“John, how could you?!” The buxom blonde threw a vase which crashed against the faux marble mantle.
“Darling, you know I would never hurt you. She bewitched me.” A debonair man in a tuxedo approached the blonde from behind.
“A likely story.” The woman scowled, but didn’t shrug off the man’s attempt to wrap his arms around her waist.
“It’s true. If I had known she was planning to use you to get to Miguel…”
THUNK! THUNK! THUNK!
“Oh bugger.” Spike muttered as the knock on the door interrupted his show. He had thought it was lucky when he arrived to find Giles out this evening, but now there was no one to answer the door. “Nobody’s home; go away.” Spike muttered.
“Hello?” A voice called, followed by another round of knocking.
“Bother.” Spike sighed as a commercial came on. “Alright, alright. Don’t get your knickers in a twist.”
The knocking stopped as soon as Spike slid back the dead bolt. “Whaddya want?”
“Ah, yes, I’m looking for Severus Snape.” The man in the tweed cape asked.
“Well, aren’t you special?” Spike snorted.
“Not particularly. In fact it would be best if you forgot about me as soon as I left.” The man looked at Spike oddly, as though he couldn't decide which of them was more out of place. “Could you please fetch Mr. Snape; I was under the impression that he was staying here.”
“He’s not here.” Spike eyed the man who was nervously fingering something in his pocket. If he was not a proper gentleman, Spike would have labeled the man’s action as… oh, who was he kidding. He was far from a gentleman, and to Spike’s amusement the man appeared to be one step short of wanking off whatever was tucked in his pocket.
The man frowned, clearly not expecting that answer. “Well, what about Rupert Giles?”
“What about Rupert Giles?” Spike grinned cheekily. It had been awhile – at least 24 hours- since he had jerked someone’s chain so much.
“Is he here?”
“I’m the only one here. Do I look like Rupert Giles?”
The man tilted his head to study Spike’s face. “No, Rupert Giles had a proper education and would never let himself go that badly… despite rumors to the contrary.” The man said, obviously not a fan of Spike’s latest bleach job, but never considering that it might be dangerous to insult the blonde vampire.
“Well, then, I guess you’re chattin’ up the wrong Brit. Now, if you’re done being a prat, my show’s on.” Spike felt like growling as he heard the swell of the Passions’ theme song.
“Wait. Do you know where I could find Rupert Giles?”
“Try the Wal-Mart. They’ve got everything. You might even find yourself a clue.” Spike slammed the door before the man could pull his stick out of the tweed pocket, not even caring to know what the man had been fingering like a favorite weapon. He threw the dead bolt and jumped back in the couch just in time for, “Miguel, I think la bruja knows.”
“But how, Maria?”
“Rupert, darling, just the snake I was looking for.”
Rupert moved his book bag to give the blonde a place to sit next to him. “Yes, Narcissa? What do you want me to do for you?”
“I was wondering if you realized the Yule Ball is just two weeks away. “ Narcissa’s fingers danced along the spine of Rupert’s transfiguration book in a way that would have been flirtacious if it hadn’t been made quite clear by third year that Narcissa never flirted with anyone besides Lucius, according to Lucius.
“As a matter of fact, I was aware of that. I’ve made plans.”
“You know Rupert, you don’t have to lie to me. I can understand how your experience last year made you a bit … shy.”
“I’m not lying.”
“Normally, I’d believe you. After all, normally you’re much more savvy than the other boys. The way you’ve got all the girls in choir eating out of your hand; it’s really quite brilliant even if Lucius won’t admit it.” The blonde looked slyly up at Rupert, who suddenly felt the need to fidgit.
“I doubt the girls would agree with your assessment.” Rupert muttered.
“Yes, well, as I was saying. I had thought you had things under control. We had all assumed you’d go with a Gryffindor this year just to annoy Lucius, but then I heard the news.”
“What news?” Rupert asked, his gaze distracted by the grey tabby weaving between the tables. As a first year, watching McGonagall change into a cat had been fascinating. Now it was just creepy.
