The Third Hokage held the infant Uzumaki Naruto in his arms and sighed. Naruto was only a week old, yet there was an unnatural light of intelligence in his eyes. The ninjas who had brought Naruto to the reinstated Hokage had thought it was a sign of demon possession.
Sarutobi knew better. He had dismissed all his guards and attendants, and now sat alone in his office wondering how to explain such a life-changing event.
"Are you awake?" he asked Naruto. The baby only blinked up at him innocently, and Sarutobi smiled. "I know you can understand me," he said. "I know that you were once a wizard."
The infant's eyes went wide, and Sarutobi knew he was right. "Can you speak?" he asked. The baby screwed up its face and gurgled. "Ah well. I'm sure you'll relearn fine motor skills very quickly. For now, I suppose you're wondering why you are alive once again, when you no doubt remember dying?"
Naruto gurgled again. Sarutobi supposed that was an affirmative, and nodded. "I'll start from the beginning. This dimension and our previous dimension have always been connected, somehow. I remain uncertain as to the cause, but the effect is that every now and then a wizard or witch of unusually strong spirit, someone who made a lasting impression on the world, will be reincarnated in this world. Perhaps due to their strong magic, or chakra, as it is called here, they retain their memories."
Naruto was watching Sarutobi intensely and silently, so he continued.
"I myself was once a wizard. I went by the name of Albus Dumbledore." Here Sarutobi had to stop as Naruto yelled loudly and thrashed his arms about. "Oh, you knew me? That does make things easier. Now, please stop wriggling, my dear boy. I would hate to drop you."
Naruto obediently quietened down. Sarutobi paused for a moment to regather his thoughts. "Where was I? Oh yes. This is a very rare phenomenon. I know of only one other former wizard alive here at the present time. It is also a phenomenon we prefer to keep to ourselves, so please try to imitate a normal child to a certain extent."
Sarutobi looked down at Naruto and sighed. "And then there is the matter of the Nine-Tailed Fox, but I suppose that can wait until you have learnt to talk." Naruto made a growling sound at that, and Sarutobi smiled. "I will hand you over to the orphanage for now, but rest assured, I will watch over you closely."
The door opening surprised him, and he looked up. His assistant tentatively poked his head around the door. "Hokage-sama? The orphanage people are here." Sarutobi noticed that the assistant was giving him some very strange looks, and smiled beatifically.
"I'll be right out," he said cheerfully. As he left, Naruto in his arms, he mused, "I wonder if that sweet shop is still open? I'll have to restock my supplies."
A month later, Sarutobi was visiting the Uchiha Compound when Uchiha Fugaku proudly had his wife bring out his six month old son, Sasuke. Sarutobi dutifully admired him, but was shocked out of his habitual pleasant demeanour when the boy looked up at him and said gravely, "Hokage-sama."
Sarutobi stared at him, then said without thinking, "A wizard?"
Sasuke's eyes went wide. "You too?" he said, sounding stunned.
Sarutobi groaned and put his head in his hands. "Another one," he said faintly, then pulled himself together. "What was your name?"
"Harry Potter," the boy replied, and Sarutobi stared, then laughed out loud. He gathered Sasuke up, ignoring his protests, and held him tightly.
"Excuse me? Did I know you?" Sasuke sounded shocked, but Sarutobi couldn't wipe the smile off his face.
"My dear boy. My dear boy," he whispered. "I am so very glad to see you again."
Sarutobi immediately returned to the orphanage, and was not surprised at all to find that Naruto had learnt how to talk. He was even less surprised when Naruto claimed to be Ron Weasley.
"I think there's someone you'll want to meet," Sarutobi smiled.
Now that Sarutobi knew that Ron Weasley and Harry Potter had been reincarnated, he began a systematic search for Hermione Granger. After all, where those two went, she was never far behind.
He found nine-month-old Haruno Sakura poring over books on chakra manipulation, to her parents worry and disbelief. Sarutobi pinched the bridge of his nose.
"I think all three of you had better come with me," he said exasperatedly once he had explained the situation to Sakura. So much for my peaceful retirement, he thought. "The gods only know what sort of trouble you'll get up to if I leave you alone."
Sakura nodded crisply. "Good," she said. "There are just a few things about chakra strings I'd like you to clear up for me…"
Sarutobi settled himself more comfortably. He could see it was going to be a long day, with a tiring few years to follow.
