Trolling for Herrings
Giles was just reaching the waiting room for outpatient physical therapy when a nurse came out of the examination room pushing Severus’ wheelchair. “Mr. Giles, you’ve got perfect timing. Your brother is ready to leave now.” The nurse looked especially frazzled and Giles couldn’t help but wonder if once again Severus had broken Magical law and threatened to hex everyone into next week.
“Do I need to talk to the doctor first, or is he ready to take home?”
“We’re ready to go home.” Severus interrupted before the nurse could say otherwise.
Giles looked to the nurse for confirmation. “Yes he’s ready to go home.”
“I hope you didn’t cause the nurse too much trouble.”
“This nurse? No.” Severus carefully remarked.
“Do I not want to know what you’ve said to the doctor?”
Giles sighed. He really didn’t want to deal with a pouting brother, but it was hardly surprising that Sev was in a snit. After his incident with Angelus, he had barely stayed civil after some of those rehab appointments. Severus, who had no patience with muggle medicine to begin with, probably thought he was being a saint given some of the tests they probably ran today.
“Do you want to set up a follow-up appointment now, or would you prefer to call and set it up next week?” The nurse asked, trying to back away from Severus as subtly as possible.
“I suppose we should set something up now while I’m thinking of it.” Severus sighed, but refrained from commenting as Giles wheeled him over to the front desk. “How soon does the doctor want to see him again?”
“Never.” The nurse mumbled then blushed faintly when she realized she had been overheard. “If Steven can return next week, the doctor will want to check on his improvement. There’s not much that can be done about the arm or legs for a few weeks, but hopefully the ribs will be mostly healed by next week.”
“Fine. We’ll return next week. Is this same time available?”
“Yes, sir.” The nurse flipped through several computer screens for the scheduling program. “So, we’ll see Steven Giles in exactly one week at six.”
“Excellent. We’ll see you next week.” Giles pushed his brother out the automatic doors into the hospital parking lot.
They had no sooner gotten out of the parking lot when Severus let out a string of expletives. “Godric damned, filthy mudblood doctors! I can’t believe you set up another appointment after they’ve so thoroughly abused me.”
“Abused you? You don’t look abused.”
“Of course not. That doesn’t mean the doctor isn’t a sadistic freak.” Severus spit out. “Can you believe he actually ran needles up and down my limbs?”
“He was checking for nerve damage, and honestly, Sev, that’s barely more than a tickle.”
“It’s barbaric, is what it is.”
“If that’s the worst that’s happened to you, then you got off easy.” Giles answered knowingly.
“I hardly call getting poked and proded by every device imaginable easy.” Severus snapped back.
“Well then you have much to look forward to. In the grand scheme of things, your appointment couldn’t be that bad.”
“What do you know of the grand scheme of things?”
“I know that there are at least twenty individuals on the sixth floor who appear to be suffering from either a botched Obliviate or Cruciatus.” Giles said, reaching Joyce’s car.
“At least there’s a bright side to that.”
“Oh?” Severus looking for the bright side was truly a novel concept to Giles.
“If you can find out where they all were prior to being cursed, you can find out where the wizard most likely is.” Severus reasoned as Giles opened the car door. "And then you can lead the wizard right to your door where he will kill us both. Then we wouldn't have to go to the appointment next week."
“Or, it could be something other than wizards.” Buffy replied from the space between the seats of her mother’s Jeep.
“Muddy, I refuse to ride in a car with that girl.”
“Buffy, what are you doing in there?”
“Either get in or close the door.” Buffy ignored the two Brits’ comments.
“Are you going to let her talk to you like that?” Severus looked up to glare at Giles.
“I’m sure she has her reasons. Don’t go anywhere.” Giles said, jumping into the seat next to Buffy and closing the door behind him. “I hope you have a good reason for why I just left my handicapped brother alone in a Sunnydale parking lot after dark.”
“I found this guy snooping around the hospital.” Buffy shifted so that Giles could see the little warty man she was sitting on.
