Grazhir :: Crossover :: Kidorui :: 03

03

It was a lovely day and Harry was happily in the back making sweets for the bakery. Neville was out front manning the register, and Luna was—he stopped and double-checked. What was Luna doing at the bakery? He wiped his hands clean and wandered out. “What’s up?”

“I let Lambo go off with Nana-san and that bunch. He’s been working very hard, so I thought a break would do him well.”

“Oh, okay.” The door jingled and he noticed three men enter, strangers, so he let Neville know. There had been a lot of instances lately of people complaining about pickpockets, but they obviously meant the bakery no harm if they had been able to enter.

He had just rolled out a cart with trays of sweets on it to restock the displays when a man crashed through the ceiling. He hit the table those three men had taken by the window, though only one of them was seated there at the moment. Harry blinked, then frowned, because a second man followed, doing even more damage to the roof and ceiling.

Neville eyed the ceiling and said, “Ano, ¥800,000, we’ll say.”

Harry nodded and watched as Neville quickly wrote up a bill and placed it on a small, black, lacquered tray, then took it and headed over. He waited until both men had edged off the table and into seats, then set the tray down and pushed it toward the third man, the one who wasn’t wobbling. “The repair bill. I sincerely hope you can pay now, or I will be calling the authorities.”

Luna wandered by with a push-broom, muttering over the possible damage to one of the tables she had so lovingly inlaid with slivers of gemstones, and shooting poisonous looks at the three men. She stopped suddenly and sidled over to Harry. “They’re criminals,” she whispered in Urdu. “They stole Nana’s wallet yesterday and planned to do it again today. One pickpocket, one extortionist, and one conman.”

“Really?” he replied. “Make sure one of you tags them.”

She nodded and kept sweeping.

“Well?” he said, glaring at them. “I won’t charge you for the food, because every new customer gets a welcome gift, but the damage to the structure is something else entirely. I’d charge even more due to lost business while it gets fixed, but if you can pay now I’ll let that slide.”

The unharmed one smiled nervously and started to fetch out his wallet just as Nana’s group entered. Lambo tumbled over to him joyously and knocked into the man by accident. His bag fell to the floor and the contents scattered.

Nana gasped and pointed. “That’s my wallet!”

Reborn looked at it, the man, and then at Harry. “Would you like us to take care of this?” he asked. “These three are obviously thieves.”

“Lambo-san exposed thieves?” Lambo said, looking shocked.

“Yes, chibi, you did. Reborn, do your worst, but only after I get my money,” he said, staring daggers at the man.

It was handed over quickly, the man’s hand trembling, and Harry nodded after checking to make sure none of it was fake. “Funny how you happened to have that much on hand in cash. Have at it,” he said to Reborn. He made sure Lambo was secure on his shoulder and walked away, giving Neville the money. I-Pin and Fūta trailed after him like ducklings. “How about I get you guys a snack?”

Cue squeals.

He got them set up and wandered back over to the group, where Reborn was intimidating the three men into getting up for a trip to the police. He “helped” a little, altering their personal gravity to make them stand. “Nana-san, I’ll keep an eye on the children while this is being taken care of. Don’t you worry about them. And stop by when you’re done. I’ll give everyone a little something so you can relax after this horrid business.”

“Oh my, thank you,” she said.

An hour later they all trooped back in. Luna ushered them to tables rather than let them go to the counter. “I’ll be back in just a minute,” she said. “Hari made the selections for you all personally.”

He had, actually. He intended to use Reborn as a taste tester. A bit of searching had given him more ideas dealing with coffee, so he had whipped up some Kona & Kahlua brownies, and coffee-caramel crème brûlée. For the others he went with things he already knew they liked, based on past ordering history.

He helped Luna bring the food and drinks out and lingered for a moment after he slid a plate in front of Reborn. “Be sure to let me know what you think of those. You did offer to taste test a while back, after all.”

Reborn gave him a sharp look, then nodded. He took a bite of a brownie and hummed in appreciation. Harry smiled and wandered away. It was not much longer after that that it was time to close up. Once all the customers were gone Harry pulled the blinds down over the windows while Neville handled the books.

Luna used her wand to effect repairs to the ceiling and then put up an illusionary tarp to cover the fact that it was already fixed. She headed out under the cover of illusion and repaired the roof, as well, also covering that in illusion. “I’ll fake some people coming to take care of it over the next few days,” she told them once she was back inside, “and then remove the illusions.”

“At least the table they fell on is fine,” Neville commented.

She hummed and did a quick sweep of her wand to finish the clean-up.

Lambo tumbled over and hopped up on Harry’s shoulder. “May Lambo-san have his friends come for a sleepover?”

“I don’t see why not,” he replied. “Let’s go to Nana-san’s house and ask.”

They split up once they exited the bakery and locked up, and Harry and Lambo arrived at their destination after a pleasant walk. Tsuna answered the door and let them in, then ushered them into the kitchen, where Nana was considering what to make for dinner that evening.

Harry gave his little man a gentle nudge.

“Ano. . . . Lambo-san wants to know, can Fūta-kun and I-Pin-chan come for a sleepover, Mama?”

“What a lovely gesture,” she said. “Go find them and ask, Lambo-kun.”

Lambo squealed and hopped to the table, then the chair, then the floor, and scampered away.

“He’s such a sweet little boy,” she told Harry.

“He is,” he agreed. “I’m very proud of him. He’s doing really well with reading and writing, and whatever else Tsuki is teaching him. He’s also turning into quite the little acrobat.”

“Oh my. Well, he is quite bouncy.”

Harry smiled and turned at the sound of feet pattering their way. Lambo came in trailed by his friends and scrambled up Harry’s side and onto his shoulder. “Lambo-san’s friends said yes!” I-Pin and Fūta each had a small overnight case.

“All right, then,” he said. “Shall we be going?” He got nods all around so he gave his good-byes to the Sawadas and headed out. Reborn joined them once they were on the street and Harry gave him a questioning look.

“It’s a lovely night for a walk,” he said, pacing the group atop the fence-wall.

“Right. So what did you think of those desserts?”

“They were exceptional. I enjoyed them greatly.”

“Good. I figured since you were so fond of coffee you’d be the perfect person to give an opinion.”

“Why coffee-based sweets, though?”

“Why not? It would be a bit cliché to figure out new ways to use green tea, would it not?”

Lambo did a little flip and joined his friends on the pavement, and Reborn took his place. Harry was uncertain how he felt about that, actually. “Are you—no, never mind. It’s none of my business.”

“Not unless you plan to get involved for real,” Reborn said.

Harry sighed. “I’d prefer not to. I’ve kind of had my fill of—well.”

“Your own little gang war?”

He snorted. “You could call it that, I suppose. Why do I get the feeling that you were actually in the house those two times Tsuna-kun dropped by to visit, allegedly by himself?”

“I was,” Reborn admitted. They arrived at the house and Reborn hopped up onto the surrounding wall.

Harry took in the look he was being given and sighed. “Oh, all right. You can come in this time.”

Lambo and his two friends raced off into the house and upstairs, so Harry entered the kitchen in order to start dinner.

“You make an awful lot of Italian dishes,” Reborn commented.

“Do I?” he said, looking back over his shoulder. “I suppose so. I like pasta, for one.” He decided to make lasagne, with garlic bread and a side salad. They had plenty of sweets on hand due to bringing home some of what had not sold and would not keep well.

