A/N: So, this ended up going in a completely different direction than I initially intended. For those of you who would like to see faster updates and a different interpretation of the first chapter, Kagetsuki-taicho is using the short scenes in his/her story "The Demon's Dear Friend." It shouldn't be hard to find, since the HP/Kuroshitsugi fandom is tiny.
There was knocking at the front door, tentative and carefully spaced out. Tanaka was not feeling up to answering the door that day and so Sebastian speedily abandoned his cooling chocolate to open it himself.
It wouldn't do for the house of Phantomhive to rudely leave a guest waiting on the doorstep.
The door opened smoothly – the demon butler having oiled it himself before dawn that very morning.
"Yes?" Sebastian inquired, slightly irritated when he saw that the guest was a commonly dressed young male. He had shoulder-length black hair and was holding a covered basket in restless hands, both gloved despite the warm weather, as he fidgeted in place.
"Er," the boy stuttered, not quite looking the butler in the eye. "I, er, I'm looking for, well, I had heard that, er-"
"Yes?" Sebastian prompted. "Heard what?"
The steel edged tone made the boy blanch, but instead of running off like Sebastian was somewhat hoping, he took a deep breath before his request tumbled out of his mouth.
"I'm looking for a blond boy with blue eyes who's really strong and I'd heard that Phantomhive hired a gardener like that so I'm here to meet him if that's alright."
It took unspeakable will power for Sebastian to not crush the door edge in his hands at this request. Who was this boy and how did he know Finnian? The demon was quite sure he'd destroyed the facility thoroughly and even traced back the chain of funds and orders to kill anyone associated. Finding out he had not quarantined the information as well as he thought did not sit well with him. Was this boy here on orders to try and take back their last experiment?
It wasn't until the boy started trembling under his stare that Sebastian finally snapped himself out of his thoughts. Standing here would do no good. At the very least he should see Finnian's reaction to this stranger and properly supervise the meeting. As much of an idiot the blond may be, it wouldn't be easy to find another human with the same superhuman strength in a position perfect for cultivating such devotion and loyalty to his master.
"Come in," Sebastian smiled, pushing the door further open, "and welcome to the home of Phantomhive. We do indeed have a blond-haired, blue-eyed employee in our household. He is a recent hire with incredible strength for his age, a bit younger than you, I think, although a name might be easier to match than such a vague physical description," Sebastian hinted.
The boy who had looked up with a hopeful expression when invited in – hazel eyes, Sebastian noted – ducked his head back down at the request and looked pointedly at the floor.
Well, that ruled out innocent misidentification. The name Finnian was something the young master came up with when it became clear that only experiment numbers were used for addressing the test subjects growing up in the facility. Anyone from the facility trying to find him then wouldn't have a name, only a serial number.
The only thing keeping Sebastian from killing the boy right now and disposing of the body was the need for more information. If he was from the facility, what was he? An unrecorded successful experiment? A relative of one of the dead researchers? A disguised assassin or spy of another pathetic man with glorified ambitions of unlocking the potential of the human body? And foremost of all, how had he tracked Finnian down to this place? It was hardly as if the Phantomhive mansion had neighbors to spy on and gossip about the new gardener so soon after acquiring him.
Sebastian opened the door to the back gardens and knocked against the wall. "Finnian?"
The gardener looked up from his curious examination of a beetle crawling up a tree trunk. "Mr. Sebastian?" he asked. "I-I'm working!" he quickly added, flustered as he grabbed the spread out coils of a long length of rope.
Sebastian's eyebrow twitched at this obvious lie before he sighed. "Never mind that. We have a guest that wishes to speak with you."
"Eh? Right, coming!" Grasping the tangled rope in his hands, Finnian ran back towards the mansion, not even noticing that the middle of the rope was wrapped around behind the tree until the great plant snapped from the force of Finnian's pull on both ends. "Wah!" Finnian cried as he turned around at the sound and saw the destruction. "I-I'm sorry, Mr. Tree!" Frantic, he grasped the snapped off tree – easily a twenty foot cylinder two feet wide and weighing several hundred pounds – and tried to place it back onto its stump.
