“Plan B?” Snape cursed as another thud landed against the back door.
“Bloody hell, those damn things are insistent.”
“Well what did you expect from a herd of Hellmouth-infesting gribles?” Giles winced as Willow applied the antiseptic cream to his bleeding hand.
“The texts never said anything about them being so single-minded. Of course the authors probably never set foot on this backwards continent. Stupid, bloody, Gilderoy Lockhart!” Severus added a few more expletives the girls couldn’t decipher.
“So, I’m thinking we definitely need a good Plan B since smelly sticks so didn’t work. What was that porpoise spell you used on that last one?” Buffy leapt onto the gymnastic equipment to find a relaxing place to sit.
“You mean ‘portus’ spell?” Giles wearily answered.
“Sure, let’s go with that.”
“You made a portkey? No wonder the blighters are going mad! What were you thinking?” Severus growled.
“I think my thoughts ran along the lines of, if those beasts are so intent on molesting something, I’d rather it be a swizzle stick than me.”
“And do you have any idea where you sent them?”
“Well, I was thinking Mojave Desert when I made the portkey, so knowing the Hellmouth, they probably are relaxing at the beach. The important point is they’re not here.”
“No, but anyone tracking wand spells will head straight here.”
“And you don’t think sitting inside a store named ‘The Magic Box’ doesn’t sound like an obvious target?” Giles shot back. “I thought the whole point was to attract them here and finally handle this thing.”
“I thought the point was to get rid of the demons in the alley.” Buffy interrupted the brothers before they got into another argument. “Now, we’ve got to get rid of those things before they attack, or worse, get bored and decide to run rampage on downtown. I don’t want to be responsible for the Espresso Pump being closed down for a rodent infestation, do you?”
“Caffeine deprivation can cause people to do violent things.” Willow agreed.
“So here’s what we’re going to do. Willow and I are going to corral the beasts towards you two, and you guys zap them with that port spell.”
“We need keys.” Giles said, nodding along with his slayer’s plan.
“No, that’s ridiculous!” Severus insisted.
“What kind of keys?” Buffy ignored the cranky brother.
“Any physical object that we don’t mind parting with. Willow, fetch the recycling bin from by the sink.”
“Alright, but don’t you want to recycle that stuff? It’s good for the planet.” Willow headed back into the office area.
“Reusing is as good as recycling. Your karma will be fine.” Buffy informed her friend, as soon as Willow returned with a bag full of old Sunnydale Times. Willow hopped up onto the gymnastic horse to sit next to Buffy.
“It’s not just her karma that’s in danger. This is an asinine plan, worthy of a Potter.” Severus mumbled.
Giles began instructing the girls, ignoring Severus’ complaint. “Girls, I need you to crumple the paper into little balls and throw them on the ground towards the door. Sev, you and I are going to curse the paper as soon as it’s on the ground. Once we turn an object into a portkey, nobody can touch it. Is that clear? These are very dangerous pieces of magic. Odds are that the portkey magic will rile the creatures up, so be aware that the door is likely to open at any moment once we get started. Any questions?”
“Yes, why on earth do you think this plan will work? There are more holes in it than Swiss cheese!”
“I meant legitimate questions.” Giles sighed.
“Nope, we’ve got ya covered.” Buffy and Willow were already going through the newspapers, separating the pages and crumpling them up. From the perch of the gymnastic horse, they tossed the balls on the ground between Severus’ wheelchair and the back door.
“Portus!” Giles started cursing the first few balls.
“This is ridiculous.”
“Portus! This ridiculousness would end much faster if you were to pitch in. I’m not the only one with a wand. Portus!”
“Fine.” Severus grumbled. “Portus!” Severus tried to think about the ocean, as he made his directionless portkeys. While a good wizard could make a very precise portkey in a matter of minutes, they were trying to make as many as possible as fast as possible, so Severus had to concentrate on deep water, and just hope that would work. “Portus!”
“Damn! Haven’t you heard of a thing called aim?!” Buffy yelped as his wand slipped in the right hand and sent off a stray spark towards the wall calendar.
“I can aim perfectly well with my left hand, thank you very much.” Severus shot back.
“Ah, the one under the cast. No wonder you’re so grumpy. I think I’d be grumpy too if I couldn’t use my dominant hand.” Willow threw a ball that hit another ball. “Ruroh, hey Giles? Is that supposed to happen?”
