It All Comes Down to This
“There you are, Snape! I’ve been looking all over for you!” The wizard took a step closer to the group.
“Hold it right there, mister!” Buffy, having freed her hair from the wheelchair, put herself squarely in between Giles’ brother and the unknown wizard. While at the moment, she was all for cursing the surly potions master, she really felt the honor belonged to Giles, not some random intruder. “Who are you?”
“My name’s Remus Lupin, and I’m an old school friend of Severus’ and Rupert’s.” The wizard quirked his lips as if trying to hold back a smile.
“Um, Giles? Weren’t most of your school friends the bad guys?” Willow asked.
“True, but I wouldn’t exactly call Lupin a friend of mine.” Given the time Giles had been away from that world, he wasn’t sure if there was anyone he’d call a friend. “What do you think, Sev, friend or foe?”
“As tempting as it is to sic a slayer on you, Lupin, I’ll have to go with friend.” Severus finally relented. “Although the fact that you left me abandoned to muggles on a Hellmouth for almost two weeks makes that a friend only in the loosest sense of the word.”
“Aw, Snape, admit it. You’ve missed me.” Remus teased.
“Well, now that you’ve found me, what’s your plan?” Snape set his wand down on his lap.
“Actually, I don’t really have a plan. I wasn’t thinking I’d find you here. I was going to pick up some floo powder I’d ordered and try to firecall Albus to find out what to do next. I’ve had the most rotten luck looking for you.”
“So you’re our mysterious floo purchaser as well? That’s almost a relief.” Giles said, but the tense lines in his face were still there, and it was making Buffy nervous. “Why don’t we go into the other room? There’s a nice table we can sit at and discuss the situation.”
“Excellent plan.” Remus headed back through the door he came in, leaving his back as a wide open target. When Severus failed to throw a fatal curse, or at least a good pinching hex, Giles breathed a bit easier. While the werewolf of Gryffindor had never been his favorite person in the world, he’d always been one of Dumbledore’s supporters, and thus it was possible that he was on Severus’ side.
The group followed the wizard into the main shop. Buffy took a seat next to the wizard to make it easier to hit him if things went south from there. Willow settled behind the counter just in case anyone came into the shop while they were talking. Severus charmed his chair to move to directly in front of Remus. “Tea?” Giles offered, knowing he would need a cup to make it through this conversation.
“Yes, please.” Lupin answered at the same time Snape nodded and Buffy made her usual face at the thought of tea.
“So.” Severus offered. “You were planning to floo Albus. I take it that means he did not die.”
“No, but it was a close call. Poppy worked on him for almost ten hours straight before she would let any of us see him.”
“And what of Potter? Did the prophecy bear out?”
“He’s fine. It was actually rather ironic. What was the last thing you remember?”
“Lucius was aiming at Potter. Like a fool, I got in the way of the Cruciatus, and as I fell, Dumbledore threw me that stupid wallet.”
“Ah, right. Well, as you know, I was on the opposite side of the pitch, so I didn’t see exactly what happened, but I’ve heard the story from several sources. Ron cast a sleeping hex on Lucius, leaving Harry free to take on Voldemort. The two of them traded curses, each getting more and more elaborate. Finally, Voldemort got one through Harry’s shields. From what I understand it was the Curse of Angor.”
“That’s the heart breaker charm, isn’t it?” Giles asked, already knowing the answer. “It’s said to slowly squeeze the heart until the person dies- like a prolonged heart attack.” Willow shot him a grateful look for the translation.
“That’s the one. Harry falls to his knees, and Voldemort begins gloating, but as he falls, Harry gets one more shot out.”
“And what did Saint Potter pull from his hat?” Severus drawled, feigning disinterest. For years the Order of the Phoenix had debated which charm would be the one to kill the dark lord, but when it came right down to it, none of the suggestions were ever good enough.
“It was a really bizarre charm that Hermione must have found in the library. I can’t think of anyone else who would have taught it to Harry. It’s used by zookeepers to help animals go through molting. Evidently, when said in Parseltongue it causes other snakes to shed their skins. Well, Voldemort had not been expecting that one, and had no shields for it, so as Harry is collapsing in the mud, Voldemort’s skin is peeling off of him. Really it was quite disgusting.”
“Undoubtedly that’s the case, but why isn’t Potter dead? There’s no cure for the Curse of Angor. It is one of the last great mysteries of wizarding medicine.”
“No, there’s not. According to Hermione, he was technically dead. However, Hermione is never one to let something like that stop her. She goes right up to him and starts pounding on his chest and kissing him. Ron was about to lose it right then and there.”
“It’s a wonder Weasley is still alive with the short fuse he has.” Severus observed.
“When I asked later, Hermione claimed it’s called CPR, and is used by muggles to revive someone when their heart stops. Anyway, Harry starts coughing a moment later and sits up. Have you ever heard of such a clever way to evade a prophecy?!”
“Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.” Buffy answered with a slight grin.
“Really, Buffy, just because Xander was able to circumvent a prophecy that mystics had been trying to unravel for years and no one in the wizarding world thought to duplicate the effort, doesn’t mean you have to be quite so smug about it. It was really a close call.” Giles smiled proudly at his slayer, knowing he was just as smug about Xander’s actions. “Please, carry on with your story.” He gestured.
