“So, if someone comes in and asks for a pound of floo powder, that’s my signal to signal Buffy, who will signal you and Snivellous, I mean Severus, and then you guys will attack the wizard while I duck behind the counter?” Willow stood behind the counter of the Magic Box, going over the last minute details for the fifth straight time before the store opened.
“Yes, that’s the plan.”
“But what if the wizard gets Buffy before she can warn you?”
“Hey, I’m fast!” Buffy interjected.
“Yeah, but he’s got a wand; it’s a he-wizard right?”
“Yes, Willow. There are no she-wizards.”
“Really? Why not? Isn’t that a little sexist?”
“I don’t think having separate terms for wizards and witches is really sexist, no.” Giles frowned.
“Are you sure you want her at the counter for this?” Severus grumbled from where he was hiding in Giles’ office.
“Hey! I can handle the counter position.” Willow argued back. “I’m just saying, what if Buffy can’t knock him down and alert you two? What should she do first?”
“Well, if she can’t manage both discretely, then you could warn us while she handles the wizard.” Giles reasoned.
“Oh, okay.” Willow relaxed and Giles was about to step out from behind the counter, when she started again. “What if the wizard doesn’t come alone?”
“I suppose if there are multiple wizards, we’ll still be able to handle it. After all, their magic will likely backfire on them, so close to the Hellmouth.”
“And what if we can’t handle multiple wizards?”
“Then I suppose we’ll all die. How should I know?” Giles sighed. He knew he should be thankful that Willow was willing to help them out like this. After all, it really was a family problem. But when she had coffee in her, sometimes the college student sounded more like a five year old.
“Okay, but what if, the wizard does come alone, but there are other people in the store at the time? You can’t just knock him out without freaking out your other customers.”
“I suppose you could tell him that the floo is locked in the back room and have him follow Buffy into the training room where she knocks him out, quietly.”
“Oh, well, why don’t we just do that anyway?” Willow mused. “Oh, and what if he’s prepared for it and has personal shields or something?”
“Any decent magic store would be warded against personal shields, or else they’d have a problem with shoplifters. Rupert, are sure this girl knows anything at all about magic?” Severus replied on behalf of his brother.
“Hey!” Willow objected.
“Actually, Sev, the ward you’re thinking of requires some charms that have the tendency of canceling out the vampire wards, and considering the Hellmouth…”
Neither Giles nor Willow could make out Severus’ mumbled response, but Buffy heard. “Hey, take that back! Giles isn’t a muggle-minded Hufflepuffy, whatever the heck that is.”
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” Giles mumbled. “Look Willow, I’m sure you’ll be fine. I’ll be in my office with Severus the entire time and Buffy will be out here to help you. Alright?” Giles didn’t really wait for Willow’s response. “Excellent. Now it’s time to open the shades and unlock the door.”
Giles went into his office and closed the door, leaving just a crack for them to listen through.
Oh, okay.” Willow was about to open the front door, when an idea occurred to her. “Hey, what if…”
The boys were hiding behind the pillars in the front hall, listening attentively to the conversation in the study. At sixteen, they were probably too old to be snooping around like that, but it really couldn’t be helped. Since they had arrived at Westbury, the floo had been lit with non-stop traffic. Several of their friend’s parents had flooed Cassandra with holiday greetings and gossip, and Mr. Giles had received numerous floos from the wizarding branch of the Travers clan. The boys had soon realized that staking out the front hall would be a far more interesting way of spending the winter holidays than catching up on Transfiguration readings.
As Cassandra finished up her conversation with Mrs. Hogstons, of the Hogsmeade Ladies Alchemy Society, the boys contemplated abandoning their posts for a round of chess. However, the sharp “whoosh” noise of a new floo call coming in caught their attention. “Professor Dumbledore, what a surprise. To what do I owe this pleasure?” Cassandra’s greeting surprised the boys.
