I don't know how long I've been kneeling, silently weeping over the tattered remains of the Demon Hound. Time has no meaning for me. Once the tears have started there seems to be no end. My throat soon becomes raw from trying to muffle the sobs, but it is a vain effort.
Finally, after a long, long time the tears slow. They don't stop altogether but it is enough to allow me to see without my vision blurring too badly. I'm vaguely aware of the aches and pains making themselves known as I slowly force myself out of my near fetal-position. I suck in a sharp breath as my ribs scream in protest as I uncurl. I glance down and close my eyes tightly as the gruesome sight of my bones peaking through shredded, burned flesh. Luckily the fire from the Demon Hound's attack cauterized most of the wound, so there is little blood.
Thank God for small mercies.
Despite it being the height of summer I can't keep from shivering as the breeze wafts by, carrying the scent of rain and death with it. I bring up a trembling hand and wipe away my tears, smearing my cheeks with more blood and grime in the process. I blow out a long breath and then immediately wince as that small action sets my injured side ablaze in fresh pain.
"Death," I gasp and double over again, clutching at my stomach and ribcage. Please. I don't want to be alone right now! I silently plead when I do not get an immediate response. Panic slowly starts to set in as black spots begin to flicker across my vision. I haven't been this injured in a very long time, the aftermath making me sluggish and weak.
I can't die, not that I haven't tried.
It doesn't mean I cannot suffer endlessly though.
If I fall unconscious I don't know what will happen. No one knows where I am and I rather doubt anyone cares enough to search for me either, especially after how distant I've been these past few days.
I force myself to take a deep breath and call upon my magic. Surely I can heal this! My magic responds slowly, as if reluctant to heed my command. I force my healing power toward the wound and shudder as the flesh tries to knit back together. I mutter several choice expletives under my breath as my magic suddenly grinds to a halt and retreats deep within my core.
Damn it all! The Hellfire was cursed! I realize, horror creeping in as agony lances through me once more in retaliation for my efforts. I bite my bottom lip nearly bloody to keep from screaming outright. Instead, only muffled groans and gasps escape my tenuous control.
Suddenly a presence enters my peripheral vision, long robes seemingly made of shadows and the void itself, dragging across the bloodstained ground with nary a whisper. "Master?!" Death's usual deep baritone holds a strained, rasping, quality to it. My Servant kneels beside me, running hesitant boney hands across my body, and pours his brand of magic into my core, snuffing the cursed Hellfire into oblivion.
I all but collapsed in Death's arms, completely spent. "T-Take me home, Death," I plead, ignoring how badly my voice shakes. "Please, I want to go home!" I blink fresh tears down my face as my fear, pain, and shock once more push to the forefront of my being. I'm just so done with it all!
"Shh, I will, Master. Just hold on while I patch you up." Death murmurs, soothing some of the anxiety choking me. I whine pitifully as Death places a cold hand against the ugly wound, feeding healing magic into my body and encouraging my own powers to come forth to help the process along. Death is indeed powerful, however, preserving life and healing are almost nonexistent in his repertoire.
I shudder and give an aborted jerk as ice seemingly crawls through my veins. I focus on my breathing to combat the odd sensation of Death's power and try to blink away the tears still welling up. As if I need more of those! "I-I'm sorry, Death. The Demon Hound... it d-destroyed Barrymore's soul..." I try to explain, shame seeping into my already wrecked emotions, but the cloaked Entity hushes me firmly, yet gently, as he continues to encourage my ribs to mend and flesh to renew.
"You can tell me how you got into this state after I get you home and you rest."
"No, Harry. I know what you're thinking and you are not at fault for what has happened!" Death sternly cuts me off, tilting my chin up with a frigid finger. I stare up into his hooded face hesitantly, seeing only glowing, white pinpricks within the otherwise impenetrable darkness that shrouds his features. I can feel my spirit bared before him and I flinch. Death sighs softly and melancholy trickles across our bond.
"S-Sorry," I whisper and lick my chapped lips, tasting iron. Damn it! I haven't shrunk away from my Servant since the first decades of our partnership.
Death gathers me closer, mindful of my injuries, and stands with me in his arms. I will forever deny the tiny squeak that I emit. Death chuckles when I bury my face into the surprisingly soft cloth of his robes. "Don't be ashamed, Master. You are allowed to have bad days."