“So Harry sits up, and Hermione and Ron help him to stand. He limps his way over to Voldemort’s corpse, and there he finds this small, well, maggot really. I guess when snakes shed their skin, the inner snake always lives through it, albeit weaker for quite awhile, and Harry knew that. So, the Gryffindor trio is standing there, and do you know what Harry did?”
“No. That’s why you’re telling us the story instead of being tortured by Rupert now.” Severus said dryly.
“He stepped on it! Just crushed the inner soul of Voldemort right under his shoe! The thing didn’t even stand a chance.”
“You’re telling me that Voldemort was taken out by a shoe?”
“Yes, I’m telling you that Voldemort was taken out by a shoe.”
“Impossible.” Severus rolled up his sleeve. “Look, it’s still there.”
“Yes, but it doesn’t feel alive any more, does it? What’s that noise?”
“Oh, the tea is ready.” Giles jumped up to fetch the teapot from his office, as well as three mugs.
Remus used the distraction as a way to bring the conversation back to Snape. “So, while we’ve been busy restoring peace and order to the wizarding world, what have you been up to? I see you’ve been letting these lovely ladies make you into a piñata.” Lupin tried not to laugh at the papier-mache tubes encircling the potion maker’s arm and legs.
“I am not a piñata.” Severus growled. “These are muggle casts. They’re used to set broken bones, because, evidently, muggles have no idea how to regrow bones, and thus settle on letting them grow back naturally.”
“How odd; I thought Cruciatus hit the nervous system. I’ve never heard of the curse breaking bones. Are you sure Lucius didn’t hit you with something else?” Remus studied Severus’ injuries carefully.
“It was not the curse that did it. The portkey Albus threw me delivered me to a point directly in front of a moving bus. I was unconscious at a muggle hospital for nearly three days before anyone thought to call my next of kin.” He said bitterly.
“Well, that explains it.”
“That explains what?”
“Why it was impossible to find you. Honestly, Albus sent me to fetch you as soon as Poppy let him see visitors. Unfortunately the portkey he gave me put me down directly behind a theater of some sort. I didn’t see how this could possibly be the ‘safe place’ he sent you to. I tried every scrying spell I knew and always ended up at a bus stop. Not always the same bus stop, mind you, but always just before or just after bus 18 passed. It was most disheartening. I couldn’t figure out why my magic didn’t work any more. It was only when I’d been here a few nights looking for you and ran into a few vampires at a graveyard that I realized it was because Albus sent you to the Hellmouth. That in itself was another mystery; sure it would be the last place Voldemort would look, had things gone differently, but no one in their right mind would call it a safe place. However, as I was fighting off the vampires, this young blonde girl comes from out of nowhere and starts staking them right and left. When she finished she called for Giles, and I finally thought I had figured it out, but curse my dumb luck, Albus’ two-way portkey went off, dragging me back to Hogwarts.”
“Ah ha! I knew you looked familiar!” Buffy interjected.
“You splinched your shoe.” Giles added.
“Portkeys and Hellmouths do not mix.” Remus agreed.
“That reminds me; we have to do something about the unused portkeys on the floor in there.” Giles frowned, making a mental list of all the things he would have to clean up once this was through.
“Back at Hogwarts, I met with Minerva and Albus. We weren’t about to give up on you, not after everything you’ve done for the Order. As much as that pair has tried to improve muggle-wizard relations, you’d think they’d have a better idea for how to find you in a muggle town. We finally had to ask Hermione how one would go about finding someone in the muggle world. She came up with the idea of looking for you in the telephone book, which, according to her, would be found in any public library. Minerva suggested I set up a floo fire to make communication easier, but I’m afraid I greatly underestimated the amount of powder it would take to make a transatlantic floo. When I got to town, I used up all my floo asking Hermione how I would go about finding the public library. By the time I found it, I had to look up a magic store as well just to restock on floo.”
“But wait, if you had my address, why didn’t you … oh, of course, Spike.”
“Spike?” Remus asked.
“What does Spike have to do with this?” Buffy asked.
Honestly, Giles wasn’t quite sure how to explain to Buffy that Spike had been watching a Passions marathon with Severus on his living room couch, without making it sound terribly sordid and inappropriate. Wisely, he stayed silent.
Severus was more than willing to answer the question. “Really, slayer, it’s not that difficult to understand. Clearly, when Lupin came by the house, Spike answered the door, throwing the wolf off our scent.”
“Is Spike a blonde man with an accent that sounds more American than the Cockney he’s trying to emulate?” Remus asked with an amused smirk. So Hermione’s method wasn’t as far off as he thought after all.
“You’re almost correct. Spike’s not a man.” Giles answered.
“He’s a she? My, all those rumors about California…” Remus muttered.
“No, he’s a vampire, you idiot.” Severus answered.
“Really? I had always thought a Slytherin’s sense of self-preservation would rule out inviting vampires into their house, but evidently I was wrong.”
“Self-preservation and the Hellmouth often don’t mix in expected ways,” was all Giles would comment.
“So, here I am and here you are. I really should really call Albus. Do you have a fireplace?”
“In California? As if!” Buffy rolled her eyes. Remus and Severus both looked at her funny, waiting for her to finish her sentence, but Giles just calmly drank his tea. For once he was not the most clueless Brit in the room.
