The Girl with Red Hair: "Well you made it," she said happily. "So you're stuck here now. I'm not sending you back out there in the middle of a war! You'll just have to stay here with me from now on. Do you think you'll be alright with that?" All Harry could do was stare at her. She accepted him. HPxNaruto cross

Author's Note: Harry Potter and Naruto crossover. Written with the assumption that readers are at least generally familiar with both.

All Usual Disclaimers: ...apply. Original characters and concepts may or may not be claimed, but are mine regardless.

Warnings & Ratings: Rated T for teen, due to violence, language and handling of much weaponry.

o- The Girl with Red Hair -o

By: Renatus

o-

Harry was five when he discovered the picture and his life changed.

His Aunt Petunia had gotten into a rare mood to clean, and not the dust the family portraits along the mantle in the parlor, but the deep sort of clean that had Harry carting old boxes out of the hallway closet so she could sift through them for anything valuable and then out to the curb with them.

Once the last of the little cardboard boxes was dumped across the kitchen table, Harry crawled under it, hoping to be forgotten for a while so he could rest after trucking up and down the stairs all morning. It worked until his Aunt pushed a few too many of the old pictures and cards from the box onto the floor. Harry had caught sight of a particularly colorful little envelope, and upon inspection found only a picture inside of it. It was of a toddling girl, bright hair streaming around her, red as the bridge she stood on. Buildings of a shape he'd never seen before rose around her into a happy little city, with a sparkling horizon of water that stretched up to the blue sky.

On the back was written only, 'our little flower.'

He thought it was his mother at first. He had heard once his Aunt say his mother had red hair.

Petunia took one look at it over her nephew's shoulder and gave a disdainful sniff. Harry jumped and hunched at the sound, wary of a slap to the back of his head or the woman snatching the precious little photo out of his hand.

She did neither.

"Our cousin's kid," she commented, thoughtful and clearly having forgotten her unwanted nephew. "Kisha, or Kusha or some such odd name as that. Such an odd bunch. Strange, like your parents' no good friends."

Then the woman eyed her nephew with the same disdainful look she had given the photo. Harry shrunk further into himself. The last time he had seen that look his Aunt had decided to teach Harry how to fry bacon so as to earn his keep.

Petunia snatched the envelope out of his little hand, ignoring the gasp the boy made as its edge sliced through the flesh of his fingers. She turned the cheery yellow envelope over in her hands and her eyes lit up at the writings scrawled down its face.

"We'll see about that extended family," she said to him. "You'll be much happier over there in China, or whatever land they're in, Asians, the lot of them."

Harry remained silent. She didn't expect him to answer or respond. Every time his Aunt wanted him to make a sound at all she would tell him so. Until then he was to keep his mouth shut, and so he did.

She narrowed her eyes at him, her lips curling into a plotting smirk. "On the other side of the world, they are, boy."

Then she walked away.

Harry watched her balefully from under the table, sucking on his fingers and clutching the photo of the little red-headed girl to his chest. Family.

o-

It was many months later that the topic of the cousin from China came up again.

"Get the mail, boy," his Uncle commanded.

And like he had done for two years, Harry retrieved the mail from the little pile it made by the door. He didn't bother to sift through it, though he eyed the many narrow white envelopes and the periodical featuring kitchen wares and a happy dumpy woman in a ruffly apron on its cover. Amidst the stack was a cheery yellow envelope.

His Aunt snatched the pile from him before he got more than a glance at it. She tossed the bills into a bin on the counter, the magazine onto her empty plate at the table and then stared at the yellow envelope with a surprised look. She sunk into her chair slowly, still staring at the cheery color.

"What is it, pet?" Uncle Vernon asked, noticing his wife's sudden mood, but not bothering to stop eating.

"It's –" Petunia shook her head and looked up at Vernon, turning the envelope's face so he could read it from across the table. "It's from Japan."

"Japan! Who's in Japan?"

"My mother's half sister," Petunia said.

Uncle Vernon squinted at the woman, making his face look rather like a shriveled prune. He had actually stopped eating in order to give his attention to his wife and the envelope from the other side of the world. Harry held his silence, barely daring to breathe, hoping that they'd continue to forget he was still there and standing by the table and hearing everything they said and not keeping up with refilling their teacups.

"I thought you sent it off to China?" Vernon finally asked.

"No, I was mistaken," said Petunia, eyeing the envelope's writing. "It's some place over there by Japan, not China."

Vernon grunted. "So what's it say? Will they take the freak off us?"

Dudley, sitting between his parents, with his plate under his chin caught onto the conversation then. "Is the freak boy going away?"

Dudley, when his parents did not respond, turned a pinched, pucky look to his cousin. Harry thought it made him look more like a pig than it usually did. Harry responded with a flat look of his own, unimpressed with his portly cousin's attempt to intimidate him.

Petunia pursed her lips, looking down at her nephew with a sour expression. Harry hunched his shoulders and shuffled back a step, eyeing his Aunt from downcast eyes and his overgrown fringe of hair.

"If they don't, maybe we could just stuff the boy in a box and ship it off to them anyways," his Uncle said. Then he returned his attention to his breakfast, only giving his wife periodic glances as the woman tore the envelope apart. Neither gave Harry much attention at all, as if talking about shipping him by freight to China or Japan wasn't about to change his life utterly.

Harry rather hoped that they would. How long would it take to be shipped to China?

He watched his Aunt pull out a rather long letter, it's writing about as sketchy and crooked as Harry's attempts had been in school last year. Petunia's face puckered increasingly as she read through it and by the time she had flipped the paper over and reached its end she was frowning deeply and oh, she did not look pleased at all. Harry shuffled back further, making sure that he was out of reach of her long spindly arms in case she decided to whip one of them at him.

"Well?" Vernon asked around the slice of ham he had just stuffed into his cheeks.

Petunia fisted her fingers into the yellow paper and hit the table hard enough to rattle her teacup.

