Over the Hills and Far Away
Disclaimer: I own only the obvious, the rest belongs to JK Rowling and Masashi Kishimoto.
Author's Note: The puppy is good and not-so-puppy anymore thanks for those who asked! And thanks for all your patience!
The Magical Beta hasn't shown up yet so still not beta-read.
The stone was big and black and shiny. It looked just like it had way back years ago in his childhood when he had done the Bell Test for the first time. Back when Sakura had long hair and Sasuke was still a teme and when people with whom he had attended the Academy were alive and young and laughing. Back when…
Naruto shook his head. No. Don't think about that. Focus on something else. Tell them.
"Well…" he sighed and rubbed the back of his head. "This is like seriously awkward, ya know? I mean, Kakashi-sensei says it helps but I dunno. I've never done this before. It feels like someone's standing right behind me and taking notes on what I'm saying, dattebayo! I don't like it at all. But, I suppose that you deserve to know from me and not from… from whatever means you have up there in heaven to know stuff that goes on. This is so weird. I'm talking to a rock! People always told me that keeping a rock as a pet was the first sign of insanity. The second was talking to the rock. And right now the last thing I need is to be considered insane after all that's happened."
It took five minutes in silence before Naruto gave in and with a sigh plonked himself down on the grass, crossing his legs so that he could get as close as possible to the memorial stone. He reached out and traced the engraved names. Some of these he had never met before, hadn't even heard of before. They had lived, fought, loved and died long before his own time. But some of the names Naruto knew and fresh waves of pain rose in him as he traced them out.
Naruto pulled back his hand. "I wish you were here. I wouldn't be who I am without you, wouldn't be where I am without you. The Angsters are doing well, you know? Kakashi has taken over that group and he's admitting brats into it left and right. I think he's using the same techniques of training that he used on his dogs and Team Seven, the chronically late bastard. I still have nightmares about that! But somehow he manages to make it work, turns out fine little ninjas and gives them all somewhere else to belong. Just like… just like it used to be. I miss those days, dattebayo, they were so much easier than this!"
He allowed himself to fall back onto the grass so that he could look up at the skies, caring nothing that the damp ground would stain his clothing. "Itachi's doing good too. Still a split between the Uchiha and the Uchiwa, but the Uchiwa are practically gone so Itachi's expecting them to integrate into the Uchiha or disappear completely. What with Madara and all that stuff the situation could have been so much worse than it is, so I'm just grateful we pulled out as well as we did. Oh! And Itachi's going to be a father soon! They know it's a boy so guess what they're going to do! Give up? Well, they're naming it after you! You'd have liked that, I know it! You'd have spoiled the chibi utterly rotten just because you could!"
Chuckling slightly at the thought, the blond sat up again, full of energy suddenly. "And Temari finally bagged Shikamaru! With a ring and everything! And Ino and Sai of all people! And don't tell this to anyone, but I think that Shizune-chan and Kakashi-sensei are crushing on each other. There's a bet going on, but not a word to anyone, 'kay? I don't want to scare either of 'em off before the other one can propose. Gods above how I wish that you were here to see and experience everything. Well, not the Akatsuki thing and Madara and all that. I don't wish you to experience such bad things after all you went through, but the other stuff. The good stuff. You'd have smirked and watched and found it hilarious."
Naruto descended into silence again, staring at the stone and the names on it. Perhaps Kakashi-sensei had been right? He did feel a bit better even if no one was actually replying to what he was saying. Hell, they probably didn't even listen. A shinobi of all people shouldn't really put their faith in such superstitions. Dead was dead and there was no proof of heaven or an afterlife – although that Edo Tensei jutsu could be considered proof of there being something.
But he liked the thought of it. That the people who were gone could still exist somehow and watch over the living.
"I get all this brooding from you, so I fully blame you for this." Naruto pouted at the stone.
Soft footsteps coming closer made him look up and around, relaxing slightly and smiling when he spotted his visitor. Sakura smiled back, pink hair still held back by her hitai-ate and in full shinobi uniform she looked really cool. Was there any wonder that Naruto had crushed hard on her when they had been younger?
"Hey! Sakura-chan!" he waved unnecessarily. "Pull up a tuft of grass and sit down with me! This talking to the dead really helps, dattebayo!"
"Who would have thought that Kakashi-sensei actually had some good advice for once." Sakura rolled her eyes even as she smiled fondly. She stopped next to Naruto and looked him up and down. "You've got grass all over you, idiot! Ugh! Get up! If we get back now we might be able to lessen the stains before it starts."
"But why? No one's gonna see anything!"
"Yes they will. It'll be a disgrace."
"But I'm not done here yet!"
Sakura glared. "You're not turning into Kakashi-sensei on me today of all days, Naruto! I'm not going to allow you to be late! Now get up or I'll kick you across the village if I have to!"
"How would that help with the stains?! That would just leave more!"
