Watching out for Friends
“I’m worried about Amy.” Willow stated, leaning against the store counter.
“Amy, the rat Amy?” Buffy looked up from her assigned reading, eager for a distraction. Who would have thought they could write such a boring text book on such a cool topic like 20th Century Film?
“Yeah, but no. I mean, is Amy a rat? Does she have the nutritional requirements of a rodent? Or should I be providing her with vitamin supplements for women? I keep having this nagging thought that she’s not getting enough folic acid.”
“Folic acid?” Buffy stared at her friend blankly. She loved Willow dearly, but where did the girl come up with this stuff? “I think folic acid is the last thing Amy is worried about. I think she’s getting enough vitamins with all the vegetables you put in her cage. Most rats would die to have the salad bar you put out for her.”
“I suppose.” Willow shrugged.
“Trust me, Amy is fine. Besides, its not going to be a permanent thing, is it? We are working on getting her better, like in between major baddies and stuff, right?”
“Right. Of course.” Willow nodded. “I’ve been doing lots of reading up on Hecate since that was one of Amy’s favorite goddesses to invoke. I think I may have something, but I just…”
Willow was cut off by the bell over the front door ringing. A middle-aged man in a suit walked in, glancing around nervously. Willow shot Buffy an anxious glance before calling out, “Welcome to the Magic Box.”
“Oh, hello.” The man looked at the girls for the first time, surprised by their appearance.
“Can I help you find something?”
“Perhaps. I was just looking for some…” He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. “Phlox powder.”
“Phlox? Are you sure?” Willow was ready for him to say floo powder, not phlox, and for a moment forgot that she was supposed to be running a store, not arranging some clandestine setup.
“Yes, it says phlox powder.” He showed her the note. “Or maybe its flax powder?”
“I see. It’s right here. How much do you need?” Willow led the man towards their bulk ingredients.
“It doesn’t say.”
“Well, what are you planning on using it for?”
“I’m not sure.” Willow looked at the man skeptically. “Well, you see, my daughter is inviting friends to my place for a weekend sleepover. My ex-wife told my daughter that I was uncomfortable with her friends, even though I’ve never met the girls. I think she’s trying to make me out to be the bad guy, and for all I know it may be working. I think my daughter is trying to test me. She sent me out with a list of things to get from all of these stores I would never think of going into. Honestly, I always thought this magic store was just for satan worshippers and witches, no offense…”
“Okay.” Willow nervously took a step back from him.
“…But this place is so light and airy; it really feels more like an organic shop or a bookstore. Maybe, just maybe, Karen isn’t planning on raising the dead or something like that at this sleepover. You can’t do that with phlox powder, can you?”
“Not that I know of.” Willow shrugged. “Phlox seed powder can be used in some temporary hair dyes. If it’s a sleepover, I’d say two ounces would be plenty. You might want to pick up some saffron threads as well, you know, if you’re trying to impress them. That way they can choose between blue or red.”
“Really? And you say this just makes temporary hair dye, as in she’ll be back to normal by the time she sees her mother?”
“Well, no, it takes a couple of days to wash out, so she’ll still get the shock factor.”
“Great.” The man perked up. “I’ll get it, and whatever that other stuff was. Thanks for being so normal.”
Willow rang out the sale and waited until the man walked out the door, before breaking into giggles. “Talk about oversharing!” Buffy joined in.
“I know. Poor man.”
“Poor daughter.” Buffy replied.
Willow leaned her elbows on the counter and sighed. “For a moment there, I thought he was the one.”
“I know, me too.” Buffy admitted. “So hey, are you saying Giles has some organic blonde dye in here?”
“Trouble’s coming.” Damon warned as the boys ate breakfast.
“Rupert.” Margaret MacDuff said from three feet away from the Slytherin table, as if taking a step closer would expose to some dread disease.
“MacDuff, its too early. Go away.” Rupert groaned.
“You heard the man; he doesn’t need your help with his morning wand. Go away.” Lucius snapped, annoyed that a Gryffindor would think of approaching his table.
