Giles was about to get on the hospital elevator when he was distracted by a shrill voice. “Yohoo! Mr. Giles!”
Giles plastered a false smile on his face as he turned around slowly. “Hello, Nurse Kendall.”
“Fancy meeting you here.” She batted her eyelashes.
“Well, Sev has a follow-up with the doctor, and he didn’t feel up to driving himself.” Harmony’s mother laughed just like Giles remembered Cordelia’s groupie had laughed at her insults back in high school.
“I was about to take a break. I could take you to the cafeteria?” She tried to sound alluring, but Giles couldn’t help but find it frightening.
“Thank you for the offer, but I have an errand I must run.” Thinking on his feet, he continued, “Could you direct me to Dr. Rosenberg’s office, by any chance? He had some information on post traumatic stress he thought might be useful for my brother.”
“Dr. Rosenberg? He’s the balding shrink, pardon me, I mean psychiatrist, right?”
“Yes, that sounds right.”
“Well, the psych ward is on the sixth floor.” She offered, punching the up button for the elevator. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go to the cafeteria? The sixth floor is sorta creepy after dark.”
“I’m sure I won’t be there long.”
“Well, alright.” The bottle-blonde nurse said as the elevator doors opened. “If you finish soon and your brother isn’t ready to go, you can always stop by the cafeteria.”
“Right, I’ll keep that in mind.” Giles blushed as he got on the elevator.
“I’m sure you will, sugar.” The nurse smiled. Giles was thoroughly relieved to see that the cafeteria was on the third floor, making the elevator ride mercifully short. He rode the last three floors up in silence.
Seeing the nurse at the front desk of the ward, Giles decided to stick with his cover story. He walked up to the desk and waited patiently for the nurse to look up.
Two minutes later, the nurse looked no closer to finishing the magazine article she was perusing. “Ahem.” Giles cleared his throat. “I was wondering if you could direct me to Dr. Rosenberg’s office.”
“Which one?” The nurse asked without looking up. Generally in the psychiatry ward, people either knew where they were going, or were escorted by people who knew where they going. It wasn’t specifically in her job description to give directions to lost souls.
“Pardon?” Giles frowned.
“Look mister, if you didn’t know which Rosenberg you wanna see, are you sure you’re on the right floor?”
Giles had forgotten that both of Willow’s parents were psychiatrists. He couldn’t help but feel sorry for his former student when he realized both her parents were supposed experts on ‘Sunnydale Syndrome’. “I’m Dr. Giles from UC Sunnydale. I’m working with Ira Rosenberg on a paper. He wanted me to stop by to get a few references.” Giles knew lying was unethical, but some situations called for little white lies.
“Well in that case,” The nurse eyed the Englishman up and down and finally decided that the man fit the profile of an absent-minded professor. “Go down the hall and turn left at the end. It’s the first door on the right.”
“Thank you.” Giles headed off in the direction of Rosenberg’s office until he was sure the nurse wasn’t looking then turned towards the main ward.
Evidently, Spike’s information wasn’t too far wrong. Patients lined the walls, all hunched over mumbling to themselves. Of course, it did not necessarily mean they were an army of zombies like Spike had suggested. It was far more likely they were victims of badly botched spells. Giles walked up to the closest patient and waved his hand in front of the man’s face.
“Must find it.” The man muttered, not even glancing up.
“Must find what?” Giles asked, but the man appeared incapable of hearing. Experimenting, Giles gently poked the man on the shoulder.
“Must find it. Must find it.” The man continued as though he hadn’t felt Giles touch him.
“Well, that’s odd. I wonder…” From his readings, he knew that victims of botched obliviates tended to have dilated pupils; or was that botched crucios? Either way, he was sure Severus would want to know. Giles reached into his pocket to find the small pen light he kept on his key chain when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“You’re not supposed to be here.”
“Thank you ladies, for accommodating Lucius the Prick.” Rupert said as the interhouse study group began at their new after-dinner time.
“Why Ru, of all the names to give it!” Margaret winked at Rupert.
“Lay off, MacDuff.” Lily growled.
“Sorry.” Margaret, unlike her normally brazen self, apologized.
“I just bet you are.” Lily scowled.
“What’s going on?” Rupert mouthed to Beatrice.
“Something about Potter and Black. Don’t ask.” The Hufflepuff whispered back.
“So Slytherin is finally getting around to starting their own study group?” Amelia asked smugly. “They’ll never catch up to the Ravenclaw Notes.”
