Sabaku no Potter

xxx

Naturally, Baki and Dumbledore clashed mere minutes into the introductions. Dumbledore wanted them all to go through some 'Sorting' thing which would theoretically seperate them up into four houses where they would sleep and socialize with their 'Housemates'.

After a couple questions about the tradition, and the houses themselves, Baki flatly refused. With how these houses were seperated from each other, there was too much of a risk that Harry and Gaara might be parted. Which could be anything from simply irritating if they were placed in, say, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, to a major catastrophe. If they were placed in Gryffindor and Slytherin, with their perpetual little feud, he had no doubt that Gaara would snap and kill everyone in the castle long before the first month was up.

After a brief, but intense argument, which shocked and scandalized the paintings watching.... after all Dumbledore always knows best, right? Why even consider protesting?... But eventually, an agreement was reached. The shinobi would get living quarters of their own and, while they would be put through the sorting nonsense they could, if they so chose, eat their meals and sleep in those quarters rather than with their housemates.

The second clash was over the classes Baki would teach. Dumbledore wanted him to teach something rather like basic physical education. Once again, Baki put his foot down. If they wanted to run laps around a large room or play games, the students could do it in their free time. His classes would be teaching them the exact same way the academy had taught his own students, and he'd continued on with after their graduation. In fact, Baki decided aloud, Dumbledore had better make sure that Baki's class wasn't actually required, because by the time they were through with the first day, most of the students throughout all seven years would hate his guts and be in enough pain to drop the class immediately. Or as soon as they got out of the hospital wing, anyway.

Dumbledore didn't exactly seem pleased at the idea that Baki would be actively looking for opportunities to injure his students... and not even bothering to disguise the matter. Why, even Severus... but that wasn't important. Even so... Well, if the students were given the option to drop the course at any time, without prior warning, then it wouldn't really be so bad, would it? After all, they would certainly be there by their own choice. What was truly odd though was that Baki insisted on having all four houses taking his class at the same time.

A quick arrangement was made... Seven days a week, seven years of classes. Naturally, Baki's advanced students would be there every day. That would be... pretty much only the Suna-nin themselves. Everyone else would be needing at least a week to recover from their classes. Wizards didn't often keep themselves in good shape unless absolutely neccessary, so the only ones who might be able to quickly adapt to even a normal muggle P.E. class would be the quidditch teams, pureblood scions who fenced for amusement, and first year muggleborns who hadn't yet let themselves go. With Baki in charge? Those would be the ones with a slim chance of simply surviving.

Quite possibly literally, depending on how annoying the brats were and whether or not Baki thought he could get away with it.

The third clash was over the sorting again. Dumbledore, stubborn old man that he was, wanted the shinobi and 'young Harry' to join with the other first years and be sorted in front of the entire school. Baki nearly went into apopoleptic fits. In the end, it was decided that since technically, nobody but Harry was actually a wizard, he was the only one who had to go through the mind-numbingly boring traditions. The rest could be placed now.

Baki and Kankurou were swiftly placed in Ravenclaw. Baki felt like vomiting, but privately decided that the filthy old hat was obviously defective. It was a thousand years old, after all, and there were obviously no similarities between himself and the puppeteer. Temari took a little longer, but was eventually placed in Hufflepuff. An odd placement, but it wasn't like it really mattered, as Baki doubted she'd voluntarily spend much time at all away from her squad. At that, perhaps it wasn't such an odd placement at all.

The hat had only barely come to rest on Gaara's head before it bellowed out 'SLYTHERIN' and Dumbledore plucked it back off.

