Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter or Naruto.


General Warnings: OOC!Harry, Master of Death!Harry, Powerful!Harry, language, violence, gen.


Author's Notes: I have no idea how three-quarters of this chapter came to be. When I first started, Sai certainly wasn't supposed to end up where is, at least not so soon, but it somehow turned out like this.

Most wouldn't start out expecting Hiei to have a kekkei genkai since most of those have only one ability or a few related abilities. Hiei isn't even trained as a nin and the things he can do vary widely.

As for Hiei admitting he has magic so freely – one, he can't die; two, he hasn't yet come across anything that can keep him caged and probably won't so he doesn't have to worry about being captured; and three, this Harry came directly from his original world but he is still quite a bit older than normal people. He's seen quite a lot and he's been through two wars and knows how to fight very well. He doesn't know everything about jutsus but at this point, he knows enough to not be worried about what ninjas can do to him.


Chapter 3

-Half and half doesn't always make a whole, especially when one pushes and the other pushes back. If neither gives, who will come out the victor?


"I'm home!"

Hiei didn't open his eyes. He wished Naruto wouldn't say that. This technically wasn't the kid's home. It wasn't even his home.

"Hey, what's this creepy Sasuke-clone doing here?"

With a sigh, Hiei blinked and rose to his feet this time. "Just leave him alone, Naruto. Emo-boy Number Two can't hear you anyway."

He entered the living room to find Naruto crouched in front of the frozen Root member, poking the boy's cheek with one finger. The black-haired shinobi could only move his eyes but they didn't show any emotion either.

"What's wrong with him?" Naruto queried, frowning.

"I put a few charms on him," Hiei explained shortly. "He can't hear anything we say and he can't move. It doesn't hurt him."

"But he's so..." The blond waved a hand in front of the boy's face. "Blank."

"It's what he's been trained to be," Hiei said tightly. The boy – he had no name; even Hiei had had a name (freak) all those decades ago when he had still been six and human and hadn't understood what he had done to make his relatives hate him so much – was watching him now, black eyes like lifeless marble as they focused on him.

"Someone trained him to be like this?" Naruto looked horrified, and Hiei supposed that for someone so open and emotional, being forced to become like this would be downright painful.

Hiei sighed again and motioned for Naruto to follow him back into the kitchen. "The boy can read lips. We'll talk about it in here."

"So... what is he doing here?" Naruto hopped up onto his usual spot on the counter, his legs swinging restlessly.

"Spying," Hiei said simply. "On me. For a man named Shimura Danzou."

Naruto's eyes blazed. "What?! But he has one of those ANBU masks! He should be working for Jiji, not some... other guy, and Jiji pulled the ANBU three days ago!"

Hiei shrugged. "The boy's under a different faction of ANBU, a supposedly disbanded one called Root. It obviously hasn't been though and it is currently headed by Shimura."

Naruto bristled indignantly. "We have to tell Jiji!"

"No," Hiei said firmly. "That's more trouble than it's worth. We've got no proof."

Naruto pointed in the direction of the living room. "There's proof right there!"

"He won't talk," Hiei said flatly. "There's a seal on his tongue that prevents him from revealing anything and betraying Shimura, even if he wants to, which he doesn't."

"But-! But-!" Naruto spluttered, grasping for words. "That Danzou guy is working against Jiji! He has to be stopped!"

"Neither of us has the full picture," Hiei countered. "All I know is that Root is still very much active and Shimura's an ambitious, paranoid bastard."

"But he told you this much!" Naruto protested.

Hiei barked out a sardonic laugh. "You think he told me? Did you already forget about the seal? He told me nothing; I read his mind."

Naruto stared dumbly at him. "Oh. ...You can do that?"

Hiei inclined his head. "Yes, though honestly, I don't even know why I've told you this much."

Naruto straightened. "I won't say anything, Hiei-nii, not even to Jiji. You know I can keep secrets."

Hiei nodded. He did know. But he couldn't have the Root boy here for any length of time without letting Naruto in on why. The brat's curiosity knew no bounds.

What he didn't know was why the blond was so damn willing to go along with everything he said. "You won't tell Monkey Boss just because I don't want you to?"

Naruto snickered at the nickname but sobered quickly. He was quiet for a long moment. "...I know that Jiji cares about me, he always has, but... he doesn't care about me like you do."

Hiei's eyebrows had risen steadily with every word Naruto uttered but the boy wasn't finished.

"I've known you for less than a year," The blond continued in a mumble, his gaze locked somewhere between Hiei and the far wall on the right. "And I know I'm not the easiest to be around, but you always let me into your house-"

"That's debatable," Hiei muttered under his breath.

"-and you come shopping with me," Naruto persisted. "And you help me train and study and you cook for me and you bought me new clothes and weapons and you gave me a room and you met Iruka-sensei and you came and met my team even though you didn't want to-!"

The blond finally ran out of breath and Hiei took this opportunity to cut in. "I insulted you a lot too. And I swear a lot. I'm not the best influence on anyone."

"That doesn't matter!" Naruto insisted stubbornly. "We both know that's just a cover!"

"Oh really?" Hiei snorted. "Trust me; the swearing is second nature to me. I used to have a lot to swear about."

"Not that," Naruto waved a dismissive hand. "I mean that you're really kind but you try to hide it."

Hiei frowned but said nothing. Personally, he didn't think he was kind. A kind person wouldn't try to kick a kid out of their house five times a week, would they?

"And you're honest with me," Naruto finished, and Hiei glanced up to see Naruto staring at him square in the eye, a determined glint amongst the cerulean. "No one's ever been one-hundred percent honest with me, not Iruka-sensei, and definitely not Jiji. You told me about- about the stupid fox inside me and you're telling me about Root now. You- You trust me with those secrets."

Hiei shifted uncomfortably at the borderline wonder in the boy's eyes. "I only told you because the first secret is technically your secret, and the second because a knucklehead like you would never leave it alone if I didn't tell you why Emo-boy Two is sitting on the couch."

