“Rupert! The wards are going off!” The cry woke Giles up from a sound sleep.
“That’s the phone, you bloody pillock.” Giles answered, not even lifting his head from the pillow. It was too early for this, much too early for this.
“What should I do?” Snape called back up in a panic.
“Answer it; I don’t care.” Giles growled back. A moment later the ringing stopped. “Bloody hell, he answered the phone, didn’t he?” Giles asked the air above his head.
“It’s for you!” Severus called.
“What a surprise.” Giles muttered, rolling out of bed and slipping on a bathrobe. “Who is it?” He asked as he came down the stairs.
“How the hell should I know?” Severus handed the phone off, “But, whoever it is deserves to get a lecture on the inappropriateness of calling at obscene hours in the morning.”
“Duly noted.” Giles agreed. “Hello?”
“Xander, is that you?”
“Is everything alright? You do realize that it’s…” Giles checked the grandfather clock “… seven a.m.” That Xander was up at this hour in the morning was disturbing news in itself.
“Yeah, sorry, I just wanted to call you before I had to get to work and you know how construction is about early hours.”
“I’ll take your word for that.” Giles sat down on the step, trying to ignore the glares from Severus who was making no pretences to hide his eavesdropping. “So what is the emergency?”
“I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what? Something worse than waking me up?”
“Um, I’m not quite sure how to explain this.”
“Oh really? Most people find it easier to figure out how explain things before picking up the phone and calling their friends at seven in the morning.” Giles rubbed his forehead. It was too early for this.
“How about we just say this? Please ignore anything Anya says today. I didn’t mean it, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and it’s all a big misunderstanding.”
“Xander, just what is such a big understanding?”
“Oh nothing.” Xander’s voice went up in pitch, in that way Giles had come to associate with the boy either breaking a priceless ancient artifact or stealing the last jelly donut.
“That doesn’t sound like nothing.”
“Um, well, maybe it’s a nothing, and everyone will live happily ever after, in which case, just forget I ever called. But, if it is something, just remember. I’m sorry and it’s not my fault.”
“Um, look, my shift’s about to start. I’ll talk to you later. Have a good day, G-man!”
“Xander…” Giles growled out, but Xander had hung up. “Oh lovely.”
“What was that about?” Severus asked as Giles put the phone back in its cradle.
“I have no idea, but since we’re awake, I may as well start breakfast. Are you up for more solid food today?”
“Oh goody.” Severus muttered.
Two hours, and a scrambled egg later, Giles entered his shop with a feeling of trepidation. “Good morning, Giles.” Anya said in a perky voice.
“Good morning, Anya.” Giles responded cautiously. “Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, sure, why shouldn’t it be?”
“Oh, no reason.” Giles ignored his feeling of impending doom, and instead went about setting up the cash till. “I suppose I should have stopped by the bank this morning to pick up more loose change; we should be fine for today, but if it’s busy, we might be short of quarters. Are you going by the bank for your lunch break, or should I stop by when I bring Sev to the … good lord!” Giles squeaked as he felt a hand on his rear.
“You know, you have a very firm ass.” Anya commented as she hopped up onto the counter next to Giles.
“Thank you, I guess?”
“In fact, you’re very well preserved for someone your age. I suppose it comes from working out with Buffy.”
“I suppose.” Giles glanced nervously at the door. He wasn’t sure if he was thankful there were no customers, or alarmed that no one would hear him scream for help.
“Have you ever considered a ménage a trois?”
There was a beat and then “Ow!” as Giles’ foot registered the pain of having the cash till dropped on it.
“You know, with a woman, and a man, and a man?”
“Yes I’m well aware of what that is.” Giles bit his lip as he bent down to pick up the cash drawer.
“So, are you interested?”
“Interested?” Giles wondered if his face could get redder.
“You know- you, me, and Xander?”
“Is that a yes?”
“Really? But I thought you would be thankful to get any orgasms you could. I mean, you’re male. Men like orgasms.”
“I’m aware of that.” Giles had finished picking up the cash till, but had to count silently to ten before he could stand up and face his assistant. “But, it’s highly improper to suggest such a thing to your employer, and even more so considering that I’m…” Giles was flustered at how exactly he could explain to the ex-demon that there was absolutely no way he could ever think of Anya, or god forbid Xander, in such a way. “I’m British.” He finished lamely. As he put the cash till back into the register, he couldn’t help but add. “What on earth gave you the idea to say such a thing in the first place?”
“Oh, it wasn’t my idea. It was…”
“Xander’s.” Giles finished the thought. “Look, Anya, I’ve changed my mind.”
