Hidden-in-the-Pool

By Inner Self

Chapter 2

Hey! Looking for an update? I'll be amazed if I get this out as soon as planned. So anyway, I used hate Sasuke then like a little but now I'm pissed again. I can't stand manga-ka. Honestly, they need to up the literature aspect of their work. It can't all be pretty pictures. Still, Kishimoto-san does a better job than most. So…hm. Wow. There are a lot of 3 Doors Down songs I could have used as the title. If Sakura doesn't seem to fit the title, let me know. In a review.

----------"When She's Afraid, When He's Gone"----

"This place is a freaking mess! How will we ever find that powder?" Karin shouted.

"Ahah!" cried Suigetsu. "That stupid bird has the last of it I swear! It's that bag in its beak!"

"Bird?" Juugo asked, released from his transformation. "Ah, he's above all those portraits, near the skylight. He blends in quite well with the crimson wall furnishings."

Sasuke had already planted his chakra-coated feet firmly upon the ceiling. Hanging upside-down, he deftly swiped the sack from the vermillion phoenixes' beak. Fawkes gave a cry of defeat. He flew back down to his perch. What more was a bird to do?

"Hurry up, Karin!"

"Shut up!" She threw a small handful into the fireplace. "Diagon Alley!"

Juugo followed. Suigetsu heard voices coming up the stairs. Cursing, fumbling with the bag, he took some powder, handed the bag to Sasuke, and said nervously, "Diagonally!"

"Shit," Sasuke cursed. Thankfully, Karin was useful in the ways of tracking.

"Diagon Alley," Sasuke said calmly, watching the four heads coming up the stairwell.

------------------------A few minutes prior

Sakura spun her head up and around to face the Professors. "This is magic, right? Please, how do I open the barrier?"

"I'm afraid all we can do is wait for it to descend. Once it does, I shall use the password," Professor Dumbledore said. "Might I suggest Professor Snape goes along with you? He's our best duelist on staff. He will do his best to bring you and your…acquaintances back as safe as possible."

Sakura could not imagine going far. Perhaps another one of those portals lie ahead? "Thank-you, sir, um… my friend is ill. She's staying in the hospital wing overnight. I would not want to get lost in this strange country," she said. "Thank-you, Professor Snape." Sakura made sure to perform a bow.

The stairwell descended. Professor Dumbledore gave the password. All gathered into the niche as they began their ascension. Dumbledore instructed her to step into the fireplace five seconds after Professor Snape, speak clearly her destination, Diagon Alley, and then begin her search in a calm, level-headed fashion. She nodded and rubbed at another tear she felt slip. She could not believe she broke down like that in the presence of others. Sasuke was just too much sometimes. Flexing the fisted hands at her side, she stared at the rotating wall as they swiveled up into the office.

Sakura saw the fading glow of the fireplace; the fire was once emerald green. 'Amazing,' she thought, 'that people travel like so.' All stepped out of the niche and into the glamorous albeit gaudy office. Fawkes crooned upon their arrival.

"I see Fawkes was able to buy you some time," Dumbledore remarked.

Professor Snape picked up the sack left by the foot of the floo network with two of his long slender fingers. Amused smirk in place he remarked, "To think they would resort to using up all the floo powder. I, however, always carry a reserved amount." He took a pouch from the inside pocket of his robe and instructed Sakura to hold out her hand.

Sakura's face drew up in confusion. "…Thank-you?"

Professor Snape blinked, sighed, and stepped into the floo network. "Albus forgot to mention the floo powder. Toss it near your feet and speak the destination like so," he dropped the powder. "Diagon Alley."

Sakura gasped, the vacant hand covering her mouth, as the professor vanished in a blinding green flame. It consumed the fireplace before retreating into the ashes. Remembering the five-second rule, Sakura quickly entered the fireplace, tossed down the magical powder, and stated loud and clear, "Diagon Alley!" The encouraging expressions of the other two professors vanished.

Coughing and head spinning, Sakura removed her presence from the filthy new fireplace. She felt a cob-web catch her hair. She swiped her hand through her choppy pink locks. A hand held her firmly by the shoulder. She tensed momentarily. "This is the Leaky Cauldron. It has a universal floo network used by all who do not wish to apparate to Diagon Alley."

The professor started to work as he had talked. Stretching out his arms, he finished swishing his wand around, a few flicks accompanying every swish. He had a fairly good trail spelled in place. "They have headed towards Diagon and Knockturn. We would best have them in sight before they change directions."

