Disclaimer: No, I don't own Harry Potter or Kuroshitsuji or its' characters... but I do own this lil' story.

Summary: He was tortured by the Dark side. The Light side betrayed him. Now he's back, and not alone. Watch out, Wizarding World, because two butlers from hell are pissed.

Shout Out: Crikey, mateys, this one is seriously, seriously late, but rest assured, it's finally here. I apologize for being late - this time the plotdragons were really picky about song, and my beta MHB has her midterms - by the way, I root for her and wish her the best! And of course, to any of you poor schmucks that have to go through the horrors called tests, exams and so on... /shudders/. Suffice to say, the thesis on my side was successfully defended, so now I have more time for writing, even if it does stray to stranger waters than usual...Oh, and by the way, Zubeida Khan is a legit character, even if she doesn't show in the books, but she was shown in HP movies... I am not sure about games, though. (Picked her up from some HP wikipedia site, which I can for the life of me find again /grumpy/). Soo, happy belated Thanksgiving or whatever you celebrate in those times!

PS: Antares is addressed both as Carruthers Heir and Carruthers Head of House there... and this is intentionally done. The explanation will be revealed in the next chapters.

Warnings: A certain kumoshitsuji finally showing his colors and of course, Antares just has to have the last word out there...

If I hadn't made me, I would've been made somehow..
If I hadn't assembled myself, Id've fallen apart by now.
If I hadn't made me, I'd be more inclined to bow.
Powers that be, would have swallowed me up
But that's more than I can allow.

("Make Yourself", by Incubus)

Green eye stared at the two squabbling teenagers disinterestedly. He was not in the least inclined to spend his time with the brats, but being sensible, albeit aloof heir of that Black mutt came with some unpleasant obligations, and one of them was being babysitter to the two - technically three, if counting in Ginny - teenager who resided in the Grimmauld Place. He held back a grimace of distaste as once again, the boy whined about the girl's obsessive need to go over the summer homework again and again, and really, this was getting –

" – sure that Antares agrees with me. Don't you?" He blinked slowly as the girl turned to him, brown eyes looking at him in a mixture of pleading bossiness... if that was even possible.

"Granger, do you really need to drag me into one of your squabbles again?" He pointed out dryly, speaking the last word with long-suffered exasperation that made the girl wince. "Uh… Sorry?" She tried to apologize, but Antares' flat stare told her in no uncertain terms that she was trying his nerves. "I - I'm sorry, but homework is important - how else could've learn otherwise?" She defended feebly, biting her lip anxiously, as she looked at him.

It wasn't often, but occasionally, Antares joined them in the living room, mostly as a silent observer, and all of Hermione's numerous questions were either politely rebuffed or she had been told outright that it wasn't appropriate. It made the bushy-haired girl positively aggravated that the information was denied to her, and even more, that Antares was like an ice block in dealing with them. At first, she had thought it was only that he was shy – new surroundings and so on, but days passed, and Antares behaved the same as he had when he came to live in the house. She had tried almost everything – talking about Muggle world, then Wizarding world, even going so far as to ask him about some of the more obscure customs, and still nothing! It was just like talking with a mute person, with the exception this particular 'mute' person spoke out once in a blue moon. And Ron had received his fair share of punishment from Sirius, despite Mrs. Weasley's protests. She still couldn't believe his tactlessness in confronting Antares - Ron had outright accused the Carruthers Heir of consorting with the 'ferret' - aka one Draco Malfoy, and that caused the whole shebang of insults following and consequent punishment for the foot-in-mouth-cursed youngest Weasley male. She looked at the Carruthers heir critically.

For once, shoulder length hair was loose, white strands framing his face and making a stark contrast with the black eye patch – Hermione once asked how he lost the eye, and Antares' answer was short and simple - torture. The tone he had spoken this little word with made her shut up immediately and for once, she cursed her overly inquisitive nature.