The kitchen was shortly filled with the smell of simmering sauce redolent with garlic and other herbs and spices, and Harry had the noodles parboiled and cooling, ready to be assembled. The rest of the ingredients were whipped up, and he swiftly put the whole thing together in layers and shoved it into a waiting oven.

The garlic bread was prepared and set aside to wait for a quick bake, and the salad was prepped and tossed; it went into the refrigerator to chill. That done he said, “Would you like more coffee?”

“Please.”

He took care of that and sat down, glad for a break. “I’d say anyone with eyes can see beyond your outward appearance, but you’ve already proven that’s a hilarious joke.”

Reborn smirked. “People tend to be easily swayed. When did you first learn about your Dying Will Flames?”

That was likely a safe enough topic of conversation. “Ano, a few months before we came to Japan. I know you can see past the illusion on the door at the bakery, and that you must have witnessed me making use of them.”

“Earth Flame users are rare. Finding one was intriguing.”

“More so than the Sky set? Huh.” He took a sip of his ice water. “I never really worried too much about where it came from, or if there were others. I’ve just tried to get a handle on it.”

“I suppose that terrorist you were forced to deal with helped.”

“Peripherally. If I recall that conversation correctly—hm.” He thought back to both times Tsuna had visited. “It was after all that, but not by much, I guess.” A mental alert went off in his head and he stood up and put the garlic bread in the oven. “You staying for dinner? I need to know how many plates and whatnot to get out.”

“Sure.”

He nodded. Seven dinner plates floated over to the table, followed by seven bread plates, seven salad bowls, and all the appropriate cutlery. It really wasn’t done to eat lasagne with hashi, after all. Napkins followed a few moments later, and glasses. There was no point in hiding from Reborn that he had control of his Earth flames.

His mental alarm went off again, so he turned off the oven and pulled out the food, then placed the dishes on trivets at the center of the table. The salad and cruets of dressing were retrieved from the refrigerator, and he strode out into the living room so he could call up the stairs, “Dinner is ready, everyone.”

A general stampede ensued and shortly thereafter they were all seated. Harry portioned out lasagne while Luna took care of the salad and bread, and Neville poured wine or sparkling cider, depending.

“Lambo-san loves this, Otosan!”

He smiled. “I’m glad. Shall we put it into the dinner rotation, then?”

Lambo nodded vigorously.

Dinner conversation mostly revolved around the children and what they had been up to, and what they planned to do during their evening. They were shooed off again upstairs once the meal was done so that Harry could take care of the dishes. Or he would have, had Neville and Luna not shooed him off in turn.

He sulked out of the kitchen with his wine glass and dropped onto the loveseat. Reborn perched on the other cushion with a cup of coffee. “You probably don’t realize this,” Reborn said, “but he mafia has a tendency to recruit anyone who can utilize Dying Will Flames. Or kill them if they resist.”

“For the love of Merlin,” he muttered.

It was like a light bulb went off over Reborn’s head. “I see. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before.”

“You met someone in the distant past?”

“Yes. A fellow by the name of Mundungus Fletcher.”

Harry groaned and said, “That sniveling little thief. He’d sell his own grandmother’s false teeth if he thought he could make a decent sale of them. The bastard gave us rather a lot of trouble, actually, at one point. He stole part of my inheritance.”

Reborn got a curious gleam in his eyes. “I trust you set him straight.”

“Unfortunately, he got away several times. I’m not entirely sure what happened to him. I assume he’s gone back to shifting dodgy or illegal goods around.”

Luna walked in. “He was sent back to prison. It happened a few months after we left. Considering how much time he spent in a sort of underworld, I can’t say I’m surprised you met him along the way.”

Reborn shrugged and had a sip of his coffee. “At least now I understand why you won’t talk, and how you were able to prevent me from entering the house.”

Harry gave him a bland smile. “You are a nosy fellow.”

“Yes,” Luna said firmly, sitting in one of the chairs. “Adorable, but nosy.”

“So how long before someone a lot less calm than you comes along and tries to forcibly recruit us?” he asked.

“The only other person who knows is Tsuna, and I seriously doubt he’ll say anything,” Reborn replied.

“Of course not,” Neville said, coming out of the kitchen. “He keeps wishing he’ll wake up and realize his life for the past months has been all a bad dream. I’m going to go check on the kids.” He wandered off up the stairs.

“What does harmonization mean?” Luna asked. When Reborn quirked a brow she added, “I read a lot of stuff when I infiltrated the Bovino base, but that term was never explained.”

Reborn had another sip first. “A Sky has six guardians. He or she can have more than that, but only six of them count at the top. They undergo a process called harmonization where each side of the bond comes to trust in the other. It can be quick or slow, but it’s usually slow.”

“Is that why Gokudera-kun acts like a snarling puppy defending a virgin’s honor around Tsuna-kun?” Harry asked.

Reborn chuckled. “Those two have harmonized, even if Tsuna doesn’t realize it. He’s not ready yet to understand.”

“Okay, so it’s a bonding process.” Luna hummed thoughtfully. “Can something like that happen even before someone’s powers have woken?”

“It doesn’t work the same way for Earth. Bonds form, sure, but not in the same way. It’s simply not a quality of an Earth Flame, or that set.”

“You could argue,” Luna rebutted, “that gravitational power is similar, in a way.”

Reborn smirked. “Nice try. I know of only one famiglia based on Flames of the Earth. True, there is a leader and six guardians, because like the Sky there are seven flame types, but their bonding is not based on harmonization. There’s been the odd person who can use Flames of the Earth, but it’s extremely rare.”

Harry rolled his eyes at this fresh evidence that he was special. “The universe really has it out for me, apparently.”

“Well, it has been an enjoyable evening,” Reborn said after draining his cup and setting it aside.

He was pretty sure that was code for, “I intend to leave now,” so he smiled and got up. “I’m glad you enjoyed.”

He had barely come back from seeing Reborn out when I-Pin came shrieking down the stairs, chased by Lambo, who was wearing a pale shower cap in his head. ‘What the hell?’

“No~oo!” I-Pin squealed.

“Cauliflower monster,” Lambo rasped.

Fūta was giggling himself senseless at the top of the stairs.

*

“Will you do something for me, Lambo?”

“What is it, Otosan?” Lambo asked, eyes wide with curiosity.

“I have a bad feeling. A really bad feeling. Will you allow me to store the Ten Year Bazooka away somewhere safe?”

Lambo’s brow furrowed and a finger went up to his mouth. “Ano. . . . Something is scaring Otosan?”

“Yes. And I think it has to do with the Ten Year Bazooka.”

Lambo’s eyes went wide with shock. Then he carefully pulled the bazooka from his hair and offered it to Harry. “O~kay!”

Harry exhaled in relief and accepted it. “I will put this someplace very, very safe. And we will train you well enough, and love you well enough, that you will never need it.”

Luna wandered in just then and said, “Lambo! Time for a snack.”

Lambo squealed and tumbled over to her, so Harry went off to put the bazooka under so many protections his head spun, and then threw a fidelius charm over it, as well. He had no idea what had been making his spine tremble so much, but the moment the thing was safely locked away it stopped.

He took a shower to clean away the sweat that had built up, dressed in fresh clothing, and went downstairs to play with his son.

