Note: Go ahead, curse at me for taking forever to update. I had a nice break though. *crack fingers* Now let's get back to work.
Remember, I do love all of your support. I really do. I'm sorry that this took forever. But life gets in the way of enjoying...well...life. TBH, had this chapter written for months now...just didn't feel...I dunno...updatable.
Previously on Telos: Hogwarts has been invaded by a group of shinobi, while Kakashi and the rest of the Allied Shinobi have teamed up with Harry, Ron, Hermione and the British Ministry to save the students and retrieve Naruto. Neville, Al, Rose and others are going after the barrier seals. Theodosia Nott, Slytherin Head Girl, and Jill Shelser, Gryffindor Prefect, teamed up so they can secretly exchange Naruto for the shinobi to leave Hogwarts, which backfires on them magnificently. Fortunately for them, dramatic plot device allowed Naruto to wake up in the nick of time to save their ass and everyone else's.
Chapter 16: Invasion
Hermione Weasley swallowed the last bit of her coffee, wincing as the cold, bitter liquid assaulted her taste buds. She hadn't slept since the first departure from Japan and her body was rebelling now, making her eyelids burn and her bones ache. She tried to shake off the fatigue as much as she could—rest would have to come later. Sighing, and steeling herself for more work, Hermione followed an anxious assistant into the second floor meeting hall, leaving the Aurors and shinobi to plan the rescue mission.
"I was told to get the Minister of course," the assistant twittered nervously, "But it seems so intense in there, and I couldn't get Mr. Potter, so I thought, if anyone, you, Mrs. Weasley would know what to do." The tone of admiration in her voice was unmistakable. She opened the door of the meeting hall for Hermione, and winced in advance at a scolding she knew was coming.
Inside the room, the Deputy of Head of the Department of International Cooperation paced the length of hall, his eyes wild with fear and alarm. A handful of equally shell shocked officers were inside, shuffling through stacks of paper and trying to shoo off large, tawny owls, eagles and other delivery animals Hermione vaguely recognized.
The Deputy Head—Whittlespoon—looked up when Hermione entered the room, and sudden anger flashed on his face, directed at his personal assistant. "I told you to get me the Minister!" he barked at her. The young woman wilted, drawing closer to Hermione.
"The Minister is busy," Hermione returned sharply, "You can speak to me."
Frustrated, Whittlespoon threw his hands up, shaking his head. "No. No. I can't leave this room. It's too dangerous! This needs to get out quietly. We could be done for! I need to see the Minister!" He froze suddenly, terror seizing him. "No…but they could have gotten him too. Oh Merlin, no! No no, wait, calm down, Derek old boy." He paled dramatically, and held a shaking hand to his chest, just over his heart.
Hermione frowned at the erratic behavior. "What are you talking about?"
"Hermione Weasley!" he shouted, making her jump.
"Three years ago, my son got engaged. What was the gift you gave them for their engagement party?"
Hermione stared at the man incredulously, recognizing paranoia in his expression. "Derek, what's going on?"
"Answer me!" He brought him wand and pointed it at her.
Hermione jumped in alarm at the threat of a pointed wand. "Derek!"
"Alright! It was an-an oak trunk with an extendable charm on it!"
A moment passed before Whittlespoon decided it was the right answer, and he lowered his wand. His wide, frightened eyes were still trained on Hermione. She was still staring at him in shock and disbelief, at what had just happened. Something was wrong, she realized, ice cold dread creeping down her spine.
"Derek," she began, her voice low, "What's going on?"
The Deputy Head shakily motioned to the letters on the table. Hermione slowly made her way to the mess of paper. She picked one up, the seal of the Magical American Congress catching on her attention. Her heart fluttered with trepidation, but she pushed away the feeling, and started to read.
Al's mood soared when the voice of Hiram Brewster crackled over the communicator, confirming his group's success in an excited but hushed tone. Al allowed himself a small sigh of relief, but briefly of course. There was no news from the remaining teams yet.
Still, two down, three more to go.
Now, it was the waiting game for Al, Kingston and Professor Neri Baxter.
Waiting-as-an invisible-ghost game was a more accurate description. Al watched anxiously as the shinobi and wolves around them as they strolled about the seal, not knowing that they had already been infiltrated by two kids and an assistant professor of Ancient Runes, not exactly a subject that suggests great espionage. Al thought it very ironic, out ninja-ing the ninjas, and if he wasn't so scared out of his mind he would be really enjoying this. It was not every day a 14 year old British wizard got to out-ninja ninjas. He let himself marveled at this fact for a few second, ignoring a nagging whisper in the back of his mind that told him the worse was yet to come.