Sakura was jogging to keep up. The professor was quite the athlete. After all the dodging and evading of clusters of people, they reached the crossing. Sakura automatically noted a child playing with a figurine of a Chinese Fireball dragon. In the next moment clouds as black as midnight came down from the midday sky.

Ironically enough, the clouds took form of a hostile group. A flash of red light was aimed in the child's path. She dashed for him, already forming seals for a double substitution. The light appeared to have ripped them apart. Sakura hid the boy on top of a shop roof with the order to be quiet until the loud noises stopped, cover his mouth or ears if he had to. Sakura took her scarf and wrapped it securely around her neck and lower face, tying it off, before jumping above the circle of foes. Sakura took note of the civilians and the professor, who was throwing civilians out of harm's way discretely and magically. Lifting her foot high above her head, she slammed it into the ground with enough force to rattle the bones of her enemies.

Sakura managed to spook several of them away, but other terrorists were busy marching through the streets, blasting shop doors off their hinges. Two that Sakura assumed were the leaders sped past all obstacles, seemingly for a pre-set objective. She saw Professor Snape shift his gaze in her direction before deciding to go after them. Did not Dumbledore leave him in charge of her? Why did he trust her not to need his protection? Their eyes locked and an image of herself roping up the bad guys entered her mind. So he knew she was an experienced fighter. Yet he wanted her evil adversaries kept alive. Was that not their way of doing things. She decided incapacitate them, but avoid brain damage; preserve the unwilling source of information.

Sakura cartwheeled off to the right, dodging a hex. Immediately she flipped back into the air to evade three shots fired simultaneously at her stomach. Her jouneyman boots touched the wall of the nearest shop, and she shot immediately in the direction of the demon-masked radicals. Executing a chakra-filled punch into the ground, Sakura blew them off their proper footing. One got his leather-dressed foot trapped under the rubble. Sakura added to her attack by swiping her leg in a 360 around her body. Two fell hard and cracked their heads against the cobblestone rubble. The other cried in agony when, using a good measure of her taijutsu ability, she cleaved his ankle with the force of her blow. The other two backed away and, moaning fearfully, disapparated. The others took the hint and retreated as well.

She quickly disappeared to the shadows of Knockturn Alley. She had stupefied all the bystanders from the looks of it and had left piles of uplifted cobblestone streets in her wake. Taking off her cloak, she quickly flipped it inside out and its color was now a sapphire type of blue. She put the scarf in one of her inside pockets and returned to the scene of battle. The boy left upon the roof did not seem to recognize her. He let a few more seconds pass and then started crying. Sakura pulled her hood more securely and stepped into the murmuring crowd, now gathered. The boy was magicked from the roof, and his distraught mother ran to her child, smothering him in affection.

"Professor?" Sakura called, acting worried. She made sure to look her best "fretful" and assume the helpless bystander. "Enough playacting, girl," He sneered. He came up to her, grabbing her by her upper arm, and harshly whispered a command to follow. They backtracked to the apothecary. "Our country is in the middle of a civil strife. I suggest you leave and forget why you came here. Furthermore, what was it that I saw back there? What have you been hiding, girl?"

Sakura asked worriedly, "Sir, I cannot hope to return home, especially not without Sasuke-kun. Please, we are losing him, sir!"

The professor snapped, "Well then he is already lost if he will not join you willingly!"

She wanted to help Sasuke, even if Sasuke would think her actions less than helpful. She wanted him to see that his place was with Konoha, not against it. She didn't care if she was a traitor anymore. Heck, she would not have been a ninja without him! Cornily enough, he was her everything. Then. She didn't know about now. Now she had--or once had--Ino, Team 7, shishou, and… Naruto. She felt a little guilty, but she could not help feeling self-hatred. She had given up a life of her choice for a boy.

'If Sasuke-kun ever finds happiness, it won't be with me,' she thought morosely. 'I was just leading Naruto-kun and myself on a ghost hunt.'

She should return to Konoha and forget about Sasuke. Alternatively, she could start a new life here and forget Sasuke until he showed up again. Sakura could find the part of her nearly obliterated by the rigged shinobi code. She could say good-bye to Inner Self once and for all.

The irked professor continued in a controlled voice. "I was told by Albus to be your guide in Diagon Alley. I suspect you shall be here a while so give this trip the sense of practicality. Albus and I will oblige to draw up conditions in regards to your residency in the United Kingdom."

