Who Needs Enemies
“Are you comfortable?” Giles sat on the arm of his recliner, uneasily watching his step-brother adjust to the sofa bed.
“Oh yes. Why just last week I was commenting to Albus that I wanted nothing more than to have my bones broken and be stuck on a broken muggle couch.”
“The couch is not broken.”
“There’s a bar poking me in the back.”
“I think that is the way they design sofas in this country. It’s to prevent unwanted guests from overstaying their welcomes.”
“In that case, I’m quite comfortable.”
“Alright then, we can get down to business. Care for a cup of tea?”
“Yes please, no cream…”
“…or sugar, I know.” Giles wandered into his kitchen, setting the tea pot to boil. “With you here, I really should strengthen the wards around the house. The question is, what should I set them against?”
“What are they currently set against?”
“The usual- demons, sorcerers, and salesmen,” Giles took two mugs and teabags out of the cabinets.
“And you’re quite sure that the sorcerer ward does not include wizards?”
“It’s a matter of intent.” Giles said through the open window. “It’s specifically keyed against chaos magic as that seems to be the biggest problem on the Hellmouth. I’m not sure my house could take the damage of another visit from Ethan.”
“Ah, your dear college buddy, I was not aware that he still paid you visits.”
“They’re hardly social calls, and how do you know anything of Ethan?” Rupert snapped back, wishing the water would boil faster. He had a feeling he would need the soothing taste of tea sooner rather than later.
“Your little games attracted quite a lot of attention.”
“The ministry never said anything about it.”
“I wasn’t talking about the ministry. Actually, it was Rosier who was following up on you.”
“Really?” Giles wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or furious at
that admission. “What was he following me for?”
“How should I know? It was either recruitment or damage control. Either way, it was clearly a lost cause.” Snape winced as he tried to shift into a more comfortable position.
“One would think my parentage alone would be enough have disqualified me.”
“Yes well, when one is in the process of taking over the world, one hardly stops to quibble about staying true to your platform.” Snape grumbled.
“You sound disillusioned.”
“You sound surprised.”
“Forgive me if I find it hard to believe that you actually made a clean break with your colleagues. I’m sure if the dark lord rises again, you’ll be right at his side.”
“You aren’t wrong.”
“I’m not?” Giles’ question went unanswered as the teapot whistled. He busied himself steeping tea, thinking about Severus’ admissions. This was the longest conversation he had with his brother in nearly two decades, and he knew he was missing out on several of the layers of his brother’s riddles. “News of the wizarding world is rather sparse in this part of the world.” He began, as he brought the mugs over to the living room. “In fact, I haven’t really heard much about it since I had tea with Gran before leaving for the States. She said something about the Quidditch Cup getting interrupted by your friends, but you know me and quidditch.” Giles handed the mug to Snape, watching to make sure his brother was strong enough to handle the tea with his weak hand.
“It has been awhile then.” Severus took a sip of the tea, savoring the familiar flavor of Earl Grey. He was not going to let Giles rush him into this conversation. Finally he set the mug down. “He’s back.”
“Really?” Giles tried to sound calm as he sipped his tea. “And you’re active again?” Giles felt that he was handling the situation quite well considering he was possibly harboring a fugitive.
Severus carefully considered his possibly answers before replying. “Did you know he was a legilimens? Of course, aurors could use veritaserum, and where would that leave you?”
“You’re not being terribly helpful.”
“Well, I don’t have a lot of hope that this situation is salvageable at all. However, if there is a chance that I can return to my world, I need to have you be as ignorant as possible. Trust me, it is doing you a mercy.”
“There is a colony of gribles outside of a muggle movie theater. Some wizard is trying to buy floo powder from my shop. I think we’ve moved beyond ignorant.” Giles replied. The men stared at each other, both trying to read the others’ thoughts. After an intense minute, Severus seemed to relax back into his chair. “So, am I setting my wards against dark wizards or light wizards?”
“You should always set your wards against dark wizards, even if
you think they’re my friends.”
Something in the intonation was nagging Giles, as he shot back. “You don’t have any friends.”
“Exactly.” The glint in Severus’ eyes let him know he had all the puzzle pieces he needed to jump to the right conclusions. If only he wasn’t so sure he was equally likely to jump to the wrong one.
“I’ll go work on the wards then.” Rupert muttered, distracted by the clues.
“Alright, now you remember what we practiced?” Lucius turned his steel grey eyes on Severus.
