Ever since he’d dropped out of Oxford and come to London, Ripper had been seeking out places with unusual amounts of magical energy, and King’s Cross, surprisingly, was one of them. He’d heard rumors that Boadicea was buried there and wondered if that had anything to do with it. The last couple of times he’d found a low-level hum of background magic. It was enough to tap into so that he could fuel a couple of showy spells later, but it was elusive, as if it were being deliberately hidden.
Today it was like a sodding magnet. He was in the middle of scoring some Boomslang venom from a wizard in an alley when he felt it. It was like a bloody freight train pulling at him, and he pissed off a couple of dope dealers when he ran straight through their sales to follow it. Ethan could look for his own sodding venom from now on, because Ripper wouldn’t be able to show his face there again any time soon.
He really didn’t care.
Once he was inside the station, he made a beeline for the spot between platforms nine and ten, knowing that had to be the source of the magics he was feeling. What he’d seen when he got there, what he was looking at still, knocked him for six.
There were hundreds of kids. Some school must’ve just let out. But that wasn’t the interesting part. The interesting part was that they seemed to be coming from … nowhere. In twos and threes they were stepping out of the waist-high barrier, seeming to materialize out of thin air.
He pressed himself against a wall, lit a fag, and watched casually. The magics in this place were off the scale today. That had to be some kind of portal, but to where? Where were these kids coming from? And some of the magics seemed to be rolling off them, too.
The bits of conversation he caught sounded normal enough. Mostly.
“So when is that cousin of yours coming to visit?”
“I just know I failed everything …”
“Sweet freedom until September!”
He knew all about that one. He’d been free for months now from the books, the exams, the expectations. It was almost as much of a rush as the magics.
But some of the things they said made no sense. Who was going to play what for how many quid in a ditch … and why? A lot of them seemed to keep trained owls, too, and were talking about sending them to each other. Since when were owls the new homing pigeons?
He stopped paying attention then and just closed his eyes and soaked up the magical energy. With as much as there was floating around this place, he could probably shoot bolts of lightning out of his fingertips tonight and permanently wipe that smug look off Ethan’s face. Eyes still closed, he took another drag off his cigarette.
His eyes snapped open when he felt a hand grab the front of his shirt.
“What do you think you’re doing?” demanded the skinny kid attached to the hand. The kid’s big nose was almost touching his own.
“Get your sodding hands off me,” Ripper snarled, glaring into the kid’s eyes and giving him a shove. He wondered briefly if he’d soaked up enough magic to just teleport.
“I wouldn’t try it,” the kid snarled. “Muggle like you would Splinch for sure.”
That caught him off guard. Had the prat been able to read his mind? “Splinch?” he asked curiously.
The greasy kid shoved him back against the wall and released his shirt. “Don’t mess with things you don’t understand,” he spat.
Ripper made to shove the kid back again when he saw someone else approaching.
“Harassing Muggles already?” asked another black-haired kid, this one strikingly handsome. “Trying to make points with your master?”
“Sod off, Black,” the skinny kid said. “This one’s not exactly a Muggle, now, is he?”
“What’re you on about, Snivellus? He’s …” The other kid looked at Ripper strangely.
“Not exactly a wizard, either,” said the one called Snivellus.
Ripper’d had about enough. “Why don’t you both sod off?” he growled, throwing his fag down on the pretty boy’s shoe and stomping it out. He cracked his knuckles and got ready for a fight.
“What’re you up to, Padfoot?” another voice called out from someplace off to the side. Ripper didn’t take his eyes off the two in front of him. “We’re gonna be late!”
The handsome kid looked torn for a moment, then said, “Stay away from this one if you know what’s good for you.” He jerked his thumb at the skinny kid.
“I’m not the one started this, now, am I?” Ripper sneered.
The skinny kid looked him up and down and said, “Stop messing around with things you can’t understand, filthy Muggle.”
Then, surprisingly, both kids backed away and left, each taking a different direction.
Ripper pulled out another fag, lit it, and took a long, shaky drag.
“Guess I showed them,” he muttered as he exhaled a cloud of smoke.
The platform was deserted now, and the level of magic was back to normal, so he decided to leave, taking yet a different direction to either of them. He wondered why, of the two of them, it was the skinny, greasy kid with the big nose who kept intruding on his thoughts.
