With only one lamp lighting the office, the wall of windows behind the Hokage's desk offered an amazing view of the village during the late hours of the night.
Harry stifled a yawn and straightened to an uncomfortable degree, hoping it would stop eyes from wanting to close. Being woken up by Jiraiya to attend a meeting with the Hokage had been unexpected, worrying and unwanted.
"Do you know who I am?"
Harry fought against his urge to sleep and frowned at the only visible person in the office, envying her unruffled appearance. "The Hokage?"
From behind her paper covered desk, Tsunade's sharp gaze never wavered from him. "Do you know who my family is?"
Harry scoured his sleep addled memories for answers, but couldn't remember anything significant.
"My grandfather, Senju Hashirama was one of this village's founders. He married a woman from outside Fire Country. My grandmother, Uzumaki Mito," Tsunade said.
The implications of her words burned away the last vestiges of sleep.
"I am a Senju," Tsunade stated in a solemn rush before Harry could speak. "The Senju Clan Head."
Even though his mind buzzed, Harry hesitated, unsure of what to say.
"As the Senju clan head, I can't meddle in another clan's internal affairs. And as Hokage, that limitation is even more essential to uphold," Tsunade said, voice as steady as her gaze. "The oaths I've made as Hokage limit what I can do."
"But?" Harry prompted with impatience. If she was going to ruin his sleep time to talk, the least she could do was not drag the conversation out by being cryptic.
"But I am worried about you, and by extension your clan, not making a favourable impression on the Daimyo."
"I'm not meeting the Daimyo," Harry retorted. Frowning, he added, "I hope."
"Not in person," Tsunade agreed. "But the property official you're meeting is an extension of the Daimyo."
Harry grimaced. "Izumo didn't say he was that important!"
"He was probably trying to keep you calm," Tsunade said.
"And you don't want me to be calm?" Harry asked and glanced at the clock on the wall. "The meeting is only a few hours away."
"I want you to be better prepared, to make a good impression."
"Because you're the Hokage? Or because your grandmother was an Uzumaki?" Harry said, unwilling to bite back his impertinence.
"Does it matter?"
"What should I tell Naruto?" Harry asked instead.
Tsunade reached for her cup of tea. "I'll leave that up to you. You're his Clan head now."
After a moment of silence, Harry had to ask, "Couldn't you have told him about..."
"No," Tsunade said, no real emotion audible in her steady voice. "The responsibilities bestowed up me as the Senju..."
"I don't want your excuses," Harry interrupted. After a few deep breaths to calm down, he said, "How are you going to help me make a better impression?"
"There are documents that were kept in the custody of the Hokage's office." Tsunade put her teacup down and turned her gaze back to Harry. "Documents that are meant for the Uzumaki."
Harry frowned. "Why didn't Naruto get them before?"
"As a lone orphan and then a genin without a family or a clan, his legal affairs were overseen by the Hokage." Tsunade allowed that to sink in before she continued, "The documents have seals that ensure that he could only access them as a Jōnin ranked ninja."
"Of course," Harry muttered. "Wait, if they're sealed like that, then, how am I going to get them?"
"Konoha has officially recognized you as the the Uzumaki clan head when you submitted your property request. And Naruto your clan member."
"Okay?" Harry said, not understanding how that was relevant.
"A clan head has the authority to intervene and take over legal affairs of it's clan members. And since these are technically Uzumaki papers rather than just Naruto's papers, you should be able to access them."
"Should be able to," Harry repeated with a wry tone.
"They're Uzumaki seals," Tsunade shrugged. "No one really knows how they'll act with unforeseen variables."
"You think it might kill me?" Harry said.
"It shouldn't," Tsunade said, without a trace of worry.
Harry sighed. "All right."
From her desk drawer, Tsunade pulled out a scroll and placed it in front of Harry. A little bigger than his hand, the yellowing scroll was tied shut with a wide red ribbon. Tiny but elegant script covered every inch of the smooth ribbon.
"Blood and chakra should unlock that seal," Tsunade said after he had turned the scroll over multiple times.
Harry frowned and pressed his fingertips together. "I don't have anything sharp."
Tsunade stared at him for a moment, waiting for him to continue. When he didn't, she leaned forward with a green glowing finger and prodded Harry's fingertip.
Blood beaded on his fingertip.
Harry swiped his blood on the ribbon and flared his chakra. The seal sucked in his blood and chakra, the ink on the ribbon glowed red and expanded over the ribbon and onto the scroll. Unable to look away from the glowing ink, Harry had the distinct impression that he was being judged by the seal.
After what felt like minutes, the ink disappeared and the ribbon fell to his lap. A corner of the scroll flapped up, beckoning him to unroll it.
Tsunade leaned back.
Harry glanced between her and the scroll. "I didn't know seals could be like that."
"Like what?" Tsunade asked, genuine confusion in her voice.
Harry frowned at the scroll and shook his head. "Nothing. So, is that is? This scroll has everything in it?"
"It should have all the important Uzumaki documents. Any that were in the care of the previous Uzumaki in Konoha." Tsunade said, narrowed eyes fixed on the scroll in Harry's hand.
"Then I better go and start looking. The property meeting is in a few hours," Harry said, tightening his grip on the scroll.
"There was a lot more than red tape involved in getting those papers."
