Giles woke up and stretched, relieved to have a full night sleep in his bed. Immediately he felt guilty for not thinking of Severus, but that old resentment of his step-brother kicked in. It only served the man right to get a dose of his own medicine for every time he left his step-brother to navigate the treacheries of Slytherin house alone. In fact, it would almost be worth it to spend the entire day away from Severus. However, Giles cruel streak was not quite that large, and there was a considerable difference from a school dormitory and a hospital on the Hellmouth.
As he went about the morning routine, his worries from the night before came back in full force. If there were gribles on the Hellmouth, someone was using wand magic on the Hellmouth as well. That could only have disastrous conclusions, both for the wizard, and he feared, for himself. If it was indeed someone looking for Severus, undoubtedly it wouldn’t be long before they recognized his name. The question was would the wizard find them before he splinched himself or worse.
Fixing his cup of tea, Giles noticed the note still sitting on the top of his trash. Granted he couldn’t get a hold of Gran by owl, but he very well could reach the only other person he knew had his phone number. Perhaps that would provide some answers to his question. He mentally reviewed his time zones and decided that there was no better time to try to call overseas. Now, if only he could convince himself that it would be worth the effort, he would call.
He delayed through two cups of tea, some toast, and half a read through the morning paper. Finally, he gave up the pretense of having something better to do. He knew it was childish of him, but he always hated having to ask for help from his father. He settled into his reading chair, and picked up the phone, dialing the first number he had ever learned by heart.
“Hello, you have reached The Watcher’s Council. Who may I ask is calling?” A secretary answered in a polished Oxford accent that always made Giles a tad homesick.
“This is Rupert Giles.”
“Good afternoon, Mr. Giles. I trust your field assignment is running smoothly. I’m afraid Mr. Travers has stepped out for the afternoon. Shall I have him call you back tomorrow?”
“Actually, I’m looking for Sir Bradford Giles. Is he in by any chance?”
“Just a moment.” Giles had a minute to listen to hold music before the phone picked up again.
“Hello, Sir Bradford Giles speaking.”
“Rupert, to what do I owe this call? Your slayer is still alive, isn’t she?”
“Yes, Buffy is alive, and doing quite well in her classes I might add.”
“Good, good. Not that I find it a bit odd that your slayer should be attending university, but I suppose it is a bit late to do anything about it.”
Giles took off his glasses, but resisted the temptation to rub his eyes. He should have known better than to say anything about Buffy to his father. “Actually, I’m calling for a more personal reason. Do you still have the phone number I gave you last Christmas?”
“Of course I do.” Sir Bradford almost sounded affronted at the accusation he could lose something.
“Have you, by any chance, given that phone number out to anyone, either on the Council or perhaps in a different circle of acquaintances?”
“No, I have not. Why do you ask?”
“I received a rather unusual phone call this week.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t from one of your acquaintances in California? That area does have a reputation for unconventional behavior.”
“Actually, father, I am rather certain that this is related to an English acquaintance, and as you are one of only two people I gave this number to, I had to ask.”
“What sort of call did you receive?”
“The hospital here called to tell me that Severus was hit by a bus.”
“What? That’s preposterous!”
“I went to see for myself, and it is indeed Severus, and he was indeed hit by a bus, here, in California.”
“How unheard of,” Sir Bradford mumbled.
“Yes, quite. The fact that the hospital found my phone number among his possessions indicated that someone gave him my contact information.”
“Well, you should have known by now that it would not have been me. I’d rather his name not even be raised in my company.”
“I’m well aware of that.”
“Then why did you call?”
“I had to make sure. For all I know, it could be through some mutual acquaintance.”
“We have no mutual acquaintances.” His father's cold voice cut off any more speculation Giles could offer.
“Well, in that case, I have a small favor to ask. Could you please reach Cassandra’s mother. It appears I need to have a word with her.”
“I will have no more dealings with that circle.”
“Look, I understand you have reservations, but it’s been over a decade. Can you not at least let her know I need to speak with her? I really have no means to communicate with her from California.”
