In which Lee has a plan in the very likely circumstance that Hagrid Rubeus will harvest her organs upon her unfortunate demise in the First Task, Weasel Riddle Tequila decides that something must be done, and Minato doubts Lee has a plan in place for the First Task and questions the luck potion results until they work in his favor.
In retrospect, Lee would blame both Minato and Tequila.
If they hadn't been so insistent she be responsible, she never would have gotten into this mess in the first place.
Ignoring the fire, as well as the healthy genjutsu Lee had placed over everything to help the English forget there'd ever been a fire, Lee turned to Minato. "You know… Maybe it really is dragons."
Minato, looking back at her, simply said, "And I want a refund on our first date."
"Very nice, Tequila," Lee said as she quickly scanned through the near fifty pages of notes he'd handed off to her, "Very detailed—of course, now I'll have to connect all the names to the faces…"
She looked up at him, grinned that stupid cheerful grin she seemed so terribly fond of giving, and said, "You have my eternal gratitude."
The question of why, upon returning to Hogwarts after that delightful trip to Diagon Alley, Tom had felt the need to sit down and do this, was entirely beyond him. Why he'd felt the need to spend multiple near-sleepless nights on the damn thing was even further beyond him.
Well, no, that wasn't quite right; upon reflection, he knew why he had done it. More, he'd known that somehow, in that single second inside the Leaky Cauldron when she'd climbed the stairs to meet him, Lee had known what he would do and how to get him to do it with little more than a sentence or two.
How long had it been since he had done anything remotely productive or useful? He had wasted away the past two years scheming the demise of a girl who hadn't even had the decency of being in the country. The fifty before that he had squandered inside of a diary, slowly going mad.
There was no path forward, nowhere to turn, and so instead he had turned inward, bitter and seething at his place in the world and everything he'd stolen from himself. Even he, proud as he was, could admit that much.
Still, that she had seen that—and he was certain she had seen that, in so little time when he used so many facades… Sometimes, he was struck with the impression that she was uncommonly dense and that only the Namikaze boy she hung around with had any concept of human interaction, and other times he wondered if she wasn't wearing a mask cleverer than anything Tom had put together.
He'd always had far too much bitter pride to consider playing the fool.
They were currently in the library, Lee having skipped Divination while he had decided to take a well-needed break from third-year Potions. Tom had not missed Slughorn, but somehow Severus Snape seemed to be just daring him to wish that fat, brown-nosing, nepotistic bastard was back inside the castle.
Tom may have had to suffer through those god-awful parties, biting his tongue and smiling until he had the chance to finally squeeze some useful information out of that pig, but at least he hadn't spent every class period defending Ginevra Weasley's grade just for the misfortune of having been born a Weasley and placed into Gryffindor.
Still, early into his impersonation of Ginny, he'd decided that Ginny didn't have to be what Tom Riddle had been. For one, she hadn't been to start with: her first year had been a disaster, grade-wise (for obvious reasons). Second, well, what did it get him to make Ginny the best and brightest Hogwarts had seen in fifty years? Ron Weasley's animosity and suspicion, certainly. He chafed as it was under the pressure of his older and more successful brothers; his little sister surpassing him would likely be more than the boy could handle. More, it brought attention to Tom—for now, Ginny didn't need attention and she didn't need followers. She just needed to be in the right place at the right time.
Besides, he'd already been through Hogwarts once; it was positively mind-numbing to have to go through it again. He was going to milk that trauma excuse for all it was worth and then some. So far, even two years later, no one had the guts to try and stop him.
Lee, it appeared, intended to do the same even without the excuse of soul-sucking diaries or basilisks.
He smiled over at her as she read more thoroughly through his notes, frowning at his lines telling her to pick up a bloody copy of Hogwarts: A History already, which she could nick from Granger were she so inclined, and noted, "Now, I know why I'm skipping class, but surely you can't think that you'll get away with it."
"Oh, I've been getting away with it for years," Lee said with a small distracted hum. "Well, perhaps not from the nidaime, but given that we're just reading those bloody tea leaves again, he will probably take pity on my wretched soul."
