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[And not a minute spent to think that we'd regret]

Tsunade stood with her hands on her hips as she surveyed the group assembled before
her. She had no choice but to send out her best to the client, he was paying them far
more than anyone could decently ask for. She grinned as she thought about the
personalities of the shinobi she was sending. She might give him the best but it was
going to be his job to keep them under control.
"Fox, Viper, Slug, Panda, Dove, and Mouse," she said, pointing to each shinobi in turn as
she went down the line. "You will be guarding one Harry Potter at Hogwarts School of
Wizardry and Witchcraft. The headmaster, Dumbledore-sensei, will be sending someone
to meet you when you arrive in London, England. The details of your mission are in the
scroll that I gave you.
Fox, you are the captain for this mission. Screw it up and I will beat you within an inch of
your life. Viper, you are second-in-command, Slug, you will work as the medic, Dove and
Mouse, you are scouts and informants, and Panda, you will fulfill your normal duties as
weapons master." She glared at them. "Any questions?" Fox waved his hand
energetically in the air. She sighed but nodded, "Yes, Fox?"
"Why is Viper my second? Wouldn't Dove be a better choice?" Tsunade murmured
something about Dove personally asking NOT to be the second-in-command before
speaking.
"All the others have their personal preferences to work with. Besides, Viper has all the
intimidation skills that you lack." Fox quieted but he could hear the quiet sniggers from
his teammates. He death glared them from behind his mask. Even Tsunade grinned.
She rummaged in her desk for moment, obviously trying to find something in the mess of
papers and scrolls.
"Aha!" she said and pulled out a very nondescript kunai. She handed it to Dove, who
took it with a knowing nod. Tsunade felt at least a little comfort from knowing that
someone had read the scrolls she had given them. Mouse, Slug, and Panda all also
seemed to understand. Viper gave no visual indication that he was at all interested in the
knife and Fox looked down right confused. Tsunade sighed again and massaged her
temples.
"The kunai is a portkey," she began to explain.
"A what?" Fox interrupted.
"A portkey, dobe," Viper muttered, leaning over to tap the kunai. Dove handed it to him.
"Yes, a portkey," Tsunade went on, "It will transport you six to the head quarters where
you will meet with one of Dumbledore-sensei's people who will, in turn, assist you all in
the language barrier and then point out to you the person that you will be guarding.
Please keep in mind that you also have a job to protect all the other children in the
school but Harry Potter is your main concern." She glanced at the clock. "Everyone put a
single finger on it. It will activate in around three seconds."
The shinobi felt a sharp tug somewhere around their navels. Tsunade's office faded from
view, her laughing and waving to them, apparently enjoying herself as she watched their
body language, which clearly stated their surprise. For a moment, everything was very
dark but soon a new scene came into view.

"Oof," Fox groaned as he hit the ground, face first. Dove landed easily and caught both
Panda and Mouse before they fell over. Slug promptly smashed into Fox's stomach,
causing him more discomfort. Somehow, Viper managed to end up standing on a couch a
couple feet away.
The room was very dark. The paint on the walls was peeling away. Dust seemed to have
settled over every last inch of the place.
"Dove? Mouse?" Fox said. The two nodded and whispered, "Byakugan."
"There are several people in the room three doors down the hallway through the door on
our right. They appear to be having a meeting." Dove's voice was quiet. As if he felt that
they were intruding on something.
"There is a lot of energy in the house. Not chakra though, it must be that m-magic that
Tsunade-sama was talking about," Mouse added softly. "Nii-san, can you see it?" she
asked. Dove nodded silently and they both looked at Fox. He smirked behind his mask.
"Tsunade said that we would be seeing one or more of Dumbledore's people so I see no
reason why we would be sent to the wrong place." The rest of the ANBU could imagine
the mischievous smile he would undoubtedly be wearing. He pulled two kunai out of his
belt pouch and held one in each hand, nodding to his teammates. Once the rest were
armed they moved carefully down the hallway until they stood next to the door, three on
each side.
They opened the door completely silently; an amazing feat in the fact that the entire
house looked like it would creak at the slightest footstep. They moved in invisibly.
Interestingly enough, the occupants of the room were too busy shouting at each other
and getting in each other's faces over the table to notice the nin. Fox and Viper were in
first, sliding like shadows on opposite walls. Slug and Panda followed. Dove and Mouse
stood in the doorway, their hands ready in an open handed position. Once they were
ready Fox coughed lightly.
The arguing sides didn't hear him. He coughed again and still he was ignored. He sighed
and whistled shrilly. Every human in the room froze in complete shock. The shinobi had
around three seconds to incapacitate the wizards and witches before they started
shooting spells, which they did with all due grandeur.
The men and women sat on the ground, tied up but not gagged. A few looked at the
masked people with fear and a few with resignation but they all seemed to have a
healthy dose of bravery. They didn't even whimper. Fox knelt beside a rather beat up
looking man. The man's fake eye whirled around in his head at a rate that made Fox feel
slightly sick.
"Hey there! We're looking for a Dumbledore-sensei. Do you know him?" Fox asked. The
man looked at him in complete confusion.
"What are you saying?" Mad-Eye Moody asked, glaring at him. Apparently the ANBU
didn't understand him either. Viper was beside him in an instant. The man's tone had put
him on guard and Moody felt the cold edge of a knife blade against his throat. He
chuckled hoarsely.
"These must be the shinobi that Dumbledore hired," Moody told the rest of the group. A
few nodded in understanding but a particular, purple-haired woman struggled angrily
against her bonds.

"Then why are we tied up?" she half-shouted. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked
up to see a pink-haired woman. She squeaked and the woman tightened her grip
momentarily before releasing her and retreating back into the shadows.
"Lupin, don't you remember what Dumbledore told you to say?" a tall, black man said.
"Oh, yes." The shinobi's attention turned to a rather ill and ratty looking man. He cleared
his throat and began speaking in badly pronounced Japanese. The nin winced as they
listened but forced their ears to endure the nails-on-a-blackboard effect.
"We are the members of the Order of the Phoenix. Dumbledore-sensei is our leader. I
have several charms that will allow you to understand our language." Lupin stopped
speaking. Apparently, at this point, had he been untied he would have given them the
charms. The shinobi understood this and Lupin watched in awe as a blue haired woman
walked over to him and severed the ropes around him just by touching them. He reached
into his pocket and pulled out six simple chains. He handed them to the woman who had
freed him and she passed them out quickly. The wizards watched apprehensively as the
strangers quickly latched the chains around their necks.
"So you are members of the Order of the Phoenix under Dumbledore-sensei. May I ask
why he is not here?" Fox said. They could hear happy sighs from the bound people as
they released the breath they had been holding. The blond nodded to his team and they
went around removing ropes.
Tonks, the purple-haired woman, flinched as the pink-haired female used a knife to slash
through the bonds with a speed and carelessness that seemed to be bordering on
dangerous. Kingsley, the black man, watched in silence as a long haired nin brought his
hand down on the ropes and severed them without using a weapon. The man watched
his captor/savior in interest. Was this a man or a woman? Moody glared daggers at the
black haired shinobi as he transferred his knife from the Auror's throat to the ropes.
The wizards and witches stood and rubbed their arms, pulling their wands out and
holding them at ready. Some were turned to one wall while others face the opposite way.
The shinobi were still spread out in their groups of three around the walls, having moved
back to them almost as a default.
"Dumbledore just got a very important call from the Ministry of Magic about Harry Potter.
I'm assuming that's who you all are supposed to protect?" Moody growled. The shinobi
merely nodded, all ready having been prepared on the subject of the wizarding
government and on their mission, Harry Potter. They chose to ignore Moody's dangerous
tone, although Viper did tense up a bit.
"Then we will just wait for him here until we see him or he contacts us with further
orders," Fox said cheerfully. He began righting the chairs and table that had fallen over in
the rush to take out the wizards. The rest of this team did not move but the wizards
moved carefully around him to help a little bit.
At that moment an owl flew in through the window and landed in an undignified heap on
the table. Tonks pulled a note from its leg and it flew off again. The nin hid their
surprised well; they had read about the ways the wizards communicated after all.
"It's from Dumbledore. He says we've got to go pick Harry up," she said after a few
minutes.
"Who's going?" Moody asked. Tonks read the paper again quickly.

" Lupin, Mad-Eye, me, Kingsley, Elphias Doge, Dedalus Diggle, Emmeline Vance, Sturgis
Podmore, Hestia Jones, and all six of Captain Fox's people," Tonks read. The wizards
whose names had been read quickly pulled on cloaks, hats and gloves. "Who is
this Captain Fox?" Tonks asked, reading again. Fox waved slightly at her.
"That would be me," he said happily.
"Do you have brooms?" Mad-Eye grunted as he stood by the open door. The nin shook
their heads.
"We don't need them. We'll run," Dove said. The wizards looked at her in utter confusion.
A few snickered under their breath.
"My dear woman," Kingsley started. He froze instantly when a kunai hit the wall around
half a centimeter from his head.
"I'm a man," Dove hissed. Kingsley hadn't even moved to look at the knife now
embedded in the wood. Fox could see him gulp. Dove was shaking with rage. Panda had
a hand on one of his shoulders and Mouse was clutching the wrist on his other arm.
"Excuse me, sir," Kingsley said softly, "But you simply can't keep up with a broom by
running. We will be going too fast and we will be too far away for you to be able to see
us."
"Try us," Dove whispered. His voice was very calm but everyone in the room felt that
killing intent he was giving off. The mere force of it seemed like it could murder anyone
within five miles of him.
"What Dove means," Panda stepped in, "Is that we will be able to keep up better than
you think and we will be able to see you. We have not been trained to fight from the air
like that and our abilities would be impaired if we tried. Plus, none of us have ever ridden
brooms before. It would take twice as long if we tried to learn now. Shall we go now?"
The group was out the door in a minute and seconds later those left in the house could
hear the sounds of several brooms shooting into the sky. They looked out the window
and saw the nin left standing there. They seemed to be talking to each other for a
moment before they flashed out of visibility for a moment. For just a split second they
could see them running at a pace that was certainly not human down the road.

[Gravity works slowly if you notice it at all]


The wizards stood on the front lawn of number four Privet Drive. They had been standing
there for a little over a minute, wondering if they really had left the shinobi behind, when
they felt a breeze whip by them. Tonks squeaked again. They heard laughing a little
further down the road, the direction the breeze had been going in, and saw the six nin
walking towards them.
They were laughing and talking to each other in their own language. They didn't look so
much as faintly tired. They all appeared a little windswept but other than that none of the

wizards would have known they had run the entire way there unless they had been told
so.
"There is no way they actually ran here," Tonks whispered. The others nodded and
murmured in agreement. Fox waved to them and for a moment they were a little
awestruck of them.
As the six walked down the road the moonlight glinted off their masks, making the
snarling, vicious animals that they portrayed come to life. They all moved with a perfect
grace and balance that was almost cat like. Their black clothes seemed to melt into the
darkness but their soft armor and arm guards stood out bone white. Their feet made no
sound on the ground as they neared. If they hadn't been talking the wizards figured they
might have missed them all together.
"Moody-san," Fox said as the two groups faced each other, "I guess we completely forgot
the formalities because of our outlandish entry into your meeting. We were talking
about it on the way here and I just realized that we never introduced ourselves to you.
I'm Fox, captain for this mission." He bowed to Moody and the old Auror looked at him
with an unreadable expression.
"Viper, second-in-command" said the one with the snake mask. The wizards shivered at
the cold tone. He did not bow, didn't move a muscle.
"Panda's my name! I'm the weapons master," chirped a girl with two buns on either side
of her head.
"I'm Mouse and this is my cousin Dove. We're scouts," whispered the indigo haired girl.
"I'm called Slug. I'm the medic for the group," said the pinkette. The wizards mumbled
their names, wondering about these strange names. Perhaps it was commonplace in
these ninja villages to name their children after animals?
"Mouse? What's going on inside?" Fox asked, turning his attention from the situation that
was steadily growing more awkward. The woman didn't even turn to look. She took a
brief scan of the house and answered in English so the wizards could be updated as well.
"The house is empty except for Potter-san. He's upstairs in his room." No one said it out
loud but with the confused looks the English gave each other, the nin could guess that
they were wondering how she knew that. But they guessed that seeing through walls was
impossible so it couldn't be that. Seriously, you'd think that these English would have
imaginations.
Moody didn't let them dwell on it. He motioned them into the house and the ninjas slid
along the walls. They didn't like the house the moment they set foot into it. Everything
was too clean, too in place. On top of that, it bore an uncomfortable resemblance to
Ibiki's torture chambers. Everything had its place so the victim could clearly see the tools
that would be used to his ultimate demise. Disturbing stuff it was.
The shinobi saw the Potter boy on the landing long before the wizards did. Moody
growled something about the boy lowering his wand (which the ninjas took to be the long
pointy stick in his hand). They tuned out the rest of the conversation after hearing Harry
Potter speak for the first time.
"Professor Moody?" he said. There was uncertainty in his voice. He sounded weak to the
ninjas. They could tell by his voice alone that he had seen things that would undoubtedly

