Caught Between a Rock and a Wedge of Cheese
“Thank you so much for coming out here. I’m so sorry to have to call.” Giles apologized yet again, as they settled Severus and his wheelchair in the Summers’ Jeep.
“I’m sure you’ve helped Buffy out enough times that I probably owe you a few favors.” Joyce offered. “You don’t mind driving Dawn, do you? I don’t think we could fit her in the back with the chair.”
“Mom, I’m right here. You don’t have to talk about me like I’m not here.”
“No, of course I wouldn’t mind.” Giles answered, trying not to let the teenager annoy him. If he had survived Buffy, surely he could survive her younger sister.
“Alright, so I guess I’ll see you at your apartment. You haven’t moved since…?” Joyce smiled shyly.
“No, I’m still in that apartment.” Giles blushed. Joyce hadn’t visited since that night of the band candy when they had gone through his record collection and… well, some memories were best not revisited with children present.
“I’ll see you there.” She turned to her daughter, “and you better not give Mr. Giles any trouble, alright.”
“Gee mom, it’s only a few miles. What do you think I’m going to do? Blow up the car?” Dawn rolled her eyes. Joyce pondered that for a moment. Did it say something about her parenting skills that she actually considered that a possibility with her daughters? “I’m kidding, mom.”
“I’ll see you in a few minutes, honey. Please still be in one piece.” With that warning, Joyce climbed into the car where Severus had been waiting patiently. “Are you comfortable, Mr. Giles?” She asked as she fastened her seatbelt.
“Snape.” He replied.
“It’s Snape. Severus Snape.” He knew it was risky giving out his name to a virtual stranger- a name was power- but he was sick and tired of people calling him Mr. Giles.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were Rupert’s brother. Are you cousins then?”
“Friends?” She asked, unaccustomed to such reticence.
“Oh.” The car fell silent as Joyce pulled out of the hospital parking lot. “If you don’t mind me asking, how did you meet Rupert then?”
Severus bit back the sarcastic comment, realizing that it would do no good to antagonize the woman behind the wheel. “He’s my brother.”
“Oh. Then how do you have…?”
“Ah. I take it his mother remarried your father then?” Joyce was trying to figure out how two brothers could have such different last names… and manners.
“His mother died.”
“Why? You never met her. For all you know, she could have been a hag.” Severus muttered.
“Still growing up without a parent is hard for any child.” She offered, and Severus could tell that she truly believed that. He resisted the urge to scoff at her notions; he knew many of the students in his house would have been considerably better off without one or both of their parents. She took his silence as agreement, and decided that it was time to switch to a more neutral topic. “So how long are you planning on visiting California?”
Severus rolled his eyes. “I had no intention on coming to California.”
“Oh? I thought you were visiting your brother.” Severus refrained from responding. Joyce frowned; even when Buffy was going through one of her phases, she wasn’t this hard to talk to. “So…” Joyce racked her brain for a suitable conversation topic. “Buffy tells me you’re a chemistry professor. Do you do research?”
“Chemistry?! I’m going to kill him.”
“Excuse me?” Joyce couldn’t see how such an innocuous comment could garner such a reaction.
“I most certainly am not a Chemistry professor. I can not believe Rupert would make such insinuations. When I recover I’m going to…”
“Oh look.” Joyce cut in. “That’s Rupert’s apartment.” With a sigh of relief she pulled up beside the sidewalk. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Snape. I hope you recover quickly.” She said quickly, relieved to hop out of the car and unload her passenger.
Meanwhile, Giles was about ready to pound his head into the steering wheel. He had barely made it out of the parking lot when the girl began her prattling. “This is a nice car.” Dawn commented. “My dad got a car like this right before he ran off with that skanky secretary and left us. Mom says when guys get a sports car it’s to make up for other deficiencies.”
“Is that so?” Giles blushed.
“So do you think my mom is pretty?”
“Well do you?”
“Joyce is quite a lovely woman, yes.”
“Would you ask her out?”
“Pardon?” Giles winced. While it was true that he had admired the mother of his slayer, he could not in good conscious ever become involved with her, outside of the occasional spell induced haze of course. Having to explain that to a fourteen year old however, was not an easy task.
“If you think she’s pretty, why don’t you ask her out?”
“I, well, um, I rather think your mother could do considerably better than me.” There, that was a suitable explanation that would not insult Joyce in any unintended way.
“Well duh.” Leave it to a teenage girl to wound what was left of his dignity. “But still, I think it would be nice if someone brought her flowers occasionally.”
“Indeed? Well, I shall take that into consideration.”
“Really? I don’t believe you.” Giles blinked. How was he supposed to respond to that. “Boys are stupid.” And the conversation just kept getting worse.
“Is that so?”
“Well, duh.” Dawn rolled her eyes. “I mean, you spend all your money on red sports cars, when you could be spending it on flowers or chocolates, you know, things that actually impress girls.”
