Argus Filch was kneeling on the ground in his garden, carefully weeding a bed to prepare it for the flowers which he had purchased the day before. Sometimes he was pausing and turning his head to look over at the path that led to the village. Greasy streaks of long greying hair framed his deeply lined face. Judging from his neglected and gaunt appearance, people would likely be thinking that he was a drunk. He had never touched alcohol, though. The many of other bad things that had happened in his life were responsible for his looks.
The man loved to be in his garden, and he spent every free minute there. Angry thoughts and frustration would dissolve into lightness the very moment his hands were touching the soil. Indeed, happiness did not belong to those feelings he would frequently experience at his working place, which was the same as that of the woman he was waiting for. Unlike him, she had always enjoyed her work, had devoted herself to it. She was one of the few persons who seemed to respect him. And not only that: She was the only woman who had ever been kind to him.
Many years ago, she had been the first one to notice his bad condition, when he had begun to grow resentful, and railing against his fate. One day she had suddenly appeared in his garden, holding a grown-up cat in her arms. He could still see her standing in front of him, determined and straight-faced, but looking much younger then of course.
"I think it is better to talk to a cat than to mutter to oneself", she had said. He had not been able to utter a word.
The cat had occupied her place in his life at once, and they both had gotten used to each other's idiosyncrasies. He had never had a pet before, and he doubted that he would have another one in case his Missie would leave him forever one day.
Right now, Missie was stretching out lazily in the grass nearby; her grey fur was reflecting the evening sun. Squinting, the old man wiped off the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.
Again, he was watching the path. Soon, the woman would walk along the garden's fence on her way to the village, from where she would take the coach home after doing her purchases. He knew her habits very well. Certainly she would go to the pub and have her tea there, even though today had been her last day at work. He rose laboriously with a sigh and went with a slightly limping gait over to his own special creation, Friday's Child.
To most, nothing made him a 'useful contributor to society', but he was a really talented gardener. His specialty was the cultivation of roses. Friday's Child was an exceptionally beautiful rose, with dark red petals that bore a shade of violet. The petals had a blue base and would never open fully. When he had seen his rose blooming for the first time, he had been reminded of a song that he had happened to listen to once while riding on a bus. He had perceived the lyrics as so fitting to his miserable life in a world that refused to acknowledge him, and he was still grinning over his decision to give this rose such a name. Carefully, he cut the best flowering twig.
Missie was looking up and tensing. She was observing the path attentively, and her ears straightened to vertical peaks. The old man followed her gaze and noticed a tall and slender figure descending the way. Hastily, he limped as fast as he could to the well at the far end of the garden to wash his hands and face. He dried himself with the cloth of his shirt; tucked the shirt into his trousers; smoothed the folds of the shirt. Then he ran his fingers through his thin hair to tidy it a bit. When he took the rose and walked over to the fence, the woman had already arrived there. She was bending down to Missie, who was purring lowly. "Hello, Mrs. Norris," said the woman, "how are you?"
The man cleared his throat. As she was looking up at him, he noticed that her eyes were shining in a way he had never seen them before. He realised that she must have shed some tears on her way down here. The man knew that leaving her work was the hardest thing for her to do, and he himself wasn't feeling any better, facing the prospect of staying behind without her. His fingers were playing nervously with the stalk of the rose.
"Good evening, Professor McGonagall," he said. His hoarse and shaky voice showed his flustered state.
The woman smiled at him.
Before she could reply, he stretched out his arm awkwardly to offer her the rose. "This is for you," he muttered, "as a farewell." He avoided looking at her, feeling his fast beating heart and the heat on his face.
"Oh. Why, thank you, Mr. Filch," he heard her light voice say. "Now this is a surprise really-"
He looked up shyly and watched her smelling the scent.
"It is a Friday's Child, isn't it?" she asked.
"How do you know?" he asked, taken aback that she knew the name.
"Well, your achievements with roses did not go unnoticed." She smiled inscrutably. "I wish you good times at Hogwarts, Mr. Filch. I take it that you will also be in retirement soon?"
"It will still be some years to go, Professor McGonagall," he answered. He took a demandingly miaowing Mrs. Norris up into his arms. He was relieved that his hands had something to do now.
"Mr. Filch, don't you think we could switch to first-name terms?" asked Professor McGonagall. She offered him her hand. "I'm Minerva."
Mr. Filch stared at her hand, not knowing what to do. Never had he thought that she would do this. Slowly and carefully, he stretched out his arm. When her fingers were touching his hand, his eyes filled with tears. "Argus," he croaked.
"Well. I think I have to leave now. Thank you so much for the rose, Argus. Farewell!"
"Farewell, Professor — er, Minerva..."
Professor McGonagall turned away and resumed her walk to Hogsmeade. Mr. Filch was staying at the fence, watching her. His heart was light and heavy at the same time. Mrs. Norris was purring near his ear. He saw Minerva stop again.
"Why don't you come for tea next Thursday?"
His heart jumped. She had invited him! He could not believe it. He didn't know what to say.
"Of course...I mean...thank you..." he stuttered.
"Very well! I will send you an owl with my address. Good-bye!"
She was waving.
"Good-bye!" he cried back.
He was staring at the spot where she had disappeared from view, until a hissing Mrs. Norris scratched his cheek, wriggled herself out of his grip, and ran away with a thick tail.