Sir Bradford's Shadow
Severus stared at the book shelf in front of him - so close, and yet so far away. He could read a few spines from where he sat. Clearly Giles’ interests were primarily work related; there were several books with the word “demonic” in the title. Still, they were for the most part books Severus hadn’t already read. They were books he would want to read at the moment. Of course, at this rate, he’d be content to read Hogwarts: A History. If only they weren’t all located across the room, he’d be reading them right now.
If he had his wand, he could ‘accio’ one of the books from the shelf. It was such a convenient spell. Unfortunately, his brother hadn’t taken to his greeting very well last night. The first thing Giles had done when he had passed out for the night was to put his wand far out of Severus’ sight.
“Aargh! This is impossible!” He ranted to the empty room. He had become surprisingly good at handling solitude over the years, but he had always been able to keep his fingers, and his mind, occupied. If he couldn’t keep his thoughts focused on a potion they might have time to wander. His mind might go back to that look of horror on Lucius’ face as he stepped in front of Potter to get a full dose of the crucio curse. Even beneath the death eater masks, Severus could see the recognized betrayal in Lucius’ eyes right before he collapsed on the Great Hall floor. Even without the portkey being thrown to him, it was clear to at least one death eater who the traitor in their midst had been.
His cover was well and truly blown.
As he found himself dwelling more and more on the battle that had led him to where he was now, he was interrupted by a shrill ring. He jerked in panic. The wards must be going off!
Just when he was about ready to get off the sofa, broken legs be damned, the noise ceased...
…Only to start back up again. The siren pulsed a few more times. Severus was sure that the wards were definitely being breached. This was it. Whichever side had won must have found him and were preparing to take their revenge.
As he braced himself for a fifth pulse, something startlingly different happened. Instead of a shrill ring, Rupert’s voice loudly called out. “You’ve have reached the Giles’ residence. I’m sorry I’m not here right now. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you at my nearest convenience.”
How odd, it sounded like Rupert was standing directly beside him, but there was no one there. Not only that, but what his brother said had made no sense. As if yelling that he wasn’t home was going to prevent any wizard from entering the house. It was such an asinine plan, that it might have actually worked... if he had the dumb luck of Gryffindor, that is.
To make the event even more bizarre, a voice he hadn’t heard in at least fifteen years began speaking. “Hello, Rupert? I placed the inquiries as you requested. Evidently, Medea passed away this spring- horribly tragic accident, or so my informant told me. I’m afraid I can’t offer you more assistance. Do let us know if those Death Eater blokes are on the Hellmouth; the Council would probably need to take action in that case. Best of luck, son.”
“Bradford?” Severus finally got the nerve to ask, but there was no response, just a click and then silence. “Rupert?”
“Hey Sev?” Rupert asked. The two boys were lounging about the Severus’ room, waiting for Nana to fetch them for lunch. It was their last full week together before Severus left for the summer.
“What?” Severus replied, not even glancing up from the book he was reading.
“Do you suppose the fact that everyone got you potions books for your birthday is a sign that you need to loosen up a little? You know, get a new hobby?” Rupert mused, as he flipped the cover of one of Severus’ new books back and forth.
“No.” Severus brushed his bangs out of his eyes. His mother had been on his case all break to get a hair cut, but the other boys were all in the process of growing out their hair. It was fine for Rupert to have a muggle hair cut; after all, he was going to live out in their world when he was done. Severus, on the other hand, really wanted to fit in with his own people, which meant growing out his hair. If only his black locks would behave more like Lucius’.
“Really? I mean, don’t you find it a bit odd that you’re so incredibly predictable?”
“That’s not true!”
“What’s not true? That you’ve become boring and you’re only fourteen? What’s next- are you going to lock yourself in a laboratory and only talk to your pet cats?” Rupert teased.
“I don’t know where you’re getting these crazy ideas. It’s not as though everyone got me potions books.”
“Oh really? Name one person who didn’t.” Rupert challenged him.
“Your father did not give me a potions book.” Severus quickly shot back.
“My father got you a chemistry book. In his mind it’s the same thing.”
“It most certainly is not!”
“Are you quite sure?” Rupert asked with a playful smirk.
“Look, why don’t you just tell me what you want and quit trying to be so smart.”
