Over the Hills and Far Away

Disclaimer: I own only the obvious, the rest belongs to JK Rowling and Masashi Kishimoto.

Author's Note: I updated this story twice in one year. Damn, I'm good. Oh yeah! Let's see if I can't make it three times!

Correct version as soon as beta finishes.

Chapter Forty-Two

"Ne, Harry-onii-chan, are you sure you're totally fine?" Naruto asked. His eyes were squinted comically as if he could suddenly develop x-ray vision and see everything that went on inside Harry's body and mind. He had been fretting like an old woman while Harry had been in the hospital, and it was almost just as bad after Harry got out of the hospital.

"Yes, Naruto, I am totally fine." Harry sighed in fond amusement. "Seriously, you shouldn't worry so much. Tsunade fixed me up. You know she wouldn't let me out if it wasn't the right time."

Naruto frowned. "Yeah, but the old hag's also very easy to bribe with sake."

Sakura whacked him. "Not when it comes to patients. Tsunade-sama would never do something to endanger someone else's life."

"I'm having a serious déjà vu moment here." Manji muttered and Kakashi, Iruka, Itachi and Sasuke nodded. This was almost word-for-word the same thing that had happened back when Orochimaru had beaten Harry to a pulp and Harry had collapsed right before Tsunade had taken up the mantle of Hokage.

"Are you sure you're-"

"I am completely fine. I am so fine that I'm almost getting sick of it, so stop your nagging."

"I'm just worried!"

"I know you are, and I appreciate it." Harry reached out and ruffled Naruto's already crazy hair. "I really do appreciate it," he repeated, "but if you ask me one more time in any way, shape or form if I am fine, I swear I will throw you to Hermione's mercies and let her deal with you."

"Gaah?" Naruto looked absolutely terrified. "You'd do that? You'd give me over to the crazy lady who spends her days in the dusty library? Do you know what that could do to me? You evil man! You horrible man! You abuser of young children!" he hurriedly inched away from Harry – not that he got far before he bumped into Sasuke gave Naruto an annoyed look.

Sakura sighed. "Naruto, it's not the end of the world to actually read a book. It won't bite you!"

Harry wisely decided not to say anything about Hagrid's beloved Monster Book of Monsters.

"It is horrible!" Naruto waved with his arms and nearly hit Sasuke in the face. That earned him a glare but he didn't seem to notice. "She'll have me reading through scrolls and scrolls on things I don't understand! I love Hermione-onee-san, but she's gonna squeeze my brain out through my ears with all that reading!"

"You don't have enough brain to be able to do that." Sasuke piped up. "At the very most you could develop asthma. The scrolls in the library are dusty."

"Yeah! Yeah! See? Sasuke's with m- HEY! TEME!"

And off the two went, running out of Ichiraku's and down the street and through the village, chasing each other once more.

"Sasuke, Naruto! You didn't finish your food!" Iruka shouted after them.

They passed the ramen stand at regular intervals, shouting abuse and whatnot at each other and Sakura sighed and shook her head. She finished her ramen, thanked the grownups politely for the meal, gave Harry her well wishes, and then promptly ran after Naruto and Sasuke as they passed the stand once more. "Hey! You two! Stop it this instant!"

"He started it!" Naruto shouted and pointed at Sasuke.

"I don't care who started it, I'll finish it!"

Harry couldn't help but chuckle as the game progressed and shook his head. He almost felt painfully old as he watched the children run around and jump up onto buildings and down from buildings. They were so damn energetic he had to wonder where the hell they got the energy. He turned to Ichiraku where the man stood behind the counter. "Do you put some sort of speed-energy-demon pills in the food you give the kids?"

Ichiraku laughed. "You're simply feeling the effects of age, Harry-san, if you don't mind my saying. I remember what it was like when I realised that I couldn't keep up with my own daughter."

"I'm turning into a fossil." Harry pouted.