“Hrm. It’s really so unpredictable using an open fire for floos.” Remus muttered. “Oh well. I’m sure he’ll be anxious to hear from you. He’s been worried sick that he hasn’t heard from you yet. We also should have Poppy take a look at your wounds. Somehow, I just don’t see how wrapping you in plaster is going to cure your broken bones.”
“Is your friend Hermione a muggleborn?” Giles asked.
“She’s my student, not my friend.” Severus shot back.
“That wasn’t the question.”
“Then, yes, she’s a muggleborn.”
“Then it’s possible she has a phone. We could try calling directory assistance. It’s always a pain to do for long distance calls, but it might work and will only cost a small fortune.” Giles suggested while at the same time cringing at the thought of being put on hold for long-distance rates.
“Or, we could just look her up online.” Willow suggested. “It’s much faster and much cheaper.”
“You know, Hermione said something about looking you up online, but I couldn’t understand what she was talking about.” Remus shrugged. “Something about spider webs and surfboards. It was all very confusing.”
Willow giggled. “I’ll go look her up. What’s her last name?”
“Granger.” Willow eagerly disappeared into Giles’ office, glad to have something to do. The others just sat around the table, awkwardly looking back and forth.
“So,” Remus finally broke the silence. “Rupert and Sev back together again. You guys must have had an interesting time this past week.”
“I’ve been on so many pain-killers that I can’t feel my toes any more. It has been a riot.” Severus drawled.
“Yeah, it’s been interesting, if by interesting you mean they’ve been fighting the entire time.” Buffy added.
“Really? These two fighting? When we were at school these two were inseparable. They were always pulling pranks on us. Severus would come up with some wicked potion, and Rupert would find some way to get us to take it.”
“We were not always pranking you.” Giles retorted. “We only resorted to those measures to retaliate from the pranks your house pulled on us.”
“They were like peas in a pod.” Remus confided to Buffy, who looked skeptically between the two brothers.
“Somehow I don’t see it.” Buffy shrugged.
“No really, it’s true. They knew each other so well that they would finish off the ends of each others’ sentences. During the summer, when Severus was stuck at school, they would owl or floo each other every night and have these elaborate conversations in some dead language… Sumerian, was it? …so no one else would listen in.”
“We weren’t that bad.” Giles muttered.
“I wasn’t.” Severus interjected. “You, on the other hand, were the one who made me learn Sumerian just so that we could confuse Lucius.”
“Until he learned Sumerian.”
“True, but switching to pig-Sumerian was pure brilliance.”
“That was funny.” Severus admitted.
“The two of them always had some scheme or other going, rather like the Weasley twins when I think about it now.” Remus ignored the look of abject horror on Severus’ face in order to talk to the pretty girl beside him. “Everyone thought the pair of them would go into business after graduation, be the next generation of Slug and Jiggers.”
“Slug and Jiggers?” Buffy raised a mocking brow at her watcher, trying hard not to laugh at his blushing. “Are you the slug, or are you the jiggers?”
“Neither; it’s an apothecary chain in England.” He answered. “A bit like Rite-aid for wizards.”
“Yes, we thought Giles would run the shop and Severus would take after his mentor, Professor Jiggers, and be the genius behind the potions.”
“Well, they got the magic shop owner part right.”
“I hardly call this a magic shop. The only strawberry essence we could find was on some new age smelly sticks.” Severus scoffed.
“The name of this place is The Magic Box, ergo, it’s a magic shop. Like, duh.” Buffy rolled her eyes.
“After spending a week in this town, I’d have to agree with the girl, Severus. It’s about as magic as things get around here without sprouting fangs and biting you. Speaking of biting, did you know that there’s a grible infestation around here? Nasty little ankle biters.”
“Yes, thank you so much. It’s all your foolish scrying that’s attracted them to the area. You’d think Dumbledore would have warned you.” Giles muttered.
“In Albus’ defense, I think he’s had other things to worry about.” Severus interrupted. “But you have no excuse- to think you call yourself a Defense professor.”
“Are you still bitter about that?” Remus rolled his eyes. “Ridiculous.”
“I’ve got it!” Willow came out of the office with a piece of paper in her hand. “Thank goodness there was only one Hermione Granger in the entire system.”
“Merlin help us if there were two Hermiones.” Severus muttered.
“Here you go, and here’s the number.” Willow handed Remus the wireless phone and the piece of paper. He studied the phone for a moment before pushing buttons. “Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?” Remus said into the listening end of the phone over the sound of the ringing tones. “It’s not working.”
“Oh for heaven’s sake.” Giles took the phone out of his hand. “You act like you’ve never…” At that point someone answered the other end. “Yes, may I please speak with a Ms. Hermione Granger?”
“May I ask who’s speaking?” A young man’s voice answered.
“This is Rupert Giles.”
“I’m sorry, Hermione doesn’t know anyone by that name.” The man answered suspiciously.
“If Hermione would like to see her potions professor ever again, put her on the line now.” Giles decided to get right to the point, ignoring the eye roll from Severus and smirk from Remus.
The teenager covered the phone with his hand, but they could clearly hear him say to his friend. “He says, and I quote, if you ever want to see your potions professor again, you should get on the line now.” They heard a large hoot from the background, followed by a “Hang up! Hang up! Save us all!” This was followed by an outraged, “Ron! That’s rude! This could be really important.” The teenager who answered the phone replied to that, “I don’t know, Hermione, I tend to agree with Ron.”