“Actually, Prunella and Rabbie were instructed to borrow the Ravenclaw Notes.” Rupert informed her.
“Right, like any Ravenclaw would be dumb enough to lend our notes to them.” Penny snorted.
“I think they were planning on other means of persuasion. If I were you I’d warn your housemates to guard their familiars. Also, protecting your notes with a standard discombobulator wouldn’t hurt.”
“A what?” Penny frowned.
“Discombobulators are password protected charms that scramble words in a scroll if the password isn’t said before it’s unrolled.” Rupert frowned. “I guess those fall under the sixth year DADA curriculum, but it’s hard to get by in Slytherin without knowing it.”
“I take it that means we’re starting with DADA?” Lily tried to pull the conversation back to OWLs.
“If we must.” Beatrice sighed. “I really don’t like Professor Scrimgeour. He just reads the Ministry review guide to us.”
“At least he’s giving us that much. We haven’t gotten any clues about what’s on the divination test. I think Vlablatsky expects us to get the outline from a crystal ball.”
“Well, what did you expect, taking divination? It’s a waste of time, Ru.”
“So about DADA.” Lily cleared her throat. “What does Ravenclaw say?”
“Right.” Amelia pulled out a scroll. “This week we covered dangerous beasts. Starting with acromantula…” As Amelia read aloud, the group frantically copied down the best notes available, stopping to add comments and ask questions.
When Amelia had finished, Margaret asked, “Do you really think they’ll ask about gribles? They’re only found in North America, right?”
“We could look at the old tests and see.” Rupert offered.
“Everyone knows they don’t release the old tests, silly.” Amelia shook her head.
“Well, no, they don’t technically release the old tests, but you can’t mean you don’t have house test files?” The girls stared blankly at him. “So you don’t extract everyone’s memory after the exam using a pensieve and then transcribe it for future years?” Rupert was beginning to get an uneasy feeling.
“No.” Lily looked at Rupert oddly. “You mean, Slytherin does?”
“You mean you have last year’s OWLs?” Margaret gaped.
“We have OWLs and most NEWTs going back to the 1700s.”
“That’s brilliant!” Amelia’s eyes gleamed.
“That’s unethical!” Penny objected.
“How? If the Ministry had a problem with it, they’d obliviate us after the exams, or make us sign a binding non-disclosure oath before we started.” Rupert offered the same defense Lucius had given him when he’d objected earlier that evening.
“They can’t legally mass-obliviate you. That would be wrong. They probably didn’t imagine students would try such a stunt.” Beatrice reasoned.
“No, they know about it. There have been six Slytherin Education Ministers since we started the tradition. Trust me, I should know. Lucius has assigned me the history of Slytherin.”
“That’s not even an OWL topic.” Lily rolled her eyes.
“He said, and I quote ‘Slytherins are the most powerful mages, and thus the history of magic is a history of Slytherin, with a few Gryffindor footnotes.’ End quote.”
“Oooh! I hate that boy.” Margaret scowled.
“At least you get a footnote.” Beatrice saw Margaret’s scowl and raised her a glare.
“Well here’s the Ravenclaw footnote. We are not using test files obtained through dark magic.” Penny insisted.
“Penseives aren’t dark. They’re gray at worst. Check your notes.” Rupert insisted.
“Let’s hold off on the mystical object review until next week. I think we’ve spent enough time on DADA this week.” Lily cut in. “Shall we just end the debate by saying we as a group shall not use the old tests, but if someone should glean information, such as certain geographic biases, from their own independent studying, we shan’t object if he, or she, so chooses to share that information with the group?”
The group mumbled their assent. “Lovely, now, does anyone have objections to a few minutes of Charms. I thought we could discuss the assigned essay on the use of Latin prepositions.”
The group looked around nervously, none of the girls knowing where to start. “Well,” Rupert took a deep breath, a bit leery to speak considering the reception his last suggestion received. “I’m almost fluent in Latin, so I don’t mind going over prepositions with everyone.”
“Thank Merlin!” Beatrice sighed. “I’m completely lost on this. Flitwick never said we had to learn Latin.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Rupert shrugged. “Latin prepositions are pretty basic. Take ‘pro’ for instance…” For all his swearing at Quentin, being fluent in Latin occasionally paid off. The group spent the rest of their time tapping Rupert for Charms expertise.
“Merlin, will you look at the time! We’re going to miss curfew!” Penny yelped as they were finishing up their Charms outlines.
