Giles arrived at the Magic Box a little before ten, still fuming slightly over his conversation with his father. It seemed that no matter how many years had past since he joined the Council, he would always be the rebellious teen, only a step above his brother, in his father’s eyes. “Good morning, Anya.” He said his greeting while making a bee line for the teapot in his office. It was going to be one of those days.
“Do you know what time it is?” Anya followed Giles into his office, ignoring all his body language that screamed to be left alone.
“As a matter of fact I do.” Giles glanced at his wristwatch.
“You do know that your store has been open for over an hour already don’t you?”
“Yes, I’m quite well aware of that.” Giles turned back to the tea set, selecting a mug from the drying rack.
“And, I had some business I had to attend to at home before coming in this morning, not that I have to justify my actions to you.” He snapped back. He glanced up to see her glaring at him. “I apologize, Anya, I don’t mean to be short with you; however, I did warn you that I was in the midst of a family crisis. Besides, we have so little traffic in the morning, I hardly think it would be a great inconvenience for you to open by yourself.”
“Well, it was. We had lots of traffic this morning.”
“Well, alright, two.”
“Two customers so early in the morning?” Giles expressed mild surprise.
“Alright, one of them was actually Willow dropping off a book for you.” Anya admitted. “But the other customer was a legitimate customer.”
“Oh? Well, I take it you had no problem ringing them up?”
“Actually.” Anya glanced away nervously. “He asked for something, and I didn’t know where it was.” She muttered.
“Oh? Well, what was it?”
“I don’t know. I wrote it down, just a second.” Anya ran back to the front desk, and grabbed a sheet of scratch paper from beside the phone. “Here it is.”
Rupert took the piece of paper, and stared at the two words written in Anya’s loopy scrawl. “Well, the reason you couldn’t find it, is because we don’t carry it.”
“Well, duh.” Anya rolled her eyes. “But, I told the customer we were expecting a shipment of it in by the end of the week.”
“You did what?!”
“Well, it’s not like I’m going to tell someone with money that were too small a magic shop to have whatever that stuff is. That’s hardly a good way to set up a business.” Anya shrugged. “So, do you know where we can order that stuff and have it here by Friday?”
“Anya, this customer, did they give you their name?”
“No, which was sort of weird, since I did offer to call him when we got it in, but he said his phone number wasn’t working right so he’d just stop by again on Friday.”
“What did he look like?”
“Um, Giles, does it really matter? He said he was willing to pay for it.”
“Please, Anya, think carefully, what did he look like?”
“Well, he was sort of tall, but not too tall. He was skinny, not like starving or anything, but definitely not a beer belly kind of guy. Oh, and he was blonde-ish.” Anya offered.
“Blonde-ish?” Anya simply shrugged. It wasn’t her problem if Giles didn’t like her description. “Did he wear an odd robe? Perhaps carry a wooden stick?”
“A robe, you mean like a bathrobe?”
“Um, rather more like a monk’s robe.” Giles frowned.
“No, but he did have on a funny rain coat.”
“Of course, a rain coat.” Giles stared at the ceiling; why, oh why, was life so difficult? “I don’t suppose he had a long stick, maybe wave a wand around a bit?”
“No. And I am shocked that you would assume anyone would do that in public!”
“I didn’t mean it like that.” Giles blushed. “Besides, you’ve said much worse.”
“Well, of course, but to hear it from you. Really Giles, get your mind out of the gutter.”
“I don’t … I … I…” Giles stuttered.
Giles was bailed out by the sound of the front door opening. “Ooh, customer.” Giles could practically see the cartoon dollar signs in Anya’s eyes as she headed for the front desk.
Giles looked at the paper in his hand. Well, it did give him the opportunity to lay a trap, if nothing else worked first. Now all he needed was a supplier. He flipped through his purchasing logs until he came across a promising business in Salem. Quickly he dialed the number of his contact. “Hello Mr. Calipari, this is Rupert Giles, from the Magic Box in Sunnydale, California.”
“Oh, hello there Rupert. I trust the shipment of crystals made it there safely?”
“Yes, they’re fine.”
“It’s a bit early for you to be reordering anything. Is business really that good out West?”
