Giles was sat in the kitchen with a cup of tea, nervously stirring the liquid with a spoon as he looked outside, watching the snow softly fall from the sky again. It wasn't coming down as heavily as last night yet but still made for relaxing viewing as he watched the white flakes dance about in the wind.
He still wasn't sure if Hermione and Professor McGonagall were actually going to turn up today, he didn't know enough about Professor McGonagall's temperament to know how she would have reacted to their argument last night. He hoped that she would be kind enough not to let it interfere with his relationship with Hermione, but there was still a niggling worry at the back of his mind that the professor would just take Hermione back to her school and he would never see her again.
As he stirred the tea nervously he was flicking through one of his old chronicles, specifically the one dealing with his first week when he took charge of Buffy as a Slayer. He'd gone back to it to remind himself of what teenage girls were normally like, going back to his first week with Buffy, when she was still fighting against her chosen status, helped him remember her attitude and thoughts back then. What she was like, what interests she had, what she loved or hated, how she reacted to being told things.
He was broken out of his thoughts by a soft pop coming from on front of him, lifting his head up immediately to see if it was Hermione and Professor McGonagall he got a strange shock when there appeared to be a small creature stood there, carrying a holdall bag and some sort of metal box with a handle.
"Dobby be wishing good mornings Misters Gileses," Dobby said, with the most harmless smile he could manage.
Giles just took his glasses off, polishing them thoroughly before returning them to his face, sure enough; the small creature was still stood there looking at him expectantly. "I'm sorry, what?" Giles asked as he stood up, looking down at the diminutive creature, it would barely come up to his waistline and had large ears that flopped around along with large eyeballs like golf balls that looked like they were threatening to pop out of its skull.
Any further thoughts from Giles were side-tracked again as the doorbell rung, causing him to turn his head towards the corridor out of the kitchen.
"Dobby will answer it Misters Gileses, Dobby be knowing it will be being Misses Hermione and Professors McGonagall." Dobby said, putting the two bags he was carrying down before running out of the kitchen.
Giles for his part didn't know what to think, first a small creature had just teleported inside his house, something the wards should have prevented in the first place, and secondly the creature seemed to know him and knew Hermione and Professor McGonagall. Leaning over he took a careful look at the cup of tea before lifting it up and sniffing it cautiously. "Just in case," He muttered to himself before he heard the door click open.
This sound brought him back to reality as he realised the small creature had just run to answer the door, leaving him stood there in shock. He had no idea who could be at the door, so he quickly ran out of the kitchen towards the front door, he still didn't know quite what to think about the small creature or it's seemingly strange way of speaking and acting, he was quite at a loss actually.
As he came through into the main entrance way he saw the creature holding the door open for Professor McGonagall and Hermione to enter. "Ah, hello…" He said as he jogged into the entrance way, not quite knowing what else to say as neither Professor McGonagall nor Hermione seemed fazed by the small creature.
"Dobby, we were going to apparate outside, remember." Hermione told the small creature with a soft glare. "I'm sorry Unc… Rupert, I hope he didn't surprise you."
"Surprise?" Giles asked in amusement. "Ah, no, his appearance may have briefly made me consider the state of my faculties, or I thought perhaps something had been slipped into my tea."
"Sadly neither are the case Doctor Giles," Professor McGonagall replied frostily.
"I see," Giles nodded, reading far more into Professor McGonagall's tone than her actual speech.
"This is Dobby Rupert, a friend," Hermione stepped forward, shaking a bit of snow from her hair as she did, beckoning Dobby forwards with her hand.
"Dobby?" Giles asked, remembering how the small creature had referred to himself as Dobby while speaking in third person when he'd appeared in the kitchen, well, he assumed Dobby was male, seeing as the creature didn't appear to be obviously female there wasn't a lot to go on.
"Dobby is a house elf Doctor Giles," Professor McGonagall explained as she put down the metal box she had been carrying next to the box and carry case that Hermione had placed by the staircase.
"Ah, yes, I seem to remember reading about these," Giles nodded, thinking back to what he'd read in those dreadful W.O.M.B.A.T books. "Servants or such, though judging by the state of his clothes…" He trailed off, wanting to say the creature looked more like a slave, but this time managed to hold his tongue so as not to start another argument.
