Sakura moved her load from her right hand to her left before she knocked on the door of Naruto's apartment.
"Coming!" she heard Naruto yell from the other side of the door, and she moved her load from her left to her right again. When Naruto opened the door, she stepped inside. Or at least, she wanted to, but she stopped short when she saw the brown owl perched on Naruto's head.
"Hey, Sakura-chan," grinned Naruto, "thanks for coming."
"Err," said Sakura, which wasn't really a word, so she tried again. "There's an owl on your head, Naruto."
Naruto smiled at her and patted the brown owl affectionately. "Yeah, this guy's Browl-32. Almost ready to go back, right, Browl?"
The owl hooted sharply and Naruto winced as Sakura saw its talons sink into Naruto's scalp. "Right, not yet, sorry, sorry." Naruto shook his head to dislodge the owl and with an annoyed hoot it flew from Naruto's head to the hilt of a kunai stuck in the wall. There it continued watching Naruto and Sakura with huge eyes.
"Since when do you have an owl?" asked Sakura as she finally stepped inside and closed the door behind her.
"It's not mine, actually," answered Naruto. Sakura's eyes widened as she spotted two more owls sitting on kunai embedded in the walls. One was a large silvery-white owl, looking like it belonged hunting mice in the forests of Snow Country instead of sleeping inside Naruto's small apartment. The other was brown too, but had a more yellow sheen over its feathers. It, too, slept. Its wing was hidden underneath a wad of bandages and Sakura spotted a splint with her keen medical eyes.
"You turned your apartment into an animal shelter?"
"Nah, the animal shelter kept turning me down. So I've had to take care of these guys on my own."
Sakura whirled and took a deep breath before she said forcefully: "But what are they doing here?"
"Sleeping," answered Naruto, but when Sakura clenched her fist he finally explained.
"You know that year-long mission me and Sasuke went on?"
At Sakura's sarcastic nod he continued. Of course she knew, who wouldn't notice when Konoha's citizens weren't tormented by Konohamaru and Naruto prancing around in that ridiculous jutsu of theirs for a whole year?
"They've got a law forbidding kids under seventeen to perform magic. But I use my wand to heat water for my ramen. So every time I do that, they send a letter by owl."
"But that country is on the other side of the world!" said Sakura disbelievingly. Naruto nodded.
"Exactly. They fly all the way here, and when they get here they're exhausted. I nurse them back to health until they can make the journey back."
"So when you say 'Browl-32'..." began Sakura, and Naruto finished the sentence for her.
"Thirty-one owls preceded it, yes."
He pointed at the white owl.
"And that's whowl-7, and I'm up to growl-14 for the grey ones."
"But what do the letters say?" asked Sakura. Naruto shrugged.
"Oh, that I'm expelled from Hogwarts, that I've got a hearing, another hearing, that I've missed the hearing, your regular cease-and-desist letters."
"And all those get delivered by owls? You sure you're not a criminal by now for not adhering to their laws?"
Naruto put his hands behind his head.
"Nah, I'm sure they'd understand. And besides, they can't make me follow their laws in this country, right?"
Sometimes Sakura guessed that Naruto knew more than he let on, and other times he was as clueless as a blind gecko.
"And you've already written to them and asked them to stop?"
Naruto untangled one arm and held his hand up towards Sakura. "Five times, but they keep saying I've got a visa for England, so even while in another country I should follow the laws while my visa and valid and I'm still sixteen."
"That's ridiculous," concluded Sakura. "They can't do that!"
"Tell me about it. But these guys suffer for it, so that's why I asked for those soldier pills."
Sakura looked at the basket still clutched in her right hand before she handed it over to Naruto.
"Right, of course, here you go. I haven't made them with owls in mind, but I'm sure they'll like them."
Sakura didn't miss the way Naruto blinked, like he did when he was about to lie (or omit the full truth), nor did she miss the quick flick of his eyes as he looked at the other owls.
"I'm sure. Thanks, Sakura-chan! I guess I'll see you at training tomorrow-"
"Can I feed one?"
Naruto made a questioning noise and Sakura pointed at the injured brown owl, who had woken up thanks to their conversation.
"Can I feed an owl?"
Naruto followed her pointing finger and understanding dawned.
"I suppose... But look out for this guy, he nearly took my finger off when I bandaged his wing."
"You did that? Didn't you take it to an animal shelter?"
"Like I said: they turned me down. Kiba helped me though, so it should heal fine."
"Mind if I take a look?"
"No, I'll get Browl-31 down for you. Here, browlie, browlie, browlie, I've got a nice little mouse for you..."
