Sphere of Influence

R. Winters

Disclaimer: After many gruelling months battling it out in the Supreme Court... I can safely say that I still don't own Harry Potter or Naruto.

Well, I'm back! And here it is, the long anticipated sequel to A Personal Matter. I hope you alfl enjoy it, I'm a little nervous about seeing how this matches up to people's expectations, since I've never written a sequel to anything before. But I think you'll like it, I do, at least.

If you haven't read A Personal Matter, I suggest you read that first. If you don't want to, for some reason, then just accept the fact that Harry Potter is the son of Lily Potter and Hatake Sakumo and has been living with Hatake Kakashi since the Dursleys were killed when he was six years old.

As always, if you have questions or comments (and would actually like a response), make sure you're either logged in or include an e-mail at which I can reach you. Also, no complaints will be taken seriously if there's no way for me to respond to them. Obviously, I've put a lot of thought into this story. You might not understand or agree with certain decisions I've made, but I'm willing to share my reasoning with anyone who cares to ask.

Chapter 2 will be up in about two weeks--check my profile for details on updates. Thanks for reading!

Chapter 1 – A Prominent Choice

Narrowed green eyes stared through the panel of glass separating him from the world outside. He ignored everything around him—even the boy who sat next to him, calling his name several times before finally giving up and turning to the pair behind them for conversation.

His entire focus was on the four figures he could see walking down the road—it was significant, he knew, that they were headed towards the village gates.

The man in front was obviously a Jounin. The green flak jacket and navy uniform identified him as such. The ten-year-old didn't particularly care about him, though.

Two children scampered at his heels, a boy with dark green hair and a girl with brown hair pulled back in a pony tail. The girl was grinning cheekily at something the boy must have said, and both of them turned to spy on the smaller boy trailing behind them.

It was he that the green eyes focused on, as well. The ten-year-old frowned at the small, black-haired boy following his team at a relaxed pace. The hitai-ate around his head marked him as a shinobi—a Genin—and green eyes glared at him fiercely.

All of a sudden, the Genin's head turned, and black eyes met with green. The Genin's expression was cool and uncaring and the ten-year-old's eyes narrowed further because of it, glowering out the window.

"Hatake Harii!"

The boy's head shot around at his teacher's shout, and a slight flush rose to his cheeks as the children around him laughed. He quickly glanced out the window again, but the other boy was already gone.

Harry slowly relaxed his hands, noticing they'd curled into fists at some point. He stood, unobtrusively wiping sweaty palms on his black pants as he did so.

"Hustle, Hatake, we don't have all day," the man sighed in irritation.

"Yes, Kenji-sensei," Harry muttered, hurrying down the steps to the door the man stood beside. At the man's gesture, he quickly slipped through.

Kenji followed after him, sliding the door shut and crossing the room to join a second Chuunin on the other side of the single desk. Neither of them spoke.

Harry's hands formed fists at his sides again. This was it—he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he didn't graduate this year.

"Please perform the Henge no Jutsu," Kenji directed, eyes on the sheet of paper in front of him and tone bored.

Last year the entire shinobi body had taken notice when Uchiha Itachi graduated—the youngest Genin since Harry's own brother. Harry, two years Itachi's senior and a Hatake to boot, had not.

"You're good," the Jounin who would have been his mentor had told him after announcing his team would have to return to the Academy for another year, "But you're no Uchiha Itachi."

The ten-year-old scowled. It was bad enough being measured against his brother—now he was measured against some bratty Uchiha that had managed to pull ahead of him, probably because of his clan's special training.

Jaw set in determination, Harry nimbly fingered through the necessary seals. He could do the transformation, no problem. The only question was who to transform into. It had to be someone easily recognizable, of course, and his first choices would be his brother or the Sandaime Hokage. But he looked too alike Kakashi for that to make an impressive demonstration, and the Sandaime was one they practiced often in class. It would be expected.

With a tiny smirk, Harry completed the last hand seal, "Henge no Jutsu!"

He released his chakra and a small cloud of smoke momentarily obscured his vision—hiding his body while the transformation took place.

When the smoke cleared, he stood proudly, watching the two teachers expectantly, eager to see their reactions.

Kenji raised an eyebrow and scribbled something down on his paper. "Interesting choice," the man muttered.

The second man looked up at him before adding, "I think he made him a little too tall."

Harry scowled.

Kenji frowned at him contemplatively, "I don't know... it looks pretty accurate to me."

The other man snorted, "You were only a Genin back then, so you probably didn't interact with him much."

Harry fought the urge to roll his eyes—he shouldn't have picked that man after all.

Both men stared at him thoughtfully for a while longer.

"Do one more, Harii," Kenji ordered at length, then jerked his thumb at the other teacher, "Henge into Tsukata-sensei."

Harry nodded, pushing down his annoyance that they couldn't even recognize the Fourth Hokage—had it really been that long since he'd died?—and formed the seals again.

With no small amount of self-satisfaction, Harry smiled down at the hitai-ate in his hands. He was only one step behind him now, and there was nothing to stop him from passing the final exam this year. No Uchiha Itachi he would have to surpass. Not that he wouldn't surpass him. Harry had plans to demonstrate his superiority over the younger boy in the most public way possible.

"I think you're supposed to tie it around your head or something."

