A Remember the Name Side-fic
"Nothing is to be feared but fear itself. Nothing grievous but to yield to grief."
- Sir Francis Bacon
A/N: Just reread RtN for the hell of it, and I remembered how good it actually was. Regretfully, I am currently too otherwise engaged with my most recent multi-chapter work, Unexpected Aftermath, for Avatar: the Last Airbender to work on Remember the Name proper.
Plus I barely remember anything about what my plans with it might have been, and with the change to a new computer in the interim since I last updated, any notes I might have had are effectively lost to me. Might still continue, maybe, possibly, some time in the future, but for the time being I'll just do this.
(Also, the idea for this chapter came from a surprisingly recent reviewer for RtN, one Warpwind. And also holy hell, how many reviews did that fic get while I was elsewhere from FFN?!)
EDIT: HOLY SMOKES BATMAN THIS MORE THAN DOUBLED DM'S WORD COUNT (also something about, wow, it actually having been almost a whole year since i last updated this, already?!)
In a dusty drawing room of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, a dusty cabinet – the sole article of furniture remaining in the room – shook and shuddered in the far corner. It's movements kicked up dust in great quantities, thick, obscuring clouds of the stuff filling the air.
Just inside the door stood four elite Kumo-nin and a dumpy, ginger housewife. The former were staring at the overacting fixture with mixed expressions of anticipation and confusion and maybe a little bit of dread.
Except for the largest of them, that is. He was without a care in the world, humming a boastful, energetic tune to himself as he scrawled various ideas and lyrics in the margins of a small notebook.
Molly Weasley smiled at the four, gesturing toward the trembling piece of furniture.
"That," she said in a cheerful, confident tone for the benefit of the four shinobi, "is a boggart."
Samui, the blonde, well-endowed one, delicately quirked an eyebrow at the middle aged witch.
"The cabinet?" she said, skepticism obvious in her tone.
"Henshin... ka...?" murmured Karui, half as a guess and half just as something to say in contribution.
"Ie," replied Omoi, slowly shaking his head. He thought rolled a cherry flavored lollipop on his tongue, the short, slender white stick protruding from his mouth twirling and bobbing as he did so. "Henshin ja nai."
"If it was henge, there'd be a chakra signa-ture," rapped the trio's master, appearing to be completely unbothered by the clattering cabinet. "But there ain't none to sense, I tell you be sure. Whatever it is, ninjutsu it ain't. That cabinet looks like it could use a fresh coat o' paint."
He then nodded, looking quite self-satisfied as he crossed thick, muscular arms over his chest.
Molly, for her credit, appeared to be mostly unflapped by this discussion, half of which was in a foreign language, and half of which might as well have been, for all she could make sense of it.
"It's inside the cabinet," she explained in a patient tone, smiling sweetly at the four in the way that perhaps only a mother could. "Boggarts prefer small, dark spaces."
Karui blinked at this, and she nodded in understanding.
"Is... like cocky-roach, then?" she said in her thickly accented, broken English. "Yes?"
"I hope not..." he muttered, looking visibly ill at the thought.
Molly gave the young man a sympathetic look.
"I take it you don't like bugs?" she said.
Omoi winced. "Yeah, not really..." he admitted, looking a little sheepish.
Karui rolled her eyes.
"Poor baby," she mockingly said in their native tongue, causing her male teammate to grow faintly red in the ears. "Ickle wee Omoi-tan, scared of itty-bitty bugs!" she cooed in a facetiously saccharine tone.
Samui rolled her eyes at the dark-skinned redhead.
"Better than being afraid of snakes," she drawled pointedly, using nihon-go more for the sake of Karui's comprehension than for the benefit of the girl's pride.
Karui bit her tongue with a short yipe.
"I can't help it!" she said. "They're GROSS! GE!" She stuck her tongue out and gagged theatrically.
"You know, I think it's rather telling that you would afraid of something like that..." she hummed in an almost amused tone. "Snakes are very phallic, after all."
Karui's face went beet red, and Omoi blanched.
Bee just laughed.
"Yo! I don't care a-bout what you fear, but I'm gettin' pretty antsy standing, waitin' here!"
Molly eyed the group curiously, having no idea what they had been talking about. But then she shrugged, deciding it wasn't important.
"Well, since you four so generously offered to take care of our boggart problem," she pointedly interjected, "I assume you know how to deal with one?"
"Stab it until it stops breathing, would be my guess." Somewhat surprisingly, it was Samui who said this.
Molly paled just a little bit at how casually and offhandedly the blonde would default to such a viscerally violent contingency, but she shook her head and shook it off.
"Laughter, actually," she said, causing the younger three to look at her disbelievingly. Molly shrugged. "Boggarts can't stand the sound of laughter," she elaborated matter-of-factly. "Nobody knows what they look like, or even if they have bodies at all. Boggarts are shapeshifters that assume the appearance of people's worst fears to protect themselves, so nobody has ever seen what one truly looks like. But laughter weakens them, and once a boggart has been sufficiently weakened, it can be banished with a simple spell."
Samui frowned thoughtfully.
"So, all we have to do is be able to laugh at our worst fears?" she said. "I guess that sounds easy enough. But what if our greatest fear is something intangible, or abstract? Like darkness, or fear itself? What happens then?"
Molly shrugged again.
"Then it usually goes for the next best thing, I guess."
Omoi looked thoughtful at this.
"What if the boggart itself is your worst fear?" he inquired, causing Molly to blink.
"I... honestly don't know," she said, a curious, thoughtful expression on her face. "I don't believe it's ever come up."
Omoi scrunched his face up, chewing contemplatively on the stick of his lollipop.
