Pick a clue, any clue
Giles cast a glance at Buffy over the demons head. She shook her head and sighed. “Well, sir, I think we have enough information now. We’ll be sure to check on the gas main. I’m sorry about the inconvenience.” Giles stood up from the whicker couch.
“No problem. Things like this happen.” The demon shrugged.
“We’ll just see ourselves out.” Giles said as Buffy was already half way to the door.
“Have a good evening.” The demon followed them to the front door. “Oh, and can you tell Anya, ‘Clem says hi, and I promise to return her muffin tin by the end of the week’?” Both Giles and Buffy did a doubletake. “Or, if that’s a problem, I can just call her.” The demon offered meekly.
“No, that’s quite alright. I’ll let her know.” Giles muttered.
“Okay.” The demon smiled shyly. “Well, good luck with the ‘gas leak’ and all.” He called after them, complete with air quotes.
As the door shut behind them, Buffy broke into giggles. “What on earth do you find so funny?” Giles stared at her.
“He knew the whole time! There we were trying to act all smooth and undercover and he knew.”
“Well, as under cover goes that was hardly my best effort.” Giles followed Buffy down the stairs.
“Don’t take it so personal Giles.” Buffy said as she jumped down the last two stairs. “And, it was useful. We know now for sure that it was a gas leak.”
“We know that the gas was indeed leaking. We still don’t know what caused the leak.” Buffy shot him a look. “Alright, I’ll admit that does rule out my theory of the wizarding world. Most of them wouldn’t think of anything so mundane as gas lines or plumbing.”
“So does that mean we have to find out what caused the gas leak, or can we just let it go for tonight?”
“I suppose that inspection might be better in daylight hours.”
“Faboo, so that means I can go back to the dorm?” Buffy batted her eyes, knowing full well that it generally had no effect on her watcher.
“Actually, I believe we should stop by Eternal Rest this evening.”
“The big ER? But Giles, that’s an old one. Everything that’s going to rise out of that already has … ages ago.”
“Yes, but you can never be too sure. It also has some of the largest mausoleums, which make excellent lairs, and neither you nor the Initiative remnants run through there very often. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was thoroughly infested.”
“You’re just saying that because it’s on the way to your house so I get stuck with the longer walk back.”
“Be that as it may,” Giles stammered, “That tends to be the cemetery you neglect the most, so it’s my job to make sure it’s covered.”
“Fine. Eternal Rest it is, Mr. Lazy Pants.” Buffy sent a teasing glance back at her watcher as she headed down the street towards the old cemetery.
“Mr. Lazy Pants indeed.” Giles muttered, following after her.
They passed through the rusty gates, navigating a path through the head stones and monuments. “Man, this place brings back memories.” Buffy smiled, as she twirled her stake.
“Ah yes, numerous SAT reviews that I could have lived without.” Giles wiped off his brow, once again cursing the sunny Californian climate. It would never have dared to be this hot so late in the year back in England.
“There was this time when Angel…. Nevermind.” Buffy blushed. “So, good times, eh? Do you remember when…”
“Shh.” Buffy held up her hand. Giles tried to ignore the mental comparison of Buffy with a springer spaniel, but when she cocked her head to one side then took off running, he couldn’t help but grin.
Buffy cut across several rows of headstones, making a beeline across the acre of cemetery, towards the noise. As she got closer, she could make out the shouts. Turning a corner around the Wilkins mausoleum, she found herself in the midst of a fight. There were half a dozen vampires circling a lone man in a dark cloak. The man appeared to be holding them at bay with a stick, but he was rapidly losing ground. There was a spark from the tip of the stick, then swearing as the spark fizzled out before meeting with a vampire. “Blasted Hellmouth!”
“ Hey boys!” Buffy called out, hoping to distract some of the vampires. “Looks like you’ve got uneven teams. Mind if I play?” She launched herself at the nearest vampire, kicking him square in the chest before her presence had even registered for most of the vamps.
Taking his cue from Buffy, the man in the cloak kicked at the knees of the vampire behind him. The fight was on. The man seemed to be holding his own against a single vampire, but Buffy had to constantly draw the vampires away from the man. “So stranger dude, any reason you’re hanging around a cemetery in the middle of the night?” Buffy called out as she ducked a punch. “It can get kinda dangerous around here.”