The voice chased away his thoughts and Harry looked up, grinning. "Welcome back," he greeted happily, "I wasn't expecting you to come."

The older boy snorted and took the hitai-ate from the ten-year-old's hands, stepping close to position it on his forehead and tie it around the back.

"Well, I missed it last year," the teen mused as he worked. Finishing, he took a step back, "Besides, this year I think it's there to stay."

Harry scowled—if it hadn't been for Uchiha Itachi, he would've graduated last year.

"It's not that Uchiha Itachi went above you," Kakashi had told him afterwards, in what Harry assumed to be a poor attempt at comforting him, "It's just that Uchiha Itachi is on another level from you. He's a prodigy."

Of course, Itachi hadn't been the only one to graduate last year. He'd simply been the only one to graduate early last year. The normal graduation age had gone back up to eleven last year, and was predicted to rise to twelve in another year or two.

As though reading his thoughts, Tenzou spoke, "You know, if they let every young upstart graduate early, the shinobi ranks would be full of a bunch of obnoxious kids."

"Are you calling me an obnoxious kid?" Harry demanded with mostly faked defensiveness.

The teen smiled. "Hardly," he replied, "I'm calling Uchiha Itachi an obnoxious kid. Have you seen how he looks at people? Like he honestly thinks he's better than us or something—just because he graduated a few years early." He sighed, "What a brat."

Harry grinned, feeling better already, "The teachers all think he's so great, though. It's annoying."

"He's just the same as any other Genin, if you ask me," Tenzou stated boldly, "Just because he's younger doesn't make him any more skilled." He frowned at Harry, "Remember that when you pick up your first mission. Just because you graduated early doesn't make you any more of a Genin. You're still weaker than everyone else out here."

Harry scowled. "You didn't have to go that far," he grumbled. Sometimes it could really be a pain having a best friend who was four years older.

Tenzou grinned unrepentantly.

Harry's scowl disappeared as he glanced around, "Have you seen Kakashi?"

"Hmm?" Tenzou asked, glancing around as though Harry might miss his tall, white-haired brother in the crowd. "I haven't seen him. He's probably on a mission."

"Probably," Harry agreed glumly. He shouldn't be surprised, though—Kakashi hadn't shown up to last year's graduation ceremony, either.

"Oh—there's your teacher," Tenzou said abruptly, watching the door as the two teachers stepped out after their last student.

Harry sighed, "Not this again. They'll spout all that nonsense about being proud of us and how we're a merit to Konoha again." He scowled, crossing his arms, "We haven't even passed the final test yet and they always act like it's such a big deal."

Tenzou shook his head in mock dismay, "My, my, Harii-kun, when did you become so cynical? This is supposed to be a celebration, you know. At least smile."

The younger boy smiled on reflex and rolled his eyes, "Come on, Tenzou, let's go celebrate at Ikeida's."

Harry learned a lot in just his first week of being a Genin. The day they were divided into teams, Harry learned that he wasn't the only one who saw the genius Uchiha Itachi as a rival and annoyance—both of his teammates felt the same way.

The day their teacher tested them, Harry learned that Mesu Migaki, a wide-shouldered boy with short, sandy-blond hair, would never accept that a kid more than a year younger than him could possibly know more about being a Genin than he did. They almost failed the test because of it.

Harry wasn't willing to fail again, though, so he'd pushed down his pride and gone along with Migaki's poorly thought-out plan in the hopes that they could make it work together. In the end, none of them were able to retrieve a bell, but their teacher passed them for showing teamwork. Ironic—Harry thought—as they weren't exactly the ideal team.

He also learned that Sakan Inaho, his second teammate, a boy with shaggy brown bangs and a nervous temperament, wasn't going to be of any use as a shinobi. Inaho followed whoever seemed stronger, and didn't seem to have a strong grasp of even the most basic principles of shinobi life.

Harry still liked him better than Migaki.

The day they were assigned their first mission, Harry learned that as recent graduates they were expected to be complete idiots without even the most basic of shinobi skills—Inaho would fit right in.

Their teacher, a short, stocky man with a head of dark fuzz, drilled them on the same activities they'd done in the Academy, and the missions they were assigned were simple chores that any competent civilian could do—several were things he remembered doing for the Dursleys when he was only five years old, but Harry pushed those memories away as well as he could.

It was still better than the Academy, Harry decided, as he didn't have to waste his evenings studying text books anymore, but only barely. Their afternoons were spent replacing the targets at the Academy, sanding splinters from the benches in the park, chasing a little girl's escaped parakeet, or other things equally mundane.

Inaho seemed to thrive on the simple work, and started cracking jokes and making lame puns to pass the time. Migaki seemed to be as annoyed with the chores as Harry, and was very verbal in his complaints, claiming his talent was being wasted.

Harry kept Tenzou's comment in mind and stayed quiet, grudgingly doing his share of the work because he knew Uchiha Itachi had started out this way, too. Everyone started out this way, from the class clowns to the prodigies.

That didn't stop him from glowering when he returned home from a particularly tedious afternoon spent getting rid of the gophers in Tazanuki-san's yard to find his brother had finally completed his last mission.

The teen had a knowing look in his eyes and amusement in his voice when he asked how Harry liked being a contributing member of Konoha's society.