lead to him being hurt by a mysterious someone but he apparently didn't have the
deduction skills to have confidence in his voice. First, if someone tells you to put
your wand away they can't be a non-wizard. Second, if it were a Death Eater, or
whatever those freaks called themselves, they would have already shot him dead. So
that left only one option: whomever it was had to at least be benign.
They blinked in the bright light as a spell was spoken and Tonks' wand tip snapped to
flame. They half-listened as a few comical words were exchanged and the wizards
confirmed that this was the Potter they had come to find. Introductions were made all
around but it seemed that Lupin had completely forgotten about the shadowy figures
standing silently behind them in the rush of excitement at seeing Potter again. Dove and
Mouse continued their scans of the house, reporting in hushed tones that there was
nothing coming.
Mouse saw Tonks change her hair color and reported it in her near-silent voice. The
others merely nodded, taking a note of it and what the woman had said. Apparently she
could change her appearance at will.
When Moody cast a Disillusionment Charm, Potter turned into a human chameleon. The
ninja could see him well enough because of their heightened senses, Mouse and Dove
could see him completely through the charm because of their Byakugan, but it seemed
like it would be effective against the other wizards that seemed to haunt the
subconsciousness of the members of the Order.
The moment they stepped out onto the lawn Harry yelped and pointed at them.
"Who are they?" he shouted. Fox was behind him in an instant and clapped his hands
over the boy's mouth.
"Do you want to wake up the whole neighborhood?" the ANBU asked quietly. "Don't
worry, we are ANBU. Dumbledore hired us to protect you. We wont hurt you. We aren't
allowed to." Harry didn't seem convinced but he did nod and Fox released him. "We will
be able to explain better when we get you back," the captain said before slipping away to
stand with his team again.
"We'll protect you all from the ground," Fox told Moody. The wizard grunted something
unintelligible.
"I have a question," Tonks said suddenly. Everyone looked at her. "How can you all see
where we are? We took special care to stay high enough for Muggles to not be able to."
Fox jerked his thumb over his shoulder to Dove and Mouse.
"We can only see a blur. But Dove and Mouse can both see you clearly. They have far
better eyesight than any human should be allowed." The last part was said almost
wistfully. But then again, what nin wouldn't want to have the wide, nearly perfect 360degree view that the Hyuugas had? The witch looked like she was about to ask another
question when a stream of bright red sparks flew into the air. The wizards mounted their
brooms and seconds later shot off into the sky with the shinobi following beneath them at
their inhuman pace.
This time, when the wizards finally landed, they found the shinobi standing there looking
bored in the front lawn of number twelve, Grimmauld Place.
"How did-?" Harry started to ask but he was cut off when streetlamps started going out a
rapid pace thanks to Moody's Put-Outer. Within minutes the entire group poured into

number twelve, thankful for the warmth. The ninja hadn't said anything but their clothes
were thinner than the wizards (they wear sleeveless shirts for heaven's sake!) so they
were rather freezing.
The ninja slipped into the background when Mrs. Weasley came running out of a room
down the hall with her customary smile in place. She whispered a welcome before
squeezing Harry into a hug. The shinobi split when the Order members went into another
room for the meeting. Panda and Slug slipped upstairs after Harry, without him or Mrs.
Weasley noticing, of course, and stood outside the door to his room and settled down to
wait after Ron and Hermione bolted into the room.
Panda looked at Slug when Potter went off on a tantrum. The bun-haired woman sighed
and hugged her knees up to her chest, listening to the painful conversation going on
inside.
"He's horribly immature isn't he?" Slug whispered to Panda. They both nodded, thinking
about a boy that they knew who would have more of a reason to shout at their friends
than this boy. But Fox had never thrown a hissy fit about his predicament. They
wondered briefly what kind of discipline these kids were getting.
After the kunoichi got worked up over the crack of an Apparation (courtesy Fred and
George) and settled back down, they listened intently to the question and answer session
that followed. They were sure that the shinobi downstairs wouldn't speak up and ask
questions of the older wizards so they would just get as much info as they could and
report it back in. More knowledge was better than nothing, no matter how they got it.
They vanished from the doorway when they heard Mrs. Weasley coming up the stairs and
flipped over the banister when her back was turned, landing quietly on the ground below.
They nodded to their teammates to tell them that they had information to share later.
They were given an answering sign and they grinned. The hardest part of missions was
thinking of ways to get information. This time it was a piece of cake.
They stood in the middle of the main room, trying to figure out where to go when,
CRASH
Tonks knocked over the umbrella stand. That wasn't so much a surprise to the shinobi
(who had already guessed that she was a natural klutz from watching her walk) but what
really set them on edge was the ensuing shriek.
The old woman in the portrait behind the curtains wailed at the top of her lungs. She
looked like a banshee and sounded like one as well. But she startled the ninja and, within
a half a second, the frame of the picture was riddled with kunai and shuriken. The
painted woman froze for a moment before starting her screams again. Fox and Slug
helped to slam the curtains shut. Slug did most of the work with her super human
strength that she had achieved when studying under the Hokage.
"That freak of nature was his mother?" Panda whispered to Mouse. The timid kunoichi
still held a knife in either hand. The weapons mistress patted her shoulder and the girl
calmed down, stowing her weapons away again.
"I guess so," Mouse answered quietly.

[Take your tears, put 'em on ice]


Fox watched Harry exit his room on the morning of his hearing. The ANBU captain had
heard him shoot out of bed early and get dressed in a most clumsy manner. He had
taken it upon himself to watch the boy instead and let the rest of his team sleep a little.
Most had been up half the night on guard shifts. Normally this wouldn't bother them.
They often did not duties but the time change was really starting to get to them. Only
Fox's boundless energy kept him up.
He leaned against the railing of the landing as his bright blue eyes followed Harry down
to where he joined Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Sirius, Lupin, and Tonks. Whatever they were
talking about seemed of little importance to the boy so Fox tuned it out. The adults
seemed to avoid speaking of the more classified topics when the children were around.
Fox growled, a bit miffed with the adult's outlook on age differences. Technically every
member of his team was now a legal adult by the English view but in Konaha they had all
met the legal age requirements six years ago (seven for Dove and Panda). They had all
graduated the academy by the time they were twelve. From what he had heard and been
told (since he never read the scrolls that Tsunade gave them), most twelve year old
wizards and witches were only in the second year of school.
The captain winced as Tonks knocked over a chair. The sharp noise pierced his sensitive
ears with all the grace of a foghorn. And it was early in the morning. This was already
turning out to be a bad day. He back flipped over the railing, just for the heck of it, to
land easily on the ground below. Nobody else had noticed the maneuver so he popped
his ankle where he had heard it crack on the landing. Perhaps he hadn't landed as easily
as he had thought.
"I guess I'm getting rusty," he murmured. He glanced around the corner at the group
sitting eating breakfast. Potter and Mr. Weasley were standing up, preparing to go. Fox
walked out from his half-hidden spot in the shadows.
"Leaving?" he asked. They nodded and the captain glanced up at the top of the stairs.
The rest of his group had appeared, standing there nonchalantly, looking incredibly
dangerous in a very lazy fashion; alert even this early in the morning. He waved to them
as a sign for a couple to come downstairs. Viper and Dove were the only ones that
moved. The girls stayed where they were, completely motionless.
Ginny peaked out her door when she heard the sounds of talking downstairs. She saw
the three female shinobi. They looked like models. All of them wore just their black halter
tops, tight black pants, black boots, long black gloves that almost reached their
shoulders, and their masks. Panda leaned backwards over the railing, bending her back
gracefully so she could see what was going on. Mouse was resting her stomach on it with
her chin propped up on her hands. Slug had one hand on it, the other rested at her side
in a serene posture. The red head just watched them, a little embarrassed but unable to
tear her eyes away. She wished she looked that beautiful.
Hermione stirred behind her. "Is Harry already gone?" the bushy haired girl asked softly,
rubbing her eyes. Ginny nodded and retreated back into the room. She saw the women
turn to look at her door when it creaked while she tried to shut it.
As the men left the house the female nin talked to each other in hushed voices before
knocking quietly on Ginny and Hermione's door. Hermione pulled it open quickly,
obviously thinking that it might be Ron or the twins. She blinked in surprise to see the
three masked shinobi standing there.

"May we come in?" Slug asked sweetly. The girl nodded in mute surprise. The three
entered silently and sat down on the beds without making the old mattresses let out so
much as a squeak.
"I don't think we ever got your names," Slug said. Ginny and Hermione looked at each
other.
"I don't think we ever got yours," Ginny said bravely. The pink haired woman laughed.
The sound was incredibly bright and cheerful. She sounded just like a normal teenager
when she did that.
"Well, I'm Slug. The blue haired girl is Mouse and the other one is Panda," she said,
waving her hand in the general direction of her companions as she said this.
"Why am I just 'the other one'?" Panda asked, sounding a little affronted.
"What else was I going to say?" Slug responded swiftly. "The be-bunned one over there?"
Panda snorted and the sound had a funny hollow sound because of the porcelain mask.
Ginny giggled. They seemed okay.
"I'm Ginny Weasley and this is Hermione Granger," she said.
"I thought you looked like a Weasley," Panda said, "You're all redheads right?" Ginny
nodded. "Cheerful people," she heard the shinobi mumble under her breath, unaware
that she was thinking of another redhead that was not nearly so nice; a certain Sabaku
no Gaara.
As the girls continued talking they found that the women were more than happy to
answer their questions as best they were allowed. The pinkette seemed to be the most
talkative and Panda seemed to be the sarcastic one of the group. Mouse was quiet, only
adding her two cents when she was asked a direct question.
[This world is just an idiot's parade]
Harry shivered as he walked along the roads with Mr. Weasley. He was only barely
conscious of the three male ninja following him from the shadows. All three wore dark
cloaks over that were pulled over their masks to make themselves look a little less
conspicuous. Fox was always the one nearest him and usually the only one he could see
when he looked around. The blond captain seemed to have the job of being close enough
to Harry to be able to take care of whatever could come at him. Every once in a while he
would see Dove or Viper slipping throw the darkness of buildings with a professionalism
that sent chills down the boy's spine.
As the buildings grew steadily more shabby and dirty looking Harry began to think that
perhaps they had made a wrong turn. It wasn't impossible, Mr. Weasley usually
Apparated to work anyway. He smiled a little at Mr. Weasley's obsessing over several
broken down telephone booths before telling him to get in one of them. He complied,
albeit a bit hesitantly. The redhead man waved to the three guards and they entered as
well.
Harry would have thought that it would have been too crowded inside with five people
but somehow the ninja managed to press themselves against the glass enough to let him
have plenty of breathing room. They seemed very good a making themselves small
enough to get away from people. The operator's voice came out of nowhere, asking for
their names.