Naruto crossed his arms and jutted out his chin. "Yeah, but you trust me not to tell. And you don't lie to me. If you don't wanna tell me something, you say so. You don't make something else up instead."

Hiei shrugged. "I just don't like lying if I can help it. And... orphans tend to be very good at keeping their mouth shut."

A contemplative silence ensued.

"Were you an orphan?" Naruto asked tentatively.

Hiei nodded, eyes distant as he recalled that fateful Halloween night. "Yes, my parents were killed when I was one."

Naruto didn't say he was sorry; they both knew sorry couldn't always fix things, this especially. But the blond slid off the counter and reached out to take Hiei's hand.

Hiei stared at the joined limbs and released a resigned sigh. "It was a very long time ago, Naruto. It hardly matters now."

"It'll always matter," Naruto said stoutly. "'Cause they were your parents and you loved them but they were taken from you. So it'll always matter."

Hiei eyed the twelve-year-old carefully. Occasionally, the brat could be surprisingly deep.

"Alright, that's enough sappy heart-to-heart bonding," Hiei grumbled, taking his hand back but ruffling Naruto's hair in silent thanks. The boy beamed at him before obligingly moving the subject back to the main topic.

"What are we gonna do with Sasuke-teme Two then? What's his name anyway?" Naruto peeked around the corner to get another glimpse of the Root ANBU.

"He doesn't have a name, and he doesn't know I've been into his mind; I didn't go deep enough for him to notice," Hiei absentmindedly ran a hand through his hair. "There's not much we can do with him, all things considered. I guess I'll send him back to the old war hawk."

"We're just gonna let him go?" Naruto exclaimed.

Hiei nodded. "It's not like I can keep him here forever. Might as well send him back before Shimura pulls a few strings and tries to get me arrested for abduction or something."

Naruto drooped. "I suppose. So we just keep quiet for now and let that guy go back and report everything that's happened to Danzou?"

Hiei nodded again, and then smirked slyly when an idea struck him. "Of course, I should probably pay my respects to Shimura Danzou while I'm at it."

Naruto blinked at him in bewilderment but Hiei was already heading back out to the living room. With a wave of his hand, he cancelled both spells. The Root agent was instantly on his feet, smoothly snatching up his mask and weapons pouch. His empty gaze never left Hiei.

Hiei gestured at the door. "You're free to leave but I'd appreciate it if you passed on a letter to whoever you're working for."

The shinobi's eyes narrowed ever-so-slightly but there was still no emotion in his features.

Hiei smiled back but he couldn't quite muster up any animosity or even annoyance.

A boy with not even a name to call his own.

A boy with a chest of suppressed but precious memories Hiei didn't dare try to break into.

A boy who liked to draw but didn't understand enough about like to do so besides using his skills as a ninja.

A boy whom Hiei couldn't bring himself to Obliviate because it was simply too cruel to wipe even a part of the memories of an already brainwashed child.

A boy whom Hiei actually wouldn't mind seeing again.

"Give me a minute," He said, moving to a drawer. "You can take it with you when you leave."

He paused for a second, glancing back at the blank-faced child who hadn't stopped watching him.

"And when I see you again," Hiei told him. "Maybe you'll be able to tell me your name."

{3}

"Danzou-sama."

Danzou frowned sternly at the Root shinobi in front of him. "You're late. Was there any difficulties during your shift?" He paused. "And why is your hand smoking?"

The boy straightened and extended his hand. It took a moment for Danzou to realize that it was a red-coloured envelope. It took another moment before he realized that said envelope was literally smoking.

"I was captured during my shift," The teen reported in a monotone. "The target executed a something similar to a teleportation jutsu and caught me off guard before placing something similar to a binding jutsu on me. I was then moved into his household and something similar to a privacy seal was activated so that I could not hear anything."

A heartbeat's silence passed. The envelope sent up more smoke.

"Uzumaki Naruto arrived twenty minutes later. They had a conversation that I was not privy to but the target soon returned and released me. I was then asked to pass this on to you and was assured that it would not hurt anyone if you opened it post-haste."

The Root ANBU fell silent, letter still extended, and, eyeing the item suspiciously, Danzou leaned forward and grasped it gingerly. He didn't bother trying to cancel whatever was placed on the letter. He knew it wouldn't work.

Weighing his options and considering all the reports he had received from his spies, Danzou only stalled for another few seconds before opening the thing. It looked like it was going to explode soon anyway.

A smooth, silky tenor filled the room, the commanding tone even more powerful as it echoed off the walls. It wasn't a shout but it rang in his ears nevertheless.

"MY GREETINGS TO WHOMEVER THIS MAY CONCERN. I HOPE THIS LETTER FINDS YOU IN THE WORST HEALTH POSSIBLE. I SHALL GET STRAIGHT TO THE BLOODY POINT. THE SPIES YOU HAVE SET UP AROUND MY HOUSE ARE FAST BECOMING A NUISANCE. I HIGHLY DOUBT YOU WISH FOR THEM TO PARADE NAKED THROUGH THE STREETS OF KONOHA SO KINDLY CEASE AND DESIST AT ONCE. AS THIS MAY BE UNCLEAR FOR THOSE WITH DOUBTFUL MENTAL CAPABILITIES, I SHALL TAKE THE TIME TO REPEAT MYSELF: KINDLY FUCK OFF AT ONCE. ACCEPT THIS AS YOUR FIRST AND FINAL WARNING. SHOULD I FIND ANYMORE STALKERS NEAR MYSELF OR MY PROPERTY IN THE DISTANT AND NOT-SO-DISTANT FUTURE, I WILL TAKE MY COMPLAINT DIRECTLY TO THE HOKAGE. HAVE A PLEASANT DAY.

The letter ended abruptly and silence fell with startling swiftness.

Danzou could only stare for a moment as the missive burst into flames and dissolved into a pile of ashes. He couldn't quite decide whether he should grind his teeth or snarl in outrage at the sheer gall of a mere civilian. No one talked to him like that, through a letter or otherwise. Then again, if this was a mere civilian, Danzou wouldn't be wasting time on this foul-mouthed youngster.

