WARNING: In this chapter, some may find Harry's angst boring or 'annoying' (as some have put it before). The chapter also mentions religious views. This will be the only chapter with religious views (I think). I am NOT saying one religion is better than the other. I'm not saying you need a religion. I'm not saying anything offensive, seriously. I am only giving background on Death and Malphas.

Thanks to those of you who took the time to review.

12. Chapter Twelve

There were varying shades of disbelief across the faces of both Sebastian and Ciel. Harry could no longer sit by quietly. Ciel was wearing a rather peculiar expression of disbelief, betrayal, and hope. The boy was having all the wrong assumptions, something Harry couldn't fault. If he were in Ciel's position, with hardly any knowledge of the Wizarding world, he would be just as optimistic that there was a way to bring his parents back.

But there wasn't.

"First of all, many wizards have the ability to create a Horcrux before the time of their death. And any wizard can use that Horcrux and summon the spirit back to a body, not just me." He stood up from the high-backed chair. "Second of all, Claudia is not so much dead as she is lost. I cannot raise the dead. No one can."

"You can make someone immortal?" Ciel breathed in question, sitting back down. There was a hungry gleam in his eye at the notion of immortality, something that unnerved the only wizard in the room.

Harry exhaled shakily, shooting Undertaker a warning look as he bypassed the shinigami. Fortunately, the man remained silent and didn't make the situation more difficult than it already was. The wizard approached the young earl and crouched down in front of him. Reaching out, he grabbed the boy's chin in a strong grip, surprising both of them at the intimacy.

"Be thankful that you still think killing and blackmail darkens your soul. The act of creating a Horcrux is gruesome, depraving, and so… horrifyingly twisted." He released Ciel's chin and looked him in the eye. "Horcruxes can make someone immortal, but at a terrible price. And even then, even after you've sacrificed all your morals, you aren't truly immortal. There are still ways to kill you."

"Very true," Undertaker agreed pleasantly. "The one person who is trulyimmortal is Harry. Though, even that has its drawbacks, doesn't it?" He directed his question at the crouching wizard. "You still experience death. The pain and the vulnerability of being reborn never does get easier."

Harry flashed the Undertaker a cold look from over his shoulder.

"What exactly is a Horcrux?" Sebastian inquired, stepping in front of Undertaker in a fashion that claimed Harry's absolute attention.

"To put it simply, a container," Harry replied gloomily. He stood up and stripped down to his suit vest. Tossing his jacket on the chair, he stared at the locket in Undertaker's hand. "After completing a ritual that splits their soul in half, one must choose a 'container' to store it in. The container that holds the soul fragment acts as an anchor. Claudia wasn't killed because half of her soul is earthbound in that locket."

Sebastian appeared truly intrigued. "Remarkable."

Harry snapped his neck up at that. "It's not remarkable," he hissed fiercely, giving Sebastian a look of pure hatred. His revulsion for the demon seemed to take the man aback, so much so that crimson eyes widened and surprise lined his features. Harry turned away, nauseated. Was he surrounded by the lowest scum known to man?

He was reminded yet again that Sebastian was a demon. He couldn't be angry with the man, yet found himself revolted. It should have been expected that a demon would be interested in anything that had to do with souls. Still, Malphas was once an angel, a divine entity. Harry might not have been the pure, pristine wizard he once was, but at least he had somewhat of a moral base. All of these fools surrounding him had no idea what they were praising.

"I apologize," Sebastian said, almost in an attempt to soothe Harry. "I am simply impressed that humans have come up with such a deprave solution to immortality. They never cease to amaze me in terms of getting what they want and bringing others down with them…"

Harry kept his face averted, hardly impressed with Sebastian's attempt to backtrack. If anything, the demon had just solidified Harry's frustration with him. Something had snapped inside him when not one, but two of the surrounding idiots had expressed their interest and intrigue. Perhaps he hadn't done the explanation of a Horcrux justice. Or perhaps Harry was the only one who'd experienced Horcruxes enough to see their real evilness.

"Don't get your knickers in a bundle, butler," Undertaker crooned as he swayed closer to Harry. "Our wizard here has just experienced personal traumas with Horcruxes. He was one—oh!"

Harry grabbed the Undertaker around the mouth and squeezed painfully. "Do not." Rage, so hot in its consumption, spread through Harry. His secrets were his own. "Give me the locket." Without waiting for invitation, Harry grabbed the chain and slouched back to his chair. His feet extended out in front of him and he crossed his ankles over the other. "Answers," he demanded gruffly.

Across from him, Ciel was poised stiffly at the edge of his chair, his one eye sharp and considering as he watched Harry. "I would like to know why you're catering to Undertaker," the boy demanded in turn. "Undertaker's answers can wait. If you truly believe Horcruxes are such an evil creation, why are you aiding him in 'finding' his lover?"

