"Ah, Mr. Itachi, how good to see you again," the old, gnarled man spoke in his croaky voice, his eyes—both of them—fixed on the young ninja. "How have you been?"
"Mr. Moody," Itachi inclined his head in both respect and greeting. This man, if there ever was a wizard as such, was a ninja at heart... "I am particularly well today. Any new Dark Wizards on your end?"
"Besides the one before me, no." ...Suspicious of everyone.
"I asked for 'new' Dark Wizards, Mr. Moody." Itachi smiled his smile, not as cool as normally shown in these meetings—if it ever made its appearance in the first place.
"HA!" The frequently dubbed 'Mad Eye' suddenly cried in triumph, instantly pointing his wand towards the Professor. "You admitted it, to being a wizard of the Dark! Finally, I caught you!"
"No, I didn't," he chuckled almost darkly, not even glancing at the wood. "But you've accused me so much that I no longer qualify as new, regardless."
A moment or two passed before the Auror dropped his 'threat'—as if a stick, magical or not, could be a threat to a ninja such as Itachi—and smiled a grim smile. "Always a right slippery one, aren't you?"
"Ninja are always the best, Mr. Moody," he dismissed, easily weaving his way to his chosen seat for the night. It came as no surprise and to with no protest as when the old man sat next to him, taking a quick drink from his ever present silver hip-flask. Since their initial meeting, they had both willfully pitted themselves against the other one another. To the others present in the initial meeting, when Itachi had been introduced, it appeared as if they just looked at each other. Then, as people were beginning to leave, Moody stood, approached, and blatantly accused Itachi of being a Dark Wizard. Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and watched, for both curious both in curiosity of how the new person would react and in suspicion as to why such a war-wizened old Auror would accuse him of such. Itachi calmly looked at him, and then stood up with all the grace his former profession afforded him. He simply titled his head slightly to the side, staring directly into the electric blue eye with nothing more than a hint of curiosity, and said, "I am no Wizard," before he disappeared in a white flash.
As they had been within the old Grimmauld place, somewhere fortified against Apparition, this came as a very high shock to everyone. Mad Eye Moody nearly gave himself a heart attack, his blue eye whizzing every which way possible as he shouted obscenities while searching for the young ninja, his wand drawn. Only when the eye stuck, staring at the area around the back of his left foot, did he calm down enough for Dumbledore to explain about Itachi's... odd abilities. Still, the next meeting the old wizard appeared at, he immediately took a place next to Itachi and began a terse 'conversation,' which was an interrogation by another name. His wand, while not in plain sight, was gripped tightly and never strayed from its target.
Itachi, for his part, answered every question evasively, with obvious ease and calm. Every time Moody had felt he had finally asked the question the boy could not get around, he somehow did. It was extremely frustrating, yet oddly exhilarating. By the time the meeting started, the question/answer session had turned into somewhat of a game. A dangerous game, but a game nonetheless.
The next meeting in which they both attended, Moody had slipped some various drugs into the boy's food. Truth serum being the most important, but also a few others to counter effect the dazed one of Veritaserum, so the boy wouldn't realize what was happening until too late. However, much to his surprise and frustration, every bit of food and drink that had been drugged was carefully avoided. It was almost as if he could somehow sense where they were, but Moody knew for certain that he couldn't; after all, the old Auror himself had fallen for this trick once. That's why he had his hip-flask with him at all points, and always checked his food for even the most obscure potions before even thinking of touching it.
But the child—the mere child!—nibbled and picked at everything but the tainted food. Angry at himself for failing somehow, he tore into his thrice-checked meat, eating with his wary slobbering as usual. "How's the weather, Moody?" the self-called proclaimed 'ninja' asked him, shortly into the meal. Mad Eye grunted that the weather had been a bit off lately, with the sudden storm and all, but what was new? "I see. Do you think it will clear up soon?" Mad Eye glanced at the Asian with his non-magical eye (his magical eye was constantly fixed upon him) and nibbled on his thrice-checked carrots, saying how he knew it wouldn't, though he hoped it did. "What made you think I was a Dark Wizard?"
Mad Eye scoffed, not about to let this boy learn of his hard-earned Auror deductive techniques. "My pocket sneakoscope went off around you."