“What?” Giles glanced up.
“The one hit the other, and they both went poof.”
“Damn, they’re triggering each others’ spells. Please try to keep your balls as far away from each other as possible.”
“Thanks for the warning.” Buffy answered, and despite the amount of time they had been working together, Giles couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or not. “Ooh! I missed a sale at Macy’s!”
“No, that’s from June, we went to that sale and Xander kept trying to convince you to try on the swimsuits.” Willow glanced over at Buffy’s newspaper crumbling.
“Oh! You’re so right! I had forgotten about that. Good times.”
“Portus! Must you babble so?” Severus interrupted their conversation. “Portus!”
“Please say you didn’t.” Giles winced.
“Didn’t what?” Willow asked.
“Hit the doorknob with a stray Portus spell?” Giles answered, as Severus studiously tried not to look guilty.
With another thud, the doorknob vanished, evidently taking a grible with it. Unfortunately, the doorknob also took the lock, causing the door to slowly swing open. “Oh dear Merlin.” Severus mumbled.
“Willow, keep throwing balls. Buffy, you’re in charge of rounding them up. You can hit them, but don’t cause them to bleed, and whatever you do, don’t let them get into the shop!”
With that, the fight was on. Giles jumped onto a chair to keep his legs out of biting range as he aimed spells at balls as fast as Willow could throw them. Severus tried to get any balls Giles missed, and an occasional misfire of his wand would turn one grible into a portkey, taking another grible with it to some distant place. Buffy had taken to punting gribles back in Giles’ general direction from her spot by the doorway to the main shop. She lost count at thirty and was a little worried that Willow would run out of paper too quickly.
“Buffy!” Willow yelped as a grible jumped up onto the horse. With an acrobatic series of flips, Buffy crossed the room, missing portkeys and gribles by mere inches to land next to Willow and knock the creature down.
“When you’re done there, some help here would be nice.” Giles called out as he rubbed his wand wrist. Several gribles were trying to gnaw their way through the metal chair legs. It was only a matter of time before they knocked the watcher off his perch. “Portus!” Giles kept calling out even as his chair shook beneath him.
Soon the flood of gribles from outside slowed down to a trickle, and eventually stopped. Severus could tell that there weren’t as many gribles in the room as there had been a minute before, but it didn’t help that the creatures kept crawling on his damned chair even with the slayer batting them away. “Get it away from me!” Severus screamed as one sunk its teeth into his cast.
Buffy yanked it off and threw the offensive grible onto a portkey. “You furballs are really starting to tick me off!” She returned to her post by the shop door, keeping the critters contained. Finally they reached the point where the animals were down to single digits and there were more available portkeys on the ground than gribles.
“Is that the last of them?” Severus asked, glancing around the world.
With a satisfying pop from the grible, Giles grinned. “I believe so.”
“Wait!” Willow exclaimed. “Under your chair! There’s one hiding!” Giles glanced under the chair he was standing on to see nothing. He then glanced over to his brother. Oh, dear.
“I’ll get it!” Buffy volunteered as she dove underneath the wheel chair from behind. Her hands grabbed some fur, but the animal wriggled out of her grasp and jumped out the front. She leaned forward just as Severus tried to turn his wheelchair to watch the fleeing grible. “OW!”
“What?” Severus moved his chair again.
“Stop moving! My hair is stuck in your wheel!”
“You’re what? Oh for Merlin’s sake.” Severus grumbled. He tried to lean over the side of his chair, but couldn’t bend as normal without pressing the chair up against his sore ribs. “I can’t help you.”
“Just don’t move.” Buffy yelled back up at him. “Willow!”
“Just a minute!” Willow and Giles were busy closing in on the evasive critter. “I don’t believe this! He’s avoiding all the paper!” Willow said, jumping in front of his path, only to watch him turn left and run towards the punching bags.
“Maybe he’s learning. They’re supposed to be somewhat intelligent,” Giles said. “Blasted idiot!” He yelped a minute later, as he tried to predict the grible’s path only for it to be distracted by Buffy’s workout mirror.