“My goodness, that looks like a lesser Appalachian troll.” Giles adjusted his glasses on his nose.
“No! My mistress would never settle for mere trolls. We are acolytes to a higher power.”
“Ah, so it has command of the English language as well.”
“Yes, and he’s been all Jehovah witness about his mistress, which is just wrong on so many levels.” Buffy rolled her eyes.
“Indeed.” Giles frowned as he tried to disentangle Buffy’s speech.
“So what do I do with him?”
“I must find my mistress! She must find the key!”
“This key, what is it?” Giles asked the troll.
“It is the most glorious excellence that is worthy of my mistress.” The troll waxed on poetically for a few minutes while Buffy and Giles tried to have a conversation with their glares.
“And what would you do, if you had this key?” Giles finally asked, wondering if a demon would be so forward as to admit plans of world domination to the slayer.
The troll quit his platitudes to stare at Giles. “We would go home.”
“Fine, check my bag.” Buffy finally relented to the pointed glare from Giles.
Giles opened the back pocket of Buffy’s oversized purse and pulled out a ball of twine and a roll of duct tape. In less than a minute, Buffy had managed to successfully hog tie the troll and tape his mouth shut. “Remind me to thank Xander for this stuff.” Buffy muttered, tossing the items back in her bag.
“I’m still not sure we should assume mostly harmless.” Giles frowned as Buffy moved towards the car door.
“Yeah, well, my mom would totally kill me if I got troll guts on her car seat and do you know how hard it is to clean that stuff out so she won’t notice? Let’s so not go there.” Buffy knocked the troll senseless so that he would quit trying to speak through the duct tape.
“Very well. Leave him where you found him.” Giles followed Buffy, with the troll slung over her shoulder, out of the car. “Maybe he’ll find his way home eventually.”
“Godric damned, it took you long enough. I could have brewed a life supply of pepper-up in the time it took you to finish up your little powwow.” Snape muttered as Giles returned his attention to the wheel chair in front of him.
“Yes well, it could have been important.” Giles reasoned as he lifted his brother to the seat.
“But, clearly wasn’t.” Snape finished the thought.
“Honestly I’m not sure. Do you have any idea why trolls would be looking for a key?”
“I thought trolls tended to avoid buildings with locked doors, especially the lesser Appalachian speices.”
“Aha! So you think it’s a lesser Appalachian species as well.” Giles smiled, glad to see at least some of his DADA courses paid off.
“It could be something else entirely. I didn’t get a close enough view.” Severus refused to let Giles agree with him.
“Well, either way, I think it would be best if we were to find the key first. I don’t quite trust the troll. It doesn’t help that the man suffering from the curse upstairs was also looking for a key. I wonder if they are referring to the portkey you used to get here.” Giles mused, fastening Snape’s seatbelt before going around to his side of the car.
“If that troll could be working for Voldemort, or god forbid, the Ministry, then why didn’t your slayer kill it?”
“Because sometimes even slayers have limits. Buffy’s is not messing up her mother’s vehicle.”
“Yes, well, demon ichor can stain.”
“So how are potions lessons going?” Rupert asked as he and Lily set up a game of checkers.
“I’ve only had two.” Lily answered as she lined up her red discs.
“Still, that’s one more than I’d thought you’d get out of him. What did he ask you for in return?”
“Pardon?” Lily blushed.
“You heard me the first time.” Rupert folded his hands in front of him to let Lily know he was ready for her to make the first move.
“He told me not to tell anybody, and I’m guessing that include you.” Lily glanced up at the Hufflepuff banner they were sitting under- one of the few neutral locations for a Gryffindor-Slytherin checkers match.
“He said that, did he?” Rupert bit his lip in thought. “He doesn’t need you for notes, or for your endorsement, at least, not yet I don’t think, which must mean he had you deliver something. My guess is a message.” He reasoned.