“May I step through?” The headmaster asked. The boys assumed Cassandra nodded, for a moment later they heard the thud of the wizard’s entrance. “Ah, hello, Cassandra. You look radiant as always.”
“Why thank you, Professor. Is everything alright?”
“I suppose that depends on your definition of everything. I suppose if I were Fawkes, everything would be better than alright as he’s in his chipper adolescent phase right now. Granted, he’ll grow out of it as soon as he realizes there are no female phoenixes around, but he does act so flighty when he’s at this stage.” Dumbledore mused. “As for me, I am quite alright, but I’m afraid I’m here on behalf of someone who is not so fortunate. By any chance is your husband in? I think both of you should hear my request at once.”
“I can have one of the boys fetch him. Undoubtedly, they’re listening in.” Cassandra answered.
“Bugger.” Rupert muttered. “We’ll fetch father.” He called out a bit louder.
“I suppose I’m not terribly surprised.” Severus commented as the pair headed towards the library, where Bradford would undoubtedly be working. “She was in Slytherin after all.”
“I know. Do you suppose she knows we were there the whole time?”
“I have no doubt. It would sure make that comment to Mrs. Malfoy about your house loyalty make sense.”
“That was just an odd conversation. It was as if Mrs. Malfoy was issuing a test cleverly disguised as holiday decorating tips.”
“Well, now you know where Lucius gets it from.” The boys fell silent as the entered the library.
“Father?” The boys interrupted the man leaning over the center table. Before he could scold them, Rupert continued. “Professor Dumbledore just flooed over. He would like to speak to you in the study now, if that’s alright with you.”
“Very well, tell him I’ll be by in a minute.” Mr. Giles did not even look up from the work he was translating. “He shall be marked by the master and shall lead the Chosen One into the darkness; hmm, that can’t be right.” Sir Bradford mumbled as the boys ducked back into the hallway.
“Do you ever get the feeling that your father has absolutely no idea how important the headmaster is in the wizarding world?” Severus asked as soon as the boys were out of hearing range of the library.
“I think he knows; he just doesn’t care. After all, the Council’s work is probably far more important than the work of a single wizard. When was the last time a wizard was responsible for averting the end of the world?”
“Well, I would think Dumbledore’s defeat of Grindewald to be as important if not more so than some of the adventures of the slayers.”
“And that’s why they won’t be offering you a seat on the Council when you’re through with school.” Rupert grinned.
“Not that I would want to be part of such a group.” Severus sniffed. While it was true that he had always had his sights set on alchemy, he often felt slightly offended that Rupert’s father hadn’t even bothered to consider him a candidate for the organization. After all, Severus did at least as well as, if not better than, Rupert in defense class, and what was slaying if not defense against the dark arts?
“No, of course not. Who would?” Rupert asked bitterly. He knocked once before entering the study. “He said he’ll be over in a minute.”
“Wonderful. Would you two boys like to take a seat?” Professor Dumbledore offered. The boys were surprised by the offer, but eagerly took a seat on one of the leather sofas.
A few minutes later, Mr. Giles also showed his surprise at seeing the two boys sitting attentively, while Professor Dumbledore finished up a short story involving a fortunate mistake he had made when studying with Nicholas Flamel that resulted in the discovery of fast-acting slug repellent. “Professor Dumbledore, so good to see you. Should we take this to another room?” Sir Bradford asked, glancing at the two teenagers.
“What I have to say will undoubtedly effect them as well, and this room seems perfectly comfortable. In fact, I think this chair is even more comfortable than it was the last time I visited.” The professor smiled goodnaturedly at his hosts.
“It should. My mother insisted on charming the furniture to within an inch of its existence last time she visited.” Cassandra offered with a grin to the man who had been a friend of her family for as long as she could remember.
“Ah yes, Medea always did have a tendency to make any room her own.” Professor Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled merrily, but his smile was more subdued than usual.
“So, what brings you to Westbury, Professor?” Sir Bradford asked, never quite feeling comfortable socializing with the wizarding populace.