Antares was clothed in comfortable dark blue trousers and deep gray and white pullover, making him seem like a pale speck of dirt against the dark and drab surroundings. He was sitting elegantly on the leather couch, his left hand loosely holding a book, as if he was uncaring of its contents and overall value - Hermione gulped. Sirius had given his heir free reign of library, and that rankled her, because no matter how much she begged the doggy Marauder, she was always denied entrance. He was still paler than was healthy, but at least he wasn't such a ghost-like apparition anymore. One of the butlers - this time it was the bespectacled one - stood behind him, like some kind of a sentinel, ready, willing and able to be at service, and if needed be, to battle. The other one had some errands to do, which Antares didn't deem important to be told to the Order. This also rankled Hermione - Antares should have deferred to the Dumbledore, but instead, the youth was stubbornly sticking up like some kind of a sore thumb. And much to her bewilderment, Dumbledore didn't do a whit about his rebellious attitude.

"On his own time?" Antares suggested sarcastically, interrupting her line of thought rather abruptly, that dark green eye of his watching her mockingly. "You are not his watchdog - he can pass or fail at his leisure."

"What he said – " Ron piped up, smirking, before he blinked. "Wait. You just insulted me, didn't you?" He glared at the Antares, the tips of his ears reddening.

"Did I?" Antares counter-asked back archly, tilting his head just so as he inspected the book paper lazily. Ron glared. "Whatever." He muttered as he turned away.

"Master, it's time for us to depart," The butler interrupted the squabble as he leaned over, plucking the book from Antares' hand - Hermione blinked, as for a moment, the gesture was too intimate for a Servant to execute - it was something friends did, or lovers, but they were Master and Servant –

White eyebrow quirked. "Already?" Antares muttered as he stood up. "But of course." The bespectacled butler muttered, his yellow eyes hidden behind glasses and lowered eyelids. "You did say you wanted to be there half an hour before."

"That I did." Antares agreed, nodding as he headed to the door, his servant following him like some kind of a human shadow.

"Wait!" She called out, making the duo halt. "Where are you going? Dumbledore said – "

"It's none of your business." The butler interrupted her, yellow eyes behind square glasses narrowing, making her flinch under his passive - aggressive glare. "My Master is here as a gesture of a goodwill on his part, and he can come and go whenever and wherever he pleases. You have no authority to be privileged of knowing if his comings and goings. You are just a guest here, and not even particularly polite one. Learn your manners. Until then, good day."

Flinching, she averted her gaze as she pouted at the apparent unfairness of being disallowed to the privileged information, thus missing the soft click of the door being closed.

Antares glanced at his butler. "You're in fine form today." He commented, before looking away, his thoughts already on the next task. The golden-eyed butler inclined his head as he held out the dark gray cloak to the white-haired youth. "Thank you, Master." If Antares had sensed his voice was a little tense, the young noble didn't comment on it, and that both assured and disappointed the spider butler. He had been similarly disregarded in the past - not with that fake Trancy – but his other Master had more or less ignored him, except for when some task had to be done. So it was an irksome surprise that the one he wanted his attention on his person, was clearly dismissing him as if he were a yesterday's news. Add that to the ever-rising want for the youth's blood and with the recent news of Antares' supposed fiancée, and here you go, one very grumpy and slightly mentally unstable kumoshitsuji. Michaelis had it somewhat easier, because his last meal was properly filling, but Claude's just made him a wee bit loopier at times, forcing him to keep a tight rein of his unconscious impulses, like that one when he wanted to bite the nape of his Master's neck and slurp down that delicious red substance –

"Snap out of it, Faustus!" A sharp voice made him flinch as he blinked dumbly at the pale skin barely a finger's breadth away from his nose. Just what the - Oh. He jerked up hastily, feeling warmth suffuse his cheeks in reaction at his uncouth behavior. "I apologize, Master. I don't know what had come over me." He muttered, ashamed, inwardly berating himself for the faux pas he had almost done.

