Take Thirteen: Oracle ("Your life will be killer!")
What tough luck for those wizards.
The first conclusion he came to early on in this scuffle was that witnesses weren't much of a problem during the dead of night. If he wanted to spit a water-based jutsu at his enemy's face after luring them into a false sense of security by playing dead, there was no one around to judge him.
Here? The jumpy wizards would likely panic and try to resuscitate him.
The second conclusion was that office supplies made really great impromptu weapons. He just might consider adding a staple gun – next to those stomach-curdling blood replenishing potions – to his deadly arsenal…
Impassive was the best way to put it when he watched the enemy drop to the ground like a sack of potatoes, rendered unconscious. A flying paperweight to the back of the head could do that to a person. He hoped the owner of said paperweight wouldn't miss it but to be perfectly truthful, it had a rather ugly design anyway, especially now that a large dent deformed its side.
Noticing that they were one enemy short, Remus praised belatedly, surprise curbing the words, "…Good aim, Mr. Hatake."
The ex-Professor quickly shot a spell over the desk they were both ducked under but missed by inches if the sound of an exploding flower vase was anything to go by. Immobile, Davy was uncomfortably scrunched away under another bureau across from them, trying to remain inconspicuous. His rapidly darting eyes, from Kakashi to Remus to their surroundings, seemed to speak volumes about his nerves.
During the fray, someone had shrunk the dividers to the cubicle maze. With no more walls acting as screens, they were stuck ducking under desks and hiding behind cabinets. The good that this brought about though was that they had clear visual of the ten intruders – four of which were down for the count already.
"Thanks." Kakashi opened the bottommost drawer of the desk they were shielded behind and gathered the marble ink wells. Groping blindly along the surface of the desk, he felt for the – there! – three-pronged candle holder he eyed earlier and hefted it with his right hand. "What do you say about wreaking havoc, neh, Mr. Lupin?"
Lupin paused, eyeing his choice of weaponry. "Are you sure?"
"Well." Experimenting the weight of the candelabra, Kakashi jabbed the air slowly in mock attack and shrugged, "Sure."
A half-burnt candle that was attached to his candelabra fell and rolled away pathetically. In retrospect, that probably mirrored Lupin's confidence in him right now.
"Because there are three of them approaching… " Remus glanced at Davy – the poor sports personality was shivering away in his fetal position with his wand held loosely by limp fingers – before turning to him, "Can you take one?"
Kakashi thought his judgment sound. There were a few stray radio tower office workers still stuck here, some distracting the enemies while others were incapacitated by a well-placed stunner. And unfortunately, Davy was like a bum leg in this fight, too overcome by fear to help effectively. Overall, he concluded that they were not fit for battle. Lupin however, he had honed reflexes, paces ahead of most other wizards here and maybe even some of the Hogwarts faculty members. Now that the man wasn't teaching at Hogwarts, what did he do for a living anyway? Why did Dumbledore choose him as a guide? This was definitely something to consider after the battle.
But back to the question at hand: could he take one of the enemies? Yes.
And how? "Would death by candlestick be too gruesome for wizards?" Grasping tightly onto the handle of said candlestick, Kakashi said simply, "I can try."
It seemed that was the minimal answer his wizard guide was looking for, judging by the way he steeled himself, stiff shoulders and wand wrist tense. "On my count then." Remus observed the three sets of booted feet moving closer to their location, each step solid on the Pathway of Desires.
Kakashi dove out of the desk, pitching an ink well at an enemy wand; as the stone object soared, it was brought down by a spell, shattering outwards like a shrapnel mine. Lupin waved his wand in a pointed movement and a shimmering shield slid smoothly around them, protecting them from the flying shards. In the next instant, his battle partner sent a wave of bluebell flames that appeared to have caught their enemies off-guard as they ducked away, darting away like startled fish.
Without prompting, he went after the lone enemy while Lupin dueled the pair. He took a running leap, slamming the candelabra in his right hand into the temple of his opponent.
Rolling into the fall and keeping low, he crouched over his opponent whilst striking a looming silhouette, assessing the situation. Spider line cracks flitted across the surface of the mask where his choice weapon landed but it was apparent his enemy was still lucid; if the shaking hands were anything to go by, he could tell that his opponent was only mildly stunned and not unconscious. Bringing the candelabra up in a pre-emptive striking motion, he paused, senses tingling in warning. There was something…At the periphery of his blind side…
The heat was overwhelming. Raising a hand up in reflex to shield his face, Kakashi faced the magical spell head-on, trusting that Remus' counter shield will protect him against Confringo; if it didn't, he was still reassured by his own ace in the hole, dominant hand poised in potential energy, livewire chakra held rigorously in check.