Naruto produced a mouse from one of the containers standing on the table, and Sakura immediately lost her appetite. Who knew what else lay in that container... and what about if Naruto went on longer missions? Did he keep the containers out in the open? The thought alone was enough to make her throw up in her mouth a little, so she turned away from the questionable containers and shrieked when the white owl missed her by an inch in his fly-by.
With kunoichi reflexes she ducked and grabbed a kunai at the same time. She stopped herself just in time before she made sate out of the poor bird, but that didn't stop Naruto from laughing at her.
"Yeah, that's how I found out they like to perch on kunai hilts, for some reason. Couldn't stop myself in time."
Sakura shot him a look, and Naruto waved it away.
"Don't worry, I missed."
Ah, of course, that was very... Naruto-like of him. Sasuke would hit the poor thing... but then again, Sakura had a hard time picturing Sasuke taking care of owls who accidentally got sent to his house.
Sakura reached into the basket and grabbed a soldier pill. The white owl gobbled up the mouse and then turned and stared at her with huge yellow eyes.
"Here, whowl-7," said Sakura, "I've got a nice treat for you."
The owl screeched and flew towards her, landing on her outstretched fist. Its talons dug into her skin, but she bore the sting. She held her hand in front of it, palm open, the soldier pill presented neatly like a lovely snack. The white owl spent no time scrutinizing the food. It dug in like Naruto at Ichiraku, but within seconds it uttered a second screech. It threw the consumed crumbs back onto Sakura's hand and kicked the offending soldier pill away.
"What?" said Sakura in bewilderment as the white owl pushed off and flew back to the kunai hilt, where it puffed up its feathers and clicked a few times.
Naruto's laughter was the only response she got.
"It - it -," he tried to say, but then he got lost in the corridors of a hilarity attack.
"It hates my soldier pills," said Sakura slowly. She dumped the ruined soldier pill in Naruto's trashbin and clenched her fist. If Naruto made even one remark, one wrong move...
"See? Everybody hates them!" cried Naruto, still shaking with laughter. One remark too many, decided Sakura. She was upon him like a raccoon upon a trash bag, and with one swipe of her fist he flew out the open window, like she had intended. A resounding crash satisfied Inner Sakura's need for vengeance. The owls screeched at her and puffed up even more, making them look more threatening, but she paid them no heed.
"My soldier pills are marvels of healing herbs!" she yelled out the window. A loud groan answered her.
"May be, but they taste-"
"Are you sure you want to finish that sentence?" threatened Sakura, and she saw Naruto physically swallow back his words. He got up from the roof of the building he had landed on and jumped back to the window, landing crouched on the windowsill.
"Sorry, Sakura-chan. I'll just mix the soldier pills with their usual food, so that the amazing healing herbs can work."
"You better," said Sakura, but despite her sharp tone she helped him inside. "Now, eat one up and you'll feel better immediately."
Naruto's eyes widened as he eyed the pile of soldier pills. Slowly, like a wary animal he turned back to Sakura.
"You didn't hurt me that bad," he tried, but Sakura walked over to the table and chucked a soldier pill at Naruto.
"C'mon, eat it," she said sweetly, but her clenched fist promised more impromptu roofdiving if he refused. With tears in his eyes he bit into one, and the tears streamt down his face at the incredible taste. Incredibly gross, that is. Sakura was aware of the horrible taste, but healing herbs tasted horrible, there was no way around it. Bitter medicine worked, that's why it tasted bitter.
"Mm, Sakura, these taste ... good," tried Naruto, but still the tears streamed down his face.
The white owl clucked in what Sakura sure was amusement, and the scene made her grin.
It felt good to have Naruto back home.
Itachi's eyes widened an infinite small amount when Sasuke whipped out his wand to put out Itachi's fireball with a powerful Aguamenti-spell, but it was enough to make Sasuke smirk. He pointed his wand at his brother.
"So you've been there too," remarked Itachi in his bland tone. "Did you happen to pick up... this?"
To Sasuke's astonishment his brother took out another wand and pointed it right back at Sasuke.
"Imperio," said Itachi, but Sasuke merely smirked at the weak Imperius-curse and he shook it off as easily as water off an otter's back. Something glinting moved towards him and he threw himself aside a second too late. He expected pain, but there was none. He looked down at his wand and saw a senbon needle stick out of it. With one smooth move he pulled it out, whirled around and pointed his wand at Itachi.
"Expelliarmus!" he cried, but the magical core of his wand had been damaged enough that the spell spun out of control and blasted Sasuke backwards. He smacked against the wall and managed to land on his feet, but he put the wand away. It was useless now.
"This is not a shinobi's tool," said Itachi as he threw his own wand away. "It's useless."
"Then come at me, Itachi."