"They won't take him," she said stiffly.

Vernon's eyes narrowed again. "Well why not?"

Petunia waved the crumpled letter angrily. "Says there's a war going on and it's not safe for him to come or them to leave to get him!"

Did that mean they wanted him or not?

"Rubbish! If there was a war we'd have heard it on the telly." Vernon scowled, his face changing colors in a display that Harry was well familiar with and highly wary of. For the third time since he had delivered the mail to his Aunt Harry shifted backwards away from the table.

"I wanna watch the telly!" Dudley exclaimed, spewing a bit of his eggs across the table.

"After breakfast, Dudley," Petunia said absently, eyeing the letter with a dark scowl.

"I still say we box him up," his Uncle said, waving his fork at Harry. "Send him off before school starts up again so I don't have to pay money for the freak." Vernon eyed the boy down the length of the utensil, then eyed the chunk of ham on its end. Vernon stuffed the meat into his mouth, chewing loudly and squinting at Harry with a slightly disgusted look.

"Mum!"

"Perhaps," said his Aunt, drawing Harry's scattered attention. She had the look on her face that was the same as when she was peering through the blinds at the neighbors and trying to figure out what they were up to.

She smiled grimly at him, smirking. "Perhaps so," she said.

Harry hadn't seen her quite so happy since she got her new frying pan last spring.

"Telly, mum!"

"Then go, Dudley," Petunia said, still eyeing Harry like he was some particularly difficult puzzle.

Harry, hunched, stuffed his hands into his pockets, his fingers curling around the little picture of the red-headed girl hidden there. He wasn't sure what his Aunt's look meant for him. He wasn't sure to be wary or happy about it. Maybe they'd send him to his distant relatives in China – Japan?

Would they want him? Or would they just send him back to the Dursleys?

o-

The Dursleys had Harry on a plane out of Heathro by the end of the summer.

All three of them had driven Harry down to London for the momentous occasion. And as Petunia handed her nephew off to a stewardess chaperone, she stuffed the yellow envelope into his pocket.

"You'll need that when you get there," she said, her smile too sharp to be pleasant. "It's their address."

Harry let the blonde stewardess grab his hand and small duffle bag, even as he stared between his Aunt and the crowds of people in the airport.

"Come along, honey," his blonde babysitter said. The curvy blonde tugged on his hand and with one last look at the Dursley family Harry turned and followed her. The Dursley's waved with happy smiles on their faces. Harry hoped that he wouldn't have to see them again.

"Honestly, sending a five-year-old onto a plane by himself," the stewardess grumbled, dragging him through the airport at a speed that had Harry jogging to keep up.

"Six," he told her.

His voice made her stop so suddenly that Harry took three steps further and got tugged back by his arm. He eyed the grip she had on his hand sourly. She didn't seem inclined to let him go any time soon.

"What did you say, hun?"

Harry looked up into her brown eyes, noticing that her hair was darker when closer to her head. The rest of her blonde locks was twisted up into a messy bun with flyaway strands of hair around her ears.

"I'm six," said Harry. "My birthday was last week."

She eyed him with some skepticism, her eyes tracking his short skinny height as if trying to weigh him in.

"Very well, sweetheart," she said. "Let's go. We don't want you to be late for your flight." She began walking again, dragging him along like a dog on a leash. Harry just concentrated on keeping his feet under his body and his arm attached to his shoulder. He barely heard anything the woman was saying as she ranted with a vaguely polite scowl. "Your relatives barely got you here on time. Honestly! Over thirty minutes late to drop you off. They're lucky they didn't miss the flight entirely. Who sends a kid on a plane alone anyways?"

Harry thought that she should know that the Dursley's did exactly that.

o-

The flight was long and Harry slept through most of it.

When not sleeping he was munching through a seemingly endless supply of little bags of peanuts and drawing random designs across the pages of the in-flight catalogue with the pen his babysitter, Miss Darcy, gave him. For her part, the blonde seemed to have spent the entirety of the flight chatting up the man in the suit across the aisle. Harry knew the look on her face. Petunia got it every time the milkman came by.

By the time they reached the other side of the world Harry's bum was numb, he had run out of pages in the catalogue and Darcy was grumbling in a darker tone than when they had left.

And like she had in Heathro, the blonde dragged him through the strange airport by his hand, Harry jogging to keep up with her brisk pace in the crowds.

"Where are they?" she mumbled, scanning the people around them. The stewardess attached to his hand shuffled through the crowd, dragging him along. Harry let her and turned most of his attention to the crowd. Some of them held signs, most of them held signs that had pretty scribbles scrawled across them. The people looked different, like the little boy in his class, Pang, Ping, Harry couldn't remember his name. But he remembered his face, he had been nice to Harry until Dudley had broken his nose and told Pong that Harry was a freak and not to go near him. Peong had steered very clear of Harry after that day, as had every other kid on the playground.

It was two hours later that Harry realized that something was wrong. Or rather, Harry knew what was going on, and the stewardess began to figure out that something was wrong.

Darcy had gone from grumbling to dark cursing and most of the people had thinned to the point that only a few remained behind with Harry and his babysitter. He had been perched on a bench with his duffle beside him while she stood next to him tapping her shoes onto the floor with steady clacks.

"Well?" she asked. Harry jumped at the sudden address, and peered up at the woman. She was frowning down at him, her arms crossed over her chest and her lips pursed in the way that meant trouble for Harry. He hunched his shoulders, trying to make himself look smaller. Maybe she would forget about him, since she seemed a bit too keen on glaring at him right now.

"Where is your family?" she asked him. Harry didn't answer, he wouldn't have had time to anyways. "They were supposed to be here when the plane landed. That was hours ago! This is ridiculous! Rude! I've things to do besides babysit a boy for them all day." She poked her fingernail into his shoulder. "Well?"

Harry shrugged and shook his head in the negative.

She puffed up her cheeks and let out a huff of air, turning her glare to the general environment around them. Harry let out a quiet breath.