“So you do want to have sex with us?” She beamed.
“No, I really think we need more quarters. Can you please run to the bank and get change?” Giles was already on his way to making out the withdrawal slip, eager to have his assistant as far away as possible.
“You know we do have another roll of quarters in the safe behind the…”
“Yes, I’m aware of that, but I have a feeling today will be a very quarter intensive day. Please go, right now.”
“Well, alright.” Anya looked a bit confused, but knew better than to refuse a trip to one of her favorite places, the bank.
“Thank you.” Giles waved Anya off, and then went to his office, where Xander’s contact information was on his rolodex. He rapidly punched in the number for Xander’s cell phone.
“Hello?” Xander’s voice could be heard over the sound of hammering in the background.
“What the hell were you thinking, suggesting such a thing to Anya!”
“Damn. She remembered.”
“I hope you have a good explanation for this.”
“I promise you, it’s not what it sounds like, whatever she said. Look, just a sec.” Giles could hear Xander moving away from the loud construction noises. When it was finally quieter, Xander whispered into the phone. “Remember when I said it was all a big misunderstanding, well, that’s all it is, okay? Just forget about it please?”
“How is your girlfriend propositioning me a big misunderstanding?” Giles snapped.
“Long story short, she was sharing a bit too much information with her demon friends, and I was trying to explain why I didn’t want her sharing those details with her friends. She said I could tell my friends all about her and she wouldn’t mind, so I shouldn’t mind when she shares. As a sarcastic comment, I might have said, why don’t we just invite Giles over for a threesome while we’re at it.”
“Oh dear lord.”
“I swear to you it was just a joke. I didn’t think she’d take me seriously. It wasn’t until I caught her checking out the high school yearbook this morning that I got scared.”
“Oh dear lord.”
“Yeah, we’ve gone over that.”
“Yes, well, I’m still on that. Oh dear lord.”
“Look, just tell her no, and we’ll forget this ever happened… please?”
“Of course, we’ll forget it ever happened.”
“Great. Well, I have to get back to work now. Oh, and Giles, you can quit pinching your nose now.”
“I’m not pinching my…” Giles froze as he realized he was in fact pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. “Fine.”
“Okay, bye.” Xander said as he hung up.
“Well, if that’s not a lovely start to a hellmouthy day, I don’t know what is.” Giles groaned as he leaned back in his desk chair. “I need a cup of tea.”
It was only three weeks into the summer, and things were definitely not going according to plan. Severus had already left for Hogwarts, and had only sent one owl to let everyone know he had arrived safely. His father and Cassandra had left for Romania last week to intercede since one of the potential slayers had unwittingly stumbled upon the wizarding dragon preserve and was hunting the endangered species. Granted, Rupert wasn’t too surprised to find that he was left with just Nana and Quentin to watch him, but it was a bit sooner than he had expected. Then the unthinkable happened. Quentin got sent on a watcher’s mission to the United States and left Rupert with just a list of what to work on.
“Well screw that!” Rupert thought angrily, wadding up the list and shoving it into his pocket. He wasn’t going to practice his Latin, ritual cleansings, or even sword fighting, if no one was going to be around to check on him.
Okay, well, maybe some sword fighting practice wouldn’t be too out of line. After all, Westbury Manor could be terribly dull during the summer. Rupert wandered to the armory, and strapped on the various paddings. He slipped on the mask, and grabbed a rapier off the rack.
“One, two, three, four.” Rupert counted aloud to himself. He had angrily gone through three sets when he stopped himself. “No, no, knees bent, shoulders straight.” Sometimes it was a pain to be such a perfectionist. He continued on at the same pace for half an hour, when a knock on the door startled him. “Come in!”
“There you are!” Nana entered, wringing her hands nervously. “There’s a green head floating in the fireplace, asking for you.”
“Really? That’s wonderful.” Rupert stripped off his fence gear faster than one could saw floo powder.
“If you say so.” Nana frowned. “But, I wouldn’t take too kindly to the ghosts knowing me by name, if I were you.”
“Oh, Nana, that’s not a ghost. It’s just a floo call.” Rupert headed down the hall as fast as he could. “It’s how we communicate in Scotland.”
“If you say so.” Nana watched as Rupert skidded around the corner as fast as he could without falling over.
“Hello?” Rupert called out as soon as he got into the front parlor.
“Oh, thank goodness I’ve found the right house.”
“Margaret?” He had been hoping it was Sev, or maybe Damon. He sure wasn’t expecting the other Gryffindor from his study group.