Luckily, it ran into a corner, and Willow and Giles were close enough to start closing in on it. “We pounce on three. Ready?” Willow nodded. “One … two … three!” Willow and Giles jumped at the same time. Willow came up with a tail and Giles got a leg.
“Wow! I had no idea these things were so slippery!” The two of them tried to stand up without losing their grip. They ended up on their knees, Willow holding a tail and right hind leg, while Giles held both of the left legs.
“Now we need to get him over one of the portkey and drop him on it.” Giles informed Willow. “Just follow me.”
“Why can’t you just zap him directly?”
“If you’re holding on, it’ll transport you too. We don’t want that. Let’s just get this guy over to a portkey.” The pair shuffled sideways on their knees, trying to get over to the portkey area. They were about three feet away when Buffy kicked her legs out, trying to get better leverage to pull her hair out of the wheel chair wheel. Her kick hit Giles’ back end, causing him to fall backwards. As he fell, his hold on the grible pulled it forward, dragging Willow down on top of the watcher. As she fell, the grible twisted sideways and jumped out their arms, landing conveniently on the portkey they had been aiming for. “Damn! It got loose.” Willow muttered.
“Not for long.” Severus commented, watching the last of the critters vanish with an audible pop.
“Um, Willow, could you please… your knee is in a rather unfortunate place.”
“Oh! Ooh, sorry!” Willow tried to back off Giles without hitting Severus’ wheelchair. “Oh, sorry, Giles!” Willow muttered as she tripped over a leg.
“That’s my foot!” Buffy grumbled.
“Well, if you’d just let me move the chair…”
Amongst all the stumbling, none of them noticed the person standing at the doorway to the main shop until he decided to speak up. “There you are, Snape! I’ve been looking all over for you!”
Rupert entered the same car the Slytherin boys had claimed for the last six years, nodding at Evan as he took a seat next to Damon. It was hard to believe this was his last trip to Hogwarts. “How was your summer, Muddy?”
“Well, I added another dead language to my repertoire.” Rupert decided he wouldn’t bring up Mr. Borgin’s false arrest if no one else mentioned it. After all, he was almost positive at least one of his friends’ parents was involved in it.
“Impressive. It sounds like you actually had a worse summer than I did, and I thought following cousin Quentin around for the summer was as bad as it got.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I definitely had it better than you.” Rupert grinned.
Working with Mr. Borgin all summer was a million times better than assisting Quentin with the scrying-for-potentials spell three months straight. Although Quentin was a magical null, Wilford Travers insisted that spell was a Travers family legacy and had almost been successful at enlisting Rupert as Quentin’s aid. Rupert had been dreading a summer of potions brewing and being ordered about by the biggest git in Europe. He had thought he had just delayed the inevitable for a year, but now it looked like another Slytherin had taken that bullet for him. Of course, that brought up another interesting idea. Perhaps he wouldn’t be the only Slytherin attending the Watcher’s College next year. “Hey, I thought you weren’t taking up the family business.”
“I’m not. If I hadn’t needed that list for something else, I wouldn’t have suffered through that.” Damon answered as their cabin door opened.
Lucius, flanked by Rabastan and Argentius, surveyed the car before choosing his seat opposite Rupert. “Is Severus already there?” Lucius greeted them.
“Yes, I imagine he’ll be a walking, talking, clone of Jigger by now.” Rupert joked.
“Then I guess we’re all here.” Lucius checked his pocket watch, almost more to show of the charmed gold piece than to know the time. “Why isn’t the train moving yet? It was scheduled to leave the station ten minutes ago. I would have thought we’d be half way to Peterborough by the time we left the girls’ car. I suppose the Ministry has once again failed in its job. Just wait until my father hears about this.”
“Anxious to get to Hogwarts? Have you been missing McGonagall that badly?” Evan teased.
Damon glanced out the window. “First years. We should have guessed.”
“And evidently all the first years are red heads this year.” Rupert said, leaning around Damon to peak out the window.
“It’s the Weasleys.” The Slytherin pureblood groaned.
“I’m going out on a limb here and guess traditionally Gryffindors?” Rupert asked. He’d heard the name before, and evidently there had been a Weasley at Hogwarts his first year, but he hadn’t remembered anything about the redheaded seventh year.
