Snapping the clasps on the trunk closed, I gave the room a final look over. It seemed different to me somehow, now that so much had changed. The walls were still bare and the bed in the corner had not been moved for nearly a half a century, but a subtle feeling in the air had changed. It was no longer home to me. The one place that had given my refuge felt different, less inviting, less wanting of its old, cranky caretaker.
I had been happy here once, happy to be invited to work at the magical school that had never invited me to study. When I pleaded with Dumbledore to give me a chance and when he did, I had been the happiest man alive. I always remembered that: Albus Dumbledore, the man who gave me life, the man who looked past my failings and still wanted me. I knew then that life went on, no matter whom I had been before, life kept going.
“C’mon, my sweet,” I said quietly. Mrs. Norris only looked at me with her big, tired eyes and followed me as I started the trek out of this place. Limping past some students, I noticed they had just come in from the rain outside, their boots were coated with mud and they just walked in leaving streaks of it across the Entrance Hall floors. How easy it would have been for them to turn around and clean it up; it would have taken a few seconds. But they didn’t, and they never had. They would leave it for the caretaker, for the squib, the nobody, the most hated. They destroyed this beautiful castle, my refuge, taking its grand halls and its lessons for granted, something that I would have died to become a part of, something that had been robbed from me.
I hated them for that. Hated that they could do what I could not. I doled out harsh punishments. How dare they take their place in life for granted. Maybe if they had to clean the trophies by hand, they would realize what it’s like to not be able to do magic. They never learned. The same children (yes, children, for that was what they were) would do the same thing over and over again, and I despised them all the more. They never saw how fortunate they were. But still, I went on.
I walked down the corridor and my footsteps echoed down the empty hall. The portraits' eyes followed my departure with a look that I couldn’t quite decipher but could only guess it was pity. I shuffled passed the mud: the symbol of their scorn for me. At first, it wasn’t that bad. I loved watching them do magic, was completely love struck by their ability to wield their power. I knew I had to be here; I had to be around magic even though I could not do it myself. I could not live a life without it. But they started abusing it and they started abusing me. They didn’t see me as the caretaker, they saw me as the Squib: the guy who couldn’t do magic. That was the worst insult a person could get. My parents couldn’t even look at me after my eleventh birthday. They never said they were ashamed, but I saw the hollowness in their eyes. Their only child, their son, was a failure. But they never saw that magic was as much a part of me as it was them. I just couldn’t do it, but I still breathed it.
It was that notion that had kept me going. I needed magic as much as a person needed air. I needed to be by it, I needed to see it. It was my life, and trying to act like a muggle would never have worked; I was still different from them. If only different in that I knew that this world existed, and once a person knows such a place exists, it’s impossible to turn away from it. That is why I had asked Albus for a job, for anything. I had even said I would mow their lawn as long as I could be here, even though, as a school, they could not teach me. I had to go on.
I stopped by the doors. My hand trembled a bit. I had been here for almost a half a century, and this was the only home I knew. There would be a carriage waiting for me beyond the gates, but I had asked to be able to walk through the grounds once more. I wanted to feel the grass underneath my feet one more time before I left forever. Pushing the door open I saw two people on the other side, waiting for me, and both were drenched by the downpour of rain.
“Hello, Argus,” they said in unison, but I only heard one of them. I heard her. She looked at me, and those dark, piercing eyes watched as I took in the grounds one final time. I could barely make out Hagrid’s old hut, the rain was so heavy. I stepped out with them and felt the storm's misery raining down on me. A few more steps, and the doors slammed behind me. I picked up Mrs. Norris; she was cowering by my feet.
“Well, Argus, I guess this is goodbye. I trust you can find the carriage by the gates. I’d go too, but...” McGonagall said, trailing off while looking up at the sky and shrugging her shoulders. I had not moved from the stairs yet, still gazing out around me and wondering what it would be like to be gone from here. I focused on her briefly and nodded, but then my eyes fell on her again. She hadn’t said anything else, just watched me with her vulture-like eyes.
“Yes, thanks, Minerva.” she shook my hand firmly and with that, she was gone back inside the castle.
“Come on, Argus. I’ll walk you to your carriage.” Irma smiled warmly and we turned and headed down the long path. We walked in silence (well, she walked, I limped). There wasn’t much to say after all these years of knowing each other, but having her next to me still left me breathless, even after everything. I cringed at myself.
The grass squished below my feet and I looked down to see my worn boots get covered in another layer of mud. This did not seem to matter so much; she was with me. In what felt like my final moments, she was there. I glanced over at her from the corner of my eye and felt foolish, like the 20-year-old suitor I had attempted to be all those years ago. How pathetic I had been. How un-archetypal, thinking that I, a wretched Squib, could have won her pureblooded heart. Like her family would have accepted that, as I would have destroyed them.
We were getting closer to the carriages, yet neither of us had uttered another word. I wondered why she was here, though. We had always been friendly with one another over the years, but she had kept her stony distance and I had followed suit. Maybe she just felt sorry for me: sorry that I had been politely asked to leave after the previous year. I had been getting too old, my limp was more pronounced and I couldn’t keep up with the upkeep of the school. They had replaced me with an actual wizard. How I hated that. No one knew what it was liked to be replaced by someone better than you. Someone who will always be better than you, but such was life as a Squib. Life must go on.
The gates appeared, and before I knew it I looked back at the castle, it loomed in all its magnificence in the foggy deluge and I slowed my walk, trepidation seeped into my being much like the rain that surrounded us. This was it, the end of the line. Mrs. Norris squirmed in my arms. She could feel my nervousness; she probably wondered what I was doing, how I could even begin to leave this place. The one place we knew as home. I held her closer and petted her back affectionately, trying to tell her that it would be okay.
The gates swung open for us, shaking wildly on their hinges from the storm's outcry. We steadily walked through it and I saw the carriage on the other side, led by a Thestral. They had become visible to me after the war, like they had for so many others. The rain blasted in my face as we got closer, almost pushing me back toward the castle, perfectly reflecting my own will. Instead, we pushed through and I heaved my trunk into the carriage before turning to her.
“You’ll be alright, won’t you, Argus?” She yelled to be heard over the growing storm. She placed her hand on my arm and searched my eyes. I nodded, refusing to let myself be drawn in by her.
“Yes, Irma, I’ll be fine. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that life will go on,” I said before stepping into the shelter of the carriage. I poked my hand out and gave her a wave before the carriage started moving and gaining speed toward a future I could only guess at.
Note: This was a challenge i took the conditions Alienation and Life. It revolved around the quote ""In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." - Robert Frost. Also, everything you recognize is JKR's work and i do not own it!
Huge thanks to IndigoSea's who beta'd my story and helped me so much with my flow and grammer! Please Review and let me know what you thought.