Sasuke raced through the appropriate seals. He'd just have to kill his brother without magic.
The bell tingled a magical jaunty tune as Sasuke opened the door.
"Hello, welcome," said the store owner. "Ah, one of the famous shinobi I've heard so much about. Twelve inches, Konoha wood, a core of dragon heartstring and reinforced with cockatrice feathers. What can I do for you?"
Sasuke was taken aback that the old man remembered what kind of wand he had, but he made sure not to show his surprise on his face. It was hard enough to walk around Diagon Alley with witches and wizards whispering behind his back. He had taken to the rooftops to get to his destination: Ollivanders wand shop.
"I need a new wand," said Sasuke bluntly.
"Certainly. May I ask, why did you not come earlier? Assuming that you lost your wand during your battle with the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
"It wasn't during that battle," said Sasuke sharply. His wounds still ached from the battle with Itachi. And in the end he had still lost, somehow. If Itachi had indeed been after his eyes... He shook his head to chase the memories (temporarily) away and focused on the old man in front of him. The man had keen eyes, and Sasuke wasn't sure he had managed to keep his face blank. He missed his mask.
"Do you have an identical wand in stock or do I need to test out wands again?"
When Sasuke spoke Ollivander was spurred into motion. With certain strides he moved to the back and came out with a box, containing one of the wands specially made for shinobi.
"This one is identical to the one you had. The heartstring is from a different dragon, but the wood is still from Konoha."
When Sasuke picked it up it felt wrong in his hand. It was as if the wand yearned for him, his chakra signature, but it no longer fitted. Like signing a mortgage paper with a crayon. It did the job, but it felt and looked wrong. Ollivander had noticed it as well, and with his deft hands he swiped the wand from Sasuke's hand.
"Looks like you'll be needing a new test for a new wand," said the man carefully. He disappeared into the back for a minute and returned with a stack of boxes. Sasuke recognized some from his last visit, and the process remained the same. He touched a wand, and immediately Ollivander would take it from him. There were a few close calls where Sasuke thought he felt a connection, but even then the master of wandmaking interfered and took the wand from him.
It took three times as long as his previous visit to find the right wand for him, but finally he laid hands on one which felt right. Ollivander looked from the wand to Sasuke and back.
"This battle you were in... it was no ordinary battle," said the man. Sasuke narrowed his eyes at Ollivander but nodded after a few seconds, but he kept his mouth closed.
"Twelve inches, heart of unicorn hair... but reinforced with Knarrl spines and made from wood from the Demon Country," murmured the old man. His scrutinous eyes roved over Sasuke, and for a moment Sasuke felt a minor wave of killing intent emanate from the man for some reason. It was over so fast he could have imagined it, but Sasuke knew himself. He had little imagination.
"That'll be twenty Galleons," said Ollivander. Sasuke handed over the correct amount and put the wand into the pouch on his thigh. It was nice to have that bit of extra weight there. He hadn't felt powerless without his wand, far from it, but it was nice to know he now had another back-up option if things went south.
"Take care, shinobi," said Ollivander. It looked like he wanted to say more, but after a few seconds he decidedly clamped his mouth shut and turned away from Sasuke to put the money into his till.
"You too," replied Sasuke. In three steps and four seconds he was out the door, pulling it shut behind him. The sun shining down on Diagion Alley made the whole street seem more alive, with many witches and wizards walking to and fro, carrying bags and windowshopping. But to Sasuke it was a street of dangers and strangers, a world he lived in for a year, but it wasn't his home.
From his vantage point Sasuke saw a familiar blond head scurry around near Tover Tweeling Topfopshop, along with a pink head. A shock of grey hair bobbed lazily behind them. Sasuke sighed when he saw the blond head disappear under the fury of pink's fist, but he knew that was where he belonged. That was home.
When the entire team was done shopping they turned their backs on the wizarding world and left.
A/N: And that marks the end of this fic. It's been an absolute blast to write, and I've read the fourth book so many times I can now pretty much recite it by heart.
I hope you enjoyed this fic, and look forward to more stories in the future, although not necessarily in this fandom. At the moment I don't have a sequel planned. I'm a bit burnt out on HP/Naruto crossovers, so I'm afraid that this is it. Maybe if I get inspired I'll write some short stories about other years, but it won't be an 100k+ words fic.
I'd like to take a moment to thank all the people who've reviewed. You guys rock like ... Guitar Hero 3. Thank you for pointing out mistakes, discussing theories about canon with me, telling me to keep it up and questioning my logic. I probably won't have to tell you that every time I looked in my inbox and saw someone had reviewed I felt all fuzzy and warm inside. Keep on rocking.
1-5-2010 / 22-6-2011