Two Weeks Later
Phillip and Ethan thought he was crazy to come down to Charing Cross Road, called it nothing but a tourist trap, but Ripper had been sure he’d find the book on demon summoning that they needed here. And he’d been right. Buried behind a dozen copies of Diary of a Drug Fiend and next to an unlikely translation of the Goetia, there it was.
Rituals for Demonic Possession and Exorcism
“John Dee, eat your heart out,” he muttered.
The book itself held power. He could feel it washing over him. This book wasn’t the reason the neighborhood felt so loaded with magics, but the power nearby was why he’d been so certain he’d find the book here and not in that sodding dive in Soho that Ethan was so fond of.
He wasn’t sure why he bothered to pay for it. He could’ve done a simple misdirection spell and walked out the front door whilst holding it in plain view. That felt like a bad idea, though. It was worth a few quid to make sure the book knew it was his now.
He left the shop and headed for the nearest bus stop. As he walked, he had the strange feeling that the book wanted to get out of its bag. Then he was sure of it.
There was a deserted pub up ahead. Maybe he could duck in there and cast a restraining spell (or two) on this thing. If the door of the pub was as bad off as the sign looked, he shouldn’t have any trouble getting in.
To his surprise, the door wasn’t even locked. To his shock, the pub wasn’t abandoned, either. Instead, it was full of the strangest people he’d ever seen, and that was saying something. The magic was so thick in the air he could almost taste it. Straight ahead of him, a cup of tea was stirring itself while the woman sitting there chatted with her friend. Behind the bar, several bottles were jostling each other for better positions.
This … this was what he’d really been looking for. Not the sodding book that was making disturbing noises in its bag. This was the stuff they had never talked about at the Watchers’ Academy, the stuff he’d left Oxford to find. These people were doing magic. Not to save the world and not to do evil things or even just to show off, but just because they could. This was real power, and he wanted it.
“Stop gaping and sit down before someone notices you!” a voice hissed in his ear.
He turned, but there was nobody there. Not right there anyway. A few tables away, he saw a familiar skinny frame topped with a large nose poking out from behind curtains of lank, black hair. Not sure why, Ripper made his way to the table, pulled out a chair and spun it around to sit across from the skinny kid, resting one arm along what should be the chair’s back. He set the book down on the table in its bag. When it squirmed to get away, he slapped his arm down on it and then tried to look casual.
“What’s it to you, anyway?” he asked the skinny kid, trying to remember his name.
“You’re not very bright, are you?” the kid sneered.
Ripper moved to get up, but the kid grabbed his arm. It must have been an overdose of magic from this place that made his stomach jump just then. Bad timing, that. He sat back into his chair.
“What’s your problem anyway?” he demanded.
“Look, an almost-Muggle like you hanging about magical places, buying books on the Dark Arts … it’s just a bad idea right now,” the kid said.
“Ooh, what’s going to happen?” Ripper asked. “Some magic copper gonna make me forget I ever saw this place?”
“If it’s the Ministry that notices you, then yeah.”
That shut him up for a second. There were magic cops? And how did he know what the book was? Aside from the fact it was still trying to escape, of course.
“But they’re the least of your worries just now,” the kid continued. He turned and held up two fingers to the bartender.
“What do you care?”
The kid’s behavior didn’t make any sense. Why was he buying him a drink? And why, he wondered once it was set in front of him, was his drink smoking? He watched while the skinny kid knocked his drink back.
“It’s called firewhisky. You want a taste of the wizarding world? Start with that.”
A noise from behind him made Ripper start and look, but it was just someone who’d probably had a few of these “firewhiskys” knocking over a chair. He picked up the drink and downed it in a gulp, forcing himself not to show any reaction to the taste. Or the fire. He was convinced there was actual fire in that stuff.
The kid was staring at him intently, obviously watching for any sign of weakness. Not such a kid, obviously, if he was going about buying people drinks. Maybe he’d left school that day they’d met. He wondered where he could buy a bottle or two of this “firewhiskey” for later.
The kid leaned closer, eyes narrowed and barely visible through the stringy black hair hanging into his face, and asked, “So how much do you know about the wizarding world?”
“I never heard of it until you just said it,” Ripper said, surprised at his own honesty. He never admitted to not knowing things. Usually he’d come up with some bullshit story and find some way to back it up later. That firewhisky shit must be stronger than he’d thought.