She had gone back and forth from Harry to the phone booth beside the bench, her eyes on him the entire time like a hawk. Harry heard the dial-tone and subsequent ringing blare out from the phone as the woman scowled at it and held it a foot away from her ear.

"Hello?" his Uncle Vernon's voice came through the phone, loud.

"Mr. Dursley, this is Darcy Clapp calling from British Airways in Tokyo," the blonde said into the phone, "I'm here with your nephew Harry –"

"Haven't got a nephew!" Vernon yelled through the phone. Harry hunched his shoulders even further.

The stewardess looked scandalized. "Mr. Dursley, I'm –"

"Don't know any Potter neither," Vernon continued, his voice a bit high pitched and very loud through the receiver. "Don't call back here, saleswoman! I don't want what you're selling! We're going on vacation! To Majorka! For weeks! Good bye!"

"Why, I never!"

The sound of a phone being fumbled, distant curses, and then a slam echoed out of the receiver. The dial-tone rang through the following silence like a screeching alarm. Harry stared at the phone in minor horror. He didn't even hear his babysitter's string of complaints and insults directed at his family in England.

Harry knew that they hadn't liked him. They had never pretended to, and had told him so at least every other day since he could remember.

But his Uncle had just disowned him entirely.

"Do you have the number of your family here in Japan, hun?" she asked. Harry started and looked at the blonde. She had kneeled next to the bench, putting her on his level. Harry studied her. She still wasn't happy, that much was obvious. She looked down right annoyed actually. But she didn't seem about to backhand him or wave a frying pan about anymore, so Harry figured it was safe to communicate.

"No, ma'am," he said, which caused her to frown. "But I have their address."

"Let's have it then."

Harry dug the yellow envelope out of his pocket, where it had spent the entire flight, and handed it to her. She took it and studied it for a moment, sighed, and grabbed his duffle off the bench.

"Come on, let's find an officer who can contact them for us."

Harry allowed her to grab his hand and lead him off again.

The stewardess flagged down a man in a uniform and proceeded to spout out a language that had Harry openly staring at her. The officer too stared, though he seemed as if he were trying to figure out what she was saying. Their conversation was a bit stumbling, and punctuated with a plethora of gestures, many of them directed at Harry, who had taken to hunching half behind the blonde woman through the duration. The man in the uniform kept looking at him with a squinty-eyed expression that reminded Harry of Petunia when she was angry.

Then the woman handed the yellow envelope to the man.

The officer stared at the envelope, stared at the stewardess and then stared at Harry. His eyes were wider than Harry had yet seen them.

"You go here?" he asked, pointing at Harry then to the envelope.

Harry nodded. He supposed that was the idea. To go to where his distant relatives were. He wouldn't be going back to the Dursleys, that much was obvious. Even if they put him back on a plane to England, the Dursleys would be gone off to Majorka and no one would be there in Heathro to pick him up.

"This," the officer said, pointing to the scribbled letters on the envelope, "this… hard."

"What do you mean hard?" Darcy sputtered, indignant. "What's hard about it? Just look up their number and call them. They can't just abandon this boy here!"

Harry rather thought that they could, actually. The Dursleys had, after all.

The officer made a cutting motion with his hand, slicing it back and forth through the air from his wrist. He seemed tried for patience.

"Hard," he said with finality.

Harry let out a breath and hung his head between his hunched shoulders. Now what?

He felt a firm hand on his shoulder and he jumped at the unexpected contact. The officer didn't remove his hand, even as Harry leaned back from the man's sudden proximity. He just smiled a bit at the boy, which soothed Harry's nerves more than it ought to have.

"Hard," the officer said again, holding the envelope out. "Yes – possible." The officer offered the cheery yellow envelope with a little nudge. Harry took it slowly, fingering the parchment paper with ginger fingers. The officer nodded and Harry gave the man a small smile in return.

"Burumaru-san," the officer said, pointing to himself.

Harry repeated the name, then pointed to his own chest. "Harry."

The officer nodded, pointed at Harry's chest and said, "Hari-kun."

Harry frowned at the change. The man had rolled the r's in his name oddly, hard, as if they were almost l's, and the added 'kun' did nothing but confuse him.

The officer returned his attention to the stewardess, and during the ensuing conversation, Harry studied the envelope. He stared at the lettering across its face, forming the words slowly in his mind. Petunia Dursley, Number Four Privet Drive – Harry stopped and began again at the other set of letters. Kushina Uzumaki, Kono – Konohagakure, Hi no Kuni. It all meant very little to him, all except the name: Kushina.

Didn't his Aunt say that her cousin's kid was named something like that?

Harry stuffed his hand into his pocket and pulled the picture out. It was dog-eared and crinkled from living in his pocket for so long, but the bright colors of the photo were still there, and the little toddling girl stared back at him with a bright, wide smile.

Kushina, 'our little flower.'

Someone tapped him on the shoulder and Harry looked up from the picture to the officer.

"You, come," he said. And with that the stewardess handed over Harry's duffle and leash and the uniformed man pulled Harry out of the airport by his arm.

o-

The following few hours were something of a confused blur for Harry.

The man's understanding of English was slim, and Harry's understanding of what he came to know as Japanese was nonexistent. Communication between the two males, thus consisted of a great deal of hand gestures and charades, which was effective enough for Harry to inform him when he had to pee, was hungry or wondered what in the world something was.

The man had taken him to some sort of official looking office where Harry was invited to remain in a chair for most of the afternoon munching on salty, fishy snacks and water from the fountain nearby. By the time the sky was turning colors out the wide windows the officer led him back out of the office with a sheef of papers under his arm.

"Three weeks," the man said, holding up three fingers in front of Harry's nose. "Then you go."

Then Burumaru-san took him to his home, where Harry stayed for those three weeks.