Tom stared at her for a moment, the unshakeable confidence with which she said that which would give him a run for his money. "Lee, are you honestly suggesting you've managed to fool your teachers into forgetting your absence?"
Well, she was talking about Trelawney; given that the woman seemed to have her head stuck in some other dimension, Lee very well could get away with simply never making an appearance.
Lee looked up from the pages, blinked at him, and said in a rather blank tone, "I don't see why not. I am, after all, one of the best genjutsu practitioners in the village, surpassing perhaps even the best of the Uchiha."
He wanted to laugh—he truly, dearly, wanted to. Somehow, though, and he couldn't quite say why, he could not simply laugh her claim off.
Some part of him truly loathed that.
"You really do hate all of these people, don't you?" Lee noted with a small, amused smile.
"You haven't been stuck here two years," he pointed out. "Spend enough time in the Gryffindor dorm, and you'd feel much the same."
Even during his first time through Hogwarts, he hadn't exactly been chummy with anyone. Friendship had eluded him entirely, mostly because his peers were so very dull and at that point in time rather useless. Tom Riddle had to be abandoned; his Hogwarts peers would never let him transcend to Voldemort if they remembered where he came from, and so he'd had to grin and bear it for five bloody years.
Until, of course, he'd shoved himself in that diary.
"You seem to get along well enough with your comrades," he mused, taking her in. "Given your abrasive personality, I would not have expected that."
She looked a little surprised by that, putting down his papers to think. "I don't know if I'd call us friends, really. Dead Last is kind of stuck with Minato and I, given the whole genin team thing. Pretty sure he'd prefer for me to just leave him alone already, even though I've saved his life multiple times now. As for Uzumaki, she's… I really have no idea what's going on with her except that puberty may be convincing her that her rivalry with Minato is a sexual thing."
"You don't say," he couldn't help but drawl.
Although, truth be told, he hadn't seen enough of the one she called Dead Last to label him as incompetent enough to earn the name Dead Last… Given the fact that he had disarmed and knocked out Malfoy without a wand, he was already leagues beyond any Hogwarts student. But he had the feeling Lee wouldn't appreciate that thought.
"And what about Namikaze?" he asked.
"Oh, Minato, well we've been best friends forever," Lee said with a suddenly fond smile, as if all was right with the world simply by bringing him up.
Yes, he'd noticed that too, that of all her relationships with all her friends, she and Namikaze seemed unbearably close. He, after all, was the only one who seemed worthy of his first name.
That had been… bothering him of late.
In truth he had no room to speak; wasn't entirely sure where he stood on this to begin with, but all the same, as he turned it over in his mind, he was beginning to like this Namikaze character less and less. He was… It was as if Tom Riddle was actually what Tom Riddle had pretended so desperately to be. Charming, affable, dangerously intelligent, but with a core sense of good that not even a magical military could strip from him.
By the age of sixteen, Tom Riddle had been indirectly responsible for the death of Myrtle Warren, and for the sake of a horcrux he had called it murder. He wondered if anyone had died at fifteen-year-old Minato Namikaze's hand.
He started, forced himself to smile, and said with a laugh, "Yes, you do seem rather close."
She stared at him, eyes narrowing, and he wondered if she would, if she could, see through that. She would have in Ollivanders, had seemed to see through every thought he'd had almost before he had it. Here, though, whatever illumination there'd been appeared to be snuffed out.
Still, he was going to have to do something about Namikaze.
"Have you given any thought to the first task?" he asked, distracting both her and himself. "It's coming up soon, November twenty-fourth, that's only a week away."
"Am I supposed to give it any thought?" Lee asked.
"Well, it might behoove you to," he supplied, "Older wizards than you have not simply failed but died from it."
"Oh, believe me, I'd gotten that idea," Lee said with a small laugh, "I'm perfectly aware of exactly what this tournament is."
He had a feeling he was going to regret whatever her answer was. He was still reeling over the fact that she was convinced Rubeus Hagrid was the kind of maniacal mad scientist one saw in dreadful science-fiction films.
