May I have a word?
The nurse had stopped by, prattling incessantly about the tragedy of Prince William to the trapped British men. By the time she left, they knew more about the poor Prince’s dating prospects than they had ever cared to know. They fell into an easy silence, interrupted only by the quiet beeping of the heart monitor.
Finally, Giles tired of the silence. “You know what it is, don’t you?”
“Hmm?” Severus sounded half asleep, but Giles knew better
“You know what Buffy saw at the theater.”
“Well, of course I do, and you should too. Or, have you forgotten everything Professor Morpho taught us?”
“Sev, I really don’t have the patience I once had.” Giles said flatly, not willing to fall into his brother’s word games.
“That is a truly frightening thought considering your history of patience.” Severus scoffed, but gave in. “I believe your slayer has run into a nest of gribles.”
“I was actually thinking of that.”
“Of course you were.” Severus didn’t sound convinced.
“But, it wouldn’t make sense.”
“It makes perfect sense. They fit her description and are native to North America.”
“They only nest in areas where they detect wizards. If it was just magic that drew them to a location, they would have swarmed this place by now, so it must be the element of the wands that attracts them. Now, I have not used my wand in years, and you’re hardly in a condition to use yours. Therefore, I must conclude that there are no gribles in the area.” Giles lectured.
“They must be teaching you idiocy at the Watcher’s Academy. Your logic is backwards, as usual. We have detected gribles, therefore, there must be wizards.”
“Maybe that argument would apply elsewhere, but I happen to know there are no wizards on the Hellmouth. I run the only legitimate magic shop in the area, and I have yet to meet a wand-wielding wizard. Besides, no wizard in their right mind would use a wand on a Hellmouth.”
“I wasn’t thinking of a resident.”
“Despite the sunny locale, we don’t exactly get a lot of vacationing wizards here, either.” Giles answered flippantly. “Something about a Hellmouth turns them off.”
“Perhaps they didn’t know they were on a Hellmouth?”
“No wizard would deliberately plan a trip to Southern California without considering the possibility of landing on the Hellmouth. At least three of our DADA professors covered that.”
“Why would you assume that the wizard has any idea where they would be going?”
“What, you think someone unknowingly took a portkey here?”
“Or someone followed a portkey trail here.” Severus muttered.
“Someone followed you?”
“The same someone who cursed you with a Crucio?”
“Unlikely, but possible.”
“Who’s following you Sev?” Rupert watched his brother, who just shrugged with his right shoulder. “This is no time for your games. I mean it, Sev, who’s following you?”
“How should I know?”
“How can you not know? Who did you piss off enough that they’d follow you here? Should I be expecting an Avada Kedavra any moment now?!” Rupert ended his rant by slamming his fist down on the counter.
“Damn it, I don’t know.” Sev yelled in response. “You think I want to play games with you when I’m trapped in a hospital bed and can’t even move my wand arm? Well bugger off!”
Before Giles could respond, the nurse came running in. “What’s going on? What’s happening?”
“Nothing.” Giles quickly replied.
“Nothing.” Severus quietly admitted, glaring daggers at his step-brother.
“Well, I’ve been a nurse long enough to know that someone’s heart rate does not spike like that for nothing.” The night shift nurse commented. She fussed over the monitors, waiting for someone to make a comment, but neither brother gave ground. Finally she sighed. “Mr. Giles, may I have a word with you outside?”
“Of course, nurse.” Giles followed the nurse into the hallway, closing the door to Severus’ room behind him.
“Now, Mr. Giles, I know you have your brother’s best interests in heart, it really is quite touching to see how much time you’ve spent here with him, but something you said must have upset him greatly.” Giles was about to retort, but the nurse kept going. “Upsetting him like that, could cause serious damage to Steven’s body while it is trying to heal, and we can’t have that here at Sunnydale General. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Now, now, you can come back tomorrow evening, but I think it would be best if you spent some time away from your brother.”
“But, nurse, I…”
“Now, Mr. Giles, we are both reasonable adults. Please don’t make me resort to a getting a restraining order.”