It wasn't as bad as he had been expecting, Sarutobi had to admit. He had known about what the Golden Trio had been capable of in their last lives - the other reincarnated wizard currently alive had filled him in on their exploits after Albus died, and so Sarutobi had been prepared to deal with ruthless, dangerous soldiers. Killers.
And while they were all of that, they were also polite, occasionally kind, intelligent and mischievous, a combination Sarutobi had always had a weakness for. They had absorbed his training like sponges, and then pushed him for more. Even Naruto's internal guest had proven less troublesome than Sarutobi had expected, although the huge amounts of chakra he supplied Naruto with made powerful techniques very easy and weak techniques very hard.
There had been a few problems. All three of the children had clearly painful emotional scars which they had point-blank refused to discuss with Sarutobi. Sarutobi had nearly had a heart-attack the first time he saw Sasuke manifest the Mangekyo Sharingan. Both Sasuke and Naruto had refused to speak about it, but Sakura had quietly taken Sarutobi aside afterwards and explained.
"Harry was faced with a choice between saving Ron and killing Voldemort. He chose to kill Voldemort, and so was responsible for Ron's death," Sakura had explained. She and Sarutobi had both looked at Sasuke and Naruto then, their heads bent together over a scroll, and Sakura had added quietly, "I tried to heal Harry afterwards, but he wanted to die. The best healer in the world can do nothing for someone who doesn't want to live." She paused, then said, "I don't think Harry will ever forgive himself."
Sarutobi had hesitated, then nodded. "I understand," he replied, equally quietly. "I won't bring it up again." Sakura gave him a brief, pained smile, then rejoined her friends. As Sarutobi watched them, sitting so close together they were almost touching, he was suddenly, painfully, glad. If anyone had ever deserved another chance, it was these three.
For some years, the four of them lived peacefully. They trained for battle, yes, but battle had no immediate impact on their lives. Combat training was nothing more than a game.
It came to an end soon enough. International tensions were rising, and Konoha's ranks of ninjas still hadn't recovered to pre-Nine-Tailed Fox levels. Sarutobi sighed, and put his head in his hands.
The swish of papers sliding on his desk startled him out of his reverie, and he glanced up in surprise to see Sasuke, Naruto and Sakura all perched at various angles in front of him. He sat back in his chair, raising an eyebrow at the unusually serious expressions on their faces.
They exchanged a look amongst themselves, then Sasuke spoke. "You need us, right," he said flatly.
Sarutobi sat up straight. "What? What do you mean?"
"You don't have enough ninjas," Sakura said matter-of-factly. "You need us on active duty, but you're too honourable to ask children to kill."
Naruto nodded. "But we're not children, and we don't mind killing, or spying, or stealing, and we owe you."
"You should make use of us," Sasuke finished.
Sarutobi stared, struck speechless. "You can't- you don't seriously think I'd send three-year-olds out to fight. I admit that you would be a great asset to Konoha, but…"
All three of the children were smiling, if a little grimly. "You need us. We're capable and willing. I fail to see what the problem is," Sasuke said lightly.
Naruto chimed in with a roguish grin, "I'm getting kinda sick of training anyway. I could use a good fight."
Sarutobi felt his resistance crumbling, and pulled himself together by sheer force of will. "No. No. Absolutely not. I could never condone such a thing."
The Golden Trio went on their first mission a week later, and Sarutobi felt himself take another step down the wide and curving path to hell. He stood silently at the window of his tower during the three days they were gone, grim-faced, waiting for their return.
They returned safely and successfully, and missions became a regular occurrence. Sarutobi watched and worried and did his best to take care of his wild, dangerous, broken-hearted children. He saw his beloved children become quieter and grimmer, and knew that for all their talk of needing no-one but each other, they were very lonely.
What would be best for them? he wondered. Perhaps…Sarutobi sat back in his comfortable arm-chair in his quarters and did what he did best: plotted.
A/N: Okay! My first Harry Potter/Naruto crossover, posted! This came from two of the series' I really like having a loudmouth boy, a brooding boy and a smart girl as their main characters. The thought of them being the same characters was just too tempting to resist. The next two chapters are written, so I'll post them as soon as they're edited.