It was a while before he noticed another group of shinobi some distance. Frowning, he could make them out: they were standing about, looking like they were guarding something. He wondered, alarmed, if it was another barrier seal they didn't know about, or if they had the location of one of the seal completely wrong. He glanced at Kingston and Professor Baxter, both of whom also noticed the odd group, and the anxiety in their eyes told him they were thinking the same thing.
Neri Baxter motioned very quickly that she would go check it out, and, she signed very emphatically, Al and Kingston were to stay here and watch their barrier seal.
Al shivered. He had a very bad feeling about this.
Ron smiled knowingly when his best friend had reentered the room with a very familiar scroll in his hand. (Ah, so that's what he meant, Ron mused.)
"This is the Marauder's Map." Harry Potter smoothed out the well-worn scroll on a free table.
Kakashi, Shikamaru and Kingsley stepped up to examine this new and unexpected artifact. The rest of the shinobi and auror looked on curiously from afar.
The minister took a while to realize just what it was he was looking at, and when he did, he looked astonished. Kakashi, who had memorized the layout of Hogwarts from the earlier hologram maps, recognized it was an interior map of Hogwarts, but appeared a bit more puzzled than impressed. When his eyes fell on a clutter of moving dots and names on the seventh floor, he had moment of realization. Now this was impressive.
"Does this map show what I think it does?" asked Kingsley, looking up at Harry, then Ron with a critical eye.
"Yes sir," said Harry with a small smile, "And it'll tell us exactly what we need to know."
Kakashi, who was still staring at the map, agreed with Harry silently. The wealth of information in this unassuming piece of parchment was startling. His eyes searched the entire parchment, and his eyes kept falling on the clutter of dots on the seventh floor, which were all types of names he was familiar with, and thus probably the shinobi. The rest of the map, he realized, save for a few unmoving dots scattered across the different floors, was empty. That was odd.
"If this map does what it supposed to," said Kakashi grimly, "Where are the 600 students of Hogwarts?"
Harry and Ron frowned, concernedly, and looked down at the map carefully. The shinobi was right: the usual sight of busy travelling dots and names was absent. Harry's eyes too travelled to the seventh floor, where non-Anglican names and dots were concentrated about a section on the seventh floor.
"There are fifteen shinobi on that floor," noted Kingsley, "And much less elsewhere."
"Why the seventh floor?" asked Shikamaru, "Is there anything special about the seventh floor?"
Harry knew immediately. He and Ron exchanged meaningful looks, which Kakashi and Shikamaru observed with interest.
"What?" Kakashi urged.
"Seventh floor," said Ron, letting out a tired sigh, "It's the Room of Requirement." A tone of relief tinged Ron's words, which confused the shinobi.
Kakashi looked at them blankly. "And this is…?"
"Hope," said Harry quietly, "The Room of Requirement, Kakashi, is probably where our 600 students are. And they can't get in."
"They're protected," Kingsley supplied, "For now." He looked up at the wizards and shinobi and flashed them a small, hopeful grin. "This is good. Very good."
Professor Neri Baxter had been in Ravenclaw when she was a student, just a short five years ago. Her passion for academic pursuit of Ancient Runes had taken her all over the world in those short five years. She had studied runes, or rune-equivalent magic from all over the world. She studied the art of seal making in eastern countries, which inevitably included Japan. The Japanese art of seal making was unique and fascinating, and its ancient history reported stories of their intricate seals being able to summon elements, weapons, disaster and other worldly creatures, even Death itself. They were sensitive, nuanced, complicated—a lot more complicated than Nordic Runes, and thought to be a lot more flexible and powerful because it directly harnessed the raw magical energy within the witch or wizard, and the natural magic in the environment. Of course, the knowledge of using Japanese seals in such destructive ways was lost to the world centuries ago (and outlawed, just in case). No one in the contemporary magical Japan or the world knew how to properly use these seals.
No one until now.
Neri Baxter stared at what she puzzled out to be a giant summoning circle. She recognized enough of the individual elements, the symbols and the style to know that this was the ancient Japanese sealing art, and it was drawn and formulated in a way she's never seen before.
And of course they would know it, and they would use it. She trembled at the implication. And as her eyes roved the intricate and wonderful patterns, she recognized enough elements to figure out what this summoning circle was supposed to summon—an army.
Neri Baxter let out weak, trembling breath, and fell to her knees.
The students and professor could only gape at the sight before them. Eyes filled with awe and trepidation was locked onto the figure of Naruto standing so resolutely on top of the largest toad.