Giles realized a losing battle when he saw one. “I understand, nurse. Shall I just go in to retrieve my bag, and say goodnight?”
“Alright, but when I come back in five minutes, I expect to not see you in that room.”
“Yes ma’am.” As the nurse went back to her station, Giles re-entered the room. “Well, now we’ve done it. I’ve been evicted from your room.” Severus paled. “Just for the evening, but still, it is thoroughly humiliating.”
“You can’t leave.” Severus muttered, realizing his safety net was leaving him.
“I have to.” Rupert rolled his eyes. “Don’t worry, I’ll try to figure out who attracted the gribles.”
“Well, that certainly relieves all my fears. A man who hasn’t used his wand in years is going to use a less than sentient creature to find a potential stalker before I am killed. I feel much more comforted.”
“Yes, well, sweet dreams.” Giles muttered, packing away his thermos and notebook. “Maybe, if you’re lucky, I’ll see you in the morning.”
“That’s the spirit.”
“What are the odds that we’ll have a quiz in Charms today?” Damon started the breakfast conversation.
“I would guess near ninety percent. Flitwick seemed pretty obsessed with those movement charms.” Lucius predicted.
“Bugger all.” Argentius muttered, stirring his porridge morosely.
“Ah, I wouldn’t fret too much, Rookie; I think the odds are closer to ten percent.” Rupert answered, taking a piece of toast off the center platter.
“Who asked for your opinion, Muddy?” Lucius snarled, annoyed to be contradicted by the upstart yet again.
“I believe Damon did.” Rupert answered innocently. “I just happen to know that Flitwick was called out of choir yesterday, and Professor Dumbledore said that he’d be covering the classes. I doubt Flitwick left plans for Dumbledore, since he obviously wasn’t planning on leaving, so I’m thinking no pop quizzes.”
Severus whacked Rupert on the head. “Ow, what was that for?”
“You knew Flitwick left yesterday, and didn’t think to mention it until now? You idiot! I could have skipped cramming charms yesterday to do my Astronomy paper if you had mentioned that.”
“What? You didn’t ask.”
“I guess that’s what we should expect from a mudblood trying to be a Slytherin.” Lucius sniffed haughtily.
“Yeah, well, even a mudblood can read a watch. Come on guys, time for class.” Rupert muttered getting up from the table. Not surprisingly the rest of the Slytherins waited for the signal to leave from Lucius, leaving Rupert to walk to Charms class alone.
Severus found himself taking the seat next to Rupert as none of the other guys were willing to sit so close to the perceived traitor. Severus sat down, but turned away from his step-brother. “Et tu, Severus?” Rupert groaned.
“You shouldn’t keep secrets from your house.” Severus whispered back harshly.
“Right, because you never keep anything from me. I don’t see you guys trying to keep me up to date on what goes on in dueling.”
“That’s different; you chose not to take dueling.”
“And you chose not to take choir.”
Before the argument could escalate, Professor Dumbledore entered. “Good morning class!”
“Good morning, Professor Dumbledore.” The class answered back, sharing concerned glances back and forth.
“As you may have noticed, Professor Flitwick is not here today. I
will be filling in while he is away on family business. Unfortunately, I don’t know where you are in your lessons. However, I thought this might be a lovely time to work on one of my favorite charms. First, who can tell me a good way to end spells?”
The class looked at each other nervously before a few of them raised their hands. “Yes, Ms. Bosenbody?”
“Very good.” Dumbledore smiled. “That reminds me. Many years ago, when Professor Dippet was retiring, he called me into his office. I don’t suppose any of you met Headmaster Dippet?” The class stared at him blankly.
“Armando Dippet was a good man and he gave interesting advice. On this occasion, he said, ‘Albus, when you become Headmaster of Hogwarts, you’ll have to give many speeches, some better than others. The trick to a good speech is to make sure everyone laughs.’ Does anyone know how to make someone laugh?” Albus asked.
The Slytherins exchanged nervous glances, wondering whether Professor Dumbledore was in his right mind. “Mr. Rookwood, how do you make someone laugh?”
“Um.” Argentius blushed, wondering what sort of trick question this was.
