Summary: In the midst of the Third Ninja War, Kakashi is sent from Konoha on a mission to Hogwarts. There, his task is to protect Harry Potter as well as the Philosopher's Stone. The mission is hard enough- but Kakashi's troubled past leaves him with a greater burden.
Spoilers for Philosopher's Stone and Kakashi Gaiden.
Rated (conservatively) for language and mentions of violence.
In response to FAQ, 'Is there going to be romance?', I offer the following short answer: NO. My long answer is that there are references to canon pairings, like Minato/Kushina and James/Lily. Such pairings are NOT the main focus of the story and our main characters will not be falling in love. Thanks for your understanding.
This chapter is dedicated to SilverFoxSage, my delightful and invaluable beta. Thank you!
In Which: Tea is Interrupted
It was a relatively peaceful afternoon. Odd, considering the Third Ninja War was still going on, growing steadily bloodier by the day. But there was no war in Konoha, not yet, and the summer afternoon was lovely and quiet.
The sun was warm, but the air was fresh and cool, and a delicate breeze sifted through the forest surrounding the Village Hidden in the Leaves. The atmosphere was quiet and here and there, villagers and shinobi paused in their daily activities, as though wondering whether perhaps this was what it might be like to have peace between the Hidden Villages.
The thought of another mission made Kakashi want to scream.
"I'm sorry, Kakashi," Minato-sensei said tiredly. "I know you were looking forward to a break."
Team Minato, getting back together with the return of two of its members from a high-ranked mission, wasn't getting much training done done at the 17th training ground. Rin Nohara sat cross-legged on the ground, wearing a newly-issued chunin vest. Their jounin instructor, Minato Namikaze, perched atop the middle of three training posts, and Kakashi Hatake slouched against the one to the left.
"There must be a mistake, sensei," said Kakashi, swallowing his frustration. "I just got back from Suna yesterday. I haven't even had the chance to write my mission report. Are you sure the Hokage requested me?"
Minato-sensei had the good grace to look somewhat rueful at that remark. "I'm sure Lord Hokage wouldn't request you unless it were absolutely necessary."
It's always necessary, Kakashi thought but didn't say aloud.
In truth, he'd been looking forward to a break between missions. The war was taking its toll on everyone, and Team Minato was no exception. As a jounin, Kakashi was being pressed into longer and more difficult missions with shorter and fewer rests in between. Minato-sensei, though not yet a Commander, was almost always engaged on the front lines, often staying away from the village for weeks or even months at a time.
Even if only for a few days, he wanted to spend time with his sensei and Rin, the only teammate he had left. For all he'd sworn to protect her, Team Minato barely saw each other any more.
Rin frowned. "What's the mission about?"
"I don't know," Minato-sensei admitted. "I wasn't informed- only that it's a solo mission for Kakashi only, and Kakashi and I are to report to the Hokage Tower as soon as we can."
She sighed, a little bitterly. "Of course."
"Rin, I'm sorry, I know we planned to spend this week training-"
"It's not your fault," she told him. "It's theirs, for giving you the mission."
"You shouldn't say that; the council deserves our respect."
"This isn't right."
"There's a war on," Kakashi recited dully. "We have a duty to the village."
"Don't be stupid!" she snapped. "Those council members need to get their heads on straight. I don't care if you're a jounin, you're exhausted. They're overworking both you and Sensei, and you've barely been back for a day, and they're sending you back out again."
"You'd say that if you were bleeding to death," she scoffed. "You haven't been at peak condition in months."
"I always complete my missions," he said.
"They can't send you on a solo mission. We're at war- so what if you're a jounin, so what if we're spread thin, if you don't get backup on this mission, you could be in serious trouble!"
Kakashi wanted to argue, but he stayed silent. The truth was, he hadn't been on a solo mission for a while. Even if it wasn't his team, he almost always had someone watching his back, someone to keep him centered. If it weren't for that- some of his missions still haunted him, and it was all too easy to lose himself.
"We haven't trained together for months. I know you were planning to spend at least a week in the village this time- we're never in the village at the same time these days-"
Minato-sensei raised a placatory hand. "Rin, I'm sorry, I know we promised-"
"Don't." She turned away.
"Sensei, we have to go." Kakashi felt a twinge of guilt, then pushed the feeling away. "It may be urgent."