“What’re you doing hanging about gateways to it then?”
“Usually finding places I can charge up to do some spells later. Today I just wanted to duck in here and fix this sodding book. This place isn’t abandoned after all, though, is it?”
Ripper suddenly found this all rather amusing. He tried and failed to stifle a giggle.
The black-haired … man wasn’t amused. He stiffened and demanded, “What’s your name, anyway?”
“Rupert Giles,” he replied, then smirked as he added, “but everybody calls me Ripper.”
That drew a derisive snort.
“Oh, and I suppose Snivellus is an honored family name?”
That drew an angry glare and a clenched fist.
“It’s Severus, you prat, and I’m the one asking the questions.”
“It’s not much of an improvement,” Ripper said with a shrug.
“Shut it unless I ask you something,” Severus snapped. He gripped the table as if he might just flip it over for emphasis.
“Yeah, and what’s with all the questions?”
“You keep showing up places you shouldn’t. What do you know about the war?”
“There’s no war on just now. Well, there must be somewhere, but we’re not in it for once.”
“I’m not talking about some Muggle war,” Severus said, rolling his eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re mucking about with books like that …” He jutted his chin at the bag that was now growling softly. “… and don’t know there’s another kind of war going on.”
“Oh, that,” Ripper said, not sure why this git cared about that sort of thing. “I’m no part of it. I mean, I went to the Academy, but I’m not going back to uni, and you can’t be a Watcher until you’ve finished uni.”
Deep black eyes stared at him intently, and Ripper swore he could almost see the light bulb flickering on over Severus’ head. Ripper wondered why he was babbling like this. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a set of salt and pepper shakers dancing a jig on an adjacent table. Oh. So he was stoned. Well, that was all right then.
“So that’s what you are.”
“I’ve just told you I’m not …”
“Who’s your friend, Severus?” asked a very handsome blond man who’d just materialized at Severus’ shoulder.
“He’s nobody, Lucius. Just a Squib poking around, trying to be something he’s not.”
Ripper tried to ask what a Squib was but found that his tongue had become stuck to the roof of his mouth. It was very annoying, and he hadn’t even had any peanut butter. The book, surprisingly, had stopped trying to escape.
“I see,” said the blond man. “Well, don’t bother to introduce me then, but do take care with whom you associate. It wouldn’t do to have any of our friends questioning the company you keep.”
Severus just shrugged.
“You would do well to be more concerned with such things,” the blond man continued. “You younger people take too much for granted, I think. I’ll see you later then, hmm?”
Severus nodded warily.
The blond man left, and Ripper was finally able to open his mouth.
“What’s a Squib?” he asked.
“Someone born to a wizarding family who can’t do magic.” Severus waved his hand as if to say such people were not important.
“Well, that’s the opposite of me then, isn’t it?”
Ripper straightened and stared in shock.
“That’s exactly the sort of thing that can get you killed, you fool!”
“Look, you think I’m on your turf or something, that’s your problem,” Ripper said, leaning forward into the chair-back and glaring. “Me? I’m done following everybody else’s stupid rules. I’ll do what I bloody well want, and you’re not going to stop me. Not you, not your nancy-boy mates. Got it?”
Severus narrowed his eyes. “When the last thing you see,” he whispered menacingly, “is a bolt of green light, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Now get out of here. Never asked you to come sit here anyway.”
Ripper looked warily at the quiescent book.
“I put a binding spell on it when Lucius came. You won’t be able to read it, you know.”
“We’ll figure it out. It’s not just me.” Ripper scowled. He hadn’t meant to tell him that.
“The truth potion will wear off soon,” Severus said with an absent wave of his hand. “Now get out of here. I don’t want to see you ever again.”
“Me neither,” Ripper said with a sneer as he pushed his chair back and got up.
He could still feel the greasy kid’s eyes on him right until the door of the pub shut behind him. When he looked up at the sign over the door, it still looked completely worn, but he could just barely make out the words, “The Leaky Cauldron.”
“Stupid name,” he muttered. With a huff of indignation, he set off for the bus stop once again.
One Month Later
The room was dim, lit only by the flickering black candles the five of them held as they chanted over the sleeping form of a sixth person. One of the nice things about candlelight was it made it possible to ignore the mess just outside the circle they kept clear for these rituals. A bit of melted wax dribbled onto Ripper’s hand.
