Listening vs. Hearing
“So then I was thinking, wouldn’t it be totally perfect if I got her a new bag, like for school and all?”
“Yes quite.” Giles cut across a parking lot, heading towards Sunny Ridge apartments.
“And then I thought, no, a baby octopus would be cuter.”
“Indeed.” Giles stopped in front of the stairwell door, examining it for signs of forced entry.
“Giles!” Buffy groaned.
“You weren’t paying attention to a word I said.”
“Yes I was. You were thinking of buying your sister an octopus for Christmas.” She gave him a stern look. “What? Surely you don’t expect me to have a better suggestion. How should I know how your sister feels about crustaceans?”
“I’m not really getting her an octopus. I was just testing you, and you obviously weren’t thinking about what I was saying. I mean please, nobody really gives octopuses for Christmas.”
“You know, this whole slayer-watcher relationship needs to be built on trust, and trust takes communication. Communication means that you listen to what I have to say and not just agree to everything.” Buffy lectured, ignoring the correction.
“Dear lord, you’ve been reading Dear Abby again.” Giles muttered. “I’m sorry if I’m not terribly concerned with your holiday shopping list. I seem to be distracted by an invalid brother and a potential apocalypse.”
“Oh, alright, I’ll let you get away with it this time, but I still think you’re blowing this out of proportion. It’s hardly end of the world time.” Buffy looked at the apartment building. “So what are we looking at here?”
“Last night this building was evacuated for a supposed gas leak. However, when is a gas leak really a gas leak in this town?”
“Ah, I see; unknown evil again.”
“Tell me, what do you sense about this place?” Giles asked ignoring the snarky comment.
Buffy took a step back and eyed the building for a few minutes. “For starters, whoever thought mint green was a good color for this neighborhood ought to be shot… or made to live in it. And it doesn’t help at all that the paint is chipping; it doesn’t get much tackier than that. I mean, would it be so hard for them to get with the program and hire a painter?”
“I meant do you sense anything magical?”
“I was getting to that.” Buffy fidgeted with her collar in the way Giles knew meant she was thinking of a serious answer. “Okay, definitely something of the demon variety living here, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the gas leak.”
“Well, yeah, wasn’t the gas leak supposed to be in the basement? The demon is definitely on the second floor. That room, with the shades pulled down,” Buffy pointed to a dark window.
“Are you sure that’s the only thing you sense?”
Buffy walked up to the building, took a few steps around and then nodded. “That’s the only wiggy corner.”
“Are you sure you don’t sense any residue magic? Perhaps something similar to a feeling you might have gotten from Severus?”
“Why, has your brother been here?” Buffy frowned. “Nah, I don’t feel anything like that, but then why would I? I mean, your brother is totally human, right?”
“Well, yes, but the magic…”
“You mean the magic I’ve never been able to feel before? I mean, come on Giles, do you really think I would have sold you and mom band candy if I could tell when someone put the magic whammy on things?”
“You have a point.”
“Of course I do. I mean, you and mom, talk about an uber wiggy mental picture. I’m scarred for life now.”
“Oh yes, let’s do bring that up again.”
“Hey, I’m just calling ‘em like I see ‘em.” Buffy shrugged. “So, do we check out what’s behind door number two?” She nodded at the metal staircase leading to the second floor apartment.
“Are you quite sure there’s a demon there?”
“As far as I can tell; of course, there’s one way to be really sure.”
“Oh?” Giles asked. He regretted it a moment later as Buffy darted up the stairs and knocked on the door. “What are you doing?” Giles hissed following Buffy up the stairs.
“I’m knocking, what does it look like?”
“You can’t just knock on the door.”
“What? You expect me to just break in?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, yes. If there is a dangerous demon on the other side of that door, you don’t want to announce your presence. It’s far safer to just pick the lock.”
“Sorry, but that’s not my style, Mr. I-was-a-juvenile-delinquent.”
“You’re one to talk.”
“Yeah, well, you earned yours while mine was totally not my fault; the gym was full of vampires and…” Buffy’s tirade was interrupted by a click of a deadbolt sliding open. A minute later a pair of red eyes peaked out from behind the nearly closed door.
“Can I help you?” A timid voice asked.
“Hi.” Buffy turned up her homecoming queen smile. “We were just investigating the gas leak in your building and were wondering if we could ask you a few questions.
“Oh.” The demon looked surprised. “Of course, just a minute.” He closed the door and slid the chain open. He opened the door wider so that they could walk in. “Come in, come in. It’s so nice that the utility company would send someone out at night.”