“My endorsement?” Lily moved her first piece, hoping to distract Rupert from his line of questioning.
“You know.” Rupert said as he slid the piece from the corner.
“If I knew, I wouldn’t have asked.”
“Well, you see…” Rupert blushed as Lily moved another checker. “When a young wizard is interested in a young witch sometimes its helpful to have someone, such as another young witch, speak on his behalf in front of said witch. Additionally, another witch can ascertain whether said witch is interested or likely to rebuff any advances. However, in our house, it’s usually Narci.”
“Which what?” Rupert carefully advanced his checker after much
“Which witch is Narcissa?”
“She’s the endorser. If she likes you, the other girls probably will too, but if you upset her, it’s over for in house dating. Of course, outside of the house, it’s not so easy to find someone willing to speak for you.”
“That’s ridiculous. I think girls decide who they like without any outside intereference. If you think Narcissa is deciding whom all the Slytherin girls will like, you’re delusional.”
“Poor, naïve, Lily.” Rupert tsked. “Anyway, as I was saying, clearly Severus did not ask you to lobby on his behalf for a date to the Yule Ball, which means you must be delivering a message.” Rupert hopped over one of Lily’s checkers, watching the piece flip up on its edge and roll to Rupert’s side.
“Speaking of which, that brings us to the question du jour. Who are you going to ask to the Ball this year?” Lily’s green eyes sparkled with curiousity.
“You never answered my question. No changing topics.”
“You didn’t ask in the form of a question; you simply stated a hypothesis.” Lily retorted. “And, I’m not changing topics. You brought up the Yule Ball first. So, who are you going to ask?”
“That’s months away.”
“No it’s not. Five weeks does not two months, make.”
“Well, in that case…” Rupert paused as he contemplated the next move he would make. “I think this year I’ll sit the Yule Ball out.”
“What?!” Several students from other tables glanced in Lily’s direction at that outburst. “You can’t sit the Yule Ball out! It’s unfathomable.”
“It’s not unfathomable; I just fathomed it. Hmm, I wonder, where did the word fathom come from? Is it solely derived from a nautical measure or…”
“Quit being ridiculous. This is a serious problem here.”
“What? You mean not telling me who Sev is sending messages to? Yes I admit, that is devious of you, but it’s not really so serious as I already have my suspicions. It’s not as though Severus is on speaking terms with many Gryffindors.”
“No, I meant you not going to the Yule Ball. You can’t not go. Everyone goes. What will happen to the guy girl ratio if you don’t go to the ball? What about all the girls who are counting on you to ask them?” Lily was primarily thinking of herself, but figured she may as well acknowledge her competition as well.
Rupert snorted. “Is that supposed to be a convincing argument, Lils? I would only have taken one date anyway, leaving all those other mythical girls in the lurch anyway. This way, I’m being fair to all the girls with the poor misfortune to like me.”
“Aargh.” Lily marched her checker across the board, taking out three of Rupert’s pieces. “That’s not the point .The point is, you have to go to the Ball.”
“Why? Going to the Ball means the agony of deciding who to ask, risking getting shot down, having to wear dress robes, and being polite for four hours as my toes are getting stepped on. On the other hand, if I skip the dance, I’ll have four Lucius-free hours to do whatever I want. I could read sleep, practice fencing, sing in the shower...”
“You sing in the shower?”
“Not when the rest of the guys are in the shower; I do have some pride. The point is the possibilities are endless… your move.”
“That’s just wrong.”
“No, it’s actually quite a refreshing idea. How about you skip the Yule Ball with me?”
“What? Are you asking me out?”
“No, I believe I’m asking you in.”
“Rupert, you’re a strange boy.”
“That’s what Severus’ mother says, but I don’t particularly care what she thinks either. So are you skipping with me or not?”
“Well,” Lily studied the familiar features of her friend’s face. She’d been waiting for over a year for him to ask her to anything. Of course, this wasn’t what she had in mind, but in some ways it almost counted. “I suppose I can not go to the Yule Ball with you this year.”
