Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Naruto
Warning: This story will contain spoilers from Naruto and Harry Potter so if you don't like spoilers don't read this story. Also, some facts may be different from the original plot and characters might behave differently from their original natures but that is how I need them in order to write my fanfic so again if you don't like it refrain from reading it. The genre is Drama/Hurt/Comfort, Harry is emotionally hurt. In this fic, Harry may behave emotional and depressed (but not throughout entire storyline) so think carefully before you write something to you don't like my fic please read something else but if you have constructive criticism for me do go ahead and enlighten me. Lastly, there might be some future violence or coarse language. You have been warned!
Chapter 14: Beginning of the Slithery Trail
Harry's blood ran cold as the snake teasingly emphasized her last word. The worst part of the situation was the snake did not speak in parseltongue and there was nothing Harry could do other than to abruptly stop his stride.
"What's wrong? You don't look well." The snake's mock concern was made more obvious when she did not shift her gaze to look in Harry's direction.
"What did you say?" No one missed the horror written in Harry's expression who slowly turned himself to face the scaly creature. Harry desperately wished that what he had heard were just his imagination.
"I said 'I wouldn't do that young wizard.' I hope the journey from your faraway homeland wasn't too eventful." And with that revelation, Harry realized the snake may actually know more than she let on.
"Shut up!" Harry hurriedly cut off the snake. "How did you-" Then Harry quickly whipped his head at the other occupants who was paying attention to every detail of their conversation. Fortunately, they didn't seem to have taken the word 'wizard' as its literal meaning.
"You're being naïve if you think you're the only one who crossed the gate. He also came here using the same route long time ago." The snake waved her shiny white tail side to side as though enjoying Harry's unease.
"He?" That dread Harry had been feeling earlier was getting worse by the seconds.
"The Great Slytherin, one of the Four Founders. He's been most eager to meet you among all of us."
"The four founders? You mean Salazar Slytherin? That's impossible. He… that was…" Harry just couldn't bring himself to ask the question as he briefly glanced at the other audiences of the room.
"Oh, you should know better than that when considering your own heritage." However, the white creature seemed to pick up what Harry wanted to say. "I assure you, he's alive and well. And he may not take your answer of refusal… too well."
"Is that a threat?" Sarutobi intervened, not liking the tone the snake was using.
"I'm merely stating some facts. Besides I'm sure he knows better than anyone that his family is very proud people." The creature replied unperturbed by the third Hokage's presence.
"I'm not part of that family." Disdain was evident in Harry's voice.
"Either way you claimed your place among them so the invitation is still there." Then the snake turned her head towards the window. "Pity, the state of the village is in by the way. Imagine if something were to happen now."
"Leave them out of this!" Most people in the room flinched at the abrupt angry hiss from Harry. It was unnerving to hear such a sound from someone of his character.
"That's not up to me to decide. I'm only here to deliver a message and I won't be coming back twice to deliver another one."
Harry briefly glanced out the window. The village was still recuperating from the invasion and many shinobi were busy. Ninja academy still remained closed and minor repairs of damage were being done even now. Most of all Harry didn't want to drag innocent people into his problem regardless of the village's condition.
"When and where do you want me to go?" Harry muttered in a bitter tone. It was apparent where this creature's loyalty lied and he knew there was no point in trying to argue with her any further.
"Hari, you don't have to go." Sarutobi immediately interrupted, but the wizard's mind was already made up.
"I know, but I've decided to go."
"You obviously didn't want to go. What changed your mind?" Sarutobi wasn't convinced. And Harry remained quiet unable to find an appropriate answer.
"We can't authorize your trip if you don't provide a valid explanation." Tsunade added, when it became evident that the boy wasn't going to respond.
"He accepted our invitation." Everyone ignored the unpleasant reptile's comment and continued to gaze at Harry expectantly.
"I need to settle a few family issues…" The excuse sounded quite pathetic to even Harry himself so he did not dare to look at others to save himself from any embarrassment.
"Yes, I noticed. Try again." Tsunade didn't buy it, not when the boy stated that he wasn't part of the family less than five minutes ago. This 'family' as he called it didn't exist in the teen's life until now and they really didn't make a good first impression so far. She was positive the problem was bigger than the normal definition of 'family issue.' When she didn't get any response, Tsunade turned to the animal. "What do you plan to do if we don't allow his trip and future contact with your kind?"