Harry had dirt smudged on his face and sores on his hands from the heavy tools they'd had to use. "We spent the last three hours digging up gophers," he supplied dryly, expression sour, "Why do they even give us these kinds of missions?"

Even though Kakashi was wearing his standard cloth mask, Harry could tell he was smirking by the barely contained amusement in his voice. "People don't have time to do them themselves, so they want to hire ninja to do it for them," he replied easily, "The village needs the money, so it accepts the requests and gives those jobs to the shinobi with the least experience. Besides, it's a good opportunity to see how the teams will behave together."

Harry, of course, knew that—or had guessed something like it, so he let his anger slide away and collapsed on the couch, across from his brother, "Yeah, yeah… How long until we get a real mission?"

Kakashi shrugged, idly scratching the head of the small, sleeping pug draped limply across his lap, "Depends on the team. Most teams are assigned their first C-Ranked mission after a month or so."

Harry tried to imagine doing menial tasks like this every day for the next three weeks and almost despaired. The missions themselves he could stand, but he wasn't sure if he could take three more weeks of his teammates' behavior.

"Harii," Kakashi started, breaking the ten-year-old out of his thoughts several minutes later—which was just as well as they'd turned from self-pitying to ways he could get back at Inaho and Migaki by irritating them as much as they'd done to him.

The older boy didn't continue, though, and Harry glanced at him with a small frown. Kakashi didn't talk a lot, but he usually didn't stop in the middle of saying something, either.

At last, the older boy continued, voice unusually awkward, "Sorry I missed your graduation."

Harry blinked, then shrugged, "That's okay—Tenzou came."

Kakashi fell silent again, although Harry thought it seemed like there was more he wanted to say.

"… Congratulations," the seventeen-year-old said at last, "On making Genin."

Harry smiled—it wasn't often that his older brother praised him, "Thanks."

"Don't start getting arrogant, now," the teen said with a snort, "You still have a ways to go before you'll be anything more than a rookie."

Harry didn't have a chance to protest the remark because something was tossed in his direction and he was too distracted for a moment to say anything. Bemused, Harry sorted through the fabric bundle he'd caught and held it up for inspection. His eyes widened in surprise, "It's a mask!"

He looked up to find his brother pointedly not looking at him—instead, the older boy's dark eye was locked on the dozing dog in his lap as he scratched its ear, "Obviously."

Harry flushed a little, "I mean, like yours! It's…"

"A tradition," Kakashi supplied dryly, his hand finally stilling, although he still didn't look at his brother, "It's stupid, anyway. You don't have to wear it if you don't want to."

"Are you kidding?!" Harry demanded incredulously, immediately reaching up to pull off his hitai-ate, giving him enough room to pull the mask over his face—it smeared a smudge of dirt across his forehead. The boy spent a minute adjusting it awkwardly, and when he didn't think he could find a more comfortable position, he retied his forehead protector and looked at his brother expectantly. "So?" He asked as the teen stared at him dully with one, half-lidded eye, "How do I look?"

Kakashi continued to stare at him for a moment before his eye curved slightly with a smile, "Silly."

Harry's mouth dropped open in surprise and indignation, stretching the mask strangely. "Silly?!" He repeated incredulously, the word oddly muffled by his new mask. It was weird enough that Kakashi had even said that word at all, but at a time like this?! The teen wasn't paying him attention any more, returning to the petting of his dog once more.

"Oi! What do you mean silly?" Harry demanded unhappily, cheeks hot with embarrassment.

The teen looked across at him lazily, "Hmm… how do I say this in a way you'll understand…?"

Harry frowned at him, crossing his arms indignantly.

Kakashi nodded as though just coming to a decision. "That mask," he enunciated clearly, "Looks ridiculous on you, Harii-san."

"But—it does not!" Harry argued, "You're just… Why?"

"What do you think a shinobi wears a mask for, Harii?" Kakashi questioned idly, looking away again.

Harry blinked, then frowned, "That's obvious, isn't it? To hide his face."

"For what purpose?" Kakashi pressed.

Harry's frown deepened, "So no one can tell who he is."

Kakashi raised an eyebrow, glancing sidelong at his brother, "Is that so?"

Harry looked up at him and flushed slightly. "Well, it doesn't exactly work when you have other distinctive features," he grumbled—like white hair.

"The mask is a distinction between human and shinobi," Kakashi supplied dryly, "The early Hatake used it as an indication of their purpose. They would wear a mask only when they intended to kill someone, to remove their humanity and make themselves into a faceless weapon. When they removed the mask, they would return to their human selves and forsake the murderer their mask symbolized. Whenever a Hatake was killed, his mask was removed from his body and burned in a ritual meant to cleanse the man's spirit of the shinobi's sins." His father hadn't been wearing a mask when he died—it was impossible to absolve him of that sin. Not that Kakashi believed in the old legend.

Harry stared at him intently, taking his words in. Kakashi rarely spoke about their clan, or the past at all, so on those rare occasions when he did, Harry didn't want to miss a thing.

"The mask," Kakashi continued, "Is used to hide your emotions and make you inhuman." He looked at Harry again, "Even while you wear that mask, your emotions are easy to read in your eyes."

Harry frowned, "But you show emotions with your eyes, Kakashi-niisan."

The teen's eye curved in a smile, "Do I?"

