Slow on the Uptake
It was almost amusing how much longer his evening routine had become since his brother had shown up in Sunnydale. It used to be just a quick check to make sure the door was locked and the lights were off, and he’d be ready for bed. Now there was so much more to attend to. Giles had carefully washed Severus, changed his pajamas, and made sure his brother had his evening medicine before finally getting to the hallway light switch. He was just about to climb the stairs to his loft when the phone rang.
“I’m going to kill that thing.” Severus muttered.
“It might be important.” Giles flipped the light switch back on.
“Gah,” Severus squinted his eyes at the sudden light. “Important or not, if it rings one more time I’m using a spontaneous combustion charm, hellmouth or not.”
Thankfully Giles reached the phone before it could let out another shrill ring. “Hello, Giles’ residence.”
“Hi Giles, how’s it hanging?”
“Alright?” Giles never knew how to answer that question. Was it better to be hanging up or down, or was it a left versus right thing, and just what was it?
“That’s good. So, Buffy told me you wanted me to look into some files.”
“Ah yes, the hospital records, were you able to get them?”
“Pssh, yeah. The hospital is a piece of cake. Whoever they got to automate their systems must have graduated from Sunnydale Tech’s School of Total Morons.” Willow answered.
“That’s lucky for us I suppose.”
“Yeah, so guess what?”
“I’d really rather you just tell me.” Giles slipped into his desk chair and pulled out a notebook and pencil.
“Okay, so it turns out most of the zombie guys are actually my dad’s patients. Go figure! Actually, I suppose I should have figured that considering my dad is supposed to deal with the crazy people there, but it’s just kinda weird because in all the hospital checking we’ve done over the years, I’ve never really looked into his files, and so it just sort of feels kinda wrong, you know? I mean, I’d never go into his office to look up files, well, you know unless it was really important, but on the computer, pfft, piece of cake.”
“Right, so anyway, my dad gave them the diagnosis of Sunnydale Syndrome, big surprise there.”
“Was there any common themes in the files? Perhaps a time of day they were brought in, or a geographical location?”
“Well, the time of day thing really doesn’t matter since the psych ward only admits in the day, so if it was a night thing they wouldn’t deal with it until the next day, unless of course the person was a danger to themselves or others, which none of these seem to be. In fact the only recent file flagged as a potential danger was a Steven Giles, which is such a coincidence, ‘cause you know, you’re Giles.”
“Fascinating, I’m sure.” Giles rolled his eyes. “Ignoring that file for the moment, was there anything the rest of the files had in common?”
“Geography was a bit hard to tell. It looks like these people come from all over the place. The only coincidence I noticed was that two of the patients are both security guards for a company that mainly works around the warehouse district and another person lives pretty close to the warehouses.”
“The warehouse district?”
“You know, if you take Maple Street towards the pier and…”
“Yes I know where the warehouses are.” Giles interjected. “I just had hoped they’d correlate with the gribble sightings. There haven’t been any reports of raccoons in that direction, and I haven’t asked Buffy to look at the warehouses in at least a week.”
“Nope, these are nowhere near the raccoon sightings.”
“Damnit.” Giles muttered. “Well, maybe he’s been hiding in an empty warehouse. Goodness knows a wizard wouldn’t be able to rent a hotel room without muggle money. If only I had thought of this earlier…”
“Don’t take this the wrong way.” Willow paused as if looking for the right words. “But I was talking to Buffy, and we both think this might be something different.”
“Well, okay, I get that there’s a wizard. You’ve seen him, Buffy’s seen him, I get that. But this thing with the zombies, maybe it’s different. After all, there’s still the munchkin.”
“Yes, the one looking for the portkey.”
“Giles, are there many munchkin wizards where you’re from?”
“A few. My charms professor, for example, I’m sure was part gnome.”
“Okay…” Willow obviously thought Giles was stretching the truth abit, having never seen Professor Flitwick. “But regardless of the munchkiness, Buffy said the munchkin was looking for a key, but he was looking on behalf of his mistress. Aren’t mistresses witches, not wizards? So either there’s both witches and wizards here, or there’s something else going on, and given the Hellmouth, I’d place my money on other trouble a-brewin’.”
“Oh nothing, it’s just, you’re swearing… twice.” Willow quietly mentioned. “That’s never a good sign.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Do you need any help? I can stop by the Magic Box tomorrow if you want, since I don’t have class.”