Sebastian looked down at the raven-haired boy for his reaction to this feat and examined with intrigue the clear amusement on his face, one hand over his mouth to stifle laughter. After a moment, the boy placed his basket down on the ground and jogged over to the teary-eyed gardener.
"You might be able to save it," the boy advised, "but I don't think it would look quite right in a Lord's garden."
"But –" Finnian turned to look at the boy and froze, the tree trunk slipping out of his fingers to fall back with a loud crash completely ignored by the two teens. "Ari?"
Tears spilled over Finnian's eyes at this nonsensical word, and he barely needed the encouragement of the other boy's raised arms before launching at him for an embrace.
Sebastian was so shocked at this action that he couldn't even make the split-second decision to rescue the stranger from being crushed to death. Finnian was not a tactile person with other humans, mostly because he was very aware of his own dangerous strength.
But the boy merely stumbled back a step, not even pushed to the floor by Finnian's tackle, and as the Phantomhive gardener squeezed him tight with tears streaming down his face, the boy squeezed back, one hand rubbing the back of Finnian's neck.
Sebastian narrowed his eyes as he settled on a conclusion to the boy's identity. A sudden gust of wind confirmed it, as when the boy's hair lifted off his shoulders, Sebastian could read a tattoo on the back of his neck.
A chime rang through the mansion and the wind died abruptly with a frown. His young master had such horrible timing. With a cautious glance backwards, Sebastian quickly left to answer the Lord's call.
"Ari," Finnian choked out. "Ari, Ari."
The boy in his arms continued to rub his neck, shushing him soothingly. "I'm here," he said.
Slowly, the tears slowed and the sniffles started. Finnian pulled out of the embrace and scrubbed at his eyes with a dirty sleeve, leaving brown streaks on his face. The black haired boy chuckled and dug out a handkerchief.
"Blow," he instructed, after wiping away the dirt and lingering tears. Like an indulgent older brother, the boy wiped Finnian's nose and tucked the dirty handkerchief back into his pocket.
Finnian grinned and grabbed at the other boy's hands, clasping them tight. "How, Ari?" he asked, wonder in his voice. "That day, they didn't bring you back."
The older boy, Ari, looked away, biting his bottom lip. For a moment, he didn't say anything, until an expression of absolute devastation crumpled his face.
"I'm sorry," he gasped, clutching tightly back at the hands on his. "I'm sorry."
"Ari?" Finnian looked back with wide, confused eyes, and when the teen's knees folded, the blond could only catch his friend's upper body with his shoulder, propping Ari up in a partial upright position by his chest which was shaking with harsh sobs.
"Ari, please, what's wrong?"
"I couldn't stay, I couldn't, I couldn't – I ran, I left all of you and I couldn't get any of you out until it was too late and then I went back once and the place was gone and I thought you'd died and I wasn't there to do anything about it and I'm sorry but you're here and alive and Hollows, but you're alive!"
Finnian slowly lowered the both of them down to the ground. "So are you," he said with uncharacteristic firmness. "And I'm glad."
"Did you need something, young master?"
Ciel Phantomhive glanced over his newspaper towards his butler. "I would like my tea now, Sebastian."
"Of course, young master. I will fetch it for you now."
"And our guest. Who is it?"
From the window of the study, Sebastian could see a partially obscured view of Finnian and the older raven-haired boy kneeling in the gardens by the destroyed tree.
"An old friend of Finnian's. Subject R-11, who was listed as having died from convulsions induced during the first stage of experiment SX-220. I am afraid that I did not go through the trouble of tracking down the body for confirmation. I apologize, my lord," Sebastian bowed.
Ciel let his paper flutter down to rest on his desk and waved off Sebastian's apology. "You should have, though I suppose even if you had looked and not found it, we would've been forced to conclude from lack of evidence that it was disposed of chemically like the entire M-series."
"Very probable. How do you wish to handle this, young master?"
Ciel watched with a cold eye as R-11 pulled back from his recently hired gardener and dug out a fresh handkerchief, for his own use this time. The smile on his face trembled, but was directly genuinely towards the younger blond.