"I don't care about it, but keep your head in the game." Antares snapped back, the single green eye glaring at him briefly as he almost snatched the cloak from the butler's slackened hands – failing at the last moment because Claude swiftly snatched it away, only to gently place it around the small, slender shoulders a moment later, acting as if nothing happened. "Indeed." The blue butler commented, his voice drier than desert, making Antares sigh with exasperation as he allowed the butler to close the garment and choosing to disregard the small flash of fuchsia passing across the golden irises.

Half an hour later, the duo was accompanied to the modestly decorated room in Gringotts bank. Despite both of his butlers' protests, Antares had replied to the letter and agreed to the meeting with his prospective fiancée - but only if they met in Gringotts. Usually, the protocol was to choose a neutral place and conduct such business there, but Antares didn't trust Miss Khan enough to choose any of the traditional places and not tweak it to her advantage, so he opted for renting a room in Gringotts for a foreseeable future for such dealings - he was not under any delusions that this would be the first and the last encounter with wizards, however necessary and loathsome they would be. But beggars cannot be choosers, and for his plan, Antares needed other foothold in the Wizarding World than only his convict of a father, useless Order of Flaming Chicken and a couple of school kids.

The room was tastefully furnished in dark wood while the floor was tiled with deep gray stones that had intriguing silver lines occasionally crossing the surface. In the middle of the room, there was a table for two, made from mahogany and cherry wood - the dark brown almost black wood complimented the silky deep red shine magnificently. The high-backed chairs were made from the same wood, with deep gray velvet cushions just waiting for the person to sit down on and lean against. The chandelier was simple – some crystal baubles hanging from the ceiling on delicate silver strands, twisting down toward table in a double helix, the baubles glowing with a warm light The room exuded a sense of calm and something more - whether that something was good or bad, it was bound to be seen.

Antares eyed the surroundings critically. The room would have been more appropriate for a romantic tryst than the type of negotiation he would soon commence against his opponent. However, he had to hand it to the goblins or whoever decorated the place - they clearly knee what they were doing.

Silently, his butler took off his cloak, meticulously placing it over his arm. If there had to be a fault with the room, it was that there wasn't any hook to hang the cloak on - but no matter.

A small sound alerted them to the opening the door. And there she was.

She was a little taller than Antares and clothed in a sensible ensemble of maroon-colored coat with the wooly dress in the same color with light gray edges made from silk. The combination enhanced her wheat pale hair that was gathered in a simple loose braid. Her face was oval, with pale pink lips and curiously grayish green eyes.

And then she opened her mouth.

"Lord Carruthers, I presume?" Her voice was soft like water whispering over the stones. Overall, she seemed to be the kind of proper and prim lady the society would delight to have in its midst, but Antares was not fooled. Behind all that softness and feminine curves, there was an iron-forged will and cunningness.

There needn't to be any guess to her identity.

"Thank you for your kindness. I am Zubeida Khan, I am honored to meet you."

Antares inclined his head stiffly. "Likewise, Heiress Khan." He gestured to the chairs. "Shall we?"

She didn't think what to think about the enigmatic Lord Carruthers. She knew he was ruthless and he was against Death Eaters and she knew he was of a proper lineage, but meeting the person the Daily Prophet was blubbering about in person was another experience entirely.

After she had sent the letter, there was a nervous expectation, filled with moments of dread and apathy. She dreaded to get the letter, be it rejection or acceptance - but the curious thing was, she dreaded the acceptance even more so than she had the rejection. When she had received the letter - it was, curiously, delivered by the crow, she half-whished it would have been a rejection one, so that all of this would be done and over with - and yet, there was the other half of her that clambered for assistance, nudging her with the 'what if' scenarios. What if she was rejected? Then she would have to enter the Dark Lord's service, and with her beauty, they all knew what part of 'services' would entail. If she were to be accepted by the Lord Carruthers, then… what?