"Arthur Weasley, Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, here to escort Harry Potter, who has
been asked to attend a disciplinary hearing, and Captain Fox, Viper, and Dove here as
Harry Potter's guards" further explanation was cut off as four silver tags clattered into
the coin shoot. There was a Harry Potter, Disciplinary Hearing, one Captain Fox, Guard,
a Viper, Guard, and lastly, Dove, Guard. The guards looked at them in annoyance before
clipping them onto the belt loop of their pants to keep them out of the way and in
shadow. Ninjas do NOT like shiny things.
Harry and Mr. Weasley walked across the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic amidst the
constant popping of Apparation and Disapparation. The guards were close behind them,
Fox striding slightly in front. At least now their cloaks didn't look out of place.
The crowded elevator made the guards nervous. They shifted behind Harry, the close
quarters being one of their least favorite scenarios. Harry was tense the entire ride, not
just because he was conscious of all the people's eyes snapping instantly to his forehead
when they saw his nametag but also because Viper kept a hand on his elbow. Apparently
they would do something along the lines of blow a hole in the roof of the elevator and
drag him out if anything occurred.
Mr. Weasley's tiny office was no better. All three guards stood outside but Fox was
angled more inwards so he could bolt inside if he was needed. Harry felt eyes on him at
all times but he couldn't figure out whom it was. He guessed it to be one of the guards
but none of them ever kept their eyes on him constantly. In fact, Fox and Viper seemed
to be constantly sweeping the area. Dove was the only one that seemed fixated on one
point.
When Mr. Weasley's associate told them that the time of Harry's court appearance had
been changed the guards followed swiftly and silently. But what Harry noticed the most
was that they did not argue to be allowed inside. At that point he wondered if they really
did have the ability to keep watch on him no matter where he went. Even through walls.
Harry sat in the chair before the Wizengamont. The stares that he received here were
even worse than the ones he had felt outside. He shivered but paid as close attention as
he could while Fudge was speaking. One little slip of the tongue and he could be
expelled.
[Outline of a storyboard with no idea]
Mr. Weasley stood outside the courtroom twiddling this thumbs. It felt very awkward
standing next to the guards. They radiated power and pride and seemed to think that
talking too much while they were out was unnecessary. The wizard had heard Captain
Fox chatter nonstop when he wasn't on duty but the other two were a different story.
The last time Mr. Weasley had heard Dove speak was when he had corrected Kingsley's
mess up on his gender. He had never heard Viper talk at all.
Fox sighed and leaned against the wall and began speaking to Dove in their language.
Mr. Weasley looked at the ground and tried to pay attention to the ants that went
marching by. How rude, to talk in a different language in front of other people.
"How does it look in there?" Fox asked softly.
"Potter-san looks rather flustered, so does Fudge-san. Dumbledore-sensei is really laying
into him. I can't hear anything though. It looks like it is turning in Harry-san's favor. Oh,
they're voting. I believe that means he is cleared of all charges." Dove finished his sweep
of the room using his Byakugan, never having moved from his place with his back
against the wall next to the door into the courtroom. Fox didn't notice the Hyuuga press

his fingertips to his temples to try to release the throbbing that was building up in his
head.
At that moment, Dumbledore swept past them with a smile to Mr. Weasley and a
courteous nod to Fox. The Captain flinched. They had yet to actually speak with their
employer. Everything they had been doing so far was just a guess at what he wanted.
They suspected that by the time they got to Hogwarts they would be given better orders
but for now Fox was just annoyed that the headmaster hadn't even thought to leave
them a letter telling them what to do.
Harry came out next.
"Cleared of all charges!" he said triumphantly. Mr. Weasley instantly moved to
congratulate him but the guards started pushing them lightly down the hallway. They
had to get out of here fast. All three of them were anxious to leave, the place gave them
the creeps and it was the perfect place to lay a trap.
As they walked swiftly down the hallway they saw Lucius Malfoy talking to Fudge. The nin
all tightened their grips on their weapons. Something about this man was just not right.
Fox's expression turned stony as he viewed the contemptible way the man was looking at
the boy they were to guard.
"'Well, well, well Patronus Potter,' (AN: p. 223 in the large print hard copy version
of book five)" the man said lazily. "And what do we have here, Arthur Weasley and
three interesting characters? Weasley, do you make it a point to, not only, obsess over
Muggles but also to spend time in their company?"
"Potter-san, who is this man?" Viper asked coolly. He has pushed back his cloak and
noted how the vile man reacted to the snake design. The shock and slight tremor, which
came from a fear that was beyond that of a normal wizard, were enough to tell the ninja
that this man was one of the Death Eaters or he had close conference with Voldemort.
"Lucius Malfoy," Lucius answered for Harry. His eyes were narrowed as he scrutinized
Viper's mask.
"Malfoy-san," Viper said, his voice coming out in an angry hiss, "I understand that the
wizards may be held under law not to attack people but, unfortunately, we aren't. Stop
staring at my mask. You are giving yourself away." Lucius' mouth tightened into a thin
line and he put a hand on Fudge's shoulder.
"Come, let's go to your office, Minister. There was something that you wanted to discuss
wasn't there?" the pale man changed the topic as quickly as possible. Viper smirked and
he heard a hollow snigger from Fox. It was good to know that he could count on his
friend to support him.

[Awkward disposition]
The six ninja stood in confusion at the train station. Of course, they had seen trains
before and Tsunade had told them all about the mechanics of them but, somehow, they

just seemed surreal to the guards. Fox frowned as he stood next to Harry. Viper snorted
something about useless machines from his place a few steps back from Ron. Slug
grinned as she looked up at the train, wondering how long it would take her to pick it
apart and put it back together. Unfortunately, she was starting to scare Hermione.
All six of the shinobi had removed their masks and uniforms and opted for genjutsu and
were wearing wizard clothes. Fox wore a black muscle shirt with an orange circle on it,
black, baggy pants, white tennis shoes, and a black cloak with the ANBU insignia in
orange on the lapel around his shoulders. He had used a genjutsu to make his hair
shoulder length and brown.
Slug's clothes were a white tank top with cherry blossoms on the hem, a pink mini skirt
with black tights underneath it, and white flats with pink dots on them. Over this she
wore a black cape that had a white underside with a white ANBU insignia on the lapel.
Her genjutsu made her hair waist length, bright red, and curly. She could have been a
Weasley.
Viper had taken a more practical approach. He wore a black, long sleeved polo, black
skinny jeans, black tennis shoes, and a plain black cloak except for a green ANBU
insignia on the lapel. The only color other than black that he wore was a silver chain
necklace from which hung a charm depicting a green snake twining around a silver ring.
The genjutsu he had used made his hair fall shorter, around his ears and fall into his
eyes, and white. He had added a small hoop earring in his right ear for dramatic effect.
Panda wore a light brown, length shirt and a pair of white pants with black tennis
shoes. Her cloak was black with white swirl designs going up the edges that hung in front
of her and the hood. Her genjutsu made her hair a pale, pale blond color, almost white,
short and spiky. Plus, just for the heck of it, she made her normally white skin a golden,
glowing brown.
Dove had decided to make himself look a little manlier so he could avoid having too
much asked about his gender. He was still smarting after that comment Kingsley had
made. He was wearing a pale blue, long sleeved polo with the sleeves rolled up to his
elbows, jeans, and white tennis shoes. His black cloak hung around his neck, thrown
back so he could move his arms better. It had a pale blue ANBU insignia on it. His
genjutsu made his hair a fiery red color, even more red than the Weasleys', short and
spiky. He had six piercing going up each of his ears. He hadn't been able to change his
eyes but that didn't matter. (AN: +drools+)
Mouse, after she had gotten over the shock of seeing her cousin actually look like a boy,
had put on a white dress that flowed to her knees with blue butterfly designs on the hem,
white flats, and fingerless white gloves. Her cloak was black but there were white
butterfly patterns exactly like her dress on along the bottom edge and a white ANBU
insignia. She had decided to pose as Dove's sister so she had made her hair just as fiery
red, cut short but made to frame her face and run halfway down her neck.
The wizards had been surprised when they had come down the stairs that morning.
Moody and Mr. Weasley had even threatened them, thinking that they were Death Eaters
that had somehow managed to get in the Order's headquarters. Now they watched them
nervously as the guards moved around carelessly. They had never seen them so relaxed
and it was weird for them to see them actually making facial expressions (with the
exception of Viper and Dove since they only have one expression, the I-hate-you-a-lot
one).
At first, the wizards had thought that the guards were going to pose as students but they
had assured them that they would not but that they were simply making it so they fit in

better. And it wouldn't hurt the rest of the student body if they thought that they
actually were wizards that were just there to protect them.
Harry's heart skipped a beat when Sirius, in dog form naturally, stood on his back legs
and put his front paws on the boy's shoulders, giving him a very un-dog-like look. Mrs.
Weasley hissed a warning and Sirius dropped down, watching Harry, Hermione, the
Weasleys, and the shinobi climb aboard the train. They waved as the train started pulling
away and Sirius began running alongside it.
"He is going to blow our cover," Dove whispered hoarsely. Mouse nodded but none of the
other guards responded, they were already searching for seats. The Hyuuga relatives
slipped down the halls after Harry and co. When they found them they were already
sitting down in their seats with two other people. Hermione and Ron scurried off to find
the Prefects carriage and so Harry found himself alone with the guards, Loony Lovegood,
Ginny, and Neville.
"Potter-san," Viper said as they sat down Harry noticed that he suddenly only had two
guards, "Two of us will stay in here with you while the other four patrol the halls. Fox,
Mouse, Slug, and Panda are already out. Is that alright with you?" Harry nodded and
watched in interest as Viper and Dove sat on the floor opposite each other. Viper took
out some sort of a board and set it up. It looked like a variant of chess or checkers so
Harry slipped to the floor to find out more.
"What's that?" he asked. The two looked at him and he suddenly felt very stupid. It
seemed like they were wondering why he didn't already know.
"It's a game called shougi, I suppose you would call it Japanese chess," Dove answered
and as they explained it to him Harry felt himself becoming very confused. So he just sat
back and watched them play. After several minutes he finally got up the courage to ask
something that he thought of as very bold and would probably get him a knife between
his eyes.
"Are you two geniuses or something? How could anyone understand that game well
enough to play it?" he asked. The two looked at him again and he got the same feeling
as before.
"Yes," Viper said with a smirk, "We are geniuses. Many people have told us so." Harry
stared at then, dumbfounded. He hadn't actually expected an answer from the normally
silent shinobi. They lapsed into silence again and Harry shifted nervously. He decided to
strike up a conversation with Neville so he sat back down on his seat. At least it was
something to do.
"So, Neville, what kind of plant is that?" he asked. The plant waved its cactus-like
appendages lazily. The nasty boils squelching with every move. The awkward boy's face
lit up with excitement. Finally, someone had asked.
"It's called a Mimbulus Mimbletonia," he said happily showing the plant. "It can do a lot
of cool stuff, I got it for my birthday, you see it has this incredible defense mechanism
here, let me show you!" The boy prodded the plant with his quill.
In seconds the entire cabin was covered in Stinksap. Harry gagged and tried to wipe it off
his face. He looked around. Ginny had been smart enough to cover her face, Luna
already had her magazine back up and was reading again regardless of the nasty liquid,
and Neville was stuttering apologies. Where were the guards?