*

“I had the strangest feeling something of great import happened recently,” Reborn said.

Harry shrugged and ate a grape. A few seconds later he said, “I had a bad feeling, so I did something about it.”

Reborn eyed him. “Did you have a bad feeling that day when you gave the ring back the second time?”

“Yes. So I did something about it.”

“Does this happen often?”

Harry ate another grape. “No. But when it does, and I ignore it, bad things happen, so I do something about it.”

“Interesting. I wonder if—I wonder which set of abilities it’s connected to.” Reborn bit into his baklava, releasing a shower of tiny flakes onto his plate.

“Maybe either, or neither, or both. It’s happened for as long as I can remember, but not with any regularity. I had a teacher who was supposedly skilled in the arts of divination. What she was really skilled at was drinking copious amounts of cheap sherry, and getting gullible young girls to believe her line of bullshit.”

An amused look was shot his way. “And did you study divination?”

“No, but I heard plenty about it. The teacher in question liked to pick one student from each class and predict their death in various and inventive ways. I’ll give her that much; she had a vivid imagination if the stories that went around had any basis in truth. And she’d believe anything you turned in for homework, so long as it was doom and gloom.”

“What was your school like overall?” Reborn asked, causing another shower of flakes as he bit into his baklava.

“A series of unfortunate events,” he replied wryly. “Are you going to be small like that forever?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, that sucks.”

*

“I give you my word of honor.”

Harry nodded. “Tsuki?”

She nodded and scooped Lambo up, so Harry took Reborn. Then they apparated to the training field. “Okay,” Luna said briskly, “you know the drill!”

Neville immediately got started on constructing a small building to provide cover, and the second it was complete Luna brought Lambo inside. It was storming fairly heavily. Neville then began to construct an obstacle course.

Harry had finally turned the idea over in his head to the point where he realized his “intuition” never twinged at the idea of Lambo doing lightning training, so he was willing to give it another go. He had sat Lambo down for a serious talk about it, and his son knew he was probably going to be hit by lightning again, more than once, but he struck a pose in favor of the idea.

So there they were. If Lambo got to feeling overwhelmed or in need of a break, he could retreat inside the building. Luna used illusions to make the walls of the structure seem clear, so they would not obstruct anyone’s view, and Reborn parked himself there on one of the chairs Neville had included.

Harry, naturally, was doing his best to not only keep the rain off those in the open, but to build up his stamina with that whole flying thing, to practice compressing things to super-heavy particles as quickly as possible, and a bit of plant manipulation on the side.

Once the course was finished Lambo tumbled out and started his first run. He was only a few meters into it when he was struck by lightning. Harry froze mid-air and pivoted in place, then relaxed when all he heard above the sound of the rain was, “Kufufufu.”

No, the real surprise was when he got hit by lightning instead of his son. He was knocked out of the air and skidded across the wet grass, coming to a rest inside the building. Reborn glanced his way and said, “Looks like fun.”

Harry grunted and dragged himself up. “Wasn’t expecting that. Damn. Looks like Lambo and I have something in common besides blood.” He got back up and coughed, a puff of smoke emerging from his lungs, and then readied himself and flew back out.

Luna and Neville were drenched because his control had slipped. Neville glowered at him, but he could tell that his brother was worried more than anything, and Luna just laughed and returned to practicing on decaying disgusting creatures of various sizes.

Lambo giggled madly when he got struck again. Harry came to a dead stop when he heard his little man squeal differently than usual and race at a thorny wall obstacle like a charging bull. Lambo hit the wall with his horns, which had been crackling with electricity, and all of it released into the wall. The still-living material took on a kind of burnt appearance, and Lambo bounced back and landed on his tush.

Harry swooped down and landed, then picked his little man up. They were hit by lightning again. Harry coughed up some more smoke and flew them into the building. Once inside he said, “Figured out a new trick, huh?”

“Lambo-san is amazing! Kufufufu!”

Harry chuckled and rubbed noses with his son. “Hm. Going to have to get you some animals to try that on.”

Lambo’s eyes went wide. “Lambo-san could use it on icky rats!”

“Ano, rats are not usually big enough for you to hit with those horns, chibi. We’ll figure something out. Okay, back to work.” He flew them both out again and deposited his son near the wall, then joined Neville in making the course more “exciting”. He also made Neville’s life more exciting by attempting to hold him up off the ground.

Luna responded by decaying the grass beneath Neville into a poisonous sludge, giving Harry motivation to keep his brother safely hovering. An hour later they were all sheltering in Neville’s building and having a meal.

“I wonder if Lambo can learn to call lightning down from the sky to charge his horns,” Luna said, passing out bottles of juice.

Lambo was too busy munching on takoyaki to comment.

“Or allow that built-up charge to form a kind of spear of electricity to extend his range,” Neville added.

Harry eyed Lambo’s horns as he ate. “Or use Lightning Flames to charge them, maybe. Anyway, we’ll need to get some more animals nobody will mind seeing fried.”

Luna started giggling madly. “I was just thinking—Lambo versus a blast-ended skrewt. I’ll have to look through what I acquired from that place to see if I can find out more about the horns themselves,” she said, giving Harry a speculative look. “After all, you seem to be a lightning rod, too.”

“If only Tsuna was so dedicated to training,” Reborn said with a sigh.

Neville shook his head. “Tsuna is old enough at this point to think too much about all the wrong things. Until and unless he learns to calm down—meditation might help, I suppose—and also to have a solid reason, preferably one that isn’t as sappy as puppy love, I expect he’ll continue to be difficult.”

“How does Lambo-san keep his horns on?” Lambo asked, a finger up to his mouth. “Lambo-san has never wondered that before.”

“Ano. . . .”

“It’s Lambo-kun’s magnetic personality,” Luna said smilingly.

Lambo giggled happily and finished eating, then tumbled onto Harry’s lap for a nap.

“I admit, I take some pleasure in torturing Tsuna.”

“I think I would, too,” Harry said. “Were we really that bad at that age?”

Luna tilted her head to one side. “Ano, not exactly. You always had resolve, even if you pointed yourself in the wrong direction at times. Kuma just needed, and got, support. Same for me, I suppose. You were more than a little tetchy when you were fifteen, but. . . .”

He rolled his eyes at the reminder, then grinned wickedly. “Just think, Reborn. If you ever get to grow up again, you can enjoy puberty a second time.”

*

Harry watched in bemusement as a dark-haired man darted from female to female begging for kisses. He supposed the man thought he was suave or charming—possibly even irresistible—but the women all fled within seconds. He was curious enough to peek into the man’s mind, and found out that he was Shamal, a medical doctor, and also went by Trident Shamal when he was being a hitman. He was just about to pull away when Reborn showed up.

‘Huh,’ he thought. ‘Now I know his real name. I wonder if that’s worth anything.’ Seeing Reborn had caused some interesting information to surface in Shamal’s mind. He gave a friendly nod to the chibi as he walked by, gave Shamal a look of disgust, and kept going, pausing briefly to watch I-Pin, Lambo, and Fūta go squealing by, then finished up back at the bakery.

Reborn arrived a short time later and ordered a few things, and Shamal joined him. Unfortunately, as it was a day when Lambo was roaming around playing with his friends, his sister was in the shop. Shamal tried his routine on her, but Luna deftly enough fended him off, then wandered into the back room to scowl in relative privacy. Her wand came out briefly, and she grinned like a cat after a moment.