“Lily Evans is going to the dance with Peter Pettigrew.”
The class fell silent at the outburst, ignoring McGonagall’s transformation in favor of staring at Rupert. “On that note, it’s time to get started, class. Today we begin our unit on sublimation.” McGonagall said with a weary look on her face. She knew it was improper as a professor, but she had a bet running with Jigger that this year would finally produce one Gryffindor-Slytherin couple at the Yule Ball. Sadly, if the harpy of the noble Black family were to be believed, her hopes that the young Giles would break his classmates’ mold were dashed. Maybe one of the other years would surprise her, but she doubted it. Drats, she hated ceding victory to that over-the-hill duffer.
As soon as class was over, Rupert rushed to the choir room, hoping Narcissa and her crew were far enough behind not to see him confront Lily. Instead of Lily, he found Beatrice sitting alone on the risers. “Oh, hello Rupert, you’re early.” She said, putting her book away as soon as she’d noticed the handsome Slytherin.
“You’re one to talk, Botts. What brings you by so early?”
“Well, we could leave herbology as soon as we finished the identification practical.” Beatrice shrugged. Considering her talent it was no surprise she was the first out of the Hufflepuff-Gryffindor class. “So, what’s on your mind?”
“I heard a rumor, and I just can’t believe that it’s true.” Rupert frowned. “I was hoping Lily would be by early to confirm or deny it.”
“Well, maybe I can help. My house is generally good about fact checking rumors. Tell me about it.”
“I heard that Lily Evans is going to the Yule Ball with Peter Pettigrew.”
“He asked right after breakfast.”
“And she said yes? Why?”
“They’re in the same house.”
“So? It’s Peter Pettigrew! If he asked you, would you go with him?”
“Well, it is getting rather late to not have a date lined up…”
“And I suppose you already have a date, so hypothetical questions are pointless.”
“No, not yet.” Beatrice frowned.
“Oh.” Rupert paused, suddenly guilty for bringing up the Yule Ball with a girl who hadn’t already established other plans. However, his guilt was short lived. “But really, Peter Pettigrew? A girl should have standards.”
“I don’t see why you should care who asked Lily. Oh, unless, you were planning on asking her to the Ball yourself?” Beatrice’s bottom lip quivered, as her brain started to put the puzzle pieces together.
“No, not exactly, it’s just… Peter Pettigrew. I’d like to think my friends could do better.”
“You should be happy for her. At least she has a date.”
“No date is better than that alternative.”
“Easy for you to say. You haven’t been sitting around waiting for someone to come up and ask you while you watch every other girl in your house get asked by someone else, leaving you the last one left out, yet again.”
“You’re right, I’m not, but honestly Botts, why are you?”
“What?” Beatrice was surprised by Rupert’s change in focus.
“Well, you’re a pretty girl. You’re generous, you’ve got a nice smile; you don’t spend your entire life trying to pick other people apart like some girls I know. Clearly the only reason you haven’t been asked is because most boys are chicken and would rather be tied to the quidditch hoop during a hail storm than risk a rejection by a pretty girl like you. You can do better than the Peter Pettigrews of this world. You just need to seize the day, carpe diem! Why don’t you ask someone instead of just sitting around waiting for some boy to grow a spine?” Rupert ranted, feeling entirely betrayed and annoyed by Lily’s actions and Beatrice’s moping. He knew full well the reason Beatrice didn’t have a date was that the only boy who had shown any interest in the candy heiress was Wilbur Whimple, who had no spine to speak of, and was just one step above Peter Pettigrew. While Beatrice wasn’t bad looking per se, she had the unfortunate problem of having unusually beautiful roommates that left her looking homely in comparison. However, he didn’t want to hear about her woes when his date for skipping the dance had just canceled on him without letting him know.
“You really think it’s that easy?” Beatrice frowned at her friend. It was so rare to see the unflappable Rupert get riled up about something as ridiculous as a school dance.
“Yes. It really is that easy.” Rupert asserted.
“Fine.” Beatrice said with a hint of defiance. “Rupert Giles, will you go with me to the Yule Ball?”