"Yes!" Harry insisted, "Like right now, even!"

"… Not all masks are only what you see on the surface," the Jounin replied enigmatically.

"… What?"

Kakashi ignored his question and pet the dog in silence for several minutes before he spoke again, "Until you can learn to mask the emotions in your eyes, that mask will be nothing more than a ridiculous looking fashion accessory."

Harry frowned thoughtfully, wondering just what he'd gotten himself into when he accepted his hitai-ate.

It was not encouraging when Harry ran into Tenzou after a mission three days later and the older boy burst out laughing. Inaho had laughed, too, the first day Harry wore his mask on a mission—Migaki had said it was stupid and left it at that. Harry had ignored them because they were always annoying, anyway.

The ten-year-old pulled down his mask and glared until the laughter had simmered down to the occasional chuckle.

"Sorry, sorry," Tenzou apologized flippantly, "It's just… like that…" He nearly laughed again, but covered it with a cough at the murderous expression on the ten-year-old's face. "You look just like Kakashi-senpai when I first met him," Tenzou finished, grinning in amusement, "Or, you would if you tilted your hitai-ate down."

The fourteen-year-old suited actions to words, tugging at the left side of Harry's forehead protector down over his face.

Glowering, the boy shoved it back up. "I do not," he groused, "Niisan's hair sticks up more than mine." As though doubting his own words, Harry quickly flattened down his unruly hair a little, causing his friend to snicker again.

"So, how goes it in the land of Genin?" Tenzou asked casually, starting to walk again.

Harry made a noise of annoyance, "My teammates are horrible," he grumbled.

"You'll get used to them," Tenzou assured him with the air of someone who'd already been down the same road. A distant look crossed his face as he added, "The first time you see them risking their lives for you, that's when you really start to come together."

Harry grunted in understanding, not completely convinced that either of his teammates would stick their necks out for him.

"Are you going to be home for a while?" Harry changed the subject.

The teen shrugged, "Probably. A few days, at least."

Harry wondered when he'd get to go on a mission that lasted several days instead of several hours—when he'd get to actually leave the village for a mission.

"Do you want to go to the training grounds?" Harry asked, because he honestly wasn't able to think of anything else to do.

Tenzou shrugged. "Sure," he agreed easily, turning in that direction. Casually, he continued, "You know, with how much we train together, you should really be calling me sensei."

Harry snorted, "You wish. Besides, Tenzou-sensei sounds stupid."

"I think you mean that it sounds cool," Tenzou corrected mildly.

Harry shot him a look, "That might have worked on me four years ago, but I don't fall for things like that anymore."

"You believed me when I told you to say fascinating instead of disturbing," Tenzou commented, "That wasn't that long ago."

Harry scowled, "You know, a real friend wouldn't try to trick his friends into saying the wrong word."

"Don't blame it on me," Tenzou said, "You're the one gullible enough to believe it."

Harry didn't reply—of course, the only reason he ever believed it was because even after four years of speaking the language, he still occasionally made mistakes. Usually, he knew he'd made a mistake, but Tenzou was good at convincing him he had when he hadn't.

"I'm just trying to build up your confidence," Tenzou said abruptly, "If you're confident enough to know you haven't messed up even when I say you have, then you'll be as good as any native speaker."

Harry didn't buy it for an instant, "You just do it because you think it's funny."

Tenzou shrugged—what could he say to that? It was funny.

Eventually they were assigned a C-Ranked mission—an easy errand in the southern part of Fire Country where they'd had to escort a wagon of food from a remote farming village that Harry still couldn't remember the name of to a nearby port town. The most exciting part had been when Inaho was almost gored by a wild boar. It was still way better than cutting grass and scrubbing graffiti off walls.

They arrived back at Konoha early in the morning, after five days on the road, and Hitsuya-sensei gave them the rest of the day off. Harry had checked at home, but Kakashi wasn't there—he wasn't surprised. He took a shower and a nap and then headed outside again, to wander aimlessly in the hopes that something would spark his interest.

He paused outside the bookstore, looking through the windows at the newest releases. There was a new Edogawa book and he was considering going in and buying it when someone ran into him.

Harry stumbled slightly, unprepared for it, and turned to his right, hearing a soft, "Oof," accompanying a thump as whoever-it-was landed on the ground.

A smile immediately crossed the ten-year-old's lips when his eyes landed on a small blond child—he tried to smother the smile immediately, schooling his features into an appropriately scolding expression as the tiny boy looked up.

"Uzumaki Naruto," he greeted with pretended disdain, "What are you doing out here by yourself? Yorou-san will chastise you."

The three-year-old—"Almost four!" Naruto had insisted last time he'd commented on his age—didn't even have the decency to look guilty as he allowed the older boy to help him to his feet.

"I saw a neat lizard and followed it," he explained as though it were the most natural thing in the world—but he was three, so maybe it was. "Besides, Yorou-basan doesn't care, I'm big enough to look after myself now! I'm—"

"Almost four," Harry intoned in time with the boy, chuckling as Naruto looked flustered. "Naruto-kun, even four years old isn't old enough to start looking after yourself. You should go back home."