I huff and grip onto the dark cloak. My limbs feel like lead and my extremities are slowly going numb with cold as Death continues to feed increments of his power into me. I decide that I'm too tired to care one iota right now if I'm acting like a child. Death seems to sense my thoughts and croons wordlessly. It is an eerie, haunting sound, his version of a lullaby.
"Hadrian," Ciel's shocked voice cuts through my exhaustion like a knife, I jolt and struggle to make myself shift enough to peak at the boy. Ciel seems to be frozen in shock. Sebastian shadows the little lord, expression blank save for the Demonic fire in his gaze. Death turns to face them and I can feel his body tense, though he keeps his grasp upon me gentle. "What... what happened?" Ciel asks weakly, barely able to get the words out beneath my Servant's piercing, soul-judging stare.
I go to explain, albeit reluctantly now that exhaustion has fully claimed me, but Death once more imposes himself. I can't find the energy to care right now and just slump into him further. I'll be annoyed and snarky about how vulnerable I am later.
"My Master took it upon himself to administer justice upon the creature known as the Demon Hound." Death states matter of factly with a dismissive gesture toward the shredded corpse of said monster.
"How did Hadrian- never mind that! What do you mean 'Master'? Who are you?" Ciel questions boldly, nearly snide, but I can hear his heartbeat pick up into a desperate thrum. You know who this is, lordling. Deep down you know. I eye the duo in a detached manner born of lethargy and pain. I hadn't planned on revealing my title to them so soon, but it is not like I had any reason to keep it a secret either.
Sebastian hisses quietly and moves to partially shield his Contractor. "Young lord, do not speak to him in such a way," The Demon admonishes, sharp in his chastisement. Ciel blinks at the butler in confusion but does not try to contradict him.
"You have brushed with me several times, Ciel Phantomhive, and I am sure you shall greet me many more times before the end." Death drawls succinctly. Sebastian's magic flares at the implication, his features twisting into the possessive rage I'd seen once before. Death's hooded head then turns to stare him down and I can feel Death's ire toward the other Immortal palpably. Judging by the butler's expression he can feel it as well.
Death lets loose a growl in reply to the silent challenge. It is a dark, primal sound that rumbles through my very being. I've never heard the Entity make such a noise before, not even when annoyed. Adrenaline floods me and I freeze in Death's arms, my fight or flight response instinctively kicking in, and I try to make myself as unobtrusive as possible.
"I will not interfere with your contract, much as it pains me to leave it be," Death starts in a deliberate, calm tone. Ciel has nearly stopped breathing as he eyes my Servant warily, while Sebastian clenches his jaw but does not speak. "However," The word seems to hang in the air. "It disgusts me that you think you can cheat me. Those that have stolen or fled from me always paid a worse price for it."
"I did this of my own free will. No one forced me to." Ciel speaks up and juts his chin out in a show of defiance.
Death acknowledges the statement with a minute dip of his cowled head. "That is your right by free will. That does not mean, however, that I am still not cheated from collecting your soul, Ciel Phantomhive." My friend's tone has lost its cutting edge, simmering down into more somber, honest statements. The young Earl is human, and though tactically brilliant, does not truly understand the price he is going to pay when his quest is completed. Death continues his lecture, the ancient aura bleeding away and I, at last, begin to relax once more. "The universe has a way of balancing itself out. If I will not have your soul, then something else will happen to compensate for it."
Sebastian glowers at Death, his eyes a bright vermillion color. "I think you have overstayed your welcome, First One." The Demon's voice is politely stiff, though dark with promised violence, and I internally wince as his suspicious gaze falls upon me.
Please, Death, take me back to Headquarters. I beg through the telepathic link. I can feel the pain-not just physical- returning, slowly infiltrating through the numb fatigue I've fallen into throughout this standoff. The memories won't be silenced for long, even now I have too much time to think about Sirius and the mistakes that led to his demise. I squeeze my eyes shut and burrow closer into Death's torso.
I can feel my Servant's guilt as he adjusts his grip upon my body. "Forgive me, Master." Death murmurs. "I promise I shall not get sidetracked again."