The final clash of the day was over almost before it began. Dumbledore wanted them to lock away their weapons. All five of the others in the room brought bucketloads of killer intent to bear, nearly giving the old man a heart attack, and Baki tersely pointed out that the wand that every single wizard or witch carried was, in and of itself, a potentially lethal weapon and, as all of them except Harry would be carrying only shaped sticks with no magical core, they refused to give up their own weapons. Dumbledore wisely dropped the matter and summoned a House Elf to give them a quick tour of the castle and facilities, then lead them back to the Floo entrance, and gave the shinobi small orange lozenges that he assured them would instill a basic knowledge of the english language as they slept before collapsing into his chair and pouring himself a large, stiff drink.

xxx

The next morning, a very large, very hairy man knocked on the door to their rented rooms. Baki attempted to ignore the noise and get back to sleep if possible, but the man was either very patient or simply simpleminded as the knock continued, on and on and on, until Baki just couldn't take it any more. He got up from the absurdly comfortable bed and stalked to the door, throwing it open with a growl.

"Who are you and what do you want?"

To his credit, the large man only flinched a little bit, and didn't soil himself at all. There were many shinobi that couldn't say the same, after having confronted a suddenly awakened Baki's death-glare.

"Well, uh, I'm Hagrid, Keeper o' the keys and Groundskeeper here, an' Dumbledore's sent me to take young Harry out shopping for his school supplies."

Baki grunted and stepped back, allowing the man entry. Hagrid happily did so, wiping the sweat from his brow, and followed Baki down the small hallway until he held out a hand to stop him.

"Please, wait here."

Hagrid nodded, not sure what was going on, but obediently came to a stop several feet away as Baki continued on and opened one of the doors. Then his eyes widened as Baki tugged a throwing knife out of his sleeve and launched it into the room.

"What're yeh-?"

His question was interrupted by the sound of metal ricocheting off of metal and a rapid rustling of cloth, and his jaw dropped as Baki barely brought a tanto out of its hiding place fast enough to block Harry's scythe. Baki had to block several more attacks before there was an opening for him to smack Harry in the face with the pommel.

Only then did Harry's eyes open.

"Huh... morning already, sensei?"

Baki slapped him again, but with his bare hand this time.

"Idiot." He chided gently. "You force me to go through this every morning... a true shinobi should sleep lightly, and wake at the slightest disturbance. Being able to fight off attacks in your sleep is no excuse."

"Hmm... you talk big, sensei... but who was it that nearly murdered that poor courier that caught you napping?"

Baki slapped him again. Even so, Harry kept the smug grin.

"In any case, go notify Gaara. He'll be joining your little excursion today."

"Oh? You just don't want to run the risk that he'll crush you for interrupting his meditation. So where are you going?"

"I?" Baki looked back over his shoulder and smirked. "I'm going back to sleep."

Truly it was no wonder that these wizards were such slothful creatures, having such incredible... eh? Killer intent... the air around Harry was all but sizzling with a murderous rage...

"So..." Harry seethed. "You wake me from a pleasant slumber, but intend to go back to sleep yourself? Despicable! I'll bind you in the torments of a thousand hells-"

Baki slammed to door to his own sleeping quarters shut, completely ignoring Harry's enraged rant and, without an audience, he quickly wound down to a close.

"Eh, whatever. Stay here a moment, large hairy man."

It was a measure of just how stunned Hagrid was that he simply nodded quietly and proceeded to very carefully ignore everything that happened next, including the veritable desert that poured its way out the door that Harry opened. Gaara had privately spoken with a House-elf or two, it seemed.

Several long, silent, tense moments passed before Harry walked back out, Gaara floating alongside him on a little cloud of sand. Hagrid carefully ignored this as well.

As things turned out, Wizards were every bit as good as the Muggles at ignoring things they didn't want to see. Harry never bothered to suggest that Gaara get off the damn sand and exersize his legs for the first time since he figured out he could make his sand fly because Hagrid hadn't really reacted to the sight, wide, glazed eyes aside. As such, they were now at Diagon alley where the people who's families had been wizards were quietly ignoring the display of sand-assisted flight and privately sulking about it to themselves and the people who were relatively new to the wizarding world just shrugged it off as one more oddity.

Incidentally, Dumbledore hadn't had the time to learn what the magic-less shinobi were actually capable of, and so hadn't gotten around to subtly warning them off displaying their abilities in public. And now, it was too late.

