A/N: Hey guys! Yeah, sorry for using the movie theme. Usually I'm "book" 100 percent of the way, but this part actually works better with my plot. So there we have it. Enjoy!

Chapter 11: Fallen Masks

Harry didn't know how, but they somehow ran fast enough to catch up to the screaming, laughing witch. He could hear her thrashing in the tall grass just ahead of them. And he didn't know how, but Slug and Snake caught up to them from even farther back.

"I killed Sirius Black, I killed Sirius Black!"

They were probably a quarter of a mile from the Burrow and its flames when Snake hissed, "More shinobi - Toad, you incompetent dumbass!"

Harry was too filled with rage, too disoriented by being half-dragged at the speed of light, to wonder how professional these killers were being. He only hoped they were good at their jobs and wouldn't let them all get killed just to take down Bellatrix Lestrange. At the moment, he thought it'd be worth it to shut that singing, shrieking mouth forever, but another part of his mind was chanting: Wait for Voldemort, wait for Voldemort before you die….

The ring of metal on metal didn't make sense until he saw Snake and Slug take point with a sword and – there's one of those dagger-things Naruto had with Itachi! – drawn, flicking them faster than his eye could follow, sending other projectile blades shooting into the grass field around them. They were being targeted by thrown daggers? What the hell was going on?

"I killed Sirius Black! I killed Sirius Black, ha-ha-ha-ha! Come and get me, wittle Potter baby! I killed Sirius Black!"

When magical jets of light started shooting at them as well, Harry discovered ducking and dodging at this ridiculous speed was a lot harder than these ninjas made it look, but, luckily, Toad maintained the presence of mind to jerk him out of the way, even when he himself had to bolt in another direction to avoid a spell. Somehow, Toad never let him go, and they never stopped in their pursuit. And they were never hit by flying dagger or jetted curse.

Distantly, he realized it probably wasn't an exaggeration that these ninja-things were worth a battalion of Aurors each.

"Fuck," said Snake, coming to an abrupt halt, his posture scarily, lethally, tensed. Slug and Toad made similar halts, but Harry found himself jolted forward by his momentum, held back only by Toad's grip. "We're surrounded. Mist shinobis and Death Eaters."

"Shinobis?" repeated Harry, panting from the run and still looking around wildly for Bellatrix.

"Ninjas," muttered Toad, taking up a defensive position beside Harry. He clutched a dagger-thing one hand, held at the ready, same as Slug. Harry had to admit Snake's long, bloodied sword was more comforting than those little daggers in this situation.

"Snake," muttered Slug, "how many do you think you could get with a fire technique right now?"

"And set this entire field on fire? I don't think so," returned Snake coldly. "This field must be part of the trap. Bellatrix knows my techniques."

"B-Bella-" repeated Harry in amazement. "How do you know Bellatrix Lestrange?"

"Quiet," snapped Snake. "Slug, you guard Potter. Toad and I will spring the trap. Toad-"

"Got it," Toad interrupted, and Harry got the feeling he was grinning behind that blank mask. The next thing Harry knew, Slug was where Toad had been, and the two males were nowhere in sight in the tall grass.

He saw a flash of what looked like lightning from his left one second; it reappeared a few feet over the next second, and a few more feet over in another second. Each strike was accompanied by a horrible, bone-chilling gagging sound and a dull thud. To the right, there was the strange sound of, "Rasengan!" and something that sounded like wind moving very fast. There were the same chokes and thuds, and all over were the sounds of thrashing grass and scuffling feet.

It hadn't been a full five seconds before he heard Bellatrix's wild laughter again, and the sound went to his head like blood in the water to a shark.

"Harry!" shouted Slug, trying to grab him as he suddenly shot out towards the laughter, wand raised. "Harry, stop!"

Grass lashed against his face, his arms, but he pushed forward without care until he stumbled into a murky, shallow pond. And standing in front of him, waiting with a ferocious grin, was Bellatrix Lestrange.

"Aw, did Potty manage to escape his ickle guardies?" she taunted. "Did Potty come to avenge his dear, dead godpoppy?"

"Shut up!" Harry roared, and brandished his wand. "Crucio!"