Manji reached over and patted Harry's shoulder. "We all are. You're just the most fossilized of us all. I'll start carrying a hammer and a chisel in case we need to excavate you, okay?"

"You know, that would have sounded vaguely reassuring if you didn't seem so eager and weren't grinning like a demented idiot while you said it." Kakashi grinned behind his mask. "Besides, you are just as old."

Manji opened his mouth to protest, then stopped up and finally gave up and pouted. He adopted the same look and pose as Harry. "The younger generation isn't listening to the older one anymore. Woe is us! Whatever will happen to this world of ours where the old and the wise aren't respected?"

Harry would have usually participated in the argument and banter, but right now he was feeling too old to do that. It was kind of depressing; he was in his thirties and feeling like an ancient geezer. He was far too young to feel this old. Shinobi life really did make you age much faster. Harry was kind of amazed that Tsunade and Jiraiya had kept themselves as fit and had stayed as formidable as they were. They were both way past their fifties and they were still some of the most lively and deadly shinobi around. Harry felt old next to them. It was almost annoying to tell the truth. Even the slow aging of wizards didn't seem to be able to help in this situation.

Perhaps it was the fact that everything was drawing to a close?

Or it could simply be the horcrux situation that was weighting him down.

He was willing to bet on that last one.

"How are you doing, Itachi?" Harry looked at the young man sitting next to him. "How are you holding up after everything that's happened?"

Itachi stopped eating. "I… don't really know yet. The Uchiha Clan – both factions – is suddenly… different. Sasuke is different. I am different." He reached out to touch his temple. "This new version of the Sharingan that I've awakened. It has been mentioned in family scrolls, it's honoured amongst the Uchiha. I wish that I never had it."

"I never did apologise about Shisui." Harry said quietly. "From the moment that I gave him Orochimaru's Seal I took his life away. I am very sorry about that. I wish things had turned out differently."

"I wish so, too." Itachi sighed.

"Can you ever forgive me for the role I played in his death?"

It was silent for a good long while before Itachi finally replied. "I don't know at this point. It's too soon. I still love you as my older brother and teacher and guide, but you were still the cause of my best friend and cousin's death. I know you didn't mean it to happen like this, but still. The feelings are… too raw still."

Harry nodded and didn't push anymore. Understandable. That Itachi was still willing to talk to him and to be in the same room as him, and to join these occasional small dinners was a miracle in itself. It gave Harry hope that someday they could be almost back to normal again. It would never be back to how it was, Shisui would always be gone and that would always hang between them, but one day perhaps…

-x-x-x-x-

Harry was making dinner for himself when Naruto showed up at his apartment and plunked down in one of the chairs. Putting his arms on the table, the blond nearly collapsed into them, groaning and looking utterly exhausted beyond all belief. Naruto was actually out of energy, and that made Harry raise an eyebrow. What the hell had happened to the kid to make him like this? Already adding more food to accommodate Naruto's black hole of a stomach, Harry turned to cast the blond a look. "And what brings you here, Naruto? You look like crap."

"Harry-nii! Don't say that. I feel like crap, you don't have to point it out. It makes it more obvious and I feel worse," came the muffled reply.

"What happened to you to make you like this, then?"

Naruto mumbled something.

"What? I didn't quite catch that. Please repeat?"

"Hermione-nee-chan caught me and had me working in the library helping her all day long."

Harry grinned. "And that made you this exhausted?"

Blue eyes peeked out at him and sent him a weak glare. "She's crazy! She reads like a machine, I can't keep up at all! Even with my bunshin I was outclassed! It's embarrassing that I was beaten by someone who isn't even a shinobi."

Unable to help it Harry chuckled. "You do realise that when you become the Hokage that you will have to deal with such amounts of paperwork daily? Isn't it best to get used to it as soon as possible so that you're more prepared when the time comes?"

