Giles knew he looked a bit harried by the sympathetic look he got from the nurse at the front desk. “How are you, Mr. Giles?” The nurse asked, as if expecting him to break into tears.
“I’m doing well, and you?” He tried not to sound too suspicious.
“Oh, I’m fine.” The nurse said, the smile not quite reaching her eyes.
“Well, that’s wonderful. I don’t suppose I can get my visitor’s pass and see my brother now?”
“Actually, Mr. Giles, there’s a bit of a complication.”
“Oh, dear lord, is he alright? Did he die?”
“Now, Mr. Giles, you need to stay calm.”
“I’m perfectly calm.” Giles slammed his fist into the counter. “Damn it, I knew I shouldn’t have left him alone over night. It’s just like him to get into trouble the moment I turn away. I should have asked Buffy to check on him.”
“Mr. Giles!” The nurse interrupted his tirade. “There is nothing physically wrong with your brother. Now, if you will please follow me.” She led him down the hall to one of the consultation rooms. “The doctor will see you shortly.”
“I’ve heard that before.” Giles mumbled, taking a seat on the vinyl chair, only to get up and pace as soon as the nurse left. He was about to pull out the printed webpages on gribles for another quick read when the door opened again. “Oh, hello doctor, that was fast.”
“We aim to please.” The doctor offered a fake smile to Giles, gesturing for him to sit down. “Now, Mr. Giles, first of all, I want to say that Steven is physically doing quite well considering the position he was in when he came to us. There’s a good chance he’ll reach a full recovery with time.”
“That’s good to know.” Giles nodded along with the doctor, waiting for the catch.
“His mental state, on the other hand, seems to be deteriorating. He is showing signs of both paranoia and dementia. Our staff psychologist seems to think this is due to the trauma he incurred.”
“He’s had another meeting with Dr. Rosenberg, I take it?”
“Yes, this afternoon. It’s Dr. Rosenberg’s opinion that the sooner we can return Steven to familiar settings, the faster his mind can adapted to the challenges of healing.”
“What are you saying, doctor?”
“I am saying that, in my medical opinion, and the opinion of this hospital, it is time to send Steven Giles home to finish up his healing.”
“Of course, as the casts come off, he’ll have to come in for therapy for both his left arm and his legs, but there’s no reason he should remain an inpatient indefinitely.”
“Ah, well, I suppose that makes sense.”
“Excellent. I’ll let the nurse know you’re ready to speak with her, and she’ll provide you with all the information you need to care for your brother.” The doctor excused himself and a few minutes later, Nurse Kendall entered.
“Mr. Giles, how are you?” Giles tried not to notice how her makeup cracked when she smiled.
“Quite well, and you?”
“Oh you know how it is, one day everything is up coming up roses and the next day you find that the husband you’d stayed mostly faithful to for the last twenty years is going on day trips with his secretary. Men are evil, you know that, don’t you?” Nurse Kendall broke down.
“Um, yes, I suppose men are evil?” Giles began looking for all the possible exits in the room.
“Sometimes I wish…”
“I’d rather you not.” Giles interrupted. “I’m sorry your husband was unfaithful.”
“Oh, don’t worry, I’ve known about it for years.” She took a deep breath.
“Ah. Well, perhaps it will help if you focus on something else, such as your career?” Giles tried to subtly suggest.
“Oh I’m so sorry, where were we. Ah yes, the release instructions for Steven Giles. How about we start with how to care for Steven’s casts? When you give him his sponge baths…”
“Sponge baths?” Giles cringed. This was going to be a long night.
Rupert ran up and down the main aisle, checking in every compartment as he went. If Severus didn’t show up soon, he’d miss the train. It wasn’t like Sev to be late to anything, let alone the end of year train. As long as he found his brother before the whistle blew, everything would be fine, but he couldn’t bear to think what Cassandra would say if he was at the platform and Severus wasn’t.
The train’s whistle blew, and the train lurched forward before grinding to a halt. That was definitely not a good sign. Students poked their heads out of their compartments to see what was wrong. Rupert was stunned to see Professor Dumbledore boarding the train. The headmaster turned to him and smiled. “Ah, Mr. Giles, just the student I was looking for.”
“Yes. Could you please get off the train?”
“But sir, if I miss my train, how will I get home?”
“I suppose your parents can collect you when they collect Mr. Snape.”
“You know where Sev is?”
“Yes, now if you please…?” Rupert followed Dumbledore off the train and watched as it steamed out of the station.
“Is Sev alright?” Rupert immediately asked as Dumbledore led him to one of the waiting carriages. “Where is he?”
“I believe Severus will be just fine. He’s currently resting in the hospital wing.”
“Oh no! What happened?”
“I was rather hoping you could tell us.”
“What? No, I haven’t seen him since breakfast.”
“And you had no idea what he was planning for perhaps an end of term prank?”
“No sir. Severus wouldn’t do such a thing!” Rupert insisted while wondering just what sort of prank Sev had been caught at this time.