I simply nod in reply and give in to my body's demands for rest, vision slowly going grey at the edges. Death's magic expands and sweeps around me in a swirl of mist and shadows as he teleports me away without another word. Unconsciousness claims me and, for a time, I know nothing more.
Soft, warm darkness greets me when I next open my eyes.
It only takes me a few moments to realize I'm lying upon a plush bed, heavy cotton sheet drawn up nearly to my chin. I'm in my room in the Shinigami Headquarters.
I blink muzzily and don't quite stifle the small yawn that slips free as I turn onto my side and gaze more intently into the darkness. I can just make out the faint outlines of bookshelves and a desk near the headboard. I slowly lever myself up onto my elbow but then hiss as a sharp, burning sensation flare along my side for a moment and then gradually recedes into a dull, throbbing ache.
It is only then that I notice the bandages binding my torso and the stiffness of my joints as I stretch out. I groan deep in my throat and sink back into the mattress. Classic. I swear I should have been the 'Master of Most Near-Death Experiences'! Oh, wait... I already permanently did that with Sirius!
A sardonic chuckle escapes me, followed by another and another until I am all but cackling. I ignore the pain my actions cause, even as the hysterical peals soon turn into breathless sobs. I grasp the sheets in a white-knuckled grip to try and ground myself. Salty tears trickle down my cheeks and my ribs throb dully in time with the beat of my heart. Fuck, Harry, get ahold of yourself! I berate even as I'm nearly overwhelmed. I force myself to suck in several deep, trembling breaths and silently begin counting the books lining the floor to ceiling bookshelves across the room. After about ten minutes I'm at last able to regain some semblance of control over my body and mind. I angrily wipe the tears from my face and bring a hand to cradle my side, instinctively trying to rub away the hurt.
However, the stinging truth cannot be so easily assuaged.
Exhaustion immediately sets in and seduces me back into slumber like a siren. I heed the call with open arms, obviously unable, and most certainly unwilling, to deal with the waking world just yet. I'm just about to drift off when the door cracks open, spilling light across the floorboards.
Death enters the room, his cowled figure seeming to stand out as a separate shade of black against the already dark room. "Oh, Harry," Death whispers in a hushed, pained voice. I sniffle and furiously scrub at the itchy tear tracks drying upon my cheeks and try to will myself to transfigure into the bed. The Entity glides across the floor and takes a seat at the edge of my bed. With a snap of his skeletal fingers, several orbs of fae fire appear, casting the room in a soft, golden glow. I squint for a moment until my eyes adjust and then turn my gaze toward the other.
"I remembered Sirius," I begin without permeable. "His spirit appeared before me after I destroyed the Demon Hound."
There is a contemplative silence before Death gives voice to his thoughts, his colorless eyes gleaming within the depthless hood. "The only reason why a spirit would cross into the mortal plane would be if it felt the overwhelming need to warn someone in it, or it was summoned, but only I can do that. The Resurrection Stone you bear, Harry, can only summon echoes of a person's soul, and even then it is an imperfect copy." He sighs, the sound like a hollow reed in the wind, and drums his fingers against the mattress. "You didn't use the Stone, did you?"
I wordlessly shake my head. I glance down at my hand where the ring holding the Resurrection Stone sits. I've not used the artifact in years. It nearly shattered me when I realized each time I called the shades of my past loved ones that they could barely stand being in the living realm, which affected their capacity to truly interact with me. By the time I gave up using the Stone they barely said a word to me, too weak to do more than glare after countless summons. If Death hadn't intervened when he did I know I would have tumbled into madness.
"Did Sirius do or say anything?" Death's soft inquiry breaks me from my musing.
I can't help but grimace as I recall my Godfather's blank, piercing stare. "No, he did nothing but look at me," I reply in a raspy voice. Death notices and summons a cup and pitcher of water from thin air. He pours me a glass and helps me prop myself up against the headboard without too much pain before easing the drink into my hands. I give him a tiny, grateful smile and take careful sips before setting the half-empty cup on the bedside table. "I don't understand why he was there, Death. The only thing that happened was that the apparition triggered some of my memories of the time before I became your Master." I rake my hand through my hair with an internal huff. Why must my life constantly become so complicated?