The officer had a wife – Maoko – who spoke no English at all, and a teenaged daughter - Fuyu – who was fluent enough that Harry didn't know the difference. The girl was all too happy to teach the little British boy in her home her language, and Harry found himself at the receiving end of a series of cheery little lessons about how to count, and greet someone properly and bowing. The bowing was odd.

By the time Burumaru-san told him to pack his duffle up and that he was leaving, Harry had enough of a grasp of the language that he could at least say hello, thank you, candy please, and 'I don't speak Japanese, do you know English, please sir?' And somewhere along the route Harry learned what Maoko said every time she saw him ("You are too thin, boyo!") and placed food in front of him. Apparently, she thought he was far too thin for his good. At least Harry learned how to use the chopsticks from how often she fed him.

Maoko handed him a lunchbox wrapped in a brightly patterned cloth, and Fuyu hugged him and ruffled his hair, making it stand even more on end than it usually did. She chirped out a tearful goodbye amidst a cheerful rendition about luck and fortune and life and Harry stopped listening.

He was sad to see them go.

Then Burumaru-san took his hand and dragged him out of the house.

Their trip progressed in silence, Harry more intrigued by the scenery outside the train's windows, and the officer filling numbers into a little book of squares and puzzles. They returned to the office-building, and Burumaru-san gave him the packet of papers.

"This," he said, waving the thick envelope of papers in front of his face, "Yours. Not lose!" Harry nodded, holding the envelope tightly in his hands. "You go with Ito-san," the officer said, pointing to a tall, dark-haired man in slacks and sandals who was standing nearby. Harry eyed the man nervously. Ito-san was broad-shouldered and taller than the officer and had the air of tensed power about him that put Harry a bit on edge.

"Ito-san go with you," the officer was saying, pushing Harry towards the grim-looking guy. "Take you to family, yes. Villages closed because of war. Ito-san take you close and then walk."

Harry wasn't sure he had a choice in the matter. Ito-san didn't grab Harry's hand like the stewardess and the officer had done. Instead he put his large hand on the back of Harry's neck and steered him deeper into the office building that way. Harry glanced behind him once to see Burumaru wave with an encouraging smile.

Harry expected to be shuffled back onto a bus, or an airplane, or even a boat. He did not expect to be led into a window-less cinder-blocked room and locked in with the intimidating Ito-san. The man didn't speak. He just led Harry into the center of the room and with simple gestures that Harry would be stupid to misinterpret, told him to not move. The finger motion across the man's throat made Harry swallow heavily and nod a bit frantically. He planted his little feet where the man told him to and barely dared to breathe.

With his duffle slung across his shoulder, and the packet of papers clutched against his chest, Harry watched the tall Ito with some curiosity and no little amount of trepidation. The man was wandering around the room inspecting the floor with a critical eye. Harry finally took his eyes off the man long enough to inspect the floor himself. The smooth surface had been carved. Intricate designs that Harry now knew to be Japanese characters crawled across the flagstones in a complex circular pattern of circles within circles.

Harry stood alone in its center.

Ito pinned the boy with a stern gaze, motioning that Harry not move. Harry nodded quickly, not wanting to anger the man. The tall man seemed satisfied with his response, then kneeled on the outer edge of the circular pattern in the floor.

Harry felt it. A ripple of force passed through him, making Harry clutch his forearm around his middle at the strange sensation. Wind whipped up out of nowhere, blowing his hair into and out of his eyes. It ruffled Ito's clothes and swirled around the room like a hurricane.

Blue light trickled across the floor, spreading from the kneeling Ito across the carved designs. It lit the room in a brilliant blue glow, highlighting the scripted characters and designs of the pattern.

Harry was fascinated.

Another wave of unseen force slammed through him and Harry fought to remain standing where he was as it threatened to topple him to the floor – or across the room. Then a flash of light so bright that Harry cried out, squeezing his eyes shut and curling in on himself in a crouch, remembering only to keep his feet rooted to his spot and his hands on the envelope against his chest.

The ripple of force was back, making his legs shake as it built up around him, squeezing the air from his lungs and whipping him right off his feet as if someone had picked him up by his ankle and shook him.

Harry fell.

o-

His landing was rough, but cushioned, knocking the wind out of him and leaving him dazed.

He stared blankly up at the ceiling – canopy. Grand, tall trees towered over him, weaving their branches together into an intricate knot work of limbs and leaves. Filtered sunlight streamed through them, casting the shadowed leaves into a bright array of dappled colors and floating pollen. Cicadas called loudly through the trees, competing with the birds in a cacophony song.

Harry lay in his pile of leaves and ferns, breathing and listening to the sounds of a forest so grand he was sure he was dreaming.

Then Ito's stern face blocked out the pretty streamers of light above him.

The man motioned for him to get up, and with a huff and a heave, Harry found his footing. His duffle swung around him from its strap. Ito-san made a few quick motions with his hands and Harry stood staring for a moment as he worked out what the man wanted. Nodding, Harry stuffed his packet of papers into the duffle and secured the bag across his chest and shoulder, settling the pack against his back.

Harry watched as the man pulled out a strip of dark cloth and tied it around his head. Knotted tightly in the midst of his brown hair, the bandana sported a shiny metal plate on its front, right over his forehead. Ito then picked him up and swung him onto his broad back. Harry sucked in a startled gasp, suddenly finding himself attached to the man with his arms around his neck and his legs held in firm hands at Ito's sides.

Ito asked him something in Japanese, turning his head to catch Harry's eyes, "Are you ready, boy?" It was the first time he had spoken to Harry and despite the language, Harry knew what he had said. His three weeks of lessons with Fuyu had taught him much.

Harry responded in kind, "yes, sir."

Ito looked surprised, though barely so. His facial features didn't seem to be inclined to share his emotions much, but Harry's face was close enough to his that he saw the slight widening of the eyes and raised eyebrows.

Ito pointed at the metal plate on his forehead and said quietly, "This is Konoha's symbol. Those who wear this symbol are your friends, boy. Trust only them. Konoha is at war."