She shielded and laughed manically again. "Still don't mean it enough, do you, Potty?"

She raised her wand to attack, but suddenly screamed instead, clutching her hand to her chest, wand dropped into the water. Harry stared in disbelief. Her hand had a strange, long needle stuck through it. It sparked with electricity.

Bellatrix got over her disbelief first and cackled. "I don't believe it," she said, turning towards where the lightning strikes had been coming from. Harry turned in the same direction and found Snake standing at the edge of the pond, arm still raised from throwing the needle. Bellatrix took in the mask, vest, black outfit, and katana with utter delight. "The Dark Lord said we might run into you again, cutie-pie. It's been too long. Although, I must say, I like what you've done to your hair. Potion or jutsu?"

"I believe you have me mistaken," hissed Snake, drawing another needle. "Potter, you wanted to fight her. This is your last chance before I disable her myself."

And Harry didn't doubt Snake could.

He turned back to Bellatrix, rage still pumping through his veins like acid. She grinned at him, still holding her hand to her chest.

Harry's heart pounded in his ears as he raised his wand again. "Pick up your wand!" he snarled.

She stared at him a split second before laughing that horrible, screeching laugh. "Don't you understand anything, Potter?" she snapped, suddenly serious. "You don't offer your opponents time to recover!"

"I won't kill a defenseless woman, even if she is a murdering bitch like you," Harry snarled, his hand shaking as he tried to hold it back from doing exactly what he said he wouldn't.

"Potter-!" warned Snake, and then he suddenly leapt, just a split second before Bellatrix snatched up her wand from the water and whipped it at them with a scream.

Snake crashed into Harry just in time, knocking them both underwater, away from the jet of red light. Harry gasped in surprise, taking in a lungful of thick pond water, and when Snake rolled over to allow him to resurface, he violently hacked it up.

"Aw, I'm hurt, Sasuke," cooed Bellatrix. "You're not even using Sharingan!"

Harry's head snapped towards Snake so fast, he though he'd throw up from the whiplash.

There, in Snake's black clothes and green vest, with his short brown hair, still clutching the gleaming sword, was Sasuke's face, bloody at the temple where the strap of his white mask had been.

Floating in the water in front of them was the red-splattered mask.

They hadn't dodged her curse completely, then.

"Sasuke?" Harry choked, lungs still burning from the water.

Sasuke's blue-black eyes snapped onto his with the same smothered anger that had been in Snake's hiss. Indeed, the Sharingan weren't activated.

"What the hell is this?" demanded Harry, baffled and not just a little outraged.


For the second time in about ten seconds, Sasuke knocked Harry underwater. For the second time, Harry surfaced to find that Sasuke hadn't dodged completely. Now the sleeve of his black shirt had been ripped open and was seeping blood. This time, however, Sasuke was on his feet –on top of the water-, sword raised. Harry's head spun when he realized that Sasuke Uchiha, the foreign Gryffindor, had the same cold, deadly poise of an assassin, of Snake, the ninja.

Sasuke was a freaking ninja.

"Aw, a sword?" said Bellatrix with an enraging little pout. "And I wanted to see the Dark Lord's specially made wand!"

"Tough luck," said Sasuke coldly, his eyes only slightly narrowed in dislike. "I never did get the hang of Avada Kedavra, and there's no other spell I'd want to use on you."

"Oh?" smirked Bellatrix. She threw a look over Sasuke's shoulder to Harry. "But your Cruciatus was fantastic. You should consider giving Potter lessons."

"Enough," hissed Sasuke, and he swung the katana faster than Harry's eye could follow.

The sound of metal-on-metal clanged like an explosion in front of him. The next thing Harry saw was inexplicable. Two men, both clearly adults and both several times larger than Sasuke, had crossed their blades to intercept his. They were wearing metal plates with a strange symbol around their foreheads like the ones Naruto and Sakura tied to their school bags. Now, it was blindingly clear that 'school emblem' was a lie.

So Sakura and Naruto are ninjas, too?

For a moment, Sasuke leaned into the parry as if he thought he could overpower the men, and Harry wondered what the hell he was thinking. But the men pushed forward in tandem and Sasuke was forced to leap backwards, away from his adversaries. His expression as he landed was a little too neutral. Harry suddenly wished he had learned to read his 'friend' better at Hogwarts so he might know what that particular branch of expressionlessness meant about this battle.