“Mr. Malfoy, what do you think? How would you make someone laugh?”
“I… I…” The blonde glanced back at the other Slytherins, looking for any suggestions. “I’m not sure sir.”
“Really?” Albus looked surprised. “I had no idea your class was so morose. Well, no bother. The answer is you tell them a joke.”
The class once again looked to each other for a cue of some sort. Finally Lucius raised his hand. “Yes, Mr. Malfoy?”
“With all due respect sir, I don’t understand what that has to do with charms class.”
“You don’t? Hmm.” The austere man seemed to get lost in thought for a moment before perking up, “Perhaps, Mr. Malfoy, that is because I have not finished my story?”
“Oh.” Lucius had to bite his lip to keep from saying anything else. The Malfoys knew if you couldn’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all… at least to people who were in some position of power over you.
“So, I asked Headmaster Dippet, what to do if you tell a joke and no one laughs. His answer was this. If you tell a joke, someone will laugh. Especially if your joke ends with rictustempra!” The class stared at the headmaster whose eyes were twinkling with mirth.
“Ah, I see we need to work on the delivery of that. How about this: Knock, knock.”
“Who’s there?” The class answered.
“Doris locked; that’s why I had to knock.” Albus chuckled to himself, but the rest of the class just stared at him. “Ah, so you see, as Professor Dippet suggested, what makes the joke especially funny, is if it ends with Rictustempra!” He waved his wand at Severus and suddenly the stoic Slytherin burst into guffaws.
Severus looked over at Rupert for help, turning red with embarrassment as he couldn’t help but laugh at the lame joke. Reacting quickly, Rupert tried waving a “Finite incantatem” at Severus, but it was too late. Severus let out a booming indelicate snort before he could catch his breath and fall silent. The rest of the class suddenly burst into laughter, having never heard Severus laugh, or snort, before.
“So you see class, Rictustempra is a marvelous little charm for causing laughter. Now let’s break into pairs and try that for awhile. Remember, finite incantatem can be used to stop the laughter, and you can even use that on yourself, if someone casts it on you.” The class broke off into pairs, Rupert staying with Severus.
“That man should have his head examined.” Severus muttered.
“Well, actually, it was kinda funny when…” Rupert took one look at Severus’ glare, “You’re right; he’s a complete loony.”
A few minutes later, Professor Dumbledore approached the pair. “Excuse me, Mr. Giles, but I would like a word with Mr. Snape.” Rupert offered Severus a feeble good luck and headed to the other side of the classroom.
“Is there a problem, Professor Dumbledore.” Severus tried to keep the anger out of his voice. His mother had raised him to respect authority, no matter how much they did or did not deserve it.
“Perhaps, Mr. Snape. I just came over here to apologize. I did not mean to single you out in the class like that.” Dumbledore offered sincerely. “I do hope you can forgive me.” Severus mumbled a few words under his breath, but refrained from saying anything loud enough for Dumbledore to hear. “Your father was a good colleague of mine, and I just thought he would have wanted to see his son smile more.” Dumbledore added sadly.
“You knew my father?”
“But of course. Alchemy is a very small field, and your father was very well known.” Professor Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled at the small spark of life he noticed in the sullen boy. “Perhaps one day, you will discover for yourself what a small field we work in as well.” Severus’ mouth twitched into an almost approximation of a smile at that thought. “Well, I didn’t mean to interrupt your practice with Mr. Giles; I just wanted to apologize. Sometimes in our eagerness to identify bright students, we professors forget just how intimidating it can be to be on the other side of the classroom.”
“That’s alright, Professor, I understand.” Severus offered.
“Good, good.” Dumbledore smiled. “And, Mr. Snape?”
“If you do find yourself interested in the alchemical arts, do not hesitate to stop by my office. It has been many years since I’ve enjoyed a rousing discussion on the science.”
“Yes sir.” Severus tried not to smile, but it was hard not to when one of the best potion masters of his age was speaking to him as an equal.
“Ah, well, I should probably send Mr. Giles back to this part of the classroom before he attracts any more imaginative charms from Mr. Malfoy.” The headmaster muttered as he wandered away.