The boy made a face at the idea, and Harry couldn't really blame him—Yorou-san, who'd been looking after the young blond for almost a year now, was an annoying woman with a loud, shrill voice and a tendency to talk perpetually in a condescending manner. Harry felt the temptation to wear earplugs every time he went to visit Naruto. She also had an annoying habit of referring to the ten-year-old as "Kakashi-kun" no matter how many times he reminded her he was Harry and not Kakashi.

"Can't I stay with you?" The boy asked, putting on a pout, "You haven't come to visit in a long time!"

Harry scratched the back of his head guiltily—it had been almost two months since he'd seen Naruto last. He hadn't planned on the large gap between visits, but at first he had put it off because of the upcoming graduation tests, and then he'd needed time to settle in with his team, and then things became so busy that he hadn't even thought of it. Before he could relent, he heard a gasp and looked down again.

Naruto had stepped back with one leg and was pointing up at him, eyes wide and mouth agape. "You have one of those forehead protectors!" He shouted, "Lemme see!"

Harry rolled his eyes, but reached back to untie it and pass it down to the child, who held the band in his hands almost reverently as he stared at the symbol carved into the metal plate. Harry felt a bit strange not wearing it—he'd only had it for a little more than a month, but he'd been wearing it every day since then and its current absence felt about as conspicuous as if he'd taken off his shirt.

Naruto looked up at him again, blue eyes wide, "You're a ninja now, Harii-san? Really?"

Harry smiled in confirmation, "Really—now give it back, shrimp."

With some reluctance, the tiny boy held his headband out again and Harry returned it to its proper place.

"Do you do really cool stuff like saving people and stuff?" Naruto asked excitedly.

Harry thought for a moment before offering, "If you want, I'll tell you all about being a ninja over some ramen."

The little boy lit up—Yorou-san made him ramen for dinner if he'd been good during the day, Harry knew, and it had quickly become the impressionable boy's favorite. "Yeah!" He agreed with far too much enthusiasm for such a small body.

Smiling fondly, Harry led the way to Ichiraku's Ramen and put in their orders before giving into Naruto's pleas for a story. And if the wild boar turned into an S-class missing-nin, and the wagon of food turned into a princess riding on an elephant, Harry didn't think it did too much harm.

Migaki feinted to the right and came at Harry in a low dive, but the ten-year-old flipped over him, spinning around in midair to face him again when he landed. Migaki, still crouched from his landing, threw a pair of kunai in the younger boy's direction, and Harry easily parried with a kunai of his own, knocking them out of the air as he leapt into a kick.

The eleven-year-old rolled out of the way and Harry hit the ground with a spray of dirt, rolling forward to avoid the shuriken his teammate aimed at him.

Fighting Migaki was always interesting because the older boy never seemed to use the same tactics twice in one fight. He wasn't particularly fast or strong—even Harry could beat him in a match of brute strength—but he was unpredictable. Unfortunately for him, Harry caught on to his style quickly, and was learning to guess at his teammate's odd moves.

Migaki was already moving again, trying to hem the ten-year-old in with wires, when Harry got to his feet. Harry jumped straight up and sprang off of one of the branches high above him, launching over the older boy's trap. He let out a handful of shuriken, forcing Migaki to dodge right into his line of attack.

The two boys clashed, Harry swung a kick which Migaki caught with a grunt of effort before swinging a punch of his own—Harry blocked his hand before it reached his groin and twisted his arm to catch the other boy's wrist, throwing his own punch. Migaki pushed his leg away, quickly raising his arm to block the second attack, and then gravity caught up with them both as Harry's decent led him past the tree branch Migaki had been perched on.

They fell, tumbling over each other as they each attempted to gain the advantage as well as prepare for the inevitable collision with the ground. Migaki landed first, using the momentum of the fall to roll over his shoulder—Harry followed, grunting as he forced the roll to continue until he was able to establish his position on top.

Migaki attempted to kick the younger boy off, but Harry pinned down his legs effectively, struggling against the other Genin's grip on his arm, which still hadn't loosened.

Using that battle as a distraction, Harry let go of Migaki's struggling arm and managed to land a punch before Migaki reacted to the sudden change.

With a glare, Migaki let go of Harry's other arm, using one arm to block and the other to reach for his kunai pouch—Harry was quick to reach for his own and an instant later they were at each others throats. The tip of Harry's black blade was tense against the hollow of the other's throat, having been thrust straight towards it. Migaki had come at him with a slash, intending to threaten his teammate with the whole edge of his blade, but Harry had brought his arm up to intercept it, protecting his throat at the cost of a cut on his forearm.

"Alright—that's enough!" Hitsuya-sensei called out.

Harry pulled back, off of his teammate, and sat on the ground, trying to catch his breath. Migaki sat up, rubbing his throat as he heaved for air, adrenaline slowly draining out of his body.

"Good job, Harii," the man praised, walking towards them, "That was good thinking to get out of Migaki's trap." He turned to the other boy with a frown, "Migaki, you need to be less cautious—you aren't going to win if you're afraid of taking risks."

The light-haired boy sullenly ran an arm across his eyes, rubbing away sweat. "I'm not afraid," he retorted, "Just pragmatic. What's the use of letting Harii cut me up when it's just training?" He stared pointedly at the cut Harry was examining.

Harry answered before his teacher could get to it. "You have to treat every practice as if it were real and your life is really in danger," he stated, "Otherwise you'll form bad habits that will endanger you more in a real fight."

