Wrong Place and Time
Giles dropped the filled out clipboard at the front desk. The head nurse picked it up and gave it a once over before asking Giles to take a seat. The emergency room was surprisingly deserted for Sunnydale. He picked a magazine from the cluttered table. He wasn’t quite sure which anorexic actress was gracing the cover, but he assumed it must have been out of date if it was in this waiting room. He flipped to some shiny page and stared at the picture, not really looking at the photograph, just the reflection of the flickering fluorescent light above.
What on earth had been going through Severus’ mind when he apparated to the Hellmouth? And what cosmic force had it in for him to apparate right in front of a moving bus? Those questions and others played themselves out over and over in Giles mind as he tried to make sense of the evening. At least his brother had had the common decency to arrive during one of the few lulls in his life, if the lack of an apocalypse looming could be considered a lull.
Of course it was just like his brother to show up when nothing else was going on as well. Severus always had a touch of the over-dramatic. He may not have been the most out-going or the most likeable character, but you forgot him only at your own peril. He was rather like Angel in that regard - dark and brooding, but always there to trip over.
Giles wondered what Severus would think of being compared to a vampire. He would probably claim that the vampire had stolen his style; not the other way around.
“Mr. Giles.” His head jerked up at the voice. “Could you please follow me?” A young man with a stethoscope draped over his neck offered a weak smile in Giles’ general direction. Of course, Giles had become used to doctors being young around here. The smart ones generally moved within a few years of starting at Sunnydale, and the slower ones were generally dead within a few years.
“Of course, doctor.” Giles set down the magazine he wasn’t reading and followed the doctor down the hall to Severus’ room.
“Thank you for coming down, Mr. Giles.” The doctor checked the papers again. “You’re Steven’s brother?” It was clear the doctor was looking for some sort of family resemblance and coming up short.
“He goes by Sev, and yes, at least by marriage. We’re step-brothers.” Giles nodded.
The doctor entered the patient’s room and his voice immediately dropped to just barely above a whisper. “He’s still unconscious at the moment, so we won’t know the true extent of damage to his head until he wakes.”
“That’s probably a blessing. Sev was never a good patient.” Giles answered glibly before catching himself.
“If he’s not awake in the next day or so, we’ll have to be worried about permanent brain damage.” The color drained from Giles face. He couldn’t imagine a worse punishment for his brother. “But, we do have hopes of a full recovery.” The doctor continued, elaborating on just what sorts of injuries Severus had suffered. He had several broken bones that Madam Pomfry could have healed in a week, but would take much longer here in muggle California. Additionally, he had suffered a few internal injuries which sounded suspiciously more like a Cruciatus curse than being hit by a bus. The doctors assumed the bus was going faster than the driver claimed, but Giles knew the symptoms for what they were. His eyes picked up the faint scars of numerous magically healed injuries that most doctors would have simply passed over. Giles was sure he was responsible for one or two of them, but clearly Severus had been in the line of fire a few too many times since graduation.
“And you’ve stopped listening to a word I’ve said.” The doctor finished in a monotone.
“Pardon?” Giles blinked a few times, glancing up from his brother’s broken face to meet the eyes of the doctor. “I apologize; I believe I missed that last part.”
“I understand. It’s a shock anytime someone you love is in this sort of traumatic accident. I can answer any questions you have later, after you’ve had some time to think. There is one thing that we do need to establish though, and I hate to bring it up.”
“You listed no insurance information on the form.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid my brother is from England. The health systems are not exactly compatible.” Giles bluffed.
“That being the case, you have a few options. Once he comes out of his coma, Steven will still be bed ridden for several weeks, possibly longer, depending on how well he handles rehab for those legs. If he stays in the hospital, we can watch him continuously, but the expenses may get beyond what you are able to pay. On the other hand, we may be able send him home with you, but it will take considerable effort on your part to nurse him back to health.”
“He would probably be happier at my house.” As opposed to a building full of muggles, Giles silently added. “I can make arrangements.”
“Well, now that we have that settled, I’ll have the nurse begin preparing instructions for you. Would you like to sit with Steven for awhile?”
“Yes, thank you.” The doctor nodded and quietly backed out of the room.
Giles settled into the bedside chair, and stared at the faint line crossing Severus’ right shoulder. “God, Sev, you really have a knack for turning up at the wrong place and time. You know that?”
