From Prisoner of Azkaban, after the attack on the Fat Lady by Sirius Black:

"And the Fat Lady, sir?"
"Hiding in a map of Argyllshire on the second floor. Apparently she refused to let Black in without the password, so he attacked. She's still very distressed, but once she's calmed down, I'll have Mr Filch restore her."
(Prisoner of Azkaban).

What was Dumbledore expecting Filch to do here? As we know, Filch is a squib. He can't perform any magic.

Now fixing the Fat Lady would've been a relatively easy task for a qualified wizard or witch to do. A simple bit of Reparo and Bob's your uncle. All that was ailing the Fat Lady were a few meagre slash wounds. In and of themselves they were easily fixed.

But what could Filch do about it? Try to patch her up with some Spellotape? Wouldn't he have had to have called upon another adult who could use magic to help him anyway? Why leave Filch to struggle in vain? Or is this just another example of Dumbledore cruelly forcing the non-magical members of staff to do all the heavy lifting (like when Hagrid had to drag all the Christmas trees in from the grounds by hand)?

Edit: I found the following exerpt from the Fat Lady's return to Gryffindor tower, which throws some further light on the incident.

Sir Cadogan had been sacked. His portrait had been taken back to its lonely landing on the seventh floor, and the Fat Lady was back. She had been expertly restored, but was still extremely nervous, and had only agreed to return to her job on condition that she was given extra protection.
(Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 14, Snape's Grudge).

Is her being "expertly restored" consistent with Filch doing the job?

  • 4
    Regardless of whether or not he was a squib, he's been the caretaker for a long time. Clearly, he's reasonably capable of fixing things around the grounds even without magic.
    – phantom42
    Jul 1, 2017 at 14:16
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    he most likely just took the painting to whoever actually performed the repair (may be in Hogsmead)
    – user13267
    Jul 1, 2017 at 15:14
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    @user13267 There's a whole shop with a guy saying Reparo? Jul 1, 2017 at 17:44
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    I always assumed that, Squib or not, he was able to use magical tools. You may joke that he used Spellotape, but it's mere existence confirms that magical repair tools/substances exist. I always assumed he carefully realigned the pieces of the painting, then carefully painted over them with some kind of magical sealant. I've never seen anything clearly indicating that magic ability was required to use tools created by a wizard. Actually, the prank candies used on Harry's family confirm that magic an be imbued and then triggered by a muggle. I have no canon proof, tho, hence only a comment.
    – K-H-W
    Jul 2, 2017 at 1:16
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    @K-H-W You do have the basis of a good answer there though. Spellotape is proof magic repair tools exist, and the candies are proof that Muggles can use magical products. That's the most believable way I've heard that he could do it, rather than Filch being able to paint or babysitting the Fat Lady, so I think it could be a good basis for an answer. Out of all the theories I've read, yours is the one I think seems most likely. :) I think you should post it as an answer, it has canon support, and I think it's the most logical solution for how Filch could fix the Fat Lady. :)
    – Obsidia
    Jul 2, 2017 at 3:05

3 Answers 3


Although it's not directly stated in the books, I always assumed Filch used some magical tools to accomplish restoring the painting; as the Caretaker he doubtless found himself having to clean up the residue of various magical mishaps. Given that our Heroes only realized he was a squib after seeing info on a Kwikspell course, it looks like he was able to fulfill his duties without it being obvious that he was a squib -- the simplest answer would be an assortment of magical tools/items/etc.

Although it's possible that many tools require the user to be able to channel magic through them (wands, for example), it seems clear that some do not. Whether this means that magic is imbued into them during their creation or some other answer, they seem to work even when used by muggles -- the Ton-Tongue Toffees the Weasley twins left for Dudley to find, for example. In Filch's case, we've seen him using Mrs Skower’s All-Purpose Magical Mess Remover, which would seem to suggest that at least some magical tools / potions can be used by non-wizards.

For restoring the painting, although Spello-tape might be a humorous suggestion, it's not inconceivable that he did, indeed, spello-tape the painting from the back to hold the shredded parts in place before applying some form of magical lacquer or paste to the front, resulting in the torn edges re-knitting. He might not be able to create such a product, but nothing says he can't use one.