"I'm not doubting that. I just wish there was more time to go through everything." Harry stood, ready to leave, but paused. "Do you think... she had plans for the clan? The previous holder of this scroll." Harry hesitated before he added, "Naruto's mother?"
Tsunade was silent for long enough that Harry assumed she wouldn't answer. "If she did, I had no way of knowing," Tsunade said in a soft voice that he strained to hear. "Other than a few meetings in passing, I stayed away from Konoha since she was a child. We were not close as we could have been."
Keeping his gaze on the office door, Harry lowered his voice. "And your grandmother?"
"My grandmother educated me as Senju heir and kept all Uzumaki business to herself."
Even though Harry hadn't really expected any useful information, he was still disappointed.
"But my grandmother was a meticulous record keeper. I remember her filling that scroll with all the paperwork she did for the Uzumaki." Before Harry could even formulate another question, Tsunade's fingers flicked through the air. Air rushed past Harry and a masked man landed beside him. "Escort him home."
Out the window and under the cool night sky, the masked man whisked Harry through the sleeping village until they landed in front of his apartment within minutes.
"Thanks, Cat-san," Harry said as he reached for the door.
"It's Racoon," the masked man reminded him.
Jiraiya, still wide awake, opened the front door, his eyes darting between Harry, the spot where the masked man had just been and the scroll clutched tight in Harry's hand.
That ignited Harry's suspicions.
"Did you have something to do with this?" Harry asked Jiraiya as soon as he entered the dark apartment. "You have been out of the apartment a lot over the past week. And if you were dealing with the paperwork that would allow me to get this, it explains those bags under your eyes.""
"As if that could be the only reason a divine male specimen like me would be exhausted," Jiraiya countered.
Harry stared at the older man and decided, "So it was the paperwork and bureaucracy that was keeping you busy." Harry turned away from him and said, "Either way, I need to wake Naruto."
"Are you sure?" Jiraiya asked, all signs of teasing playfulness replaced with caution.
"I'm supposed to be sleeping off a hangover from our drinking competition."
"You're not hungover," Jiraiya pointed out with exasperation.
"The point it, if I have to suffer through reading whatever is sealed in here, then he has to as well," Harry said as he switched on the lights in the second bedroom. "Naruto, wake up, we have work to do."
Naruto squinted at Harry and whined as he pulled the covers over his head. "Nii-san, what?"
"Something's come up about the property," Harry said.
Naruto shot out of his bed, his sleeping cap askew on his head. "What?"
"Come on," Harry said and held up the scroll he had gotten. "We've only got a few hours to work it out before the property meeting."
"What is that?" Naruto asked with wide eyes as he followed Harry.
"Uzumaki business." Harry led the way to the kitchen table, switching on all the lights. He cleared the mess of books and paperwork that already cluttered the table from their previous meeting preparation and unrolled the scroll he had just gotten.
"But where did it come from?" Naruto rubbed his eyes, shooting an accusing narrow eyed stare at a silent Jiraiya.
"The Hokage," Harry paused his perusal of the scroll's numerous circular seals and glanced up at Naruto. "Do you know who her grandparents are?"
"Baa-chan? She's the first Hokage's granddaughter."
"And her grandmother?" Harry prodded him.
"The First Hokage's wife?" Naruto shrugged without interest as he pushed up his blue pyjama sleeves.
Harry glanced at an unmoving Jiraiya who stood at the kitchen entrance. "The First Hokage married Uzumaki Mito."
"Uzumaki? But then, baa-chan is," Naruto swallowed, a distinct note of hurt in his voice as he sat down beside Harry. "She never..." he didn't finish.
He didn't have to.
Harry knew that Naruto was hurt. Hurt because a possible relation- even a very distant one- had never mentioned or acknowledged their connection in any way especially when Naruto had been alone as a child.
Apparently, discerning Naruto's thoughts, Jiraiya said, "When you become a clan head, interfering in any other clan's matters could jeopardize many things, including your clan's standing. Konoha needed a neutral Senju presence."
Naruto wasn't appeased. "She wasn't even in Konoha."
"There's a lot of... politics, especially when it comes to the Senju," Jiraiya countered. "The power their mere name has, it came at a cost."
Naruto scoffed. "If she was so concerned about politics, why didn't she accept the Hokage role the minute you told her about it?"
"You know why she was like that, back then," Jiraiya sighed.
The whiskers on Naruto's cheeks darkened as he looked down at the table and bit out, "I don't know anything about her."
Jiraiya opened his mouth to reply but looked away in silence.
"What was she like? Uzumaki Mito." Harry asked Jiraiya, when the uncomfortable silence had stretched out for too long. "As the Hokage's team-mate, you must have met her."
"She was," Without his horned forehead protector, the wistfulness on Jiraiya's face was easy to read. "Mito-sama was very proper, always dressed impeccably no matter what she was doing. Even when she was cooking fish. And she cooked a lot of fish. The house always smelled like cooked fish when we visited."
"I suppose she was too old to know Naruto's mother?" Harry prompted, trying to sound nonchalant as he dug for more tidbits of information.
Jiraiya glanced at Naruto before he replied. "Mito-sama was old, somewhere in her seventies probably, when Kushina came to Konoha. And Kushina must have been seven or eight at that time. I know she came after Nawaki died."
Who's Nawaki? Harry wanted to ask, instead he said, "She came to Konoha by herself?"