“What did you do?”

“It will hurt a lot for a while,” she said, “any time he gets excited.”

He shrugged. “Just as well. He seems to think he’s Casanova or something.”

“It won’t kick in for another hour or so. If I thought I could get away with it I’d slip him some malaclaw venom.” She huffed, squared her shoulders, and headed back into the fray.

Harry eyed Shamal through the door with a thoughtful frown, then got back to work. Before he left he put together a little package for Hibari-kun’s birthday and delivered it, invisibly, then headed home.

Reborn stopped by that evening and was invited in, and set up with coffee and nibbles. “It’s interesting how an associate of mine has come down with a sudden case of intermittent pain recently.”

Harry smirked faintly. “That sounds unfortunate. Perhaps he should see a doctor. I understand they go through years of training.” He grabbed an apple from the bowl on the counter, a napkin, and a knife, then sat down and started to peel it.

“He is a doctor.”

“Even more unfortunate. I hear they make the worst patients.” He used his knife to slice off a piece of apple to eat. “Maybe I should make pie. I haven’t had a good apple pie in a while.”

“How do you get your crusts to taste so nice, by the way?”

“Ano, just some sugar.”

Reborn hummed. “So you had nothing to do with it,” he stated.

He shook his head. “I hardly think I’m the first person to think of using sugar in their crusts.”

Reborn snorted and sipped his coffee. “Will you ever go back?”

He paused mid-slice. “Why would I do that? It’s more than a little weird around here, sure, but it’s a nice place.”

“Don’t you go to school for seven years to learn? And then to just walk away?”

Harry looked at him in disbelief. “Yes. But you don’t walk away from it. It’s a part of your soul.” He finished the slice and pushed it into his mouth to munch on, then eyed Reborn. “Wondering if it could help you?”

“Occasionally, yes.”

He hummed. “I have no idea. It doesn’t sound anything like I’ve ever heard of before. There are ways to alter a person’s age without affecting their minds, but it can mess up motor functions, and it’s only temporary, anyway.”

“How often to do you have Lambo train?” Reborn asked, changing the subject.

He allowed it. “A couple of hours a day, usually. It has the happy side effect of burning off a lot of the boundless energy. But he actually wants to learn, finds all of it ridiculously fun. I still think it’ll be some time before we could dare trust him in an actual school setting, though, even with that outlet.”

“And because he wants to make his family proud.”

“That, too, I suppose. . . . Are you trying to think of better ways to motivate Tsuna-kun?”

Reborn nodded.

“He seems pretty stubborn. Half his motivation probably comes from whatever girl or boy he’s mooning over. Maybe a quarter from his friends. He probably takes on guilt like a dry sponge, but guilt is a poor motivator.” He hummed thoughtfully, slicing off more of the apple and eating it. “History might not hurt, if it’s something that would alter his perception. Cold hard facts about what happens when he doesn’t apply himself and can’t live of daddy’s money forever, resulting in him having a job at some fast food place or pushing a broom. Making it fun—though with him as the target, nothing comes to mind.”

“Lambo has come a long way.”

“He just needed something he didn’t have. The love of a family. Say, want to watch a movie with me?”

Reborn blinked.

*

“Do we have everything?” Neville asked.

Harry and Luna checked over their supplies and nodded.

“Let’s go.”

They arrived at the Sawada home shortly thereafter and set up in the kitchen. The only people allowed to enter were Reborn and Lambo. They tossed together a meal consisting of Nana’s favorites (and more than a few things for the children) and, when Reborn was not in the room, made sure to charm each dish to stay at the correct temperature.

Lambo helped by carrying out plates (they had been spelled to be unbreakable), hashi, cups and glasses (also unbreakable), and various other things, while the adults brought out the food and placed everything on trivets at the center of the long living room table, along with the drinks.

Everyone sighed happily at the sight of the spread, though they waited until Nana had been served before squabbling over the food and getting what they wanted. At that point Reborn hopped up onto a cloth-covered side table with a festive banner decorating the edge and said, “So, I’ve gathered you all here to give thanks to Tsuna’s mother for everything she does for us.”

Guests included Tsuna’s friends, a blond man with a bunch of what seemed to be minions, and various others. Even Shamal was there. The siblings exchanged a somewhat annoyed look at that.

“Thank you so much!” Nana said.

“Why are so many people here?” Tsuna said, looking around with a slightly panicky expression. “Even the Disciplinary Committee showed up.”

“It’s because your mother’s such a nice person,” Reborn pointed out.

“I really don’t think the kid gets it,” Neville muttered in Egyptian.

“We did the decorations,” one of the girls said.

“Thank you all!” Nana cried. “I’m touched.”

Shamal got up and approached Nana, carrying a bouquet of red roses. “Madam, you’re looking as young and beautiful as ever. It’s hard to believe you have a child in middle school.”

Nana blushed. “Oh my. . . .”

Shamal handed over the bouquet, and then ruined it by saying, “Let’s have a celebratory kiss!” He puckered up and leaned in, only to be cock-blocked by Tsuna.

“No, no! Don’t hit on my mother!”

“So what did you get her, Tsuna-san?” Haru asked curiously.

“What did I get?” he said, his eyes wide.

“Please tell me he didn’t mess this up,” Harry muttered, also in Egyptian.

“That’s right, Tsuna-kun,” Kyoko said.

Hana sighed. “He’s got nothing. He’s not that thoughtful.”

“Ano. . . .” Tsuna curled up a little, almost like he was cringing away from an incoming blow, then produced a little bouquet of three red carnations. “Thank you so much for everything!”

“Wow,” Luna said quietly. “He scores points.”

Neville shook his head. “Nah. Reborn slipped that to him from behind.”

Luna sighed.

“Thank you, Tsu-kun!” Nana said happily.

“Nice, Sawada!” Ryohei said approvingly.

The blond man nodded. “That’s thinking, Tsuna.”

Tsuna modestly looked down. “It’s nothing.”

“Of course it’s nothing,” Harry muttered. “He didn’t do anything.”

Reborn squeezed a little horn several times to regain everyone’s attention. “So we’re going to start the Vongolian Celebration now.”

“What does it mean for something to be ‘Vongolian’?” Tsuna asked.

“Hasn’t he learned yet? It apparently involves someone getting their nose tweaked in a somewhat humiliating fashion,” Luna whispered.

“Everyone shows off a secret talent they have,” Reborn explained. “Basically, everyone shows off a trick other people didn’t know they had. Mama’s the judge. The person with the highest score on this Vongola Judge’s Board wins.”

Everyone looked behind and to the side of Reborn, where a tall, narrow board had been revealed. Numbers went up the left-hand side.

“And the victor. . . .”

“. . .Gets a gold medal?” Lambo asked.

“Way better than that,” Gokudera said.

Fūta nodded. “The winner gets any wish he wants granted. The winner gets their wish fulfilled one hundred percent of the time.”

“That’s amazing,” Haru said, blushing slightly.

“Past victors have gone on to be kings and astronauts!” Reborn said.

“I’m having trouble believing that,” Neville muttered.

“Maybe in a video game,” Luna replied.

“It’s easy,” the blond man said, “given the vast powers of the Vongola Family.”

“Lambo-san’s in!” Lambo announced, striking a pose.