The orange flames greedily sucked in the oxygen that enveloped their safe haven before it just as quickly evaporated, leaving a telltale aftermath of black scorch marks and cinders. In the next heartbeat, dark dust and heavy smoke clearing laminar, Kakashi spied another enemy slipping past Remus and flying towards him, wand arm making aggressive slashing movements.
A torrent of needles, thin and composed of what appeared to be a metal compound, sliced through air. Quick calculation confirmed what he suspected; they were aimed for his head and heart.
Avoiding the attack with finesse, he ducked around the corner of another bureau, leaving his first, dazed enemy on the ground as the second stalked towards him, purposeful. It was clear that he was the target – the fact that the spells used against him meant to viciously maim definitely clued him in. While they merely incapacitated the office workers with stunners, they seemed ready to decapitate him.
So much for diplomatic immunity.
The wooden desk that shielded him took the brunt of the next spell, splinters chipping off near his left ear. Gripping the silver candlestick, he listened for the footfalls, measuring the distance from his position…
"No jutsu. Too many witnesses. Maybe. But." Fingers flickered. "Yes. That might work."
Decision made, he channeled an aura of lightning chakra into the metal of the candelabra, a feeling of resistance and flow tugging at his pathways, before he darted into the open and quickly aimed his weapon, letting it soar towards the wizard. Spotting the immediate flinch in body language, Kakashi played in concert with the distraction, moving in fast to pin him down.
A vice grip around the wrists limited the enemy's movement as they struggled and using his bony knees, he jabbed sensitive pressure points on straining legs. His opponent snarled, feral, cloak pooling around shoulders, fabric tangled in tense arms. Smashing the hands in his grip none too gently, he forced the wizard to release their deadly mahogany magic wand, sensing it roll away-
-air was forced out his lungs, diaphragm aching against the attack. Involuntarily gasping, the strong silent knockback jinx flung him off and away from his opponent, much like what a Hyuuga gentle fist was capable of doing if one had the chance of acquainting it to his chest. Honed reflexes took over, a muscle memory from a different life, when he caught himself in midair, managing to land with a flip and hop.
The mask shielding the enemy's face was haunting in the cold sterile light; the wraith shifted onto their knees, crouching, body language speaking of wariness and discomfort.
Rubbing his chest whilst resting on his haunches, he considered the assailant, gauging the possibilities. The wand had rolled off to the side during their scuffle, nestled close to the skirt of a desk, meaning that the wraith was temporarily disarmed; however, simultaneously, he was divested of office supplies and there was no possible way he could get away with using kunai without facing questions. In terms of hand-to-hand, he was confident that he had an advantage over the wizards but his highest priority was to not (so blatantly) reveal himself as a shinobi and like kunai, displaying peak physicality would lead to questions…So. An impasse.
"What to do…"
He leaned forward, resting his weight onto his left hand as his feet shifted from heel to toes. The wizard growled, inching their way to the wand, movements minute and careful. That was when the cloak shifted and revealed a hidden…
"Is that a…?"
Right eye zoning in onto the glint of metal at the waist of his enemy, a sword hilt was visible behind the concealing material of the cloak-
The sudden starburst of jade light exploded across his field of vision and the enemy stumbled, knocked back down onto his knees painfully. Tracing the spell to its origins, he saw Davy with his quaking wand pointed at the enemy wizard.
Perhaps the Quidditch commentator wasn't as consumed with fear as he initially thought.
Using the distraction to his advantage, he leapt towards his enemy, a chakra-laced fist drawn back (oh the tricks he picked up from Gai). The enemy saw his forward propulsion, staggered onto his feet, and reached out for the wand in concentration, arms straining out for moments before the wand jilted and jumped into their hand by wordless compulsion. A garbled echo of rage formed on their lips, mirrored by the equally quick violent wand movement, as magic was fired in his direction. The aim was true and the needle spell pierced air faster than he could move.
Or so the enemy assumed.
If he was an ordinary opponent, the enemy would have won, his lungs stabbed through like a pincushion, but because he was as unordinary as one could be in wizard terms, he turned the tables with a swift calculated incline of a foot. The enemy was predictable even without the Sharingan and he was able to avoid the spell, using, unfortunately, Shinobi-level velocity.
Swinging to his enemy's left, he dove sideways into their defense and grabbed at the wraith's belt where the weapon hung tantalizingly. The smooth cold curve of the sword nestled in his right palm was a welcomed familiarity as he drew the weapon and swept his opponent off their feet in one fell swoop. He followed through using the metal flat of the sword, clocking his opponent on the head.
"Hey, watch out-!"