Hitsuya-sensei nodded, "Right, you need to give it your all in training, or you're not going to last long when we start getting more dangerous missions."

Migaki shot his teacher a dry look, "I think I can handle myself against a couple of petty thieves, sensei."

Harry sighed—it seemed like his teammates planned to stay Genin forever. Migaki was, of course, referring to their mission to Kuronagai last week, when the three of them had been waylaid in the market while their teacher was working out a few final details with their client. The thieves had had knives, but hadn't particularly known how to use them, and even the Genin had been able to take out all six of them by themselves.

The police force had thanked them profusely when they turned them in later.

"One of these days you're going to be fighting against more than wild animals and street robbers," Hitsuya-sensei pointed out disdainfully, "You're not ready to go against a real shinobi, yet. That's why you three won't be participating in the Chuunin exams coming up."

Harry wasn't particularly surprised at the announcement—Tenzou had told him about the exams yesterday and asked if his team was participating. Since Hitsuya-sensei hadn't mentioned it, Harry had thought it unlikely, and Tenzou had agreed.

Migaki had a protest on his lips—"I could fight other Genin!"—but Harry interrupted before the sentence was fully formed, "Where's Inaho?"

Hitsuya-sensei sighed, "He disappeared a little while ago, presumably to practice his Suiton Technique."

Harry nodded in understanding—in other words, Inaho had gone off to sulk again. He wasn't a bad fighter, he had all the basic techniques down solidly, and the strength to back them up, but he lacked Migaki's creativity, so it was easy to predict and counter his moves. He didn't expect creativity, either, so it was easy to surprise him. Apparently, he'd been near the top of his class in form at the Academy, and took it hard when he was beaten again and again by his teammates.

"That's it for today," Hitsuya-sensei stated, "Migaki, take ten laps around the village, and remind yourself why it's sometimes important to sacrifice small injuries for an overall victory, then you can go home."

Migaki groaned and shot Harry another glare before he set out running.

"Harii," Hitsuya-sensei added, "You take twelve laps—after you bandage your arm."

Migaki wasn't quite far enough not to hear, and snickered.

"What!" Harry blurted in protest before he could stop himself.

"The sooner you start, the sooner you can go home," Hitsuya-sensei pointed out. At Harry's disgruntled expression the man added, "It's not a punishment, Harii. Running is just another opportunity to improve yourself—be grateful that I'm giving you this opportunity."

Running around the village didn't seem like an opportunity to Harry. He could do it any old time—of course, he didn't, because it was boring. He quickly and grumpily pulled a small roll of bandages from his pouch and wound it a few times around his arm, breaking off the extra with his teeth before tying it off. Reluctantly, he followed after Migaki, not bothering to complain to his teacher. Hitsuya-sensei wouldn't listen—he seemed to think young boys should like to run.

Inaho joined them near the beginning of their third lap, looking distinctly annoyed. "I wish sensei wouldn't provide me with so much opportunity," he muttered to his teammates as he drew even with them.

Harry couldn't help the grin that crossed his lips, "How much opportunity did he give you?"

"Fifteen laps," Inaho grumbled, then added in a falsely bright voice, "Lucky me!"

Even Migaki chuckled before they all lapsed into silence again, conserving energy as much as they could for the task at hand.

They were halfway through their ninth lap—Inaho's seventh—when all of a sudden they were forced to evade a barrage of kunai. They drew to an abrupt stop, weapons already in their hands as they faced whatever new threat had stopped them—their teacher's idea of a fun new game, probably.

"I finally got your attention," a bored voice called out before the figure appeared, "I've been following you for a while now, but it seems you didn't notice."

Harry frowned in confusion, his brother had never interrupted him in the middle of training before. His teammates looked between Harry and the white-haired teen, making quick connections in their minds.

"I didn't know you had a brother!" Inaho exclaimed, looking at Harry as though he'd committed an A-class offense by not divulging every detail of his personal life.

Migaki rolled his eyes. "Idiot," he grumbled, "Haven't you ever heard of Hatake Kakashi? Sharingan no Kakashi?"

Inaho opened his mouth even before he completely took in his teammate's words. His mouth stayed open then and he gawked at the older boy silently.

Harry sighed, not sure which of his teammates to be more embarrassed of—it had been only recently that his brother's name had become famous; a few months before he'd graduated Kakashi had proudly presented Harry with a picture of the newest addition to the Shinobi "Bingo" Book, which had turned out to be a somewhat unflattering description of the teen.

"Kakashi-niisan, why were you following us?" He asked, pushing aside his teammates' reactions.

Kakashi shoved his hands into his pockets and answered casually, "When I was filing my report earlier, the Hokage asked to speak with you."

Harry blinked—what did the Hokage want with him? His eyes widened, maybe he wanted Harry to enter the Chuunin exams with another team?

Migaki frowned. "We're in the middle of laps," he pointed out.

Kakashi looked at him, his dark, half-lidded eye conveying the feeling that he was looking at the dumbest person in the world. "I… see," he said slowly, "And these… laps are more important than a meeting with Hokage-sama…?"

Migaki flushed and didn't reply—Inaho snickered at his teammate's expense.

"I'll finish later," Harry told his teammates, having no intention to do so as he moved towards his brother.