“Well, that was more crass that anything I implied.” Rupeprt muttered.
“Rupert Giles, I have something important to tell you , and if you don’t listen I’ll turn you into a frog!”
“What can be so important that it can’t wait for Charms?” Rupert asked, getting embarrassed about being called out in front of the guys.
“It’s about Lily.” Margaret was surprised to see both Rupert and Severus’ heads jerk up at that.
“Alright, just a moment.” Lucius shot Rupert a warning glare as he stood up, but Rupert just shrugged it off. It was too early for house politics. He followed her into the hallway.
Margaret pulled Rupert into a secluded alcove. “Lily’s missing! She wasn’t in the room this morning, and she wasn’t in the bathroom. I thought she’d be at breakfast, but she’s not.” She gushed out.
“So, last night she seemed really fragile, like everything was getting to her. I’m afraid she might do something drastic.”
“Well, her parents just died, what if…?”
“Have you told McGonagall or Flitwick?”
“Are you crazy? I don’t want her to get in trouble for being somewhere she’s not supposed to be, which clearly she is.”
“Alright, why don’t you run up and check the astronomy tower and the diviation tower in case she decides to jump.”
“Do you really think…?”
“Better safe than sorry.”
“And I’ll watch the Great Hall in case she shows up for breakfast.”
“Brilliant. Well I better run. Would she try the astronomy tower first?”
“Of course. She hates divination.” Rupert watched Margaret run off, then returned to his breakfast.
“What was that about?” Severus quietly asked when he was sure the rest of the boys were too tied up in the quidditch talk to notice.
“Lily’s missing. She’s not in Gryffindor and she’s not in the Great Hall.”
“Ah.” Severus glanced across the room at the Gryffindor table. “Margaret didn’t come back in with you.”
“No, I sent her to the Astronomy Tower in case Lily decided to jump. I’m watching the Hall in case she comes to breakfast.”
“She’s in the Charms room. It’s where she goes to think.” Severus answered.
“I know that.”
“Then why’d you send MacDuff to the Astronomy Tower?”
“If Lily’s in the Charms room, she wants to be left alone. Besides, MacDuff could use the exercise.”
“Ha!” Students from all the tables glanced up to stare. Severus’ laugh was a rare and strange occurrence.
“Something amusing, Severus?” Lucius asked with a smirk.
“Very.” Severus grinned.
“Care to share with the class?”
“No, I don’t think it would translate well out of Sumerian.”
Lucius shot Rupert a questioning glare. “What? I didn’t think the punchline was that funny, and he’s right. It wouldn’t translate.” Rupert said, puzzling out the Sumerian pronunciation of MacDuff in his head, just in case Lucius pushed him to explain anyway.
“The two of you are mental.”
“That is hardly a new observation.” Severus remarked. “Which reminds me. Rupert, did you leave my herbology guide in the Charms room again? I wanted to look up the seed qualities of Clivia, and couldn’t find it in my trunk.”
“Herbology guide?” Normally Severus didn’t let Rupert close to his books, let alone lend them out so they left the dorm room. Severus shot him an ‘I-can’t-believe-you’re-so-dense’ look. “Bugger, you caught me. Do you need it before lunch?”
“Would I have asked otherwise?”
“Fine. There’s no rest for the wicked.” Rupert grabbed a few pastries, an apple, and a banana from the table before excusing himself. He headed off to Charms, wondering what had gotten into his brother. When he got to the classroom he noticed the lights were off and wondered if they had by any chance guessed wrong. He knocked on the door before entering. There, sitting on the risers in the back, was Lily. “Hey there, mind if I turn on the lights?”
“No.” Lily sniffed.
“No you don’t mind, or no, don’t turn on the lights?”
“Do whatever you want.”
“Hmmm, what do I want?” Rupert sat down beside her. “It’s really too early for bright lights, so its tempting to leave them off. But, if we leave them off and somebody comes in, they may think we’re up to something scandalous, when in reality all I wanted to do was offer you my banana.” He held out the fruit to her. Lily stared at him. “I’m guessing that sounded much better in my head.”