Giles and Buffy nervously stepped inside the demon’s apartment. The living room looked like the same person who chose the exterior paint was in charge of the shag carpeting, whicker couch, and wall paper. As they entered, Buffy glanced around, identifying potential exits and weapons while Giles focused on the demon itself. “Like I told the police yesterday, I didn’t notice anything unusual about the gas line. I think it’s just one of those accidents.”
“Well, we just want to make sure that there aren’t more extensive problems with the gas line. We wouldn’t want a repeat of that leak.” Giles said politely. He knew it was wrong to imply that he was from the gas company, but if anyone actually believed that someone dressed like Buffy was doing a utilities inspection at ten o’clock, then they would believe anything. For example, they might believe this demon was passing as human, when in fact the red eyes and char-pei like wrinkles told otherwise. “Were you by any chance home last evening when the leak occurred?”
Buffy sent Giles a look as if to ask if he had lost his mind. The demon ignored the glance and thoughtfully answered the question. “It must have been around this time last night. I was sitting down for dinner, and there was a loud pop.”
“A loud pop you say?”
“Well, maybe more of a snap. I didn’t think a gas leak would make that kind of noise.”
“Intriguing.” Giles muttered. His instincts might in fact be paying off.
“And so I transfigured her into a bowl of Petunias, just like her namesake.”
“Yes, quite.” Rupert nodded, staring off the bridge to the footpath below. He could just make out the last of the group heading into the village.
“At what point, Santa Claus came down our chimney and made off with her.”
“Rupert!” Lily groaned loudly.
“What?” The teenager glanced at the girl who had been at his elbow since the rest of their class had headed off to Hogsmeade.
“You haven’t heard a word I’ve said.”
“Yes I have. You turned your sister into a pot of flowers. Quite frankly, I’m not sure she would enjoy the irony, but you know her better than I do.”
“What am I going to do with him?” Lily asked the heavens above. With a martyred sigh, Lily turned back to her friend. “Alright, out with it. What’s got your mind so tied up in knots?”
“Nothing.” Rupert muttered, although the frown on his face told another picture.
“Come on. I haven’t gone through two years of Hogsmeade weekends without noticing when you have something on your mind.”
“It’s really not that important.” Rupert shrugged. “Besides, there are far more important things to talk about, such as how you plan on turning Petunia back into a little girl before your mother notices.”
“I didn’t really turn her into a flower pot, you know. I was just checking to see if you were paying attention.” Lily rolled her eyes. “And even if I had, I’m sure my mother would prefer a pot of petunias to the whiny brat. The house would be delightfully quiet for once. So, that brings us back to you. What’s on your mind?” Lily looked out across the bridge to the scenic ravine below. After a minute of silence she turned to face Rupert again. “Come on. If it’s really nothing, it won’t take so long for you to tell me, and you’ll undoubtedly feel better once it’s off your chest.”
“Well, alright.” Rupert caved in. He glanced in either direction down the bridge to make sure they didn’t have unwanted company. Not surprisingly, the bridge was deserted, as everyone above third year was in Hogsmeade and everyone else chose to avoid the brisk October winds. “I got a letter from my father this morning.”
“He isn’t ill, is he?”
“Good gracious no, nothing like that. Why, no flu would dare infect Sir Bradford Giles!” Rupert said with a twinkle in his eye. “No, he’s in quite good health, as usual. And before you ask, Sev’s mother is also doing quite well.”
“Then I’m afraid I have no idea how a letter from your father could put you in such a foul mood.”
“Tell me, what do you plan on doing when you graduate?”
“Well, that’s still several years off.” Lily asked, startled by the turn of the conversation. She had actually been pondering the same thing this morning, but hadn’t decided on anything yet. “I imagine I’ll go to the University.”
“Really? Which one? What will you study?”
“I’m not really sure. I’ve always rather fancied becoming a nurse like Florence Nightengale. She was well educated, quite clever, and terribly brave. Doesn’t that sound like a nice thing for a Gryffindor to aspire to?”
“You’d make a wonderful nurse, or even a doctor.” Rupert honestly answered.
“And what will you do when you graduate?” Lily returned the question.
“I will attend the same college at Oxford that every Giles has attended since the school’s founding, study the same courses every Giles has studied since time began, take over the family business, and die a horribly gruesome death at a tragically young age.” Rupert answered succinctly.