“Yes. They tend to be thoroughly incompetent and so practically muggle by their manners that you’d think they’d have made no mark on the wizarding world, but there are just so many of them. Really, it’s a shock we don’t have any in our year.” Evan commented.
“We’re in luck.” Rabbie spoke up. “Weasleys tend to be really good at quidditch, although there hasn’t been one in the pro leagues since Oscar Weasley played for the Cannons back in the thirties.”
“It hardly counts as a professional career if he’s only played for Chudley!” Rookie replied and just like that the conversation devolved into quidditch talk. Rupert was half tempted to back the Harpies just so that he could play devil’s advocate in the conversation, but there really was no point. Harpies were all female, and Slytherin never had women on the house team, so it’s not like he could even argue house allegiance for backing the Harpies.
It wasn’t until the snack cart came through an hour later that the conversation moved to a more interesting subject. “So, any bets on who the new DADA professor will be?” Evan asked, always looking for the latest news and gossip.
“What makes you think Professor Snodgrass won’t be back?” Rabbie frowned.
“It’s not Snodgrass.” Lucius pronounced.
“Do you think it’s another auror?”
“I think the aurors are too busy trying to maintain the peace, given the rather violent turn of current events.” Lucius shrugged. “If the Ministry insists on overstepping its bounds by protecting every thoughtless muggle that stumbles into something he can’t possibly understand, the aurors will undoubtedly be inundated with work. I doubt they can spare a man for a task as trivial as educating the future generation of wizards.”
“Rumor has it the new teacher is female.” Rupert spoke up.
“Oh? And how did you hear this rumor?” Lucius never liked hearing surprises, especially from the Slytherin mudblood.
“Severus flooed this morning to ask me to pack some of his things. He said last night that he’d heard some faculty member comment that they weren’t sure if ‘she’ had signed ‘her’ contract.”
“Ah, and Severus has no clue who ‘she’ is?”
“None that he told me.” Rupert shrugged.
“You’d think with the amount of time Severus stayed at Hogwarts during the summer, that he’d pick up on a lot more faculty gossip. At least he should have found something that could be used against McGonagall or Dumbledore by now.” Evan complained.
“What makes you think he hasn’t?” Lucius asked.
“Well, he never said…”
“Imagine that.” Lucius remarked dryly. “At least somebody in our house knows how to keep his mouth shut.”
“You’re not still mad about Diagon Alley, are you? I said I was sorry.” Rabastan blushed.
“Your sorrow doesn’t solve anything.”
“What happened in Diagon Alley?” Once again, Rupert was out of the loop.
“Actually it was kinda funny. Rabbie was getting his new wand and saw Lucius at Dazzle and Timersons.” Evan began the tale.
“What new wand? What happened to your old wand?”
“It was involved in an accident and the Ministry took it as evidence.” Rabbie shrugged.
“Which is intriguing in its own right, but not the story I’m telling.” Evan replied. “So then Rabbie here runs into Narcissa at Flourish and Botts.” By this time Rabastan was beginning to blush. “Narcissa tells him if he wants to wait around, Lucius should be around soon, and Rabbie here says…”
“… I just saw him at the jewelry store looking at rings.” Rabbie muttered, his ears turning red.
“Oh no, please tell me you didn’t.” Rupert winced in sympathy for Lestrange.
“Were you really looking at rings?” Damon asked. They were only seventeen, surely it was too early to be thinking in that direction.
“I was waiting for Timerson to finish engraving my new watch.” Lucius bit out.
“So Narcissa decides that she should have a say in what sort of engagement ring she gets and goes running down the street to the jewelry store.” Evan continued.
“Oh no.” Rupert groaned.
“Well, as you can imagine, she had a thing or two to say when Lucius said he wasn’t there for her ring. Blacks have always been known for speaking their minds.”
“I have never been asked to leave an establishment before.” The blonde glared at his cousin.
“There’s always a first time for everything. It’s not Rabbie’s fault, just a misunderstanding.” Rookie offered weakly.
“That was not a misunderstanding. That was a public humiliation.” Lucius seethed.
“Nah, it could be worse. Trust me, I’ve learned all about public humiliation this summer. Here, take a look at this.” Evan pulled out a copy of the Daily Prophet. He folded the paper over and pointed to a tiny story in the bottom corner.
“Trouble at the Ministry’s Department of Mysteries. See page B8.” Lucius skeptically read out loud.
