink-free breath of air. When her eyes reopened, they nearly popped out of their sockets.
Her simple cleaning spell hadn’t just removed the Stinksap, no, it had also removed the usual dirt and grime that coated Argus. His stringy black hair had turned into a lustrous walnut streaked with silver, his skin lacked its habitual grey tinge, and his clothes held a new vibrancy that she’d never seen before.
She looked at him for a while, soaking up his newfound cleanliness, before she realized he was squirming under her intense scrutiny. Not bothering to blush, Irma found her voice.
“Well, is that better, Argus?”
“Much better, Irma. Handy spell you used there,” his vice cracked, but Irma paid it no mind.
“It was a simple cleaning spell, really. The students you punish would normally be begging to use it.”
“Ah, yes. But how else would they learn if they never did it the hard way?”
“Cleaning the Muggle way is hardly enough of a punishment in my opinion,” Irma voiced, eyes still scanning the clean Filch, “I think Dumbledore’s gone a bit soft in that department. Did you know that he actually made me weaken nearly all the curses on my books, saying that the jinxes are partly why so many students avoid my library like the plague?”
“That’s terrible,” Argus agreed heartily, “the Headmaster even thinks that I too am a bit too hard on the students. I keep telling him that softer punishments would just make them more willing to break the rules, but he still won’t allow whip authorization.”
Madam Pince wasn’t sure if Filch was joking or not, so she decided that a swift change of subjects would be in order.
“Anyways, Argus, why were you coming this way down the corridor?” she asked briskly.
“It’s Valentine’s Day,” he replied in explanation. Irma simply blinked.
“Yes, I was wondering,” he looked around a bit nervously, before focusing on his feet, “I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me – perhaps to Hogsmeade? I hear Madam Puddifoot’s coffees are good.”
“Oh, well … why … that seems …” Irma was in complete and utter shock, “lovely. Positively lovely.”
“Would you like to go now?”
Irma nodded mutely, mind scrambling for some sort of book she might’ve read on dating. The last time she’d been with a man romantically was Alistair, and it was safe to say that her brain was quite fuzzy on the subject now.
“Oi! No skulking in the corridors!” Argus barked, making a second year jump. Irma looked at him with a sort of admiration, and suddenly, the two of them were drawing closer together.
His large lamp-like eyes closed, his chapped lips puckered, and Irma’s eyes widened.
“I … have to close up the library. Make the appropriate sealing charms to guarantee its safety. Then perhaps, we can go and fetch some coffees from this place in Hogsmeade.”
Disappointment and hurt filled Argus’ eyes, and, without thinking, without considering a single book, Irma kissed him right on the mouth.
It was the most awkward, weird, kiss in the world. Argus mouth had been partly open, while hers had been firmly closed. Both of their eyes had been wide open, and their noses were digging rather uncomfortably into the other’s face. Irma found that Argus had bad breath. And yet, despite all this, their kiss was magical.
Irma turned on her heel and began to close up the library with her wand.
“Shall we get going then?” he asked a bit gruffly when she turned around.
“Sure I –”
The pair was interrupted by loud laughter. Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger were turning the corridor, making much more noise than either Irma or Filch would’ve liked.
“I cannot believe you did that, Harry. Did you see Malfoy’s face?”
“No, but I bet it was priceless.”
The trio laughed again, and Irma and Argus scowled simultaneously. It was then that Ron took notice of them.
“Harry, Hermione, look!” he said rather loudly, “Pince and Filch actually are dating? Can’t say they don’t deserve each other, ‘course.”
But instead of outrage, as Irma’d expected herself to feel at such a tactless, idiotic, remark… she felt herself considering it. Did she and Argus deserve each other? They were really similar, and enjoyed each other’s company. They had the same love for despising students, and both were devoted to objects that they really shouldn’t be devoted to (she had her books, and he had Mrs. Norris). But did they truly ‘deserve’ each other?
For some reason Irma found herself thinking of her past romance with Alistair. Had she deserved him?
And then, Irma remembered something she’d read in a book once. It didn’t matter about matching a person, or deserving them, or being similar to them. All that mattered was that you loved them, and it suddenly hit Irma that she did love him. Argus Filch, that is.
Irma tuned out Argus’ scolding of the trio, and instead thought about whether or not she was ready to love. She was a tightly bound novel, made of old leather, cracked and worn. She hadn’t been opened in fifty years, letting no person close enough to read who she truly was.
She thought of her old optimistic self, and what she’d say to that. With a smile, Irma realized that her old self wouldn’t say anything to that at all. She’d laugh at that. Laugh incredulously and loudly, unafraid for anyone to hear her. And then, once her old self became serious enough, she’d say to just ‘open up’.
Old Irma and new Irma accepted each other and became one. It was time that she took her own advice.
Irma looked at Argus, who was smiling at his effective and brutal treatment of the trio. He looked positively euphoric at the detentions he’d doled out, even more so because there hadn’t really even been a reason to give them out.
Madam Irma Pince smiled widely at him and took his hand in hers.
It was time that this old book opened.
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