James stared up at his friend with astonishment, his mouth open slightly at the sight of it all. He knew he should not have been be surprised; it had crossed his mind that Naruto the shinobi would be well…strong and shinobi-like and ultimately very different, but actually seeing the power for real was something else. And there he was, easily beating back the enemies who were previously dismantling one of Britain's most enchanted castle and brightest staff with gleeful ease—and James could not do anything else but stare. Stare at the classmate who, the week before, could barely perform a disarming spell. He knew he should be overjoyed, because Naruto the shinobi's arrival meant that they were safe, for now, but he couldn't help feel sadness and alarm at the sight of Naruto's back. It could have been his imagination, but Naruto seemed to hold himself differently—his back was straighter, his stance more confident and the air around him seemed tighter and more burdened. He certainly wasn't Nat anymore.
James had his arms around Lily, who wore a similar expression, but an excited smile lit up her small face. Naruto had woken up just in time to save them all, like she had hoped.
The shinobi, now that they saw that their target was not only awake but was fully himself again, affected an entirely new persona collectively. They recognized that they could not go against Uzumaki Naruto, especially not one who was glaring so angrily at them and had full use of his shinobi faculties. However, they were not as frightened as they should have been, because they came prepared to fight the jinchirikuu.
"Who the hell are you people?" Naruto growled, glaring down at the handful of shinobi. His fists clenched angrily as his mind quickly assessed the situation. He could smell the fear and blood of his fellow classmates. On his way to save the Head Girl, he had seen the bodies of the students, guilty of only being in the same place he was.
His stomach burned with indignation. How dare they? These kids were more than innocent. They were not shinobi, or shinobi in training. He had gotten to know so many of them in the year he spent at Hogwarts, and he had never known more peace or friendship in his life. They were so painfully harmless, so amazingly peaceful and naïve that the thought of them being caught up in a war like this, in his war, in a war waged by mad men who had no business being in this world at all, made Naruto's stomach turn painfully.
He couldn't forgive this.
One of the shinobi, a built sandy haired man with steely gray eyes, answered Naruto, "We are your guides to hell, Uzumaki." He turned to the red-haired women on the right and said, grinning, "Activate the summoning circle."
Naruto frowned. "Summoning circle? What are you summoning?"
Lips curling in a sneer, the shinobi replied, "A surprise for you, Uzumaki."
Naruto flashed them a bitter, challenging grin. "I like surprises, but I'll enjoy beating you all to pulp more." Anger danced in his blue eyes, and his cracked his knuckles to emphasize his point. "You come here and take this school hostage while I'm here, and you expect me to play your little game? You gotta be kidding me. I mean, I know I'm not the smartest shinobi on the world, but you guys are just plain dumb. You know what? I don't give a damn who you are! 'Cause these people mean a lot to me, and you'll wish you were dead once I'm through with you all!"
"Ohh, the boy has venom," the red haired kunoichi said with a smile, "A bit clichéd though, shortstuff—you need to brush up on your threats. But don't worry, you'll love what we have in store for you. We wouldn't insult powers like yours Uzumaki."
"You don't touch them," Naruto spat back furiously, "I'll fight you, I'll go back with you, but leave Hogwarts alone. They're not involved in this war."
"Unfortunately, that's not a choice," the sandy-haired man sighed, shaking his head, "You see, we have this grand vision of conquest, and these people are just ripe for the taking. You have to think big, Uzumaki."
Naruto narrowed his eyes. "Oh, I am." He put his hands together into his favorite sign, "Kage Bunshin no jutsu."
The shinobi and the wizards worked quickly to divide everyone into teams and assign missions and tasks. The details of the rescue missions were drawn up according the task of each team, which were either rescue ops or fighters. The shinobi were mainly going on the offensive while their main goal was to retrieve Naruto. Kakashi himself teamed with Harry and Ron for the main search mission which would undoubtedly require pushing in deep into enemy lines. A handful of the best aurors and shinobi were assigned to back them up.
Reports from Uzuki and Iruka confirmed that the shield was indeed a 5-seal barrier. There were ways to penetrate into such barriers, but such a task required minute chakra control, skill, some knowledge of seals and a whole lot of chakra. Unfortunately, there was no one in the current shinobi company that had such combination of skills. They needed reinforcements. Kakashi sent a message and request back to the Shinobi Alliance.
Despite the drawbacks, it upped the morale of the shinobi and auror to know that now they didn't have to wait for someone on the inside to wise up and release the barrier. So relatively, things were going as smoothly, that is until a flustered Hermione Weasley burst into the Tactics room.
