“Muddy, is that you?” A muffled voice cried from the couch.
“Well, I suppose so.” Giles dumped his keys on the counter and went to the living room couch. “You look like hell. How are you feeling?”
“Why do you bother asking if you already know the answer?” Severus moaned.
“Oh for heaven’s sake.” Giles had glanced at the end table where there was a full glass of water and a little pile of pills. “If you’re having such a rough time, why didn’t you take any of your medicine? I told you it was going to wear off sometime this morning and you needed another dose before I’d get home.”
“I don’t like that medicine.”
“Why ever not?” Giles was scowling at his brother. This was not the time for Severus to go on one of his anti-muggle tirades.
“Because it makes me even sicker.”
“Is it too hard on your stomach? The doctor said I could use children’s aspirin if it was too harsh. I just didn’t think you’d take too well to the artificial grape flavor.”
“They make their medicine taste like grapes here?”
“Not a bit. It’s bright purple and tastes quite a bit like an overly sweet confection. They just refer to the flavor as grape so that children can convince their parents they really are eating fruits and vegetables.” Giles shrugged, once again giving up at explaining muggle culture to his brother. “So would you like to try some? Would that sit on your stomach any better?”
“No, it’s not my stomach.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
“I think the medicine is making me go crazy.” Severus whispered, not wanting to admit it.
“Oh? It is just aspirin, isn’t it?” Giles took a closer look at the bottle, and found nothing that indicated insanity as a side effect.
“I heard voices.”
“Really?” Giles murmured, still reading the bottle label.
“First you said something, then there was a beep, and then your father said something.” Snape looked up nervously at his brother. Giles couldn’t help but be concerned by the sickly pallor of Severus’ face. “I know you think I’m crazy, but I swear it sounded like you were standing right behind me. When I called your name though, no one answered.”
“My voice followed by a beep… oh Merlin’s balls.” Giles rolled his eyes. “Let me guess. It sounded something like this.” Giles walked over to his answering machine and hit the playback button.
There was a long beep, and then the tinny voice of Sir Bradford Giles filled the room. “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.”
“Yes it sounded exactly like that. What is that?”
“Rupert, how did you do that?”
“Gran is dead?” Giles found himself sitting on the stairs, not quite trusting himself to stand after that news.
“Yes, Gran is dead. She’s been dead for nearly half a year. You didn’t know?”
“I thought a witch like her would live forever. How did… I just can’t believe it, she’s dead?”
“You really didn’t know.” Severus said, in mild shock. “And here, we just thought you were eschewing your wizarding roots and being deliberately disrespectful.”
“Disrespectful? Of Gran? She was the only decent one of you lot.”
“It was a logical conclusion considering that all the owls sent to the manor were returned with unopened letters.”
“I wasn’t at the manor.” Giles whispered.
“Well, evidently not, but normally the owls are smarter than that.”
“I was on the Hellmouth.”
“Then again, maybe the owls were smarter than that.”
“I don’t know. I think she went out exactly as she would have wanted- thumbing her nose at society, in an upstanding sort of way.”
“Yes. I don’t suppose it would be too much trouble to get something to eat before you ask any more pointless questions?”
“Right, of course.” Giles slowly got up, and mechanically went through the motions of preparing chicken soup and tea, but his mind was elsewhere. “How did she…?”
“Swimming across the English Channel.” Severus answered.
“That’s not really something you should be joking about.” Severus arched his brow at the accusation, and Giles had to reassess what he remembered about Gran. “Well, yes, it’s perfectly understandable why she would want to attempt swimming the English Channel...”
“She would have been the oldest female to cross it in that manner.”
“However, it makes no sense for her to die that way. Gran was a competent witch. Surely she would have apparated away before she would drown.”
“She didn’t drown. She made it to France, but brought none of her paperwork with her. Without her international apparating permit, the French were not willing to let her leave the country. She was picked up by several muggles who were smuggling something back to England, and there was a bit of a skirmish between the wizarding law enforcement and the muggles. She ended up taking a curse that transfigured her into bottle of wine. It wouldn’t have been fatal if the boat driver hadn’t also been hit with a discombobulation jinx, steering the boat directly into several fishing piers. The bottle shattered.”