“Giles, it’s a Saturday. Are you feeling okay?”
“Saturday? Are you sure?” Giles glanced at the calendar on his desk. “Bloody hell.”
“There you go with the swearing again.What’s wrong?”
“The floo call.” Giles answered. “The floo arrived this morning. Anya told the wizard that the floo would arrive today, and he should check back on Saturday.”
“Oh.” Willow mumbled. “Oh! But that’s good!” She quickly recovered. “That means we can trap him there and find out what’s going on. That’s good, right?”
“That was the original idea, but I’ve been so distracted lately that I had forgotten all about it.” Giles pinched his nose. It was not a good sign getting a headache this close to bedtime.
“Liar, I mentioned it just an hour ago.” Severus piped up from the couch.
“Well, I’m sure I can get Buffy to come to the Magic Box with me, and we’ll figure out a way to stop him. Maybe I can be a decoy, you know, and stand behind the desk, and then when he comes in I’ll give the signal, and Buffy can, you know, knock him down or something.”
“I’d hate to ask Buffy to do that. The duty of the slayer is not to be a hit man for her watcher.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean that kind of hit. I just meant a sort of stun thing. You know hit him on the head like you always get hit, so he’s just out of it for a bit. We just need him out long enough to tie him up and take his wand away, right?”
“Thank you so much for the clarification.” Giles muttered. “Yes, most of those wizards are pretty worthless without their wands.”
“Hey!” An affronted Severus called from the couch.
“It’s true.” Giles retorted back.
“Either way, don’t worry, we’ll work something out.” Willow tried to reassure him.
“I suppose you’re right. So I’ll expect to see you tomorrow at the shop?”
“Sure, and I’ll do my best to get Buffy out of bed too.”
“Hey, no sweat. I needed to stop by and get some stuff there anyway.” Willow shrugged. “So, do you want me to save these files or do we not need them anymore?”
“I would still be interested in looking at them, but I don’t want to inconvenience you at all.”
“Oh, no problem. I’ll bring them by tomorrow and we can start researching munchkins. Oh and hey we can check out this other weird case.”
“Steven Giles? Hello? Someone’s walking around the hellmouth using your last name and raising all sorts of red flags in the hospital files. Clearly that’s suspicious.”
“No, that’s my brother.”
“Oh.” Willow paused. “Well, then I guess we’ll stick to munchkins.”
“I think it was actually a troll.”
“Munchkins, trolls, whatever. Goodnight, Giles.”
“Goodnight Willow, sleep well.” Giles hung up the phone and let his forehead fall against the desk.
“Keep that up, and you may break the desk.” Severus muttered.
“The munchkin is something else.” Giles quietly admitted.
“I know, I heard.”
“We had the minion of some other evil at our feet, and we let it go all because I thought it had to do with your wizard.”
“Shoot me now.”
“I would, but that’s such a muggle response. Good night, Rupert.”
Giles picked himself up off the desk and walked back to the stairs. “Goodnight, Sev.”
“Mail arrived yet?”
“It will be landing momentarily.” Severus muttered, glancing up at the owls circling the Great Hall’s ceiling.
Remus glanced up. “I really don’t like the looks of that small brown one.”
“I think the large one is much more intimidating.”
“Doesn’t the large one belong to your mother?” Remus helped himself to some sausages.
“Exactly.” Severus grumbled, stabbing his tomato slice with extra viciousness.
“Why would that be a bad thing? I thought you enjoyed hearing from her.”
“I normally do. It’s the other owl’s fault.”
“Ah.” Remus nodded, trying to hide his smirk. If only Severus had any idea how ridiculous he looked moping about all the time. The brown owl they had been eyeing decided it had enough flying for the morning and landed between them on the table. “Ah, it’s from the Ministry. No wonder I didn’t trust it.”
“Well now you’ve done it.” Severus frowned.
“You’ve insulted the owl before you’ve removed your letter. Didn’t you know that’s the fastest way to get bit? Or do they not teach you basic safety in Gryffindor?”
“No, unlike Slytherin, we don’t have to have house courses on common sense.” Remus reached towards the owl, only to get a pinched finger. “Clearly, it would have no effect on most of us anyway.” He joked. “I don’t suppose you could help me out here?”