"Is my answer going to change anything? I don't think it matters." Then the snake raised its body high in a threatening manner. "Your village is weak at the moment. I wonder how it will fare if there was another, let's say, unfortunate disaster?" No matter how playful and innocent it sounded, the challenge hidden behind the message was clear for all to hear.
"Oh?" Tsunade returned the remark with a deadly smile but many could sense the killing intent that was seeping out from the Fifth Hokage. "Such as?" Her tone implied that she was anything but amused.
"Stop it." Harry broke off the tension building up in the room. He then looked at the snake once more. "When and where?"
"Let's all calm down. Hari, how about we think about this before making a rushed decision." Sarutobi offered but Harry shook his head.
"This village can't take another blow at this time."
"You don't know that. Can you give us some time to think about this?" Sarutobi could feel that everyone was getting agitated and that was not the best state of mind to make a decision such as this. However, his hope was dashed by the snake's response.
"They'll summon me back in next 10 minutes. I advise you to make your choice before that as no answer will be regarded as a refusal to our invitation."
"I said I would go. Tell me where to go." The tone Harry used hinted that no one could change his mind about this matter. And they were all certain that if the boy tried, he would find a way to leave the village despite their efforts to stop him especially with his teleportation ability.
"One of my kind will come to escort you this coming Monday morning at 0700. You'll meet your guide just outside the south gate of this village. Then you'll head towards the south of the Fire Country to the Forest of Nostalgia. Pack well, it's a very hot and humid region for humans."
"He has to travel that far? Why not summon him?" Tsunade narrowed her eyes in suspicion when the snake was finished.
"Because we have no rights to summon a speaker." The creature answered as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Tsunade wasn't satisfied with the explanation. However, as much as they wanted to stop Harry from going, it was also true that the risk of not sending him far outweighed the alternative option. No one knew anything about this new threat, not to mention much about the boy himself. The reality was that at this point in time, the village could not afford to risk this unknown danger even if it meant sacrificing the teen. Before long, the snake banished with a puff of smoke and once the snake had left, Harry found himself at the center of other's eager gaze.
"Let's talk" Tsunade started, "about what happened that day that led to today."
"I'm sorry for all this."
"I don't want your apology. I want to know what happened. What do they mean by claiming the heritage? What heritage?" The wizard did not have to look at the Fifth to figure out that she was in unhappy mood.
"That day, the snakes were about to attack the hospital." Harry sagged his shoulders. He did not see the point in hiding about that day when the problem has escalated to this level. "I told them to stop, but they said I had no right tell them what to do because I didn't hold a contract with them."
Everyone was silent while they listened. This was the information they had been missing. They knew of the incident, which the boy was talking about, but was never able to fully comprehend what had happened.
"Then one of snakes mentioned that there used to be a clan that they obeyed but they died out so without thinking I said that I'm claiming that lost heritage."
As farfetched as it was, it made more sense to the situation than their own speculations. They wondered as to why the snakes had suddenly stopped their rampages. Sure, the boy was able to speak snake's language, but it didn't make sense to use that ability to solely explain why the snakes obeyed him when he wasn't the summoner.
"And they let you claim the heritage and listened to you? Just like that?" Yet there seemed to be something else missing in this story and when Harry didn't continue Tsunade pressed on. "Isn't heritage something you're related to by blood? What made you think that you can claim that heritage in the first place?
"Being able to speak with snakes is a rare ability. And because of that, I guess I thought it was worth giving a shot by revealing about my family. And it turned out that one of my ancestors actually did had some kind of involvement in the lost clan or so that's what the snakes said."
"Involvement... And what did they ask for to validate your claim?" Snakes were devious creatures. Tsunade was confident that there was no way that snakes would have just believed his statement without any proof.
"They said I should be able to send them back regardless of my contract status on top of my speaking ability."
"So you sent them back." Harry just nodded, but Tsunade had a feeling that a lot of details were still missing. "And now they're back. Because you claimed the heritage, you became a new heir."
"I didn't mean to! Everything was happening very fast and I wasn't thinking properly. I just wanted them to stop. I didn't know it would all come down to this."