“Excellent! Now, for the more important question. Is Sev sending messages to Lupin?”
“Rupert! I told you I couldn’t say.” Lily blushed.
“So he is.” Rupert said, getting one of his pieces all the way across the board. “That’s all I wanted to know."
Meanwhile, down in Hogsmeade Valley, Severus was sitting on the back stoop of one of the most infamous houses in town.
“Boo!” Remus' attempt to surprise his friend backfired when he suddenly found Severus’ wand aimed at his chest. “Easy there. A bit jumpy, aren’t you?”
“Can you blame me?” Severus slowly dropped his wand arm.
“Oh come on, you don’t really think this place is haunted.”
“Spoken like a true Gryffindor. Whatever possessed you to suggest the Shrieking Shack, I’ll never know.”
“Well we could hardly go to the Three Broomsticks for a clandestine meeting. That would be the fastest way to start rumors that we were of the same persuasion as your step-brother.”
“True. However, the next time you suggest such an asinine meeting place, at least arrive on time.”
“I’m sorry. Do you have any idea how hard it is to shake Sirius and James?”
“Like regular leeches, I bet.”
“Well, not quite that bad.” Remus faltered, kicking himself for giving Severus any more ammunition against his fellow Gryffindors. “So, what’s so important that you needed to see me as soon as possible?”
“Your mother’s last article raised a few eyebrows.”
“They weren’t the kind of eyebrows you want raised.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I think in her line of work, raising any eyebrows is a minor miracle. Ethicists don’t really have a large audience and Witch’s Weekly isn’t the exactly the top journal in her field. I’m surprised anyone reads her stuff at all.”
“I’m being serious.”
“So am I.”
“My mother is part of a group trying to catch the death eaters, and she told me that they don’t take kindly to being mocked, even if only in Witch’s Weekly.”
“I don’t think she was being mocking as much as scathingly critical.”
“The point is, her writing, true to Gryffindor standards, didn’t win any friends. Mother wanted the Ministry to put a guard on her, but they insist they don’t have the resources.”
“My mother can take care of herself. She was in Ravenclaw, after all.” Remus politely pointed out, while trying not to get angry at Severus’ presumptuous nature.
“Clearly you haven’t read this morning’s Prophet.” Sev handed the paper to Remus who sat down on the stoop next to him.
“Trolls infiltrate St. Mungo’s. Late Friday night, a troll was found in the medicinal molds room, presumably in search of the St. Addlebran’s wort spores.”
“Not that article.” Severus rolled his eyes. “Turn to page three.”
“The Daily Prophet is sad to announce the death of their columnist Martin Biddleby, found dead in his house late Thursday evening. The cause of death appeared to be several exsanguino hexes. Biddleby’s last published article was about the rise of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.” Remus looked up at Severus. “What sort of claptrap is this? He writes one article against them, and suddenly everyone’s too afraid to use the leader’s name? This is crazy.”
“This is why your mother needs protection.” Severus pulled off one of his gloves and reached into his woolen robes. He pulled out a cream business card and handed it to Remus. “This is how to contact Rupert’s father. He should be able to find your mother proper protection.”
“Shouldn’t we be talking to Dumbledore instead?” Remus read the card in confusion. The address looked normal, but he had never heard of the Watcher’s Council and there was a series of numbers underneath that where the floo address should have been.
“I’m only following Mother’s orders.” Severus shrugged. “Well, as lovely as it is freezing our arses off on this porch, I think I had better return to Lucius’ side before he notices I left.”
“Right.” Remus said, rereading the Prophet article instead of watching Severus walk away. Severus had nearly made it around the corner of the house when Remus called after him. “Thanks, for this.” He held up the business card. “We should do this again sometime… except, I could do without the threatening messages and freezing temperatures.”
“Maybe this spring.” Severus offered with a casual shrug.
“Maybe.” Remus watched his only friend outside of the Marauders walk away.