“Oh really, I hadn’t noticed.” The man called back just before taking a kick to the stomach.
“Some people just aren’t quick enough with the wit.” Buffy muttered, dodging into the foray to keep any of the vampires from pouncing on the man on the ground. With a lucky stroke, she managed to get one vampire staked through the chest, but in the process, her stake was pulled out of her hand and vanished with the vampire. “Damnit, I hate it when that happens.” she muttered as she surveyed her surroundings for a new stake.
The man scrambled to his feet. “Did that vampire just implode?” He asked, elbowing the vampire that grabbed him from behind, to little effect. “Fascinating.”
“Yeah, yeah, we can admire the disappearing act later.” Buffy replied, falling back on hand to hand combat. “By the way, did you know you’ve got a vamp on your back?”
“Yes.” The man choked out, quickly losing any advantage he had.
“If I were you I’d run him into a tombstone, but hey, what do I know.” Buffy offered as she threw one vamp into a tombstone only to have another rush her from the side. “Hey, I don’t suppose you still have that wooden stick on you?”
The man evidently was too busy trying to not choke to answer her question.
“Buffy!” Giles called, finally catching up to the slayer.
“Hey Giles, I don’t suppose you have any spare stakes on you?” She called back.
“What would you do with out me?” Giles panted, trying to get to his slayer, despite the four vampires between them. He charged in with the cross, getting close enough to throw her a stake when there was a gap.
“Thanks Giles!” Buffy plunged the caught stake into the vampire between them. “Behind you!”
Giles turned just in time to see a vampire’s fist meet with his head. “Bloody he...” Giles crumpled to the ground, cross falling from his finger tips.
“Hey! That was uncalled for!” Buffy jumped on the back of the vampire that had hit her watcher, jabbing her stake through his heart. As he disappeared into ashes, she flipped into another vampire, knocking him down for a quick staking.
“It’s the slayer. Run!” The lead vampire yelled, seeing that the blonde girl had gone from playful to vengeful in a heartbeat. The vampire hadn’t lasted as long as it had without learning when to run. Another vampire followed after him, but the one holding the cloaked man refused to follow. Buffy made quick work of stabbing him through the back.
With the vampire turning to ashes, the man collapsed on the ground, rolling away from Buffy. When he got up, his hood had fallen over his head. “Are you okay?” Buffy asked.
“Yes, I’ll be fine.” The man gasped out, his accent reminding Buffy of her watcher.
“Great, because I’ve got to check on Giles.” She ran to her watcher, kneeling at his side. “Giles, come on, talk to me.”
Giles groaned. “I think the bugger broke my glasses.” He slurred. A loud pop startled them. “What was that?” Giles winced.
“Mr. I-have-to-wear-a-cape-and-walk-through-graveyards-at-midnight-because-I’m-British,” Buffy answered.
“The man I was rescuing is missing. He was standing right there, and now he’s not. How weird is that?”
“In that case, I believe that noise was an apparation pop.” Giles said, sitting up. “Bugger, my glasses are shot.” He pulled the twisted metal frame from his face, running his finger through where his right lens should have been.
“What does that mean?”
“Well obviously, I’ll have to get a new pair of glasses.”
“I meant the pop thing. Come on, Giles, focus.”
“Sorry.” He mumbled rubbing his forehead. “I believe that means he was the wizard looking for my brother.”
“I guess that could explain the sparking piece of wood.”
“He was carrying a wand? Oh dear.”
“Yeah, you’re telling me. Let’s get you back to your house, before we run into anyone else. You’re not in a position to fight.”
“But, if he’s a wizard, we have to follow him.”
“Hello, Earth to Giles? Come in Giles? He vanished without a trace, we can’t exactly follow him.”
“Without a trace? There’s always a trace.”
“Well he was standing right here, and … huh.” Buffy stood over the spot the cloaked man had disappeared from.
“What does that ‘huh’ mean?” Giles stood up, dusting off his clothes.
“It means he didn’t completely vanish without a trace.” Buffy bent down and picked up a shoe. “He left this.”
“Ah! Just as I thought; he splinched.” Giles winced as he smiled. “Only a fool would try to apparate on the Hellmouth.”
“So now we just need to look for some guy wearing a cloak and only one shoe, hobbling around Sunnydale.” Buffy reasoned before snorting. “Yeah, like that’ll stand out around here.”