There is another long, thoughtful silence as we try to puzzle out this new oddity. I absently watch the spheres of fae fire flicker and bob as they float about the room in lazy circuits, casting specter-like shadows across the walls. A sudden hopeful thought flits through my brain and I blurt it out before I can truly process it. "C-Could Sirius be a ghost?"
I experience a moment of Deja Vu at the question as my Servant answers.
With absolute certainty in his voice, he states, "Your Godfather is not a ghost, I welcomed him into the Void and then sent him onward myself... it should not be possible for him to exist in this Dimension without you using the Stone, Master." Death clasps his hands together in his lap and turns to face me head-on. "I'm sorry, Harry, but there is no way Sirius' soul was truly manifest. I can sense him, even now, on the other side of the Veil in Paradise." His tone is achingly sympathetic and the tiny kernel of hope that had sparked is crushed in an instant.
I lower my eyes, though I can feel the Entity's weighty gaze upon me. Stupid! What did you expect? Of course, he wasn't there! Why would he want to show up after what you did to him? My conscience hisses the accusations with unconcealed contempt.
Then the tears come, burning at the edges of my eyes. I blink rapidly and press the heels of my palms into my eyes in a futile attempt to stem the emotions. "Why does it hurt so much? Why can't I just let this go?!" My shoulders tremble as the guilt and confusion threaten to once again engulf me. "You know what's funny," I ask with a mirthless, nearly insane giggle as I rip my hands away to look at Death, my voice cracking near the end. The Entity is silent, though I can sense his concern through our bond. I sniffle and try to regain some control, but it is a futile effort, for more tears slip down my face and the shame seems to become a miasma that claws through my soul as viciously as any monster. "I never got to say goodbye."
I shudder at the admission and wrap my arms around myself as if that will keep me from crumbling to pieces. My body is shaking against my will and I feel everything too much, yet I'm completely drained. I sniffle again and bite my lip to keep from breaking down into full-blown histrionics. "I never said goodbye," I repeat, a dull finality ringing in my words.
"I know," Death states simply, but the earnest empathy in that simple remark crashes through me like an ocean wave.
I give him a brittle smile, self-loathing gnawing at my spine. I've been alive for centuries, and yet I can't let go of the past. What a hypocrite I am! I had always accused Severus Snape of being too blinded by his past, and here I am doing the same damn thing!
The irony is almost laughable.
"I'm sorry, Death." I don't know if I'm apologizing for my multiple breakdowns, for losing Barrymore's soul, or for being so hung up on my lost loved ones that I can barely recall who I once was. It just feels right to try and make amends, so I apologize again and again until I'm all but sobbing the words, a dam breaking piece by piece with each tear shed. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, s-so s-sorr-sorry!"
The Entity scoots forward and wraps me in his arms, rocking me gently and whispering soothing, nonsense platitudes into my ear. "Shh, shh. I'm not upset with you, Master. Shh, it'll be alright. I'm here, Harry, right here, and I promise I will not leave you. You'll be okay." Death continues the litany till I cry myself back into unconsciousness once more.
It takes several more days of bed rest before I'm able to walk about again.
I still must wear bandages beneath my clothing so as to keep the broken ribs in line and keep the gash from getting infected.
It is annoying, but I put up with it. Death has done his best, but his powers are limited in the realm of healing, especially when it comes to cursed wounds. I'm not overly concerned, however. I know once I make a full recovery I'll be able to channel my own magic into totally vanishing the ugly scar. Till then I must go about healing the natural way.
I'm currently in the Record Archives, running my fingers along the multiple spines of ancient tomes. After my latest breakdown, I've shoved all thoughts of Sirius, my former life, and the hole in my heart deep into the recesses of my mind. I have been pouring what energy I am not using to heal into reading the Records of long-dead humans and digging up what little knowledge there is on Angels and Demons. Unfortunately, I haven't found much about the other two Immortal races that I didn't already know before. The research crowds out all the thoughts trying to vie for my ripped psyche's attention.
I'm too embarrassed to go to Death with my curiosities. Not after that final meltdown!