He didn't owe any explanations to Ciel. Yet, he saw honest curiosity in the boy's gaze, as if he needed confirmation. One hand slid around the armrest of the chair and clawed at it in agitation. He despised reliving the past.

"I knew Undertaker during my original timeline," Harry started curtly. "He… my son. James. He was destined to die at a young age by the hand of one of my enemies. No matter what I tried to prevent it from occurring, the day would just change and the threat would never disappear." A caustic smile crossed his lips. "No one can escape Death."

It was before Harry knew the extent of his Master of Death status. He'd been surprised when a man, who claimed to be a shinigami, appeared before him and informed him of his son's impending death. Naturally, Harry had been skeptical, never hearing of shinigami's beforehand, but gradually comprehending that it was the real deal.

"Like any desperate parent would, I agreed to a deal that would save my child. Unfortunately, it was Undertaker I was making a deal with." He ignored Undertaker's tsk of delight and kept his attention on Ciel. "He would rewrite my son's death date years and years into the future. And in return, I would save his wife from death. She was still alive at the time, but Undertaker knew about Horcruxes and requested my assistance to make her immortal."

Ciel's eye widened a fraction. "You made one?"

"I assisted," Harry corrected, his heart heavy. "Claudia is and always will be a Muggle. She committed the act and I performed the magic needed." Shadows crossed his face. "There isn't a day that goes by that I forget what act I committed. But no," he started when he sensed Ciel's impending question. "I never regretted what I did."

Vivid green eyes glanced impassively at Sebastian. "You believe humans will scramble over themselves to find immortality, power, and status. It's that same selfishness that drives parents to the brink of corruption when it comes to the safety and happiness of their children." He looked at a rather solemn Undertaker, knowing the same ferocity had once driven Alexander to save his son. Harry then looked at Ciel. "As I father, I would do anything for my child. Even if it corrupted my soul to the point of no return."

"But your soul isn't corrupted to that extent," Sebastian spoke to Harry's left. "Is that simply because you performed only half of the ritual?"

"I imagine," Harry spoke crisply to the demon. "Or perhaps you are just biased."

"Or perhaps someone has the ability to keep it cleansed," Undertaker injected with wicked glee, tittering loudly when Harry sent him another warning look.

Ciel edged forward again, pleasantly ignoring the palpable strain between Harry, Sebastian, and Undertaker. "But Claudia was from my time. She was on good terms with my parents until she was shot."

"I've told you once, Earl. Shinigamis can jump timelines." Undertaker perched himself at the edge of Ciel's armchair. "I simply brought her with me to this lovely era. After Harry left, we were simply bored."

"I'm pleased you think so highly of me," Harry mumbled. He draped the beautiful chain through his fingers in a web-like structure and rocked the locket back and forth in a steady rhythm. "Though, I can't say I missed you very much." Or Claudia.

She was a wicked bitch. And according to Ciel's comment about Claudia being on good terms with his parents, it was highly likely she had her hands in the underground workings of Muggle London. Nonetheless, beneath all her misgivings, she truly did love Undertaker as much as the shinigami loved her. She wanted immortality just as much as the next power-hungry human, but she also wanted to stick close to Undertaker merely because she adored him. They were a pair destined together. It was an unconventional love, simply because shinigami's were not permitted to love and settle down.

But when did Alexander—Undertaker— ever comply with the rules? He had created an immortal wife and had attempted to create an immortal son. The league of shinigami would probably disprove of him and wish to extract proper punishment, but Death would most likely find Undertaker amusing.

"I thought you could control shinigami," Sebastian drawled suspiciously. "He was a shinigami at the time. Why not simply order him to change the death date of your son?"

And that was the foundations of Harry's dislike regarding Undertaker. The wizard stared at Undertaker from beneath his lowered lashes, displeasure making his mouth tight. An impish smile curled the shinigami's lips as he bent toward a stiff earl. Ciel tried to lean away from the fall of the shinigami's hair, a revolted grimace in place.

"How do you think I got my scars, butler?" Undertaker ran a hand through his fringe, revealing his stich-like scars across his face. "When Harry did find out his unique ability, he had already created the Horcrux. He came after me with a lovely vengeance." The man breathed an impressive sigh at the memory, pleasantly ignoring the distasteful stares of both Sebastian and Ciel.

Harry ignored the group and continued swinging the locket back and forth. It whispered to him, not evil and tarnished as Voldemort's once was, but with sweetness and tenderness. It professed broken, almost inaudible affections for both Harry and Alexander, curling invisible tendrils of affectionate around his arm. The Horcrux recognized Harry's magic and presence. He was the only one who could call her wandering soul back to a body.

Claudia was a Muggle and didn't possess the necessary senses that wizards did when it came to identifying magic. When the makers of a Horcrux died, they usually left their undamaged body for a few moments before being summoned back into their body. They had a connection to the Horcrux that aided them in finding their way. Others, like Voldemort, whose body was destroyed, wandered around in a bodiless form but still kept their identity because of the connection to their Horcrux.

