Giles watched the sky fade from black to gray to blue for the second morning in a row. He rubbed his eyes wearily, relieved that nothing Hellmouthy had occurred that evening. He put his watcher’s journal back into his satchel, trying not to make any noise that would wake up Severus.
“Are you leaving?” The murmur came from the bed. Evidently, he hadn’t been silent enough.
Giles glanced over at the bed, to find Severus’ eyes fixed on him. “It’s morning now. You’ll be safe from vampires.” Severus tried to scoff at that, but wasn’t up to the effort. “I can only protect you from the dangers I know about, Sev.” Severus’ reticent silence let Giles know that he wasn’t ready to talk yet. He only hoped Severus would change his mind before anyone came looking for them.
He had made it about halfway to the door when he heard a quiet, “Ru?”
“Yes?” He turned to face his brother.
“The pepper-up helps. Do you have more?”
“I can brew some.” Giles answered quietly. Severus closed his eyes, feigning sleep. Giles knew his brother was still awake, but took the dismissal for what it was.
Getting into his car, it occurred to him that it would be more efficient to stop by the store before going home, especially since he wasn’t sure he’d make it to the store if he saw his bed. He arrived at the Main Street store front just a few minutes before its posted opening time, and already the door was unlocked.
At the sound of the bell above the door, a cheerful voice called, “Welcome to the Magic Box! Oh… it’s you.”
“Please, don’t sound so excited to see me.” Giles muttered.
“Oh, I wasn’t trying to sound excited.”
“I was being sarcastic.”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t try so hard.” Anya offered helpfully, but realized that it was the wrong thing to say when she saw her boss’ face. Quickly she offered a distraction. “So, how’d that imp problem go last night?”
“Imp problem? What imp problem? Buffy didn’t say anything about imps. Good lord, imps on the Hellmouth could be disasterous. Granted, they’d be no worse than anything else on the Hellmouth, but imps…” Giles rubbed his eyes, realized he was rubbing his glasses, and then tried to clean his glasses with one hand while rubbing his eyes with the other, resulting in dropping his glasses on the floor.
“You didn’t get any sleep last night, did you?” Anya asked bluntly.
“It shows?” Giles bent down to pick up his glasses, and swayed a bit as he tried to stand back up. He knew it had been awhile since he had gone into research mode, but he thought he was better at handling consecutive all-nighters than this.
“Why don’t you sit down?” Anya steered Giles to one of the chairs at the research table.
“So, dare I ask, why do you think we have imps? Did Buffy stop by last night?” Giles placed his glasses on the table and reached for a tea mug which wasn’t there. Disappointed, he sighed.
“No, I just figured you knew there were imps.” Anya answered, taking the seat across from Giles at the table. “I mean, all those ingredients you had me set aside are used in a common imp repellent.”
“So there haven’t been any real imp sightings?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Oh.” Giles closed his eyes. “Well that’s a relief. You had me worried for a moment there. I’m not quite sure I would be up to dealing with imps, nasty little buggers with horrible morning breath. Granted, their breath doesn’t improve at any other time of day, so I don’t suppose it’s truly morning breath…”
“Giles, you’re babbling. Do I need to call Buffy to make sure you’re you?”
“No, that will be quite alright. I’m just exhausted. My brother is in the hospital, and I’ve spent the past two nights at his bedside, just in case any vampires were to see him as an easy meal. I know it’s ridiculous of me, but …”
“That’s not ridiculous. I’m sure lots of people are killed in that hospital every night.”
“Oh, that makes me feel so much better.” Giles sighed.
“Well, it’s true.” Anya patted him on the back. “At least there aren’t any imps… that we know of.”
“Thank heavens for small mercies.” Giles muttered.
“So are you going home to sleep now?”
“Well, I really thought I’d try to stay this morning and take care of some of the paperwork from last week. I think we were supposed to get a delivery of,” Giles yawned, “candles yesterday.”
“Yeah, they came in. I signed for them, stored them, and added them to your inventory list.”
“Oh? Thank you.”
“You should go home and go to bed.”
“Are you sure you’ll be alright here on your own again today?”