“Just hand it over.” It sounded like the phone was yanked out of the boy’s hand. “Hello, this is Hermione Granger.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Granger. My name is Rupert Giles.”
“You say you’ve found my potions professor?” The girl sounded very puzzled by the whole transaction.
“He’s been here the entire time. Actually, it’s your defense professor that’s the new addition.”
“My defense… Professor Lupin? You have Professor Lupin as well?”
“Yes. He’s right here.”
The girl covered up the phone and said to the two boys in the background. “He says he has Professor Snape and Professor Lupin!”
“Well, that’s a good thing. Dumbledore has been scrying for Remus all week. Wait, what if it’s a bad thing? Did he say where he’s calling from?” The first boy asked.
“Bloody hell! Is he trying to get a ransom?” The second boy added.
“Don’t swear, Ron!”
“I didn’t swear!”
“Find out what he wants.” The other boy advised her. Giles wondered if they realized he could hear everything they said.
“What are your terms?” The girl asked Giles. “We’re prepared to pay a ransom, just don’t hurt them.”
“They aren’t hostages.” Giles answered.
“He says they aren’t hostages.” Hermione informed the other two. “If they aren’t hostages, then why are you calling?” Hermione was now really confused. “And why are you calling on a phone? And just who are you?”
“I thought Lupin told you who I was. I’m Severus’ brother. Dumbledore sent him here.”
“But you said your name was Giles, not Snape.”
“Let’s just say Snape is actually my evil step-brother, but evidently Albus still considers us family.” Giles heard an amused snort coming from the other end. He glanced up to see Severus glaring daggers at him, but he ignored it. “Unfortunately, Severus had a bit of an accident here. Additionally, Albus failed to take into consideration that I live in a bad neighborhood. Normal wizarding transportation methods won’t work here. I need you to talk to …”
“Bad neighborhood? I thought you lived in California. That’s where Remus said he was going.”
“Yes, I’m in California, but the town I live in…”
“I don’t suppose in California people notice most magic, and if they do, can’t you just pretend you were filming a move? They believe in special effects there, don’t they?”
“It’s not that simple.”
“I’d imagine that excuse would work much better there than here.”
“Look, Ms. Granger, I need to speak to Albus immediately. Please fetch Professor Dumbledore now.”
“Alright, alright, I’m sending someone.” She put her hand over the phone, “Ron, Harry, will one of you floo to Hogwarts and fetch Dumbledore? He says it’s an emergency.”
“I’ll go. Harry always gets distracted by the sherbet lemons.” Ron volunteered.
“I do not!” Harry retorted, but didn’t object to Ron volunteering. The last place he wanted to be was Hogwarts. He’d been avoiding the place ever since the battle, and he knew Ron only said he would go to let Harry avoid it for just a little while longer.
Back in California, the men were sipping at their tea. “I told you she was an insufferable know-it-all.” Severus answered to Giles’ frustrated sigh.
“She’s a lot like the pair of you two were at that age. Well, maybe more like Rupert than Severus.”
“She joined the choir?” Giles asked, knowing that most of the students in their year thought that was the only thing separating the Slytherin brothers.
“No, she has friends.” Remus answered.
“I had friends.” Severus answered. “I’d say I knew the two of you at least as well as Granger knows her partners in crime.”
“Ah, we’re friends now. So nice of you to finally notice.” Remus chuckled.
“You’re a git.” Severus mumbled.
“You really must be on pain-killers. That has got to be the saddest excuse for an insult I’ve heard from you in quite awhile.” Remus answered, only half-joking.
“Ahem, Mr. Giles?” An older voice came on the line.
“Professor Dumbledore?” Giles immediately recognized the voice, and after all these years, it still made him feel like a schoolboy in trouble.
“Yes, how are you doing? It’s been what, seventeen years?”
“Eighteen, but who’s counting?” Giles shrugged.
“You are.” Albus chuckled. “I hope you don’t mind the package I sent you.”
“Well, it got a little damaged on the way. If it were sent by Owl Post, I’d ask for my money back, if I were you.”
“Oh for Merlin’s sake, hand that thing over.” Severus reached for the phone with his right hand. Giles handed it over readily, not feeling as comfortable talking to Dumbledore than he’d thought he’d be. Somehow he just knew he’d let the man down. “Albus.” Severus answered curtly.
“Ah, Severus! How are you doing?”
“Just what in the Founders’ names were you thinking by sending me to the Hellmouth on a portkey?!”
“I thought you’d be with your family.”
“I didn’t ask to visit Rupert and he didn’t want to see me. Has it ever occurred to you that there’s a reason I haven’t spoken with him in nearly two decades?”
“Yes, but boys reason one way, and men reason another. It was your Gran’s last wish for you two boys to reconcile, and I wanted to give you that chance as grown men. So, how did it work out? You’re both alive. That’s a good sign.” Dumbledore answered cheerfully.
“No thanks to you. Your portkey did not drop me anywhere near Rupert.”
“I hope it wasn’t a long walk.”
“It wasn’t a walk at all. You dropped me in front of a moving bus! I spent the first week here in a muggle hospital!”
“Do you have any idea what they do in muggle hospitals? They stuck needles in me, poisoned me with primitive drugs, and made me eat jello!”
“Jello? What’s that?” Dumbledore latched on to the most ridiculous of Severus’ complaints.
“It’s a cubic gelatinous substance that comes in atrocious colors like blue and green.”
