EDITED: April 2014. Mostly grammatical edits.
And Then: Sankakunami isn't the same level of boss as Gamabunta. He's quite a bit smaller actually. It's like if Gamabunta was King, then Nami-sama would be … an Earl or Count perhaps, like a lesser lord. All are from the Mount Myoboku region, which in my mind rolls into the sea.
Enter from Stage Right: Minato the Miracle.
o- The Shadow of the Leaf -o
Namikaze Minato woke four months after the birth of his son and the death of his wife.
At the time Harry was buried in the wet mud of the shallows of the lake at Training Ground Three, a small, brilliantly green sea toad perched atop his head. In a nearby tree was Duck, lounging across a wide branch and half hidden by foliage. Harry could hear the occasional flipping of pages as the young ANBU didn't even bother to hide his morning's entertainment. Harry was about ready to be annoyed with the toads' continuous passing on of him, Namimani had denied working with him until he could walk on water, and Harry had the hardest time balancing his feet on the waves.
So Namimani had told Harry to summon his little brother, Konbu.
It was a task that took Harry half the morning to accomplish. He had an easier time with Namimani than Konbu, and had summoned the middle brother twice by accident. Namimani had proceeded to deliver a lecture about the uses of chakra regulation and control and disappeared with a rather firm bop to the top of Harry's head. Harry had sat down and struggled with the chains and the water and finally managed to use the right amount of chakra to summon the little Konbu.
Konbu was the same general shape and bright green color as his two older, and much larger, brothers, but he was about the size of a puppy or a large cat and had a strange fondness for burying himself in Harry's wild white hair, gripping the strands with sticky webbed feet.
He also liked sweets, anything with more sugar than nutrition, and demanded them often as payment for time spent away from his reef near Mount Myoboku.
Harry had learned quickly that plying the green toad with strawberry pocky was particularly effective in getting tips about how to charge leafs or soggy reed stalks with chakra, or how to balance on the ever-moving surface of the water.
It was harder than the tree climbing, which, nowadays, he always managed to over power and shoot himself off into the air like a rock out a slingshot. He had gotten very good at aerial flips and landing on his feet, but he still hadn't made it more than six or seven paces up the tree. And, tired of shredding leaves into fine confetti, Harry had returned to the pond. The landing was softer and the cool water helped diffuse his rising temper.
"You've got too much chakra," the toad said around the sweet covered pretzel. "Use less."
Of course Konbu's idea of tips didn't quite mesh with Harry's idea of usefulness.
He had been trying to use less chakra. Except whenever he tried to pull chakra out, the chains over the well shifted, the waters rippled, the nine-tails pushed at him, he'd push back and suddenly his little bit of chakra turned into a wave that would try to drown him.
"Put the Geta back on, Tadpole," Konbu told him. "Less surface area."
Harry frowned at his bare feet, buried in soggy mud under the shallow water, and then to his geta on the shore. The stilted sandals would give him far less surface area to coat in his chakra, that was sure. Each sandal only had two teeth, barely two finger widths wide.
Harry slogged back to dry ground, shedding mud and water as he went. He picked up the paper packaging of wrapped pocky and slid two more of the sticks out for the toad on his head. Konbu chirped a happy thanks and Harry was sure he felt crumbs fall into his hair.
Rubbing the worst of the mud off on the grass, Harry slipped the geta back on to his feet and returned to the water. Concentrating chakra to his feet had been difficult. Regulating it was an uphill battle. But moving his chakra past his feet into the solid, lifeless objects attached to his soles was something else entirely. It was a completely different feeling, pushing and controlling his chakra into the sandals rather than to the surface of his own body.
Once he managed it though, he stepped out onto the water, balanced the stilted sandals on the calm surface, concentrating on the chakra at the teeth, feeling it touch the water, pushing at it, bouncing back, rippling the surface and holding him up above it and in his elation he lost all concentration and he wobbled dangerously.
His sudden dunking into the lake sent up a splash of water and mud all the way to his ears.
"Well you almost had it there," Konbu commented thoughtfully, "For like, a minute. Forgot to tell you that it would be harder to regulate your chakra through them, didn't I?"
Harry let out a frustrated huff, interrupting the toad's condescension and stepped back to the shore, right out of the mud and leaving his sandal behind, buried. Frustration getting the better of him, he growled low in his throat and dug his arm into the water and mud to retrieve his lost footwear, resisting the urge to throw it at the nearest tree.
His favorite pair of sandals were saved by a voice calling his name from the trees.
Harry let out a long, slow breath, fighting down the stubborn heated frustration and focused on the sight of Jiraiya all but jogging across the clearing, grinning like a loon.
"Hisui!" he called, waving his arms about over his head. He was moving fast enough that his coat and hair flared behind him. Harry rethought his opinion of the man as being a pot-bellied, lazy old owl. Clearly, there was something that could motivate the Sannin into moving faster than a loping walk. Perhaps he wasn't as lazy as Harry thought.
"Ah," the toad on his head said, its voice low and unimpressed. "I'll go now, if you've no need of me, Tadpole."
Harry scowled at the name and waved his hand about his head as if swatting at a fly. Konbu got the message and with a grumpy croak, was gone.
"Hey kid," Jiraiya greeted, coming to a stop nearby. He blinked at Harry's soggy clothes and muddied legs. He still had one sandal on a foot and one dangling between the muddy fingers of his hands. Harry was sure his clothes and hair were in no better state. He really had landed his head in the mud once.
"What on earth?" the Sannin exclaimed, eyeing him warily.
"Water walking," Harry said, scowling at the mud slipping wetly down the inside of his right knee. He shook his leg, dislodging the worst of it, and dropped his sandal down onto the ground before him.
"Water or mud walking?" Jiraiya asked.
Harry nearly snarled at him, his frustration burning hotter. Stifling the urge again, he slipped his geta back onto his foot, shook the worst of the mud and water off his arms and crossed them over his chest so he could glare up at the man properly.
The Sannin watched him with barely hidden amusement and consternation, but the man didn't make another comment about the amount of mud and water Harry had managed to soak himself in that morning.
"Thought you were going to try the leaf throwing, Tadpole?"
Harry's frown deepened. "They only turn to dust. Sometimes soggy dust." Which was true. Harry still hadn't figured out where the water was coming from.
"Like confetti, except for mice," Harry narrowed his eyes and the tall man blinked at him.
"What on earth are you doing to turn leaves into rodent confetti, kid?"
Harry felt a growl work its way up his chest, his frustrations over the past weeks getting the better of him and his worry for Minato cloying in his throat. "What do you need?" Harry asked, hearing the tightness in his voice.
Ah!" Jiraiya brightened considerably, as if someone had flipped a switch on a light. "Minato's awake!"
Harry's frustration and ire vanished in a swirl of excited warmth.
Jiraiya nodded, "Come on, kid, I'll use Shinshin."
Harry didn't need to be told twice, he stepped up close to the tall man and gripped the hem of his coat as Jiraiya laid two big hands on his shoulders. The man's grip tightened securely, and then they were gone, streaming through the winds and leaves in a streak of motion that blurred his vision and ruffled his hair into a wilder array than it normally was.
They paused only briefly between flickers, altering directions around objects unable to pass through, once atop the Konoha wall, another on the edge of a tall apartment building, then to the slanted shop roof that stood across the square from the Hospital's main entrance.
They found Minato in the same sealing chamber that he had been laying in for four months. Someone had rolled in a bed, and the sealing arrays were gone, and Harry thought the room could use a window or three, but it was a very fleeting thought. His attention was wholly caught by the blonde man sitting up in the bed.
His right arm was in a sling, bound securely to his chest, which was still wrapped in bandages. Minato saw him and grinned, and if there was tiredness in his eyes, Harry ignored it. He raced across the room in an unusual bout of childishness and jumped up onto the bed. The Hokage caught him with a strong, sure arm and Harry dug his face into his chest, breathing in his scent and marveling at the sound of his heart – beating.
"Hisui," Minato greeted softly, digging his fingers into Harry's shaggy hair.
Harry sucked in a breath, so damn happy he was tearing up and just squeezed him. The blonde let him and didn't say anything more, securing his arm around Harry and tightening his hold in return.
"I thought –" Harry started, but couldn't finish, and pressed his nose into his shirt.
"Hey," Minato said, his voice hoarse and low but it still sounded like him and Harry loved the sound if simply because he had been so scared for so long that he'd never hear it again.
"…thought you'd never wake up," Harry said, his voice muffled by the man's shirt and chest.
"Of course I would," Minato said, running his hands through Harry's hair in a manner that reminded him of Kushina. "I'm too stubborn for that. I've got you and Naruto to look after. I couldn't go off just yet."
"Told ya, kid," Jiriaya commented.
Harry ignored the Sannin and finally pulled his face out of the chest he'd been buried in. Minato gave him a small, encouraging smile and brushed at a lock of his hair that had fallen into his face. Harry just took in the sight of the man's bright blue eyes and savored in the feel of his hands, happy beyond belief that he was awake and that he wasn't going to be alone, just he and Naruto.
They still had somebody. They still had family.
Minato seemed to read something of his thoughts in his face or eyes, because he just pulled Harry back into a tight embrace, mumbling words of comfort and family to him as Harry let the tears fall that he'd bottled up for months.
The medic-woman breezed into the room with a scowl and a long list of the Hokage's injuries.
"That beast ripped your shoulder apart," Tsunade informed, staring the bed-ridden man down with a stern expression. Harry sat in the bed next to him, his eyes ping-ponging between Minato and the medic in full on lecture mode. She stood over them with her arms crossed over her chest and her feet planted apart. She did not look impressed and seemed quite intent on informing the young Hokage just how unimpressed she was.
She continued in a stern litany, "It tore through the upper quadrant of your ribcage, one lung, nearly shattered your collarbone on that side, completely dislodged your right arm, shredded seven muscles, five tendons and three major veins." She paused only long enough to take another breath before going on, her voice not losing its reproval at all. "It came perilously close to your heart and you were damn lucky it didn't rip your esophagus. You would have drowned in your own blood. Or your spinal cord, which would have likely paralyzed you for good."
Harry glanced at Minato, but the man took in the medic's words with a flat expression, most of his attention on the little bundle that was his son that rested on his lap - the very son Minato had take the injuries for in order to protect.
"As it is," Tsunade continued, waving one hand nonchalantly at her patient, "I still don't know if you'll ever be able to move your arm again. They almost had to amputate it. There wasn't much but broken mush and shredded flesh holding it on to you. Plus, extreme chakra exhaustion, a host of minor lacerations and bruising, which, frankly, I was wholly unconcerned about."
Harry had winced three times though her succinct summary of Minato's health, and Jiraiya in his corner had visibly flinched at least once. Though the Hokage took it in stride, nodding along and poking at his slinged arm with a curious expression. Harry wondered if the he could feel it.