“Business is fine. Actually, I’m inquiring about a new product I’d like to stock, if possible.”
“Oh? Those meditation beads finally caught on, didn’t they?”
“No, what I am looking for is floo powder.”
“Floo powder?” The tone of the man’s voice shifted. “Just a minute.” Giles waited patiently through new age elevator music until a new voice picked up the phone. “Are you the man from California inquiring about floo powder?”
“Yes I am. Do you have any?”
“Perhaps. Are you aware of what floo powder is?” The man asked gruffly.
“As much as your average client, I suppose. Look, is there a reason why Mr. Calipari can’t handle this order?” Giles was getting nervous about the handoff. That did not bode well, and the last thing he wanted to do was raise any red flags for anyone watching.
“Floo powder is a restricted substance.” The man grumbled.
“How is that possible, when it is on every mantelpiece where I come from?” Giles frowned. “Now, look here, either you have it or you don’t, and either you’re willing to sell it to me, or you won’t. I don’t need any lectures on the dangers of floo powder.”
“There are no floo networks in California.”
“I am aware of that, however, my patron is temporarily here on business and would like to stock up.” Giles fibbed. “So, can I arrange a shipment?”
“Just a minute.”
Giles frowned as the hold music went back on. A minute later, Mr. Calipari, the usual sales manager, was back on the phone. “Sorry about that Mr. Giles. I’m just supposed to direct all the calls for certain items to our head manager. So I take it you’re another squib out to make a profit in both worlds?”
“Something like that.”
“Good for you. That’s what America’s all about – land of opportunity. So how much floo powder are we talkin’ here?”
“I still think we should try from the outside. I don’t want to run into Filch.”
“Well, Rookie, we didn’t ask you.” Lucius stared down at the runt of the Slytherins. “Going from the outside is the stupidest thing we could do. Not only would we likely get locked out, we’d have to cross the lawn, which is in plain sight from the astronomy tower.”
“Not if you go out by the boats.” Rupert added from his bed, where he was futilely trying to study.
“Hmm, the boat docks… I wonder, can you get to the docks without going up to the main floor first?” Evan asked.
“Not without going past Filch’s office.”
“Yeah, but if Filch is on patrol, he won’t be at his office.”
“Unless he finds someone on patrol and brings them to his office for detention.”
The boys sighed as yet another seemingly good idea
evaporated. “What if we had a decoy somewhere else that made a racket and … nevermind.” Rookwood wilted at Lucius’ glare.
“We could create a distraction.” Lucius suggested. “What if Rupert goes to the Great Hall and makes lots of noise?”
“Or what if I just stayed in the dorm room?” Rupert muttered, flipping through his flashcards. This week’s random list of DADA memorization was focused on toxic plants, hence the current conversation.
“You can’t back out now.” Evan wailed.
“I’m not. In order to back out of something, there has to be something there to back out of. You don’t even have a plan for getting in yet.”
“Yeah, but we will.”
“Come on, Muddy, everyone else is in- even Sev.” Lucius added.
The raven haired boy looked up from his bed. “No, I’m not.”
“Yes you are. It was your idea.”
“It was not. All I said was, has anyone noticed that the mallowsweet in greenhouse three is about to bloom?”
“And?” Rastaban fished.
“And, that mallowsweet is used by centaurs to enhance their divination ability.”
“And, that its blooms are considered powerful hallucinogens and aphrodisiacs, which is rather good proof that love is nothing but a bad trip?” Severus admitted.
“With deep thoughts like that, you could pass as a bad poet. How many days did it take you to come up with that one?” Rupert muttered.
“And?” Lucius wouldn’t be shaken.
“And, blossoms can be sold on the black market for nearly fifty galleons a bloom.”
“So you see, it really is your fault, Sev. You have to be in on it.”
“The odds of extracting a mallowsweet bloom in one piece so that it would be marketable are nearly impossible, especially if you consider the type of security Sprout must have put on that house.”
“You really think she’s put any charms on that greenhouse?”
“She’s got one of the most profitable plants about to go into bloom. How could she not?”
“She’s a Hufflepuff, and hasn’t been around here long enough to know better.” Lucius waved that away.
