Snape stared at the ceiling tiles overhead. Damn Rupert for leaving him alone in this godforsaken wasteland. He had never felt so vulnerable, even when he was hexed to within an inch of his life at Hogwarts. With nothing but a silver cross and a broken wand hand to keep him safe, he would be lucky to survive the night. He tried to roll his head to look out the window. His neck was still stiff, but it was better than it had been. He could just make out the thin sliver of a moon over the roof tops. At least, he was safe from werewolves this time of month, small blessing that it was.
Severus could hear people walking in the hallway. “And how is
our favorite patient?” He recognized the doctor’s voice.
“Actually, doctor, you may want to look at this.” It took Severus a moment to match the voice to the stern night nurse that bore a striking resemblance to the Headmistress of Beauxbatons. “His liquid output is greater than his input, and he seems to be running a fever.”
“Funny, he didn’t look dehydrated when I stopped in earlier. I’m not terribly worried about that temperature; it's a natural immune response. Do you think any of his injuries have been exacerbated recently?”
“No, in fact, he seems to have a greater range of motion than I would expect for someone who’s been in that type of accident.”
“Well, then, I would suggest you make a note to keep an eye out for other signs of dehydration, but take no actions now.”
“Do you think he’ll be ready to discharge tomorrow?”
“The sooner the better with that one. I’m tempted to have him checked for rabies before we let him out into the public.”
“Perhaps it’s a genetic predisposition for distemper? Nurse Kendall had to send the brother home this evening when he was upsetting the patient.” Severus snorted at that assessment.
“I’d be more inclined to say that the brother was a saint for lasting this long. I almost feel sorry sending the patient home with him.” Severus rolled his eyes. It was no fair that Rupert always looked so innocent. “Make a note for the day nurse to counsel Mr. Giles in the care for his brother, next time he comes in. The sooner we clear that bed the better. Now, what’s the status on the cardiac patient…” Their voices faded as they walked past the room.
Severus was annoyed at first. How dare they complain about his behavior? Aside from a single strangulation attempt and a few threats of hexes, he’d been perfectly amenable. They were the idiots who kept insisting on testing him by poking him with needles, despite his insistence that voodoo was an unreliable practice even at the best of times. Still, the sooner he went home with Rupert, the better. At least there would be wards around the house, and Severus knew he would be needing wards soon.
He tried closing his eyes, but sleep would not come. Damn that pepper-up. He was alone with just his thoughts for company, and what fickle company they were. Life as he knew it, was over. He must have reached the end of his luck if he had wound up here. He couldn’t go back, but he could hardly stay here. History was a two-edged sword. He knew Rupert couldn’t refuse him now; after all, he was family. But, he also knew neither man would suffer the other longer than they had to. Charity only went so far, especially for a family of Slytherins.
“There you two are!”
“Gran!” Severus noticed the woman heading for them first, and dragged his step-brother towards her.
“Well, take a look at you two! You’ve grown so much, we’ll have to visit Madame Malkin’s soon.”
“Aw, Gran.” Severus blushed as Gran ruffled his hair.
“Thank you for hosting us, Mrs. Lestrange.” Rupert politely stated, hiding behind Severus.
“It was my pleasure dear.” Gran sighed at her step-grandchild; he looked so lost on the wizarding platform. “It’s only proper to have children around during the holidays. Now where are your trunks?”
The two boys got their trunks from the luggage car and followed Gran off platform 9 ¾ and straight to the waiting taxi. Gran gave directions to the driver than turned to the two boys. “So how has your semester been?”
“It’s been fine.”
“Quite well, thank you.”
“What are Slytherin’s chances for the House Cup this year?”
“Have you had any problems from the Gryffindors of late?”
The boys blushed but didn’t elaborate an answer. “Oh bother.” Gran muttered. “Now boys, you know your parents feel terrible about being caught out of the country during the holidays.”
“Yes Gran.” “Of course, Mrs. Lestrange.” Neither boy sounded convinced.
“If there was any way they could have avoided it, they would have.”
“No offense, Gran, but you don’t need to make excuses for them. They have their own priorities.”
“Oh, Severus,” Gran fretted but came up short with any good response. Cassandra and Bradford certainly did have their own priorities, and sadly enough Severus and Rupert were not high on that list. “Now I want the two of you to enjoy your holidays. Is there anything in particular you would care to do?” The boys exchanged nervous glances. “Nothing? Surely there must be something you want to do over the break?”
“Well, actually there is this film I would be interested in seeing. I’m not sure it’s still out though, since Lily saw it over the summer.” Rupert hesitated.
“Excuse me dear, but what do you mean?”
“A film? You know, a movie? Like in a theater?” Rupert blushed as the realization hit him that he would not be returning to his muggle home for the break.
“I’m afraid I’m not following you dear.” Gran frowned.