"Is it safe to come back in?" Viper asked as they peeked in from outside the door. How
had they gotten out there so fast? Harry sighed but Ginny just laughed cheerfully.
"Scourgify," she said, flicking her wand. The Stinksap was gone in seconds. Viper and
Dove strode back in and set the shougi board back up exactly the way it had been before
the incident and began playing again.
An hour later Hermione and Ron appeared again and flopped down on the seats. Ron was
already complaining about all the extra work he had to do while the fifth years and sixth
years in the cabin traded Chocolate Frog cards. Both Dove and Viper were examining
them curiously. Ron looked at the guards curiously.
"Which ones are you two again?" he asked. They looked up at him with quizzical
expressions before sighing.
"Viper," the white-haired one said, flicking his locks out of his eyes.
"Dove," said the redhead. Ron's eyes bugged out.
"Blimey, I thought you were a g" Ginny's hands smothered His face as she pounced on
him. She had been present when Kingsley's face had almost been clawed off. Ron was
saved from being torn to pieces by a rather mad Hyuuga when two more redheads
appeared in the doorway. Ron stared at them, knowing that they were part of the
general guard entourage but he didn't know which one.
"I'm Slug," one redhead, the natural looking one, said with a smile. The other one didn't
say anything. She was too busy holding back Dove, who looked like her twin, from
strangling Ron. "That's Mouse, in case you hadn't guessed," Slug elaborated.
"We're here to take our break. Get your bums out there before we kick you out
ourselves," Slug said, cracking her knuckles. The wizards were a little amused to see the
two men bolt to their feet and slip out past the girls who instantly sat down and started
setting up the board again.
It didn't take long for someone to come along to disturb the relative peace that had fallen
over the room. Said person was none other than the infamous Draco Malfoy. Of course
he would show up, he always had to show up.
"What?" Harry asked. The guards tensed, knowing from his tone that this was not one of
Potter's friends.
"Manners, Potter, manners. Don't insult prefects," the Slytherin drawled, tapping the
shiny badge on his robes. He looked around the cabin and smirked. "So, Potter, even you
are reduced to hanging around rejects," he looked at Neville, "queers," this time to Luna,
who was reading obliviously, "Mudbloods," Hermione, "and baby poppers." The evil boy
smirked when his gaze landed on the two women on the floor.
"Weasley, how are these two related to you? Are they your older, long lost sisters,
daughters of one of your dad's sluts, kids from one of your mom's lovers, or are they
your actual mother?" He didn't get much further. Someone had landed behind him and
picked up bodily, slinging him down the hall with enough force to send him crashing
through the wall. A dark skinned woman stood there, her brown eyes blazing with fury as
she glared at Crabbe and Goyle. The two fatties ran off down the hall to where Malfoy
had landed directly on a brown haired man with bright, blue eyes.

"Oi!" the poor target shouted, "Panda, what where you are chucking stuff!" Panda waved
to him, grinning now. Malfoy moaned at the end of the hall as he picked himself up out of
his undignified heap. Several different doors opened as students looked out to see what
the commotion was about. Panda slipped into Harry's compartment and closed the door
before bursting out laughing. But she sobered almost instantly.
"Nobody talks about my friends like that," she snapped angrily at nobody in particular, "I
can't believe he actually thought that you two would be old enough to be the mothers of
one of the Weasleys!" Ron felt a little annoyed. She didn't say anything about him
insulting both his parents. He had been just about to jump on Malfoy and kill him when
she had to interfere. He pouted silently and then realized something.
"You just threw Malfoy down the hall!" he spluttered. She looked at him and grinned her
widest grin.
"Yeah I did. What is your point?" she asked, unfazed. He couldn't say anything in reply.
"Well!" she said, suddenly cheerful again, "I have to go back out and patrol. Fox and I
will be in to take over in an hour or so." She left without another word and without
waiting for a reply.
Harry sighed and decided that the rest of the guards would probably be too busy with
stuff to be interesting. Even Fox had been quieter than normal when they got on the
train. This was a mission and they were in an area that was now deemed dangerous by
the shinobi. He shifted in his seat and leaned against the window, falling asleep to the
rocking motion of the train.

[Did you ever think of me? You're so considerate]


Harry wandered in the general direction of the carriages that second through seventh
years rode to Hogwarts. He yawned and stretched as he heard Ron shouting about trying
to find his owl, Pig, who was currently in the possession of Luna. Of course, the strange
girl was nowhere to be found either. Ginny ran up holding Crookshanks in her arms and
handed the cat off to Hermione.
"What are those?" Harry asked curiously as he gazed for the first time upon Thestrals.
Actually, he whispered. The bony, skeleton bodies shifted ever so slightly between the
shafts of the carriage. He heard the pop and grind of bone on bone beneath the black,
rotting skin of the horse-like creatures. Their wings spread absently, the pale moonlight
shining through the thin membrane. Their white, blank eyes stared aimlessly at nothing
and yet, he felt like they were boring holes in him.
"What is what, Harry?" Ron asked, wandering up next to him.
"Those!" Potter said, pointing to the Thestral. It snorted and pawed the ground
nervously.
"What?"

"Those!"
"I don't see anything," Ron said with a shrug,
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, looking at him. "They are right there!" He turned Ron
completely around so that he was basically nose to nose with the creature.
"I think you're going mad," his friends said after scrutinizing the area of blank space for a
moment. The redhead shrugged and started to load his stuff in to the carriage.
"There's nothing there, Harry," Hermione said, still clutching her cat to her chest.
Crookshanks squirmed uncomfortably. "The carriages are pulling themselves, just like
always." She clambered into the carriage as well, followed by Neville, Ginny, and Luna.
Harry jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder steering towards the carriage.
"You are holding up the line," a voice growled. He looked up to see the redheaded Dove
pushing him roughly. A couple of steps behind him was Mouse, poking her forefingers
together in a very shy manner. He spotted Fox bending forward to gently stroke the
Thestral between the eyes. It tossed its head and bopped its beak against his chest. He
laughed and petted it again. Harry felt like he was going to puke.
Just before he got in the carriage Dove turned him around sharply. Harry shivered, he
was undeniably more afraid of the disguised Dove than the girly one. The moonlight
glinted off of the guard's earrings.
"We believe you, there is something there. Don't worry about it. Slug is going to look it
up or ask one of the teachers as soon as we get to the school. Don't let it bug you. You
are just wasting your time," he murmured. Before Harry could respond, the nin hoisted
him up into the carriage and threw his trunk in after him.
[Luck just gave me a kiss]
The Golden Trio, Ginny, and the twins all sat together at the Gryffindor table. While the
others ate voraciously Harry only poked at his food, thinking about what the guard had
told him. So they were going to ask about it? Why would they care that much unless they
were merely curious people. They didn't seem to like asking questions though.
He turned with everyone else to watch the little first years follow McGonagall into the
Great Hall. Most of them were shivering and trying to cover the trembles up by acting
cold. Sure, it was cold outside, but they were also terrified. Harry remembered having to
go up to the Sorting Hat. It had turned his insides upside down. He took a moment to
glance around. The guards were nowhere to be seen. Then the Hat began to sing.
When the Hat finished and the sorting began, Harry clapped along with the rest of the
school as each of the first years were sorted, cheering when one was put into Gryffindor
and falling silent when Slytherin gained a member. He hadn't really paid attention what
the Hat had said but other people had.
Viper flicked his white hair out of his eyes as he watched the goings on in the Great Hall
from his perch in the ceiling beams. Slug leaned against him, tired of just sitting around
waiting for something to happen. Her red hair floated softly around her face and she
closed her large, green eyes.

"What do you think it meant by that?" Panda asked, running her fingers through her
short hair. She pushed her fingers together in a sign and made her hair a little bit longer
and then turned it back as an experiment.
"No idea. Most of it was history though so keep it in mind," Fox answered, peering down
at the students. Mouse had a death hold on his arm with one hand and a grip on Dove's
with her other. Panda grinned but didn't say anything else. She hoped that they would be
able to go down soon. They had spent all of their time between getting to the school and
the opening ceremonies practicing their flying on broomsticks anyway.
As the students started in on their meal Fox looked down longingly at them. He leaned
forward more on his precarious perch. He scanned for his favorite food but, to his utter
annoyance and further disheartening, found no Ramen on the laden tables. The guards
snapped out of their lethargy when Dumbledore began speaking again over the quiet
noises of plates and silverware clattering.
"As usual, while you all are enjoying your feast, there are a few things that need to be
gone over. The forest is out of bounds to all students. Mr. Filch asks me to remind you
that magic is prohibited in the corridors between classes along with dozens of other
things, which can be read on the list on Mr. Filch's office door.
We have two new staff members this year. Please welcome Professor Grubbly- Plank who
is taking over Care of Magical Creatures lessons while Professor Hagrid is on extended
leave, and Professor Umbridge who is our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
After a quick round of unenthusiastic applause Dumbledore went on, "Quidditch tryouts
are taking place this "
"Hem hem," Professor Umbridge broke in. The headmaster turned to look at her,
instantly ceasing speech. The toad-like woman stood up and strode from her place at the
teachers' table to the front near where Professor Dumbledore stood. Umbridge launched
into a long-winded speech that had something to do with sucking up to the students, all
of whom were already turning back to their meals and ignoring every word she had to
say, and the teachers, who were watching with polite, but glazed gazes.
She sat down and Dumbledore applauded politely. The students all looked up in surprise,
having not noticed that the painfully high voice had stopped. A few clapped a couple of
times but most just glared at the new teacher. The headmaster continued his speech
where he had left off.
"What did she mean by that?" Ron asked, glancing at his friends.
"It means that the Ministry is trying to worm their way into Hogwarts," Hermione said,
rage barely contained in her voice. Her hands were clenched under the table.
" And this year I would like to announce that six very skilled wizards will be joining us
to help with the protection of the school. They request that you call them by their
nicknames so they thought to make it easier by not giving you their full names. I would
like to introduce to you Fox, Viper, Slug, Panda, Dove, and Mouse."
A loud bang resounded from overhead and the students looked up to see six figures
hovering above them on broomsticks. The figures began to fly around haphazardly and a
few students had to duck as they swooped low on them. Suddenly, things began to fly in
the air, namely, fireworks, which exploded into different colors of flower petals and
sparks. The girls watched with glee and tried to catch falling sakura blossoms.

Through the colors and booms the six landed beside Dumbledore and fell into the same
position. They all held their brooms with the end sitting on the floor between their
slightly-spread feet and the bristles across their left shoulders beside their heads. All of
them had their cloaks thrown back over their shoulders and there was an air of power
around them. When the smoke cleared there were still flower petals everywhere but they
gave the room such an aura of beauty, people were afraid to touch them. The students
watched as a handsome, brown haired blue-eyed man stepped forwards and bowed to
them.
"I'm Fox, captain of this group. This is Viper," he pointed to the white haired man,
"Slug," the one who looked like a Weasley, "Panda," the dark skinned blonde, "Dove,"
the bright redheaded man, "and Mouse," he lastly waved in the direction of the other
redhead who looked like the sister of Dove.
"We'll be wandering the halls throughout the school year so we ask that you don't
scream if you see us or bother us. Our first objective is to protect the school so if you
happen to see anything strange please report it to one of us. If we catch you breaking
school rules then we will react like teachers as well. Dumbledore has given us permission
to assign detentions like prefects or professors." He grinned at them, white teeth
flashing, a few girls giggled and blushed, "If you have any questions for us please catch
us later outside of the Great Hall."
He stepped back and looked like he was done but Viper leaned over and whispered in his
ear. His face lit up and he spoke up again, rubbing the back of his neck in
embarrassment. "I forgot, we also have permission to enter your common rooms and
sleep there since we don't have our own rooms so don't freak out if you see one of us
there."
"Yeah, right," Harry whispered, "Dumbledore probably did that on purpose so that one of
them would always have a reason to watch the Gryffindor common room at night."
"Hush," Hermione hissed. But Fox seemed to be really finished this time because
Dumbledore had moved forward again and dismissed the students. "Ron, we have to lead
the first years," Hermione reminded her fellow prefect.
"Oh yeah!" He said, jumping up, "See you later in the common room, Harry!" He said
and wandered away with Hermione and a group of tiny first years in tow. Harry shifted
nervously and tried to get out of the common room as fast as possible as he felt the
stares directed at him, whispers, and pointing fingers. More people read the Daily
Prophet than he had thought. He leaned against the wall next to the door of the Great
Hall, the hallway was too packed for him to get through. He sighed as he continued to
feel the stares.
"Are they bothering you?" he heard someone ask. He flinched and looked sharply to his
right where Panda was leaning against the wall next to him, her arms crossed over her
chest. She had one foot on the wall behind her to steady herself. She looked at him
curiously.
"No, I'm used to it," he said quickly, trying to step away. She reached out and grabbed
his arm faster than he thought possible. He struggled slightly but he just pulled him back
gently.
"Liar," she said softly. "It's okay if they are bothering you, it's nothing new. We have to
put up with it a lot, even in our own village. ANBU are just walking attractions to
civilians. We read the junk the Daily Prophet was writing about you. There's nothing you
have to hide from us." He nodded and tried to yank away again, feeling strangely

