A note about the timeline: this story takes place in 2001, following events in their canonical time frame on the HP side of things. The KHR timeline, however, is shifted 10 years to the past, so Reborn goes to tutor Tsuna in 1994, rather than 2004. We begin four years after the Battle of Hogwarts and seven years after the Curse of the Rainbow Arc.
Story Warnings: There will be canon-compliant cursing and violence, as well as SLASH ROMANCE. This chapter contains some cursing.
Disclaimer: If you recognize any terms, characters, or concepts, that's because they don't belong to me.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sawada Tsunayoshi was most definitively not hiding, nor was he drowning his worries in drink. No, he was simply nursing a few sips of aged scotch in the peaceful solitude of the linen closet on the third floor of Vongola Mansion. Really. Because no student of Reborn's would be suicidal enough to do something as silly and cowardly as hide in the collective face of only a dozen other mafia bosses.
No, what Tsuna was doing was giving his guardians some valuable experience in handling important political affairs with potentially devastating fallout in his absence. Right. Reborn would be proud, really. This was precisely the sort of thing he did.
"Oh god I'm gonna die," Tsuna whimpered pitifully.
"Not before I murder you, trash," came a low, rasping growl from just outside the door. Tsuna jumped in fright, choked on a mouthful of scotch, and banged his head on the shelf above him. The door creaked open ominously and there stood Xanxus in all his wrathful glory. He reached in and snagged a fist in the collar of Tsuna's shirt, dragging him out of the closet and down the hall.
"You think you can just foist your responsibilities on me, huh? Fuck that, you chose to contest my claim as Decimo, now you can deal with the consequences like a man."
"Wait, Xanxus, please I can't do this, don't make me do this! Oh my god, who thought it'd be a good idea for me to take the lead in this conference?"
"Oh please. It's not like anything important is ever discussed at bullshit events like these. You just smile and remember everyone's name and try not to offend them, and we might just make it out of this without a new blood feud."
"No, no, it's not that easy! Xanxus, listen, do you know who's coming?! There are lots of important guests who will probably get really beaten up as collateral damage because Mukuro is here, and Hibari is here, and Byakuran too, not to mention Levi and Belphegor and they're all gonna try to kill each other and–!"
"Oi, watch your goddamned mouth. The Varia knows how to behave at political events. Maybe your little mutts will even learn a thing or two about quality from us."
"Perfect! All the more reason for you to take over!"
"Fuck that. You know what heading one of these things means? No booze for the duration."
Tsuna stared in horror, and Xanxus actually cracked a grin. Granted, it was a demented, sadistic grin, but there it was.
"Yup. Servants are under orders to provide you with sparkling cider the whole time."
Outside on the lawn, the newly arriving mafia groups paused as a tormented howl echoed across the manor.
Hayato's fingers itched to light up a cigarette, but he knew he couldn't spare the time to enjoy a smoke. There was so much still to be done, and families were already arriving! Damn it, the conference didn't start for a whole hour, so why the hell were they here?! He vaguely recalled Coyote Nougat mentioning to him that various famiglie had the tendency of arriving early to mingle before more serious business – insofar as truly serious affairs were ever really discussed at the conference – but he had dismissed it as exaggeration; why would prideful Mafiosi arrive so early and appear so eager? But damned if the man hadn't been right, and damn Hayato himself for not listening.
"Oi, have the servers take champagne out to the lawn! You, bring chairs out for infirm and elderly guests! Turf top, go out and greet the guests with the baseball freak! And damn it, when will the meal be finished?!"
"Oya, oya, Hayato, why so worked up?" a chilling, disembodied voice echoed in his ear.
"Shi–! Mukuro, damnit, stop creeping around! And make yourself useful, can't you see we've got a crisis on our hands?! The guests are arriving an hour ahead of time, the dinner's not ready and the tables aren't set, there's no entertainment or refreshments on the lawn, and the Tenth's nowhere to be found!"
"Kufufufu, as much as I'd like to help out, I'm already doing my part to keep Kyoya occupied and away from the guests. Hence the, ah, current delitescence. He's become quite energetic lately, has –"
"TENTH! I'm coming, hold on!"
Verde found it terribly unfortunate that his presence had been 'heavily recommended' at the Annual Vongola Alliance Conference this year. Really, hadn't these barbarians any concept of the intricacies of scientific experimentation, of the necessity of his presence in overlooking them? So many variables, so many developments, so much potential for error, and even a moment's absence or presence could prove crucial in averting disaster or discovering a miracle.
And yet here he was, forced to…mingle with these common minds for hours for the sake of the research funds provided to him by the Vongola Alliance. The scientist heaved a tremendous, put-upon sigh. It was so troublesome to be in such high demand. Well, he conceded, there were a scant few other minds worth conferring with. That pair of weapons designers from Vongola, for instance. What were their names again? Giovanni and Sprinkler? Something like that. Their creations would make for adequate discussion, as would the newest program designed by that quaint redhead of the Gesso. Even the Vongola's new Storm Guardian was able to provide decent philosophical conversation. So perhaps the trip could be redeemed after all, if only they would cease their interacting with lesser minds, and if only that damnable mist brat would stop casting fruit illusions around him…!
Verde grit his teeth and forcibly calmed himself, a flick of his hand dispelling the apples fox-trotting before his eyes. Such base illusions would never hold before the mental fortitude of a genius of his caliber. He spared a brief glare for the mint-haired teenager staring at him from across the lawn, making a mental note to prepare a…gift for the child. Something suitably toxic, like arsenic, or cyanide, or perhaps a cocktail of both.
Lethal formulas synthesizing themselves in the back of his mind, Verde turned his attention back to the road, where more cars were appearing. It was only just nearing time that the conference might soon begin, but all allied families arrived early to socialize and strengthen bonds.
Among the copious, faceless masses, only a few stood with any distinction. There was the Palachov Don with the Giegue, and those plebian fools from the Tomaso, and the inimitable Leilei brothers. Trad 6 had yet to make a showing, but Verde supposed this was understandable, considering the recent disappearance of the don's niece.
The Cavallone, Simon, Gesso, and Giglio Nero were already here – a day early, as expected of Vongola's closest allies – and Los Seis Brazos from Nicaragua had shown at the same time as the Torego. Alessio Montelli and Mirella Fierro, head secretaries to the Prime Minister and President of Italy, respectively, had arrived two days prior under disguise and with CEDEF escorts. All of the Arcobaleno had arrived as well, but for that one arrogant bastard.
Ah, it seemed Reborn had finally deigned to show up, and–
Dino had been thoroughly enjoying his conversation with Squalo and Naito Longchamp. Or rather, he had been chatting lightly with Squalo when the young boss of the Tomaso came waddling up, bowlegged and swaying, and promptly began jovially spewing utter nonsense in the Varia commander's face, to Dino's undying amusement.
He knew, of course, how desperately Squalo hated events like these. The man had never cared for paltry things like 'words' or 'diplomacy,' but knew that they were necessary to maintain Vongola's reputation. It was strain enough for the swordsman to minimize his cursing and lower his voice in polite company, but it was quite frankly a miracle he had yet refrained from brandishing his sword at the complete gibberish the Tomaso don was obliviously babbling.
Dino snickered at Squalo's reddening face and lips pinched to keep from bellowing something like 'Dumbass!' or 'Moron!' or 'Go suck face with a wild tiger!' He took a sip of champagne – he was rather impressed by the speed with which the servers were now distributing the glasses through the crowd, but that was Vongola for you, after all – when he glanced in the direction of the new arrivals.
He promptly choked on his drink, hacking unpleasantly and then groaning in pain as Squalo took it upon himself to clear Dino's throat with a hearty smack to his back.
"Voi, the f-heck happened to you, Cavallone?"
He could only gesture weakly in the direction of the line of black, tinted sedans, one of which had just deposited Reborn – with a guest.
Poor Boss, Chrome thought sympathetically. She had heard his screech of misery and come running, only to find him huddled in a corner with Xanxus laughing above him. Business as usual, really, but unpleasant business all the same. She had quietly interposed herself between the two leaders and gently led Boss away and into a lounge just in time for Bomb-man to come rushing in, red-faced and completely disarrayed and wailing for Boss.
He had been horrified by Boss' twitchy, neurotic form, and was currently trying – with marginal success – to convince Boss that the no alcohol rule for the leader of the conference was actually quite necessary, particularly in Boss' case. Chrome remembered with a faint blush the last time Boss had imbibed out of nervousness. She hadn't realized he knew so many pick-up lines, nor that he was willing to test them out on anyone and everyone his eyes had alighted upon.
So Chrome was actually quite grateful for that customary rule, which if she recalled had been instated after Vongola Fourth had tried to drunkenly cajole the other dons into a game of Risk, using their real territories as barter.
She was just about to mention to Boss that he could get as drunk as he wanted after the conference when Bomb-man froze, paled then reddened and then went a sickly green as he touched the microphone ear piece that he had been using to coordinate the event with the mansion staff.
"What do you mean Reborn brought a plus-one?! This completely deranges the seating arrangements! He never brings a guest along! Shit, shit, damn that man's goddamn chaos!"
And with that, Bomb-man hastily kissed Boss' ring finger, gripped Chrome by the shoulders and said in a very grim tone, "I leave the Tenth's well-being in your hands, Dokuro."
She could only nod timidly.
Timoteo was thrilled. The conference hadn't even officially begun yet and it was already shaping up to be a grand old time. He was positively enjoying his light conversation with the young Uni Giglio Nero and her blond bodyguard, and it was always a pleasure to see the Leilei brothers again – such wonderful tales they spun!
In all his years, he had never thought to have the pre-conference out on the lawn. Admittedly, he was quite sure the development was accidental on the part of the Decimo Guardians, but it was a pleasant happenstance nonetheless, particularly considering the cooperating weather. They were certainly making the best of the setback, as well; almost immediately upon allowing Nougat to take a bit of his weight, a server had appeared with a surprisingly comfortable fold-up chair and table, garnished with a dozen flutes of champagne and a plate of fine cheese and fruit.
A glance around the lawn told him these small refreshment tables were being set up at every gathering, and yet more servers were weaving their way through the crowd, collecting used glasses and providing guests with more. Yes, young Tsunayoshi's administration was proving itself to be quite adaptable.
And Reborn had simply outdone himself this time. There was nothing better to promote amity among a group of volatile criminal lords than a good old mystery! Already, the crowd was closing in together, the small, individual pods of conversation melding into one as his family's allies bantered and conjectured. Even his guardians behind him were murmuring among themselves. A lover, an apprentice? A new partner, or simply a friend?
No answer seemed forthcoming; Reborn had, naturally, timed his arrival to coincide promptly with the doors opening to the mansion, an announcement for dinner echoing across the lawn. Reborn and his guest wove their way expertly through the crowd, diverting questions with non-answers and leaving a sea of disgruntled, curious faces in their wake. Timoteo offered the pair a genial smile and nod when they passed by, receiving a charmingly lopsided grin from the guest and a smug smirk from his old friend.
Quite wonderful, indeed.
Iemitsu Sawada was less than thrilled with this development. All invitees to the conference were allowed a guest, of course, and Reborn was no exception, but damn it all, couldn't the man have let Iemitsu know ahead of time? Having relinquished his position as Head of CEDEF to Basil and instead taking on the role of Head of Security, it was his job to scrutinize every guest on Vongola's grounds!
But no, not a word to Iemitsu that a potential threat had just insinuated itself into their midst. Of course Reborn was certainly capable of determining threats all on his own, but neglecting to share his guest's presence with Iemitsu was a slap to the face, an implication that he was unnecessary and incapable of performing his duty.
It further raised his hackles when Signora Mirella Fierro, the President's secretary, approached the guest and began murmuring to him in an undertone, as though genuinely familiar with the boy. She was new to the job, and likely didn't realize that simply lowering her voice wasn't enough to discourage eavesdroppers; most accomplished Mafiosi were also accomplished lip readers.
Although perhaps Iemitsu was out of practice. It almost looked like she was thanking him on behalf of the president, for the 'broom and the riding lessons.'
Mammon took one look at Reborn's mysterious guest and sniffed.
Reborn had never had such difficulty keeping the grin from his lips. Throughout the meal he scanned surreptitiously around the room and saw every eye glance at least once in the direction of his little guest, each Mafioso simply burning with curiosity. Even the younger generation, which was not quite so familiar as the elder with his predilection towards solitude, seemed to be centering their conversations on speculation over his companion.
Yes, things were going quite well. His arrival had made just the stir he had hoped it would, and as a bonus had drawn attention away from Dame-Tsuna's unforgivably obvious nervousness – that would have to be rectified. Well, he had let them all stew in intolerable wondering for long enough. Dinner was almost over, after all, and he supposed they would probably need to know his guest's identity before more sensitive topics could be broached.
Reborn languidly rose up out of his seat, and a tap to his guest's shoulder had the younger man doing the same. There was no need to clear his throat or clink his glass for attention; conversation had died down immediately upon their movements.
Despite the burning gazes, Reborn took his time. His lips curled into a smirk, his easy confidence overshadowing his companion's stiffness. That would have to be rectified as well.
"I suppose introductions are in order. This is Harry, my grandson. Treat him well, will you?"
Yeah, so I apologize to all Italians for the rather blatant insinuation that your government rubs elbows with vigilante mafia syndicates. Artistic license?
Please note that this chapter takes begins one week before the previous one. I'm afraid you'll have to wait a bit longer before the 'reactions' chapter (I regret nothing).
Warning for vaguely confusing non-linearity.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Safe and secluded in the faintly run-down Palermo apartment, Reborn allowed himself a brief sigh and loosened his tie. It had been some time since a job had actually posed a challenge, and as much as he had enjoyed the adrenaline rush, it was always nice to wash his hands of…nasty business. But, now that it was done, his schedule was cleared for the Vongola Alliance meeting next week.
He chuckled darkly to himself; it would be the first of the major annual meetings with Dame-Tsuna in charge. It was always fun to fluster the boy– well, man, Reborn supposed; he was twenty-one now, after all, and finally starting to look like it. He hummed thoughtfully, then amended himself. Tsuna still looked like a teenager, just a particularly striking one. He chuckled again, anticipating seeing his former student again next Saturday. Or was it Friday?
Glancing at the calendar mounted above a dusty desk to confirm the date, Reborn frowned in brief consternation before understanding.
Ah. Seventeen months out of date. Not particularly surprising; this was Reborn's least favorite alternative residence, and he visited here with relative infrequency. Too many memories.
Disregarding the old paper calendar, he turned instead to his phone to review his coming appointments. The hitman was just settling onto the dusty old sofa in the sparse living room when a sharp staccato rap echoed from the door. Reborn froze, tensing. He was quite sure no one had seen him enter, and he was equally sure this apartment was still unconnected to the greatest hitman in the world, so there was really no reason for his instincts to be tingling at him the way they were.
He approached the door, ears primed to recognize any voices or pick up the tell-tale sound of weapons being handled, but all he could hear was the vague shuffling of nervous feet on the ratty carpeting in the hallway. Reborn did nothing so plebian as squint through the peephole, and swiftly pulled the door open.
There in the hall, staring up at him through rather thick and unflattering round lenses, was a short young man with a horrible mess of dark hair and the brightest green eyes Reborn had seen in – well, decades, perhaps? He could not quite recall, but was momentarily overtaken by the breathless feeling of having seen precisely those eyes before.
Rather than contemplate further, and seeing as the man was still staring up at him uneasily, Reborn confronted him. "Well? Your business? If you're selling something, I'm not interested."
"Ah, no," he said. "I – I'm looking for someone. A man. Um, you don't know a 'Renato Sinclair,' do you?"
Reborn did not stop to think. He pulled out his pistol and fired.
Two months prior
Under ordinary circumstances, Hermione Jane Granger would never be caught in such a– a distasteful situation, but, well, her boys were her boys, after all, and as such, completely useless when it came to such things, she contemplated as she peeled another cobweb from her face. Truly, she mused, brushing a spider off her knee and crawling deeper into the darkness, she was just too good to them. Really, she considered, her hand falling unfortunately into some unidentifiable puddle of slimy goo, they owed her big time.