Sakura slowly nodded. It would not be unreasonable for the professors to want something in return for their hospitality to a foreigner. Looking around, she bit her lip. Upon seeing all different types of exotic herbs and fungi, her eyes lit up. She just so happened to have some potions she could, hopefully, trade in for raw ingredients. "What do you suggest I do?" Sakura asked forlornly, eyes washing over the multitude of selections.

"If you have anything valuable, I would try exchanging it with the goblins at Gringotts' Bank," the professor said. "You should be able to afford a few of Madame Malkins's quality robes for now."

She walked over to the nearest shelf. The professor's curious glare followed her movements. "Potion-making is an art form where you come from?" He turned his statement into a question.

"It is a necessity and a duty, sir, but not so much a duty anymore."

"I see…"

Sakura found a couple of items that she was hopelessly curious (and not JUST curious) about. She went to touch them but hesitated. She did not know anything about western potions! Agonizing internally over the revelation, she went over to the lone bookshelf near the checkout counter. She picked up the two leather bound books, Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger and Asiatic Anti-Venoms by an unknown source. The latter she decided she REALLY wanted to buy because the plants were so similar to those in the Shinobi World. The book also spoke of western substitutions for some of the common eastern ingredients. It acted as a potions translator of sorts. Her knowledge was not as defective here as she originally thought. If only she had enough money for both books and ingredients. Deciding to find a way to revise Asiatic Anti-Venoms and turn a profit at a later date, she headed to the checkout counter to barter with the apothecary manager.

"I was wondering if you buy potions and antidotes, too," Sakura said before putting the volume on the counter.

The stout balding man shifted his glasses. "And just what year are you in at Hogwarts?" asked the skeptical portly man.

"I am not a Hogwarts student or graduate, but I have been trained in medicine for four years by one of my land's greatest healers," said Sakura. The man eyeballed her as she stuffed her hand into her sapphire cloak and dug into her pouch. Sakura pulled out a small, safety-capped container. "These are blood pills," she stated. "They speed up the body's natural ability to replenish erythrocytes in the blood as well as the blood's ability to clot. They are obviously useful when a person loses too much blood from sustained injuries. They come in handy during dangerous times like these. How much can I get for them?"

Sakura gave him a deadpan look. She did her best to look intimidating without suggesting a brawl. She hoped she was not about to get ripped off. The man fixed his glasses and inhaled audibly. "Since you have no credibility, I can give you only 15 sickles and 5 knuts."

Sakura fumed. She did not know the conversion rate, but she could smell a rip-off. "How much would this book happen to cost?"

"Since it is a used copy, it will cost you one galleon, eleven sickles and ten knuts."

She did her best not to out-right curse her predicament. This always happened because she was so young and cutesy in appearance compared to all others her age! A Scrub at the age of sixteen was nearly unheard of. Frowning, she reached into her cloak, unzipped her medic kit, and searched for a grooved bottle. She pulled it out and, keeping her temper in check, placed it gingerly on the countertop. "This…," Sakura announced proudly, gesturing to it, "is truth serum. It is quite the prize where I come from. Would there be any possible way for you to test its accuracy without ingesting it?"

The man looked like he would protest. He wanted the blood pills at a spectacular discount. If the serum was proven ideal, Sakura would be able to negotiate her prices. If that happened, he still might be able to rip her off, but she would get a little more for her money.

"I should be the judge of that. After all, I am a potions master," Professor Snape said. The professor was so quiet she nearly forgot of his existence. To think he was an expert on western potions and poisons and he did not bother to counsel her earlier! Well, it's not like she asked…

Severus Snape took the phial and meticulously worked it over. Making a circling motion with his wrist, he swirled the liquid to the thick glass wall. His gaze was hawk-like, as sharp as ever. He unstoppered the bottle and guided a whiff of the odorless substance towards him. During the whole process, he showed not the slightest disproval. Professor Snape had accepted her truth serum as legit.

"The foreign blood strengthening medicine should be given four times the originally bartered amount," Sakura handed over the capped bottle to the stout apothecary manager. The manager passed two galleons, eleven sickles, and nineteen knuts into her palm. She tucked them away into a special pouch in her medic kit. "And I will be buying the book for the girl," he smoothly added. He handed the manager the galleon, ten sickles, and twelve knuts.