Tsuna got a dreamy look on his face, with pink cheeks, starry eyes, and a tiny bit of drool coming from the corner of his mouth. He was staring at Kyoko.

Haru edged over and leaned in to whisper something to him.

“We do? I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Tsuna protested.

Haru averted her gaze modestly, produced a maidenly blush, and said, “Don’t make me say it in front of all these people. . . .”

Tsuna scowled and waved his hands around in negation. “Don’t look so bashful! People will get the wrong idea!”

Several people chimed in with what they wished for (“World conquest!” Lambo squealed.) before Reborn added, looking directly at Tsuna, “Oh, forgot to mention, but last place’ll have bad luck till the day they die. Even if it takes the entire strength of the Vongola Family, they’ll follow him to the ends of the earth and crush his dreams.”

Tsuna freaked out, predictably. “Why go that far!?”

“Rules are rules,” Reborn said matter-of-factly.

Gokudera pulled Tsuna away for a whispered conversation as Reborn gave Luna a nod. She smiled and got up, then moved to the front of the room, off to the side.

“Hello everyone,” she said cheerfully. “I’ll be your M.C today.” She glanced at the piece of paper Reborn handed her and said, “Starting today will be the MVP of Namimori Middle School, Yamamoto Takeshi-kun, voted most likely to bring to justice the illegal spitbug trading ring that leading baseballs teams have been using to sneakily win games using spitballs.”

Takeshi got a confused look on his face. From behind him Yamamoto-san said, “Win!”

“Good luck, Yamamoto-kun!” Nana said encouragingly.

“Thanks!” he said, then shoved a hand into a container of rice. “Okay, I’ll make some fresh sushi and. . . .” Thirty seconds later he had put together a half dozen and started juggling them. Everyone was impressed, except Gokudera, who scowled and sidled away from Tsuna.

He appeared moments later in front of Yamamoto-san wearing a baseball outfit and a catcher’s mitt. “Hey, Yamamoto!” he called. “Pitch me one!”

The change in Takeshi was immediate. In a split second he changed poses and hurled one of the freshly-made sushi pieces at Gokudera, who “accidentally” failed to catch it. It smacked Yamamoto-san right in the face.

“Over here. Over here,” Gokudera said, holding the mitt in front of one of the minion types, then Fūta, Shamal—unfortunately for him, Gokudera was the final victim, having paused too long while admiring his own cleverness. He took two pieces to the face and fell over backward.

“Fantastic,” Luna cried. “What is your score, judge? Ooo, fifty! Not as good as he was hoping for, I suspect.”

A little sticker with a chibi-Takeshi face on it was stuck to the board.

“The first part was impressive,” Reborn commented, “but it went downhill from there.”

Nana smiled ruefully. “You shouldn’t waste food, you know.”

Luna clapped once. “Next up we have the Extreme Lion Puncher, Sasagawa Ryohei-kun, voted most likely to become a game show announcer for MXC after his schooling.”

Ryohei cast a wide-eyed look at her before turning to a small table bearing a cinder block. “I’ll break this block with a punch so fast you can’t even see it!” he promised, somehow having changed outfits into boxing shoes, shorts, and gloves. He readied himself, eyes closed for a moment of calm preparation, then opened them and cried, “Extreme high-speed punch!”

A second later the cinder block crumbled and he turned to face the audience with a fierce grin. “Whatcha think?” The grin slipped off his face at the dead silence. “Something wrong?”

A low questioning murmur went around; no one had seen it happen and they wondered if it was some sort of illusion.

“And so,” Luna said sadly, glancing at the chibi-Ryohei sticker that had appeared on the board. “Ryohei-kun gets fifteen points.”

“If we can’t see it,” Reborn commented, “it’s like it didn’t happen.”

“Make sure you clean up, okay?” Nana added.

“Moving right along!” Luna said. “Next we have ranking champion de la Stella Fūta-kun, ranked most likely to become a hair stylist after a life-altering event involving angel hair pasta.”

Fūta blinked a few times at her, then grinned and looked at Tsuna. “Sorry, Tsuna-nii, but I’m going to win this.” He pulled a harmonica from his pocket and said, “Okay, here I go.” They were treated to a mediocre rendition of a tune Harry had never heard before, but Nana seemed to appreciate the effort he put into it, if nothing else.

“Thirty points!” Luna cried. “Oh!”

“No way!” Fūta looked crushed.

“It wasn’t bad, but. . . .” Nana’s voice trailed off.

“The only things he can’t rank are his own abilities,” Reborn said.

“Next we have the electrically charming Mori Lambo-kun—”

“Hello, Tsuki-oba!” Lambo squealed, waving a hand around wildly as he hopped up onto the impromptu stage.

“—who is voted the cutest little cow in the world, though I may be biased on that point.”

Lambo giggled madly. “Lambo-san is here! Lambo-san will be doing an interpretive dance routine.”

Harry exchanged a look with Neville. “What the fuck?” could almost be read in each other’s eyes.

Lambo giggled again, then put on a serious face and twirled and hopped around saying, “Lambo-san is like the leaves in autumn, the little snowflakes in winter, tra~la~la. . . .”

Harry and Neville broke out into wild applause for their little man.

“Wow! Sixty-five points!”

“Kufufufu!” Lambo laughed, then scampered over to sit on Harry’s lap.

“That was adorable, Lambo-kun,” Nana said with a wide smile.

“Up next we have the three girls, Sasagawa Kyoko-chan, Miura Haru-chan, and Kurokawa Hana-chan, the trio voted most likely to become a J-Pop idol group singing sensation.”

“What are they going to do?” Tsuna said to Gokudera as the girls took their places on the stage.

“The three of us are going to do a comedy routine!” Kyoko announced.

“I’m Haru!”

“I’m Kyoko!”

“I’m . . . Hana,” Hana muttered, looking like she wanted to sink into the floor.

“Jeez, Hana-chan, you’re so gloomy,” Haru said, flipping her hand.

“B-But. . . .” stuttered an embarrassed Hana. “I can’t do this,” she cried, and raced off the stage to hide at the back.

Kyoko and Haru exchanged a look and smiled nervously. “Ano. . . .” They exchanged another look and slinked away.

“Oo, forfeit. Too bad,” Luna said. “Up next we have Disciplinary Committee head Hibari Kyoya-kun—”

The glass door to the yard slid open and Hibari posed in the opening like a damn supermodel.

“—voted most likely to one day explode of an upset stomach after biting someone to death.”

“We’ve been waiting, leader,” the Disciplinary Committee members chanted adoringly.

A tiny little canary fluttered in to land on Kyoya’s shoulder and broke into the Nami Middle school song. The committee members were all moved to tears at the rendition.

When the bird was done Kyoya said coolly, “Baby. . . . I don’t like crowds. I’m forfeiting.”

Reborn nodded. “As you like.”

Kyoya took off, his committee members right behind him.

“He never changes,” the blond said.

“Okay,” Luna said, drawing their attention back. “Next we have a master of the Gyoza Kempo, I-Pin-chan, voted most likely to become an astrophysicist who works part time at a ramen shop!”

I-Pin was bent over in a bow, but when she straightened up Tsuna freaked out. I-Pin’s forehead was marked by Mahjong symbols and she had hearts in her eyes; she was a bomb waiting to explode.

“At least this time she won’t be exploding Lambo,” Harry murmured.

“She saw Hibari-san, so the Mahjong Mega Bomb countdown activated!” Tsuna cried in fear.