"Get going, idiot!"
Naruto laughed and ran off, Sakura in pursuit for a moment before he slowed down enough so that she ran next to him. They were soon jumping to the tops of the houses to take the ninja highway across Konoha. Ahead of them loomed the white and red Hokage tower, bigger and better than before, and behind the tower raged the cliff with the Hokage faces. The First and Second and Third and Fourth Hokages looked down on the village. Tsunade's face looked so much sterner in stone than in real life – older too but Naruto wasn't stupid enough to tell her that face to face or even while they were in the same country. Kakashi still pouted and maintained that his face was unrecognisable in stone and that someone had been lazy and simply copied the Fourth's face out of laziness. And why hadn't any of his ninken made it into the sculpture? They had done far more paperwork for him than he had actually done for himself!
A new section of the cliff was being prepared for a new face, workmen slowly setting things up. Some were making sure that the anchors for lowering and raising platforms and people were going to hold properly at the top of the cliff, and one was even being lowered and raised in a trial run with a shinobi on board in case something went wrong.
Naruto grinned at the sight as he landed on top of the Hokage tower, grin pulling wider and wider.
Sakura rolled her eyes. "Stop being so smug about it and get inside."
She ushered him into the tower and through the corridors and to some rooms. Painted in calm colours and decorated with comfortable couches and chairs, it was a room made for relaxation. The room was also full with people waiting for him. Tsunade, Kakashi, Shikamaru, Ino, Chouji, Sai, Hinata, Kiba, Shino, Iruka, Itachi, they were all there.
"Look what you have done!" Shizune huffed and tried to brush his clothes down, dislodging several blades of grass.
"I found him lying next to the memorial stone!" Sakura puffed and helped Shizune.
"Oi, brat! Don't disgrace me!" Tsunade waved her bottle of sake threateningly.
"If you ain't ready for this, Naruto, I'll gladly take over!" Kiba grinned, all sharp teeth and cockiness, and Akamaru barked loudly.
"Chouji! Give me some food! My passenger's demanding nutrition." Ino made a grab for the food Chouji held out with a smile, while Shikamaru sighed heavily and looked to the skies and muttered a 'so bothersome'. Sai just stood to the side and smiled, Itachi standing next to him and watching the chaos unfold.
"My little brother would have loved to be here." Itachi muttered quietly, smiling sadly.
Naruto returned it. "Yeah. Teme would have been my right hand man."
"He is here." Iruka said. "In your hearts and in ours. Sasuke is cheering you on, and so are we."
"You can do it, Naruto-kun!" Hinata smiled.
"I still wish they could be here with us." Naruto rubbed his eyes because it was dust and he wasn't about to cry dattebayo! He didn't sniff either. It was the pollen allergy. Yeah. "I wish Sasuke and Neji and Manji and all the others could be here. I wish Harry-nii-san was here."
Yamato patted his shoulder. "As Iruka-san said, they're here in their own way. And Hermione-san and Ron-sama and Gaara-sama and everyone else are waiting for you outside."
Kakashi stepped up and ruffled Naruto's hair. "Maa, you're almost as tall as I am, Naruto. You're taller than Harry ever was. He would be proud of you, you know? He would be so proud he would have been insufferable for the rest of his life. And he would have lorded it over us all while pretending to be deaf just because he could."
Naruto snickered. "Nii-san would have really done that, huh?"
"In a heartbeat. Now, dry your face and buckle up. They're waiting."
Naruto took the towel Itachi provided and rubbed his face clean. He took a deep breath, and then another one for luck. Straightening his back and his shoulders, he smiled gratefully when Hinata pulled the white robe into place and Kakashi placed the red-and-white hat on his head.
"Right! Everyone, let's go make me the official Seventh Hokage of Konoha, dattebayo!"
Naruto entered his new office and sighed at the calm silence and darkness that greeted him.
It was evening and getting late, but the partying was still going on in the streets of Konoha. A big festival had been put up and opened to the masses once Naruto's inauguration speech was over with. The entire rest of the day had been devoted to talking with people and being dragged from one end of Konoha to the other as people were eager to meet and greet the new Hokage. Despite being so surrounded by delicious food and drink, Naruto got to taste very little of it since he was mostly busy talking but it was okay. He wouldn't have changed anything about this day.
Well. He would have changed some things. Like Neji being there. And Manji. And Sasuke. And especially Harry-nii-san.
"What a day." He muttered to himself, exhausted but blissfully happy. In the weak light that came in from the outside Naruto could easily see the container of food that had been placed on the desk – his desk now! – and he walked over. It was a large assortment of the foods offered on the streets that he hadn't tasted yet, and he fell upon it like a ravenous wolf. "Thank you, Hinata-chan!"
"And if those were poisoned I would have just killed off the Seventh Hokage barely twelve hours into his reign."
Naruto dropped the food and whirled around. "Wha-?! You-?!"