embarrassed by the attention she was giving him. This times he let him go and waved to
him cheerfully before disappearing in a cloud of smoke. He shivered and pushed his way
through to the common room.
There he found most of the Gryffindors surrounding two people who sat on the floor in
front of the fireplace. "Harry!" one of them called, waving to him. It was Slug. He
flinched but wandered over to where she and Mouse sat.
"How do you know Harry?" one Gryffindor first year asked her.
"The Ron is my cousin," Slug lied smoothly, taking advantage of their physical likeness.
She leaned back on her hands and grinned at Ron, Ginny, Fred, and George. The
Weasleys' jaws had dropped at that remark. "So of course I know his best friend."
"Is your hair color natural?" a boy asked Mouse. She shrank back but shook her head.
"Are you related to Dove?" a girl inquired. Mouse nodded quietly. She and Dove had
already agreed on their background story. Hopefully they wouldn't negate each other.
"He's my brother," she said. A few in the back had to lean forward to hear what she said,
her voice barely carried through the loud room.
"How old are you?" Hermione asked Slug. Slug 'Weasley' grinned at the bushy haired girl,
knowing full well that she already knew how old she was but this was the girl's way of
keeping the younger guys from trying to hit on them while they were here.
"All of us are twenty-three except Panda and Dove, they are both twenty-four," she
answered easily. They had agreed on these ages too, partly because Mrs. Weasley had
told them that was how old they looked under the genjutsu. Harry ignored the rest of the
questions and slipped upstairs. If he had any questions he wanted Dumbledore to answer
them.
Slug and Mouse looked at each other when they saw Harry disappear up the stairs. Slug
quickly got everyone's attention with a few stories about the rest of her teammates while
Mouse slipped away unnoticed up to the boy's doom, walking on the railing since she
already knew that the staircases could do. She stopped at the fifth year's door and
listened.
"So you read the Daily Prophet like your idiot mother," Harry snapped at one of the boys
within.
"Don't talk about my mum like that!" the other boy answered.
"I'll talk how like about people who call me a liar," Harry answered with just as much
venom. Mouse pressed herself against the wall, hoping that none of them came out.
"If you have a problem, go ask Professor McGonagall to move you. Maybe then your
mum will stop worrying about you " Harry continued.
"Stop talking about my mum like that!" Mouse twisted quickly when she heard someone
coming up the stairs. She shot up the wall and pressed her back against the ceiling. She
saw Ron enter the room with a bang of the door.
"What's going on?" he asked. Mouse didn't bother listening to anything else. Panda had
already told them via summoning creature that Harry was really tense about the bad rep

that the Daily Prophet was giving him and he would likely snap soon. Well, that had
happened earlier than they had thought. Mouse slid down the railing again. Whatever
was going on between Harry and the other boy had everything to do with the Daily
Prophet's lies. She would just let Ron handle it, he was a prefect anyway.
She sat down next to Slug again and whispered what she had heard in her ear. The
kunoichi nodded and stood up. A few students protested since they still had questions.
"There will probably be someone in here later," Slug said to them. "We all have to sleep
somewhere anyway. The roof isn't that comfortable." The two slipped out of the common
room and ran down the halls at a controlled pace, humans can't keep up with the pace of
a shinobi at top speed so moving any faster would create unwanted inquiries. They had
to find Fox and warn him about Potter's touchiness on the topic. Plus, the dobe had
forgotten to give them the scrolls he had hidden in his bags which held their summons.

[And I've never felt so invincible]


Ron, Harry, and Hermione entered the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom as
quietly as possible. There were already a lot of people there but it was Umbridge who
worried them the most. She was sitting at her desk already wearing her appalling pink
cardigan. Her face was red with fury as she spoke with two people who stood in front of
her.
Those two people were Mouse and Dove.
Fox had sent them to make sure Umbridge was watched at all times. Thankfully, without
the masks Mouse and Dove were even more foreboding than any of the other shinobi.
Their pale, pupil-less eyes could stare down anyone who managed to meet their gaze. It
had taken Fox six years to finally be able to meet Dove's glares head on. There was just
something unnatural about their eyes. Of course, they both looked rough around the
edges as well.
Today they had chosen to work on their image in front of Umbridge. Mouse had to be
ordered to keep her head up and a cold expression on her face. She had a lot of practice
watching Dove look emotionless so she pulled it off rather well. They both wore all black
and thin silver chains hung from their wrists, necks, and pockets. Their bright red hair
just added to the appearance.
Now they seemed to be explaining to the toad woman that they would be watching every
one of her classes for the rest of the year. Said woman did not look very happy about it.
What the Golden Trio did not see was the veins bulging around both Hyuuga's eyes, their
Byakugan. Although the kekegenkai was for surveillance purposes it also worked well as
an intimidation technique against those who didn't know about it.
"I assure you, Professor Umbridge," Dove was saying in a smooth, albeit toneless, voice,
"We wont be interrupting your class at all. There are guards in each class, don't think
that yours is the only one being singled out."
"Be that as it may, Dove," she said his name as sarcastically as she could, "You have no
right to be in my classroom if I do not want you to be. If you continue to pester me

about saying here then I will be forced to take action against you that could result in
your arrest for molesting a Ministry official."
Dove fought back the urge to say, why in the world would I want to molest you? Mouse
only noticed his amused expression, which was shown only by the eighth of a millimeter
rising of the edges of his mouth, because she had been around him long enough. She
instantly knew what he was thinking and had to restrain herself from slapping her
forehead at his hidden stupidity.
Dove was about to say something very rude when Fox strode into the room holding
something that looked like a scroll. The brown haired guard set it down on Umbridge's
desk with a smirk.
"I think that you will find that the headmaster of the school grants guards permission to
watch any class that they choose." He grinned brightly. By this time the entire class had
gathered and were watching the display with open interest. Harry sighed, he had already
guessed that Umbridge was going to be annoying as heck but now it seemed that the
guards were intent upon making it even worse.
Professor Umbridge picked up the scroll and carefully unrolled it, as if checking for traps
or explosives. She scanned the parchment and her triumphant grin slowly slipped from
her face with each line she read. After a minute or so she rolled it back up and handed it
back to Fox but he refused it.
"Perhaps you want to keep it to remind yourself should you ever think to throw one of us
out of your room. We wouldn't want you to get into trouble with the headmaster." He
smirked sarcastically at her and left the room in a flourish of black robe. Dove and Mouse
slipped into the shadows at the back of the room, struggling to keep the smiles off their
faces. Leave it to Fox to fix things up. Umbridge fumed silently for a moment before
standing up and waved her wand at the blackboard. The words Defense Against the Dark
Arts: A Return to Basic Principles appeared on it.
"Good afternoon, class," she said in her sickly sweet voice. Nobody answered her. She
cleared her throat in her annoying fake cough and began striding up and down the aisles
as she spoke.
"Sadly, all of your teachings in Defense Against the Dark Arts have been rather dodgy.
The Ministry has given us a new curriculum to follow that will doubtlessly bring you back
up to the Ministry standard that we have set for your O.W.L. year. Oh yes," she turned
around at the end of the aisle and began her stalking again, "You will not be needing
your wands in this class. Please put them away. Does everyone have their copy
of Defensive Magical Theory?" The class muttered something.
"No, no, no children. When I ask you a question you need to speak up and say 'Yes,
Professor Umbridge. Now, I will try again. Does everyone have their copy of Defensive
Magical Theory?"
"Yes, Professor Umbridge."
"Very good, children. Please turn to page five and read chapter one. There will be no
talking please. Begin." Umbridge sat back down in her seat and flipped through several
parchments before watching them like a hawk. Harry stared at the page, intending to not
read it. He looked back for a moment and saw the two guards leaning against the wall.
They hadn't moved since they had gotten there. He could have mistaken them for
statues.

Hermione raised her hand. She waved her hand to catch Professor Umbridge's attention
but was ignored. After several minutes the rest of the class was now watching her as well
and even the guards showed a bit of interest.
"Yes, dear?" Umbridge said, looking directly at her like she had been for the past several
minutes. Hermione dropped her hand.
"Why is there nothing in here about using defensive spells?" she asked. The class froze
as Umbridge stood again and stood in front of her desk, looking positively affronted.
"You are going to be learning the theory of magic in a safe, secure environment, Mrs.
Granger. I see no reason for you to have to use spells in my classroom," she simpered.
"But if we are attacked then we wont know what to do," Ron said looking up from his
quill which had been the object of his fascination from the time the class began.
"Who would attack you children? There is nothing in the world that could endanger you.
The Ministry has decided that the theory of defensive spells is more than enough to get
you through your O.W.L.s and into the world around you."
"But what if we are attacked?" Harry asked, "It wont be 'safe and secure' then."
"Students will raise their hands in my classroom," Umbridge raised her voice over the
murmuring that was beginning among the students.
"What is the use of theory "
"Raise your hand, Mr. Potter," Umbridge responded.
"What " Hermione started.
"Hand, Miss Granger," Umbridge interrupted. Hands shot up everywhere but people were
still just shouting out questions.
"I agree with Potter-san," came a voice from the back of the room. The class quieted
instantly and Dove stepped out of the shadows. His arms were crossed over his chest
and the dim light glinted off his earrings. He didn't smile, didn't make any expression. His
cloak fell around him in dramatic folds and the chains around his wrists and neck
glimmered slightly.
"Excuse me?" Umbridge said, her voice growing nasty.
"From experience, Professor Umbridge, I must point out that when you are going to be
attacked you don't have time to think about whether the situation is secure or not. Death
Eaters and Lord Voldemort wait for no one. If you are willing to put your students in a
position where they are going to be killed because they were not adequately prepared
then I find myself questioning your motives."
"Sir "
"Let me finish, Professor. I thought that the Ministry would at least feel some kindness
towards children, if only for the sake of their lives. But, apparently Fudge is more
concerned with his own position than the deaths of hundreds of children."

"How dare you!" Umbridge shrieked. That was when she lost it. She pointed her wand at
Dove and shouted. "Incendio!" Students who understood the spell shrieked in panic. Fire
burst from the toad woman's wand and flew towards the guard. He still had his arms
crossed. Just seconds before the spell hit him he brought his left hand forward and made
a lazy circle in the air about a foot in diameter. The students watched in amazement as
blue fire-like energy followed his hand creating a shield (AN: think 'mini Kaiten' xp).
The spell ricocheted off of it and hit the corner of the room, shattering bricks with the
force of the fire's momentum.
Silence enveloped the room as Dove crossed his arms again as if nothing had happened.
Hermione already had another book out and appeared to be trying to look up 'wand-less
magic' with little success.
"Professor Umbridge," Dove said in a deceptively calm voice, "If you attack me again I
might be forced to kill you and I am sure that I might get in trouble for that. Please
refrain from using any spells on my teammates or me. I can assure you that they are
just as able to block your attacks as I am."
He slipped back into the shadows and Harry saw Mouse put a hand on his arm. Only then
did he notice that the stoic man was shaking with barely controlled rage. Umbridge was
completely still at the front of the room. She did nothing, frozen in place with shock.
"Professor Umbridge," Harry started but she cut in with a shout.
"Detention, Mr. Potter!" she said. The sound of the bell to change classes rang dimly in
the background. "Finish chapter one for homework," Umbridge ordered. The students
gathered up their books and the first ones to the door drew back in surprise as Dove
swept past them, his cloak billowing around him and his face set in a stony expression.
Mouse stood outside the door, waiting for the next class.
Harry watched Dove move down the halls. Students scurried out of his way as he nearly
ran them over. It seemed that he was too intent upon getting away from the room to pay
any attention to anything else. Harry shouldered his backpack. Watching the show
between the guard and Umbridge was almost worth getting a detention. One thing he
knew for sure now, the guards were definitely against the Ministry.
[Life's too short to live alone in misery]
Fox jumped in shock as Dove slammed his hands down on the table in front of him. The
ANBU captain was sitting next to a table in the Gryffindor common room when Dove had
terrorized the Fat Lady to get her to let him in. Now he looked up and found that his
teammate was enraged to a point that Fox had only seen on a few occasions, all of which
had been resolved with the Hyuuga killing the instigator of his anger, or otherwise
obliterating it.
"What's wrong?" he asked. Dove's eye twitched.
"I can't stay in Professor Umbridge's class."
"Why?" Fox motioned to the seat across from him but the shinobi didn't take it. He
preferred to stare down at him from his standing position. Dove told him everything,
even what he had done to anger her. But he made sure to accent her attacking him first.
Fox nodded, knowing that it was useless to try to tell the Hyuuga to keep his wrath under
control at this point. He would have to tell him later.