His fork had clanged loudly on his plate, his eyes widening. He jerked his head around to stare at the boy eating a small piece of certainly tainted meat, chew, and then swallow before turning to Moody, lighting flashing silently, ominously, in the background. "I think the weather will clear up today, personally," he said with that evil small smirk of his, the low rumbles of the thunder accentuating his words. The gnarled old man glared, rubbing his wand longingly. Bastard switched their plates, right under Mad Eye's nose and—more importantly—under his eye.
Sure, Moody had to write down every answer to the questions asked of him before saying what he really intended to say—a loophole in his potions he concocted just for an instance as this—but he couldn't help but be proud of the ninja for such a sound, subtle trumping. Angry, yes, but a twisted proud.
"Alright, everyone, order, order," Dumbledore called, and the meeting members settled down into their seats. As this one was situated at tea time, there were only a few plates of crackers and tea kettles rather than a full meal. Itachi, as had been standard since the disastrous meeting between him and the Weasley Matron, did not have plate or cup placed before him. The two had resolved to leave the other alone, treating one another with polite distance if they were forced to interact. An agreement had come into place; Itachi was welcome to a plate or a cup if he so chose, but he wouldn't be given one if he did not himself grab it and no one would try to undermine his position at the council. Molly was left alone when she prepared and served the meals and tea, and was not questioned when she settled down to sit through the meeting, regardless of her lack of any practical use.
Reports were made, and not much had changed since the last meeting. This was both calming, and worrying. While they were thankful that there hadn't been much Dark development, it didn't make sense for them to be so slow after their initial startup. They had either hit a snag, or something was up. Hope went for the former, experience told the latter.
"Let us move on to more important matters," The old man said once Itachi finished his—nearly unchanging and extremely brief—report. "I have come up with a theory of where the Horcruxes would be located." He smiled, and Itachi could hear relieved sighs all around. But he knew better, and knew that they had problem of identifying and destroying them before they could relax. "I've also confirmed that there are six—" Itachi blinked, and knew that the Headmaster was lying; the headmaster's nose twitched slightly every time he lied. But why would he lie about the number? "—separate Horcruxes, the seventh fraction being Voldemort himself.
"Now we just need to locate them. However, thankfully we have actually already destroyed at least one of these, one in the form of a Diary used by Voldemort in his youth just under three years ago. It was destroyed by Basilisk venom, one of two known ways to destroy a Horcrux—the other is by fiendfyre, which no one wishes to cast unless they want to destroy everything within the surrounding area, including themselves, I'm sure." He smiled a mirthful smile, which the rest of the Order hesitantly returned. Itachi remained blank faced.
"I don't think it's necessary, but I will point out the fact that Basilisk venom is horribly expensive and just as difficult to come by. Even if we do manage to locate some, it's not going to be a noteworthy bit we can wantonly toss onto anything we think might be a Horcrux," Kingsley Shacklebolt said, a little gruffly. He seemed a little more haggard than usual, but taking in respect his report, it was understandable. "And that's discounting the required storing device we'd need to contain the venom as well."
There was a moment or two of general murmurings before someone spoke up. "I believe I have a solution for this."
"Don't tell me the werewolf just so happens to have a pint or two stored under his bed," Severus drawled sarcastically, with a pointed look towards the patchwork robes Lupin wore. "Saving for a rainy day?"
Remus gave an exasperated look, "No, what I was going to say was that all we need would be just a little bit of venom, and a goblin weapon. It's common knowledge that goblin weapons absorb anything they come into contact with, and then turn it to their own abilities."
"In fact," Black spoke up from his spot, a wicked smirk spreading across his features. He stared hard at Severus, though he was speaking more towards the Headmaster, "Didn't Harry kill a basilisk with the Sword of Gryffindor—a goblin weapon—at the end of his second year?"
Had Itachi been drinking anything at the time, he would have choked slightly. Brows furrowed he looked around at the surrounding members, noting how none of them were surprised at the revelation. He smoldered a bit, resenting how no one told him anything about what astonishing feats Harry managed in his school career, including Harry himself. Knowing the boy had eliminated a giant mythical snake capable of killing by mere eye contact when he was twelve was important information. Making a mental note to corner the Gryffindor and get all the details about anything of importance, Itachi returned his focus to the conversation—in case any other 'enlightening' remarks were made.
"Thank you, Black, Lupin. Once we have discovered another Horcrux, we will have to test this theory. Sybill, please make a note to cross off the Sword of Gryffindor from the possible Goblin Trade list. Now, onto another matter."
"Any more leads to what the cursed items are?" Moody growled from his spot, his gnarled hand fingering his wand absently.