At length, Sasuke addressed them in Japanese. His voice was the same cold, unfamiliar hiss of Snake. Harry briefly wondered which was real: the Snake persona or the Sasuke Uchiha persona. At the moment, Sasuke seemed to fall most easily into Snake.

The two men jeered, and one of them responded also in Japanese. Harry noticed Bellatrix, who had stood smirking behind her body guards, cast them a look as irritated as Harry felt at being left out.

"Enough chitchat," she snapped. "You have your orders. We grab Potter and the foreign brats. The Dark Lord is waiting."

Sasuke's sword hadn't fallen from an offensive position since his landing, and now, as a cloud drifted away from the moon, it gleamed dangerously in the pale light. His expression didn't change. "Good luck."

The movements were too fast to follow, too unusual to comprehend. All Harry could tell was that the metallic clangs were deafening, and the three seemed evenly matched for about ten seconds. And then Toad flew in with a handful of spinning white light.

The two-against-one match split into two duels without a word or break in pace. Now, Harry could see the moves better.

Sasuke's blade wasn't just a blade. It crackled with electricity – and not the sparks of fast, hard blows, though those were definitely present – it was the electricity of lightning itself. And it leapt out from the body of the sword with a life of its own at unpredictable intervals, causing the opposing ninja to have to leap high into the air to avoid being struck, though it made contact several times.

The other ninja didn't give up, however. His own sword was shorter, wider, and thicker, like a metal club that narrowed into one razor-sharp edge. It looked like it could break Sasuke's long, thin sword clean in two, but it never did, and Harry didn't know enough about swords or the ninjas' fighting methods to have a clue as to why not. The opposing ninja, like Sasuke used lighting to complement his attacks, used water to complete his. Jets of water shot out of the pond at his command, blasting towards Sasuke like snakes, like bullets, or like cannon balls, usually faster than Harry could tell the difference. And Sasuke leapt, ducked, and dived to avoid every one of them.

For seconds that felt like an eternity, the two ducked, struck, dodged, leapt, advanced, and retreated, swinging, thrusting, twisting, and parrying until Harry's eyes stung from trying to see everything.

When it became too much, he turned his sight towards Toad's fight. Was this Naruto, or was Dog Naruto? If Harry had to hazard a guess going off what he had seen of the guards' personalities so far, he would have to say this one was more like Naruto. He was the one that laughed most freely, let himself be seen more often, and he had dragged Harry into this trap, not to mention Sasuke seemed very used to calling him an incompetent dumbass. That was always a pretty good indicator, especially combined with the fact that they seemed to be able to read each others' minds while they were at it.

So Toad, now dubbed Naruto, didn't fight like Sasuke. Whereas Sasuke seemed mindbogglingly incredible at martial arts and swords, Naruto simply… multiplied. Indeed, Harry saw no less than three Toads at any given instance. They worked on overwhelming the opposing ninja in numbers, simply going at him with straightforward punches and kicks. Occasionally, two Narutos would lag behind the others and form that spinning ball of what looked like pure magic. They were usually destroyed in puffs of smoke before Harry had a chance to see what those whirling balls did, though.

Naruto's opponent was fast. He used his dagger-things with reckless speed, striking out at every Naruto that got too close, usually trading a deadly strike to a clone for a punch to the face from it or one behind it. But the Narutos kept coming. Within a minute, the enemy shinobi visibly slowed, wearing down from the constant, endless barrage. He kept at it, though, until Naruto finally started slowing, as well.

After what felt like an eternity, but was probably only a few minutes, Naruto, Sasuke, and the two other ninjas stood facing each other, panting slightly and glaring one another down.

"You don't have to fight," said Bellatrix from behind the two Mist ninjas. Her tone was serious, but her eyes glinted with the same mania that made Harry think she was permanently foaming at the mouth. "Sasuke, the Dark Lord is willing to take you back in complete forgiveness for your… defection. He's willing to accept your friends, as well. There's no need to kill these men, or be killed by them."