Tsunade was half perplexed to see the boy so distraught. She admits that to her she may have sounded a little bit accusing, but the boy appeared to be truly upset at this new prospect of discovering a family no matter how bad their first impression was.
"Aren't you happy? You found a family. It appears to be a historical clan and you're the sole heir, meaning everything that's left behind will be yours." Jiraiya joined in, reflecting Tsunade's thought as well.
"I don't want them. I just want to live a peaceful life."
That response and his earlier reactions suggested that the teen recognized who this mystery person was and this relative's presence would pose a threat to a small peace he had found in the village. Yet, at the same time, they were sure that the teen wasn't aware of that person's presence until now. If anything, the boy sounded as though he expected the man to be dead.
"Who's this Great Suriderin?" If it were other times, Harry may have found Jiraiya's mispronunciation funny but sadly, today wasn't the occasion.
"He's… just one of the founders of the school I used to go to."
"Are you trying to convince us that the reason those snakes refer him with a title 'Great' before his name is because he built a school that humans go to?" Tsunade voice was laced with skepticism. "How close are you two related to each other?"
"… very distantly. I don't think it even counts anymore."
"Well to them it still seems to count. Can you give me an estimate number of generations or years?" Jiraiya was puzzled. The boy said this person was so distantly related to the point of not being considered same family yet he was aware this particular person was related to him somewhere along the family tree.
"No." Everyone was a bit startled by an unexpected firm answer.
"No?" Anyone could tell it wasn't 'no' as in 'no, I can't tell you because I don't know' but more in 'no, because I don't want to.' It was very odd. Why was he so adamant on hiding something that didn't seem so important? "Do you happen to guess why the heritage is considered dead when he's still alive?" Jiraiya decided not to push on that subject although it was strange.
"No, and I don't want to find out either if I can help it."
"Is he danger to you or the village?" Sarutobi had to ask the question from the bitter way his adoptive son reacted every time this relative was mentioned.
"I've never met him before."
"What does rumor you heard about him say?" Jiraiya tried a different approach as it became obvious that they weren't getting anywhere.
"…From what I heard, he was… powerful… twisted… and…" Harry broke off, unable to finish his sentence as he faltered on how to reword pure-blood supremacy.
"And?" Putting aside use of the boy's past tense for now, those descriptions reminded Sarutobi of his old student and he was sure that his pupils were thinking about the same person.
"…prejudiced against people who didn't hold bloodlimit abilities." Now that wasn't the most accurate description but the wizard was at loss as to how explain the matter without revealing about magic.
"What's the credibility of these rumours?" Jiraiya's frown deepened. No wonder the boy didn't want to meet the man. Now people shouldn't heavily rely on a rumour to form an opinion about someone they have never met before, but sometimes rumours had a founding basis that wasn't too far from truth. That was the reason the toad sennin started his information gathering with collecting rumours if he didn't have a good source to begin with.
"I can't vouch for sources, but I'm still more than willing to bet on the claim that he's powerful and prejudiced."
"And you were going to go meet him and become his heir?" Tsunade had to refrain herself from snorting. She doubted that the two family members would get along well with each other.
"I'll explain to him that there was a mistake and politely refuse."
"From what I figured, he doesn't seem the type to handle the rejection very well." When Jiraiya pointed out flaw of the plan, Harry's found himself fidgeting.
"Yeah… I was afraid of that… But I don't think he'll accept me once he realizes my parentage."
"And that would be?" Sarutobi saw slight hesitancy in his charge. It looked as if he was struggling with something.
"…My father was the only one who was from a family whose lineage had bloodlimit." Harry finally answered after some thought. He didn't want to explain about the concept of muggleborns as that would complicate his stories. So for now, he thought this would do to cover himself.
"But you have the bloodlimit ability." Jiraiya had seen some discrimination by clans who had bloodlimit, but what counted the most was whether or not the offspring had the ability. Even when one's parents were both from a clan, if the individual didn't have the ability, then that person could not be held in a higher regard than someone who had the bloodlimit ability despite only one of his or her parent being a clan member.
"I do but some would say that my blood is now tainted." Tsunade looked at him incredulously like everyone else. Hell, even Uchiha Fugaku wasn't that close-minded when he was alive.
"How are you supposed to have children without inbreeding?" Tsunade couldn't help but ask.