"No leads, only suspicions, I'm afraid."
"And those are?" He prompted again.
"Well," Dumbledore coughed a bit, "we all know that Voldemort is a bit—"
"Full of himself?"
"Off his rocker?"
"When is that adjacent to being evil?"
Black and Snape were ignored as they went off into another bickering row.
Dumbledore smiled at the ever so helpful remarks from the various gathered members, "Yes, yes, he is all of those. Now, using that knowledge to our advantage, we can deduct a few things regarding the horcruxes. One is that he would never make a common object into one. Something would be 'important' if it is to hold his soul, or something that hold substantial value to Voldemort personally, preferably both. Another thing is that he probably would have one of these kept close to him at all times; to be certain that if anything ever happened to the others, he still would retain his immortality. And given that the Diary was originally in the possession of the Malfoys, we can logically assume the most important members of Voldemort's inner circle have one to keep. Also given that the Malfoys had, erm," his gaze lingered a bit on the two suddenly grim-looking Weasleys present. Itachi took note, "...removed the item in question away from their possession, they probably do not know of the true value of the objects. This will give us some room to maneuver in our search, and have a limited field of which to explore. Now, to determine who has the items, and what exactly they are."
As one, the entire room looked to Severus. He, however, just sneered at them. "While I was, and am, in the inner circle, and the Potion's Master of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, my lack of family wealth and pureblood status kept me from receiving any particular favors. The Dark Lord never gave me anything other than an order, or a Cruciatus Curse."
The eyes in the room shifted somewhat nervously at the casual mention of minion torture, before settling on Sirius. He, too, sneered, but rather than in an insulting manner towards the 'lesser mortals' around him, he did so at his family ancestry—the Black Line. "My good-for-nothing brother, while alive, was up there in the circle, last I bothered to check, so there might have been something given to the Black family—it'd either be in the house, or in the vaults. My cousins also are up there, so they'd be good places to check. Not so much Malfoy, as she married the pompous git who got the Diary. Snake-face wouldn't have entrusted two onto a single supporting family. Too paranoid for that."
Remus frowned slightly. "Didn't you clean out and get rid of all the dark artifacts when you took possession of the estate?"
Black nodded somewhat glumly, "Yes. However, most had a protection charm on them against damage, as well as an antitheft one where they'd just come back to the house if removed off Black property. I also didn't want most of the dark items to go back into the general population, which is what the idiot ministry would have done, so I just sent the lot of it to the vaults in Gringotts. If the Blacks were graced," he made the word seem like a synonym for the plague, "with a piece of Snake-Face's soul, it'd be there. Hey," he said, a somewhat mad gleam in his eye, "Kretcher went with the lot, supposedly because he was still loyal to my mother's picture. You think he's the piece? Even if he's not, can we destroy him, too, just in case?"
Lupin shook his head at him and remarked, "You are unusually cruel to poor Kretcher."
Black scowled, somewhat defensively, "If you met the waste that is the house elf before I made him leave, you'd agree; he'd gotten worse in the years this place was abandoned. The thing's greatest ambition was to have its head chopped off and mounted on the wall, like its ancestors."
Itachi said nothing, merely watching him from his seat. House Elves were defined as magical creatures, and as he enjoyed magical creatures as a whole, he knew a bit about them. He eyed the man sitting across from him a little more closely—just how bad were his family, to twist their elves in such a fashion? And you cannot gain rose water from sewage waste, so just how stable was Sirius?
"Alright, then," Dumbledore said. "Sirius, if you'd be so kind, please to go to your vaults and search for anything that would possibly be the Horcrux. Then contact me, and we can go from there."
"Certainly, Headmaster." The dog animagi grinned.
"Excuse me," Itachi interjected, and everyone focused on him for the first time since his report. Itachi rarely spoke during any meeting, so people had a tendency to be slightly surprised and cautious when he chose to do so. "But I would like to accompany Mr. Black to his vaults. I believe I would be an asset to the search."
Sirius shrugged from his spot; after all, it was because of the ninja he even went free to begin with, so he owed him this at least. "Sure, I don't m—"
"Why?" Moody barked from his spot, intercepting the conversation, his glare focused on the fifteen-year-old.
The former ANBU turned to focus on the former Auror. "Because two sets of eyes are better than one, and this is a completely controlled environment where I can not only use my abilities to their farthest extent if I so wish, but have no fear of being discovered by Voldemort's supporters."