“You said I should ask someone I like instead of waiting for someone to ask me. Well, here it is, I’m carping my diem.”
“You’d really want to go to a dance with me?”
“Yes.” Beatrice sounded firm, but butterflies were dancing in her stomach. It was really quite horrifying to throw yourself out there and wait for someone to respond; no wonder the boys put it off as long as possible.
“Wow, I’m flattered, Bets. Honestly I hadn’t thought of going to the dance at all this year. I figured I could get some extra studying time in.” Rupert answered truthfully.
“What?! You can’t not go to the dance!” Beatrice stared at his friend like he had grown a second head. She had just figured he was waiting to ask someone else and only in her wildest dreams, that someone else was her. She hadn’t counted on him having no other plans- it just seemed unSlytheriny not to use such an obvious event for networking.
“Well it had been my plan, but that was before I had such another tempting offer.” He offered her a careful smile.
“What does that mean?”
Rupert was wondering that himself. His plans to screw the Slytherin mindset were ruined by, of all things, a Gryffindor; leaving him with the eerie realization that maybe thinking like a Slytherin wouldn’t be so bad. On one hand, knowing that Lily was out of the picture meant that he could ask anybody and not just settle for the first offer. He could even ask Narcissa to spite Lucius, if he thought he would get away with it. On the other hand, Beatrice was a friend who had been loyal up until now. She knew how to dance, or at least keep rhythm, which put her above most of the girls in his house. And, by going with Beatrice, it would mean that Narcissa would be deprived of the option to play matchmaker while Severus would be likely to bestow his blessing for finally chosing an appropriate pureblood. Overall, things certainly were in Beatrice’s favor.
“It means I would be delighted to escort you to the Yule Ball.”
“Wohoo!” Beatrice embraced Rupert in a bear hug.
“Now was that so hard?” Rupert teased.
“Helga as my witness, that was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life! I can see why you boys hate dances so much.” Beatrice giggled nervously.
“Well, that, and formal robes are so atrocious. Have you ever tried to use a bowtie charm? Rupert teased.
“What have we here?” A cool voice came from the doorway. Evidently the Slytherin girls had finally caught up.
Rupert felt Beatrice tense up next to him. While he didn’t particularly like the girls of his house, he didn’t understand why the Hufflepuff girls all seemed to have an ingrained fear of Narcissa and her cronies. “What we have here is confirmation of my Yule Ball date. I will have the pleasure of escorting Beatrice Botts to the Ball this year.” Rupert said with a firm nod of his head, daring anyone to object.
“Really? Now that is interesting.” Narcissa mused with undisguised glee. She absolutely adored how Rupert could be counted on doing something completely out of the box. It kept her Lucius on his toes, just like she liked him to be. Of all the speculation in the house that ranged from the Ravenclaw he was sneaking notes from to that mudblood Evans, the name Beatrice Botts had never even deserved an honorable mention.
“So glad you approve.” Rupert shot back with a tight smile. “Now if you don’t mind, I think Beatrice and I have a few things to discuss before class.”
The Slytherins politely took the dismissal for what it was, leaving Rupert with the blonde Hufflepuff on his arm. “Merlin, I don’t like that girl.” Beatrice whispered, watching the Slytherins drop their school bags in the usual corner.
“That’s funny. I rather gathered she approves of you. There’s no accounting for some people’s taste, eh?”
“Rupert!” Beatrice playfully punched the Slytherin’s arm.
“I’m just saying…”
“What were you just saying?” Rupert was interrupted by the arrival of the Ravenclaws.
“Rupert was just saying what time he was going to pick me up.”
“Pick you up? You mean for the Yule Ball?” Penelope Peasegood asked using her Ravenclaw reasoning skills to jump to conclusions. Beatrice gave a happy nod, her grin contagious amongst the girls. “Merlin, Bets, that’s smashing!” Penelope gave her friend a hug, knowing just how hard a time the Hufflepuff was having this year. If the Ravenclaws hadn’t already exhausted their supply of boys, she’d have tried setting something up for the blonde. It was nice to see she didn’t have to go to the effort.