Harry memorized the swirled pattern, nodding his understanding, and wondered what symbol marked those on the other side of the war.

The man raised a hand and laid a finger over his own lips – the universal sign for silence. Harry nodded his ascent.

Ito gripped his thighs and jumped up into the trees.

The rush of wind across his ears nearly whistled and his hair whipped around his head in a wild array. Ito's grip on his legs and Harry's death grip around the man's neck kept him from falling to the ground. And it would not be a fall he'd likely come out of unscathed. Ito was running through the trees anywhere from ten to twenty meters off the ground, leaping between the branches of the trees like some sort of steroid monkey.

Harry just concentrated on leeching himself to the man's back and trying to catch his breath in the rush. He had lost it somewhere in that initial jump.

Once his surprise settled, and he got the hang of breathing through the rushing wind, Harry found himself enjoying the run through the tops of the trees. A lot. He knew he was probably grinning like a maniac, but the sheer energy and speed of Ito's effortless run, the wind whistling across his ears, the leaves of the trees occasionally grabbing at his wild hair and tickling… it was exhilarating.

The morning passed uneventfully. Ito paced himself through the trees at a steady loping gate that left him taking deep breaths when they stopped for lunch, but otherwise seemingly untired. Harry perched himself in a crouched position with his back to one of the towering trees and rested the bento box Maoko had given him on the top of his knees. Their short lunch break was as silent as their run had been. Harry concentrated on his lunch and trying not to clack the chopsticks against the box's rim too loudly. Ito munched through two chewy bars and eyed the dappled shadows of the forest around them.

Harry was observant enough to know that the other man was wary.

The afternoon continued much like the morning. Harry clung to Ito's back, and the man leaped from branch to branch in a dazzling run that despite the hours acting like a baby monkey, Harry was far from bored of.

It was shortly after Ito's whispered, "we are nearly there," that the man's wariness paid off.

Something sharp and shiny shot past Harry's ear, so close he could feel it's passing as it sliced through his hair. Ito dropped off the branch in a sudden move that had Harry gripping the man for dear life. They twisted and spun through the air and suddenly they were back on the branch they had started on. Harry gasped as he realized that the man had somehow spun the two of them around the tree limb like an acrobat in a circus.

But where before their path had been clear save for leaves and sunbeams, now a curious looking person stood facing them. He was relatively small, a teen really, and dressed darkly with dull metal armor plates strapped to his chest, arms and legs. He wore some sort of mask that covered his nose and mouth, and like Ito, had a bandana tied around his head. His symbol was different, however.

It was the blood and the weapon that stood out, though. The blood was everywhere, splattered across his chest plate and it looked to have soaked his entire left sleeve. A triangular-shaped knife spun on the end of his finger, its edge glinting whenever it caught what little sunlight filtered down through the leaves. Harry sucked in a breath as a stinging pain filtered into his senses. He touched his ear gingerly, finding the pain and pulling his fingers away. His blood stained his fingers and he stared at it. He hadn't even felt it get cut.

"Iwa," said Ito softly, though his voice carried deeply through the trees. "You are very close to Konoha, little Iwa-nin. Did you get lost in the forest?"

Harry stared incredulously at the man he clung to. He was taunting him?

"Let me pass," the bloodied boy demanded.

"Escaping?" asked Ito.

The Iwa-nin crouched low over one heel, the other thrown out before him on the branch. His knife was no longer twirling, but held tight in one fist as his second hand palmed the hilt. No matter the mask, Harry could tell that this boy was serious. It wasn't quite the look that Dudley got when he led a game of Harry Hunting. Nor was it the look of his Uncle Vernon when Harry got in the way one too many times. It was the look that Harry got when faced with either Dudley or Vernon – the one where Harry learned what desperation and panic was, and the urge to fight his way out so he could run.

Ito swung Harry off his back effortlessly, and Harry teetered for a moment before he found his own balance. The branch of the tree he was on was wide, but high, and Harry kneeled down in order to grip the rough bark with his hands, feeling a little like a precariously perched chicken in a tree.

The bloodied boy moved faster than Harry could see. One moment he was ten meters away, and the next Ito was ducking under a curled punch and back-swing with a sharp blade. Harry stared up at the two in rising awe. Their fight was wild and quick, consisting of hands, feet and deflected sharp objects that whistled off into the trees. And still the two remained perfectly balanced atop the tree limb.

One of the boy's endless supply of sharp pointy objects whizzed over Harry's head, and he ducked even as it passed through his hair. He turned and frowned at the thing, now embedded into the trunk of the tree. He ran a hand over the top of head and inspected his fingers, but didn't find blood.

With a glance at the dueling pair barely a meter away from him, Harry gripped the handle of the knife and yanked hard. It slid out of the trunk with some difficultly, and the force Harry used to pull it out nearly toppled him out of the tree.

The sudden jarring of the branch he was perched on did topple him.

He caught only the flare of light out of the corner of his eye before the world fell out from under him. He fell. Most of the tree limb fell after him in a rain of splinters and leaves. Something caught him just before the ground did, and the rough handling put a crick in his neck even though he was thankful. Strong arms wrapped around his shoulders from behind and he felt a solid body at his back.

The feeling of something cool and sharp touching his throat made him freeze.

"Don't move," came the muffled sound of the boy's voice. It hissed out through his mask and across Harry's head with the sound of threat and promise. Harry wasn't about to move, but his eyes roamed his range of vision a bit frantically. The tree limb had broken across the ground and leaves were still falling through the trees. The forest seemed oddly quiet after the crash of the tree. He found Ito picking himself up from the other side of the felled branch. The man didn't get far.

Harry couldn't see very well with the leafy log in the way, but he could see enough. Ito's motions were twisted and strained. He couldn't lift himself much more than his torso up off the ground. Harry suspected the man's leg was caught under the fallen tree limb.

For the first time since that morning Harry spoke, "Ito-san."