Sasuke's opponent sneered something in Japanese, but Sasuke ignored him and Bellatrix both. Naruto shouted back in English, "We're just getting warmed up, asshole! Wait 'til you see this!"

And thirty Narutos sprang straight out of the shallow pond water at the enemies' feet, some grabbing their ankles, others leaping higher and piling on top of their heads and torsos. Four more leapt up a split second later, two of them wielding the rapidly rotating balls of magic. They dove down into the pile of other Narutos, who made just enough of openings for the hits.

But suddenly, where the enemy ninjas had been, there were only two logs and the faint remains of smoke. The two Mist ninjas smirked at them from the banks of the pond, both battered but still confident.

Ignoring the failure, Sasuke called, "Sakura, now!"

Without a split second's hesitation, Slug, obviously Sakura, appeared in a blur of motion, landing in a crouch between the two enemies.

"HYAH!" she shouted, punching the ground at their feet.

To Harry's utter amazement, the top foot of ground in a quarter-mile radius, including the pond water, ripped itself from the deeper soil and rose into the air with the force of the punch.

Naruto, shouted something in Japanese, and Harry watched as the biggest ball of whirling magic yet formed in hurricane-like glory. He yelled as he dove forward with it. Though the enemy ninjas, Bellatrix, and Sakura dodged out of the line of fire, it flung the still-airborne grass far and wide, leaving the vicinity completely made of dirt and water.

Before the dirt returned to the ground, before the enemies had a chance to figure out what was going on, Sasuke had taken a deep breath. Naruto and Sakura disappeared beneath the ground just a split second before it happened.

Harry watched, completely numb with disbelief, as Sasuke shot fire straight out of his mouth. Like a freaking dragon.

When it was over, Slug and Toad appeared out of the pond on either side of Harry. They stood on top of the water, though they had already gotten wet coming up from the ground below it. They held themselves at the ready, though the Mist ninjas and Bellatrix were nowhere in sight.

For a second, the only sound was the sizzling, formerly wet dirt.

For several seconds, when the sizzling died down to a silent steam, there was no sound except for Harry's own uneven breathing.

And then Sasuke said, "They're gone. Disapparition and transportation jutsus." He turned to Slug. "Did you tend to any of the wounded?"

Slug nodded. "None of them were in real danger. Just a little crispy and bloody. You and Naruto avoided their vitals perfectly."

Sasuke gave a short nod. "We should secure them and keep them for questioning. I don't like it that they were all Mist. I can't tell if they're Kisame's or Voldemort's. Maybe an independent party's altogether."

"Right," Slug nodded. There was a second of silence in which she glanced back at Harry and took in his lost, enraged, and numb expression. "Um… Snake… did you notice your mask is off?"

Sasuke gave her such a Sasuke Look, if Harry had had any doubts who he was, it was completely erased. He didn't deign to respond, but instead activated his Sharingan and surveyed the mostly demolished field.

Slug sighed and reached into her hair to remove her mask. On Harry's other side, Toad did the same.

One second later, Sakura smiled at him grimly, tugging on her long brown hair, and Naruto waved sheepishly with his own short brown hair.

"You're not serious," said Harry through numb lips. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to remember to breathe. "So, all this time…?" His voice shook with suppressed emotion, though what those emotions were, Harry didn't even know.

He heard Sakura sigh. "Dumbledore hired us to guard you for the year, Harry," she murmured. "But that doesn't mean that we didn't become friends, because we did. That was real. That is real."

"Real?" repeated Harry, and he couldn't stop the laughter that cut his throat on its way up. "Real? How much of what you've told me has been real? How much has just been lies, a cover story, bullshit? Huh? What was real?"

"I'm still Sakura, Harry. He's still Naruto, and Sasuke is still Sasuke. We're real," said Sakura, her eyes set resolutely. "We've kept things as close to the truth as we possibly could without betraying the secrets of our village."

"Without telling me you're bloody mercenaries, you mean!" snapped Harry. His voice was rising, and he didn't care. Why hadn't Dumbledore just told him? Why hadn't they been upfront about it? He'd had guards before; he hadn't freaked out about it then. Why did they have to baby him behind his back? Why did they have to baby him at all? Didn't Dumbledore trust him by now?

