The Fairer Sex
Severus and Giles sat by the curb, pondering their new dilemma. “I don’t see what the big deal is. Surely you still remember how to shrink…”
“No!” Giles hastily cut off his brother’s musings. In a forced whispered he replied. “I don’t care what you think you can or can not do. While you are under my supervision, we will not attempt any wand magic on the Hellmouth.”
As far as Hellmouths went, Severus was quite disappointed with this one. From all the fuss in Defense class, he was expecting some macabre spectacle with demons lunging at you from every side. The parking lot to Sunnydale General Hospital looked depressingly muggle. Of course, some of his recent associates might have considered muggles and hell equivalent concepts, but Severus knew better. Hell would undoubtedly make far more sense than the average muggle.
“Hmm, I don’t suppose…” Giles opened the trunk to his little car and tried to shift some of the accumulated junk around. He knew it was fruitless gesture, like when people shook their flashlight just after the batteries died just in case there was an extra ounce of juice, but he felt compelled to at least try to find room for the wheel chair.
Severus watched him for several minutes, before finding the inclination to mock his step-brother. “You know, at this rate, it would be faster to just call your slayer up and have her carry me to your house.”
“That’s a brilliant idea!” Rupert slammed the trunk down.
“No. It wasn’t. It was an intentionally bad idea.”
“I’m well aware of that.” Rupert replied, fishing his phone out of his jacket pocket.
“Then why are you taking out that contraption?”
“Because you’re right, we need help.”
“Merlin’s beard, please don’t have that insufferable girl come
back. I’m not sure I could survive another encounter with Ms. Summers.”
“I’m not calling Buffy.” Giles sounded affronted at the suggestion. “I’m calling her mother. Now, do shut up until I’m through with this call.”
Severus scowled, but kept his mouth closed and his eyes focused on his step-brother. Giles dialed the number for the Summers’ residence, keeping his eyes on anything but his brother, and the surly looks he knew were aimed at him.
“Summers’ summer home, Some are here, some are not!” A cheerful voice picked up the phone.
“Ah, yes, hello, this is Rupert Giles.”
“Well duh. We do have caller i.d., you know.”
“Yes, um, Dawn, may I please speak with your mother?”
“Well, because I need to ask her a question.”
“Because she offered her assistance earlier.” Giles frowned. He was so thankful that his slayer was now nearly an adult. He wasn’t sure his patience could handle teenage girls any more.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, please put your mother on the line.” Giles could hear Mrs. Summers in the background asking who was on the phone.
“Okay, I love you, bye bye!” Giles could hear the phone clunk as Dawn dropped it on the table.
“Hello?” A much calmer voice picked up the phone a moment later.
“Ah, hello, Joyce. I have… that is, if it isn’t too much trouble, I was wondering if by any chance…”
“What is it?”
“Well, you see, I need to take my brother home from the hospital, but his wheelchair won’t fit in my vehicle. I was wondering if perhaps…”
“Do you need me to pick you two up at the hospital? I’m pretty sure a wheelchair can fit in the back of the jeep.”
“Yes please, if you wouldn’t mind too terribly.”
“No, that’s fine. I did say if you needed anything at all to give me a call.”
“Thank you so much.”
“No problem. Dawn and I will be there in about fifteen minutes. Is that alright?”
“Of course. Thanks again.” Giles turned off the cell phone and turned to face his brother, who was smirking at him. “What?”
“Joyce?” That one word, combined with an arched eyebrow, was all Severus had to say, but it still spoke volumes.
“Mrs. Summers’ is a lovely woman who is so kind as to do us this favor, so I don’t want to hear a single word from you.” Giles couldn’t help but blush. Somehow Severus always had a way to make him feel guilty even when he was innocent.
“Oh do shut up.”
“Ah, there you are.” Lucius strolled into the compartment occupied by the rest of the third year Slytherin boys. Deciding he wanted a window seat, he walked up to the seat and coughed. Immediately, Argentius and Rastaban scooted over. “So I trust you all had a good summer?”
The boys fell into their usual pattern; Lucius controlling the conversation while Damon and Evan filled in silences. The snack trolley had come and gone by the time Lucius decided to address the two boys sitting by the compartment door. “So, Severus, did anything exciting happen this summer?”
Severus glanced up from the book he had been reading. “Not particularly.”
“Really, you and Muddy didn’t go anywhere?” Rupert glanced up from the book he had been reading to stare at Lucius.
“No place you would find interesting.”
“Oh?” Lucius turned to see Rupert’s reaction. After two years he had learned that the best way to get a reaction from the lone muggleborn was to harass his brother. However, Rupert simply shrugged and turned back to his book. They really must have had a boring summer.
“What are you reading?”
“Nothing you would want to read.” Severus mumbled not even glancing up.
“And what do you mean by that?” Lucius drawled. The rest of the boys leaned forward, anxious to see how the big three Slyths were going to interact this year.
Severus sighed. Quickly glancing at the spine, Severus recited in a monotone “The alchemical and celestial properties of aconite and other ores.” The rest of the boys frowned at that title.
“That wasn’t assigned summer reading, was it?” Rookie wondered.
“Yes, Professor Jigger assigned it.” Severus answered.
“No he didn’t.” Lucius insisted.
“Actually, he did.” Rupert remarked, carefully avoiding Severus’ eyes. He knew he would crack up if he saw Severus’ poker face.
“When did he do that? I don’t remember his saying that.”
“Why does that not surprise me?” Severus drawled, staring haughtily down at his housemates. He could tell from the gleam in Lucius’ eyes that he had less than a minute before the blonde demanded the book from him and things got ugly. After a long pause, he added. “Perhaps the reason you don’t remember is that Professor Jigger was not speaking to you?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Lucius demanded.