"Er... books first, then, lad?" Hagrid asked, obviously uncomfortable with the stares that, while they hadn't stopped entirely, had slackened a great deal at a combined Harry-Gaara Doom Glower.

"If you insist. However, I'd prefer that we first purchase whatever it is that will burden us the least, as we shall likely be carrying it the longest."

"Right ye are, 'Arry, right ye are. Ollivanders first then, and after that it'll be Madame Malkins fer robes... Oh righ'... ye'll be wantin' to stop by Gringotts fer some currency first."

"I was assured that my bill would be covered." Harry interjected. Hagrid frowned slightly, but nodded.

"'Twill be lad, 'twill be... but Dumbledore's only coverin' yer school supplies, wand, and robes... ye see something else ye want, yeh'll have to pay yerself."

"And there it seems lies the rub... you see, I've no money of my own, nor any idea what the exchange rates might be."

"Rubbish lad. Ye didn' think yer parents would die an' leave ye wit' nothing?"

Truthfully, Harry had nearly forgotten that he'd had parents at all, much less that they had been magical in nature, but didn't think it tactful to mention this, simply nodding and spending the rest of the walk in silence until they arrived at the bank.

It was a study of contrasts... The stonework was simply horrible, although the stone itself was obviously valuable, all bulging walls and leaning pillars to the point that he had to admit that magic was the only possible explanation as to why the structure hadn't collapsed long ago. On the other hand, the doors were beautifully wrought of silver, with intricate etchings and a carved poem in the face.

"Enter, stranger..." Harry mumbled as he skimmed through it. "Oh... a warning against thieves."

"Right ye are." Hagrid interjected unneccessarily, perhaps uncomfortable with the children's silence. "Ye'd have to be daft to try to rob Gringotts. Safest place in the world to keep things... 'Cept maybe Hogwarts, but tha's not the point. In we go."

Hagrid started to bustle the boys through but, perhaps flashing back to earlier, quickly changed his mind and headed through himself, the young shinobi trailing and floating just behind him.

The shriveled, clawed, and bespectacled... thing that served as teller kept them waiting several minutes, filling paperwork in Hagrid's shadow before both Harry and Gaara had had enough and got its attention with a pair of focused bursts of killer intent. The thing jerked sharply, and its eyes snapped quickly between them before turning to Hagrid and putting on a businesslike air.

"May I help you?"

"Mr. Potter here, te make a wit'drawal... oh, an' Dumbledore sent me ta pick up the... the you know what, in vault you-know-which."

The shinobi felt an almost physical stab of pain at the large man's blatant and ineffective attempts to be inconspicuous as he withdrew a crinkled piece of folded parchment from his jacket and handed it over to the thingy, whose nose flared as it read through and then filed it away in its desk.

"And... does mister Potter have his key?"

"Key! Righ', got it around here somewhere..." Hagrid dug around his pockets for a minute before digging out a small golden key and setting it gently on the desk. The thing picked it up and inspected it closely before it nodded grudgningly and proffered it to Harry.

"Very well... Griphook will take you to the vaults."

The trip to the first vault went in silence, stopping at number 713. Hagrid staggered out, and waved them back when Harry began to rise. Harry shrugged and sat back down, doing his best to ignore the grubby little package that Hagrid picked up and tucked away.

"It'll be your vault next then, Harry. Best I keep me mouth shut though... these carts always leave me a mite queasy..." What was visible of his face went green as the cart lurched into motion and sped along rickety tracks.

The next vault was filled with gold coins, which Harry very carefully did not reveal how much impressed him. Instead, he filled a side pouch with the gold and calmly returned to the cart.

xxx

Hagrid was a frazzled mess by the time they left the bank, and he dropped them off outside Ollivanders before mumbling something about a pick-me-up and staggering off.

The inside of Ollivander's was dark and quiet, dozens of shelves packed with boxes lit by candles. The shopkeeper himself was a very quiet and stealthy person... were they normal civilians, they would have been completely taken by surprise when he stepped out of the shadows behind them.