"You're right- Rin, listen, we'll both miss Kakashi, but I'm sure he'll be fine."
She sighed, and threw up her hands in defeat. "Fine. Just be careful, okay?"
With a wry smile, she headed back to the training grounds, shuriken in hand. Minato and Kakashi waved farewell. Then, in an unspoken agreement, both of them took off for the Hokage tower.
They were not prepared.
The day had started out quietly for the Sandaime Hokage.
He'd begun with a visit to the Academy- he loved to see the children of the village, full of potential and life, so innocent of the true pains of shinobi life. After that, he'd spent time in the mission room, gathering reports from returning ninja. For once the reports had been mostly optimistic, though he knew better than to expect that to last. At noon, he'd returned to his office for lunch and paperwork, feeling unusually contented with life.
The newest chunin assistant had left a steaming cup of tea on his desk. It smelled wonderful- the assistant had gotten it right, for a change. With an appreciative sigh, he raised the cup to his lips.
A man and a woman appeared in front of his desk.
The Hokage sipped his tea.
The man was tall, dressed all in black. His hair and eyes were dark, and his nose was long and hooked. His expression seemed to be fixed in a permanent sneer. He and the woman looked around the room, both frowning. She was old- perhaps not quite his age, but nearer to fifty- and her dark hair was swept up into a bun. She wore long robes in dark emerald and silver spectacles perched atop her nose. Her dress was high-collared and pinned with a silver brooch at the base of her throat.
"I beg your pardon," she began, stiltedly. "We have come in search of an individual by the name of Hiruzen Sarutobi."
"And why is that?" the Hokage inquired.
"We have an urgent message."
"Of what nature?"
Her gaze sharpened. "A confidential message."
"A man who is not to be trifled with." She arched an eyebrow. "If you would be so kind as to direct us to Mr. Sarutobi? We would like to meet with him as soon as possible."
"You are already meeting with him. I am Hiruzen Sarutobi."
She blinked at him. Then she frowned. "Why did you not declare yourself at once?"
"Well," the Hokage began, "I will admit that I am unaccustomed to people appearing in my office. Usually they come in through the window, for all I tell them to use the door. I had hoped to probe your intentions."
"I apologize for the interruption," she said dryly. "Our mission is urgent, and we had little time to go through the motions of propriety."
"If that is the case, perhaps we should get to business? I'm sorry, your name-"
"I am Minerva McGonagall. My companion," she gestured towards the scowling man at her side, "-is Severus Snape. We come with the intention of purchasing a mission."
"If it is a mission request, you needn't speak with me; the mission allocation center is elsewhere. If you like, I could have my assistant show you the way. I don't imagine you're very familiar with our village."
"Our employer- one Albus Dumbledore- requested that we give you this scroll and await your personal response. It is a matter of some urgency."
Dumbledore. Well, that explained a lot, especially why he felt that it might be simpler just to toss the scroll in the wastebasket. Unfortunately for the Sandaime, his wastebasket was full, and even if he did dispose of the letter, Dumbledore would still find a way. That man always did.
He sighed, took the letter, and unfurled it on his desk.
'To Hiruzen Sarutobi, the honorable third Hokage,
I hope this letter finds you in the best of circumstances. I cannot, unfortunately, say as much for myself; which is, as you might imagine, the reason for my message. To put it bluntly, I would like to requisition some of your shinobi for a mission. It would be expensive- a difficult guard mission- and would require your best and brightest. The importance of the mission cannot be overstated. A highly powerful and dangerous item, the Philosopher's Stone, is going to be hidden at the educational establishment I oversee. It will be present for approximately ten months as we attempt to find a more secure location. I will need a minimum of three shinobi stationed at my school as guards in case a Dark Witch or Wizard should attempt to steal it.
Also included in the mission is a request for a personal guard. We have a student coming here in September as a First Year. His name is Harry Potter, and he is a very famous child in our world. Due to certain circumstances, it seems likely that one or more Dark wizards may make an attempt on his life during the school year.
I would like again to stress the importance that these shinobi be very skilled. The item, should it fall into the wrong hands, could create chaos in the Wizarding world and perhaps the Hidden Continent as well. Also, so as not to attract a large amount of attention from Dark Wizards, they would be required to complete this mission in the guise of an older student or, if necessary, a teacher.