“Keep reading!” Evan eagerly ordered.
“For years, the Department of Mysteries has been home to the Hall of Prophecies, where every prophecy is labeled and stored for future use. It was recently discovered that some prophecies may not be what they seem. Upon breaking a rack of prophecies, ministry officials attempted to cover-up the destruction by replacing the prophecies with muggle horoscopes. ‘It was an honest accident,’ said custodial assistant Ernest Shunpike, ‘If they wanted these things preserved so badly, why did they put them in crystal balls?’ Why, indeed? Ministry officials refused to comment on just how many prophecies have been illegally replaced.” Lucius peered over the top of the paper. “I don’t see the point.”
“Check the by-line.”
“By junior staff assistant, Evan Rosier. Congratulations! Your career as a professional tattle-tail is well on its way. Good show old boy.” Malfoy commented dryly. As Lucius folded the paper, an image caught Rupert’s eye.
“Well, not all of us can claim Lord of the Manor as a career path.” Evan retorted.
“Congratulations, Evan, may I see the paper?” Rupert offered. Lucius was happy to get rid of the offending rag. Rupert glanced at Evan’s article quickly before flipping to the front page. “Oh no.”
The headline was “Disgraced Museum Official Takes Artifacts and His Own Life” Rupert stared in disbelief at the picture of Mr. Borgin hanging from the shower curtain of his bathroom. “That’s impossible; he wouldn’t do that!”
“We also didn’t think he would try to steal from the museum. People sometimes surprise you.” Lucius was observing Rupert’s response carefully.
“Did you know him?” Damon asked Lucius.
“The Borgins are traditionally Slytherins. He was Rupert’s mentor this summer.”
“He was a Ravenclaw.” Rupert felt it was his duty to set the record straight on that matter.
“So he had no sense of self-preservation. I guess we can’t be that surprised.”
“He was a good man.” Absently, Rupert took his wand out of his pocket and cast the magnification bubble charm, a charm he had learned from Borgin himself. There had to be some clue why he would do this. Mr. Borgin wouldn’t just die without leaving clues for posterity’s sake.
“And a good secret-keeper too.” Evan commented. “Evidently, whatever he stole from the museum is still missing. The aurors were tracking it to his home when they found him. You should read the article. It was probably the best thing Barney’s written all summer.” Evan commented, mainly to drop the name of the Prophet’s top reporter, Barney Fife.
Rupert was about to contradict Evan, when he noticed something odd. In the reflection of the steamed bathroom mirror in the picture was a faint image of the skull and snake. The average reader would waive it off as a smudge in the newsprint, but the magnification bubble showed all. Of course, the Prophet reporter and photographer would have known about it, as well as the aurors on the raid… as well as Mr. Malfoy. After all, the Ministry official was the last person he knew to have access to Ravenclaw’s missing quill.
“You look like you have something on your mind. Care to share?” Lucius taunted Rupert.
“Mr. Borgin was a very good man.” Rupert said, challenging Lucius to show his hand.
“Be that as it may, he is now a very dead man. What will you do about a new mentor? You’ll need another apprenticeship before anyone in the wizarding world will hire you.”
“Given the success of my last mentor, I have a feeling I’ll be joining the family business.”
“Don’t make it sound so grim. I’ll probably be joining my old man at the Ministry.” Rookie interjected. “He just got transferred to the Hall of Mysteries and says they’re hiring more new blood there, now that Shunpike’s out, thank you very much Evan.”
“I’m just an honest journalist reporting what I see.” Evan shrugged. “And what I see now is Hogwarts up on the hill, if I’m not mistaken.”
“Thank Merlin! I’m getting hungry.” Rabbie let out.
“You’re always hungry.”
“Gentlemen, we can’t be more than five minutes away. I suggest everyone put their ties on.” Lucius scolded his housemates as he fetched his bag from the top luggage rack.
“Aw, Pop, do we have to?” Evan teased.
“Is this another one of those Narcissa things?” Rupert asked, thankful the conversation was coming to a close.
“What Narcissa thing?” Lucius asked suspiciously.