“Doesn’t matter. She still knows how to cast some basic buzzer charms.” Damon commented.
“Really, how do you know that?”
“You can’t prove anything, and that’s not really the point.” Damon shrugged. “Still, I think the main problem is getting to the soil room. From there, it should be an easy job to get to greenhouse three.”
“Alright, so we just need to find a way into the soil room. Any ideas?” Evan glanced from Severus to Rupert to Lucius. No point in looking to the others for brilliant ideas.
Rupert looked at Severus, who just rolled his eyes and turned back to his book. He then looked to Lucius who was getting that wicked glint in his eyes. How any of the teachers thought Malfoy was a little angel was beyond him. “Oh no, whatever you’re thinking, count me out.” Rupert glanced at his watch and back at his step-brother. “Hey Sev, wanna head to dinner now?”
Severus looked around. “Sure. I would hate to be privy to information that doesn’t involve me.” Severus locked his books in his trunk and followed Rupert out of the dorm room. As he left he could hear Rookie whining, “If Sev and Muddy are out, do you think we can really pull it off?”
By the time they had finished dinner the rest of the Slytherins were looking quite smug. As they were walking back to the dorms, Lucius laid a heavy hand on Severus’ and Rupert’s shoulders. “So, my fellow Slytherins…”
“We’re out, Lucius.” Severus quietly cut in.
“Just wait until you hear me out.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Rupert stared at the blonde boy. “The more people who know your plan, the more likely you are to be caught. There’s something to be said for credible ignorance.”
“Come on, Muddy, don’t be such a Hufflepuff.” As Lucius outlined their plan the boys listened carefully. While it sounded half-baked at best, the odds of them being caught were low, which is why at midnight, Severus and Rupert found themselves on the stairwell to the Divination classroom.
“This has got to be the stupidest thing you’ve ever convinced me to do.” Severus muttered staring out the window with his omnioculars.
“What do you mean, I convinced you to do? You’re the one who’s always harping on me to kiss up to the great Malfoy.” Rupert whispered back, glancing around the stairwell to make sure no one was coming. The great thing about this stairwell, other than its view of the greenhouses, was that anything coming up the stairs would echo, while the noise from the alcove where they were sitting would be muffled.
“Yeah, but of all the hare-brained schemes…” Severus rolled his eyes. “The odds of Rastaban making it out of the greenhouse with an unblemished bloom, let alone a bloom from the right plant, are slim at best.”
“That’s what Damon’s in charge of.”
“And you know damned well that Lucius is not going to split the profits seven ways.”
“Oh, I fully expect there to be no profit. It’s one thing to get it out of the greenhouse; it’s another thing to get it out of the school and to a vendor.”
“Then why are we doing this?”
“Because things just got interesting.” Rupert smirked as he stared out of his short-range telescope. “The door just opened. They actually made it in.”
“That’s not them.” Severus squinted. “It’s an invisibility cloak.”
“And not a terribly good one; look beneath it.” There were four pairs of shoes poking out from the bottom of the invisibility cloak making their way towards greenhouse three. As the feet reached the area with the mallowsweet, the cloak was thrown off. “Bloody hell, it’s the Gryffindors.”
“Yeah, and just what sort of hand signal should I use to let Lucius know that Black got there first?” Rupert muttered. “He didn’t exactly leave us with a signal for snafu.”
“Snafu? Nevermind, it’s a muggle thing.” Rupert rolled his eyes.
“Well you better come up with something quick. The door to the soil room is opening again.”
“Should I call abort?”
“Wait, what are the Gryffs doing?”
“They’re going straight for the mallowsweet. By the time our guys get there, the plant will be stripped anyway.”
“Abort.” Severus decided. They watched as Evan took out his omnioculars and aimed them for the stairwell. As soon as they made eye contact, Rupert began making the choking motions that were supposed to mean abort. Evan called Lucius over, and Rupert repeated the motion. Severus smirked as he read “What the bloody hell for?” from Lucius’ lips.
“Signal it’s a trap.” Severus instructed his brother.
“But it’s not.”