"It's an assassination attempt," Lee finished, looking rather proud of herself.
"It is not an assassination attempt."
"Of course it is," Lee dismissed him, looking far too at ease discussing her own gruesome demise. "Ensure I am in a certain place at a certain time, focused on a particularly dangerous task for a reward; if I was an English nin I'd take it as an opportunity to kill me off and harvest my organs, too."
"Harvest your organs?!" Hadn't death been enough?
"As the last of a hideously overpowered blood limit, everybody be wanting Eru Lee's organs," Lee said, descending into truly dreadful slang. "I expect they're intending to deliver them to Hagrid-sensei's doorstep on the twenty-fifth in a cooler."
He opened his mouth, closed it, and then opened it again: "There are so many things I could say to that."
Did he point out that Rubeus Hagrid did not want Ellie Potter's frozen eggs in a cooler? Did he point out that even if the man received them, for all his hobbies in breeding monstrosities, he would not engage in necromancy or any other sort of dark ritual to make something out of Ellie Potter's severed limbs? Did he point out that it was not an assassination attempt, if only because he himself had stuffed her name into that goblet?
Except, well, it had been an assassination attempt. He had summoned her in order to kill her, only backing off when he'd realized she'd been a bit more than he had been expecting, and that she was such an antithesis to Dumbledore's chosen warrior that there was little joy in it.
More, it suddenly struck him, someone else could very well have placed her name in the goblet. He had done so, but if he had considered it, then surely there were others above the age of seventeen who had considered it as well.
Still, was that his concern?
Perhaps, if there was another, if this was what Ellie Potter—Lee—suspected it was, then it would behoove him to see her in action. If she proved disappointing and died, then so much the better for him. If she succeeded by dumb luck or the skin of her teeth, he could continue to gleefully plan her demise and his glorious revenge. If she lived up to his expectations…
Well, then things might finally get interesting.
"Why am I not liking the expression on your face right now?" Lee asked, startling him from his thoughts.
"Oh, I was just thinking that, given your concerns, I'm a bit surprised you're so blasé about it," he said with Ginny's cheekiest of grins that would have had Ron punching her in the teeth.
"That's because I already have a plan," Lee said, vanishing the papers to some unseen dimension where she seemed to store an ungodly number of things.
"A plan?" he asked blankly, "When you have no idea what the task even is?"
"Yup," Lee said with a grin, "I got it all worked out."
She grimaced then. "Of course, I promised myself I wouldn't do this sort of thing anymore. But… England really is leaving me no bloody choice."
"What sort of thing?" He got up as Lee stood and began to saunter out of the library, "Lee, what sort of thing? What are you going to do?!"
Perhaps to be expected, she didn't even bother to answer.
"Lee, shouldn't you be thinking about the task?" Minato asked Lee during Defense.
Moody had once again left the class to their own devices to practice a stunning jutsu, a red beam of light that would eject from the wand and disrupt chakra and motion of the enemy combatant, which had given Minato essentially a free period to spar and talk with Lee.
English jutsus were…
It was very different from using hand seals. It'd taken Minato days to capture the feeling of how much chakra, exactly, was supposed to be flowing through the wood. Even then, his right hand was starting to cramp from the constant flow, versus the more evenly distributed chakra used in hand seals. Add on that the exact enunciation required, the definite and subtle movements of the wood, and it was harder than Minato remembered ninjutsu being in a very long time.
He'd gotten it, he may have stayed up until midnight multiple days in a row to master this goddamn jutsu, but that didn't mean he liked it.
Especially since Lee, as usual, had no trouble at all, and worse yet, Haru, Dead Last, seemed to have something of a knack for it. Maybe since he had no feeling for his chakra as it was, had spent years over-focusing on making hand seals, but it'd taken him practically no time at all to produce a successful stunner.
And Minato would not be worse than Dead Last.
