The Other Half::celeste::Chapter 8
Nodding her understanding towards Xander, the tension in Buffy melted into a manageable level. Knowing veiny Willow was not about to make an appearance tonight eased her worry in a way nothing else could have.
She returned her attention to Giles. He paced before everyone still conscious in the house, a huge book resting open in his hands. His eyes flickered back and forth with a speed Buffy would’ve given her right arm for when she was still in college. Whatever it was Giles had found after meeting the man The First called Darkness, it had jogged something in his mind that had apparently not occurred to him before. In her opinion, Kennedy’s death was too high a price to pay for that, but at least it brought about something in exchange.…offers life in return for death.
Without warning, Lily’s words came to her. Exchanges. Buffy focused on her hands, now resting on her lifted knees just in front of her. What life could possibly come from Kennedy’s death? Why did she keep recalling these broken phrases of a conversation she’d had in a dream? What connection was she missing?
Why didn’t The First allow Darkness to destroy her soul, as he’d so clearly wanted to?
She felt it all tied into her Gift somehow, but she just didn’t know how.
“It seems The First has allied itself with another entity.”
Giles’ words, firmly fixed in the present, drew her jumbled questions away from the warnings of a phantom. Continuing in his pacing, Giles went on as he kept his eyes glued on the pages of his book. “There are few references to it, since the last time it was here was back in ancient times. Near the days of the first Slayer, actually, though the two never crossed paths.” Giles turned another page. “According to cave drawings found in the Scottish Highlands, the people who feared it called it- ah roughly translated- ‘The Fist.'”
“The Fist?” Xander frowned. “Direct, simple, but lacks that all encompassing feel of evil to it.”
Giles turned on his heel to face Xander, blazing. “How about these, then? The Destroyer, The Hand of Evil, Mother of Demons, or The Darkness.” Giles waved his hand in a short burst of irritation through the air. “Take your pick, Xander. They all mean the same creature- one that exists for the sole purpose of destroying all light in existence. Night, Evil, given form and the ability to walk among us.”
Faced with a highly-strung out Watcher, Xander wisely kept his mouth shut.
A short nod to himself, Giles expelled a long breath before adjusting the glasses resting on the bridge of his nose. “As long as Evil has been around, so has this… Darkness. It is largely responsible for demons as a whole, though not by itself. It creates their flesh, but other forces, The First for example, gives them life. This creature cannot give life. It can only take it. It is nothing, and yet it exists in everything.” Seeing the rather blank looks on everyone’s face, Giles struggled for something more simple. “For heaven’s sake people, it’s just what it sounds like. Darkness.”
“This is all very abstract,” Xander muttered to Buffy, who only nodded silently in reply.
“Abstract is the only way to explain this creature,” Giles stated, in his patient voice-- the sort one would use with a rowdy two-year-old. “I suppose I could say it is an immortal, soul-crushing entity. It has unlimited strength, and a power to create new demons from soulless bodies. Add to that the fact it controls anything absent of light- or life for that matter.”
“Thus the moving shadows,” Buffy put in.
“Thus the moving shadows,” Giles repeated in her direction, appearing glad that someone finally understood.
“Now you’re talking Xander-speech. Keep it up,” Xander stated. The offhanded statement didn’t fool Buffy, who’d seen Xander’s habit of trying to laugh at what frightened him. He was doing the same now, making light of a dangerous situation, attempting to deflate the fear and uncertainty.
Unfortunately, Giles was far too worried himself to take stock of what Xander was attempting, and leveled another glare at him. “Could you be serious for a moment, please? This is a very perilous situation we are facing.” He then yanked off his glasses, and started a staring contest with the far wall. “Dealing with The First, while not to be underestimated, is vastly preferable to this creature.”
At the Slayers’ disbelieving expressions, Giles added, “The First is unable to take form. Not while any hopes and dreams exist. This creature does not need pure evil to exist. It only needs just a speck of darkness, of chaos, to be. It moves about at will. It not only kills, but it has the ability to completely and utterly destroy the essence of life itself. I would assume that is why demons call it The Fist of Evil.”
“Yeah, but it hasn’t been around since- a long time- so obviously someone put it out of commission,” Vi stated from her seat on the floor.