"Fine, Mouse can handle it on her own. I want you patrolling the halls for now while you
cool down." Dove nodded and took his hands off the table, walking back towards the
porthole. "Try not to terrorize students on the way," Fox called after him. Dove turned
and grinned at him and the captain paled. Dove had just smiled. All hell was going to
break loose if one more person got on his nerves and, knowing Dove, whoever that poor
person was would likely find themselves unconscious for several days.

[A nightingale sings its song of farewell]


Harry hurried down the hall to the common room. The first day of school had seemed to
last forever. He had been a little surprised when he saw guards in the other classrooms
but not very. After all, he had heard Dove say that they would be patrolling other classes
too. But it seemed like the six were covering way more ground than just their number
could do. It almost seemed like there were twice their number stalking Hogwarts.
He passed by Viper, the white haired man leaning against the wall, dark eyes watching
very person as they went by. He shivered, remembering exactly how the guards looked
without their disguises. They were masters of keeping to the shadows and killing. He
wondered how long it would take before a student ended up dead with a knife in their
back.
A scream resounded from down the hall. Harry's heart nearly stopped. Even though he
had been wondering how long it would take he hadn't expected it this soon. Other people
started running towards the shriek while a few darted the other direction. A girl tore
down the hall, her face bright red from yelling her head off.
"Death Eaters! Death Eaters!" she screeched. Harry froze in the middle of the hallway.
Death Eaters? Here? That was impossible! He pulled out his wand as he started running
again. There was no way he was letting them get away.
Harry looked around the corner warily as a student flew past him. There, amidst several
students shooting spells at him, was an ANBU. The shinobi spun swiftly in place, creating
a shield of energy around him that knocked away the clumsy spells. Knives flew out,
thrown so that only the handles struck the students' heads and knocked them out. One
ran at him and threw an awkward punch at his head. The ANBU ducked, grabbed the arm
with one hand and the boy's waist with the other, and flipped him over his head, sending
him crashing to the ground.
The other kids took several steps back from him and scattered in other directions,
scaring off any that were thinking about coming anywhere near the 'Death Eater'. Harry
walked towards the ANBU but, unfortunately for him, the guard reacted on gut instinct
and grabbed him without looking and tossed him down the hall.
From the floor he looked up and saw a white ANBU mask staring down at him. The dove
design seemed to smirk at him. Other students hadn't made it that far; a few even lay
unconscious on the ground. Harry took in the long, dark brown hair falling down the
guard's back and the black and white uniform.

"Dove," he whispered. The ANBU held up his hands, fingers in a weird sign and
murmured something. Harry coughed as smoke billowed around him and when it cleared
he saw the wizard Dove standing before him again.
"Sorry about that," the redhead said cheerfully, holding out a hand to help him up. Harry
accepted it after a moment's hesitation.
"Potter!" someone shouted. Harry turned to see Professor McGonagall, Professor
Dumbledore, Snape, Umbridge, and Fox all running towards him. "What happened?"
McGonagall asked as they caught up to them. Dove looked like he was just waiting for
the right moment to bolt.
"Um the students thought they saw a Death Eater," Harry said. It was the truth kind
of.
"Why are there children knocked out on the ground?" Snape asked sharply. Dove rubbed
the back of his neck, blushing slightly. Fox was the only one that seemed to notice this
action because his blue eyes snapped to his teammate and fury burned behind them.
"Dove, what did you do?" he asked.
"Ano Uzumaki-san, they annoyed me first?" Dove said in Japanese. Fox stomped up in
front of the taller ANBU and got right up in his face, not even bothering to speak in
Japanese. The teachers had a right to know what had happened anyway.
"Hyuuga Neji!" Dove flinched. Fox was really mad if he forgot to call him by his ANBU
name, "It is your job to protect the school, not to hurt the students."
"I didn't draw blood," the ANBU said quietly.
"I could care less if you didn't draw blood. Now they will all think that we are here to hurt
them! Plus, you seriously jeopardized our mission. What am I supposed to tell Tsunade?"
Fox ranted.
"They didn't see me in this form," Dove muttered.
"You used your real self? Are you insane? I thought that you were supposed to be a
genius!" Dove noticed how all of the teachers were watching the display with nothing
short of fascination. How often did you see a half English half Japanese verbal abuse
session anyway? Umbridge had a sneakily pleased expression on her face. No doubt she
was plotting something nasty.
"Uzumaki-san" Dove tried to speak again.
"No, don't you dare try to suck up to me. I'm not that stupid, Hyuuga! You know what, I
don't exactly know how I should deal with this. So, I'm just going to have to do the only
thing that will get through your thick skull," Fox took a deep breath and Dove flinched,
knowing what was coming. "You get to do detention with Potter-san."
Dove looked at the ground and gritted his teeth. Umbridge was nearly dancing for joy at
the chance to torture the one person that she had grown to utterly hate. Harry's eyes
nearly fell out of his head. Fox was giving his teammate detention as punishment? Why?
He doubted that it would have any effect on the ANBU.

"Did you hear me, Dove?" Fox asked, his voice growing calm again. Dove frowned and
drilled holes in the floor.
"Hai, Fox-taicho," he said angrily. Harry could only feel his wrath because his voice had
gone completely cold, devoid of emotion.
"Good, you will accompany Potter-san to his detention and take part. That leaves
Professor Umbridge to decide how she is going to deal with you. Is that alright with you,
Professor?" Fox asked, turning to the toad-woman.
"Of course, Captain Fox, I would never dream of letting anyone get away with harming
students," she said smugly.
"Good. I will see you later tonight, Dove." Fox disappeared in a puff of smoke and when
Harry turned to look for Dove he found that the guard had vanished as well, small
amounts of white smoke drifting around lazily before dispersing. Harry laughed nervously
and fled from sight up to the common room. Hermione and Ron probably were wondering
where he was by this time already.
Later that day six students were sent to the Hospital wing suffering from various bumps
and bruises, having been on the receiving end of an irate Dove's pounding. It was mostly
their fault though; they had teased him about his eyes. Nobody teases a Hyuuga about
their eyes and lives to tell the tale. He had just gone easy on the kids, partly because he
didn't want Tsunade to kill him and partly because he didn't want to clean up the mess.
[Remember the day there was a sign]
Harry walked silently down the corridors towards Professor Umbridge's office. He felt sick
to his stomach, who knew what the old bat would do to him? He saw someone leaning
against the wall next to the Professor's door. As he plodded closer the shadowy shape
turned into Dove, staring at the floor with his arms crossed.
"Hi," Harry said lamely as he stood in front of the door. He had one hand on the handle
and it didn't seem like Dove was willing to follow him inside the room. He didn't blame
him. It was one thing for a student to get detention but it was completely another for a
grown man to have to endure the same punishment as a child.
"Hi," Dove muttered. Yup, he was not in a good mood. Harry sighed; he wasn't going to
be getting anything of substance out of him at this point. He opened the door and nearly
had to cover his eyes to stop the burning. There was pink everywhere. Dove peeked in
behind him and quickly withdrew his head. Hyuuga eyes are very sensitive and the toadlady's office threatened to turn them to mush.
"Good evening, Mr. Potter, Mr. Dove," Umbridge said from her desk where she was
making herself a cup of tea. "Please come in." She had a smug smirk on her face as she
watched them enter the room tentatively. "You will both be writing lines for me today
with a particularly special quill that I keep only for my detention students," she said, her
evil smirk growing wider by the minute. The two sat down at the desks that were arrayed
around the room. Harry was nervously twiddling his thumbs under the desktop and Dove
had leaned his chair back lazily.
Umbridge stood from behind her desk and picked up two quills. These she set on the
desk in front of them and then gave them each a very long sheet of parchment.

"Mr. Potter, I would like you to write for me, 'I must not tell lies' and Mr. Dove, please
write, 'I must not attack students'." Umbridge was about to continue speaking when she
noticed that Dove was looking at the quill in confusion. "Is there a problem Mr. Dove?"
she asked. He shrugged.
"I've never used a quill before. Do you happen to have a brush instead?" Umbridge
turned purple with unspoken anger at his 'impertinence' as she thought of it. She
rummaged in her desk until she found what she was looking for. She had guessed that
something along these lines would happen. Dumbledore had said that the guards were
an odd lot and that it would behoove her to have basic Japanese essentials ready.
She pulled a long, dark brush from one of her desk drawers. Behind her she did not
notice Harry and Dove share a smirk at her annoyance. She tapped the brush with her
wand twice and placed it on Dove's desk.
"Professor Umbridge," Harry said, "We don't have any ink."
"Oh, I think you will find that you don't need it for this exercise," she said happily as she
sat back down. The two looked at each other for a moment before getting to work.
Harry wrote the first line of 'I must not tell lies' and felt a sharp pain in the back of his
left hand. He looked at it and found, much to his horror that the words that he had just
written on the page came out in blood red because the quill was using his own blood for
the punishment. He snapped his eyes to Dove and found that the guard had noticed the
same thing, only the redhead was looking at his hand and then at the paper and then at
Umbridge in utter disgust.
Umbridge sipper her tea and watched her captives. Her eyes sparkled with malicious
hatred for them both. Harry bit his lip and touched the quill to the paper again and wrote
slowly and carefully, 'I will not tell lies' and nearly cried when he felt an invisible force rip
into his skin again. He glanced over at Dove and felt like he was going to throw up.
The ANBU looked at the brush for a moment, then at the paper again. He put the brush
to the parchment and started writing in Japanese down the side of the paper, '
'. Harry's throat constricted as he saw the long string of symbols
appear on Dove's hand in blood.
Umbridge turned her attention to Dove and she and Harry watched with growing horror
as Dove wrote too fast for the wound to reseal. Blood dripped from his hand onto the
desk. He didn't pay any attention to it and Harry went back to his careful writing. There
was no way he was going to be able to take the punishment like that.
"Professor Umbridge," Dove said softly. The woman snapped her eyes to him and saw
that he was resting his chin on his left hand, the blood slipping down his arm into his
sleeve, staining the fabric.
"Yes?" she asked. Harry noted the slight tremor in her voice.
"I seem to be out of parchment." Harry looked down at his own writing. He hadn't even
filled a fourth of the page yet. He glanced at Dove's paper and saw that, sure enough,
the entire thing was covered in tiny, neat writing.
"Yes, well. Has the message sunk in?" Umbridge asked, salvaging the dignity that had
been shattered by the ANBU's reaction to her detention. She shivered when Dove
brought his hand up to his face and slowly licked the blood from his arm.

"Perhaps," was all he said. A smirk twitched the edges of his mouth. Harry shuddered.
"Um well then, I suppose that means that you are finished. Mr. Dove, Mr. Potter, you
are free to go." Harry looked at her in amazement. She was letting them go early? Dove
stood in a fluid movement and waited for Harry to rise. The Potter boy followed.
As they walked silently up to the common room Harry blew on his hand. Dove noticed
and stopped. Harry turned to look at him.
"Something wrong?" the wizard asked. Dove shook his head and held out his hand, still
stained the blood.
"Is your hand bothering you?" the ANBU asked. Harry shrugged and was about to keep
walking when the guard's hand shot out and grabbed his by his wrist. "Slug will be able
to fix you up better but this will do for now." Harry squirmed as Dove's good hand
started to glow slightly with a green light and he closed it over Harry's injury. The boy
stilled as he felt the pain recede. Dove released him and started walking again, leaving
Harry to look at his partially healed hand.
"How did you do that?" Harry asked. Dove glanced at him out of the corner of his eye.
"I can't tell you but I will say that it is similar to your healing spells. I just don't have a
knack for them so that is the best I can do. Slug will be able to heal you completely once
we get back to the Gryffindor common room."
"But you are hurt to!" Harry protested. Dove laughed. It was not a pleasant laugh either.
"What? This?" He asked, holding up his hand. Blood still dripped from it onto the stone
Hogwarts floor. "I've taken worse than this before. A little cut isn't going to hurt me."
Harry was silent for the rest of the time until they got up to the common room.
[There is an engine in my body with every beat it lets me breathe]
"I can believe you got detention!" Panda shrieked with laughter as she flopped down onto
the couch next to Dove. She put her feet up on the table and grabbed his hand, fingering
the wound. He pulled away from her sharply.
"Whatever," he muttered. Panda leaned over and got up in his face.
"Poor Dove, always the good boy in the Academy and now that he's old he got a
detention." She giggled and leaned back again. Harry watched the scene with interest.
They looked like an old married couple the way she was nagging him. He winced as his
wound closed the rest of the way, Slug's magic coaxing it along.
"Leave me alone, Panda," Dove sighed and slouched. She laughed and poked his face
until he turned to glare at her and swat her hand away.
"So what did the witch do to you? Did you cry?" Panda asked, bouncing up and down in
her seat.
"Hardly. But her methods may have potential for Ibiki if the loon wants to brain wash and
harm someone at the same time." Panda kept poking him and he sat up straight, sending
her a deadly glare. "If you don't stop poking me and leave me along I am going to take
away all your weapons and hide them again."