A spell whizzed by his ear as Davy sent a stunner at his first wizard opponent, the one he used the candelabra against. The wizard, still bearing the cracked mask but revived and on his feet, shielded himself in a flick of a wand and rebounded with a hex that careened towards him. Davy's Protego shimmered briefly like mist but ultimately failed as the deadly spell approached.
But it didn't matter. Reflexively, he used the sword to catch the hex, causing the weapon to burn a dull violet as heat waves rose from the off-grey metal. The skin of his fingers blistered and seared at the hilt through conduction, the skyrocketing temperature felt through the battle-hardened calluses and scars; still, he raised the magic-imbued sword in mock salute, resting his left hand on his canted hip.
There was only one word left for their opponent as Kakashi stood his ground. "Surrender."
It was one against three. The wizard that was dueling Remus was down for the count with Remus' wand pointed dangerously at their throat. Similarly incapacitated, the enemy by Kakashi's feet was sprawled boneless, unconscious when their head met the blunt side of their own stolen sword.
By his count though, he knew there were still three other enemy wizards that were roaming the hallways but judging by the lack of terrified sounds of fighting, it seemed like the office wizards finally got their acts together. Or – here, he did a visual sweep, confirming his theory – the enemies were in favour of not intervening and instead, collectively decided to watch the exchange.
Odd. For certain, if this group were to juggle their chances right now, it would likely still be in their favour yet…they stayed their hands. Granted, the others were at a distance away but that should not greatly impede their magic.
Reading the partially shielded body language, he gauged the stance of the wizard in front of him, cracked mask and all. No, there was more to this; this person was likely their leader.
And it was this leader that spoke first with an unidentifiable accent. "Surrender? Unlikely."
"You're outnumbered," said Remus in an equally calm but chilly tone.
"My allies are not far."
Davy, confidence returned, grumbled, "They won't reach you, not with the speed of his draw." Here, he nodded at him and Kakashi, despite the severity of the situation, was conflicted between misplaced ego and tired exasperation.
(He settled with exasperation, ruminating and bemoaning the need to concoct another excuse soon to explain away his 'dueling' experience.)
"True." The word was spoken lightly but he could easily detect the undercurrent of dread. "He is rather good, isn't he? Too good. Don't you think?"
Kakashi ignored the shade of suspicion cast on his person even though he could feel Remus' inquisitive gaze – or, that could just be his spiking paranoia. Regardless, he spoke candidly, "No, I don't think so. I'm just lucky."
"Luck can only get you so far." The assailant tightened the grip on their wand. "But let's see if your luck will hold."
Remus, in a whiplash of movement, aimed his wand at the intruder and threatened softly, "One move."
"Or what?" In a show, the enemy took a bold step forward. "Will you rip out my throat, werewolf?"
"Lupine, huh?…Well, that certainly explained some things." Kakashi witnessed Remus' unaffected mien and surveyed him, curiosity renewed.
In contrast, Davy, shrinking against the desk at the revelation, uttered, horrified, "Werewolf?"
Mockery. "He didn't tell you? My mistake, sir, but I thought this was common knowledge."
Kakashi could tell that Remus was ready to pounce – his intentions easily read from the angling of his feet – but the standstill was suddenly interrupted by several popping noises. The anti-apparating-disapparating wards must have been lifted.
In a fit of dust that shrouded the premises, the jounin could hear the distinctive sound caused by the teleportation spell and in seconds, more wizards joined the fray, each brandishing their wand at both friend and foe.
A moustached man spoke first while directing a wand at Remus, commanding, "Halt! This is the British Ministry! All parties drop your wands now."
"What?" Davy clamped his mouth shut immediately when one of their 'rescuers' frowned at him.
"And you there-"
Here, the jounin rose an eyebrow, challenging the ministry worker that had his wand daringly up his face.
"-Uh, drop that sword!"
Kakashi would have sharply reprimanded the British man but refrained with a half-hearted dig instead, "Competent…I think the person you want is over there." He pointed at the masked wizard currently surrounded by two other British aurors.
"No." Head tilted, the mask was blank against the glare of light. Kakashi could hear the taunting laughter. "Not anymore."
In rapid movement, the enemy dropped down, avoiding the line of fire from the ministry wands, and from the crouched angle, released a torrent of medieval arrows in his direction. The aurors that were planted between them stopped the spell with Finite Incantatem but he knew it was a mere distraction. Evading the ally wizards, he saw their adversary holding out a quill in their left hand, a visible aura of magic surrounding the object.
He had a bad feeling about this.
Quickly taking aim, he threw the sword like a javelin at the enemy, easily shredding tendons and sinew as it rested through their shoulder, but it was not enough to stop them.