“Right, so I’ll meet you in the front hall at seven?” Rupert offered, wondering how he got into these messes.
“Sure, that will be great.” Beatrice beamed, Rupert had a feeling at this point she might agree to just about anything he’d say.
At this point, Professor Flitwick entered. “Hello, ladies and gentlemen.” The professor greeted them as he hopped onto the conducting pedestal. “Our ranks look a bit thin today. Does anyone know where the rest of the choir is?”
“The Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors are still in the Herbology practical.” Beatrice spoke up. “It’ll probably take them awhile.”
“Ah. Well, it is that year for your class.” Flitwick reasoned. “Let’s get started with a few scales and when they join us we’ll work on the hymn. Mr. Whimple, will you give us a C?”
“Sir, Wilbur’s not here. He’s in the herbology test.” Rupert spoke out.
“Right. Then, Mr. Giles, will you please give us a C?” Rupert cringed as he selected the right toad from the small wading pool beside the risers. He tickled the animal under the chin until it let out a long sustained C. Not for the first time, Rupert wished that kneazles had perfect pitch so they could get rid of the tone toads. The class had gone through two scale exercises by the time the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs had all snuck in, some looking more discouraged than others. They were just about to begin the hymn when Professor McGonagall entered.
“Excuse me Professor, but may I have a word with you.”
“But of course, Professor.” Flitwick smiled and beckoned her over to the podium. McGonagall leaned over and began whispering in Flitwick’s ear. His face immediately fell. “Is he alright?” McGonagall replied with a whisper, trying to avoid the choir’s prying ears. “Oh my. Yes of course, I’ll come immediately.” Flitwick’s face had gone pale by the time Professor McGonagall had finished whispering.
“Excuse me class, but we will have to attempt the hymn on a later date. I’m canceling choir for the remainder of the day.”
“What? Why? I demand to know what’s going on.” Narcissa spoke for the group.
“I’m sure you’ll find out later. Suffice it to say, my duties as a
head of house have called me to be elsewhere.” Flitwick stepped off the podium, and he followed Professor McGonagall out of the room refusing to answer any more questions.
“Now that was odd.” Lily was the first to speak.
“Today is just full of oddities.” Narcissa smiled in that sly manner that indicated she had a secret.
“Just what do you mean by that, Black?” While the girls of the houses had never called an out and out war like the boys had, there were always tensions amongst the sopranos.
“Well, I wouldn’t have predicted Flitwick leaving class early, and I certainly didn’t predict Botts snagging one of Slytherin’s finest for the Yule Ball. It’s just been an interesting day.”
“Why, Narcissa, I didn’t know you thought so highly of me.” Rupert replied with a playful wink. It didn’t hurt to finally have his housemates on his side for once.
“Wait, you… and Beatrice?” Lily looked at Rupert oddly.
“Yes?” Rupert dared her to say anything in front of Beatrice.
“Well, I just thought… what happened to the grand plan of sitting this one out?”
“I changed my mind. Evidently, everyone else is going to the Ball.” Rupert tried very hard not to sound bitter.
“Still,” Lily also sounded a bit restrained. “I would have thought …” She nodded towards Wilbur.
“What does Whimple have to do with this?”
“Well, he did ask Beatrice first.”
“He did?” Rupert turned to face Whimple. “You did?”
“Well… I… that is… I….” Wilbur stuttered.
“Of course he did.” Margaret cut in. “He said he was going to right after choir last week.”
“No he didn’t.” Beatrice frowned.
“Why wouldn’t he? He said that he was.” Lily now looked truly puzzled.
“Nobody asked me to the ball.” Beatrice sniffed.
“I… I was going to.”
“Of course he was going to. Everyone knows he’s liked you for a year now.” Margaret threw in for good measure.”
“Wilbur Whimple?” Beatrice muttered, feeling slightly ill at the idea. On one hand, it was nice that she might have had an admirer, on the other hand… Wilbur Whimple?
