A Slight Stutter
Giles stepped into his home and set his keys down on the entry table. From the gentle snoring coming from the couch, he assumed his brother was asleep. “What I wouldn’t give to switch places.” Giles muttered, rubbing his eyes. It had been a long morning at the shop, and he could only assume that the afternoon would be equally long given his imminent trip to the hospital. Ignoring his brother on the couch, he headed for the kitchen and began assembling a sandwich.
Giles was setting down for his lunch when he noticed the light on his answering machine blinking. He briefly debated whether he should answer it, knowing that at the best of times Severus could be a light sleeper, but finally decided he didn’t give a damn if Severus woke up. After all, the lazy oaf would have to be getting up soon for the doctor’s appointment anyway. Upon hitting the button on the answering machine, a cheerful voice, undoubtedly Nurse Kendall, informed him that the doctor was running late, and therefore Steven Giles’ follow-up appointment would have to be moved back to six o’clock. “Ah, just what I wanted, to be near the hospital after dark.”
“Huh?” A very drowsy voice came from the couch.
“Oh, nothing. Go back to sleep.”
Giles could have sworn he heard Severus mutter “wanker” before the snoring resumed, but decided it wasn’t worth arguing about. He took two steps back towards the kitchen and ran his foot into the wheel chair. “Blasted contraption.” Giles muttered before the realization hit him.
That blasted contraption would have to come with them back to the hospital and it certainly did not fit into his car. With a weary sigh, he returned to the phone. Picking up his address book, he quickly flipped to S, and dialed.
“Hello, Sunnydale Gallery, Joyce Summers speaking.”
“Ah, yes, hello Joyce, this is Rupert… Rupert Giles.” Giles found himself stammering as he spoke to the woman. Thank goodness Severus was asleep.
“Oh, hello Rupert.” The smile in Joyce’s voice quickly faded as her imagination took over. “Is everything alright? Buffy’s not hurt, is she? She never called in last night.”
“Relax, we don’t have any dire emergency scheduled this week, to the best of my knowledge.”
“Oh.” That single word summed up Joyce’s relief and confusion.
“Buffy’s patrol last night went quite smoothly and I don’t expect any problems for tonight, although I’ll let her know that you inquired. No, I actually called for quite a different purpose, rather more personal.”
“Oh?” This time Joyce sounded almost hopeful.
“Yes, this is terribly awkward, but…”
“Considering all that we’ve been through, I doubt anything you have to say could be that awkward.” Joyce tried to sound helpful.
“I’m not very good about asking, that is to say, I’m not quite sure I should be asking, but I was wondering if by any chance you would be willing to… to trade vehicles this evening.” Giles sighed at the idea that someone else would get behind the wheel of his little baby, but saw no other alternative.
“Oh.” Evidently that wasn’t the question Joyce was expecting, but Giles didn’t have time or energy to think about what Joyce might have been thinking.
“You see, Severus has a doctor’s appointment at six, and I forgot that I couldn’t fit his chair into my car.”
“Right, your brother, I understand.” And while Giles could tell that Joyce wasn’t exactly thrilled with his call, she did in fact understand. “I have to pick Dawn up from her Art Club at 5:30, but we could swing by on our way back, and trade cars then.”
“That would be wonderful.” Giles breathed a sigh of relief. Considering the demon population in the area, he was loathe to call for a taxi after dark.
“Alright. So I’ll see you this evening then.”
“Yes, and Joyce, thank you so much.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m sure you would do the same for me and my girls if something were to happen to my family.”
Giles swallowed nervously. Honestly he wasn’t sure if Joyce’s trust was well placed, but he didn’t want to lose her trust when he needed her jeep. “I hope that you and your daughters remain well for the foreseeable future so that we never need to test that theory.”
“Of course.” Joyce smiled. “Well, I should get back to my gallery.”
“Of course. I’m terribly sorry for distracting you from your work. I’ll see you tonight, then.”
“Right, tonight.” Joyce and Giles hung up the phone simultaneously.
“And wasn’t that just terribly awkward.” Giles mumbled, heading back to his abandoned sandwich on the table.
“As though you would expect anything other than awkwardness when dating the slayer’s mother.” Severus answered, not even opening his eyes.
“I’m not dating Joyce Summers.”
“No, of course you’re not.” Severus sounded thoroughly unconvinced.
“I’m not.” Giles insisted. “We’re simply exchanging vehicles so that I can get a certain impaired wizard to the hospital.”
“That’s a very convenient excuse.”
“That’s not an excuse, that’s the whole story.”
“You were stuttering. You only stutter when you don’t know someone or have an interest in someone. I’m your brother; I know these things.” Severus lip quirked up in a self-satisfied smirk.
“Or perhaps I was stuttering because it was horribly awkward to be asking for the use of someone else’s vehicle. You may not realize this, but muggles are very sensitive when it comes to their cars.”
“I’m aware of that, although I don’t see why muggles form such attachments to an object that for all practical purposes is no different from a broom, but with less aerodynamic capabilities.”
“Perhaps if you stick around long enough, you’ll learn.” Giles replied, praying he wouldn’t be around that long. “Now, go back to sleep; you have another five hours before we have to get you ready for the appointment.”
