Have a Cuppa
“What are you doing?” Anya peeked into Giles’ office in the back of the store.
“Making a cup of tea.” Giles answered without turning from his electric kettle. “Would you like one as well?”
“Are you sure you should be drinking tea in the store? I mean, you could spill and ruin some valuable merchandise that is worth money.”
“A simple no would suffice.”
“I didn’t say that I didn’t want a cup of tea. I’m just pointing out that you shouldn’t be drinking anything that could damage store merchandise in the store.”
“Well, thank you for the warning. I will take it into consideration; however, seeing this is my store, I have the right to have a cup of tea.”
“Suit yourself.” Anya shrugged.
“Yes, I believe I shall.” Giles smiled, pulling his tea mug down from the shelf above his private sink. “So is there a reason why you’re in my office rather than at the register?”
“There’s a man waiting for you.”
“Oh? Why didn’t you say so earlier?”
“He’s a delivery man ergo he is not a customer and therefore does not need to be waited on immediately. It’s not like taxi drivers that get paid more for waiting… is it?” A momentary look of panic flashed across Anya’s face.
“No, but I’m sure he’d rather I claim whatever package he has sooner rather than later so that he can get back on his route.” Giles turned off his pot of water and went into the main store. “Yes, may I help you?” He asked the man in the brown uniform.
“Are you Rupert Giles?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I’ve got a package here that you need to sign for.” The man handed Giles a clipboard.
Giles signed at the ‘X’ and traded the clipboard for a deceptively small box. “Good lord, that’s heavy.” Rupert nearly dropped the package.
“Hey, I don’t pack the boxes, I just deliver them.” The deliveryman shrugged and left, the bells on the door signaling his departure.
“So what’s in it?” Anya started to follow Giles back to his office.
“How should I know? I haven’t opened it yet.” Giles retorted. “Shouldn’t you be watching the desk?”
“Nah, it’s the before lunch lull. If I hear the bell, I’ll go back out. So, are you going to open it?”
“Eventually, yes.” Giles set the box down on his desk, and flipped his electric pot back on, hoping it would reach a boil before he was interrupted again. “But first, I thought I’d enjoy a nice cup of tea in my office… alone.”
“Fine be that way.” Anya sighed. “Xander was right, you are a meanie.”
“Calling names won’t accomplish anything.”
“But aren’t you curious as to what’s in the box?”
“Not particularly.” Giles had glanced at the box when he brought it in, and knew from the return address what it probably was.
“Ooh, you are so frustrating.”
Giles selected a tea bag, and poured the steaming water over it, seeming oblivious to his assistant waiting in the doorframe. As he sat behind his desk she gave him a pointed glare then stared at the box on his desk. He simply picked up the book he had been reading beforehand. Anya huffed then left the office to go back to her place behind the cash register. As soon as she had left, Giles set the book back down and opened his drawer, looking for the letter opener.
He quietly opened the box to find a silver canister wrapped in a plastic bag. He pulled out the canister and read the label. While the container label contained all the necessary safety warnings and hazard symbols, there was no mistaking the magic coming from the inside. Sure enough, his pound of floo powder had arrived. Now that he had the bait all he needed was the wizard.
“You mean to tell me you’ve never been to Hogsmeade? Doesn’t Hogwarts still have weekend excursions?” Madame Lestrange asked her step-grandson as the pair settled into their train car.
“Of course they do, Gran, but my father refuses to sign it.”
“The why don’t you have your mother sign it?”
“My mother’s dead.” Rupert watched the scenery slowly move out of view as the Hogsmeade Express train fired up.
“Yes dear, I’m aware of that. I was referring to Cassandra.” While Gran felt for the child beside her, she knew giving into his melancholy would only lead to a weak character. Her daughter had refused to listen to that nugget of advice, and just look at how sullen Severus had become, bless the boy’s soul.
“I tried that the first time, and she insisted I go speak to my father.”
“Well chin up then; this will be an adventure.”
Rupert sighed. “You’re right Gran. I apologize for being so out of sorts. I really do appreciate you inviting me along.”
“It’s my pleasure. I haven’t seen my grandsons together in over a year.”
“That’s not my fault. It’s Severus who’s always away studying.”
“True, but at least he remembers to write his Gran regularly.” She gave him a knowing look, having perfected guilt trips from her time in Slytherin.