The quill vanished as did all of their enemies, including the ones that were incapacitated. What remained was a bloodstain on the ground.
And the aurors, they turned as one and aimed their wands at him.
The two wands amongst them confiscated, Remus, Davy and Kakashi were shoved into a corner of an overturned cubicle. In a too noticeable move – the sportscaster was twitching every time Remus so much as breathed, after all – Kakashi found himself sandwiched between them.
"This is embarrassing. I work here you know!" puffed up Davy as the one guarding them shrugged uncaringly. "Ask the other employees man!"
Crossing his arms casually, Kakashi sighed, talking over Davy's tirade, "That was exciting."
"…You should just say it," said Remus tiredly, surprising since the jounin thought he wouldn't break the anxious silence that seemed to shroud him like miasma. His next words were not bitter either, just impatient. "You know what I am."
It was like a switch. Davy, hushing, shifted his weight from foot to foot uneasy and seemed to inch into a nook.
But prejudice never really worked for him. Waving the olive stick, the ninja said simply, "There's nothing to say."
(Though, Headmaster Dumbledore certainly had a lot to answer for. A little warning went a long way.)
Deflating, the weary man (wolf) seemed to disregard his dismissal. "I will bring you back to Hogwarts once this settles."
"Hm." It was neither an agreement nor disagreement.
They fell into another perturbed quiet.
"We-ell." Davy forced cheer into his stuttered words again. "Nifty fighting, Mr. Hatake. I could almost give a play-by-play!"
"Ah – thanks."
"And man, when you made that suicidal grab for the guy's sword, I thought you were a goner!"
Another noncommittal grunt. "It wasn't suicidal."
"Plus that javelin throw at the end! You have an arm, sir. Ever thought of Quidditch? You'd probably be as good as a chaser."
"No thanks." Kakashi shook his head. "I'm not interested."
"Wasted talent man." Davy looked appalled. "Wasted."
"…You surprised me, Mr. Hatake," added Remus softly. "It's too bad I didn't get to watch your duel."
Davy twitched, jumping an inch off the ground this time.
Ignoring the nervous wizard beside him when their werewolf spoke up, the shinobi returned blithely, "Being the only squib in an office full of wizards back home, you're bound to pick up a few defensive moves. They bet, sometimes."
(Tsunade probably wouldn't appreciate having her violent tendencies compared to, what she would deem, weaklings and the ANBU betting pool? It may or may not have existed at one point.
Unspoken rules and all.)
"Oh…" Lupin regarded the ninja mildly, unsure of how to respond to the insinuation that Kakashi's colleagues were capable of bodily harming each other for sport. He opted for the diplomatic route. "Office policy allows this?"
"The pranking? Not sure actually." Kakashi made a 'thinking' pose. "As long as it's harmless, I think. I will check the employee manual when I get home."
(Though he was quite sure, having memorized it after all, that rule number one stated something along the lines of 'the Kage's word is law'…and since it was the Kage doling out the – ah – 'punishments'…)
Lupin, deep bone exhaustion receding, remarked, "The Headmaster did say you were unpredictable but I didn't realize that also extended to self-defense."
A sudden flash from behind Davy momentarily blinded Kakashi and Remus and a sharp voice cheered gleefully, "Excellent picture. I smell a possible front page!"
Remus took a step back when an emerald robe-garbed woman unexpectedly popped up in front of them. She was eager, clutching a crocodile handbag and acid green quill, notebook hovering by talon-like hands. Immaculate blonde curls did not soften her shark grin and her startling appearance seemed amplified by the glittering bejeweled glasses that resembled multiple iridescent insect eyes.
"Ma'am, you can't-"
Figure belying strength, the woman pushed the ministry worker blocking her way and cooed, "I'm Rita Skeeter, writer for the Daily Prophet. Care to tell the juicy details of the heroic escapades that occurred in this glorious battle? Was this an uprising over pesky Goblin rights? Or perhaps, this was a machination of unhappy employees. Tell me your thoughts and feelings during the fight. Was there a moment when courage failed you?"
The photographer behind her took another picture, catching all three of them in an unflattering light.
"Mr. Hatake, was it?" She paused long enough to turn the page of her parchment notebook to a blank page, allowing the magical quill to pose ready on the sheaf of parchment. "Describe to the readers the methods of your self-defence."
"I-" He would have buried his face into his hands if it was dignified. "Not another one."
Rita egged on, "It must be fancy wand work, am I right? Bad odds. Twenty against one?"
Pocketing his hands, Kakashi, falsely demure, said, "No and I wasn't alone."