“It doesn’t take form simply because it can. That’s not its nature. It prefers to be without shape. I suppose you could say that is Darkness’ original state.” Giles glanced back down at his book. “I can only assume The First gave it a purpose strong enough to convince it to awaken. The few times it appears it either does so to hunt out a soul to destroy, or to assist in the task of creating a new race of demons.”
“It was hunting,” Buffy said to Xander, before turning back to Giles. “Right? The sniffing… it was definitely trying to smell out something.”
Giles seemed to agree with her. “And did you notice it would have walked by us completely, except he stopped to examine you? You caught his attention, and you would be-“ unable to even say the ‘D’ word, Giles paused before carrying on, “well, it wanted to hurt you. Had it not been for The First’s intervention, it’s likely Darkness would have done.”
“Why did it stop him?” Molly asked, her voice still small, as if she was reluctant to speak at all.
Buffy was too interested in Giles’ answer to worry over Molly at that moment. “I was wondering that myself. The First and I- there’s no love between us. A lot of hate, but a definite lack of fuzzy feelings.”
“That, I don’t know. Obviously, it wants to keep you alive for some reason.” He quieted as he thought about it, and Dawn took the opportunity to reach for the book while Giles’ attention was obviously elsewhere.
With a small smile, he handed it to her before going back to his big brain activity. Dawn busied herself in familiarizing herself everything Giles had been reading. Since the conversation seemed to be in a lull, the Slayerettes spoke in soft voices between each other.
As always, Xander’s eye was taking it whatever he could in his limited line of sight. Buffy occupied herself by going back to her thoughts. She considered this new information, trying to figure out what The First and Darkness were up to.
First, Willow’s freak out as something tapped into her, targeting Buffy. She wondered if that had been Darkness, but if he needed her so badly- then why back off and kill Kennedy instead? She didn’t feel, in her gut, it was Darkness, and she was willing to bet Willow would agree.
Then, on the same night, a Bogeyman dressed in the uniform of a police officer attacked. According to Boris, Darkness was first spotted around ten, and an officer had also been murdered shortly after in the same area. It had to be on the day of Willow’s power trip that he woke up. Drawing between the dots, everything there seemed to connect.
It continued to grow even weirder when she had a prophetic dream on the same night. A dream warning her that she would need to use her Gift again. Some cryptic message about working through the pain to see clearly again- just as she had on the platform that night that seemed so long ago when she had died. When she’d died…
Suddenly, it all clicked into place.
“I died,” she said to Giles.
She could feel everyone’s stare, the sort of stare obviously of the doubting sanity sort. Buffy didn’t care. She leaned forward with excitement, meeting her Watcher’s utterly confused gaze. “I died, Giles. I went to- well, I don’t know exactly, but I wasn’t here. My soul went to where Lily Potter’s at, which sorta explains how she knows me since I’m pretty sure I’ve never met her before. Knows us both.” Buffy paused, brows furrowing again as she considered that. “Both? What’s with the both? Has to be two, right? To make a both?”
“Ah,” Giles began, uncertain.
Forging ahead, Buffy ignored that snag- determined to hold onto her train of thought. “Willow said she took me. She did when she took me out of heaven. Okay, I am so on a roll here.” She found herself thinking aloud at a lightening pace, knowing instinctively she was on the right track. “It wants me back- must be heaven. They want me back, and The First doesn’t want to do that. Maybe it’s a spite thing?”
She blinked. “But that doesn’t make sense, does it? Why would The First care about that?” She sank back into the couch, shaking her head, her enthusiasm deflating as soon as it had built up. “It doesn’t tie in with why Darkness is here, or why The First doesn’t want my orby thing crushed.”
“Yeah, cause you’re the wrong half,” Molly added with a shrug. “Whatever that meant.”
There are moments in time when what is known as an epiphany strikes. Buffy had never experienced one, but from the sudden dawning of comprehension that came over her Watcher’s face, she guessed he’d just acquainted himself with the concept. “Oh my-“ he breathed in revelation. “Soulmates.”
He looked to Buffy, suddenly seeming to understand everything. “Call Angel, Buffy. We’ve got to warn him.” His fist collided into his palm. “Why didn’t I see it before? It would be the perfect revenge. Destroying souls, The First- its targeted him before. Buffy, Darkness is hunting your-”
Buffy didn’t hear any more. She was already racing for the phone.**
“You’re doing that thing.