“Sounds delightful, cubes you say?”
“You’re missing the point.”
“I should ask Hermione about this jello; the house elves are always after me to challenge them with new recipes.”
“The point is that I have multiple broken bones, so that even if it were physically possible to do a transatlantic apparition, I wouldn’t be able to! There are no fireplaces in this entire town so I can’t floo through to a better port. You can’t even get a port key to work correctly. We’re doomed!”
“Oh. I suppose that’s one way to look at this situation. I’m afraid I didn’t realize Rupert lived in such a dangerous neighborhood.”
“Dangerous? It’s the Mouth of HELL!” Severus screeched on the phone. “Since I’ve arrived I’ve been attacked by a vampire,…”
“Spike grabbing the remote from your hand was not an attack. He didn’t even cringe,” Giles interjected.
“ …a pack of crazed gribles, …”
“Oh please! We so had that under control,” Buffy blew that off.
“ …and a lust-crazed nurse.”
“Alright, I’ll grant you that. I wouldn’t sic Mrs. Kendall on my worse enemy.” Giles agreed.
“Help me!” Severus pleaded.
“Well, what about Remus? Did he reach you?”
“Yes, he’s sitting right here.”
“He’s got a return portkey scheduled for tonight. Why don’t you just ride along with him?”
“Did you miss the part where I said the muggles don’t know how to fix broken bones?”
“Hmm, that is a problem. I know. We can send Hermione and Poppy there with some supplies. Then the four of you can return tomorrow. How does that work for you?”
“Don’t send Granger. Do I have to wait for tomorrow?” Severus growled. He wanted to be gone now.
“Well, I want you to have some time with your brother. The two of you used to be so close.” Dumbledore tried. The silence on the other end let him know just how well that went over. “Besides, it takes a day for the new bones to set. That’s the soonest we can portkey you out of there.”
“Alright,” Severus acquiesced. “But don’t send Granger.”
“What’s he saying?” Remus inquired.
“He’s sending Poppy here with supplies. We’ll portkey out tomorrow.”
“Are you sure that’s wise? Portkeys don’t work very well here. I was splinched as just a single passenger. I’d hate to think of what would happen if we had multiple people on a single key.” Remus frowned.
“Well, I don’t see you having a better idea.” Snape replied.
“Why don’t they portkey to Los Angeles? It’s about an hour away and less with the Hellmouthy-vibe-age. We can have a friend meet them there and drive them here.” Willow suggested.
“I don’t know. I’d hate to ask Angel…” Buffy frowned.
“I was thinking of asking Cordelia. If we pay her for gas, she should be willing to do it.” Willow answered. “On second thought, maybe you should ask Cordelia? She likes you more.”
“That will work.” Giles agreed. He flipped through his personal address book until he found the business card of A.I. that Cordelia had sent him. “Tell Dumbledore to send them to this address.” He handed the card to Severus.
The wizard had to set down the phone to prop the card up in his left hand, but eventually managed to hold both the card and the phone. “Here’s the address for where we want you to send the key, and allow an extra few hours on the return key. It’s slightly out of town. And, whatever you do, don’t send Granger!” Snape informed his boss.
As soon as the phone call was over, the group all seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. This would all soon be over. “Who wants pizza?” Willow offered.
“We just did that. Oh, how about subs?” Buffy asked. “I can go pick it up.”
“I’ll come with.” Willow and Buffy grabbed their bags and were out the door before Giles had a chance to answer.
“So now what do we do?”
“We wait.” Severus muttered.
“And we clean up. Come on Remus, we’ve got a dozen destination-less portkeys to get off the floor.”
“Excellent.” Remus followed Giles with a teasing grin. “I’m always up for a little spell work if it means I can get away from Snape. And, maybe you can explain to me just what you’re doing with a real live vampire slayer at your beck and call.”
“That’s a story for another day. Preferably a day when I’m far less sober.”
The final bell of the week rang, and students raced out of the classrooms, ready for the weekend. “Stupid old hag. How dare she assign us a three foot essay when everyone knows we have the match tomorrow?!” Potter complained as the seventh years filed out of the DADA classroom.
“What did you expect? She’s a Slytherin.” Pettigrew added. “She wants them to win.” His logic would have made more sense if it weren’t for the fact that there were just as many Slytherin quidditch players as there were Gryffindor players in the NEWT level course.
“The topic doesn’t even have anything to do with Defense! Why do we have to know anything about blood letting and blood clotting spells? What a batty old lady! I bet she only uses those spells when she pricks her finger knitting.” Potter kicked at a stone pillar as they passed it. The last thing he needed when going up against Malfoy’s squad was an impossibly long homework assignment to distract him.
“Are we still talking about the little old lady who is Snape’s grandmother? That’s not exactly a family known for their knitting.” Remus tried to subtly remind his friends that picking on Madame Lestrange while in the vicinity of the Slytherins was stupid at best, suicidal at worst. Unfortunately, his friends had never been good at picking up subtlety.
“Now class, I’ll have you know,” Black said in a false granny voice, “Way back when I was just a lass and dinosaurs roamed the earth, we didn’t cast magic with wands. We used sticks with leaves and thorns on them, and by Merlin, we liked it!”
“Really, Sirius.” Remus rolled his eyes as his friends giggled.