Just because she happened to be the slightest bit smaller than either of them wasn't cause to relegate her to crawling around in tiny, dirty old attics whose doors were too narrow to admit their broader shoulders. They were wizards for Merlin's sake! But then, inevitably, came Ron's complaints about spiders, and Harry fretting over some ridiculous newly-acquired dust allergy, which Hermione just knew was complete bollocks, as Bubble-head charms existed for a reason and–
Well. A fair bit of complaining and arguing ensued, and the dirty deed was left to loser of a game of stone-cloak-wand.
Hermione huffed a bit over the lighted wand clutched between her teeth. She glanced around and reached the conclusion that she was situated as near to the center of the attic as the clutter would allow. Flicking her wand up at the ceiling, an undulating glob of light siphoned off the tip and floated up to the rafters, where it attached itself and cast a pale blue glow around the small room. She grimaced; there was a noticeable trail through the thick dust that coated the floor where she had crawled, and a similar layer covered all the boxes, trunks, and bags surrounding her.
Another brief glance confirmed that there were no valuables or delicates laying about haphazardly – at least someone in that family had some common sense – so she felt free to cast the single most powerful cleaning charm in her arsenal. Another dozen sweeps of her wand had the belongings all shrunken and stored in her pockets, and Hermione scrambled back to the small entryway and out into the house-proper.
Where no one awaited her. Hermione huffed again, becoming increasingly frustrated with her precious boys, before storming back into the master bedroom where they had found a hidden stash of comic books from the fifties, which Ron had taken an immediate liking to and which Harry was equally interested in examining. Sure enough, she found the pair sprawled across the large bed surrounded by comic books in plastic sleeves.
"Really now, boys, we've only got the rest of the day and tomorrow to finish up with this place, and we won't if you keep fooling around!" she groused.
"I'm exploring history, Hermione," the Savior of the Wizarding World protested.
"Superman isn't history, Harry."
"About ten million people would disagree with you, there," he pointed out, finally putting the comic down and carefully reinserting it into its plastic cover.
"Which is still a global minority," Hermione sniffed. "Ron, that's quite enough. Help me un-shrink these." She emptied her pockets of the two dozen boxes and trunks, and Harry groaned.
"Bloody hell, that attic was supposed to be, what, two hundred square feet? How in the name of Merlin's gym socks did my grandmother fit these in there?"
"Well, she had a witch for a daughter, didn't she?" Ron reasoned, flicking a few finite incantatems at the trunks.
"Ooh, what's this one, important documents?" Hermione exclaimed, thrilled by the find. "Maybe wills, or birth certificates, even a journal or two… How exciting!"
"Uh-huh," Harry enthused, poking around a trunk packed to the brim with old fur coats.
"Hey, Harry, 's there anyone you need to find a birthday gift for? Your gran had some nice silverware," Ron mused. Harry nodded; that sounded perfect for Andromeda. He opened his mouth to say as much when he was cut off by a sudden gasp from Hermione's direction. The witch scrambled over to him and shoved a thin packet of papers in his face. Harry grunted and leaned back, then let out a startled gasp of his own when he read the first lines on the coversheet.
Petition for Divorce
By request of Mr. William Frank Evans, conceded to Mrs. Violet Katharine Evans
For reason of infidelity
17 May 1959
Ron let out a low whistle. "Trouble in paradise." Harry frowned.
"But I'm sure they weren't divorced," he said, confused. "I mean, surely that would have been obvious when Aunt Petunia used to talk about them, right? But she never let on that they ever had any problems like this…" Not that she used to speak about them with great frequency; Petunia's regard for her parents, who had so lavished love and attention on Lily, was only marginally higher than it was for Lily herself.
It was for this reason that Harry was even here at his maternal grandparents' house in the first place. They had died many years ago, when Harry was barely four, and their house had remained empty of habitation for decades. Petunia had taken the fine china and damask tablecloths from the kitchen and had left the rest to gather dust in the house long since paid for, unwilling to take on the hassle of selling the place or sorting through it.
And now Harry – finally able to dedicate some time to inspecting his family's estates after the four years of stressful political appearances, hectic Auror training, and advanced unit specialization since Voldemort's defeat – was spending a week-long vacation visiting old family properties on both sides. He had opted to save this one for last while awaiting confirmation from Petunia – via Dudley as proxy – that she had no more interest in the property therein.
But wow, just. Harry couldn't help but snicker; finding this sort of scandal would have thrilled his aunt more than any treasure. He scanned the document further. Apparently, his grandmother had had a brief affair while his grandfather was away on a very prolonged business venture– wait. Harry's eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat. Not his grandfather, because a child had apparently resulted from the affair, which must have been the reason it was even discovered in the first place. He glanced at the date once more. May 17, 1959, this was filed. Mum was born on January 30, 1960.
Harry wasn't an Evans at all.
Two months later
A stroke of luck had Harry noticing the tall, dark man tense for a brief moment before his arm became a blur of motion, whipping into his jacket to draw out a matte black pistol. Harry, running on pure instinct, twisted to the side and ducked in close under the man's arm to evade the bullet.
"Please! I just want to talk!" Harry yelped, scrambling backwards as the man pushed forward. He barely dodged the pistol aiming to crush into his temple, but fell clumsily to the man's sharp ankle cut. Harry tumbled to the ground and the man pursued him, gripping his collar and flipping him onto his front, before dragging him back to his feet, wrists crushed in the grip of the man's hand and his head tilted back by the press of a cold metal muzzle to his chin.
Harry tried to force himself to relax into the hold, tried to project placating thoughts – not an enemy, want to talk, don't hurt me – and allowed himself to be walked backwards into the man's apartment, where he was promptly spun around once again and pinned to the door.
"How do you know that name." Harry swallowed. The man's voice, which had previously been low and smooth and faintly irritated, was now cold and entirely free of intonation. His eyes were hard and dark in the shadow of his fedora.
"He's my grandfather."
Six weeks prior
Harry did not enjoy coming to Gringotts these days. Every step he made within the bank was attended by a full contingent of armed, snarling guards who fingered their blades and gnashed their teeth at him. While they considered his having killed Voldemort (who had murdered dozens of goblins) as sufficient reparation for having robbed them, they could not forgive the insult of it, nor would they ever trust him again, both of which they were unnecessarily blatant about. Ron and Hermione suffered the same treatment and were always willing to commiserate with him; even to this day, any two or the three of them together were banned from entering the bank.
So yes, Harry preferred to avoid Gringotts whenever possible, and usually sent his key in with a trusted friend when he needed money instead. Unfortunately, for matters related to bloodline persistence, his physical presence was demanded. Hence the armed guard, Harry grimaced in disgruntlement.
And then he was grimacing in pain, because the goblin teller had just roughly sliced through his palm with a ragged stone knife. He briefly contemplated protesting – he distinctly recalled Hermione mentioning that the ritual required only the prick of a finger – but opted to hold his tongue in the face of the sneering goblin, daring him to make a move when surrounded by such hostility. Harry schooled his features and nodded for the creature to continue. Its sneer deepened before a thin veneer of professionalism returned, and it shook a small drop of Harry's blood off of the blade into a stone bowl filled with some herbal poultice he could not identify.
After quickly mixing the droplet in, the goblin poured a small well of ink into the bowl. Rather than merge together with the poultice, however, it simply rested above it, like oil separating from water. The goblin ran a long, crooked finger in a curious pattern around the rim of the bowl, then tilted it to let the ink run onto the parchment on the table.
Harry watched, enthralled, as the ink spider-webbed across the page, curling and looping and spreading. There was the name on his birth certificate, blooming in an elaborate scrawl, followed by his parents' above that, and their parents' names above those. James Potter, born of Charlus Potter and Dorea Black, and Lily Evans, born of Renato Sinclair and Violet Livingston.
Harry breath left him in a rush. There it was, confirmation of the evidence that had confronted him a week ago. His grandmother, Violet, had an affair with this 'Renato Sinclair' in 1959. William Evans wasn't his grandfather, wasn't Lily's father. Lily was only Petunia's half sister. He wondered if either of the girls had known, but he doubted it. The divorce papers had never been signed, for one reason or another, left in a box and forgotten in the attic, and Lily had apparently been raised and loved as William's own daughter. A perfect, happy solution. And yet…
And yet, Harry wondered who Renato Sinclair was.
Six weeks later
Reborn froze, pure shock surging through him. He cursed himself as he felt his lip twitch in surprise before he schooled himself once again. He dug his Beretta deeper into the man's throat.
"What sort of bullshit are you spouting, boy?" he growled. The other's eyes were blown wide and Reborn could see his pulse fluttering wildly in his throat, but his face remained still and attentive. Reborn was grudgingly impressed; there were very few people who could face his full intensity without wetting themselves.
"None," the man asserted. His voice was even, if a little hoarse from the press of the gun. "I recently found an incomplete divorce file belonging to my grandparents. My grandmother had an affair with Renato Sinclair, and my mother came of it. The divorce was never finalized, but a family tree has my mother's father listed as Renato Sinclair." The kid swallowed, then licked his lips, but his eyes never wavered from Reborn's. "My parents died a long time ago. I just wanted to meet him out of curiosity. I don't want or need anything from him."
Reborn stared intently at the boy pinned to his wall. He had certainly reveled in his own sensuality in his youth, and he certainly lain with married women in that time, but…
"How did you find this apartment."
"I– we couldn't find any record of Renato. It's like he completely disappeared after he turned ten, but this is the forwarding address for Beitris Sinclair, Renato's mother. Even though it isn't held under the name Sinclair, ownership of this place hasn't changed for decades, not since the forwarding address was established. I thought it was a good place to start."
Four weeks prior
"Ah, Mister Potter, we meet finally," the Italian Minister for Magic greeted him jovially in English. Harry grinned at the man, shaking his hand. Only entered into office in the last year, Harry had not yet met Titus Quintelli at one of the obnoxious annual meetings Kingsely insisted he still attend. Still, he had heard good things about the man's progressive approach to werewolf rights, which automatically placed him higher in Harry's books.
"Minister Shacklebolt tells me you require the assistance of my administration in locating a relative of yours, yes? This is surely a simple favor, but perhaps an exchange would not be amiss…?" And then he pulled out a snitch and a quill and Harry's grin slipped slightly, before forcing it brighter and scrawling his signature across the delicate fluttering wings of the ball.
Quintelli's eyes lit up with boyish delight. "Excellent, excellent. Now then, if you'd just tell me the name, I will set my secretary to the search while we have lunch, yes?"
"Renato Sinclair," Harry recited. "A Sinclair family apparently immigrated here from Scotland decades ago, and there's no record of a 'Renato' Sinclair having been born in Scotland, not around the time I'm looking for, so I thought perhaps he was born here."
Quintelli gave a sharp nod, sent off a memo to his secretary, and, with a jovial arm around Harry's shoulder, guided him into the elevator.
Well, Harry contemplated, that could have gone much worse. And having thought such, it did indeed become worse.
An hour after lunch while touring the Italian ministry's facilities in Rome, they received word that one Renato Sinclair had indeed been born in Italy to Scottish immigrant Beitris Sinclair and an unnamed father in 1932. Unfortunately, with that birth certificate came the death certificates of both Beitris and her son in 1942. Harry frowned, examining the memo containing copies of the documents.
"'Unfortunate accident?' That's rather vague, isn't it?" Harry wondered. Quintelli hummed thoughtfully.
"This is true; even documents much older will usually list a more… ah, specific cause of death. Such vagueness, we see when there is something to hide." Again, Quintelli's eyes were alight with interest; he appeared enthralled by the potential mystery, and Harry grinned despite himself at the man's enthusiasm.
"The Sinclairs are an old Pureblood family, right? They do seem to tend toward secrecy."
"Were," Quintelli corrected. "They apparently came to our country from Scotland to… em, be better? To rejuvenate. They were dying, and came here for new blood, new wealth. But they failed, you see? This Beitris, she was the only heiress, now gone."
"But she had Renato," Harry argued. "And Renato couldn't have died, because he lived long enough for my mother to be born!"
Four weeks later
Reborn's mouth thinned. Shit, shit! He couldn't believe he had forgotten a detail like that. He thought he had thoroughly erased even the slightest evidence of the existence of Renato Sinclair when he became an Arcobaleno all those years ago, but to neglect to change the forwarding address of his mother's apartment… It was because she had never once received any mail, he realized, so he had never known of the listing, but that was no excuse.
More pressing, however, was the fact that this boy in front of him had been able to find such outdated information, that he had found any trace of Reborn's former existence at all. He sensed no deception from the young man; he had spoken no lies, and yet he was definitely hiding something. The vagueness of the details grated on the hitman's nerves. There was no way he could have found those small details, unless…
'It's like he completely disappeared after he turned ten.'
"Tell me," Reborn said slowly. "How did you get here?"
The young man stared up at him, confused. "But I just said–"
"No. I mean, by what means did you travel here?"
"The, er… the metro? From the airport? And then I walked."
"Ah," Reborn acknowledged, and then continued slowly, deliberating putting weight into his words. "And did you have trouble with the metro system or the airport?"
And Reborn could see precisely the moment his meaning became clear to the young man. His eyes widened for a brief moment and his lips parted in a silent exhalation of epiphany.
"No, but I would have if I hadn't been raised by muggles."
A wizard, then, so Reborn didn't have to worry about breaking the Statute of Secrecy. Bitter though he may be at the world that had rejected him so long ago, Reborn took oaths, even those imposed upon him, seriously. He understood that the consequences of breaking a vow of silence like the Statute could be as severe as breaking Omerta – despite that no wizard official might ever learn of his indiscretion – and was not willing to temp fate.
"So, you wizards still have a record of my existence?"
And the kid froze, tensed in Reborn's grip with bulging eyes. Reborn allowed himself a brief moment of confusion, before clicking his tongue at himself. 'My' existence, not 'Renato's.'
Three weeks prior
"So?" Harry blinked in shock; he had barely stepped through the Floo before Hermione was in his face, eyes wide and demanding information. Ron was bouncing on his heels just behind her, only slightly more restrained. Harry grinned.
"A moment to unpack my luggage, if you please?" he said in a pinched tone, his nose in the air. He slipped his knapsack off his shoulder and dropped it on the table, then shuffled through it to retrieve a few papers. Hermione grabbed them eagerly.
"Well, Minister Quintelli wanted a signed snitch in exchange for information about Renato," he sighed. Ron snickered at him. Harry gave him a one-fingered salute.
"Anyway, apparently he was born a bastard child to a Beitris Sinclair, the fifteen-year old heiress to the Sinclair family, which is now effectively extinct," Harry said for Ron's benefit; Hermione had entirely commandeered the notes Harry had jotted down. Ron gave an appreciative whistle. "The only other record of Renato – anywhere – is a death certificate, both his and his mum's, from when he was ten."
Here Ron frowned in confusion. "Wait– so the goblins were wrong, or…?"
"Hold on, I'm not done yet," Harry continued. "Minister Quintelli and I thought the death certificates looked a bit off, so he introduced me to the President of Muggle Italy to see if there are any records of Beitris or Renato on the mundane side of things."
Ron sputtered. "So what, you met muggle president, just like that?!"
"Well, yeah," Harry said. "He said he'd have some people look into it if I taught him how to ride a broom."
At this, even Hermione glanced up, and the couple gaped at him incredulously. Harry just shrugged, grinning lopsidedly.
"Anyway, I'm heading back as soon as I get word from the President. If his administration can't find any records, then I'll probably poke around graveyards, or look more into the Sinclair family. But either way, I was thinking I could probably use a little liquid luck. Could you help me with that, Hermione?"
Three weeks later
Green-eyes was still gaping at him, and Reborn sighed internally at his misspeak.
"What d'you mean–?!"
"Shut up," Reborn growled, pressing his gun up to force the kid's jaw closed. He complied. Smart. "I'm not done questioning you yet. So you're a wizard who somehow was able to find a record of my existence, and were also somehow able to find that minor detail remaining of my mother. How?" He lowered his gun slightly to allow the wizard to open his mouth again.
"I'm…influential. The childhood record was a personal favor from the Italian Minister for Magic, and the bit about the mailing address was all the muggle President could find. Everything else was luck. But, please, how can you be–?"
"Shut up, I'm thinking." He forced the wizard's mouth closed again, mind racing. His hand involuntarily clenched on the younger man's wrists, who flinched at the sensation, but Reborn ignored it. That such minute details from the first ten years of his life – more than fifty years ago! – had led this little green-eyed slip of an apparently very influential young man to him was absolutely mind-boggling.
