Giles entered the room to find that the doctor had left. He rubbed his eyes, adjusting to the darkness of the room. “You look like crap.” Severus commented.
“Really? One day I might actually appreciate the irony in that statement.” Giles settled into the chair by the bed. “What did the doctor say?”
“If you cared, you should have stayed in here.”
“I don’t care about the details, I care about the main points.”
“You were always skimping on the details. It’s why your potions never worked.”
“My potions worked just fine.”
“You passed the course, but I would hardly consider your skills fine.” Severus grumbled.
“I hope you know that I’m only letting you pick on me as a means to distract you from the excruciating pain you must be in.”
“Oh, let’s do bring that up again, shall we?” Giles smiled down at his snarling brother. “What is it about muggle physicians that they feel the need to ask you how you’re feeling every five minutes, as though the circumstances don’t make it perfectly obvious how you’re feeling?”
“Be fair, Sev. Mediwizards can be just as obnoxious.” Giles waited for Severus to contradict him, but his step-brother stayed silent. “So what was the diagnosis?”
“That I would be in considerable pain for the foreseeable future.”
“Surely he must have said something else?”
“That the neurologist is dealing with a backlog and will not be able to see me until tomorrow, and therefore I will have to go another day without any strong sedatives. He offered me an aspirin, but I don’t see what the point of that would be.”
“If you’re in pain, you should have taken the aspirin.”
“I’d rather have some pepper-up.”
“I doubt the hospital has any.”
“No, they don’t.” Severus stared at his brother. “And seeing what a disgrace you are to wizarding kind, I doubt you have any.”
“Not in my pocket, no.” Rupert rolled his eyes. “I doubt most wizards carry it around every day on the odd chance they’d be hit with a debilitating hex.”
“If I had my robe, it would be in there.”
“You sewed pepper-up into your robe?”
“What? If you had half a brain, you would do likewise.”
“Sev, you’re barmy. Lucky for you, the nurse left your robe here. Where’d you put the pepper-up?” Giles headed to the plastic bag on the counter, fishing out the torn black robe.
“It’s in the left sleeve.” Sev leaned forward, to watch what Giles was doing, but fell back to the bed when the strain got too much.
“Ah, Sev, I’m sorry.” Giles found the right sleeve, torn and stained. “I believe your pepper-up found the same fate as your arm. I’d make some myself…”
“Please, spare me from your potion disasters. You’re worse than Longbottom.”
“… if I thought you’d consider taking anything I made.” Giles sighed tiredly.
“You’re not even going to try to blame the Hellmouth on this?” Severus snapped.
“No. Actually potions are not nearly as affected as wand magic.” Giles answered. “I suppose it has something to do with the source of magic, as potions tend to rely more on earth magic, which has a dispersed effect while…”
“Just because I’m bed-ridden doesn’t give you the right to bore me to death.” Severus interjected. “I am well aware of alchemical theory.”
“Of course.” Giles dropped the robe back on the counter and headed back to the lone plastic chair. They two men shared an uncomfortable silence for several minutes. Each man opened his mouth several times as if to start a sentence, but thought better of it.
“You don’t have to stay here.” Severus finally spoke.
“No, I suppose I don’t.” Giles admitted. “However I would feel better knowing you were safe.”
“You expect me to believe that when I haven’t heard from you in years?”
“What can I say, I’m a Slytherin and you’re family.” Giles muttered, wearily.
Giles watched Severus ponder that thought silently, poker face firmly in place. Finally, Severus muttered “I can take care of myself.”
“It will be dark soon, and this is a public building.”
“You don’t really think a vampire would attempt to kill a wizard.” Severus scoffed.
“They would certainly drain a wizard in a heartbeat. However, you’re probably safe from them. You look sour enough that they would think twice before attempting it. I’m more concerned with whomever you’re running away from.”
“I’m not running away.”
“Come on, Sev. I know you didn’t just stop by on a lark. Who’s after you?” Severus pursed his lips tighter. “Is knowing who I have to keep you safe from too much to ask for? Should I be expecting the death eaters on my doorstep or are the aurors chasing you down?”
“I’ll be fine. Just go away.” Severus mumbled.
“Damn it, Sev! Just tell me who sent you here.”
“Leave!” Severus yelled, tossing his wand at Giles’ head. Giles caught the wand easily, and watched Severus’ face distort in a silent cry of agony as the pain from his actions caught up with him.
“Here.” Giles placed the wand back in Severus’ hands. “Don’t exert yourself like that. You’ll pull your stitches.”
“Just go.” Severus muttered, slowly restoring his mask of steel that hid his pain.
Giles stared at his brother for a full minute before responding. Silently, he pulled at the hidden silver chain around his neck. He unclasped the small cross and laid the chain on Severus chest. “Don’t lose that. I’ll be back later for it.” Without another word, he strolled out of the hospital.