” Angel’s voice- coming from the cordless against her ear- was most decidedly unworried. It was as completely even and controlled as always.
“What thing?” Buffy asked in return.
“The thing where you forget to breathe, and just talk. I’m the one with no breath, remember?
” There was a pointed silence where, apparently, he was making certain she was breathing again. “That’s better.
Buffy’s hand gripped the cordless tighter as she paced her bedroom. “This is serious, Angel!”
Voice still flat, he replied, “does it sound like I’m brushing you off?
“Yeah, it does,” Buffy retorted. “This… Darkness guy has already killed one of my Slayers. Crushed her soul
. As in, gone for good. And Faith’s been poisoned. It doesn’t look like she’ll be doing cartwheels- or whatever she does- anytime soon. Not while this stuff is turning her into the same thing that slashed her.”
“I heard the first time. I’m sorry about your Slayer, and believe me when I say I’m not happy to hear something’s happened to Faith-
Buffy cut him off before he could say any more, “Why? What’s with the Faith and the Sorrow?”
“Because I think she’s trying to do the right thing, corny as it may sound, and I’m willing to help her. In a strictly do-gooder capacity,
” he answered with the first hint of any amusement from his deep voice. “Least I know you still care.
“Bringing us to the reason I called,” Buffy pointed out. “Soul-hunting Evil and it being after you.”
,” Angel noted dryly, “why it’s in Cleveland instead of L.A.
That was a good point, and she obviously hadn’t considered it before calling. Feeling obliged to try, Buffy considered it for all of five seconds before shaking her head and collapsing down onto the bed. “Obviously it got the wrong zip code.”
“I don’t know,
” he replied doubtfully. “The First never had a problem finding me before if it wanted to.
Remembering a time when Angel had been moments away from death by fire, willing to give up his life to ensure he wouldn’t hurt her and lose his soul again, Buffy clenched her fist. Hadn’t The First done enough damage over the years? “Giles told me to call you.”
“Giles has a reason to keep Angelus from coming back
,” Angel retorted. There was no anger in it, only sad resignation.
She couldn’t argue with that. Giles was no fan of Angel, would never rise above what happened years ago. Maybe he shouldn’t. He did what he had to, Giles always did, and usually that was enough. “He said something about soulmates Angel,” Buffy softly revealed to him as a last attempt to get through to him. “Who else would that apply to?”
There was nothing but soft static on the other end for a long time, proving her words had hit a chord. When Angel’s voice did come, it was softer as well. “It would explain a lot of things. How I can never get you out of my heart, for one.
Buffy’s eyes fluttered shut as her own heart began clenching in her chest. A hand- one born from Angel’s words- was squeezing it with the pain of long lost first love. It wasn’t fair that he could do that. Remind her that no one else could say all the right things like Angel. “Me too.”
There was another silence as the two shared the same feelings across the distances between them. Finally, negating the past back in memories where it belonged, Buffy drew in a breath and forged ahead. “I just want you to be careful. I would be dead right now, without lifting a finger against either of them if The First hadn’t stopped him. He’s strong, Angel.”
“He’d have to be if you’re this worried,
” he replied quietly. “I can be out there in three, maybe four nights. It’s a longer drive then Sunnydale, but if I find motels before the sun comes up-
Buffy sprang up in her bed, glaring across at the wall for lack of a certain vampire. “A most emphatic no!” she told him outright. “Are we in the same conversation? The one where I’m trying to tell you to avoid the soul-crushing monster?”
“If it’s after me, then it will come to L.A. and endanger everyone sooner or later. I can head it off. Combine our forces-
“This isn’t Captain Planet!” she pleaded. “There’s no combination to make!”
” he asked blankly.
“Never mind. Bad example. Just do me a favor and stay where you are. Long as you’re there, and it’s here, then I won’t worry.”
She gripped the phone. “That’s final, Angel. No coming to Cleveland. End of conversation.”
She hit power, cutting the connection, before tossing the phone in frustration onto the foot of her bed and falling back onto her pillows. “Stupid vampire,” she muttered, curling onto her side, staring out the window. “Which part of ‘soul-destroying’ and ‘after you’ did you miss?”