It was on a whim she had written that letter, half-panicked with the fear of being in the Dark Lord's employ - she wished that neither for herself nor for her parents – however there was few of the nobles that could grant her protection enough to be exempt from the Dark Lord's ire, be that by his, or by his followers' hands. Indeed, Hogwarts wasn't the safe haven Dumbledore preached it to be, and not only for Gryffindors. The inter-house politics were a terrible thing, and she was walking on thin ice as it were just because she didn't joint Malfoy's clique. There was a meager safety when Potter had been attending the school, as Malfoy's focus was mostly on him then - so much that the inner joke between gray Slytherins was that he had to have hots for the resident Gryffindor Golden Boy. However, with Potter's arrest, there was bound to be change, and not for the best.

When she read the letter, she felt so strong relief she was almost sick with it. This… was her ticket out, now it only remained that she convinces him to agree to her proposal.

From then on, it was a simple matter of arranging the date and time, and she had dug deep in her wardrobe to find something that didn't practically scream 'Slytherin! Get over there!' but was practical enough and mundane enough to be unnoticed, yet high-class enough to represent her as a marriage prospect along with her status as the noble.

She had snuck out of the Khan Manor easily enough – her parents had gone to visit the Greengrasses, so she was free to do as she would. Her only regret was that she was doing this behind her parents' backs, but it couldn't be helped.

And now, here she was, sitting opposite him, staring in his lone eye.

Apart from greetings, there was silence in the room as they stared at each other. She barely eyed Lord Carruthers' butler - he was only an unimportant person, anyway - and instead concentrated on the contest of wills between them.

He had white hair now … How curious. She itched to ask what had prompted this little hairy makeover, but got the feeling it would be unwise to choose this particular subject. The green eye was a stark contrast to the whiteness of the tresses, along with the pitch dark blackness of the eye patch. His face was pale and aristocratic looking, and if she were a lesser girl, Zubeida would have swooned at him. However, this appearance was jagged only by the sheer coldness of his eye - she felt as if she were observed by a glacier who was about to overwhelm her with its sheer, merciless coldness.

The silence between strained, until it finally reached the breaking point.

"Talk." Short, simple and cruel. Zubeida blinked. No, not cruel, but merely… Indifferent. She inhaled and began.

"I need your help." She began, without any preamble. "I don't want to join Dark lord, and Dumbledore isn't an option." Blunt - maybe too much, and her Slytherin compatriots would have disowned her out of the principle, but she was on losing side anyway. She didn't care about how - all it mattered was that she got her point across. And if she sounded like an overly-blubbery Gryffindor - or, Merlin forbid, Hufflepuff - then so be it. "Since Potter's incarceration, Slytherin isn't a safe place for me anymore. The only solution for me to be more or less safe is to be engaged, because then they can't touch me without my fiancé's agreement."

The green eye remained emotionless. "Why me?" Lord Carruthers asked, his fingers interlaced in front of his mouth, muffling the words slightly.

Zubeida winced. "Because you are not affiliated with any house." She answered as she lowered her eyes, nibbling her lower lip absentmindedly. "Gryffindors are too steeped in Light and under Dumbledore's thumb. The same is with Hufflepuffs - besides, there aren't many of a notable lineage there. Ravenclaws are sitting on two fences - I couldn't be sure if I chose right, and besides, if I chose a fiancé among them, there is a greater chance they could be convinced to break the engagement."

"So an outsider would be a safer option," Antares concluded, making her nod in agreement. "However." She stiffened. 'Here it goes.' "Why me?" The pale hands still obstructed the lower half of his face - for all purposes and intents he seemed to be a statue - cold, emotionless, living statue, clothed in the finest threads available. Zubeida found a ball of resentment churl in her gut at the sight. Here she was, offering the lout everything - practically everything for the mere breadcrumbs of his protection, and he had the gall of just sitting here, not being affected to her plight!

She was used to the boys looking at her, undressing her with their eyes, leering at her - she had gotten some salacious propositions since she was in Hogwarts, and not all of them were from the boys in her year. She was fairly confident in her womanly charms, so this meeting was like an ice shower for her. Not even a quarter in it, and her subtle advances were repelled effortlessly - she was no Veela, but this was ridiculous!