"I don't know. I never agreed with the idea so that never concerned me." Harry gave a light shrug. Back home, that issue was the least of his worry especially when he had a bigger problem to deal with.
"How will he react if he finds this out?" Jiraiya inquired.
"He may just dismiss me and have nothing to do with me ever again."
Tsunade rolled her eyes at such an unfounded optimism. She was willing to bet all of her fortune that was the least likely scenario if the man was anything like what she had imagined him to be. Then again, when her bet did turn out right, it always meant something bad.
"Worst case scenario?" Tsunade drawled.
"Well… something bad might happen?" No one needed to be elaborated about what this 'bad' might imply by the look of Harry's slowly darkening face.
"Are you nuts?" Tsunade snapped. "And you decided to go?"
"I… sorry." Harry sighed in defeat when he couldn't find anything else to say.
"Tsunade, it's not like he had a lot of choice." Jiraiya pointed out but that only seemed to make Tsunade more upset.
"That's exactly my point! If the guy is aggressive to the point of flat out threatening the Hokage's adoptive son in front of two Kage, he's going to be more than likely to kill you upon finding that out! You weren't planning on telling him everything when you two meet, were you? He doesn't seem the type to give up. Even if you manage to escape, he'll track you down."
"I'm well aware. I'll make sure not to involve the village. If a problem rises, you can always denounce any ties with me. Just say that I left the village or something and that you guys had nothing to do with me." Harry didn't know what kind of expression he should wear. He didn't want to look sad to trouble others so he just smiled. But it hurt him at the thought of Konohamaru who was waiting for him at home. He promised the small child that he would not leave him again. He would also miss other people he started to care for.
"You actually expect us to do that? How can you smile at a time like this while saying such a thing?" It surprised Harry to hear this from Tsunade of all people. Harry had always believed that the fifth Hokage was not that fond of him. He thought that the older kunoichi would jump at the opportunity to get rid him. Perhaps no matter what he did, his actions would always end up upsetting her.
"I made this mess so I have to deal with the consequence."
Sometimes, Tsunade was amazed with these types of self-blaming people. Really? The boy saved a lot of lives by returning those snakes that day, which by the way was fault of Orochimaru, and he believed he's solely responsible for this? Nonetheless, before Tsunade could say something back, she felt a hand on her knee and saw Sarutobi briefly signaling her to not to continue with this issue. Seriously, her teacher wouldn't consider abandoning him now, would he? No, he was more honorable than that.
"What does the snake mean by wizard?" Everyone noted Harry visibly stiff at his guardian's inquiry.
Harry stayed deathly quiet without moving a muscle as he contemplated the matter. He was tired of lying and keeping secrets. He wanted to share it with Sarutobi especially he was now a dear person to him, but at the same time he was afraid of people's reactions. Would they react like Dursleys? He read about shinobi history, and there have been instances where people who had special abilities have been used, discriminated or killed. Even if people accepted him, it may end a normal life he desperately tried to pursue. He was also different compared to others. He had unique abilities that they did not possess. This world was run by ninja which meant there was always constant fights going on. He may be used again like weapons. Harry remembered the red haired Sand ninja who described himself as a weapon for his village at the hospital. He didn't want that fate again.
"Hari?" Sarutobi was not Dumbledore. Could he afford to trust one more time?
-he must die. Harry suddenly stood up from his seat at that familiar voice of the headmaster.
There was no guarantee that he was going to come back from this trip.
"Excuse me." With that said Harry abruptly left the room. If he was going to die then he wanted to leave a good image with these people instead as some freak of a nature.
"He just needs more time." Once the door closed behind Harry, Tsunade tried to console her teacher.
"I know. I understand that it'll require a lot of patience and time with him and even then I would be lucky to have half of his trust. I've seen it. Children who were abused and betrayed don't trust easily, if anything, they never fully trust anyone ever again."
"Has he ever acted out?" Jiraiya asked.
"No. He never pushed his boundary to test me. In a way, I hope he does because it means he's at the stage of being more comfortable with us."
"But I'm worried how he may test the boundaries. He isn't an eight year old child. If he does act out, it'll be worse than a teenager going through puberty especially with his background." Shizune finally broke her long silence she has held since the meeting has started.
