Chapter Eighteen - Xanxus' Babysitter
Hermione had been incredulous when Harry had told her that he had found a job as a servant in an Italian mansion. To go from the Man-Who-Won, a rising star in the Auror department and media darling, to someone who was paid to cook, clean and be invisible, was such a massive step down that she couldn't wrap her head around it.
"It's a done deal, Hermione," he had told her. "I passed the interview, they tested my skills, I'll be moving to Italy next week. This is just to say goodbye."
"But Harry," she had said, "why are you doing this? Why Italy? Why Muggles? When will we see you again?"
"I need a fresh start, Hermione, and you do too. You and Ron need to be out from under my shadow, and that won't happen until I'm far away. I never wanted to be a hero, Hermione. I never wanted to spend the rest of my life fighting. I'm good at cooking and cleaning, and I enjoy it. Besides, I spent the last six months learning Italian. Aren't you proud of me?"
"But Harry," she had repeated, ignoring his teasing, "You said that they monitor calls, and that they liked the fact that you were an orphan from outside the country. It's suspicious."
"Hermione, I can handle it," he had assured her. "They like their privacy, and they don't want anyone spying on them. If it is dangerous, better me than some unsuspecting Muggle. Do you think I can't handle it? I get four weeks holiday a year, it's not like I'll never see you again."
She had rolled her eyes at him as he grinned at her, before he grabbed his completely Muggle luggage and headed out the door, saying a fond farewell not just to her, but to the Magical World.
Magic had brought him a lot of joy. It had saved him from the Dursleys, it had given him friends. But now he couldn't even touch his wand without remembering the people he'd killed with it. He couldn't cast so much as a cleaning charm without thinking of a hundred different ways it could be used to set traps, to avoid detection, to torture. You could kill someone with a cleaning charm if you stuck your wand up their nose and cast hard enough. Harry needed a break, and no one else seemed to understand. Cleaning seemed like the way to go. He had been forced to do chores by Aunt Petunia, but he was genuinely proud of the skills he had developed. He was almost as house-proud as she was by the time his Hogwarts letter came, although he hid that from his housemates. They all seemed fine with being messy, joking about mothers that cleaned their rooms for them. Harry hadn't wanted to stand out.
So here he was, three days after his orientation week, cleaning in the Vongola Mansion. As the newbie, he had been given the most dangerous job – cleaning the bedroom of the boss's youngest son. Xanxus was a menace, according to the staff, a 'prickly ball of rage'. Harry had only seen him from a distance. Rumours said that he was a bastard child, taken from the slums where he was raised by 'that whore mother of his'. With that history, and that attitude from the people around him, Harry could see why the kid might be angry.
His rooms – Xanxus had a suite, which meant Harry had to clean a bedroom, living room and bathroom – had to be dealt with while Xanxus was with his tutors. However, Christian, who had shown him the ropes, had told him that Xanxus often left his lessons early, and would return to his rooms when he didn't feel like spending time at the shooting range. Harry had been told that the best approach was to stay quiet and non-confrontational and leave as soon as possible. Harry had looked dubious at the advice, since walking on eggshells around someone was hardly going to encourage them to feel at home. Christian had misread his expression, and reassured him that he probably wouldn't run into Xanxus at all.
Of course, a comment like that was like a double-dare to the Potter luck. Harry was putting the books that had been scattered all over the floor back in their places on the bookshelves as the furious eleven year old slammed the door open and threw himself angrily onto the sofa. Harry watched him out of the corner of his eye as he carried on working. Xanxus was about average height for an eleven year old, a head taller than Harry had been at that age. He had black hair that was almost as messy as his own, and a ferocious scowl on his face. With that look and the dark clothes that he was wearing, Harry suddenly had the thought of him as a little raincloud, about to start a storm. It made him seem even more adorable than he already was, although he was probably aiming for threatening.
"The hell are you doing, trash?" he demanded petulantly, as he caught sight of Harry.
"I'm cleaning," Harry said. He had been told to address Xanxus as 'Young Master', but he got the feeling that would irritate him as much as it did Harry.
"Get the fuck out," he commanded. His words said to leave, but his body language, his tone of voice, it was all screaming that the kid needed someone to talk to. How many adults had taken him at his word and just walked away?
"Would you mind if I finished sorting this out first? You came back rather early."
"Yeah?" Xanxus stood up suddenly. "You got a problem with that, trash? Do you really want to tell me that I should stay sat in pointless lessons with the useless, patronising scum?" By the end of his little rant, Xanxus was right up in Harry's face.
"I don't have a problem with that. Although your tutor must have brains of fluff if he thinks the best way to teach anyone anything is to patronise them. If he's that blind, he really shouldn't be teaching."
"You think so?" Xanxus sounded unexpectedly vulnerable. Seeming to realise this, he flung himself back onto the sofa. "Do what you want, trash."
Harry carried on sorting the books. Xanxus was actually reasonably tidy, compared to the boys he had shared a dorm with. He had a habit of leaving books lying around everywhere, and from the look of his bedroom through the open door he didn't seem to understand what a laundry hamper was for, but other than that there wasn't a lot that needed doing.