“He didn’t ask you? He said he was going to. Rupert shouldn’t have asked you since he knew Wilbur was planning to.”
“That’s right.” Margaret turned to Wilbur. “Are you just going to sit there and let them do this, Wilbur? He’s making off with your woman. Are you just going to sit there and let her go? Come on Wilbur, are you a mouse or a man?”
Wilbur, in an odd show of spine, jumped to his feet and proclaimed. “I am a man.”
Rupert took one look at Beatrice and decided to have pity on the girl. After all, if she had wanted to go to the dance with Wilbur Whimple, she could have asked him instead. Clearly, in her mind, Rupert was the better choice, and it wasn’t his decision to make anyway. “That’s lovely, Wilbur, but part of that declaration means asking a girl before it gets within a week of the dance. I’m sorry mate, I just figured if you were going to ask her, you would have asked already. I’m afraid it’s too late to back out now.” He heard Beatrice breathe a sigh of relief.
“Well, then…” Wilbur glanced back at Margaret for help. She mimed pulling out her wand for a duel.
“Oh for Merlin’s sake, Meggie, I thought you were on my side.” Rupert muttered.
“Then, I challenge you to a duel!” Wilbur proclaimed with a proud smile.
“You do realize this is choir class, don’t you? We don’t exactly do dueling in here.” Rupert tried reasoning with the eternally awkward Hufflepuff.
“Come now, Rupert, where’s your Slytherin pride.” Narcissa added for good measure.
“You can’t seriously mean that dueling with Whimple will save our house’s face.” Rupert turned to the ringleader of the Slytherin girls.
“A challenge has been issued. If you don’t duel, he has the right of declaring himself the winner and taking the prize, which I’m guessing is Botts.” Amelia answered, amused that some of her extracurricular reading was finally paying off. “That’s positively medieval.”
“I don’t know. I think it’s kind of romantic, two men fighting for your hand.” Violet sighed. “Of course in this case, it’s pretty clear who’s going to win.”
“I don’t know. After all, Whimple’s a pureblood.” Martha chimed in, never missing a chance to insult her ex-boyfriend.
“And, Whimple is in the right, as he claimed the right to ask Beatrice first.”
“Clearly there’s only one way to solve this. Rupert, accept the duel.” Narcissa instructed him.
“This is ridiculous.” He tried one last appeal but Narcissa would hear nothing of it, and glancing at Beatrice it was clear that she didn’t want Wilbur to win. “Alright, Whimple, it looks like we’re dueling for Beatrice.”
“Alright.” Wilbur pulled out his wand and held it in something approaching a ready position.
“Wait, you need to declare your seconds.” Narcissa announced. Both boys looked at her. “In case one or both of the duelers fail to complete the duel, they may have a second compete on their behalf.” She recited. “I volunteer to be Rupert’s second.”
“Very well, I volunteer to be Wilbur’s second.” Lily said, with a vicious gleam in her eye.
“Hey now, that’s uncalled for.” Rupert whined. First Lily dumped him without telling him, and now she was volunteering to duel against him? Just where did she think she got off?
“Are we ready? Wizards take your mark.” Amelia decided she’d play referee, being from the one house not participating in the duel.
Rupert hesitantly brought his wand forward. “Are you sure you want to do this, Whimple?”
“If it means having Beatrice, than yes.” Whimple replied with a fiery gleam in his eyes, and for the first time since this farce was started, Rupert was a bit scared of what Whimple would be capable of in a duel.
“Ready?.... Go!” Amelia called out.
“Expelliaramus!” Rupert tried for a quick disarming charm that knocked Whimple over before he even got out a “Bu… Bu… Butter…bu.” Rupert figured that was the end of the duel, and so he lowered his wand just as Lily pointed hers at him and shouted. “Dormiens!”
Rupert turned to face his new foe, and pointed his wand in her direction as his eyes began drooping. “Distur…” and with that he collapsed in a loose heap of limbs.
Rupert woke up to find himself in the Hogwarts infirmary. “Hello?”
