If anyone noticed the profound difference in her attitude, no one dared to say anything. Iris Potter finished her History of Magic exam in record time (she had that same flat, expressionless look on her face since the Divination exam) before leaving the exam hall.
Iris had gone from defiant and headstrong to completely emotionless and flat. It was like all the fight had drained out of her, leaving only a sarcastic, rather obnoxious witch behind.
Hermione was not impressed with the change, Ron, more so since Iris hadn't hesitated to rip apart his rather pathetic ego and jealously to shreds with mere words.
They were still baffled on how she managed to get Trevor to stay in one place when even Neville had given up on keeping track of his toad. Said amphibian was now happily sleeping the days away in the pocket of her robes, which had been specially charmed for a toad.
Iris had already discreetly bought the toad off from Neville, who was more than happy to part with his long time pet. Mostly because it meant he could discreetly order one that he wanted and he only kept track of as an afterthought at this point. Or maybe some new plants. It didn't hurt that she had also bribed him with unlimited use of Hedwig and an owl-order catalog from overseas.
Hedwig could use the exercise, to be honest.
Iris went to the kitchens to get some meat, and then packed her bag. History was the last exam she had to do and she had no intention of following the same damn script that had been more or less shoved down her throat the first time.
Screw magical England. She was so gone it wasn't even funny.
“Hello Fran,” said a voice with a dreamy quality.
“Hey Luna. Should have guessed you'd notice the truth. You were always the most perceptive,” said Iris.
“I suppose I will see you soon. I'm sure Daddy will understand... besides, I just finished my O.W.L.'s earlier,” said Luna happily.
Iris turned to look at the little Mist. Luna and possibly Neville were the only ones she'd claim were still her friends in the castle, since the twins were already long gone.
“Take care of Hedwig for me. Make sure that the Order and the two idiots don't get near her,” said Iris blandly.
Luna hummed happily.
“You look better with teal and happier when it's mixed with gold,” said Luna. Iris blushed.
“Thanks. See you soon, Lunabell,” said Iris.
With a few pieces of meat, one of the thestrals broke off from the herd and let her get on it's back.
“Take me home to Florence, please,” she asked politely. With a simple illusion, no one saw them leave.
Luna went up to the Owlry to pick up Hedwig. The owl didn't need to be told, and flew to her shoulder before nuzzling her hair.
She'd see her chick soon enough.
The second Iris touched down in Italy (having bypassed nearly every spell and ward meant to deter magicals from entering illegally...not that she cared) the part of her that was the English Enclave's Savior died.
She refuse to martyr herself for them twice. They weren't worth it, regardless of what the old bastard claimed.
It was like stepping into a favorite blanket after a bad day, curled up to a fire with a warm of hot tea in her hands.
Iris Potter was long gone, and in her place was Fran. Or as a certain fake prince liked to call her, “Froggy”.
Except she had known just by looking at the date when the memories came back that the Varia wouldn't remember her. That the Varia Storm wouldn't know who she was on sight.
It had hurt like hell.
But the Varia castle was the closet she had ever come to a real home since her parents were murdered. Hogwarts had once held that place in her heart, before war and far too many lies had ruined that image.
The thing was she couldn't jump into the Mist division and expect them to place her with the temperamental Storm Officer like last time. She'd be lucky to rate anything more than a grunt.
But there were other, much less annoying ways into the Varia castle. If one could stomach the sheer insanity that came with being in close proximity to Vongola madness, which was only amplified by the almost mandatory insanity that came with being Varia Quality.
Besides, it wasn't like she was unused to cleaning.
Within a week (and having to deal with the “stress test” of cleaning out no less than ten different corpses that tended to collect in the castle, one of which had all the hallmarks of being one from Lussuria's special collection) she was hired and given a fairly decent salary for someone who was clearly underage and had zero previous employers. So long as she could pass the high school requirement, they did not give a damn what her qualifications were.
Considering the amount of blood and other fluids no normal maid would want to deal with on top of the random bodies and corpses that were around the place, they couldn't really afford to be picky. It took a special kind of person (or a hell of a lot of desensitization) for someone to keep working in the Varia Castle without running away screaming or needing to be disposed of via the mass grave in the back.
Just seeing Belphegor again, ten years younger than she remembered, hurt. But if there was one thing she was used to, it was pain. It was an old friend that had never betrayed her, regardless of what happened.
Lussuria normally didn't pay much attention to the maids or the people who kept the castle inhabitable.
Except he'd have to be blind to miss the looks she kept shooting the Varia's self-proclaimed “Prince”. The teal-haired girl was positively adorable, always making up excuses to avoid Belphegor whenever he walked in the room.
It had taken the Prince a full month to pick up on it.
He had not been happy...which lead to the situation right now.
“The stupid maid keeps running away.”
“Then again she's right to fear the Prince,” continued Bel, still pouting.
Luss couldn't help it... he laughed.
“It's not fear.”
Bel looked so adorably confused Luss didn't want to ruin that particular surprise. From what he could tell, the maid had a serious crush on the blond Storm officer. Though he was getting all the signals mixed up.
It was only natural... Luss doubted Bel had ever had to deal with someone who knew perfectly well what he did and wasn't terrified of him. He had never been on the receiving end of a crush like the absolutely adorable one he had on Mammon years ago, before he outgrew it when he hit puberty.