"Dobby is a free elf Rupert," Hermione explained. "He's a friend; he just wants to be helpful."
"A free elf?" Giles asked, kneeling down to take a better look at the small creature. "And a friend, in that case, welcome." He smiled over at the creature, holding his hand out for the creature to take.
"Dobby be most thanking you kind sirs," Dobby said as he stepped forward gingerly and took the man's hand, just holding it gently in place instead of shaking it.
"He's a bit nervous," Hermione explained. "The last family he served weren't the best examples of wizards."
"Ah," Giles nodded as he gingerly shook the house elf's hand, almost afraid that he would break the small creature if he shook too hard. "Then you have nothing to fear here, Dobby was it?" He asked, causing the small creature to nod slowly. "Dobby then, any friend of Hermione's is welcome here."
"Misters Gileses be being most kind, Dobby can see where Misses Hermione got her kindness from sir." Dobby said with a smile as he let go of the hand and stepped back to Hermione's side.
"Yes, quite," Giles smiled bashfully, not knowing quite what to say to that as he stood up again. "Well, welcome." He smiled to Hermione.
"Your house is amazing," Hermione breathed out, looking around the entrance way. The softly polished wood panelling on the wall made for a warm and comforting feel, while she could see various rooms and corridors spilling off from the main entrance way towards other sections of the house.
"A family home," Giles nodded. "I must confess, I hadn't set foot in this house in nearly fifteen years before I received the news. Though this house has been in my family for generations, I find it a bit ostentatious for my needs."
"Quite," Professor McGonagall nodded sharply from where she was still stood by the staircase.
"Oh, sorry, please, come through. I was just enjoying a cup of tea, would either of you like a drink of some sort?" Giles asked, motioning for them to follow him. "Please, leave the bags; we can deal with them later once you have found a room you like." He smiled as Hermione nodded at him.
"Can I let Crookshanks out?" Hermione asked, looking at the wood panelled floor, it was obvious there weren't any house pets in the house from the way the floor was polished underfoot.
"Of course," Giles nodded with a smile. "I fear I don't have a cat flap on any of the doors though, so we will have to let him out when he needs for the time, until I can arrange for one to be fitted."
"He's house trained, I have his litter tray and toys in one of the bags," Hermione explained.
"I see," Giles smiled as he watched her undo the front door of the cat carry case and let the ugly ginger furball out. "Just the one bag?" He asked, glancing at the two metal cases that were by the cat carry case and assuming Dobby had brought the bag with her belongings in, which he had left in the kitchen if memory served him correctly.
"There are other bags inside," Hermione explained. "Professor McGonagall shrunk them all down so we could carry them easier."
"Ah, yes, useful," Giles smiled, a bit taken aback by the amount of magic both Hermione and Professor McGonagall seemed to be happy with using on a daily level. He smiled as the large ginger cat poked its head out from the carry case first before stepping out and looking around. "Perhaps we should leave your familiar to explore himself," Giles chuckled. "Please, come through." He nodded as he led them through into the main corridor and through towards the kitchen.
As he stepped into the main corridor he waited to one side for Hermione to step through first before moving alongside Professor McGonagall as she walked through. "Professor, I feel I must apologise for my words yesterday. I let my emotions control me, I did not mean to call you those things and find myself in little place to judge your world."
"I confess I may have reacted harshly myself Doctor Giles," Professor McGonagall acknowledged the apology. "There are some in our world that are as you described, at Hogwarts however we strive to rise above these others and set a good example for our students."
"I'm glad to hear it," Giles nodded with a soft smile. "I would greatly like to hear your views on your society however, perhaps you can cast some light on some questions I have after reading those books."
"I would be glad to Doctor Giles." Professor McGonagall nodded, accepting the gesture of friendship and discussion for what it was. "May I ask, the tattoo?" She nodded down to where his sleeves were still rolled up, showing the end of the mark of Ehygon still on the inside of his elbow.
"Ah, a remnant of a misspent youth," Giles answered, rolling down his sleeves to cover up the tattoo.
"Indeed," Professor McGonagall nodded. It didn't look like the dark mark Voldemort's followers were known to have on their skin, rather more like an ancient rune of some sort.
"It would be best to either keep it covered around Hermione, or show her fully and explain it, lest she jump to the wrong conclusions about the tattoo's origins." Professor McGonagall explained in hushed tones.