“Oh you know.” Rupert pulled his Slytherin tie and robes out of his carry-on. “Narcissa probably made some comment about how sloppy the Slytherin boys always looked getting off the train, and how if we showed more pride in our appearance, we wouldn’t look like such Gryffindors.” By Rookie’s snort and Lucius’ red ears, Rupert guessed he hit the nail on the head with that one. “Well boys, we musn’t disappoint Narcissa.”
“Baa!” came from several of the boys.
“You’re lucky you’re Slythies. If it was anyone else, I’d curse you.” Lucius said to his friends as they bleated away.
“Hey, is that Sev?” Damon asked, as they pulled into the Hogsmeade station.
“Of course, frowning as usual.” Evan jovially confirmed.
“You would think he was heading into a Transfiguration exam and practical, not meeting the train at Hogwarts.”
“Why is he meeting the train at Hogwarts? Last year, he stayed at the castle.” Rupert frowned. Something wasn’t right.
“We’ll find out soon enough.” Lucius sighed. The group gathered their bags and headed off the train, trying to avoiding bumping into other people’s familiars and brooms.
“Before you ask, the answer is the second one.” Severus said as the Slytherins gathered around their housemate.
“That does not answer the question- why are you here?” Lucius answered.
“Hagrid said the thestrals were acting up this morning, so he asked if the apprentices could help drive the carriages down the hill. Of course Dumbledore agreed, and thus, I had to drive the carriage from hell down the hill, although I don’t see how you can call it driving when I had invisible reins for invisible beasts. Bloody rabid invisible beasts.”
“Really? So is there a specific carriage we should be avoiding?” Lucius asked.
“The second one.” Rupert answered, not so much because he understood his brother better than most, but because he could see the thestral in question. “The beast on that thing is preggers and about to pop any minute now. Why on earth would he hitch her to a carriage like that?”
“If I were to offer him a defense, I would say that he can’t see them and that he just whistles at them and hooks up whatever he can by feel.” Severus answered, “Of course, I’m not sure being blind is an adequate excuse for endangering children’s lives.”
“Let’s take the fourth one.” Rupert led them to a carriage, and after the horrible experience second year, no one was about to contradict his choice. No one, that is, except Lucius Malfoy.
“Severus, I need a word with you. Get in the last carriage.”
“We’ll be the last ones into the Great Hall if we take the last carriage.” Severus countered.
“I’m not afraid of causing a scene. Are you?” Lucius challenged his housemate. If Severus had been on the train, he might have called Lucius on the bluff.
“How very Gryffindor of you.” Severus answered, but followed Lucius to the very last carriage while the rest of the Slytherin boys took the fourth.
“So?” Severus offered as soon as he had secured the latch on the carriage door.
“I believe your brother is in trouble.”
“Undoubtedly that’s true. The question is, from what or whom?” Severus allowed himself to recline on the cushions. With only two in this carriage is was much easier to stretch out than in the other carriages that were filled six to eight students deep.
“I suppose you have a point.” Lucius pulled out the copy of the Daily Prophet he had ‘borrowed’ from Evan’s bag. “Here, tell me what you think.”
Severus glanced at the headline and the picture underneath it. “Is this the same Mr. Borgin that your father arranged to mentor Rupert this summer?”
“Believe me, if we had known that he was going to do this, we never would have…”
“I take that as a yes.” Severus cut him off as he was reading through the article. “Evidently, his mentor was in trouble, but why do you think this will have any bearing on Rupert?”
“I know Mr. Borgin was an excellent historian, but clearly he was not all there. The problem is your brother doesn’t seem to understand that.”
“First of all, he’s a step-brother. Second, what harm is it if Rupert isn’t ready to condemn a man just because he stole a feather from the MacDuff family estate and then hung himself? One action does not define a man.” Severus had decided long ago that it took several questionable actions to define a man. After his mother had been accused of poisoning his father, things were decidedly frosty among wizarding society for several years. Yes, the circumstances were questionable, but after a decade, most people seemed to have forgotten about it. It was only when circumstances were questionable over and over again that Severus felt the need to pin blame on a person. As it was, the article stated the feather was never found, so it was just as likely the man did not do it as it was that he did commit the crime.
“It’s no crime to think kindly of the dead, but Rupert needs to think about his future. He’s a muggleborn. His family name has no bearing on our society. How can he hope to succeed if his greatest reference has hung himself in shame?”