The last bit was no doubt a threat. It didn't seem as if this Hiei knew who he was. None of his Root could give him away. But the man was quick to grasp the fact that the Hokage would be less than pleased at hearing about the presence of Root surrounding his home.

It also meant that this man wasn't very knowledgeable about the inner-workings of Konoha. Root wasn't supposed to exist; while Hiruzen no doubt had his suspicions and he also knew that Danzou personally trained a handful of kids, no one on that passive monkey's side had actually seen a live Root agent before, at least not since Root had been officially disbanded. If Hiei had brought one in as hard proof, Hiruzen would have gotten a Yamanaka to look into the boy's mind at once, even if he would have had to rip the Root agent's mind apart in the process.

So either Hiei was ignorant or just plain soft. Possibly both if his interactions with the Jinchuuriki were anything to go by. Hiei had also talked to the Kyuubi vessel, but for the man to let his agent go, nothing of great importance should have been relayed.

"The other Root agents will be withdrawn," Danzou said at last, gaze flickering back to the shinobi in front of him. "Except you. The target did nothing to harm you?"

The Root agent shook his head. "I was not physically or mentally harmed in any way."

Danzou nodded in satisfaction as a plan came together in his mind. It seemed this Hiei had a soft spot for children, shinobi or no.

"Your new assignment will be to standby and observe," He ordered, mulling over what he knew. "Get into the target's good graces. Study his abilities, his habits. I will have you transferred properly into the Hokage's Genin ranks under the pretense that you need battle experience with a team. Get close to the Jinchuuriki first. Keep an eye on the Uchiha as well."

The Root agent nodded obediently. "I will be placed on a team?"

Danzou allowed a cold smile. As young as the boy was, he was sure he would be able to convince Hiruzen to accept. The old fool would either think that he could pull the Root agent away from Danzou's influence or hope that accepting might better their relationship in the long run by showing a measure of trust.

Danzou sneered at the mere thought.

"You'll take on the name 'Sai'," Danzou decided. "Be ready to start your new tenure as a Konoha Genin in a week's time."

The newly-dubbed Sai bowed once more before leaving, and Danzou set to work on weaving a believable lie for the esteemed Hokage. He also made a mental note to tell Sai to ask about the red letters sometime. It might be good therapy to send one to Hiruzen now and then.

{3}

"Eeehhh?! We're getting a new teammate? How does that work? We're supposed to be a four-man team!"

Kakashi eye-smiled at his blond student and hummed in confirmation. "That's right. The Hokage decided to place another shinobi onto the team. It's a temporary transfer though, at least for now. He was technically under someone else's jurisdiction and is in fact already a Chuunin, but, apparently, he needs to learn how to play nice with others on the field so the Hokage agreed to send him over to us. He should be here soon."

Kakashi flipped a page of his Icha Icha, casually taking in the disinterested glower on Sasuke's face and the rambling assurances that Sasuke would still be the best of their team from Sakura. Come to think of it, Sasuke's expression could be because of the pink-haired Genin.

Naruto on the other hand had struck a classic thinking pose and an odd frown had made its way onto his face.

"Something wrong, Naruto?" Kakashi asked mildly from over his book.

Naruto scratched his head and shrugged. "No, not really. What do you mean 'under someone else's jurisdiction'?"

Kakashi had thought Sasuke would be the one to question that but it looked like Naruto was faster on the ball today. Then again, Naruto had been surprisingly more adept recently; not like what Kakashi had been expecting before taking on this team. Not too much anyway; there were still bouts of idiocy at times.

"The Hokage has an agreement with one of the elders to allow him to train some shinobi himself," Kakashi explained. "Not too many but most of them grow up to become part of the elders' security detail, as well as handle some under-the-table assassination jobs."

Sasuke grunted, per usual, and Sakura started a rant on how there was no way even a specially-selected kid could be better than Sasuke, also per usual. Kakashi was more interested in the uncharacteristically pensive expression on Naruto's face.

An unfamiliar chakra signature approaching from his left alerted Kakashi of their new member but he gave no indication that he knew of the pending arrival. Naruto on the other hand probably attracted the attention of everyone within a mile radius.

"YOU!" Naruto pointed wildly at the black-haired Chuunin who bore a startling resemblance to the last Uchiha. "What- I thought-"

"Naruto, do you know this guy?" Sakura demanded, crossing her arms. Sasuke stayed silent but glanced between the two, his eyes narrowed with dislike already. Kakashi had a feeling that the boy didn't particularly like the physical similarities he shared with the newcomer.

Naruto visibly deflated and mumbled something unintelligible before grimacing at the new boy. "Sasuke-clone, introduce yourself."

Sasuke looked mortally offended and Kakashi had to hide a snort. Sakura puffed up in indignation but their newest teammate spoke before she could get another word in.

"I'm Sai," Kakashi didn't think he had ever seen a faker smile. "I look forward to working with all of you."

There was an awkward silence after that before Naruto stuck out a hand, face still scrunched in a mistrustful scowl. "I'm Uzumaki Naruto. Nice ta meet you," He grumbled, sounding anything but.

Sai accepted the proffered hand with another phony smile before turning to the rest of them.

Kakashi waved a hand. "I'm your new sensei, Hatake Kakashi. Your clone over there is Uchiha Sasuke and pinky is Haruno Sakura."

Sasuke shot him a blistering glare that Kakashi ignored and Sakura scowled at him before eyeing Sai haughtily.

"You're gonna have to work for your place here," She told him. "Don't think you're as good as Sasuke-kun just because you look like him. You're probably on Naruto's level if anything."

Sai smiled again. "I shall endeavour to get along with both Dickless and Sas-gay, Ugly."

Kakashi facepalmed as Sakura shrieked at the insult and spots of red appeared on Sasuke's cheeks. Naruto's jaw had dropped but it didn't take a genius to realize that the blond was gearing up for a shouting match.

It was going to be a long day.