Harry was just going over a special spell that he believed would help put the wizards on relatively equal grounds with the shinobi when his best friend appeared. Everyone's attention turned to their new distraction. Hermione made a beeline for Harry, Ron and the Minister.
"Hermione?" Ron called out, worried, "What is it?"
Hermione stopped a couple of feet in front of them, and looked at them with an analytical glare. "Minister, Ron, Hermione, and…Kakashi. May I speak to you all in private?"
The four men looked at each other, puzzled.
"Hermione," Harry said uncertainly, "Is something—"
"Yes, it is. And it's important. I need to speak to you all. Now!" Her expression was grave and unyielding. Harry knew that expression, and Ron knew it even better. Worry struck to the two of them, and they quickly agreed to go with her. The Minister also acquiesced, not even minding the tone she was using against him. He knew Hermione well, and she wouldn't come to them like this if something wasn't serious. Kakashi looked between the wizards and Hermione, impressed by the amount of respect and authority she had over them. He was also perturbed by the fear and trepidation in Hermione's aura and wondered what could be wrong now. He threw Shikamaru glance before following the wizards and witch.
Hermione took them to empty conference room down the hall, and shut it behind them. Harry, Ron, Kingsley and Kakashi watched in bewilderment as she started casting protective charms and barriers on the door, including a sound silencing charm and finally turned around, and pointed her wand at them.
"Alright," she began, letting out a breath, "I'm going to ask you some questions."
Ron frowned. "What's—"
She held up a hand, "JUST answer them. You first Ron." She pointed at wand at his chest. "When the locket opened, what did you see?"
Ron blinked at her. "The locket?"
Hermione nodded. "In the forest. Slytherin's locket."
Ron's eyes widened, realizing what she was going on about. Understanding also dawned on Harry, Kingsley and Kakashi: Hermione was confirming their identity, checking for imposters. Kakashi frowned at the implications—they were likely compromised, infiltrated, and he hadn't noticed.
"I saw…my worst fears. You telling me I wasn't good enough for you. And you wanting Harry." He shuffled uncomfortably: even after all these years, it pained him to say those words.
Hermione gave her husband a loving, sympathetic smile. She moved onto Harry, her wand pointed at his chest. "When you looked in the Mirror of Erised in your first year, what did you see?"
"I saw my parents and my family, and how much they loved me," Harry answered automatically. Hermione nodded, and turned her attention to Kingsley.
"Minister, on the night of Bill's and Fleur's wedding, what message did you deliver, and how?"
"I sent my patronus, a Lynx, to send a message that said the ministry had fallen to the Death Eaters." Hermione nodded, and then licked her lips nervously, realizing the irony of the Minister's answer. She had come to deliver a similar message.
Then her wand turned to the shinobi, and her expression hardened. "Kakashi, this is where it gets tricky. You are a shinobi and we honestly don't know if you are playing us, waiting for us to lower our guards, or if you are really here to help us."
"And what brought on this suspicion?" asked Kakashi coolly. He was not at all offended or upset that she did not trust him. In fact, he lauded her for her vigilance. This Hermione Weasley was an exceptional woman, and would have made an exceptional shinobi if she were trained well enough. Intelligence was in shortage among the shinobi recruits.
Hermione glanced at the shinobi briefly, then looked at Kakashi again, her gaze challenging. "I've gotten word from seven of the nine other countries that were involved. They've all been infiltrated and attacked. The American President of Magic has just been killed by Patrick Hensley."
Harry's eyes widened at the name. "Patrick? The Patrick we met in Japan? He couldn't have! He—he fought with us!"
"That's what the report said," Hermione told him grimly, "That's not all. The entire American cabinet has been compromised. In France, their entire magical council building was bombed, and both ministers are missing. The Korean ministry just shut down after their heads of the departments were massacred. Thankfully, their minister escaped. The magical Canadian government just sent us a plea for help. Uh, China—we got one distress message but they've been silent for a while. Germany and Russia reported attacks on the administrative buildings, and attempts of the lives of their president and ministers. We have word they are also targeting muggle leaders."
Harry, Ron and the Minister could only stare at Hermione, stunned. Kakashi seemed a little dazed, but easily shook himself out of it.
"It seems that we have been invaded," said Kakashi, his voice low and neutral, "Somehow, shinobi passed through our notice and got to every country that came to the meeting."
Hermione nodded. "Possibly through mimicking someone. One of the reports claimed an officer that came back from Japan was actually one of the shinobi in disguise. Some sort of cloaking spell—I didn't even know."