“Yes, hello, how are you?”
“Isn’t that lovely. Look, I know I really shouldn’t be flooing you, given your family, but I didn’t know who else to floo.”
“Aren’t you related to Severus Snape, twentieth generation Slytherin? Really, Rupert, you can’t find a more natural rival to a Gryffindor family like mine.”
“Well, that’s just silly. Just because Sev’s father…”
“Yes, yes, I know. Family feuds are obnoxious and it’s not like I’ll be a MacDuff after I marry so what’s the point?”
“Well, I …” Rupert sank into the couch facing the fireplace, feeling out of breath.
“I’ll tell you what the point is. Have you heard from Lily?”
“What, you mean Lily Evans?”
“What other Lily do you know? Of course I mean Lily Evans.”
“No, I haven’t, but then I wasn’t expecting…”
“I’m afraid something horrible may have happened to her. Last week I sent her an owl with a note. The owl came back with the letter unopened. I’ve tried twice more and the owls keep coming back, and this last time, I think it was trying to fly on a broken wing.”
“Well, that doesn’t sound good.” Rupert frowned. “But, I don’t…”
“I know! And I’ve tried everyone I can think of to see if they’ve heard from her. Beatrice tried to floo, but that was a total disaster. I think her family might be off the floo line.”
“Of course, they’re…”
“… Muggles? I thought of that, but shouldn’t she still be able to get owls?”
“Well, have you tried calling her?”
“That’s just a silly idea. It’s not as though she could hear me that far away.”
“No, I meant you could try using the phone.”
“What’s that?” The image flickered. “Can you hold? I think someone’s trying to use my floo.”
For once, Rupert was glad to be interrupted. He had no idea how to explain muggle phones to wizards; only that it was like floo… but not. When it became clear that Margaret wasn’t immediately returning, Rupert went to the side table and fetched the phone book. “Evans, Evans, Evans.” Rupert muttered.
The Giles family phone book was a blessing and a curse. Once his father had taught Cassandra how to use the phone, she had decided that the phone book could be even more useful with a few alterations. Now, the phone book included all of the British Isles and would automatically update the numbers as people moved. This meant that while the book was simultaneously correct and complete, it also contained over 600 Evans and none of them had the first name Lily.
“I’m sorry, where were we?” Margaret stuck her head back in.
“We were going to call Lily. Do you know where she lives?”
“Isn’t she from Hangleton?”
“I don’t know.” Rupert muttered the sorting spell, and watched the Evans section arrange itself by town. “Do you know her parents’ names?”
“What sort of divination are you up to?” Margaret squinted at Rupert through the floo.
“It’s not divination. Now, are her parents Harold and Rose, or Clifford and Roxanne?” Rupert read off the only two Evans numbers in Hangleton.
“The first one. Lily said all the women in her family were flowers.” Margaret answered. “What are you doing?”
“Just a moment, I want to try something.” Rupert picked up the phone and dialed.
“Evans residence.” An older woman answered.
“Uh, hello.” Now that he was on the phone, he had no idea what to say. He had never called a girl’s house before, and while sure, it was just Lily, it was still a first in his book.
“May I help you?” From the woman’s impatience, he could tell he had been quiet too long trying to decide what to say.
“Yes, may I talk to Lily Evans, please?”
“Whom should I tell her is calling?”
“Rupert. Rupert Giles; I go to school with her?” Well, at least he had called the right number.
“Just a minute.” The woman left and Rupert used the minute to update Margaret.
“Hello?” Lily picked up the phone. “Rupert?”
“Hullo.” There was a brief silence as neither teenager knew what to say. “Not that I don’t enjoy hearing from you, or anyone for that matter, but why’d you call?”
“Right, well, you see I have Margaret on floo here, and…”
“Margaret’s there? She promised me she’d write, and I haven’t heard a … just a moment.” Rupert heard Lily get up and yell “Mind your own business Petty!” and a door slammed shut. “Sorry about that. How embarrassing.” Lily muttered.
“Yes, well, Margaret’s here, and she’s worried that something’s happened to you.”
“I’m fine, why?”
“She sent you three owls and they all came back unopened.”
“Really how odd…” Lily trailed off.
“What’d she say?” Margaret chimed in.
“She’s fine.” Rupert replied.
“Oh, I know what happened. I’m going to kill her!” Lily exclaimed.
“And now she’s going to commit a murder.” Rupert informed Margaret.
“What?” Rupert dutifully repeated into the phone.