“I’ll be fine. You, on the other hand, look like you’ll scare away the customers so they won’t spend money.”
“Ah, of course.” Giles sighed. “Well, then I should probably just get what I need and head back to my apartment. Do you have the totals for last night?”
“Yes, yes I do.” Anya beamed. She practically skipped over to the front desk where she pulled out a piece of paper. “Ta da!”
“Thank you.” Giles glanced down at the sheet. None of the numbers seemed too far off from their normal daily activity. “I take it you didn’t have any problems yesterday?”
“Nope. Everything went just fine without you.”
“That’s good.” Giles tried to smile, but he couldn’t help but feel disappointed that he wasn’t nearly as essential to the business as he had thought. “I suppose everything will go just fine as well, when I have to take time off to nurse Sev back to health, as well.”
“On what?” Giles was immediately suspicious of Anya’s tone of voice.
“Well, if I’m going to be regularly opening and closing the store, and doing orderings and stuff, well, shouldn’t I be a full partner? That sort of motivation would really help the store run more smoothly in your absence.”
“My brother is sick in the hospital and you’re trying to bribe me?” Giles stared disbelievingly at Anya who didn’t seem taken aback by the accusation.
“I just think that if I’m going to be spending more time here than you, then it would make sense to offer me a partnership.” Anya smugly answered.
Unfortunately, Giles was in no mood for her posturing. “I can offer time and a half for opening and closing hours, but not a penny more. After all, you hardly have the appropriate paperwork to get a job elsewhere and I doubt D’Hoffryn will be writing you glowing letters of recommendation. You should be lucky to have a job at all. In fact maybe I should cut your hours, as you don’t have proper documentation for working in the United States.”
“Hey! That’s not fair!”
“I would think you, of all people, would realize life isn’t fair.”
“Stupid men.” Anya grumbled heading back to the cash register.
“Look, Anya, being a partner would be as much about legal liability as it would be about profits, and with your history, I don’t think legal liability is what you want right now. However, I recognize that you work very hard here.”
Anya pouted, but at least was listening to her boss. “Fine, I can’t be a partner, but I think I deserve some consideration for all the hours I’ve been putting in.”
“Alright. How about this? I offered you time and a half for opening and closing. What if I offer you time and a half for the next month since I’m going to have to be away for considerable periods of time with my brother?”
“Time and a half, for an entire month?” Anya thought that over.
“We’ll try it for a month, and see how it goes. If the store does well, I’ll see about fixing your salary at that level. Does that work?”
Anya thought for a moment then shocked Giles by jumping over the desk, doing a happy dance, and then hugging him tightly. “Yay! My first raise!”
“Is there anything else we need to discuss?” Giles asked once Anya let go.
“No, everything’s wonderful.” Anya smiled.
Giles headed back to his office. He pulled his ledger out of the bottom drawer to see what he had left undone from the previous week. Smiling, he crossed “Double Anya’s salary” off the list while thinking to himself that you could take the boy out of Slytherin, but couldn’t take Slytherin out of the boy.
“Have you seen Ru?” Mafalda asked Severus who was studying at one of the tables in the Slytherin Commons Room. “He said I could borrow his Charms notes.”
“No. What do I look like, my brother’s keeper?” Severus scowled.
“I just thought, you being a boy, could check the dormitory where I can’t go.”
“So, you think that borrowing Rupert’s notes, which are probably only half legible anyway, is so much more important than whatever I may be doing right now, that I should automatically jump up and fetch him from the bedroom?”
“Well, I only asked because the room is warded against girls.”
“The world does not revolve around you.”
“Fine, I’ll ask somebody else, but just remember this. You, Severus Snape, are a horrible boy, and when it comes time to go to the Yule Ball, you’ll have to take a Gryffindor because no Slytherin girl would stoop to your level.”
“First years don’t even go to the Yule Ball.” Severus rolled his eyes. Girls were just dumb.
“I wasn’t talking about this year; I was talking about ever.” Mafalda sniffed. “But if you think you’re better than your fellow Slytherins, then I’ll just go ask Evan and you can try your luck with the Gryff girls.”