I pick up a book with a slightly tattered, but still no less beautiful, silver-blue binding. I blink in pleased surprise when I open it up to realize its the Record of Joan of Arc. I hum a random tune under my breath as I make my way through the shelves and into a small side room set up just for reading with a couple of tables and plush armchairs in front of a hearth that crackles with cheery flames.
I suppress a shiver as I take a seat in one of the chairs. These flames are nothing like the brilliant, cursed red of the Demon Hound's.
I curl my legs up into the seat and carefully begin to flip through the slightly brittle pages of the book in my hands, allowing myself to become lost in the brave, yet tragic tale of the French heroine.
It takes me more than an hour into the story to realize that I'm no longer alone.
I keep on reading, nonchalantly as you please, but this newcomer's magic carries a slight edge to it and it is enough to make me wary. I flick my eyes away from the pages and pin the Reaper sitting diagonally from me in the other armchair with a cold stare. There sits Grell Sutcliff, his ruby red hair falling past his thin shoulders in long waves, a hesitant smile hinting at shark-like teeth gracing his features.
Grell crosses one long leg over the other and adjusts the red glasses on the bridge of his nose, the fire reflecting in them and in the electric green eyes behind the glass. "Hello there," The Reaper chirps with a little wave of dark gloved fingers. "I've not seen you gracing Headquarters for a long while now...?" He falters for a moment when I say nothing to the subtle inquiry, but charges on as if my silence is not a deterrent at all. "How can you read without your glasses?"
I blink lazily, like a reptile, and close my book with care before setting it on the side table situated between the armchairs. "I don't need glasses to see, not anymore," I reply with a slight tilt of the head. I'm intrigued to see where this conversation is going to go.
"What?" Grell yelps in shock. "All Reapers wear glasses! How can you read or even walk about without them?"
I shrug. I figured out I could heal my eyes with me new powers about fifteen years after I mastered the Deathly Hallows. I'd felt so stupid when I realized I could have done that in the beginning. I huff a silent chuckle, confusing Grell in the process. I had almost forgotten that I used to wear spectacles once upon a time.
"I'm not exactly a normal Reaper."
Reapers are distinguished within the supernatural world by their glasses. Their eyesight is laughably poor, and their only true flaw. A Reaper without his glasses is like a Wizard or Witch without their wand. Those that betray the Shinigami Order always have their eyewear shattered so as to impede them in their ability to cause chaos. Undertaker is the only rogue I know, and he seems to get on just fine without his ability to see.
Death had a sense of ironic humor when he gave me the Master Reaper title. No wonder William always appears so stressed when I'm nearby. Probably thinks I'm going to up an burn all his files! I shake my head in amusement. That reminds me. I haven't visited Undertaker since the Jack Ripper case. I make a mental note to do so after I'm recovered fully.
Grell sniffs, his posture tensing and eyes growing cold. "Either you think you're too good to answer a simple question or you're a rogue." His voice pitches into a low, threat-laced purr near the end of his sentence and I fight back the urge to snicker. If he knew he was aggravating the same creature that had nearly torn out his appendix he would not be half so confident, I'm sure. "I could always report you to the bosses, they don't take well to traitors, you know," Grell continues, his expression slightly crazed, gaze distant as he daydreams. "That will surely cut my probation short!"
I snort. "Not likely," I mutter and make no effort to conceal my mirth as the Reaper scowls at me in indignation.
"Oh yeah, hotshot? I'll show you!" The other exclaims with all the flamboyance of a murderous peacock and leaps to his feet. The Immortal reaches out for a split second before realizing his beloved Scythe will not materialize and balls his hands into fists as he towers over my chair, a flicker of pain briefly flitting across his pale face before it is smoothly replaced with offended rage once more.
I frown at that and eye him critically. For the first time, I really notice the dark bags under Grell's eyes and the faintest of tremors betraying his stiff posture, his exhaustion mirroring my own of late. With a sigh, I use a bit of wandless magic to push the Grell back into his seat. I ignore his spluttering as I rise from my chair and edge toward him, my healer's eye taking in the subtle details of stress and pain.
"How dare you treat a lady this way! You holier-than-thou heathen! I'm going to-"
"You've been working yourself into exhaustion," I diagnose simply, cutting through Grell's tirade and shutting him up for all of five seconds.