“As you know, the number of alledged Death Eater attacks has increased sharply this fall. It appears that a few headlines in the Daily Prophet have only fueled the fervor of that organization, rather than publicly shaming them, much to our dismay. The Ministry is struggling to react to the recent spat of Death Eater attacks, let alone take any proactive measures.”
“Are you here on behalf of the Ministry? I’ve already told your aurors that the Council is currently not in a position to…”
“No, Mr. Giles, I’m not here on behalf of the Ministry.” Professor Dumbledore cut him off. “I’m here as a concerned professor of Hogwarts. I’m here to ask a more personal favor.” It was left unsaid that whatever Dumbledore was going to suggest was at odds with Ministry policy and that Dumbledore had reached the end of his patience with the Ministry of Magic.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” Cassandra interjected before her husband began to spout the Council party line.
“This past week, I had to deliver unfortunate news to one of your sons’ classmates. Both of Lily Evans’ parents died in an automobile accident.”
Cassandra gasped. “That’s awful.” The boys paled slightly, but remained silent. This wasn’t a total surprise to them; Lily had been missing since Wednesday.
“Indeed that’s dreadful, but I don’t see how that relates to us.”
“Although automobile accidents are a perfectly normal muggle occurrence, there were some questionable aspects to the event. A friend of mine with the aurors investigating the crash and said that several witnesses reported the automobile spinning out of control for no apparent reason and a green cloud of smoke emerging from where the vehicle went over the bridge. Nobody reported seeing the morsmorde or any suspicious characters in black hoods around the accident scene, but then muggles might not have been looking for such clues. While he was ordered off the case, my friend found the evidence suspicious enough to alert me to the circumstances.”
“Were the parents in any way active in the wizarding community?”
“Not at all; they were as muggle as they come.”
“And yet, their daughter is a witch.” Sir Bradford frowned.
“A very competent witch,” Professor Dumbledore agreed. “Her OWL scores were unusually high for a muggle-born witch, and may have been high enough to draw the wrong sort of attention.”
“You believe she may still be in danger.” Cassandra jumped to the logical conclusion.
“I hope that’s not the case, but I would rather assume it was Death Eaters and take precautions, than assume it was an accident and be unpleasantly surprised.”
“We have to help her.” Rupert blurted out.
“She needs help, but we may not be the best option she has.” His father tempered his son’s outburst with his cold reasoning.
“I’ve thought this over, and I do believe that you could help provide her with the best option.” Professor Dumbledore replied.
“I don’t see how. We’re not in a position to adopt another child.”
“Good heavens, I didn’t mean adoption.” Professor Dumbledore would have chuckled if the situation wasn’t so dire. “I only ask that you attend her parent’s funeral tomorrow and convince her grandmother to let her stay with you until the school term starts. It is imperative that Lily return to Hogwarts in January, and the longer she stays with her grandparents, the less likely that is to happen.”
“Surely her parents stipulated in their will that their daughter’s education continue uninterrupted?”
“Of course they did, Cassandra, but you must understand her grandmother has no idea of the type of education Miss Evans is receiving at Hogwarts. To her, transferring Lily to a school closer to the family would not interrupt the girl’s education.”
“What a disaster.” Cassandra muttered.
“I have a feeling we will see many more such disasters before this problem is solved.” Dumbledore predicted gravely, looking his full hundred years.
“I don’t mean to sound rude,” Sir Bradford interrupted, “but are you sure we’re the right people for this? Lily isn’t even in the boys’ house. If I were the grandmother, I would certainly not allow my daughter to be carted off to a house with two adolescent boys. It would not appear proper. I’m sure sending a professor would be a much better idea.”