"No!" Jiraiya said. "Kushina was escorted here. I don't remember by whom exactly, but it would have been too reckless for her to travel to Konoha by herself."
"She wasn't escorted by other Uzumaki?" Harry asked, "Her family?"
Naruto's eyes flicked up to Jiraiya, his interest in the discussion obvious.
Jiraiya shook his head, "I'm pretty sure she was the only Uzumaki to come to Konoha."
"And no one thought that was strange?" Harry asked.
"It was a turbulent time for everyone. A group of Uzumaki travelling together would have attracted unwanted attention," Jiraiya said. "Two years after Kushina came here, the Second Shinobi War kept us all occupied." With a cautious look at Naruto, he said, "Sometime after surviving Hanzo and countering poisons, Tsunade was instated as Senju clan head."
"Isn't that when her... Shizune's uncle died?" Naruto asked, not looking at Jiraiya.
"Not right then, but yeah, Dan died near the end of that war. And Tsunade," Jiraiya sighed and curled his fingers in an absent gesture. "The war changed everybody."
Unable to turn the conversation into another less morose topic, Harry pushed his chakra into one of the scroll's large circular seals.
The chakra sunk in.
The ink shifted.
A large cardboard box appeared on top of the scroll in a rush of air, covering it and a good portion of the kitchen table.
A glance inside the box made Harry groan. "It's only the first seal and there's a boxful of paperwork to look through. I don't even know how many seals are on this scroll."
"Regardless of how many seals there are, you'll probably just need to familiarize yourself with the most recent documents, at the front of that scroll." Jiraiya said, still at the kitchen entrance, not making any move to come to the table.
Harry shook his head in dismay. "The property meeting is hours away. Even if I can read through and understand a lot of this, I'm not going to remember anything important from these files."
"My clones can help," Naruto offered without hesitation. "When we're at the meeting, they can keep reading and send me what they've read when they disperse."
Though pleased by the offer, Harry knew the danger of Naruto's technique. "You already got enough headaches from reading that way over the past week. It'll be twice as bad with all your clones having to read through everything in a few hours."
"A headache doesn't matter," Naruto said, "If our property meeting fails then we can't make a clan compound."
"The first meeting is just testing the waters." Jiraiya said, his voice gentle to soothe their worries. "The big decisions only happen after weeks or months of meetings."
"You've never bought property!" Naruto pointed out, his previous irritation at Jiraiya returning.
"No," Jiraiya conceded, "But I've been to many meetings that are equally important. Trust me on this."
"We still need to go through all this, so that we can pretend to be well informed." Harry turned to the fridge. "I wonder if we have enough cake to read." Then he turned to Jiraiya, "You better not be thinking of escaping this paper hell you've landed us is."
Jiraiya blinked. "What?"
"You're the one who woke me up to get these papers," Harry said as he opened the box and examined it's contents. Nestled in between and under the thick folders of papers were scrolls, books and a small wooden case. "You don't get to escape having read them."
"I," Jiraiya paused and looked at Naruto.
Naruto didn't look at him but he said, "Without Izumo around to explain the legal stuff, you have to pay off your stay."
Harry opened the wooden case. A smooth red cylinder, that was a little smaller than his palm lengthwise but which had the width of a silver sickle, lay nestled inside the case. The bottom end of the cylinder had an embossed spiral. "A stamp?"
"That's no ordinary stamp!" Jiraiya said, his voice high with shock. When it became obvious that neither of them understood his reaction, he said, "For the Uzumaki to have a hanko made from that stone is extraordinary. And since it's so small and undecorated, it must not be the original Uzumaki hanko."
"I'm confused," Harry said.
Naruto nodded with an agreeing sound.
"That stamp is a hanko of your kamon, your clan emblem. The Uzumaki spiral." Jiraiya took a deep breath. "A hanko is a seal that you can use to sign official paperwork."
"Sign the paperwork as clan head?" Harry asked, as he traced the embossed spiral.
"That's a clan hanko," Jiraiya said. "Whatever you use that on, you use on behalf of the clan. It's not exactly something for individual use."
"So all clans have one?" Harry wondered.
"The important ones do. The Daimyo granted clans the privilege of having and using a hanko after Konoha was founded," Jiraiya stated. "Before that, hanko were only used in the capital by the nobles."
Harry raised the cylinder to the light. "And they're all made of jade?"
"You recognize it?" Jiraiya asked in surprise but shook his head in the next instant. "Obviously, you would recognize it."
"What's the big deal?" Naruto interrupted.
Jiraiya huffed and said, "I thought you'd recognize the stone, since it's the same material as that crystal you're wearing."
Naruto grabbed the blue pendant dangling from his necklace. "It can't be the same. That's red and not clear."
"They're the same," Jiraiya said. "And if something as small as your necklace can buy three mountains that contain gold mines, imagine just how much more valuable that hanko is."
"That's crazy," Naruto choked out and actually leaned away from the jade hanko in Harry's hand.
"Very few nobles have anything made of jade, let alone a hanko," Jiraiya said, looking between Harry and Naruto.
"And the Daimyo?" Harry asked.
"The only person in Fire Country to have multiple items made of this rare material. A collection is said to have taken centuries to amass."
Harry rolled the red jade cylinder in his hands. "Worth mountains, huh?"
"Many, many mountains," Jiraiya said in a low tone.