Burrowing further into her bed, Buffy thought once the message sunk in Angel would stay where he was. No need to worry over it, she had a large enough list of things as it was. He just couldn’t be that careless.**
Sipping his frappuccino, Severus continued sorting through the long list of dried or pickled ingredients up on auction at eBay from his laptop. Black sat beside him, his eyes glued to the front door of the apartment building as they both waited in the corner of a Chinese café.
Finding another ingredient that was versatile in many different brews, Severus entered in his offered amount and hit enter. He saw with satisfaction his was the highest bid, and so took a break from searching for anything else that would help him put together a functional potions lab, in favor of lowering its top and gazing out at the sunny street through the large window they sat beside.
Being near the center of downtown, the apartment complex was surrounded on all sides by stores or restaurants such as the one they were currently sitting in. Mei’s Place was a strange combination of country-home dining specializing in Chinese. Instead of the usual paper lamps or deep colors surrounded by Asian décor, Mei’s Place was filled with white wallpaper featuring lilacs, round tables with an odd hosh-posh of wooden and metal chairs, and farming tools (like the butter churner in the corner).
The majority of the room, just after entering through the front door and being announced by a tinkling bell, was filled with seven tables one had to weave their way through. In the back was a long counter before the wall, a swinging door, and the most expensive looking thing in the entire place- a lit menu screen up above the counter. They did not just sell Chinese either. They had subs, sandwiches, fries, and an assortment of other American ‘delicacies’.
Severus thought it was far too bright and cheery for recon work. There were no shadows he conceal himself within, and there were a large amount of regulars who worked in the large phone company outlet just down the street. Most of who spent their time sitting and gossiping around Severus and his invisible guide.
He had yet to make any judgment on the food, but given his palette and its disagreements with anything Americans thought up, he wasn’t holding out much hope.
And so he sought comfort with his frappuccino. He had never been a ‘coffee lover’ in the past, unlike many of his co-workers who did their British (or Scottish, respectively) roots a disservice by having a fresh pot always waiting at the Head Table or in the Staff Room. However, with tea a rare commodity- unless he wanted the dastardly blends they had here- he had quickly become addicted to this muggle confection.
They had been sitting in the small restaurant for nearly two hours, and Severus had been forced to order from the menu given Mr. Harris had yet to arrive home. They’d kept close watch on everyone who entered and left for the latter part of the morning. Sirius checked which apartment they entered as soon as anyone went into the building. So far, no one had entered number four.Are you positive he still lives here?
Severus thought to Black while absently tugging at a packet of sugar.
Black gave a small smile. “Have I been wrong yet?” At Severus’ answering sneer, he shrugged. “Someone single and male definitely lives there. Strewn clothes, fridge filled with only the barest necessities and spoiled milk, sink full of week-old dishes… I’d say it’s a given.”I was never so untidy
, Severus returned with a lifted brow.
“You’re anal-retentive and off the norm. It doesn’t count,” Black told him, words decorated with a smirk.
Severus’ face turned dark, his eyes warning enough if the hissing tone of his thoughts wasn’t. Just because YOU lived in filth alongside rats does not mean all bachelors do
“I was in a twelve by five stone cell, Severus, and the cleaning ladies at Azkaban were absolutely shameful. Always forgot to put the mint on the pillow.” Black folded his arms behind his head and took on the same easy-going manner. “Trust me on this one, Sev. The majority of young men under twenty-eight without a live-in woman tend to be a bit messy.”
Severus was about to respond, when a man walking across the street towards the apartment building caught his attention. He was rather hard to miss, given the patch that was settled over one eye. Larger set, wearing a sweater that fit the slightly chilly weather, he strolled the length of the crosswalk before climbing the staircase in front of the building. After a moment, he disappeared entirely when he went inside.Black, man fitting the age-
but Severus stopped as soon as he realized Sirius Black was already gone.**
Following anyone when you couldn’t be seen or heard was almost too easy to be any fun. Almost.
The old urge to play a joke plagued Sirius as he shadowed the young man down the hall. He managed to restrain the temptation, but he could not resist the smile of victory that spread over his face as the man stopped directly in front of apartment number 4 before taking out his keys. Sirius waited as the door was unlocked, and then followed the young man with a patch over his eye into the apartment.
It was in the same state it had been earlier that morning. A living room separated by a long counter to a small utilitarian kitchen that would only comfortably fit one person moving around in the nearly crawlspace length. Clothes were thrown over the recliner and couch, empty cups scattered across a low table before them. Down the hall there was the bedroom, a bathroom, and a linen closet. It was pretty obvious the man didn’t mind the small space- traveling around to the bedroom with Sirius still dogging his steps.