"Or he may withdraw." Tsunade then closely studied her old teacher. "I think you remind him of someone who held tremendous power over him in the past. Someone who he just can't disobey. If not then he may be still considering himself as a guest and not accepting others as his family."
"He told me that he killed someone when he first came here in a haze." Hiruzen brought out his pipe and started to stuff it. He tried to pretend that he didn't hear the last part of Tsunade's words. "He seemed so happy he had done that yet from what I heard from the day he woke up from his coma, it was like he was aware that he was being used all along."
"Children like that can't get away even if they're aware something is wrong. They don't know how else to live if being abused is all they know. It's likely that he knew about what they were planning with him but he didn't know what else to do." Sarutobi lit his pipe as Tsunade spoke. He knew what she was trying to say. He had seen his portion of abused children during his early years which was filled with wars and war orphans. "I think the reason he was able to settle down this quickly here was because of your grandson. I think he's projecting himself on to that child and fulfilling his happiness by improving the child's life as though his own."
Sarutobi silently agreed. Not long after the teen started to live with his family, he noticed the boy's obsession to perfect Konohamaru's life. He felt guilty at the thought because he was vaguely aware of possible reason behind his adoptive son's behavior, but he didn't take any measure to stop the teen. Come to think about it now, he may have been taking advantage of the teen for his own selfish purpose.
"What do you guys think of this word 'wizard?'" Jiraiya decided that the change in subject would be better for improving everyone's mood. Also, it was quite important matter they still needed to discuss.
"It must mean something special. I've never seen that expression from him before. Some kind of code or perhaps nickname?" Shizune offered. After arriving in the Leaf village, she took over the weekly counseling sessions as she had more in depth knowledge in the area than Kaede or Kazuki. It had only been a few sessions with Harry as a lot had happened with him and the village since she had arrived, but she still managed to make a good start with him.
"What about its literal meaning?"
"You mean actual stick waving old folks whose female counterparts can ride a cleaning object?" Tsunade scoffed at her old teammate's idea.
"Jiraiya, I understand that as an author you need to have a creative mind, which by the way has been in a whole different level than any of us since childhood, but really, this?"
"He does have a stick which I heard he freaked out about when he found out it was charred. What about that report with Tenzo when he said the boy was looking for something but ended up snatching a branch instead? He said a light came out from that branch." Jiraiya countered.
"Be realistic! Sarutobi-sensei, say something. He seems to believe this nonsense."
Sarutobi who had been deep in thought since his two students argued finally spoke. "He did say he wanted his 'wand' back when he was staying with us at the beginning."
"Not you too. Then there may be other problem with him. There's no such thing as magic!"
"I didn't say it was magic." Jiraiya interrupted Tsunade's heated outcry. "But Tsunade think about it. We have had these tales of wizards and witches for children's bedtime for a long time, but where did they come from? It doesn't reflect any of the cultures or customs of this land. These wizards and witches' language are based on English yet when you look at the region that use English more frequently their culture is still a lot like ours."
"We don't even know who created other legends and old bed time stories that reflect our own culture. So what're you trying to say?" Tsunade asked.
"What if there was an origin to this witch and wizard fairy tales? Based on people who had a very special bloodlimit ability."
"Jiraiya!" Tsunade had always been a science person; she never liked to waste her time in this kind of useless things, which was one of the reasons she had a lot of quarrels with Jiraiya for his overly open-mindedness.
"No, just listen for a second. I'm not saying that there are people who can fly with brooms. Legends and myths are based on symbolisms and exaggerations. There may have been a clan whose powers were so unique to the point that people passed on the story to another as magic which may became origin to these tales. I mean look at that boy, appearing in middle of ninja village in an intense fire, which he survived, self healing, teleportation, removing Orochimaru's curse, speaking with snakes, healing the old man, talking with the death god and other mystifying powers. I would like to say he's already quite magically mysterious to me." At Tsunade's annoyed expression the toad sennin quickly held up his hands in an appeasing gesture and continued. "All I'm suggesting is that we may be approaching this problem harder than we should."
In the end they were not able to come to a satisfying conclusion. However, one thing they all agreed on was that this issue was very closely related to secrets the boy was trying to hide. But no matter what the boy was hiding at the moment, the Third Hokage now considered him part of his family. And perhaps that may have been the reason Sarutobi felt more powerless for not being able to protect his charge again.