“Sorry Gran, but I have nothing exciting to write to you about. It’s been a horribly dull summer.”
“Nothing to write at all?”
“Well, I believe my girlfriend has broken up with me, but as she hasn’t told me directly, I may just be getting my hopes up for nothing…” The pair passed the rest of the train ride with Rupert sharing all the gossip he had gleaned for Lily and Margaret’s weekly floo calls, and Gran providing commentary on the family politics that underlay most of the Hogwarts rumors. “So, you mean it really is possible that everyone is related to Rastaban Lestrange through six degrees or less?” Rupert was asking as the train came to a halt at Hogsmeade station.
“Oh, yes, quite possible.” Gran chuckled as she stood up. “Well, I guess that means we’ve arrived. Welcome to Hogsmeade, the finest wizarding town in all of Scotland.
“I thought it was the only all-wizarding town in Scotland.” Rupert remarked as he followed Gran off the train.
“Yes, well, as Dickens once said ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’”
“Is that so?” Rupert let Gran lead them off the platform and on to the main street. His eyes strayed to shop fronts lining the cobblestoned thoroughfare. No wonder this town had inspired Gran to spout Dickens; it was as antiquated as Diagon Alley, but even quainter, if such a thing were possible.
“Perhaps we’ll have time to dawdle later dear, but we musn’t be late to Madam Puddifoot’s. We wouldn’t want to leave Severus to his own devices for too long.” Gran strolled down the street, and despite being a few inches taller than the formidable witch, Rupert was having trouble keeping up.
Rupert was surprised to see Severus was already seated at a table for four, along with someone else. If Gran was surprised by her grandson, she didn’t show it. “I hope we didn’t keep you waiting too long, Severus.”
“Nonsense, we just arrived.” Severus stood up to pull out Gran’s chair.
“And you must be Severus’ roommate. He’s told me so much about you.”
“I don’t know if I should be worried then or not.” The boy blushed and held out his hand. “I’m Remus Lupin, ma’am.”
“Madame Medea Lestrange, but you may call me Gran.” Both Rupert and Severus choked at the familiarity. “I take it you know Rupert?” Gran continued, overlooking the slight.
“Yes ma’am.” Remus glanced nervously at Rupert who was taking his seat between Severus and Gran.
“Lupin’s an interesting name. There’s a columnist in Witch’s Digest by that name.” Medea remarked, starting the conversation. “Would you by any chance be related?”
“Yes ma’am, that’s my mother’s column. She’s an ethicist.”
“What an interesting career choice. I rather enjoy her writing. Her piece on whether muggle artifacts could in fact be misused yet remain muggle was fascinating.”
As Gran carried on the conversation with Remus, Rupert leaned over, holding his menu up in front of his face. “Just what is he doing here?” He whispered harshly.
“Dumbledore wouldn’t let us go into Hogsmeade alone. Besides, he’s not that bad once you get him on his own.”
“Not that bad? He’s a Gryff; you know what that means.”
“I know; but I think in this case, it’s guilt by association. It’s like saying you’re best friends with Lucius because you’re a Slytherin.”
“But he is best friends with Black and Potter.”
“You do see the irony of you lecturing me on befriending Gryffindors, don’t you?” Severus hissed back. “Look, just be nice, please.”
“Me? I’m always nice.” Rupert whispered before lowering his menu and plastering a smile on his face. Sensing a lull in the conversation, and eager to prove Severus’ fears false, he threw out. “This is my first time here; I don’t suppose anyone has any recommendations?”
“I hear they have good scones.” Remus offered with a weak smile.
“I was considering the tray of biscuits, myself. I wonder if they still have those lemon tarts?” Gran’s questions were soon answered as Madam Puddifoot herself came to take their orders.
“Lovely.” Gran smiled as Madam Puddifoot left. “So, Remus, who are you apprenticing with?”
“Professor Dumbledore ma’am.”
“Oh really?” Gran arched her brow at the surprising news. If Cassandra knew Albus was looking for an apprentice, Severus shouldn’t have settled for Cornelius Jigger. “So I take it you’re interested in alchemy?”
“Actually, I’m more interested in education in general. I’d like to teach at Hogwarts one day.”
“A noble goal, but you still need to choose a subject.”
“I was thinking of specializing in defense. I like how it incorporates information from all the other classes and builds on it.”
“Why aren’t you apprenticing with the current defense professor, then? I’d imagine that would be a better choice of mentor.”