"You said it's not the original Uzumaki hanko?" Harry asked, offering the jade hanko to Naruto. But Naruto shook his head and made no move to take it.
"Even though it's made out of rare jade, it's too simple," Jiraiya said. "Hanko are elaborate. They're covered in detailed carvings."
"You've seen a lot of them?" Harry rotated the cylinder between his fingertips, searching for any hint of carving on it.
Jiraiya nodded. "More than most people get a chance to see. The Daimyo's hanko is a large jade one."
"Green or white?" Harry asked absently.
"Emerald green," Jiraiya said after a long moment. "How did you know?"
Harry shrugged. "I was very interested in stones when I was eleven." Pleased at the confusion on Jiraiya's face, Harry tugged out the circular ceramic tin that was still in the box. He unscrewed the lid and found a vibrant red paste. "I guess this is the ink pad I use with the stamp."
"Seal paste," Jiraiya corrected.
Harry pressed the embossed end of the hanko into the seal paste and onto a piece of scrap paper. After a careful tug up, a crisp vermillion Uzumaki spiral remained on the paper.
"It's so clear," Naruto said, eyes fixed on the paper.
Harry pushed the paper to Naruto. "People must have tried to make fake ones."
"Each hanko, no matter what it's made of, has official documentation from the Daimyo's court that prove it's authenticity." Jiraiya tilted his head in thought and scratched the stubble on his cheek. "But jade isn't something that can be faked easily. Not many people have actually seen it. And, I'm sure any Daimyo can recognize authentic jade, no matter the colour."
"Good to know," Harry returned the hanko back to the safety of it's case and grabbed a thick folder from the box.
"That's it?" Jiraiya gaped. "That's your reaction to... all this?"
Harry glanced up from the folder. "I'm saving my energy for the paperwork."
Jiraiya looked up at the ceiling with a weary sigh. "Of course you are."
"There's already existing Uzumaki property in Fire Country," Harry said, skimming through the folder.
"What?" Naruto exclaimed, still holding the stamped paper. "Where?"
Harry passed the folder to him and dived back into the box, "I hope there's a map in here."
"There should be," Jiraiya said even as he opened the folder that Harry gave him.
A clone-Naruto appeared beside Harry to take the next folder. With the box emptied of it's contents to an army of Naruto's clones and no map in sight, Harry opened the next seal on the scroll only to get another box full of folders.
"Nii-san, I found a map of Fire Country," one of the clones yelled from the other side of the apartment. He ran past the other excited clones and placed a small but detailed map in front of Harry. "It was in the back of a folder."
"Good job," Harry smiled at the clone.
Naruto huffed even as his clone beamed in pride. "He just got lucky."
Harry pushed his glasses up and leaned closer to the map. "Are these red dots the Uzumaki properties?"
"Is there one to the south-east of Konoha?" Jiraiya asked, not looking up from the folder in his hand.
Naruto found a red dot relatively close to Konoha. "Close to the end of the Sumida River?"
"That's the one. It's a temple. An Uzumaki temple," Jiraiya said. "We went there with Tsunade after Mito-sama passed away."
"A temple? Does it have monks?" Harry wondered.
"No, it was a small family temple. It just has some old ceremonial masks inside. If that temple is marked on that map, then the other marks must be Uzumaki properties."
Naruto's eyes roved the map, taking in all the marks, before he sat back in his chair with a heavy sigh.
"With all this scattered property, we'll go broke just paying taxes," Harry realized with dismay.
"You don't have to worry about that," Jiraiya tapped the papers he was reading. "Mito-sama invested in many things on behalf of the Uzumaki. That income pays off the taxes. Explains why I never saw Kushina struggle with any of this."
Naruto stilled at the casual mention of his mother.
"We don't have to worry about the taxes?" Harry asked with cautious hope.
"Not for any of the existing properties. But now that you are taking over, you might get called in to negotiate prices. So you'll have to watch out for any talk of that at today's meeting." Jiraiya shuffled through the papers and stopped to stare at one paper in particular. "I shouldn't be surprised anymore."
"What is it?" Harry dreaded the answer.
Jiraiya turned the paper around, so that they could see a vibrant red stamp on the paper. "See that?"
Taking in Jiraiya's careful expression, Harry took a wild guess, hoping his was wrong. "The Daimyo's seal."
"The Daimyo's seal," Jiraiya confirmed.
A heavy silence filled the kitchen.
"Why is there a document with the Daimyo's seal in here?" Harry asked, trying to stay calm.
"According to this, even if taxes go unpaid and even if there are no Uzumaki left, the properties go directly to the Daimyo, never to be changed in any way or sold to anyone," Jiraiya said.
Jiraiya grimaced with real annoyance. "The Daimyo never gives people reasons for his decisions. But I doubt anyone knew that the Uzumaki had such a... connection."
"And they shouldn't?" Harry guessed.
"Best to keep it quiet," Jiraiya agreed. "People have been trying and failing for a connection to the Daimyo for a long time. This could make you a target."
"The Hokage's clan doesn't have a connection?" Harry asked in curiosity.
"The Senju are founders, their connection to the Daimyo is to be expected," Jiraiya said. "But the Uzumaki are... not from Fire Country."
Without the luxury of time to explore how they felt about the revelations, they threw themselves into the haze of paperwork, only speaking if they needed to clarify something they'd found.