He sighed, then; despite his general paranoia and the spiky anger curling within him – at himself, at the boy, at the world he was being forcibly reminded of – he could not help but believe this young man's words. His instincts were gently probing at him to release the kid, to sit him down with a cup of coffee, and to talk. But first…
"Hey!" the wizard yelped as Reborn yanked the younger's wand out of his wrist holster, tucked it into his suit jacket and then pulled away, leaving the younger to steady himself against the wall. He doubted that the wand he had taken was the only one in the boy's arsenal, would be disappointed if it was, but he knew that any others would be in less convenient hiding places, and Reborn would be able to draw his gun faster than the other could draw a spare wand.
"You may speak now," Reborn called over his shoulder as he sauntered into the kitchen to make himself an espresso.
So I have this theory that Felix Felicis is really liquid hyper intuition. Reading back through those scenes in book six, nothing particularly lucky actually happens to Harry; he is just suddenly granted these 'feelings' on how best to handle whatever situation he is in, what to say, what to do, where to be, etc. It is certainly more than coincidence here that Harry decides to visit Reborn's apartment on this particular day, at this particular time, and is then able to dodge the bullet of the greatest hitman in the world.
Also, you know how I said that this will contain slash romance? You guys should probably know that I'm a fan of unconventional pairings. Not, like, HarryxReborn unconventional, but I've got some serious doubts anyone will be able to guess who's waiting on the sidelines for Harry, although I challenge you to try! Reborn's is somewhat less obscure, by merit of them both actually belonging to the same fandom.
Thanks for reading! I appreciate any thoughts or criticism, particularly on the format of this and the previous chapter. I'm experimenting with new things in this story, like multiple POVs and nonlinearity, and I'm not sure how cohesive it is as a whole.
This chapter picks up almost immediately where the previous left off, which is to say a week prior to the conference. Enjoy the culmination of explanations! After this, we return to the Vongola meeting.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Harry sat uncomfortably on a hard wooden chair across from Renato– from his grandfather, who looked barely five years older than himself. He squirmed a bit, bringing up the cup of coffee – Renato had sneered when he asked for tea – in his hands to breathe in the aromatic steam. It was a bit too hot yet to drink, especially given the way his throat ached from the press of metal, but holding it was calming.
Renato, meanwhile, looked entirely at ease, relaxing across a dark blue sofa with one arm holding his own coffee at chest level, while the other was thrown with indolent grace across the back. Harry was not fooled by the posture, however; although he couldn't see it, the hand behind the couch still held that gun.
Harry licked his lips, took a tentative sip of his coffee – too dark, too bitter, too hot – and licked his lips once more before finally speaking.
"Why do you look like that?"
"A curse." The answer was short and clipped; Renato would obviously not elaborate on this.
"And stop calling me that," the man continued. Harry startled; he had not spoken aloud, he thought. Renato looked darkly amused.
"You did it again. You don't need to speak aloud for me to know what you're thinking. And my name is Reborn, now; Renato is long dead." Harry only vaguely registered the last part; he had startled and directed his gaze to the floor immediately upon the implication of mind reading. Stupid, I should have realized before, with the way his eyes probed like that!
Ren– Reborn snorted. "Stop that. It's not like I can tell what you jerked off to last night. Your private, dirty little thoughts are safe."
Harry flushed with anger and embarrassment and jerked up his head to glare at the man. "Well sorry for being cautious of a Legilimens," he hissed. His anger abated when Reborn paused at the term.
"Ah. Is that what you wizards call it?"
"Why do you say that? 'You wizards,' like you aren't one?"
"Because I'm not." Flat, bland, incongruously terrifying. Harry swallowed nervously at the deadly tone, and Reborn eyed him speculatively. "How about a trade? I'll tell you a little story, and you tell me what you were so eager not to before: how you were able to exchange 'personal favors' with the heads of governments."
At Harry's tentative nod, Reborn took a long, slow drink, watching him darkly over the rim, and began.
"The story goes something like this: the only heiress to a prominent pureblood family had a child out of wedlock and refused to disclose the father's identity. She was thoroughly disgraced, of course," Reborn sneered sardonically, "but the family could not be without an heir. Why blame the child for the crime of his mother? And so the boy was raised for ten years, until he was discovered to have no magical abilities."
He paused and glanced at Harry, whose eyes were wide with understanding.
"The disgrace was unbearable, and rather than live with the shame of claiming a bastard squib, the child and his mother were ejected from the family, touted as deceased before the family's contemporaries. It is fortunate, at least, that the two were not truly murdered." Reborn gestured with his coffee in Harry's direction, who shivered at the thought of never having been born.
"The mother, as a pureblood heiress, had no will or ability to work, particularly in the muggle world. The boy was young and flexible and was able to adapt to the change, was able to find work where his mother could not. Upon the mother's death of pneumonia two years later, the boy took a new name, fully embraced the…unsavory society unique to Italy, and the rest is history."
The rest is history. How, how could this man sum up his entire life in so few words? A lifetime's worth of experience rolled off him like a miasma. He had seen the light, seen the gray, seen the dark – probably lived the dark, given the way he had shot first and asked later.
"What was her name?" Reborn asked quietly, suddenly. Harry stared blankly for a moment, shaken from his thoughts and thrown by the non-sequitor, then scrambled into his pocket to pull out a miniature photo album.
"Ah, my wand…?" he asked tentatively. Reborn stared at him piercingly for a moment, before acquiescing. Harry caught the old holly wand with a grateful nod and hurriedly restored the album to its full size, flipping to the first page.
"Violet. Violet Katharine Evans nee Livingston. She's in her thirties here, older than when you knew her, but…"
"This is unbelievable," Reborn muttered, but the evidence was staring him in the face. There, in the picture before him, was the woman he vaguely remembered from all those years ago. She had been out with a friend at a popular evening club, he recalled, and it had seemed a terrible shame to leave those lovely green eyes looking so lonely. So he had approached her, spoken to her soft and quiet and wicked and she had followed him into a back room to be tended to.
Afterwards, she had been a regretful mess, had slapped him for seducing a married woman and had scurried home. Reborn was not bitter over her regret, but he had been vaguely disgruntled that the night had ended on such a sour note. About a year later, he was cursed into the form of an infant, and that was that, a new chapter in his life opened, erasing everything that had come before.
His finger slid across the cheekbone of the woman in the photograph – Violet, who had borne his child – in a mocking parody of the way he had once stroked her warm cheek. He flipped the page in the album and was confronted with another woman, green-eyed and red-haired like her mother, but damned if that wasn't his nose, his chin, and damn him twice if the young man sitting across from him didn't share three of those four same features as well.
His thumb brushed across her features, down her temple and over her auburn hair and then back to her eyes. His daughter, dead now, but so lovely, once, so obviously vibrant and brilliant and he never even knew she had existed. His chest tightened as staggering, inexplicable loss tore through him.
"What was she like?" he heard himself ask. His grandson shifted.
"Her name was Lily. I can only tell you what other people have told me," he said quietly. "She and my father, James, died when I was a year old. But I've heard that she was a brilliant witch, particularly at charms and potion-making, and she had strong morals. A firecracker, too, with no tolerance for arrogance. She was a fighter, and bold and brave and kind. Here, I have–" Harry reached into his pocket to pull out one more document.
"I found this letter, sent from her to my godfather. It's all I have of her, along with that album. Most of the house we were living in was destroyed when they were killed." He handed the old, torn letter to Reborn, who took it carefully, eyes tracing over the elegant handwriting, the warm and kind words, the obvious joy in the composition. It seemed his daughter had truly loved life. And had lived a dangerous one too, given the tense subtext.
Reborn smirked without humor. She was everything he might have wanted in a child, and now everything he would never have.
"I've got copies of it all, so you can keep that letter and any pictures you want," Harry offered quietly.
Reborn simply nodded, carefully folding the letter and tucking it into his breast pocket before flipping through the album and selecting a few of the photos – of Violet, of Violet and Lily, of Lily and her husband, of Lily and a newborn Harry. He carefully stowed them away, then cleared his throat.
"Now then. I'd like to know why Lily isn't here with you, and what exactly you've done to become so influential." Harry grimaced and ran a hand through his messy hair.
"Well, it's sort of the same reason for both…"
A brief tale later, and Reborn was frowning once again. How silly these wizards were, to have put such stock in a prophecy of all things. And if they wanted a boy to save their lives, they should have at least trained him properly! Reborn was faintly ashamed on their behalf, being the successful tutor of new generations that he was.
Nonetheless, it seemed to have all worked out in the end, he supposed, with the murderer of his daughter dead by her son's hand. Although he was a tad disappointed his grandson had not seen fit to torture the man a bit before hand. Or at least, had not seen fit to tell Reborn if he had.
Oh, Reborn could certainly tell that Harry had left out significant details of the story; whole months and years seemed to simply disappear, and there were so many loose ends and inconsistencies that the hitman wanted to groan aloud at the transparency of the exclusions, but he opted to hold his tongue for the moment. His most pressing questions had been answered and he could wheedle out more details in the future; he was definitely keeping the boy.
He was family, after all. Probably.
"You realize, of course," Reborn said slowly, "that if you are lying to me, I will kill you."
"If you'd like more proof," Harry said hastily, "we can do that. Most of the old Italian cities have their own magical districts with banks that provide a blood-tracing service. You can even pick the city."
"Venice, then," Reborn said, recalling that he had a meeting with a contact there in two days. Harry brightened.
"Perfect! I've always wanted to see Venice's magical district. It's entirely under the city, you know?"
"Venice is on a water-locked lagoon."
"Well, yeah. Why d'you think it hasn't sunk yet?"
Giorgio Passerini considered himself to be a relatively intelligent man. He knew the importance of discretion, when it was appropriate to ask a question, how to probe for more information, when to back off. Such things were critical for both of his jobs: pawnbroker by day, and information broker by night.
And yet he couldn't seem to keep from screwing up this meeting with the legendary Reborn.
It had all started so well, too. He had arrived at the meeting location without a hitch – the back room of a small glassware shop, far enough from the main byways that it didn't receive much tourist traffic – and had murmured the passphrase to the clerk flawlessly. Hell, he had even arrived early! Five minutes early, granted, but an auspicious start nonetheless.
The door had creaked open precisely on time and Giorgio had tensed with a peculiar mix of anticipation, awe, and fear – he was about to meet the greatest hitman in the world.
And then holy shit there was someone with Reborn. He had been so shocked he had missed the hitman's signature greeting and had neglected to reply with the correct passphrase. The next thing he knew, there was a green pistol in his face and a cold voice asking who the fuck he was and what the fuck he thought he was doing here.
"Giorgio the broker! The broker! For the love of God, don't shoot! Um, um– a brilliant sun shines on our meeting!"
And then – dear God, how was he still alive – he had questioned Reborn. Nothing terrible, nothing uncalled-for, just a simple 'Who's that you brought along to our clandestine meeting?'
The look he had received had chilled him to the bone. It still haunted his dreams, and would linger in the back of his mind for years to come.
"Not your concern. He doesn't speak Italian. The documents?"
If it had been anyone else, Giorgio might have contested that, insisted that the visitor wait outside regardless, but, well…
He swallowed nervously and nodded instead. He glanced at the visitor – such eyes – before lifting his briefcase onto the table. He glanced at the young man again. Really, I didn't know eyes came in that color.
When he glanced back, that pistol was in his face again.
"Do you really think you can afford to look away from me?" Giorgio hadn't realized a voice could sound like death, before. He had also never been so close to soiling himself. He whimpered out an apology, gestured to his briefcase, and then promptly dropped unconscious from sheer relief when the hitman took the packet and left, green-eyed pretty boy in tow.
"What sort of meeting was that?" Harry hissed to his grandfather as they exited the shop. "I thought you were just touching base with a business partner, not threatening some poor guy!"
Harry desperately wished he'd had his translation cuff on at the time. One of George's newest – and most expensive – inventions, the translation device took the form of a pewter ear cuff heavily inscribed with runic scrollwork paired with a small tongue piercing, which together would interpret the words he heard into meaningfulness in the chosen language, and then manipulate his tongue into replying in the same language.
Unfortunately, prolonged use would result in him forgetting his native language, so he could only wear the cuff for eight hours a day. He had maxed it out earlier, and was now forced to rely on his grandfather's dubious interpretation services.
"It's his fault for acting so suspicious."
"Why was that even a concern? What sort of meeting was it that you had to worry about a spy, or – or an enemy or something?"
Reborn went quiet, regarding him intensely for a moment with an expectant sort of silence.
"Are you sure you want me to answer that?"
Harry sucked in a breath; even under normal circumstances, such a question bore heavy weight. When his dark, mysterious grandfather said it, in that tone and with that look on his face, Harry could not help but feel that his entire future hinged on his response.
But family was family.
"Too bad," Reborn deadpanned immediately, although his black eyes glittered with…something. Amusement, maybe, or satisfaction. "Maybe I'll fill you in if the blood work comes back positive."
Harry's eyes narrowed. Bastard.
"Yes, I am, but it's not nice of you to keep pointing it out."
"How did you even learn legilimency if you're a squib?" Harry said, exasperated.
"Explain 'legilimency.'" The wizard paused, then considered.
"It's mind reading, as far as I can tell. A teacher tried to explain that it's not as…er, base as that, that it's some kind of subtle art, but I couldn't tell the difference."
Reborn nodded. "You think, as long as I've been alive and as talented as I am, that I haven't learned to read everything written on your face? That, combined with the occasional impression or flash of insight, is sufficient to tell me precisely what you're thinking."
Harry hummed thoughtfully. "I suppose you're a natural legilimens, then." It's a bloody good thing you were never actually trained in it. He shuddered at the thought.
"Ah~ I've got the sudden urge to find a legilimency instructor."
"Bugger off, grandp– OW!"
"Here we are!" Reborn's grandson exclaimed, gesturing up at the tower. The iconic St. Mark's Campanile apparently served as some sort of entrance to the magical district of Venice, functioning as an elevator to the sub-city. Harry glanced at one of the tourist pamphlets he had brought along – and of which he had a seemingly endless supply, fitted into a small hide pouch around his neck. Reborn idly wondered what else his grandson was hiding in that pouch, and resolved to find out – before withdrawing his wand and tapping the orange bricks of an alcove in an elaborate key sequence.
The bricks became transparent, revealing a darkened space that stretched to accommodate them as the pair squeezed in. There was a sudden dropping sensation in the pit of Reborn's stomach, the rushing sound of powerful wind, and they were promptly deposited into a brightly lit square.
He heard Harry let out a low, impressed whistle and could not help but agree with the sentiment. It seemed muggle Venice was not, in fact, built upon over a hundred small, marshy islands, but rather upon numerous platforms, under which individual street blocks of Veneziarcano were housed and protected from the water by powerful barriers, the entirety of it somehow hidden from the eyes of the mundane.
All around him, the murky water of the Venetian Lagoon swirled and tumbled, grasses and sediment and schools of river fish ribboning past. The vaguely opalescent barriers that separated the district from the lagoon cast faint rainbows of light across the windows of vibrantly colored, Mediterranean-style storefronts. It was breathtaking, frankly, unlike anything Reborn had ever seen.
"I'd heard it was amazing here, but this is…" he heard Harry murmur. Reborn hummed faintly in agreement, but felt they had remained in one place for entirely too long – it was unfamiliar here, after all.
"Let's find this bank of yours."
Which was apparently not a problem in the slightest. A passing English-speaking tourist had heard him utter the word 'bank' and began gesturing excitedly to the left and down the street, seemingly eager to impart his newly found knowledge of Veneziarcano.
Reborn tipped his hat in thanks and turned down the street, letting his shoulder brush Harry's to inform him of the change in direction. They proceeded around the block, before promptly freezing at the sight before them.
A golden sandcastle. The bank was a giant golden sandcastle, its elaborately arched doorways and towering buttresses wrought of swells of gilded sand that glimmered in the multihued light of the city barriers. Reborn was torn between admiration for the sheer moxy in building a bank out of (obviously imitation) gold, and disdain for the ostentatious boasting. The irony was lost on him.
Harry gaped beside him at the sight, and Reborn was quick to rectify the undignified expression with a cuff to his head. His grandson huffed and frowned at him, then gestured to the elaborate script rendering itself over and over again across the front of the building.
"What does that say?"
"The Aegis," Reborn responded. "Fitting, that it would be named for the shield of Zeus, to protect from all harm."
"Huh," Harry said. "Doesn't really fit the appearance, though, does it?"