As soon as he had reached the parking lot, Giles pulled out his cell phone.
“Hello, The Magic Box. How may I help you spend your money today?”
“Oh, it’s you. Not that it’s bad that you’re calling, but you’re not a customer, although we have had several today.” Giles smiled slightly at the enthusiasm in his employee’s voice. “So what’s up?”
“Actually, I’m calling as a customer. I need you to set aside the following items. I’m on my way to pick them up….”
Rupert filled his parchment with notes as Professor Jigger droned on about the restorative properties of ginger. It seemed that no matter how much effort he put into the class, he would never top Severus in potions. Sure, he was able to ace every written test they’d had this year, but the practical portion was a disaster, and Professor Jigger loved the practical part of exams. “The pepper-up potion is a simple enough draught that even first year students, such as yourselves, should be able to master its brewing. I have written the instructions on the board. You will find all the necessary ingredients on the back table. I expect each of you to have a passable potion by the end of the class. Now get started.”
Rupert quickly copied down the instructions then ran to set his cauldron up. “The back table is a zoo.” Rupert groaned, watching the crowd go after the ingredients.”
“If you grab a set of ingredients for me, I’ll get your cauldron filled with water along with mine.” Severus offered.
“Deal.” The step-brothers went to opposite sides of the classroom. “Oi, Potter, watch where you’re swinging that root.” Rupert muttered as the Gryffindor nearly knocked into him.
“Get out of my way, snakehead.”
“Brilliant comeback, that. I bet you really impress the five year olds on the playground with that wit.” Rupert muttered, pushing his way to the front of the table, where he grabbed double of everything.
“Did you find it all?” Severus asked, as Rupert dumped the load on the desk they shared.
“Yeah, no thanks to Potter. Is he another fine product of wizarding inbreeding, or is this just that whole Gryffindor-Slytherin thing?”
Rupert could tell by the ripple in Severus’ pursed lips that the step-brother would have found the observation amusing if it weren’t for the fact that he was also a product of wizarding lineages. “I would not provoke Potter if I were you.” Severus finally muttered. Professor Jigger allowed a certain amount of talking in his dungeons, but Severus did not want to draw any unwanted attention to their conversation.
“Why not? Lucius does it all the time.” Rupert lit a small flame under his cauldron.
“Lucius has a father in a position to defend him.”
“Don’t swear.” Severus pulled out his small cutting board and began chopping his ingredients while waiting for the water to boil. Rupert copied his brother’s movements, but was interrupted by Severus’ criticism. “You’re making your slices too thick. The ginger needs to be fine.”
Rupert sighed, but adjusted his slicing technique. “Don’t look now, but Black’s staring at you.” He muttered after glancing around the classroom.
“Do you think he’s planning something?”
“Somehow it wouldn’t surprise me. Luckily that group doesn’t know the meaning of the word subtle.” Severus kept his attention focused on the experiment. “Ru, this is spearmint.” He held up a twig for his brother to see.
“Yes, it is.” Rupert agreed. “The board says you need one mint leaf, chopped.”
“The book says pepper-up calls for garden mint. Spearmint can cause sneezing.”
“That’s what was on the back table.”
“I should clarify this with Professor Jigger.” Severus frowned. His cauldron was still a ways from boiling point and the rest of his ingredients were prepared according to the instructions. “Watch my cauldron for me, will you?”
“It’s just got water in it, doesn’t it?”
“Sure, go on ahead, and prove to Professor Jigger that you want to follow in his footsteps one day. I’ll watch your water boil for you while you butter up to the master.”
“I am not that big of a kiss-up.” Severus scowled.
“I’m not saying anything.” Rupert smiled sweetly.
“I’d rather you not touch anything either; I’ll be right back.” Severus grabbed the sprig of mint and headed to the front table.
Rupert went back to chopping and smashing his ingredients. One of these days he would have to get Sev to show him the secret for crushing bezoars, as his step-brother always finished that step well before everyone else. Rupert glanced up at Severus’ cauldron just in time to see trouble. “Get away from that, Black. It’s not yours.” Rupert scowled as he saw Sirius Black approach Sev’s cauldron.
“Your brother shouldn’t leave potions lying around. You never know what could fall into them.” Sirius pulled a small salt shaker out of his robe’s pocket.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Rupert grabbed Sirius’ wrist, trying to wrest away the salt.
The scuffle was drawing the attention of the class, but before any punches could be thrown, Professor Jigger cleared his throat. Everyone turned their attention to the front of the class. “Everyone, Severus has just brought to my attention a problem. My teaching assistant put spearmint out for you instead of garden mint. I doubt any of you have added the mint yet, but if you have, come see me. I’m setting out new mint on the back table, that I would like you to use instead. Severus, that’s 10 points to Slytherin for bringing this to my attention.”