Mammon had found it cute, which was why she (and Luss was one of the rare people who knew the Mist's real gender) hadn't charged him for it and simply let him grow out of it. Besides, Luss was also aware Mammon had a thing for Fon, though she would deny it with her dying breath if asked about it.
Bel stared at Luss.
“Then why does the peasant always leave when I enter the room?”
Luss grinned at the confused Storm.
“That would ruin all the fun when you figure it out. I will say she's not scared of you in the least though. If she could handle cleaning up the mess you made in the second training hall with your Storms, I highly doubt your usual habits would get her to run away.”
For a brief, split-second, Luss saw a flash of confused red under Bel's bangs. He always hid his eyes because apparently the sight of blood red eyes terrified people and he got sick of people flinching when they saw it. Even his own parents had been sickened by them.
Somehow, Luss doubted the little maid would flinch. She'd probably like them.
Bel was so irritated that the maid kept avoiding him that he did something he normally wouldn't.
He ordered one of them to come up and clean out his room.
Belphegor did not like having people in his room. He barely tolerated Luss in there, and that okama refused to step foot inside unless it had been properly cleaned after the first time.
The little maid, being the most recent hire and the only one who was available, quietly entered the room with several trash bags, enough cleaning supplies to handle damn near anything, and the air of someone who was exasperated with the situation.
She was not expecting Belphegor to still be in there. He was supposed to be out on a mission!
He had her pinned to the wall with a knife to the throat and a bloodthirsty smirk firmly in place.
“Ushishishi... look what I've finally caught. Did you really think you could keep avoiding me like that?” he sneered.
He couldn't properly see her eyes under those long bangs (there were hints of green, but that was it), but he could feel her annoyance.
“Stupid fake prince,” she said flatly, unimpressed.
“Kaching. The prince is not a fake.”
She lifted her head a bit and gave him a flat look. Her green eyes should looked like they were once very expressive, but something had stripped all emotion from them in a painful manner. Belphegor didn't like that. At all.
“Look are you going to let me do my job and clean up this pigsty, or are you going to continue being a brat and keep me pinned here?” she asked flatly.
Belphegor stared at her from behind his bangs. He slowly let her up from the wall, and she went to work with admirable efficiency for a peasant. Every so often he would throw some of his knives at her just to see how she would react.
She didn't. The closest she came to it was catching said knives before they went more than a few inches past her head before bending them, to his annoyance.
“Knock that off, peasant!” snapped Belphegor.
“Keep your toys to yourselves, fake prince,” she said bluntly.
This maid was really starting to piss him off.
In less than an hour, she had the room as close to clean as it was liable to get with a cranky Prince bothering her.
She left without a word, leaving a confused and irritable Belphegor behind.
Mammon was sitting with Lussuria with an amused look on their face. Well as much as one could see considering the cowl hide half their features from view.
“Mu. This is beyond adorable and entertaining. And you're saying the little prince hasn't figured it out yet?”
“He gets all confused and irritable every time the little one gets brought up. He still hasn't figured out that she likes him,” said Luss.
It was great entertainment to watch the two. Even if Squalo had yet to pick up on the fact that Belphegor had an admirer.
Luss grinned at the Mist.
“Want to make it even more fun?”
“I'm listening,” smirked Mammon.
A few weeks later...
Belphegor stared at the annoying maid. Just being around her was confusing...even if every time she opened her mouth he wanted to stab her. Repeatedly. It was like she had a talent for pissing people off.
“What do you want, peasant?”
“I have an extra ticket to that new slasher movie in town and no one else was interested,” said the girl flatly. “It's no fun watching it alone and it would be a waste to skip out.”
Belphegor stared at her, wondering why his stomach did a strange flip when he realized that he would be alone in a movie theater with the annoying maid who wasn't afraid of him.
“What's in it for the prince?”
The girl rolled her eyes at him openly.
“You could have fun trying to copy the deaths in the movie or trying to outdo them with your next assignment. Besides, it's a free ticket to a decent movie with lots of blood, death and gratuitous violence with the inevitable horror cliches.”
He blinked, twice.
“I'm in, but you're buying the snacks.”
He was bored and this sounded like it would be mildly interesting.
“Fine, but you're driving,” she said with her usual deadpan.
Luss and Mammon discreetly smirked as they watched Belphegor and the little maid drive off to the movies.
“Should we stalk them?” asked Mammon.
“Absolutely,” said Luss grinning. This was too entertaining to pass up!
The movie wasn't half bad. A bit too cliché and the plot could definitely use some work, but it wasn't a B-rated flick.
Belphegor found it all rather amusing.
Mammon smirked when, as the little maid (they really needed to find out what her name was) was coming back from using the restroom and getting a refill of her root beer, the Mist Arcobaleno deliberately tripped her.
The effect was instant. She managed to keep her drink from spilling, but not her balance.
It took Belphegor a few seconds to register that the annoying maid was sprawled on his lap. A faint tinge of red mostly hidden by his long bangs came across his cheeks.
She put her drink into the cup holder and slowly managed to get back up off his lap. Though there was no way Bel could miss the blush on her cheeks...they were too close and the lighting was just right.
Unseen thanks to the bangs that covered his eyes, Belphegor's eyes widened.
Oh. So that was why Luss found the fact that the maid avoided him amusing. His own blush deepened and he had to resist the urge to pull her into his lap properly.
Above them, Mammon and Luss shared identical smirks.
This was really too adorable for words. And worth the cash it took to get those tickets to the movie.