“The better for you,” Sir Bradford muttered bitterly.
“Father, you know I walked away from their world as much as you did, but that doesn’t change the fact that Severus is here, now. I need to know why.”
“You could just leave him alone. No good will come of that child.”
“He’s a grown man.”
“Grown men don’t keep such company.”
“How would you know what company he keeps? How long has it been since you’ve seen him? Besides, that doesn’t address the real concern.”
“And what do you think the real concern is?”
“Considering the company he kept, what if he wasn’t alone? If my slayer is to protect the Hellmouth, I need to know if They are here.”
“Good lord.” Sir Bradford muttered. “If those bastards put one foot near the Hellmouth…”
“Now you see why I must speak with Cassandra’s mother. No one else had that phone number.”
“I’ll see what I can arrange, but I won’t promise anything.”
“That is all I can ask for. Thank you, father.”
“Yes, well, your duty as the active watcher is sacred, and I will not be accused of standing in your way. Is that all you wanted to discuss with me?”
“Yes, sir.” Despite the fact that Giles had been with the Watcher’s Council for years, had one of the most distinguished records for active duty, and had been living on his own for over a decade, his father always made him feel like a little boy when they spoke.
“Good. I’ll ring you when I reach Mrs. Lestrange. Good day.” His father hung up before Giles could say goodbye.
“What are you two up to?” The two boys turned to face Mr. Lestrange, who was eyeing them suspiciously.
“Nothing Pa.” Severus quickly replied. “Gran told us to wait for her in the hall.”
“Oh? And where is she taking you?”
“For tea with the Blacks.” Severus answered.
“Hmm.” The old gentleman thought about it for a moment, then grinned. “Come, I show you something.”
Rupert glanced at Severus, worriedly, but his step-brother simply shrugged. The two boys followed the man down the hall to the study they had been avoiding since the first day. Rupert hesitated a moment at the doorway, knowing that this was one of the places Mr. Lestrange went to get away from Gran. “Come, come, I do not eat little children.” Mr. Lestrange laughed as Severus tugged Rupert into the room.
Mr. Lestrange went to one of the cabinets and carefully took down a silver contraption. It reminded Rupert of a perpetual motion machine he had seen on his father’s desk, but instead of five silver balls hanging from the frame, there were six rows of seven balls each. The old man set it down on the coffee table, and indicated that the boys should sit around it. When the two boys had sat down, he carefully turned a little key on the side.
“What is it, Pa?” Severus watched as the balls at one end all pulled up, as if dragged by invisible strings.
“Shh, watch.” Pa released the key, and the balls began falling, each row at a different rate. Severus and Rupert watched the balls clang against the other, bounce at one end, only to return and clang in the opposite direction. The flurry of little balls became a blur as the boys stared into it. “Now, where is Mama?” Mr. Lestrange whispered at the clanging balls.
As the boys watched the blur of balls, an image of Gran in the hall became clearer in the blur. They watched as she scowled, then turned down the hall. The balls slowed down and the vision became cloudy just as she opened the door. “Dear, what are you doing? You know I promised Mrs. Black we would be there by three.”
“I am just showing my invention to the boys.” He winked at Rupert.
“Well, they don’t have time to play with all your dark toys. You’ll just have to show them later.”
“Boys, do you want to see more, or go have tea with the women?” Severus and Rupert glanced nervously between the two adults. “Ah, you are right. We must not upset Mama. Go, go!” The two boys got up and ran towards the door. Rupert stopped before following Severus and Gran into the hall, and turned back to smile at Severus’ Pa. “Hurry up! Mama waits for no man.” Mr. Lestrange chuckled as he watched the boy run down the hall.
“Honestly, I do not know what that man was thinking, taking out his gadgets when we’re already running late.” Gran ushered them to side room just off the foyer that held nothing but a china urn filled with powder, an ornate umbrella stand, and a marble fireplace tall enough for someone to stand in. “Here, Severus you go first. We are going to Lividus Black Estate; don’t forget to enunciate!” She called out as Severus took a handful of floo powder and stepped into the fireplace.