"Dumbledore preferred we keep our identities a secret," mumbled Naruto, and Harry turned to find him looking at the ground with stormy eyes. "He didn't tell us why. This isn't how we usually operate."

When Naruto talked about "identities" and "usually operating," Harry felt the true depth of the charade. Naruto was supposed to be happy and go-lucky, a careless Japanese kid, not a ninja wearing that sort of mask for one mission out of a hundred.

Harry closed his eyes. It surprised him, really, how little he cared about Bellatrix's escape in light of this new information. Bellatrix hadn't betrayed him. He'd always known she was a psychotic bitch who meant to kill anyone related to the Order. But these three had tried to worm their ways into his heart, all the while hiding a secret agenda.

"Is it so wrong to find out your average friends are actually outstanding friends who only want to protect you?" asked Naruto, turning glistening blue eyes to Harry.

Harry stomped down the voice in his head that immediately berated him for hurting Naruto. Nobody should make Naruto so unhappy – what's he ever done to deserve that?

And even as he thought it, Harry realized his own ridiculousness. Hermione had made a list of suspicious things about the Japanese students – all the subtle little clues that could fool anyone but the brightest witch of their generation – but nobody had even noticed that Naruto had blond hair and blue eyes. What kind of Japanese person looked like that? Sakura had explained her pink hair with a potions accident, and that went over easily. That sort of thing happened all the time in the Wizarding world. But blond hair and blue eyes? It was so common at Hogwarts, they hadn't even thought about it being unusual in another country.

Now that he noticed, Sasuke was the only one who looked even remotely Japanese. Even his skin was too utterly white, though. Unless he's secretly one of those geisha women who paint their faces, Harry reconsidered but then sighed at the ridiculous notion. Even the thought of Sasuke in elaborate dresses wasn't funny, now.

We were all idiots, he thought, resisting the urge to hold his face in his hands. Complete – idiots.

"Harry?" Sakura asked hesitantly. She reached forward as if to hold onto his shoulder, but Harry took a step back.

He shook his head. "Just stay away from me," he snapped and turned to stalk away.

"Not possible," said Sasuke, and suddenly he was walking directly beside Harry, despite his having been several meters away only a second before. "We were hired to protect you, and we will. It's nonnegotiable."

Sakura and Naruto did the same thing. Harry snarled and started running, forgetting how impressed he'd been with their speed only minutes ago.

Needless to say, they matched him effortlessly.

"Just leave me alone!" he bellowed, coming to a stop. "I'm sick of this – I'm not doing it anymore! I'm tired of being lied to and treated like a little kid! I don't need guards; not if they're going to pretend like they care about anything besides me beating Voldemort! Just stop it and get lost!"

"We don't care about you beating Voldemort," Sasuke pointed out. "We won't even let you near him, actually. He's too dangerous for you."

Harry felt the rage in him pounding through his veins like lava, too fierce to be contained by his skin much longer. He was about to explode.

"Ano, Sasuke-kun, maybe now isn't the time…," muttered Sakura, looking between Harry and Sasuke, her brow furrowed and eyes worried.

"No, Sakura," snapped Sasuke, glaring at Harry with more disdain than anything. "Harry's decided he doesn't want to be lied to, hasn't he? So here's the truth: You're not getting out of our sight. If you so much as think of 'beating Voldemort' under our watch, we'll take out the bastard before he can so much as lift his wand in your presence. That's our job, and I, for one, haven't failed a mission yet. Furthermore, now that you know we're ninjas, you're going to keep our secret from the rest of the school, because we will not tolerate those questions you pathetic little children will undoubtedly come up with, given the opportunity. As far as I'm concerned, we're still operating undercover. Our identities have not been compromised at Hogwarts, where the bulk of the mission will take place."

Harry scowled. Mission, mission, mission, mission. Is that all he was, now? It wasn't even about Voldemort? These people were even more enraging than the Order members that only fawned over him because he was supposed to beat Voldemort for them.

These people didn't care at all. They were just getting paid.

Biting his tongue to keep himself from screaming at them, he turned and began stalking back towards the Burrow.