"Sounds like you were lucky, kid," Jiraiya commented. It earned him a sharp look from the medic, but it served to bring Minato out of the reflection of his arm.
"Will I regain feeling?" he asked.
Tsunade turned from her glare at the Sannin to shrug. "Depends on how well your body will heal and adapt to the injuries. You'll be heavily scarred, inside and out, regardless. Hook up with some of the medics assigned to physical therapy. You're going to need it."
The blonde nodded.
"One more thing," Tsunade said, her voice lowering to something different than the rebuking she had been using. Harry held his breath. "Half your chakra is gone."
Minato froze, his eyes a little hazy and just stared at the medic. "Pardon?"
"Half of your chakra is gone," she repeated. Then Tsunade lifted her hands out, palm up, like a set of scales. She shook her left hand as she spoke, "Yin," then her right, "Yang." She clapped her hands together with a smack. "Chakra."
Minato gave her a flat look from his bed.
"With me so far, brat?" she asked with a taunting smirk.
Minato didn't dignify her question with a response, not that she seemed to mind. She merely separated her hands so she could wave her left at him again.
"Your Yin chakra is gone," she told him bluntly.
Mianto stared at her, dumbfounded. "How is that possible?"
"I haven't a damned idea," she said.
Harry thought she looked both annoyed and deeply curious. She kept eying Minato like a particularly challenging and anticipated puzzle.
"Is that why my right side is numb and I can't move my arm?"
Minato gave her his flat, unimpressed look again and poked his dead arm with a finger.
"That's because you let a damned fox try to tear your body in half," Tsunade said bluntly.
Harry stared at Minato. The blonde looked like he was far away, his eyes staring blanking at a spot near his knees, with a little crease between his eyes that told Harry even though his body wasn't moving, his mind was. Naruto made a noise in his lap and it brought the Hokage out of his daze. He leaned down over the boy, his hair curtaining his face.
"How is he still –" Jiraiya stared at Minato with something like incredulousness, or abject wonder. Harry rather thought it was a bit of both.
"Alive?" Tsunade finished with a sharp grin. "I have no idea. Without the balance of yin and yang in his chakra I just do not know. I've never seen the like before. Still, there are plenty of people in the world without a drop of chakra." She eyed Minato with a rather sharp look. "All previous cases of such a split has resulted in death, usually from the trauma of the separation."
Harry simply watched the Hokage and his little brother in his lap, half hidden by the man's arm. He was curious, but his curiosity was thoroughly drowned out by the overwhelming joy that he was alive and he couldn't much care that half his chakra was gone and the medic woman thought he shouldn't even have woken up at all.
Harry was just thankful he had.
"Half your chakra, half your body," Tsunade said, then cocked her head and looked at him with a devious squint. "Is half your brain gone too?"
Minato froze for a minute before shaking his head and giving her an ironic smile. "I don't think so."
"What did you do, Minato?" Tsunade asked, her voice loosing the teasing edge. "You shouldn't have survived intact with half your chakra taken from you, either half. The Hyuga can even see the difference. I think you might have traumatized one of them, which is impressive, by the way, I've never seen one of those stick-up-the-ass Hyuga guys so pale and trembly before. Weak reaction for a medic…"
Minato paused in his action of lifting up his dead arm to give the woman one sardonically raised eyebrow. "Quite the statement, coming from you Tsunade-hime," he said.
Harry eyed the woman with curiosity – hime? Princess? Tsunade was unrepentant, and merely shrugged one shoulder, waiting for his answer. Minato let his arm fall back to the bed with a dull sound.
"Not quite intact," he said.
Tsunade waved the comment away, unconcerned by the man's inability to move one arm.
"You should be dead," she told him. "You're lucky."
Minato pondered that for a while before looking up at her. "After the nine-tails attacked the boys I was unsure if I would survive, and gambled that I would not. I knew the damage done. I doubt I would have, if not for Rin's insistence in healing me after assuring Hisui's stability. I used the Hakke no Fuin Shiki to reseal the released nine-tails in Naruto, and laced the seal with the last of Kushina's and my own, chakra. I suppose it was my Yin chakra that I sealed."
Tsunade's eyes had widened comically as he finished his sentence and it took a while before she was able to speak again. Minato and Harry, who had been silent anyways, waited her out.
"Screw lucky," she finally said, staring at him as if he were some sort of ghost. "You're a damn miracle."
Minato waking from his four-month coma was only the start of an equally long convalescence. He convinced Tsunade to let him go home – a long argument that made Jiraiya drag Harry straight out of the room – and stop worrying about his apparent loss of chakra – half of. Minato didn't seem worried about it, stating it was in as good a place as any.
The arrays had kept him alive, breathing, stuffed full of nutrients and muscle stimulants, but it did very little for endurance or muscle strength. He was drastically weakened, easily tired and positively starving. He had been a big eater before, Harry knew, but he was beginning to put the Hokage on par with a glutton. After a couple weeks of pretty much just eating, sleeping, snuggling Naruto and waving away hovering ANBU or the squad of Hokage guards, Minato finally made his way into the backyard.
His movements were stiff and slightly unbalanced by his arm in a sling across his chest, and sweat broke out across his brow early, but the blonde pushed through the exercises with an icy determination and stubborn set to his jaw. After a few days of empty-hand forms, he added in a ninjato, which Harry had never seen him use before. Minato then continued his forms with the blade flashing in the sun, still slow, still awkward but his movements slowly, over the days and weeks, settled into something that was smooth and deadly instead of stiff and weary.
Harry sat on the porch steps, Naruto in his lap, and watched.
"I've never seen anyone else take the Academy's taijutsu to such heights," Rin commented, joining him on the stoop. Harry started a bit and then took a closer look at the forms that Minato was moving through. He saw it now, the juxtaposed combination of strength and flexibility, movements that jumped and flowed between the two extremes sometimes suddenly, sometimes in gradual transformations.
It was startling to see the basic Academy forms incorporated into such a complex system style. Harry hadn't put such a value on the goju-ryu techniques. It was generic and used as a basics sort of training in physical combat, but Rin was right. Minato took it to an advanced, complex and very effective level. The man's ninjato flashed in the light, a natural extension of his arm and the forms flowed around the blade as if they had been made for a sword.
Harry wondered what it would look like in a real fight.
"I'll hold him for a while," Rin said, "If you want to join him."
Harry eyed her, glanced at Minato and then shrugged. He passed Naruto to her, the infant squirming and agitated until the girl propped him up so he could see his father moving in the yard. Harry wandered down the steps to the yard, his geta clacking once, twice on the wood before being muffled by the grass. Minato paused at the noise, and smiled at him, motioning Harry to join him.
"Would you like to spar, Hisui?" he asked, and Harry nodded. It felt like it had been a long time since they had trained together. Minato carefully sheathed his sword and set it on the porch next to Rin. He passed his hand over Naruto's head before returning to Harry.
Harry took the time to step out of his geta, curling his toes in the cool grass. He still wasn't used to fighting in them, he tended to lose one of them at the worst possible moment.
"Open hand only," Minato said, settling into stance and giving him a smile. "Ready?" Harry took up a basic sparring stance, his feet staggered just a bit past his shoulders, right behind the left, his torso shifted forward and his arms up, barricading his chest.
Harry nodded, and made the first move.
Harry knew the Hokage was slowing himself down, but he also knew that Minato wasn't holding back too much of his strength. His strikes hit him hard, and only by keeping his stable center was Harry able to weather the blows without tumbling to the ground. The lack of use in one arm didn't seem to hinder the man over much. Harry returned punches and kicks, beginning to circle, moving into more complex katas even as Minato demonstrated the crazy ability of slipping effortlessly between the two extremes of soft defense and hard offense.
It was inspirational, and a chore to fight. Harry was hard pressed to keep up with his increasingly complex moves, even as he saw him tiring. Weakness or not, Harry was only eight and a half and was no match to the Hokage. Minato took advantage of one of Harry's more elaborate spins that took his feet off the ground; a daring move considering Harry knew the man was faster than he was, fast enough to catch him in the air, which was exactly what Minato did. He gripped his ankle, twisted and suddenly Harry's upward momentum was going in the opposite direction and he slammed into the ground.
He let out a gasp of air, breathless from the force of hitting the ground so hard, and stared up at the blonde bent over him.
"Injured?" Minato asked, raking his eyes over Harry's body in obvious concern.
Harry wasn't sure, but he didn't think he was seriously hurt. He shifted, and felt that his body had slightly dug itself into the turf. Minato had really thrown him down hard.
"I don't think so," he told him.
"Up you go," Minato said, offering his hand and pulling Harry out of the ground with a grunt. Harry stretched, rolling his muscles in a wave from his fingers to his toes, making sure everything was in working order. His spine popped and his arms were probably bruised but nothing was broken.
"Tsunade gave me your medical file," Minato commented, watching him check for major injuries. "She thinks Orochimaru might have affected your genes, specifically –"
"My bone density," Harry interrupted. "I know. I'm heavy."
Minato's lips twitched. "We'll keep an eye on it, ok?"
"We'll start you on some strength training exercises," he said.
Harry frowned at the thought of more training to add onto his rotation.
"I've noticed it," the man said. "Your strikes are hard and solid, more than someone your size should have without exceptional chakra control. Plus, it took me no small bit of effort to throw you down that hard. You are heavy."
Minato knelt down next to him. He watched with some curiosity as the man placed his palm over Harry's belly, much like Tsunade had done. He felt something, subtly tickling at him, cool and barely there and only at the point the man's hand touched his stomach.
The waters in his mind simmered at the touch, hissing out into his head with such a hot menace that Harry recoiled physically. Minato ignored it.
"You're holding it well," Minato commented, pressing his fingers into the hard muscles of Harry's belly. "It seems restless though. How do you feel?"
"Hot." Which was the truth and it wasn't just from the sun. They were in the beginnings of Hi no Kuni's cool, dry season and while it could still be as warm as an England summer, Harry's overheated feeling came from within.
Minato raised his eyebrows, a half amused, half questioning look on his face.
"I don't think he likes it when other people touch him," Harry said. "The waters start to boil and I get hot and then I have to push him back in the well and he simmers at me for a while after."
"This has happened before?"
"When Tsunade poked at me," Harry said, eliciting an amused sort of smirk from the man.
"Can you hold him when he – simmers?"
Harry shrugged in a half nod. "I think so."
Minato regarded him silently, his face largely blank save for a trace of thoughtful curiosity. Harry waited him out in equal silence. Minato pulled his hand away and Harry replaced it with his own. He couldn't feel the nine-tails this way, through his hand. All he felt with the canvas material of his jacket and the plain of his stomach underneath. In his mind, though, the well was still rippling making the chains ring out an occasional bell-like toll.