“Ah, I see.” Lily stared at Rupert as though he had lost his mind. What teenager ever planned to die a horribly gruesome death?
“I’m not sure you do. You see, you still have a choice. You could still do anything you want. My life was decided for me when I was born.”
“Now you’re just being melodramatic.”
“No, I don’t think I am. Did you know that the last Giles not to follow in the family business was back in the 1560s, and that was because he joined the British navy and died at a tragically young age anyway?”
“No I did not. But history doesn’t prove anything about the future.” Lily tried to offer a more optimistic view.
“No, but it certainly does leave a heavy precedence to follow.”
“And this precedence involves a horribly gruesome death?”
“At a tragically young age, yes.”
“I’m not sure I would care to take up the family business either if I were in your shoes.” Lily bit the tip of her red and gold scarf in thought. Finally she voiced her thoughts. “What sort of business does your family do- tame lions?”
“Oh heavens no.” Rupert actually smiled at that thought. “If that were the case, I have no doubt that the sorting hat would put me in your house. No, I clearly have no affinity with lions.” Rupert rubbed his hands absently, trying to warm up in the blustery wind that swept across the bridge. “I guess you could say we’re a bit like detectives.”
“Like Sherlock Holmes or perhaps James Bond?”
“Nothing that mundane,” Rupert grinned bitterly. “My father belongs to an organization of gentlemen that monitor the forces of darkness and try to maintain the precarious balance of good and evil. I doubt Bond has taken on vampires, demons, and hell beasts. My father has, as has every Giles since the beginning of our family’s history.”
“How peculiar, I thought you were a muggle born.” Lily muttered, trying to make some sense of what Rupert was saying.
“Oh, I am.” Rupert nodded sadly. “It’s a completely muggle operation.”
“I’m not quite sure what to say.”
“You could say, ‘Oh look how lovely the trees are! I do so adore the autumn foliage.’” Rupert squeaked in a falsetto. “I wouldn’t hold it against you.”
“I will do no such thing. Just give me a minute to sort this out.”
“But of course. I should have known better than expect a Gryffindor to take the easy way out. However, being a Slytherin myself, I don’t see any good in taking the hard road, and freezing out here. Mind if we head indoors?”
“Of course.” Lily said absently following Rupert towards the door of the castle. “Let me see if I understand this. Your father is a professional vampire hunter, and he wants you to take up the family business, but you don’t want to?”
“I suppose you could say that.” Rupert held the door open for Lily before following her into the warmer building.
“Well, that could be a problem.” Lily offered. “Shall we see if the study room is open?”
“Sure.” Rupert followed Lily down the hall. The two walked in silence, ignoring the few first years they passed in the halls as they headed to the third floor study room. It was only after they had made sure the room was empty and closed the door behind them that they resumed the conversation.
“I take it you’ve known of your father’s plans for awhile. Why worry about it now? You still have a few years before graduation.” Lily asked, adding a few cushioning charms before settling into her chair.
Rupert pursed his lips and ran a hand through his hair nervously before answering. “The letter I received had some news of a case father is working on. There have been several mysterious deaths involving a sudden shock and a cloud of green gas.”
“Like the case in Greater Hangleton?” Lily asked, becoming more intrigued by Rupert’s story.
“Yes, there was one there.” Rupert nodded. “My father’s organization has been investigating these deaths. Many of the men want to bring the slayer in to stop the killings, but my father thinks the assassin is, in fact, a wizard.”
“Oh my.” Lily murmured. “What’s a slayer?”
“Just think of it like a top secret weapon.” Giles shrugged it off. “The problem is, my father has no proof that it’s a wizard, but if it is, the slayer won’t be able to defeat a wizard and the killings will continue.”
“Oh that’s horrible! You have to help him find the proof.”
“That’s exactly what his letter said.” Rupert sighed. “And I’ve been trying, really I have, but with all my classes I don’t exactly have copious spare time to be looking into some killings, especially when all I have to go from are a few clippings. Sev and I don’t know where else to look.”
“Have you tried the library?” Rupert shot Lily a withering glance. “It was just a suggestion.”
“Yes, we’ve tried the library. We’ve looked up gas clouds, shocking deaths, and even mystical convergence points, and have found nothing. And what’s worse, all this research has got me thinking. Do I really want to do this for a living? Spend every day around musty books looking for some hint of a clue that probably doesn’t even exist? I think I’d go mad before I hit thirty.”
“And die a gruesome death.” Lily added.