“Your family has one thing most of the professors lack, though,” Professor Dumbledore looked into Sir Bradford’s eyes, and the watcher suddenly felt very young and naïve. “You have one foot firmly in both the muggle and wizarding world. While I admire the professionalism of my faculty greatly, I have been informed that by muggle standards, we come across as eccentric at the best of times.” Professor Dumbledore smiled wistfully as though he was laughing at a private joke. “Likewise, I can not in good faith send any of the muggle families associated with the school, without possibly endangering them as well. I have no doubt that you not only have the ability to sway a muggle grandmother but also the ability to protect her once she is moved.”
“Are you sure it’s the right idea to separate her from what family she has left?” Cassandra inquired.
“If this were a normal accident I would be less inclined to separate her at this time; that is true. Undoubtedly Miss Evans would find her way back to Hogwarts, given enough time in the muggle world. Unfortunately, I do not think time is a luxury she has.” Professor Dumbledore answered indicating that the situation was far more dire than he had previously led them to believe.
“Very well. We’ll help this girl out.” Sir Bradford announced. Rupert released a breath he hadn’t even realized he had been holding.
“Thank you.” Professor Dumbledore answered as though he never had any doubt.
“Would you like to stay for supper?” Cassandra offered.
“Thank you, but I have much to do before the students return. Good evening Cassandra, Bradford, boys.” Professor Dumbledore helped himself to a handful of floo powder and disappeared into the fireplace.
The boys excused themselves and went to Severus’ room to mull over the new information Professor Dumbledore had provided. Lily Evans’ parents were dead, and probably by Death Eaters. Suddenly the war with Voldemort was very real. The boys were somber all evening, only taking time from the moping to help Nana prepare a room for their arriving guest.
The next morning the boys were dressed in dark muggle suits and waiting at the front hall when Professor Dumbledore arrived by floo. “Ah, I see you are ready.” Professor Dumbledore was dressed in muggle attire resembling the highest fashion from a century ago. “It’s not too far from here. Shall we apparate?”
“I had thought it would make more sense to drive.” Sir Bradford’s glare challenged the old headmaster. “I had the car brought around. Do you have the address of where we’re going?”
“Oh, yes, of course, where was it? Was this… no… ah, elephant toes… here we are.” The professor shuffled through the piles of items he had taken out of his pocket, finally pulling out a small slip of parchment.
Sir Bradford grabbed the piece of paper from the headmaster. “This is not too terribly far from the Council Headquarters. Alright, everyone, time to leave.”
The boys found themselves in the back seat with the Headmaster. “It never fails to amaze me how clever muggles are.” Dumbledore said as the car started.
“Sir, you should put on your lap belt.” Rupert advised the headmaster.
“Whatever for? Even I can recognize it doesn’t match my clothes.”
“Muggles haven’t yet discovered inertia charms,” Severus quickly answered.
“Oh, yes, like my first broom. That was before the Cleansweep company had perfected inertia charms. Quite a kick if you stopped suddenly.” Dumbledore mused as he fasted the belt.
“Professor, do you really believe that Death Eaters killed Lily’s parents?” Rupert asked. His father sent him a nasty look from the rear view mirror, but it was too late; the question had been asked.
“Without a thorough investigation we have no way of knowing.” Professor Dumbledore answered carefully. The car fell silent as Mr. Giles turned onto one of the busier roads that led to the cemetery. Dumbledore’s eyes caught Rupert’s and the boy had the eerie feeling that the headmaster was reading his thoughts. “What I do believe is that it would not be above the Death Eaters to attempt an attack on an undefended muggle-born witch while she is mourning. Their greatest fear is for the wizarding world to be corrupted by the muggles, and they see muggle-born witches and wizards as the most likely source of that corruption. While you and I know Miss Evans would never voluntarily endanger our school, there are others who would see her as a potential risk to be eliminated.” Dumbledore said gravely.
“Really Albus, must you fill the boys’ heads with such conspiracy theories?” Mr. Giles argued.
“Conspiracy theory- an interesting term, that. At what point do you suppose a conspiracy theory becomes a conspiracy fact?”
“Well, I suppose it would be when you prove the theory right.” Rupert mused.