Wizards sensed their Horcruxes. Muggles did not. A Horcrux may possess their soul inside, but it was the magic that made the master soul aware of its identity.

Harry assumed Claudia was a mindless form, drifting bodiless or possessing small animals like rodents or birds. There may be small recollections of who she was, but mostly, there would be nothing but primitive and mindless instincts. When Harry called her, he would draw her attention to the Horcrux, and in turn, her identity. The memories would come back, even the most recent ones, and the emotions would return, no matter how damaged they might be after splitting her soul.

It was possible from the magic surrounding the Horcrux. It was why Muggles could never hope to create one without the willing aid of a wizard.

Bringing her back was part of the deal he had made with Undertaker. Harry could have tried to avoid completing his side of the bargain now that his son had already passed on from old age, but the truth of the matter was summoning her to a body was hardly as destroying as creating the Horcrux. He still remembered the events that led up to incasing the soul in the locket and he felt unpleasant. The face of the sacrifice, the blood, the gore… the sheer depravity of it all. It had taken Harry two weeks to snap out of the dark haziness.

All these years later, he could still remember it. But the emotions and memories weren't as vivid, weren't as destroying.

Claudia. Claudia.


The call was hazy and Harry subconsciously realized his eyes had closed. He was too immersed in activating the Horcrux and drowning in the two souls. He became the bridge—the conduit— between one Claudia and the other Claudia. In one hand, he held the stagnant, anchoring soul of the Claudia he knew. Miles away, he became attentive of the other soul, the master soul as it came to sudden awareness. Her consciousness was overpowering in its intensity. She focused on him, recognizing him immediately, before being drawn to her Horcrux.

There was movement on her end, a type of hurried and eager impatience. She was coming, unable to do anything but follow the enthrall of her Horcrux as it was activated under Harry's influence.

It was difficult to pull away from the master soul and her raging emotions, but Harry eventually came back to himself. He slowly opened his eyes. His body was still slumped casually against the tall back of the chair, and in his hand, he kept the locket rocking back and forth.

"Your answers, Undertaker," Harry probed casually, as if he hadn't just nodded off for Merlin knew how long. They were staring at him with disbelief and incredulity. "Why did you aid the process of animating bodies?"

Undertaker suddenly seemed to have lost more marbles than he could afford. He lunged at Harry from his position on Ciel's chair. He hardly got very far in accomplishing whatever it was he was aiming for. Sebastian flew from his perch against the wall and landed in a crouch in front of Harry.

"The deal was to bring her back first," Undertaker prompted threateningly.

There was a hint of desperation around him that Harry had never seen before. For all his craziness and aloofness, Undertaker really did resemble a human. He had their emotions, their fears. While Undertaker would never express it, Harry knew the shinigami suspected that the Horcrux wasn't working. The man may had observed Harry's timeline with Voldemort, and seeing for himself that Horcruxes do work, but creating one for a Muggle had never been done.

He was panicky, Harry realized.

"She's already on her way," Harry replied calmly, trying to placate the man and keep his own temper in check. Ciel was looking at him as if he were crazy and Sebastian looked as if he wanted to attack Undertaker doubtless of the man's yield. "She's in flight… as a bird. In the meantime, you can explain what your purpose was for animating those corpses."

The shinigami seemed to pause before slumping back to his original posture. "It was for fun, mostly," he started lightly. "Or maybe it was for curiosity. I can't remember." He pressed a finger against his inane smile. "You know I simply can't resist playing with them when they are cold and silent. They're far more beautiful that way, don't you agree?"

Harry stopped swinging the locket. "I refuse to continue if you refuse to give me concrete information." His eyes were hard as they stared at Undertaker. "Who the bloody hell was behind these experiments?"

"The Queen."

It really shouldn't have surprised him, but it was enough to leave Harry speechless for a moment or two. "Sebastian told me it was an underground society that was responsible for the majority of the experiments. They—"

"Were manipulated by the Queen from behind the scenes," Undertaker interrupted. "Only a few were acting as her puppets. The rest of the group did not know she was the true force behind most of it." He pressed his baggy sleeves against his mouth and issued a muffled chuckle. "When her husband died, she's fancied herself in sciences of all sorts, particularly those that claim to bring back the dead."

Harry leaped from his chair and neared Undertaker. Sebastian stood tall, keeping at least one shoulder between Harry and the shinigami. "I want to know who was whispering in her ear," he demanded icily. "I don't believe she had the audacity to take hundreds of bodies—"

"Her Majesty has grieved heavily for her husband," Ciel interrupted calmly. "I think she has the power and the indifference to collect bodies for an experiment that may bring back her husband. Even if there was but a slim chance it would work, she would still risk it on knowledgeable doctors and a shinigami."