Dumbledore knew Filch was a squib; I can't imagine he would would leave him in a magical world stuck doing work in an entirely mundane manner while seeing magic all around him; magical tools, at least, would allow him to be at least slightly a part of the magical world, and that seems very in character for Dumbledore.

Given that Filch was very sensitive about being a squib, his reliance upon such things is something he would likely keep hidden (except where it would be the normal 'magical' thing to use, such as the above mentioned Mess Remover), so it's not really surprising that we never see any of his tools in use; we also never see him working with a mop, nor a screwdriver, but he likely had such things. The details of the messy aspects of the Caretaker's job just weren't part of the story, nor anything the characters would have looked into.

  • Note my edit above. Would what you're suggesting be consistent with her being "expertly restored"? Jul 2, 2017 at 10:04
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    @TheDarkLord - I would think so. Regardless of the Trio's opinion of him, Filch's role would seem to require that he be meticulous and detail oriented -- and doing something that most would think he would accomplish with magic, I would think he would be even more careful to try to do a perfect job. Assuming he was using magical tools, 'expertly restored' might require nothing more than a lot of attention to detail and patience; possibly out of character seeming for him to most, but not when it's part of supporting his wizardly masquerade.
    – K-H-W
    Jul 2, 2017 at 12:32
  • Great answer! :) I've upvoted it! :)
    – Obsidia
    Jul 3, 2017 at 1:22

We're talking about paintings here, so the word "restore" probably needs to be considered in that context. Restoring a painting means not only to fix any physical damage to the frame or canvas, but also the removal of dirt and retouching.

The physical damage to the frame and canvas would probably be best dealt with magically, and I expect Dumbledore took care of that himself. He might or might not have taken care of any cleaning that was needed; that's something that can be done just as well with or without magic, though magic would speed the process up.

In the quote in question, though, Dumbledore was talking about the Fat Lady herself, not about the painting in which she usually lives. If she was damaged, that's something that can only be corrected by retouching which, in the absence of an expert, isn't likely to be made significantly easier or faster by the use of magic. So there's no particular reason not to let Filch do it, assuming that he is skilled enough with a paintbrush to do a satisfactory job.

All that aside, I think the main reason was that Dumbledore didn't want to upset or annoy Filch by doing his work for him. Doing so would imply that he thought Filch was incapable of doing his job, and Filch is after all known to be sensitive to such snubs. Dumbledore is simply being considerate.

  • 2
    Note my edit above. Would what you're suggesting be consistent with her being "expertly restored"? Jul 2, 2017 at 10:03
  • 1
    I think so. In this context, "expertly restored" just means that whoever retouched her did a good job. Jul 2, 2017 at 10:43

There's really no good indication that Dumbledore wants him to fix the picture (which, as you say would be trivially simple for a wizard but rather difficult for a squib).

My reading was that he was going to restore her [the fat lady] to her correct position in the castle. This might require him to herd her through a host of other paintings on multiple floors to get back to her proper place.

  • 2
    Would she have required Filch's assistance to do that, though? What would he actually have done? She can walk through portraits by herself. Jul 1, 2017 at 15:20
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    @TheDarkLord - That sounds more time-consuming than magical. Precisely the sort of job you'd have a servant do. In the film it can be accomplished by tilting the frame...
    – Valorum
    Jul 1, 2017 at 15:31
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    Well, she wasn't restored to her previous position outside Gryffindor tower - Sir Cadogan replaced her. And presumably Filch didn't take her back to her old portrait (by whatever means) since it was all slashed up. At some point somebody would have to actually repair the portrait. Jul 1, 2017 at 17:43
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    @TheDarkLord probably to placate her and persuade her to actually go - she was pretty stressed! Maybe Filch is an artist on the quiet, rather than a wizard. Jul 1, 2017 at 17:43
  • 1
    What if they found a different, empty portrait for her to inhabit, and Filch then had to lug that all the way up to Gryffindor Tower?
    – Kevin
    Jul 1, 2017 at 22:36

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