It was something of a relief to have been able to demonstrate the spell successfully to Moody and receive permission to beat the ever-living shit out of Lee. Something it seemed that Moody heartily approved of. Of all the Englishmen they'd met thus far, Moody seemed to be the only one who was truly a fan of the shinobi mindset.
And true, they were using taijutsu only, if only to avoid both collateral damage and giving too much away. Still though, it was nice to get some practice in during school hours.
"You know, Tequila brought that up the other day," Lee mused as she stretched in preparation for round two, "And I have thought about it—have it covered, even."
"You have it covered?" he asked.
"Sure, I mean, I was going to go and gather intelligence in the next few days," Lee said, which could mean anything from skipping classes, lacing professors and English officials with genjutsus, to some combination of these, "Although for some reason I'm really certain it will be dragon."
"The only reason you think that is because you drank that luck potion." The potion that Minato really wished he had been able to pour down the drain. Lee was already a force of nature, Lee high on luck was…
Well, he wasn't certain if he was glad or relieved that it had worn off by the time they'd made their way back to Hogwarts.
"That potion is useful," Lee said, before grimacing and admitting, "Although the hangover is death."
"Useful?" Minato balked as he stepped into an initial fighting stance, watching as Lee did the same, "Lee, what exactly did you manage to accomplish with it?"
"Well, I got a very useful report from Tequila," Lee said as she swiftly closed in, leg rising to knock him off balance, just missing as he dodged. "I'll hand it to you after class."
"And I'm sure it's filled with useful information," Minato spat as he made to jab her in the face, barely missing as Lee managed to duck in time. He couldn't say why, especially as Weasel Tequila seemed to get on with them more than the others, but that girl was really starting to get on his nerves.
"I also accomplished that," Lee said, nodding meaningfully towards Granger.
Granger, as it stood, had performed the stunning spell as well and was now meticulously practicing against Weasley Ron. However, she looked anything but pleased; in fact, she looked almost murderously angry as she surreptitiously glanced over at Lee and Minato every few seconds.
"She looks like she wants to kill us all," Minato said, as somehow after terror and alarm in Diagon Alley, Granger Hermione had chosen to settle on rage yet again. Although, Minato did have to say, it'd been several days since she'd last called any of them blood purists.
"That's because she knows I'm winning," Lee said.
"She may have those essays," Lee said, taking a moment to stop fighting and smile cheerfully at Granger Hermione, her true opponent, "But I can destroy her tiny world in practical results. Now she's going to do everything in her power to ensure I never stay in England."
Minato thought it fitting that this was the moment he was able to kick Lee across the face and hurl her to the floor.
"Lee, that plan may be so far outside of the box that Granger's not even aware there is a box," Minato said as Lee picked herself up off the floor with a groan.
"It will work," Lee insisted as she brushed herself off, "You'll see."
Well, he thought as he glanced over at Granger, who was trying to look busy correcting Weasley's spell, he'd likely see something by the end of all of this.
"Seriously though," Minato said as he looked back towards Lee, "We should plan something for this first task. I'll help, really. This is not something you should put off to the last minute."
This last bit probably went without saying, everyone would help Lee as needed, but Minato truly did mean it. Whatever they had to do, whatever they were throwing Lee into, he would help her.
"Well, if you want to skip class and go snooping around the castle with me, it'd be appreciated," Lee said before giving him a somewhat odd, almost embarrassed look. "We really haven't gotten much time together, have we?"
"You—" He flushed, rubbed the back of his head, and pointedly looked away from her. "You mean, well, you mean like a date?"
He stopped himself, laughing the notion off. "No, dates on missions are bad ideas, Lee. Besides, sneaking around Hogwarts isn't much of a date, is it? I'd kind of prefer dinner, or a movie, or a festival or something…"
"Minato," Lee said, motioning to their surroundings in all their glory, "Do you see any restaurants, movie theaters, and/or festivals in this place?"
Sadly, all Minato saw were sweaty teenagers trying and failing to use ninjutsu.
Besides, when the hell did Lee become socially aware enough for dates? Wait, when did she become socially aware enough to start any of this? She'd been the one making moves, with him flabbergasted and left in the dust. How was this even possible?