“Who said I wanted anything?”
Severus snorted, the question needing no further answer. “Well, alright, maybe there is something I wanted to ask… other than whether you’ve named your cauldron yet.”
Rupert wasn’t at all surprised when a pillow came flying at his head. “Well, what is it?” Severus asked after Rupert hadn’t said anything for a minute.
“Well I was just wondering… the whole apprentice thing… just what am I missing?”
“What do you mean, what are you missing?” Severus sat up, carefully marking his place in his book before closing it.
“Well, you’re doing an apprenticeship this summer. Evan said his father got him an apprenticeship with the Daily Prophet. Malfoy said he was going to apprentice with an auror this summer. I just can’t help but wonder if this is one of those things I really should be doing if I don’t want to stand out.”
Severus sighed. “First of all, everyone knows that aurors don’t take apprentices because their job is too dangerous. Lucius is just talking big, like he always does. He’ll probably just be training with his father on how to take over the running of Malfoy Manor, or something equally as dull. As for Evan, he’s just trying to cover for the fact that his family is running into financial difficulties and he has to pick up a job if he’s going to keep up with Lucius at Hogsmeade next year.”
“Yes, but you didn’t hear it from me.”
Rupert was shocked. He had no idea that his brother knew so much gossip. He normally stayed out of the conversations at school unless it was to add some erudite piece of useless trivia. “Right. But you, spending a month with Professor Jigger to study potions, that’s a big deal, right? Cassandra was practically floating when she heard.”
“Yes, well, of course that’s a big deal.” Severus still hadn’t gotten used to Rupert calling his mother by her first name, but he supposed it was better that than calling her something ghastly muggle, like mum. “Most masters don’t start apprentices until after they’ve finished their N.E.W.T.s, O.W.L.s at the earliest.”
“So why are you starting so early?”
“Because you have to start early if you’re going to be the best.” Severus gave the Slytherin response.
“Right. Well, I suppose I should start looking for an apprenticeship soon then. I’m rather good at Charms; maybe I should speak with Flitwick?” Rupert picked at the corner of the pillow that had been thrown at him.
“Are you crazy?”
“Well, for one thing, given your pedigree, you’d never be accepted in a Charms apprenticeship early. You have no predisposition for it.”
“Even if Professor Flitwick writes a glowing recommendation and letter of introduction? He’s supposed to be tops in his field.”
“Well, yes he is excellent, but the Charms community is even more inbred than the Potions community. I doubt they’d take kindly to a muggle born joining them early.”
“Oh we’re back to that again. You know father doesn’t consider himself completely muggle.”
That brings us to my next point. You’re already doing an apprenticeship of sorts with Quentin. I highly doubt your father would take well to you abandoning that demon work to go cast charms all day.”
“But I don’t want to be a watcher.”
“I don’t think it really matters what you want. Sir Bradford has spoken.”
“Merlin! It can’t be that bad. I can’t be stuck working with Travers for the rest of my life. I can’t think of anything worse.”
“Such as…” Severus paused for a moment, aware that he might be revealing too much, even if it was just to Rupert. “Such as having your father take no interest in your future, or even worse, having no father.”
Rupert could tell Severus was being honest. He now had two possible courses of action. Either he could agree with Severus and actually talk about their missing father figures in a heartfelt discussion, or … “Yeah, yeah, yeah, get out the violins. At least you don’t have to see Quentin on a regular basis. Did I tell you what that twit did this week?”
“He mistranslated ‘camel’ for ‘sorghum’ and ended up bringing down a rain of locusts in the closet.” Severus muttered, tiredly.
“Yes, and then he had the audacity to make me clean up all the dead insects! Why does he even know the word for sorghum in Aramaic? It’s not native to that area, is it?”
“No, and thank you.”
“Reminding me why I’m looking forward to being away for the next month.”
“Right, any time.” Rupert rolled his eyes. “Well, I better be going. I’m sure Nana will be calling at any moment.”
“Right.” Severus watched his step-brother leave with a twitch of a smile. He’d have to be tortured before he’d admit it, but he was going to miss Rupert.
A/N: Sorry about the delay for postings... I'm in the process of moving, so it's a trick getting my computer in the same place as the internet connection. I'll try to be better in the coming weeks.