“Hmm.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled, but whatever was on his mind wasn’t something he felt like sharing.
Rupert tried to stay calm during the ride back to the school, but as they neared the gates, he couldn’t contain his curiosity any longer. “So, um, just how bad is Sev?”
“Well, I think it would be best for you to see for yourself. He’ll recover, undoubtedly, but it may take awhile.”
“Does Cassandra know?” Dumbledore looked a bit surprised that Rupert would refer to his step-mother by her first name, but did not say anything about it.
“I believe Professor Jigger is writing her as we speak. We only found Severus after everyone left for the trains so we haven’t had time to contact his mother.”
Rupert followed Dumbledore into the castle and up the stairs to the infirmary. Hundreds of questions ran through his mind but he couldn’t find the breath to ask any of them. Before Dumbledore opened the doors to the infirmary wing, he paused. “Now, I don’t want you to be too alarmed by what you’re about to see. Professor McGonagall found Severus in the second year’s dormitory like this. We think it just is due to some defensive spells he triggered while trying to tamper with some students’ belongings, but we won’t know for sure until he is well. Hopefully the jinx didn’t interact with any of the potions he appeared to be carrying at the time of the … incident.”
“What?” Rupert turned to stare at Dumbledore. How bad could this possibly be?
Dumbledore smiled wryly as he answered. “Don’t panic.”
Rupert threw open the doors and entered the room. Perching on one of the hospital cots was a full sized griffin, complete with a tail, wings, and a beak. The one thing wrong with this griffin was that it had Severus’ face. “Oh my.” Rupert whispered.
“Squawk!” Severus seemed to agree.
“Well, I think I’ll go see how Professor Jigger is coming along with that letter.” Dumbledore excused himself, leaving the brothers alone in the ward.
“What happened to you?” Rupert asked. Seeing the sarcastic look in his step-brother’s eyes, he sighed. “I mean, besides the whole being turned into a griffin.” Rupert approached his brother cautiously. Professor Morpho had warned them that griffin beaks were strong enough to break limbs; while he wasn’t sure that applied to transfigured griffins, he wasn’t about to take the risk with Severus. “You know, Cassandra is going to be livid.”
The griffin squawked again, sounding a bit peeved. “Yeah, I bet it was Black and Potter as well. Only they would think about something this dumb.” Rupert perched himself on the bed next to where the griffin was sitting, or was it roosting?
“So, Dumbledore said you were in Gryffindor Tower when they found you. Did they drag you there?” The griffin looked offended. “You got there on your own? How’d you get the password?” The griffin rolled his eyes. “Fine don’t tell me.” Rupert pouted. “So what were you doing there anyway?”
The griffin chattered like a parrot for a moment before realizing the words were coming out like gibberish. “Hmm, Dumbledore said he thought you were trying to pull a prank on the Gryffs because he found potion vials around you.” The griffin looked as guilty as a griffin could look. “So was it…” Rupert whispered several ideas for prank potions they had discussed over the year. Severus nodded for a few of the suggestions, and his eyes twinkled as if to suggest there were more where those came from.
“Man, that would have been smashing! Can you just picture those Gryffs puking up banana peels the entire train ride home? Oh, and a confusion draught would have been hilarious. Too bad they had the last laugh.”
Severus snorted, which sounded even stranger coming from his beak. “Yeah, yeah, I know. Slytherins always get the last laugh, but frankly I don’t know how we’ll get back at them for this.” The two boys settled into a restless silence, Rupert not quite sure what to say, and Severus not able to reply.
Finally Rupert got tired of the silence. “So, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about at home, but I guess this is as good a time as ever. You know, if we’re ever going to get back at those stupid Gryffs, I’m going to have to be better prepared with magic and stuff. I was wondering if you could teach me what you guys covered in dueling this year. I mean, obviously we can’t do that when Travers the Wondergit is around, but in the evenings we could work on it.”
Severus seemed to give that some thought. Obviously, it would be his advantage to have Rupert trained so he wouldn’t have to stick up for the misplaced Slytherin so often. Unfortunately, it would mean giving up some of the advantage he had over the other boy. He didn’t want to face Rupert in a fair fight, so the thought of evening the odds was a bit troublesome.
Seeing his hesitation, Rupert decided he needed to sweeten the pot. “It could be an exchange too.” Rupert offered, only to see open scorn in his brother’s eyes. “Not like that you twit. I wouldn’t want you singing with the choir anyway. I meant I could teach you fencing or whatever sort of weapons Travers wants us to work on this summer, in exchange for dueling help.”
Severus had to think that over for a minute. As far as trades went, it was pretty even and would result in both boys being the top fighters in their house. That could definitely work to his advantage. Reluctantly he nodded.
“Great, let’s shake on it.” Rupert grinned. The grin faded when Severus spread out his wings and flapped them futiley. “Or, we can shake on it later, I suppose.”