The teen behind him tightened his grip on his shoulders and the knife shifted. Harry didn't feel pain, but he did feel the warm trail of liquid that dribbled down into the hollow of his collarbone. He sucked in a breath as he pushed his body back into the solid wall the teen made behind him, trying to put distance that wasn't there between his neck and the blade.

"Leave the boy, Iwa-nin," said Ito, his voice strained.

"Can you even stand?" asked the teen. "What are you going to do?"

"He's a boy," said Ito, staring over the edge of the log with a dark look. "A civilian child. He's untrained."

The Iwa-nin behind Harry hummed deep enough that he could feel the vibrations at his back. Harry got the feeling that the teen didn't believe Ito. The grip around his shoulders tightened roughly, even as the blade at his throat left. Harry saw only the glint of metal as the knife flew through the air. Ito disappeared behind the log with a pained sound.

Harry grit his teeth, not knowing, but assuming that the blade had hit the man. The man whose back Harry had spent the majority of the day wrapped around. The man who was taking him to a family who might not abandon him like the Dursley's were so quick to. He clenched his fists and felt the woven fabric of the handle of the knife in his right hand.

He hadn't lost it in the fall from the tree.

Harry swung hard and wild, aiming up and behind. He held the knife like he had seen the boy hold it; gripped tight in his right hand, powered by his left and the force of his entire, tiny body. He twisted in the other's embrace, feeling the dirt and leaves under his feet shift. He didn't feel the blade cut, but he did feel it when the edge of his right fist slammed into the thick fabric and solid muscle of the other's bicep.

The teen yelled and pushed him away and Harry went sprawling to the ground, hard.

He stared at the teen clutching the top of his arm. Harry's eyes tracked down to his own hands, to the blade he still clutched in a white-knuckled grip. It glinted wetly, red, and blood coated his own hand and the hem of his long sleeves. He forced his hand to open and his fingers responded with a sluggish twitch. The blade tumbled out of his grasp to the ground between his knees. Smooth sharp pains in the flesh of his thumb and forefinger made him suck in a breath. It was similar to when he had first cut himself with one of Petunia's kitchen knives, except… smoother in a way his Aunt's dull blades weren't. Harry couldn't tell how much of the blood was the teen's and how much was his.

The Iwa-nin hissed out a string of angry words that Harry's limited vocabulary didn't cover. He shot his gaze up to the teen standing over him. He was still clutching his arm, blood seeping through his fingers in a sluggish, bright pattern. Pain and anger was etched across his masked face and his eyes were glaring harshly down on him. Harry both leaned backwards and raised his arm up in front of his chest. He wished he hadn't dropped the knife, but he didn't know what he'd do with it now anyways.

The teen's movements were faster than Harry could react to, but slower than they had been when he had first attacked Ito in the branches. Harry was scooped up off the ground and slammed into the unforgiving embrace of a tree. He let out a pained, strained sound from his throat that sounded high-pitched to his ears. Just as his bearings evened out enough for him to open his eyes again the Iwa-nin's forearm whip-smashed across his chest.

Any air in his lungs escaped him and he struggled to breathe, unable to. His body spasmed and it felt like his ribs had been constricted into his chest. He couldn't breathe!

There was a shout from somewhere. It was followed by a few quick, scuffling sounds and a thud, but Harry couldn't concentrate enough to find the source of the noise. He curled over himself trying to gasp in a breath, wrapping his arms one over his abdomen and one across his front, hoping to block any further strikes.

A firm hand gripped his shoulder and Harry jerked away, slamming back into the tree behind him in his haste. The bark bit into the flesh of his back, but he didn't care. He still couldn't breathe.

"Easy," soothed a voice.

The hand remained and a second gripped his other shoulder. They forced him backwards firmly, but not painfully, straightening his shoulders. Harry squinted at who had a hold of him, and found the face of an unknown blonde man. Bright blue eyes looked back at him with concern. It was an emotion that Harry had directed at him very few times in his memory.

"Easy," the blonde said again. He pushed Harry's shoulders back into the tree, and pulled his arm away from his abdomen. "Straighten up, relax."

Harry did as he was told, though relaxing wasn't easy when black was edging into his vision and he was panicking at his body's lack of oxygen and the pounding rush in his head.

"Breathe," commanded the blonde.

Something low in his chest finally shifted and Harry sucked in a breath, suddenly and quick, filling his lungs with an edge of desperate relief. He let it out in a rush and gasped in air again.

"Good," the man said. Harry looked up at him, still gulping air in a sort of happy delirium at being able to breathe again. The blonde gave him an encouraging smile, and squeezed his hand on Harry's shoulder. It was a foreign, supportive gesture to Harry.

"Are you injured?" the blonde asked.

Harry's chest ached and his back throbbed and the sharp pains in his hand from the knife burned. Harry raised his right hand and the blonde took it in his own. He turned it over in strong hands, and gently swiped at the blood with his thumbs. Harry couldn't help the hiss through his teeth when one of the man's thumbs found the slices across his fingers. The blonde glanced at him and back to his hand.

"This was the first time you used a kunai?"

Harry wasn't sure what a kunai was and told him so.

The blonde blinked at him and Harry wondered if he had screwed up the words.

"You are foreign," said the blonde, obviously surprised. Then one of the triangular blade knives appeared in the blonde's hand. "This is a kunai."

Harry looked at the kunai knife then back to the blonde's blue eyes and answered his previous question. "Yes sir."

The kunai disappeared and the blonde nodded. "Well done."

Harry stared, unused to the words being directed his way. The blonde continued to wipe the blood from his hand, careful of the cuts even as they seeped a bright red. Harry just watched him, struck by the man's firm yet undeniably gentle handling. The blood was wiped away, and cool white bandages were wrapped around his finger, thumb and hand. The cuts continued to pain him, but Harry was no stranger to the sensation.

