Guess who! And early too! See my main page for my main message.
The last week of the Holiday break was worse than the previous ones for Naruto. Harry and the others were at least as cold towards him. The Order members had mostly left, either on missions or to their homes. Sirius Black became sullen again, and didn't have much interest in doing anything with Naruto.
The night before they left, Arthur Weasley came back, fully cured. Aside from an almost scuffle in the kitchen between Sirius, Snape, and Harry when everyone arrived, Arthur's celebration went smoothly. While the twins were joking around, they didn't dare pull a prank where Naruto could be hit by accident. Naruto saw that Harry wanted to talk to his godfather, so he switched seats with him, since Naruto was next to Sirius. While everyone was chatting, Naruto thought he saw a big locket in Mundungus' pocket, but didn't comment on it. For all Naruto knew, it was his legally.
The next morning, Tonks and Lupin ushered the students outside and onto a magical purple bus three stories tall. At first, Naruto was excited, since this would be his first time riding an automobile. When it shot off, he was having the time of his life. Of course, he used chakra to anchor himself to the wall, since the floor was a madhouse. But it was fun! On the plus side, Ron was, for the first time ever, able to sense his chakra and was currently attempting to imitate Naruto. However, without experience wielding and controlling it, he was flopping around like everyone else.
All too soon for Naruto, they arrived at Hogwarts. After a few hasty farewells from Lupin and Tonks, they returned to Naruto's home away from home-universe. As soon as they entered the castle, Harry and his friends went to their tower, not even glancing at Naruto.
Over the next week, Naruto tried to get back into contact with his friends. However, they point blank refused to acknowledge him. Even in classes, they'd take a whole table or fill tables before he could get to them. Whenever Naruto checked Harry's mirror fragment, it was always muffled inside a sock; not a pretty sight.
Then, a few days later, Harry approached Naruto in secret. "Now look what you've done!" He said, handing Naruto that day's paper.
Naruto looked at the cover; a mass breakout occurred in Azkaban, the magic prison. Curious, he started reading the names of those who escaped. "Are you saying I did this? Because I wasn't there either," he said quietly, skimming over Bellatrix Lestrange, a woman too similar to another he knew from his world.
"Not who escaped," Harry growled out, "but who they blame it on. Here!" Harry finger jabbed at the paragraph in question. With fancier words, they accused Sirius Black and a few rogue Dementors of breaking the ex-Death Eaters out of Azkaban. The Dementors were caught, but couldn't speak or give information. "You said this same thing the first day of Umbridge's class!" Harry quietly yelled at him.
"Harry, please think," Naruto begged. "Either they blame this on Voldemort and admit that they and the papers have been lying about you and Dumbledore, or they find another excuse. Sirius was the only other person who escaped, and a likely candidate for a cover-up. I do, however, apologize for adding the detail about Dementors. They likely got that part from me." However, Harry wouldn't listen to reason and left. That would be the longest time Naruto really saw Harry for many weeks.
The other Slytherins noticed their separation, and congratulated Naruto on it. Even Adrian noticed, and seemed a closer friend than ever before. With the watchful eyes of Slytherin turned away, Naruto realized he can more easily participate in the DA, but the door refused to open for him.
The news about Death Eater breakouts, however, caused a rift in the Slytherin ranks. Those related to Death Eaters were questioned, or even shunned. The few that opposed Voldemort and his ideals made their own band, and were usually harder on the Death Eater kids than the rest. To Naruto's relief, Adrian was in this group and not abusing the Death Eater kids.
Then, a week later, another thing stirred up the student's lives. It was Educational Decree Number 27, banning the Quibbler from the school. Even the Slytherins were curious why this was. To his surprise, Adrian figured out the reason before Naruto, and confronted him when they were completely alone. When he read the article, Naruto was secretly proud of Harry for making such a bold move, but feared how Adrian would react. Thankfully, Harry didn't bring up Naruto's name at all in the article. Probably because Harry didn't trust Naruto to confirm said article.
"So," Adrian began, "do you really believe this?"
"What do you think about it?" Naruto asked, still wary of where Adrian's loyalties lay.
"I don't know if I should believe it or not," he admitted. "Both versions of the truth are sketchy. But you are... were friends with Harry. Did Harry tell you if his version was true?"
"The article is telling the truth, as far as I know," Naruto began carefully.