"I will have tea with the servants today. Be sure to invite our guest to join us."
"Yes, my lord."
Sebastian was thankful that the pair had finally calmed down when he arrived back outside in the back gardens.
"Finnian," he called as he walked calmly over. "Perhaps you would like to catch up with your friend, -?"
"Harry," the boy interrupted. "Call me Harry."
A vein in Sebastian's left eyebrow pulsed at the interruption, but he smoothly continued. "Your friend, Harry, inside the mansion? The young master has expressed an interest in having tea with the rest of the household this day and we certainly have enough for entertaining a single guest."
"Really?" Finnian looked towards Sebastian with sparkling eyes before leaping to his feet and pulling Harry up as well.
"Come on Ari, you have to meet Bardroy and Mey-Rin! And young master Ciel, as well! And Mr. Sebastian makes the best tea-time treats so it's really special when we get to have some too, and I bet Tanaka will be there as well, though his tea time is almost all the time, I think, which is pretty funny, don't you think?"
Sebastian watched with interest as Finnian dragged his friend quickly indoors towards the lower kitchen where tea would be held – Ciel had made that decision long ago, claiming that lowering himself down made him look more humble, more worthy of devotion, while allowing the servants to join him in a higher class room would either make him appear like a high handed lord tolerating their presence or worse, give them dangerous ideas about their own status. Despite Finnian's strength, Harry was staying on his feet and smiling, even squeezing back at the hand grasping his. The comparable strength of the two was no longer surprising, as both were experimental subjects of the same facility, but Harry's strength didn't alarm Sebastian's instincts, which was very suspicious. R-11's death was recorded as happening a year before Sebastian and Ciel fetched Finnian. Could he have learned to control and hide his abnormal strength so well on his own in just a year and a half? Sebastian had been training Finnian for six months and only his own demonic strength kept the damage in check most days.
"I'm Bard, and this Mey-Rin. We're the chef and maid for the Phantomhive house." A blond American man grinned around the cigarette clenched just a bit too tightly in his teeth to sell the cheerful act.
"And that's Tanaka in the corner," Finnian interjected, oblivious to the tension as he pointed to an old man sitting aside from the group, cradling a tea cup in his hands.
"Good afternoon," Harry greeted with a nod. "Er, I brought bread and jam," he offered, holding the basket up a little higher.
"Very thoughtful of you," Sebastian commented as he entered the kitchen. "Shall I take that to prepare with the rest of tea?"
Harry nodded hesitantly as he handed over the basket which was quickly taken to a side room, presumably where Sebastian had left the rest of tea.
It was with suspicion that Sebastian uncovered the basket to examine the contents. The boy may have been free from the experimental facility thrice as long as Bard's been training as chef, but humans were terribly slow learners, Sebastian has found. If the bread or jam was anything like what the Phantomhive chef churned out, he couldn't possibly serve it to his lord.
The demon carefully sampled the bread's aroma as he sliced it, and tentatively tasted a dollop of the jam as he scooped it from the jar into shallow bowls. Both were shockingly edible. No, better than edible. How upsetting. Either he was teaching the servants improperly, or the servants he had collected are just abnormally slow-witted.
Or perhaps he had interpreted the boy's body language incorrectly? Sebastian had assumed that the hesitant motions implied nervousness common when humans lacked confidence in the handiwork they were displaying to others of equal or higher status. Perhaps the hesitance had been part of his unusual self-control over his unusual strength and the bread and jam had instead been made by someone else.
Theories and deductions and possible conclusions whirled quickly through the demon's superior mind in mere seconds as the finishing touches to the tea were finished and delicacies carefully arranged on the tea cart. He wheeled it back into the lower kitchen just as the young master was entering. With crisp, clean movements, the table was set before Ciel reached his seat, and the tea poured the instant before his lord's hand reached out for the cup.
"So where do you live now, Ari? And you have a name now, too?" Finnian asked, squirming in his seat. His eyes were wide as they stared eagerly at the other boy, barely giving a passing glance at the pastries Sebastian set out for tea. That, if anything, alerted the others at the table to how close the blonde was to the newcomer, inciting varying feelings amongst them. Considering Finnian's past, there was no way that this Harry could be just an innocent commoner.