The blonde squeezed his shoulder again and got to his feet. Harry remained where he was, suddenly realizing that he had sat at some point, but not really caring. He relished in his newfound appreciation for the ability to breathe and watched the blonde's three young friends move about the fallen tree limb. Two boys, one girl, all young teens. Younger, even, than the Iwa teenager. They had managed to free Ito, and the man was grumbling as the girl hovered over his leg. One of the boys stood looking over her shoulder, his spiky black hair made more so by the strap of cloth around his forehead. He was pointing over the girl's shoulder at the man's leg, which didn't look to be sitting at a comfortable angle. As he watched, Ito snarked something up at the boy, who grinned widely back at him, and the girl swatted the arm out of her face.

"Ito-san," said Harry. His voice caught everybody's attention, including the grumbling man leaning against the felled tree limb. Ito stopped his complaining and looked Harry over. He wasn't sure how he looked, but Harry felt pretty awful.

"Alright, boy?" asked Ito.

Harry nodded, and let his body settle into the tree's embrace.

o-

The rest of the journey through the forest was slower than it's beginning. Ito's leg was rather mangled and he had to be supported by the tall blonde. The girl, Rin, trailed along at Ito's side, keeping a careful eye on him and reminding him often to not put any weight on that leg. Harry was finding a rising amusement in Ito's stream of grumbling responses. The Iwa teenager had been bound and thrown over the shoulder of a white-haired boy with a cloth mask. Harry hadn't yet caught his name nor been introduced and the boy said very little. He didn't seem at all burdened by the weight of the other.

Harry, despite having spent the majority of the day clinging to another's back, still found himself rather exhausted after the scuffle and his run in with certain death, he was sure. Instead of walking as he might have otherwise done at their slow pace, he found himself being piggy-backed again. This time, on the black-haired boy's back.

The boy had greeted him loudly and cheerfully, his dark eyes somehow bright through the goggles that wrapped around his face. "Heya! I'm Obito!"

Initially startled at the boy's enthusiastic nature, Harry was quickly growing to like him. Obito chatted constantly through their trek, a stark contrast to the silent journey Harry and Ito had taken. Any sense of wariness had long faded and a strong feeling of security wrapped around the little group. They walked surely and confidently and Harry marveled at it.

"Where are you from, Hari-chan?" asked Obito, turning his head to look at Harry over his shoulder.

"England."

"Where?"

"It's far from here," said the blonde. "Beyond the Elemental Nations."

"Beyond the Elemen – Minato-sensei!"

Minato glanced at Obito and Harry with a small smile. "Hari-kun has traveled a long way."

Obito's stare went from Harry to the blonde and back again. "Woah. What're ya doing here?"

Harry shrugged, not knowing how to answer. How could he say that his Aunt put him on a plane to the other side of the world because she didn't want him in her home? How could he tell them that he was desperately hoping for some distant family to just accept him? He wasn't even sure he had the words to answer them.

Ito answered for him, "the last of his family is in Konoha."

Obito looked at the boy on his back, but Harry just sort of blankly watched the gravel pass by under them. He could feel the other boy's tenseness, his shock and even the sour traces of sympathy and pity. Harry didn't want these things, not from the cheerful boy.

"You're coming to Konoha to live, then?" asked Obito. Harry merely nodded once, hoping he would be allowed to stay, but not knowing where else he could, or would go. He was quite sure that the Dursley's would not accept him back. Maybe Burumaru would let him sleep in Fuyu's closet –

"Great!"

Harry startled at the happy sound and stared at the boy.

"We can be friends, then!" Obito was giving him a wide grin in return, and let go of one of his thighs in order to give him a thumbs-up. Surprised by this boy's easy acceptance of his presence, Harry smiled.

o-

Konoha wasn't quite like Harry expected. He had expected the red bridges, wide rivers, circular buildings with cone-like roofs and the sea that blended into the sky. He had expected the image from the picture.

Konoha, however, was a bit different. For one, it was much larger than Harry thought it would be, considering Ito had been calling it a village. It's buildings were a hodge-podge of structures, many with brightly colored shingling roofs, buried amidst a forest of towering trees that didn't quite hide either buildings, tall walls or the mountain that the village backed up to.

It was the walls and gates that Harry met first. They towered over the small party in a strong statement of defense, shading the road and casting bright streams of sunlight over their heads from the sinking sun. The group passed through the gate with minimal resistance. The four guards eyed Harry with a mixing of suspicion and interest, but the blonde's quick words had them turning away. Harry slid off Obito's back, soaking in the sight of the village, and perhaps, his new home.

A firm hand on his shoulder turned his attention from the colorful and varied inhabitants to the tall blonde.

"Welcome to Konoha, Hari-kun."

The group left the teenaged attacker in the care of the gate guards and the white-haired youth, and Ito-san at the Hospital where Rin hovered with the others dressed in white frocks. The man gave Harry a small nod and pat on the head as he was taken away down the halls with the girl trailing them and listing off things Harry didn't quite understand. Harry waved and wondered if he would see the other man again.

"Now what, sensei?" Obito asked, his hands up over his head and looking up at the blonde with a grin.

"Now, you will help Hari find his family while I deliver the mission report," Minato said.

Obito looked dubiously down at Harry but quickly shrugged and wrapped a long arm around Harry's shoulders. Minato gave the two a bright smile and Harry let the taller boy pull him out of the Hospital and back into the warm sun.

It didn't take them long to find Kushina. Harry revealed his precious picture with its cheery yellow envelope from his pocket. Obito took one look at the envelope and exclaimed loudly at the picture and before Harry could puzzle out what he had said he was being dragged through the streets by his arm.

Harry scowled at the hold on his wrist, but got distracted by the sights around them, and Obito's incessant talking. Harry's Japanese had improved in leaps and bounds during his stay with Burumaru-san and his family, but the older boy leading him around by the hand talked faster than he walked, and Harry had a hard time catching more than a few words.

He didn't mind. The sheer variety of people and shops and buildings and – was that man walking up the wall? – Harry had never seen such things before, not even on Dudley's telly.