“Actually, researching the candidates for the defense position has been one of my assignments this summer. Professor Diggle was offered a position at Durmstrang, and he’s got family over there.” Remus shrugged.
“Again?” Rupert blurted out.
“They should really check the defense office for curses.” Severus commented.
“Well, it looks like someone from the auror’s office will be taking the position next term, which I suppose is just as well.” Remus answered. “I’m sure an auror would check the office for curses.”
“So what is working with Professor Dumbledore like?” Gran inquired.
“Well, when he’s around, he’s quite inspiring and um … baffling?” Remus smiled weakly.
“Baffling?” Rupert questioned at the same time Gran asked the more important question. “What do you mean, when he’s around?”
“He’s been rather absent most of this summer. Wizengamot business I suppose.”
“Really? I had no idea the Wizengamot had been called into session.”
“I don’t think they have, at least not formally, but… have you been keeping up with the Daily Prophet?”
“Their weekend leisure section is acceptable, but as for the news, I prefer to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, rather than the horse’s you-know-what.” Gran sniffed haughtily. Years ago the Prophet reporters had attempted to uncover a nonexistent scandal at the Romanian Dragon Preserve, and since then Gran had never trusted the paper.
“I didn’t know you thought so highly of the Prophet, Gran.” Severus quipped.
“Oh hush you.” She scolded her grandson playfully. “So what has the Prophet been saying lately?”
“One of their reporters is claiming a series of murder investigations by the muggle police are actually all squibs or muggles with ties to the wizarding world. They say, and mind you this is the Prophet speaking, that it is likely a wizard or group of wizards is behind this. Of course, most wizards think it’s groundless, but last week, Professor Dumbledore came out saying he believed the report.”
As Remus’ news sunk in, the food arrived on a floating tray. The group helped themselves to tea and assorted pastries. As they ate, Rupert and Severus exchanged numerous stares and kicks under the table. “So Dumbledore is bringing this matter to the Wizengamot?” Gran finally asked.
“I think so.” Remus agreed. Once again the group risked falling into an uncomfortable silence.
“I’m afraid I’m more used to hearing of the Parliament than the Wizengamot.” Rupert finally jump started the conversation. “Just what can the Wizengamot do about a murder? I thought they were a legislative body.”
“They can order aurors to investigate a case, for one.” Remus offered.
“But that is highly unlikely to actually get carried out.” Gran remarked, dabbing the corners of her mouth with her napkin. “The aurors don’t enjoy taking orders from the Wizengamot, especially concerning a few squibs.”
“True, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping Professor Dumbledore from trying.”
“If I were Professor Dumbledore, I would hire an auror for the DADA position and secretly have him or her investigate these claims while on sabbatical at Hogwarts. It would be a far easier solution than having to convince the entire Wizengamot to order an investigation.” Severus commented.
“But that would mean the headmaster would have to find a new DADA professor once the case was solved.” Rupert pointed out.
“Yes, but considering the applicants I’ve talked to, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if that was his plan. Regardless, Dumbledore will have to provide evidence soon if anyone is likely to believe him.”
“I believe him.” Rupert commented, earning a glare from Severus.
“Really? I didn’t think your house supported the headmaster so wholeheartedly.”
“Well, he does have evidence.” Rupert blurted out, earning a glare from Gran and a kick from Severus. “At least, I’m sure Dumbledore wouldn’t make such a claim without proof.” He recovered weakly.
“I hope so. If he’s right, he’ll make Supreme Mugwump for sure. If he’s wrong, well…”
“So boys, how do you like Hogwarts during the summer? Are you getting outside much?”
Severus was surprised by the abrupt change in conversation, but decided to humor his Gran.”Yes, Gran, we do go outside. Just last week the gamekeeper set up a picnic for the staff and students by the lake.”
“How’s the lake level? It’s been terribly dry where we are. Why even the mint garden has practicall dried up, and you know how well shaded that is.”
“The merpeople aren’t complaining.” Severus shrugged.
“I suppose that’s the best we can hope for. Rupert, dear, are you done with your tea?” Rupert nodded, wondering why Gran had gotten so nervous considering what they had been discussing. “Since we’re all finished here, how about Rupert and I walk you two back to the castle? I owe Cornelius and Albus a visit.”