"Mr. Potter." He murmured, staring intently at Harry's forehead, before turning a curious gaze toward Gaara before dismissing him. "Why only yesterday it seems it was... your mother and father came for their first wands. Ah, but now is not the time for reminiscence. Tell me, which is your wand hand?"

"If you mean... which hand do I favor, then I have been trained to be equally proficient with both, but I have a tendency to use my right."

Ollivander nodded and began rummaging through boxes before handing a stick to Harry.

"Try this, Oak and Phoenix feather, give it a wave... no, that will never do."

Harry blinked as the odd man plucked the stick out of his hands almost as fast as he'd placed it there and stuck another in.

"Willow and Dragon Heartstring, give it a try... no no, all wrong."

This continued for some time, Ollivander growing more an more and more excited as time progressed.

"Hmm... try... Try this one, Potter. Holly and Phoenix feather, give it a nice wave..." He paused and watched raptly before frowning as the wand gave apparently unsatisfactory results. "No, eh? I was so sure, too... Well, Mr Potter, it seems we'll have to get into some of the more esoteric cores and combinations. Try this one... Rowan and centaur tail hair, willingly donated of course."

The test continued on again for some time, through such things as Werewolf fur and Vampire fang, Merfolk scale and Salamander tongue until they finally found one that matched.

"Sandalwood, ten and a half inches, with a core of the optic nerve of a Demiguise. An interesting piece, good for spells that fool the senses. That will be all, Mr Potter... I know where to send the bill."

Hagrid was waiting outside, where he had apparently decided to take a nap on a nearby bench. Gaara found himself mildly disgruntled that he had no such luxury. He alleviated that frustration by lifting Hagrid with his sand, holding him upside down, and shaking him violently.

"I'm up, I'm up! Merlin, lad, but ye do have a short fuse on ye."

Gaara dropped him on his back with a 'whumph', and Harry coughed softly.

"Let's just continue on. Have you worked out an itenerary, Hagrid"

"'Course, 'course... next stop be Madame Malkin's, fix ye up with some school robes. Mind, if ye want dress robes or casual wear or any such, ye'll have to be paying for them yourself-"

"That won't be neccessary, Hagrid."

xxx

Shinobi were, by and large, not morning people. It most likely came from the fact that most of their duties were carried out under the cover of darkness, so when dawn finally came they hadn't been asleep long, and their bodies were unwilling to awaken.

As such, it wasn't until well after Hagrid had carted off the two youngest that Temari began to drag herself slowly out of bed and to the bathroom.

There was no bath in it. Images of a murder spree shot through the kunoichi's head. There was a small, horrible little toilet, but no shower. This would not do, not when she'd noted that there seemed to be no shortage of water and was looking forward to a long, hot soak.

She stumbled back into the main sitting room and slammed her hand down hard on the little bell thingy they'd been instructed to press should they require anything.

A small, vaguely humanoid creature wearing a pillowcase had appeared in the room before the tone died.

"How may Blinky be serving ms guest?"

She stared for a moment before shaking the surreality off.

"Bath." She bit off, voice gravely with an early morning hatred of all existence. The thing- Blinky- nodded and snapped it's fingers.

"Blinky shall be drawing up the bath for ms guest right away!" It chirruped, as a large, footed tub slammed into the ground and began slowly filling itself with water. Short moments later, the full tub began to give off steam and Blinky had gone. It was several more moments before Temari snapped out of the dull stare she seemed locked into and began to undress, not even considering dragging the tub into another, more private room, or ringing Blinky back up and making it do it for her.

Naturally, the door swung open almost exactly the moment that she'd submerged herself in the water.

"Kankurou," she mumbled, sending him a deathglare. "Get the fuck out."

There was a clatter of wood on wood as Kankurou's puppet dropped to the floor, indicating that he'd replaced himself with it and was now hanging by his elbows from hooks in a closet.

Roughly an hour later, she left the tub and dressed herself, completely apathetic about whatever amount of trouble she may have caused by occupying and blocking and important room... which actually wasn't that much, as Baki hadn't yet gotten up and Kankurou had subtly collected his puppet before going to catch some more sleep himself.