“What about this one?” Potter decided to get in on the act. “When I was just a little girl, we didn’t have any quidditch. Brooms hadn’t been invented yet…”
“Or this: my husband…” Sirius began one of Gran’s trademark lines.
“Whom I love very much!” The four boys chorused. Of course, any other student at Hogwarts would say they much preferred Madame Lestrange’s narrative teaching style compared to say, Binn’s dry lectures, or even McGonagall’s constant drills. However, her teaching style did make it far too easy for the Gryffindors to mock her.
“If she loved her husband so much, why doesn’t she go back to him instead of making our lives miserable? The stupid hag.”
“Maybe,” a new chilling voice cut in, causing the group to freeze in their tracks, “it’s because she’s the best, most qualified DADA professor Hogwarts has ever seen, and if Gryffindors were capable of knowing quality when they saw it, they’d know that, you stupid arsewipe.”
Remus took a step back from James and Sirius. He had tried to warn them, but they never listened. He contemplated taking a few more steps back when he saw Sirius open his mouth. “Sucking up to your grandma, eh, Snivellus? Afraid she’ll use all those defense skills to pinch your cheeks when you’re naughty?”
It was hard to tell who drew their wands first, just as it was hard to tell who drew their prefect’s badge first. With Malfoy lining up against Potter and Snape lining up against Black, the fight was at a tense draw. Other students were beginning to form a large circle around them. Remus glanced around nervously, looking for anyone who could settle the fight without the inevitable trip to the infirmary. His answer came in the form of Rupert Giles stepping forward.
“Now Severus, just because Sirius has a problem with Gran, that doesn’t mean you should resort to hexes. After all, Gran wouldn’t approve of you using offensive magic in the hallways. You could get in trouble for that.” Severus twitched a bit at the scolding, but didn’t back down, not trusting Sirius to respect a truce. Remus breathed a sigh of relief when it looked like Rupert took that as a good sign. No one knew Severus like his step-brother, and if Rupert looked this loose and relaxed then it was likely they’d get out of this with no faculty being the wiser.
“No,” Rupert stood right in between Sirius and Severus. “I think Gran would approve of a much more old-fashioned solution.” Before Remus could say ‘Merlin!’, Rupert pulled back his fist and then punched Sirius with all his might.
Evidently, Rupert had a lot more might than the Gryffindors had given the choir boy credit for. The punch rattled Sirius’ jaw and sent him falling against the stone castle walls. Sirius tried to stagger forward, but ended up collapsing on the floor.
“Uh oh.” Severus gave his step-brother a sympathetic wince.
“Yes, Professor Lestrange?” Rupert tried to sound innocent while still shaking out his fist.
“What have you done? Never mind, I can see what you’ve done. What were you thinking?!” Gran easily made her way through the dispersing crowd.
“Well, he said…” Rupert pointed at Sirius.
“Never mind what he said. I want to see you in my office now!” The DADA professor did an about face and stormed back to her classroom, clearly expecting Rupert to follow.
Rupert trailed along behind her to the oohs and uhohs of his classmates. As soon as he was in the classroom, he shut the door and followed Gran to the desk at the very back of the room. “Sit” She commanded.
Rupert dutifully complied, knowing just how bad Gran’s ire could be. There was a painfully long silent pause that probably lasted half a minute before Gran spoke up. “I don’t ever want to see you punch that boy in the jaw again.” Rupert opened his mouth to defend himself, but Gran held up her hand to silence him. “Blacks have notoriously stubborn teeth that will do more harm to you than him. You should have aimed for the eyes.”
“Not that I would ever encourage my students to be violent.”
“I just expected more from you, Rupert.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am.”
“Enough with the ma’ams. How many times have I told you to call me Gran?”
“Yes, Gran,” and just like that Rupert knew he was out of the doghouse.
“Let me see if I can guess what happened. Undoubtedly, one of the Gryffindors was whining about the latest assignment. Severus felt the need to defend my honor, and you felt the need to defend him. How close am I?”
Rupert blushed. “I see. Well, everyone is expecting me to punish you. I should probably take points off…”
“No, Gran! You can’t! Not when they started it.” Rupert pleaded.
“… but I’d hate to give those Gryffindors any encouragement before the big game. It’s going to be close this year. Do you know if Gordon Llewellyn is really as impressive as everyone says he is?”
“He must be. Lucius wouldn’t play a second year if he wasn’t the best.” Rupert parroted the house line, hoping he was right.
“Excellent.” Gran said, looking forward to gloating in front of Minerva come Sunday. “So we’ve ruled out house points. I guess that means Friday night detention. You’re staying here until dinner. Get comfortable.”
“Yes, Gran.” Rupert sighed. He had been looking forward to helping Severus with a new invisibility potion this afternoon, but he knew this was really as soft a punishment as Gran could give without raising brows. After all, Rupert did score a punch on one of Gryffindor’s beaters. “Do I have to clean out the boggart cage? Polish the gadget collection?”
“Heavens no, we’re just going to have a nice little chat.” Gran settled back into her cushioned leather chair and charmed the teapot on her desk to warm itself. “My daughter has been horrible about owling this semester. If I weren’t here, I swear I’d miss out on everything. So, how are you? How is your year going so far? Professor Jigger seems to think you’re doing fairly well in potions.”
“I guess everything is going well. The NEWTS are much harder to study for than the OWLS were, but I guess it doesn’t really matter if I study. The Council doesn’t care about my wizarding credentials.”