“Ooh! This is so annoying. My sister has this boyfriend. What is she doing with a boyfriend when she’s thirteen? I mean, I’m fifteen and I’ve never had a boyfriend, and well he’s just awful! He’s always bringing his sling shot around to impress her. I thought he was just aiming at my window to be annoying. If he’s been maiming any of Mar’s owls…”
“Margaret, would you say your owls have been maimed?”
“Maimed? I’d go with one broken wing and a lot of ruffled feathers.”
“Maimed is a bit strong.” Rupert relayed.
“I’m going to kill that Vernon Dursley!”
“Now, now, that’s a bit much.” Rupert thought she was kidding, but also knew Lily’s anger well enough to be worried.
“Sure, you can say that. You haven’t been out of the loop for three weeks!”
Rupert hadn’t realized he was ever in the loop to begin with, and assumed his loop must be much smaller than Lily’s then, if all he’d gotten was one note from Severus and post card from Quentin. “Well, I’ve got Margaret on the floo now, so consider yourself in the loop.”
“Excellent.” Lily grinned. “So what’s news?” Rupert relayed the question to the head in the fireplace.
“Oh my gosh, what’s not news!” Margaret replied. “Which house do you want to start with?”
“Oh, Gryff of course.” Lily replied when Rupert repeated the question on the phone.
“Well, first of all, news is that Remus got into a fight with Sirius over something. I think he’s just trying to look better to the faculty because he wants to be the prefect, but still, it’s very weird. Nobody’s heard a peep out of Remus all summer.” Rupert found himself repeating the news, and wondered if this is what it would be like working as a translator.
“He really doesn’t have to try so hard. Given the other boys in the house, he’s a shoe-in.” Lily answered.
“Too true! If only he wasn’t so…”
“Can you believe Linnea actually thinks Potter will be prefect rather than Lupin? Her money is on you and Potter.”
“Oh I hope not! That would be awful trying to work with James! I hope you didn’t put real money on this.”
“Relax, it’s just who has to buy the first round of the snack cart on the train this year.” Rupert found himself zoning out as the girls continued their chatter, only paying attention well enough to repeat everything for the other to hear.
“… Okay, we’ve covered Gryffs, Huffs, and the Claws. What’s up with the snake pit?” Lily asked.
“Maybe Rupert would be in a better position to answer that.” Margaret said with a wicked grin.
“I doubt that.” Rupert told her.
“Well, if you’re going to be coy about this- would you please tell Lily that I heard that Martha VanHaven broke up with Rupert Giles?”
“Who did what?” Lily echoed.
“Um, according to Margaret, Martha broke up with me.”
“Well?” Lily asked.
“Is it true?”
“How should I know?”
“Well, she is your girlfriend.”
“Maybe not.” Rupert said brightly. “Margaret, who told you this?”
“I heard it from Amelia, and she heard it from Mafalda that Martha had dumped Rupert to go out with Rastaban.”
“Really?” Rupert was astonished that his plan had actually worked.
“What did she say?” Lily whined.
“She said that Amelia said that Mafalda said that Martha dumped me to date Rastaban.”
“But that’s not the really juicy part.” Margaret said with a twinkle in her eye.
“Oh? There’s more? Please let this not be about Prunella.” Rupert prayed.
“The reason Martha dumped you is because you’re… you know.”
“My you know?”
“No, you’re you know what.”
“What?” Rupert’s question was echoed by Lily.
“Oh for Merlin’s sake.” Margaret sighed. “It’s because you’re gay.”
“You are?! Why didn’t you tell me?!” Lily squealed into the phone.
“No, I’m not.”
“That’s not what Martha said.”
“Well how should Martha know?”
“Gee, let me think… maybe because she was your girlfriend?” Margaret retorted.
“You know, Rupert, I’m still your friend, even though you’re gay, right?” Lily offered.
“No! That’s not it at all. How could you think that?”
“Well…” both girls paused. “Now that it’s out in the open, it does seem sort of obvious.” Lily offered.
“What? No it’s not.”
“It’s okay, Rupert, we won’t tell anyone.” Margaret offered.
“Well, that’s a lie if I’ve ever heard one. How many people have you already told?”
“Hey it’s not my fault. If you wanted to stay in the closet, you shouldn’t have dated Martha.”
“But I’m not in the closet!” Rupert insisted.
“You can say that again.” Lily snorted.
“No, I mean, I was never in the closet.”
“You mean, the rest of us should have just caught on by the fact that you’re in choir?” Margaret offered, trying to be helpful.
“No. I mean, I’m. Not. Gay!” Rupert screamed, causing Margaret to wince despite the distance over floo.