"Oh. No you certainly weren't." Skeeter winked evocatively, gold teeth revealed in her smile. He could feel Remus' tightly controlled shudder. "Rescue work can be quite a hassle when the wizards you are saving aren't capable of the basic A-B-Cs of wand work."
"Now just a moment Ms. Skeeter," started Davy.
"Hush Mr. Cooper. Wasn't it your words that detailed how excellently Mr. Hatake defended the radio tower?" The Quidditch sports personality, knowing full well who exactly they were dealing with, shrugged weakly, not willing to push the subject when he knew he was not going to win. Skeeter waved a hand with a flourish and the notebook turned to a new page. "The other eyewitnesses in particular were very forthcoming of your participation." The Daily Prophet writer seemed to ignore Remus for the most part, which was fine by him.
Kakashi pointlessly corrected her again, "I had help."
"A modest answer. Very suitable for your image." The shinobi could see the quill taking quick notes on his attire, underlining '-face was concealed by a morose grey scarf, casting upon his person a mysterious air'. "You must have been brilliant! Now, Mr. Hatake, local hero-"
"-This is blown out of proportion-"
"-What do you do for a living?"
The shinobi refused to answer, merely smiled, aggravated, and allowed the silence to drag on.
Skeeter, however, was undeterred and continued yammering, "You must be a reclusive shop owner in London, selling antiques-"
The Quidditch commentator supplied, "-He's actually hired at Hogwarts." Swinging his gaze, Davy shrunk back against Kakashi's disapproval before whispering desperately, "It'll only get worse, trust me."
And it did get worse.
"Hogwarts! Mr. Hatake- ah!" Rita lit up like a fierce fiery firework. "So you must be that rumored Asian diplomat at Hogwarts. I thought so! I have been vying for an interview ever since there was word about your arrival – Imagine, an elusive Asian diplomat on British soils! – but your Headmaster, bless his soul, was adamant that you liked privacy and solitude. What an old-fashioned personality." She paused, quill quivering, "So, my vivacious readers are salivating – what does the Asian Ministry think of the British Ministry?"
"No comment." Literally.
Yet she managed to save his sound bite.
"-Because there is too much to say about the British Ministry in one sitting? I will be sure to include several glowing comments on how well the relationship between the Asian Ministry and British Ministry is thawing after such a drawn, iced out communications situation," beamed Skeeter as she manipulated her words to win herself brownie points.
"And what of Hogwarts? Describe your position there."
"No, I don't-"
Yet again, she twisted his answer to her means, all smiles. "Don't be silly – I'm sure you know exactly what you are doing at Hogwarts. I hear you're an exemplary intermediary. The students fawn over your every step and they are learning in leaps and bounds-"
This time, he interrupted her bluntly, "I wouldn't say that."
Skeeter, if she had fangs, would have been poised to bite him. "Evidence says otherwise, Mr. Hatake…But I must say, when we received a notice of your arrival, we were astonished. Please don't be offended by what I want to say, but don't you feel that with your title and capabilities, you're just being asked to be, dare I say, a glorified babysitter?"
"Evidence? Babysitter?" Visible eye curving, he tried to defuse the situation. "I wouldn't say that."
"No? Then, do you feel like a babysitter-?"
"Hem hem. Of course not. He adds tremendous value to Hogwarts and I want to thank the Asian Ministry for sending such an apt diplomat," simpered a voice that was slowly ingraining itself into his vanilla nightmares.
It was Delores Umbridge. From behind her, the shinobi could spot Aurors MacKey and Hartley looking their way. He mused, resigned, "Of course the British counterattack would include them and they must have alerted Umbridge..."
The forgotten ministry worker who was supposed to be guarding the 'suspects' scrambled, "S-S-Sorry Madam Umbridge but Miss Skeeter-"
"That's enough." Umbridge, in all her pink glory, elbowed her way next to Skeeter and sneered at her, "You are in my way, dear."
Skeeter was bristling; her smile strained, she nodded reluctantly at Umbridge. "Of course Madam." She forced her way between Remus and Kakashi as Umbridge stepped into her spot.
"No need to worry. I have already cleared your name, Mr. Hatake. You're very welcome." Umbridge grinned sickly sweet at Kakashi. "But what an unfortunate breach of security when you so happened to be here too." Fluttering eyelashes did not hide the calculating sneer. "And I hope your throat condition healed well."
With as much pomp he could muster, Kakashi replied cordially, "Yes, thank you for asking. Frogs. Pesky creatures." Polite to a line, he said curtly, "If you'll excuse-"
"Not even a conversation?" A girly laugh later, Umbridge blocked their only exit and interrogated, "What are you doing in our Radio Tower?"