Naruto paled even more, mouth open and then, with a keening groan, he seemed to simply melt away and fell to the floor in a defeated heap of orange and yellow. He looked utterly torn between his life-long dream and the evil amounts of paperwork awaiting him in the future, and Harry could kind of understand. The amount of paperwork Harry had had to do while ANBU Squad Commander had been monstrous, the amount a Hokage had to do was even worse.

"Here now, sorry for breaking your will to live. Have some dinner?" he said and couldn't keep a grin off his face.

"You didn't break my will to live!" Naruto declared as he picked himself up and sat on the chair again. "You did injure it severely, though, so I think I deserve something for desert for my mortal afflictions!"

"Hah! Good try, kiddo, but I know you've eaten ramen and I know Hermione's taken to carrying around a bag of Chocolate Frogs for you and your two hellion team-mates for when she kidnaps you into her dusty lair of evil books. So it's a no go for desert."

"Awww! I object!"

Harry flickered Naruto's nose as he placed a platter of food in front of him. "Object all you want, brat, you're still not going to change my mind. Eat up or I'll give you some more paperwork to deal with."

The blond's nose wrinkled but he dug into the food. "Meh, I'm not worried about it. I've figured out a way for me to deal with the evil paperwork once I become the best Hokage there ever was."

"Oh?" Harry tucked into his own meal. He was sitting opposite Naruto, and observed the boy closely. "And what is your brilliant plan pray tell?"

"I'm gonna hand it all over to my secretary and to you! Think of it as a punishment for making fun of me in my young and impressionable days."

The former Gryffindor smiled and shook his head in amusement. "But what if I'm not there?"

Naruto stopped up, food halfway to his mouth. "What?"

"What if I'm not there?" Harry repeated. "What if I refuse to help out? What if I leave Konohagakure? What if I'm dead?"

Naruto jumped up, looking almost panicked. Considering Harry's recent streak of ending up in the hospital with mortal wounds on his battered body and slowing reactions and instincts, it was no wonder that Naruto was in this state. It was a conversation far too close to his worst nightmares, and he hated it. "Don't talk like that, Harry-onii-chan! You won't be dead! I'll protect you! You'll be here! You will!"

"But what if, Naruto?"

"What do you mean 'what if'?"

Harry sighed and looked down at his food. "What would you do if I left the village?"

"Left the village? Like… like the old hag and ero-sennin did? Right? Leave like that, right? Not for good, right?"

Harry shrugged. "Perhaps. Perhaps for good."

The blond slowly sank down into his chair. "I don't…. why would you…?"

"I never wanted to be a shinobi, you know, Naruto. I never wanted this life in the first place. I am glad I met you and the other angsters – and hell, even Manji – and I'll never regret that, but, I never wanted to be a shinobi. I'm thinking of, well, I suppose it would be like Tsunade and Jiraiya did and take some time off from the village and the shinobi matters and simply be another civilian face in the crowd. I've always wanted to travel around at leisure and explore this world at my own pace. Perhaps I might find some little village somewhere and might even settle down there without telling anyone where I am. I don't know." Harry looked at Naruto. "What if I did something like that? Would you hate me for it?"

"Hate you!" Naruto seemed shocked once more. His blue eyes were wide as he shook his head. "Of course I wouldn't do that! I just… I don't want to lose you! You're my only family, Harry-onii-chan!"

"You wouldn't lose me, brat, you would simply not know where I am. Isn't it the same when I go on a mission? Except this time it would, hopefully, be without the added danger."

"… You're certain about that? You wouldn't forget about me and everyone else would you?"

Harry snorted and reached out and flicked Naruto's headband. "What do you take me for, brat? I would be relaxing, not becoming an old, mindless codger who doesn't know what's up and what's down."

"… If we wanted to could we come visit you?"

"Perhaps not at first. I just need some space away from everything shinobi for a while. I don't know how long that would take, but, I'm pretty certain that in the future you could do that."

"And you're certain you wouldn't forget us?"

He didn't bother replying to that one and only sent Naruto a droll look. Honestly, it was almost as if the kid expected Harry to keel over into dementia any second now. He may be feeling ancient, but Harry wasn't quite that old, damn it!