“Why should you care about Rupert’s success? He’s been on your list for years.”
“He’s a Slytherin; we have to look out for each other.”
“Right.” Severus clearly didn’t believe that line.
“And actually, I’m not so concerned about Rupert. He can bring about his own demise for all I care. I’m more worried about you.”
“Yes, you. The Snape line is one of the most distinguished lines in Slytherin history. You could be great.”
“Knowing my family history, it is far more likely that I will be an old eccentric who will talk to my pet newts before harvesting their eyeballs.” Severus answered honestly. The Snapes had always been great, but strange, and if it weren’t for all the family money, the odds of any of them marrying would be infinitesimal.
“The problem is your mother has allied herself with muggles, and in so doing, she’s aligned you with Rupert.” Lucius ignored Severus’ remark.
“Really? Aunt Hilda always thought that it was the Snape nose that doomed the family tree.”
“There are precious few pureblood lines left. I’d hate to see a muggle prat like Rupert Giles take down one of the finest.”
“Why on earth would Rupert’s fate have anything to do with mine? We’re just step-brothers. It’s not like we’re married.”
“No, but it’s clear to the entire school that whenever one of you gets in trouble, the other one bails you out. You act more like real brothers than any other set of siblings at this school. The question is, when Rupert hits rock bottom, are you going to follow him there?”
“Rupert isn’t going to hit rock bottom.”
“The feather that Mr. Borgin took is still missing. If Rupert insists on defending the man in public, it’s going to look as though he had something to do with it. The aurors won’t hesitate to bring a minor in for questioning if they think it will give them a lead on this case, or better yet, a suspect. Rupert is perfectly capable of hitting rock bottom.”
“Oh.” Severus let that sink in. He knew without a doubt that Rupert did not have the feather in his possession. After all, what would Rupert do with an ancient bewitched quill? He didn’t have the connections to sell it on the black market and didn’t have the family history to use most of the bloodline spells that required ancient artifacts. However, Lucius wanted Rupert to drop the subject, which undoubtedly meant Mr. Malfoy, current Wizengamot member and Ministry official, wanted the subject dropped. “I’ll make sure Rupert gets the message.”
“Really Lucius, sometimes you’re about as subtle as a Norwegian Ridgeback.”
“Well I never…”
“Luckily for you, the vast majority of the wizarding world is clueless enough not to catch on.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“No, of course you don’t. However, I will let Rupert know and he won’t say another word about it in public. And for your information, as long as he is at Hogwarts, I swore to my mother I would watch out for the prat, but as soon as we graduate, all bets are off, so I would appreciate it if you quit insinuating we are joined at the hip.”
“Good, that’s just what I was hoping you’d say.”
“So, I take it you had a good summer?”
“Of course. I went to France to visit with my relatives, father’s side of course. My cousin Melia is preparing to enter society this year. I would introduce you, but I don’t think she’d think much of the Snape family nose, not to mention your accent. I don’t suppose you speak French?”
“I can read most potion recipes in French.” Severus responded before thinking. “Perhaps you can introduce us at your wedding. Undoubtedly that will be coming up soon after graduation.”
“How did you hear about that?” Malfoy groaned.
“So you have asked her?”
“But you will.”
Severus let out a small snort. “My mother will expect an invitation.”
“She is a Lestrange. My mother undoubtedly already has her on the list.”
“Excellent,” Severus commented as the carriage came to a stop. “I suppose it’s time for me to have a talk with Rupert.”
“The sooner the better.” Lucius said and disembarked from the carriage, ignoring, or possibly not seeing, the resentful snort coming from the thestral. Severus followed, giving a nervous glance at the front of the carriage as if expecting the invisible animal to rear back and kick him.
Severus strode towards the Great Hall, bypassing a group of giggling third years and arguing fifth years. A new Ravenclaw prefect was about to call him on running in the hallways, but he breezed right past her. She could only yell a “hey” before he was clear out of sight. Of course, she couldn’t fairly call him on running; he just was walking as fast as his long legs could take him, which was quite a bit faster than the average Hogwarts student could walk. “You.” He said, as he reached the Slytherin table.
“Me?” Rupert answered, looking up from the table the boys had just reached.
“We need to talk.”