Skeeter's quill kept writing. The photographer snapped another intrusive picture.
"Seeing the sights. Mr. Lupin was kind enough to show me around." Kakashi intoned. "It would be a shame not to have stories to share with my colleagues back home."
"Hem hem." Shooting a dismissive look at Remus, regarding him like a bug stuck under her shoe, the Senior Under-Secretary chided, "You should have mentioned your desire to sightsee. The Ministry is committed in keeping you safe and happy, away from less…" Her voice oozed with fearful disdain again as she pointedly glared at Remus. "…disreputable drifters."
Kakashi cleared his throat pointedly, "I am fine with my current arrangement-"
"I do insist the next time you wish to explore – make a social call to the Ministry." Umbridge, saccharine sharpness, elaborated, "We can provide you with an adequate protection detail so that you won't have to face a horrid scene like today with such insufficient defense. It is what proper protocol dictates to be done for a representative of the Asian Ministry."
"Fine. Political games, hm?" The 'squib' sighed, put-upon, "If you must insist then I would request for – what was his name-" He paused, catching Lupin's bemused but resigned look. "-Mr. Shacklebolt."
Umbridge looked two steps away from euphoric joy before deflating. "Are you sure of Mr. Shacklebolt?"
"Yes." The shinobi laid out his observations, keenly aware of Umbridge's conflict. Perhaps the woman didn't get along well with Shacklebolt? "I hear he's quite high up in your Auror department. It would be prudent to select the best."
She nearly scowled before recovering with an overly sugary beam. He could almost see the clogs clicking in her brain when she agreed haughtily, "Consider it done." Umbridge, looking triumphant now, crowed, "Let's take a picture for the Daily Prophet. That is what Miss Reporter is here for." She flashed a superior smirk at Skeeter who was left fuming as until that moment, she was completely forgotten.
Making a hooking motion at the photographer with a thick finger adorned with an ugly purple ring, Umbridge demanded in a high, girly voice, "You there – take our picture!"
"Harry, take a look at this."
Spoon suspended, porridge forgotten, the Daily Prophet was unfurled and placed over his food by his eager bookish friend. He blinked at the picture.
Ron craned his head to take a gander and sputtered, "Blimey! Isn't that Professor Lupin?"
"What is he doing with Mr. Hatake?" started Harry.
The picture in question was located on the third page of the 'Prophet. Their Asian Diplomat was facing the camera with his patented eye-smile but closer inspection showed his image slowly inching backwards out of the picture. It was understandable, mused Harry, as the Mediator was uncomfortably bookended by a woman overdressed in pink with a horridly teeth-filled smile and another whose statement of green could give people celebrating St. Patrick's Day a run for their money. From time to time, her eyes would dart from Hatake to the other woman in the picture, scowling.
To the right of the lady in green was Remus Lupin, awkwardly staring straight-faced at the photographer. On the other side of the group was an unidentified man with massive dreadlocks; he barely made it into the picture with the way the lady in pink seemed to elbow him out of the frame.
Hermione pointed at the passage in the newspaper, reiterating with a sarcastic bite, "There was an attack at the British Radio Tower. They're calling it a 'security breach'."
Pushing away the rest of his breakfast, Harry took in the spread out newspaper and read aloud, "…From the frightful scene of malicious intent, this reporter was able to meet the fabled Asian Diplomat who hails from-"Here the writing was completely blurred out as if intentional. "Currently residing at Hogwarts as an effective intermediary of the children of tomorrow, he single-handedly save the Radio Tower employees from harm. From the golden mouth of the host of 'Coping the Game' himself, Davy Copper gushed a play-by-play of his victory. "He stopped him with a paperweight!"…" Harry paused, bemused, "It goes on and on about Hatake's accomplishments."
Ron grimaced, "Everyone knows Skeeter's a liar and that she exaggerates the story anyway."
"Who's Skeeter?" asked Harry curiously.
"The 'writer' of the article. Mum calls her the most ridiculous slanderer at the Daily Prophet," interrupted Ginny.
He shrugged, "Well, she didn't even mention Remus even though he's in the picture." Muttering under his breath grimly, Harry said, "I wonder if this has any relation to the Quidditch World Cup incident."
Hermione replied briskly, "It's hard to say, Harry. But by the descriptions…I'm surprised the 'Prophet didn't blow this up to front page news. Instead, this article focuses on uselessly talking about Mr. Hatake's exploits like some fan."
Ron nearly ribbed her about one notorious Professor Lockhart during their Second Year but wisely kept his mouth shut when both Ginny and Hermione glared at him, easily reading his intentions.