Rupert gulped nervously before following his step-brother into the fireplace. He didn’t care what Severus thought, muggle transportation methods were better than this. He closed his eyes, called out “Lividus Black Estate”, and the next thing he knew, he was having his robe dusted off by Mrs. Lestrange in an unfamiliar foyer.
“Now, dears, please be on your best behavior.” Mrs. Lestrange led them to the front hall, where a house elf greeted them and led them to a sitting room.
Glancing around the room, he could tell where Narcissa got her prissiness. The room was done up in lace and taffeta, and reminded Rupert of a wedding cake. His observations were interrupted with a pinch from Severus. “Thank you for inviting us, Mrs. Black.” Rupert nodded towards their hostess who was casually arranged on a lavender settee.
“Please, have a seat.” Mrs. Black waved towards the small table set for four. Mrs. Lestrange took her place next to Mrs. Black, on a matching lavender chaise lounge. Before the boys could sit down, Mrs. Lestrange coughed. Immediately, both boys went around the table to pull Narcissa’s chair back for her. Rupert was just a hair faster, so Severus found himself assisting Narcissa’s older sister, Bellatrix, into her chair. “What charming boys.” Mrs. Black observed.
“Yes, well, they’re still young.” Mrs. Lestrange sighed fondly at the two boys who were trying not to fidget. “Your Narcissa is the same age, is she not?”
“Indeed she is. Your grandchildren have featured prominently in a few of her stories from Hogwarts over the past year and a half.” Mrs. Black smiled as she noticed the red tinged ears at the children’s table. “So are the boys spending their entire holiday with you?”
“Indeed they are. Cassandra and Bradford were called out of the country.”
“Oh, I take it they are in Vienna?”
“Actually, they’re in Rome.”
“Well that’s peculiar.”
“Why ever would they be in Vienna?”
“Well, haven’t you heard? Practically all the old families are vacationing in Vienna this winter. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one staying in town.”
“Why would they travel to Vienna during the winter? I would think that crowd would choose a more hospitable climate this time of year.” Mrs. Lestrange helped herself to a cup of tea from the little tray the house elf was carrying.
“My sister-in-law sent me the longest owl about it yesterday. Evidently, there’s a philanthropist there, what was his name, oh yes, Lord Voldemort. His plan was to bring together as many of the top ranking wizarding families in as non-political a setting as possible, and try to resolve some of the big problems in our world.”
“Problems? I would hardly say the wizarding world is in some sort of crisis.”
“I know. Granted, the galleon is a little weak against the pound, but honestly, what currency isn’t nowadays? Still, this Voldemort must be a persuasive man considering the families in attendance. Not only are my in-laws there, but evidently the Rosiers, Rookwoods, and Malfoys are in attendance.”
“Well, how peculiar. I wonder how I missed the announcement.”
“I don’t wonder at all. I know how supportive you are of Cassandra, but really don’t you think her choice of a second husband was a tad hasty?”
“What exactly do you mean?” Mrs. Lestrange sipped her tea, trying to keep her face neutral.
“Now, you know, I’m only saying this because I am in the same position. Having a muggle as a son-in-law, doesn’t just affect the children. The whole family is blackmarked, and it will be generations before we find ourselves back at the top of everyone’s list.” Mrs. Black spoke wistfully.
“Speak for yourself.” Mrs. Lestrange muttered. In much lighter tones she added, “I find that neither the Lestrange, nor the Snape, name has been marred through this joining with the Giles family. After all, Rupert was sorted into Slytherin.”
“Yes, and there is still quite a lot of speculation about how that occurred.” Mrs. Black glanced over at the boy trying to appear not to eavesdrop as he ate a cucumber sandwich.
“It occurred because Rupert, and his father, are quality people, even if they have not established quite the legacy at Hogwarts as some families have.” Mrs. Lestrange kept her head held high. While secretly she had her doubts on Bradford’s quality, she would never bring it up in public, especially in front of the Blacks.