"Because you are alone. You don't stand with Dumbledore, nor with the Dark Lord, and besides, the Gray alliance needs you, now more than ever." She blurted out, clenching her hands into fists in an effort to appear calm.

"Why should I throw my lot with this… so-called Gray Alliance?" The white-haired Lord asked, as he finally released his hands from their half in front of his face. "The Wizarding World had done nothing for me, nor had it for my Mother. She was scorned because she had me and didn't marry the man who helped to conceive me. The prestige and influence of the Carruthers' name was torn down just because of the thoughtless deeds of one boy who couldn't keep it in his pants and was too cowardly to admit his mistake and accept the repercussions. What would you - and they - gain from consorting with the 'Disgrace of Carruthers'?" She jerked at the degrading nickname, her pretty eyes widening minutely. It had been talked about merely in whispers, but still talked about in the higher echelons. Even if they were nobles, they weren't immune to gossip, especially when it was so juicy like the Carruthers case. It had been doubly as interesting because with Carruthers family out of the picture, the Gray Alliance's power block waned quickly, their members being torn between the Light and Dark faction respectively.

Antares watched the girl fidgeting on the chair stoically. Inwardly, he was smirking at her discomfort. If she had though he would be an easy prey to swindle in her nets, she was sorely mistaken. Besides, he was curious about her answer. Carruthers may have been disgraced, that much was true, but that still belied the question just why should he join the faction that did nothing when he was accused of some specific charges. Not that it mattered, but in some weird, twisted way, it was a matter of principle. Scratch that, he just wanted to see them squirm. Heavens knows they needed some quality squirming after all that bullshit they had unknowingly put him through.

Her unusual eyes darkened as she glared at him, breaking out of the shell of shy maiden she had so carefully woven around her persona. "You may be right, but that still doesn't give you a right to accuse them of not helping you, especially when you have shown no hair or hide in the Wizarding World!" She growled out, incensed. "How were they supposed to help you if they didn't know about your existence?" Antares inclined his head. "I concede that point to you, but they could've done more still. Where were they when my mother needed help when she had to leave school? Where were they when Potter was accused of breaking the Statue of Secrecy? If they are really that much for the equality, and for protection of magical races, where were they when there was a petition on administration of Wolfsbane potion in year 1995? Where were they when there was a clearly underage person, forced to compete in Triwizard Tournament, which is clearly age-limited and that for a reason? Where were they when it was announced that the Dark Lord was back?"

She couldn't help but wilt under the accusations. "They - We didn't have a choice. Our voting block is small as it is, and most of the supporters defected to either Light or Dark faction."

"Ah. And what makes you the authority on the rise of the new Gray Alliance? For that matter, how are you even sure the Gray Alliance would have enough supporters if I join in the fray?"

Grayish green eyes looked in the lone viridian colored one firmly. "Because Carruthers is a lynchpin of the Gray Alliance."

The air between the duo tensed. "Lynchpin…" Antares muttered, tilting his head on the side lightly.

Of course. That changed everything.

Lynchpins were the families that knowingly or not, created alliances, be they temporary or not. Alliances could last for the time, mostly it was a onetime, and rarely a life time deal, but the rarest one was the kind that spanned into decades and centuries onward. The Carruthers family may not be a Most Ancient one, but it was a Noble one, and what they lacked in ancestry, they compensated with the sheer number of their connections, making themselves respected and feared in the politics, because their voice was not the voice of one, but the voice of many. Not even the most savvy politicians of their times could be completely sure of the number of votes the Carruthers actually had under their command - but the fact remained - if you wanted for a proposal to be accepted in the Winzegamot, then you better have a Carruthers' Head of House on your side. If there ever happened that the lynchpin was killed, then the entire thing disbanded in a disarray, until the time the new one was established – be that by some other family or by the distant blood relative of the original lynchpin.