They had just finished the last of the invocations to complete Randall’s possession when he felt it. A surge of Dark Magics rivaling the ones they had used to summon Eyghon. Had they called something else? As he pinched out the flame of his candle, he turned to his left to ask Phillip if he felt it too.
The protective wards on Ethan’s flat crashed down and a handful of masked, black-robed figures streamed through the door. They were brandishing wands, and Ripper knew instantly these were the people that bloke Severus had tried to warn him about. One of them made a disgusted noise.
“Filthy Muggles,” a vaguely familiar, aristocratic voice spat. “I knew this raid would be a waste.”
Ripper made to stand. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Randall/Eyghon’s eyes take on a feral glint. Across the circle, Ethan conjured a glowing ball of some kind and threw it at the one who had spoken. The intruder flicked his wand and the ball bounced off an invisible barrier and onto a pile of dirty shirts that burst into flame.
“Kill them all,” the leader drawled.
One of the others pointed his wand at him, and Ripper shifted into a fighting stance. Before he could do anything, he saw a flash of green light coming at him. In the same instant, something hard hit him in the chest and fell into his hand, and there was a weird tugging feeling behind his navel before the room spun out of view and he blacked out.
When he came to, he was crumpled in a heap on the floor of a dirty shack of some kind, still gripping the strange bit of metal that had hit him. His head hurt. He rubbed at the spot where he must have hit it.
When the last thing you see is a bolt of green light, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
He groaned. Well, if he was dead, this was one hell of a strange afterlife. The unintended mental pun broke through his shock and he laughed like he was out of his mind. Maybe he was.
An eternity later, and if he was dead that was a very real possibility, the laughter died away and he finally started to think about what had happened. According to his watch, which still worked, it was almost a half hour since they had met to start the possession. The black-robed freaks had showed up about fifteen minutes after that, so he’d been here about a quarter of an hour. He wasn’t sure how much of that time he’d been conscious. By now, Randall had probably made mincemeat of them.
By now, Randall was not even remotely in control, and if the others hadn’t managed to get Eyghon back out of him without Ripper to complete the group, Randall would be in deep shit. If the others were even still there. Still alive.
He couldn’t think about that. Instead he stood up and took stock of where he was. It wasn’t much, that was for sure. Dirty and almost unfurnished. There was a chair but no table. He supposed the pallet in the corner might pass for a bed in a pinch. The scenery outside the grimy windows was unfamiliar. He’d never seen trees like those, and he didn’t think that was only because it was dark out. He wasn’t even sure what kind they were, just that they were different.
The door was locked. A few minutes of fumbling told him it was locked magically, and after a few attempts at unlocking spells he was too depleted to do anything about it. A well-placed kick only sent a jarring shock up his leg. Damned door might as well be solid stone.
The windows were no better. They wouldn’t open or break.
His heart began to beat faster and he had the ridiculous feeling that the shack was running out of air. It was getting later and later, and he was starting to realize that Randall wasn’t the only one potentially running out of time.
He picked up the twisted bit of metal and examined it, forcing himself to calm down and think rationally. No telling what it was supposed to be, but it seemed like it must’ve brought him here. It didn’t feel magical at all now, but maybe he could figure out how to reverse it. If he had a library full of the right books, a large dose of magics, and possibly one of those wands.
He was fucked.
A loud crack startled him, and he whirled to face it. One of the black-robed figures was there, holding another. He dropped to the floor, obviously trying to prevent the one he was carrying from being hurt, except it was much too late for that. No one could possibly lose as much blood as was dripping from those robes and live. The live one removed his mask, and Ripper recognized the greasy, hook-nosed Severus.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Ripper demanded. “What’ve you done to my friends?”
“Your friends are fine,” the kid sneered. “Well, except maybe for the one you fucking morons got possessed with a fucking demon who killed one of my friends!”
Ripper supposed he should feel something. He really couldn’t. Whoever the dead man was, he had been one of the ones who broke into Ethan’s flat. It was his own fucking fault. Randall … if Eyghon had killed someone while possessing him …
“The demon …”
“One of your friends tried to get the demon to possess his corpse,” Severus said bitterly as he looked at the pile of robes at his feet. He removed the mask, and Ripper saw that the dead man wasn’t much older than either of them. He still couldn’t quite feel sorry about it. Severus straightened the man’s body and closed his eyes.