“How was your day, dear?” Cassandra Snape Giles asked across the length of the dining room table.
“Hmm?” Mr. Giles glanced up from his soup. “Oh, it was fine, dear. There was a bit of a scare when someone from the prophecies branch insisted the end of the Council was nigh, but as he couldn’t even narrow it to which millennium’s end, the situation was diffused rather quickly. If I had a pound for every prophecy that predicted doom at the millennium, I could buy my own island.”
“What about St. Urics?”
“Doesn’t count, darling; that was inherited.” He winked at his wife then took another spoon of soup before continuing. “But that does remind me, perhaps we should plan to take a holiday there this fall. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the beach.”
“That would be lovely.” The family ate in silence for a few minutes, with the exception of Rupert being scolded for slurping his soup. It was only at the change of course that Mr. Giles revived the conversation. “And you, dear, how was your day?”
“It was quite nice, thank you. I had tea with your Aunt Gertrude, who sends her regards. We also received a wedding invitation in the mail for Andromeda Black.”
“She’s from one of the old families. She wore red to our wedding.” There was still no recognition on her husband’s face. “Her father owns that apothecary chain.”
“Ah, yes, those Blacks. Have you responded yet?”
“We have no prior commitment for the date; however, I thought I would check with you first. Severus, cut that into smaller pieces. You don’t want to choke.”
“Well, dear, they are your friends. I have no problem accompanying you, but it’s your decision.”
“It’s such a scandal. I’d almost be willing to go just to see the look on her mother’s face, even if I wasn’t invited.”
“A scandal? Is she in a family way?” Mr. Giles looked disapprovingly down at his steak.
“Good heavens, no!” Cassandra chuckled. “She’s marrying a muggle.”
“Is that what passes for a scandal in your circle?” Mr. Giles voice sounded light and amused, but both boys perked up at the undertones that indicated this could get interesting.
“Your circle can hardly be termed muggles, considering your calling. On the other hand, Andromeda’s fiancé is as muggle as they come. He sells insurance, as if anyone would need such a thing. Besides, it is a completely different situation. Everyone knows that a woman’s first marriage is for position. Why, she would have been better off marrying the Weasley’s eldest!”
“Never you mind, dear. Smaller bites, Severus.” The boy rolled his eyes, but did in fact put down his fork and take out his knife.
“Does this mean we are attending, if only to fulfill your morbid curiosity then?”
“You know me so well.” Cassandra daintily dabbed the corners of her mouth. “Severus, don’t drink your milk so fast.” The rest of the course passed in silence. It was only when the dessert was brought out that Cassandra felt the need to bring up what had been on the two boys’ minds all afternoon. “The boys received their Hogwarts letters today.” She casually remarked.
“Really?” Mr. Giles glanced up. “You had said you were expecting Severus’ letter any day now. After all, he does turn eleven at the end of the month.”
“Yes, and Rupert’s birthday is just a few days prior. I suppose that is why both owls came at the same time.”
“Both owls?” Mr. Giles froze for a moment before resuming the course. Still, it was enough of a reaction that Cassandra smiled wryly.
“Yes, both owls.”
“Well, I suppose I should pen my regards to the headmaster. While it is an honor to be invited to Hogwarts, I am sure, as you know Rupert was offered a place at Sherborne last month.”
“I highly doubt Sherborne is equipped to train his talents.” Cassandra eyed her step son, as he drank milk from his goblet, trying to not look too interested in the adults’ conversation.
“Sherborne has trained every watcher in this family for the last two centuries.”
“I’m not doubting that it is an excellent institution. I just think that given the circumstances you may want to reconsider his enrollment.”
“I don’t tell you how to parent your son; I do not see why you feel the need to intrude on the upbringing of mine.” Mr. Giles curtly replied. Severus and Rupert shared looks of horror across the table. They had never heard their respective parents come so close to an argument before.
“I would never dream of such a thing.” Mrs. Giles replied, implying that she was doing much more than just dreaming about interference. “However, before you write Albus, I would recommend you consider the alternatives. You know he’s shown signs.” At that point, Severus made a small cough, reminding the adults that they weren’t alone at the table. “Oh Severus, I told you not to drink your milk so quickly.” His mother scolded lightly, effectively ending the discussion.