“Idiot.” Severus grumbled.
“Well, if that letter is what I think it is, we’ll soon find out just how big of an idiot.” Remus answered.
Severus grabbed a sausage from the serving dish and handed it to the owl. As the owl fumbled with the meat, he untied the letter on
its leg, only to discover the letter was actually two letters rolled together. “This one’s for you.” He handed one over to Remus. “And as for you, there’s no reason for you to wait. We’re not leaving a response and you’re not getting another sausage, so shoo.” He swatted at the owl that swallowed the sausage in one last gulp and flew off.
“That was rude.”
“Vitupera needed a landing space.”
“Your mother named an owl Vitupera?” Remus looked like he was about to laugh again.
“No, my father named the owl Vitupera.” Severus snapped back. “It’s a dignified name for an owl. Much better than Marvin.”
“For the record's sake, Marvin is Peter’s owl, not mine.” Remus blushed a bit. “So, are these what I think they are?”
“Merlin, I had hoped it would take them longer to grade those tests. I was just beginning to enjoy the summer.”
“Enjoy the summer? You’ve hardly been outside to even know that it’s summer.”
They eyed the parchment envelopes nervously. “Shall we open them on the count of three?” Severus decided it was time for them to stop stalling.
“Alright.” Remus glanced up at the staff table where the teachers still at school were watching the scene with some interest. “One… two… Hey!”
Severus had already ripped open his envelope and was reading the scores. “I count faster than you do... Bloody hell.”
“Bloody hell?” Remus gulped.
“For Merlin’s sake man, open your letter. I’m not going to tell you my scores until I can compare with yours.”
“Here goes nothing.” Remus ripped open the letter and quickly scanned the contents. “Oh, these aren’t that bad.” He breathed a sigh of relief.
“I don’t know. Mother will not be pleased with this grade in Charms and I should pray she never sees what I got in History.”
“Switch?” Remus asked, the curiosity getting the better of him. The two boys exchanged papers, skimming the wordy introduction to look at the final scores. “Severus, this isn’t bad at all. You nearly got perfect Os!”
“I got an A in Charms and a D in History.”
“So? An A in Charms is still a pass, and who cares what you got in History, especially considering you want to study potions.”
“Easy for you to say. You got Es in both.”
“Right, and it’s far more likely that I’d need Charms and History given what I want to study. The only O I got was in Transfiguration, and I got a D in Astronomy.”
“Yes, how on earth did you manage to mess up on Astronomy? That was an easy test.”
“Thank you so much.” Remus grabbed his paper back from Severus, no longer in the mood for the Slytherin’s condescending wit. “I imagine it was the practical that did me in. The test was so close to a full moon.”
“I remember. It was a pain to have such a bright object blocking everything out, but you should have remembered how to work around that. You just needed to charm a filter on the end.”
“What can I say, it was a bad night.” Remus muttered.
“Evidently.” Severus shrugged. “Oh well. Hopefully this won’t interfere with the apprenticeships, right?”
“Right. I think if there was a problem, Dumbledore would have mentioned it. He must have seen the scores before us, right?”
“Of course.” The boys returned to their breakfast in reflective silence, only to be interrupted a moment later by the landing of the Snape family owl. “Ah, Vitupera, what news do you bring from mother? I imagine she’s waiting to hear about the scores.”
“Here you go, Vitupera.” Remus offered a sausage to the glaring owl. The bird snapped at the meat, nearly taking Remus’ finger with it. “I don’t think your bird likes me.”
“Of course not. You’re a Gryffindor.” Severus replied, untying the letter from the bird’s leg.
“But of course; why didn’t I think of that?” Remus rolled his eyes.
“If it makes you feel any better, she still bites Rupert.”Severus took one look at the envelope and snorted. He offered the bird up another piece of meat. “I trust you remember your way to the owlery? I’ll need to send a response to this tomorrow. Goodness knows you shouldn’t have to do that flight twice in one day.” Severus instructed the owl, offering more kindness to the bird than he showed to most human beings.
“What is it?”
“It’s from Rupert, Mighty Minion of the Grecian Isles.” Severus read the return address aloud, shaking his head at his step-brother’s silliness. “This is the reason I try to avoid too much sunlight. It makes people crazy.”
“Rupert’s in Greece?”