By the time the morning sunlight crept in through the kitchen windows, Harry didn't know if his headache was from the lack of sleep, his worry for their upcoming meeting or all the last minute reading.
Naruto looked in even worse shape with every clone he popped.
But they still had a lot to go through.
"That's enough for now. You're as prepared as you can be. Go clean up before your meeting," Jiraiya said as he closed another folder and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his temples with a grimace.
When Naruto didn't move, Harry stood with a stretch. "Can you send a clone out for breakfast?"
Naruto nodded. One of his clones put a jacket over his pyjamas and left the apartment just as Harry entered the bathroom.
After a rambling message full of updates to his friends via the mirror, an extra hot shower and a few spells to look more awake, Harry returned to breakfast on a cleared kitchen table. He gobbled down his freshly bought omelet as Naruto got ready. "What?" Harry asked, as he poured himself a cup of tea.
"The meeting will be fine," Jiraiya reassured him. "Listen..."
Harry held up his hand, interrupting the older man. "Let's leave any heavy conversations for after the super important property meeting."
Jiraiya snorted but nodded and poured himself some tea.
They sat in silence until Naruto returned, freshly showered and shaking out his laundered jacket. "You ready to go?"
Harry glanced at the clock. They still had two hours before the meeting. He nodded, grabbed the bag he'd prepared for the meeting and stood.
Jiraiya didn't stop them. "You'll both do fine."
Though he didn't look at Jiraiya, Naruto smoothed down his jacket one final time and stood a little straighter as he said, "I'll leave some clones here. To keep reading."
Harry nodded a thanks to Jiraiya just before he close the front door and stepped out into Konoha's very early morning.
Adopting an unusually slow pace, Naruto led the way past vendors who were setting up and empty streets towards the south of Konoha. Having resigned himself to silence for their long walk, Harry was surprised when Naruto said, "This isn't how I imagined my first week of being sixteen."
"What did you imagine?" Harry asked as a cool breeze ruffled his hair.
"I definitely never imagined any reading but that's all I've been doing," Naruto replied with a shake of his head.
Harry snorted with genuine amusement. "That's not all you've been doing. You're still getting covered in syrup from training."
Naruto shot him a look of betrayal and groused, "It feels like I've done more reading than anything else."
"That's because of your clones," Harry said.
Naruto glanced up at the sky. "I've met tons of important people during missions, but this meeting is... I don't want to mess it up."
"You won't mess up this meeting. Or all the other meetings we'll have to go to in the future," Harry reassured him. "You're the clan heir."
Naruto huffed at him. "That's just because I'm the only other Uzumaki here."
"I had the option of leaving the clan heir slot empty on the paperwork," Harry informed him.
They walked in silence until they reached the office sector of Konoha. Naruto asked, "Really?"
"Really," Harry said.
Lit up by early morning light and sandwiched between two other nondescript buildings, the dull brown building -that didn't even garner a second look from the people around them- intimidated Harry.
Holding the gleaming glass door open for Harry, Naruto asked, "Do we have everything?"
Harry nodded and tightened his grip on the bag in his hand. It should contain everything they needed.
"We're too early." Naruto whispered as they sat in the empty waiting room.
"It's good to be early," Harry replied, wondering he should have downed some Calming Draught.
They sat in an uneasy silence until the secretary ushered them into a paper filled office.
Less than an hour later, they stepped out of the building in a daze.
"Why are you out so early?" Jiraiya asked, standing opposite the building, his eyes narrowed as he glanced between them. "The meeting was supposed to take the whole morning."
Harry glanced at Naruto. "You should take a nap before you go train."
Relieved, Naruto nodded and jumped up onto the building's roof and disappeared with a wave.
"Remember how you were saying that no big decisions happen at the first meeting?" Harry asked the older man.
"What about it?" Jiraiya asked with a cautious tone as he followed Harry away from the building.
"I need a drink," Harry said. "Or maybe a few drinks."
A thunderous frown hardened Jiraiya's features as he turned, taking a step back towards the building. "They couldn't have refus..."
"It's been approved."
Jiraiya hurried after Harry. "What?"
"The property was already approved by the Daimyo before the meeting. Apparently it was done the moment I was recognized as the Uzumaki clan head by Konoha," Harry swallowed down the jumble of emotions that had been threatening to overwhelm him since his meeting with the Hokage. "He wants us settled in Konoha as soon as possible."
"There's no hiding a connection to the Daimyo now," Harry said.
"Of all the impulsive things that man could have done! Just cutting out months of meetings and negotiations and," Jiraiya pinched the bridge of his nose. "Didn't he even consider what it would look like to show such blatant partiality?"
"I might have been able to delay completing the paperwork, but someone put the Uzumaki hanko in my bag," Harry said with a pointed look.
"I thought it would just make a positive impression," Jiraiya defended himself. "I didn't expect you to be signing final paperwork in your very first meeting."
Harry snorted. "You said a connection to the Daimyo would make us targets. Targets of what exactly?"
"Marriage proposals, hopefully." Jiraiya frowned.
"Getting the property was supposed to be a reason for celebration. But all I feel is dread," Harry admitted.
Jiraiya ruffled Harry's hair. "You're talking like you've got no one watching out for the two of you."
"I need to get some sleep. You're starting to seem like a reliable adult," Harry deflected before any emotion could get the better of him.