“You would have to be in the conspiracy to prove the conspiracy. An outsider would never know for sure if it was a conspiracy or an incredible set of coincidences.” Severus interjected.
“Is that so?” Albus mused. “So, as an outsider, if I were to describe the Council of Watchers, it would be a conspiracy theory rather than a fact.”
“Albus, please.” Cassandra muttered.
“The Watchers are not a conspiracy at all.” Rupert defended his family’s tradition.
“And how would you define a conspiracy?”
“It’s a group of men who plan in secret to accomplish some joint goal.”
“That can’t be right.” Severus contradicted his brother. “By your definition, the Council is as much a conspiracy as the Death Eaters. Even the Ministry of Magic counts by that definition if you consider their isolation from the muggle world to be secrecy.”
“Maybe the Ministry of Magic is a conspiracy.” Rupert argued weakly, realizing he had walked right into the word trap Dumbledore had set for him.
“That’s ridiculous.” Severus retorted.
“Your whole conversation is ridiculous.” Mr. Giles commented from the driver’s seat.
“Yes, I suppose it is. At this age, I suppose it’s much more proper for boys to think about quidditch. I hear the Harpies are having a strong season this year.” While Albus’ tone was docile, maybe even bashful, everyone knew he was not so easily cowed by Mr. Giles words. The boys thought even harder about the conversation and what could possibly be so objectionable to get these two adults at odds with each other. As the car pulled into the cemetery entrance, they were still musing over the possible hidden meanings.
Mr. Giles parked behind a long line of cars and the family made their way towards the group gathered around a pair of graves. The service had already begun, but the Giles were not the last to arrive. As the pastor droned on, Rupert tried to catch Lily’s eye, but the girl’s eyes were fixed on the pair of caskets. Finally, the pastor finished his blessings and the coffins were lowered into the frozen ground. The Giles waited patiently as friends paid their regards to the orphaned daughters. “She’s not handling this well.” Severus mumbled to Rupert as the boys watched the two girls across the gravesite.
“I don’t suppose there is a good way to handle this.” Rupert answered, trying to remember his own mother’s funeral. It was so long ago, and all he could remember was his father holding his hand so tight it hurt and the whispered command to stop crying.
“Look at her sister.” Severus mumbled. The young girl had buried her head on Lily’s shoulder and was wailing loud enough for to be heard at the farthest end of the cemetary. She made quite a contrast to her stoic older sister, who simply mumbled thank you to everyone shaking her hand and offering their condolences.
“No one ever said Petunia would be a Gryffindor.” Rupert answered, concerned by the distant look in Lily’s eyes.
“Do you suppose there are any Death Eaters watching her now?” Severus whispered as they inched their way closer to the family.
“Not with Dumbledore here. They wouldn’t dare.” Rupert mumbled back.
Soon the only people left at the site were the Giles, Professor Dumbledore, and the Evans girls with their grandmother. “I’m terribly sorry about your loss, madam.” Professor Dumbledore shook the elderly lady’s hand.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” The woman asked, too tired to be polite any longer.
“My name is Albus Dumbledore. I’m the headmaster at Lily’s school.”
“In Scotland?” She asked. It had always bothered her that her son sent his oldest daughter so far away to school, but he had insisted at the time that they were the best choice for looking after Lily.
“Indeed. Allow me to introduce Sir Bradford Giles, his wife Cassandra, and their sons Rupert and Severus. The boys are schoolmates of Lily’s.” The family shook the widow’s hand.
As the adults began their discussion, Rupert wandered over to where Lily was still holding her crying sister. “Hello, Lily.”
“Rupert. You came.” For the first time since he had arrived, Rupert could see some life in Lily’s eyes.
“I was worried about you. You missed a whole week of classes and Meggie wouldn’t tell anybody why.”
“How did you know to be here? Is Meggie here?” Lily finally took her eyes off the caskets to look around.
“No, just me and Severus.”