Ripper was disappointed they’d failed at getting Eyghon into him actually. Randall would have been free of the demon, though they could never have controlled it. Either way, now that it had killed, it would be more powerful than ever.
“I have to get back,” he said flatly.
“You can’t go back. They think you’re dead.”
“I made it look like I killed you, Merlin knows why.”
Ripper couldn’t even begin to answer that. Couldn’t even imagine how one would manage such a thing, much less why this bloke would. All he could do was ask, “What were you even doing there?”
“You dunderheads whipped up a bunch of Dark energies. We were supposed to investigate, make sure it wasn’t another … Dark Lord.” Severus barked a completely humorless laugh. “Didn’t expect a pack of Muggles playing Catch the Demon.” His expression became extremely closed.
“Well, if you thought you were going up against someone like that, you shouldn’t be surprised when someone ends up dead!” Ripper yelled. “But we’ve done this before, loads of times, and so long as a bunch of fucked-up wizards don’t interrupt things, there’s no reason to expect anyone to! Now you get me back there so we can exorcise that thing out of him!”
Severus glared up at him. “If they’re still there, my friends, and they see I haven’t killed you after all, then I’ll be next.”
“Some friends.” Ripper gave a disgusted snort.
“What do you know about it?”
“I know my mates wouldn’t kill me because I hadn’t murdered somebody!”
Severus looked back down at the crumpled form, his lank hair curtaining around his face. His fists were clenched, his knuckles white. Ripper didn’t know what to expect when he stood, stepped around the corpse on the floor, and drew his wand, but he knew there wasn’t anything he could do to stop him.
“I can’t make you invisible,” Severus said, “but I can make you blend in.”
Ripper flinched when Severus tapped him on the head with his wand, then felt the odd sensation of someone having cracked an egg full of ice water on his head. The cold feeling trickled over his body, and when he looked down, he could barely make out where his feet ended and the floor began.
“Wicked,” he said. He started as Severus put an arm around him.
“Hold still and I’ll get us there.”
Abruptly, he felt like he was being crushed into a tiny jar, every molecule of air being crushed from his lungs. Just as quickly, the feeling reversed, and it was like being squeezed out of a tube of toothpaste and into Ethan’s very demolished flat.
Thomas, Ethan, and Phillip were grappling with Randall/Eyghon while he growled and thrashed on the floor. Deirdre was frantically paging through the book looking for a way to banish Eyghon, but it kept snapping itself shut. Ethan jumped up when he heard them pop into the room and charged over at them, hands outstretched, obviously planning to cast … something.
“Ethan, wait!” Ripper shouted.
Ethan looked around, confused.
“I’m right … oh, take this bloody spell off. Your friends are gone anyway.”
Severus turned and tapped him on the head with his wand again. This time he had the sensation of something very warm trickling down over him until he was clearly visible once more.
Ethan looked boggled.
“You’re alive? But then who’s …”
Severus pointed his wand at a corner of the room where Ripper now saw something that looked disturbingly like himself. A swish later, it was gone.
Ethan suddenly looked suspicious. He scowled at them both. “What, this one a friend of yours then? Gets you out of here and leaves the rest of us to deal with everything? Didn’t think you had it in you, Ripper. Could’ve let us know they were coming.”
“I didn’t know!”
“Bullshit! This is that sod you told me about. The one you met in that pub no one can see, right? He’s probably the one gave you that book, too, so he can bloody well tell us how to fix Randall now!”
“If you think for one minute I arranged this … fiasco and got my own mate killed,” Severus snarled dangerously, “you're even more stupid than I thought. I didn’t know where we were being sent or who would be here. You fools are playing with things you don’t understand and drawing attention to yourselves with it.”
“So why’d you save old Ripper then, hmm? Seems to me that was too much of a floor-show to be completely off the cuff,” Ethan replied. His hands were on his hips, but he looked calculating rather than indignant.
From the corner of his eye, Ripper saw Thomas lose his grip on Randall/Eyghon for a moment. The demon clawed him, and a trickle of blood ran down his face. Thomas snarled and pinned him back down.