Naruto took a deep breath as if bracing himself. "Alright. Alright. If you find that you have to leave then I give you permission to do that-"

"You give me permission?" Harry raised an unimpressed eyebrow.

"-but! But you have to promise to come to my Hokage ceremony!" Naruto continued as if Harry hadn't spoken. His eyes were determined as he stared at Harry. "Okay?" Naruto held out a hand.

Harry thought for a moment then smiled again. "I think that's doable." He shook Naruto's hand and sealed the deal. "How could I say no to the future Hokage?"

Naruto grinned. "You better believe it!"

-x-x-x-x-

I have solved the riddle. I know what the last horcrux is. I have gone to take care of it.

Harry looked down at the short note he had penned. It was blunt, perhaps a bit too blunt, but it would simply have to do. The note wasn't meant to do anything but make people suspicious and make them come after him. Placed on his small dining table it would look innocent enough apart from having been written in English rather than Japanese. Seeing as the most likely person to find the note would be a shinobi who did or didn't know English, two things would happen.

One: they knew English but had no idea what a horcrux was, and would contact Hermione to ask her.

Two: they didn't know English and had to contact Hermione in order to translate for them.

Of course if it was a wizard or witch who found the note and who was or wasn't in the know about the horcruxes and all that, then they would still head to Hermione in order to get it explained. And most wizards had the subtlety of a herd of running hippos compared to the shinobi so the shinobi would notice something was up very quickly.

Whichever of the two options happened Harry was practically guaranteed that people would come after him. He just needed to make sure that he had a big enough head start on them to keep them from catching up with him too soon. Well, various preparations for such a chase would definitely take some time to organise, so Harry estimated that he would have about a day head start at any point in time, most likely less the closer they came to England and to Stonehenge. He would have to travel fast and work fast.

It was a good thing that he still had his speed and most of his stamina for the run from Konoha to the portal in Wind Country. He wanted to save his magical strength for the battle with Voldemort, and therefore he didn't want to apparate until he was out beyond the borders of the Elemental Countries and back in the normal world again. Running from Konoha to the portal wouldn't be too hard, the distance was manageable for someone like Harry even after his injuries. The distances outside the Elemental Countries were longer and harder to cross since there were so many oceans and mountain ranges in the way. No, it was best to save his strength for as long as possible.

"Alright, you are cleared for active duty once more," Tsunade had said the last time Harry had had a check-up. The new Hokage looked quite satisfied with how things were progressing. "No more ANBU work for you, and I want you to start out as chuunin for now and take the easier and simpler missions. After a while I'll promote you to jounin."

"You don't have to, I'm far happier being a simple chuunin." Harry had replied with a grin.

Tsunade frowned. "Well, I suppose some ANBU have a tendency to want the simple life once they first get retired from ANBU duty. Either way, the promotion will be waiting for you whenever you decide that you want it. Honestly, it's a wonder they didn't promote you already after all these years even if they did or didn't know about you being an ANBU."

"I turned them down the one time they did try." Harry replied. It had actually taken several years before he had been offered the chance to move to juunin, and when he turned them down old prejudices had flared up again and he was considered suspicious once more. It was the usual thing, so he wasn't worried about it. Besides, he truly did like being a chuunin. People were so much more open around him and considered him more normal than juunin and the ranks above that, and Harry liked that. He had always wanted to be 'just Harry' after all.

"No wonder the council seems to dislike you." She snorted. "They would have considered that a mortal offence. Add to that your maternal grandfather and it's a wonder that you haven't been labelled a horrible heathen who should be locked up or just removed from the face of the earth."

"They tried to do that, too."

"Which one did the try to do?"

"Both. I am annoying like that, I don't want to die quite yet so I refused to give in and survived. They didn't take very well to that fact."

Tsunade sighed. "I hate that such things are going on in my own village."

"Homura and Koharu did what they thought was good for the village." Harry said.