Skimming the rest of the article, Harry read another passage that sparked his interest, "…After the debacle with the British Ministry embarrassingly mistaking Mr. Hatake as a terrorist abetting in crime, Madam Umbridge apologized inadequately on behalf of the British Ministry's blunder. As the public has the right to know such truths, this incompetence should be reflected upon during the next election for Minister of Magic…"
"She's surprisingly anti-British Ministry," commented Ginny, sipping at her pumpkin juice.
Spotting Harry's confused expression, Hermione explained, "There's been a lot of bad blood between the Asian-British Ministries for the past few centuries due to a decade long war. War for the sake of war. And to make matters worse, there hasn't been much communication between the factions until now with Mr. Hatake's arrival. There's a lot of prejudice against Asian wizards that he has to overcome."
"How do you even know this?" asked Ron rhetorically.
The brunette was about to snap back with a 'because I read' but her attention was diverted.
"So you're saying that him being here is kind of a big deal," repeated Harry.
Hermione nodded, "That's right."
"Then maybe the attack was led by anti-Asian Ministry sympathizers…"
Ink brush in one hand, he drew two parallel lines, steady and straight. He then carefully blotted in the details – a twenty degree curve at the blade business end, the thin leather suede of the hilt, and the strange runes on one side of the blade flat. In the legend, the approximate weight was recorded but he also wrote down a note that there didn't seem to be a known comparable metal ore that had this weight and durability in Fire Country.
It was a diagram of the mysterious sword he used during the short-lived Radio Tower fight eight hours ago. He still didn't know who was responsible for the attempt on his life but he was determined to find out. After writing his report, he had a meeting with the Headmaster.
Placing the brush down, he smoothed out the parchment, setting it out to dry by the Hogwarts Library candlelight. Kakashi leaned back in his chair, trying to relieve the sudden uncomfortable prickling sensation at his neck. Rolling his shoulders next, he sighed, "Come out. It's rude to read over someone's shoulder."
A wispy voice breezed behind him. "I was thinking you would never invite me."
"You've been following me for the past month." Kakashi didn't move from his seat and continued to speak to 'empty air', "For a ghost, I thought you would lose interest and leave me be. Your friends certainly did."
There was a faint discord as energy tensed. "Why would I do that when are you proving to be a puzzle, ninja?"
With the word 'ninja' spoken in his native tongue, Kakashi had to school his expression to indifference. "Mimicking the words you hear between my talking dogs now?" He released a bit of controlled chakra, knowing that the energy made ghosts feel uncomfortable, just like how the afterlife drifting in this castle prickled along his senses in an irritatingly distracting way.
The ghost seemed to ignore his poke as he replied, "You are rather far away from home." The voice, clearer now, was male and accented with an inflection he couldn't place. In an instant, the ghost materialized in front of him, features stern as he stared down, arms crossed. "Put your weapon away, little descendent. Stop waving that chakra around."
If Kakashi was shocked by the sudden appearance of the pearly ghost hovering across him, it didn't show. Instead, he raised an eyebrow at the garments donned by the ghost, the rough features of the face, the markings of ronin, and he grunted with mild reproach, "Far from home? So says the samurai…A dead samurai in a wizard's castle."
"Very uncouth, Hatake descendent. You should respect your elders." With candor, the samurai said, "I befriended a family of Hatake once. Bundled me up and sent me to bed, they did."
The ghost looped around him once, repeating, "You are very far away from home, Hatake descendent, but there is no mistake. The skin that burned easily in the sun and the thin, anaemic, underfed figure. Your descendent had a crop of grey hair and a remarkable green thumb but was unusually short. A small wraith of the fields, they were called." He paused, "Though, your hair is black and you're too tall and muscular to be pureblooded."
"It was said that if the Daimyou were descendents of the Heavenly Celestial beings then the Hatake were Children of the Earth-"
"-Stop buttering me up by flattering my dead forefathers. It's not going to work," said Kakashi, deadpanned. "Why are you following me?"
"Ninja paranoia. Fitting." The samurai had an unnervingly anxious expression. "Young descendent, I am curious. I am like you…but I have been away from home for a very long time…"
Kakashi tilted his head. "How did you get to Scotland? Assuming you died here..."
"I walked between nations." Obliging, the ghost mourned, "There were no barriers. It was simpler times with simpler people. Make no mistake, there was still greed…and they still wanted the same thing – power. I had skills to give to help the strong and in return, I earned food and song and sleep."
"So, not a samurai…You were a mercenary fighter," said the jounin. "How did you die?"
"I was alive and then I died." Tension spiking, the answer was curt and meaningless, hinted with loathing, as the ghost was noticeably sensitive about his death. Abruptly changing subjects, he traced the diagram of the sword, transparent finger roving over the strange runes. "Protection symbols. The name of the maker."