That left her free to dry her hair and collect her fan before sauntering out of the tavern and using a short-range teleportation technique to bypass that inconvenient gate into Diagon Alley altogether.

It was time for her to take a closer look at the culture, lifestyle, and whatnot of these magic people. And the things they had for sale.

She'd been windowshopping for a while and had foiled no less than three ill-advised pickpocket attempts and subtly broken the wrist of a particularly filthy, morbidly obese old pervert before she crossed paths with the other shinobi.

"I've told you already Hagrid, it's a nice thought, but I really don't want it."

"She's a her, lad."

"Fine. I still don't want her."

"Bu' why not? Dead useful, owls. Smart, and deliver messages for ye..."

"She's white, Hagrid." Harry stated, as if that should end the argument right there. And if Hagrid had been a shinobi, or knew much of anything about the shinobi lifestyle, it would have. White was a singularly rare color on most animals, and completely unheard of among the nocturnal wildlife of the elemental countries.

A white owl, if seen multiple times in the vicinity of a ninja, would quickly become a warning flag of that ninja's presence. For an experienced shinobi, that wouldn't neccessarily be a problem, but as a Genin it was something like painting a bullseye over your face and binding your hands behind you before a mission began.

Even so, Temar mused.

"Don't be like that, Harry-kun... it's very bad manners to turn down a gift. Sure you won't be able to take her back with us until you're Jonin-equivalent, but I'm sure Hagrid here would be more than happy to care for her while we're away." Hagrid nodded rapidly and eagerly. "And she is a pretty thing, after all."

"Fine." Harry grumbled, before he blinked and grinned. "I accept your gift, Hagrid... and pass her along to you, Temari-nee."

She accepted the cage without much fuss... she knew full well she'd probably have been dumped with the responsibility of taking care of it anyway... and promptly poked a finger through the bars and cooed at the owl. It nipped her finger, hard enough to draw blood, seemingly agitated about being passed around like an unwanted fruitcake. Temari laughed.

"Irritable little girl, aren't we? You're a smart one... we'll have to see about training you to attack, swoop down and claw at someone's eyes-"

Hagrid coughed loudly, clearly disturbed at where the conversation had begun heading.

"Right, then. Ye got your supplies, your books an' whatnot being sent to your room at tha Cauldron, your owl... I think we're about done here lads. An' lass. 'Bout time for me to be gettin back to Hogwarts, lots to do 'fore classes start."

"You do that Hagrid."

He nodded and ambled off, glancing back uncertainly, as though he expected them to return to the Cauldron with him. Instead, they were having a quick discussion. Harry and Temari wanted to continue exploring the area, while Gaara was bored and wanted to go back to his meditations. He quickly found the owl's cage stuffed into his arms as he was sent on his way, not given the chance to explain that he'd wanted to drag Harry back along with him.

Meanwhile, Harry was making a bee-line for Knockturne alley, which Hagrid had attempted to warn him off of as a dangerous place where Dark wizards did their shopping. Harry had been able to detect the capital 'D' in dark, indicating that whatever the term meant, he took it very seriously.

That seriousness was borne out as, within a dozen paces of entering the area, a stumbling and half drunk wizard spewed out his drink upon catching a glimpse of his face and launched a beam of green light at him with a snarled and mangled incantation. Harry avoided whatever it was easily and retaliated with a casually flicked shuriken that lodged itself in the man's jugular. He fell, gurgling and clawing at the sharp metal, and the watching crowd seemed to withdraw to let him pass.

"Sheesh..." Temari groaned from only a few paces behind him. "You and Gaara... just what part of 'low-key' don't the two of you understand? Not even a full day, and you've already started a body-count."

"If I may point out-" Harry interjected sourly. "He attacked me first."

"You don't know that. It could have been some sort of ritual greeting."

"If it involves snarling, angry faces, jutsu, or beams of neon lights in any way, I'm going to consider it an attack. And note the patch of wall it hit."