The boys followed Gran through the town and back to Hogwarts. When they reached the entrance to the headmaster’s office, Remus split off to go to the library, leaving Severus and Rupert alone. The pair began wandering towards the Slytherin house entrance.
“So what’s that all about?” Rupert asked.
“What’s what all about?”
“You, Remus…” Rupert glanced at the paintings they were walking by. After four full years of school, he still found their nosiness rather creepy. “You’re suddenly best friends.”
“I don’t know where you got that idea.”
“You were being quite obvious earlier. When I said something, you kicked my shin, but when Remus said something, you agreed with everything.”
“I did not! I distinctly remember him saying to try the scones, but I ordered the crumb cake. And as for the kicking; if you hadn’t been so daft, I wouldn’t have to resort to it.”
“Daft? I wasn’t being daft!”
“No? You practically told him we were the leak to Dumbledore. How can Gran or I interrogate him if you let him think we know more than we do?”
“I was under the impression that we were just having tea. Perhaps if someone had told me we were interrogating Gryffindors, I would have brought some veritaserum. But wait, that would mean you actually keeping in touch this summer.”
“I keep in touch.”
“You’ve written once, and you didn’t even bother to mention your roommate situation.”
“Well you’ve hardly been a daily correspondent this summer, either.”
“What’s the point, when you never write back?”
“You know, you’re sounding just like a girl. Maybe the rumors are right.”
“What have you heard?”
“What haven’t I heard? Come on.” Severus took them on a detour down the hallway to a painting Rupert had never seen before.
“Where are we going?”
“My room. There’s something you need to see.”
“Can’t you just tell me now?”
“I’d rather not.” Severus said before whispering his password to the painting. The frame swung open, and Rupert followed Severus into the small suite. “Welcome to my home away from home.”
“And by home, are you referring to Westbury, or Slytherin House?”
“It’s just a saying.” Severus muttered, heading for the small bedroom on the left.
“I know that, but I’m curious. Which is it?”
“Who knows? Maybe, it’s the ancestral Snape Manor. There, are you happy now?” Severus snapped back.
“What is wrong with you? You’ve been so cranky today.”
“I’m a cranky person; everyone at Hogwarts knows that. Surely someone’s bothered to let you in on that.” Severus flipped open the lid to his trunk and pulled out a stack of letters. “Of course, maybe they don’t let you in on anything. That would sure explain this predicament.”
“What predicament?” Rupert looked at the letters with dread. He could recognize the seal on the top one as belonging to ancient house of Malfoy.
“Just read. I don’t want to say it.” Severus shoved the letters at Rupert and then left for the loo, giving Rupert time to read through the stack.
Rupert sank down onto Severus’ bed and pulled Lucius’ letter out of the envelope. There, in magical green ink, were the clear implications that his orientation had been brought into question and that such indiscretions were not to be tolerated in the proud house of Slytherin. The rest of the letters in the stack, from fellow Slytherins, said the same thing with greater and lesser degrees of tact. The one in which Rastaban wanted to “beat that muddy poof into the mud” on the first day of school, and wanted to know if Severus cared to join him, was particularly amusing in that train wreck sort of way.
“So you see, you’ve got a few problems.” Severus said, leaning in the doorway.
Rupert’s head snapped up to look at his brother. “You know this is your fault.”
“My fault? How on earth is this my fault?”
“You told me the way to get rid of Martha was to convince her she wanted someone else.”
“So you what… spent your last date eyeing up Lestrange? That’s not my fault, you poof.”
“You do know this isn’t true, don’t you?”
“I don’t know… you are in choir.”
“Oh for crying out loud!” Rupert fell back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling, noticing for the first time the alchemical symbols Severus must have painted above his bed.
Severus pushed off from the door frame and sat down on the bed next to Rupert. “No, I know it’s a bunch of thestral dung, but I’ve gotten sick of having to run interference for you. Why is everyone bringing this up to me, as though I’d be in a position to fix you?” Severus collapsed on the bed as well, staring up at his study guides.
“There’s nothing wrong with me.”
“There’s plenty wrong with you. It’s just not what Lucius thinks it is.”
“Thank you ever so much.”
“So what are you going to do about it? I take it this is the first you’ve heard of this?”
“I don’t know. I talked to Margaret and Lily about this.”
“Margaret? You mean Margaret MacDuff, in Gryffindor?”
“Yeah. She was trying to reach Lily, but the owls kept coming back, so I’ve been playing operator for their phone-floo calls.”
