Make the Best of a Bad Situation
“Alright, where do you want him?”
Giles stifled the urge not to laugh at the sight of Buffy holding Severus in a fireman’s carry. “Just a minute I have to get his chair.” Giles emptied his pockets onto the research table until he came upon what he was looking for.
“Oh! That’s so cute! It’s like a Barbie wheelchair! You know, if Barbie actually needed a wheelchair. Do you think they’ll ever come up with an impaired Barbie or would that just be too weird? After all, it’s not like regular Barbie is all physiologically accurate anyway. Did you know if Barbie was real, she’d have to use a wheelchair because her feet are so tiny she’d just fall right over, not to mention she’s got terrible arches from standing in high heels all the time?” Willow mused, not noticing the look Giles shot Buffy. Clearly he was blaming the slayer for letting Willow near caffeine so early in the morning.
“It’s not for a doll. It’s for Sev. He insisted that he be allowed to come along and therefore we had to shrink the chair to fit in the car.” Giles picked up his wand, which had seen more use in the past seven days than in the previous seven years combined.
“Yes?” He turned to Willow with a silent prayer that she wouldn’t be this jumpy all morning.
“If you’re going to make that bigger, wouldn’t it make sense to put it on the floor, because hello, full size wheel chairs don’t exactly fit on the table?”
“I’m sure a few minutes on the table won’t matter, and it’s easier to aim at a target at that level.”
“But what if it gets stuck on the table and we can’t get it down because the …”
“Can you just make the thingy bigger? I’m getting tired of holding your brother.” Buffy cut in.
“What about all that super power strength? If you can’t even carry a person for a few minutes I don’t see how we can expect you to fight off the minions of evil. Clearly the world is doomed.” Severus said from his hanging position.
“It’s not your weight that’s the problem, mister gloom-and-doom; it’s your bony elbows.”
“Enough.” Giles snapped. “Finite Incantatem.”
“You git, you’re supposed to use an enlargement charm.” Snape said without even facing the wheelchair. “You have no idea what other charms might have been placed on that chair. For all you know that could have been a transformed hamster, and then we’d be in serious trouble.”
“This worked.” Giles said, watching the wheelchair grow until it was back to full size. He took one step towards it, just as the wheels slid and the whole chair rolled forward, falling off the end of the table.
“See! I told you not to put the wheelchair on the table.” Willow mumbled.
“Yes, I see that.” Giles straightened the chair back up and wheeled it to Buffy. “Alright. If you would be so kind as to deposit him here…?”
“Oomph! You didn’t have to throw me.” Severus mumbled.
“No, I could have ‘accidentally’ dropped you on the floor.” Buffy smiled wickedly. “And if you keep it up, I can arrange for several more accidents.”
“Really, Buffy, must you egg him on so?” Giles tried to appeal to his slayer. “And you, don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to, and I’m telling you, it won’t work.” Severus growled but refrained from arguing.
“Um, Giles, just what are you up to?” Willow asked.
“I’m holding his wand hostage in exchange for good behavior.”
“Oh, does Sevvy-wevvy not have his toy?” Buffy taunted.
“No, you’re not.”
“You’re right.” Buffy jumped onto the table, swinging her feet. “So, I thought you were leaving broody bottoms at home. What happened?”
“We had a slight change of plans.” Severus snorted at Giles’ euphemism. Evidently his brother was not about to mention that Severus had threatened to blow up the house and every book in it, if Giles left him alone on the couch for one more day. Even with that threat, Giles had considered leaving Severus alone until his brother pointed out that the trap at the shop might very well blow up in their face if the wizard came to Giles’ residence before going to the Magic Box; they’d be better off if everyone was in the same place.
“But he’ll get in the way! How are we supposed to surprise mister wizard-stalker if you’ve got him just sitting in the middle of the store?”
“He won’t be in the middle of the store. I’ll move him to the training room.”
“But then I won’t be able to train.”
“Look, Buffy, I’m so very sorry to intrude on your plans, but there was no other option. We just have to make the best of a bad situation.”
“I can’t believe we have this much work! I thought once OWLs were over, we’d get a rest.” Margaret MacDuff whined.
“Are you crazy? NEWTs are less than two years away.” Amelia scoffed, her eyes not straying from the book she was scanning.