“I just don’t see how you can keep such a positive outlook.” Mrs. Black sighed. “Since Andromeda’s little stunt, it’s been absolutely awful for the family. Even my own mother is refusing to speak with me. I don’t know how we’ll be able to find an appropriate match for Bellatrix and Narcissa now that we have a muggle in the family.”
“Narcissa is a beautiful girl; I am sure she will have no problem finding an appropriate match. Isn’t the Malfoy’s boy in the same year?”
“Yes, and Lucius is such an angelic child.” Rupert and Severus shared an incredulous glance at Mrs. Black’s pronouncement. “However, I don’t see how a Malfoy would every take Narcissa now that she has a muggle in the lineage. I suppose I could disinherit Andromeda, for the sake of her sisters.”
“Well, there’s no need to be hasty. I’m sure there are plenty of other appropriate families.”
“Besides, before we can find a match for Narcissa, Bellatrix must marry.” The two women sighed as they glanced at the oldest child at the table. Her dress was just as expensive as Narcissa’s, but it lay so erratically that it looked second-hand. As she reached clear across the table to grab a deviled egg off a tray, the women winced.
“I’m sure there are many families that would appreciate a tie to the Black family.” Mrs. Lestrange offered charitably.
“She needs to find something more than appropriate if she is to make up for the shame of her sister.”
“Of course, but I still think it is not as dire as all that.” Mrs. Lestrange watched as Mrs. Black eyed Severus critically. Having a vision of her darling grandson tied to this slob of a female, Mrs. Lestrange panicked. “You know, my sister-in-law has two grandsons that are both in Slytherin. In fact, I believe Rodolphus may even be in Bellatrix’s year.”
“He plays for the quidditch team, doesn’t he?”
“Why yes, he made beater last year.”
“And his mother, she was a Pilliwickle, was she not?”
“Yes, that family still has quite a lot of pull in the Ministry.” Mrs. Lestrange watched Mrs. Black cast one more glance at Severus. “I could put in a good word for you, if you like.”
“Hmm. If you don’t mind. That would be quite kind of you.”
“Think nothing of it.” Mrs. Lestrange waved it off. When Cassandra got home, she was going to have a serious talk with her daughter about protecting Severus from harpy mother-in-laws. It was bad enough dealing with a muggle son-in-law. She couldn’t imagine the horror of being tied to the Blacks through that beast masquerading as a girl. She glanced again at Bellatrix, who was now pointing and laughing at something Rupert had just said. Once again, Rupert’s ears were turning a dark shade of red.
Merula followed Medea’s line of sight. “So, what is it like having a muggle grandchild? I’m afraid it won’t be long until I am in the same boat.”
“It is no different from having any other grandchild. I suppose there is just some sort of ancient magic that makes you want to spoil them rotten.” Medea smiled as she watched Severus steal a cookie from Rupert’s plate when Rupert was distracted. “Besides, Rupert is a Slytherin.”
“Well, yes, and I hope Andromeda’s children will be as well, but you know what I mean. He was raised in that world.”
“I wonder if Bradford’s father would be asked the same about Severus.” Medea mused.
“Surely, a wizard does not stand out so much in their world as a muggle stands out in ours. Undoubtedly they have no knowledge of the wizarding world.” Mrs. Black shrugged.
“On the few rare occasions when I have spoken with the elder Sir Giles, he was quite aware of Cassandra’s heritage. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised, considering a few things Cassandra has mentioned, if the Giles have wizarding roots and only chose to avoid our world.”
“Indeed. However, the result is simply thus. Rupert is quite well adapted to his place in the wizarding world, and I have no doubt that when he gets older he’ll find a nice witch to settle down with, and there will be a new family legacy for Slytherin.”
“Can you imagine Old Salazar turning in his grave to find Giles and Tonks taking over Slytherin.” Mrs. Black smiled fondly at the thought.