"Thanks. I hoped it was true," Adrian said. "But I also feared it. Just think, You-Know-Who, returned. It's a scary thought. And Professor Umbridge, she refuses to teach us anything. If He comes here for Harry, into this very castle, we couldn't defend ourselves."
Here, seeing his friend's deepest fears, Naruto now knew he could be trusted. "Can you keep a secret?" Naruto asked him.
"Of course, anything!"
"Please be quiet until I finish. ... The article is wrong about one thing." That news shocked Adrian. "I was there too." Adrian looked like he wanted to say something, but Naruto barreled on. "Don't ask how, but I got to the graveyard by a weird accident. I helped fight off the Death Eaters and Voldemort. Harry directed me and Cedric's body to the Portkey, which took us back to Hogwarts." Adrian then realized the hole in the article's story. The article said His return happened during the Third Task, so how did Naruto return with him, in front of the whole student body, if he wasn't there? "So I can tell you that Voldemort is back.
"But not just Harry and his friends believe this. Remember those rumors about a plot between the other three houses?" Adrian nodded. "They were having a secret Defense Club, where they were learning to defend themselves."
Naruto stopped, letting his friend knew he was done. "Why are you telling me this?" Adrian asked.
"Because Harry no longer trusts me. Ask him why, if he's willing to share," he said, interrupting Adrian's obvious question. "I want to show him he's wrong about me though, and how much he can trust me. I also think you would like to join their club and learn to defend yourself."
"Of course I would!" Adrian agreed. "But can I invite..."
"Don't tell anyone else, especially other Slytherins," Naruto warned. "I don't trust that many yet with these secrets. Too many still idolize Umbridge, regardless of the Azkaban and Voldemort news. If they tell her..."
Naruto didn't have to finish that thought. "I understand, and won't tell," Adrian vowed. "So, when's the next meeting?"
"This Saturday, starting at seven," Naruto told him. He then explained how to get in, and to probably expect some trouble, since he wasn't a member.
The next Monday's chakra class went well. Ron, Harry, Crabbe, Goyle, and a few others finally sensed their chakra and moved on to Pillar Walking. While they'd fall to the mats after a few seconds, they were slowly improving. What happened after the class, however, didn't go as smoothly. Harry and Hermione cornered Naruto in the hallway. "You told!" Harry demanded.
"He is a close friend," Naruto replied, "and had the same concerns as you guys when you started the club.
"But he's a Slytherin!" Harry almost shouted.
"So am I," Naruto reminded him. "Not all of us are Umbridge's lapdogs. Also, if he really was against your club, why didn't he tell Umbridge about it before arriving that night?"
That got Harry quiet, but Hermione took the spotlight. "I'm sorry Harry blurted at you. It's still hard for anyone to trust a Slytherin with things like this. But what has me curious is the Jinx."
"Jinx? What Jinx?" Naruto asked, a little fearful.
"The one I put on the paper," she reminded him. "It should have activated as soon as you told Adrian."
"Oh yeah!" Naruto remembered. He then thought hard as to why that didn't happen. "...I think... it's because of Sage Mode. I used it to undo Snuffle's mother's Sticking Charm that first day at HQ. Maybe entering Sage Mode so many times during training removed any spells on me."
"Interesting theory," Hermione mused. "That indeed makes sense. The magic energy present in your body wiped away any traces of other magical effects within you. Like waves washing away footprints and sand castles on a beach."
"But how do we know he won't squeal on us again?" Harry demanded. "Now that the Jinx is worn off, you can tell everyone and get away with it!"
"I promise not to tell anyone I think won't keep the secret," Naruto vowed. "But of course, unless you trust me, that promise won't mean a thing to you." Naruto then walked off. It wasn't til he reached his Common Room that he realized he made things worse between them, both through Adrian and with his parting remark.
When he returned to the Common Room that night, a new notice was up. Curious, he read it over. The farther he got, the angrier he became. Umbridge was now making an army from her lapdogs, giving them power over all other students. They'd have extended bedtimes, house point power over the other houses, and perform additional duties directly under the command of Umbridge herself.
Before he could lose himself to Kyuubi, Naruto stopped reading and left the room. Umbridge was getting out of hand! A couple Decrees more, and Dumbledore will be nothing but a figurehead, and Umbridge will be the true Headmistress! Thinking it over, Naruto realized that if she wanted to watch others, she needed someone watching her.