“Right, that’s two YEARS away. You’d think we’d get a break.” Margaret continued.
“Well, I think that’s what the summer was supposed to be… not that it was terribly effective.” Rupert mumbled.
“But that was so long ago!”
“Good grief, Meggie, you should just be thankful you’re not in Potions- then you’d know the true meaning of torture.” Lily teased.
“Potions isn’t that bad. Just as long as you can keep the animals, vegetables, and minerals straight, it’s a walk in the park.”
“Let me guess; you took a peak at Severus’ essay.” Lily guessed. Rupert didn’t answer, but ran his hands through his hair, which was as good as an admission of guilt. “You Slytherins are such cheaters.”
“I know, I know. If we weren’t so terribly handsome, I’m sure they would have bombed our house long ago.” Rupert teased.
“While you have some decent looking blokes, I’d hardly call your house handsome. Take Severus, for example….” Amelia said matter-of-factly, as she shuffled between her notes and the book in front of her.
“Oh yes, let’s take Severus for example,” Rupert said sourly.
“Hey, Amelia, remember how we had that little talk about not talking about boys in front of boys…” Penelope nudged her friend.
“He’s not a boy, he’s Rupert.” Amelia shot back, finally glancing up to look at Penelope.
“Ahem, thank you so much. Should I leave now with what little dignity I have or is it too late for that?”
“Oh it’s far too late for that, just stay where you are. So, in Severus’ essay, I don’t suppose you happened to notice any mention of pixie affinities?” Lily cut in before Amelia could dig a deeper hole for herself.
“And if I did?”
“Ha! I knew it! Jigger is always trying to add that interspecial affinity bit in, and I always get it wrong.” Lily crowed. “Alright, now if I can just find that reference…”
“Hey, does anyone have a few minutes to look at my Transfiguration paper?” Bertie asked, setting her quill down and shaking out her hand.
“Trade ya? I’ve got about two-thirds of this stupid Charms paper done. Do wizards recognize space-time or is that just a muggle thing?” Rupert handed his paper on time-turner theory to Bertie.
“It’s both. Just don’t reference Einstein. I tried that once and McGonagall was not happy. I think the wizard counterpart was Edward Newton Finitum.” Lily said. The group fell into a comfortable silence as they worked on their respective term papers. With the NEWT classes, the old choir study group suddenly found itself split with different schedules, but the group found they studied better together than in their own commons rooms.
They were just about to start wrapping up for dinner when the choir room door opened. Professor Flitwick peeked in. Normally the diminuitive professor was glad to see his favorites studying in the choir room together, and sometimes he even joined them, giving them extra help on the tougher charms. Today however, he didn’t even look at the group scattered over the risers. “Ah, there you are. Ms. Evans, could you please see Professor McGonagall? It’s a matter of some urgency.”
“Of course, Professor.” Lily looked puzzled.
“She’s waiting for you in her office.” Professor Flitwick looked only too eager to be somewhere else as he delivered his message.
Lily looked at the pile of books she had carted to the choir room. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll bring them back to the room.” Margaret answered Lily’s unasked question.
“Alright. I’ll see you later.” Lily frowned as she followed Flitwick out.
As soon as she was out the door, the speculation started. “What do you suppose that was about?” Penelope asked what was on everyone’s mind.
“I bet it has something to do with the Yule Ball. You know how McGonagall likes to get the prefects involved with that.” Amelia quickly answered.
“That could have waited until after dinner. Maybe McGonagall found her an apprenticeship?” Rupert speculated.
“No, the St. Mungos junior mediwitch program doesn’t announce until January, and that really would be the only program worth doing before graduation.” Penelope replied.
“Did you see the look on Professor Flitwick’s face? I bet it’s something far more serious than an apprenticeship.” Beatrice frowned. “You don’t suppose something happened to her familiar? The cat was getting a bit old, and she did mention she was taking it to see Hagrid last week.”
“Toto isn’t that old, and Hagrid told her it was just a bit of indigestion. He gave it some sort of feed and it was up to its usual tricks by morning.” Margaret answered, knowing her roommate better than anyone else there.
“She named that black cat Toto?” Rupert smirked.
“Yes, do you have a problem with that?” Margaret stared at the lone Slytherin.