“It’s … when I saw … I’ve had to make similar switches in the past. Don’t know why I bothered for this one.”
Ethan looked abruptly thoughtful. “At least that explains why we couldn’t get it to go into the body. It wasn’t real.”
Ripper felt distinctly nauseated at the thought they had tried to lure Eyghon into what they had thought was his own lifeless body. Not that it hadn’t been a good idea.
“What happened to the rest of them?” Severus demanded.
Ethan shrugged. “Well, I was going to tell them that if they didn’t back off we’d have Eyghon possess them, too. Didn’t bother telling them they’d need the Mark.”
Ripper had never seen someone go as pale as Severus did right then. Impressive considering the git looked like he’d never seen sunlight in the first place.
“What?” Ethan asked.
“How do you know about the Mark?” Severus demanded through gritted teeth.
“We’ve all got one,” Ethan replied casually, rolling up his left sleeve. “Look, here’s mine.”
Ripper noticed that Severus suddenly appeared very relieved. That was strange, but he wasn’t sure he cared why. “Look, we’re wasting time,” he said. “We don’t know when the rest of them might be back.”
“Oh, they won’t be,” Ethan said with a negligent wave of his hand.
“What did you do?” Ripper asked warily.
“As I started to say, I threatened to sic the demon on them, but then their head honcho decided to lock us in instead. Seemed to think Eyghon would do their work for them anyway. Like Randall would let it.”
Severus rolled his eyes and flicked his wand at the door, which cracked open a bit. Obviously they hadn’t used a very impressive spell to lock them in.
“Randall wouldn’t have killed anyone at all,” Ripper pointed out in a voice that came out much smaller than he’d intended. “I don’t think Randall’s behind the wheel just now.”
All three men looked over to where Thomas and Phillip were still struggling to hold Randall/Eyghon down while Deirdre fought with the book. It snapped shut on her hand, and she yelped and shook it off.
Ripper grabbed Severus’ wand arm.
“Here, it’s your mates caused this mess in the first place. Can’t you freeze him or something until we figure this out?”
That earned him a glare as his grip was shaken off, but with another swish and flick Randall/Eyghon’s legs snapped together and his arms snapped sharply to his sides. His eyes practically shot sparks of rage.
“You’ve got a half hour before that wears off,” Severus said with a sigh of what sounded like resignation. “It’s too late, though. It’s killed with that body. It won’t let it go now.”
Ripper was very afraid he was right, but he wasn’t about to give up. “You’re going to help us,” he told the wizard. “With your power in the mix, we’ll have a better chance.”
Severus sneered at him. “You think I’m going to hang about helping you clean up your mess? I don’t owe you anything!”
“No, but for someone who goes around dressed like the Grim Reaper, you aren’t much for killing, are you? So are you going to help, or are you going to walk away and never know if you could have made the difference?”
It seemed some of his Watcher training was useful after all, because that little speech seemed to work. Though he didn’t look happy about it, Severus went over and grabbed the book from Deirdre and zapped it with something that calmed it down, then flipped back and forth through several sections until he found what he was looking for. He shoved the book under Ripper’s nose.
“Here. That’s what you’ve got to do.”
Ripper skimmed the page quickly. His stomach did several sickening flips. It looked tricky. It also required anointing with something called Unguentum Expuli.
“Where are we supposed to get that?” he asked, pointing at the unfamiliar phrase.
Severus rolled his eyes. “Have you got any kind of cooking oil around here?”
Ripper looked at Ethan, who nodded.
“You’ve obviously got candles, and it’ll need a bit of wax.” He tapped a finger on his lower lip, his expression transformed from belligerent to thoughtful. “Got any cloves? Rosemary? Basil?”
“Do I look like a bloody chef?” Ethan retorted.
“Well, I’m trying to think of herbs Muggles might have that would be useful for an Exorcism Unguent!”
“What about mullein?” Deirdre asked timidly.
Severus rounded on her sharply, but then his features lightened. “Mullein? Yes, that’d work. What’ve you got that lying around for?”
She shrugged. “Some idiot convinced Thomas to try smoking it last week. You’ve still got it, haven’t you, Thomas?”
“Maybe.” He rummaged around in his pockets and pulled out a very crumpled plastic bag. “This it?”
Severus took it and opened the bag, sniffing it cautiously. “It’ll do,” he said. “Where’s your kitchen?”