“Duck left, Impedimenta, duck right, Locomotor Mortis, end on Ridickulus.” Severus rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, I have it down.”
“You better. I can’t afford to fail this.” Lucius scowled in Evan’s direction.
“I said I’m sorry.” Evan offered, as the Slytherin boys entered the Dueling Hall.
“Hasn’t anyone ever told you that it’s better to be right than to be sorry?” Lucius rolled his eyes, turning away from his past dueling partner. Severus gave Evan a sympathetic shrug then turned back to his partner.
“So, do you want to go first today?” Severus muttered, watching the ancient frame of Professor Jigger pace out the dueling platform. Professor Dumbledore paced out the opposite direction, mumbling to himself. Each class began with the two ancient professors pacing off the floor and throwing the first hexes. Most students thought this was just for show, but Severus was convinced that they were warding the dueling grounds.
“No, we go last.” Lucius answered, also keeping his voice down, lest anyone copy their plan. “I want to be the one they have in their minds at the end when they grade us.”
“We should have Rookie go right before us.” Severus muttered back, watching as a few of the other students stretched their wand arms.
“Too obvious. No, best to put him before Potter and Black. Their skill will just seem to be the expected level of competency if they follow up that act.” Lucius glanced at Argentius and Rastaban, who were running through jinxes in their heads.
“Alright.” Severus agreed. He was perfectly willing to let Lucius have his way in this class. Honestly, dueling this year was not nearly as interesting as it had been, or maybe he had just been spoiled by this summer when he dueled with Rupert. The two boys pulled out all the stops, pausing only when one of them needed help from a difficult hex. Compared to Rupert, Lucius was stiff, slow, and thoroughly unimaginative.
A crack of lightening coming from Jigger’s wand signaled the beginning of class. The dueling pairs lined up along the raised platform, watching Jigger and Dumbledore toss a few hexes at each other. Most of the group followed the flash of lights, a few stared at the wand movements. Only Lucius and Severus watched the mouths, trying to memorize the words coming from the experienced duelers. Finally a white flag shot out of Dumbledore’s wand, signaling the Headmaster’s surrender. “Well done, Professor.” Dumbledore kindly called to his colleague as he jumped down from the platform. “Now, who would like to start today’s exposition?”
Several pairs talked quietly to each other, but no one was quick to volunteer. Jigger came up behind the Slytherin boys. “Are you going to let everyone think you’re a chicken, or are you going to volunteer?” He goaded the third years.
“The time isn’t right, sir.” Lucius replied.
“Good.” Jigger nodded at the Slytherin answer. “Only a fool of a Gryffindor would volunteer to be the first show of the examination day, following up the light show Professor Dumbledore puts on.”
That being said, it wasn’t surprising that Lupin and Pettigrew found themselves pushed up on the platform by their friends. “Ah! So nice of you to volunteer.” Dumbledore smiled kindly at the two boys, and watched patiently as they lined themselves up. They paced themselves off as Dumbledore counted out loud.
At ten they spun around. Lupin cast the first hex, but the jelly legs went wide of the mark. He immediately put up a shield in preparation for whatever Pettigrew would throw. However, Pettigrew, never one for public attention, began stuttering as he realized all eyes were on him. He got out an “Im-imp-imp-impedi…” when he swished his wand back. However, instead of a snappy flick, the wand flew out of his hand and clattered on the floor, rolling underneath the platform. “Oh dear.”
“Point won by Lupin.” Jigger announced, and happily escorted the pair of Gryffindors off the stage. He knew as head of house, it was petty of him to delight in the folly of the rival house, but he took his small pleasures where he could.
Severus expected Dumbledore to ask for volunteers, as he did in every lesson, but evidently Dumbledore was in a contrary mood today. He called on Lucius and Severus to take the stage. Lucius was about to protest, but Severus whispered “At least we can’t be worse than the opener.”
Taking that advantage to heart, Lucius leaped up onto the stage, finding his mark easily. Severus followed, carefully monitoring his movements. His salute and bow were crisp and polished. Lucius’ salute had considerably more flourish, but Severus was amused to note he was dropping his left shoulder.