“Toto is a dog’s name.” Rupert let a snicker out.
“How do you gather that? I would think Toto could go to any sort of animal.”
“I think you’re missing the point.” Rupert and Lily had tried explaining muggle cinema to Margaret before, but in the end it was a lost cause.
“And just what is that point?”
“The point is, something serious must have happened to make Flitwick go looking for Lily. I mean, he didn’t even say hello to the rest of us. Surely you find that peculiar?” Beatrice tried to reign in the usual squabble between Margaret and Rupert.
“Maybe he was just having a busy day?” Rupert offered.
“Boys.” The girls shook their heads knowingly.
“Well, there’s no point speculating. When we see her at dinner, she’ll undoubtedly tell up what happened.”
“Unless of course, it’s meant to be a surprise.” Amelia reasoned. “In which case, she might not tell us.”
“Right…” Rupert eyed the Ravenclaw oddly. Amelia was one of the smartest witches he knew, but she seemed to be missing the filter between her brain and her mouth.
“Speaking of dinner…” Margaret eyed the clock where the hand pointing to study hall was inching closer to the dinner spot. The group quickly gathered their belongings, and headed back to their respective commons rooms.
Rupert reached the Slytherin dormitory just as Narcissa and crew were on their way out. “Ah, Rupert, just the snake I was looking
“I find that hard to believe. In fact I believe you were actually heading to the Great Hall, where I will be joining you after I set my books down. Ladies,” Rupert nodded to the girls as he darted right past them. That was a close call. He had forgotten about the potential trap waiting for him in the snakepit.
As he dumped his books into his trunk, his thoughts were interrupted by his step-brother. “Ru, where have you been? No, let me guess, you’ve been out with your girlfriends again, supposedly working on term papers while besmirching the good Slytherin name.”
“Ah, Sev, I see your legilimancy skills are getting better.”
“It hardly takes a legilimans to read your thoughts.”
“Oh, and what am I thinking now?” Rupert stared Severus in the eyes.
“You’re trying to figure out how you can possible avoid Narcissa for another week so that she doesn’t set you up with that fourth year for the Yule Ball on Friday.”
“Wrong.” Rupert quickly locked his trunk and headed to the door.
“What? No I’m not. I know you must have run into the harpies on your way in.”
“True, but believe it or not, I have more important things on my mind.”
“Oh really? Like what?” Severus followed Rupert in his quick gait towards the Great Hall.
“I don’t know. I just have this overwhelming sense of doom, like something very bad is about to happen.”
“Could you be more specific? Are we thinking bad as in you forget the answers to the next Runes exam, or bad as in death eaters will attack Hogwarts?”
“I don’t know, just bad. It’s been an odd day. The weather is too still, and well, Lily was called out of study group.”
“So, Professor Flitwick interrupted our study group just to send Lily to talk with Professor McGonagall.”
“I fail to see the big problem. There are probably several reasons he’d want to send Lily to talk with Professor McGonagall. Maybe the Gryffindors are in trouble for that quidditch goal stunt. Maybe McGonagall is delegating prefects to decorate for the Ball. Maybe, McGonagall finally found a mediwitch program that will actually take muggle-borns.”
“Maybe her cat has indigestion and McGonagall knows a good remedy. I don’t know. I just get the feeling something is wrong.”
“Well, you can talk to her after dinner, but not until…”
“Well, let’s just say, if you try to talk to Lily before you talk to Narcissa, you’re going to start several nasty rumors you don’t want
“Like that you plan on taking Evans to the dance.”
“Why do you care so much about who I take to the dance?” While Rupert trusted his step-brother with most things, he was beginning to get a bit suspicious.
“This is your sixth year. We only have one more year of school. Who you take to the dance now may determine your entire life. Did you know that seventy percent of wizards marry the witch they took to their sixth year Ball?”
“Now where did you get that lie? Wait, let me guess. Lucius told you?”
“It doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.”
“You should know better than believing whatever he tells you. Think about how many wizards you know that never got married at all. Clearly all of those old alchemists did not marry their sixth year date.”
“Unless, of course, they didn’t go to their sixth year dance, in which case they prove the theory – no date in sixth year, still single 80 years later.”
“So I take it you’ve already found a date?”