Because magic was weird like that, through the time the lynchpin families existed - the longer they held the position of the lynchpin, the stronger the alliances were, and the greater was risk of disbanding of the said alliances upon the death of the lynchpin family, because magic made the lynchpin families downright essential to the existence of alliances. In short, it was like lynchpin family being an essential component to the dangerously unstable chemical mixture of the other families. When the lynchpin family was present, the cogs of alliance ran smoothly, but if the lynchpin was missing – and not missing because of flu or something, but missing as the lynchpin family members being dead, then all of the cogs crashed and burned. Such was the case of the Pendragon family – after King Arthur's death, the entire kingdom of Britannia fell in chaos and disorder. Of course, there were rumors of Arthur's descendant, but they were neither proven or disproven.

And now, one Antares Carruthers found himself in the position of being the Head of the Carruthers' family, and with that, the lynchpin of the Gray Alliance.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Antares squeezed his eyes shut as to quell the sudden headache.

Oh, yes, his life was just wonderful.

"Master? Are you alright?" He heard Faustus concerned vice murmur in his ear. "No, I am not." He muttered back bluntly as he allowed himself one last rub before he removed his hand and opened the eye, glaring at the girl sitting at the opposite end of the desk.

"So… you want me to resurrect the Gray Alliance and take you under my proverbial wing at the same time." He surmised the information crisply, not showing that he was still reeling from the possibilities and plans this new factor presented to him.

"Yes." Short and concise, as behooved of the true member of Slytherin house.

Antares sighed. "How do you imagine that supposed engagement would even protect you?" He asked wearily. "I may be outside of the reach of Death Eaters and their master, but you will be in the danger still."

Zubeida smiled a small, barely there, smile. "Ah, and that is the beauty of it, Lord Carruthers. With you being back, both of the sides will clamor for your favor, and they won't do anything to make you displeased. This also means that anyone you would take under your protection or name would be exempted from the usual rules of engagement."

'Is that chick even sane in her head?' Antares eyed her doubtfully. "Miss Khan, you are mistaken on one thing. The era of chivalry has long since passed, and if you think that you would be safe just because you would be wearing one measly engagement ring, you are sorely mistaken." He snapped back, making her happy face fell at the newsflash.

"Probably." She agreed, now serious once again. "But you forgot something. You are not only Lord Antares Carruthers, the Head of the Noble House of Carruthers… you are the lynchpin for the Gray Alliance. With you being back, you are not only one anymore; you are many."

Antares twitched. The girls was clearly insane, playing the game she didn't even know whether the players would favor her case. She was babbling about some kind of Alliance, which was clearly in ruins, and with Antares being what he was – a Disgrace of Carruthers - the proposed plan was doubly in the favor of the failure. But, she was insistent; he could give her props for that.

"I stand by what I promised you in the letter, my Lord." He heard her voice speak out again. "I can give you anything you could ask for – anything, and I am willing to forego holding you to the obligations on your side, just-" he voice broke, as for the second time, the young woman's hard exterior crumbled, showing a vulnerable, scared little girl underneath – "Please, let me be your fiancé."

Never before was Claude so tense when he witnessed the negotiations, not even when there were overwhelming odds against him and his then Masters. But then again, he hadn't been so very invested into the proceedings as he was now, and the situation his Master was in was indeed tempting, much to his chagrin.

He would have glared at the presumptuous chit, but this would be unbecoming of a butler like him. The worst thing was, he had to be silent and wait on his Master's decision on whether or not would he accept the girl. And truthfully, Claude wished - with all of his being – that his Master would have rejected her advances, no matter how clandestine they may appear to be.