"How is your chakra control, Hisui?"
Harry frowned at the reminder of his lack of control. His face obviously told the blonde his answer for he chuckled at Harry's disgruntled expression.
"It is rare for children your age to have very good chakra control," Minato said. "Your body is still growing and your chakra is changing and growing and all the exercises at the Academy will make it grow and change, too. So it will be difficult for you to have exceptional chakra control for a few years, yet."
Harry, in a rare mood, pouted. "But I can't control it at all. Can't even do Leaf Throwing."
Minato just smiled. "What happens to the leaf when you try?"
Harry didn't bother to explain. Instead, he picked up one of the fallen leaves from one of the trees of the yard and pushed his chakra through it, trying to get the hardened, chakra-laced casing around the leaf that Jiriaya had achieved.
He went through the same process; he pulled his chakra forward with the sign of the ram, the chains over the well rattled and jingled, the waters surged at the slack, he pushed them back, the fox settled back into its hole and then everything rebounded and energy poured through his arms and through his fingers.
The leaf shredded itself in his hand.
Harry glared at the damp, shredded mess.
"Wind," Minato mumbled, inspecting the resulting confetti. Harry shook the damp pieces of leaf off his hands, going so far as to wipe the worst of it off in the grass at his feet.
"There are seals I could place on you to help you hold him," Minato said, slowly, once Harry had cleaned off his hands. "But I don't want to use them until I must. They will affect your own chakra and hinder your progress in control. They could also do permanent damage to your growth. You are young. It will be better for you to learn to hold the fox and exert your chakra outside of your self at the same time without the aid of the seals. Kushina had to do the same, and it took her many years."
Harry nodded and held in a sigh, thinking of all the troubles he had been having with water walking and his inability to regulate his chakra. It made completing the simple techniques at the Academy very challenging.
"Be careful, Hisui," Minato said, pushing his fingers through his hair. "Holding the nine-tails takes a great amount of chakra and control. Kushina struggled for years to be able to both hold the fox and perform chakra techniques. The fox could break out of your hold if your will wavers."
Harry pulled in a deep breath at the warning, meeting the man's cool blue eyes solemnly. The thought of the fox escaping him scared him. Memories of a red monster tearing through the village rose up and Harry felt an echo of the nine-tails' powerful presence tremble down his spine.
Suddenly, the blonde gave a bright grin.
"But I trust that you can do it, Hisui!"
The end of winter marked a two week break between Academy sessions and Minato's return to full Hokage duties. Harry was woken that first morning of break by Kakashi, who poked his shoulder as he left their room. Harry blinked blearily after the older boy, noting the dimness of pre-dawn that barely offered enough light to see by. Harry eyed the sleeping baby curled up next to him. Naruto was still blissfully asleep, his nose twitching every once in a while, but otherwise the boy was still.
By far more curious than alarmed, Harry rolled out of bed and trailed after him, leaving Naruto tucked into the still warm quilt.
Harry paused outside of the second bedroom on the floor and pushed the door open a hands breadth. Grey light from the windows streamed weakly into the room, highlighting Rin's face and arms curled on the bed. Harry didn't try to wake her, rather he simply left the door ajar and creeped down the stairs. Rin would hear if Naruto woke.
Harry found Kakashi and Minato in the kitchen, the former shoveling riceballs into his mouth and the latter downing tea in a manner that wasn't much more polite. The blonde offered Harry a plate of cold balls of sticky rice without a word. He accepted rice and tea and within minutes the three males were fed, dressed and leaving the house.
Harry still didn't know what was going on.
"Let me carry you?" Minato asked once they reached the yard.
Harry gave the man a questioning look but nodded anyways. Minato didn't explain. The blonde crouched, gripped his arm and with a solid swing had Harry clinging to him piggy-back style.
"Third Training Ground," Minato told Kakashi, giving Harry a very good idea of what was going on.
Kakashi rocked back on his heels and then shot off across the yard, jumping up onto the top of the high fencing-wall and then up onto the roof of the building beyond it. Minato was just behind him, his one good arm wrapped under Harry's thigh. Harry wrapped his arms around Minato's neck and shoulders for balance as the man jumped up onto the roofs and chased after Kakashi.
The rooftop run to the training ground was fast, but not Shunshiin fast. It whipped wind through Harry's hair and made him both exhilarated at the speed and a little breathless. They were joined by two shadows, and Harry probably wouldn't have noticed them except they ran close and kept pace and neither Kakashi nor Minato gave them a second glance.
They weren't the usual masked ANBU. Harry was also relatively sure that he knew them both, though it was difficult to see the details of their faces in the low light.
They reached the training ground in less time than Harry had ever experienced. The little group stood around the clearing, catching their breath from the run. It left Kakashi bouncing a little on his toes and Harry could feel Minato's deep, controlled breaths under his chest.
Minato let him slide to the ground with a thankful smile. "Thank you, Hisui," he said. Harry just nodded, unsure why he was being thanked.
"Your weight makes me work a lot harder," Minato said. "I need the strength conditioning, and Kakashi is very fast when he wants to be."
"Speaking of strength –" Minato started, eyeing Harry speculatively. "It's past time to get you started on strength training. Tsunade's orders."
Minato gestured to one of their shadows, who approached with a grin around a senbon stuck between his teeth. His fellow, who Harry recognized easily without the wind whipping his bangs into his eyes, followed him.
"Shiranui Genma is a member of the squad that guards me," Minato told Harry. "Along with Shisui, whom I think you already know."
Harry actually knew them both. He gave Shisui a smile, which was returned before he greeted the other. "Genma-sensei." He hadn't seen him in a long time.
"Heya, kiddo," Genma said.
Minato looked between the two. "You were rotated into the Academy a couple times, weren't you Genma?" he asked.
"Three times. Back during the war. Met your little tyke there," Genma said pointing at Harry. "He looked a little different back then, but I recognize the eyes."
"You spent more time on Academy duty than the rest of us," Shisui said, smirking. "You just couldn't keep yourself from getting injured."
Genma just waved him off, unconcerned with his record of ill-health. "Still doesn't speak much, huh?"
Harry felt Minato's hand run through his hair. "He talks when he needs to," Minato said in his defense.
Genma shrugged, unrepentant. "What do you want me to do, Hokage?"
The blonde smiled brightly, with a hint of something dark and Harry wondered if he was about to regret following Kakashi out of bed this morning. "Log rolls."
Genma grimaced and then grinned around the needle in his mouth.
"Shisui can keep watch," Minato continued. "While you show Hisui the technique."
"What will you be doing, Minato-sama?" Shisui asked.
"Me and Kakashi won't be far away."
Shisui did not look like he believed him but Genma only shrugged and began pulling Harry towards the trees nearby by his arm.
"You're going to hate this," Genma told him happily.
Genma was right.
The log rolling exercise was about as bad as water walking, but for entirely different reasons. Harry's frustrations with water walking – and leaf throwing and tree climbing – stemmed from his inability to accomplish the tasks with any degree of consistent success. His problem with the log rolling wasn't because he couldn't do it. He could and that was why it was horrible.
The technique itself was quite simple. Find a heavy downed tree, and push it until it moved. Then do it again. And again. Genma had found an ideal specimen: a thick trunk as tall as Harry's thighs and about as long as he was tall, that had lost most of its branches and looked to have been some swordsman's target practice. The teen chopped off what was left, leaving the downed tree a log that looked like it could actually be rolled without its roots or branches stopping it. Genma dragged it out of the tree line into the open area of the training ground, and Harry trailed after him.
Genma had then shown him various positions in which to fold his body against the log.
"They'll work different muscles," Genma said, correcting Harry's stances. "Go on then! Push!"
Harry crouched down, dug his shoulder into the bark of the log, his feet into the ground and pushed with legs and torso and arms.
The log didn't roll, but shifted a little in the dirt.
Harry did as he was told and pushed harder and the log began to roll. Harry went with it, pushing and moving his arms down along the thick bark as it moved to keep the motion up. It rolled sluggishly away from him. He stumbled after, leaning against it as the tree settled.
"Why'd you stop?" Genma asked, crouching down and settling his weight. "Keep going. Cycle through the three positions I showed you. Roll it until you can't roll no more!"
Harry spared the youth a look for his vocabulary before he returned his attention to the heavy log.
By the time the sun had risen to the point of peaking over the tall trees mid-morning, Harry was exhausted. Genma found him sprawled belly down over the log like some arboreal cat, half asleep and his muscles twitching in complaint.
"Hate me yet, kiddo?"
Harry didn't even bother to respond, or move.
"Yup," Genma said happily. His teeth clacked against the senbon in his mouth and Harry wondered if he was grinning. He likely was. "That one sucks."
Harry grunted weakly in agreement. It felt like his entire body had turned into wet noodles.
"You didn't do too bad, though. Good job, then." Genma continued, still clacking and grinning. "You should probably rotate this exercise into your usual routine. Maybe every other day or so. Off-set the log rolling with something designed for speed or agility, like tree running."
Harry had a good idea of what tree running might be, but was quite sure that he didn't want to know how Genma might mutate it into something that would turn him into jelly. Log rolling had sounded harmless enough, too, at first. Then Harry rolled a tree through the training grounds for half a morning.
Genma seemed to know where his thoughts were going, for he chuckled. "I've got a consolation prize for you, kiddo."
Harry pushed his curiosity back down into a deep dark hole. It had only gotten him into strength training this morning and he didn't want to know what else was in store for him. It wasn't even mid day yet.
"But you'll have to get up to see it," Genma continued.
Something in the other man's voice made Harry squint his eyes open to peer at him through his hair. Genma wasn't even looking at him. Instead, he was staring off somewhere through the trees, his eyes a little wide and the senbon between his lips still and forgotten.
Harry's curiosity would no longer be ignored.
He pushed himself painfully up to his knees and wavered for a moment atop the log. Once he was stable and straddling it, he followed Genma's line of sight into the trees.
It took him a minute to figure out what Genma was staring at. Harry didn't see anything except the forest at first. Then he saw movement that looked almost like shadows – then the shadows slowed into an almost pause before flickering into motion again. It was in the short times that the movements slowed that Harry was able to discern what he was seeing.
Minato and Kakashi were sparring.
They were moving so fast that Harry couldn't even follow them with his eyes. They simply appeared as swift shadows or on the occasions that the sunlight streaming through the foliage caught their hair, flashes of light and color. Harry had never seen anyone move so fast without a transport technique.
"Impressive, isn't it?" Genma said.
Harry could only nod, distracted by the task of trying to keep up with the two sparring in the trees.
"Hokage is the fastest ninja around," Genma continued, "probably the fastest to have ever lived."