{3}

Five hours of childish bickering, abysmal teamwork, and all the insults a bunch of brats could possibly think of under the blazing afternoon sun and Kakashi was ready to march to the Hokage and demand a different team. Or better yet, no team at all.

Pinching the bridge of his nose as Sakura screamed and tripped backwards when Sai held up a frog in her face, he glanced over at Naruto who had, shockingly, remained the most well-behaved of the lot all day. Even Sasuke had started a fight with Sai after the Chuunin had made one too many mentions of the Uchiha's sexual orientation.

And the worst thing was that Sai honestly seemed to be under the impression that the nicknames he had given his three new teammates should be perfectly acceptable.

With a sigh, he focused on Naruto again. The boy had responded to some of Sai's Dickless comments but he had also kept the Chuunin in his sights at all time, much like one would when interacting with an enemy.

There was no doubt in his mind that Naruto knew Sai, had met him before, but Kakashi wasn't sure how much the blond knew. Did the boy know about Sai being under Danzou? Why would Naruto have met Sai in the first place?

He had enquired about it a few times at the beginning of practice but Naruto had denied really knowing Sai, claiming that he had thought he had seen someone like Sai somewhere around the village.

If that wasn't a bullshit answer, Kakashi didn't know what was.

He heaved another sigh and then stilled when the object of many of the ninja ranks' attention rounded the corner. His team was currently repainting the fence of their client's house – while flicking paint at each other and pretending they weren't – and Hiei was heading their way.

As if feeling his gaze, the man glanced up to the roof where Kakashi was sitting and stared straight at him before looking away again. Kakashi felt like he had just been dismissed. It was a more irritating feeling than he would've expected.

"Hiei-nii!"

A yellow and orange blur shot away from the fence, but to Kakashi's surprise, Hiei sidestepped the hug that Naruto would have tackled him with. Naruto seemed to expect this because he immediately wheeled around and leapt onto the foreigner's back instead.

The man glared at the grinning blond but Kakashi had seen the way Hiei had glanced back at Naruto. He had had plenty of time to move out of the way if he had really wanted to.

"Oh! Hiei-san! Punctual as usual."

Kakashi looked down at the porch where their client had stepped out. Takahashi Chie was an elderly woman who had greeted them earlier when they had first arrived. Kakashi had been surprised that she knew Naruto well enough to greet the blond with a hug that his student had returned enthusiastically. Apparently, Takahashi also knew Hiei, which would actually explain how she knew Naruto and treated him without prejudice to boot.

Hiei nodded politely up at her even as he reached back with one hand and plucked the koala-like Naruto from his back. "Afternoon, Chie-san. I hope this brat here hasn't been giving you too much trouble." He looked pointedly at the stray dots of paint splattered all over the front lawn.

Kakashi sweatdropped as Naruto dangled limply in the air with a pout on his face. Takahashi only waved a hand and favoured the two of them with a warm smile.

"Oh, boys will be boys, and he did look like he was having fun with his teammates," The woman said. "And it's just a bit of paint."

"Nevertheless, the lawn will look like it should before the day is out, yes?" This last bit was directed at Naruto who hastily nodded, scratching one cheek sheepishly.

"And I'm sure your teammates will help clean up the mess," Hiei added, and Kakashi leaned forward intently, studying the second Hiei laid eyes on Sai.

Nothing. Not a flicker of recognition from either of them. Did that mean they truly didn't know each other and it was just Naruto, or were they both just really good actors?

Disappointed without really knowing why, he settled back again, watching Sakura flush red with embarrassment and Sasuke scowl off to the side. Sai kept his smile and nodded agreeably.

"Oh, Hiei-nii..." Naruto trailed off, hesitating as he glanced at Sai before peering up at Hiei.

Kakashi couldn't tell what was being conveyed between them but whatever it was prompted Naruto into bounding back over to the fence and resuming work once more.

Hiei continued forward as Takahashi waved him inside the house. Kakashi managed to overhear enough to realize that the foreigner was here to fix the woman's coffee table.

Kakashi sighed a third time and turned back to his book. He had probably heard every compliment under the sun about Hiei from Naruto and he too had seen the Return of the ANBU each time one of Hiei's pranks had struck again but the man was still very much an enigma. He didn't even seem all that interested in socializing with his surrogate younger brother's team so it wasn't as if Kakashi could get around to pumping Hiei for personal information without being subjected to cruel and humiliating torture himself. From what Naruto had said though, Iruka had managed to score an invite into the man's home, if only because Naruto had dragged him there.

Kakashi usually wasn't one to concern himself with anything outside of missions, the safety of Konoha, his Icha Icha, and his trips to the Memorial Stone, but Naruto – his sensei's son – talked about Hiei as if he was the best thing since sliced bread. The blond certainly considered the foreigner to be his older brother in all but blood, and while Kakashi had given up his right to have any say in who Naruto could or couldn't associate with twelve years ago when he had turned down the Hokage's request for him to care for the boy – he had been so damn young at fourteen and his sensei had just died; taking on a child, Minato's child at that, had terrified him beyond words – at the very least, he wanted to know what kind of person had taken Naruto under his wing.

Maybe he should pay Iruka a visit sometime in the near future.

{3}

"Hey, you bastard, you're coming with me!" Naruto wasn't really one for subtlety and he was pretty sure his first two teammates and sensei already suspected something so what the heck.

He bared his teeth in a mockery of a smile as he grabbed Sai's wrist and began hauling him back towards Hiei's house.

"Naruto, what are you doing? Being all friendly with another loser isn't going to make you any better, you know."

For once, Naruto wished Sakura would just shut up and go harass Sasuke without wasting his time but he strived for a cheerful tone of voice as he called back, "I'm gonna make our new teammate feel welcome and all by taking him to eat ramen with me. Wanna come?"

He didn't need to look to know that Sakura had a disgusted look on her face. "Of course not! Sasuke-kun and I will eat something healthier, ne Sasuke-kun?"

Naruto snorted under his breath. "In your dreams, Sakura-chan."