“This is bad,” the blond said.

“Somebody do something, quick!” Tsuna cried.

“No, you,” Reborn said.

I-Pin latched on to Tsuna, who panicked, then managed to get a hold of her properly and do an impressive underhand throw out the glass doors. I-Pin safely exploded in the sky.

“Pretty fireworks,” Nana said admiringly.

The girls chimed in with their appreciation, as well.

“Very pretty,” Luna agreed. “What’s the score, judge? Ninety-five!”

“That’s the new top score,” Reborn commented.

Luna shrugged eloquently and said, “This may be the end.”

“Not yet!” Gokudera yelled, shaking one fist. He had pulled Tsuna up onto the stage with him. “We’re still here!”

“Such confidence!” Luna said. “Our last entrants are the explosive Gokudera Hayato-kun, voted most likely to accidentally become world famous cosplaying a golden retriever, and the prosaic Sawada Tsunayoshi-kun, voted most likely to become a motivational speaker for entrants of tortoise races.”

“Tsu-kun, I’m behind you!” Nana said encouragingly.

“What will you be entertaining us with?” Luna asked.

Gokudera got a smug look on his face. “Jūdaime and I are going to show you—a magic trick!”

Tsuna had somehow been encased in a large, gaudily-painted wooden box which had many slots in it, held closed by leather straps.

“This is an ordinary box, with no tricks. With jūdaime in the box, we stab these sharp swords into it,” Gokudera said, holding up a gleaming sword, which he used to easily lop the end of a vegetable.

Lambo squealed and clapped.

“Um, there is a trick, right?” Tsuna asked, sweat rolling down the sides of his face.

Gokudera leaned over and said, “Make sure you dodge them, okay, jūdaime?”

A verbal altercation ensued between a seriously freaked-out Tsuna and a confident Gokudera, but the peanut gallery started shouting for them to get the show going.

“All right, already,” Gokudera snarled. “Get ready, jūdaime.”

“Stooooop! I don’t want to die like this!”

Into the silence following Reborn said, “If you’ve got that as a regret, then you’ll be okay.” The little chameleon that accompanied him everywhere morphed into a gun which Reborn used to shoot Tsuna in the head with.

‘Wait a minute. That was no normal bullet,’ Harry thought. ‘Is that—?’

Tsuna’s head went back and he stared sightlessly at the ceiling.

“Tsuna-kun?” Nana said tentatively. “What’s wrong?”

Harry face-palmed. Then he saw it; brilliant orange Dying Will Flames erupted from Tsuna’s forehead. The next thing he knew Tsuna had broken through either side of the box with his hands, grabbed the swords Gokudera had waiting, and had shoved them all into the box haphazardly. After a few moments of stunned staring, the box front crumbled and fell away, revealing a boxer-wearing Tsuna contorted around the blades in a way that any yogi would be proud of.

“Ooo,” rose up from the crowd.

“What’s the score?” Luna asked. “Oh, one hundred points!”

“We did it, jūdaime,” Gokudera said with a fist pump.

“Tsuna-san,” Haru cried, flinging her arms into the air, “our wish will come true!”

“And the winner is—Reborn!”

Gokudera fell over. “W-why?” he choked out.

“Well,” Nana said smilingly, “because he’s the best for holding such a wonderful party for me!”

“Yeah, I agree,” the blond said.

Tsuna went back to normal and immediately started freaking out and complaining of pain.

“My wish for was Tsuna to get one hundred percent on his test,” Reborn said smugly. “We’ll be studying all night, Tsuna.”

Harry finally found out during the remainder of the party that the blond was Tsuna’s Dino-san and pseudo-older brother.

“You made all the food?” Dino asked.

He nodded. “Reborn asked. Nana-san stops by the bakery every so often, and Lambo spends the night here occasionally with Fūta-kun and I-Pin-chan, or they sleep over at ours. We all think Nana-san’s a lovely woman, so we were happy to help.”

Lambo scrambled up onto his shoulder and said, “Lambo-san is here!”

“Pleased to meet you, Lambo-kun. I’m Dino.” Dino put out a hand and shook Lambo’s tiny one.

Lambo giggled. “May Lambo-san have an extra piece of cake?”

Harry smiled. “Make sure that Nana-san has eaten her fill, and if she has, then yes.”

Lambo planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek and tumbled away.

Dino watched him go with an odd expression. “Almost makes me want to have kids.”

“He’s a handful,” Harry said with a chuckle. “But he’s mine and I’m going to enjoy the hell out of his childhood.”

Reborn hopped onto his shoulder and joined the conversation. “Dino.”

“Reborn,” Dino said a bit nervously.

Harry eyed them both. “Let me guess: you used to tutor Dino-san.”

“Yes.”

While Dino sweated slightly Harry took a quick pan of the room to see where everyone was, then said, “Can we talk outside for a minute?”

“All right,” Reborn said as Dino nodded. Harry subtly signaled to his siblings and followed Dino out to the yard. “What is it?” Reborn asked once they had assembled.

“I just wanted to know what it even means to be allied or associated with the Vongola,” he said in Italian. “What rights and responsibilities are involved? Because we’re technically already associated, and it makes me really uneasy not having a better picture of the situation.”

“Uh. . . .” Dino said unhelpfully.

“Those officially associated, or allied, may be called on to do missions suited to their capabilities, dependent on their situation,” Reborn said. “The contract we enacted was carried out by an ally, one with the specific skill set required for the job, and paid a handsome cut. People who are only peripherally associated may be called on, but unless it was a dire emergency, nothing that would greatly impact their overall general life or their own famiglia. Rights include being taken under the umbrella of protection of the Vongola, and therefore allied families. Meaning, you could call on us for assistance with a righteous grievance.”

“At greatly reduced rates?” Luna quipped.

Reborn smirked at her.

“And—” He stopped, trying to think of a way to properly word what he meant. “You mentioned the Vindice.”

“Ah. It boils down to this. You do not attack allies. But if you do, you had better have a proper contract as proof and permission. You do not break people out of Vendicare, though you can negotiate in an attempt to get someone released. If there are any agreements registered with the Vendice, they will imprison any infractors. You don’t reveal famiglia secrets to outsiders. The laws are mostly common sense. The Vendice are some of the most powerful figures in the mafia, and it is never wise to provoke them.”

“How does something like the yakuza fit in?” Neville asked.

“While a tenuously similar organization, they are not a part of the system,” Dino said.

“So if I wanted to personally handle that guy sniffing around muttering about protection money,” Harry said leadingly.

“There would be no issues with the Vendice,” Reborn said.

Harry narrowed his eyes. Keeping them away was not a real problem. He was more concerned that they might become frustrated and seek one of them out while away from the protections of the house or Kidorui.

“If it helps, members of the Vongola alliance are not involved in drug trafficking, slave trading, prostitution, and other such activities. A place like Mafia Land is only open to famiglias which do not involve themselves in those types of activities. Not every person associated with the mafia is necessarily a part of a famiglia. Think about it for now. We can always speak of this again later.”

‘And that was code to have a huddle with my siblings later on to talk things over,’ he thought. He nodded and they all went back inside. When the food was all finally consumed they bussed the dishes back to the kitchen and washed up, then packed everything away.

That evening after Lambo went to bed they sat down to talk.