After a moment, he snapped, "I'm not promising to keep this quiet. It's your problem if people know you're ninjas," he spat the word like a curse, "not mine. It's your job to deal with it, isn't it?"

"We're not asking for your consent," returned Sasuke with proportional coldness. "You just saw Naruto clone himself and manipulate pure, tangible magic with more control than even Dumbledore could presume. You just saw Sakura break the goddamn ground, not to mention me breathe fire." He smirked and concluded, "You're not going to tell."

"I don't do well with threats," Harry growled, pulling out his wand even as they continued striding towards the house. "Don't think you scare me for a second."

"It wasn't a threat," Naruto cut across. Harry noticed with that familiar tinge of guilt that Naruto's expression was still upset. "That's just the bastard's way of saying you won't tell because no one would believe you. Remember when I said it was a shame he was the only English-speaker because he's so bad at speaking?"

"No," said Sasuke. "It was definitely a threat."

Naruto's pained expression morphed to rage so fast Harry stopped walking out of shock.


Maybe the same shock that had halted Harry was what rendered Sasuke silent.

Either way, Naruto and Sasuke stood toe-to-toe, Naruto red with shattering rage, and Sasuke blank and silent.

Finally, Naruto huffed and took a step back. When he looked over his shoulder, away from his friends and at nothing in particular, Harry caught tears glittering in the pale moonlight.

Sasuke looked in the opposite direction, expression stiff. Sakura had adopted Naruto's pained expression as she looked at the ground between them both.

"Hell," muttered Harry to himself, though he knew the shinobis would all hear. "Dumbledore always saddles me with the weirdest fucking guards he can find."

"We need to hurry back," murmured Sakura, ignoring the barb in favor of pushing all emotion aside. "We left four severely wounded shinobis with the Weasleys. I might be able to heal them enough for questioning."

Sasuke gave a nod. "Right. Potter if you start bitching again, I'm not opposed to knocking you out and dragging you back. Now, let's go."

Harry, remembering Sasuke's usual disregard of ethics after a good bitching at from Naruto back at Hogwarts, didn't doubt it. Grudgingly, he started walking again. The ninjas granted him silence.

Fakes. Bloody imposters, posers, bastards… killers, liars… no better than Voldemort or his Death Eaters…. How could Dumbledore willingly hire these – these things?

But even as he cussed them in his head, he noticed Sakura's shoulders, which had been rigid with authority when she donned her mask, beginning to slump in exhaustion. She was a killer, Harry thought, but hadn't Sasuke asked her about healing their enemies? Wasn't she trying to get to the other four to heal them, too? She wasn't cold blooded. Sakura volunteered at the hospital wing; she was already on the career pathway to Healing, McGonagall had said. She was a trained killer… but she was closing in on pure exhaustion because she wouldn't let even her enemies die.

And Naruto strode on the other side of Sakura; Naruto, who laughed and glowed, cried and dreamed without shame or restraint; Naruto, who showed his emotions even more openly than Harry, who had just taken down perhaps a dozen ninjas and Death Eaters combined to save Harry from his own stupidity. Naruto, who had purposefully 'missed their vitals,' even though he, too, was a trained killer.

Sasuke strode on Harry's left side, using Harry as a shield between him and his 'friends.'

Harry hated him.

He was callous, cold, and bitchy. Harry could easily hate him; he could easily force Sasuke to take the responsibility of all his anger at the situation, at all the lies and injustice, because Sasuke would take it in a heartbeat if it meant Harry would shut up quicker. Sasuke would take the blame in a heartbeat, because he didn't care about what Harry thought of him.

Naruto had understood love, loss, and the thirst for revenge enough to let Harry loose on Bellatrix. Sasuke had tried to stop them. Harry could hate him for that, too, because it was so entirely hypocritical. Didn't Sasuke exist solely to kill Itachi?

But even as Harry glared at Sasuke, hating him for everything, Harry could see the blood still trickling slowly from his temple. Harry could see the glisten of blood drenching his dark, tight sleeve below the fabric's bloody rip.

Sasuke was a bastard, but he had taken two curses to save Harry.

And, loathe though he was to admit it, Harry could see him, still, standing at the edge of the pond, telling Harry to take his chance before he stepped in. Sasuke had said they wouldn't let him near Voldemort because of their mission; but hadn't Sasuke just hung the mission to give Harry that one, brief chance to exact revenge?