However, he was far from admitting his defeat. With determination, Sarutobi started to go over files of available shinobi in the village. The list wasn't long as there wasn't a lot village could spare for his adoptive son's trip. Despite his wish to send his best ANBU with that child, that was just hopeful thought. To others, this mission was supposed to be simple bodyguard mission for a short trip. He could argue that Orochimaru's presence would require his charge to have ANBU guard, but due to the village's current condition, the council would likely to recommend the boy to take the trip some other time when they have more room to breathe if his trip posed that much danger. With that in mind, Sarutobi placed four folders in front of him. He had made his choice and with one final nod of approval, he got up with those selected files in his hand and headed down to the register office.
"We're not taking 'no' for an answer." At Tsunade's dismissal, Harry looked back at Kakashi and Team Gai.
"I can't afford to hire all of them. I can't even afford to hire a cheapest shinobi available." Harry tried again, looking very unhappy. Never mind the fact that he was penniless, he didn't want to drag people into this problem that likely involved wizards.
"I'll pay for the expense. Don't worry about it." Sarutobi reassured his charge.
"I don't want to take advantage of the situation and waste your money. I know even hiring a team of genin is costly." Harry stared at Team Gai before turning his gaze to Kakashi. "And to add a jonin on top of that bill?"
"You don't need to worry about the money. As your legal guardian, it's my responsibility. Besides, I don't mind. I earn lots but don't have a lot of places to spend it anyway."
Guardian. That word stood out the most to Harry from the explanation. "Why are you so kind to me?" The room became deathly silent at the unexpected words. "Why aren't you angry with me?"
"Why would I be angry with you?" Sarutobi was confused at his charge's frustrated voice.
"I don't have anything to give you in return. There's nothing I did to deserve such gesture." Harry's mind had been plagued by many questions since meeting with that white snake. He tried to refrain himself from saying such things, but the stress of the possibility that he may not return to this village again was making him edgy.
"Then what about Konohamaru?" Sarutobi asked in a composed voice.
"What about him?"
"You cared for him just like any family would for their member from the day you met him. You also acted kindly to other children. Why?"
"Because…" Harry stopped himself. The answer to that was so obvious it actually made him wonder if this was a trick question. "because… everyone deserves to be treated kindly with respect."
"Then the same thing should apply to you."
"But it's different."
"I'm an outsider," Harry was uncertain where this frustration came from, "someone with an ambiguous background. It's my fault that the village is under a threat right now." He had faced situations much more dangerous than this before yet he was feeling nervous in a whole new way he couldn't describe. Then Harry's mind suddenly focused on something else that had been bothering him.
"I have yet to see my last hospital bill. Surgeries, intensive care treatments and long hospital stay… they all must have cost a fortune." His thoughts were getting disorganized from this unknown source of anxiety that he was starting to sidetrack from their first discussion.
"Hari, the hospital is free for all villagers to use." Sarutobi tried to soothe the teen who was beginning to show signs of distress.
"I don't even pay taxes! And it's not like I'm an underage. I'm just using up village's precious resources for free! Wouldn't it be better to ask me to leave? Why aren't you getting rid of me? There's just no benefit in keeping me." Then Harry suddenly looked around everyone in the room. "Why don't any of you tell me to leave?! It won't be the first time this happened so I wouldn't mind." That was a lie. Truth was Harry would mind a lot if they were to tell him to leave the village. It would break his heart to leave the people who have been so nice to him. The people he came to care for.
"Hari," Sarutobi placed his wrinkled hands on his charge's tense hands. The action only made Harry shy away from the touch while he refused to make any eye contact with the older man. "You, or anyone for that matter, don't need to do or give something in order to be treated kindly." The aged Hokage was not discouraged as he now understood where the teen's outbursts came from. It was from the fear of being abandoned. This was the first time the boy actually raised his voice against his guardian and Sarutobi wondered if Harry was actually subconsciously testing whether or not his newfound family would discard him in a situation like this. From the teen's earlier comments, it seems like he was abandoned because he was deemed no longer useful.