Ethan pointed to the doorway curtained with bright plastic beads.
“Is there enough time?” Ripper asked.
Severus glanced back at Randall and then at Ripper.
“Licentia is somes in pacis,” they intoned together as Severus anointed Randall/Eyghon’s forehead, hands, and feet.
Ripper could feel the difference his energy made in the group. It had a different flavor. More focused. In all the rituals they’d done in this very spot, he’d never felt anything like it. He stole a glance at Phillip and Ethan and could tell they sensed it as well.
They might actually have a chance at pulling this off.
“Licentia is somes in pacis,” they repeated as one.
He could feel the power building as Severus stood and stepped back toward Ripper, handing him the small tin he had filled with the unguent he’d made from the oil, wax, and mullein. Ripper tucked it into his pocket. Who knew when they might need it again?
It had to work.
Eyghon had been in Randall for over an hour now, much longer than any of them had ever attempted before. Deirdre had gone twenty minutes once, and exorcising the demon from her had been ... they almost hadn’t managed it. They’d never tried this version, though, and this spell was designed for long-term possessions. He tried not to think of the warnings it included, because it was also not intended for possessions the victim had actively participated in.
It had to work.
“Licentia is somes in pacis,” they finished loudly.
Randall/Eyghon shrieked, breaking through the binding spell and beginning to thrash on the floor. Severus pulled out his wand again, but Ripper grabbed his arm to stop him. Randall’s face contorted horribly and then suddenly he began to shake as though he’d been hit by lightning.
When he began spitting blood, Ripper knew they’d never had a chance.
He watched in sickened horror as his friend’s blood poured out of his mouth, ears, and eyes and soaked into the shag carpet and the convulsions slowed to shivers and stopped.
Ethan and Deirdre ran from the room to puke.
Phillip didn’t make it that far.
Ripper thought he might never be able to move again. It hadn’t worked. If he didn’t move, maybe time wouldn’t keep moving forward, and there would be a way to make Randall not be dead. He knew it was stupid, but he still couldn’t make himself move.
“What’re we going to do?” Thomas asked softly. “We killed him. What’re we going to do?”
“We’re going to get him out of here,” Ethan stated as he came back into the room, still looking badly shaken. “We’ve got to … we’ve got to make it look like something else, and most of all like it didn’t happen here.”
Ripper couldn’t even begin to think of how they could manage that. He still hadn’t moved. He felt a hand on his shoulder.
“I still have to bury Turner,” Severus said. “Somewhere no one will find him. No one will find Randall there, either.”
That sounded … rational. The weight of the hand on his shoulder was reassuring. Comforting. Any other time, he’d probably have thought that was weird, considering he didn’t really even know this bloke. Right now, he just accepted it greedily.
“How … how will we get there?” he asked. “The same way you brought me here?”
“No,” Severus replied. “I can’t Side-Along Apparate you both. I’ll make another Portkey.”
“That metal thing?”
He still didn’t think he could move.
Severus picked something up off the coffee table and placed it on Randall’s body. He pulled Ripper down to kneel next to the body with him and placed his hand on the pipe. There was a tugging sensation behind his navel again, and once again the room swirled out of view.
It should have taken longer to bury them. Some things should require sweat and blood from you and not be waved off with a wand. And fresh graves should not be indistinguishable from the grass surrounding them.
Ripper thought Severus looked even more desolate than he felt. He’d only known Randall a short while, after all. Severus must have known Turner for much longer.
A dead Death Eater and a dead Muggle buried side by side would give rise to all sorts of speculations, Severus had said, none of which would come close to the truth. Oh, the other Death Eaters would know the truth, but they probably wouldn’t come back after Ethan’s gang unless they started raising obscene amounts of Dark magics again. They were apparently happy to let a demon run amok in a city full of … Muggles.
Ripper doubted any of his mates wanted to cast so much as a glamour ever again. He certainly didn’t.
That, however, was about the only thing he was sure of. The rest of his emotions seemed to have been stuck in a blender. Somehow his guilt and grief and relief and rage were all one feeling, and that feeling was responding very strangely to the proximity of this powerful young wizard. This powerful young wizard who looked like he had lost his best mate, and very possibly had. Ripper went over and sat next to him on the ground.