Grell crosses his arms over his chest and looks away. "Yeah. What about it? It's not like the Divison Leaders will just up and run out of paperwork to take care of." The Immortal mutters, his tone wary, and posture defensive. "No one cares what the disgraced freak needs anyway." The last part is said so softly that I barely catch it. However, I do hear it, and it makes my blood boil.
"What did you say," I hiss, though I heard him clearly the first time, asking the question out of reflexive fury.
The red-haired male leans away from me, eyes wide behind his glasses. After several moments of bewildered silence, he suddenly stands and moves to push past me, an angry flush decorating his too-pale face. "Leave me alone, y-you uncouth barbarian." His voice wobbles with suppressed emotion, his long red hair hiding his face from me as he trains his gaze upon the floor.
"Nope. You are coming with me." I grab his elbow and steer him out of the room and through the Archives with single-minded determination.
"Let me go!" Grell shrieks as he tries to free himself. "I'll paint the halls in your blood, rogue!"
"I'm not a bloody traitor," I fling over my shoulder as I step into the hall that leads to the Division Leaders' offices. The Reapers that are out and about glance at us curiously as we pass, some with slightly starstruck expressions that make my skin crawl.
I finally reach a simple door with a slightly gilded plaque upon it proclaiming it to be the office of Division Leader, William T. Spears. I come to a halt and then politely knock upon the wood. My magic is swirling like a gale within my body, but I have too much respect for William to just barge in completely unannounced, no matter how furious I am.
The door opens to reveal the Division Leader, an irritated frown marring his face. "What is it?" He snaps harshly and then blinks when he realizes who is exactly at his door. William straightens his already impossibly rigid stance and gives a low bow at the waist. "Forgive me, my Lord."
"What?!" Grell gasps, eyes darting between the Division Leader and myself.
I ignore him and bid William rise. "I have something to discuss with you, Director Spears. Could we please talk in your office?"
"Of course." He steps aside and pulls the door wider, ushering us in. The office is simple, designed to have maximum efficiency. There are wall to wall shelves filled with all manner of files, tomes, and the occasional trinket. A large walnut desk dominates the room covered in neatly organized piles of paperwork, a large arched window illuminating the space behind it. A set of black leather wingback chairs matching the chair behind the desk completes the set.
William shuts the door with a quiet click and motions for us to sit. I drag a protesting Grell into one of the seats and then plop down myself, wincing slightly when the motion jars my wound. Note to self, change dressing when this is done. I can feel a tiny amount of blood leak through. Luckily the bandages are thick enough to stop it from staining my indigo blouse. I growl silently and direct some of my magic toward the injury to speed along the healing process. I can only use small amounts of my power until my body and magic recover, and it is starting to annoy me to my wit's end!
"What can I do for you, sir?" William asks as he resumes his seat behind the desk, eyeing Grell suspiciously all the while. "Did Reaper Sutcliff cause some new disaster?"
Before said Immortal can open his mouth I smoothly interject, "No, though I am here to discuss Grell. It has been brought to my attention that through his punishment Grell has worked himself into a state of exhaustion, which will prove deadly if it is not curbed now."
Grell's head snaps toward me so fast I swear I can hear the vertebra crack. His face shows nothing but shock even as his tense position slowly melts into an undignified slump, further confirming my analysis.
William looks the redhead over with his usual blank expression, but I can glean the faintest traces of worry in his magic. He leans back with a weary sigh and rubs the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. "I admit that doing paperwork is a tired and stressful job, but it should not cause this level of fatigue, especially not with proper breaks and meals."
Grell ducks his head at that and clasps his hands together in his lap. I lean closer and once again examine him. Now that I know what I'm looking for the signs of prolonged lassitude are much easier to spot. The way he looks reminds me too much of my days in the abusive Dursley household. Those memories will forever haunt me and it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when I think back upon them.
"You were a right bastard for what you did to those innocent women," I remark in a flat voice, "But I don't condone you being harrassed in the slightest." I catch William's sharp intake of breath at the word, 'harassment', but keep my attention focused solely on the redhead. "When was the last time you ate or slept?"
The Reaper shrugs. "About two days ago I think. My Overseer was very... adamant that I get all the work done..." Grell mumbles tiredly.