"I, er, live with a widow in London. She's the one who gave me the name. I help her keep her bakery shop," Harry offered, nervously fiddling with his tea cup after a quiet thank you at Sebastian when the butler poured his tea. Strangely enough, he kept his gloves on. "And you, Solt- er Finnian? You're a gardener now?"
"Yep!" Finnian agreed cheerfully. "The young master and Mr. Sebastian gave me the job, and it's great because every day I get to go outside and see the birds and play in the garden, and –"
Sebastian sharply cleared his throat. "And do your work, isn't that so, Finnian?" The demon directed a tight smile towards the boy in question. "Speaking of, I do hope you plan on doing something about the tree you killed."
Finnian started trembling lightly under the false gentleness of the reprimand, his eyes darting to Ciel when the boy sighed.
"Another one, Finnian?"
"I- I'm sorry, Master Ciel!" Finnian quickly replied, tears welling up in his eyes. "I didn't mean t- !"
Ciel waved a hand carelessly as he sipped his tea. "Never mind that, Finnian. A tree is simple enough to replace. Let's talk of other matters. So this is Harry, is it?"
Finnian beamed at Ciel's interest in his friend. "Yep! Ari's one of my oldest friends, and the smartest too! He knew his letters even before I met him!"
"Is that so?" Ciel inquired, starting on the delicate slice of chocolate cake Sebastian served him. "How curious. Who taught you?"
Harry blushed, before his eyes darted over to Mey-rin and Bardroy. "I –," he hesitated. Angling his head towards Finnian, he whispered at a volume Finnian only barely picked up due to his enhanced senses, "how much do they know?"
Finnian quickly grasped Harry's closest hand with both of his. "Everything, Ari. Sebastian and young master Ciel were the ones who saved me from that place. Mey-rin and Bard were saved too, so they also know."
Reassured by Finnian's near worship of his new companions, Harry turned back to face the group. "If you read the lab notes, you probably know that for the R-series, older children were used," he started, speaking haltingly. "Some of them had spent most of their lives at the facility by then, before being chosen as subject. But, by then, there were so many new procedures and hypotheses and, well, there weren't enough of the older ones that hadn't been, been compromised by some previous smaller experiment or another." Hazel green eyes darted over to glance back at Finnian, but he quickly pressed on. "So around the time they were finishing up the P and Q series, new, subjects, were taken from the streets by the collectors whenever possible. I was one of them, but before then, I learned my letters from the nuns at the local church."
Bard narrowed his eyes as he crushed out his cigarette in an ashtray. "So you had a home? Why didn't you just go back after you ran?"
Harry stiffened. "No. I had no home." For a moment, it seemed that he would say no more on the subject, but as the silence lengthened and the chef continued to peer at him with suspicion, he finally explained. "My parents, they disliked me. My biological father raped my mother, and the only reason I wasn't dealt with was because my mother's husband was religiously unwilling. From the moment of my conception, however, I was their dirty secret, the bastard child, the freak. When the collectors came, I wasn't kidnapped. There was no need. Neither was I bought, like some of the others. I had no worth. I was given."
The silence, after his confession, gained a new degree of tension. Bard had looked away long before the end, horrified and ashamed. Finnian was staring at Harry in shock, apparently having not known this before.
"Please," Harry eventually said, once more showing his discomfort with silence. "Have some bread? I-, I helped make it. Miss Anne, she's very good. Her shop is very popular with the locals," he praised with forced cheer and pride.
Prompted by his lord, the butler arranged a slice of bread and a small dish of jam on Ciel's plate before placing the rest more prominently on the kitchen island for the other servants' easy access.
Finnian eagerly grabbed a slice for himself, followed by Bard and Mey-rin, before slathering a generous helping of jam on it, in direct contrast to his young master, who smoothly spread a thin layer of jam on his bread slice before taking a polite bite.
"It is good," Ciel complimented.
"Really good!" Finnian quickly agreed.