"That may b e so, but I still don't like it at all. I don't want to set a precedent and give the impression that it's okay to plot the death of fellow villagers. Besides, you've done more good for the village than those two old bats ever have. At least you always tell me outright what you mean rather than speak in riddles and try to trick me into going along with your opinions. And you would never side with Danzo!"

The green-eyed man smiled. "And I bring you sake."

"Most importantly. Damn good sake, too."

That conversation and check-up had taken place a few days ago. Harry knew he wasn't in as good a shape as he had been before, years of fighting and a hard shinobi life had taken their toll on him, but he was still pretty certain that his current abilities would be enough to defeat Voldemort once and for all. It would be anything but easy, of course, especially with the amount of power Voldemort had amassed these past twenty or so years. However, it wasn't like Harry was one to let impossible odds defeat him before he had even tried. He knew what he was doing. He just had to get close to the Dark Lord and the rest would, if everything went according to plan, fall in on its own.

Just a little bit more and all of this would end.

It was time to leave.

-x-x-x-x-

There. Done. Please tell me what you think!

To sambrooke who complained about the start of this story, about Orochimaru being Harry's grandfather and Harry punching Bill and killing monks. I would like to address that. Firstly, this is a fanfic, so why is it so odd that timelines were slightly altered and Orochimaru was old enough to father a daughter? Secondly, why is it so odd for Orochimaru to search out his progeny and why is it odd for her to have red hair? You are complaining about genes! What if Orochimaru carried a recessive red-hair gene and the mother had a dominant gene? Even someone like Orochimaru would, most likely, at one point have a one-night stand and that might lead to children. Besides, the shinobi world has no problem sending twelve year olds into war so it isn't too unbelievable for a rather young Orochimaru to have intercourse. Later on he probably needed to get away from the shinobi continents because he was being hunted so he decided to go see if something came from that one-night stand. Besides, wouldn't he figure that someone who has his blood running through their veins would be better for his body-switching technique?

Now for the second part, about Harry. It all comes down to choices. In certain situations you make choices even if they aren't the best. That is what Harry did. He needed to get to the shinobi continent and took the only opportunity he had to get there. He needed to convince Orochimaru of his loyalty or be killed before he could ever get there, so he did. It doesn't mean that he liked what he did, or that he found it easy to do, but in a do-or-die situation (even if it was of their own making) most people would do rather than die. Sacrifice a few for the good of the world, as it were.

Lastly to Good story but: yes, some people hate the fact that their half-siblings have a different mother or father. What you think of it doesn't matter because it does happen.

And now on to something completely different: no, Harry will not be paired with a female character from Naruto or from Harry Potter. It wouldn't fit here in the story, and, quite frankly, I can't see him getting together with anyone from either of the two fandoms. I said this at the end of chapter 39 and probably some other chapters too. This is the last time I say it.

I realise that these explanations won't be read by someone who never got past chapter four, but at least it's provided now.

Thanks to:

OnTheImportanceOfLungs, Asumi-Blood-Wings, TheBlackSeaReaper, BasicallyAnIdiot, Black Firelight, ShaDow EmpIre, lokoforsonic9559, ladyyuuki16, Unsigned, kirallie, Skelo, Von, Beloved Daughter, Calecus, FatesShadow83, xrosepetalx, PrincessFuFU, Kouru-Kage, twilightnemo, RJLL, killing u with umbrellas, Reader-anonymous-writer, Dark Neko 4000, stoictimer, Ungodlyone, Kiaranassimu, Redstarling, mist shadow, RokibaHatake, LadyTeldra, agenthal, Stelmaria, KoiGirlPGSM, AceZ-Shadow, Wonderbee31, Niwaki, Shadow Owner, Ni Mats, Riddle Wraith, Guest, Acerbus86, the most magical jordan, mezz 5052, izzywizzyme, Xxsarbear-chanxX, Battle neurosis, lounger, and JuMiKu.