A wordless snarl escapes my throat at the implications. "Did he hurt you?" My words are edged with hoarfrost. I can feel the phantom sensation of wings burn across my shoulder blades, the Angelic side of my powers longing to protect, apparently not minding the who. I will never abide by abuse, not even that of former enemies! Hell, I even pitied Voldemort when I found out about his upbringing!
Grell flinches as the temperature drops but answers with a single nod, swallowing hard as he moves his long hair aside and begins unbuttoning the top two buttons of his shirt to show a faint bruise in the shape of fingerprints where his neck connects to the shoulder, the trapezius area.
I whirl to face William who has the same stunned expression as Grell. "Who is in charge of overseeing Grell's punishment?" The shelves rattle as my magic briefly slips from my control.
The Division Leader adjusts his spectacles as he meets my gaze. "Would you like me to get him?" He inquiries flatly. I nod and William rises from his chair and is out the door in record time.
I lean back in my chair and take a deep breath, slowly reigning in my magic to a more calm state. I can feel Grell's eyes boring into the side of my head, but I ignore him until I safely have my powers back under control. The temperature is still below normal, but now there is less chance of ice forming on the furniture.
"Why are you doing this?"
"I will never stand by abuse, no matter who it is."
There is silence for a while as we wait for William to return. Finally, Grell tentatively asks, "You're not a deserter or traitor are you?" I glance at him and he shifts in his seat uncomfortably as he buttons his shirt back up.
I smirk and shake my head. "You should never assume anything about anyone based on first impressions. I did tell you that I'm not a normal Reaper."
"Heh, heh..." Grell sheepishly fiddles with his glasses. He becomes serious a moment later, frowning thoughtfully as he examines me again. "So, what are you then? I've seen you around the Archives before, but never for long."
Before I can answer the office door is opened by William followed by a Reaper with cropped blond hair and wearing a suit similar to William's. Grell seems to shrink in his chair at the look of disdain thrown his way by the newcomer and once again I have to force myself to keep my powers under lock and key. I get to my feet and take a step forward, subtly shielding Grell and drawing the blond's eyes toward me.
"My Lord, this is Division Leader-"
"I don't care to know his name," I cut William off curtly. William inclines his head and swiftly moves toward his desk, having enough sense to be away from my direct line of fire. I then turn my attention onto the wary newcomer and bare my teeth in a smile that is anything but welcoming. "You and I have a few things we need to discuss."
The Reaper's eyes meet mine before darting across the room as if searching for backup or possible escape roots. His phosphorescent eyes land on Grell and he sneers. "What did that freak do this time?"
The window shatters and files are flung off their perches as my body moves of its own accord, slamming the fool into the door with my forearm pinning him to it in a chokehold. My magic swirls around the room in almost visible patterns, my control well, and truly crumbled in my rage. All because of that one, terrible little word.
"That was the stupidest thing you could have done." My voice is dark, the Wendigo embodiment trying to make itself known as my thoughts turn quite...violent.
My captive struggles to pry my arm away from his windpipe, fingers scrabbling uselessly at the wood behind him and the arm crushing him to it. His green eyes are wide with panic, mouth open in a silent scream, trying in vain to get a gulp of air as I apply just the slightest amount of pressure.
"M-My Lord?" Part of me is surprised to hear the faint quiver in William's usually monotone voice.
"I despise the word, freak," I patiently explain, not taking my eyes off the rapidly paling Immortal under my grasp. "I've yet to kill any Immortals other than low ranked Demons," I muse. "I wonder if I should branch out?" My captive's eyes go comically wide and he frantically looks over his shoulder to where William and Grell stand, pleading even as I apply yet more force. Just as he is about to pass out I remove my arm from his throat and take a step back. The Reaper slides to the floor, drawing in ragged gasps as his body shakes.
I blow out a long breath and yet again call my magic back into my Core, purposely ignoring that this will set my healing back if this keeps happening. I turn to face my companions once the magic settles back beneath my skin. William stands beside his desk, face unreadable save for the faint perspiration on his brow, the only indication that he's rattled.
Grell, on the other hand, is a completely open book. His jaw is hung agape and his pupils blown wide behind his glasses. He's still in the winged back chair, though completely curled up into it in a more defensive position. Shards of glass litter the desk and floor, sparkling like diamonds in the lights, and papers have been flung across the room in messy heaps.