“My whole family came. Dumbledore thought it would be a good idea.”
“Oh.” Lily wilted.
“ So… how are you holding up?” Rupert blushed. Clearly, she wasn’t well. Who would be after losing her parents so suddenly?
Petunia pried herself away from her sister. “I can’t believe you said that.”
“Oh, Petty.” Lily tried to hug her sister, but Petunia would have none of it.
“Don’t touch me, you freak! How dare you stand here like that!” Petunia weeped.
“Petunia, not now.” Lily winced. She had been trying so hard to stay strong for the two of them, but if her sister started up again, Lily wasn’t sure she’d be able to hold herself together.
“They’re dead, and you’re not even crying! You heartless, evil witch! They did everything for you, and you never loved them!”
“Petunia, stop it!” Lily covered her ears. She couldn’t take it again. Her sister had been doing this ever since her grandmother had picked her up at the train station.
“It’s your fault they’re dead! It’s all your fault! If it weren’t for you, they’d still be alive. You killed them!” Petunia screeched, curled her hands into fists, and began pounding on her older sister. Rupert watched in horror as Lily’s sister turned on her. It only took a second before Rupert snapped to attention and threw himself between the two sisters. Petunia didn’t even notice Rupert had jumped in front of Lily as she took out her fury by punching the person in front of her.
“Petunia Evans, stop that this instance!” Her grandmother called. When that didn’t seem to work, Albus Dumbledore muttered a small calming charm to slow Petunia’s hits.
“Freaks, you’re all freaks.” She sobbed, finally giving up and running for the car.
“Lily?” Rupert wrapped one arm around his friend, who was just staring into space. “Lily are you in there?” He waved a hand in front of her face.
“No, I don’t think I am.” She finally muttered turning to face him.
“That’s alright. It will be alright.” He muttered, rubbing her back lightly.
“I don’t think it will.” She replied.
“Lily?” Her grandmother called her over, and reluctantly, Lily left Rupert’s side to face the old woman.
“Oh darling.” The older woman wrapped her arms around Lily, holding her granddaughter tight. “Remember our discussion last night?”
“Yes.” Lily sniffed. She was not going to cry. She remembered the discussion all too well. Her grandmother would not be able to cope with Lily and Petunia at different schools, and with Hogwarts so far away, Lily would have to transfer to Petunia’s school. Perhaps this meeting with Rupert would be the last time she would see any of her Hogwarts friends. She knew it was shallow of her to feel like crying over that when she should be crying over her parents instead, so she bit her lip and held her tears.
“Mr. and Mrs. Giles are offering to let you stay with them over the holidays so that you could still attend your school. It’s up to you.” Her grandmother stated, trying not to influence her granddaughter’s decision.
“Do you need me to stay?” Lily took a few deep breaths. She was not going to cry.
“Honestly, child, I don’t know. We’ll have to sell your parent’s house to afford tuition for the two of you, and there is only one room in my house for both you and Petunia. I would understand it if you chose not to stay.”
“Does Petunia need me to stay?”
Her grandmother glanced back at the girl leaning against the side of her car. Petunia scowled at Lily. “I don’t know. The two of you have been at each other since you came home.” Her grandmother mumbled, glancing nervously at the Giles family. “They normally get along much better, but Petunia is taking this rather hard.”
“Everyone has their own way to mourn.” Albus said gently.
“I think right now, it would be better if you didn’t see Petunia.” Lily’s grandmother admitted. “I’m sure by the time your summer holidays come around, she’ll want to see you, but right now…”
“Well, I don’t want to upset Petunia.” Lily bit back angrily.
“I could help you catch up with the work you missed.” Rupert offered.
“That would be a good thing.” Lily offered her friend a weak smile. She didn’t even want to think about how far behind she had fallen.
“Then I guess that’s settled.” Mr. Giles decided it was time for someone to get things moving. “We’ll follow you to your place and collect Lily and her trunk, then bring her to our place.”