The wizard scoffed, rubbing his wand that was 'coincidentally' pointing towards the ninja. "Oh, please, Mr. Itachi. There's another reason than that, and we both know it."
Itachi sighed slightly as everyone's eyes turned towards him again. "Perceptive, Mr. Moody." He smiled in a practiced innocent way, accentuating his few remaining child features, knowing it would only unnerve the old wizard. "I admit I do have an alternate desire than to what I've just stated."
Moody was instantly on his feet, his wand tip glowing as he pointed it directly in Itachi's face. His face crumpled into a wicked-looking snarl, the electric blue eye trembling in its socket as it stared at the young ninja. "I knew you'd show your true colors eventually, Mr. Itachi. If you come quietly, I'll make your death relatively quick and painless."
Deciding on a whim to play with the old wizard, Itachi choose to respond in a slight chuckle, almost a giggle. He tapped his lips with the end of his clasped hands, as if trying to hide his mirth. "Mr. Moody, you shouldn't jump to conclusions like that. My main reason to accompany Mr. Black is because I am a fan of all magical creatures, and Mr. Black has already stated his desire to harm a simple house elf. Even if it is legally within his right to do so, I do not enjoy the abuse of defenseless creatures. In my presence, he would surely restrain himself."
Flushing, and looking somehow like a strangled doll in the process, Moody dropped his wand, somewhat forcefully. He scowled, loathing the fact that this child was able to toy with him to easily. "I will get you eventually, I swear I will..."
The ninja allowed his black eyes to open once again, his mirth now hidden behind blank indifference, "The question that remains, however." His eyes swirled into the crimson Sharingan, and the air suddenly tensed. "Will you be able to handle what you capture? It is the fool, after all," the eyes slowly morphed into the Mangekyou, and even Moody couldn't completely suppress the shudder that went through him from the sight, "that grabs the tiger by its tail."
Nothing broke the stillness of the room for several moments, the two combatants locked onto one another. Ice blue clashed with the blood red, each abnormal eye evaluating the other. The false eye quivered in its socket excitedly as the Sharingan spun lazily.
Dumbledore, the only one in the room besides the ninja himself to know the true abilities of the bloodline, quickly stepped in, grabbing Moody by the shoulders as he forcefully broke their gazes. "Alastor," he said, as the tension in the air broke from his words, "I understand your worry about Mr. Itachi. But, I assure you in all honestly, whatever faults Mr. Itachi may have, he is not a Dark wizard, nor ever will be one. Mr. Itachi is here to help the order take down Voldemort, and he wouldn't attack anyone unnecessarily. It is not wise to antagonize him, however. Please, sit down and calm down, my old friend."
With that, the gnarled old man was pushed back into his chair, his wand hidden once more into within his robes. However, his eyes never moved from their target.
Itachi, however, had completely dismissed the old wizard, and was currently putting his many layers of outer clothing back on. The only thing that gave away his mood was the fact his eyes were still as red as blood, even if they had reverted to the Sharingan. "Mr. Black," he said as he tightened his gloves on, "Please send an owl with the appropriate time in which you want to visit your vaults." His gloves finished, he put on his wool hat, to better stave off the cold. "If that will be all, I will see you anon. Good day." So he bowed to his employer, bowed to the room, and left in a swirl of his black cloak.
No one stopped him.
Outside the old Grimmauld place, Itachi breathed silently into the chilled air, walking without noise down the crumbling stoop. He continued to walk in silence for a while, aimlessly, until he was out of sight of the Order's hidden building, and had just past the yellow glow of a street lamp. There, he found himself a little darkened nook between two houses, the perfect place for him to settle to sort out his thoughts without being noticed by any who would pass him by.
He really should not have acted like that. In fact, he had no idea why he did. He had purposefully baited Moody, and then had risen to the old Auror's own bait. That was not how he, an ANBU captain, an Uchiha, acted. That was how a spoiled ninja-child acted, drunk on their own ability; a teenager battling with their own changing hormones. He was anything but that.
Itachi sighed, leaning back into the bitterly frozen stonework of the building. The cold was seeping up from the stone, through his clothes, and into his very bones already. He hated the chill, but he couldn't bring himself to move. He deserved it, after acting the way he did. He closed his eyes and cursed himself silently; he should have known better.