I flick the Elder Wand out of the holster upon my wrist and wave it around the room with a muttered, "Reparo." The papers and files sort themselves neatly back into their appropriate places and the broken glass rises into the air to merge with the rest still left in the panel until its one seamless pane again. "My apologies, Reaper Spears."
"Thank you for repairing my office, my Lord."
I hear the doorknob slowly begin to turn and whirl around and snap off an "Incarcerous," and ropes immediately wrap around the fleeing Division Leader, sending him faceplanting into the hard, marble floor. "I trust you to take care of this bastard, William. In the meantime, I'm going to go speak with Death about monitoring our Reapers better."
"Of course, sir." William murmurs and steps past me, dragging his bound co-worker out of the door threshold with a severe scowl upon his lips. "This is going to cause so much paperwork!"
"Have Grell help you with it after he's rested," I order, "It can finish up the rest of his probation period."
"What, really?!" Said redhead squeaks, shooting out of his chair in a mixture of disbelief and excitement.
"Mm-hmm. I figured it would be alright to begin easing you back into full Reaper status again. However, you won't get your Scythe back until I know for certain that you will follow the rules and not cause another massacre!"
Grell briefly turns into a bobblehead with how furiously he nods. Well, at least I know he's enthusiastic about wanting to attempt to appease. I turn on my heel and start out the door when the Reaper calls me back.
"I never did learn what you are... or your name for that manner." Grell crosses his arms over his chest and raises an eyebrow.
"Try the Master of Death." I deadpan.
"No seriously, just tell me."
"He's not lying, Sutcliff. Hadrian is also known as the Master Reaper for the last two hundred years since arriving in this Dimension." William interjects with the faintest uptilt of his lips at his subordinate's dumbfounded expression. "He is also the same creature that stopped you from killing Angelina Duress." He helpfully adds.
Grell just gapes at me. After several speechless moments, he finally seems to recover himself. "Y-You defended me! Why? I thought you hated me?" Grell flings his arms out, incredulous and maybe a little apprehensive of my answer.
Despite myself, I throw my head back and laugh. "Oh, hate is a very strong word. I currently strongly dislike you."
"T-Then why...?" Grell looks lost as he inquires, hunching in upon himself as he waits for my verdict.
I rake my fingers through my wild, black hair and take a few seconds to find the right words before speaking. "I hate you being mistreated while already paying for your crimes even more. Death, William, and I are the judges, no one else!" I glare at the bound blond Reaper to emphasize my point. "I may end up growing to like you, Grell." And isn't that a strange sentence to say! "But you must prove that I can trust you! You being hurt does not settle well with me, even if your actions were damning." I say this as stern as I'm able to without coming across as patronizing.
"You are very strange."
"I know I'm a walking contradiction," I shrug with a wry grin curving at my mouth, repeating Death's words when I first discovered my new abilities. "Over seven hundred years of living has made me less likely to hold a grudge... or keep one for too long at least, wastes too much time in my opinion."
Grell just stares at me blankly while William goes about organizing his papers, giving a great impression of not eavesdropping.
"Welp," I say popping the 'p', "I'm off now, for real this time. Grell, you get some rest and don't give William any trouble." I glare at the redhead, but my playful undertone softens the warning. "William, watch out for Grell please, and make sure to let me know if you need help with any other scumbags that pop up." The stoic Division Leader dips his head in assent. I spin on my heel and stroll out of the office with a chipper, "Ciao!"
"Hey! When will I get my Scythe back?!" Grell hollers after my retreating form with William's exasperated groan following a millisecond later.
"Dunno," I toss back and snicker as Grell's enraged shriek reverberates throughout the corridor.
Sorry, it's been forever and a day since my last update!
I honestly did not intend for this chapter to go the way it did, but the characters literally took over and decided to write themselves for a while! XD
Next chapter I plan on having more Harry and Death conversations and showcasing a bit on Harry learning to control his new Angelic side!
Hope y'all enjoyed it! Please let me know your thoughts and any CONSTRUCTIVE criticism you may have!
Blessing and Favor!
P.S: Every comment keeps the Abyss from slowly consuming your soul with my neediness! ; )