"Quite," Giles nodded, thinking that if Hermione saw it then perhaps she would want a tattoo of her own, maybe she was in the rebellious teenage stage earlier than he entered it. "Please, call me Rupert," Giles smiled at her as he directed Hermione left into the kitchen when she turned to look at him.
"Rupert, then Minerva," Professor McGonagall smiled as him as he led her through into the kitchen.
As he entered the kitchen he had to smile as Hermione was looking out of the window in amazement at the grounds outside where Marcus was walking around with Claudia, the larger of the two horses, in the snow to give her a bit of exercise. Dobby on the other hand seemed to be looking towards the sink nervously where there were two dirty cups and a few teaspoons waiting to be washed up.
"Is… is this all yours?" Hermione asked quietly.
"Yes," Giles nodded slowly. "The Giles estate has been in my family for generations, there is quite a bit of land to the back of the house, along with a stretch to the left which is currently taken with some woodland. My father rather enjoyed his luxuries, as such he invested quite a bit of money into the house and establishing himself in it, when he died, it was passed on to me. I must confess though it's not exactly to my tastes, I find myself quite happy to use just the kitchen, bedroom and study. I find it a bit large for my tastes, though perhaps with you here as well, more of the house can be used."
"And the man outside?" Professor McGonagall asked, following Hermione's gaze outside to the grounds.
"Marcus," Giles explained. "The groundskeeper so to speak, his father was in the employ of my father, sadly both have passed on now, after his father's funeral, Marcus stayed on to look after the estate in my absence. He's a good friend, one both me and Sarah grew up with. He was one of the things I wished to speak to you about, though sadly we got side-tracked last night."
"Indeed so," Professor McGonagall nodded. "Am I to assume that this Marcus lives here as well?"
"On the estate," Giles nodded. "He has his own bungalow down past the stables, it will be difficult for Hermione to live and practice her magic here without Marcus knowing, especially with… well, Dobby here."
"Indeed," Professor McGonagall smiled wryly. "I see no reason why he cannot be told however."
"Professor?" Hermione turned back to her from the window. "What about the statute of secrecy?"
"Does not apply here," Professor McGonagall explained. "Mister Marcus is in the employ of your uncle, as he is your guardian; the rules apply to Mister Marcus as they would do towards a servant of a wizarding family. As Rupert explained, it would be far more work to keep the truth from him than it would be to explain things to him."
"Oh he won't need much explanation," Giles chuckled dryly. "Marcus has been around my family enough to see his share of magic and supernatural, he will just need to know what to look out for, so he doesn't interrupt you or anything."
"Then that's settled then," Professor McGonagall smiled gently. "And yes, I would love a cup of tea Rupert." She nodded towards him.
"Dobby be doing it," Dobby nodded as he moved over and simply hovered up, levitating mid-air to reach the kettle which he turned on with ease.
"Dobby, you don't…" Hermione breathed out in frustration as she watched Dobby quickly move around the kitchen, finding the cups and saucers with ease and getting them ready.
"I thought you said he was free," Giles muttered to Hermione, watching in bemusement as the small creature seemed to levitate around the room to collect everything he needed to make the tea, seemingly knowing where everything was kept as if he'd been here before.
"He is," Hermione nodded. "He just likes to be useful, he's happy serving or cleaning, it's what house elves are good at. They're very quick at what they do and enjoy it most of the time."
"I see," Giles mused, taking off his glasses and polishing them on his sweater in amusement. "So this Dobby, serves you out of his own free will?" Giles asked, wanting to know more about the friendship between his niece and the strange creature that was buzzing around the kitchen making tea for them all.
"Dobby has no master," Dobby said proudly.
"That's right," Hermione smiled. "He was looking for employment, ever since he got freed from his last master, Dobby's wanted to get paid for his work and recognised as a free elf. Sadly most of the wizarding families don't like this idea, as they already have house elves that have been in their family for generations."
"Ah, so then he is the exception rather than the rule," Giles nodded.
"He's a good elf Rupert; he just wants to be recognised for his work." Hermione explained, slowly edging towards asking if Dobby could work here, it was obvious that her uncle would treat him well and not order him around or abuse him, it was just an awkward question to ask.