“You’re not taking the NEWTS for the Council; you’re taking them for your own sense of being. You are the person responsible for your education, and it’s a matter of personal pride to do well on these exams. If you don’t take your own learning seriously, how do you expect anyone to respect you? You do want people to respect you, don’t you?”
Rupert felt uncomfortable about meeting Gran’s eyes, as though blowing off the NEWTS was a bigger sin than punching Sirius. Of course, for Medea Lestrange, that might be the case. “I guess.” Rupert mumbled.
“Well, you should.” Gran nodded. “Speaking of things you should do, have you asked someone to the Yule Ball?” She asked with a mischievous smile.
“I’ll take that as a no. Who are you planning to ask?”
“Gran, it’s only October. It’s way too early.”
“It’s never too early to plan ahead. So, who would you like to dance with? Remember, I have you here for three hours. It will be in your best interest to answer the question earlier rather than later.”
Rupert debated evading the question or lying, but this was Gran he was facing. Of all the crazy lie-detectors Pa Lestrange had developed or collected over the years, none were as effective as Gran. “Well, there is this one girl, but the rest of my house would never forgive me if I really asked.”
“A Gryffindor, I take it? Assuming you’re a sane person and aren’t a glutton for punishment, I can rule out Margaret MacDuff. I guess that leaves only one real contender. Why Lily Evans?”
“That’s what I asked.”
“Well.” Rupert ran a nervous hand through his hair. “She’s… she’s very intelligent… and funny… and pretty,” he stuttered. He hoped his ears weren’t as red as he thought they were. “But, even if I asked, she probably wouldn’t say yes. She sees me as a friend. I’m not the kind of guy she’s attracted to.”
“Do you know who she is attracted to?” Gran asked. Perhaps it would be possible to sway the girl’s affection, depending on what her natural inclinations were. Clearly, she’d have to pay more attention to the Gryffindor girls during class.
“Paul McCartney.” Rupert answered immediately.
“Oh.” Gran frowned. “He must not be taking DADA this semester; the name isn’t familiar. What house is he in?”
“Oh, Gran.” Rupert chuckled. “He’s not in a house. He’s a muggle musician.”
“Musicians never amount to anything.”
“He’s really famous.”
“Maybe, but can he do the wizarding waltz?”
“Well, no.” Rupert wasn’t sure he remembered how either.
“Then he won’t be taking her to the Yule Ball. I say you should ask her.”
“Alright, Gran.” Rupert said to appease his adopted grandmother.
“Now,” Gran said, satisfied by how her first order of business had been resolved, she turned to the next item on her semester’s to-do list. “Who will Severus ask to the ball?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t have to know; you just have to guess. Who do you think Severus will ask to the ball?” Gran’s teapot whistled softly. “Care for a cup?”
“Yes, please.” Rupert watched Gran summon two tea cups and saucers from the back book case. She poured the tea and then summoned a tin of biscuits as well. Gran took a deep breath of the cinnamon tea and smiled contentedly. “That’s much better. So, what’s your answer?”
“I’d assume Severus will ask whomever Lucius wants him to ask. That’s what he always does.” Rupert dipped his cookie into the tea, amused to be getting away with table manners his father would never approve of.
“And whom would Lucius set him up with?”
“I don’t know. Some years he tries to set Severus up with Prunella, but I don’t know. She’s not as ugly as she is most years; she might be able to find her own date.”
“So nice of you boys to notice.” Gran answered drolly, feeling sorry for the poor girl who was fighting an uphill battle against her genetics.
“There’s always Violet. I think Lucius may try to set Violet up with someone just to keep her away from Rosier. Evan’s not on Lucius’ good side this month, but that may change by December. I guess Lucius could try to set Severus up out of house, but he doesn’t have as much pull with the other houses. Actually, I’d guess the girls in the other houses would be more likely to listen to me than him, and that’s saying something.” Rupert joked.
“You could set your brother up.” Gran suggested.
“Oh, no. I won’t. If it’s one thing I’ve learned about Snapes over the years, it’s that they bear grudges. I’m not giving Sev any ammunition.”
“I suppose I could intervene. After all, as a professor I’d have more pull than the Malfoy boy. Who do you think Severus would enjoy going to the dance with?”
“Gran! You can’t do that! He’d be mortified!” Rupert sputtered into his tea.
“What? I wasn’t going to do the asking for him. I was just going to help engineer situations that would make it easier for him to ask the girl of his choice. I’d like to see my great-grandchildren before I die and that will never happen if Severus has to rely on Lucius Malfoy to intercede.”
“Great-grandchildren? Gran, this is just one dance.” Rupert winced. If Severus had a clue what they were discussing he’d probably move to Siberia in horror.
“Severus needs to learn to follow his heart, not his house, if he plans to amount to anything.” Gran sipped her tea. “I think I should schedule a meeting with Severus to tell him just that. I’ve already seen one child trapped in a loveless marriage. I don’t want to suffer through that again.”
“I didn’t think my father was that bad.”
“I was referring to the late Professor Snape, dear.”
“I thought Severus’ parents got along.”
“As well as a student and mentor could, but the marriage was definitely a matter of convenience, not desire.” Gran said conspiratorially.
“Oh.” He supposed that didn’t completely conflict with Severus’ account of his parents, but it sounded more pathetic when Gran described it.