Inside the bank, they were met with yet more gold. This was not from the décor, however; the designers seemed to have realized that a solid gold interior would be less than pleasing to the eye and had instead schemed the lobby with duller crèmes and golden browns, cool greens, and hints of bright blue.
No, the metallic glimmer matching the exterior came instead from the tellers themselves, all females who appeared to be made of solid gold. Reborn actually blinked at the sight of them.
"Oh, those are Kourai Khryseai. They're magical automatons produced by the Hephasetus Corp. in Greece. Bronze, not gold, of course. Most banks around the Mediterranean use them, I think. Lucky them, we only get goblins back home," Harry said with a peculiarly twisted expression as they approached a free teller.
The bronze woman stared at them through blank, silvery eyes, then opened her mouth and spoke in a tinny monotone.
"Greetings, valued customers. How may The Aegis serve you this day?" Reborn sent Harry a brief glance. He appeared to have inherited some hint of Reborn's observational capabilities, for he seemed to know what Reborn wanted without having to be told.
"Ask her to do a bloodline check on me. They only go a couple generations retroactive, so we won't be able to tell from your blood sample about any descendents," Harry offered. Reborn duly repeated the request, and the Kourai Khryseai nodded mechanically. She carefully withdrew from beneath the desk a polished seashell bowl already filled with an herbal mix, took a drop of Harry's blood to blend in, and then poured ink over top. A moment later the metal woman let the ink drip out of the bowl and onto a clean sheet of parchment.
Reborn had no interest in Harry's paternal line, and instead granted the maternal branch his full attention. He stared at the paper before him, tempted to lift a finger to trace across the elegantly scripted names looping there, but he was in public and refrained from such telling behavior. Violet. Lily. Harry. Family. He had failed two of them by not being there, by not taking responsibility, but he would not make that same mistake a third time.
He swore it on his flames, with the entirety of his resolve.
"Harry, how would you like to come to another meeting with me in five days?"
Veneziarcano: The name of Venice's magical district. 'Venezia' is the Italian spelling and pronunciation of Venice, and 'arcano' is Italian for 'arcane.'
Kourai Khryseai are golden, animate statues of women in Ancient Greek mythology said to have been smithed by the god Hephaestus.
Detailed Timeline of Events:
1927 – The pureblood Sinclairs of Scotland move to Italy to bolster the family wealth and reputation, which has dwindled over the past few decades.
13 October 1932 – Renato is born to Beitris Sinclair (15)
1942 – Renato (10) is declared a squib and is disowned by the Sinclair family.
1944 – Beitris Sinclair dies of pneumonia; Renato (12) begins calling himself Reborn and joins the mafia.
May 1959 – A very lonely Violet Evans (25) meets Reborn (26) and is thoroughly charmed by him. They have a one-night stand.
August 1959 – Reborn (26) is approached by Checkerface upon returning from the job that took him to England.
30 January 1960 – Lily Evans is born.
March 1960 – Reborn (27) is cursed, along with the other Arcobaleno.
31 July 1980 – Harry Potter is born.
1994 – Reborn (62) goes to Japan to tutor Tsuna (13)
1995 – Reborn's curse is lifted by Tsuna (14)
May 1997 – Harry Potter (17) defeats Voldemort.
November 2001 – Harry Potter (21) goes to Italy to find Reborn (69)
I appreciate constructive criticism, and please let me know if you've spotted any errors or potential plot holes.
And so we return to the Vongola Alliance Conference! Just assume that the last five days have been spent with Reborn toting Harry around Italy on a vaguely illegal sort of tour, weaseling out bits and pieces of Harry's story and with Harry trying to do the same to Reborn, with less success but admirable determination.
No warnings for this chapter, except some cursing. Also, Byakuran.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Uproar. Chaos. Music to Reborn's ears. His cute grandson seemed less thrilled, but at least he didn't cower away from the din, and he was sure the boy's acute discomfort – obvious to himself – was less so to the others in room, with the exception of Timoteo (who was chuckling heartily, looking simply delighted with the revelation) and a scant few others. Yes, Reborn supposed Harry's poise under pressure was satisfactory for the time being, given his age. He would have plenty of time to mold him in the coming days.
Reborn let his gaze travel away from his grandson and around the room, gleefully taking in the shocked expressions and pointedly ignoring the exasperated ones. Verde, for example, was making a grand show of rolling his eyes, and Mammon was covering her face with one hand, leaning her body weight into the elbow resting on the table. The Simon Famiglia was too young and too unfamiliar with him, so their lack of enthusiasm, while a tad disappointing, was not unexpected.
Apart from those obnoxious naysayers, however, the rest of the reactions were simply superb. A number of formerly implacable Mafiosi had lurched out of their seats and were gaping incredulously, while others had simply frozen in shock. Colonello, in particular, looked close to fainting. It was glorious. Foolish rival, thinking you could best me for attention with your wedding pictures. Beside him, Lal Mirch's eyes were larger than he'd ever seen them. Tsuna's and Timoteo's guardians were all suitably impressed, gasping and murmuring amongst themselves, although they all had the presence of mind not to question him blatantly – expected in the Nono case, a pleasant surprise in the Decimo one.
Most others seemed to be regarding the revelation with the same incredulity and importance as one would the end of the world: It must be a joke, but the evidence is clear, then we must prepare, hissed over and over again from different mouths and to different ears, but the premise remained, and the tension built and morphed and a tinge of wariness began to permeate the rampant incredulity in the room. On the other side of the spectrum, Byakuran was looking thrilled in the way of a nihilist finally getting to see the world burn. Reborn would have to keep an eye on that.
Yes, apocalypse seemed to be the consensus, which was acceptable in its amusement value. Although, Reborn noted with displeasure, there were a select few who seemed to be taking it too far, eyeing Harry with notable distrust and distaste. The Don of Los Seis Brazos, one of the Torego attendants, the Tomaso's right hand. They would be educated otherwise. And then Reborn turned to his left, having saved the best reaction for last.
Tsuna was gaping unattractively – disappointing; Mafia bosses don't show their surprise so easily – but at least he was not shrieking in the way he had been so prone as a child, nor had he fallen out of his seat. Most of the other bosses in the room were also wearing fixed expressions of shock, but that was no excuse. Vongola had higher standards. He would have to make time for a few lessons in the near future. Or maybe some joint lessons with Harry, bringing his grandson up to the standard necessitated by having his blood. Reborn's smirk twisted with cruel anticipation at the thought.
So many possibilities.
Fon was not entirely sure at first which emotion dominated him. Rueful exasperation was there, certainly, warring with disbelief such as he had not felt for some time; he had thought officially allying himself with Vongola had inoculated him somewhat from such surprise given the family's predilection towards chaos, but Reborn was Reborn, after all. He finally settled on grand amusement after examining everyone else's reactions, and lifted one voluminous sleeve to hide his smile.
He carefully examined the young man standing beside his old comrade. Rather short and slender, with pale skin and what seemed to be innumerable, untamable cowlicks in his dark hair. His cheekbones were high and defined and his lips were rather thin, but that nose and chin… Yes, those were undeniably Reborn's. Remarkable.
But more remarkable yet were those eyes. Fon could not recall ever having been treated to the sight of such vibrantly green irises before.
And he held himself with such admirable grace and stoicism for his age. The young man – Harry, Reborn had called him – was certainly nervous, Fon could tell; the stiff set of his shoulders, the rapid blinking, and the light flush across his cheeks were dead giveaways to the observant, after all, but yet he stood tall and proud and did not waver before the collective shock and attention of some of the most powerful Mafiosi in the world. Yes, he most definitely shared the blood of Reborn.
Better still, Fon saw no signs of the man's incorrigible smugness, none of his – admittedly well-earned – infinite self-confidence. In its place was a certain modesty, that of a man who was regrettably resigned to being seen and observed, but did not particularly enjoy it. The faint downward tilt to the corner of his mouth was quite telling in that regard. It was an intriguing combination, this bold humility.
Yes, Fon decided, he would quite like to acquaint himself with this Harry.
Tsuna's mind was blank with…something. He wasn't sure what. He vaguely congratulated himself on not vocalizing that whatever-it-was, although he could not quite tramp down on his physical expression of that-strange-something.
Because at some point in the past – some very distant past, apparently – Reborn had procreated. The thought was terrifying, of course, but it also left Tsuna feeling strangely disgruntled. Oh, he knew Reborn had had a life before becoming Tsuna's tutor, knew that there had been a time when he had been Dino's tutor, had even been a time before the curse.
And yet being confronted with this incontestable proof of some other world, known solely to Reborn, was unaccountably frustrating. The thought that Reborn had an entirely different life apart from him and had not bothered to share it with him…
"Decimo," a discreet voice murmured in his ear. Tsuna shook out of his trance and turned to regard the mansion's head butler, Cesare Idoni. "Signore Magro has just arrived with grave news. I have directed him to the third floor business lounge."
Tsuna immediately surged to his feet. Antonio Magro was the right-hand man of the don of Trad 6. It was disturbing enough that the don himself had not arrived as well, but that Cesare had sent the right hand to the most secluded of the secure lounges was even more so; Magro must have been so noticeably distraught that he did not wish to be seen by the majority of the alliance. It did not bode well for the don's niece, who had gone missing last week.
"Please continue to enjoy the meal while I handle a small bit of business," Tsuna said smoothly, voice echoing out over the sudden silence that had descended upon his rising. Hayato and Takeshi were tall and still and grave behind him. "Dessert and coffee will be served shortly in the drawing room, and then I shall join you in the conference room for discussions afterwards."
He swept out of the room, his right- and left-hand men on his heels.
Harry breathed a silent sigh of relief – or perhaps not so silent, given the faintly admonishing glance Reborn sent him – as the Vongola Decimo hastened out of the room. The sudden gravity that the surprisingly young man had exuded upon a quiet word from the butler had chilled the entire room, pulled the dumbfounded eyes off of him, and let him breath again. And then he felt slightly guilty, because something must have happened, something very worrisome, to have called the conference leader from his place at the table with such solemnity.
A hand brushing against his shoulder caught Harry's attention, and he hurried to follow his grandfather who was now striding confidently out of the large dining hall and into what Harry assumed was the drawing room the Vongola Decimo had indicated.
"Prepare for the onslaught, nipote," Reborn murmured to him through closed lips. Harry grimaced faintly. He was certainly not unused to being the center of attention and had become able to cope with searing, probing gazes following him wherever he went, but he enjoyed it no more now than he had as a child being accused of petrifying his classmates.
"The back wall beside the window," Reborn continued. "No one can approach unexpectedly, and there's an escape route."
Harry nodded – he'd been heading there anyway, his Auror-trained senses disliking the feel of so many dangerous, unfamiliar gazes upon him – when a sudden voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Signore Reborn," a quiet voice murmured. The butler was back. "Decimo is requesting your presence in the third floor business lounge."
Immediately, Reborn's self-satisfied good humor drained away, leaving in its place a cold, blank professional.
"The wall, Harry," he reiterated. "Be on your guard." And then turned to follow the butler with scarcely a nod or goodbye.
Leaving Harry all alone. He swallowed faintly and glanced around; as soon as Reborn had passed through the door, the eyes that had been following him became infinitely more blatant, burning with hungry curiosity. Harry wondered if bolting would incite them to chase, like wild predators on the trail of a sick, wounded, baby deer.
Byakuran had been anticipating this conference for quite some time. He had not seen Tsunayoshi or Mukuro for almost a year and he was dearly looking forward to antagonizing them with his mere presence; they became so adorably ruffled whenever they saw him! A mocking smirk here, a harmless insinuation there, and Wham! Instant tension. It never got old.
But oh was this even better than he had been hoping. Because Byakuran had no idea who that boy was. In all the parallel universes he had ever been privy to, not once had Reborn ever claimed another person as blood family, let alone introduced a grandson of all things to the entire Vongola Alliance!
And then Reborn was even kind enough to leave his progeny alone and entirely at Byakuran's mercy! Before that troublesome hitman had even crossed the threshold out of the room, Byakuran was gliding through the crowd, nudging subtly and administering just enough intent and pressure with his flames to let others know his aim and that their interference was not welcome.
Within moments, his course had him stood behind the young man's shoulder, just close enough to give the impression of looming but not enough to be imminently threatening – it wouldn't do to scare him off too soon, after all.
"I've never seen you before!" Byakuran trilled with precisely the right mix of delight, presumption, and condescension to induce acute discomfort. Reborn's adorable little grandson whipped around immediately and blinked his lovely green eyes in shock, but otherwise was able to maintain his composure. Byakuran looked forward to changing that.
"It's nice to meet you, then…?"
"Byakuran Gesso. But enough about me, tell me all about you~" Byakuran let his grin widen to an eerie degree, and Reborn's grandson tensed faintly and took half a step back. How cute.
"T-there's not much to tell, really. Um, d'you think you could back up, a little?"
Byakuran laughed lowly and inched closer.
"So shy, are–"
"Might I interject?" came a cool voice. Byakuran was pulled up short not by the words, but by the faint warning in the tone and the vaguest pressure of potent, volatile Storm flames closing in around his throat. He caught a glimpse of arms hanging loose and dangerous rather than folded placidly into sleeves, and pouted.
"Good day," offered the soft, low voice of the Asian man who had come to his rescue as the creepy white-haired man waved cheerily and sauntered off. He was quite tall and lithe, and his finely-sculpted features appeared several years older than Harry. Garbed in a long silk robe, the long braid draping around his shoulders was a dark slash against the solid crimson of the fabric, the starkness of it a salient contrast to his gentle smile. His dark grey eyes were warm and kind as he carefully insinuated himself between Harry and the demanding gazes of the others in the room. Even without that subtle motion, Harry was in his debt for shooing away that unnerving Byakuran guy.
"My name is Fon. I must say, despite my long familiarity with Reborn, I would never have guessed he had family."
"It's a bit of a recent development," Harry admitted, then narrowed his eyes slightly, scenting the possibility of information. His grandfather had been annoyingly vague and evasive on certain topics over the past week of their acquaintance, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy Harry's frustration. "How long exactly have you been familiar with him?"
The man looked faintly amused as his smile broadened and warmed past the point of distant formality. "We have been friends for a good deal longer than I appear to have been alive, I confess."
"Ah, that mysterious curse I've heard about? I don't suppose you'd be willing to shed light on it?"
Fon laughed softly, the sound of it light and airy like an echo of distant wind. "If your grandfather has not shared the story with you, then I shall not ruin his fun."
"What's this about ruining Reborn's fun, kora? I'm game," called a new voice. Harry turned to see a very tall blond man with striking blue eyes accompanied by a blue-haired woman, similarly striking with a scarred, stern visage and mahogany eyes.
"Name's Colonello, kora, and this is my wife–" the man's whole face lit up in a magnificent way at the word. A wisp of envy wormed through Harry as he witnessed the man's happiness, recalling uncomfortably the near-disastrous fallout of his own previous relationships with Cho and Ginny.
"Lal Mirch," the woman cut in. "I'm capable of introducing myself, brat." Despite the harshness of her words, there was a noticeable softness to her eyes.
"Heh, of course. Anyway, we've been working with Reborn for a long time. Never knew he had a grandson, though. Or even a kid, for that matter." Colonello's voice had tightened slightly with suspicion by the end, and Harry swallowed nervously. Although they had not moved or shifted, the couple's bearing suddenly seemed abstractly dangerous.
"I don't trust you," Lal Mirch interjected bluntly, eyes narrowed. "You seem too…normal to be descended from that guy."
Fon frowned slightly at their words. "Come now, surely you are too unfair."
"I dunno, I sort of agree. You look like a pretty nice guy," came yet another new voice. A second blond man had just appeared, looking about the same age as the other three around him. His brown eyes were lit up with good humor and he wore an easy grin on his mouth. "Name's Dino Cavallone," he continued. "Reborn was my teacher, and there's no way that sadistic guy could have had a hand in bringing up someone so modest."
"Oh," Harry said faintly, slightly overwhelmed. "Well, if it makes a difference, I didn't know he was my grandfather until a week ago. I didn't know he existed at all until a week ago."
There was a disbelieving pause, before Dino laughed weakly. "Good jok–"
"What the hell do you mean, kora?" Colonello demanded.