“As a matter of fact I have. I will be going with Haephesta; she’s a fifth year Slytherin. Gran arranged it.”
“Let me guess, she’s a cousin to the Lestranges.”
“How’d you know… nevermind.”
“Well, congratulations. At least it’s not Pruney, eh?” Rupert teased.
“Yes, well, if you don’t watch out you may find yourself going with Pruney.” Severus muttered as they neared the Slytherin table.
“I suppose that’s better than some alternatives.”
“Really?” Severus was a bit startled to hear that coming from his step-brother.
“Oh, yes, didn’t I tell you? In the latest letter from father, he mentioned that Quentin has a cousin that is very interested in meeting me, and Quentin’s letter was even less subtle in his hints about keeping the Watcher lines ‘in the family’ so to speak. I can’t help but wonder just how repulsive the girl must be if her family is attempting to wed her off to a boy still in school.”
Severus smirked as the pair took their seats; Rupert sat across from Narcissa as though daring for her to talk business at the dinner table. “Still, maybe she takes after Damon’s side rather than Quentin’s side of the Travers?” Severus offered hopefully.
“In what way?” Rupert couldn’t help but ask.
“Well, I was thinking in the ‘tolerable enough to be in the same room with and not be tempted to cast an unforgivable’ way… but I suppose the other way could also be true.” Severus mused.
“True, but doubtful. I would be very surprised if the wizarding Travers would have anything to do with Quentin’s family. No, I’m guessing this cousin is on his mother’s side.” Rupert said as he added some pepper to his dinner.
“Actually,” Rupert’s eyes were drawn across the table to notice Narcissa for the first time, “It’s rather interesting that you should mention the Travers family. Have you been formally introduced to Damon’s cousin Constance Travers? She’s a fourth year in our house.” Narcissa graciously introduced the mousy girl that had been sitting next to her for who knew how long.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. Constance, did you say?” Rupert swallowed nervously and resisted the urge to brush his hair from his eyes. He blushed slightly as Severus added a rude comment disguised as a cough. “You don’t happen to have a cousin, Quentin, by any chance?”
“He might be from the Westbury Travers. We don’t speak much with that side of the family.” She blushed faintly, giving Rupert a fairly good idea of what she thought of her squib relatives.
“Ah, just a random coincidence then.” Rupert fumbled with the conversation.
“Constance and I were just talking about the Yule Ball.” Narcissa said, picking up the thread of conversation.
“Why does that not surprise me?” Rupert muttered.
“I was just telling her about my first year for the Yule Ball, and how the boys took forever to finally ask us out.” Narcissa hinted.
“Fascinating.” Rupert said, his attention focused on the table on the opposite end of the room. Margaret had saved a position for Lily, but the girl had yet to arrive. MacDuff had perked up as she saw Professor McGonagall enter the Great Hall, but Lily was not with her.
“In fact some boys our year still have yet to ask out a girl. Isn’t that so?” Narcissa hinted heavily.
“Hmm?” Rupert was distracted by watching Professor McGonagall approach the Gryffindor table rather than the staff table at the front. “Oh, yes, some of us have been quite remiss in our duties.”
“Don’t you think you should do something to remedy that?” Narcissa’s leading question fell on deaf ears as Rupert watched McGonagall whisper something into Margaret’s ear. Margaret’s face became so pale that Rupert could make out individual freckles from across the room. After a short exchange of whispered comments, Margaret got up and ran out of the room.
“If you’ll excuse me…” Rupert tried to stand up to chase after Margaret, but instead found himself fastened to the bench.
“If you’ll excuse us…” Severus nodded to the girls, before muttering a quick charm that created a bubble around the two brothers, scrambling their conversation for anyone trying to eavesdrop on them. “Alright, say what’s on your mind.” Severus tried not to notice the angry glare he got from Narcissa when she realized she was cut out of the loop for this conversation.
“What in Merlin’s name are you trying to pull?” Rupert glared at his brother, quickly realizing who had charmed his shoes to the ground.
“That’s exactly what I want to ask you.”
“Lily hasn’t come down for dinner. She was with McGonagall. McGonagall just spoke with Meggie, before MacDuff went storming out, too. If I don’t leave here right now, I won’t be able to catch up with her and find out what’s up.”