“Fine,” Rupert sighed, not knowing what he was in trouble for now, but figuring that Cassandra had probably owled her precious son this morning to blame Rupert for stealing more books out of the family library. Of course, the books were specifically requested by Severus, but that never got in his step-mother’s way when she felt like blaming Rupert. “Rookie, scoot.”
Although Argentius Rookwood had gone through an alarming growth spurt this summer, making him now the second tallest boy in Slytherin, he would always be considered the runt of their year. The boy slide over to make room for Severus to sit down. “Privacy bubble?” Severus requested.
“Right, of course.” Rupert rolled his eyes and cast the charm around their heads. Amidst the din of the Great Hall, it would have been hard for anyone to listen in to their conversation anyway, but if Severus wanted privacy, Rupert could provide. It wasn’t like they really needed to pay attention to the sorting anyway. “If this is about the books, they’re in my trunk and I swear I didn’t peek at them at all.”
“What books? No, this is about the Malfoys. You must have really pissed them off.”
“I haven’t done anything. They’re the ones who set me up with Mr. Borgin and then framed him for theft!”
“Alright, let’s analyze that last statement, shall we?” Severus said in his haughtiest tones. “They set you up with Mr. Borgin. How do you know that they haven’t still set you up with Mr. Borgin?”
“What do you mean?”
“The MacDuff quill hasn’t been found. You were Mr. Borgin’s assistant. That puts you in position to be his accomplice. Are you quite certain the feather is not in your possession?”
“Why are you mumbling?” Rupert replied.
“I don’t want anyone to read my lips. You’d be wise to do the same.”
“Fine.” Rupert rolled his eyes. “First of all, it’s not just a MacDuff quill. It’s a golden goose quill that originally belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw, making it an artifact of the Founders. You’d think the Prophet would have at least figured out that detail correctly. Secondly, that story is complete hogwash. I was there, along with Mr. Malfoy and the museum director, when the aurors arrested Mr. Borgin, and Mr. Malfoy, as the Wizengamot representative, took the quill as evidence.”
“If Mr. Malfoy had the quill why would the aurors have to go to Mr. Borgin’s house? Scratch that, if Mr. Borgin was in custody, how did Mr. Borgin go to Mr. Borgin’s house?”
“He didn’t kill himself. It was a Death Eater kill. Their trademark is right there in the newspaper for anyone to see, well, anyone who reads the newspaper with magnification charms.”
“So someone with Death Eater ties knows that an artifact of the Founders has gone missing and is trying to cover it up in the press. That sounds like serious conspiracy allegations.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Actually, that’s the last thing we should do. You can’t tell anyone about it.”
“If you tell another living soul about what we’re talking about here, you could be in danger. I’m being serious here. Until you are back at home where we know nobody can listen in to what we say, you are not to say one word about Mr. Borgin, this quill, or anything else to do with Death Eaters. Think of it as a test, and if you fail, you die.”
“That’s a lovely way to start a new school year.” Rupert groaned.
“I have a feeling this is going to be one of those years.” And with that Severus popped the privacy bubble just as McGonagall read off the last name of the sorting.
The hat called out Hufflepuff, the tables cheered loudly, and Dumbledore stood up. “As many of you know, the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts is always a difficult position to fill. Something about the Dark Arts and educating children not going hand in hand may have something to do with it. This year we’d hoped to have a very skilled professor join us- one who has experience wrangling the dragons of Asia Minor; one who has written widely on the topic of vampire lore; one who has the strength of character to fight against some of the darkest wizards in Europe. We searched high and low for a qualified candidate, and one name rose above the rest. Sadly, we have not heard back from this candidate, and therefore I…”
“For Merlin’s sake, I’m not that late, am I? You wouldn’t believe how slow the owls are in Romania this time of year.” A very familiar voice called from the back doorway.
“That can’t be.” Severus gasped.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Rupert elbowed his step-brother.
“It can’t be.” Severus muttered again.
“Ah.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “You’re just in time. Ladies and Gentlemen,
scholars of all ages, I’d like to present you with your new Defense against the Dark Arts Professor, Madame Lestrange.”
Gran strode proudly up the center aisle, slowing down just the slightest bit to wave at her grandsons, before joining Albus Dumbledore at the front table.
“Oh dear.” Severus muttered. “This is going to be one of those years.”