Harry shrugged, sighing internally as he repeated an abridged version of the tale his paranoid grandfather had forced him to recount at least thrice a day for the past week. "I was going through some old documents and found an incomplete divorce file from my grandparents. Turns out my grandmother had an affair with Reborn and my mum was born from it. I poked around a bit, found a lead, and ran into him at one of his apartments. He was really, um… surprised to find out he had a grandson, too, who knew his real name, but the blood work came back positive, so, yeah," he finished lamely, drawing back slightly as he took in his audience's reaction to the tale.
"I'm sorry," Dino said incredulously. His grandfather's three contemporaries seemed similarly taken aback, their eyebrows risen in stark disbelief. "But I thought you just said you happened upon one of Reborn's hidden bases, found him there, spouted his real name, and are still alive to tell us about it."
"Well, I was having a particularly lucky day," Harry grinned. There was no way he would have known to dodge his grandfather's bullet without that little sip of the Felix Felicis Hermione tended to keep in her potions stores, and he probably would have gone to the apartment immediately upon finding the address rather than waiting three days as another sip of the potion had intuited him at the time.
Harry was about to ask Dino what exactly his grandfather had been a teacher of, eager to move on a different topic, but stopped suddenly, frowning in the direction of the window over Colonello's shoulder. The others turned to follow his stare. He could have sworn he just saw a person with purple hair peek through the glass and then dart back into the bushes.
Shit, shit, what do I do?! Skull thought frantically. He hadn't wanted to show up to this stupid conference in the first place – the Great Skull had better things to do with his valuable time – but after that nasty business with the Carcassa and Mafia Land and letting Vongola Decimo beat him, he was sort of obligated to respond to Vongola's 'recommendation' for his presence.
He had hoped to at least make the best of a rotten situation; that stupid bully Reborn would be here, but so would a lot of other people, who would hopefully keep that ugly jerk occupied and away from him so Skull could try to enjoy the few benefits that came with being here, like the food.
But then the smug bastard had shown up with that monster. Skull had never been so terrified in his life. He had frozen for a moment, petrified with fear, before bolting and diving into the Vongola's expertly trimmed hedges. He'd been crouching there for over an hour, now, and his legs were cramping. He wondered when it would be safe to move again.
He took a deep, fortifying breath, then carefully raised himself up to glance through the window and–
Shit! That monster was staring right at him!
He hunkered back down, shaking faintly, and when the glass above him creaked and the window slid open and that horrific visage peaked out, Skull could do only one thing.
He screamed and ran.
When Reborn returned, it was to find Harry with his blond fool of a former student and three of his fellow ex-Arcobaleno at his back, all five of them staring perplexedly out a window. He clicked his tongue, vaguely disgruntled that he would have to express some modicum of gratitude to them in the future; they were all carefully situated around Harry to block him from the potentially less-than-altruistic gazes of others in the room. Then Reborn frowned a bit and thought that even so, Fon was standing a tad too close to his cute little grandson for comfort.
Fifteen centimeters is far too friendly, he thought irritably, and subtly elbowed the other man further away as he pressed in close to peer over Harry's shoulder out the window. Fon glanced at him, entirely straight-faced but for his eyes – which glimmered with maddening, knowing amusement – and obligingly shifted over.
"What's so interesting out here?" he bit out. Dino jumped at the shortness of his tone – too obvious a reaction, but at least he hasn't forgotten his training – and Lal and Colonello eyed at him askance. Only Harry did not react to his tone beyond a faint tensing of his shoulders, and tilted his head up and back to look at Reborn. He shouldn't bare his throat so easily.
"There was a purple guy hiding in the bushes. Um, Skull, they called him? He screamed and ran when he saw me," Harry said, sounding adorably befuddled. That's not the normal reaction when people see me, Reborn read in his grandson's expressive eyes. What have I done wrong?
That mindset would have to be rectified in the very near future.
"Tch," Reborn sneered. "What's that coward even doing here?"
"That's a little harsh, don't you think?" Dino laughed awkwardly.
"No," Lal said sharply. "Reborn is right, this time. That guy's too pathetic."
"Don't concern yourself with him, Harry. He's not worth the seconds you waste thinking his name," Reborn said flippantly, hoping to alleviate his concern. Harry's frown only deepened. Bully, his clear green eyes accused. There was anger there too, and surprise. Disillusionment.
For the first time in a very long time, Reborn felt a hint of disappointment in himself. Not at his treatment of Skull, of course – the fool deserved it – but rather that he had let his grandson down in some way that was apparently important to the boy. Reborn grimaced internally, but said nothing more and gave no hint as to his feelings.
Except that damnable Fon was looking at him knowingly again. This time, Reborn let his mouth curl into his most condescending sneer before taking Harry by the shoulder and guiding him away, just in time for–
The deafening, familiar voice bellowed from the drawing room door, where Ryohei Sasagawa stood waving an arm exuberantly, the rapid movement making his bright yellow tie flail wildly.
"I bid you all an extreme welcome to the 173rd Annual Vongola Alliance Conference! Please follow me to the conference room, and we can begin the talks!"
Dammit, why did I think it was a good idea to write a conference? It's hard writing so many characters and trying not to let too many of them fall by the wayside. I hope I haven't neglected anyone whose reaction someone really wanted to see (Mukuro and Hibari weren't there, btw; they're still all caught up in the rather violent game of cat-and-mouse from the first chapter).
For those that don't know, 'nipote' means grandson/granddaughter or niece/nephew. D'aww, look at Reborn being all familial.
Also, I should note that in this sequence of events, Colonello and Lal actually waited until Colonello regained his adult body before getting married (the Arcobaleno aged at an accelerated rate, about two to three times normal, until they reached their pre-cursed age roughly seven years after the curse broke).
There was nothing in the world Antonio Magro wanted so much as sleep. No, that was wrong; there was nothing he wanted so much as the princess back. Coming in at a rather distant second was the deep-seated need for justice-revenge-answers, but sleep was a close third.
The first was impossible and nothing could be done for the third, but there was nowhere better to accomplish the second than where he was at the moment, so Magro allowed himself some small modicum of hope.
Vongola Mansion: the central hub of the single largest mafia alliance group in the world. The grand old building could, to the uninformed, be mistaken as vulnerable in its exposed place on the outskirts of Naples, but, well, those uninformed obviously had no comprehension of the beast that dwelled within and around. There was not a single mafia famiglia for a hundred miles in any direction that was not a firm ally of the super power, and not one of them would willingly allow a potential enemy through their elaborately interconnected information net. Not that their efforts were entirely necessary, of course; rumors of the battle prowess of the Vongola Cloud Guardian alone left the fiercest of Mafiosi with nightmares and cold sweat.
It was very nearly galling that, with as much power as the Vongola Decimo wielded as head of the immense multi-national criminal alliance, he chose to legitimize businesses and work with world governments as a vigilante group rather than simply dominate global economics. The new Vongola dealt in justice rather than revenge, in protection rather than intimidation, and was not shy about 'encouraging' other underworld organizations to follow their lead. And most were even willing to go along with the revolution, because if there was one thing the world was assured of, it was that Vongola defended its own.
So when Trad 6 received word of Sonia Pavoni's murder and it fell to Antonio to bring the news to the alliance head, he knew to expect that Vongola would not treat the information flippantly or lightly. But Antonio could never have imagined that the Decimo himself would appear personally and privately, bearing a hot drink and an attentive ear, and would then summon the legendary Reborn to confer with, right before Antonio's eyes. To have had the entirety of the pair's solemn attention as he detailed the tragedy was…not encouraging, really, because how could anything be described so positively when there was so much wrong with the world? Grimly satisfying, perhaps.
Magro took a long, deep sigh, then chugged back the dredgings of the exquisitely prepared gourmet coffee in his hands– not that he could actually taste it, as everything that had touched his tongue for the last week tasted only of ash and necessity, but the caffeine it provided was welcome. At the very least, it gave him the energy to direct his attention to his surroundings.
Now inside the cavernous conference room that he had been guided to after regaining himself in the lounge, Antonio was sitting stiffly at a single immense table, not quite round. The shape of it was just barely triangular enough that there were three distinct heads, which were taken by Vongola Decimo, the scowling, scar-faced leader of the Varia, and the new young Head of CEDEF.
Antonio himself had actually been granted a place at the table – usually reserved only for the visiting dons and confidants, while attendants gathered behind – much closer to Decimo than he might otherwise have been, given the news he bore, and was seated beside Vongola's female Mist Guardian. He choked back a sob. She was the princess' age.
When the allied famiglie had finally all settled into their seats and were waiting attentively for Decimo to begin, the young man stood with the smooth grace of practice and cast solemn orange-brown eyes around the room.
"I regret to inform the Alliance that Don Pavoni of Trad 6 will not be joining us this day. I have just received word that his niece, Sonia, was found brutally murdered, and the family is in the midst of mourning and funeral preparations. I would ask that if any members of this alliance happen upon information possibly related to this crime, that they inform CEDEF, which will be beginning its own investigation," Decimo announced grimly.
"Respectfully, Decimo, but this is most atypical," Don Palachov rumbled. "Since when does Vongola involve itself in – my apologies, Signore Magro – such minor personal affairs?"
Antonio's knuckles went white on the mug in his hands, clutching it tightly in an effort not to hurl it at the large Russian's head. He knew, he did, that the murder of a single member of a famiglia was not cause for the leader of an alliance to become so deeply involved, but to have the princess' cruel death relegated to a 'minor personal affair'… Well, Don Palachov had best guard his back in the coming days.
Vongola Decimo seemed to be of a similar mind, and Magro resolved to sing the young man's praises to Boss.
"Personal though it may be, I do not consider even a single death to be a minor affair, Don Palachov," Decimo said frostily. Palachov flushed slightly and murmured an apology. "But you are essentially correct. What differentiates this case is that Italian authorities – who were the first to discover the crime – are not looking into the murder."
"We were told that the case had been handed off to a group of specialists," Magro interjected with a frustrated growl. "But no one could tell us who those specialists are. Not that they won't, but that they can't, because these 'specialists' do not seem to exist, despite the department's insistence that they do. We get the same story from both our 'assets' and legitimate officers."
There was a contemplative murmuring, and Magro was gratified to see even the callous Don Palachov looking disturbed.
"There has been a similar case among my own famiglia," the don of a lesser family, Dafne Agresta of the Coroncina Famiglia, spoke up. "A young man, new to the family, was found slaughtered. The body and all evidence was apparently confiscated by these 'specialists' before we could obtain any significant information, and we are now at a loss."
The Decimo's face went even graver. "Then we may have a pattern emerging. Donna Coroncina, please forward whatever information you have been able to gather to CEDEF. Are there any other cases?" He posed the question to the room at large, to negative response.
"Very well. Then I propose we move on to less dire topics. Don Barranco, do you have news concerning the Anguila Cartel?"
Harry was lost when it came to the majority of the names or families or events discussed at the conference, but that did not concern him; no, what held his attention for the entirety of the meeting was the case brought forth by Antonio Magro and the Coroncina Donna. Two apparently brutal murders would normally be very high-profile and would not simply be dropped by the Italian police force. That they had been handed over to some unidentified 'specialist' group and that none of the officers involved were at all concerned by the missing case information practically screamed magical involvement.
The moment the – surprisingly trivial, but for the first issue – conference was over and all families but the Vongola representatives and Antonio Magro began filing out, Harry breathed a sigh of relief; he would finally be able to bring his suspicions to his grandfather's ears, who would then hopefully know how to express the information to his mafia people without Harry having to break the Statute.
Before he could even open his mouth to ask for a private word, Reborn spoke. Loudly. In front of all the Vongola. "What do you know, Harry?" Harry fought not to squirm as all eyes turned to pierce into him and silently cursed his grandfather's in-born Legilimency.
"I don't actually know anything about the case," he was quick to assure them. "But it sounds like my, erm, people have taken on the job of investigating." He cast his grandfather hopeful glance, wishing the man would just take the hint and speak with him privately. No such luck, as he was apparently entirely comfortable having this conversation openly. Harry resolved to consider the implications of that confident assuredness in the near future.
"And what the hell does that mean?" Antonio Magro growled at him, halfway rising out of his seat.
"It means that the murderer is a wizard." Harry frowned; he had not said that. Across the room, a slight figure in a dark purple cloak was now bearing the brunt of the room's gazes, although those nearest – the Varia, if Harry recalled – did not seem surprised by the interjection. Judging by the hint of a swell in the chest, Harry assumed it was a woman; the voice was too ambiguous to tell, and the face was almost entirely hidden.
"Yes. There exists in this world a highly complex and expertly hidden society of magic users like myself and Harry Potter. We typically maintain a strict distance from the mundane world, although there are obviously exceptions." The figure gestured to herself and Harry. "I will say no more than this. The Statute of Secrecy, our version of Omerta, has been broken quite enough for the day. And I expect none of this knowledge to leave the room, with the exception of Signore Magro. You may explain to your don that his niece's murder is likely still being investigated."
"That's not enough!" the man exclaimed, fists tight with frustration. "How could that be enough?! A weak excuse for a platitude is all that is! Our princess is dead and mutilated and you expect us to sit idly by, waiting and begging for scraps of information like dogs?!"
"Of course not," Harry heard himself say. All eyes shifted back to him, but his attention was fully focused on Magro, now; he recognized and hated to see that sort of hopeless desperation in anyone. "It's not fair that you, as muggles, aren't kept up to speed with a wizarding investigation. I'll speak with the minister and see if I can't find out more for you."
Magro sucked in a deep breath, obviously forcing his restraint, and spoke again through gritted teeth. "And who are you that this minister of yours would do your bidding?"
"We're acquaintances. I can't guarantee that he'll be willing to part with any information, especially since I'm not a citizen here, but back in England I'm the sort of investigator that might look into a case like this, so I might be able to convince him."
Magro flopped back into his chair as though his strings had been cut. His fight was gone. "Then you have my gratitude. Anything you can learn, anything at all…"
"Thank you for the information," came Decimo's cool voice, although it seemed a bit higher pitched and more hesitant than before. "And Mammon too. CEDEF will continue to investigate the murders from the…non-magical side of things, but we would appreciate your continued cooperation."
"Of course," Harry replied, then turned to the cloaked woman who had spoken up before. "Um, Mammon, was it? I don't suppose you have a mail bird or a Floo I could borrow to contact Minister Quintelli?"
"I have had the fireplace in the second floor east wing study connected to the Floo network. You may use that one, if you have powder. If not, I can provide it to you for a nominal fee."
Harry shook his head. "Thank you, but I've got powder. And thanks for before, as well," he said, genuinely grateful that she had taken some of the heat off of him. He tried to convey that with a smile that came out slightly strained, given that piercing stares were still digging into him all around the room from the Vongola guardians, the Varia assassins, and the CEDEF advisors, all of whom Reborn had been quietly pointing out to him throughout the meeting.
Only Harry's grandfather was not assessing with acute eyes, and the woman, Mammon, as well, who was… maybe looking at him? He couldn't tell with her hood covering her face, but at least her head was turned in his direction. Finally she nodded.
"You may repay the favor by assisting me in a minor private matter, Harry Potter," she spoke. "If you will meet with me briefly tomorrow, then we can consider it even." Her voice was largely neutral, but with a faintly imperious undertone that told Harry she fully expected his cooperation. He could only nod in agreement.
Italian Minister for Magic Titus Quintelli – and how strange it was, to place that title before his name – heaved a great, relieved sigh. The masses of paperwork that his capable but bossy secretary had planted upon his desk had finally all been reviewed and signed, and he had only had to work two hours overtime today!
Just as he was contemplating what he could do with his free time for the evening, the Floo rang and Titus heaved another huge sigh, this time of resignation. The minister's job was truly never done, it seemed. He strode over to the hearth and opened the grate to allow the firecaller to speak.
"Mister Quintelli? I apologize for disturbing you at this hour–"
Well! This was certainly a pleasant surprise; he had been anticipating a call from one of his dull department heads, but instead his Floo was graced by Harry Potter. Such a courteous and humble young man, so unusual in one so famous! Titus had truly enjoyed his meeting with the Boy-Who-Lived those few months ago, not the least because it was a decent excuse to skive off his paperwork for the afternoon, and he had even gotten an autographed snitch to boot! His nephew had been thrilled with the gift.
"Not at all, Mister Potter, no trouble at all! Is all going well in the search for your grandfather?"
"Oh! Yes, I've found him. But I– I have another request to make of you, sir, and I completely understand if you refuse, but I'm a bit obligated to ask anyway."