“It means that mother has asked Professor Jigger to arrange an apprenticeship for me.” Severus replied, trying to keep his face from showing his excitement at the prospect, knowing his classmates would not understand the importance of the gesture.
Before Lucius could retort, there was a knock on the door. Rupert got up to answer it, prepared to turn away whoever was there.
“Hi Rupert! You’re just the person I was looking for.”
Rupert quickly changed his face from intimidating to elated. “Lily! How are you? How was your summer?”
“Great! How about you? I heard…”
“Leave, Mudblood.” Lucius announced, standing next to Rupert.
“I wasn’t talking to you, Malfoy.” Lily scowled at the boy.
“One would almost think you knew your place then, but obviously not if you’re still standing in the doorway.”
“There’s no reason to waste good manners on a mudblood. Go away.” Lucius slammed the train compartment door shut leaving the redheaded girl fuming on the other side of the door.
“She’s right. That was incredibly rude.” Rupert turned on his housemate.
“Not only is she a mudblood, she’s a Gryffindor mudblood. Her very presence is an insult.” Lucius sneered. “But then, I doubt your parents ever raised you to know what quality was.” Neither boy noticed Severus’ knuckles tense up around his book.
“Evidently not, if I landed in Slytherin.” Rupert answered before storming out the door. “Lily! Come on, wait up!” Lily already half way down the car, continued on her way up the train. “Lily!” Rupert took off after her. He finally reached her before she got to the door of the next car. He grabbed her arm to keep her from going into the next car.
“Let go of me!”
“Not until you stop and talk to me.”
“You’re a creep!”
“Why? What did I do?”
“You know.” She turned around, and Rupert saw that she had actually been starting to cry.
“I have no clue actually.” Rupert tried offering her a weak smile. “I’m a boy, remember? We’re supposed to be particularly dense, according to Amelia, and she’s a Ravenclaw so she must be right.”
“She is right.” Lily wiped off her eyes.
“So, have some pity on me and my mental disabilities. What happened?”
“How can you hang around those creeps?”
“Creeps meaning what? Lucius? Slytherins?” She nodded. “Well, I can hardly ignore my housemates, and most of the guys are alright most of the time. As for Lucius, yeah, he’s a bit much.” Rupert dropped his hand from Lily’s shoulder, suddenly aware that he had been touching her. “But he’s pretty easy to ignore.”
“He called me a mudblood.”
“So, that’s the worst insult the wizarding world has.”
“He calls me that all the time. It doesn’t really mean anything if you don’t want it to.”
“Don’t you get it? It means he’ll always see you as something less. Doesn’t that make you angry?” Suddenly Rupert could see exactly why Evans was sorted into Gryffindor, as her anger matched the fieriness of her hair.
“Lucius sees everyone as something less. That’s the way he is.” Rupert rolled his eyes. “Look, if it makes you feel any better…” Rupert dropped his voice to a whisper. “He gets really pissed off if you call him Lucy.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She frowned.
“Well, you’re mad that he called you a name, so don’t get mad, get even. Call him an even worse name, and convince the rest of the school to call him that… but don’t let anyone know I mentioned it.”
He watched her face go from anger to thoughtfulness to confusion. “That is such a Slytherin thing to suggest.” She finally said with scorn.
“It doesn’t solve anything.”
“I guess not.” Rupert frowned. “But you have to admit, it would be funny to give him a nickname, especially if you could charm his desk to play the Linus and Lucy theme every time he sat down.”
“You’re crazy.” Lily couldn’t help but crack a smile at the mental picture.
“Yes, I am.” Rupert replied, smiling widely; glad to have averted that crisis. “So were you actually looking for me earlier?”
“Oh, I almost forgot! Beatrice wants us to rehearse in the carriages on the way to Hogwarts so that we’re ready to perform at the feast.”
“Did you explain to her that that is an asinine plan?”
“What? I thought it was good idea. We haven’t rehearsed in nearly three months.” Lily frowned.
“Rehearsal is a great idea, but those carriages can’t fit the entire choir, and they bounce too much to sing in.”
“Well, do you want to rehearse now?”
“Yes, most of us are in one car and we have another hour or so.”
“Fine, now’s as good as ever.” Rupert shrugged.
“Great! So, since this is your idea, you get to tell Narcissa that we’re meeting in the third car. I’ll let everyone else know.” As Lily gave him a quick hug and ran off to the next car, Rupert couldn’t help but wonder how the conversation had gotten away from him so fast. With a quick prayer for patience, Rupert went off in search of the Slytherin girls.
Meanwhile, back in the boy’s cabin, Lucius turned to Severus’ as if to blame the skinny brunette. “Your brother is crazy.”
“I wonder why.” Severus answered with such droll sarcasm that even Rookie felt uncomfortable. “Perhaps if you didn’t call him a mudblood so much, he wouldn’t feel the need to stick up for the ridiculous Gryffindor.”
“What, are you saying it’s my fault?” Lucius turned his ire towards Severus.
“No. I am simply postulating a correlation.” Severus shrugged.
“Yeah, well, if he knows what’s good for him, he’ll stay away from that mudblood.”
“Are you threatening my family?” Severus’ voice was calm and even, but Rastaban leaned away from his cousin, wary of the boy’s glare.
“Consider this a warning; Evans is a mudblood and a Gryff.”
“Well, I don’t care if she’s a mudblood or a Gryff. Is it just me, or did Lily Evans grow up in all the right ways this summer?” Evan, hoping to diffuse the mounting tension, held his hands up in front of him in what Severus definitely considered an obscene gesture.
“Yeah,” Damon admitted, catching on quickly, “if all the girls filled out like Evans, the Yule Ball might actually be interesting this year.” The boys relapsed into their lewd humor, not noticing that Rupert had yet to return.