Dessert was a solemn affair, and the boys were anxious to be dismissed. Finally, Mr. Giles set his spoon down for the final time. “Rupert, have you finished your assignments for the evening?”
“All but writing, sir.” Rupert answered truthfully.
“Meet me in the armory hall in half an hour. You are dismissed.”
Seeing his step-brother’s dismissal, Severus turned his eyes to his mother. She nodded her head. The boys carefully placed their napkins on the table, tucked in their chairs, and gracefully walked to the doorway. Once past the doorway, they both went racing down the hallway towards their own rooms, anxious to be away from the dining room and its etiquette demands.
Rupert quickly changed out of the formal suit he wore for dinners into his athletic clothes in hopes that his father would continue the lessons he began last week. Ever since the Snapes had arrived, he had seen less and less of his father, so the chance that they would be having some private time together filled Rupert’s heart with hope. He raced to the armory and was there ten minutes early, giving him plenty of time to admire the knights’ armor that lined the walls.
Rupert was about to touch one of the suits when a voice startled him. “Ah, you’re here already, are you?”
“And you’re dressed for lessons. Well done.” The man strode across the polished floor to the cabinet on the far wall. “It is imperative that a proper English gentleman understand the basic tenets of fencing, riflery and dueling.” Mr. Giles assumed the lecturing tone that his son so admired. Rupert wanted to be as intelligent as his father when he was that old. “You, however, are going to be far more than a proper English gentleman. You are going to be a watcher. Take these.” He handed Rupert a rapier and a mask, then grabbed a set for himself.
“A watcher is one of an elite society. The men and women of the Watcher’s Council have protected the world for centuries against things most men could not bear to face. Put on the mask and assume the ready position I demonstrated last week.”
Rupert quickly followed his father’s instruction, slipping the mask on over his head and lining himself up with the floor tiles. Proudly he stood tall and thrust his right hand with the sword forward.
“Bend your front knee. It is imperative for a watcher to be aware of all manners of fighting styles, both classical and more improvisational, for he will be training the warriors against the dark. A watcher must also be well versed in history, both Ancient and modern. Those who do not know their history are bound to repeat it. Your left arm should not stick out like that.”
Rupert quickly adjusted his stance, wondering if he could maintain his balance like this much longer. Obviously, his father thought he could, for he continued the lecture. “A watcher must be fluent in English of course, but also Latin, French, Greek, Hebrew, and Russian. He should also have a passing understanding of all modern languages and some of the more archaic languages and dialects. Tell me, what is the present tense conjugation for esse?”
“Sum, es, est, sumus, estis, sunt.” Rupert repeated.
“You are dropping your arms. You can not let something as simple as conversation distract you from your technique.” Rupert straightened up his stance, determined to impress his father. “As I was saying, a watcher is a man of the world, who studies and understands cultures far beyond the average English nobleman. A watcher is not just a job, it is a higher calling, much like a priest. It takes dedication and perseverance to become a watcher. The Giles family has been a member of the Watcher’s Council since Elizabethan times. As my son, I expect you to follow in that tradition. Do you understand?”
“Now try the basic parry I showed you last time.” Rupert demonstrated the step he had learned the time before. “You’re dropping your shoulder. It may not seem like much now, but I can promise you that your opponent will be all too happy to take advantage of that weakness. Try again.” Rupert repeated swishing his sword in the air, careful to keep his weak side up. “Better, but not perfect, continue.”
Rupert swung the sword repeatedly, as his father continued the lecture. “Sherborne provides the proper background for a watcher. In fact, the majority of the Watcher’s Council attended Sherborne. Those who didn’t, were often recruited later in life and at a severe disadvantage in many respects. I attended Sherborne, as did my father and his father. Do not rotate your wrist, and keep your knee bent.”
“Yes, sir.” Rupert struggled to keep his balance as he corrected his movement. Once he felt he was steady again, he resumed the parry stroke.
“Mrs. Giles, on the other hand, does not believe you should attend the Sherborne. Do you know why, Rupert?”
“Because I need to learn magic, sir?” Rupert answered tentatively. He was still a bit frightened of the day he had managed to shatter Mrs. Travers vase from across the room when she had accused him of cheating on a quiz.
