Red Letter Day
Finishing up the essential business at the Magic Box, Giles helped himself to another batch of pepper-up supplies and headed back to his house. He went straight to the kitchen to heat up a pot of water and his tea kettle. He pulled out the cutting board and knife, and shuffled through his bag for the ginger root. “You don’t cut it small enough.” Giles muttered to himself, mimicking his brother’s complaints.
As Giles prepared his ingredients, his thoughts wandered back to the question that had been bothering him for days now. How did Severus end up in Sunnydale? To the best of his knowledge, only two people in England knew his phone number. Of those two, his father would have been unable to create a portkey, which left one person. Thinking about it, it almost made sense. Who else would ever consider sending Severus Snape to his step-brother on the Hellmouth as an emergency escape?
The whistling teapot distracted Giles from his thoughts long enough for him to steep his tea and add the ingredients to the boiling pot. He counted the number of counter-clockwise stirs, stopping at seventeen to throw away the used teabag, and turned off the stove to let the potion cool. Realizing that he hadn’t had a bite to eat since the evening before, Giles pulled out a tin of biscuits and sat down at the kitchen table. On second thought, he got up, grabbed some parchment and a pen from his desk, and went back to the kitchen table.
The package you sent me has arrived in complete, but damaged, shape. I would appreciate any instruction you could offer on just what I should be doing with it. Sorry I haven’t written in ages. Hope all is well.
He reread the letter to make sure it was sufficiently vague. Just in case the owl was intercepted by anyone, he didn’t want to lead them straight to his doorstep. Owl… Giles froze. Where the heck was one to find a courier owl on the Hellmouth? It’s not like he could go to the school owlery or use the family pet. The few times he had spoken with Gran on his visits back home, he had never addressed the question of wizarding post in America.
Perhaps if he were to turn the letter into a portkey destined for Lestrange Manor and find a way to activate it without touching any one… Right, like that was a possibility. Not only was he mediocre at best with the portkey spell, he was not about to use his wand on the Hellmouth.
Of course, that added a new complication to his already extensive list of questions. If he couldn’t find an owl, or create a portkey, or find any floo powder, how on earth was he supposed to return Severus to the wizarding world once he recovered? Granted, if it were the aurors who were after him, perhaps Severus would not want to return to the wizarding world, but his step-brother was in no shape to live in the muggle world anytime soon.
Frowning, he crumpled the letter and tossed it into the trashcan. It was pointless sitting at his kitchen table, going over and over again the mystery that was Severus’ arrival. It would be far more productive to go back to the hospital and demand answers from the one person who had them. If worse came to worse, he at least had a bargaining chip in his thermos.
Resolving his course of action, Giles put the refilled thermos in his satchel and headed out the door. Severus was going to answer his questions tonight, whether he wanted to or not.
It had been a week since Mafalda had borrowed Rupert’s Charms notes, and to the casual observer, it had been a quiet week. In fact none of the teachers would say there was anything significant about that week, had someone asked. But the first year Slytherins all knew. Nothing was said about Rupert and Severus arriving a few minutes late to dinner, but since that night, the brothers had been unusually quiet and jumpy. The rest of the boys had also taken to fidgeting, wondering what had put their roommates so on edge. Homework was done without the usual banter, as if the group was observing a moment of silence that never seemed to end.
By Wednesday morning, the crankiness was beginning to rub off on the Slytherin girls, and even some of the Hufflepuffs at the next table over were getting wary of the Slytherin duo. At the sound of wings flapping, indicating the morning mail, half the Slytherin table flinched.
“It’s here.” Rupert whispered, staring up at the birds circling the breakfast table.
“What’s here?” Severus refused to look up from his bowl of porridge.
“That’s your mother’s owl isn’t it?” Rupert nodded towards a large tawny owl that was heading for the Slytherin benches.
“I wonder what she has to say.” Severus glanced up to see the owl heading straight for them.
“It’s probably for me from father.” Rupert gulped nervously.
“It’s mother’s owl; it must be for me.”
“What would your mother have to say to you that she didn’t say in the Monday letter? No, this is probably about That Thing.”
“We would have heard from Gran first. No, this must be for me.”
“Are sure it’s not about….”
As the owl swooped closer, Severus got a good glance at the red envelope in its talons. “You’re right, it’s for you.”
“Are you sure? It’s your mother’s owl.”
“It’s probably about That Thing.”
“But you just said it wasn’t.” The two watched as the owl landed directly in between the two boys. “Severus, why is it standing between us?”
“Because it’s addressed to both of us,” Severus answered, while silently wondering how fast he could run away from the table without attracting attention. “Do you want to open it?”
“Why don’t you want to open it?”
“I just thought since it’s probably about That Thing, you’d want to open it.”
Rupert stared at his step-brother, wondering if he should call the bluff or not.
“Merlin’s beard! What have you two done to earn yourselves a howler?” Damon asked, finally noticing the bird perched on the tray of muffins.
“A howler?” Rupert asked.
The other first year, glanced at him as though he were crazy then burst out laughing. “You’ve never gotten a howler before? This’ll be fun. Open it.”
As Rupert reached for it, Severus shouted “Stop!”
“Are you afraid of a letter?” Rupert challenged Severus.
“If you had any sense you would be, too.”
“It just gets worse with time, Sev, may as well let him open it.” Evan commented
“Just remember, whatever is said, it’s all his fault.” Severus told his fellow Slytherins then nodded at Rupert.
Rupert had barely touched the seal when the letter exploded open. “HOW DARE YOU GET MY MOTHER INVOLVED! IF THE TWO OF YOU EVER TRY TO PLAY THAT TRICK AGAIN, YOU’LL BE GROUNDED IN YOUR ROOMS FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE! … ” Severus quickly waved his wand at the letter, muting his mother’s voice. The tirade continued for another minute before the letter tore itself up into shreds and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
“Well, that plan went well.” Rupert sighed.
“At least there are a few more weeks left to the term.” Severus tried to console his half-brother.
“Don’t look now, but I think you two have another post.” Damon nodded at a smaller owl that was trying to steal a piece of bacon from the table.
“Oh dear.” Severus sighed, untying the letter from the owl’s leg. He quickly scanned the contents and then reread it, schooling his features to reveal nothing to his fellow Slytherins. “I’m so sorry.” Severus finally offered, staring forlornly at his step-brother.
“What? What is it?”
“You should probably read it for yourself.”
Rupert grabbed the letter out of his step-brother’s hand and muttered while reading. “Dear Severus, I spoke with your mother and Rupert’s father about the troubling news you sent. I believe Sir Giles now has a more thorough understanding of just what being a Slytherin means. Please tell Rupert that he will be remaining at Hogwarts for the duration of his education, and that his parents regretfully apologize for any misunderstandings. I should also mention that I had no need to resort to that lovely tidbit of blackmail you provided me, and therefore you should consider that bargaining chip unspent. Best of luck on your upcoming examinations. I expect to see both of you during the summer holidays. Yours truly, Gran.”
“You bloody git!” Rupert swore when he had finished the letter.
“You actually had me thinking it was bad news!”
“Well, yes, but in a way it is. Not only is mother extremely annoyed with us, but I’ll have to see your ugly face for the next six years.”
“I should kill you.” Rupert scowled.
Severus just shrugged and went back to his breakfast. The rest of the Slytherins deciding the show was over, went back to their own meals as well. “And Sev?” Rupert quietly added a few minutes later. His brother glanced up. “Thanks.”
Severus shrugged as though his interference were nothing. “I just hope you learned your lesson from this.”
“And what is that?”
“Never, ever, not even if your life depended on it, cross Gran.”