Kakashi turned, leading the way towards town, and Harry followed, jogging a few steps to catch up.

"What does the Hokage want to see me about?" Harry asked when he caught up a minute later.

Kakashi raised an eyebrow, looking back at him, "Do I look like Sandaime-sama?"

"No," Harry replied glumly.

"Then wait and ask him," Kakashi supplied.

Their walk to the Hokage Tower took place mostly in silence, and Kakashi led the younger boy up to the Hokage's office, the tallest point in the whole village. Harry had been there many times before, but he'd only been summoned once, and he hadn't been back in several years.

"I've brought him, Hokage-sama," Kakashi drawled as he led the way into the room without pause.

Harry shuffled nervously in after him.

The Hokage's office was very much like he remembered it to be, the few times he'd been inside while the Sandaime was in charge. Only, this time, there was one thing that was very out of place. That was the large, flame-plumed bird perched on the back of a chair—an ANBU member stood on either side of it, obviously feeling threatened by its presence.

The Sandaime nodded in acknowledgement of Kakashi's words, "Thank you, Kakashi." He stood, walking around his desk while keeping a respectable distance from the strange bird, "Harii-kun, I am afraid I need you to do something for me."

Harry stared at the Hokage in surprise. "Me?" He repeated, "What?" He cast a nervous glance at the large bird, hoping it didn't have anything to do with that.

But Harry's luck had never been particularly good.

"That bird you see has something in its possession," the Hokage explained, "And it refuses to give it to anyone other than yourself."

Harry blinked again, taking a second look at the bird. It let out a musical trill, as though it recognized him and knew what they were talking about, then it stuck out a leg, large, cruel looking talons at the end. The ANBU stiffened at the action, stances tightening further, but they held themselves back from attacking.

The bird, Harry saw, had something tied to its leg. He looked uncertainly at the Hokage. He was beginning to think he hadn't been summoned here to talk about the Chuunin exams at all.

"Go ahead, Harii," the old man encouraged, "It will let you take it."

Still a little wary, Harry approached the bird, tense. As he drew close, he thought he could see the gleam of one of the ANBU's eyes, watching him, but he couldn't be sure for the masks that they wore. He hoped they would intercede if the bird decided his hand would make a good dinner. Turning his attention back to the bird, Harry took a deep breath and reached out.

The bird stood quite still as he swiftly untied the envelope. Harry backed away quickly and the bird trilled again, lowered its leg, and stretching its wings briefly before settling again on the chair.

Still staring at the bird, Harry held the envelope out to the Hokage, wondering why he'd been needed to take the package. It hadn't been particularly difficult.

"Thank you, Harii," the Hokage said, taking the package and immediately beginning to scan it for traps or harmful jutsu. "Usagi-san, Tori-san, please see this bird down to the falconry for food and drink."

The ANBU looked reluctant, but the one with the rabbit-painted mask approached warily and held out an armored arm. The bird, seeming to understand, hopped over to it, and within minutes the two guards had left, shutting the door behind them.

"Good, now we are alone," the Hokage turned back to the ten-year-old and held the envelope out again, "Harii-kun, I believe this is for you."

Harry blinked at him in surprise, "What do you mean, for me?"

"It has your name on it, after all," the Hokage said.

Harry looked at the envelope in surprise to see that his name was written on the back, although not in the way he was used to seeing it. The first line was printed in English, a language he'd seldom used in the last five years, and he almost didn't recognize it at all. Three lines of text in scrawled kana stood below.

Mr. H. Potter

c/o Sandaime Hokage

Hokage Tower

Konohagakure, Fire Country

"What…?" Harry reluctantly took the envelope, staring at it uncertainly. He'd never received a letter before and had no idea who would be writing him. The only people he knew were those here in the village.

Kakashi seemed equally unsettled, "Hokage-sama, what is this about?"

"Hmm…" The old man mused as Harry turned the letter over, looking at the small crest of arms set in the seal on the front. "I have some idea, but there is no way to be certain until Harii-kun reads the letter."

Harry looked between his brother and the Hokage uncertainly before breaking the seal and pulling out the yellowish paper stuffed inside. He unfolded it carefully and started to read. The first few words were in fancy English lettering, and Harry skipped gratefully down to the more familiar kana, penned in green underneath.

Dear Mr. Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on September 1. We await your reply by phoenix by no later than July 31. Fawkes will be more than happy to deliver your return letter.

Yours sincerely,

Harry stopped there as the lettering went back to English. He frowned up at the Hokage in bemusement. "What's that supposed to mean?" He asked, "What's this…" He looked down at the paper again and pronounced laboriously, "Hoguwaatsu…?"

"Hogwarts," the Hokage corrected lightly, "A school for… wizards, I believe. That man said he would be expecting you to return on your eleventh birthday."

"Return?" He repeated in confusion, "Return…" His eyes widened, "To England?!"

"That seems like a logical assumption," the Sandaime agreed.

"What?" Harry demanded, almost frantic by now, "No! I don't want to leave! Kakashi-niisan…!" He turned to look at his brother imploringly.

Kakashi was frowning slightly, the visible eye over his mask irritated and grave, "Hokage-sama, Harii is a Hatake, and a member of this village. We can't let them simply take him away."

Harry looked from his brother to the Hokage hopefully.