Rupert couldn’t help but notice how much busier platform 9 ¾ of King’s Cross Station was compared to just two weeks prior. His eyes roamed the crowd, carefully picking out any Slytherins and staying clear of them. Despite frequent owls over the past two weeks, the best solution Severus had come up with was for Rupert to avoid the house until he reached the Great Hall. Only then, when Dumbledore would be able to intervene, would it be safe to be in the same room as Rastaban Lestrange. Thankfully, as he was loading his trunk onto the luggage car, he caught sight of a friendly face.
As he made a beeline for Lily and Margaret, he caught a snippet of their conversation. “But I thought you liked Black.” Lily moaned.
“I do. But I don’t want him to think I want him like that. I mean, he practically acted like it was a given.”
“But it is a given.”
“But he shouldn’t know that!” Margaret hissed. “Boys are only good to you if they think they have competition.”
“I don’t think that’s true.”
“Of course not, dear, and that’s why you’re still single.”
“It’s true! No, what I need is someone Sirius could see as a challenge; someone that would make Sirius so mad that he would have to work even harder at wooing me over.”
“Hi ladies!” Rupert reached the pair of Gryffindors. “Mind if I join you on the train.”
“Rupert!” Lily hugged her friend quickly.
“Perfect!” Margaret cried, and launched herself at Rupert. Suddenly he found himself in a much friendlier type of hug.
“Um, Margaret, what are you doing?” Rupert muttered as he tried to set the girl down, but she remained clinging to his neck.
“Less talking more snogging.”
“S-snogging…? Eep!” Rupert squeaked as he felt hands on his back end.
“Now kiss me.” She whispered in his ear.
Rupert swallowed nervously, but obeyed, fearing the consequences of earning MacDuff’s wrath. As they came up for air, he whispered. “Not that I don’t appreciate such a … warm welcome? But, I think we’re drawing a crowd.”
“That’s the idea.” Margaret winked at him. Rupert gulped. Somehow he doubted this was in Severus’ grand plan for recovering his reputation.
“That’s enough you two. Let’s get on the train.” Lily tried to kid, but her voice sounded strained.
“It’s alright if I sit with you then?” Rupert asked.
“Of course.” Lily answered. “You just have to put up with Margaret.”
“I think I can handle that.” Rupert blushed as Margaret linked her arm in his and started dragging him towards the train.
When they finally settled into one of the cars, thankfully far away from where the Slytherins normally sat, Margaret dropped Rupert’s arm. “Okay, now, will you please tell me just what that was all about?”
“I was doing you a favor.” Margaret replied.
“No you weren’t.” Lily corrected.
“Alright, I hadn’t planned it that way, but it does work to your advantage.”
“What?” Rupert was confused as usual by the gossip of Gryffindor.
“Well, what better way to prove to the Slytherins that you’re not a poof than by having a good snog on the platform… even if you are.”
“Margaret! I told you that he was…”
“Of course you did, Lily, but I still think…”
“Then why did you snog him? Of all the people on the platform, why him?”
“He was there and…”
“So was I, and you know what I think about…” Rupert was staring in fascination as the two girls cut off each other’s sentences, evidently reading each other’s minds.
“Oh, Godric, Lily! I’m so sorry! I wasn’t thinking!” Margaret suddenly paled. “Are you mad at me, Lils?”
Lily appeared to be counting to ten before sighing. “No, I’m not mad at you.”
“Even if I keep the farce up a bit longer?”
“Well, I can hardly make Black jealous with just a single snog. It’s got to at least look long term.”
“I don’t know.” Lily frowned. “That’s pushing it.”
“Please?” Margaret pouted.
“Fine. But no kissing in front of me; I don’t want to lose my lunch.” Lily folded her arms in front of her.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Margaret gave her friend a hug. “I promise I’ll leave him in one piece.”
“Hey!” Rupert finally interjected. “Shouldn’t you be asking me if you can use me like that? I mean, I have more right to be mad than Lily.” Margaret stared at Rupert as if she hadn’t realized he was even in the room before that. “What? It’s true!”
“How? You should be thanking me for the snog.”
“Has it ever occurred to you that if your plan works, odds are that Black’s fist will try to acquaint itself with my jaw? Besides, no offense intended, but if I were to be snogging someone on the platform, you wouldn’t be my first choice.”
“Oh, but snookie…”
“Whoa there! If you dare use that word again, I’d rather just let the school think I’m a poof and leave you on your own with Black.”
“Okay, no nicknames. What about Ru?”
“What about it?”
“Can I call you Ru?”
“Can I call you Ru?” Lily asked.
“I guess.” Lily stuck her tongue out at Margaret. “It’s not like that’s such a big deal. Rosier calls me that all the time.”
“Oh.” The girls sighed.
“So…” Rupert sighed.
“So…” Margaret glanced nervously out the window, suddenly realizing that she was sitting entirely too close to Rupert, but not sure if she could move.
“So…” Lily echoed, glancing up at the door, wondering why none of the other Gryffindors had joined them yet. “Are you ready for fifth year?”