“So, back to the matter at hand. Who do you think Severus likes?” Gran asked, more to watch Rupert squirm than from any need to know.
“I don’t know. We never talk about it. I suppose I could ask Lily. He tutored her in potions for awhile so maybe they talked about it; although I doubt Severus would talk about anything other than potions with her. You know how he gets about his potions. Still, girls just know these kinds of things.” Rupert shrugged.
Gran was about to respond when there was a knock on the door, and Albus Dumbledore peeked in. “I hope I’m not disturbing anything. I was hoping I could have a word with you.”
“Rupert is just serving detention here with me until dinner. I’m sure he won’t mind an interruption.”
“What offense are you being punished for?” Albus asked the boy, a twinkle in his eye as if he already knew.
“Rupert was defending my honor to his classmates.” Gran answered with an amused grin.
“Ah, I was wondering which door Sirius had a run-in with. That answers that question. Madame Pomphrey will be much relieved. She was worried about the safety of the hallways and was getting on my case to remodel Hogwarts. According to her, if even a seventh year can’t make it through the doorways unmolested, what hope is there for the first years?”
“I don’t know. I’ve always questioned the sanity of shifting stairwells, myself.” Gran played along.
“Nonsense. The stairways are brilliant. I hear that even muggles have invented moving stairs and are installing them everywhere.” Albus replied. Rupert didn’t have the heart to tell him that escalators moved up and down, not left to right. “Speaking of muggles,” Albus pulled a copy of the Daily Prophet from his robes and placed it on the desk, “something should be done.”
As Gran read the headline, Albus summoned a chair and a teacup, inviting himself to the detention tea party. “Oh my, this is horrible! Undoubtedly the Ministry is not doing anything useful about this.” Gran sounded disgusted. “We must do something. What did you have in mind?”
She handed the paper to Rupert. The headline read ‘Pranks turn deadly!’. Evidently several Death Eaters had cursed muggleborn wizards with a bizarre hex that turned their blood literally to mud. Although the spell was too weak to last more than a few seconds before the blood returned to normal, several wizards suffered from heart attacks, strokes, and even more bizarre maladies. According the Prophet, one wizard now had a raspberry bush growing in his stomach.
“I was thinking we should have a picnic.” Dumbledore answered.
“You know, that’s the same reaction Minerva had.”
“Imagine that. Did it occur to you that this shouldn’t be something that is celebrated with a picnic? What’s next? A parade?”
“I imagine the widows and orphans haven’t had much to be happy about lately, especially considering the Ministry’s insistence that this was just a limited prank. I suppose we could have a parade, but I thought a picnic would be better. It’s the least Hogwarts could do when our larders are full. I was thinking we could do this during the next scheduled Hogsmeade visit.”
“I think many students will be quite upset over losing their Hogsmeade time.”
“Well, it would be unfair to just keep the muggleborn students at school, and we don’t have the faculty to watch over both places at once.”
Rupert frowned. He hadn’t really considered that Hogwarts students were likely targets. He also hadn’t realized just how much Albus Dumbledore did think of it. He, like most of the students, assumed Dumbledore acted mostly on crazy whims, not shrewd plans.
“November is a bit late for a picnic.” Gran hedged.
“We can put up a large tent with a bonfire in the middle, down by the lake. Hagrid can arrange for hayrides. It will be fun! What do you say?”
“Well… as long as you don’t damage the quidditch pitch.” Gran acquiesced. “I suppose I can have my husband bring some of his toys to entertain the children.” Rupert choked on his tea and started coughing. “Are you alright, dear?”
“Fine, I’m fine.” Rupert gasped. He wondered just what all those widows would think about the orphans playing with, according to Severus, the largest collection of Dark Arts paraphernalia west of Durmstrang. If you didn’t know what you were doing, most of the time they just flashed and played music, but occasionally you could get lucky, or rather, unlucky. There was a reason the boys wouldn’t open Pa’s birthday presents without witnesses present.
“Well, that’s really all I wanted to speak with you about. I suppose if Cornelius and Filius don’t have any strong objections, I’ll announce it tomorrow. Enjoy your detention.” Helping himself to another biscuit, Dumbledore left.
As soon as the door closed, Rupert spoke, “Well, that was odd.”
“No, that was Albus Dumbledore. Really, a picnic in November, that’s practically unheard of.”
“Well, that too.” Rupert agreed.
“You didn’t find that odd?”
“I did. I just found it more peculiar that he would tell you all that with me in the room. I’m just a student.”
“That’s what you find odd?” Gran’s eyes twinkled in mirth.
“Didn’t you? I mean, he’s supposed to be this great administrator, but he just told you this big faculty secret with me in the room. What if I go back and tell all my housemates that he’s canceling Hogsmeade weekend just so that we can host a picnic for orphans?”
“Ah, but maybe Dumbledore is counting on you to do just that. What if he doesn’t want to admit to everyone that Hogsmeade isn’t safe, but knows that if you start the rumor, only the right people will take it seriously enough?”
“But what if I don’t say anything?”
“Why wouldn’t you?”
“Maybe I don’t want to play his game.” Rupert sounded affronted.
“Dumbledore isn’t playing a game. He’s trusting you to do the right thing. It’s up to you to determine what that is. Now, where were we? Oh yes, a date for Severus.”
“Well, you can’t blame a witch for trying!”