Panda squeaked and vaulted over the back of the couch, hiding behind it.
"There is no need to be so mean, Dove-kun," she said teasingly. "I was just wondering if
you cried when Umbridge enacted her so called 'torture'." She reached up and poked his
face again.
"That's it!" he shouted and leapt from his place, darting after her. Harry grinned and
tried to ignore the pain as Slug finished her healing. He flexed his hand when she let go
and felt a pleasantly soothing feeling run up his arm. Dove managed to wrestle Panda to
the ground where she was twisting to try and get away. She got one hand free and
poked him again then did several signs and disappeared into a cloud of spoke, leaving
only a log behind.
Harry grinned as he watched them. Maybe the guards were more human than he had
first thought.

[I cannot sleep, I cannot dream tonight]


The room was dark except for an odd sort of light reflected off of the walls and floors,
almost like an eerie ghost light. The steady dripping of water sounded down one of the
many corridors, like the roof had sprung a leak during a heavy thunderstorm. The
'overlord' (as he would like to think of himself) of the place sat in a highly decorated
chair that seemed somewhat throne like.
"I can assure you that you and your wizards are no match for these people that
Dumbledore has," a snake-like voice hissed to the man on the throne. The owner of the
voice had cast his face in shadows but he was fooling no one. There was a power that
radiated from him, a very evil power. Voldemort liked it.
"There are none that can overcome me," the dark lord proclaimed haughtily. Orochimaru
smirked at him and then glanced at the white haired man next to him. Kabuto carelessly
pushed his glasses a little further up on his nose and vanished from sight.
Voldemort did well to hide his surprise at suddenly being along with Orochimaru but he
was not quick enough. The sannin laughed, although it sounded more like a wheezing
hiss.
"I just sent Kabuto to take care of the guards you have set around the room. He'll be
back soon." No sooner had the words left his mouth than the medic nin reappeared next
to him in a poof of smoke. Orochimaru glanced at his shinobi and Kabuto just nodded.
"Voldemort-san, I am aware that you have a certain desire for a wizard boy at Hogwarts
School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This boy happens to be guarded by six of the best
ninja ever to come out of Konaha. Your people will be killed quickly and easily if they try
to go in there." Voldemort opened his mouth and Orochimaru broke in, his sardonic grin
never leaving his face.

"Don't act so surprised and don't act like you actually think you can beat us. It will never
happen" the sannin grinned, "Unless" Voldemort gave him a cold glare, "You happen
to know the weaknesses of these particular shinobi."
Orochimaru motioned to Kabuto, who disappeared for a moment again and soon came
back with a plush chair that he had apparently found somewhere in the building. Most
likely came from Fudge's office by the look of it. The snake lord dropped into the chair
and put his hands on the arms, pressing his fingers together before his face.
"Interested, Voldemort-san?" he asked, golden snake eyes narrowing. The dark lord
looked at his hands in his lap for a moment, thinking it over.
"What do you want from me in payment for this information?" Voldemort asked.
"Ah, nothing much. I just want you to keep the shinobi alive until I can get to them. That
is all. Feel free to remove them from your path in any way necessary. Just leave them
alive."
"That is all?"
"That is all."
Voldemort looked his fellow evil mastermind up and down for a moment before rising
from his chair. He pointed to the main door to the room and, as it flew open, the two
unconscious wizards that had been set there to protect it fell inward. The dark lord
walked across the empty room in silence, acutely aware of Orochimaru's eyes on him the
whole time. He stepped over his henchmen and carried onwards to his rooms. He would
have to think over this new arrangement.
[I think we have an emergency]
Fox yawned and stretched as he woke from a peaceful nap on the Gryffindor couch. The
furniture groaned under his light weight as he rolled off of it and onto the floor with a
loud thump. He ran his hands through his hair and shuddered as he peered in a mirror on
the wall. He really wanted his yellow hair back. Perhaps he should have chosen a better
color than brown.
"Captain Fox?" a voice whispered from the girl's dormitories. He looked up to see Mouse
standing at the top of the stairs. She had decided to stay the night with the girls so that
she could keep an eye on Hermione. Her bright red hair fell around her pale face in
gentle waves and her lavender eyes were still misty with sleep.
"I-I heard s-someone fall so I came to s-see if there was a-anything w-wrong," she said.
Fox threw his hands behind his head and chuckled in embarrassment. Firstly, she had
heard him fall off the couch, and secondly, she had probably just caught him looking the
mirror. Wonderful.
"No, Mouse-chan, there's nothing wrong. You can go back to sleep," he said. She
nodded, a light blue dusting her cheeks as she disappeared into the dorms again. Fox
looked at the place where she had stood mere seconds before. He sighed and flopped
back down on the couch but this time, he couldn't go back to sleep.
He rolled over and stared into the fire. The flames danced before his eyes and the heat
warmed his stiff body. He grimaced and pulled a pillow over his face. His eyes were
starting to burn from looking at the fire for too long.

"I wonder how Hinata-chan is doing," he muttered to himself since no one else was
listening. He sighed and snuggled down into the comfortable sofa and was asleep in
seconds.
[Time is all we had]
Orochimaru sat beside the fire with Voldemort. He sipped wine from a glass, only after
Kabuto had tested it for poisons, and glanced at the dark lord over the rim of the cup. A
slow sneer grew on his face. At least he was handsomer than that weirdo.
"Well?" Voldemort said impatiently. He had decided to accept Orochimaru's offer after a
good night's sleep on it. The decision had left most of his wizards wondering how to act
around Orochimaru and his rather interesting followers. Kabuto seemed to never leave
the snake sannin's side. Several other strange men and women, usually with uncommon
appearances, slinked around. They seemed to be making the dark lord's Department of
Mysteries their home
Orochimaru set his glass down on the table next to his chair. He smirked at Voldemort.
"What was it that you wanted to know again, Voldemort-san?" he asked.
"The weaknesses of the shinobi that your Hokage sent here to protect the Potter boy!"
Voldemort nearly screamed.
"Oh yes, their weaknesses." Orochimaru looked into the fire. "You see the six that
Tsunade sent can be divided by two, making three groups of two."
[You gave my life to me, set me free]
Panda frowned as she pulled the ribbons out of her hair. Somehow she had been trapped
by Slug and Mouse and several Ravenclaw girls and forced to put her hair into hundreds
of tiny ponytails. You'd think that the girls would've had enough sense to leave her hair
be, it was too short to do anything with. But no, they saw fit to torture her instead.
She looked up sharply when she heard something on the roof. Donning her cloak she
slipped out through the window of one of the classrooms she had been planning on
camping out in, the divination tower to be exact. The room was just so full of comfy
things and Professor Trelawney had said it was fine (after babbling about how the ANBU's
world was so dark, cold, dangerous, covered in dangers to come, and other happy
things).
She pumped chakra to the bottoms of her feet and climbed easily up the side of the
tower until she reached the roof. She already had a kunai in one hand and a scroll ready
to be unfurled in the other. She peeked over the edge and saw a single person lying
there on his back, hands behind his head as he stared at the sky. She grinned when she
realized who it was.
"Hey," she said as she sat beside Dove.
"Hn," he muttered in reply. She smiled at the typical answer. She assumed he had meant
'hello' or something to that extent.
"What are you doing up here at this time of night?" she asked. "You should be asleep by
now. There are clones patrolling the castle so we can get enough rest for tomorrow. Fox

wants us to do some training in the Forbidden Forest. I think he really wanted us to


spare in front of the students but I'm sure you and Viper would say no to that."
"Why are you bothering me?" he asked gruffly. She smiled and lay back on the roof,
shifting to a comfortable position. There was no need for her to answer. He already
knew. She closed her eyes as she felt his hand close gently over hers. They never had to
say anything to each other.
[I'll stay up all night with these bloodshot eyes]
"What do you mean?" Voldemort asked.
"Among the six ANBU you could say that there are three sets of couples, the two that
feel mutually attracted to each other. Since they are all still young they fell the desire to
connect themselves to someone else. I happen to know which two pair up. If you merely
capture the weaker of the pair then you will tie the hands of the stronger one, so to
speak." Orochimaru grinned at his own genius for figuring this out.
There seemed to be no cracks in an ANBU's emotionless shell. They seemed to be
walking fortresses. No one could bypass their walls. Unfortunately, all six of the ANBU
that Tsunade had sent were relatively knew. They were the best of the best but they
were still just newbies. They had not had the chance to undergo the serious training that
tended to take away a shinobi's emotions.
In true younger lover's fashion, they had even connected to each other, more so over
this mission than ever before. That left them open to the easiest of traps. Capture one to
kill them both, or two birds with one stone if you wanted to say it that way too.
"Go on," Voldemort said.
[Even if saving you sends me to heaven]
Slug shivered in the cold as she patrolled the halls. Fox had told them all to get a good
night's sleep but she just couldn't. There was something about this old castle that she
didn't like. There were too many secrets in the walls, the floors, the ceilings. Even the
tapestries seemed to whisper to her as she walked past them, making them flutter in the
light breeze.
She held out a fake wand, each of the guards had one in case a student asked to see or
if they needed to threaten a wizard. She channeled her chakra through it to the tip so
that a small ball of glowing blue chakra emitted from the end of it, creating an effect
similar to the spell Lumos.
She pulled a kunai out of her belt pouch when she saw someone up ahead. But she
relaxed again just as quickly when said person spoke. A small smile lit up her face as
Viper came down the hall towards her.
"Couldn't sleep?" he asked softly. She shook her head and pulled her cloak tighter
around her shoulders. He looked so different with white hair instead of black. For some
reason, she liked it. It made him seem purer.
"I couldn't either," he murmured, putting his cloak over her shaking shoulders. She said
nothing but looked at the floor. "This castle gives me the creeps." She nodded in
agreement. She feared that if she spoke she might squeak in fright from even the tiniest
of things. Then he would undoubtedly laugh at her.

He reached under her cloak and took her hand, leading her towards the Ravenclaw dorm
where they could spend the night. Ideally they would head back to the Gryffindor dorm
but Viper had heard some commotion in Ravenclaw's so he could only assume that the
students were still up. They would have to remedy that soon.
Slug snuggled deeper into the cloaks to hide her growing smile.
[Found a better way to fall in love]
"Fox and Mouse, Dove and Panda, and Slug and Viper," Orochimaru said simply, leaning
back in his chair again. The dark lord looked at him in disbelief.
"It is that simple?"
"Nearly. The weakest between Fox and Mouse is definitely Mouse. The weakest of Dove
and Panda is Panda. Viper tends to be stronger than Slug when it comes to jutsus but in
pure power, Slug is the strongest. I warn you that only in Fox and Mouse's case is the
weakest one clear cut. Dove and Panda are strong in hand-to-hand combat and could
easily take out one of your wizards without using anything special. While they spent time
together on a four-man team they were mostly taught how to fight without using chakra.
Viper has the ability to create what you would call 'fireballs'. He's fast, faster than any of
your wizards and also has a sort of lightning attack called 'Chidori'. If he uses that then I
would assume that whoever his target is would be dead in an instant. However, if Slug
manages to get within ten feet of you there is a strong possibility that she will be able to
know you unconscious." The snake lord smirked at the dark lord's confused face. "She
enjoys blowing up stone, soil, etcetera, with a single punch. Her strength is nearly
unmatched."
Voldemort almost paled but he was already the color of a ghost so it didn't matter much.
But then he smirked. Toying with people's minds was what he did best, after all. He rose
from his chair and walked to the door and spoke with someone outside of it. He stood at
the door, half turned to see the sannin out of the corner of his eye.
"The information will be put to good use. But I am afraid that now, you have to go by my
time."