The wizard turned his heel and approached the closed windows and drapes. He touched the rich material of the curtains before fisting it. Leaning slightly against the window, he stared listlessly at his raised hand, in particular the gold locket and the Resurrection Stone. Humanity truly was warped. There were still good people out there, Harry knew. But those who had the power, the money, and the reasons, would jump at a chance to tamper with the nature of life itself.

"These few people that knew the Queen was behind the experiments…" Harry trailed off and closed his eyes briefly. "These people you mentioned… they wouldn't happen to be the five noble families who were murdered these past few weeks, would they?"

"Fufu. Too right you are, Harry." Undertaker seemed entirely unbothered by this, but that was to be expected. "She was cleaning up her dirty work when the experiment turned out a failure. Of course, there were more men connected too closely to the project and eliminated. Their deaths were never reported as front page news."

"Do you know of any wizards connected to this?" Ciel demanded when Harry remained silent.

"The only Wizarding influences I know of were the five wizards placed in each of the murdered noblemen's households. The ones acting as Muggle butlers or maids. They were not involved with the experiments. They were just… conveniently placed at the scene of the crime when the Muggle noblemen and their families were killed."

"And the bodies?" Sebastian pressed. "What happened to the animated corpses that were on the voyage?"

The shinigami sniffed at that. "The last time I laid eyes on them was the same time you and the Earl last saw them. I don't have any inclination of where they went. Your guess is as good as mine."

The corpses that the Queen and the Muggles were responsible for could have been the same batch Harry had seen in Elias Malfoy's home. The Dark Lord could have found these animated corpses and believed them to be useful for the war. It could be as simple as that.

However, where did that leave the Ministry? Why were there Auror trainees with the Muggle noblemen? The Muggle noblemen and their staff were murdered by the Avada Kedavra that much was obvious. In addition, the bodies of the Auror trainees were removed from the morgue soon after their deaths. The Aurors had also sent out rogues to kill Rosa Quileute's parents before Harry had the chance to question them.

No. Somehow, the Ministry was also involved with this. Were they a direct partner in the Queen's experiments? Did they have their own experiments? Were they trying to hide what the Queen had done?

The Dark Lord's participation in all this was also a mystery. There were three parties somehow involved in this and Harry felt as if he was constantly being pushed back to square one when new details came out.

"I can hear the clogs of your brain working from all the way over here, Harry!" Undertaker called in glee. "Besides admiring how luxurious those drapes are, what else are you thinking?"

Harry narrowed his eyes at his white-knuckled hold on the curtains. "I'm thinking that you're leaving out something very essential to this whole scenario, Alex." Without turning, he knew a wide, childish smile had crossed Undertaker's face. "We know each other fairly well. You're hiding something."

Abruptly, the lithe wizard was taken by the waist. He was forced into the role of a dance partner as Undertaker swept him in a few dizzying twirls. The shinigami's large cloak swirled between their strides, somehow abstaining from tripping them. Suddenly, Undertaker executed a dip, keeping Harry suspended in an uncomfortable position, his back arching backward.

"I think you would find the identity of the Queen's secret advisor interesting." Undertaker's scarred, yet somewhat handsome face stared down at the wizard in his arms. "You've never met him, but that blond wizard you're so fond chasing after—"

"Malfoy," Harry supplied stiffly, clutching at the arms that held him just inches from the ground.

"Yes, Malfoy's wife has a Squib for a brother. Imagine that! How scandalous!" Undertaker flashed a toothy grin. "Oliver Felix is his name. And he has many things he can advise the Queen. But there is one thing that concerns me, Harry." At Harry's raised eyebrow, Undertaker continued. "You simply don't possess the necessary flexibility to be a proficient dance partner."

The arms abruptly released him and Harry landed on the ground with a grunt. "Perhaps the butler can teach you some flexibility." The shinigami breezed past a stiff and scowling Sebastian, his innuendo clear enough to both the wizard and demon.

"I am not familiar with Oliver Felix," Ciel informed Undertaker, a hint of insult in his tone. He may have been the Queen's watchdog, but apparently, the Queen was still able to keep her own secrets and her own secret advisors.

"You were flexible enough last night," Sebastian muttered softly to Harry as he hauled the wizard off the floor.

Harry glared fiercely at Sebastian when he felt his ears grow warm. "I'm going to pretend as if your mind is not always in the gutter," he whispered to the demon.

"What's there to pretend about?" the demon pressed. "While we didn't do much to show off your flexibility, it was a very generous preview of what's to come. I was not disappointed." Only a sliver of a fang glittered in Sebastian's open-mouthed smile. "Is that a blush I see?"

Harry tugged his hand from the white glove and turned his shoulder on Sebastian. He ignored the taunting eyes in favor of approaching the window once again. With a sharp tug of his wrists, he opened the drapes, allowing strong sunlight to spill through. He barely opened the window in time before a bird came diving inside. Before the white dove had a chance at free reign, Harry's left arm raised and his hand quickly enclosed around the bird.