“Ah, Mr. Giles, don’t sit up so quickly; you’ll give yourself a headache.” Nurse Pomfrey handed him a cold pack. “You’ll have a nasty bump from where you hit the floor. Try this while I go fetch your visitor.”
“Visitor?” Rupert groaned out, but the nurse ignored him.
A minute later the curtain around the bed was pulled aside and Beatrice entered. “So, how’s that carpe diem coming?” Rupert asked, squinting to block out the dull light.
“Amelia decided you won the duel. Thank you.”
“So why did Lily have to shoot me in the back?”
“I think she’s mad at you.”
“You think?” Rupert couldn’t help but add a bit of sarcasm.
“Well, she might have just done it to have the opportunity to have a go at Prissy Cissy. Oops, I didn’t really say that out loud.” Beatrice blushed.
“It’s alright, I can see why it was tempting. I take it Narcissa beat Lily rather handily?”
“Actually, they both disarmed each other and ended up going for a traditional cat fight. There was a considerable amount of hairpulling, and I think Mafalda managed to scrape Margaret up pretty badly when they jumped in.”
“You can say that again. We had to send Penelope to fetch a professor to break them up. I don’t think they’ve ever had all the prefects get into a single scrum like that. It’s probably a good thing you were knocked out early or I fear McGonagall might have blamed you for it.”
“The Slytherin versus Gryffindor girls in a hair pulling fight? You should have sold tickets.”
“That’s what Lucius said when he fetched Narcissa from here earlier.”
“So how long exactly have I been out?” Rupert asked the question that had been bugging him.
“About four hours. You’ve missed dinner, but the elves can get you a tray to eat here. You also missed the announcement.” Beatrice’s face went from amused to dismal in the matter of a moment.
“When Flitwick went to the office earlier today, it was because one of the second year Ravenclaws…” she stopped to sniffle for a moment. “The parents of one of the second year muggleborns were found dead in their house, under the Death Eater sign.”
“That’s awful! Is it anyone we’d know?”
“It was Snoodgrass. His parents were the ones trying to set up a parent’s visitor’s day at Hogsmeade.” Beatrice frowned. “I think his grandparents are going to pull him from Hogwarts and send him to some muggle school.”
“Maybe that’s for the best. I can’t imagine wanting to stay here if I knew wizards killed my parents.”
“I think it’s a horrible idea. He’s barely trained as it is. If he bottles it all up, one day his magic will just erupt and it’ll be a one-way ticket to St. Mungo’s. You can’t be a wizard and not do magic.”
“I’m sure right now accidental magic is the last thing on that family’s mind.”
“True.” Beatrice looked up at the ceiling for a moment, as if for divine inspiration. “Well, I suppose that’s all the news from when you were out.” She finally sighed. “Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for dueling over me and everything. You didn’t have to. After all, you didn’t ask me to the Yule Ball.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Rupert shrugged. “It was Lily’s fault for egging him on like that and then shooting me in the back after he went down.”
“I still don’t know what was going through that girl’s mind.”
“She was just being a Gryffindor.” Rupert said, although he had other ideas. “But, it does bring up a question. What are you going to do about Whimple?”
“What do you mean? I’m going to the dance with you.” Beatrice nervously wrung her hands.
“I know, but the boy is smitten. Next year, he’ll probably ask earlier, and then what will you do? If you don’t like him, you should probably let him know, gently.”
“I suppose you’re right. But it can wait until the new year, right?”
“Sure, take care of it, right after OWLs. I don’t care.”
“Thanks.” Beatrice leaned down and pecked Rupert on the cheek before scurrying out of the infirmary.
“Rupert, you old dog, how do you get yourself into these messes?” Rupert muttered, falling back against the infirmary pillow. If only he could spend the rest of the night here.
A/N: As I'm drowning in insect collections to grade, this will probably be my last update until the end of the semester. If you guys have anything you'd like to see happen in fifth or sixth year, drop me a review, and I'll see what tickles my fancy over break, when I'll have time to write something other than the correct scientific names for various beasties. :)