“That sounds ghastly.” Giles muttered fetching some tea mugs out of the cupboards.
“Well, yes, it was not the most pleasant death, however it was relatively quick, painless, and she certainly made international headlines.” Severus shrugged. “I can’t think of a way she’d rather go.”
“True. She did live a full life.”
“I don’t know about that. Ninety is a bit young for a witch, but after Pa … well, she just seemed far more capricious.”
“Was it a nice ceremony?”
Severus thought for a moment before answering. “It was. It was perhaps far more extravagant than Gran would have gone for, but considering the remaining members of the Lestrange family, that was hardly unexpected. The Malfoys provided flowers for every flat surface in that room and the coffin was inlaid with silver and malachite to remind everyone which house she had been in. I wouldn’t be surprised if more Slytherins showed up for Medea Lestrange’s funeral than for even Salazar’s. Albus’ eulogy was one of the most stirring things I’ve heard from the man in many years. Of course, considering his borderline sanity, I’m not sure that really says much.”
“I’m sorry I missed it.” Giles frowned.
“Don’t be.” Severus mumbled.
Giles carefully poured two bowls of soup and two cups of tea and brought them into the livingroom. “Are you capable of serving yourself, or do you need assistance?” He asked as he set the tray down.
“I’m perfectly capable of feeding myself.” Severus muttered.
Giles watched him make pitiful attempts of using the spoon with his unbroken hand for a few moments before interrupting. “I can get you a straw if you find that easier.” Severus scowled at him as the spoon shook. “Or, if you insist on being stubborn, I could get you a bib.”
“Fine.” Severus growled. “I would appreciate your assistance.”
Knowing better than to press his advantage with a snide remark, Giles settled for letting his thoughts wander as he fed his brother. “You know, that does open another mystery however.”
“Well, when you arrived at the hospital, there was a piece of paper in your belongings with my phone number on it. The only people in England with access to that number were my father and Gran. I had assumed Gran had set the portkey for you, but clearly that is not the case. So, the question is, who else has my number?”
“I would think that would be perfectly clear.”
“The executor of Gran’s Will.”
“And who would that be?” Giles put the spoon down, waiting for Severus’ answer. Severus however, would have none of it, and just stared into Giles eyes. “Oh bloody hell. Just once it would be nice if my own brother didn’t try to be more cryptic than the Pergamum Codex. Who was the executor of Gran’s Will?”
“Obviously, not me.” Severus answered with a sneer.
“You know Gran, you are by far my favorite relative, but I’m not sure that will continue if you keep insisting on bringing me in here.” Rupert teased as the pair entered Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions.
“Nonsense, it’s for your own good.” She nudged him further into the shop. “Besides, we have to be at the train station at two, so this will hardly take all day.”
“Be with you in a minute!” Madame Malkin called out from the back.
“Take your time.” Medea Lestrange called back as she browsed a rack of linen.
“Oh Mrs. Lestrange, I’ll be right out.” And sure enough, in a heartbeat the shop owner appeared between two racks of cloth. “What brings you by today?”
“You remember my grandson, Rupert?” Rupert wasn’t about to remark that he was just her step-grandson. It was nice to think someone would actually want to be related to him on occasion.
“Of course.” Madame Malkin smiled sweetly at the gangly teenager. “You’re in Slytherin, are you not? Taking after the family, aren’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Rupert blushed.
“What year are you about to start?”
“Ah, I see.” Madame Malkin’s eyes lit up.
“Exactly.” Mrs. Lestrange quirked her lips in a grin, and Rupert had the horrible sensation of being a mouse trapped by a pair of cats.
“To the podium!” Madame Malkin ordered him.
“What? Really, I don’t think I need to… I mean, my uniform isn’t that short on me yet, and I do know lengthening charms. Really, Gran we’re on a tight schedule…” But Rupert found himself backing towards the podium as a swarm of measuring tapes followed.
“Dear, this has nothing to do with your school robes; although it wouldn’t hurt to have a new set. This is about the beginning of the fourth year. Surely you remember what new privilege the fourth years get.”
“Nothing is coming immediately to mind.” He winced as measuring tape went flying by his face.