Harry could believe that. Even without the aide of chakra techniques like the Shunshin or Minato's Hiraishin, the man was fast. He wondered if he'd ever be that fast. It seemed impossible, yet Kakashi was just as much of a blur of motion as Minato was.
"Ah, there –" Genma said, pointing into the trees towards the dueling pair. "See, Kakashi is slowing."
Harry didn't see. Both of them seemed to be just as fast as each other and as they had been since he started watching. He was about to label their speeds as equal when the whole spar ended.
Harry didn't really catch what was done to end it. He only saw the result. Kakashi frozen in stillness with his hands held out to his sides in something of a surrender and his chin up and baring his throat carefully against the pointed fingers of Minato's good hand.
Genma chuckled gleefully beside him and Harry just tried to figure out what Minato had done to win.
"Told ya, kiddo," Genma said, clapping his hand hard onto Harry's shoulder. It pitched him forward and Harry wobbled atop his perch with sore muscles. "Hokage is fast. That bad arm doesn't even slow him."
"How?" Harry asked, not sure if he was asking how Minato won, or how the man had gotten the reputation as the fastest Shinobi in the Elemental Nations.
"He's got naturally high-speed reflexes," Genma said, "And he's got that Hiraishin, of course. And training. I remember him training before the war, back when he was still a Chunin. I was in Academy still then, and I saw him and his team racing atop the walls. He was winning of course."
Harry glanced towards the village. He couldn't see the high village walls from their position, but he remembered the height easily enough. The wall circled the entirety of the village in a graceful arc and was probably quite a long distance if it was run.
"Your speed isn't so bad, kiddo," Genma said, his eyes still on the pair in the trees. Minato and Kakashi had settled into easy stances and appeared to be discussing something. Harry gave the man next to him his attention. "Your reflexes were pretty good for a kid as I recall."
"I used to run with my cousin," Harry offered, thinking of the Harry Hunting games that Dudley had started at Primary back in England. Harry had learned very quickly that it didn't do to be caught in that game.
"Keep it up then," Genma said, giving him a lopsided smile around his senbon. "Maybe you'll catch Hokage someday, or bypass him. You never know!"
Harry turned back to Minato and Kakashi as the pair emerged from the trees, winded and dirt-smudged but both clearly grinning. It was hard to imagine being able to move as fast as the two had been going, but the thought was exhilarating. Harry was already the quickest of his classmates, able to out-sprint the lot of them. Maybe he would be as fast as Kakashi and Minato one day.
"Hisui!" Minato greeted, raising a hand and waving.
Harry grinned as he stumbled off his training log, crossing the clearing to meet the others halfway, sore muscles and exhaustion forgotten in the face of the blonde's bright smile.
Jiraiya left Konoha one cool, sunny morning at the end of April, giving Harry a fond parting pat on the head as he exited the gates. "Don't do anything I wouldn't now, Tadpole," he said.
Harry scowled at the petting, but his frown faded as the man disappeared into the forest.
"He'll be back," Minato said from his side. "He just can't stay still anymore. Tsunade either. They both wander about more than they stay in one place. I'm surprised they were here for as long as they were."
"Why not?" Harry asked. He hadn't known that the medic had left the village as well. He was still a little miffed that Jiraiya left with such nonchalance. Harry recognized his feeling; he was being possessive. He didn't want the man to leave. He didn't want any of his precious people to leave. He frowned at his own emotions, eyes on the road that wandered out of the village and into the woods.
"Jiraiya keeps an eye on things out there for us," Minato said. "Will you miss him, Hisui?"
Harry didn't deny it and nodded.
"He'll be back," Minato promised again. Harry believed him, but the lingering need to keep all those he cared about close and tightly bound up in his arms was still there.
"I still can't believe he taught you summoning," Minato grumbled, annoyed. Harry eyed the blonde warily, recalling the reaction he had had when Harry first summoned Konbu to show off his new skill, encouraged by Jiraiya. Impressed, surprised then a rapid onset of incredulous indignation. Harry had not received the brunt of that, but he had seen the confrontation between Minato and Jiraiya about it – which resulted in the Sannin being more than a little sheepish. Apparently, summoning could be quite dangerous and he was not pleased with the Sannin teaching the technique to an Academy student, no matter the reason. Harry had bristled at that until he realized that Minato was being protective and was worried about him, which killed his ire immediately.
Harry hadn't had many people worry about his safety before.
Jiraiya had then told Minato exactly who Harry had managed to summon on his first try, which caused the Hokage to stop his ranting very quickly in order to stare at Harry with no small bit of surprise.
"The Sea Toads?" he asked, clearly surprised.
Harry learned then, that Minato shared his teacher's opinion of them being a grumpy lot.
Harry agreed with the two men. One meeting with each of the brothers was enough for Harry to know that summoning either Sankakunami or Namimani to show off would have been just stupid. Konbu was bad enough. The little bright green toad had demanded a whole package of strawberry pocky for the trouble of having to preen under the attentions of the two older Shinobi, fellow toad summoners or not.
"Konbu is teaching me water walking," Harry offered. Minato gave him a look that was a little bit unbelieving.
"Well, pointers anyways," Harry amended. "It's easier with the geta." He pointed to his feet.
"Is it?" he asked, eyeing the stilted sandals Harry wore with a smile. Harry was getting smoother with walking in them, but they still made too much noise. He liked them too much to give them up, however, and was determined to walk silently in them, eventually.
"Well, not really," Harry admitted. "I keep sinking."
The blonde chuckled and Harry thought about being irritated but was still just too happy that the man was up and about and walking and alive to be much annoyed.
"Come on," Minato said, gripping his shoulder and turning him back into the village. "I'll walk you to the Academy."
"Can't I skip the rest of the day?" Harry asked. He had already missed most of the morning and was far more inclined to cuddle up to little Naruto for the day than go to class.
"Not if you want to be Shinobi."
Harry allowed the man to lead him back through the village towards the Academy.
Harry left Minato at the Missions Office weakly bantering with the Third, who was manning the area, to join his classmates in the yard. The unusual coolness of the afternoon coupled with the bright sun had all the students quite active. Harry found his friends in the shade of a wide tree. Kabe was towering over a crouched and bored-looking Idate. Both the boys were attempting to ignore the scolding Lin.
Harry approached them warily.
"- can't believe all the rumors!" Lin was saying. "Sure they're powerful, but that doesn't mean they brought it here."
Idate peered up at her, curling his lips into a disgruntled frown. "They're the only ones said to be able to control it."
"It didn't seem very controlled to me," Lin retorted.
"Saw it did you?"
"Of course I did! It was rather hard to miss! What were you doing? Sleeping through the destruction?"
Harry had a sinking feeling that he knew what they were talking about.
"Mom shuttled me off to one of the safe houses before I knew what was going on," Kabe admitted. "Where were you, Idate?"
Lin gave him a strange look. "What were you doing at the Academy at that time a night?"
"Training –" Idate drew the word out long, spinning a kunai around his finger in emphasis.
Then Lin spotted Harry sneaking up behind them. "Hisui!"
Harry sidled up to the group, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his coat. He wasn't entirely sure he wanted to be part of this conversation.
"Where were you at, Hisui?" Idate asked.
Harry rolled his shoulders and didn't quite meet their eyes. "At when?"
Lin huffed. "When the nine-tails attacked."
"You mean when it was set loose," Idate piped up.
"You don't know that!"
"Course I do," Idate said. "Everybody's saying it."
"What rumors?" Harry asked, drawing the attention of all three of them. They all gave him varying looks of disbelief and incredulity and Harry forced himself to stand his ground without hunching his shoulders.
"You were injured for a while, weren't you?" Lin finally asked. "You came back to Academy later than most of us."
Harry didn't respond to that, but none of them seemed to mind.
"Some have the power to control the tailed-beasts," Kabe started.
"Legend," Lin said.
Kabe continued as if she hadn't said anything. "Power like the Uchiha Clan's Sharingan."
Lin piped up again, "Rumor."
"More than a rumor!" Idate countered, "Half the village is whispering it behind their hands. Even my mom's heard it! Course, no one dares to say anything if one of the clan is about, but –"
But Harry stopped listening. In his memory he saw the spinning red and black of the Sharingan set in a flamed mask. He knew that one did have the power to control the nine-tails. And that person was an Uchiha. It was neither legend nor rumor, it was truth and fact.
"Besides," Lin's voice cut through his thoughts. "Can you really believe that one person could control something that powerful? The nine-tails is said to have been a force of nature!"
"The Hokage got rid of it, didn't he?" Kabe countered. "He's only one."
But there had been four persons there, Harry thought. And Minato couldn't have sealed all of the fox alone. Half, yes, but not all of it. So who could have the power to control it all?
The man's name came to him like a whisper on a breeze. Madara.
"You boys are impossible!" Lin exclaimed, her voice louder than it normally was. "If you base your mission intel on rumor and legend you'll never get anything done."
"Sometimes rumor is all you've got," Idate said. "What would you suggest then?"
Kabe answered in her place. "Research."
Kabe's idea of research required Harry's unused Library Pass and a little bit of conniving to get the Chunin on duty at the Library's doors to let all four of them in on it. Harry figured that the Chunin's boredom was more of a factor in the teen letting them all in than any effort on their part in persuasion.
"Why don't they just let anybody in, anyways," Idate grumbled. He was still shooting annoyed looks back towards the entrance and Kabe had resorted to guiding the other boy through the tall shelves.
"It's not hard to get a pass," Harry said, earning him a narrowed-eyed look from Idate. Harry just shrugged in response.
"Come on, this way," Kabe said.
The group trailed the larger boy through the dim building. His quick pace was evidence of his familiarity and Harry began to wonder how often Kabe came to the Library.
"What are we looking for?" Idate asked.
"The Clan Records," Kabe said.
"You mean the public ones."
"What's the difference?" Harry asked.
Idate studied him a moment before speaking. "You're not from one of Konoha's clans."
Harry frowned, feeling like he had maybe been insulted. "I'm not from Konoha," he said.
This caused both the boys to look at him in surprise but Lin was angry and rounded on Idate before anybody could comment on Harry's origins.
"What's it matter if he's not from a clan?" she poked Idate sharply in the chest. "I'm not from some stuffy clan and I can still kick your ass!"
Idate frowned but then grinned widely. "Only if you can catch me, sweets!"
Lin looked angry but before she could retort Idate continued. "All the clans keep their own records, but we are required to submit public copies."
"What, you don't trust the Library to keep the records for you?" Lin retorted.
"Not really," Idate said. "But mostly because the public records are usually… well fixed."
Kabe stopped suddenly, making Harry who had been following him, nearly collide straight into him. "Fixed how?"