“Fine, I’ll go looking for him.” Severus knew a losing battle when he saw one, and if there was one thing his mother had taught him, it was never to face off against a Slytherin girl and expect to win.
Severus stalked up to the bedroom, took quick peek around, didn’t see anybody, and was about to turn around and leave when a sound caught his attention. The curtains around Rupert’s bed were pulled tightly shut, but there was definitely a muffled sniff coming from behind them. Quietly Severus approached the curtains and pulled them open to find Rupert with his head buried under a pillow. A hundred questions came to Severus’ mind as to why Rupert would be crying, but what actually came out of his mouth was, “You know, if you’re going to cry, you have to cast a silencing charm first.”
Taking a deep sigh, Severus cast a silencing charm around the
bed, sat down on the covers, and pulled the curtain shut again. “I was informed that if I did not find and persuade you to loan your Charms notes to Mafalda, I would never have a date to any social function as long as I live. While that actually that doesn’t sound so bad, my mother would have kittens, therefore, I shall not go away.”
“That was the general idea, yes.” Severus was getting tired of talking to Rupert’s back, so he tried to pull the pillow off his step-brother’s face, but Rupert wasn’t letting go. “Bloody hell, whatever Black did to you this time, it’s not worth crying like a Hufflepuff.”
“Don’t swear.” Rupert muttered.
“Don’t change the subject. What did Black do?”
“Potter, then? If so, I’ve been thinking of a lovely little trick to mess with his glasses.”
“Well, then what’s got you so upset that you’re willing to risk the guys seeing you like this? You do realize that if you don’t pull yourself together soon, it’ll be obvious at dinner that you were crying.”
Instead of explaining, Rupert just shoved a piece of stationary at Severus. Severus recognized the handwriting immediately. He read it quietly, then reread, then read it again just to make sure. “Bloody hell, your father is taking you out of Hogwarts?”
“Looks that way.” Rupert dropped the pillow and wiped his eyes. “I bet McGonagall wrote him after the skunk incident.”
“But that’s ridiculous. Everyone makes mistakes, and she couldn’t prove it was you that added the stripe to Potter’s ottoman. You’ve got top marks in Astronomy and Herbology, and you’re not far behind in the rest of your classes. There’s no way your father can say you’re not meeting expectations.”
“But watchers go to Sherborne.” Rupert’s sarcasm was lost in his sniffles. “Watchers study foreign languages, fencing, and other subjects not covered in the Hogwarts curriculum.” He quoted from the letter.
“I don’t see how a watcher is better off learning French than DADA. A slayer is far more likely to meet a vampire than a frustrated Parisian. The other watchers only go to that stuffy school because they couldn’t get into Hogwarts.”
“I know, but it doesn’t exactly look like I get a choice, does it?”
“I bet it was the damn Travers that put your father up to this.”
“It doesn’t really matter who put him up to it. You know how father is. Once he sets his mind on something, he’ll follow through. Look, he’s even sent the uniform catalog so I can select my size.” Rupert nudged the glossy magazine at Severus, who took one look at the shredded cover and was glad he wasn’t made of paper. “I guess Lucy was right. Mudbloods don’t belong in Slytherin.”
Severus was silent for awhile, contemplating just what it would mean if Rupert went to a different school. Sure, it was sometimes annoying having his step-brother around, but on the other hand, Rupert could be useful. No one else had the guts to pull off half the pranks Severus designed for the Gryffindors, and when Rupert was around, the other guys included Severus in the conversation. If Rupert left, Severus’ status would drop down to Rookie’s, or worse. “That’s bull.”
“What?” Giles glanced up from the magazine that he had gone back to shredding.
“If the sorting hat puts you in Slytherin, then you’re in Slytherin until you die.”
“Well, that’s all well and good, but I don’t think my father places much faith in a tattered hat.”
“You’re staying in Slytherin.”
“And just how am I going to do that when my father wants me to transfer?”
“Hand me a quill and some parchment, will you?”
“What are you going to do? Write your mother and hope she can convince him?” Rupert scoffed.
“Heavens no.” Severus frowned. “This is far more serious than that. I’m writing Gran.”