He moved a fraction closer to his Master, taking a minute comfort in his presence and the scent of ashes and rain, intermixed with blood. It was a subtle scent, hidden under the scent of soap, but still lingering in the air, subtle, here and dangerous. The blue butler lowered his eyelids as he remembered his almost faux-pas when he was helping his Master don the cloak, but this nape was just too delicious, and he was a moment's breath from tasting it, damn it! He inwardly pouted at the sheer injustice of his dastardly deed being interrupted at the most unwelcome time imaginable. He dreaded to think just what would Michaelis say if he had known about his little indiscretion - and immediately after, he dreaded his Master's penchant for using their little mistakes against them. Antares wasn't a petty sort - he didn't take amusement from many things or happenings, but he seemed to derive a sadistic glee out of needling both him and Michaelis with their perceived failures. True, both of the butlers were also at fault, what with sniping at each other, and at some memorable occasions, trying to upstage each other, but such occasions had rather annoyed their Master than made him amused. However, he truly didn't hesitate to barb them with little reminders of their… incompetence. Like the one time Michaelis just had to intervene and make himself that damned moniker of a 'Savior'. Oh, if the demon world had known about this, they would have keeled over with laughter. And Claude didn't appreciate being called owl-bitch, thank you very much! He just… catered to the magnificent species like they deserved to be catered to, while Michaelis just had to go and fixate on that orange rug ball of bad temper which masqueraded as Granger's familiar.

They had their disagreements, however in the end; both of the butlers served and obeyed their Master, sure in their place alongside him. But if that girl managed to get between them and their Master… there would be hell to pay.

"I will think about it." Antares' voice jolted the spider butler out of his snit, involuntarily making his eyes snap open as he looked at the crushed girl at the other side of the table smugly.

'Take that, you little bitch!'

The girl nodded, her eyes hurt, even if she tried not to show the decision affected her. "Thank you for your consideration, Lord Carruthers." Her deceptively soft voice quivered with suppressed emotions.

Antares nodded. "I will mail you when I will decide." His hoarse voice crackled in the room like the twigs in the warm fire.

She dipped her head. "Of course."

They safely made it home and Antares didn't think much when they entered the house. They silently went past the umbrella stand and the portrait –both of them were less clumsy than a certain pink-haired Auror, after all, and the portrait was muffled via the heavily enchanted curtain.

However, as soon as they entered Antares' room, the white haired-teen was spun around and slammed against the wall, his breath taken from his lungs by the shock of powerful hit.

"You are playing with fire, Master." The velvety smooth voice purred in bewildered Antares' ear dangerously. "You are thinking on adding that stray bitch, aren't you?"

Slender eyebrows furrowed as Antares kept on an emotionless mask. "And what if I am?" His voice was perfectly bland, even if a bit chilly at the butler's insubordination.

"This… is not the wisest course, Master." Faustus's deep voice breathed into his ear, the warm air tickling the sensitive skin there, making Antares tilt his head.

"No, it isn't." Antares agreed, corners of his lips lifting in a pale imitation of smile. "But the chance for choices had long since passed. I will do what I must to get my revenge."

Surprisingly, that didn't placate the bespectacled demon any. Golden eyes tinted with shades of fuchsia narrowed. "Even if that means bedding her? Fucking her?" The smooth voice lowered into a growl that made the white haired teen blink with bewilderment and the fake smile on his lips vanish.

"If needed be." The single green eye narrowed. "What is it to you?" Antares hissed, exasperated. "You agreed to be my butler and to obey me. I don't recall that I wanted an overprotective demon nanny on the top of the list!" He tried to push the butler away, but the demon stood firm, making him huff with annoyed exasperation.

"I don't agree with it. It all reeks of a setup of some kind." Faustus bit out as he glared at his unrepentant Master. Green eye narrowed. "Oh? Are you trying to tell me your researching skills are faulty, then?"

"No, but – "

"Then what's the matter?" Antares rounded on him, finally succeeding to push him away. "I betroth myself to her, get a power base and we can mess the bastards' plans even more!" His voice rose with frustration. He really didn't understand just why his butler was so stubborn out of the blue. His left temple throbbed as the headache that was budding in his skull finally exploded. Closing his eyes, he rubbed the ailed place with fingertips gently. "You know what - I don't need your approval. Whatever bug had bitten you, get it over with, and soon. I will accept Zubeida's offer and you will be silent on this issu – mmph!"