“Yeah, but if they run into the Gryffs in there, it will be.” Severus snapped. Rupert began moving his arms like Crocodile jaws to indicate it was a trap. Lucius scowled, but called back the boys just before they entered the third greenhouse. “Okay, we’re aborted. We can head back to the dorm.” Severus whispered.
“Wait.” Rupert hissed. “Watch greenhouse three.”
“Shh.” The step-brothers turned away from the retreating Slytherins and went back to looking at the greenhouse. They could make out Lupin delicately snipping the flower at the base and resting it on a pillow. The Gryffs all breathed a sigh of relief as the flower didn’t wilt. Rupert was expecting them to put it in a box, but instead, Black pulled out a small device. “What’s that?”
“It’s a flower press.” Severus whispered back. “Oh, no they’re not really… bloody hell, they are.”
“Language.” Rupert whispered back.
They watched as Lupin handed the flower off to Black. The four Gryffindors sat down on the floor of the greenhouse. At first it looked as though they were just chatting while Black crushed the flower in his little press. Then the boys started swaying and giggling. Severus and Rupert watched in amusement as the four boys began rolling around on the floor, completely stoned. “What would happen if they were caught?” Rupert mused.
“Oh, I would like to see that.” Severus smirked.
“You know, if we could attract Mr. Filch to the hallway and create a disturbance, I really don’t think the Gryffs are in a position to run away.”
“Yeah, but how do we get Filch there without leading him past our guys first?”
“You think Lucius is still in the halls?”
“Look left.” Rupert turned his telescope to see the Slytherins sneaking down the hall, running quickly from column to column.
“Give them ten minutes?”
“We’ll see.” Severus was intently watching the banes of his existence prance around the greenhouse, under the influence of the mallowsweet pollen. “What a bunch of gits.” After ten minutes, the foursome began falling over themselves, eventually passing out on the floor. “Okay, now we need to get Filch there. Do you see him?”
Rupert rapidly scanned the windows. “Is that him on the second floor?”
“Damn, that’s too far away.” Severus muttered.
“Not to mention he’s heading in our direction.” Rupert paled. They hadn’t really considered the logistics of making it back to the dorms from the tower.
“Watch.” Severus pointed his wand to the window down the hall from Filch’s position. A moment later a suit of armor collapsed. Rupert watched Filch turn around and head for the noise. Severus aimed his wand again at the opposite stairwell and muttered another charm. Rupert watched some paintings sway, leading Filch down the stairs towards the first floor. Concentrating on the windows, Severus led Filch towards the greenhouses. “Quick, try to open the soil room door.” Severus instructed.
Rupert aimed his wand at the Greenhouses and started muttering, watching for any sign of movement, but the door wouldn’t budge. He knew spells from a distance were tricky, but this was ridiculous. It looked so easy when Severus was leading Filch. Rupert kept trying different door spells. Finally, with a loud clatter, a stack of clay flower pots crashed to the ground.
“I said, just open the door.” Severus hissed back.
“Sorry.” Rupert cringed.
“Oh well, it worked. Let’s go.”
“Aren’t we going to watch them get busted?”
“If we do that, Filch will catch us on the way back to the dorm.”
“Fine.” Rupert pouted as he pocketed his wand and his telescope. Just as the boys were turning to the stairs, the lights in greenhouse three flared on. “Fabulous.” Rupert grinned as the boys began the long silent trek back to their beds.
“Where have you been!” Lucius greeted them as they entered the bedroom.
“On lookout.” Severus answered, unwarding his trunk to put his omnioculars away.
“It’s been almost twenty minutes since we left.”
“I saw.” Severus answered, with a slight smirk.
“Did you go get the flower for yourself?” Rastaban accused them.
“You’re an idiot.” Severus replied.
“Well, you’re hardly playing straight with us.” Evan cut in. “Come on, what happened? Was Sprout guarding them?”
Severus just yawned and crawled into bed. “Good night.”
“Come on Rupert, what happened?” The boys turned to the other brother, who had taken Severus’ cue and quietly crawled into bed.
“I’m not sure, but if I were you, I’d pay attention to the Gryffindor table tomorrow. It should be amusing.” Giles winked at Lucius and pulled the curtain closed around his bed.