“Exactly.” Rupert sighed.
“So when are you going to tell your father that you’re not going to take up the family business?” Seeing Rupert’s despair, Lily didn’t waste any time beating around the bush.
“What? Are you mad? I can’t tell my father that! He’d kill me.”
“And thus, you still wouldn’t avoid the tragically young death.” Lily joked, but Rupert didn’t laugh. “I guess the question I should be asking is, if you didn’t follow in the family business, what would you want to do?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t really thought of that.” Rupert frowned. “I suppose in other circumstances I might actually have wanted to do what he does. It’s intellectually challenging and exciting work, and honestly, what job doesn’t have annoying paperwork? The sticking point is that I never really had a choice.”
“So it’s not the tragic nature of the work that’s getting to you. If you did have a choice, you would choose exactly what you’re going to do anyway?” Lily watched Rupert nod. “It sounds to me like you’re being a bit fussy.”
“Fussy? I’m not fussy; I’m perfectly reasonable. Pretend you’re a princess. From the time you’re born, you know you have to be a queen when you get older. You may want to be a chef, or a seamstress, or even a doctor, but you can’t because you’re the Queen of England. Don’t you see?”
I’m the Queen of England?” Lily grinned. “I don’t see the problem.”
“No of course you wouldn’t, you’re a muggle. I should have just waited until Sev got back.” Rupert muttered.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lily’s fists clenched.
“It means you can’t understand what I’m talking about. Because. You’re. A. Muggle.” Rupert pouted, annoyed that his one sounding board was turning more into a brick wall by the minute.
“You know, that’s so Slytherin of you! I’m sick and tired of everyone saying that I can’t understand because I’m a muggle.” Lily’s cheeks were a bright red to match her hair.
“What? It’s true!”
“And you of all people! How dare you!” Without a warning, Lily’s hand flew out and slapped Rupert on the cheek. Their eyes met, and it was hard to determine who was more surprised by the strike.
“Bloody hell girl, you’ve got a strong backhand.” Rupert finally muttered, gently rubbing his jaw.
“I’m sorry… and don’t swear.” Lily muttered.
“Oh goodness, I’ve messed things up, haven’t I?” Lily fretted.
“And I’ve proved that I haven’t got any lion tamer blood in my lines.” Rupert offered his hand. “Truce?”
“Of course.” Lily shook his hand awkwardly.
“I didn’t mean anything by that comment, you know. I just meant that as a muggle, you have a lot more options.”
“Well, for starters, did you know there are no wizarding universities?”
“Really? Whatever do the Ravenclaws do when they graduate?”
“The same thing every other wizard does. If they’re bright and have an acceptable last name, they find a master who is willing to take them as an apprentice. Otherwise, they find a job in Diagon Alley.”
“How positively medieval,” Lilly mused.
“Take Severus for example. The Snapes have been alchemists and potion masters for centuries. If he wanted to apprentice in anything other than potions, he would never find a post. Luckily, he’s taken to potions like a duck to water, and already has an apprenticeship lined up with Professor Jigger.”
“Oh foul, foul! Don’t bring up Professor Jigger.” Lily moaned.
“Why? What’s wrong with the professor?”
“You can’t seriously mean that?”
“Well, I mean other than being a bit old and snappish. He’s really not such a bad sort.”
“Not a bad sort? Maybe to the Slytherins.” Lily scoffed. “He’s positively awful to my house! He always finds a dozen things wrong with any potion I make, even when I follow his instructions, and this latest project is going to kill me.”
“It didn’t seem like such a hard potion.”
“No, but he assigned me to work with Narcissa. I would have been better off being assigned a parrot as a partner for the amount of preening that girl does. I’m going to fail potions for sure!”
“Well, it’s not that bad. I got stuck with Lupin.”
“Actually, Remus isn’t that bad.”
“Not that bad? He’s best friends with Potter and Black!”
“True, but I think if you gave him half a chance, he’d surprise you.”
“Quite frankly that’s the last thing I want from him. When that group surprises me, it often comes at my expense.”
“Honestly, he’s not a bad sort if he’s away from the other two. It could be much worse. At least you’re not paired with Peter.”
“Ah yes, poor Sev.”
“He’s been assigned to Pettigrew.”
Lily groaned. “I can see the headline now- Hogwarts apprentice goes mad, killing potions professor.”
“Oh that’s not likely.” Rupert offered with a grin. “Sev would be sure to kill Pettigrew first.”