“Are you sure?”
“What kind of question is that? Of course I’m sure.” Rupert rolled his eyes.
“Well, if you’re not, then which girl do you like? Hmm?”
“I’m not going to tell you!” Rupert looked at her as if she was crazy.
“What aren’t you going to tell?” Lily asked, having missed the last part of the conversation.
“Margaret says if I’m not gay, I should tell her which girl I do like.” Rupert repeated.
“Well, she has a point.” Lily shrugged.
“No she doesn’t.” Rupert replied. “If I tell her who I like, she’s just going to turn it into the next rumor. I mean, she obviously doesn’t think before repeating everything she hears.” Rupert glared at the fireplace.
“Now, that’s not fair.” Margaret retorted. “I thought about it, and all the pieces fit. You’re in choir, you hate quidditch, you obviously didn’t like Martha but dated her anyway. What other evidence could there be?”
“Fine. I give up. Say whatever you want.” Rupert muttered.
“No, Rupert, now you’re upset. That’s not good.” Lily said. “Look, how about we talk about this after Margaret hangs up?”
Rupert took a deep breath. “Alright.”
“Alright what?” Margaret asked.
“Alright, Lily wants to know if there’s any other news, or if that’s all you have to report.”
“That was it. I kinda saved the big stuff for last.”
“Well, it’s nice to know that at least gossip about me ranks as the big stuff.” Rupert offered with a half smile.
“I knew you’d understand. And just so you know, I’m completely alright with you staying in the study group, regardless of your orientation.”
“Thank you for being so open minded.” Rupert said with a false smile. “Now, do you mind getting out of my fireplace? I think Severus might be trying to get through.”
“Sure. Tell Lily I’ll floo again next week.” Margaret offered, winking out.
“I can hardly wait.” Rupert said, trying hard not to lose his temper.
“What did she say?” Lily asked.
“She said she’ll floo again next week.” Rupert grumbled.
“Oh goody!” Lily said, then caught herself, “That is, if it’s alright with you? I mean I could always try to get my mom to ban Vernon from the house, but I doubt it will work. She’s so excited that Petunia’s finally ‘socializing’ – whatever that means.”
“No, it’s alright. You may as well use the floo. It’s not like I’m getting any use of it.”
“So, do you want to talk about it?”
“About coming out?”
“Lily, I’m not gay.”
“You know, Margaret’s not on the line any more. You don’t have to pretend.”
“I’m not pretending. Honestly, I’m not, and you of all people should know better.”
“Well.” Lily fidgeted. “It’s not like you ever talk about girls.”
“Not to you. I mean, how embarrassing would that be? You’re one of them.”
“Yes I am, but, well, are you sure?”
“What do you mean, am I sure?”
“Well, you are in choir…”
“I joined choir because it was an easy way to tick off both my father and Malfoy.”
“And you aren’t interested in quidditch.”
“Well, no, but it is a rather silly sport. I mean, why have everyone throwing balls around the main court when it always comes down to the seekers? The snitch is so small you can hardly see it. It’s like watching tennis, only Wimbledon matches never last more than 24 hours.”
“True, but it is a sport.”
“I’m interested in sports.”
“Oh yeah? Name one sport you care about.” Lily challenged him.
“Yes, in fact, I’m rather competent at fencing.”
“It’s much harder than it looks, you know.”
“Actually, it never really looked easy. I just think, well isn’t that obscure?”
“I’m sure there are more people in the world that fence than play quidditch. Straight people at that.”
“And the point is if it’s in the Olympics then it must be a sport. I’m an athlete, just not a flying kind of athlete. I mean, when you think of it, shouldn’t you really be questioning the manliness of all those guys who get off having a wooden broomstick between their legs? I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s why Malfoy keeps trying out for the team.”
“Oh dear Merlin.” Lily chuckled. “I’ll never be able to look at quidditch again.”
“Well good. So it’s settled. Martha did not dump me because I’m gay. She dumped me because… hey!”
“How come when I dumped her, no one took it seriously, then she dumps me without even telling me, and suddenly everyone knows.”
“So you dumped her?”
“Several times. It just never stuck.”
“I think this is one of those Slytherin things. On that note, I need to go down and set the table for lunch. I’ll talk to you later?”
“Alright. Ta.” Rupert hung up the phone, and stared off into the empty space of the fireplace. So Severus’ idea to convince Martha she wanted someone else worked, just a bit too well. Now the whole school thought he was beating for the other team. If only he could talk to Sev now. He needed a bit of Slytherin style advice to get out of this one.