"Can't have that," Jiraiya said, a wry look on his face.
When they reached the apartment, Jiraiya motioned him inside and disappeared in a flutter of leaves.
Finding no trace of Naruto or his clones in the apartment, Harry sank into his bed, sure that he wouldn't be able to sleep.
He woke to a dark apartment and a persistent knocking at the front door.
"Sakura, what's wrong?" Harry asked as he opened the door.
Worry clouded her red-rimmed eyes. "Is Naruto here?"
"He's out training."
Sakura shook her head. "He's not at any training ground or location he likes and I…I'm worried."
"Why? What happened?" Harry asked, all traces of sleep vanishing under a wave of worry. Had people already found out about the Daimyo connection?
"We got news about," Sakura clenched her fingers into her long sleeves and lowered her voice to a wretched whisper, "someone we know. It must have hit Naruto hard."
Prompted by the pain in her wet eyes, Harry opened the door wider. "Do you want to wait for him inside?"
Sakura shuffled into his lit apartment with slumped shoulders and headed straight to the Go board.
Harry grabbed some juice and sat on the other side of the Go board.
When the board was half covered with the opal playing stones and Sakura's hands didn't shake as much, Harry asked, "Is it really bad news?"
"It's... frustrating," Sakura admitted, keeping her eyes on the board.
"And sad," Sakura agreed. "I didn't want to leave Naruto by himself. But I couldn't find him anywhere."
"If he doesn't show up for dinner, then I'll track him down."
"You?" Sakura asked, her voice sceptical.
"My owl will," Harry said.
Sakura nodded in understanding and looked around the empty apartment.
"She'll show up when we need her," Harry said as he put down a stone. "When did you get this frustrating news?"
"Around noon," Sakura replied.
Harry grimaced. "I can't believe I slept the entire day away."
Concern replaced Sakura's sadness. "You slept the entire day? Are you feeling sick?" Green light flickered into existence around her fingers.
"No," Harry placated her before she could give him a check up. "We were up all night."
Sakura frowned. "Were you drinking with Jiraiya-san again?"
"That's not why we stayed up," Harry said. "How do you even know about that?"
"During out last training session, Naruto mentioned something about you two having a drinking competition every night since his birthday."
"We didn't stay up because of the drinking. We had some last minute preparation to do for the property meeting."
"That was today," Sakura said with dawning realization and a growing devastation. "With my overtime, I forgot about that."
"It is a big deal!" Sakura bit out, her eyes tearing up. " I swore I'd be a better team-mate."
"Better doesn't mean perfect," Harry hastened to say. "Right?"
Though her eyes were still teary, Sakura swallowed and nodded.
Looking down at the board as she wiped at her eyes, Harry said, "You really should play Nara-san. I'd pay good money to see him lose."
Sakura's voice sounded steadier when she replied. "I doubt I can beat any Nara at a board game."
Chancing a look up and not finding any tears, Harry said, "You'll give them a challenge with the way you play. You never do the same thing twice. Where did you learn to play?"
"Shizune. Her uncle taught her but Tsunade-sama helped her hone her go and medical skills."
"So go is a medics' board game of choice?" Harry asked.
"No one at the hospital has ever mentioned playing go. If they do, I doubt they'd want to play against me." Sakura glanced out the window. "It's late."
"It is," Harry stood. "Let's go find Naruto."
As soon as they stepped outside and locked the apartment door, Hedwig landed on Harry's shoulder with a hoot.
"Had a good hunt?" Harry greeted her with a scratch under her beak.
Hedwig bobbed her head up and down, in imitation of a nod.
"We need to find Naruto," Harry told her. "Can you lead us to him?"
Hedwig tilted her head, considering the request, before she nodded again and jumped up into the air with a hoot.
With Hedwig leading the way, they passed through emptying streets and grim-faced ninja.
After a few minutes, Konoha's numerous buildings, houses and even market stalls whittled away until only tall trees and streetlights lined their path.
Sakura's sigh cut through the silence. "This is, we're headed towards the Uchiha property."
Suppressing an instinctive grimace at the name, Harry rubbed at his neck, where one of Itachi's crows had scratched their talons across his skin. Harry glanced at her, "Do you want to go ahead alone?"
Sakura shook her head, "It might be better for him if you're there."
Considering he still didn't know what had prompted this late night search for Naruto, Harry was glad she wasn't sending him away.
Having never been to this part of Konoha, Harry was startled when the trees gave way to a few unlit buildings that overlooked large but worn wooden walls.
They stopped in front of wooden gates that had a large symbol painted across it. A upside down red crescent over a white fan.
Hedwig swooped down to Harry's right shoulder with a low hoot.
Before Harry could use a Homenum Revelio spell, Sakura said, "Ayumu?"
The air rippled, like the surface of water that had been disturbed, and a short boy with red eyes and curly hair appeared. "Sakura-san," the boy greeted with a bow. "I thought you'd be coming, so I waited."
"Did Naruto go in?"
Ayumu nodded. "He disabled some of the seal alarms but I recognized him, so I didn't stop him from going in."
Sakura moved closer to the boy. "Is Kurenai-sensei all right?"
"She's supposed to be resting," Ayumu said, "so I took over the caretaker duty."
"Does she know that you're doing this?" There was an admonishing note in Sakura's voice. "Your brother better not be here."