"Do you mind if I clean your bedroom?" Harry asked. Xanxus started.
"The hell would I mind for, trash?" he asked.
"Your bedroom is your space. It's generally polite to ask before you intrude on someone's private space, and it occurred to me that I didn't know if anyone had actually asked your permission." If Xanxus was a street kid, he was probably desperately trying to regain some control over his life after it had been turned upside down. Giving him a private space he knew no one would invade would help him.
"No one asked anything, trash." Xanxus paused for a moment. "Leave it alone. I'll keep it clean. I'll set the other trash straight if they bitch to you about it."
"Thanks," Harry said. Then he decided to try and confirm the thought he'd had earlier. "Do you actually want me to call you 'Young Master"?"
Xanxus scoffed. "Fuck no. Call me Xanxus."
Harry grinned and held his hand out. "Harry. Pleased to meet you."
Xanxus shook his hand, seeming nonplussed. He sat quietly while Harry cleaned the room around him, grunting out a goodbye as Harry left the room.
The next day, Harry was half-expecting to see Xanxus again when he went to clean his room. It seemed that he had decided to either stick with his lessons or shoot something, because he wasn't there. This was the trend until three days after that first meeting. Xanxus still wasn't there, but he had left a note on the table in his living room for him.
What the hell am I supposed to do with the dirty laundry? I'm going to shoot that bitch if she doesn't shut up about it.
By 'that bitch', Harry assumed that Xanxus meant Irene, the stern middle-aged woman who was in charge of laundry. It was a bigger job than Harry had thought it was. When he had asked, she had explained that she wasn't simply in charge of making sure clothes were clean, but also that suits were commissioned and tailored, torn clothing was replaced, workout clothes weren't worn too thin and a host of other things. If it involved clothes, it went through her. She had been complaining to Harry that Xanxus' dirty laundry never made it into the wash. Technically it was Harry's responsibility, but she had been sympathetic when he said that Xanxus had asked him to leave his room alone. No one wanted to light the fuse on his notoriously short temper.
This seemed to be another thing that no one had asked about or explained to Xanxus. The more he was hearing, the more Harry was empathising with the boy's anger issues. It seemed that throwing temper tantrums was the only way to get anyone to pay attention to him. Harry grabbed the pen lying next to the paper and scrawled a reply.
Dump your dirty clothes in the blue laundry hamper in the corner of your bedroom. If you don't want me going in there to collect it, leave it in the living room. The laundry room is just off the kitchen, so if you have anything with a stain that needs to be dealt with right away, take it there or ask one of the servants to do it for you.
He considered adding a more personal touch to the note – a 'how are you?' or 'hope classes are going well' – but he didn't think that Xanxus would appreciate it. Best to establish a line of communication before he started pushing.
The next day, the hamper full of dirty clothes was stood in the living room, and there was another note on the coffee table.
Where the fuck do I get different shower gel from? This shitty floral stuff is driving me crazy, and if I have to use it any more I'm pouring it down someone's throat.
Now Harry was irritated. Had no one explained anything to him? His orientation had been a thousand times more thorough than this. He scrawled out a reply and took a couple of deep breaths before his annoyance could turn to anger.
What kind of incompetent moron was in charge of getting you settled in here? Do they expect you to be telepathic or something? If you know what you want, write a list it'll get bought for you. I'm going shopping tomorrow, so I can pick stuff up for you personally. If you get permission from whoever you need to, I can take you with me.
So he wasn't as good at keeping the anger out of the note as he had hoped. He didn't think Xanxus would mind. It was his day off tomorrow, and he had permission to take one of the cars into town and pick up some things eh needed – a bookcase for his room, a new jacket and some better conditioner. He had heard from one of the cooks about a conditioner that might actually be able to neaten his hair, and he was curious. It would be no trouble to take Xanxus with him.
He wasn't expecting to be called to the Boss's office the next morning. Christian led him there and knocked on the door, looking at him sideways and obviously dying to know what he done wrong. Harry knew in general that someone had a problem with his relationship with Xanxus, but he didn't know what the specific issue was.
A voice called for them to enter. Harry walked into the room, to stand in front of the desk, while Christian bowed from the doorway and rushed away. An old man Harry recognised as his Boss, Vongola Nono, was sat behind the desk, while a thirty year old man Harry was fairly sure was the man's oldest son, Enrico, leant casually against it.
Probably-Enrico straightened up as Harry approached the desk. He pushed himself upright and stalked in a circle around Harry. Harry had to supress the urge to sigh and roll his eyes. This kind of cheap intimidation tactic might work on the inexperienced teenager he looked like, but it really made no impression on him. Facing down Voldemort kind of spoiled lesser threats.
After a thorough inspection, Probably-Enrico came round to look him in the eyes.
"What do you want with my little brother?" he growled.
"I want to clean his rooms," Harry replied. What was he supposed to say?