He waved a goodbye in the general direction of his team before half-dragging, half-leading Sai down another street. "Come on, bastard, you've got a lot of explaining to do."

He growled at the fake smile Sai sent back at him but faltered when his new teammate told him, "Dickless, I would suggest losing your sensei first. After all, I don't think you want him to know where you're bringing me."

Naruto concentrated and then swore when he managed to sense Kakashi somewhere behind him. "Fine," He muttered. "Guess we really will go to Ichiraku's first."

{3}

"You have a place to stay then, Emo-boy Two?" Hiei enquired as he stared down at the black-haired Root agent standing beside Naruto. "I don't want you coming and going from my place like Naruto. It's hard enough putting up with one brat."

Sai smiled and nodded cordially. Hiei's eyebrow ticked up. He knew that smile. He had seen it on his own face sometimes over the course of his life.

"I don't care how you act out there," Hiei waved a hand in the general vicinity of the door. "But when you're in this house, drop the fucking smile. It's irritating."

Said smile faded a little but not fully. "I read in a book that one smiles when they are happy."

Hiei crossed his arms. "And are you happy right now?"

The smile widened again. "I should feel happy when I am in the presence of my teammate."

Hiei snorted as Naruto openly goggled at the boy. "I don't care about what you should or shouldn't feel. I only care about what you do feel."

He sighed and shook his head at the empty eyes. The coffee maker beeped and he turned to collect his drink. By the time he turned back, the smile had dropped and the blank expression from the first time Hiei had manhandled Sai into his house was back.

"I do not know what I feel," Sai said placidly.

Naruto frowned and opened his mouth but Hiei reached over and bopped the blond on the head to stop him from saying something without tact.

It was strange, really, but the moment Hiei had realized just how fucked up this boy was, he had felt a sense of protectiveness for Sai that had seemed almost obligatory at the time. It was aggravating and bothersome but not worth the trouble of booting the boy out of his house. He knew perfectly well that Sai was here to spy on him, that Shimura had placed him on Naruto's team to keep an eye on the Uchiha, the Jinchuuriki and himself. Sai would only prove even more troublesome if Hiei tried to chase him away at every turn.

"Then find out," Hiei all but ordered. "In the meantime..."

He narrowed his eyes at Naruto who suddenly looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. "You can help Naruto here do his damn laundry. His clothes are piling up in the basket."

Naruto grinned sheepishly before grabbing Sai's arm and dragging him off. "You got it, Hiei-nii. C'mon bastard, you won't be able to come around all the time if you don't pull your own weight."

Hiei watched them go as he took a sip of coffee. Naruto would be good for Sai. And so long as Sai was only here to observe and not do anything stupidly drastic or drastically stupid, he supposed he would allow the newest Team Seven member free entry, at least for now.

{3}

"You met Hiei-kun a few weeks back, Shikaku. What did you think of him?"

Shikaku blinked before replying cautiously, "Hokage-sama, I only exchanged a few words with him shortly before you called him into your office."

Sarutobi waved a dismissive hand. "And what was your impression of him? Honest? Secretive? Someone with a hidden agenda?"

Shikaku sighed inwardly but recalled the impromptu meeting as he had several dozen times already in the past few weeks.

"He's strong," Shikaku offered, remembering the unflinching glint of steel in the foreigner's eyes. "I don't even need to see him fight to tell that much. He'd be a difficult opponent and a devastating enemy, physically and mentally. But he doesn't seem the type to kill needlessly either."

Sarutobi nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, I thought the same. He told me he prized loyalty quite highly."

Shikaku nodded. That trait seemed to fit with the general air Hiei had about him.

"I think he has his fair share of secrets," He continued. "No one with his abilities wouldn't. But most of all, he feels..."

Shikaku hesitated, trailing off.

Sarutobi arched an eyebrow. "He feels?"

Shikaku frowned. "He feels tired," He admitted almost reluctantly. "It's just a vibe I get from him. He doesn't show it at all in his mannerisms or the way he talks but there's just something about him..."

He released another sigh as he surmised, "When I look at him, I feel like I'm looking at a war veteran."

A heavy silence ensued. Shikaku waited patiently as the Hokage mulled over his words.

"I want you to find out more," Sarutobi said at last. "Keep an eye on him."

Shikaku mentally grimaced. How troublesome. "With all due respect, Hokage-sama," He said out loud. "I've seen the state of every single ANBU you sent to spy on Hiei. If you ordered it of me, of course, I'll do what I can, but I'd like to make it clear that I have no desire to walk back through the village dyed pink and sporting animal ears. I would probably be laughed out of my compound."

Sarutobi's mouth twitched and his eyes gleamed with amusement. Shikaku was very careful to keep his scowl off his face. Fortunately, the Hokage was kind enough not to comment.

"Hiei-kun offers help in return for money or a trade of some sort," The man reminded instead. "Surely you can think of something for him to do."

Shikaku staved off a third sigh. "He won't fall for it."

"No," Sarutobi agreed. "But I'd still like someone interacting with him more regularly and he would probably be more open to the idea of doing something for you instead of me."

Shikaku frowned. "Why not Kakashi? Hiei takes care of Naruto-kun. It would be more natural for him to find an excuse to at least hold a conversation with Hiei. Or even that Chuunin sensei, Umino Iruka. I heard he's been invited to Hiei's house already, hasn't he?"

Sarutobi nodded. "Yes, but Iruka already approves of Hiei-kun and I would rather have a Jounin keep an eye on him. And can you imagine what would happen if Kakashi tries to talk his way into Hiei-kun's good graces?"

They both winced. Shikaku had visions of porn being waved in Hiei's face and Kakashi coming out of the encounter with no hair, a dog's tail, and woofing on every syllable.

"Alright," Shikaku acquiesced grudgingly. "I'll see if anyone in my clan can come up with a job for him to do. Money will work as payment, right?"

"Yes, I believe so," Sarutobi said briskly. "He usually trades with the civilians but he'll accept money as well. I expect a report by the end of the week on your progress."