“Actually, I bought this car because my old car died and I needed a form of transportation.”
“A likely story.” Dawn sounded suspicious. “So, that man riding with my mom, is he your brother?”
“He doesn’t look like you.”
“Well, no I don’t suppose he does.”
“Don’t you think that’s weird? I mean, you’re supposed to look like your brother. Was he switched at birth or were you?”
“Neither. Our parents were both widowed and remarried. We’re only step-brothers.”
“Oh.” Dawn sighed. “I think Buffy was switched at birth.”
“Yup. That’s why she’s so weird, and always getting in trouble and stuff.”
“Yup. Her real parents are cavemen.”
“Are you sure? I rather thought she looked like Joyce quite a bit.”
“Nope, she’s completely caveman.” Dawn nodded her head as if that proved her statement. “Of course, you can’t tell her, because she’s really touchy about it. Mom just lets her think she’s really her daughter so that she doesn’t go all crazy caveman-like.” As someone who had actually seen Buffy regress to primitive states, he had to disagree with that assessment. “Oh, but you know what really proves it? There was this one time when I went into Buffy’s room, and she was…”
“Ah look, there’s my apartment.” Giles could only remember talking with Buffy’s sister on a few occasions, but for some reason they always left him feeling quite out of his depth. “Thank you so much for this lovely trip, but I believe it’s time for you to return to your mother. Have a good evening.” Giles gave a sigh of relief as he pulled into the space next to the Jeep.
“Okay. Are you sure you don’t want to hear about…?”
“Quite sure, yes thank you.” Giles turned off the car and stepped outside to meet Joyce at the curb. For once he looked forward to dealing with the surliness of his step-brother; at least it was something he was used to handling. As Joyce met Dawn on the sidewalk she smiled, thankful that she had raised such a bright, friendly, daughter. She pitied Giles for having to spend so much time with such a brusque man, but not enough to volunteer to spend any more time with Mr. Snape.
“Excuse me.” The girl’s voice didn’t even pierce through his attention as Severus desperately tried to finish that last paragraph in the chapter before class started. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see someone closer to his desk, but he was not about to be distracted.
“Excuse me. Where’s Rupert?” Severus didn’t even look up. Clearly the redhead in the Gryffindor tie could not possibly be addressing him. “Yohoo! I asked you a question.” As the girl perched herself on the corner of his desk, he had to re-evaluate his assumption. Maybe, just maybe, she had been talking to him.
“He’s not here.” Severus kept his head down, hoping that the girl would get the message and go away.
“I see that. I’m asking you, where is he?”
“How the bloody hell should I know? I am sick and tired of everyone assuming that I am somehow responsible for that twit. If one more person asks me about Rupert, I’m warning you, I won’t be held accountable for the fallout!” Severus yelled, attracting the attention from every corner of the classroom. Ever since Rupert’s lovely solo at the welcoming feast, Severus had suffered no end of grief from the Slytherins, even those in lower years. Even if Rupert actually sounded rather good compared to the rest of the choir, that still didn’t excuse him for being the family embarrassment.
“I was just asking because class is about to start, and it would be bad if he were late.” Lily rolled her eyes. “You don’t have to yell at me.”
“Actually he does.” Lucius inserted himself in the conversation. “Someone has to keep the mudbloods in their place.”
“You’re a pig, you know that?” Lily turned and stormed across the room.
“Fiesty little mudblood, isn’t she?” Lucius muttered sliding into the seat next to Severus. “Actually, I was wondering, where is our Ru?”
“My guess would be the divination tower.” Severus closed the book he had been reading and slid it into his bag. He knew better than to try to ignore Lucius too often.
“No. That’s inconceivable!”
“Obviously you haven’t met his father.” Severus watched Professor Vector enter the room.
“But his father is a muggle. I thought muggles didn’t believe in divination.”
“You also didn’t believe muggles were capable of setting wards, but that’s never stopped Rupert. Perhaps you should consider taking muggle studies.” Severus drawled wickedly, but Lucius could see the sparkle of humor in his friend’s eyes.
“Twit.” Lucius mumbled as Professor Vector began class.
Meanwhile, high up in the castle’s tower, another class was beginning. “To see…. Beyond… that which is here and now, we embark on a spiritual journey.” Rupert watched the overdramatic Professor wave her hands around as if clearing away mists of time. Of course it was far more likely she was just waving away some of the excessive smoke pouring off the incense in the corner. “Divination… it is more than a science, it is more than an art. It’s…. a piece of heaven.” Rupert could feel each brain cell die a slow painful death as he listened to this drivel. He watched from his back chair, suspiciously eyeing the rest of the students. Surprisingly, most of the girls were sitting on the edges of their chairs, as if they actually believed what nonsense Professor Vablatsky was speaking. Black, Potter, and Pettigrew were sitting on the other side of the room, occaisionally glancing up to where he was sitting before looking back down to whisper amongst themselves. Great, just what he needed- another class with the Gryffindor Golden boys. He wondered where their fourth member was before remembering that Lupin actually had some brain cells, and was probably where he belonged, arithmancy class.