Harry beamed, more touched by his friend's enjoyment than the praise of the young lord across from him. He smiled as Bard and Mey-rin made sounds of enjoyment, but faltered when his gaze fell on Sebastian, who stood behind and to this side of Ciel.
"Does, does Mr. Sebastian not take tea?" Harry asked. "Or, or Mr. Tanaka?" he added, suddenly remembering there was another person sitting in the corner of the room. For a split second, Sebastian couldn't think up a reply, too startled by the boy's audacity. Up until now, anyone he's met had always been too taken by his persona to find it at all curious he never sat down to consume food or drink.
"Phantomhive's butlers are not in the habit of taking tea," Ciel explained. "They are generally too busy. Speaking of which, I have work that must be done at this hour. I'm afraid I must return to my office now."
"Ah, yes," Harry replied, nervously. "I, I should be going as well. Miss Anne let me take the afternoon off, but I should help her prepare for tomorrow's baking." He quickly stood up, pushing away his tea cup and plate.
"Then it is only polite I walk you to the door," Sebastian offered.
Harry startled. "Ah, that's not necessary –"
"Nonsense," Ciel interrupted. "You are a guest. Sebastian, do as is proper."
"Yes, my lord."
Harry wisely chose not to argue, turning instead to give Finnian one last hug. "It was so good to see you again, Soltu. I'll try to visit again."
Finnian could only hug back tightly and nod.
When Harry pulled back, he gave a sweeping glance across the room before bending down in a bow, hands on his knees. "Thank you, all of you, for taking such good care of Solt- Finnian." Then with an abrupt turn, Harry quickly fled the room, Sebastian close behind him.
The five minute walk back to the manor's main entrance was silent except for the soft sniffles that escaped from Harry's lips and nose. Sebastian, in the meantime, was trying to decide exactly what would be the proper way to take care of this new player. Leaving him be would be simply too dangerous. Never mind the fact that he was an experimental subject with superhuman strength and who knew what other skills, his connection with Finnian could very well undermine the dependence the demon had been constructing of Finnian on his lord, himself, and the Phantomhive household as a whole. Would killing him now be too hasty? Finnian might grow worried if he never heard from his friend again. Perhaps he should track the boy down tonight and learn more about his current lifestyle. If Harry happened to end up victim to the next serial killer and his lord brings said lowlife to justice for his queen, it would strengthen Finnian's devotion to Ciel. Yes, that was a decent option.
Reaching the door, Sebastian smoothly opened it for Harry to exit, passing along the basket the boy had brought the bread and jam in, the jar and cloth both cleaned and placed in the woven container.
"Oh, thank you," Harry said, surprised at its sudden appearance.
"Of course. I hope you had a pleasant visit. Do be safe on the way home," the demon butler dismissed. He stood there, waiting for the boy to turn away before closing the door. To his irritation, the boy did no such thing. Instead, he stood there.
And stood there.
"Was there something else?" Sebastion finally asked.
A shocking smirk was his reply. "I'm disappointed." Hazel eyes suddenly glowed an eerie, supernatural green. "Truly I am."
A/N: As the avid HP fans I'm sure you all are, I doubt it was difficult to guess from the start who Ari was, but how many of you are now really confused about how this fits into everything else? Haha, I'm going to hate myself a few chapters from now.
Thank you all for all your support! 82 reviews for a single chapter under 4k words in a fandom of only 120 stories is freaking awesome. Special thanks to Ordovician Cephalopod for the requests to continue writing. I'm sorry to say, though, that my Harry won't be nearly as dark as you're probably hoping for, since I initially started this fic with the intention of exploring how a friendly relationship between heroComplex!Harry and stereotypicalDemon!Sebastian would work, though my Harry will be world-wise and not try to do anything stupid like 'reform' his new friend. On the other hand, Harry will no longer be a wallflower! In fact, I've recently read several HP crossovers where Harry's presence has no value other than being a name drop - you know the kind, where the only difference between the fanfic and canon is the number of people and the distribution of words during conversation. They're pretty good when unfamiliar with the other fandom, but terribly boring otherwise, so I'll hopefully be shaking things up a lot in this fic.
11/7/13 (wow, it's been over a year!)