"Besides, since the day I decided to adopt you, such matter isn't worth contemplating. You're part of my family now. But if you're still doubtful, let's put it your way and see. You gave Konohamaru love and attention he always needed and deserved. You helped Anko, you tried to help Sasuke, you minimized the destruction of the village during the invasion and helped others in the aftermath. You saved my life more than one occasion not to mention you might have lengthened Asuma's as well by making him cut down on his cancer stick." Harry cracked a small nervous smile while Sarutobi chuckled at his own joke. "If there was such a requirement - and please gods forbid - to be treated humanely then I'm sure you're more than enough qualified."
Harry became subdued when his outbursts were continually met with calm demeanor. His guardian didn't raise his voice a single time and from the response, Harry felt the source of his unease starting dissipate. When Harry remained quiet, thinking over the conversation, Naruto broke the silence.
"Hari-san, you're one of the nicest people I know! I don't know where you heard that crap from but whoever said that to you deserves a good punch to the face!" Harry's smile got a little wider at the hyperactive boy's exaggerated antic and at an image of Naruto trying to punch Vernon who was physically bigger than him.
Then Lee stepped foreword and put a hand on Naruto's shoulder to calm him down.
"Naruto-kun violence doesn't solve everything. But Hari-san, I have to agree too that you're the one of the kindest people I met and you should be treated back with the same respect no matter where you're from. You gave the courage and strength to support me when I hit my bottom, and you were there for me and listened to me not to mention I still have a debt I owe you from the hospital. I'm more than willing to accompany you on this journey." Lee flashed a bright smile and Harry felt his face heat up in embarrassment at the boy's words.
"Doing what you did that day may have caused this trouble, but you also saved a lot of lives." Jiraiya intervened, but did not go into further details as the genin didn't know about them; however, Harry still understood what the man meant.
"It's just traveling to some forest and back. It shouldn't pose too much danger to hire a genin team and jonin." Harry sighed but his voice was soft-spoken once again.
"I know, but you also must understand that you're officially my son and that makes you a potential target outside the village. Plus, Orochimaru is still on the lookout."
Harry made tight fists with his hands. He understood the logic behind this, but he didn't want anyone to get involved especially when he knew most of these people well. He didn't want them to get hurt. He didn't want them to find out his secrets.
"I'm not going to win, am I?" Harry asked no one in particular. Then he shifted his gaze back to Jiraiya. "Why is Jiraiya-san and Naruto-kun here?" Now all people's attention was focused on the duo Harry had just mentioned. "I thought you were hiring Gai-san's team and Kakashi-san."
"They will also accompany you." Harry frowned slightly at his guardian, silently requesting to elaborate the situation. "As you might be aware, Naruto is going to train under Jiraiya. And when the two heard about the situation they were more than willing to join. They said that they could start off the traveling with your trip."
Harry was well aware that Jiraiya and Naruto changed their departure date earlier to come along his own trip without further explanation, but he decided not to say anymore. It seemed that they all planned and agreed about this before he had arrived to this room.
"I think we should head out to the gate now." Jiraiya got up with his travel bag. As Harry followed the man's suit, the wizard lightly touched on his own sleeve to recheck presence of a wand he had hidden inside. He had transfigured the chakra conducting crystal into the shape of a wand the day before as he didn't want to be at a disadvantage by letting his opponent know that he had no wand.
A walk to the south gate was new for Harry. He had never taken this path before in the village. He actually never had left the protective boundary of the village before either. It felt strange to leave the place for the first time.
"Ah! They're coming!" As Harry approached the gigantic gate, a familiar voice ringed through the air. He turned around to find Moegi's tiny finger pointing at someone in particular.
"Oh, no." Harry groaned at the likelihood that it was himself being pointed at among the large group. Soon two other well-known figures appeared behind Moegi. The memory of how he had to bribe and convince his stubborn nephew for past few days flooded back to his mind.
"Uncle!" Konohamaru ran towards the group while holding something in his hands.
"What's this?" Harry stared at a pouch Konohamaru's small hands preciously offered. The wizard recognized the object as the small pouch most shinobi used to carry their weapons and supplies.
"Well, since you're not going to take me, I decided to put something together to be useful instead of me."
"He worked on it all night" Udon supplemented standing behind his friends.
When Harry opened the pouch, he found some kunai and shuriken as well as small medical supplies and snacks.