Recognizing the dismissal, Shikaku bowed curtly and Shunshined away out the window.

What kind of jobs could his clan come up with? Would Hiei even be interested?

As he headed back to his compound, he fervently hoped he wouldn't be coming out of this with an embarrassing experience under his belt. It would just be far too troublesome.

{3}

After an hour and a half, Hiei wondered just how long Nara Shikaku was going to linger outside his wards. The man hadn't strayed onto his property once; simply taking a seat on a bench he had brought with him and was currently taking a nap.

With a sigh, he rose to his feet and headed for the door. The man was obviously not a spy but he had no doubt that the Hokage had had a hand in the Nara's presence.

And he still hadn't found out whether or not said Nara was the Nara Clan Head. In all honesty, he hadn't expected to bump into the man anymore.

Shikaku must have sensed him coming since his footsteps were silent and the Nara was already sitting up by the time Hiei reached him.

"You could've come up to the door," Hiei started without fanfare as he stopped a few feet in front of Shikaku.

"And turn myself into a walking embarrassment?" Shikaku got to his feet and stretched languidly. "No thanks."

Hiei's mouth quirked up. Ah, he'd forgotten that this one was one of the few ninjas who didn't immediately get on his nerves.

"What do you want then, Nara?" Hiei didn't waste any time getting to the point. Shikaku looked oddly at him as if Hiei had said something strange but the man didn't stall.

"Mm, how should I put this?" Shikaku scratched his head and offered a half-smile. "My son accidentally broke one of our bookcases this morning. I heard you fix that sort of thing. Mind coming to take a look?"

Hiei stared hard at the Nara. Out of respect for privacy, he always refrained from even skimming surface thoughts and emotions unless he was facing a potential enemy or he needed to read someone but he didn't need Legilimency to know what Shikaku was getting at here.

"Are you sure it wasn't you who broke it?" Hiei enquired rhetorically.

Shikaku nodded, straight-faced. "Quite sure. Shikamaru was leaning on it and the whole thing just collapsed."

Hiei favoured him with the skeptical disgust this deserved but dropped the issue. "The Hokage's this desperate, huh? And here I just wanted to live a peaceful life."

"Oh?" Shikaku peered at him, posture relaxed, eyes calculating – an amalgam of contradictions. "Is that why you came to Konoha? We are technically the most peaceful out of all the villages."

"Also the craziest," Hiei informed him flatly. "And you people aren't nearly as peaceful as you think you are."

Shikaku's gaze sharpened but Hiei was already turning away. "I suppose you aren't going to go away until I agree. Be glad I'm not doing anything at the moment. Let me lock up first."

Two minutes later, they were heading back across town.

"Did you say your son is Shikamaru?" Hiei enquired after several polite nods towards various citizens waving at him.

Shikaku, who had been observing all this with an air of amusement, now peered curiously at him. "Yes. You know him?"

"Naruto knows him," Hiei corrected curtly. "He talks about the friends he hung out with at the Academy sometimes. Shikamaru, Chouji, and... Kiba, I believe."

Shikaku nodded wryly. "Yes, those four usually skipped together."

Hiei grunted noncommittally as they rounded another corner and the Nara Compound came into sight. There were two guards at the gates, and both bowed to Shikaku as they approached, movements lethargic but respectful.

"So you are the Clan Head," Hiei remarked. The guards shot him startled looks but Shikaku glanced over at him with a grin.

"I thought you might not know," The Clan Head chuckled as they stepped into the compound. "I don't think anyone besides my enemies have ever called me Nara without even a suffix tacked on."

Hiei shrugged, unconcerned. "I haven't looked up the clans in Konoha yet. ...My apologies."

Shikaku waved a hand. "It's refreshing actually. Just call me Shikaku from now on though. You say 'Nara' in here and everyone within earshot will ask you what you want."

HIei snorted. "What? Not 'Nara-sama'?"

Shikaku half-turned, eyebrows raised. "Would you call me that if I asked you to?"

"No," Hiei denied bluntly.

Shikaku nodded. "Thought as much. It doesn't matter. Fighting with you over something so trivial is too troublesome."

Hiei arched an eyebrow but said nothing more. He toed off his shoes as they entered what looked like the main house and followed his host into the sitting room. In the far corner sat a bookshelf, or what remained of a bookshelf since the entire thing looked like someone had pulled its support out and it had ended up collapsing in on itself.

"You could've at least done a better job at making the break look natural," Hiei said sardonically as he crouched down in front of the pile of wood.

"I figured you could tell either way so I didn't bother," Shikaku admitted easily, sitting down on the couch.

Hiei scoffed but focused on the task at hand instead. A wave of his hand and the pieces of wood started mending themselves, the cracks disappearing as they joined together again.

Tilting his head, he recalled the Nara insignia on the front gates and thoughtfully added that design to the side of the shelf. Lastly, he threw in a simple depiction of a deer in mid-leap, its shadow soaring below it as a moon shone overhead.

"There, that should do it," Hiei said, rising to his feet again. He paused when he found Shikaku standing behind him, staring at the cracks that quickly disappeared and the bookcase that stood firmly in place once again.

"Magic, huh?" Shikaku studied him with something that wasn't quite amazement. "Well, at the very least, it isn't a jutsu."

Hiei snorted. "Jutsus. Wouldn't know how to kick-start one of those if my life depended on it."

Shikaku shrugged, motioning for him to follow as he led the way to what looked like the kitchen. "You could learn."

"At my age?" Hiei countered doubtfully. "I thought there was a reason ninjas start young."

Shikaku inclined his head as he retrieved two cups and a bottle of sake. "True. You'll probably never develop your chakra coils enough to execute a high-level jutsu but some of the basic ones aren't out of your reach."

Hiei accepted the drink with a nod of thanks. "I'll stick with what I know. I don't want to give the esteemed Hokage a heart attack by learning jutsus as well."

Shikaku's mouth twitched but he said nothing as they shared the sake in companionable silence.