Once inside, he pulled off the sweater he was wearing and tossed it towards the overflowing hamper in the corner. It missed, but the man didn’t look too concerned. Instead he began rummaging around the clothes on the floor. Every so often he’d smell one of the shirts and either consider it or wrinkle his nose before tossing it aside. This went on for nearly five minutes before he found a replacement.
Donning a fresh shirt, he ran a hand through his hair before heading back into the living room. He paused over the side table, looking down at the phone before frowning unhappily at the blinking red light in the cradle. With a grumble, he pushed a button, and suddenly a robotic drone filled the air.
“Thursday, seven thirty am,” it said without emotion.
The voice that followed sounded like an older man, gruff, and very annoyed. “Harris, where the hell have you been? Don’t give me that crap about the flu, either. It’s been four days, and your sick time officially ran out yesterday. Give me a call, today, if you want a job to come back to tomorrow.
“Damn,” the young man muttered before pushing a button again.
The same female voice droned out again. “Thursday, nine forty am.”
“Xander? It’s Dawn. I tried calling the house, but the line was busy. I totally forgot it was a half day, so I’m going to need a ride ‘round twelve thirty.
” A younger girl’s voice said into the air. Hearing her message, Xander glanced at his watch even as she went on. “If you can’t do it, I can try to bum a ride, but everyone’s all about having fun after school. Since I’m not allowed to do that,
” Xander frowned, “and have to help Giles with the book stuff- I thought I better just call you. Um, so call back and leave a message for me if you can, okay?
The light on the machine went dark, and the young man Sirius could definitely label as Xander Harris ran a hand through his hair a second time before picking up the cordless phone. He glanced around wayward at his floor, before spotting a giant yellow book partially hidden beneath the table. Bending down, he quickly opened it and began thumbing through its thin pages.
”Cleveland High, Cleveland High, Cleveland High,” he repeated quietly to himself as he ran a finger down one of the pages. Finally, he tapped a listing. “Gotcha. Attendance? Uh,” he lifted a hand to scratch at his head, “sure. Why not.”
He quickly dialed in the number, holding the phone up to his ear a moment later, his fingers drumming over his knee as he waited. Finally, he stood up and spoke simultaneously. “Hi. I need to leave a message for a student.” There was silence for a few moments as he strode over to the counter, Sirius again going with him. “Dawn Summers. Senior. Mhm.”
His hand reached out for a mug, and as his eye peered into the contents, he made a face before pushing it away. “Yeah, if you could just tell her Xander can pick her up.” Another pause. “Well, I’m sure she would’ve made arrangements if she’d remembered, but there’s been a lot going on at home-“ cut off mid sentence, his hand stilled over another coffee cup as his eyebrows knitted together. “Well, ah, I’ll be sure to… say… something to Dawn about-- yeah, you too.”
The phone beeped as he hung up, leaving Xander to shake his head. “Still hate High School,” he muttered before dialing another number.
Seeing all he needed to, Sirius glided back through the front door, and continued until he was out of the building and across the street.
Severus was now scowling down at a sandwich that had, apparently, offended him in some grievous manner. Not even bothering to ask what, though it likely had to do with the cheery red basket it was cradled in, Sirius announced his presence by hovering over the table. “Found him,” he stated without preamble, redirecting the Wizard’s attention.
Black eyes lifted from the basket. Soon his thoughts were flowing through Sirius’ consciousness as if they were his own. Good. Let’s get this over with.
As Severus stood impatiently, Sirius floated down to stand in his way. “And what, exactly, are you going to say to him?”I’ll figure it out as I go,
Severus thought smoothly in return before tossing a few bills onto the table. Though he no longer wore his robes, a simple black sweater over jeans instead, he somehow managed to swoop around the table and out the door.
Sirius walked through the glass, meeting Severus as the Wizard’s eyes swept the street for any oncoming cars. “Lets not be hasty, Snape,” he said holding out his hands a safe distance from Severus’ body. “You can’t just knock on his door and ask if he’s ever helped raise someone from the dead. Remember the talk we had about not looking as if we’re on drugs?”