“Thank you, Sir Bradford.” Lily’s grandmother clasped Mr. Giles hands in hers.
“Of course, Madam.” Rupert’s father nodded brusquely and led the group back to the cars.
“Well, I believe this is where I must leave you.” Albus said after the Evans drove off. “Happy holidays, and tell your mother I will be happy to relieve her of her fruitcake this year.” With a quick wink at Cassandra, Albus apparated back to Hogsmeade.
“I do wish he’d learn how to use conventional transportation.” Mr. Giles muttered as the family got into their vehicle and followed the Evans’ back to her grandmother’s place.
The logistics of moving Lily to the Giles’ residence took surprisingly little time. Not only had Lily not unpacked her school trunk, but Petunia had locked herself in the bathroom, cutting short any attempts at long good byes. Lily soon found herself in the front hall of Westbury manor.
“Good heavens, Rupert, your house is as large as Hogwarts.”
“Not really.” Rupert shrugged. “Our dungeon only has one story and the towers are really quite short.”
“And here I always thought you were muggle-born.” Lily laughed awkwardly, suddenly feeling out of place, and like the poor orphan she now was. “This isn’t how muggles live.”
“On the contrary, this is precisely how muggles live.” Severus cut in. “If this was a proper wizarding estate, we would have kept the Snape house elves instead of permanently lending them to Aunt Brumhilda.”
“Severus, please show Lily around. I need to talk to Rupert.” Sir Bradford didn’t even spare the teenagers a glance as he headed towards his office. Rupert shrugged, offered Lily a hopeful smile, and followed his father.
“Shall I show you to your room? You’re down the hallway from our rooms.” Severus pulled out his wand and floated the trunk behind him.
“You’re doing magic. You’re not supposed to do that away from school.” Lily blurted out.
“My mother is a witch; therefore, this is not a muggle residence. The muggle rules don’t apply here.”
“Oh. How convenient.” Lily followed Severus down the main hallway and down the corridor that the boys resided in. Severus stopped at the first room on the right. “This will be your room.” He opened the door, hesitating for a moment before continuing. “The view is not very good, but it does have a bathroom en suite. It’s also far enough from our rooms for Nana. She’s in charge of this wing of the house, and hates the very notion of impropriety in her territory.”
Severus set the trunk down at the foot of the bed. “Nana is … Nana. She was Rupert’s nanny when he was younger.” Severus shrugged; it really wasn’t a question he had given a lot of thought to before.
“But not your nanny?”
“I don’t need a nanny.” Severus snapped. “I’ll give you a few minutes to freshen up and become acquainted with the room.”
“That’s alright, I don’t…”
“I would rather get out of this muggle suit before giving you the full tour. Even school robes are more comfortable than this.”
“Alright.” Lily sat nervously on the bed. “I’ll just get settled.”
Severus headed down the hall to his room, practically stripping as he went. Muggle dress clothes were damn uncomfortable. In just a few minutes he was able to trade the suit and tie for slacks and a jumper. Taking one last glance in the mirror, he headed back to Lily’s room. He knocked first, but there was no response.
“Are you decent?” He called out, wondering if Lily had decided to get out of her funeral clothes as well.
“I suppose.” A muffled voice called back.
Severus entered to find Lily curled up on her bed, a pillow in front of her face. “What are you doing?”
“Then put the pillow down. It looks ridiculous.” Lily slowly lowered the pillow, and Severus noticed the track of tears running from her red eyes down to her chin. “Ah, you were crying.”
“Gryffindors don’t cry; they just, they just …” Lily sobbed.
“Oh dear.” Severus muttered. He was awkward around females at the best of times. He wasn’t sure at all how to deal with a sobbing one. He sat down at the foot of the bed. “So… why are you crying?” Lily stared at him dumbly, absently wiping some tears away.
“Right. Your parents just died. Brilliant, Sev.” Severus mumbled to himself. “I meant, why are you crying now. You could have cried during the funeral, or before the funeral, or once Rupert was here. Why now?”