"Of course, Yasu isn't here. He's an academy student. And nee-san was sleeping," Ayumu admitted with all the outrage he could muster. "But mom said that she's not supposed to do anything dangerous right now."
"You're not supposed to do anything dangerous either," Sakura pointed out.
"I know how to hide and call for backup," Ayumu said with a careless shrug. "Are you going in?"
"And this is..." Ayumu prompted, turning to Harry.
At the direct eye contact, the details in the boy's eyes became more visible. Instead of unnerving solid red irises, his ringed irises had two distinct shades of red in them- an outer scarlet ring that encircled a maroon ring around his pupil.
"Harii is Naruto's cousin," Sakura said, before Harry could say anything. "He's coming in with me. He won't harm the property."
Ayumu motioned Harry forward. "All right, I'll add him to the seals so he can pass through."
"And then you go straight back home," Sakura warned him. "I'll reset the seals when we leave."
Ayumu nodded as his fingers flashed through a long sequence of hand signs. His fingertips glowed red. He tapped the gate at seemingly random spots, red circles of energy rippling across the gate before sinking in to darkness and then prodded Harry's hand.
A warm tingle ran up Harry's arm without any accompanying light show.
"Good job," Sakura said.
Ayumu smiled at her and with a wave, he disappeared from sight.
"I almost feel bad for him," Sakura said as she pushed a small door on one side of the gate open. Beyond the gates, without any streetlights, darkness blanketed the houses and buildings packed together in the dark. Sakura grabbed a lantern on the inside of the gate and lit it. "He's going to be lectured by his mom and Kurenai-sensei when he gets home."
Harry snorted as he closed the gate door behind them with a click.
The dim lantern barely lit their way through the property's oppressive darkness.
Hedwig swooped forward through the property, leading them deep past large empty houses and overgrown gardens towards a large pond that reflected the starry night sky.
On a small patch of land at the centre of the pond, a fair distance from where they stood on the bank, blonde hair gleamed under the night sky.
Sakura glanced at Harry and held her hand out to him with with a questioning look.
Confused, Harry reached for her hand.
Sakura nodded and in the blink of an eye, wrapped her arm around his back in a tight grip. Before he could protest, they were up in the air. Wind ruffled his hair as they hurtled down and landed on the small patch of land a few steps behind a kneeling Naruto.
In front of them, a polished black flame towered above them, reaching to the sky. Once again, Harry's research from the Philosopher's Stone debacle helped him identify the sculpture's material. Obsidian.
The dim light of the lantern didn't allow Harry to see too many details of the sculpture, but the reflection of the light created an illusion of a flickering flame harboured deep inside the blackness.
"You're a good team-mate, taking care of this place," Naruto said, his voice hoarse, not raising his eyes from the ground.
"I haven't done anything here," Sakura said, keeping her voice low. "Kurenai-sensei's family are old Uchiha vassals. She's the main caretaker. Her little cousins help out sometimes. But they don't have the time to do too much."
Naruto was silent for a long moment. "I didn't know."
"Not many people do," Sakura admitted. "She had to take up the position only because people were trying to get the property sold."
"I came here to apologize for being so useless," Naruto said after a long moment of silence, his voice low and pained. "I don't think they would have approved of a failure like me as his team-mate. "
"I doubt they would have approved of me either," Sakura said. "We've both failed as his team-mate."
Naruto sniffled and shook his head. "If I had been better, if I had just convinced him, then he would have come back instead of... he should have come back. How do I apologize to them?"
Sakura slumped, her hair falling over her eyes, hiding them from sight.
Hating to interrupt but unable to stay silent any longer, Harry said, "You don't have to apologize for someone else." When they both turned to him in surprise, Harry added, "And anyway, the dead probably feel a lot more helpless than you. Seeing and being unable to do anything. I think they'll appreciate you two for trying."
"Even if we're failing?" Naruto asked, his voice breaking as he searched for reassurance.
"We didn't fail," Sakura said before Harry could reply. Her voice grew stronger as she continued, "He made a choice. And that choice has nothing to do with us."
"He would have come back if we..."
"No," Sakura said firmly. "Why should we keep blaming ourselves? After everything we've learnt and struggled to obtain, why aren't we good enough? Just because Sasuke didn't choose us again?"
Naruto looked at Sakura like he'd never seen her before.
Sakura pursed her lips and straightened. "Sasuke-kun is an idiot."
Naruto snorted in surprise.
"And so are we," Sakura said after a moment.
Harry stared between the two teens, lost by their conversation.
"We need to stop doing the same things when it comes to Sasuke-kun," Sakura said with a determination. "We need to try something different."
"Like what?" Naruto asked incredulously.
"I don't know yet. But something, anything," Sakura said.
Naruto stared at her.
She looked back, undeterred, "The next time we come here, we won't be apologizing for anything. They'll just have to acknowledge us as the best teammates he could have ever gotten."
Naruto cracked a small smile.
"Will you help me?" Sakura asked, holding out her hand.
"You don't have to ask, Sakura-chan," Naruto said as he grabbed her hand and stood. He curled his hand into a fist and raised it up with an expectant look.
Sakura mimicked him after a moment's hesitation and her face lit up as they bumped fists.
"We should find Sai," Naruto said, sounding more chipper, even though his eyes were puffy. "To tell him our new ideas."
Sakura nodded. "Yes. We'll need his help."