Was it somehow the luck potion?
Had Lee's monstrous love potion managed to move faster than he had?
… He really didn't want to think about that.
"Sure, we can go looking for your dragons after class," Minato said with a sigh. It wasn't even worth arguing; he was so tired.
"Great," Lee said, clapping her hands together, "We'll start by interrogating England's Orochimaru, Hagrid."
Never mind, that sounded like the worst date in the world.
"Oh, look at that, Dead Last just kicked the shit out of Malfoy again with English ninjutsu," Lee said with a smile, looking over at the stunned Haru standing over a magically stunned Malfoy Draco. "Always good to know that Konoha's Dead Last is something like England's top five."
Yes, Minato thought, he really was having an awful day.
The edge of the Hogwarts grounds where Hagrid lived was an idyllic place right on the edge of the lake as well as the Forbidden Forest. It was quite scenic, a cozy English cottage, if one ignored the fact that in the lake there was rumored to be a giant squid and, in the forest, giant man-eating spiders, territorial centaurs, and god only knew what else.
As always, Lee was convinced this place was weeding through its students and they were somehow too stupid to figure it out.
Now, Lee probably wasn't particularly welcome in this place. But, on the first day of classes, Hagrid had overenthusiastically invited her over tea and something called rock cakes, and since she'd gone and blamed the unfortunate and consistent demises of the Blast-Ended-Skrewts on Malfoy's Slytherin schemes, she'd been in his good books again.
Good enough, Lee was hoping, for him to let slip something regarding this mysterious task.
"Lee," Minato said slowly as he looked at the hut and the three-headed dog guarding its entrance (rumor had it that its name was Fluffy), "Why exactly are you so convinced this Hagrid knows something?"
"Simple," Lee said with a grin, "If I was the English kage, then who better to set up a lethal chunin exam equivalent than the most lethal man here?"
"Moody?" Minato asked.
"Clearly, Minato, you have not been to Care of Magical Creatures." Once again Lee was really feeling that she had gotten the short end of the stick when it came to course selection. Divination was a joke in which Trelawny seemed to live for predicting Lee's gruesome demises, and Care of Magical Creatures was the death trap aiming to make Trelawny's visions a reality.
With that, Lee felt there was no time like the present and bounded up to the door and knocked. For a moment there was loud rummaging, then the door was yanked open to reveal the man in question looming in the doorway.
And he did loom.
The cottage, clearly, had not been built with him in mind, and he stood so tall that you couldn't see his head beyond the doorframe. Instead, the entryway was taken up by his hulking body, no way to move in past him.
"Who is it?" he asked in his gruff brogue. There was a pause, and then a delighted, "Ellie Potter! You finally came."
"And I brought a friend," Lee said, motioning to Minato, who awkwardly waved at the man, looking as if he'd rather be anywhere else in the world.
"Come in, come in," he said, moving aside and ushering them into what… Lee had not at all been expecting.
Sure, the outside was cozy enough, but inside it was just as small and… oddly lacey. Lee had never been inside Orochimaru's clan compound, but she had been inside of his lab, and it had always had a sterile feel. This was the exact opposite: dirt was everywhere, but more than that, there was a small fire in the fireplace and a cauldron of stew cooking over it. The furniture was worn, entirely too small for the man in question, but still too large for the small living quarters he'd been given.
"I'll make some tea for you," Hagrid said in glee, although the 'you' came out more of a 'yeh' and the rest was only barely understandable, "It's too bad, you just missed Ron, Hermione, and Neville."
"Yes, that is a shame," Minato said with a forced smile, likely thinking it'd been a damned good thing they'd missed England's legendary three.
Lee, however, was still distracted looking for signs of the experimental breeding she knew was happening in this place. Was there a trapdoor somewhere? It didn't look like it—didn't feel like it, either, as Lee sent chakra out to search beneath the hut. Was he… Was he employing a genjutsu strong enough to fool her?