“Still, it’s a lead.” Giles pointed out.
“It’s a shoe.” Buffy handed the object to her watcher.
“That’s more than we had before.”
“Whatever you say.” Buffy just shrugged, heading towards the cemetery exit.
“Right.” Giles followed her, running into a tombstone. “Ow!”
“Gee, how blind are you?” Buffy teased, taking his elbow to help guide him around the tombstones. “Come on, old man, let’s get you home.”
“Oh for Salazar’s sake, I’m not that old.” Giles muttered but let Buffy lead him, not trusting his night vision without his glasses.
“Sure you aren’t…. geezer.”
“Buffy…” Giles growled.
“What? Are you losing your hearing too?” Buffy winked at him.
“Oh, I give up.”
Severus poked his head into the train car. “Is it safe?” Rupert whispered. Severus shot him a withering glance and entered. Seeing no other option, Rupert followed. “Oh, thank god.” He mumbled, sinking into the seat next to his brother, ignoring the looks of his roommates.
“He wants to know if it’s safe.” Severus informed the group.
“Well mate, if you’re not safe with your own roommates, I doubt there’s anywhere safe for you.” Damon shot Rupert a grin. “What’s got you so jumpy?”
“I’m not jumpy.” Rupert glared at Sev. “I was just inquiring if Martha was in this car. Clearly she is not.”
“That’s right! We haven’t heard how the big night went for you. It’s bad form skipping out on breakfast the morning after. People might start talking.”
“Oh do shut up, Rosier.” Rupert growled.
“So, how did it go?” Rastaban asked. “It couldn’t have been that
bad; you were the last one back to the room.”
“Not that bad?” Rupert squeaked. “It was a disaster of the Pompeiic proportions.”
“Funny, Martha seemed to have a good evening.” Lucius commented.
“Which reminds me, you owe me big time, Malfoy.”
“Now, now, let’s not get hasty. After all, you couldn’t have had that bad of a time. She danced with you the entire evening.”
“Exactly! She wouldn’t let me go! I tried to go to the snack table; she dragged me onto the dance floor. I tried to sit down for a bit; she dragged me onto the dance floor. The one time I tried to get a breath of fresh air, she followed me, and nearly threw herself at me for some one-sided romantic tryst!”
“You know, if I had a girl throwing herself at me, I don’t think I’d be so flippant about it.” Evan remarked. “Of course, Martha wouldn’t be my first choice.”
“I did tell you she was rather fond of you.” Lucius answered.
“Rather fond? Rather fond is maybe holding hands and dancing a bit close for a dance or two. She’s beyond rather fond and on to frighteningly obsessive. She’s already chosen names for our children!”
“Children? You moved a lot faster than I thought. Should I ask Sir Bradford to start setting aside funds for your bastards?” Severus teased with a straight face.
“Aaargh!” Rupert yelled.
“Shh! It’s not that bad.” Lucius tried to shut his friend up before the girls came to investigate.
“Lucius, the girl is crazy. She insisted on introducing me to her
familiar- Hootie, the Hoot Owl.” Rupert spoke slowly and clearly in the tone that indicated he was one step away from tapping into his accidental magic. “She insisted Hootie liked me.” He waved a bandaged finger in front of the group. “The damn bird took a chunk out of my finger! I spent an hour last night having Pomphrey patch this up.”
“Well, it’s hardly Martha’s fault, that you’re accident prone.” Severus pointed out.
“I’m not accident prone.”
“Yes you are. Remember that time on St. Urics?”
“How was I to know the tide was coming in?”
“What about that time with Mrs. Travers’ vase?”
“You pushed me into the desk. That’s not accident prone.”
“Oh yeah, what about the time you got the fencing sword stuck in the tree?”
“Oh yes, let’s do bring that up again.” Rupert rolled his eyes. “The point is, I have lost five hours of my life and a good chunk of my finger, just so that you didn’t lose face with Narcissa. You better believe you owe me.” Rupert stared Malfoy down.
“Fine, fine, I owe you and you have witnesses.” Malfoy broke down. “What do you want from me?”
“What do you want?” Malfoy snarled. “You’ve called in a debt and I’m not about to have anything hanging over me. What do you want?”
“How should I know? I figured I could call it in later.” Rupert squeaked, internally cursing the effects of puberty.