That night, Naruto joined the line of Inquisitorial Squad volunteers. It was composed entirely of Slytherins, making Naruto wonder if the other Houses were alerted to this. When it was his turn, he entered her office.
"Hello Naruto," Umbridge greeted. "Please sit down. There! Would you like some Hot Chocolate dear?" She asked, offering from a mug.
"Yes Professor," Naruto said, trying to be as polite as possible.
Umbridge then poured him a glass. "Please forgive me dear, but I always insist on having honey with Hot Chocolate," She said, reaching for a vial half drained.
But Naruto knew at once what it was. Veritaserum. He'd seen it before, and recognized it now. She would make him tell the truth like Barty Crouch Jr, and since he already asked, he couldn't be rude and say no. So carefully, he lifted the drink to his lips, pretended to take a sip, then quickly put it back down with a small face. "I'm sorry Professor. My village didn't make Hot Chocolate like that. It tasted weird to me."
"That's alright. As long as you tried it," she said with a smile. "But what about your village? Where is it?"
"It was called Konoha," Naruto said, trying to seem as casual as he could. Now let's see if I drank any; I hope I didn't. "It's a tiny isolated village in Japan, almost in ruins before I left." Success! That'll throw her off the trail, a village which is no longer existent will be hard to disprove.
Umbridge seemed to believe his partial lie. Disappointed that she wouldn't find useful information where he came from, and assuming all his knowledge about Chakra was in the public book, she moved on. "Why do you want to join the Inquisitorial Squad?"
"Because of Harry," Naruto fibbed, the story planned in advance. "We used to be friends. But even then, he would often go to away in secret, and not tell me what was going on." That shouldn't have revealed anything new to her, I hope. "Ever since then, we've been drifting apart. I want to know what he's been doing."
"Were you ever in any secret meetings with him?" Umbridge double-checked.
"No," Naruto answered. This was indeed the truth; only Shadow Clones were in the meetings 'Naruto' attended.
"And what is your opinion about the Ministry?" Umbridge asked with a smile.
"There are a few problems," Naruto admitted, "but overall, they're good."
"What about Harry," she prodded, "and his delusions about You-Know-Who?"
"Just that, delusions," Naruto said. I'm sorry Harry, he thought to himself, but I have to say this. "I wouldn't be surprised if Dumbledore had a part in making him believe them."
Satisfied, Umbridge reached into a drawer and pulled out a badge. "Welcome to the Inquisitorial Squad," she announced with a laugh/hiccup, pinning the badge to Naruto's cloak.
Later that night, Naruto went into Sage Mode and studied the badge. Sure enough, it had a few enchantments on it. It took awhile, but Naruto figured out what each one did. There was a locator spell, a calling spell, and a spell which seemed to eavesdrop but was currently not active. Carefully using his Sage Mode, he removed the eavesdrop spell without breaking the other two. He then attempted Shadow Clones, to see how the badges reacted. To his surprise, only the true badge had the locator charm, not all of them. He figured it was because one badge can't be in two places at once. This meant that Shadow Clones could travel wherever they wanted without being noticed by Umbridge!
The next morning, when Harry saw Naruto's badge at breakfast, he looked furious. Since Umbridge was watching him, Naruto went over to them, playing the part as a member of the IS. "Watch your glaring, Harry," Naruto warned, "or else I may have to deduct House Points from you." However, he also slipped Harry a note, telling him everything Naruto planned.
Since its inception, the IS was called to patrol the corridors all night til midnight in shifts. Each night, Naruto offered to cover more ground using his Shadow Clones, giving many of the IS a good rest during that particular shift. When it was the first DA night since the IS started, Naruto signed up for the 8:30 to 9 shift. Carefully, he assigned himself and his clones along pathways to and from each House Common Room, and placed one of them outside the Club's door.
To NaruClone's surprise, nobody came out. Since the time in his shift was ticking, he tried to open the door, but it was barred to him. A minute later, he resorted to knocking. Soon, Adrian came out. "Sorry about that," he apologized. "Harry and quite a few others don't trust you anymore."
"Can you tell them they have 20 minutes to return to their Common Rooms?" NaruClone asked him. "That's how long til the next shift. I've got Shadow Clones guarding the halls back to the dorms, but you'll have to hurry."