“Oh Rupert.” Lily’s lips curled up in an almost smile.
“Banana?” He offered. “I’ve also got an apple and a scone, although there may be some robe lint on the scone.”
“No thanks,” Lily mumbled.
“Oh come on, nothing ruins a good sulk like getting hungry. Best to eat now.”
“I’m not sulking.”
“My mistake. I just normally classify sitting alone in a dark room when you could be eating breakfast with friends as sulking.”
“Ah, I see. Sure you don’t want the banana? It’s supposed to help you think better.” She shook her head. “Your loss.” He took a bite. “It’s a good banana.” They sat in silence for a minute, Rupert trying to decide what to say next and finally settling for, “So, what were you thinking about?”
“Things.” Lily answered.
“Ah, I see. Fascinating subject- things. I could think about things for hours.” Rupert stared out into the darkness. Clearly asking questions was not the way to go. “You know what I was thinking? Severus has the strangest laugh I’ve ever heard.” Lily looked at him as though he was crazy. “I’m serious. He laughed in the Great Hall, and the Hufflepuffs were looking around to see who was hurting a post owl.”
“Rupert, that’s horrible! You shouldn’t pick on your brother.”
“I’m not, I’m just stating a fact. It’s a bizarre laugh. Most people go ha, ha, ha, or tee hee hee. Not Sev, no he’s just ‘ha!’.”
“Rupert Giles, don’t make fun of your brother. He’s the only one you have, and one day he’ll be gone and you’ll never see him again, and… and… that’s so sad!” Lily was sobbing by the time she reached the end of the sentence.
“Oh, Lily.” Rupert wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “Oh, Lily.”
“You know what the last thing I said to my mother was? Good riddance.” Lily wiped her eyes. “It was on the train platform and she was on my case about not doing my chores or watching Petty or not writing home often enough, as I went through the wall, my last words were ‘good riddance.’”
“I’m sure she knew you didn’t mean it.”
“But I said it.”
“Oh, Lily.” Rupert sighed. He shouldn’t have sent Margaret to the Astronomy tower. He wasn’t prepared to deal with crying girls. “There’s no point worrying about it now. Sure you might have done things differently if you knew then what you know now, but you didn’t. It’s done. Now you have to ask yourself how your mother would want you to feel. I bet she wouldn’t want to see you crying over something so silly.”
“Its not silly.”
“Alright, maybe that’s the wrong word, but you have to admit crying over the past can’t change it.”
“How very Slytherin of you.” Lily glared at him.
“That’s not exactly an insult around my house.” Rupert took pity on her and decided a more Gryffindor approach would be better. “Look, Lily, I know you want to do the right thing, but its too late to apologize any more. You just have to think about what your parents would think is right and live like that. It’s the best way to apologize to them. Live a life they would be proud of.”
“But what if I can’t?” She whimpered. “I know I should be strong, but some days its just so hard.”
“So let those days go and start fresh tomorrow. Look, do you want to take the day off? I’m sure the group can get you all the makeup notes you would need. If you went to Madame Pomphrey, she’d even give you a note to show the teachers. I have it on good authority that she was a Hufflepuff in her former life.”
“No, I need to be strong.” Lily wiped away her tears.
“If this were the Battle of Trafalgar, I’d be right there with you, but this is just a Tuesday, and I’m sure Professor Flitwick doesn’t care if you’re strong. In fact, class might be better if you Gryffs toned down that strength a bit.”
“You’re just jealous that none of the Slytherins got meter high flames.”
“The assignment was to make the candle glow, not start a towering inferno.”
“Jealous, I knew it.” Lily cracked a smile.
“Fine, see if I ever offer you my banana again.”
“Lux!” The command came from across the room. Lily and Rupert blinked in the sunddenly bright light. “Well this is interesting.”
“Morning Lucius. Trust me, this isn’t what it looks like.”
“That’s a pity.” Evan muttered.
“Really, because it looks like you were… offering your banana. Is that how you put it?”