Preface: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. Naruto is by Masashi Kishimoto.
4/12/10 Update: Minor revisions and corrections.
Harry Uzumaki & the 9-Tailed Fox
Prologue: Fathers and Sons
The world has really gone to crap, he decided grimly as he strolled down the street, wincing every now and then at the atrocious sounds and wrinkling his nose when he detected some new horrible stench.
He had no idea of just how long he had been asleep this time but it was clear that at least a decade or more had passed. He couldn't really be too sure. Humans were advancing rather rapidly these days. It wasn't like this back in the good old days. Things hadn't improved too much though. Pity.
Humans had grown and evolved, adapting and changing, and ultimately taming their environment. And with that mastery, they had become arrogant in their own power. They poisoned the air, the earth, and the very water now. God only knew what they were doing to their bodies too.
It was inevitable that humans altered the environment by just breathing, but a lot of humans seemed to believe that somehow the planet would magically turn back into an unspoiled paradise after they were done with it. The world was dying and they didn't seem to realize. Or care. He felt an overpowering urge to go and smack some sense into some of them. He wondered if this was what the Fox had felt all those centuries ago. This overwhelming contempt for humanity. He wondered briefly if this was simply a result of cynicism due to his advanced age ... or something else passed on by the damn Fox.
Once upon time, he had been a proud ninja of the Hidden Leaf Village, condemned shortly after his birth to become the Living Container of the most powerful Demon Beast of them all; the Nine Tailed Fox.
From his very childhood, he had been beaten, starved, and ignored by a population that hated him. And he had no idea why. What crime he had committed unknowingly to have such contemptuous hatred and disgust directed at him? For over a decade, he assumed that it was because he was an orphan and a troublemaker. It wouldn't be until he was 12 when he discovered the secret that everyone had kept from him, but it would be years later before he discovered the truth of his parentage, that his own father had chosen him for this 'honor'.
He had risen through the ranks, determined to show them all how wrong they were. That he was better than they realized. And he had. He earned their trust, their respect, their friendship, and finally even their highest honors, succeeding to the rank of Hokage and leading Konoha for almost a century. He discovered that the enormous healing abilities that the Fox had gifted him with had also made him damn near immortal. He had been bored out of his skull for almost half a decade before a suitable replacement had emerged from the Jounin ranks and he decided to retire and left to wander.
He spent the next few decades moving from place to place, never really settling down when he felt compelled to create a cavern and fell asleep. He found himself in his mindscape confronting the Demon Fox. He was rather shocked to see the frail and decrepit creature that had once been the most feared Demon Beast of them all. The wheezing fox informed him that their mergence was finally complete; cursing him and his father for his damnable seal that had brought this ignoble end to him. He listened as the creature ranted and raved for several minutes before the fox collapsed, his breath rattling and choking and faded away, passing on and leaving him with his chakra reservoir.
Naruto awoke to find that apparently several centuries had passed during his nap. He found it slightly irritating that he would have to enter this form of suspended animation every now and then. It could last for a decade or a century. Yet another one of the many changes that the fox's chakra had done to him. It made the whiskers that had plagued him for his early childhood look damn tame in comparison. His enhanced senses were one of the beneficial side effects. He also needed a permanent Henge to pass for human too, these days.
His ear twitched as he heard someone shouting. "Get the freak!"
He scowled, checking an instinctive desire to seize one of his concealed kunai. He found a group of boys—kids really, beating another one curled up in a fetal ball on the ground.
He bared his teeth snarling and in flash, he crossed the distance and grabbed two of them by their collars and flung them aside. They arced through the air and landed heavily on the ground. The third and by far, the largest and widest boy whirled, surprised. Naruto smirked as they locked eyes and his irises shifted to a dark red and the pupils into a slit-like shape as he unleashed a low-level genjutsu that Kurenai Sensei tried to teach him when he was 15 or so. It simulated a short burst of killing intent directed solely at the victim but was fairly worthless in combat situations.
It was simply a blast of pure undirected fear. It was enough to give someone a panic attack but any sufficiently disciplined or experienced person could ignore the effects.
The boy, Dudley Dursley, if Naruto read his memory right, had no such training or discipline. He shrieked and turned white before fainting on the ground with a heavy thud that seemed to shake the earth briefly.
Naruto snorted and his eyes changed back to their normal appearance as he looked down at the thin and scrawny boy who was hesitantly uncurling himself and looking around confused. Naruto growled as he saw the instinctive cringing and wary look on the boy. He remembered how he had looked as a kid. Beaten. Starved. Ignored. Scared. This kid had the same damn look as he looked up him, wondering if he was some new tormentor.
He forced a smile on his face and crouched down. "Hey kid. You wanna come with me? Get something to eat? My treat."
Harry Potter stared at the smiling man with wild blond hair and smiled hesitantly. He knew that everyone at school told him never to go anywhere with strangers but this man seemed rather nice. Nicer than his Cousin, Aunt, and Uncle at least. Finally he asked, "Are you a stranger?"
That seemed to amuse the blonde man whose smile widened even further, "Nah, I'm just weird, kid."
Harry considered that. No one ever said anything about weird people. "Oh, OK," he said with a shrug as he followed the weird man.
Vernon and Petunia Dursley were furious after their darling boy told them how some adult had picked on him and his friends and waited for the freak boy to return home to punish him appropriately.
But he never did.
Vernon suspected that the boy had run off. Petunia wondered if the adult was some sort of criminal who liked little boys and was thankful that apparently his perverted tastes didn't run towards boys like her little Duddykins. Dudley was disappointed that he no longer had anybody he could pick on.
Arabella Figg didn't realize that Harry Potter was missing either at first. But after a week with no sign of the boy, she sent a message expressing her concerns to Albus Dumbledore.
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore; Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and Grand Sorcerer was a very busy man with his numerous titles.
And he had received numerous other messages from Figg, urging action about the boy's treatment at the hands of the Dursleys. He decided that this was yet another one of her overly hysterical and imaginary concerns although he did do a quick check of the various instruments monitoring the boy.
All of them were working perfectly and none of them indicated that Harry Potter was anything but healthy. Assured that everything was fine, he put it out of his mind completely until about a week later when the various instruments alerted him that the wards around Privet Drive were faltering.
He was shocked as the various indicators stopped working completely and the wards collapsed. Albus finally realized that something was wrong but by that time, it was far too late to do anything.
Harry Potter was gone.