“He shouldn’t’ve been there,” Severus said. “He never wanted to be part of this.”
After a minute, Ripper answered, “Doesn’t much seem like you do either.”
Severus shot a glance at him and said, “I should Obliviate you for that.”
Ripper supposed that was a threat. It came out kind of half-hearted.
Even afterwards, he wasn’t sure exactly how it had happened. He knew only that one minute he had been staring into those sad black eyes and the next he had claimed Severus’ mouth, dueling with his tongue. Then they were both clawing at each other’s clothes until they were both naked and sprawled out on a bed of shirts and robes and trousers, and it felt so good, so alive to be writhing together under the dawning late August sun, grabbing at each other, cocks grinding against each other. God but he wanted to bury himself in that tight arse. Instead he closed his hand around both their cocks and stroked firmly. Severus whimpered into his mouth.
They moved again, and he felt something hard and squared-off jab into him through one of the piles of clothes. He grinned when he realized what it was and pulled back so he could fish it out. Severus shot him an indignant look, but when he saw what Ripper had, his eyes clouded with arousal.
“Yeah, you want this?” Ripper asked hoarsely. “You want me inside you? What’re we going to exorcise if we use this for lube anyway?”
“By itself … it’s nothing,” Severus panted. “Unless one of us is possessed, it’s just …”
“Nice and slippery,” Ripper whispered, nipping sharply at his ear.
Ripper fumbled the tin open single-handedly and scooped some of the ointment onto his fingers. When Severus obligingly shifted his hips, Ripper began to tease at his opening and pressed a finger inside. He scooped out a bit more of the makeshift lube and thrust two fingers into him, scissoring slightly and seeking out just the right spot for a good stroke or two. When he found it, Severus gasped and his eyes widened. Ripper grinned.
Then he was coating his own cock with it and positioning himself to thrust home. He pressed in just a bit and pulled back out, until finally he couldn’t take any more and plunged in, holding Severus’ hips firmly and capturing his cry of pain in yet another bruising kiss. He held very still for a moment, afraid he’d really hurt Severus. Afraid he’d leave.
Severus wasn’t pulling away. He was actually moving his hips and pulling Ripper further into him. Soon they found their rhythm and Ripper was pounding into him furiously and pumping Severus’ cock at the same time. Then Severus cried out and came, spurting onto both of them, his body clenching and wringing Ripper’s own climax from him.
After, they lay on their backs, panting up at the sky. Ripper wasn’t sure what he felt about having fucked this bloke after they’d both just buried their friends, but he decided that wasn’t important. They were alive. They could feel. That was important.
It was while they were separating their clothes and starting to dress that he noticed Severus’ strange tattoo for the first time. It seemed to be bothering him; he was rubbing at it. Was it fresh?
“Demon?” Ripper asked, pointing at the tattoo.
“Pretty much,” Severus replied with a snort as he rolled his sleeve down to cover the stark black skull and snake.
“Guess we’re not the only dunderheads then.”
They continued to dress in silence. There didn’t seem to be anything to say.
“I’m being summoned,” Severus said, rubbing at the tattoo through his sleeve. “I can get you back to your mate’s flat before I go, but just barely.”
Ripper couldn’t think of anywhere he would like less to be. But Severus had implied this Dark Lord of his would kill him for screwing up at all, so he didn’t argue. He kind of liked this bloke after all. He didn’t want to think he’d end up dead today, too.
When they arrived at Ethan’s flat, Ripper hung onto Severus’ arm for an extra second to stop him cracking back away immediately. “Be careful,” he said.
Severus nodded. “Stop mucking about with magic,” he replied. “Go back to uni. Finish up learning to be a Watcher. You’d make a good one.”
“Odds are I’ll never be assigned to a Slayer.”
Severus gave him a measuring look. “That’d be a damned waste,” he said at last. Then he shook off Ripper’s hand and disappeared with a loud crack.
The noise hadn’t brought Ethan out to investigate. Probably he’d left. That was a good idea. They’d done a good job getting rid of the evidence, though. He stared at the spot that should have been saturated with dried blood. Obscene that it should be gone. Just like Randall’s grave. He shuddered.
Giles strode out into the late August London morning and to the bus stop. Severus was right. It was time for him to get away from all this and go back to Oxford. Time to close this chapter of his life. He didn’t look back.