"Don't sound so shocked. Of course I was going to be here for when you took over the title. Honestly. I was here when Kakashi did it, too. Who do you think got the idiot here in time? He was fully intending to skip the entire thing and hide away reading porn."
"Why didn't Kakashi-sensei tell us!?"
"I asked him not to. I find that I rather value my status as dead. And ANBU or not the guards didn't see me then, nor did they see me now."
"What? Did you honestly think that I can't sneak into this village?"
A snort. "I trained most of those idiots and I wrote most of the rules and grid patterns that they use, I can get past them. Even like this."
"You… when you were hit with the Killing Curse we finished the Death Eaters off. We brought your corpse back but you disappeared. We thought someone had stolen it… er, you… er, your, uh, corpse… thing. And then the Akatsuki and Madara and everything! Why didn't you help us?!"
There was a shift in the shadows and a slight shimmer in the air before a hunched figure, dressed in normal civilian clothes and a dark cloak stepped out into a shaft of moonlight. Naruto's eyes grew wide at the sight of a worn, wrinkled face and short, white-grey hair. Tired green eyes glittered in the slight light.
"I was tired, Naruto. I needed to get away. Twenty years took their toll on me and it started to catch up. You can see it." He lifted a shaking hand. "I'm shaking and shivering constantly, I have little control over my fingers these days. My knees are almost ruined, this cane is the only thing holding me up. Orochimaru did experiments on me; the aftereffects haven't been kind to me through the years."
Naruto stepped closer, reaching out but almost afraid to touch. "Why didn't you stay here then? We would have taken care of you and-"
Harry shook his head with a smile. "I had and still have the worst case of PTSD that has ever been seen according to the doctors. I wouldn't have been able to relax and recuperate. And you would have focused far more on me than on what needed to be done. I followed the conflict as closely as I could. You did well, Naruto, you did very well indeed."
"I still would have liked for you to be there, nii-san." Naruto felt a suspicious something lodging in his throat and worked to swallow around it. He wasn't going to cry twice in one day!
"Who said that I wasn't? I helped out here and there, you know!" Harry huffed. "Do you think bridges suddenly collapse by themselves? Or the aftereffects of non-existent tsunamis come out of nowhere? Huh, brat?"
Naruto grinned. "I heard about those things happening. They really helped out some of the troops! Thanks, nii-san!"
"I didn't spend fourteen years raising you simply to lose you to the first megalomaniac with a desire to take over the world that comes by."
"I suppose you didn't. I really missed you, Harry-nii-san." Naruto finally dared to approach completely and gave Harry a big, tight hug. "I can see that you aren't going to stay here right now, but when will you be back?"
Harry hugged him back as tightly as he could these days. "Depends on when are you going to ask that Hinata girl to get married?"
Naruto squawked. "What?!"
"I might return for your wedding."
"What?!" Naruto's voice rose a bit.
"Or perhaps for the birth of the kids."
"WHAT?!" Naruto was beet red and his voice a squeak several octaves higher than his normal one.
"You should have several you know. Two to start with, a boy and a girl, I think. And no stupid names like Boruto or some such! I want my grandkids to be able to hold their heads high while walking down the street, brat, not sound like some sort of burrito food." He tapped Naruto on the forehead. Poor kid looked like he had turned to stone at the very thought of marriage and kids, and Harry grinned as he pulled back away from Naruto. "I'll see you then, Naruto."
Naruto didn't even react when Harry disappeared again, his brain completely stuck on 'Hinata', 'marriage' and 'kids'.
The shout echoed throughout the village and brought half the ninja in the village running to the Hokage Tower, nicely opening the way for Harry to leave Konoha unnoticed by the main gates. Stopping to get one last look at Konoha, he grinned and then turned and walked on, just an old man with a cane.
Time for the next great adventure, then!
There, the story is done!
I deliberately didn't write about the entire Akatsuki and Madara thing because I feel that it isn't Harry's story. And I know there are probably several threads left loose – like Dudley's daughter – but I wasn't able to work them back into the story or I simply forgot about them. You'll have to excuse me, this story has been going on for six years or so.
And a big, fat thank you to all of you who actually stuck with me through it all!
Last time for review thanks in this story, so thanks to:
PenguinOtaku, liron-aria, Xhexia, Wonderbee31, xDarklightx, Sheya, kirallie, Kouru-Kage, Beloved Daughter, stoictimer, Yinko, The Epitome of Eccentricity, charm13insomnia, viohanna, FateShadow83, Barranca, bloodshound, Touhara Naoya, Knight of Hades, DaughterofDante, Ih8 cliffies, PoorlyThoughtOutPlan, Guest, Flaming Belladonna, anf600, Pric3y, Exultation of the Gryphon, L's Cappuccino, Ebrahimhejres, hazel, Tommy14, Anarchy-Bell101, Bludflag, Kikuriki, Konohamaya Uzumaki, and Ashley.