It screeched, she screeched at the sudden assault. The locket's chain was already entwined through his fingers, acting as a second barricade for the dove. Amusing, really. He was holding the soul of one woman in a single hand.

"Hello, Claudia," he greeted darkly. Holding the bird up to eye level, he flashed a lethal smile. "A dove, how incredibly… unfitting for you." Granted, she hadn't been herself when her soul had desperately possessed a living creature. Nonetheless, Harry thought it humorous.

He turned suddenly, holding the dove at chest level and forcing her to look at the occupants in the room. "We're finished here, I imagine." Harry glanced at a marginally flabbergasted Ciel to a transfixed Sebastian. "I hope you have a body prepared," he addressed to Undertaker.

Undertaker was by his side in an instant. With his fringe pushed away, brilliant green eyes were revealed. They were focused intently on the dove, half-skeptical and half-admirable. "I'm an Undertaker, aren't I?"

Harry contemplated the remark. Ciel said Claudia had been shot. No matter how gruesome the wound, Harry was sure Undertaker could have fixed her body back to perfection. Her original body was most likely being preserved perfectly somewhere in Undertaker's shop.

"May I come?" Ciel asked full of expectancy. Of course he didn't intend to be denied. The earl was hardly ever rebuffed.

"No." Harry's tone held no room for argument. He was still ruffled over this whole ordeal. It was even worse that Ciel and Sebastian imaged Horcruxes as God's divine intention. The last thing he wanted them to see was a woman being brought back to 'life'. "It will not take long. The majority of the ritual has already been completed… over one hundred years ago."

Turning a cheek on Ciel's clear displeasure, Harry held out an arm for Undertaker to take. Once the spindly hand curled around his arm, Harry Disapparated.

Deliver Us

She was just as how Harry remembered. Flawless skin, perfectly spun golden hair, and aristocratic features. Whatever Undertaker had done to preserve the body, he had done so masterfully.

Getting the master soul back into the body had been a simple task. As soon as Harry saw her chest heave and her lashes flutter in consciousness, he dropped the locket on the table with a clatter and disappeared from Undertaker's shop. There was no need to see the two reunite. He had no desire to see them any longer than necessary.

That part of his past was now closed. The chapter had been completed. Undertaker had always been a loose end to Harry's original timeline. The knowledge that Harry would someday have to make good on his bargain had always been a reminder, a distant memory in the back of his mind. It was a bit bittersweet. He was relieved it was over, but he still felt heavy with remorse, even after all those years.

He stood on Undertaker's entryway for a few calming moments, giving his memories time to torment him. One could argue that he was one-hundred and fifty years old and living too much in the past. Harry could agree with them. But then he remembered Albus Dumbledore, who was past a century old and still tormented over what happened with his sister. Even if time could heal wounds, it would never erase the most painful memories of the mind.

Suddenly, Harry spied a man a distance away at a park. The man's golden curls acted as a halo around his bowed head. It didn't help that the sun was strong today, reflecting brightly off the gold and blond strands. Sitting alone on the park bench, the man threw seeds on the ground, attracting a flock of pigeons.

"Bloody hell."

The wizard shifted uncomfortably before forcing himself across the cobblestone road. Trust Death to appear when Harry had just the slightest desire to speak with him. He supposed he might as well swallow his pride and ask the man a favor.

"Harry," Death greeted him merrily without looking up. "You seem rather solemn today. That is, more solemn than usual."

Harry shoved his hands in his trousers before falling down on the bench next to the entity.

Brilliant and clear blue eyes peeked at him slyly. "It wouldn't have to do with Alexander and Claudia, could it? It is their misgivings in life, not yours." He tossed another handful of seeds at the gathering birds. "But that is what I admire about you, Harry. If you had my ability of seeing your soul throughout the years, you would be amazed at the amount of goodness still left in you. Even with the power you wield, you are still grounded, still moral."

"I find that doubtful."

Death hummed lowly, seeming rather solemn himself. "Perhaps there are a few damning qualities about you, but your core is still pure. Very pure."

Harry squinted at the man next to him. He'd originally thought Death was just death. But he was gradually beginning to put the pieces together. "You're an angel, aren't you? I hadn't given it much thought, but I remember you gave the name Michael." It was hard not to think of an angel with the subtle glow around him and the man's dislike for demons. "The Catholicism view of Michael is…" he paused, trying to recall the Catholic belief.

"Flawed in its telling," Death finished for Harry. A strange smile graced his lips. "You see, humans have distorted and fabricated many religious views. They've allowed prejudice and discrimination to flaw the truth. There are several religions in the world. Not one of them is wrong, right, or better than the other. In the end, all that truly matters is how you've conducted yourself with the one life you've been given."