It didn't last long. A muffled crying soon reached their ears, and when the front door opened, the wailing doubled in volume.

Hiei tried to hide his grimace. "You've got another kid around here?"

Shikaku sighed and got to his feet even as he shook his head. "I've only got the one. That must be Shizuka-chan again. My wife's been babysitting her for one of the other clan members who's been sick a lot lately."

"'Shizuka'," Hiei deadpanned. "Quiet summer? Seriously?"

Shikaku pinched the bridge of his nose. "Don't ask me. I didn't name the girl."

"Shikaku?" A female voice called out over the wordless cries.

"In here, Yoshino," The Clan Head called back, and a woman with long black hair and a flustered air about her appeared in the kitchen doorway, a baby wrapped in a warm-looking dark green blanket in her arms.

Hiei slowly rose to his feet, nodding politely at the woman when she looked over at him.

"This is Hiei," Shikaku quickly introduced. "He fixed our shelf a moment ago. Hiei, this is my wife, Yoshino."

"Pleasure, I'm sure," Hiei greeted smoothly, managing a stiff smile in the face of the loud wails piercing his ears.

Yoshino smiled back kindly even as she rocked the baby. "Welcome. I'm so sorry for this. Shizuka-chan is usually very quiet but when she starts crying, she just goes on for ages."

Sounds like Rose, Hiei thought with a trace of nostalgia shrouded in sorrow. The brat had quite a pair of lungs when she got going.

"Oh, maybe she's hungry?" Yoshino shared an anxious look with her husband. "Shikamaru was never like this."

"That's because he takes after his old man," Shikaku grumbled even as he started hunting for a bottle. "This one's just troublesome."

"Shikaku, don't be rude," Yoshino admonished.

"It's not like she can understand me," The man muttered. "Now where's the baby formula stuff you keep around here?"

"You are hopeless," Yoshino sighed, still struggling to calm the baby down. "It's in the left shelf- no, not that one, the other one!"

"Which other one? There're half a dozen other ones!"

Hiei heaved a sigh and wondered if he could see himself out without being rude. Then again, he was never all that concerned about manners nowadays so he could probably walk out right now and not look back, but...

Damn, the kid was loud. She was crying too.

"D'you want me to hold her while you fix her a bottle?" Hiei finally cut in gruffly.

Both Shikaku and Yoshino stopped arguing and only the baby continued making sound as they glanced at him in surprise.

Yoshino looked hesitant, not that Hiei could blame her. "Do you have experience with children?"

Hiei had to swallow a bitter smile. Dozens of godsons, goddaughters, surrogate nieces and nephews, and their children to boot – he was fairly certain he had more than enough experience.

"Yes," Hiei thought of the first child he had ever called his own. "I had a hand in raising my godson a while back."

Something relaxed in Yoshino's features and after Shizuka started crying even louder, she held the child out to Hiei. "Thank you. Maybe take him to the sitting room? I'll whip up a bottle in no time."

Carefully cradling the child, Hiei nodded once and headed back to the sitting room, gently rocking the girl as she continued bawling.

"Shizuka, was it?" He murmured as he stopped by one of the windows, the warm sunlight washing over both of them. He studied the baby for a moment. She had a Nara's dark brown hair, though the strands were soft and new, and he caught a glimpse of silvery-grey eyes. "You're not very quiet at the moment. Mind telling me what's wrong?"

A baby's mind was never as fixed and ordered as an adult's or even a child's. They tended to show flutters of images instead and they mostly conveyed their thoughts in bursts of emotions. It didn't even require looking into their eyes to get a sense of what they were feeling.

"Worried about your mother then? Can't say I can relate, but no one wants to be separated from their mum." He mused, absently conjuring blue and green sparks around the baby to distract her. Shizuka's cries diminished as she caught sight of the lights, hiccupping now and then as she sniffled.

"Pretty, aren't they?" Hiei couldn't help a soft smile from surfacing as a wave of wonder emanating from the girl washed over him. Tears still gathered at the corner of her eyes, one of her hands reached out and grasped at the sparks, which exploded in a shower of rainbow colours in her fist.

Conjuring a handkerchief, Hiei tenderly wiped away the tears. Stubbornly, Shizuka grabbed the handkerchief and wouldn't let go when Hiei made to withdraw the cloth.

With a huff of amusement, Hiei let her have it. "Rather used to getting your way, aren't you? You're going to be a right princess when you grow up."

Shizuka gurgled at him and grasped at a lock of his hair with her free hand. When Hiei held her out of reach, her grey eyes flashed and a pout formed on her face. She almost looked to be ready to burst into tears again.

Hiei sighed and dismissed the sparkles hanging in the air around them. "No more crying, princess. My hair is not for playing."

The pout became more pronounced as if she understood him and didn't agree at all, so Hiei began rocking her again, thinking back to all the times Rose or Victoire or even Teddy had pitched a tantrum all night long and they had been handed over to Hiei to babysit because their parents – or grandmother in Teddy's case – needed some sleep.

"How about a song?" Hiei suggested. "I'm not the best singer in the world but I can hold a tune at least."

He dredged up a memory of the first lullaby he could think of and sang, keeping his voice soft.

"Golden slumbers fill your eyes,
Smiles await you when you rise.
Sleep, pretty baby,
Do not cry,
And I will sing you a lullaby.

"Cares you know not,
Therefore sleep,
While over you a watch I'll keep.
Sleep, pretty darling,
Do not cry,
And I will sing you a lullaby."

Shizuka had fallen silent now, grey eyes drowsy even as she released the handkerchief and clutched at his shirt instead. She immediately began to stir again when Hiei stopped though so he quickly launched into another song, not quite a lullaby this time but a song that had been sung by numerous children when their parents or older siblings left for battle during the Mundane-Magic war. A prayer of sorts. A song to wish them Godspeed and safety and that they were expected to come home.

"With you gone, I brush the desk,
As the shadow drops, I'm alone again today.

"Looking up at the sky, I pray,
Knowing you're under this same sky.