“It’s a muggle thing.” Severus glared at Rupert.
“Well, I suppose it is, but Lily insisted that this movie was fantastic. It won all sorts of awards, too! It’s about this Italian family that…”
“Who’s Lily?” Gran interrupted before Rupert could go off on a tangent.
“She’s a Gryffindor.” Severus sneered.
“You made a friend with a Gryffindor?” Grand asked in shock.
“He met her in the choir.” Rupert glared at Severus who was rolling his eyes.
“You’ve joined the choir? Oh my.” Gran pursed her lips trying very hard not to burst into undignified giggles.
Rupert turned bright red. “I guess I can wait to see it during the summer.” He muttered, knowing full well that not only would it no longer be showing, but there was no way his father would let him see something rated that high. It was a long shot that the Lestranges would let him go in the first place.
“I’m sorry dear, but I think it would be best if we wait on going to see a filmie. Is there anything else you would like to do? We could see about quidditch tickets.” Gran offered.
“No thank you.” Rupert stared out the window as they drove through one of the more exclusive neighborhoods of London.
“Well, how about you, Severus?”
“No thank you, Gran.”
“Well, in that case, I hope you don’t mind if I have planned a few family get-togethers. Your cousins Rastaban and Rodolphus will be coming over on Wednesday for tea. I thought since they were your age, it would be nice for them to visit. Won’t that be delightful?”
“Yes, of course Mrs. Lestrange.” Rupert didn’t quite know how to explain that they’d seen Rastaban everyday for the past three months, and frankly could care less about him.
“Also, we’ve been invited to the Black’s for tea, and I accepted the invitation for next week.”
“Which of the Blacks are we talking about?” Severus paled slightly, but kept his tone conversational.
“Lividus and Merula Black.” Mrs. Lestrange answered. Seeing Rupert’s puzzled look, she hastened to add, “They have a child in your grade. I believe Narcissa is also a Slytherin.” Both boys breathed a sigh of relief. “They were especially interested in meeting the two of you, so I trust you will be on your best behavior.”
Mrs. Lestrange decided not to mention they were more curious about Rupert’s adjustment to Hogwarts, considering his unconventional parentage, than they were interested in meeting their daughter’s housemates. It was best not to bring up Andromeda’s unfortunate match any more than necessary. “Ah, here we are.” Mrs. Lestrange looked up at the large manor they had stopped in front of. “Now Severus, I’ve had your usual room prepared for you, and the room on the left of it for Rupert. Can you please show him where to leave his trunk?” She instructed as the driver opened the door for them. As she paid the driver, the boys unloaded the trunks and dragged them up the front steps. Severus led them up the stairs to the guest wing of the manor.
“Do we just leave our trunks here, or should we unpack?” Rupert asked, as he set his trunk down where Severus had pointed.
“I’m not sure what Gran has planned for today. It’s getting close to tea time. Perhaps we should go ask her?”
“Alright.” Rupert followed Severus down the stairs. They could hear two voices coming from the study. Severus stopped right in front of the door and put his finger over his lips to keep Rupert from asking any questions.
“And I suppose the boys are here, too?” A man with a thick Eastern European accent muttered.
“Yes of course, they’re putting their trunks away.”
“Cassandra should be ashamed of herself, imposing on us like this. They should be at their own house.”
“I know, dear, but it is rather late to be bringing that point up again.”
“When I was growing up, if a mother abandoned her children, she would be stoned to death.”
“Are you proposing we stone our daughter? I hardly think that would be proper.”
“Bah! This country! All you care about is what is proper, and not what is right. When I was a boy, we had none of this craziness of divorce and sending your children away for schooling.”
“You know both Cassandra and Bradford were widowed, first. This is hardly the scandal you always want to make it.”
“When I was a boy…”
“When you were a boy, you lived a simple life in Transylvania
with just the goats to keep you company. Yes, dear, I have heard you before. However, you chose to leave Transylvania years ago, so I do not want to hear you continuously complaining.”
At that, Severus pulled Rupert away from the door. “Come on, let’s go back upstairs.” He whispered. The two boys snuck back up the stairs, feeling even worse than they had been before leaving Hogwarts to spend the holidays away from their parents.
Downstairs the discussion continued. “You know how Cassandra feels about supporting her husband’s work. I don’t want to hear one more word about Cassandra and her choices.”
“Yes, dear.” Mr. Lestrange knew when he had reached the end of his wife’s patience.
“And furthermore, if you didn’t want the boys here, you should have said something last month.”
“I have no complaint with having my Severus around the house, and the other one is not so bad.” Mr. Lestrange shrugged. “I am only saying it is wrong that they do not have their parents to go home to.”
“Well, for heavens sake, whatever you do, don’t say anything like that in front of the boys. They’re upset enough as it is. Now, do you want to go fetch them for tea, or shall I?”