"Do you know who I am?" Almost-Definitely-Enrico snarled, getting right up into Harry's face. Harry stayed silent. Really, what was he supposed to say here?
"I'm Enrico Vongola," Definitely-Enrico snapped, stepping back, "And I want to know what you want with Xanxus."
"I want him to be happy. And since no one else seems to be doing anything to help him settle in, I might have overstepped some boundaries to help. If that's a problem, I apologise." Wow. He hadn't realised he was that angry. Now that he was paying attention, his temper was roiling, begging to be let loose. He took a deep breath. Getting angry would not help here.
"You think I have been neglecting my son?" Vongola Nono asked in a voice like ice.
"He didn't know that he was allowed to ask for his bedroom to be left alone. He didn't know what he was supposed to do with laundry or how to get toiletries he liked. You've taken a young man who's used to being independent, and shoved him into a situation where he has no control. What do you think? Sir." Somehow he didn't think the title tacked onto the end of his little rant really helped at all.
"The fuck are you doing?" a familiar voice demanded from the doorway. Xanxus stormed into the room, putting himself very deliberately between Harry and Enrico.
"This young man is a very new employee, Xanxus, and he has immediately taken steps to insert himself into your good graces. It is likely that he is a plant from a rival Family to get close to you," Enrico explained.
"Harry is the only one out of all the trash who doesn't treat me like I'm fucking glass or a rabid dog. Maybe if you acted like I was human, we wouldn't have this problem, trash!" Xanxus roared. Vongola Nono reared back as though Xanxus had slapped him.
"Son, I never meant for you to feel out of place here. I'm sorry that I didn't take into account how overwhelming this must be for you, but if you just try…"
Xanxus cut him off. "Shut the fuck up, old man! I don't need your patronising bullshit! Maybe if you had actually tried at all, I wouldn't feel out of place. You're taking a wolf and trying to make it into a fucking lapdog!"
Harry knew that it wasn't his place to interfere in a family dispute, but he also knew that for whatever reason, he was the only one there that Xanxus even remotely trusted.
"Xanxus," he said, making the furious teen turn to face him. "Your father was raised like this. It probably doesn't occur to him that things like this need explaining. Why don't you write a list of the things that people are expecting you to magically know, so that he knows what the problems are?" Given how Xanxus had chosen to communicate through notes, Harry thought writing down problems might be easier for him.
"Sure," he scoffed. "Write a list so that he can bitch about my handwriting and language and all the other fucking bullshit the trash thinks is so fucking important."
Harry was panicked to see tears in Xanxus' eyes as he shook with rage. This breakdown had obviously been a long time coming. Xanxus grabbed his sleeve, and then, evidently deciding that wasn't enough contact, threw his arms tight around him.
Xanxus hugged the way he did everything else. Fiercely, angrily with an edge of barely restrained rage. His arms were like steel bands as he trembled against Harry. He knew Xanxus was crying because he could feel the damp spot on his chest where the boy was leaning. Xanxus took a mouthful of his shirt, biting down on it as a makeshift gag to stifle his sobs. Harry's heart broke at the sight of the child who was so terrified of being vulnerable even here, surrounded by the people who should make him feel safe. What had happened to him, to make him so afraid to be seen and heard when he cried? Harry was as immobile as if someone had cast Petrificus at him, with his arms pinned to his sides by the hug that was more of a restraint. Xanxus was clearly scared out of his mind at not being control, at maybe being weak even for a moment and allowing himself to accept comfort. All Harry could do was lean into the hold and let Xanxus know silently that he was there.
After a minute or so, Xanxus let go, wiping his face with his hand and scowling. "So. You want a list."
"I think it would help," Harry told him, trying as hard as Xanxus to act as though the boy hadn't just broken down.
"Right. Let's go do that. We'll go shopping later, trash." Back to trash. Xanxus really must be feeling the need to asset his authority again.
"Of course. Maybe your brother would like to come with us? I'm sure he'll know where the best shops are; I'm new here." Harry really wanted to start building bridged between Xanxus and his family before he slammed all his walls back up again.
Enrico jumped at the offer. "Of course I'll show my little brother round town! When you've done the lists, drop them in my room and we can go. You know where my room is, right?"
He beamed at Xanxus' curt nod. Nono smiled at Xanxus' awkward "Later, Old Man," that he muttered as he steered Harry out of the door.
Harry allowed himself a smile as he followed Xanxus down the corridor. The problems may not be entirely fixed, but at least they had made a start. He hadn't expected to become the keeper of an emotionally damaged boy and his anger issues when he moved to Italy, but he couldn't deny that life would be very interesting from here on out.
I'm working my way through the options from the poll. Xanxus' babysitter was the clear winner, so I hope this satisfies.
The two chapters of How Harry Became Chrome will be up soon as 'Mirrored Mist', and the third chapter is coming soon. Many thanks to Jade Celandine for the name, and to everyone who suggested titles! I'll be leaving them in this collection as well so that I don't lost all the reviews here.