“I thought you didn’t want to be considered mafia,” Neville said.

“I don’t, exactly. You already brought up the yakuza, so at least we know we can deal with them with relative impunity, so long as we don’t bring MAJI down on our heads.”

Luna tilted her head to one side. “Have you developed a crush on someone in the mafia, Hari?”

Neville scoffed. “Don’t be silly. He’d be the last one to know if he had.”

“Hey! I am sitting right here. It does get a little boring at times, though,” he admitted a bit sullenly.

Neville sighed. “It does.”

“Though I don’t particularly like the idea of putting myself into danger when Lambo is still so young.”

“Fine. So we ask Reborn for examples of actual jobs the Vongola have done, scrubbed of any identifying information,” Luna said.

“If you did this,” Reborn said the next evening, “you’d be best off forming your own famiglia and becoming Vongola allies. That way you would be at the top of your food chain and would never be obliged to share secrets your members may possess.”

Luna started giggling madly. “Trasformare Famiglia.”

Neville groaned and said in English, “I should punnish you for being too punny.”

Harry smacked Neville in the face with a pillow.

“It would also serve to keep your other abilities under secrecy laws,” Reborn added. “I would imagine you might excel at infiltration or spying jobs, possibly very clean or very messy assassination jobs. Of course, we might swing it such that you could ally in exchange for the favor of helping to teach Tsuna.”

Harry furrowed his brow.

“That might be interesting,” Neville said.

*

Luna was on door duty, Neville was setting up in the living room, and Harry was finishing up the food. It was his baby boy’s sixth birthday. Nana arrived with Reborn, Tsuna, Fūta, and I-Pin in tow. Dino and some of his men showed up, surprisingly—he had mostly sent the invitation to be sociable and due to Dino’s comment at Nana’s party. Gokudera showed up, as well, and was apparently on his best behavior.

Harry had prepared mostly bite-sized foods such as little goat cheese tarts or quiche, caramelized onion tarts, and many, many others, including takoyaki because Lambo was so fond of it. People would be able to sample many different options spread out mostly over Italy and Japan. There were sweets, as well, but not nearly so many.

Neville finished setting up and came back to give Harry a hand with bringing the platters out. Harry eyed his son, who was staring at the food intently, and said, “Okay, Lambo, you first.”

Lambo shot forward with a squeal and grabbed a plate (spelled unbreakable again), hashi, and whipped down the length of the sideboard swiftly collecting things. He ended up sitting at the table thirty seconds later.

“Okay, everyone, have at it. I hope you enjoy the food.”

The siblings waited until everyone else had filled plates before filling ones for themselves. Harry perched on the loveseat behind Lambo’s position and started eating, though after sampling so much along the way he was not exactly hungry. He did have the odd empty corner to fill, though.

Reborn hopped up onto the arm closest to him and stole a flaky little apple pastry. “Very nice,” he commented after munching and swallowing.

Harry gave him a flat look. “If I didn’t know better I’d think you were flirting with me.”

Reborn smirked and stole a tart off his plate and ate it.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Would you like me to hand feed you, little man?” he asked, holding up a miniature brownie.

Reborn leaned forward and opened his mouth expectantly.

He laughed and popped it in. “You’re shameless.”

Lambo hopped up from his seat and turned around. “When does Lambo-san get to play on the course out back?”

“When you and your friends are done eating, chibi. I don’t know that Tsuna will want to try, but I’m sure you and I-Pin-chan and Fūta-kun can have fun. But tell me before you go, so I can supervise, okay?”

Lambo nodded vigorously. Shortly thereafter the three youngest were ready, so Harry made to get up, not being all that surprised when Reborn used his shoulder to sit on, and walked out back with the children. “Okay, little people! The course you see before you is a test of your speed and your ability to maintain your balance. You are not allowed to touch the ground at any time until you reach the end. If you fall off you have to start over at the beginning. Pretend that the ground is actually a fierce river with hungry alligators in it. Whoever makes it properly to the end first gets to choose the next activity. Lambo has a lot of games you can play, after all.”

Dino had come to stand next to him during the explanation and chuckled. “How come I never had such fun toys as a child?” he muttered.

“Line up, now,” Harry said after shooting a grin at Dino. “Ready, set, go!”

“They actually look fairly evenly matched,” Dino commented as Lambo unfortunately tripped and face-planted, but as he did not fall off he was able to recover quickly. I-Pin paused occasionally because of her nearsightedness, and Fūta was at a slight disadvantage simply because he was taller.

There were balance beams, rope swings, tubes to crawl through, and more. Neville had done a fabulous job putting it together. “For all we know they’ll vote to run it again once they’re done.”

“So,” Reborn said, “no games of pin the tail on the donkey?”

Harry snorted. “I don’t think so. A certain someone might join in just for the excuse of pinning a second tail on my chibi.” He kept a close eye on their progress, ready to cushion any falls, and fifteen minutes later I-Pin was declared the winner.

She allowed herself a quiet squeal of happiness, then said, “Exploding Snap!”

“She would pick the game with explosions involved in it,” Harry muttered, then said, “Okay, little people, you can play that upstairs. Whoever wins picks the next activity.”

The kids raced off and the adults followed more sedately. He checked with Nana to see how she was doing and spent ten minutes chatting, attempted to make conversation with Tsuna and Gokudera (and even pointed them at the course out back, though he strongly suspected they were both simply too big to use it), and ended up back in conversation with Reborn and Dino.

After a while he slipped into the kitchen to fetch the cake. It was a series of tiers that Luna had hand-painted with food colouring to show parts of a forest, complete with creatures peeking out and lightning bugs illuminating trails. The guests all went a little quiet on seeing it as Harry rolled the cart it was on into place. Neville raced upstairs to get the birthday boy and his two friends.

Once they were all assembled Harry added six green candles and lit them, then scooped up Lambo. “Time to make a wish, chibi, and blow out the candles.”

Cake portions were distributed after that and Nana said admiringly, “It is such a pretty cake.”

“Tsuki did the painting,” he said, handing her a plate with a slice. “She’s very artistic.”

“Your sister is very talented,” Nana agreed, then wandered off in Luna’s direction.

“I take it that Tsuki-chan did the decorating at the bakery?” Reborn asked.

He nodded. “I can’t draw or paint my way out of a wet paper bag. Neither can Kuma.” He served more slices to various people, then saw that everyone but himself, his siblings, and Reborn were taken care of. He cut two more slices and offered one to Reborn, along with a fork.

“I don’t suppose you’re hiding any coffee around here somewhere,” Reborn said.

“Sure.”

A bit later it was time for the presents, so he pulled Lambo aside to whisper some instructions. “Try to keep any cards or notes with the present, all right? I’ll help you write thank you notes later on.”

Lambo nodded. “O~kay!”

One of his gifts, from Gokudera, of all people, was a necklace with a pendant of stylized silver and copper bull horns inlaid with what might have been emerald. Lambo squealed happily on seeing it and hopped over to hug Gokudera’s leg in thanks, which caused the teen to smile nervously. Harry had every intention of writing his own thank you note for such a lovely gift.

All in all, it was a nice little party, but more importantly, the guest of honor enjoyed himself.

*

They were at the training field when Reborn said, “Tsuna is incredibly frustrating.”