Lily held out the flowered pillowcase towards Severus. “Petunias.” She shrugged, as a new wave of tears rolled down her face.
“If you don’t like the pillow, I can have Nana bring you some other kind. Honestly, it’s not worth crying over.”
“No. Petunias, like my sister.”
“Oh, right.” Rupert would have understood if he were there. Honestly, what was Sir Bradford thinking, needing to speak with his son right at that moment. “She seemed a bit hysterical.” Severus offered.
“She’s right. It is my fault. I killed my parents.”
“That’s not true. You were at Hogwarts when the died. You couldn’t possibly have killed them.” Severus offered logically.
“If it weren’t for me, they wouldn’t have died. If I wasn’t a witch, they wouldn’t have died. I might as well have been the one pushing them over the bridge.”
Severus waited for a few minutes, not quite sure how to handle the crying girl. Finally he settled on, “Now, now, just because the Death Eaters have targeted your family, does not mean it’s your fault.” He patted her hand awkwardly, and was half tempted to leave his hand over hers for comfort, but then decided it might be too intimate a gesture for someone he hardly knew.
“You didn’t know?” Severus asked. Oh dear. Why would Dumbledore not tell Lily if he thought Death Eaters were involved?
“Merlin, Petunia was right. It is all my fault. If I hadn’t been born, they’d have still been alive.”
“Why would that matter?”
“If I hadn’t have been born, then I wouldn’t be a witch. If their daughter wasn’t a witch, they wouldn’t have thought to get something magical for a Christmas present. If they hadn’t been driving home from Diagon Alley, they wouldn’t have hit that bridge…”
“It’s not your fault.” Severus insisted. “It’s the fault of the Death Eaters, who caused the car to go off the bridge.”
“What if the only reason the Death Eaters chose them, was because they went to Diagon Alley to get me a present? If I hadn’t been a witch…”
“Just because you’re a witch did not mean your parents had to go to Diagon Alley to get your gift. They could have used owl-order or bought you something muggle, or even gone to Diagon Alley on a different day. It was just a coincidence.”
“People don’t die because of coincidences.” Lily sobbed.
“Of course they do. My father died of a coincidence. He had made the same potion dozens of times before. It was just a coincidence that both his mercury root and blister beetle bottles spilled at the same time, causing an explosion. And, it was just a coincidence that Rupert’s mother decided to duck right at the same time the vampire lunged that direction to snap her neck. When does death not involve coincidences?”
“But, if I wasn’t….”
“It’s not your fault.” Severus opened his arms, and was actually surprised when Lily moved to hug him. “There, there.” He rubbed her back awkwardly, miming what he had seen Rupert do at the funeral.
“I just feel so guilty. If I had just not put any wizarding supplies on my wish list, or if I had just not sent a wish list home at all.” Lily sobbed.
“Shh, it’s not your fault.” Severus sat there, arms wrapped loosely around the girl, who clung tightly as she sobbed. Deciding it was a good mantra, Severus repeated that as Lily sobbed into his shoulder.
Several minutes later, Lily sniffled and leaned back. “Oh no. I didn’t mean to get your shirt wet.” She muttered at the sight of the large tear stain on Severus jumper.
“Don’t worry about it.” Severus shrugged, trying not to show his annoyance. “I would have had to change before supper any way. Speaking of, why don’t we wait and do the tour after dinner? That way, Rupert can show you where everything is.”
“I’m sorry.” Lily wiped her eyes.
“It’s nothing.” Severus shrugged. “We generally have dinner at seven. Why don’t you take a nap until then.”
“Alright.” Lily was already bringing up the pillow to hide her face for another crying spell.
“Very well, I’ll just fetch you in an hour, how about that?” Severus backed out of the room. Perhaps it was selfish of him to think so, but he hoped the rest of the holidays weren’t going to be so traumatic.