"Yes, that is true, Kakashi," the Hokage agreed reasonably, "However, going to this school may be for the best for Harii-kun. As far as I am aware, the school teaches young wizards to control their magic, and I believe we are all aware of the trouble Harii has had with that."

Harry gaped—he was being sent away because of something he couldn't control? "I'll try harder!" He promised, "I… won't do any more magic, I promise!"

Besides, nothing (big) had happened in the last four months, not since he'd accidentally gotten rid of all of Kenji-sensei's chalk during a particularly boring lecture—they'd found the chalk on the roof later. Sure, there was the occasional kunai that strayed off its mark when flying towards him, and there was the fact that he hadn't had his hair cut in five years because it hadn't gotten any longer, but those were little things he doubted the Hokage would have noticed.

Kakashi glanced at him. "Harii-san, do not make promises you can't keep," he warned, then turned back to the Hokage, "It is true that Harii's magic has been troublesome in the past, but it has also been useful. I don't think that's a valid reason to send him away."

"Calm down, now, both of you," the Hokage instructed with a weary sigh, "I am not sending anyone away. Harii, this is an opportunity for you to learn about your mother's bloodline, but I am not going to force you to go. No one will force you to go, it is your choice entirely."

Harry relaxed a little. "So I don't have to?" He persisted, "What if I just wanted to try it… could I come back?"

"Always," the Hokage agreed, "Harii-kun, you are a member of this village, you are a part of us, and you are one of my important shinobi."

Kakashi frowned, "What would this schooling mean for Harii's training? He's only just become a Genin, it would be difficult for him to keep his skills honed if he were to be out of the village for the majority of the year."

The Hokage nodded gravely, "Yes, that is also true," he agreed, "Harii-kun, these are the things you must take into account. On the one hand, if you travel to this school you will learn about your mother's legacy to you. On the other hand, chances are you will never achieve a rank above Genin, not for many years, at any rate. Leaving now may well mark an end to your career as a shinobi, it is not an easy thing to keep up your training on your own, at your level."

Harry stared at the letter in his hands, wondering why his life had suddenly become so complicated. He wouldn't have even thought going to this school would be an option—he was a Genin, a shinobi of Konoha, and he had his duty to his village. But it seemed like the Hokage was willing to let him leave if he wanted to—was he that inconsequential?

Even though he'd been working hard these last five years, even though he'd graduated a year early, after everything he'd done, he still couldn't measure up to someone like his brother. Or Uchiha Itachi. Maybe he would be more useful in England, as a wizard.

But then he'd be alone again. Kakashi would never go with him—and he doubted the Hokage would let an important shinobi like his brother leave, even if he wanted to. Kakashi was the only family he had, and all of his friends were here—Tenzou and Naruto, especially.

He didn't know much about real wizards, other than what he gleaned from the bouts of accidental magic he suffered. The boy's eyes darkened—there was one other thing he knew about wizards. On August the twenty-third, almost five years ago, wizards had entered his house, slaughtered his relatives, and left him for dead.

He hadn't realized they were wizards at the time of the attack—he hadn't known that wizards were real, then. Somewhere inside, Harry thought, he'd always known magic and wizards were real, but consciously he'd rejected the possibility because of the strong feelings of his aunt and uncle. They were wizards, though—it was the only explanation for how those events occurred that made any sense.

Harry was probably the only person in the world who remembered the three Dursleys any longer, and even his memories had grown hazy with time. But as awful as he knew they'd been to him, they hadn't deserved to die like they had. To burn in that cursed fire as he still occasionally saw in his dreams.

Looking up from the letter, Harry cleared his face of all indecision and spoke firmly, "I want to stay here and be a shinobi, Hokage-sama."

The old man smiled just a bit and inclined his head, "Very well." He produced a sheet of paper and a pen from his desk, "You will need to draft a reply, briefly explaining your decision, but I do not foresee it being a problem. It was decided, when you were brought to me, that the choice would be yours."

Harry nodded in understanding and stepped forward to take the pen, carefully writing a note to seal his fate.

I will not be attending Hogwarts. I have already chosen my career, and have no desire to be involved in the wizard world.
- Hatake Harii

Finished, he handed the note to the Hokage. The man looked it over briefly and nodded in approval.

"That will be all, Harii-kun," he stated, "I will see that this note gets sent. Konoha is grateful to have you with us, still."

Smiling, Harry bowed to the man. "Thank you, Hokage-sama," he replied politely before following his brother out.

"… Are you sure about this, Harii?" Kakashi asked as they reached street level again.

Harry glanced at him in confusion, "What do you mean? Of course I'm sure. I'm a shinobi—protecting Konoha is my duty. It's what I want to do."

"Mm…" The older boy glanced back at him, "But, you know… if you'd taken Hokage-sama up on his offer, you could have gotten away from your annoying teammates."

Harry stared at him blankly a moment, then laughed, "I should've thought of that! Now I'll have to be stuck with them until I'm a Chuunin!"

"Probably longer," Kakashi intoned gravely, "Annoying teammates usually turn into annoying friends that you just can't get rid of."

"It could be worse," Harry managed as his snickers subsided, "At least they don't wear bright jumpsuits and run around making proclamations about Youth and Spring."

Kakashi pointedly ignored the comment.