Harry's eyes narrowed farther as he glared at Sasuke, but now it was more out of his own internal struggle.

Nonetheless, when Sasuke demanded, "What's your problem?" Harry scowled more darkly and turned his glare straight in front of them.

The flames still surrounded the Burrow, though they could hear Mr. Weasley, Remus, and Bill shouting spells from behind it, still apparently determined to go after Harry and the guards.

"I'll handle the fire," said Sasuke, and Harry glanced over to find himself looking into crimson eyes, which were fixed on the roaring flames. "Sakura, the shinobis. Naruto, Potter."

"You remember I'm the leader, right?" grumbled Sakura, leveling a Look at him.

Sasuke shrugged it off. "I said it for the dobe's benefit. You already knew the plan."

"Wait," said Harry, halting Naruto's retort. They placed him under expectant stares. He refused to squirm beneath them. Instead, he looked at Sakura. "Slug." She nodded. He turned to Naruto. "Toad." Naruto gave a short nod, uncertain. Finally, he glared at Sasuke. "Snake."

"Your point?" Sasuke drawled, glaring right back.

"Then who is Dog?"

Sakura answered, "He hasn't arrived yet."

"Are you mad? He's been here since the start of the break!"

"She means, the real Dog hasn't arrived yet," said Naruto, raising his hand sheepishly. "Dog has been one of my clones."

Harry stared. "…Oh. Right." He coughed. "Well, er… carry on, then."

Sasuke rolled his eyes, which were still crimson with the Sharingan. He glared at the fire and held his hands in front of his chest in a strange sign. His eyes narrowed even farther, and suddenly the flames began shrinking. Within two seconds, they vanished completely, and Sakura sprinted to their first battle site, all traces of exhaustion gone.


The Weasleys and Remus were on him faster than he could blink, all trying to ascertain how severely he was injured, all trying to find out what had happened, and where the Death Eaters had gone.

Harry couldn't get in a word through the continuous typhoon of questions.

Naturally, Sasuke snapped, "The situation is under control. Please return inside until we had re-secured the perimeter."

How his quiet voice was heard through all the questions when Harry's had been drowned out, Harry would never know. Nonetheless, however, the Weasleys froze at the sound and listened.

Until, "Sasuke? And, oh hell, Naruto? What are you two doing here?"

Sasuke's eyes fixed coldly on Ron.

"You are," said Sasuke, "a raging dumbass."

Fred and George roared with laughter, and Bill snickered to himself, but Mrs. Weasley launched into an outraged reprimand. Sasuke rolled his eyes, gave Naruto a pointed look, turned, and disappeared into the darkness.

"Where did he go?" demanded Mrs. Weasley, breaking off in the middle of her sentence.

Naruto chuckled. "To set up the perimeter," he chirped, then held his hands in a strange sign in front of his chest, like Sasuke had done only moments before. "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"

Another Naruto appeared out of thin air. The original Naruto instructed, "Go watch his back."

"Right!" faux Naruto saluted and bounded off after Sasuke.

"Bloody hell!" exclaimed Ron. "How'd you do that?"

"He's a ninja, Ron," muttered Harry, his anger coming back as he said it aloud.

Ron turned startled eyes to his best friend. Then he looked back to Naruto with a newfound air of bewilderment. "What?"

"Does that mean Sakura…?" said Ginny, looking over to where Slug had disappeared.

Harry nodded, still scowling.

"That – is – so – cool!" Ginny turned and ran in Sakura's direction.

"Harry?" said Ron, taking a step away from Naruto to Harry's other side. He eyed Naruto with wary distrust.

"I know," Harry growled, also glaring at Naruto.

Ron seemed to absorb some of Harry's anger as he snarled, "I don't believe this! I thought you were our friend!"

It seemed Naruto wouldn't smile again that night. He looked like he was bravely enduring a stab wound to the chest.

Harry squashed that tiny feeling of guilt, and he and Ron lead the way back inside.

A/N: Wow, three hundred reviews. You guys are so awesome! Here's hoping your Monday gets a little better. :)