“Well, we’ve got prefects badges for all the houses, so we can be a little late.” Amelia reasoned with her fellow Ravenclaw. Rupert coughed politely. “Oh, except Slytherin,” Amelia blushed. “Really, Rupert how on earth did Lucius beat you for prefect?”
“I think my house gives bonus points for every generation your family has been in Slytherin.” Lily laughed at that, but the other pureblood girls looked thoughtfully.
“That would explain so much.” Beatrice murmured.
“Well, I suppose Meg and I can walk you back to your house. That way you won’t need a pass.” Lily volunteered.
“Thank you, dear.” Rupert smiled sweetly at the girl, unaware of her blushing.
The group headed out into the darkening hallways. “You know, I don’t think we’re supposed to let the other students know where our house entrance is.” Rupert mused.
Lily scoffed. “Oh please! Do you think they’d give us prefect badges without accompanying maps of the castle? How else are we supposed to handle evening patrol?”
“Oh. I hadn’t thought of that.” Rupert sighed.
“And that’s why you’ll never by prefect of Slytherin.” Margaret teased.
“Quite frankly, I doubt I’d want that sort of responsibility.” Rupert said as the trio headed down the stairs towards the dungeons. “So, about next meeting…”
“Please don’t say Malfoy is making us change times again.” Lily groaned.
“No, I was just thinking, we should really cover potions. We haven’t done anything with it in weeks, and it’s supposed to be the hardest test.”
“Well…” Margaret hemmed.
“We have that big runes test coming up. Shouldn’t we cover runes?” Lily quickly cut in.
“Oh please Lily, you can’t possibly be having trouble in runes.” Rupert rolled his eyes.
“No, but she is having trouble in potions.” Margaret snickered.
“Thank you, oh so much. Have I mentioned you’re no longer my best friend?” Lily glared at her friend.
“Oh that? Well how do you expect to get better if we never cover it?” Rupert reasoned.
“No, I don’t think you understand. I’m very bad at potions, as in risking a fail, bad.” Lily admitted.
“It can’t be that bad.”
“Oh it is.” Margaret chimed in.
“But I thought you wanted to go into mediwizardry?”
“But you need potions to do that.”
“Maybe I should just get a job at Flourish and Botts; I can be a shopgirl.” Lily shrugged.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Potions shouldn’t stand in the way of your dream.” Rupert reasoned.
“I know, but it’s impossible. I can ace the written section, but put me in front of a cauldron and I freeze.”
“Would it help if you had a tutor?” Rupert asked.
“Are you offering?” Lily asked hopefully.
“I had someone else in mind.”
“Let me ask, and if he says no, I’ll try, but I’m not that good either.”
“Don’t ask Severus.” Margaret interrupted. “He’ll just make fun of her like the other Slytherins do.”
“No he won’t. He’s better than that.” Rupert argued back, while silently admitting to himself that Margaret may have a point.
“I suppose it doesn’t really matter if he pokes fun at me. I’m desperate.” Lily muttered.
“Who knows, he might refuse. But, it doesn’t hurt to ask. He wants to be a professor someday, so it would help him to practice teaching too. Maybe he’ll buy that argument.” Rupert was already beginning to put his Slytherin wiles to the test.
“Fine.” Lily said, secretly hoping Severus would refuse to help.
“Well, ladies, here’s my portrait stop. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He waited for a moment as the girls stood around watching him. “Ahem. That was your cue to leave. You see, I can’t let anyone think I let you hear the password. That would wound my Slytherin pride and all.”
“Right.” Margaret grabbed Lily’s arm and dragged her away from the creepy dungeons. “We’ll just leave you with your manhood, shall we?”
As they climbed the stairs, Rupert could just make out Lily say “You have such a twisted mind, Meggie. Really, must you make manhood jokes all the time?”
Whispering a quick “ashwinder”, Rupert ducked into the Slytherins’ commons room where the fifth years were gathered around the study table arguing over the one Latin-English dictionary. He bypassed their arguments and headed straight to the dorm. He collapsed on his bed, wanting to rest a minute before actually starting the Charms paper.
“Where were you?”
Then again, maybe rest was overrated. “The library.” Rupert answered his step-brother.
“No you weren’t. I checked there.” Severus scowled. “You were with that group, weren’t you?”
“If you knew, why did you ask?” Rupert pulled out a fresh scroll, intent on pointedly ignoring Severus by starting his Charms essay.
“What happened to the time conflict?”
“Lucius won’t like that. He specifically scheduled our group to conflict with that group.”