“Because you need to learn magic.” Mr. Giles sighed. Neither of them noticed the small form slip into the room and hide behind one of the knights. “I’ll admit that an untrained mage can be a dangerous thing. Magic is a form of power, and power in the wrong hands can be most terrible. That is something you will learn regardless of which school you attend.” The man watched the boy lean forward, swish, lean back, and swish for a few minutes.
“That parry is the most basic movement. We shall now add a step, take off your mask and watch me. Advance, parry, riposte, retreat. One, two, three, four.” Mr. Giles demonstrated the simple action twice more. “Count out loud.”
“One, two, three, four.” Rupert slowly went through the steps.
“One, two, three, four.”
“Un, deux, trois, quatre,”
“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro.”
“Concentrate on your motions, your form is sloppy. Again, German.”
“Eine….” Rupert advanced and froze. It had been a year since he had studied with a German tutor, and he couldn’t for the life of him remember the numbers.
Mr. Giles took off his mask. “Rupert, you need to pay more careful attention to your studies.”
“Yes sir.” Rupert wilted, having failed his father yet again.
“Back to the beginning, I want you to count to four quietly.” Mr. Giles took a step back to watch the boy. Without the language pressure, Rupert was able to execute several steps without faltering.
“That will do. Now, keep your blade forward. When I take a step forward, I want you to take a step back. When I step back, you move forward. Keep yourself balanced and your knees bent. Understood?” Mr. Giles slipped his mask back on and stood opposite of his son. From the shadows, Severus watched jealously. Why was only Rupert allowed to play with the swords? He was just as old as Rupert. The swords stayed straight as the fencers moved forward and backwards slowly. Severus knew he could be better than Rupert if he was given the chance to prove himself.
“Rupert, I am at a loss as to what to do with you.” Mr. Giles admitted after several minutes of practice.
“I’m sorry sir.” Rupert sincerely answered.
“If I send you to Sherborne then you will lack the training needed to control your magic. If I send you to Hogwarts then you will lack the training needed to fulfill your destiny.”
“I can take lessons in the summer, I suppose.” Rupert answered.
“Well, yes, that was assumed to be the case. The question is which curriculum will be easiest to replicate with summer tutors.” Mr. Giles admitted sadly. “To think, my son as a wizard, it’s practically unheard of.”
“It’s Severus’ fault, father. If he wouldn’t talk so much about wizards, there wouldn’t be any magic in me.” Rupert tried to shift the blame off his shoulders. There was nothing worse than disappointing his father.
“Is that so?” Mr. Giles smiled wryly. “Your retreat steps are too large. That is why your balance is off.”
Rupert quickly adjusted to the comment, almost dropping his left shoulder, but catching himself before his father drew attention to it. “It is so. All Severus talks about is wizards and magic. He wants to blow himself up, just like his father. I don’t want to be a wizard if they blow themselves up.”
“It’s true, father. Wizards are crazy, just like Severus.”
“Take that back!” The voice called out as the black-haired boy crawled out of his hiding place.
“It’s true. You’re barmy.” Rupert scowled, angry that the boy would interrupt the only time he had with his father all week.
Severus returned the scowl, and Mr. Giles looked around nervously as the suits of armor began rattling. It was problematic to have one child with uncontrollable magic, but to have two squaring off could only lead to trouble.
“You’re mudblood filth, and if my father was alive he’d poison you and let me watch you die slowly.” Severus slowly advanced on Rupert.
“Yeah, well, he’s not here. He blew himself up with his icky poisons.” Rupert sassed back, neither boy noticing the flickering lights.
“Liar!” Rupert had just a moment to hold up his sword before Severus went barreling into him. Both of the boys tumbled to the ground, swearing and screaming as loud as possible.
Mr. Giles yanked Rupert off Severus, shoving him to the side, only to find Rupert’s rapier still sticking out of Severus’ shoulder. He quickly pulled out the sword and pressed Severus’ torn shirt tightly against the wound. “Rupert, I want you to run and fetch Cassandra. She should be in her sitting room. Tell her to bring her wand. As soon as she’s here, you are to return to your room. You are not to leave your room for anything but class and meals for the remainder of the week. Understood?” Mr. Giles issued the orders in a quiet icy voice that left no room for emotion or arguments.
“Yes, sir.” Rupert whispered, never more frightened of his father than at that very moment.