“Boys.” Madame Malkin tsked, having seen this scenario played out every year.
“Fourth years attend the Yule Ball, and no house attends the Yule Ball with such style as Slytherin.” Mrs. Lestrange proclaimed.
“Dress robes?” Rupert gulped. “Oh boy.”
Two hours later, Rupert was sitting outside of Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, with a stack of boxes and bags at his feet. “Contrary to what Madame Malkin insists, I do believe one of those tape measures was trying to get fresh with me.”
“Oh, Rupert.” Medea chuckled. “It’s too bad your brother isn’t here. He could do with a new dress robe as well.”
“Indeed, torture is always better when it’s shared.”
“And you’re speaking from your plethora of experience?”
“Of course. After all, we’ve been scheduled with the Gryffindors for potions and transfiguration every year I’ve been at Hogwarts. If that’s not torture, I’m not sure what is.”
“You know, not all Gryffindors are intolerable.”
“Yes, I know that. I’m actually in a study group with a couple of them who are quite tolerable. It’s just Black and Potter really, but they’re enough.”
“Those are two old families.” Medea mused as she delicately ate her ice cream.
“Yes, and I’m a new family. It really is a rather foolish distinction.” Rupert answered, barely taking time to swallow before talking.
“Surely you don’t talk like that amongst your housemates.”
“Sometimes, but only if they say something particularly daft.”
“If the young Mr. Malfoy is anything like his father, I can’t imagine that going over rather well.” Medea smiled that sly smile of someone enjoying a particulary amusing mental picture.
“Well, no, but really some of the things he says are quite out of line. For example, he insists that muggleborns are mentally inferior to wizardborns, and yet I’ve got the highest grade in charms and Lily Evans is the top witch in runes.”
“Evans- is she the Gryffindor you study with?”
“Actually, she was the one who organized the study group. She wanted someone from all the houses to participate, and none of the other Slytherins would agree to working with any muggleborns. Now, how ridiculous is that?”
“You’re right, it doesn’t make much sense. However, it would probably be unwise of you to point this out to them. Heaven forbid they try to join your group.”
“That’s true. There’s something to be said for having the ladies all to myself.” Rupert winked at Medea, who chuckled, enjoying Rupert’s open candor. It was a pity Severus hadn’t picked up any of his playfulness.
“Well, if you’re such a ladies man, then you should be quite glad you’ve got a new set of dress robes. Undoubtedly, you’ll be making good use of them this year. Have you decided whom you’re going to ask?”
“To the Yule Ball?” Medea nodded. “Gran, it’s still August. That’s months away!”
“Surely there’s a special young lady… perhaps this Lily Evans? After all, this isn’t the first time her name has come up in conversation.”
“Gran!” Rupert rolled his eyes and blushed.
Rupert took a big bite of his melting ice cream before coming up with an answer to that. “In all likelihood, Narcissa will inform Lucius exactly whom everyone is supposed to go with. As long as it’s not Prunella, I’ll be happy with that.”
“I see.” And indeed Medea Lestrange had a fair notion that Rupert was quite right on that score. The Black women were notorious for dictating the social lives of those around them, and if the youngest had captured the eye of a Malfoy, well, then Slytherin need look no further for a ruling couple. “That’s a pity.”
“And why is that?”
“Well, it’s so much more significant to the lady if she knows her gentleman is asking out of a heartfelt gesture rather than a forced set up.”
“Gran, I’m only a fourth year. It’s not like I’m asking anybody to marry me.” Rupert found himself blushing yet again.
“Right you are. Well, we should probably finish this up. It’s about time to catch your train.”
“Does the train have a platform off of Diagon Alley?” Rupert asked, easily scarfing down the end of his ice cream cone.
“No, Gringott’s has a floo lounge that leads to the train station. I assumed that would suffice for our needs today.” Medea Lestrange dabbed the corners of her mouth with her napkin and then stood up. “Now, about that luggage.” She swished and flicked, quickly shrinking the packages down to a more manageable size. “Here, put your packages in the left pocket and your brother’s in the right. I would hate for you to confuse your belongings on the first day.”