Parting from them at the property's gate, Harry bought some takeout and hurried back to his empty apartment. He was part way through packing and labelling some repaired items that needed to be returned to their owners, when Jiraiya's distinctive knock pulled Harry to the front door. He frowned as Jiraiya stumbled into the apartment. "Are you drunk?"
"I don't get drunk," Jiraiya retorted. At Harry's unimpressed look, he said, "When you drink with the Hokage, you only down the hard liquor. So I might be buzzed. But that doesn't mean I'm drunk."
"Did you eat? I got takeout," Harry offered.
"That will go great with the case of sake that we still need to drink,"Jiraiya grinned. "The one we were going to drink to to settle our drinking competition tonight."
"Are you sure you should drink more right now?" Harry asked.
"Don't be a spoilt sport, I need to drink on my last free night in Konoha," Jiraiya said as he slumped down onto the sofa. "I won't be able to enjoy sake for a long while."
"You're leaving? Does it have something to do Naruto and Sakura's... Sasuke," Harry tried to sound knowledgeable about their situation. But his worry outweighed his need for information. "They were apologizing to a stone, it was probably a memorial, but still."
"That damn Uchiha! Stupid geniuses and their stupid attitudes. They'll be fine," Jiraiya rubbed his neck and looked around. "This place looks messier than normal. Is that brat in charge of all the cleaning?"
"It's work," Harry said as he grabbed one of the items he'd been repairing "Now that I've repaired them, they can finally leave the apartment."
"Where did you get that?" Jiraiya asked, a strange tone in his voice, his eyes fixed on Harry's hand. More specifically, item in Harry's hand.
"Someone sent it here for fixing." Harry grabbed the grey pouch that had held the broken pieces before and read his own handwriting on the tag. "From a... Genma. Why?"
"That brat," Jiraiya sighed.
Harry snorted. "Is everyone a brat to you? I met Genma, he's pretty old."
"Pretty old," Jiraiya chuckled. "He'll be devastated to be considered old."
"Is this something I'm not supposed to fix?" Harry asked with worry. He tilted the small forked weapon, smoothing his finger over the incomplete symbol that hadn't been repaired by his spell.
"Nothing like that," Jiraiya assured him. "Just, I didn't know others held on to it too."
"You have something like this?"
"My previous student made them. He was the only one who could use them," Jiraiya said, pain colouring his words. With a flicker of smoke from his metal arm guard, Jiraiya pulled out an identical but gleaming weapon with a wistful expression. "I never even got the chance to use it."
"I'll go get the sake," Harry said as he tucked the weapon into Genma's grey pouch.
Jiraiya huffed. "You have to keep me company, brat. There's nothing worse that drinking alone with only your thoughts for company."
Harry put the sake case in front of Jiraiya's slumped form and sat beside him. "As long as I don't have to make any toasts."
"It's a non-toasting kind of night," Jiraiya admitted, sounding morose.
"And I suppose I'll let you off the hook for our competition and let our draw stand," Harry said.
Jiraiya shot him a look. "How generous of you."
"I know." Harry grinned at the older man. "I can be quite the grown up. Don't worry, I'm sure some day, you'll get some grown up tendencies too."
"Really?" Jiraiya said, a flicker of amusement in his tone as he filled his cup with sake. "This is how you're going to keep me company? By mocking me?"
Harry looked at the older man. Looked at the dark bags under his eyes and the tight lines around his mouth. "Actually, let's talk about the ideas I have for the property."
Jiraiya ignored his sake cup and leaned forward. "You have ideas?"
"Rough ideas," Harry said.
"Let's hear it then," Jiraiya said, more involved than before.
They discussed everything they could about the property- things to build, who to hire, what materials to get- until the sake ran out.
Harry woke up the next morning to an empty apartment and a tingling arm. He kicked off his blanket, reached for the familiar glint of his glasses as he sat up only to frown at having slept on the sofa.
He frowned even harder at his left arm. More specifically, at the design inked on his inner arm.
On the table near his glasses, Harry found a folded letter. In a scrawl that Harry recognized as Jiraiya's, the letter read, 'Remember to empty the storage seal on your arm.'
Since he didn't care for blood activated seals, Harry flared his chakra against the seals.
The ink shifted, an alien sensation ripped across his skin and a space opened.
In a puff of smoke, empty sake bottles clattered onto his lap, followed by a thick folder and another folded letter that read, 'I want my own gold-plated room with a proper bed. Something large, to impress guests.'
Harry flipped through the folder once, re-read it a second, third and even a fifth time.
It confirmed Harry's suspicions.
Jiraiya had a strong connection to Naruto, something more than just being his teacher. He had to, to give the Uzumaki unrestricted access to his vast fortune.
"Nii-san!" Naruto yelled as he rushed into the apartment, his jacket rumpled and his hair askew. "Where's ero-sennin?"
"He left the village, I think," Harry said with a frown. "Why, what's happened now?"
"They're not letting me take missions outside Konoha." The whisker lines on Naruto's cheeks were thicker than ever as his clones appeared in a puff of smoke and scattered away from the apartment in a rush of wind. "They're saying it's because I'm the clan heir."
A/N: In the 9 years of glacial updating for this story, I've managed to amass a lot of wonderful readers. And I just want to thank every one of you for the follows, favs and reviews. Your support doesn't go unnoticed.