"Two galleons and fifteen sickles should be a sufficient price for this forty milliliter phial of truth serum," said the professor, "however; I would like to purchase it from the girl as well. I will give three galleons, not including the purchase of the…gift." The manager fumed at the implicit Slytherin bribery taking place right in front of his counter. He could never dare compete with a potions master (and master duelist) as renown as Severus Snape. Sakura did not want to mention comparing prices either. She knew she should be glad he got her a way better deal. So she just stuck with that. The professor's mouth broke out into a fiendish grin. So, she inferred, he held a fondness for haggling… if nothing else.

After leaving the apothecary, Haruno Sakura bowed graciously to Professor Snape and said her thanks. He was not as bad as he seemed now was he? He was her hero at present. She had plenty of money now to buy robes with. Well, she could hope. She did not have to stake her world on the acute knowledge the bankers, which were all creatures called goblins, possessed of this world's currencies. Maybe later she could beg Dumbledore to give her a job.

Professor Snape guided her farther down and they found Madam Malkin's at the turn in the road. Madam Malkin was ready to greet them graciously. "Well, well, what do we have here?" Madam Malkin took one look at Sakura's robes and could tell she was a foreigner, so it seemed. The woman's face expressed curiosity at Sakura's heavily wrapped, sapphire cloak. "Why that cloak is exquisite, if not a bit worn mind you. I suppose, deary, you are looking to blend in with Wizarding London?"

"How did you know?" Sakura asked.

The madam merely chuckled and shuffled around the shop, doing touch ups on the other customers' fittings. "I am an expert robes' designer and my knowledge of cloaks and coats nearly as much. I can assure you, you came just in time. That cloak is neither fashionable not in top shape. Wizarding robes are all the rage in the west. You are Chinese, are you not? South Korean? Or perhaps Japanese?"

Sakura's brow knotted up, not knowing what to say to the jolly elder woman. She tried to begin a clarification, but Madam Malkin interrupted her. "Oh, silly me! Who am I to pry into your business? I see Dumbledore's right hand man is here! Good day sir!" To this Snape nodded. "You must have just transferred. How lovely! You'll like Hogwarts; the most brilliant place for young wizarding minds. Well, I will make sure to get you just what you need. Step up, now, and let me get your measurements…"

It was a strange, noticeable change as Madam Malkin ceased jabbering once she got to work on Sakura's 3 school robes plus 1 formal robe. Measuring tape was flying through the air along with cloth and thread. Professor Snape had transfigured a thimble into a wooden chair ("Remarkable!") and sat down to read. All the while Madam Malkin was wrapping up her business with two well-to-dos. Within the quarter hour, Sakura and the professor had been sent on their way again. Now 5 galleons and 10 sickles short and near knuttless, Sakura shrunk her robes and placed them securely in her inside cloak pocket.

Since Sakura was thinking about staying in the new strange world, she asked the professor if there was a legal process that she should start right away. He waved it off for the time being, mentioning Headmaster Dumbledore. In his infinite wisdom, he had said, the Headmaster would see to those matters from the school if they could arrange a satisfactorial deal with her. Agreeing to skip the legal b.s., Sakura followed Severus back to the floo network. "Repeat exactly as I say: Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Dumbledore's Office."

She repeated it three times. He gave a small nod and floo'd to Dumbledore's office immediately. Sakura grabbed a fistful of powder. She turned her head back to wonder where off in the distant land Sasuke was. She threw the powder at her feet and went in after Professor Snape.

With a nice little woosh effect, Sakura ended up once again in the Headmaster's office. She never noticed in her rush how gaudy it was… magnificent but gaudy.

---------------

Headmaster Dumbledore sat at his desk with his fingers steepled together. Over his bifocals he eyeballed the girl and reviewed her ambiguous summary. He stayed posed as so, as well as Professor Snape, while he took a moment to structure a number of questions mentally. "So you say, Miss Haruno, that you are looking for a rogue from your village. Why would you do something dangerous like that?"

"It is not all that dangerous; or at least, I don't believe it so. Even if Sasuke would bother to take me seriously, which he should, Katsuyu could heal me during a fight. In all likelihood, I do not think Sasuke is interested in fighting with me. He's after the leader of my village for a reason I can't quite figure."

Dumbledore made an 'hmm' sound. "How can you know if you were just sent to your leader? You said the messenger came with only an order for your assistance at the conference."

Sakura rubbed her temples. She was starting to get another headache. How unfortunate. "I just know. No one was killed, but Lord Danzo went unharmed. He wanted to see that I cared for him until he returned to Konoha; he wanted protection. He must have known that he was being targeted."