While he was somewhat astonished at the body that suddenly took up residence next to him, he made no movement or sound to acknowledge the presence. He wasn't necessarily surprised that the other was there; it was in his nature to be after all, moreover the fact that he was able to find him without casting any spells. True, he wasn't exactly trying to stay hidden—if he was, he'd be nigh impossible to find—but still, hiding away in a darkened little nook was what ninja did best. He should be practically invisible.
Well, considering the other's nature again, it wasn't doubtful that he had sniffed him out.
"Mr. Lupin," Itachi spoke first, but didn't bother opening his eyes.
"Mr. Itachi," Remus replied quietly. They sat in silence for a few more moments, neither breaking the calm they shared. However, both of them knew that the old werewolf hadn't left the assumingly incomplete meeting for some companionship. And Itachi, while fully admitting that he shouldn't have acted like he had, he was not about to apologize for it.
"I apologize for my behavior, Mr. Lupin." ...Or maybe he was. "It was wrong of me to act like I had."
Remus smiled. "Well, that was easy. Here I was expecting to have a long, meaningful discussion first."
They sat in silence for a moment, a breath of time, the night air crisp and cold around them. There were a few moths fluttering around the glow of the lamp, mindlessly throwing themselves at the light, and both of the men watched them without comment.
The silence, however, was not to last, "Mr. Itachi, I'm worried about—" Lupin began.
"Don't be," Itachi cut him off, keeping his voice neutral despite his sudden irritation at the wizard. "I will not allow myself to respond to such bating again. You need not worry." He didn't need another berating when he was already doing so well himself.
"That wasn't what I was getting at," Remus huffed, running a hand through his hair. "Itachi," he said as he turned to the young ninja, "I'm worried about you. I don't know the real reason you're back in London, but I know it's not that half-baked reason you've spoon-fed the rest of the Order. I know it's hurtful, and I know you're suffering because of it. I can't help you unless I know the truth. Please, let me help you."
Itachi shifted, somewhat uncomfortable. He really did like Lupin, but that didn't mean he trusted him with his secrets. "I don't know what you're talking about," it was pathetic, even to him, but he had little else to pull up under such scrutiny. The reason given to the Order members was reasonable enough, so it was surprising that he did question Lupin questioned it in first place.
"That's a lie, and you and I both know it." The werewolf frowned, his eyes narrowing. "It's about your brother, isn't it? About why you left—"
"You tread on dangerous ground, wolf." Itachi finally snapped his eyes to the man, and he locked gazes with brown eyes, a bare hint of amber to their depths. "You know not of which you speak."
"Bollocks!" Remus barked, "I know the look of someone running and hiding from their past, and you have it all about you. You abandoned him, didn't you?" Itachi blinked, shocked and mildly horrified at just how much the other figured out about him. "I didn't bring it up before due to my respect of your privacy, but I can't stand by any more. It's affecting more than just yourself now, and we cannot afford that in this delicate time in the War. You're coming apart at the seams! You need someone to help you, whether you like it or not. Why did you come back here to play teacher and dally in the life of a wizard again, when you so obviously are not? You and your brother were nearly inseparable when you were last here, and you spoke of him more than anything else. Now his name has not even passed your lips since you arrived here in the summer. So tell me, why did you forsake your brother?"
Itachi sat in shock for more than a heartbeat or two, almost gaping back at the hard stare he was receiving. He felt trapped, and he had a perverse desire to physically run away from the scrutiny, to hide away from the accusation, but he instantly beat down on such desires. It wouldn't help him in the slightest, and would only serve to make him look childish and foolish.
For one of the few times in his life, Itachi was unable to keep the hard gaze. Instead he chose to look back towards the fluttering, mindless moths. He waited to respond for so long, that the night air took a turn for the worse, and the moths dropped one by one out of the light, frozen motionless in their winter dormancy. But Lupin waited right along with him, unrelenting.
The wolfman would have continued waiting until the sun dawned the sky, too, if need be. Fortunately, that extreme was unnecessary. Itachi, in bare a whisper, told him the reason, the reason he left his one family tie back at his former home. He told him the truth, how it came about, and the options available to him to avoid it. The answer drained Lupin of his color, and he made no move to stop the ninja when Itachi stood, brushed off his clothing, and walked into the darkness. The last words seemed to linger, almost echoing in the night.
"I left him because I did not wish to be the one to have to kill him."
Well... The world didn't end? I was kinda hoping for 1k reviews by chapter 14, but I was 17 short. Damn.