"Indeed," Giles smiled wryly as Dobby finished making the tea and just clicked his fingers, causing the kettle to fill the teapot up before it hovered over to the center table along with the cups and settled gently there with a pot of milk and a bowl of sugar cubes. "Quite the gentleman's gentleman, or gentleman's elf as the case here would be." He chuckled to himself. "Thank you," He smiled over at Dobby who just beamed back in response.
"Thank you Dobby," Hermione followed her uncle's suit and smiled at him. "Are the horses yours?" She asked, turning back to Giles.
"Yes," Giles nodded with a smile. "I have two of them in the stables, Claudia and Christian, both getting on in life sadly. That's Claudia outside, the older of the two. Marcus has arranged for two young girls from the nearby town to come and ride them regularly, though if you wish to ride one yourself I am sure they won't object."
"I… I don't know, I've never ridden a horse before," Hermione answered bashfully.
"Oh it's quite similar to riding a broom Miss Granger, I am sure you would do well." Professor McGonagall explained reassuringly, not realising that Hermione's bashful face was from not wanting to appear uneducated in front of her uncle when he obviously grew up around horses and places like this.
"Horseys being nice animals Misses Hermione," Dobby said with a smile. "Misters Malfoy used to have lots of Horseys that Dobby be taking care of for him."
"Oh yes," Professor McGonagall smiled. "They are quite lovely animals; riding in my youth was one of the most relaxing times I can remember."
"I can teach you if you'd like," Giles said with a reassuring nod to Hermione. "It's quite safe and easy, perhaps when the snow has gone we can take them out for a walk together."
"I'd like that," Hermione smiled at him.
"As would I," Giles smiled back as he picked up the tea pot and strainer and proceeded to pour tea into the three cups. "Ah, Dobby, could you please pass me two more cups." Giles asked, turning to Dobby who quickly did as he asked.
"There you be going Misters Gileses," Dobby smiled as he levitated the cups along with saucers over to the table.
"Thank you," Giles smiled at him before filling up the two other cups. "Milk, sugar?" He asked, looking at Hermione and Professor McGonagall.
"Just milk please," Professor McGonagall answered with a small smile.
"Milk and one please," Hermione nodded.
"Dobby?" Giles asked, turning to the house elf who looked shocked at being asked such a question. "Milk, sugar?" He repeated when no answer came from the elf.
"Dobby does not be knowing Mister Gileses," Dobby answered slowly. "Dobby has not been having teas with wizards before."
"Perhaps just milk then," Giles smiled over at him. "You can add sugar if you find it a bit bitter to your taste." He paused for a moment before turning to Professor McGonagall. "He can drink tea right, I assumed so but I didn't think to ask."
"Yes," Professor McGonagall smiled wryly, amused at the question. "House elves are much like normal people Rupert; they eat and drink much as we do."
"Ah, good," Giles smiled at her before returning to Dobby. "Wouldn't want to poison you or anything." He chuckled as he filled up the tea cup for him and poured some milk in each of the cups. "Will you excuse me for a second." He said before moving to the back door and unlocking it, opening it to let the cold air in before stepping outside. "Marcus!" He yelled, catching the other man's attention before waving him over.
Returning to the kitchen he smiled as the two women could see the man from outside heading towards the house now, wearing a long dark green trench coat that bellowed out behind him and dragged in the slow as he walked.
"Marcus has been a friend for as long as I can remember," Giles explained. "He was also a friend of your mothers, he saved quite a few of your mother's possessions which are now in her room, should you care to take a look."
"He knew my mum?" Hermione asked. Her mum had always been a private person, there we no photos of her growing up in their home and she rarely talked about her past, the proof being that she'd never even mentioned Uncle Giles or her side of the family before.
"Oh yes," Giles nodded as Marcus came up the steps to the back door and kicked the snow off his boots against the kickstand by the door. "Marcus, this is Hermione, and Professor McGonagall."
"Pleasure," Marcus said with a smile as he came into the kitchen.
"Nice to meet you," Hermione smiled up at the man, he seemed to be a bit younger than her uncle was, with long hair that fell around his shoulders and a neatly trimmed goatee beard. He had a friendly smile that seemed open and welcoming, but moved as if he was used to hard work and rough terrain.