"Danzo is the equivalent of a prime minister?" Dumbledore inquired. Sakura nodded, already been briefed on a few legal matters of the United Kingdom. "Do you respect him?"

Sakura sucked in a breath. "I thought I did. For however short the time, he is currently the leader of my home country. Yet, it feels wrong; I feel as if he usurped the power that my teacher was once responsible for. It is all too confusing," she said, concluding, "well, none of that matters now that I am here. I believe that due to my disobedience and with Danzo elected, I could be in a rogue already. My name could be in the bingo book as early as next month—er—next week." She turned her head to the wall-sized stained glass window. Silver snowflakes were drifting towards it and then dispersing lazily.

"You mention quite easily that your acquaintance is an almost murderer."

"Assassin, you mean. A murderer who kills during political turmoil is not thought of as a murderer unless civilians are involved. Sasuke is different in that respect," she spat, mildly keeping control of her tone. A vision of his ruthless older brother's raven locks and pinwheel-shaped eyes surfaced in her mind. She rubbed her temples and continued the discussion. "He would never kill someone who was helpless, who had not provided him with a reason for vengeance."

"Is he a threat to my school, Miss Haruno?" the Headmaster leaned forward.

She considered the question respectfully. "No. Absolutely not, sir. He would not harm a child unless he had to; he would likely kill a child if that child was ordered to harm him. Similarly, he could find a way to incapacitate the child and then flee the scene. He would never willingly harm a child, let alone a wizarding child. This world is much more peaceful."

Professor Snape could not contain a snort of amusement. "Peaceful? You call what you witnessed today peaceful? Deatheaters raid familiar wizarding world spots like Diagon Alley at least twice a week. The only assurance the magic folk have is that the muggles are the first considered for termination."

Sakura paused a moment to backtrack. "I apologize. It is troubling to fight a concurring battle on the home front. Still, a war this slow moving gives plenty of breathing room; you are lucky in this aspect of war."

Professor Dumbledore was already sold. He just wanted to erase any doubt that she was a good addition to his school. "While it is true so far that you are compassionate, you are remarkably formidable. How can we trust you?"

"I assure you I am easy to trust. I am a medic. I have received four years of the best training possible. I would be pleased to work for my room and board, if you would be so kind to keep me here. Besides, Madame Pomfrey is terribly understaffed, if she has one at all. Although she does her job spectacularly from what I have witnessed so far, I don't think she would mind my assistance." Sakura made sure to add a dazzling smile.

A familiar twinkle, the one Snape was so familiar of, reached the Headmaster's eye. "I am sure that could be arranged. We could sort you like we do our young wizards and witches. We will claim you are sampling the quality of Western education and put you in classes your…magic?...might adapt to. Potions, for starters. If this experiment proves adequate, I shall allot you a wand, expenses paid. All I ask is for you to protect those around you to your best ability during your stay."

Sakura jumped enthusiastically to her feet. "Oh, professors, you will not be disappointed!" Dumbledore signaled her to step behind his desk as he reached up behind it to grab an old and tattered wizard's hat.

The hat came to life in his hands and started singing, spouting in sonnet in rhyme. Sakura stepped back; hand over her heart, she started laughing. Professor Dumbledore smiled joyfully at her innocent reaction. Her world was apparently much more different than this one.

"Please rest this on your head," Dumbledore said.

She slipped on the hat. The Sorting Hat, as it introduced itself, started to mull over Sakura's mind. His voiced echoed across her consciousness. Hmmmmmm. Not much courage, but its enough to act upon when the times are right. A bright one, you are. You are loyal, too, but you have chosen one loyalty over another. Ah! Such ambitions I see locked up inside you. Just as your best friend, you wish to gain recognition and be loved by all. You are quite the ambitious type. Although you have been trained by situations and people to enhance your bravery, you think over troubling situations before you pounce. I would rather put a cautious skeptic such as you in…, "SLYTHERIN!" May all your desires be obtained. You are one of the gentlest souls to step into the House of Salazar Slytherin.

"Well," said Professor Snape, "What is done is done. Shall we visit Poppy, Albus? I have to check inventory." Again they floo'd away.

-----------------

The end sounds kind of cheesy, but hey, the Sorting Hat was made to sit atop the heads of children. Of course it would sound cheesy. Even its poems are cheesy.

Review. I swear it is too *bleep* hard to write without reviewers. Help me, help you!