“You’ve been talking to MacDuff?” Severus turned his head to stare at Rupert. “Are you insane?”
“What? Other than being a gossip of the worst degree, she’s not that bad, and she promised she’d try to start a counter rumor.”
“A counter rumor? No one is going to believe a counter rumor about a Slytherin if it’s coming from a Gryffindor. Plus it’s MacDuff. How could you?”
“How could I what?”
“Well, her great-great-grandfather stole the Snape family wart remover recipe from my great-great-grandfather. It was a horrible scandal, and the Snapes have sworn off speaking to the MacDuffs ever since then.”
“How do you even know that?”
“Everyone knows that. Of course the Gryffindors insist MacDuff paid for the recipe, but there’s no proof of that, and I can’t believe a Snape would be so careless with that information.”
“You know, you’re the only Snape left and Margaret hasn’t done anything to you, so can’t you just forget about the feud?”
“No, and that’s not true. I have a great aunt still alive on my father’s side. Aunt Brumhilda is a spinster as well, so she’s a Snape. Don’t you remember getting the family solstice gift from her every year?”
“Is that who always sends the fruit cakes?”
“If she’s a Snape, then I should probably be checking it for poisons before eating any more slices.”
“You should check for poisons regardless who sent it.” Severus replied. “And that still doesn’t solve the problem. How do we restore your good name before school starts? After all, your carelessness is also dragging down my good name as well.”
“I suppose it would be rather worthless for me to write Lucius about this? After all, it was his fault that I was stuck with Martha in the first place.”
“I wonder if this isn’t just Lucius’ way of getting back at your for not going to his little New Years party? Most Slytherins in this situation would have to ask for protection from the strongest in the house, and that would have you asking Lucius for a favor.”
“Yeah, well, if that’s his big plan, I’m not going to fall for that.”
“Then you had better come up with something else.”
“What if I started dating someone else? Then it would make it pretty clear that it was just Martha spreading rumors, right?”
“Well that depends… If you start dating Lestrange it won’t help a bit.” Severus managed to throw up a quick shielding charm as Rupert threw a pillow out his head. “What? I’ve got a point.”
Rupert’s retort was cut off at the knocking on the front portrait. “Enter!” Severus called out, giving the portrait permission to swing open.
“Has my daughter given up teaching you any sort of manners whatsoever? That’s hardly the way to greet your guests.” The boys jumped up off the bed and ran to Gran.
“That was a fast meeting.”
“We discussed what needed to be discussed.” Gran said, her mouth set in a firm line. “And so now it’s time for Rupert and I to head back to the train station.”
“That’s it? You’re not even going to tell us what you talked to the Headmaster about?” Severus looked at Gran in disbelief.
“If you want to know, you’ll just have to write a letter to your dear Gran.” The witch shot back. “Now, give your Gran a hug and we’ll get out of your hair. I imagine you’ll be spending quite some time tonight, fixing your ceiling.”
“Yes dear, Clearly you have the mercury sign reversed.” Gran remarked.
“Those were drawn in here when I arrived.”
“Just because you didn’t make the mistake, doesn’t excuse you from fixing it. And while you’re at it, there’s an extra stroke in the aquarius sign.”
“Oh bother.” Severus said staring up at the ceiling, as he absently hugged his Gran.
“Yes, well, we’ll leave you to it. Tell your roommate it was a pleasure meeting him, and I wish him well in his studies.”
“Yes, Gran.” Severus patted Rupert on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’ll write you and we’ll figure something out this week.”
“Yeah, well I won’t hold my breath waiting for your owl.” Rupert answered, stepping out of the portrait entrance.
“Good evening, Severus, and do try to enjoy what’s left of your vacation.”
“I will.” Severus held the portrait open as Gran turned around and left. The pair took off down the hallway, Severus watching them until the turned a corner.
“Did you have a pleasant visit with Severus?” Gran asked, quickly strolling to the front gates of the school.
“Fair enough.” Rupert answered, not wanting to get into the details of what the pair had to discuss. “How did your meeting with Professor Dumbledore go?”
“It was enlightening, and now we must go speak to my daughter.”
“What has she to do with this?”
“How should I know? We’re just the messengers.” She held up a letter from the headmaster addressed to Cassandra Snape-Giles. “But I have a feeling the slayer is about to be sent back the Asia.”