“I know, I saw. But don’t you think if you were meant to know what’s going on, they would tell you?”
“Let me make this easier for you. You will stay attached to that bench until you have asked Constance Travers to the dance.”
“I can’t believe this! You’re actually ganging up with Narcissa against me? After all I’ve done for you over the years!”
“No, you’re quite mistaken. I’m not ganging up with Narcissa, she’s ganging up with me.”
“I don’t follow.” Rupert quit straining against the bench, realizing that he was out of his depth.
“My mother wrote me with the latest owl-post. She said, and I quote, if you didn’t attend the Yule Ball with Constance Travers, she would hold me personally responsible.”
“That is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Yes, it’s perfectly absurd. It’s almost as absurd as the notion that your father has run afoul with several members of the High Council in regards to the Death Eater problem, more specifically running afoul of Wilford Travers. In a perfectly absurd political play, your father is attempting to get the wizarding Travers on his side to outvote the squib Travers members on letting the Ministry handle the problem. This may actually be an important enough issue to get the wizarding Travers to step out of their laissez-faire habits, but just in case it isn’t, your father is trying to find other ways of reaching them. Isn’t it convenient that one of the wizarding Travers should happen to be in Slytherin and has yet to find an escort to the Yule Ball? You could for once actually be a help to your father, rather than a hindrance. Isn’t that absurd?” Severus’ voice had slowly climbed in pitch as he ranted, and he blushed as his voice cracked on the last word.
Rupert decided to temporarily ignore the fact that Cassandra told Severus more Council gossip than he had ever gotten from his father, even though he was the one with a destiny in the Watchers’ Council. “I can’t believe you set me up like this. I can understand Narcissa trying to…”
“Are you crazy? What could a Travers offer a Black, especially given the age difference. Narcissa would gain far more by setting you up with Prunella.” The boys glanced across the table at the two girls who were patiently waiting for the private conversation to end. Constance wasn’t ugly, but sitting next to Narcissa, she looked quite homely, and it didn’t help Rupert’s impression that she was two years younger than the girl next to her.
“You cashed in a favor with Narcissa Black for this?” Rupert stared his brother in the eye. Severus would never stoop so low to pander to Narcissa Black if the matter wasn’t dire. Severus stayed silent. “Alright I’ll do it, but don’t you ever try to glue me to the table again.”
“Alright. I’m sure I can think of something else to try next time I need to kidnap you for your own good.”
“I’ll look forward to it.” Rupert said as the privacy bubble popped.
“So, did you enjoy trying out your new trick, Severus?” Narcissa asked, staring squarely at Rupert.
“I think it did the trick.” Rupert noticed his brother was also staring expectantly at him. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Sorry about the interruption, ladies. I believe we were talking about my inability to ask a girl to the ball in a reasonable amount of time?” Rupert shot Narcissa a scathing look before turning a radiant smile towards Constance. “Of course, that could just be due to the fact that I had yet to meet a lovely enough lady. Ms. Travers, it is a pleasure to meet you, would you care to attend the Yule Ball with me?”
*cough* “Smooth.” *cough* Severus chuckled, earning a kick to his shin.
“Why, I thought you’d never ask.” She smiled shyly, although everyone at the table knew she had been fishing for an invitation all week.
“Very well, so I’ll meet you in the commons room at eight?”
“That sounds lovely.”
“Oh look, Constance, your friends are calling you over. Perhaps you should go eat with them.” Narcissa deftly shooed the fourth year further down the table. “You know, for being a Slytherin, you really are clueless sometimes, Rupert.” She teased, as soon as the girl was out of hearing. “And, honestly, you could do better.”
“You go out of your way to arrange that, and then insist I can do better?” Rupert’s voice cracked. “You know, I don’t envy Lucius at all. He’ll be in St. Mungo’s ward for the insane if you keep that up.”
“Lucius knows how to handle himself.”
“I suppose you’ve charmed him to say ‘yes, dear’ to whatever you say?”
“What a ridiculous suggestion… the Black women don’t do that until after the wedding.” Narcissa smirked.
“Well, if we’ve now gone through our strained pleasantries, there really is something else I need to look into.” Rupert tried to stand up, only to be yanked back down to the table. “What is it this time?”