He was silenced as the butler swiftly kissed him, soft lips on his ones, and then a foreign tongue invaded his mouth as those strong hands held his shoulders in possessive hold.


As soon as Claude initiated kiss - even if it lasted only for a moment, before Antares broke it and he felt a stinging pain on his left cheek.

"Get out." His Master's voice was positively sub-zeroed. Fuchsia-colored eyes with the shards of golden color widened as Claude looked at Antares' positively apoplectic face.

"How dare you, you bastard…. GET OUT!"The last two words were practically roared out and he had to wince as the tattoo on his hand blazed with the strength of thousand fires.

"Master..." Claude began, at a loss on what to do. He wanted to go, the tattoo compelled him into going away, but looking at him, at Antares, all messy white hair, dark green eye finally showing some emotions and a flushed face with that slim, slender body trembling in front of his – it was almost impossible.

"You heard me, Faustus." The teen growled out. "Go. Now."

Reluctantly, the kumoshitsuji bowed his head.

"As you will, Master."

Hesitantly, he released the shoulder he had clutched as he kissed the boy and stepped away. A step. One more.

A turn.

And then, finally, he was at the door and a scant few moments later, the doors closed, leaving his Master alone in the room.

Gloved hand gently touched the slapped cheek. He still felt the heat of the slap, but he remembered the feel of that small, roughened hand even more, and his mind still lingered on that kiss.

Soft. Bittersweet. Addictive.

A pink tongue lapped at the pale lips as the dark-haired butler smirked.

"A battle to you, Master." He muttered as he pushed up the glasses, the gold now almost completely dominating the previously almost-fuchsia-colored iris. "But don't think you will win the war."

Because demons were possessive, and one Claude Faustus knew just what he wanted to do with the delicious morsel called Antares Carruthers.

Meanwhile, a certain black butler shuddered as he got a premonition that someone managed to tread unto until now unsullied territory.

And he had a damned good guess on just who the bastard in question as.

He twitched.

"Seems someone will have a large helping of spider meat for dinner soon… if I can help it." He muttered darkly to himself, as he pleasantly smiled at the grocery girl who blushed fire engine red, totally smitten with the butler's flawless looks.

Sebastian sighed. Being that pretty was a serious hindrance - this was the third grocery shop he had to switch to avoid being recruited by overzealous model hunters or smitten fan girls. All because he didn't want to use ingredients grown or bought in the Wizarding world.

Seriously, paranoia was such a hassle sometimes…

He hummed as he thought about the menu for the tonight's dinner. And of course, a surprise for a certain...mutt. Nobody aside from his Master would be privy to his cooking, and the dumb dog had done the capital offense of stealing a whole pineapple and chocolate cream pie for himself.

If he had to school the dumb dog the hard way, so be it.

A wicked smirk made some of the spectators blanch and look away quickly.

He may be pretty as a button – drop-dead gorgeous, in fact - but he was still demon of a butler.

Believe it.

A certain mutt shuddered as a bad premonition skittered up his spine. The last time it had been Lily when he had taught Harry to fly a baby broom, but this time, it was something unknown, malicious and intent on causing him suffering of an untold magnitude.

"Why do I have a feeling that my life would be completely screwed up soon?"

One Remus Lupin asked himself before continuing to search for the secret stash of Hershey's chocolate.

It would just have to tide him over until one of those scrumptious pies would appear again.

The lynchpin was found. And whether they knew or not, the battle lines would be drawn again - already, the bonds were repairing, the Khan and Carruthers families standing together once again - still weak, still at the beginning and it was doubtful that the young boy would even manage to raise the broken Grey Empire out of its ashes, but…

Dark brown eyes looked at the tapestry as the wheat-haired man hummed an ancient song under his breath.

It was the beginning.

/To Be Continued/