Severus arched a sardonic brow and, seeing the street was clear, strode forward. He crossed quickly, Sirius managing to keep up only because he was floating off the ground. I’m not sitting around in these muggle cafés any longer, twiddling my thumbs, Black. I want to get this over with as soon as possible. We’ve found someone connected to the Urn, and I intend to use the opportunity as presented.
He stepped up onto the curb and crossed the walk to the steps leading up to the large beige door. Don’t worry. I’ve experience in these matters.
“You mean you’ve interrogated someone until they broke,” Sirius argued. “You can’t use the same- techniques- here.”Being without a wand or Veritaserum, I am aware of that.
Severus’ thoughts dryly sounded as he entered the building and strode down the hallway, passing the stairs entirely. However, I am still trained in limited Legilimency, and also obtaining secrets from misbehaving students for fifteen years.
He paused in front of the door with the small brass number four. I can handle this. Easily.
Resisting the urge to thump his head against the wall, not that it would have done much good, Sirius threw up his arms instead before tossing his head back. “Do you see this? I want you to know, if this goes badly, it was all his idea.”Drama Queen
, Severus mused will ill humor before giving the door three short consecutive knocks.
“Just a sec!” Xander called out from the other side.
Severus folded his arms, began tapping an impatient toe, and directed his best impression of Lord Voldemort at the hapless door. Sighing, Sirius decided to at least try to keep the damage to a minimum. How he was supposed to do that he wasn’t sure. As footsteps drew closer from the other side Sirius realized he’d have to think of something quickly.
The door pulled wide open afforded Severus his first view of Xander Harris. Judging from the look on his face the wizard wasn’t impressed. “Mr. Xander Harris?”
“Yes,” Xander answered. His brows lifted. “Can I help you?”
Severus arched his own brow. “Actually, I’m here to help you.”
Sirius blinked. “Oh boy.”
Xander seemed just as skeptical, if not more, than Sirius. “Whatever you’re selling, I’m not interested.”
The door began to close, but Severus’ foot was already wedged in the opening. A slim smile, barely cordial, came over his features. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding, entirely my fault- I’m sure.” Differing from his statement, Severus’ tone suggested otherwise. “I’m not here to sell anything, Mr. Harris. You see the late Miss Emerson and I were involved in a few business ventures together. I was led to believe the two of you were- rather close?”
Xander groaned, head falling against the door. “Yeah. I’m sure she told you all the details of closeness.” Severus eyes narrowed fractionally in confusion. A gesture anyone but Sirius would likely have missed. Xander immediately straightened back up. “Alright. How much did she owe you?”
Severus’ smile turned even thinner. “It’s the other way around, Mr. Harris. I am the one indebted.” He waved a hand negligently. “I figure one person is as good as the next to pay the money off to. Will you take a check?”
“Snape, you sneaky Slytherin bastard,” Sirius said appreciatively.
Predictably, all Xander’s doubt was erased by the promise of money. His face glowed as he widened the door to let Severus in. “Well, in that case,” he said before making way for the wizard to pass.
“Thank you,” Severus replied, stepping victoriously into the apartment.
As Severus took in the mess that was Xander’s apartment, his lip curled with outright disgust. Xander continued to talk after shutting the door just as Sirius passed through the wall. “Got to say this is the best surprise I’ve gotten in… ever, really.”Somehow, I don’t doubt it,
Sirius heard Severus think to himself as Xander walked past towards the sitting area.
“Anya never mentioned a-“ Xander paused in the act of shoving a few clothes off the couch, to turn towards him. “Ah, must have missed the name.”
“I didn’t give it,” Severus replied smoothly. “Severus Snape.”
“Severus, huh?” the boy shook his head. “And I thought Alexander was bad.” His eye then widened. “Not that Severus is bad- per se. Nice when you compare it to other names. Like, ah, Gomer, or-”
Severus held up his hand to stem the tide of speech before it could start. “If we could get straight to business, Mr. Harris. I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of time.”
“Oh, right. Okay then, shoot.”Americans
, Severus thought before forcing another smile at Xander. “Excellent. I have a few questions concerning the items of purchase, for verification, and then I’ll give you your check and be on my way.” His eyes roamed over the apartment again. “Hopefully never to bother you again.”
“What sort of items?” Xander asked.