"You don't think that religions—"

"No, no," Death interrupted again, waving a hand. "I don't want to get theoretical with you. I believe every religion has truths, many truths. I also think it gives many humans a purpose, a direction in life, and above all else, hope." He inclined his head marginally. "And, yes, I suppose you could say I resemble the Catholicism view of Michael, among other religious versions."

"Michael is an archangel… you are an archangel…" Harry said faintly, reeling at the truth. "If I remember correctly, you have four main roles."

Death looked at him in amusement. "Look at you struggle to impress me. How cute. You only need to know I am the angel of death. Other information is irrelevant or too complicated to explain to someone as impatient as yourself."

Harry scowled at the entity. "I thought you were a skeleton."

Blue eyes twinkled. "Out of all the possible questions you could ask, you choose the most childlike observation." He happily ignored Harry's unimpressed stare and ran his hand through the bag of birdseed. "The grim reaper, yes, I am that. I told you once that I come in many forms. I prefer my angelic appearance around you, minus the wings of course. The grim reaper is usually a form I take when I am actively reaping souls."

The wizard stretched out on the bench and stared at the pigeons. There was another question he wanted to ask Death, something that would lead to his request. He wondered if Death already knew that Harry would ask him about staying with Malphas. The entity had known about Undertaker and Claudia, but then again, Death did have other duties.

He gazed from the ground pigeons to the two crows in the budding trees. With just a caress to the Elder Wand, Harry conjured a privacy ward around them, enough to keep the crows deaf and other demons should they hear their true name being called.

"Another myth about Michael is that you are the leader of God's army. They say you were the one responsible for the conquest during the war of heaven. That was when some of the angels fell and became demons." He bit the side of his cheek. "So that means you knew of Malphas before and after he fell."

There was a certain icy quality that had sprung up around Death. "I did."

Harry didn't know if Death was agreeing to his battle victory or for knowing Sebastian. "I imagine that your hate for him stems from the fact that he is a fallen angel—"

"A demon," Death interrupted hastily. "He has no claim to the title of angel, even if it is fallen angel." He kept his face averted from Harry. "Many demons despise humans. They are jealous of them. Malphas is not one of them. He thinks little of them, but he was not one to look upon them with petty scorn. Malphas was simply bored and decided to follow the others."

A frown marred the man's handsome features. "Though created as good beings, some demons freely chose evil, their sin being unforgivable because of the irrevocable character of their choice, not because of any defect in the infinite divine mercy," he quoted. He sprinkled more seed on the ground with a certain heaviness. "Redemption for them is impossible. The way they have conducted themselves, the sins they have committed—"

"Is irrevocable," Harry interrupted, feeling overwhelmed with the good and the evil, the black and the white. "It's natural for angels and demons to clash, I understand that."

"Then what are you insinuating, Harry?" There was no humor on Death's face as he turned to give Harry his attention. "Malphas has taken an interest in you. Any demon that comes across you would be interested. Your soul is extraordinary for a human."

Harry sensed he was upon unstable ground, but he ventured on it anyway. "When I die, I would like to be reborn here, in the same time period and in the same universe."

Death reached out a hand and touched Harry's throat. "Foolish. Have you really been seduced by the darkness?" His finger seemed to go through Harry's throat and into the back of his neck where Malphas' mark stained his skin. "What has he been saying to sway your opinion of him? He's clearly marked you as his own."

Releasing an irritated sigh, Harry held the blue gaze. "He's my mate."

One blink was enough before Death tipped back his head and laughed. He withdrew his hand and braced it against his leg. "I don't mean to laugh." He cleared his throat, trying to pull himself together under Harry's impassive eyes. "Demons do not have something as convenient as a mate."

Harry stiffened and narrowed his eyes into slits. "You're lying."

While dark in nature, nothing but humor bathed Death's features. "Demons are incapable of feeling anything besides foul emotions." He looked at Harry seriously. "What Malphas was feeling was arousal at encountering a soul as seasoned as yours. Even for being as old and wise as he is, Malphas has never encountered a soul such as yours. No demon has. Many would think it was some destined thing as mates." Another chuckle bubbled. "But I would never imagine Malphas as being so naïve and smitten. Unless…"

Already feeling a cold and stabbing emotion in his stomach, Harry simply inclined his head for Death to continue.

"Unless he thought he could manipulate you more easily," Death continued quietly, losing his mirth. "He can see an individual's true desires. By using this against you, he can get closer and determine a way to consume your soul. He'd be sated for decades if he succeeded."

"You really don't like demons," Harry observed lowly.

"I don't."

He didn't know what to think, to believe. On one hand, he was suspicious of Death's claim based on his dislike for demons. Naturally, he would rebuff what Sebastian had claimed and ridicule the situation. On the other hand, Sebastian had never explained how he knew Harry was his mate. It seemed like such a ridiculous claim now that Harry thought about it.