“How about this? I have in my possession, an invitation to the Knights of Walpurgis Solstice Ball.” Malfoy pulled an ivory notecard from a pocket in his robes. “I’m allowed to bring guests. It would be an excellent opportunity for a mudblood like yourself to make connections with proper wizarding society. What do you say?” Rupert glanced around, surprised to see that several of his housemates were practically salivating at the invitation.
“May I take a look at that?” He nodded at the card. Malfoy ceremoniously handed over the invitation.
Rupert quickly scanned the information and was about to hand it back, when he noticed the embossed seal on the back. “This is an interesting design. I don’t suppose you know where I might have seen it before?” He pointed to the green ink.
“The man is handed an invitation to the most exclusive New Years party in England, and he’s concerned with the watermark.” Lucius muttered at the ceiling, before turning to Rupert. “It’s the emblem of the sacred order of the Knights of Walpurgis.”
“Fascinating. I wouldn’t have thought snakes would be such a popular motif, given their reputation.” Rupert showed the card to Severus.
Rastaban shook his head. “Oh no, snakes are incredibly popular symbols. Most Slytherin families have snakes somewhere on their family coat. Take the LeStranges, we have a snake border and…”
“… Yes, isn’t that nice.” Lucius cut him off. “So are you interested in the party or not?”
“I’m afraid I can’t say at the moment.” Rupert answered. “My father was considering a family trip to France over the holidays. I can’t very well be in both France and England simultaneously.”
“You could apparate back and forth.” Rookie offered.
“Except for the fact that we haven’t gotten our licenses yet.” Severus pointed out.
“Well, there is that technicality.”
“How about I owl you over the break?” Rupert offered, handing the card back to Lucius.
“Very well, but don’t say I never made an offer.” Lucius tucked the card back into his robe. The situation was evidently resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, as Rookie and Rastaban struck up a conversation on the quidditch season to date and Evan began the tedious process of gleaning an invitation to the Solstice Ball from Lucius.
Rupert was lost in thought when Severus loudly proclaimed, “Bloody hell, I’ve got the wrong book. Mine must be in your trunk, Rupert. I need you to undo the wards on that blasted thing.”
“I suppose, but it serves you right for leaving me to pack up our school stuff. How was I to know what you wanted to read on the train?” Rupert followed Severus out of the car, knowing full well that his brother was plotting something or other.
“I always read on the train.”
“Well, you shouldn’t; it’ll give you a headache.” Rupert said as the car door closed behind them. He followed in silence as Severus indeed made his way to the luggage car. It was only once the door to the luggage car had swung shut behind them and Severus had checked for snooping spells that Rupert opened his mouth. “Alright, what’s this about?”
“Yes, I thought it was a bit suspicious. Why would a Lord Voldemort be listed as a host of the party if it’s being held at Malfoy Manor?”
“I wasn’t referring to that.”
“You mean the symbol.”
“I mean the emblem of the Knights of Walpurgis.”
“Was it just me, or did it look exactly like the smoke left behind in those murders?”
“Even down to the green color; it’s uncanny.”
“So what is Malfoy doing associating with murderers?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t be at all surprised with what skeletons are hiding in the Malfoys’ closets. The question is, what does a sacred wizarding society have to do with dead muggles.”
“Are we sure they’re muggles?”
“Well, none of them had records of attending Hogwarts. We checked.”
“What if they were squibs?”
“They’d be impossible to trace then. Squibs are generally disowned and put up for adoption.”
“Of course they are. Heaven forbid they make it easy to trace squibs back to their wizarding families.” Rupert muttered. “So what should we do?”
“Clearly, we need to discuss this with my mother.”
“What about my father?”
“He wouldn’t understand; he’s a muggle.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means if anyone would know about these Knights, it would be my mother. If she thinks they’re related to the murders, we’ll tell the watchers.”
“Fine. We’ll talk to Cassandra first.” Rupert capitulated. “So, time to head back to the car?”
“Wait!” Severus held his hand out to stop Rupert from leaving. “We still have to switch books.”
“I thought that was just a ruse.”
“It was, but then I remembered I threw my Ars Alchemica into your trunk, and that’s much better travel reading than Of Hepatic Humours and Related Maladies.”
Rupert rolled his eyes at his brother's pout. “Oh, I give up.”