“Trinkets here and there Anya was good enough to obtain for me,” he waved his hand dismissively. “Resale and the like. I won’t bore you with details.” Sirius watched as Severus reached into his pocket and withdrew a pad of paper from the hotel, flipping it open. Sirius peered over at it, and shook his head upon discovering it was completely blank. “Two pairs of dragon hide gloves, six scrying glasses, four vials of frogsac venom, ten silver cauldrons, a pair of omnioculars, an invisibility cloak-“
“Invisibility cloak?” Xander interrupted with a start.
Severus cleared his throat pointedly, and treated the younger man to his infamous glare.
“Sorry,” Xander muttered before nodding for Severus to continue.
“Ten Kepla eggs, four sneakoscopes, the Mirror of Erised, and,” Severus paused to look up from his blank pad and stared intently into Xander’s good eye, “one Urn of Osiris.”
The memory that flashed through Xander, Severus easily picked up. What Severus saw was transferred to Sirius in the same instant.
It was a graveyard in the dead of night, eerily still but for three girls and one boy- Xander- forming a circle around a tombstone. Sirius (and Severus) tried to make out the wording on the slab sticking from the earth, but Xander’s memory was too dark and his attention was not focused on the grave marker.
Instead it was focused on the redhead in the center of the circle. The girl was shouting to the dark sky, to Osiris, demanding to let a ‘her’ cross over. It wasn’t long before she doubled over from some terrible pain, hands at her throat as she struggled to breath. When her mouth opened a dark hissing shape appeared. It was not long before Sirius realized it was a snake’s head. Its diamond tip slowly slithered from her choking lips before dropping with the rest of its long body to the ground, escaping in the grass.
The flash ended as quickly as it had come. Severus silently considered Xander with a new light, his mind speculative. Sirius, on the other hand, was shocked to the core of his essence. That anyone would undergo such a dark ritual- it was nearly inconceivable.
And this young man had been apart of it.
“The Urn, got that one wrong,” he told Severus evenly, covering the power of emotions behind the memory that flashed through his mind. “Anya never sold that.”
“Really? You’re certain?” Severus asked quietly.
“Pretty damn certain,” Xander replied, his voice hard. “I don’t know about the rest, she never mentioned any of it, but the Urn you can check off.”
“Pity,” Severus returned at his silkiest, “a rather powerful artifact. Useful. Quite rare.”
“It’s gone.” Xander’s arms folded, his eye narrowing with a sudden suspicion. “That it?”
“Mm,” Severus answered with a nod. He flipped his notepad shut and replaced it in his pocket. Reaching back, he withdrew his checkbook and parted the case with his thumb. A pen waited in its crease, and he took it out before making out an amount.
As he filled in the rest of the information, he spoke to Xander again. “I wonder if you could fulfill my curiosity, Mr. Harris, and tell me who you and your friends raised from the grave that night.”
Stilling reflexively, Xander could only stare. After a moment, he appeared to recall how his voice worked. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The Urn,” Severus clarified, signing his name with a flourish on the bottom line before ripping out the check as he continued speaking. “It allows a soul to pass from the After Life back into the body.” He held the check between two fingers, arm stretching towards Xander. “I know my black magic, Mr. Harris, only too well.”
“Associating with a Vengeance Demon, I bet you do,” he returned without a hint of fear. He then turned his eye towards the check. “But then, something tells me you never worked with Anya.” His eye flickered back up to Severus’ face. “Did you?”
This time, Severus’ smile was genuine- and rather frightening. “Touché. Apparently, you’re not as stupid as you look.” He folded the check in his fingers. “Although, you should have taken the money and left it at that.”
“I think I’d like you to leave. Now,” Xander replied, arms tightening in anticipation of throwing Sev out.
Severus easily picked up on the implied threat. He arched a brow before dipping his head in a sarcastic assent. “Good day, Mr. Harris.”
“I think you can find the door yourself,” came the bitter reply.
“Indeed,” he murmured before whipping round on his heal and striding for the door. As Severus’ hand rested on the knob, Sirius received silent instructions. Follow him, Black. He’ll run to the witch now.
Sirius tilted his head in question, but Severus was already out the door before the Wizard could see it. Turning back to Xander, he noticed the definite tension in his shoulders and back. Soon, he was turning back to his phone, picking it up and pressing speed dial.
“Giles?” Pause. “Yeah, it’s me. Listen, I think we’ve got another problem.”**