"It's a henge," Kakashi provided calmly, "A transformation technique. Perfect spy and infiltration technique, especially on unwitting victims."
"And we are definitely unwitting," Ron growled, "So, what are you thinking, Hermione—someone here disguised as a shinobi? Besides, you know, the shinobi? Is someone going to betray us?"
Kakashi raised his one visible brow at Ron. "There is no betrayal from us. It wouldn't hurt to screen any everyone who was in Japan, but I have feeling that they didn't have anyone come here."
"Why not?" asked Kingsley, "Britain is even a bigger target, since we have Naruto here."
"Yes, but we're here also. And, they already have a team here, at Hogwarts. What they are doing now is weakening the power center of the other powerful countries Tsubaki chose for them. They're creating chaos and confusion so the countries won't be able to work together to whatever invasion they have planned."
Harry frowned. "And why should we trust you? For all we know, you could be the infiltrating team for the UK."
"You are right: you can't trust us," Kakashi conceded with a knowing nod, "I can't give you anything to make you trust us, but we're the best shot you all have at this point. We're going to get to Hogwarts and get Naruto whether you help us or not. The decision is yours: do you want to be fighting us also?"
Harry looked at Kingsley. "Minister?"
The muscles in the Minister's jaws flexed as he stared at Kakashi, his eyes narrowing in thought. After a moment of silence, he spoke, his baritone grave and threatening, "We will continue to work with you and your team. It maybe be foolish to put our trust in you, but Hogwarts is important, and so is that boy, it seems. We will carry on as planned, but we are going to be spreading out our forces to aid the other countries and stop the spread of the shinobi threat. Do we agree to this?"
Kakashi, Harry, Ron and Hermione nodded.
"Hermione." Kingsley turned to her. "You will set up the screening process. Check everyone who was in Japan, and put out an alert for imposters. Harry, Ron and Kakashi—I need you all to mobilize all the aurors we have and assemble aid teams."
"If I may," said Kakashi, "I can request for shinobi teams to help fight the threats in the other countries."
"Do it," said Kingsley, nodding, He looked around at them, "Everyone understands what we need to do here? Good—dismissed."
Theodosia gasped when dozen or so identical Narutos popped out of nowhere, all wearing identical menacing expressions. She didn't understand a word of the exchange between Naruto and the other shinobi, but whatever had passed had royally pissed off the blond. Theodosia found herself intimidated by the expression of pure fury on Naruto's face, and it wasn't even directed at her.
One of the Naruto clones turned to her, his expression softening as he did. "Sempai," he addressed her gently, "Gonna get you down. Dangerous here."
Theodosia managed a small nod. The clone grinned at her, and suddenly scooped her up. The next moment, they were bouncing down the side of the amphibian and towards the crowd. He gently let her down, muttering an apology when he saw that she had become sick from the sudden motions.
After making sure that she was okay, Naruto turned to his classmates—well, former classmates: he was definitely no longer a student. The thought hit him hard, and unexpectedly too. He had liked being a student, even if he hadn't remembered his name or his parents. Ever since he could remember, he had experienced the cold and loneliness, fear and rejection. That sting of isolation was one he could never move pass, no matter how popular of a shinobi he was now. And even if he wasn't so lonely anymore, his life was still a rollercoaster of emotions—of tragedy and happiness, of fear and courage, of hatred and love, infused with pain and numbing violence.
But the past year he spent as Nat, he had none of that troubling him. Make no mistake, he was sad about not remembering anything, and had that gut feeling that told him things weren't as peachy as they seemed, but there was a lightness and innocence to his existence that he had not experienced since he understood, as a five year old, that the those glares that people threw at him were full of hatred. He had cheerfully accepted the weight of the world, the burden of his friends, the mission of his teachers and parents, and the responsibility of his village, and it only struck him now how heavy they all were. It had all been lifted with amnesia, and for awhile, he was just a student, a kid, and nothing else—and that, he realized, was peace. Peace that he fought so hard for in his world. Peace he was determined to protect in this one.
And his classmates, his friends—the way they looked at him made his heart ache. Their gazes were fearful and nervous. He would never hurt them, they had to know that! But now was not the time.
"Stay behind Gamakiruu," he told them gravely, motioning to a giant toad wearing the purple robe, "He will protect you. Don't fight. Don't help me."
Naruto gave them one final look, and then hopped back up the toad to join the other clones.
Note: Sorry, had to end there. Next chapter will be leading up to the climax. Shit is happening. I don't want to make promises on when the next chapter will be lest I can't keep it and I have angry readers.
Thanks for sticking with. Lovyall!