Titus nodded slowly. If it was within his power, then he did not mind granting the young man another favor; there were few people in the world quite so worth having in one's esteem as the Savior of Wizarding Britain. "I cannot promise acquiescence, but I will certainly hear you out, Mister Potter."
"Um. Harry is fine," he muttered, seemingly instinctually and with the air of distraction characteristic in a man buying time to gather his thoughts. "A… contemporary of my grandfather has recently lost his niece. It was apparently a brutal murder, and when the family tried to follow up on the investigation, they were told that it was handed off to some nonexistent specialist unit, which implies to me that your administration has taken charge of the case from the muggles. I was just wondering if I could act as proxy, bringing information to the family so they aren't left in the dark? They're already aware of the existence of magic."
Titus hummed. That could prove a bit tricky, but Mister Potter – Harry – surely realized that, given his own profession as an Auror. "That would depend very much on the particular case, you understand."
"Of course, Minister. The name of the victim is Sonia Pavoni."
Ah. Well, that was quite possibly the worst-case scenario. Titus had just finished reviewing the report left to him by the head of his law department concerning the girl, the most recent victim in a string of unnervingly similar murders.
He shuddered, thinking of the images included in the report, of the multiple corpses carved intricately with archaic runes and left to float in the waterways of major cities. Sonia Pavoni was the fifth victim to appear that way, and he had men out scouring the rivers and lakes all across Italy in search of more victims. It was undoubtedly the work of a serial murderer – that much was obvious – but his best and brightest had yet to determine a motive, with which they might begin a counterattack. The runes implied some sort of ritual sacrifice (although the arrays were too sophomoric for an exact determination of purpose) but similarly implicating was the muggle mafia affiliation of the most recent four victims.
Was it revenge, coincidence, something more? Titus' Aurors could not yet say, and at this stage of the investigation, it was simply too dangerous to leak information. The minister exhaled and rubbed at a temple.
"That is a difficult case you ask for, Mister Potter. All I can tell you is that we believe she is one of several victims of a serial murderer. Surely you understand that I can say no more?"
To his immense relief and gratification, Harry's disembodied head nodded vigorously in the green Floo fire.
"Of course. Thank you for telling me that much. At this point, I think any news is…well, not good news, but at least valuable to the family. I won't bother you anymore, sir, and please let me know if there's any way I can repay you. Good evening, Minister."
"Good evening, Mister Potter."
It was silent in the minister's office for a moment. If mafia princess Sonia Pavoni was the niece of a contemporary of Harry Potter's grandfather, then…
"Oh dear," Titus murmured to himself. "I've just introduced Harry Potter into the mafia, haven't I?"
All in all, a resounding success, Reborn thought smugly. Introducing Harry to the famiglia had gone swimmingly, from the wonderfully chaotic splash his grandson's presence had made to the young man's surprising ability to keep himself afloat in the face of a sea of curious Mafiosi. He had even offered a significant contribution to one of the Alliance's more pressing issues, which Reborn knew had gone a long way towards impressing certain family members.
And now that his grandson had been left in the capable hands of Takeshi Yamamoto to be escorted to the apparently Floo-connected study – Reborn would need to have a private word with Mammon about full disclosure and the sanctity of other people's homes – and then to a secure room for the night, Reborn could dedicate his entire attention to his other favorite twenty-one year old for the evening.
"Adequately handled, Dame-Tsuna," Reborn commented from directly behind his former student, in the depths of the Decimo's private suite. He was a bit disappointed when the other didn't jolt in surprise, but was mostly smugly proud. My handiwork.
"I don't think a 'Dame' could have stood at the head of that conference, Reborn," Tsuna replied. It was a poor attempt at the cheek the younger man tended towards, and his tone was dull, mechanical. He did not look at Reborn.
The hitman frowned faintly in consternation, then glided around the couch to plant himself beside his former student.
"You seem less than pleased with the evening," he commented. He glanced down to where Tsuna was cradling a glass of scotch. It looked untouched, and there was no scent of alcohol lingering on the younger man's clothes or breath. While Reborn would never allow any student of his to succumb to alcoholism, far be it from him to forbid the young boss of a mafia syndicate a drink every now and then. It was strange that Tsuna had not yet imbibed from the relief of a job well done. "Also less drunk than I was expecting by now."
"You didn't tell me you had a family," Tsuna said quietly, the stiff tone cutting through any humor remaining in Reborn. The younger man still did not lift his face, continuing to stare down into his drink, and his fingers tightened around the glass.
Reborn fell silent, watching his former student blankly. Well, this is new, he thought, observing the obvious hurt in the tense lines of the young man's hunched shoulders. Reborn recalled that several years ago his acceptance of death had etched these same signs of emotional betrayal into Tsuna, and had resolved never to let that happen again. He despised that he had apparently broken that particular promise. Wrong, his mind screamed. He should never look this way.
"I didn't know I had a family," Reborn said finally, voice gone soft and low. "Harry is the ultimate result of an affair from a very long time ago. I met him for the first time last week, when he tracked me down."
Tsuna finally turned to look at him, and the relief Reborn felt was frankly uncalled for. "Wow, I bet that really surprised you, huh?" he teased, but it felt stiff and contrived.
"Tch, you're a hundred years too early to try guessing my thoughts," Reborn grouched, hoping to ease the tension by playing along. Tsuna chuckled weakly at him, but a hint of forlorn still touched his expression. Reborn sighed.
"I wouldn't have kept it a secret if I had known. Not from you, Tsuna," he murmured. I trust you, he did not need to say. There was a pause, and then the young man smiled, slow and warm and deeply relieved. Reborn's heart clenched at the sight – it simply wasn't fair that anyone could have such a dazzling smile.
On a whim, Reborn reached out to ruffle Tsuna's hair. And then his breath caught, because Tsuna was leaning into his hand in a way that bespoke far more intimacy than was entirely appropriate between a student and teacher, former though they may be. Reborn pulled away abruptly. Not good, he grimaced, analyzing the warmth that had bloomed in his chest at his former student's obvious enjoyment of his touch.
Tsuna followed Reborn's retreating hand, angling his body closer to his tutor's. He lifted an arm to run a finger across one curly sideburn, and then he leaned in. Reborn's breath hitched as his hand moved of its own accord, mirroring Tsuna's as it trailed up to curl smoothly around the back of the young man's neck–
And then pinched.
Tsuna dropped, boneless and unconscious, against the older man. Reborn wrapped his arm around the younger's shoulders and stared into his sleeping face, eyes tracing over the smooth pale skin, the soft-looking lips. So young, Reborn sighed.
So! Some significant plot and romantic development here. More light-hearted fun stuff in the next chapter :) See you then! And as always, please let me know if you spot any errors or potential plot holes.
Happy Valentine's Day! Have some extra romance for the occasion ;) Bit of a short chapter here, but I wanted to get it out for the holiday.
No warnings, but for some strong language.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Despite his grandfather's reassurances of his safety – unspoken, but obvious in the carefree way he had sent Harry off with only the Vongola Rain Guardian, who Harry had made the unfortunate mistake of involving in a heated discussion about the best sport and who he would probably now have to avoid – Harry found himself unable to sleep anything but fitfully and transiently that night, in a different time zone and surrounded as he was by powerful Mafiosi. Somewhere around four in the morning, he gave sleep up for a lost cause and left his room to wander around the mansion until he found the kitchen. He was beyond pleased to find it already stocked with breakfast pastries.
Delicious, Harry thought, swallowing the last bite of powdered doughnut. They really do have the best food here. It was a pity he had been too nervous during the conference dinner to fully enjoy the meal. Really, when Reborn had mentioned that he might garner a few second looks – ten minutes before arrival – he had not been expecting quite that degree of attention. He dearly hoped the novelty of his existence had died down during the night, and that he would be less at risk of… whatever it was that creepy Byakuran guy had been getting at.
If not, then he could at least enjoy the peaceful solitude of the early morning before everyone else woke up. Intending to make the most out of this respite, Harry set off to explore the mansion, deftly avoiding the sleeping quarters and focusing instead on poking around the innumerable drawing rooms, studies, and small libraries. Delving briefly into the basement revealed what appeared to be several training rooms and an armory, from which Harry beat a hasty retreat; he still did not feel quite safe enough in the mansion to be comfortable around the weapons therein, should anyone unsavory show up.
As he hastily ascended back into a hallway on the ground floor, a faint hum sounded behind him, like the clearing of a throat. Harry jumped and whipped around; he had not seen or heard anyone nearby, nor had his instincts reacted to the sensation of eyes upon him.
But he need not have worried. It was not some intimidating mafia lord as he had half feared, but rather his savior from the night before, Fon. Harry wondered for a moment what the other was doing up so early, but his question was quickly put to rest: the man's long braid was pinned up close to his head and he appeared to have traded the finely embellished silks of the night before for simpler, looser linen attire, and considering their current location it was obvious that the Asian man had risen for some early morning training.
"Merlin," Harry breathed. "What are you, a cat?" Fon laughed lightly.
"I did not mean to startle you, Harry," Fon smiled humorously. "Good morning. Enjoying an early breakfast?"
Harry stared blankly. They weren't anywhere near the kitchens, how had the man known? He tensed a bit as the other glided closer and reached out to brush a calloused thumb over the corner of his mouth, then brought it up for Harry's inspection. Oh, powdered sugar.
"I confess I have a special weakness for deep-fried food as well, and cannot help but indulge from time to time." It should definitely be illegal for someone to say 'indulge' with such intonation below such wickedly twinkling eyes, Harry thought, still just staring.
And then Fon lifted the sugared thumb to his mouth and treated Harry to the sight of a pink slip of tongue flicking out and darting across the digit.
"Hot," Harry choked out. Fon's eyebrows shot up to his hairline and the smile on his face took on a sharper, anticipatory edge. "Spicy, I mean! I– I'm fond of spicy food, although I don't eat it often," he lied through his teeth. Fon's smile twitched in amusement.
"What a fortunate coincidence. Perhaps I could tempt you to try my mapo tofu at some point?"
Harry had no idea what a mapo tofu was supposed to be, but guessed it couldn't be anything but sinfully delicious, given the Chinese man's reverent tone. He nodded, hoping he didn't appear too eager.
Harry jolted, startled yet again. A glance over his shoulder revealed his grandfather, leaning against the wall behind him. The hitman's face was hidden in the shadow of his fedora and his hands were shoved into his pockets, but there was nothing calm or relaxed in his bearing. Harry could not help the uneasy tingle that raced down his spine at the danger the older man was exuding.
Fon seemed to sense it, too, as his warm, verging-on-coaxing expression froze into something politely distant, but far from passive.
"A pleasant morning to you, Reborn," Fon offered serenely from behind a tight-lipped smile.
"You're certainly up early, Fon. Enjoying the scenery?" Reborn slunk forward with predatory grace and dropped a heavy hand on Harry's shoulder. Harry frowned at the callous insinuation, and Fon's expression shuttered even further.
"The scenery? Hardly, although Vongola's landscaping is exquisite as always. No, I was simply enjoying a conversation with your grandson."
"Interesting subtext for a simple conversation."
Fon's smile finally dropped, as did his attempt at civility.
"I see you are in a petty mood, Reborn, so I will take my leave. But, Harry? If you are amenable, I will be in touch."
"Yes," Harry said, ignoring the way Reborn's hand clamped down with vicious force on his shoulder. "I'd like that."
Fon gave him a Mona Lisa smile that sent a tingle down his spine and stepped gracefully past him, down the stairs into the basement training area.
"Don't tangle with that guy, Harry. He's far too old for you," Reborn said sternly, steering him down the hallway away from the basement stairs. Harry couldn't help but gape incredulously.
"I'm an adult," he bit out. "And I'll thank you to treat me like one. If I want to accept his invitation for mufu tofu, then I'll damn well accept it."
"Uh-huh. And if it was just the tofu you were interested in, then maybe you'd know that it's 'mapo,' not 'mufu.'"
Harry flushed with embarrassment.
"Oh come on, I've never heard of it before!"
Reborn shrugged, the motion made oddly jerky from his tenseness. "I'm just saying. Maybe you would have remembered the word if you hadn't been too busy ogling him."
"Watch your volume, Harry, people are sleeping."
"You're being ridiculous, grandpa," Harry hissed in an explosive whisper. Damn this man and his button-pushing! "So what if I find him good-looking? Why do you even care?"
"He's almost seventy, Harry," Reborn said sharply. "Find someone your own age to screw around with."
"'Screw around with?' What do you take me for? I thought you were mad at him from the way you were goading, but, what, you think I'm just going to lead him on or something? That I'm just some fickle brat?"
"I think you two have different expectations."
"How could you possibly know that when even I don't know what I want yet? All I've done is meet the man – yesterday – and accept a tentative offer to eat some bloody tofu!"
Reborn's jaw tensed as he grit his teeth. "I'm telling you, it won't end well. No matter how long you've known him, no matter how close you think you are, you won't be able to find a middle ground with him, not with your age difference."
And Harry looked at his grandfather, taking in how the man hadn't glanced at him once during the conversation and was instead staring blankly ahead, eyes fixated on something Harry could not see. Realization jolted through him.
"Are you even talking about me and Fon anymore?"
The silence was telling.
Colonello had been having a wonderful dream. He couldn't quite remember what it was, and then it didn't matter, because when he awakened reality was greater than any dream his mind could conceive: Lal was sleeping pliant in his arms, her strong, lovely face relaxed and soft. His mouth pulled into an elated, disbelieving smile, and he buried his face in her hair with a contented sigh. Even after all this time, it was still almost too good to be true. Married. He could have stayed there for years, were it not for the obnoxious pest that had awakened him in the first place.
"Go see what he wants," Lal muttered, apparently not so asleep after all. "And put your pants on."
With a series of put-upon grunts intended to convey to the uninvited guest on their balcony precisely how unwelcome and inconvenient his presence was, Colonello rose from his bed, stumbled around groggily as he tried to pull on a pair of sweat pants, and then stepped out onto the balcony to join Reborn. As he turned back to close the French doors behind him, Colonello smiled goofily. Lal had rolled over and now had her face pressed into his pillow.
At Reborn's snort, Colonello shifted his attention and shuffled forward to lean against the rail, and waited. And waited, and waited, but Reborn remained stubbornly silent, staring out at the woods behind the manor with a faint frown. Dammit, give me something to work with, here.
"Soo… A grandson, huh?" Colonello grasped wildly. "Never took you for the paternal type, kora."
"I'm not," Reborn grunted shortly. He fell silent yet again, staring up at the dawn-graying sky. Colonello was content to wait this time; he knew the other man well enough by now to recognize when he was gathering his thoughts – and he was right.
"Good God, I'm old," the hitman muttered finally. "I had a daughter more than forty years ago, who lived long enough to get married and have a son of her own and who died twenty years ago. I never knew any of it."
There was a subtle rawness to the darker man's voice that Colonello had never heard before, and never wanted to hear again. He panicked inwardly, debating how best to handle the situation. Offer condolences, press further, say nothing? What did Reborn even want from him? Despite having known the guy for decades, he was still a mystery at times. But he wouldn't have brought this up if he were unwilling to talk about it, so Colonello took a gamble and pressed.
"What do you know about her?" This turned out to be an excellent bet, as the words had barely passed his lips before Reborn was reaching into his pocket to pull out several photographs. Colonello had never seen the man handle anything so gently in his life as he held them out, and Colonello returned the favor, taking them as gingerly as he would wet tissue paper.
"She's beautiful, kora," the sniper offered, eyes scanning over the young red-headed woman with intelligent green eyes and one of the kindest smiles he'd ever seen.
"Was beautiful," Reborn responded, ever the cynic.
"Nah, still is," Colonello retorted, and then, just because the bastard had woken him up at the ass-crack of dawn, "Kid's pretty good-looking too, if you ask Fon."
Immediately, Reborn's face contorted into a ferocious sneer. "Pair of fucking idiots, they are."
"Nothing wrong with getting a little moony-eyed, kora," Colonello frowned, a bit thrown. He hadn't expected that sort of vehemence.
"You would say that," Reborn muttered. "And there's a whole hell of a lot wrong with a fifty-year age gap."
Colonello grimaced. When he put it like that…
"Well, yeah. But Fon was stuck as an infant for forty years. You don't think he deserves a break for that? A chance to be normal, finally? Dammit, Reborn, don't you think we should all get to be happy however we want, after that?"