"Thank you. I'll make a good use of it." In all his life, Harry had never thought that he would feel so touched by receiving weapons as a gift. Harry gave a small hug to his nephew in return and just as he took off his backpack to place the pouch inside, Konohamaru's hand grabbed his wrist.
"No! You're supposed to put it here so you can easily use them." By the time the wizard noticed the pouch was gone from his hand, Konohamaru was already strapping the pouch on Harry's right thigh.
"There!" The child gave his best satisfied smile. "Be careful."
"Thank you Konohamaru. I'm sure everything will be okay. They're going to protect me so you don't need to worry."
Konohamaru stared at Naruto after his uncle's reassurance. Then he finally spoke. "Naruto-niisan, you better take good care of uncle!"
"Don't tell me we're going to travel like this for the rest of our journey." The white snake commented from her spot on Harry's shoulder.
She was much smaller snake than the one that had visited the village few days ago. She said that she was the youngest hatchling in the lair and this was her first time to interact with humans. So far, Harry found her to be quite curious and cheerful in nature like a young child. She was polite when she had asked in parseltongue if she could ride on him during the journey so Harry allowed her despite others' concerns. Partly, Harry had allowed the action because he didn't want others to carry the snake for the same fear they had for him.
"What's the problem?" Harry asked. The group had been walking down the road for about 20 minutes now and Harry wasn't sure what troubled the little creature.
"At this speed, it's going take more than a week to reach the destination."
"Well, I can't travel fast like ninja so it can't be helped." Harry shrugged lightly.
"… You are joking, right?"
"No." Harry wasn't sure why the snake was so shocked at his response. The snake remained silent for a few minutes in thought before she spoke again.
"You would if one of these shinobi carried you."
"They're not hired to carry me. I can't let them do such a hard labor." However, Harry had to stop himself as he suddenly felt many eyes on him. All of them appeared to be pondering something that he couldn't grip. "Whoa! What are you doing?!" Harry yelped as Gai suddenly lifted him into the air from behind.
"Alright! It's going to be training my youthful students!"
"Training?! Let me in too!" Harry noticed Naruto's excitement as hopped towards Gai's team to join them. With the exception of Lee, Gai's other two students wore a tired expression.
"So who's up for the challenge first?" Gai asked, as he extended Harry out like small child would with a little puppy. This action resulted Harry to dangle before the two boys who seemed ready to eat him.
"Pick Me! Me!" Harry looked in terror at the shouting children before him not sure what was happening.
"Pick what?" Harry was not sure if he really wanted to find out but either his voice was too timid or it got drowned out by shouts because his question was ignored.
"Hmm. This is a hard choice to make. You two are both eager and full of youth." While his captor was trying to solve the dilemma he faced, Harry desperately looked at the adults for rescue. Sadly, they just looked away when their eyes were met as though to pretend that nothing was happening before them.
"There's only one way to solve this. Rock, paper, scissors!" The two boys looked very seriously at Gai where as the rest of the group seemed exhausted. Harry couldn't complain back not only due to his ringing ears, but also at lack of words to react to such a simpleton like resolution.
"My eternal rival Kakashi! This is the moment of the truth we both have been waiting for! Time to see the fruit of our student's training!" While all this was being said Harry was flailed around helplessly like a ragged doll by Gai to the on looker's pity, but unfortunately, it wasn't enough to reach their heart to help the poor.
"I give up. He's not even listening to me. And how's that solution got anything to do with shinobi training?" Harry wondered aloud as he left the fate of his body to the green maniac.
"Is it just me or is this human obnoxiously getting annoying? Can I bite him?" The snake hissed in parseltongue. She was still learning the human language and as such found parseltongue more comfortable.
"No." Harry hissed back, though the offer was extremely tempting.
"But he won't stop moving you like some saltshaker! It's making me dizzy!" Nevertheless, the snake's complain didn't last long as Naruto soon yelled out his victory.
"I won!" Naruto then stood before Harry leaving behind sulking Lee. "I won Hari-san!"
"Congratulations, but what did you win?
"Me?" When Naruto nodded back, Harry was still confused.
Harry felt like his headache had worsened. All the while the white snake around his neck who was now asking if she could bite the loud blond out of annoyance didn't help the matter either.
"Great!" Harry muttered with sarcasm. "This trip is starting out so wonderful already."