The announcement surprised everyone, as Professor Jigger rarely made mistakes or even let his assistants make mistakes. Perhaps it was the shock of the announcement, or perhaps it was the scuffle directly before the announcement; either way, no one noticed James Potter sneaking up to Rupert Giles’ cauldron and generously adding in pepper he had liberated from the dining hall. Once the announcement was over, Sirius backed out of the fight, leaving Rupert in front of Severus’ cauldron.
“Here you go.” Severus handed Rupert a new leaf of mint. “Why are you in front of my bench?”
“Oh, Sirius was trying to add salt to your water.”
“Oh well, it wouldn’t have done too much damage; salt would just act like a catalyst for the boiling water.”
“Right, you’re telling me you wouldn’t be pissed if your potion suddenly had an ingredient you didn’t add yourself in it.”
“Oh, I would definitely have a few choice words for Black, but my potion would be salvageable.”
“That’s what I thought.” By this time the water had reached a rapid boil, so the boys silently added all the ingredients in order, stirring counterclockwise.
About five minutes before the end of class, Professor Jigger announced that they would be testing their potions with the person at the next bench. The boys traded vials and at the count of three, downed a sample dose. Rupert winced a bit at the sharp taste, but soon smiled as he could feel the potion tingling inside him. In Rupert’s opinion, taking pepper-up when you were healthy had much the same affect of taking a lot of caffeine, but without the shakiness.
Severus on the other hand was turning bright red. It was only when he started coughing that Rupert noticed something was wrong. Rupert sent Rookie to get the professor while he ran for a vial of water. By the time Rupert had returned with the vial, the whole class was staring at the smoke pouring out of Severus’ ears.
“Here!” Rupert thrust the vial at Severus, hoping it would be enough to stop whatever reaction was going on.
Severus downed the water and was able to control the coughing, but was still bright red and steaming. “Oh my, someone added pepper to the pepper up, I see.” Professor Jigger commented with that aloof manner he had from having seen every possible potion disaster in his sixty years of teaching already.
Severus turned to Rupert and actually growled. “Don’t look at me! You saw me add everything at the same time as you did, honestly.” Rupert held his hands up in surrender.
“I hate you!” Severus screamed at Rupert, who was staring wide-eyed at his boiling brother. “I hate you!” Severus screamed once more for effect, and ran out of the room, barely taking the time to grab his bag on the way out.
“I didn’t do anything.” Rupert muttered repeatedly.
“Mr. Giles, clean up Mr. Snape’s work area along with your own, and see me this afternoon for a make-up.” Professor Jigger announced, returning to his desk. He had seen sabotaged cauldrons before, and was too weary to care about whose fault it really was. Just one more decade and he could hand in his resignation to the headmaster.
“I didn’t do it.” Rupert turned to his Slytherin housemates, hoping for support, but they just shrugged and went back to their desks.
Rupert quickly went to work taking down two cauldrons worth of potions and supplies. Even working as fast as he could, the bell sounded before he could completely finish. “Tsk, tsk, tsk.” Sirius and James hung back as most of the students eagerly left the dungeon. “You’d think Snape would be more alert to family poisonings after his mother did his father in.”
“Yeah you’d think some people would know better than to poison their families.” James cast a knowing glance at Rupert, and snickering, the Gryffindors fled the dungeon.
Rupert quickly hung the cauldrons up to dry and grabbed his bag, worried he would be late for History, as if Professor Binns would notice. He was halfway to the stairs, when a hand grabbed his arm and yanked him into the shadows. “Bloody hell!”
“What are you doing? We’re going to be late.”
“Shh.” Severus scolded.
“Why’s your face wet?” Rupert whispered back.
“I had to go to the washroom and get some cold water to counteract the pepper. I’m fine now.”
“I swear I had nothing to do with that. Someone must have sabotaged my potion.”
“And I know just who that someone was.” Severus quietly replied as the two boys headed for the stairwell.
“It wasn’t me.”
“No, it was Potter. He got to your cauldron while I was at Jigger’s desk.”
“Well, if you knew that, why did you yell at me in class? That was awful of you. You could have gotten him in trouble instead, you know.”
“You’re not in trouble. Jigger is giving you a chance to make it up. Besides if I had confronted him then, the worst he’d get is detention. If he doesn’t know I know, than we’ve got a much larger window of opportunity for vengeance.”
“You didn’t have to humiliate me in front of the other Slyths.”
“Yes I did.”
“Yes and you cut your ginger too thick, you try to crush a bezoar like it’s a ball of dough, and you don’t notice when someone adds a bottle of pepper to your potions. Quite frankly, I’d be quite justified in never sharing a table with you in potions again. You should be thankful I’m barmy, or I’d have poisoned you off the day I met you.”
“You didn’t know how to do any potions when you met me. That was before Hogwarts.”
“I knew plenty of potions before I met you. My father…”
“… was the first potion master to successfully brew Skele-grow; yeah, yeah, I know. Now hurry up or we’ll be late for class.”