Professor Jigger counted them off. “Ten… nine… eight…” At the count of two, Lucius whirled around to strike first. Severus, expecting this from a Malfoy, was already dodging left. He retaliated with “Impedimenta!” just as Malfoy had planned, letting the blonde know that they were still on the script. Lucius jumped the curse, and quickly cast a stinging curse that almost grazed Severus’ shoulder, had he not known to duck. He cast the Locomotor Mortis carefully, so that it barely grazed Lucius’ non-wand arm. All that was left was the grand finale- Malfoy was to cast the boggart hex as Severus cast Ridickulus. With any luck, they’d meet in the middle and cancel each other out, causing the draw the two boys had agreed to.
Severus was about to cast the draw, when he noticed Lucius flinch. Instead of sending the boggart, Lucius cast the much more difficult snake charm that they hadn’t covered yet. In a panic, Severus cast a shield he had read about which had the useful side effect of frying any illusory serpents that crossed the perimeter.
Defense, offense, defense, offense - that was the pattern of wizarding duels, and it was now Severus’ turn to strike even though their script had ended. As Severus concentrated on holding up the shield against the approaching cobra, he contemplated whether he should offer the boggart hex up to the Slytherin leader as a sign of good will. Unfortunately his choice was taken from him.
As the cobra hit the shield, it lit up and exploded into a shower of sparks. At that moment, Lucius pointed his wand and yelled a curse, knocking Severus to the ground. “FOUL!” Albus Dumbledore jumped up on to the platform, disarming Lucius as he approached the fallen Severus. “Mr. Snape, are you alright?”
Severus looked up at the multiple images of the headmaster, swirling around his head. Professor Jigger’s head soon joined the fray, sometimes overlapping with the image of Dumbledore. “Of course he’s not alright.” Professor Jigger scolded. “He was just hit with a Naseatius hex at the same time his shields crashed. He needs to see Pomphrey immediately.”
“Of course.” The floating head of Dumbledore agreed. “Mr. Lupin, since you’ve already finished your exam, can you please escort Mr. Snape to the infirmary.”
The young Gryffindor hesitated for a moment, but valor soon got the better of him and he stepped up to offer Severus a hand. With a lurch, Snape was able to stand, leaning only slightly on the other boy for support. As they walked off the stage, a few of the Gryffindors clapped, but it trailed off as the Slytherins refused to acknowledge their fallen comrade.
“Are you going to be alright?” Remus asked as soon as the two boys had made it out into the hall. “You’re looking a little green.”
Severus glared daggers at the boy but refrained from answering. He didn’t want to admit he was feeling a lot more than just green around the gills. The reached the stairwell to the infirmary and began to climb. At the halfway landing, Severus stopped and fell to his knees. Unable to hold it any longer, he retched the remains of his lunch down the stairs. “Oh dear.” Remus stared at the trails of vomit. “Mr. Filch is not going to like that. Are you going to be okay to keep walking?”
Severus didn’t answer, but stayed on his hands and knees coughing, trying to keep the vomit down. In an uncharacteristically gentle gesture, Remus pulled back Severus’ hair from his face. “Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. You may as well get it out of your system.”
“Not this hex.” Severus muttered, swallowing awkwardly. “It keeps coming.”
As if to demonstrate the point, Severus heaved on to the steps again. “Ew. I don’t know what Lucius was thinking cheating like that.” Remus muttered, watching the boy beside him try to maintain some sort of dignity. “With friends like that, I wouldn’t need enemies.”
Severus slowly turned his head to stare at the Gryffindor. “With enemies like you, I don’t need friends.” He retorted, keeping his eyes fixed on Remus.
“Well, in that case, how about we try getting back to the Infirmary, shall we?” Remus hoisted Severus up, and practically dragged him up the stairs. At Severus’ grumblings, Remus couldn’t help but add. “You know, would it really hurt you to try to be nice once in awhile? It’s not like I personally have done anything to you.”
Severus groaned and clutched at the railing, but Remus refused to let him stop. “On some scale I can understand the house rivalry thing. It was here long before either of us matriculated. But, why don’t you even trust the people in your own house? It boggles my mind. If you make everyone your enemy, life is just pointless.”
“Shut up.” Severus tried to growl.
“No. No, I won’t shut up.” Remus continued, pulling Severus along after him. “I can understand Malfoy being a prick, but why do you put up with it? This house rivalry excuse is just stupid. Your brother gets it; why don’t you?”
They paused at the door to the infirmary, Remus looking expectantly at the ill Severus. He appeared to think it over for a moment, then Severus turned to face Remus… and promptly vomited on his shoes.
“Hmm, I see.”