Idate eyed the larger boy, a little guarded in the face of Kabe's sudden ire. "Who knows," he finally said. "Could be hiding a bastard son, or a worthless child. Maybe the real records show a clansman who had a lot of girlfriends and the clan had to hunt down any illegitimate children to keep the clan's Bloodline guarded. They wouldn't want something like that to be public. It all depends. Heard the Hyuga went through quite the trouble to track down a missing Genin before the war and put a seal on him. Not sure if they killed him or just hid him somewhere, but I don't think his name is on the public records. Me and Ibiki couldn't find it anyways."
Kabe did not seem to like this explanation very much.
"How do you know all this, anyways," Lin asked.
"Morino is a minor clan in Konoha," Idate said. "I've sat in a few of my brother's lessons. He's the heir, of course, being older, but father doesn't mind me sitting in. Says it never hurts for me to learn something."
"What little you can, you should," Lin said, her nose curled up in a clear show of her feelings about his clan status and his intelligence.
"Come on," Kabe said, grabbing Idate's sleeve and dragging him down the shelves again.
"Are we there yet?" Lin asked. "I'm hungry."
"You just ate!"
"An hour ago!"
The Uchiha Clan Record wasn't anything spectacular, Harry thought. Kabe had dragged them into a squared corner of shelving stacked with old scrolls. The Uchiha's was a tall though thin thing, and Kabe rolled it across the table, weighing its corners. Kabe gestured at it with a wide sweep of his arm.
"The Uchiha Clan," Kabe said.
Harry eyed the complex diagram and vaguely identified it as a family tree.
"You really think they're going to have their skills and abilities listed here?" Lin asked, staring at the scroll with obvious disdain.
"Possibly, but probably not," Idate said.
"What are you looking for, then?" Lin asked.
"Uchiha Madara," Harry said, making his friends pause in surprise. Kabe closed his mouth on whatever he was going to say.
"The founder?" Lin asked.
Harry blinked. "Founder of what?"
Lin gave him an incredulous look and spoke slowly, as if she thought he should already know the answer. "Of Konoha."
Harry didn't respond and just stared at the girl. He had only heard the man's name from Minato when the blonde had faced off with the masked man. Lin spoke of him as if everyone knew who Uchiha Madara was.
"Don't you pay attention in history lessons?" she asked.
Harry shrugged, wondering if Madara was a history lesson he had missed at some point and then wondered what else he might have missed.
Lin sighed and shook her head.
It was Idate who answered his question. "Uchiha Madara and Senju Hashirama formed an alliance and created Konoha. They were the heads of their clans, and were rivals. The Uchiha and Senju clans along with all the clans that they had conquered came together and formed the first Hidden Village, Konoha. Hashirama would become our First Hokage. You do know that at least, right?"
Harry nodded. He had learned who the four Hokages were quite early on. Everybody knew who the Hokages were. He had a particularly fond memory of he and Kushina sitting on the slanted roof of her house, staring up at the Hokage Monument under the stars and the full moon as she told him of the men who's faces were now carved in the stone.
Lin inspected his face for falsehoods and once satisfied, continued the story. "Madara and Hashirama later fought at the Valley of the End, where Madara died. There are statues there of them both. You should go see them sometime."
Harry tried to recreate a picture of the map of Hi no Kuni in his head and pinpointed the Valley of the End landmark far to the north of the village.
"Here," Lin said, pointing towards the top of the Uchiha family tree. Harry studied the markings under her finger, puzzling out what it said slowly and with some difficulty.
"Who's this?" he asked, sweeping her finger over to a name next to Madara's.
"His brother," she said, studying the scroll with thin curiosity. "He died young."
"So Madara's dead?" Harry asked.
Lin nodded, pointing out the string of dates beneath the founder's name.
"The public records of the skills should be around here somewhere," Idate commented, pushing at the length of scroll still curled around its bobbin. "Though with the Uchiha, there probably isn't much…"
Harry watched them pour over the old Uchiha scroll, his eyes flickering back to Madara's name and the dates of his life and death. If Uchiha Madara was dead, then who was the man in the mask using his name?
Harry first met Itachi's father by accident.
With Rin mended, and Naruto out of his newborn stage, she had finally taken a full time post at Konoha's Shinobi Hospital. Her day-time schedule required Minato to find an alternative babysitter. Harry had recommended the Uchiha woman only because she was a friend of Kushina's, and because she had helped watch Naruto before. Minato had given Harry one of his wide, sunny smiles at the suggestion.
Which was why Harry was slinking through the Uchiha district just before dusk, trying to ignore the plethora of Sharingan eyes that watched him with idle interest.
Harry made it to Mikoto's house without having to explain his presence, and rapped on the doorframe while simultaneously not staring back at the man in the shadowed alley across the street. He couldn't make out the man's features, but there was no mistaking that subtle glow of red in his eyes that stared him down. Did all the Uchiha run around with their red eyes on all the time?
Harry had never had an aversion to the color red before. He could distinctly recall all the myriad shades of reds that cascaded through Kushina's hair. But he did not like red eyes. They made him nervous. They made him deeply nervous for reasons he didn't really like to think about much – most of those reasons involving night terrors that had left him trembling in a cold sweat. He was happy that they had stopped after Kushina had died, since she was no longer there to hold him afterwards.
So standing in the heart of the Uchiha neighborhood was like facing down his fears by letting them swallow him whole.
The door slid open with a near silent hiss and Harry whipped his head away from the lurker in the alley to be faced with a looming figure with slowly turning Sharingan.
Harry stared. His mind was flickering with images of the masked stranger who had kicked Rin off the monument and pulled the fox out of Kushina. It was the same Sharingan shape, those three, twirling drops dark against the red. Harry could recall few details of the masked man, he was too well covered, it had all happened too fast – but he would never forget those red eyes. The Uchiha clan's eyes.
The same eyes as the man now standing over Harry with the same broad shoulders and build in body…
It took Mikoto pulling her husband out of the doorway and Harry's line of sight for him to snap out of his fear drenched memories. He sucked in a fast, startled breath and let the woman block his immediate view of the man. She reached out and pushed her fingers against his shoulder and Harry let the air out in a woosh. He hoped she couldn't smell the smoke and copper on his breath. He could sure taste it. The waters in his mind were boiling.
"Mikoto-san," he greeted, his voice only a little shaky.
"Hisui-kun," she said, sounding as if it was the second or third time she had said his name. It probably was. "Please come in. Naru-kun is in the living room."
The mention of Naruto got Harry's feet moving more than her invitation did. He entered the house with a wariness he couldn't really hide and glanced around for the man who had opened the door. He hadn't gone far. He had taken a seat across the wide living room, his legs folded beneath him on the mats. His face was directed towards the two infants on a futon in the middle of the room, but his eyes were still on Harry.
The man hadn't deactivated his Sharingan, either.
Harry toed his geta off at the door before he stepped on the tatami mats of the floor.
"Hisui-kun," Mikoto said softly, touching his shoulder again and guiding him to stand a few paces in front of the man. "My husband, may I introduce Uzumaki Hisui, charge of Namikaze-sama and cousin of Kushina." She turned to Harry only enough to look at him. "Hisui-kun, Uchiha Fukagu, Head of the Uchiha Clan, the Konoha Police Force, Jonin and my husband."
Harry did the polite thing and gave the man a bow. After Mikoto's formal introduction he could hardly do anything else without making a fool of himself. He didn't, however, fully remove his gaze from the man, keeping at least his knees in his sights as he lowered his chest and head.
He wasn't stupid enough to believe that the man didn't notice.
Harry did not remain bowed, but straightened after only a moment. It was rude of him. He should've waited until the man addressed him before raising his head. But Harry didn't trust the man enough to give him that kind of etiquette.
The Uchiha Head didn't speak for a long moment. "Welcome, Uzumaki-kun."
Harry bowed his head again, though not his body, and thanked him. Mikoto steered him away then, with a barely-there touch on his shoulder. Harry crossed directly to the futon and Naruto. He crawled across it on his knees and the little blonde gurgled out a happy sound at the sight of him.
"Hey there," Harry said, picking the baby up so Naruto could bounce his legs against the cushion. Naruto seemed very happy, his face cracked in an unrestrained grin as he gripped Harry's sleeves and kicked at his knees. Harry smiled at the boy's antics.
"Thank you for watching him Mikoto-san," Harry said.
"He is always welcome here," she told him, picking up Sasuke as he began to fuss. Harry eyed the little dark-haired boy with curiosity. Sasuke was about the same age as Naruto, only a few months older and the two infants were largely the same size.
"As are you, Hari."
Harry nearly started, but being as much on edge as he was with Fugaku in the room out of his direct line of sight Harry managed to refrain from actually jumping. Instead, he whipped his head around to an interior doorway and the one who had spoken.
"Itachi," Harry greeted the younger boy. Itachi nodded and slid into the room on near-silent bare feet. The boy gave his father a solemn nod, kissed his mother's cheek and patted Sasuke's head before speaking again.
"I'll walk you out."
Harry merely nodded.
Their walk through the Uchiha district was more silent than their leaving of the house had been. The only noise between them was Naruto's admiral attempts at spitting bubbles into Harry's hair. Harry was too keyed up from meeting the intimidating Fugaku to discern if Itachi noticed his discomfort with the other boy's clan or not.
They didn't speak until they had crossed out of the gates of the neighborhood.
"See you tomorrow," Itachi said, already turning to go back home.
Harry spoke up before the other boy could leave. "Your family…"
The young Uchiha stopped and turned to face him, his face curious. Harry caught the guarded look in the boy's eyes, though.
Harry gave him a small, no doubt anxious smile. "They're a little odd."
Itachi's brows rose high. "And yours is mismatched."
Itachi turned on his heel and slid back into his clan's streets. Harry grinned at his back, having caught the growing little smirk the other boy had just before he turned away.
That evening was the first time Harry noticed the glares, walking with Naruto from Mikoto's. It had been four months since Minato had woken, eight since the nine-tails wreaked destruction across the village and the boys had become its twin hosts. Even now, there was still a great scar that cut across the village where buildings had not yet been rebuilt and rubble was still scattered across the deep gouges of earth and rock. The wall had been the first to be repaired, but most of the rest of the destruction had not yet been reconstructed. It served as an ugly reminder. Harry remembered Minato eyeing it one day, standing on the edge of a cobbled road that was cut off and fell into a steep trench.
He had gazed at the destruction with lingering sadness and regret.
Duck was trailing him, in and out of Harry's senses like a flickering shadow, not really trying to be subtle, just following. The man had been invisible to any of Harry's senses within the Uchiha District, but had then appeared atop one of the nearby buildings after Itachi had left him.
He didn't notice the glare at first, but when he skirted around a civilian woman, she barked out a sharp command to 'watch it!' Harry startled at the mean tone of her voice and skipped out of her immediate reach, his reactions quick and ingrained even years after the Dursleys. He stared at her even as she glared at him, one hand on her hip and the other waving a stiff finger about in the air.