The brick was smoldering and cracked lightly where the beam had struck, prompting a grudging nod from Temari.

"Point. So, why are we down here?"

"Hagrid warned me away."

"And naturally, that's like waving a red flag in front of a bull when it comes to the juvenile male mentality."

"Temari?"

"Yes?"

"If I give you a handful of gold, will you shut up?"

"I won't make any promises."

Nonetheless, he shoved a fistful of gold coins her way, which she snatched and tucked away somewhere about her person as they continued on their walk. Coincidentally, one of the stores they passed near was a toy shop, of all things, although the toys would have seemed more than slightly creepy to most civilians. Temari thought they were cute, and Harry just dismissed them with a grunt. Also coincidentally, the gold Harry'd given her was just enough for Temari to purchase a girl doll with wild, chaotic hair, an eerie stare, and a dress that had been torn and raggedly stitched back together by an unskilled hand. The shopkeeper admitted that the doll had done it itself, as he'd nearly lost a finger to it at one point and hadn't dared put a hand near it since, and then hesitated a moment before offering a complimentary doll-sized cage with the purchase.

Not so coincidentally, Kankurou's birthday was coming up in a few days and the doll would fascinate him enough that he'd be willing to drop two or even three times as much money as normal the next time her birthday came around to compensate.

When she stepped out, she was forced to sigh as, across the street, Harry had pinned a humanoid figure to the wall with dai-kunai. Upon closer inspection, though, it became obvious that whatever the impaled creature was, it either had a bloodline of some sort, or it wasn't human at all. It's eyes were glowing a soft red, and the stream of invecture it let loose revealed that its mouth was full of jagged, pointy teeth, with outrageously large canines in comparison to the rest. Also, it wasn't bleeding from its wounds.

"Problems, Harry-kun? Introduce me to your new playmate.... whatever it is."

Harry ignored her for a moment as he poked at the being's nose, drawing his finger back swiftly as it leaned up to snap at the digit, ignoring the damage it was dealing to itself as it pulled against the blades in its shoulders.

"I'm not sure." He decided aloud. "Whatever it is, it seems that it mistook me for easy prey, as it struck immediately after you entered that toyshop. It exhibits definite animalistic characteristics, primarily that of one who has been starved and is going mad with hunger. It could be some unfortunate person with a kekkei genkai, it could be an animal of some sort bound with magics into a humanoid shape and completely unfamiliar with how to survive, it could be a mad magic user that did this to itself somehow, it could even be a lesser demon of some sort. It's actually very interesting."

Temari sighed, contemplating putting the poor thing out of its misery for a moment.

"Well... if you're going to vivisect it, then seal it now and wait until you can do it in private."

"Please..." Harry groaned, but withdrew a scroll anyway. "'Vivisect' is such an uncomfortable word. I prefer 'Research'."

"I'm sure you do. In any case, I'm sure you can look up the... whatever it is, in some book or another."

"Hmm.... point. SEAL!"

With a flash of light and a whoosh of displaced air the thing, and a fair size chunk of the wall it was pinned to, were sucked into the seal and left a huge hole into a storehouse of some sort. Harry quickly tucked the scroll away and left the scene of the vandalism, uncaring of the riffraff that had already begun to gather and peer inside. Temari cast them a glare before following.

xxx

A.N. New chapter! And they still aren't at Hogwarts yet, no.

Toss-up at the moment as to whether Harry will be sorted into Gryffindor or Slytherin... though it really won't make much of an impact, as he's not going to go out of his way to make friends with his housemates. Also, the fine details of the contract have now been hashed out, and the shinobi won't be voluntarily going out of their way to do more unless they can arrange some sort of monetary recompensation. What that means for such events as the Troll and the Stone... well, that will have to be seen.

Tried to keep everyone pretty close to character, but seeing as even the most prominent Sand-nin were second string... and Harry is a curious lad, he's just alleviating that curiosity in typical ninja fashion. Flipping out and killing people.

Faceless, nameless character body count: 1. (So far.)