Hadn't he complimented Sebastian once on the demon's acting? Such deadly and brilliant acting was a dangerous trait to possess. Harry liked to think he could see under acting by now, but when it came to a demon many, many more centuries older than him, he couldn't be so sure.

It made him almost ill. Buried underneath many layers of defense, Harry allegedly had the burning desire for companionship. Malphas had been happy to point it out twice. He'd been using that against Harry. By leading Harry along and giving him mere crumbs of what he truly wanted, Sebastian received Harry's proximity in return.

Had he slipped? Was Harry turning into a simpleton? It wasn't as if Harry was afraid of having his soul consumed. But he was bothered over the prospect of being used and played for a fool.

"Even if it was true," Death continued softly, "I still wouldn't be able to help you. Your soul would not be able to stay in place after your death."

And with that confession, Harry felt something inside him shatter.

His anger and suspicions died and turned cold. The revelation made him realize how comfortable he'd been getting. It was originally just about fighting the Dark Lord, of experiencing life through dueling and battling. Somewhere along the lines, it turned into establishing relationships, of daring to have something that he would lose in the end. It didn't matter if Sebastian was his mate or not.

All this time, he was more worried over bending his neck and asking Death for a favor. He never considered the possibility that Death would say no.

He supposed, in a way, he was grateful for the wakeup call. Things didn't need to change, Harry would still assist Ciel and Sebastian, but he would need to be conscious of the realities. Getting closer to Sebastian was out of the question. He refused to get close enough to taste the forbidden fruit, only for it to be taken away so cruelly. The demon would no doubt sense a change in behavior and Harry intended to tell him the truth. Sebastian was too good an alley and a partner to lose over something they both couldn't have.

Still, there was a hallowed emptiness inside him. It made it difficult to breathe, to feel alive. His spirit seemed to shudder and shrivel, darkening and cooling into solid jadedness.

"What I can do, however, is help you remove all that taint on the back of your neck," Death offered softly.

His hand moved closer to the nape of Harry's neck. Sensing no rebuttal from the motionless and impassive wizard, Death made contact with the wizard's skin. Instead of Michael's warm flesh, Death's boney fingertips prodded at Malphas' mark and sent a sharp chill down Harry's spine.

"Not only has Malphas added his taint, but…" Death trailed off and his fingers froze against the demonic mark. "Beleth."

Lifeless green eyes slowly turned to look at his companion. Beleth was the demon who seemed to be working for everyone. The Dark Lord's followers had runes that warded Malphas away, compliments of Beleth. The Ministry had been informed of Harry's movements, compliments of Beleth and the tracking implanted in his body. Cynically, Harry wondered if the Queen would soon make use of Beleth.

Now, it seemed as if Death knew Beleth just as well as he knew Malphas.

"Are you going to remove it?" Harry pressed stiffly. "The mark and the tracking?" He filed away Death's reaction for later, knowing he would never get a straightforward answer if he asked.

Death seemed to focus back on Harry. His fingers were a cold weight on Harry's neck. There was no special incantation, no fancy movement on Death's behalf. Malphas' mark simply seared angrily before disappearing. Harry didn't need a mirror to determine it was gone. The familiar sensation of a collar around his neck had disappeared.

There was a heavy silence that passed between the two. Death slowly withdrew his hand from Harry's neck, his fingers unabashedly caressing the wizard's throat as he withdrew. Harry stared straight ahead, ignoring the prolonged contact. He frowned, feeling heavy with jadedness and isolation.

And yet, there was a small flame that flickered and seared. His fists curled tightly and his eyes narrowed.

"I want to know why," he demanded crossly. He tossed his shoulders back and assessed Death in a new light, a distrustful light. "I assume it has nothing to do with your prejudice against Malphas and everything to do with your lack of ability."

Death paused at the subtle insult, appearing to need a few moments to grasp what Harry was implying. "Even if your soul is tied with mine, you are still human. One cannot go against the force of nature. Your soul cannot be reborn in the same timeline, the same universe. It needs to move on to another world." He spread his hands out in a gesture of surrender. "Even I am not as powerful as you may think. Time, mother nature, and fate are all forces that oppose me from time to time."

Harry stood up, shoving his hands back into his trousers. "Don't treat me like a bloody idiot," he accused Death.

The angel of death stood up just as well, his frame towering over Harry. In fact, the man seemed to grow taller. "I fail to see what you're accusing me of."

Hardly intimidated, Harry raised his chin. "I know what a shinigami does. They collect souls, they cut Cinematic Records, they ward away unruly demons, and above all else, they review a soul. They have the ability to determine if a soul is reaped or if it needs to continue living. They choose the latter if that person has something more to offer the world. If shinigamis, who were created by you, can keep a soul grounded in the body, why can't you?"

Death shook his head. "That happens rarely and it happens if the body is not yet dead." He continued to grow taller. "It is impossible to keep you grounded to one universe."