"Maybe it would be like what happened that one time, after my first encounter with Narakumi no Jutsu during the Chūnin exams? You know, when I got so freaked out that my new worst fear actually became the Narakumi no Jutsu, and then when that guy used it on me again during the final round, it backfired and nearly fried his brain because his Narakumi no Jutsu couldn't show me itself? It sounds like boggarts must operate on a similar sort of mechanism," he proposed. "So maybe something like that would happen."
Karui just waved his remark off. "Too ob-vui-ous," she said. "Is no so simple, I think."
It was at this point that their sensei proceeded to quite suddenly shouldercheck the still-shuddering cabinet, shattering the unfortunate piece of furniture into hundreds of shards and splinters.
"Hey, I'm gettin' tired of just standing and talkin'! Let's turn up the heat and get this party a-rockin'!" he rapped.
There was a long moment of uncanny stillness as the three Cloud jōnin stared at their master in silent disbelief. But then it was broken by a shadow flitting across the floor, shooting towards the trio from between Bee's legs.
The form was small, dark, indistinct. Try as they might to look at it, they could not seem to make out any details. It seemed blurry, almost formless, and the harder they tried to get a good glimpse of the thing, the more shapeless and vague it seemed to become.
It was as though the thing they were looking at (which they assumed was this so-called 'boggart') was without form, or else otherwise possessed of a such a form as was beyond their human ken. It seemed, to them, almost as though it were something of which they could perceive only the faintest shadow, like they were only glimpsing the smallest sliver of a vast and incomprehensible shape.
They felt almost like blind men trying to discern the form of an elephant with only the smallest amount of sensory input to go on. The more they tried to grasp its appearance, the more distant and complex it seemed to become, like they were looking at the smallest, most insignificant tendril of some inconceivably great and terrible fractal abomination from beyond the bounds of sanity and reality.
But then the shadow sprang up at Karui, and suddenly it was something much more comprehensible: a giant snake, easily thrice as long as the redhead was tall, and with a considerably greater girth, too. The serpent opened its maw, baring rows upon rows of unnaturally long and sharp fangs dripping with a foul, acrid venom.
Unfortunately for the boggart, it had no experience with shinobi. While most people – particularly civilians, as most of these wizards basically were – would, when confronted with the sensation of primal, mortal terror, default to the flight half of the fight or flight instinct, shinobi – and really most kinds of soldiers – had a very strong fight response.
The dark-skinned kunoichi, letting out a rather undignified screech, frantically grasped the hilt of her katana and swung with the full force of her not-inconsiderable strength.
The not!serpent let out a ghastly, inhuman shriek, a wide gash appearing down its front, but it did not bleed. Rather, from the wound seemed to burst black, smoke-like tendrils which curled in upon themselves, wrapping back around the form of the not!serpent until it was completely covered in a dense, black veil.
Karui swung her sword again, but this time the edge passed through the living shadow as though it were smoke, leaving behind no sign of the lethal trail it had taken straight through the middle of the formless thing.
Instead of being dismayed by this, however, Karui simply laughed victoriously, gleefully crowing "Coward! Weakling!" in her native language.
The wispy mass of unlight appeared to somehow diminsh, and the shapeless mass recoiled from the warlike (one-quarter) Uzumaki, turning and springing upon Omoi.
It split and scattered into thousands of insects, showering the white-haired shinobi in a chitinous, buzzing spray of bugs.
Omoi, naturally, freaked out. He babbled incoherently as his mind began racing, going from worst case scenario to worst case scenario as blind panic overtook him. A string of terrified, increasingly outlandish and pessimistic scenarios ran through his head, his mind moving in great, frequent leaps and bounds of abject illogic that would reduce any self-respecting scientist or philosopher to tears.
The boggart, as a result, found its shifting quite suddenly and repeatedly as it unconsciously responded to the young man's swiftly changing fears. It changed shapes at least a dozen times in scarcely twelve seconds, and ultimately it was forced to turn its attention away from the young man, daunted and exhausted.
It whirled around, sluggishly now, and advanced toward Samui.
Its shape changed to that of a deathly pale young woman with long, lank black hair. It was dressed in a pure white kimono, the front folded left-over-right in a manner reserved for the dead or sure-to-die. Its eyes were black as coal, seeming voids of darkness which sank deep into its face.
"KYAAAAAA!" shrieked Samui, her voice sounding uncharacteristically high-pitched and girlish.
The usually one-hundred percent serious and profession kunoichi immediately hid herself behind the considerable bulk of her sensei, behaving more like a frightened little child than a professional killer.
Karui, of course, laughed hysterically at this display, and even Omoi could not hold back a chuckle.
The boggart blanched, scalded by the sound of mirth, even that as was at another's expense, and it turned its attention on the only one of the foreigners that it had not yet attempted to scare.
Focusing all of its strength on the large, imposing man, the boggart probed the mind of Killer Bee for his deepest fears and insecurities.
Instead, it found Gyūki.
Faced with the presence of a bijū – and the second greatest of the nine in terms of raw power, at that – the boggart did what any entity with even the slightest shred of sense would have done.
It got the hell out of dodge.
Even if that meant bowling a hole straight through the ceiling and up into the night sky.
Incidentally, that was the last time anyone ever let the four kumo-nin help out with a boggart.
TTFN and R&R!
"henshin" - different or altered body (i think?), transformation
"ka" - a particle denoting a question or interrogative
"ie" - no
"ja nai" - "[x] is not"
"-tan" - a VERY cutesy, childish honorific; an infantile corruption of "-chan", which is itself already a childish corruption of "-san"
"narakumi no jutsu" - hell-viewing technique, a genjutsu that shows people their worst fear (at least that SEEMS to be how it works...)