There was no response; the hitman merely tensed his jaw before leaping off the balcony and disappearing through a window on one of the lower levels. Colonello clicked his tongue. There was only one bastard in the world who would wake you up at six in the morning, vicariously complain about getting a second chance at life, and then sulk away when he didn't get the answer he wanted, and Colonello was lucky enough to be that bastard's best friend.
Enma was not entirely sure what he was doing up so early. The sun was only just beginning to arc over the horizon and yet here he was, shivering in the early morning cold on one of Vongola Mansion's bulletproof glass-enclosed verandas, nursing the strongest coffee he could find and listening as best he could to Tsuna. Or trying to, at least; his best friend was completely distraught for some reason he could not quite discern, by fault of the panicked slur of words he was spouting.
At least Enma was not alone in his suffering; Basil was there too. Oh no, wait– he was alone after all. That traitorous CEDEF bastard had fallen asleep with his eyes open again.
"–andthen, I dunno, I was just like, 'howcome you didn'ttellme?' and he was all, 'bluhbluh listen to my stupidsmoothvoice, you can't be mad at sexy, oh and I didn't know either,' and thenItriedtokisshim! Enmaaa~ I don't wanna diieeee."
Enma stared dazedly, having understood approximately three words, one of which was his name.
"Tsuna, why don't you drink something and try to say that again, okay?"
Tsuna let out a whine so pathetic it reminded Enma uncomfortably of their middle school days, but his friend acquiesced and downed his entire cup, then took a deep, slow breath.
"I got mad and jealous because Reborn didn't tell me about his grandson and then I tried to kiss him."
Enma could only gape. "You tried to kiss Reborn's grandson?"
Tsuna let out another desolate keen and dropped his head onto the table. The sudden jolt had Basil leaping up out of his seat, eyes hazy with sleep but hands up defensively. "No, I tried to kiss Reborn."
It was unfortunate that Enma had chosen that moment to take another sip of his coffee. On the plus side, it gave Tsuna an excuse to take a nice, long shower later, during which he could prolong avoidance of his former tutor. Enma didn't think the man was cruel enough to ambush someone while they were naked and wet. Probably.
"…Sorry," Enma muttered sheepishly as he dabbed at the backwash coffee dripping from Tsuna's hair with his sleeve. "But, um, what did he do?"
"Knocked me out. Actually, it's probably a good sign that he didn't kill me outright. Well, or he could be plotting a much slower, more torturous revenge," Tsuna amended morosely.
That last one sounds more like him, Enma resolutely did not say.
"My deepest apologies," Basil finally slurred, sounding faintly dazed and hysterical, "but I think I've just awoken from a bizarre dream, in which you said you tried to kiss Reborn. But that's ridiculous! What were we really talking about?"
Tsuna only groaned again, prompting Enma to pat his shoulder consolingly. Then he grimaced and wiped the spit-up coffee off his hand with the hem of Basil's shirt, who had fallen into another daze and offered no protest.
"Pardon me," a faintly accented voice cut in. Immediately, all three bosses jerked to attention, fully awake and sober – none of them had sensed the approach of another person. At the sight of a long dark braid and red cloth, Tsuna visibly relaxed and Enma followed suit, along with Basil; Fon was trustworthy and also fucking impossible to detect, so all was well.
"Fon, good morning, training early again? Would you like something to drink?" Tsuna offered, gesturing to the coffee pot he had snagged from the kitchen. Fon started to shake his head, then faltered at the sight of Tsuna.
"Ah, you have a little something…?" he hedged, indicating the drying coffee staining Tsuna's hair. Enma flushed with embarrassment, and Fon coughed to disguise a laugh.
"At any rate, I could not help overhearing your dilemma, Tsunayoshi," he said, offering a gentle smile to soften a revelation that might otherwise have humiliated Tsuna. Enma was glad of this; his friend habitually dealt with too much already, and did not need to be shamed for personal feelings.
Tsuna winced nonetheless, and began to stutter out something that might have been an embarrassed apology or desperate plea for silence, but Fon cut him off with a kind smile and a raised hand.
"I assure my discretion on the matter. But you must excuse Reborn; I believe he is feeling his age in all the wrong ways at the moment. And I don't think you need worry about earning his ire. I seem to be doing a fine job of it at present," the martial artist finished wryly.
Enma frowned in confusion; he had thought that Fon, the most peaceful and polite of the former Arcobaleno, was on good terms with all of them. Beside him, Basil made a sound of enlightenment.
"Ah, Reborn's grandson? I happened to notice your… curiosity yesterday evening, after dinner."
And Fon blushed. Nearly unnoticeable, but undeniably there. "He is an interesting young man."
"That's putting it mildly," Tsuna muttered. "Reborn told me that he didn't even know he had a grandson before last week, when the guy just showed up on his doorstep. Since Reborn's, you know, Reborn, I'm surprised he still has a grandson."
Fon chuckled, but there was a high, disbelieving edge to it. "I heard much the same from Harry himself, and also that it was pure luck his head yet remains attached to his shoulders."
"Mm. Given how much attention he's drawn from, well, everyone here, I hope that luck lasts, for his sake."
Harry sighed for the umpteenth time in disgruntlement. Just before happily parting ways with his grandfather hours earlier, he had been tersely informed that today's conference would encompass a number of concurrent smaller, more detailed meetings between only a few famiglie at a time and that, given his lack of familiarity with any of the dons, it would be bad form to request to sit in on any of the private meetings, despite that he would probably be allowed on the grounds of his relation to Reborn.
Reborn had also informed him with something approaching vindictive glee that Fon would similarly be tied up in meetings with various Mafiosi throughout the day. Harry had glared and not-stomped away, but swiftly regretted the bout of childishness when he found himself inexorably lost in the mansion.
Harry wondered vaguely if someone had placed an expansion charm on the place, as it had certainly not looked quite so large or labyrinthine from the outside. It was already approaching nine o' clock and he had encountered no one but a few maids, despite that meetings were supposed to resume around eight. His attempts to seclude himself in an out-of-the-way library until the conferences broke for lunch had failed, as the majority of the small libraries and studies were filled with books written in Italian. The few English books that he'd found and been hoping to occupy himself with had either seemed dreadfully dull, or else contained information that Harry wasn't sure he wanted to know, for the sake of plausible deniability.
And so, Harry resigned himself to merely familiarizing himself with the building's layout by meandering about, but seeing as he was quite sure he had passed that particular portrait and vase combination three times already, he was failing there too. Harry huffed quietly to himself with exasperated frustration–
–And then was violently and unceremoniously shoved from behind and pinned face-first into the wall, cold metal pressing against his neck and an even colder voice hissing menacingly into his ear.
"Identify yourself, herbivore."
You guys didn't expect Harry and Reborn's growing relationship to be all sunshine and daisies, did you? Not between Reborn being the incorrigible, arrogant elitist that he is, and Harry's inability to take any shit from anyone ever. Anyway, more significant plotty stuff will resume in the next chapter.
As always, constructive criticism is appreciated.
SO it's been like…three months? Four? Honestly that's not too bad, coming from me. Sorry for the wait nonetheless :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Identify yourself, herbivore."
Harry hissed as his cheek was pressed into the cool wall, took a moment to recover from the shock of once again not having detected another's presence, and then strained to twist his neck and glance behind him–
Only to see Fon. Unadulterated befuddlement consumed him, and Harry opened his mouth to question the man when his adrenaline kicked in, clearing his mind and sharpening his focus enough to realize that this was in fact a stranger. This man was shorter, younger. He was lacking a long braid and his eyes were paler and harder, and despite having interacted with the man only twice, Harry could not imagine Fon wearing the sort of ferocious scowl that was painted across his assaulter's face.
"I will not repeat myself," the man hissed and yes, even his accent was different from Fon's. A close relative, perhaps? Family was famiglia, after all, according to his grandfather.
"Harry Potter," Harry choked out finally, feeling the man's metal weapon press tighter to his nape. "I'm Reborn's grandson."
The man behind him stiffened, then scoffed. "Do not insult me with such a transparent lie."
"I'm telling the truth–!"
"Oya, oya, Kyoya. Assaulting guests in abandoned hallways? Why, I never thought you the type," a new voice chuckled.
The man behind Harry – Kyoya, apparently – stiffened again, and Harry could feel a snarl rumbling from the man's chest against his back as his rage swelled to near palpability. Harry could not blame him; the smug insinuation in the newcomer's voice set his teeth on edge.
"This lying herbivore is not on any guest list," he growled, "And if he won't admit his purpose here, then I will bite him to death!"
If that wasn't an opening of hostilities, then Harry didn't know what was, but he knew that – as much as he would like to give the other man a good, solid shove right back – he could not retaliate without exacerbating the misunderstanding. Taking advantage of Kyoya's brief preoccupation the newcomer, Harry wrenched himself determinedly away from the wall, cast a pair of Jelly Legs jinxes to impede the pair, and then turned on his heel to Apparate away with a sharp, echoing crack!
He reappeared in the kitchen he had snagged the powdered doughnut from a few hours before. Unless he was mistaken, it was in an entirely different wing from the one that violent security guard had accosted him in, so he hoped he would be safe for long enough to contact his grandfather to clear up the misunderstanding.
He reached into his pocket for the cell phone Reborn had insisted he carry – despite his own insistence that technology did not last very long when exposed to his magic – only to let out a yelp and instinctively throw himself to the side to avoid a steak knife sailing through the air. The steak knife was rapidly followed by two cleavers, a filet knife, and a frying pan, and at that point Harry had quite enough. He called up a powerful shield charm just in time to bounce away a blender, and he was finally able to lay eyes on his newest assaulter.
Oh– the purple guy from the night before. Skull.
"S-stay away from me!" Skull screeched, arming himself with two handfuls of paring knives. "Just leave me alone, you bastard! I won't let you kill me!"
And Harry, who had been on the verge of stunning the man and bolting again, froze. Never before had he been faced with someone so intent on defense against him, so absolutely certain that Harry intended malicious harm. It was a terrible feeling, and despite his gut telling him to neutralize the threat and relocate as quickly as possible, instead he held up his hands placatingly and spoke carefully.
"I'm not here to hurt you. I don't even know who you are."
"You're my mortal enemy, you bastard! How dare you not recognize the Great Skull?!" Skull blanched immediately after, seeming to regret the brief spurt of bravado.
"But I haven't got a mortal enemy, not anymore," Harry said, frowning confusedly. "I really don't know why you think I'm going to hurt you, because I promise that's not my intention."
"Y-you–! Stop trying to trick me! You think I can't tell what you are? You think I can't feel that presence hanging all over you?!"
Harry growled in frustration. "I don't know what you're talking about! What am I?"
"The Master of Death, and you're here to kill me because I'm the guy who won't die!" Skull blurted. The man was nearly hyperventilating, and his hands trembled wildly as he tried to keep the knives held defensively before him. Harry's heart skipped a beat, and the kitchen was grave-silent for several long moments.
"How do you know about that?" Harry whispered hoarsely. Skull licked his lips, smearing the dark purple lipstick.
"I can feel it," Skull whispered back tremulously. "I'm the Immortal Stuntman; I've met Death so many times, of course I can tell when it's hanging around. The way it's sticking so close to you, circling around like a puppy, it's obvious that you're it's– it's Master. And y-you're here to finish the job it's never b-been able to."
Skull's shoulders sagged with hopeless resignation as tears washed streams of dark eye makeup down his cheeks. Harry had not seen anything so pitiable and heart-rending since the war, so he cancelled his shield charm and sat on the ground, hands still up.
"I'm not here to kill you. I promise you that. It's true that I'm the Master of Death, technically, but that's really just an empty title. It was an accident a few years ago, and I'm certainly not looking to do death's work."
Skull looked faint. "An accident…?"
Harry just nodded solemnly, trying his utmost to project sincerity. "A side effect of, well, doing what I had to do to protect the people important to me. I'm… a little bit different since it happened – I've got a few tricks I didn't have before – but I'm not Death Incarnate, or anything. I'm just Harry," he finished earnestly with a helpless shrug.
There was a long silence, broken only by the stuntman's sniffling, as they stared at each other, gauging. Harry must have done something right, because Skull's next move was not to lob more knives at his head.
"…So you're not going to kill me?" Skull's voice was very small as he finally loosened his hold on the paring knives and sank to the ground, leveling his runny eyes with Harry's.
"No, promise." Harry smiled tentatively, and was gratified to see Skull return it wobbily.
"What are you doing here, then?" Skull asked, reaching up onto the counter for a towel to wipe the errant makeup smears from his face. He had surprisingly fine features beneath the mask of paint, and looked quite young.
"My grandfather wanted to introduce me to his world. Reborn, I mean," Harry clarified, and Skull's face promptly morphed into a horrified, disgusted visage.
"That bastard bred?"
Harry sniffed, faintly offended for himself and on behalf of his mother and grandfather, but then recalled the cruel way Reborn had dismissed Skull the night before and supposed the other was at least a little bit justified.
"Apparently," he said stiffly. "What's the problem between you and him, anyway? He didn't have anything kind to say about you yesterday."
Skull's face contorted into what was probably supposed to be a righteously indignant scowl, but ended up looking more like a child's pout. "That bastard has no respect for the Great Skull. He calls me 'lackey' and makes me treat him like he's better than me, but he's not. He's just a big, stupid bully!"
"Er, sorry that he makes you feel like you're not important?" Harry offered, still treading lightly around the obviously unstable man. "But he doesn't seem the type to do something without reason."
"What the hell do you know!" Skull blustered, having apparently forgotten his terror from moments before. "I'm the one who's had to deal with him for forty years!"
And all of Harry's senses sharpened once again, detecting another opportunity to learn about his grandfather's mysterious curse. He zeroed in on Skull, who cast wary eyes at Harry, having noticed the sudden change in demeanor.
"So you were cursed along with my grandfather, then? And Fon as well?" Harry pressed. Skull nodded slowly.
"There were seven of us. Well, seven and a half; Lal got away with her flames unbound."
"Flames? What fl–" Harry broke off suddenly, instincts screaming at him, as he rolled across the ground and ducked behind a trolley as metal crashed into the place he'd been sitting. Ceramic tile exploded outward from the point of impact.
Harry stared disbelievingly, heart beating a violent staccato in his throat as his eyes panned to see one of the men he had encountered earlier– Kyoya, the one who wanted to bite him, of all things. The other one, who had interrupted the interrogation and provided an unwitting distraction for Harry's escape, was nowhere to be seen, but Harry was not concerned with him.
No, he was concerned with Kyoya, whose teeth were bared in a snarl and whose eyes glared murder as Harry had never before seen.
"You," came the animalistic growl. "No more negotiating. I will bite you for humiliating me."
Harry had a brief moment to wonder how he had been found so quickly, and then the man was rushing forward with such alacrity that all he could discern was a very angry maelstrom of spiked chains aimed at his head. Harry thrust himself backwards, mentally bemoaning that the frenzy of the assault did not allow him the brief moment needed to concentrate in preparation for Apparition.
Instead, he sank into himself, allowing the sheer sensation of combat to enshroud him. Left, right, duck, roll to the side, Expelliarmus!
Shit, he kept his grip, what sort of monster was this guy? Stupefy, stupefy, petrificus totalis, confundus! But no, each spell was flicked away by chain or tonfa and Harry grit his teeth, frustration welling inside of him at the easy, careless flicks dismantling his offensive. Indirect it is, then, Harry thought as he conjured a pressurized stream of water from the tip of his wand.
As expected, Kyoya was scarcely deterred, easily dancing around the torrent, but Harry was prepared and wrenched his wand to the side with a ferocious twist, wordlessly forcing the water to vaporize and surround his attacker with a whirling cloud of disorienting steam. In the man's brief distraction, Harry dropped to the ground and rolled, trawling his wand along the floor beside him to freeze the condensation on the tile beneath the plume, and was gratified to hear a distinct thud followed by a frustrated snarl as Kyoya slipped to the ground.
In the brief respite Kyoya's fall afforded him, Harry let his senses expand from the laser focus on his opponent and became aware of rapid, hushed speaking; a glance to the side revealed Skull crouched on the floor, pale and wide-eyed, speaking into a cell phone. Harry wondered briefly who he was talking to, but this moment of curiosity quickly proved to be a terrible mistake as a weighted metal chain coiled around his ankle and yanked him to the ground. He barked out a short cry of pain as his head collided painfully with the tile floor, but instinctively raised a shield above himself to cover his front as his vision spun.