"So you're Sarah's little one," Marcus smiled down at her. "Rupert's been telling me about you, grown a bit since the photo he showed me though."
"That was five years ago," Hermione smiled, thinking that the photo he showed him must have been the same photo he gave to her when they first met.
"And… that is?" Marcus asked, raising his eyebrow at the small creature that was sniffing a cup of tea with a confused look on its face.
"Dobby," Giles explained. "A house elf if you would believe it."
"Oh really?" Marcus said with an amused smile.
"Quite," Giles sent the smile back with raised eyebrows. "I believe he'll be around as much as Hermione is while she is here."
"Well, best be getting another room ready then." Marcus laughed as the small creature turned to him bashfully. "Nice to meet you Dobby."
"Nice to be meetings you as well Misters Marcus," Dobby smiled uncertainly at him.
"And you," Marcus smiled as he stepped over to Professor McGonagall, holding his hand out for her to shake. "Nice to meet the one that's been taking care of little Hermione." He smiled as Professor McGonagall shook his hand gently, as if she was unfamiliar with the gesture.
"Oh it was no problem I assure you," Professor McGonagall smiled at him. "Miss Granger has been quite the model student ever since I've known her."
"A book worm like her mum and uncle then," Marcus laughed. "You'll be in good company here then."
"I'm sure," Professor McGonagall smiled wryly. "You seem to be accepting Dobby's presence here quite easily."
"I've seen stranger," Marcus laughed. "Rupert's father had a knack for having pictures of strange creatures and such, sort of his hobby." He added after catching a look Giles subtly sent his way.
"Yes, well, Marcus, why don't you show Hermione upstairs, I'm sure she'd like to see Sarah's old room, perhaps unpack there." Giles said, cutting off anything further Marcus was about to say.
"Sure," Marcus smiled. "Dobby, you fancy a tour as well?" He asked, turning to the small creature.
"Dobby would be happy to be comings with Misters Marcus." Dobby smiled as he put the cup of tea down, still not having actually tasted it yet.
"Hermione?" Marcus asked, motioning back to the main corridor.
"I'll be up shortly," Giles smiled at her. "There are just some things I wish to discuss with Professor McGonagall here first."
"I'm sure you'll be fine child," Professor McGonagall nodded at her. "Take your bag with you; I'm sure Mister Marcus can find you a suitable room."
"Please, just Marcus," Marcus laughed at her. "Come on, I can show you Rupert's old room, sure you'd get a kick out of seeing what he was like as a teenager." Marcus laughed as he led Hermione and Dobby out of the kitchen and into the corridor.
"I am certainly doomed," Giles muttered to himself before taking a mouthful of his tea. "Hmm, Dobby does make good tea however." He smiled to himself as he pulled a stool out and gestured for Professor McGonagall to do the same and get comfortable. "Now, there are some things I think we should discuss." He smiled reassuringly at her, making sure she knew that he wasn't going to start another argument here.
"I'm sure there are," Professor McGonagall said with a wry smile as she pulled out a stool and got comfortable at the table, pulling her cup of tea over to her so she could sit and drink comfortably at the table.
"How long have you known Rupert then?" Hermione asked, feeling a bit funny about calling her uncle Rupert instead of Uncle Rupert, but she didn't think she knew him well enough to actually call him uncle anything yet.
"Oh we grew up together here," Marcus explained. "My dad worked for his dad, and I think my grandfather worked here as well, can't really remember though."
"Misters Marcuses be keeping a nice houses here," Dobby said with a smile as he followed Marcus and Hermione up the stairs to the next floor. "Be keeping much nicer houses than Misters Malfoys."
"Thank you," Marcus said with a smile, not quite knowing what else to say to the small creature that was following behind them while carrying Hermione's bag instead of walking alongside them up the large staircase.
"What did you mean by you've seen stranger?" Hermione asked as they reached the top of the stairs. "In the kitchen, you said you've seen stranger than Dobby before."
"Oh, nothing really," Marcus waved it off nervously. "Just that Rupert's father, your grandfather, had a habit of collecting old books and pictures; they had pictures of strange and wonderful creatures in them, all from myths and legends around the world. Dragons, elves, gnomes and the such, some more exotic than others."
"Does he still have these books?" Hermione asked, excited at the prospect of new knowledge around for her to investigate.