The full details of the mission as necessary for the briefing follow this message. This message will self-destruct when read, so be attentive. Rest assured, you will be paid in full once you agree to send the minimum amount of shinobi required with my messengers, Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall. If, at the end of the year, the object in question is still safe, I will pay a full half of the original price in addition to the basic mission pay. Send me your best. I am relying on you- I beg you, do not disappoint me.
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore'
Sarutobi frowned, and let the scroll roll closed on its own. "He wants me to send my best, but I'm afraid that just isn't possible. We are in the middle of a war, and we need every ninja that we have. We can't simply send off our elite to guard your item, however powerful it may be."
The woman- McGonagall- coughed politely. "Pray inform me if I am mistaken- but surely you need funding in this war of yours? If you refuse missions, where on earth do you get the money to pay for the war? We need a minimum of two shinobi, and we are willing to pay a large sum. Surely it would be unwise to deny us that?"
The Sandaime gazed at the steaming cup of tea pensively. McGonagall tapped her foot.
"I can give you one ninja, but that's it."
She gave him a 'look'.
"Minerva, was it?" The Hokage's face was hard as granite. "We are at war. Dozens of shinobi die by the day, and we need every soldier we have. Three of our best? Our best are on the front lines, fighting and dying at this very minute."
She opened her mouth, but he shook his head. It wasn't her fault, however frustrating the request was.
Sarutobi sighed. "One ninja is enough, particularly the ninja I have in mind. I owe Dumbledore a favor from a while back. That, and that alone, is the reason that I will accept this mission, foolish though it might be as a tactical decision. Understand?"
She nodded mutely.
"Good. I'll summon him at once."
He straightened in his chair and whistled loudly, once. A tawny hawk flew in the open window and perched on a stand near his desk, waiting patiently, smooth and sleek-feathered. Sarutobi made a mental note to compliment the folks at the message headquarters. With a sigh, he took out the blank scroll from the pouch on the bird's back, scribbled a quick note to Minato, and replaced the scroll in the pouch with a prayer that he got it soon. Another whistle and the bird of prey took off again, soaring into the blue summer sky.
Minerva McGonagall was not a patient woman. Nor was she forgiving, gentle, or easily amused. She had been waiting in the Hokage's office for these shinobi to arrive for nearly ten minutes, and as time wore on, she found herself grinding her teeth irritably. The old man in the hat- the Sandaime, apparently- had gone back to sorting paperwork.
And it was hot here- the old man didn't seem the slightest bit bothered, but both she and Severus were sweating noticeably. Fighting the urge to do a quick charm and cool the place down, she fidgeted uncomfortably as her ankles and knees grew sore from standing in one place. The Sandaime was oblivious to her distress. How did these people live without magic? She could just conjure up an armchair, but no- Dumbledore had insisted that it would be offensive to use a blatant display of magic.
She was just on the verge of saying something, anything, when they arrived.
Two fast-moving forms barreled through the open window and skidded to a halt. She flinched in surprise, and beside her, Severus's head swiveled to stare at the new arrivals.
The first of the two looked to be an adult, but young- maybe in his twenties? He had striking blond hair that was cut long on the sides, and an odd headband with the village emblem inscribed on it. He wore a green-collared vest, which seemed to be the uniform of the shinobi from what she'd seen of the Hokage's assistant.
Minerva looked over the other- a young boy- and was rather startled to see a blade strapped to his back, the handle worn from years of use.
The boy with the sword on his back looked around slightly, and Minerva caught a glimpse of his face. His hair was a bizarre silver color, and a black cloth mask covered up the bottom half of his face. He, too, had a headband, but it was pulled low over one eye, so that the most that could be seen of his face was his other eye and ear. She couldn't help but wonder vaguely why he wore the mask- perhaps a disfiguration of some sort?
The boy didn't inspect her for too long. Instead, he followed the adult's lead and knelt on one knee before the old man. Perhaps this was the shinobi that he had summoned- the man looked strong enough, and he wore the regulation vest- but what was that boy doing here?
The adult shinobi with gold hair spoke up. "Minato Namikaze, reporting for duty."
The Sandaime nodded, looking up from his paperwork. "Ah, good. You brought Kakashi with you."