“I suppose. I mean, we’ve handled the first four years without a problem.”
“True, but we’ve got OWLs this year.”
“Don’t remind me.” Margaret groaned.
“I’m not too worried about those. After all, we have a whole year, and the study group is still planning to meet, right?” Rupert shrugged.
“You better believe we’re still meeting, buster.” Lily grinned. “In fact, I think we should double the number of meetings we have. Once a week is just not going to cut it for OWLs.”
“I agree.” Margaret nodded. “Oh! But I was thinking maybe we should invite more people, like maybe Sirius Black and James Potter.”
“No!” Both Lily and Rupert shouted.
“Why not? Because they’re utter prats that couldn’t carry on a civil conversation even if it killed them.” Rupert retorted.
“Besides, I think it would be a bad idea to change the dynamics of the study group so soon before the exams. We’ve got a working system now. Why mess with it?” Lily offered the more diplomatic solution.
“Besides, I think it would be pretty obvious to Sirius that you two were just acting, if he had to witness you at study group.”
“You have a point.” Margaret capitulated.
“Why are you so hell bent on Black this term, anyway?” Rupert asked.
“Have you seen him since the spring? He’s become absolutely… dreamy.” Margaret sighed.
“Sorry, I must have missed that on the platform. He looked the same to me.” Rupert rolled his eyes.
“I think he’s grown a few inches.” Lily threw in for good measure. “But he was still being a jerk to the first years.”
“I rest my case.” Rupert winked at Lily.
“Oh you just don’t get it.” Margaret leaned her head on Rupert’s shoulder.
“You’re right about that.”
The knock on the door was quickly followed by Amelia Bosenbody entering. “Hello, Lily, Margaret… Rupert?” She tilted her head, “What are you doing in here?”
“I’m practicing my penguin impersonation.” Rupert replied with a straight face. “What does it look like I’m doing?”
“But I thought you were a Slytherin, and…”
“And, you know, beating for the other team.” She glanced nervously at Rupert’s knee where Margaret was resting her hand.
“I guess you heard wrong.” Rupert just shrugged it off, hoping to get Amelia back on track, he added. “Besides, why would I sit with the Slytherins when we have such important study group details to discuss? Lily was just remarking that we should increase our meetings to twice a week.”
“Oh, definitely, maybe even three times, except then it would cut into my other group.” Amelia sat down next to Lily.
“Your other group?” Lily frowned.
“Well, it’s sort of tradition. The Ravenclaw fifth years always have a big study hall thing together twice a week.”
“But, I still want to be with your study group, if that’s alright. After all, a study group of all Ravenclaws doesn’t include any information discussed in other class sections.”
“I suppose that’s fine.” Lily shrugged. “Do you know if the other houses have study groups? That could make scheduling a bit hairy this year.”
“The Slytherins traditionally do, too.” Rupert added. “But, somehow I doubt any of them would be heart broken if I missed the meetings. Don’t worry about them when you do your scheduling.” Rupert’s hand rested on top of Margaret’s to keep her fingers from sliding up his leg. It seemed that he had just gotten out of one doomed relationship to be thrown into another.
“I don’t know about Hufflepuffs, but I bet if we set a time, they’ll schedule around us. They’re good about being flexible.” Margaret added in.
“Do you know what nights Ravenclaw meets?” Lily asked.
“Huh?” Amelia asked, her attention fixed on the couple opposite them. For a Ravenclaw who thought she knew what was going on at Hogwarts, she sure hadn’t seen that couple coming. “Oh, I think we’re doing Mondays and Wednesdays, so that we don’t overlap with quidditch practice.”
“So we send the word out to the group that we’ll meet Tuesdays and Thursdays this term.”
“And maybe Saturdays.” Amelia added.
“Well, not until after Christmas Break, probably… it is OWL year.” The Ravenclaw argued.
“Tuesdays and Thursdays.” Lily announced, ending that
discussion. “So, is that why you stopped by?”
“Oh, no. I stopped by to say that there’s a prefect’s meeting in the first car, and I just figured you ought to know.”
“Oh!” Lily jumped up and pulled her school bag off the rack above her seat. “I hope we aren’t late.”
“We’ve still got five minutes.”
“Good.” Lily grabbed a quill, parchment, and a prefect’s badge, sticking it onto her blouse.
“You’re a prefect?” Rupert looked up at Lily in surprise; so much for spending the full train ride with friends. “Congratulations…” Rupert glanced at Amelia belatedly, “… to both of you. It’s good luck that our study group has two prefects.”
“Three. Beatrice has a badge as well.” Amelia answered with a proud smile.
“That’s wonderful. Tell her I send my congratulations as well.” Rupert offered.
“We’ll do that.” Amelia said, ushering Lily out of the compartment. “We’ll see you at Hogwarts.”
Rupert waved them off watching Lily walk down the long hall, while Margaret watched him critically. “You really are something, you know that?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rupert turned to face Margaret.
“Well, I didn’t believe Lily at first, but now it’s completely obvious.”
“Nothing.” Margaret smiled in that ‘I’ve got a secret’ way. “So, how about we talk about how to make Sirius insanely jealous.”