“Sit down and finish your dinner.” Severus ordered. “Most likely the people you are looking for are in their commons room, well away from where you can reach them. It’s too late to find out what the commotion was about, and if you leave now you’re just going to miss dinner.”
“Commotion? What commotion?” Narcissa perked up. While typically inferior, sometimes boys could produce decent gossip.
“Nothing.” Rupert immediately clammed up.
“Roughly half an hour before dinner, McGonagall insisted on seeing Lily Evans. Evans never arrived to dinner, and as soon as McGonagall arrived, MacDuff left.” Severus filled in the blank, not caring for gossip, but enjoying the opportunity to annoy Rupert on multiple fronts.
“Interesting.” Narcissa’s eyes flashed with mischief, a trademark of the Black line. “That’s just the sort of mystery I could amuse myself with this evening. I’ll let you know what happened by midnight.”
“Really? And what is it you want in return?”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“Maybe I just want to satisfy my curiosity.”
“You know what they say, curiousity killed the cat.”
“Luckily I’m not a cat.” Narcissa picked up her fork and resumed eating, indicating that the battle of wits was over, and she had declared herself winner.
“Lucky indeed.” Rupert settled down to his dinner, pushing his peas aimlessly around the plate while wondering what could have upset the Gryffindor girls so badly. He was about finished with his dinner, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. “Honestly, Sev, don’t you think I would have…” Rupert froze when he realized who had tapped him on the shoulder. “Lupin?”
“Hello.” The young werewolf looked decidedly uncomfortable so close to the Slytherin table.
“Why are you here?” Severus quickly demanded.
“MacDuff wanted Rupert to have this.” Remus handed Rupert a note, folded in half.
“What is it?” Severus asked.
“How should I know? I’m just the messenger.” Remus muttered.
“Well, your message is delivered. You can leave now.” Severus dismissed his former friend. Remus was about to point out that it would only be polite to wait and see if Rupert wanted to send a return message, but decided that if Rupert wanted to send something back he could jolly well find someone else to do the running. The Gryffindor headed back to his house’s table. “So, what does MacDuff have to say for herself?”
Rupert read through the note, twice over. “Nothing,” he mumbled, and with a quick swish and muttered charm, the note was reduced to a small pile of ash.
“That was a bit too overdramatic to be nothing.” Narcissa observed.
“The better to eat you up with, my dear.” Rupert bared his teeth in a wolfish grin, but it was clear his heart wasn’t in the taunting.
“I think there’s something serious going on, and I intend to get to the bottom of it.” Narcissa insisted.
“You can try, but you won’t find out anything from me. After all, I’d hate to have my assignations in the astronomy tower interrupted by the entire Slytherin chorus.”
“Oh please, if you were having any liaisons with that Gryffindor, I would hope you’d find some place less obvious than the Astronomy Tower.” Narcissa scoffed.
“You’re right. We use the potions room.”
“Please! Not while I’m eating.” Severus interrupted, just as Rupert knew he would.
“Just you wait, Rupert Giles; I will know what’s going on by breakfast tomorrow.” Narcissa proclaimed.
“I don’t doubt that.” Rupert replied tersely. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.” He got up before anyone could reply and left the Great Hall.
Rupert was a little surprised that Severus hadn’t followed him, knowing his step-brother’s knack for getting into his business. However, Severus had no need to follow Rupert. For perhaps the first time in years, Severus had managed to figure out what his birthday gift from Pa was, and had made frequent use of the eavesdropping device. Reading the note over Rupert’s shoulder, he had learned that someone in Lily’s family had died. Evidently it was someone important, for Lily was given permission by McGonagall to skip classes for the rest of the week as needed. MacDuff, in what was probably one of the most altruistic gestures Severus had seen from the girl, was trying to make the best of a bad situation by making sure someone in all of Lily’s classes would make an extra copy of their notes for her. Undoubtedly Rupert would agree to provide the potions notes out of some misplaced sense of sympathy. There was no point for Severus to follow his step brother and point out that allowing Lily to skip classes for mourning would only enable her melancholy to continue. Rupert’s mind had been set, and thus Severus stayed in the Great Hall, enjoying the simple pleasures of bread pudding and knowing he had figured something out before Narcissa.