"Watch where you're walking!" she yelled at him. "Don't be getting into the way of good honest folk!"
Harry frowned as her eyes skipped between him and Naruto, her glower not fading at all, and if anything increasing. She huffed, loud and stark and stalked off down the street. Harry just stared after her, high-strung, bewildered and feeling very protective.
He glanced at the other pedestrians, most of them having stopped at the sudden loud confrontation. He didn't know any of them, and most were civilians of various ages. Almost all of them were giving him shadowed looks. Some were outright glaring, their eyes dark and some mean. Harry could see the tenseness in them, and felt the heavy air. There was a Konoha Policeman near a turn off, watching the sparse crowd with intense, red eyes. His presence was both comforting and unnerving to Harry who wasn't sure to trust the other man to help him or not.
The sudden presence of Duck at his shoulder almost made him jump, but Harry was familiar enough with the masked man to not react to his closeness. The ANBU didn't say anything, or move further. He just stood behind Harry's shoulder, a solid, white-shadowed presence that inspired the small crowd to go along with their previous business.
"She's a widow," Duck said very quietly. Harry heard, however. The ANBU was largely aware of Harry's hearing range, having been guarding Harry for over a year now, and having got in trouble due to it once or twice. "Her husband was a Chunin Shinobi. He died in the attack."
"She was told," Harry said. Duck didn't respond and he wasn't sure he had spoken loud enough for the masked man to have heard him. It didn't matter. It was obvious. The woman knew of the nine-tails having been sealed in Naruto.
Harry rubbed his hand over Naruto's back and wondered.
She hadn't been hateful with him, mean, but not hateful. She had been hateful just towards the baby.
Kabe and Anko noticed the oddness of the village's reaction to Harry on a late evening after lessons. They were sprawled under the wide tree in the Academy's training yard, Harry with Naruto gripping his shorts and trying to eat the grass, waiting for Minato to be finished with his work. They were teaching Harry how to play a game called go, which Harry was poor at. Kabe was trying to be helpful as he crouched behind Harry's shoulder, but Anko wasn't as much – which was understandable as she was acting as his opponent for the lesson. Somewhere in the thick foliage over their heads was Duck, but Harry hadn't seen or heard from the ANBU in a while. It was as Harry was pulling a fistful of grass out of Naruto's mouth that Kabe spoke.
"There's someone staring at you."
Harry paused in his task to turn towards the yard's gate. A young vested Shinobi stood across the street, staring darkly through the vertical slats of the gate and straight at the little group under the tree.
"At me?" Harry asked, turning away from the Shinobi staring at them.
Kabe only nodded as Anko smirked at their watcher, pulling a kunai out of somewhere – Harry thought her sleeve. "Want to test it?"
Before Harry could respond or ask what she was planning, Anko got to her feet and walked over to the old swing on the other side of the tree, twirling the kunai through her fingers as she went. Harry turned back to their watcher and the dark eyes still staring at him.
"At you," Kabe said behind him. Harry thought about pointing out that Kabe could be the one being watched, but didn't bother. Harry agreed to a point, though he was pretty sure that it was Naruto being watched, not him. There were some in the village who just watched him, their eyes shadowed, mean or suspicious – fearful. There were some in the village who had eyes like Vernon and Petunia had, and they watched him as he passed, watched Naruto as Harry carried him. Most didn't give Harry much attention unless he had Naruto with him.
Harry watched the Shinobi in return, ignoring the rippling of the waters in his mind and wondering if he was imagining the distant, barely-there killing intent or not. The youth finally turned and left, scuffing his feet into the dust on the road and jumping up onto the roofline. The boy gave one more, narrow look back at them before he flickered and disappeared.
"Who is he?" Harry asked.
Kabe shrugged. "Might be better to ask why he's staring at you."
"And generating a descent amount of killing intent in the process," Anko said as she came back around to them. Her kunai had been slipped into her hair. "What'd you do to tick him off, Hari?" she asked with a gleeful smirk.
Harry frowned. "Nothing."
"Well," she said, still far too happy for Harry's peace of mind. "You've managed to make an enemy! And you're not even a Genin yet." She clapped a hand hard onto his shoulder. "Good job, kid!"
Harry's frown didn't fade. He didn't think making an enemy was something to congratulate him for. And he hadn't done anything, and anyways, who was the watcher? Harry had had someone watch him like that before – Orochimaru; a situation that had not ended well in Harry's mind.
He didn't see the watcher again, though every once in a while, Harry thought he felt eyes on him.
It was an early summer evening that Harry found himself with little to do and no desire to train alone. Namely, he had no desire to go through his usual training exercises that more often than not left him frustrated and either soggy (water walking), bruised (tree climbing) or his muscles twitching in protest (log rolling). Naruto was with Mikoto so Harry made his way towards the Uchiha district with intents on retrieving the infant early. He was halfway through a little used route of the neighborhood when he came across Itachi and his father. Harry stopped to watch them, curious about what they were doing perched on the end of a dock without a boat or fishing rods, staring out over the little pond with intent –
And then Fugaku breathed fire.
It wasn't a small stream, or even a little burst of flames, and Harry was positive that he spit it out of his mouth – a great flaming ball wider than the man was tall roared out across the water, sending spray up into steam and engulfing the space over the lake in a great display.
Harry had never seen anything like it.
He had lived in Konoha for years, had seen the use of various Shinobi arts before, most notably the Shunshin and Minato's transport technique and Kushina's chakra chains stood out starkly in his mind. But he had never seen anything like a great flaming ball before. It was nothing like the subtle techniques he knew. It was flashy and large and looked very destructive.
As he watched – stared – Itachi mirrored his father's actions, his hands flashing through seals before he rose one to his mouth and spit out a sphere of flames of his own. It wasn't quite as large as Fugaku's, but it was a small difference as the flames burned out over the pond, hot and dense.
Harry waited for father and son to finish their lesson. Moreso, he waited for the clan head to leave so he could approach Itachi without having to interact with the man. He did so, after a time, leaving the two boys with a few quite words to his son and an unreadable look for Harry. Itachi came to Harry.
"Fire?" Harry asked, once the younger boy was within hearing distance.
"A clan technique," Itachi said, something in his voice making Harry pause. He inspected the Uchiha, taking in the singed look of his hair, the soot on his hands and the red, likely burned patches on his fingers and chin. Underneath the surface wounds and the smoke residue was a strong thread of pride.
"Cool," Harry offered with a smile. It was an honest assessment. Harry thought that the great ball of fire spit out from one's mouth was rather cool.
"It is," Itachi said in a bout of self-pride that Harry thought was likely well earned. "Target practice, Hari?"
Harry nodded and let the boy lead him towards the Uchiha's target ground.
Harry and Itachi were tied in the last few rounds of their game when Shisui came around, appearing beside them in a weak puff of smoke and dust.
The two younger boys stopped their contest, staring. Shisui was dressed in uniform, a battered one, and he was bloodied. His headband pushed up his hair into a short, wild array, and the older boy appeared to be favoring a leg. It took Harry a moment to realize that the other was wearing an ANBU uniform, though he was missing the usual animal mask.
"Hey boys," he greeted them, giving the two a small, slightly strained smile.
"Are you hurt badly?" Itachi asked, giving his cousin a critical once-over.
"No, I'll be fine." Shisui looked down at his bloody clothes, and gave them a sheepish look. "Most of its not mine. Sorry. I was on my way home when I saw you here. I didn't mean to upset you."
"It's alright," Itachi told him.
"Is Minato –" Harry started, knowing that Shisui was one of the blonde's guards.
Shisui quickly waved his hand dismissively. "No no, Minato-sama is fine. I was on a mission."
Harry relaxed, keeping an eye on how the older boy walked. Shisui was definitely favoring his left leg.
"Who's winning?" he asked them.
Harry pointed to Itachi, who shrugged. Shisui looked around the field, eyeing the fencing that separated the area from the housing on the other side. He looked a little distracted, but before either of the boys could call him on it, he spoke.
"Are you two hungry?"
Harry and Itachi looked at each other. It was late, and neither had eaten in a while, and both were a little sweaty and tired from their training.
"You look it," Shisui said. "Come on, I think I've got tea and ramen at least."
Harry and Itachi collected their strewn weapons and followed Shisui off the field. The older boy led them through a short route behind the Uchiha houses and up a steep flight of stairs over an Onigori shop.
"I don't think you've been here before, Hari-kun," he said, unlocking the door and pushing it open a hands-breadth. He reached into the narrow space and fiddled with something out of their view. "This is my place." Shisui gave the two a smile and done with whatever he had been doing, pushed the door all the way open.
Harry followed the two Uchihas inside, and eyed the frame of the door. A long, narrow paper tag stretched down the wall beside the doorframe, covered in a curving script. It was a seal, and if he read it correctly, it was a fire release tag, probably set to trap someone if they opened the door unaware.
Harry briefly wondered why Kushina never laid traps at the house, but then thought of the tags that lay almost hidden along the top edges of all the windows and the banners of red scripts that decorated each room, their brush strokes speaking of Kushina's firm, sure hand. They had always reminded him of seals, and now he wondered about them.
"Ah, tea first, I think," Shisui was saying. Harry shook his head and focused on the young Uchiha bustling about the small kitchen. He shed weapons as he set up a tea service, looking quite at home and considerably more at ease than he had in the training ground.
Itachi watched him with an unreadable look, and more than once Harry caught the younger boy eyeing the windows, his eyes shadowed.
"Sit, sit, boys!" Shisui said, waving them towards a low table in the corner. Harry and Itachi knelt on opposite sides and watched the older boy.
Visible weapons left on the kitchen counters and with teapot steaming hotly, Shisui joined them. Itachi moved the cups and little plate of biscuits and Harry just watched. The boy was moving with careful, practiced motions as if going through a long known routine.
Itachi poured tea into their cups and the two Uchiha's seemed to settle onto their heels as if from relief.
Harry shrugged, and wrapped his hands around the hot little cup of tea, savoring its scent and eyeing the chocolate covered biscuits.
Shisui spoke suddenly, just as the tea was cooling enough to sip. "Where is Duck today, Hari-kun?"
Harry shrugged, and glanced out the window across the space of the living room. He could just make out the top of the roofline of the buildings across the street, but he didn't see any familiar masked figures there. He was not surprised at this.
"He'll be around," Harry assured. Duck usually came and went without Harry's knowledge. There were days when Duck was always there, flipping pages in his book, and Harry wondered if the masked teen ever slept, and then there would be a week where Harry wouldn't even see or hear him at all.
"Shisui," Itachi started, getting his cousin's attention. "What was your mission?"
Shisui's smile held a hint of indulgence that made both of the boys frown. "Hokage sent me out to find some information is all," he told them.
"It's classified," Itachi said bluntly.