And then the blow of the Kyoya's glowing purple tonfa crashed against his hastily erected shield charm, the tremendous force of it dispelling the slip-shod bubble, and Harry knew he was in serious trouble. But he just couldn't fight back with serious force, not with anything strong enough to actually make it past the formidable blocks of those metal tonfa, because this was one of his grandfather's allies! Damn it, if he would just stop and listen…!
But no, Kyoya was looming back above him, fully recovered from the powerful rebound of shattering the shield charm. His tonfa raised up menacingly to strike the wizard down, and Harry lifted his wand, bombarda on his lips – no choice, don't be too angry, grandpa – when the other suddenly thrust himself backwards out of the way of a blinding plume of orange flame. Harry pulled up another shield and rolled into a ready crouch as a stern voice emerged from the center of the blaze.
"That's enough," the Decimo said, back to Harry. The young man cut an impressive figure, silhouetted against the brilliant flames dancing around him, and most importantly, standing between Harry and the maniac trying to kill him.
Kyoya sneered at the order, waspishly bit out several terse phrases in a foreign language, then made to lunge past the don, aiming once again for Harry's throat.
Decimo raised a hand wreathed in flame, but Kyoya jerked to a halt before the boss could stop him as several gunshots rang through the air, knocking Kyoya's weapons from his hands and piercing into the tile before his feet. The man froze, and despite his attacker's inactivity, Harry could not bring himself to relax, not with the deadly aura that had suddenly suffused the kitchen. For there, looming in the doorway like a wrathful shade, was his grandfather, face stone cold and eyes glinting darkly, holding a green smoking pistol.
"Heel, Hibari. This family doesn't need mad dogs," Reborn intoned grimly. "Don't make me put you down."
Kyoya – Hibari? – looked outraged, eyes narrowed dangerously, but he thankfully refrained from pursuing Harry. Some of the harsh tension drained from the Decimo's shoulders. "Thanks for stopping, Hibari-san," he said. "And for doing your job. But you don't have to worry about Harry, he's Reborn's grandson."
Hibari's eyebrows jerked up for a moment and he gave one last glare to Harry, eyes disturbingly anticipatory, before turning sharply to stalk out of the kitchen. Harry's breath caught as he paused in the doorway, but he only muttered something quiet and demanding to Reborn, who nodded, before disappearing into the hallway. Harry breathed an audible sigh of relief.
"Injuries?" Reborn barked tersely as he came closer. Harry recalled that he was supposed to be frustrated with his grandfather at the moment and thought he should probably ignore the man, but was too glad to see him to be childish. The wizard shook his head in answer to the question, biting down on a wince as the motion made his skull throb.
"I'm sorry for the trouble, Mr. Harry," the Decimo said, finally turning to face him. And Harry gasped, immediately twisting his wand to pull the remaining steam from the air and condensing it over the brilliant orange flame burning in the young man's hair.
"Are you okay?! You were on fire!" Harry fretted as the flame fizzled out, leaving the Decimo staring up at him wide-eyed and gaping and looking very much like a kitten just given a bath, all betrayed affront.
There was a disbelieving silence as Harry began to get the feeling he'd done something wrong, but then his grandfather started laughing, deep and loud and thoroughly delighted.
"Reborn!" the Decimo whined, then whipped around to glare over Harry's shoulder as Skull began chuckling as well. Harry shifted and offered a nervous smile to the mob boss.
"Um, sorry, I–" but he was cut off as the man's lips twitched into a reluctantly amused smile.
"It's alright," he said wryly, voice pitched to rise over Reborn and Skull's laughter as he gripped a lock of hair and squeezed out the water. "I wasn't actually on fire, but thanks for the concern. I guess Reborn hasn't talked to you about Dying Will Flames yet?"
"Let's not ruin the surprise for Harry's first training session, Dame-Tsuna," Reborn cut in, still smirking widely.
The Decimo's face abruptly twisted into queasiness. "But Reborn, he's your grandson! You– you're not going to–!" Apparently it was too horrible to articulate, and Harry considered the merits of sending an emergency missive that Kingsley demand his immediate return to England.
Reborn merely smirked wickedly and turned to glide out of the kitchen, and Harry felt a terrible chill travel down his spine at the sight. Tsuna appeared similarly disturbed and rushed forward to grab the man's sleeve, presumably to continue the conversation, but Reborn was quite suddenly out of the younger man's reach, staring down at him with an unreadable expression. Tsuna froze as well, and although Harry could not see his face, there was an uncomfortable tenseness in the set of his shoulders.
Harry watched the standoff curiously, wondering at the source of the awkward by-play, but then the moment passed. The Decimo cleared his throat and retracted his hand, straightening away from Reborn, who similarly took a step back and regained himself.
"Um, anyway," Tsuna started, obviously grasping for a diversion. "I'm glad we got here in time."
Reborn hummed in agreement, ostensibly back to normal, then called over Harry's shoulder, "It was a good of you to call me, Skull, before the fight escalated further. It would have been annoying to find another Cloud Guardian of Hibari's caliber."
Harry frowned. "I wouldn't have killed him, you know."
"I never said you would," his grandfather rejoined blandly. Harry blinked, faintly confused, but couldn't help but notice Tsunayoshi staring incredulously at Reborn.
"Hmph," Skull snorted petulantly. "Maybe you'll remember this the next time you call me lackey."
As they all left the kitchen to Reborn's sneer that only a lackey would have been unable to handle the situation by himself, Harry paused and glanced back. He could have sworn he just heard an echoing chuckle from within the room, an eerie kufufu that made his skin crawl.
Mammon was… surprisingly not irritated. She had been sitting in on a meeting with the Torego famiglia to arrange a contract when the call had come from Reborn, but her presence there had not been necessary; Squalo was more than capable of discussing the details of the hit, particularly with the aid of the clearly defined price list she had compiled years ago. It was something of a relief, in fact – a diverting turn of events – to be called away, particularly for such an interesting reason.
"Chaos, Mammon," Reborn had said smoothly. "How would you like to bump up your little meeting with Harry? Have your favor a bit early?"
Mammon had been startled by the offer, to say the least. She distinctly recalled receiving a dark glare from the hitman upon declaring that his grandson owed her a small debt, and so was rightfully suspicious that he was suddenly so supportive of that debt. There was a catch, she was quite sure, and had let a skeptical silence do her talking. Reborn had capitulated after a moment.
"…Someone needs to watch him until my meetings are done for the day, and I know you aren't doing anything important. He had a bit of a spat with Hibari and Mukuro because they didn't know who he was, and I need someone recognizable to vouch for him in case security tries to arrest him."
Ah, there it was. Reborn's penchant for flashiness was coming back to bite him. She was tempted to say something smug about guest lists and paranoid Mafiosi and beginners' mistakes, but opted to simply suggest a location for the meeting. It wouldn't do for him to redact the offer, after all.
And so Mammon found herself seated comfortably in an out of the way lounge, awaiting the arrival of Reborn's grandson. A worm of anxiety twisted through her before she shoved it away viciously; she wasn't nervous about meeting the boy. Regardless of his fame and achievements and the rather fearsome reputation he had acquired in recent years, he was hardly mentally unstable in the way of her daily companions, after all.
No, it was the nature of her favor that left Mammon vaguely uneasy. It was not a major request, but it did require a degree of transparency that she was unused to affording anyone, let alone a complete stranger. But she trusted Reborn's judgment, and if the paranoid, emotionally distant hitman felt that his grandson – a highly decorated Auror – was trustworthy enough to attend the largest mafia alliance conference in the world, then she supposed she could trust the young man to an extent as well.
She heard the faint scuffing of the door opening – an ubiquitous and intentional construction flaw throughout the mansion caused all doors to rub across the floor to assist in alerting occupants to intruders – and turned to regard Harry Potter, the Savior of Magical Britain, as he entered cautiously.
Mammon was briefly revisited by the same whimsical notion that had touched her the day before, that the man should be taller and broader and generally more impressive for all of his accomplishments, but banished the thought; she herself was proof that lethality was not contingent upon stature.
"Good day, Mr. Potter," Mammon began. "Please sit."
"Just Harry, please," he responded immediately as he moved to settle into the armchair across from her. "What can I do for you?"
She took her time formulating a response and examined the man before her with a critical eye. A bit twitchy, she decided, noticing his stiff, ready posture and the way his eyes kept flicking about the room. But then he had just come from some sort of encounter with the Vongola Mist and Cloud, so a bit of lingering unease was understandable. Actually, Mammon considered, he appeared to be faring quite well from the incident, with no visible injuries but for a faint redness to one cheek that would likely deepen into a mild bruise. Capable and appropriately cautious, Mammon decided, and allowed herself to be satisfied.
Noticing with mild amusement that her prolonged silence seemed to be augmenting the young man's nerves, she finally spoke. "Tell me, have you any experience with teaching?"
Harry blinked, apparently momentarily taken aback, but then nodded in the affirmative. "Some. I did a bit of defense tutoring for other students back in school, and I've helped a few Auror trainee classes."
"Better than nothing, I suppose," Mammon murmured. Her mouth twisted, then, as she forced herself to articulate the favor. "I…require some guidance regarding certain advanced spellwork."
"Oh," Harry said, a bit blankly. "I'm no genius, but I'd be glad to help if I can. You didn't need an official request or anything for that."
Yes, I did, Mammon thought, but outwardly only nodded. "The first on my list is the encompassing shield charm…"
"D'you mind if I ask why you wanted my help specifically?" Harry asked, some time later. Mammon was pleased with their progress thus far; the wizard's practical advice on the casting of protective wards, concealment spells, and complex transfigurations was infinitely more helpful than the flat descriptions in the textbooks she had procured.
Having powered through the majority of her list in just under two hours, Mammon had suggested they take a short break before continuing the hour until lunch, and the wizard had apparently taken that suggestion as an opportunity to be nosy. She considered ignoring the question outright, but then recalled his earnestness and professionalism in assisting her, the blatant lack of condescension or frustration over basic questions.
Harry Potter had irreparably betrayed himself to be kind and honest. This was admittedly a refreshing change from Mammon's normal companions, but it could also prove quite useful. If she could just spin her story the right way, she stood a good chance of appealing to his sympathy, allowing further imposition on his good graces.
Mammon took a moment to mull over the question, considering how best to phrase her ordeal, before beginning. "I was born a witch, and I am one now, but for a very long time I was unable to use magic."
Caught. The young man appeared immediately enraptured, leaning forward with wide eyes. "Were you cursed as well? Like my grandfather and the others?"
Ah. He was aware of the existence of a curse on the Arcobaleno, but seemed to be lacking in details. And again, his eagerness betrayed him; this curiosity could be useful barter in the future.
"That curse had some role to play, but it was not the primary cause. No, I became unable to perform wanded magic at the age of fourteen." She paused here, thinking that the drama of it would go over well with him. Again, she was correct, as his face fell aghast. Gryffindors, she sighed.
"But how can you just lose your magic?" Harry demanded.
"I did not lose it; my magic was stolen from me," Mammon said grimly. "But I will start from the beginning. I was a student of Hogwarts, like yourself, although I was sorted into Slytherin." Mammon paused here again, almost unnoticeably, to gauge his reaction to her sorting. If he was complicit in the infamous rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin, then he may be less willing to overlook any prevarication; but no, there was no hint of animosity in his expression, and Mammon continued.
"I thrived there, reveled in the magic and the arcane, but there were issues, of course. Children will be children, and I do not excuse myself from that fault. Growing up impoverished as I had, I cherished the opportunity Hogwarts offered to earn wealth in exchange for tutoring services, and so when another student blatantly and unapologetically stole from me some of that hard-earned money, I reacted impulsively in my rage. I was expelled, my wand was snapped, and my magic was sealed."
"…I didn't know it was possible to seal someone's magic away," Harry said quietly, his face grim.
"The practice has since been banned, deemed too cruel. But back then, it was considered the gentler alternative to Azkaban, enforced upon minors and others with constitutions too weak to endure the Dementors. The convicted were then allowed to live their lives as they saw fit, only without magic.
"In my case, the block was to be lifted upon the completion of my sentence, but I was cursed before then, and the circumstances surrounding that curse prevented me from returning to the magical world to have the block removed. When the curse was lifted seven years ago, the magic block was apparently lifted as well, although I did not realize it until three years ago. Since then, I have been attempting to refamiliarize myself with that world."
Mammon paused again. "It has been…difficult, trying to re-educate myself in the ways of wanded magic. I had not held a wand in many decades, and much of what I learned as a student I have either forgotten or is out-of-date, and textbooks alone can only teach so much. I needed an instructor, one whose questions concerning my circumstances I would feel… safe, answering."
"So basically, an experienced wizard within the family?" Harry asked. Quite astute, Mammon noted, before nodding in the affirmative.
"But you know I'm not technically family, right? I'm only here because Reborn – who is also technically not Vongola – wanted me to meet his people. I'm not staying or anything; I'm still a British Auror."
Mammon shrugged. "Close enough, and a better bet than anyone else around here. Particularly considering your history."
Harry hummed noncommittally, still watching Mammon shrewdly. "Speaking of history, there's a bit of yours that doesn't add up. Mind answering a bit more, since I'm apparently safe to speak to?"
Mammon frowned back, only visible in the downturn of her lips. "I will decide whether to answer."
"It was interesting how you attributed your crime to simple childhood pettiness, but I'd like to know what exactly you did, that you would have been thrown in Azkaban if you'd been of age and that even still you were given a sentence from the age of fourteen until at least your mid twenties, which I gather is approximately when you all were cursed."
Mammon cursed internally; apparently he was not just some puppet Auror. It had been difficult enough trying to downplay the severity of her crime, hoping the discussion of the cruel and unusual practice of cutting witches and wizards off from their magic and her subsequent difficulties would distract him from the specifics of her crime, but no luck.
She could not simply refuse to answer this question, as it would only deepen his suspicion, but she could not reveal the full severity of her actions, not to someone of his Gryffindorish disposition; he would surely condemn her, and retract his offer of assistance. Perhaps once she had garnered full use of him, she could divulge precisely what kind of monster he had aided.
Because Mammon did not regret it.
Even now, Mammon still felt rage as she recalled the events of that day. She had been minding her own business – literally, as she counted out her sickles for the week in a back corner of the library. But then several boys, older years of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, and sauntered in, spied the shine of her coins, and had set their greedy hands upon them.
Ha! one foolish fifth year had mocked. What do girls know about money, anyway? Really, I'm doing you a favor here. You'd just waste it all on shiny baubles.
And she had leapt to her feet, seething with fury at the insult and the theft, and they had just laughed even more. Vitriolic threats had erupted from her throat, and they just turned their backs and walked away. So she followed through.
CRUCIO! The child who was not yet Mammon had screeched, the Unforgivable leaping to her lips as she recalled the clandestine whisperings of those dark Slytherin boys who had graduated the year before. Crucio, crucio, crucio!
"…I attacked my tormentors with a very dark curse, one that several upper years had suggested I use should I ever feel threatened. I was unaware of precisely how dark it was, but that did not absolve me," Mammon lied coolly.
"It was some sort of pain curse, if I recall," she hedged. How relentless, like a dog with a bone.
"The Cruciatus," Harry said flatly, eyes probing as he cut precisely through her bullshit. "You crucified another student for stealing a few galleons."
"…Yes," Mammon admitted grudgingly, and opted to not correct him, that it had actually been several students for a few sickles, not galleons.
Harry simply stared at her, the picture of austerity, until he sighed. "As much as I hate to admit it, I can't begrudge you for it, not when I've done something similar. Well, except that I actually do regret it, and it wasn't an Unforgivable," he added wryly, then continued, "Anyway, you've served more than your sentence, right? So let's let it lie and move on, shall we?"
And then he leaned forward, plucked the spell list off the table, and carried on as though the conversation had never happened.
"Cave inimicum, hmm? Here, if you finish the quarter clockwise rotation with this little twist-poke, it'll prolong the ward by a good bit…"
And Mammon, thrown decidedly more off-kilter than she could recall being for a very long time, could only follow suit with a faint shiver. Definitely Reborn's grandson.
Poor Skull. Poor Harry. Poor Tsuna. Poor innocent children traumatized by Mammon.
Concrit is welcome!