"Ah, Ellie, careful of the book!" Hagrid cried out, just in time for a book bound in crudely-stitched leather to jump out at her with wooden teeth aiming to bite her hand off. Lee jerked back and instinctively threw a kunai straight through its pulpy heart, then watching as it appeared to go through its death throes.
They all stood in silence for a moment.
"You know, Ellie," Hagrid said awkwardly, "You got to have patience with your books sometimes."
Lee said nothing, and neither did Minato; they just stared as the book finally went still, its pages left lying open while words bled out of it as ink on the table. Hagrid, sheepishly, and with a rather mournful look, placed the book back on the shelf and mopped up its ink-blood with a worn rag.
Lee was still trying to decide if that book had been the first English assassination attempt.
"Sorry, Professor," Minato said slowly, as if almost tasting the words as he said them, "About your book."
Hagrid tried to laugh—tried and failed. "Oh, it's… Well… You don't need to call me professor…"
He trailed off, looking meaningfully at Minato, and in understanding Minato replied, "Minato Namikaze."
"Right, Minato, it's not your fault. I should have… Well… It's not your fault."
Lee didn't know whether she was an addict or if she'd simply enjoyed the ease of it too much, but she suddenly was wishing she'd taken some of that luck potion before coming here. Turning her head and watching as Hagrid lumbered to the kitchen to start the pot of tea, Lee decided that she was eating and drinking nothing and getting out of here as fast as she could.
"Hagrid-sensei," Lee asked, genjutsu lacing her voice ever so slightly, the kind that compelled one to answer but was subtle enough to sneak under the radar of most, "What's the first task for the Triwizard Tournament?"
"Now, you know I can't tell you that," Hagrid admonished, "That'd be cheating!"
That… The man shouldn't have had enough chakra for that. Now, Lee wasn't the greatest of sensors, she wasn't the nidaime, but this man didn't have the yin chakra to deflect that kind of a genjutsu so easily. There wasn't even a pause, not even a blink, as he kept on making his tea and humming.
Lee was going to die in this place.
"Professor," Minato said, polite as ever as he sat at the table, "They say people have died in the past tournaments. I don't care so much if Ellie wins, just that she gets home."
Hagrid left the kettle and sat at the table, the ground shaking as he hit the chair. "Nonsense, Dumbledore's here this time, and he'll make sure the lot of you make it through even dragons—"
Lee whirled, stalking towards the table and looking up at the giant man (who was somehow taller than her even when he was sitting), "So it is dragons!"
Hagrid paused, looked as if he'd had his hand caught in the cookie jar, then winced. "I wasn't supposed to say that. Look, you got to pretend you didn't hear that—"
Minato was giving her a look, one Lee knew too well, because that was far too obvious. Lee had already said it was dragons, more than once, in English, in front of Dumbledore's adolescent spies. Word would have come back to him and he would have had more than enough time to prep Hagrid on what answer he had to give. Only, why was this so obviously given? Did that mean it was dragons or it wasn't?
What was he deflecting from?
Unwillingly, Lee's eyes drifted towards the window and the forest, where those few remaining Blast-Ended-Skrewts grew bigger with every passing moment as they devoured one another.
Without a word Lee strode out of the hut, leaving Minato to sprint after her as she made her way to the forest where the abominations waited, writhing inside their pits.
She dumped a river into the pits out of nowhere. Unfortunately, rather than drowning the beasts, this still caused them to explode with enough force not only to light part of the Forbidden Forest on fire, but also part of Hagrid's hut.
And, even after the fire was out, the forest restored, and the beasts safely dead, Lee couldn't help but feel that she was missing something.
"If anyone asks," Lee said to Minato, "Then Malfoy the Ferret's the one who did it."
Author's Note: Lee, you got so close, and yet so far. Hagrid, in this world, is clearly Darth Jar-Jar. New in the Minato universe is "Boy Troubles" where Tequila tries and fails to explain quidditch to Lee.
Thanks to GlassGirlCeci for betaing the chapter. Thanks to readers and reviwers, reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or Naruto