Harry scowled at the teen's evasive answers, his expression mirroring Itachi's. The younger Uchiha tried another line of questions.
"Why did you join the Hokage's Guard Squad, Shisui?"
Shisui made a thoughtful humming sound and sipped at his tea. "Why do you want to be Shinobi, Itachi-kun?"
"It is expected."
Harry stared at his friend, surprised by his answer.
"And you, Hisui-kun?" Shisui asked.
Harry answered automatically, still distracted by Itachi's reasons. "To protect my precious people."
"What about you, Shisui?" Harry asked.
"Why I became Shinobi?" Shisui set his tea down, leaving his fingers wrapped around the little porcelain cup. "I started like Itachi, because it was expected of me, as Uchiha. But then I learned that in order to protect, I needed to be strong. Our cousin taught me that."
"Our cousin?" Itachi asked.
Shisui smiled, but turned his face towards Harry. "I believe you knew him, Hisui. Our cousin taught me the value of protecting those we hold dear, with all our might, even to our greatest sacrifice."
Harry knew who he was speaking of. "Obito."
"Yes, exactly," Shisui said, "He told me once that to protect is the greatest goal."
"Is that why you joined Minato's guard?" Harry asked. "To protect?"
"Yes, I suppose so," Shisui said, his smile now holding a hint of conspiracy. "I joined Hokage's guard to protect, yes, but mostly because he asked me to, and it is a great honor." Shisui gestured to his white vest and uniform. "I joined ANBU to protect peace; the peace of this village."
"So that is why you became Shinobi?" Itachi asked.
"It is why I continued to be Shinobi," Shisui clarified. "Yes, I believe that to protect peace from the shadows, is the greatest sacrifice and achievement. And the ANBU are Konoha's shadows."
The two boys were silent at that, and Harry turned the teen's words over in his mind, thinking of Minato's guards and the ANBU shadows and all the Shinobi of the leaf. Harry had become Shinobi to be like Kushina. Was that like Shisui and Itachi, joining the Academy because of expectation? But Harry also continued to train in order to become stronger, so he could protect Naruto. And his desire to protect was what drove him now.
Harry looked Shisui over, taking in the dirt and the visible bruises and the general weariness of the older boy's body. He had taken injuries on a secret mission that only a few would know he had been sent on. Harry wondered about what it took for that, then thought of little Naruto and he knew.
Naruto made Harry strong. Was peace the thing that drove Shisui?
"How is your training, Itachi?" Shisui asked into the silence.
"Well, cousin," Itachi said, and continued to explain the successes and frustrations of his training. Harry listened and answered in turn when Shisui asked him the same question. The three males drank their tea, munched on snacks and when the ramen was finished, ate happily and fully.
The sun sunk and the two Uchiha escorted Harry all the way to Mikoto's where they exchanged Itachi for the sleepy and cranky Naruto. Shisui, his uniform hidden by a long jacket, entertained the little blonde over Harry's shoulder with tiny little bursts of fire out of his mouth all the way home.
Harry wondered if all Uchiha could spit fire.
When the glares from the villagers did not abate by mid-summer, but only spread and increased in frequency, Harry told Minato about it. They were in their kitchen, Harry preparing a dinner of thick meaty sandwiches while the blonde distracted a happy baby by tickling his belly. Harry waited until halfway through their meal before broaching the subject of the mean looks.
"Have they harmed you?" Minato asked, his eyes hard and deeply cold.
Harry voiced his response quickly in the face of the man's ire. "No."
"They yell at you?"
Minato's frown thinned more. "It was supposed to have been kept secret."
Harry didn't have to ask what he was talking about. He knew that the fox being sealed away was supposed to be secret. Minato had asked him – told him – to not tell anybody. Harry hadn't.
"What exactly do they do?" Minato asked him, watching Harry very intently. Harry told him. The villagers glared and sneered, eyeing Naruto with distrustful, hate filled eyes. They didn't give him quite the same looks, but it was close. Harry could tell the difference when he walked the streets without the infant. Some people distrusted him, but they hated Naruto. It wasn't everybody, not even very many, but there were enough now that it made Harry a little cautious in the village's streets and thankful of Duck's usual presence nearby.
The blonde Hokage listened to him carefully, so tightly wound that Harry could feel the tendrils of killing intent leaking off the man in cold ripples. It made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, and goose bumps trail down his arms all the way from his shoulders.
Namikaze Minato was not pleased.
The Hokage stood once Harry was done and with barely a word, he gripped the boy's shoulder and executed a rocky jump out of their kitchen. Harry sucked in a startled breath at the sudden rough handling, the sound drowned out by the trailing rumble of thunder that followed them and sounded through the air with a loud crack.
It was the first time Harry had seen the man use chakra since That Last Night, and it hadn't been a smooth use of it either. Harry felt nauseous and battered by the trip and he was pretty sure his hair had been singed by lightning somewhere along the way.
Harry didn't stumble, but it was a near thing. Minato was already moving by the time he got his bearings and took in his surroundings. They had been jumped to the Hokage's office; not the Missions Office where Minato or the Third often sat to hand out mission assignments, but the private office at the top of the Hokage's residence tower that overlooked the village on one side and butted up close to the monument on the other. Harry had only been in the office a few times.
Minato didn't seem much affected by his rough use of chakra, though Naruto was hiccupping into the blonde's shoulder. The Hokage paced from his desk to the shelving along one interior wall, to the door that led out to the waiting room where a single Chunin aide jumped at the sudden appearance of the man.
"Get Sarutobi in here!" Minato demanded. Harry heard the Chunin stumble out a "yessir" just before the blonde closed the door to return to his desk.
Minato moved in a tightly controlled flurry that set Naruto on edge enough to fuss through the hiccups. The Hokage finally passed the infant to Harry, who decided to just get out of the man's way and took up sentinel in Minato's chair and tried to soothe the disgruntled infant.
Soon enough, they were joined by a small gathering of Shinobi: the Third, a white-cloaked ANBU with the red trim of a Captain, Duck, three elders who looked important but whom Harry didn't know and a wide-shouldered man with a furry collared coat and a scar cut across his nose who Minato called Nara.
Minato began their impromptu meeting bluntly.
"Who let out the S-Class secret that my sons are a Living Sacrifice?"
Harry ignored the glances sent his way by most of the group, largely distracted at being claimed as a son by the man, and not nearly disturbed as being called a Sacrifice as he thought he maybe ought to be.
"It – has been leaked?" Nara asked, something in his voice dark and hard.
Minato spared him an equally icy look. "There are villagers harassing my sons," he said in clipped tones.
Nara frowned. "Civilian or Shinobi?"
"Both," Harry piped up from his spot in Minato's desk chair. The Hokage turned around from his position in front of the desk to look at him. "Mostly civilian."
"For the most part it seems to be civilians with Shinobi ties, who have lost someone to the attack," Duck commented.
Minato gave the ANBU guard a withering look, which had him hunching his shoulders sheepishly. "And why did you not report this to me earlier?"
"They did not appear to be threatening," Duck explained, his head still lowered between his shoulders making the white of his mask stick out from his collar. "Only angry, and occasionally vocal. At first it was only one or two civilians, but it seems the news has spread over the recent month or two. There are perhaps two dozen or more who have voiced negativity towards –"
"Months?" Minato nearly hissed out.
"A few civilians can hardly do even an Academy student much harm," the ANBU Captain said, coming to Duck's rescue. His voice was deep and low, but strangely melodious at the same time. A soothing sound, Harry thought. He agreed with the man, somewhat. Harry was in training and a few civilians weren't much of a threat with his ability to escape. But Harry wasn't always alone and running with Naruto would slow him down.
"It happens most when I am with Naruto," Harry said.
Minato's bright blue eyes cut back across his shoulder and Harry nearly flinched, ashamed at his inability to protect the baby. He wasn't strong enough. Minato's look softened at the near-flinch.
"An S-Class secret has been leaked to civilians," the Hokage said. Harry couldn't see the man's face with him turned back to the group gathered in the room, but he knew he'd see ice in the man's eyes. He could hear it in his voice, feel it chilling the air surrounding the blonde like he were a glacier. "As of two months ago only the people in this room plus the two Sannin were aware of the existence of a Living Sacrifice. Was I mistaken?"
Harry watched the elders glance between themselves and the Third, even as Nara frowned at the ANBU Captain.
"You were in a chakra coma for four months, Namikaze-san," the elder woman finally said, as if that explained everything.
"I had left strict instructions," the Hokage countered.
Harry frowned, realizing that Minato hadn't expected to live, or was just very thorough in his contingency plans. He hoped it was the later.
"Hiruzen-san had returned to his position," the woman said, "when you did not wake."
Minato clearly turned his ire onto his predecessor.
The Third sighed at the attention and pulled his unlit pipe out of his mouth. "Those who lost someone to the fox deserved to know – "
The Hokage interrupted him with a sharp, "Nothing."
The Third frowned. "The fear would have festered and built, Minato," he said. "They needed to know that the nine-tails had been resealed."
"Into my sons!"
"Only that it was resealed," the Third said. "Not that there are now two hosts. They must have simply assumed on which of your boys it was sealed into."
And they had assumed that it was Naruto.
Harry could feel the tightly controlled emotions within the blonde, it nearly drowned out everything else in Harry's senses. The waters in his head rippled at them, agitated and distracting Harry. He ignored the speculative looks given him by the little group.
"You expected civilians to be able to keep that secret?" Minato asked, and without giving any of them time to respond, "Now it is known who the Jinchuriki for the nine-tails is. Do you have any idea the danger you have put my son into Hiruzen!? Did you think of that before you let loose an S-Class secret to a host of civilian mourners to allay their fears?"
"It will serve to protect the boy as well," the Third said.
Minato made a sharp gesture with his good arm, but seemed too mad to say anything else. He paced instead, six paces one way, six the other, back and forth before the desk. Harry followed the man with his eyes even as he caught sight of the others beyond the blonde. They kept their eyes on the Hokage as well, though Harry caught the curious looks from the elders past the blonde's pacing form.
Minato stopped suddenly, his face blank and the feelings wavering off of him soothed down into something calm, or hidden.
"Duck," the Hokage said, his voice echoing the blankness of his face. "Please take my boys to one of the bedrooms down the hall. We will be staying here tonight."
Duck bowed his head and gave a soft, "yessir."
Harry let his guard guide him out of the office. They exited a different door than the one through which Minato had yelled for the Chunin aide, and Harry looked around the room curiously. It was another short hallway, decorated simply and sporting a few doors on either side – all closed.
"Where are we?" Harry asked.
"This is the Hokage's residence," Duck told him, still guiding him down the hallway.
"Why isn't Minato living here?"
"He stays here sometimes," Duck said. "If he's working late. He has dinner with you most nights, though, right, Hisui?"