“Well that was short sighted on his part. Now if you don’t mind, I have a Charms essay to write.”
“You and everyone else in the class. You’d think that after five years of wingardium leviosa, more people would try picking up Latin during the holidays.”
“Hey! I know Latin, thank you very much.”
“I know, which is why I know it’s alright to bother you right now, because you don’t need the extra time.” Severus sat down on Rupert’s bed. “So did you get the Ravenclaw notes?”
“You really think the Ravenclaws would let their notes out of their house?”
“Yes. Unlike our house, they are not actually paranoid that everyone is out to get them.” Severus answered honestly.
“Oh.” Rupert just looked at the scroll where all he had written was his name and the paper title.
“So, do you have them?”
“It depends.” He decided that bargaining might be the most believable tactic for giving the notes to Severus but not the rest of the house. After all, for once he actually needed something from his brother.
“On what?” Severus arched his brow. Perhaps Rupert was learning some survival skills after all. Of course, it would have been more convenient if he had demonstrated these new skills on some other Slytherin.
“You want to be a professor some day, don’t you?”
“Well, I haven’t ruled it out yet.” Severus hedged his answer. “Why?”
“If you want to be a good professor, it would really help to have some teaching experience, wouldn’t it?”
“Dear Salazar, I think I can see where this is going.”
“Please just hear me out.” Rupert argued.
“You want me to tutor that muggle-born, don’t you?”
“As if it isn’t bad enough that she’s beating us in runes; you don’t really want her to surpass in potions as well, do you?” Severus frowned.
“I think it would be quite impossible for anyone to pass you in potions, Sev. You’re in a higher realm of potions than the rest of us peons, which is why I’m asking. Please?”
“She’s a muggle-born.”
“I know. Why else do you think she’s failing? She missed the entire first year of laboratory because she didn’t know where to find a cauldron.” Severus smirked. “It’s not funny. She’s really failing, and if she doesn’t pass the OWLs, she’ll never get into the mediwizardry program.”
“If it were just a case of a weak student, I might be convinced to help, but,” Severus held up his hand, and began counting down fingers. “First, she’s a Gryffindor. Second, she’s a muggle-born. Third, she’s a threat to our house’s position as academic leaders, and potions may be the only way we can keep her down. Fourth, and I don’t think you really understand this yet, so let me repeat it, she’s a muggle-born and Lucius is not happy with muggle-borns. Lastly, well, honestly, I don’t need another reason. Those four are bad enough.”
“Well then.” Rupert held up his hand to begin counting in return. “Firstly, yes she’s a Gryffindor, but she hates Black and Potter as much as we do, and it’s our duty to make sure someone in that house gets higher than that pair of twits. Second, if you become a professor, you’re going to have to work with muggle-born students, so you may as well get some practice. Third, you don’t have to get her to the point to pass us, just to the point where she’ll qualify for the med exams. Fourth, I’m a muggle-born, and I’ve never given you nor Lucius a reason to think we are inferior.” Severus sniffed. Rupert cast a silencing charm over his bed before continuing. “I know there’s a war going on. I understand it perhaps even better than you. I know that the Malfoys are probably behind some of the murders; no wonder with that attitude. However, I also know that we’re not going to win the real war unless we can convince the younger purebloods to get over their stereotypes. We need to set examples of how pureblood and muddledblood can coexist without any problems. It’s our part in stopping the war.”
“What lovely sentiment. It’s a shame you weren’t sorted into Gryffindor, with speeches like that.”
“Fine.” Rupert rolled his eyes. Holding up his last finger, he added. “I’ve got the Ravenclaw notes.”
“It doesn’t matter. Rastaban and Prunella will undoubtedly find a way to confiscate the notes.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“You warned them, didn’t you?” Severus watched his step-brother carefully.
“I might have mentioned that our house might be interested in borrowing the notes, at some point in time.”
“Merlin, they’ll encrypt all the notes.” Severus sighed.
“They’re already encrypted in the Ravenclaw short hand.” Rupert gave Severus a quick glance at his thick scroll covered by hastily made scratches.
“How do they read that?”
“It’s not hard, once you know, but you don’t know.”
“Fine, I’ll give her one hour of lessons for the Ravenclaw notes.”
“You’ll give her one hour of lessons for one hour of Ravenclaw notes.” Rupert bargained.
“One hour of notes?”
“I’ve got magical beasts from a to z. Take it or leave it.”
“Fine, I’ll take it. But only an hour.”