Harry took a step back as the handsome man began to cloak himself in black. Wisps of darkness engulfed his white-clad frame before transforming it into a black hooded cloak. Harry craned his neck to spy the skeleton's skull inside the depths of the hood. He wasn't frightened. If he could swallow Malphas' demonic aura, he could withstand the grim reaper.

Muggles and the surroundings scenery seemed to disappear completely. The sky darkened and the world turned into shades of black and grey. Death curled a skeletal hand around his scythe and peered down at Harry.

"I will always come when you call me," he informed, his voice now cold and raspy. "I will always aid you against a threat. I will always give you advice if you ask. I will always lend you my power if you request it."

Harry stood his ground and stared up at the tall figure that had to be over ten feet tall. Power he hadn't noticed before cloaked the grim reaper, power that was awe-inspiring and overwhelming in its intensity.

"But I must tell you the truth," Death whispered. "You are not so much my master as you are the master of death. Your orders may not always be granted and I cannot always move mountains for you. And above all else, I refuse to aid a demon, especially if he sugarcoats his lust into something as ridiculous as a mate."

The wizard stayed silent, not out of intimidation but of a loss of what to say. He had assumed he was Death's—Michael's— master. How utterly ridiculous had he been? When they coined it Master of Death, they had meant the conqueror of death. Michael had led Harry to believe he served Harry. And while Death served Harry to a degree, he wasn't so much controlled as he was doing it on his own free will.

A large skeletal hand reached over and placed itself on Harry's head. "Please do not take me as your enemy. We will always be tied to one another. I am only looking out for you."

Death sighed at Harry's continued silence. He hesitated before withdrawing his hand for Harry's head. With sharp grace, Death slashed his scythe in midair. It seemed to rip the air, enough to create a sizeable tear that led to pure blackness. Once Death stepped through the slash, it sealed back up and color returned to the world.

Voices of Muggles and birds resumed as if they had never been silenced. Harry sat back down on the bench, silently contemplating the events of this morning.

From Sorrow's Hold

Harry forced his mind back to business, a purely professional resolve surrounding him.

His first step to solving this bloody mess was to get his hands on Oliver Felix. If Oliver Felix was connected to Malfoy, Harry had his assumptions that Malfoy was influencing his brother-in-law, even if said brother-in-law was a Squib. And because Oliver Felix was a Squib, Harry had a very large advantage over him.

He would get answers. The sooner they solved this mystery, the sooner he could leave Britain completely. No longer bearing Malphas' mark, Harry had a freedom to go places without the demon's knowledge. If Harry survived the end of this, he would need to leave Britain, preferably to America, perhaps even France.

Whether Malphas really was lying, or Death simply didn't have the power or desire to keep Harry in this universe, Harry didn't care. It was time to sharpen his focus on this mystery surrounding the Queen, the Ministry, and the Dark Lord. He was sick of being left in the dark.

He would be getting answers. And he would be relentless until he had this solved.

His cold resolve must have shown on his face, for the Phantomhive gardener, Finnian, popped up from his position by the flowerbed and sent out a tentative greeting. "Hello, Professor."

Harry was reminded once again that he was Ciel's tutor. He nodded sharply at the boy and made his way up to the manor. He intended to ask Sebastian for his help in cornering and capturing Oliver Felix. While the man was a Squib, Harry wouldn't take his chances.

"The young master left with Mister Sebastian. The young master was summoned by Her Majesty."

The wizard came to a sudden standstill. "Excuse me?" he asked icily.

Finnian blanched at the expression Harry wore and took a couple steps back. "I—I just wanted to let you know. In case you were wanting to speak with the young—"

"No," Harry interrupted. "They were summoned by the Queen. How long ago did they leave?" How foolish. How could Sebastian allow Ciel to accept summons by the Queen?

Simply because his master's orders are final. Sebastian could try to persuade Ciel against accepting the summons, but he was powerless in the end. And who knew, maybe Sebastian was sadistic enough to go along with it. Harry had his suspicions as to why Ciel had accepted in the first place. The young earl wanted to show Sebastian and Harry he held just as much power as they did, that he had just as much control and contribution as the rest of them.

The boy was probably insulted at being held back from Undertaker's shop and Elias Malfoy's ball. Considering he had a powerful demon at his fingertips, Ciel decided he could make his own decisions without Harry's guidance.

A part of Harry wanted to let them go by themselves. And that may be a very possible consideration. But he wanted to give Ciel a proper thrashing before he met with the Queen.

Standing directly in the flowerbed, the Phantomhive gardener scratched his head in uncertainty. "I don't remember. An hour maybe?" He looked at Harry warily. "The Queen is in London. It takes about two hours to get there from here."

Harry was gone before the boy could properly finish. As soon as he was out of sight, Harry's body turned intangible and he flew in the direction of London.