Harry looked up at the masked teen. He didn't think he'd ever heard Duck call him by his name before. Though, they rarely ever had a conversation, either.
"Here," Duck said, pushing them all into a room. "This will do."
It was a narrow, but long room with a tall ceiling and an equally tall and narrow window at the opposite end. A raised loft butted along one long wall, cutting the room into a general L-shape. It was sparsely furnished, with a high table or desk and a short row of shelving in the corner by the window. Harry scaled the narrow steps to the raised floor to find a rolled futon and blankets tucked along the wall.
"There's a closet under here," Duck said, opening the short door beneath the raised platform and poking his head inside. "And a bathroom across the hall."
Harry looked around the room, missing the short, slanted ceiling of his bedroom at Kushina's row house and the comfort of the familiar presence of Kakashi sleeping across the room from him.
"What about Rin and Kakashi?" Harry asked.
"I'll send them a note to know where you are."
And before Harry could continue, "You should sleep, Hisui," Duck told him. "It's getting late."
Harry rolled out the futon and curled up on it with Naruto. Duck took up sentinel near the window, his mask still firmly in place and looking quite comfortable in his perch.
Sometime through the night the door opened, and Harry spotted Minato's silhouette and his bright hair. He thought he heard the man whisper something, but in the morning, he forgot all about it.
The household split into two after that. Kakashi and Rin remained at Kushina's yellow house. Harry and Naruto then moved fully into the tower residence and the L-shaped room.
"Its safer," Minato said, as they carried boxes of their belongings into the tower. "The only reason we hadn't moved fully in before was that Kushina preferred her house, and our marriage was a secret. It was safer for her to be there. But the tower is better protected and I would be comforted knowing that you and Naruto are here now."
Harry just nodded and went about unpacking the stack of red-scribbled scrolls that once adorned Kushina's living room. He was going to hang them around his new bedroom.
"The house is yours though, Hisui," Minato told him, watching Harry's progress.
Harry paused and stared at the man. "Mine?"
"Yes," he said with a smile.
Harry continued to stare.
Minato leaned down to his level. "Naruto is her son, but so are you, Hisui. Kushina would have wanted you to have it. If you want to continue to live there later, you can."
Harry thought about it carefully, weighing his desire to live in the house against his desire to remain next to Naruto. Naruto won.
"I'll live here," he said.
Minato nodded and ran his good hand through Harry's wild hair. "I thought you might. Kakashi and Rin will take care of the house for you. You can move back anytime you like." Then he grinned, wide and bright. "You might want to once you get older."
Harry wasn't so sure he'd want to sleep anywhere but near Naruto, but didn't say so.
Their move into the Hokage's residence didn't go unnoticed, but nor did it much affect Harry's daily routine. The stares and glares from various villagers remained, but Duck had taken to being quite visible in his trailing of Harry while in the village. Nobody did more than glare and Harry learned to identify the glarers very quickly and keep his own distance in turn – especially if he had Naruto with him. It seemed to be a mutual peace.
His friends and classmates commented on the move in the first few days, though Idate was more interested in his relationship to the Hokage rather than where he was living.
"Is it true that the little blonde kid is the Hokage's son?" Idate asked him one afternoon in the yard.
"Come on, Idate!" Lin said before Harry could respond. "Rumors again?"
"What? Rumors are a perfectly good source of intel!"
Lin scowled at the lanky boy.
"Besides, Harry carts the kid around all the time," Idate continued, "He'd know. Not rumor then, is it?"
Harry, recalling Minato's rules on what he could talk about and what he couldn't, answered, "Yes."
Lin stared at him while Idate crowed in triumph.
"Who's the mother?" Lin asked.
Harry shrugged, looking away. That was one thing he wasn't really comfortable talking about. It was no longer on Minato's list of things not to say, but Harry wasn't keen on speaking about Kushina. He still missed her too much, no matter that it had been months since she died.
"Does it matter?" Idate asked, "he wasn't married anyways. No matter who she was, it was still out of wedlock."
"They were married," Harry countered, a little angry.
Idate blinked at him in surprise. "Alright…"
"Anyways," Lin said, cuffing Idate. "Who cares? Check this out!"
The girl flipped the ropes of her red hair back over her shoulder and held out her hand, palm up. The two boys stared at it, then at her.
"Watch!" she commanded.
They did as she told them and as they eyed her hand a little bug crawled out from under her sleeve, scuttling across her wrist to run slow circles around her open palm. It was a many-legged, dark thing, with a spot of brown in the center of its back. It was no bigger than a thumbprint.
"My dad gave him to me," Lin said proudly, showing off the bug. "Isn't he beautiful?"
"Uh-huh. Are you crazy?" Idate asked. He was staring at it with a strange expression that bordered on fear. "Is it poisonous?"
"Of course," Lin said happily, pushing her hand closer to Idate, who leaned equally away from it. "Well, lightly so anyways. He's a protector spider. My family breeds arachnids. Hachi here is my first charge!"
"Hachi? You named it!"
"Of course I named him!"
"It's a bug!"
"He's an arachnid!"
Harry let out a silent breath and took a couple silent, slow steps away from the two, watching as the spider in Lin's hand scuttled in increasingly agitated circles.
"Do you think it can jump?" a voice asked from his side.
Harry looked around and down to find Itachi watching the argument with mild curiosity.
"Possible," Harry said. "I didn't want to be close enough for it to jump on me."
Itachi's lips twitched into something that could have turned into a smile, but didn't quite make it that far.
Their current yard instructor, whose name changed every day someone asked him, interrupted what could have degenerated into a good little spar, or a display on spider jumping abilities.
"Lin, Harry! Match it up!" their tall, masked sensei wandered over to split the group up. Harry eyed the man's head curiously, as he usually did ever since the teen appeared in the yard as their instructor. His face was masked, but not like Kakashi's was. Their new yard instructor had wrapped wide bandages around the top of his head, over his forehead, eyes and all the way down to his ears. Harry guessed he was about the age of Genma, but it was hard to tell without being able to see half his face.
None of the students knew his real name, either. The teen gave them a different name on a daily basis. Kabe had taken to making a chart, marking all the names on a calendar and looking for a pattern, but Harry had stopped trying to keep track of them days ago.
"You're all up for final testing in the next year," their instructor said. "Focus!"
"Yeah, yeah, Tara-sensei," Idate grumbled, happily edging away from Lin.
"Tara?" Itachi said, soft enough that probably only Harry heard him.
Harry just shrugged. "I thought sensei had switched to Toka today, or was it Tonbo?"
"I stopped keeping track," Itachi admitted, which made Harry smile.
"Let's go!" their many-named instructor called, making shooing motions at Idate while simultaneously crooking a finger towards Harry and Itachi. "Match it up!"
Lin pocketed her little friend, and with a final glare at Idate she stomped her way over to Harry. "Come on," she said, dragging him away from the others and into an open space. Harry let her, catching Itachi's almost-amused look and Idate's considering sizing-up of their youngest classmate.
"Can it jump?" Harry asked once Lin let go of him.
The red-head huffed angrily and threw up her fists. Harry hopped back away from the hostile stance.
"Maybe I'll sick him on you and you can find out!" she retorted hotly.
Harry decided that he'd probably never ask the girl about her spiders again. It seemed to just make her angry. She started at him with quick, angry strikes that sent her dreadlocked hair flying and Harry was a little hard pressed to keep up with her, blocking her attacks with hastily thrown up forearms.
Harry and Itachi still didn't know if Lin's spider could jump or not.
Naruto's first birthday was marked by an assassination attempt.
Author's Commentary: The Morino family isn't canonically a major Clan. For the sake of this story, you can assume there are generally three levels of clans in Konoha: the Noble Clans (Aburame, Akimichi, Hyuga and Uchiha) the Major Clans (Inuzuka, Nara, Sarutobi, Senju and Yamanaka) and the Minor Clans, of which the Morino are one, and likely also the Uzumaki. I am curious why the Senju aren't considered a noble clan in canon though. Maybe it is and my information is dated…
Genma is about eighteen, and Shisui is eleven or twelve (three years older than Harry). He's probably a Chunin about now.
I need an Uchiha Clan hand-to-hand style… anybody got some good ideas?
Erm… sorry about the cliffhanger? At least the chapter was a long one…
From the Crystal Ball:
"Now, see here," Hermione said, "Our magic isn't all parlour tricks and nonsense!"
Harry was about to respond but she cut him off before he could say a word.
"You can't base your opinions on the simple lessons in school!" She said, "Magic is a vast and complex field of study and the spells a child learns in school are only the basis of it. They are designed to teach us how to use wands, and to exercise our magic. They are not useless!"
Harry still hadn't figured out a use for turning a cockroach into a button, but he was rather fond of being able to turn little sticks into little sharp needles. He could use that one, he had all sorts of ideas for that one, but somehow he doubted that the girl would appreciate any of them.
"I'll show you," Hermione said, raising her chin up and brandishing her wand solemnly. "Aguamenti."
Harry watched the stream of water come from her wand with curiosity. It splashed down onto the stones around the lake like a fountain of soft rain.
"Very handy if there should ever be a fire," Hermione said, most of her concentration still on her wand.
"Or for watering plants," Neville commented from his seat against the tree.
"Or filling your brothers' drawers with," Ginny said. Harry raised his eyebrows at the red-head but she only shrugged, completely unabashed and looking a little feral all at the same time.
Hermione ended her spell and looked at him with unhidden satisfaction.
Harry only nodded, the fingers of one hand curled under his chin as he thought of the best way to respond.
Boar. Dog. Ram. Harry's hands flew through the handseals quickly, and he saw his companions all take a step back at the motions. Neville even went so far as to scramble around the base of the tree as Harry gripped one wrist and held his hand out towards the expanse of grounds. The Black Lake stretched behind him and energy surged up through his arm and spiraled in his hand and he heard the lake's waters shift behind him.
His friends only heard his Japanese intonation, "Suiton: Hohanryu."
And the lake surged. Harry didn't see the wave but he could feel his chakra laced through the water rising high over his head and just as it was about to crest and roll over the grounds like a tearing tsunami he let the technique go.
Water rained heavily down on them all, splashing onto the bank in buckets. It drenched everyone, collecting into deep puddles and sending the grassy earth into a muddy landscape. Harry just stood through it, rather enjoying the feel of the water falling on his head and watching his companions scramble and curse at it all.
Hermione was the only one who hadn't gone running for cover, or gone running at all. She stood in the exact same spot as she had when she cast her watering spell, and she was as dry as she had been when they left the castle. Her expression was a little stormy and she was meeting Harry's eyes with an annoyed look.
"Must all your spells be destructive, Hisui?" she asked.
Harry shrugged, sheepish, and wondered what technique she had used to stay dry through his Water Tearing Torrent.