"At times when you're shaking with tears,
And times when you seem to be engulfed by the darkness.

"Don't forget...
You always have...
You always have a place to return to,
And people that are waiting for you."

The last note of the song didn't quite make it all the way out of his mouth as his throat closed and the pale shattered features of Romulus Lupin, Teddy's son, as he cried over his father's lifeless body flashed in his mind.

Hiei had forgotten. That was the last time he had ever heard that song being sung. Romy had choked out the words over his father when Teddy had been brought in while Hiei had stood nearby, heart cold as stone, eyes dry as the desert, and wishing in vain that there was some way to bring Teddy back.

"You have a nice voice," A male voice commented mildly from behind him and Hiei almost jumped and lashed out.

Instead, he ignored the sting in his eyes and cleared his throat before turning to face the couple in the doorway.

"Sorry, I got carried away," Hiei couldn't quite meet Shikaku's eyes as he felt the man assess him intently. "Here, she's asleep, so maybe give her the bottle later?"

He carefully handed Shizuka back to Yoshino who smiled at him warmly. "Thank you, Hiei-kun. You seem to be very good with children. Your godson must be very lucky."

Hiei froze for a fraction of a second, feeling like he had been slapped, but he recovered without a hitch and smiled back at the woman. Yoshino had missed the falter but Shikaku hadn't. The Nara's gaze was all but burning into Hiei's head.

"I should be going then," Hiei managed another brittle smile – why the fuck was he trying to smile so much today? – before turning on his heel and heading for the door. He'd been polite enough for one day.

He took off at a brisk pace in the direction of the front gates but before he could speed past the guards, Shikaku Shunshined to his side, tossing him a small pouch.

"Your pay," Shikaku said by way of explanation. "For the shelf."

Hiei nodded stoically, tucking it away. He had to leave, now. Coming here was a mistake. He could handle snotty teenagers any day but babies were-

Another memory flashed through his mind, piles of tiny broken limbs and crushed skulls, infants who would never grow up, children who would never get the chance to see a world without war-

"Hiei."

Hiei blinked and he suddenly found Shikaku standing in front of him again, the man's hand cupping his elbow as he swayed unsteadily on the spot.

Shikaku shook him a little, narrowed grey eyes staring back at Hiei, concern darkening the colour even further. "Are you alright?"

Hiei nodded, taking a deep breath and pulling himself together, not-so-stealthily moving his elbow away from Shikaku's firm grip.

Fuck, he hadn't had a mental breakdown for over a year now, not since he had come to Konoha.

Alcohol. He needed alcohol.

"I should go," Hiei said abruptly and turned for the gates again. He didn't think he could describe the gratitude he felt when Shikaku let him go without pressing him for answers.

{3}

"Fuck off, Naruto," While Hiei didn't mind his crude language around kids, he did at least try to curb some of it. Not anymore. Not right now.

Naruto gaped at him and Hiei almost felt bad. "Hiei-nii-"

"I'm bloody serious," Hiei snapped roughly, rummaging in the one cupboard Hiei had charmed so that Naruto wouldn't be able to open it. "Go home. Go train. Whatever. Just get the hell outta my sight. I don't want you here right now."

But Naruto was nothing if not determined. "Hiei-nii, did something happen? What's wrong?"

Hiei opened his mouth to snarl something back at the boy and then forcefully closed it again as he pressed the heel of one palm to his forehead.

Stupid human, a snide voice in his head sneered. And not even that now. A dirty half-breed who dares to lock away a demon. How dare that lowly scum even speak to us? I am Death and you are my Master. Such a pathetic existence should be eradicated.

Shut up, Hiei snapped back at the voice he thought he had shut out long ago. Half the time, he wasn't even sure if it was real or not. Nobody asked you. Go back to where you usually skulk. Get out of my head.

A cruel laugh echoed in his mind. Ah, my Master – always so naive. I belong to you; where else would I go? You are a god, a higher being. Why deny it? Succumb to your calling. Why do you waste your time with these filthy beings when you could rise higher than they could ever dream of? Power over Death and you squander-

"Hiei-nii?"

A warm hand wrapped around his wrist and Hiei started, looking down into worried blue eyes.

"Hiei-nii, are you alright? Should I get you some water? Maybe a doctor? I can make that chicken noodle soup you made me when I had the flu."

Hiei closed his eyes and swallowed hard, shoving that voice away and throwing his Occlumency shields up to maximum. He drew in a breath through his nose before releasing it, and then opened his eyes again.

"Yeah," Hiei said hoarsely. "Yeah, I'm fine. Fucking hell, Naruto, when I tell you to leave, you're supposed to fucking leave."

Naruto shrugged unrepentantly, still holding on to Hiei. "I was worried. You were acting weird."

Hiei rolled his eyes and ran his free hand through his hair. "Alright, whatever. Let go; I'm fine now. And you stink, by the way. Did you just finish training?"

"Yeah," Naruto nodded. "I managed to ditch Sai today. He was being extra-bastard-like. Are you really okay?"

Hiei glanced at the alcohol cabinet before closing it. "Yeah, I'm fine. Go take a bath, and then you can tell me about your day."

Naruto peered shrewdly at him for a long moment before nodding and stepping back. "Okay. I'll be back soon."

Hiei watched him go before heaving another sigh. He'd been sighing a lot recently. And it didn't look like getting semi-drunk would be an option tonight.

{3}

"Inoichi?"

The blond in question glanced up, surprised. "Shikaku, isn't today your off-day? I thought wild horses wouldn't be able to drag you into work when you get a day off."

Shikaku scowled half-heartedly at his long-time friend. "It's troublesome, but I wanted to know if you were free this weekend."

Inoichi blinked, puzzled now. "There's not much going on at the moment. I have Sunday off. Why?"

Shikaku nodded distractedly. "Good. There's someone I want you to meet. And then I want you to give me your opinion of him afterwards."

Inoichi raised his eyebrows. This looked serious. "Who?"

"A friend I made recently. His name is Hiei."


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