Adrian went back in with the message. Slowly, some of the more friendly Hufflepuffs and Adrian came out. NaruClone directed them along the path of other Shadow Clones, but stayed at the door. A few minutes later, a clone popped, telling all Narutos that they reached their room safely. To his surprise, the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs all came out at once, only a few seconds after the clone popped, as if they knew that group made it with no problems. Remembering part of Barty Crouch Jr's confession, NaruClone realized Harry had his map in the room. With a little guidance from NaruClone, they made their ways home.
After they were gone, the Gryffindors left the club and the door vanished. Before Harry could pass him, NaruClone tapped his shoulder. "I know you don't trust me that much," NaruClone told him. "But I'm still your friend." Harry seemed to consider it for a second, but didn't say anything. "I remember Barty telling us about a special map of yours. Can you see me and the other clones?"
Harry didn't want to divulge anything, and left without a word. Disappointed that their friendship was still strained, Naruto finished the shift and returned to the common room. As he lay on his bed, he hoped his ruse was undiscovered. As time went on, he realized it wasn't, and continued to help the DA from the outside.
It wasn't til a few weeks later that something big came up. Nothing new was happening between the IS and the other students. Quidditch didn't happen for awhile, so it wasn't the Slytherin/Griffindor game rivalry. It wasn't a change in Harry and Naruto's friendship or distrust, even though Naruto's post-club transports were going smoothly and without any suspicion.
It was Umbridge rearing her head. It happened right in the middle of Chakra class; Umbridge threw Trelawney out. Filtch, either glad at the sacking or enamored at how powerful she was acting, eagerly helped Umbridge by carrying Trelawney's bags.
"You... you can't do this," the distraught professor sobbed through her hands, pleading with the pink blight. "Hogwarts is my home. I have no... nowhere else to go."
"Yes, I can do this," Umbridge said, in a monotone that suggested she didn't care and was expecting obedience. "As High Inquisitor, I have the right to fire teachers who are not up to par. You haven't proven yourself as a Divination teacher, and shown me no improvement since I arrived."
Then a miracle happened. For the first time in almost two months, Dumbledore appeared outside the Great Hall, alongside McGonagall. He whispered words of comfort to Trelawney, then turned to his Vice. "See her back inside. Hogwarts is her home." This sent Trelawney into tears, and McGonagall slowly helped her, and charmed her bags, back into the castle.
This matter taken care of, Dumbledore turned to Umbridge. "You do not have the power to banish from the school grounds. That power still resides in the Headmaster."
"For now," Umbridge agreed. "Since we no longer have a Divinations teacher, I must send for the Ministry. No doubt, they'll find a suitable replacement..."
"As it happens," Dumbledore told her, "I've already arranged for another to take the post. So there will be no need for the Ministry to send an unneeded teacher."
"You... found... a teacher already?" Umbridge asked, perplexed. "Well then, who?"
In answer, Dumbledore raised his wand and created a purple firework. In answer, galloping came from the Forbidden Forest. Naruto, at first, thought it was a horseback rider, but then realized the torso was connected to the horse. Naruto was seeing his very first centaur.
Naruto also realized that Dumbledore had defied Umbridge thrice within the past few minutes. He had kept a fired teacher at Hogwarts, hired a teacher without her consent, and said teacher was a, as she called them, half-breed. If Umbridge thought she was in control before, she now saw otherwise and would start cracking down harder than ever.
How's that for being gone a year!
If anybody asks why Pa isn't sacked yet, experimental classes/clubs are not under Professor Umbridge's control, nor could they be disbanded without serious cause mid-year. Either way, if she couldn't find a replacement who knew Chakra and could teach it, she'd have to reinstate the only one who could.
Important Review Responses: (I'm not sure how religious we're allowed to be here, so I won't respond to non-fanfic related comments.)
Kiota-chan: I already covered the Trace; his birthday is in October, and it's September. He wan't the first hit (those before him had no ill effects) and it would automatically stop working within 2 months.
Undeniably Uzumaki: Are you referring to Ms. Weasley in chapter 10? In chapter 8, she learns/sees chakra and how it can be used. Also, she (and Order members) helped Dumbledore and Fukasaku to write the book. Also, Naruto has been known to cry a bit in the anime.
Don't have a heart attack because of my return!