“Yes, Gran.” Rupert said, following her instructions. The pair strode down the street with the purposeful air that clearly marked them as Slytherins. They approached Gringott’s and quickly made their way to the floo lounge.
Mrs. Lestrange helped herself to a handful of floo powder, and nodded to the goblin attendant as she approached the express fireplace. “Platform 9 ¾” She clearly enunciated.
Rupert quickly followed her example and was surprised to find he was standing right next to Medea in front of the train, just beginning to load. “That was not nearly as bad as I had expected.”
“Yes, well, Gringott’s has always stood for quality. Rather than hooking up to the public floo network, they have their own system. It’s really rather limited in the number of possible destinations, but that makes it a much smoother trip.” Medea filled in, as she carefully checked her hair. Not a single silver curl was out of place. “Now then, I want you to behave yourself. If Albus tells me of any of your escapades this year, you’ll be lucky if all you receive is a howler.”
Rupert nodded. What was a send off without the ‘make your family proud’ speech? As he was tuning out the countless instructions, he was taken aback to find himself suddenly wrapped in a hug. “You’re a good boy, Rupert. I know you’ll do the Giles name honor.”
“Thank you, Gran.” Rupert muttered, stepping back a bit. That was definitely not part of the usual send off. “I better load my luggage now. Thank you for letting me stay with you this week and bringing me to the station.”
“Any time, dear, and be sure to let me know how those robes turn out for you.” She winked. He was about to take another step to the train, when he found himself being squeezed one more time. “That is for Severus, please make sure he gets it.”
“Al-alright.” Rupert stuttered. He would be lucky if he could pass that message on to Severus without getting hexed out of Hogwarts.
“Take care, dear.” She waved him off, and then went towards a crowd of mothers also waving at children getting on the train. They must have been purebloods, as they quickly recognized Medea and accepted her into their ranks.
Rupert quickly boarded the train and found the compartment where Damon and Evan had already settled down. “Is that really Medea Lestrange on the platform?” Evan asked, watching the people outside.
“It is. I didn’t realize you knew her.” Rupert answered taking his seat next to Damon.
“Who doesn’t know Madame Lestrange? She and her husband endowed the Romanian Dragon Preserve. I heard that she caught some of the first dragons for it with her own wand. Mr. Lestrange was the first wizard to invent dragon-proof armor. Granted the stuff is also fabulous for working with any sort of hot objects; that patent must be worth millions of galleons.” Evan babbled excitedly.
“Is she here to send-off Rastaban?” Damon asked.
“No. Rastaban is actually her great nephew. He’s not directly related.” Rupert answered.
“Oh.” Damon quickly recalculated the family trees in his head. “Ah, that’s right, she’s the mother of Cassandra Lestrange Snape. I take it she brought you and Severus then? Where is Sev- off with the luggage?”It was at that point, Evan finally turned his attention away from what was going on outside to the members of his own compartment.
“Ah no.” Rupert’s explanation was cut off as Rookie and Rastaban entered.
“Hey mates, how are you?” Rastaban asked, taking the free window seat before Argentius could. “Did you have a good summer? Where’s Malfoy and Snape?”
“Well, I’m not quite sure where Malfoy is, but…” Rupert began again.
“Ah, there you are. I thought we were aiming for the third cabin
this year.” Malfoy interrupted, ordering Rastaban to scoot over with his eyes. As he sat down in the coveted window seat, he glanced around the compartment. “Where’s Severus?”
“That’s what I want to know.” Damon repeated.
“All aboard!” The voice of the conductor sounded through out the train. The compartment doors magically shut, and the train lurched forward.
“He’s missed the train?” Evan wondered aloud.
“He’s already at Hogwarts.” Rupert finally answered.
“Merlin’s beard, the boy really did it.” Lucius murmured.
“He started his apprenticeship early, didn’t he?” Lucius turned to Rupert for confirmation. Rupert nodded and the compartment fell into silence as each of the Slytherins began their internal calculations on just how Severus’ apprenticeship was going to impact the dynamics of their class. The silence lingered until the snack cart passed by, a good half hour later.
A/N: I hope y'all liked that chapter since it's going to have to tide you over for awhile. I'm in the process of moving, so it'll be about a week before you get another update. Sorry.