Obito stopped suddenly, sending Harry, whose attention had been just about anywhere but on his guide, crashing into him. Harry frowned at the taller boy's back. Then, he heard the sibilant voice of another. Harry peeked around Obito to its source, a tall, thin, long-armed man with dark hair that hung over his shoulders like limp spaghetti. His eyes were yellow, slit like a snake's, and as soon as Harry's head of wild hair made itself known those eyes were on him.

When he spoke, the man's voice was decidedly serpentine. "Who is this?"

Harry felt Obito shift, but he didn't remove his watchful gaze from the man.

"This is Hari," Obito said slowly, unsure. "He just got here. He's Kushina's cousin."

"Uzumaki Kushina's cousin?" the man asked, bending his body forward and closer to the two boys. "I didn't know any of her clan had survived their wars. How interesting that she's got family members. How fortuitous for her."

Harry didn't' know all the words the man spoke but he got the gist of it. He spoke strangely, spacing words apart in odd places, or at least Harry thought so. The scrunched look on Obito's face seemed to agree with him.

"We better get going, Orochimaru-sama," Obito finally said, edging Harry away from the lanky man. "We need to find Kushina and all."

"Of course," the said, smiling at them. It was a wide, strained sort of smile; a smile that Harry likened to the smile of promise-of-pain that he got every once in a while from Vernon. Harry didn't like it one bit.

"Come on, Hari-kun," Obito said, nudging him.

Harry didn't say a word, but kept a wary eye on the man even as Obito gripped his wrist and pushed him down the street away from him. Orochimaru watched them go the entire way until they rounded a corner that put them out of sight.

Harry determined that the man was creepier than Mrs. Figg and all her cats.

"Guy creeps my out," Obito said to no one in particular. He had taken to leading Harry by his leash again, pulling on his wrist as he stalked through the street. Harry had to trot to keep up with his longer legs and agitated pace. "He's a Sennin, Hari, so he's powerful. Really powerful. And creepy! And he comes and goes like a snake, he does. I don't like him much. I much prefer Jiraiya-sannin-sama better! He's much cooler, and can summon toads! I've met him once. He's Minato-sensei's sensei."

Harry had very little idea what the other boy was rambling about, but half-listened anyways, even as he kept glancing behind him. It felt like he was being watched, and not the nice way either. More like the way he felt when Dudley got it in his head to try his new game out: Harry Hunting.

Every time he turned around to look, or glanced over his shoulder he'd only see what they had already passed. Orochimaru was never in sight and that didn't really settle Harry's nerves any at all because he still felt like he was being watched.

"Oy, we're here!"

'Here,' was a charming three story townhome butted up between like neighbors and painted a daffodil yellow. It was narrow and tall, with windows lining each of its stories. The third was taller, with a steeply slanted roof that drained all to one side into a narrow space between the house and its neighbor. A short picket fence wrapped around the front garden with fresh whitewash, and trampled tulips.

"Oh, that's Kakashi's fault," Obito said, pointing at the broken flower stalks Harry was inspecting. "He threw me clear cross the yard and straight into the flowers. Kushina was sooo mad! Sensei made us run laps for hooouuurs."

Harry looked up at the older boy, fascinated. "We still have to replant those, come to think of it," Obito continued, still staring at the trampled flowerbed.

"Come on," the older boy said, suddenly all cheer again. "I'll introduce you! Sensei knows Kushina, she's an amaaazing cook. Best onidori I've ever had, and that's saying something,"

Harry stopped trying to listen as he was led by his leash – arm – through the fenced front yard and up the stoop to the door. It was a tall door painted a dark grey color with a little round window of blue tinted glass.

It opened to reveal a woman, and it only took Harry a moment to recognize her as the girl from his picture, only grown.

She was tall and slender, but neither taller nor skinnier than Aunt Petunia, rather she was a really pretty sort of tall and slender with solid hips and shoulders and an oval face. Her hair cascaded around her in waves of glorious color. It was like a waterfall of red water. Harry had never seen so many shades of red before.

"Heya Kushina!" Obito greeted cheerfully, "This is Hari-kun, he's a relative of yours!"

Harry started and ducked his head, unwilling to watch should she reject him like Petunia had done. Obito didn't understand his sudden shyness.

"Oy, Hari, what's up with you?" But Harry didn't really hear him.

There was movement and the sound of cloth and suddenly her knees were on the ground at his feet and her red hair had curtained around her and brushed against his arm. Slender, calloused fingers touched his chin and lifted his head, but still Harry kept his eyes down.

Her voice, when she spoke, entranced him. "Will you look at me cousin?"

He obeyed, as much because she had asked as because she had claimed him as her cousin, as family. It was more than any of the Dursley's had ever done. The closest Petunia had come was to have said, "your mother," and "my sister" within a span of five minutes of each other. Never together. Never telling Harry he belonged with them, was accepted, was a part of them.

Harry found himself looking into mis-matched eyes. Her eyes were both blue and green, brilliant in color, like jewels that sparkled and were set in an oval face with wide cheekbones and a full mouth. She was smiling at him.

"You've come a long way, Hari-kun," she said, "and along a dangerous road. What were they thinking? I told them not to send you now."

He had the fleeting, real fear that she was about to send him back to England.

Her smile grew. "Well you made it," she said happily. "So you're stuck here now. I'm not sending you back out there in the middle of a war! It's far too dangerous to be wandering about outside of the village, the village is bad enough with all the weirdos running around. You'll just have to stay here with me from now on. Do you think you'll be alright with that, Hari-kun?"

All Harry could do was stare at her, too shocked and surprised and happy to say or do anything for a long moment. She accepted him.

"Yes," he finally said, still unable to do much more than stare.

Kushina's smile, he decided, was more brilliant than her hair.

o-

Harry made the decision to become a Shinobi almost immediately.

o-

Author's Note: I couldn't help myself, you see.