"Oh I'm sure Rupert has them around somewhere," Marcus laughed. "Ah, here we are," He smiled as he opened the door in front of him, hoping Sarah's old room would distract Hermione from asking anymore questions about the Chronicles Rupert's father kept hidden away.
"This… this was my mum's room?" Hermione asked as she walked slowly into the room, it was huge. Dominated by a large four poster bed in the center of the room, with a large dressing table with three angled mirrors on it, a large window covered most of the side of the room, looking out onto the grounds outside with a doorway to one side leading out to a small balcony area.
There were pictures of her mum all around; she could easily recognise her even though she'd never seen a picture of her mum growing up before. She had the same bushy hair that she did in some of the photos, others it was platted or in a ponytail. There was a large pink fluffy toy in the middle of the bed that clashed with the soft orange pillows and bedspread; more fluffy toys were dotted around the room on shelves and desks.
"It's… it's huge," Hermione whispered out in shock.
"Well Sarah always did like the room," Marcus chuckled. "Always active that one, running around, wanting to learn everything and anything she could."
"I… I just…" Hermione stammered out, not knowing what to say. The bedroom itself was larger than her parent's living room, with a soft couch against one wall next to a book case that was filled with old books and plays.
"It's yours now," Marcus smiled at her, taking the bag from Dobby with a smile and putting it on the bed. "Unless you want another, I mean, I'm sure there's other guest rooms around. I haven't had chance to sort through them yet, only just got this one cleaned up yesterday." He smiled at her. "Still needs a dust some…" He paused as he looked at the dressing table in the corner of the room that was now gleaming; even the mirrors had been polished to perfection. "Oh, guess Rupert must have done it last night then." He trailed off, missing the look between Dobby and Hermione.
"It… it's more than fine," Hermione breathed out, walking over to the bedside table and picking up the photo of her mum that was there, the photo showed her mum about the same age as she was now, outside obviously and playing near the stables with her Uncle Rupert, both of them using brooms like quarterstaffs and fighting gently, both with large smiles on their faces.
"I took that one," Marcus said with a smile as Hermione sat on the bed gently. "Thought you'd like to see your mum and Rupert together when they were your age."
"They look so happy," Hermione breathed out, tears starting to form in her eyes.
"Hush," Marcus smiled gently at her as he sat down on the bed next to her. "Don't cry." He whispered to her.
"I just miss them," Hermione said, wiping the tears that were now threatening to spill down her cheeks. "I miss them so much, why did this have to happen, why now, why to them?"
"Who knows?" Marcus whispered, putting his arm around her gently and reassuringly. "I'm sure they're watching over you though, protecting you. They're in a better place now, I'm sure of it." He smiled as he rubbed her hair gently and she nodded, tears still flowing down her cheeks. "Sarah was a good person, and I'm sure you were more important to her than anything, but we can't change what happened to her, sometimes bad things just happen."
"But why to them?" Hermione cried out, rubbing her eyes with her hands and smearing the tears around her face. "Why did this happen, why did they have to leave me?"
"Hush…" Marcus whispered as Hermione moved around to hug him, he laid his arm around her and stroked her hair, trying to be as comforting as he could to the young girl. "Hush…" He whispered again, smiling in thanks to Dobby who came across the room carrying some tissues from the en-suite bathroom. "Come on now, wipe your eyes." Marcus smiled, taking the tissues and putting them in her hand.
"I… I'm sorry," Hermione sniffed out, taking the tissues to wipe her eyes and nose.
"It's fine, quite alright, really," Marcus smiled at her. "I was the same when my father died, cried for weeks." Marcus chuckled to her. "I can't tell you that it gets easier or it's ever alright, but if you remember them, and are happy for them, then they're never really gone."
"I guess," Hermione said in a small voice.
"I'll leave you alone for a bit if you like," Marcus said, standing up from the bed. "I'll be downstairs, come down when you like, I'm sure Rupert would like to get to know you more."
"I…," Hermione nodded instead of saying anything, unsure what to say anyway as the words caught in her throat.
"Take your time," Marcus smiled at her. "I'm sure he'll understand." He nodded gently at her before he moved out of the room and closed the door behind him, leaving her alone with Dobby in the large room with memories of her mother.