“Of course. I told you that.” Severus replied, scanning the letter.
“I must have missed that.” Remus frowned. “So how is he?”
“The git’s had his OWL scores for two days now.”
“Really? I would have thought he’d get them later.”
“Who knows? The ministry is a strange place. Maybe they send them out in alphabetical order?” Severus answered. “I can’t believe it. He actually pulled an O in history.”
“Poor boy.” Remus grinned.
“His father isn’t taking it to well.”
“I can see why. Disgraceful, getting top marks in history.”
“Evidently Mother didn’t explain the grading scale to Mr. Giles, and Rupert got a lecture for only getting an A in one course.” Severus said, quickly scanning the letter. “Then, when his father finally understood the grades, he got another lecture for getting one A in that course.”
Remus snorted. “His father actually cares what he got in divination? That’s got to be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“What can I say; the Giles’ love their prophecies.” Severus smirked, enjoying getting a jibe in at his step-family.
“So, did you beat him in every other subject?” Remus asked, knowing the gossips of Gryffindors would love to know just what the studmuffin of Slytherin (according to Margaret MacDuff) got on his exams.
“Just about.” Severus said smugly. “He beat me in History and of course he didn’t take Arithmancy, but he got mainly Es. He did manage an O in Runes, DADA, and Potions somehow.” Severus set down the letter to take a drink of pumpkin juice. “It’s actually rather sad. He did fairly well, and yet the scores will do him no good.”
“That’s what Lily was saying after the exams as well. Evidently the medical school her parents want her to attend doesn’t look at OWL scores.”
“What, that’s ridiculous! What sort of school trains mediwizards without looking at their scores first?”
“The muggle kind, I guess.” Remus shrugged.
“Well, then perhaps she should set her sights a bit higher and try to study mediwizardry. Muggle-borns can be so short-sighted sometimes.”
“Honestly, I’m not sure she can get into St. Mungo’s training program. She’s absolutely abysmal when it comes to potions, and she’d have to score high enough to get into the NEWT class if she were to have a shot at it.” Remus confided.
“I disagree. I think she’s capable of scoring at least an E.” Severus answered cockily. It helped that the potions on the practical just happened to be some of the ones he had drilled Lily on just the week before the exam.
“Really, I would have thought…” Remus studied his summer roommate with a bit more scrutiny, “… well, I’ll be hexed! She got him again.” His face broke into a wide grin.
“She got who what?”
“I probably shouldn’t be telling you this. Goodness knows what a little Gryffindor gossip will become in the hands of a Slytherin, but I suppose it’s well enough known. James has decided his next quest will be Lily Evans.”
“Sirius got him a copy of Don Quixote for his birthday, and I really don’t want to know the way his mind works.” Remus shrugged. “She’s been giving him the cold shoulder for months now, and Margaret hinted that she was really seeing your brother, but then he went with Bertie to the Ball…”
“I still think they should have sold tickets to the fight over that.” Severus smirked.
“Hufflepuffs.” Remus shrugged in agreement. “Anyway, James noticed that Lily was sneaking away every Wednesday afternoon, and he thought she was going to some romantic tryst with Rupert. However, now I’m guessing she was meeting you in the dungeons, am I right?”
“Your intellect never fails to amaze me.” Severus retorted. “You just now figured that out? I would have thought the fact that Lily delivered your notes every week this spring would have given it away.”
“Well, James didn’t know about it, and I just figured you gave the notes to Rupert to give to Lily to give to me.”
“I’m not sure what I should be more insulted about: the fact that you think I would actually trust those two to deliver my notes no questions asked, without something hanging over their heads, or the fact that you think I’m pathetic enough to keep track of Rupert’s trysts.”
“You do have a point; it does sound rather pathetic when you phrase it like that.” Remus grinned. “Well it looks like it’s time to get to work.” He nodded towards the faculty table where the staff was getting up from breakfast.
“Oh joy. Another day in the dungeon.”
“It beats my job. I’m going through DADA resumes, again.”
“He was promoted at the Ministry.”
“That’s a pity. Most of the time he knew what he was talking about.”
“I know, but it is nice to think that a competent person in the Ministry is actually getting promoted.” Remus stood up, tucking his OWL scores into his robes. “Congratulations on your scores.”
“You too.” Severus nodded at his friend.