“Pair up, everybody! We shall start this semester with tea leaves.” Vablatsky brought out the mystical teapot sets. “A divination expert must be adept at preparing a proper cup of tea to get a proper reading. One tea pot per pair!”
As Evan and Rastaban paired up, Rupert quickly realized he would either be stuck with Rookie or forced to look at one of the other houses. He was about to ask a Hufflepuff girl he had met in choir when he felt a tugging on his sleeve. Alas, Rookie as a partner it was. “So were you paying attention to what she said?” Rookie sat down across from Rupert.
“I suppose so. We need a tea pot.” Rupert answered, trying to watch what other groups were doing. Evidently, the assignment was to brew a pot of Earl Grey.
True to his form, Rookie was an excellent minion, fetching all the supplies they needed and hanging on every word. Rupert wondered if this was what Lucius usually felt like, as Rookie asked him for the fourteenth time if he was doing it right. Rupert shrugged; surely there wasn’t a wrong way to boil water, was there?
“I’m so glad you’re here. I was sure you would take arithmancy with the smart kids.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rupert couldn’t help but be defensive.
“Well, you know. The smart kids don’t take divination because they say it’s too easy.”
“I’m sure there are other smart kids in divination. I mean, aren’t some people naturally curious about the future, more so than others?” Rupert gritted his teeth as he poured the hot water over his tea strainer.
Argentius glanced around the room as he waited for his turn with the pot of water. “Well, I suppose Potter and Black are smart.”
“Dear lord, now you’re grouping me with Potter and Black?” Rupert gulped down the tea, wincing at the bitter taste of the fresh tea leaves. “Could this day get any worse?”
As if he had invoked her with that question, Professor Vablatsky rested her bony hand on his shoulder. “What have we here?” She plucked the tea cup out of Rupert’s hands. “Oh dear.” The Professor muttered dropping the cup back on the table. She sighed sadly at Rupert then turned to the next table.
“Wait, Professor! What do you mean by ‘oh dear’? You can’t just say ‘oh dear’ and walk away!”
“My dear boy, it’s perfectly obvious.” She answered, glancing up at the heavens to see if they agreed with her. “But you are a bit on the young side to see a black widow. Pity.” And with that, she was on to the next table.
“A black widow?” Rookie gulped. “That doesn’t sound good.”
“Utter rubbish. What on earth does she mean by that?” Rupert muttered glancing into his tea cup.
“Well…” Argentius flipped through the Dictionary of Mystical Symbols on their table. “Evidently it means either you are doomed to face great danger and die, especially if you travel outside your metaphorical web. Oh, or it could mean that you’re having incestuous thoughts about your mother.” Rookie glanced up to stare at Rupert. “Why, Ru, I had no idea…”
“Oh shut up, that’s disgusting. Besides I don’t have a mother.” Rupert muttered, grabbing the book from Rookie’s hands. “This can’t possible be right.” He glanced back at the cup. “This isn’t a black widow. It’s just a lump with some stuff coming off of it. It looks like a sun to me.” Granted, Rupert already had a good sense that a sun would have to be better than a spider, symbolically, but still he could not in any way, shape, or form, claim that he had a spider in his cup.
“I don’t know.” Argentius glanced at the bottom of the cup in question. “There are eight things coming off the main lump. Those could be legs.”
“They’re sun rays. How can it be a spider if there isn’t a head? That’s just ridiculous. Obviously, it’s a sun and it means I’m going to go to some place warmer.”
“Still, Professor Vablatsky said it was a black widow.”
“How can she get it down to species? There’s not even a head.” Rupert rolled his eyes; it was only the first day and he could already tell this class was going to drive him nuts.
“She’s a professional.”
“Fine,” Rupert set the cup down in frustration. “What’s in yours?” He picked up Rookie’s cup and glanced down. “It’s a triangle. I suppose it represents a triangle?”
Rookie took his cup back and glanced down. “It’s not a triangle. It’s clearly a wedge of cheese.”
“I don’t want to know. I’m not going to ask. Please, just tell me when its time to leave.” Rupert banged his head on the desk.
Professor Vablatsky came up behind him. “Poor dear. It’s never easy to find out these things that way.”
“I know. So tragic.” Rookie shook his head sadly as he watched his fellow Slytherin slowly lose his mind.
A/N: So I got a review that basically implied that my summary on the main page wasn't really catchy enough for this story. I sort of agree, but I'm having problems coming up with a better one. My main problem is trying to say that it's a Giles/Snape story, without all the implications of the "/". Does anyone have any better summary suggestions?