"Incidentally, I've been meaning to commend the two of you on your most recent mission. You'll be pleased to know that the information you acquired has been of great value to our Intelligence Corps."
The boy with unruly silver hair- so that was Kakashi?- nodded. "Yes, Hokage-sama."
"Admirable. Are you considering joining ANBU?"
"Perhaps in a year or so, Hokage-sama. I only just was promoted to Jounin."
"Good, good- but I digress. Minato, I have a protection mission for your student. It is classified as A-ranked, and for now, you will not be joining him on this mission."
"I expected as much from your note, Hokage-sama. I'm sure he'll do fine."
"Naturally. However, this matter is of a secure nature, so I am afraid that you will have to leave us now. I will notify you of the rest tomorrow, at which point you may also talk to your student before he sets off."
"Yes, Hokage-sama." The adult shinobi made a sign with his hands and disappeared with a sudden flash of yellow light. It was like apparition, but silent. McGonagall frowned. Dumbledore hadn't informed her that these shinobi could Apparate. Perhaps there was more to the hidden villages than the magical community knew?
Well, that was silly. Of course they had all sorts of secrets. Dumbledore was probably the only wizard alive who even knew about the shinobi continent.
All of a sudden, she realized what the Sandaime was talking about, and it hit her like a ton of bricks. Her voice was thin with disbelief.
"You're sending this child?"
The Sandaime looked up and smiled. "What child?"
"Even for a joke, this is excessive. You make light of our circumstances." Her voice was cold with contempt.
The Sandaime merely smiled. "You are quite mistaken, Ms. McGonagall. Although Kakashi is only twelve years old, I assure you that he is fully qualified- perhaps even uniquely qualified- to fulfill the mission you have requested. He has recently attained the rank of jounin, the highest rank available to ninja in active duty, and has been held as a legal adult since his graduation from the Academy at age five."
"The Stone is the most valuable object in the world. The Dark forces will be coming with intent to kill. I cannot countenance such an irresponsible suggestion."
"Excuse me," said a quiet voice.
Minerva blinked in confusion before she realized that it was the boy who had spoken.
Kakashi turned to face her, a glimmer of impatience in his one visible eye. "I beg your pardon," he began in a carefully neutral tone. "I fail to see what, aside from my age, you are unsatisfied with."
She tried to soften her voice. It wasn't his fault. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude."
He shrugged, as if that was a non-issue. "More to the point, I am fully qualified in combat and strategy. I am trained to resist torture and other methods of interrogation, and I have a history of working undercover. I am confident in my ability to fulfill the objectives of whatever mission you may purchase."
"-Or perhaps you simply wish to spare me the emotional trauma of being away from home? How kind."
"I- don't-...Was that impertinence, young man?"
The boy merely shrugged and looked away.
"Enough!" The Sandaime stood, pressing his palms to his desk. "Ms. McGonagall, Mr. Snape, you will take Kakashi or no one at all, and I assure you, he is one of the elite shinobi in our village. His services should be quite sufficient. Kakashi, you will be polite to your employers. Understood?"
Kakashi turned back to the Sandaime and knelt on one knee. "Certainly, Hokage-sama."
The Hokage turned back to the two foreigners. "I must insist that you treat Kakashi as you would any adult. I assure you that he is fully able to handle it, and it will complicate the mission if you do not."
Minerva looked down. It was clearly an ultimatum. She had come with instructions to purchase the services of three elite shinobi, and she was being offered the services of one young boy, barely old enough to be a student, who also had an attitude problem. And yet, she couldn't imagine returning to Hogwarts, saying she'd refused what help they'd been grudgingly offered. She had two choices, and neither of them was a good choice, but she could choose the one that was- fractionally- better.
"I- I understand." She swallowed her frustration. "We will... accept your offer."
"I'll take care of the mission briefing," said the Sandaime. It was a clear dismissal.
"We will return at noon tomorrow. Will that be sufficient time to make preparations?"
Minerva held out the sock portkey to Severus. He took it, and the two of them disappeared with a pop.
Kakashi stared at the empty space that had, until recently, been occupied by his new clients.
"Was that... a sock?" he asked in honest confusion.
"I do believe so," the Hokage agreed. "Interesting people, these clients of yours."