Kakashi eyed the pile of open books describing different European swords – descriptions that didn't fit the one he had acquired briefly from his enemy – and asked the spectre, "You know the origins of this sword I drew?"
"The shape and length...It is altered with time but still similar and the runes mark it for what it is." The mercenary frowned, "Do not doubt my skill. I will tell you the origin of the sword if you tell me about the Land of Iron."
With a neutral expression, he said, "The age of the ninja has mostly eclipsed the age of the samurai; only the Land of Iron remain true to the ways you would be familiar with but they shun outsiders and generally keep themselves away from the ninja political landscape."
"Shame. What a shame." The mercenary drifted. "Home has changed while I have been away…"
Kakashi interrupted the melancholy ghost, "And the sword?"
The spectre answered easily, "It is from South Asia…India would be the name of the modern country."
"South Asia…" Eyebrows furrowing, Kakashi murmured, troubled, "But that could mean…"
Her face, wreathed in green fire, creased, frown severe. "The Imposter escaped with his life."
"He is lucky and…dangerous." The responding voice was thin and airy, laced with trepidation. "Apologies Madam. It will not happen again."
Popping and crackling from the fireplace interrupted what could have been a dauntingly long pause.
"Your excuses amuse me." The woman laughed throatily. "Abort the Assassination call. Instead, see to it that this 'Kakashi Hatake' is captured and detained. Do not play until we have him." The head in the fire bobbled before disappearing in a flash of magic.
Alone in the office, the Asian Minister of Defense bowed stiffly in deference at the fireplace even without an audience, one hand clenched tightly around the shoulder wound.
Moody slapped a teacher's notice on his empty plate. Putting down his book, 'The Oriental Affair' (He replaced 'Werewolves and Animagi: Common Ancestors?' when he bumped into Harry Potter and watched his face drain into a fascinating pasty white.),Kakashi raised an eyebrow at the ex-Auror in question.
Taking his designated seat, Moody growled above his magically appearing food, "Mark your calendar. On October Thirtieth, the Beauxbaton and Durmstrang delegations are arriving."
"Three weeks away? I appreciate the advanced notice." Knowing that the knowledge didn't come for free when it originated from Moody, he asked, offhand, "Constant vigilance?"
There was a pause as the wizard settled in his high back seat before he started conversationally, "Durmstrang…I arrested their Headmaster once upon a time. He was a Death Eater who betrayed You-Know-Who and his followers, giving up information to the British Ministry for a lenient sentence. Though…Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater – wouldn't you agree, Snape?"
Kakashi tilted his head back to witness Snape's darkening visage, lips turning downwards into a sneer. The Potion's Master, who had the unfortunate timing of stalking past them during Moody's spiel, asked silkily, "Polluting the mind of Hogwarts' impressionable Mediator, Professor Moody?"
"Hardly." The man snorted rudely as Snape continued to sweep his way to his seat at the Great Hall, glaring daggers at them both.
The shinobi, placing his reading material down and bookmarking the page, stated dryly, "I don't care much about Durmstrang or Beauxbaton."
"But you are participating in the Triwizard Tournament in some form, aren't you?" asked Moody casually, clearly fishing for information. "The others here might be airy-fairy enough to believe that you're here to only 'spark school spirit' but you don't make the fit, sugarplum."
He was starting to really dislike Moody's perceptiveness. Twisting his words, he answered honestly, "I have no part in what the schools are planning for this event."
A shark grin appeared. "Hm. Well then. I think I should share something with you." Moody twirled a familiar Silver Sickle on his fingertips before pocketing it in his cloak. "I hear there is smoke in the dens."
"A riddle." Kakashi drawled, deadpanned, unwilling to take the bait, "Where there's smoke, there's fire. I would imagine a wizard of your skill would know how to use an extinguishing spell."
"What of a smoke that can't be extinguished?" Moody knew he piqued his attention now when he continued with a derisive grunt, "Just hearsay that the smoke can be seen in the Forbidden Forest. I thought you might be…interested."
Needless to say, his good old shinobi intuition was screaming 'I have a bad feeling about this'.
A/N: I always thought it was a shame Skeeter and Umbridge never met in the books. Explosive. Boom.
More to come about the Asian Ministry…Heh. The subplot will involve them too. Oh Kakashi, you can't just parade around using their name without repercussions!
Anyway, next chapter we'll be meeting the Bulgarians and French. Can we all just say a big 'finally'? I want to make a claim as longest time taken to reach the beginning of the Triwizard Tournament - fours years, lol!