Harry could not decide if Reborn was telling him as a subtle nudge toward forming his own famiglia and becoming a second tutor for Tsuna, or because the man actually trusted him. Perhaps it was both. “What’s he done this time?” he asked, casting a look at the obstacle course where Lambo continued to improve his acrobatics, reaction time, and quick thinking.

“He still fights almost every step of the way. No matter how many times I get him to prove that he can do it he resists. Even Dino wasn’t this much trouble, and he didn’t want to do it at first, either. Did you resist?”

He sighed. He knew Reborn was not a stupid man, so him having put together the clues was not outside reason. “To some extent, yes. There was a lot of ‘why me?’ and misplaced guilt. Anger at the people who enabled it to happen by inaction, or failed to help, expecting a child to take care of things. The users, the gold diggers, the people who got off on slander and libel. The people who had years of expectations built up on a framework of speculation and lies, all before I even knew who the hell I was. The whole place is fucked up. There were so many times when I wanted to just run away, because most of them didn’t seem worth saving. Do you remember your life from before?”

Reborn did not pretend to misunderstand. “Not really. But I had certain aspects of that erased, more or less, on purpose. I’ve been like this for over a decade.”

“I suppose that’s one way to handle it,” he said, deciding to try to do magic without benefit of a wand. If they could use Dying Will Flames without such a crutch, why not spells? To that end he reached down to pluck some blades of grass and line them up on the table they were sitting at and attempt to transfigure them.

“Is Lambo like you?”

He considered the possible meaning of that question as he worked, then said, “I don’t know yet. I haven’t bothered trying to test it. I don’t care if he is or not, but if he is, it may or may not make things a little awkward when he gets older.”

“Because you get invited to a school.”

“Right. But for now, while it’s possible, he’s too young for that to be a concern. If he shows signs aside from being able to use that onesie tail like it was real, well, I’ll step up the meditation a bit. So many bizarre things happen around here already that I don’t expect it’d get much noticed anyway. And if it did, the other government here would very likely step in to smooth things over.”

“Which reminds me,” Reborn said, eyeing him curiously. “How did you get around that situation when Lambo was in danger? I know there was a squad of men after him.”

Harry frowned when he accidentally levitated the grass instead of using transformative magic. “Ano, how to say this without actually saying it? We encouraged those men to forget the last few minutes and hightailed it out of there. Didn’t see the point in sticking around to fight when we had three children who needed protection. I’m sure I-Pin-chan and Lambo could have managed something, because I know that, if nothing else, I-Pin-chan has training in martial arts, but I don’t believe in having children fight on that level if it can be avoided.”

“You teleported away.”

“That isn’t what we call it, but essentially.” He felt a pulse of magic leave his fingers and looked. A blade of grass had contorted itself into a paperclip shape. “Tch.”

Lambo came tumbling over, followed by Neville and Luna, so Harry left off and broke out the picnic basket while Luna used a wet wipe on Lambo to neaten him up a bit first before they ate.

Harry held a non-verbal conversation with his siblings, then turned to Reborn. “For whatever insane reason, we actually trust you, so if you will swear on your honor to keep things to yourself, we’ll show you more. I want my adorable chibi here to get some more experience with that attack of his, and for that, well. . . .”

Reborn gave him an unfathomable look, then nodded sharply. “On my honor.”

Harry smiled after a moment, then said, “Lambo, after we eat, would you like to try headbutting some rats?”

Lambo squealed and nodded vigorously, stuffing a portion of sushi in his mouth.

“All right. Since it’s not weepy out today we’ll just have to improvise on getting you some lightning to work with.”

To that end, after they had finished eating and a lightning rod had been created, Harry produced his wand. “Fulgur!” he said with quiet intensity.

An arc of lightning streaked down from an otherwise clear sky and hit the rod. Lambo clapped excitedly at the display.

“Ano, here’s some wire that will dissolve if too much power goes through it,” Luna said. “We already know you two can handle strikes, but these aren’t entirely natural ones, so. . . .”

Harry nodded and watched as she set things up, then took off his shoes and stood on the wire. “Fulgur.” He only barely kept a hold on his wand when the electricity flooded into him, but even so, he handled it better than the previous time. “Not any worse than before,” he said, “not from what I can tell. It should be safe enough for Lambo to power up those horns this way for now.”

“Lambo-san wants to try!” Lambo hopped up and down in excitement.

He scooped his son up to rub noses. “You will tell me if it hurts.”

“Lambo-san promises!”

“Okay.” He set Lambo down and stepped back. Once his son was in place he cast again. Lightning arced down and hit the rod again, then traveled along the wire to Lambo, whose horns started crackling with electricity. Lambo giggled madly. “It tickles.”

Luna snorted in amusement and plucked some grass, then transfigured a blade into a rat and enlarged it. Lambo growled and hunched over, then charged. The second his horns touched the creature it went flying, twitching, and reverted to a burnt-looking blade of grass. “Kufufufu!”

“A portable generator might not be a bad idea,” Reborn suggested from his perch. “It would be noisy and smelly, but it could, in theory, provide a constantly charged rod for Lambo to leech off of during practice.”

“Not a bad idea,” Neville said. “Though if Lambo’s flames eventually allow for him to call lightning from the sky himself, that would be good, too.”

“I know of one person in the past who could,” Reborn said, “so it’s entirely possible.”

Harry pulled his phone out of the bag he had hung off one of the chairs and woke it up so he could check the weather conditions in the area and its surrounds. A minute later he put it to sleep and back in the bag. “Lambo,” he said, “I want you to try something for me.”

Lambo tumbled over and sat in front of him.

“Concentrate, kind of like when you’re meditating, and try to see if you can feel any lightning out there.”

Five minutes later Lambo opened his eyes and growled in frustration. He jabbed a finger west. “Maybe?”

“Not bad, chibi. Not bad at all. We can add that to your usual training. If you can learn to sense it, maybe you can learn to call it, too. But for now let’s get back to working on your aim.”

Lambo cheered up.

“I wonder. . . .”

He looked over at his sister, who had a thoughtful expression as she created another enlarged rat.

“Maybe some gloves? When lightning hits you, Hari, it just grounds, because there’s nothing to hold it. And as cute as I think you’d look with a matching set of horns. . . .”

Reborn snorted.

“Fulgur.”

Lambo giggled and charged the newest rat, missing. He growled and darted off for another try.

“Maybe a cow-print shirt or tie. . . .”

Harry rolled his eyes. “A tie, maybe, but it doesn’t exactly suit me.”

“Your alternate form isn’t a bull?” Reborn asked.

“Hardly.”

Reborn eyed him thoughtfully. “Well, let’s see. Your name means needle and that immediately brings certain creatures to mind. I’m going to pass on the idea of a spiny sea urchin because those aren’t mammals, but—another name for those is sea hedgehog. Porcupine, hedgehog, echidna. All prickly, defensive. . . . I think you’re a hedgehog.”

Harry frowned at him.

“Your brother is a bear. Your sister, though. . . .”

Luna giggled.

Lambo tumbled back for a recharge and another enlarged rat.

Reborn’s chameleon morphed into a magnifying glass, which he used to view Luna as she set Lambo up again. He hummed thoughtfully. “Some kind of rabbit.”

Luna’s eyes went wide; then she pouted and stamped her foot. “How dare you guess right?”

“I’m just that good,” he said smugly.

Harry gave Reborn a sidelong look, then turned his attention back to trying to transfigure things without using his wand.