[Hell, I'll stop dancing]


Harry and Ron raced down the stairs of the dormitory. They were going to be late. As
they bolted through the common room they did not pay attention to the six guards that
sat on the carpet in front of the unlit fireplace. They really should have you know
Harry and Ron tore down the stairs to the Great Hall where everyone was leaving to go
to class. Both teenagers grabbed a piece of toast and then bolted to their next class,
History of Magic. Once they got there they kind of wished that they had taken longer,
anything to postpone the torture for just a few more minutes.

As Professor Binn's voice droned in the background, Hermione passed Harry a scrap of
parchment covered in her neat handwriting. He glanced at her in confusion; she never
takes her eyes off the teacher during class. What was so important? He unfolded the
paper carefully.
Professor Dumbledore announced at breakfast that he was going to ask the guards if
they would do a little demonstration of a kind of ability that their groups has. Apparently
they are all ANBU, which is similar to Aurors, only not so well known. I think it may have
something to do with that wand-less magic that we saw Dove do. He is supposed to tell
us their answer by lunch and if they say yes then we get the rest of the classes off. I
suppose he is assuming that we will want to ask them questions or they will want to ask
us questions.
Harry grinned and looked at his schedule. He was really hoping the guards agreed
because then he would get out of double Potions. He passed the paper to Ron who
started to bounce up and down in his chair in excitement.
The wizards and witch walked down the hall at a slow pace, dodging fellow students who
threatened to run them over if they stopped for too long. It was finally lunchtime and all
Ron could think about was food.
"You really don't believe all that about them being similar to Aurors do you?" Harry
asked. Hermione shrugged nonchalantly.
"I think that they possess the skills in intelligence that Aurors require. They could
probably do an Auror's job with ease if given the chance. They seem to enjoy action."
Anything further explanation Hermione had been about to spout off was cut off when she
slammed into someone's back. "Sorry," she said, looking up to see who she had hit.
"Hn," the person said, turning around. It was Viper. His white hair fell over his eyes,
shadowing them as he looked down at her. His face was expressionless and he was
seriously freaking the poor witch out.
"Hey, Viper, don't go scaring the kids. You know what Fox'll do if you get out of hand."
Someone put a hand on Viper's shoulder and looked around him at the kids. This time it
was Panda. She smiled and waved at Hermione, her teeth flashing white against her dark
skin. "Sorry about that, Hermione," she said. Seconds later the place where they had
stood was empty and Harry saw Panda tugging Viper through the students towards the
Great Hall.
He was about to follow them when he felt someone brush past him quickly. He was about
to turn in anger but the person just gave him a slap in the back of the head. He muttered
and took out his wand, spinning to see whom it was. Fox grinned at him.
"Something wrong, Harry?" the blue-eyed man asked cheerfully. Dove stood behind him,
a frown tightening his face.
"Nothing," Harry said. The two started to stride towards the Great Hall, "Wait!" They
stopped and glanced back at him. "Why did you hit me?" he asked. Fox shrugged and
smiled at him, waving as they went on their way.
"Look," Ron said, tugging on Harry's sleeve. He pointed to one of the side corridors that
came from Dumbledore's office. Slug and Mouse were coming out of it and also making
their way to the Great Hall.

"Why are they all going to the Great Hall?" Harry asked, more to himself than anyone
else.
"They are going to tell us whether they will spar with each other or not," Hermione said,
pulling her two friends along. There was no way she was going to get there late and miss
this.
They slipped through the large double doors and took their customary places at the
Gryffindor table. The guards all stood behind Dumbledore as he ate at the teachers'
table. Hermione stared at them, eating mechanically.
Well, actually, five of the guards were behind Dumbledore, the other one, Fox, was
standing beside him. Apparently he was whispering something that the headmaster was
nodding enthusiastically at. Hermione had good guess of what it could be and only hoped
that she was right.
As the students entered and most were seated, munching on the food that had appeared
on the tables, Dumbledore stood and walked in front of the teachers' table. Fox followed
him, blue eyes dancing with what could only be described as mischievous joy.
"Attention students," Dumbledore said, voice booming through the Great Hall. All
conversations stopped instantly as they looked expectantly to Fox and the headmaster,
"Captain Fox has agreed to give you a demonstration as his and his teammates individual
abilities. As they are part of an elite group of wizards they are able to do wand-less
magic which they will be performing for you today. In ten minutes please be outside by
the lake."
Harry grinned at Ron and Ron grinned at Harry. Hermione paid them no attention as she
was too wrapped up in her book explaining why wand-less magic was impossible. Her
friends did not listen to her though; they were already standing and getting their coats.
The whether outside was cold today and it wouldn't be surprising if there were a light
snowfall.
Harry shoved his way to the front of the group with Ron and Hermione, the girl
grumbling slightly that there was no such thing as wand-less magic. The boys grinned as
they saw the six guards standing out in a group huddle near the lakeshore.
They looked different than the students had seen them. They wore their full ANBU
uniform with the exception of the masks. Their physical appearance was the same that
the rest of the student body was used to but other than that, they looked like the shinobi
that had first appeared at the Order of the Phoenix headquarters.
Fox looked at his teammates. This was a risky thing to do but he was sure they would be
able to pull it off without too much of a hitch. They would just have to hope that none of
the smarter students would catch on.
"Okay," he whispered in Japanese, "Slug, no using super strength. Mouse and Dove, no
full blown Kaiten. Viper, no summoning snakes, they seemed to have a certain fear of
them over the entire school. Actually, no summoning for anyone that would seem
strange to them. If you get hit with what you know would have been a fatal hit you are
considered out. Got it? Good." He pulled away from the group and turned to Professor
Dumbledore, whispering something in his ear.
The headmaster nodded and pointed his wand to his throat, "Sonorus," He cleared his
throat. "Students!" he said once he got their attention, "Captain Fox and his group will be

doing a simple six person spare, every man for himself. He asks that you stand at least
one hundred yards back and do not move any closer to them. If they start coming your
way he asks that you do not move a muscle. They will not hurt you but if you move they
might land on you." Dumbledore looked at Fox and nodded to him. The captain grinned
and motioned his group forward.
They stood as if they were the six points of a hexagon. The students watched in
anticipation as they fell into comfortable battle stances. What they were about to witness
was way more intense than any wizard battle they could have read, or even dreamed,
about.
Fox started, his hands going into movements too fast for the students' eyes to follow. If
they were going to pull this off as wand-less magic they would have to be fast. Seven
clones appeared around him. He prided himself on his ability to finally be able to do a
jutsu without calling out the name of it. He sent his clones towards the Hyuugas, who
apparently were going to pair up for a while.
The students watched as Dove slipped in and out of the clones, a faint blue glow
following his hands as each of the clones disappeared in a puff of smoke. Mouse had
started to take some out but Panda flying her way, a kunai in each hand, interrupted her.
The weapons mistress threw about three dozen kunai at the Hyuuga below her. Mouse
dodged each one, veins popping around her pale eyes. Thankfully she was too far away
from the students for them to notice. The weapons fell on the ground around her. Panda
landed a few yards away and, with a collective gasp from their audience, jerked her
hands quickly and each weapon came back to her, suspended in the air by chakra
strings.
Mouse did a full turn around when she saw someone behind her. She blocked a kick
aimed at her head by Slug, but the sheer force of it blew her backwards. She lost her
balance and tumbled over. At the last second she shoved herself away from the ground
into a back flip, landing neatly on her feet and blocking another one of Slug's attacks.
By that time, Dove had exterminated all the clones and found that none of them were
the real Fox. He grinned, it almost seemed like the Chunin exams again. He fell into a
relaxed battle stance for the Gentle Fist style and waited. Fox was still an ANBU but he
had an impatience that most elite ninja tried to get rid of.
Fox came flying at Dove from nowhere, a kick aimed at the supposedly unsuspecting
ANBU's head. Dove heard him coming and jumped, twisting in the air so that his leading
leg knocked Fox's kick out of the way and the other leg followed up by kicking him in the
head. Dove landed on his hands since his legs were still in the air and pushed off into a
series of flips. Fox skidded along the ground and grinned. Now that they were warmed up
they could do jutsus.
Viper took this as his chance to start. He did the quick hand signs from where he stood
with his back to the students and held his hand out. Lightning seemed to come from his
palm and the sound of chirping birds filled the air. The students behind him, Neville and
Luna, took a step back. He turned and looked at them over his shoulder before darting
off at a speed that normal people could not acquire.
He decided to go for Dove since he had the near 360 degree vision and would be the best
able to dodge the attack. Sure enough, the shinobi saw him coming and waited until the
last moment to flip over the oncoming attacker's head and land easily on the other side.
Dove took that time to slam a blue surrounded hand into the white haired man's back.
Viper stumbled to his knees and his Chidori vanished.

Fox darted past Mouse and brought his fist up to block another one of Slug's attacks. He
used Shadow Clones again and created a Rasengan, with way less power than normal,
and hit his teammate with it. She hissed and fell to her knees, already healing herself to
show off some of her wand-less magic.
Panda immediately attacked Mouse. The older woman pulled out two of her scrolls and
was using her dragon technique, spinning in the air with two illusionary dragons following
her twirl. Weapons flew out from every angle and, although Mouse was able to see most
of them, one went through her blind spot. Panda had a chakra thread attached to it, so it
didn't pierce deeply into the skin. Mouse nodded and pulled it out of her shoulder, no
blood coming with it. She fell to her knees on the ground.
While Panda was so busy trying to take care of Mouse, both Dove and Fox had come up
from either of her sides. Fox hit her lightly with a Rasengan and Dove gently tapped her
chakra network. The weapons mistress grinned at them and sat down, silently messaging
her sides.
That left Fox and Dove. They stood in the middle of the allotted space and looked at each
other for a long moment. They smirked and allowed the tension to grow in the air for a
few more seconds until Fox disappeared underground. He came up below Dove but the
elder shinobi flipped away, but not before clamping a hand on Fox's wrist and pulling him
forcefully along, whipping him over his head and slamming him on the ground behind
him.
Fox would not be beaten. He did the necessary hand signs and slammed his hand into
the ground. Bars made of earth came from the ground but the Hyuuga saw them and
broke them with a Gentle Fist attack before they could complete themselves. Fox tried to
leap away but Dove managed to get him with thirty-two of Dove's sixty-four palms.
The captain stumbled away and when he saw that Dove was also breathing hard he held
up a hand. The elder smirked but held up a hand as well. They walked towards each
other and bowed respectfully and nodded at Dumbledore.
The headmaster opened his mouth to speak and Fox took that moment to Rasengan
Dove when the shinobi was unprepared. The redhead fell to his knees and glared up at
his superior.
"Cheater," he said. Fox just winked at him. Dumbledore smiled. He knew that none of
them had hurt each other, even when Mouse was hit with a kunai. They had been extra
careful around each other, even the swirling technique that Fox used hadn't really hurt
anyone.
"Thank you, Captain Fox and your team for the demonstration," Dumbledore said. There
was silence among the students as they watched all of the teammates get to their feet
and walk over to each other, laughing and joking as if they had not just acted like they
were going to kill each other. Then there was wild applause.
"Bloody awesome," Ron shouted above the noise to Hermione. But the girl was watching
the guards carefully. She already knew they were shinobi but she wanted to know more
about them. She had just thought that they would be able to do martial arts or stuff like
that and just happened to also be masters of disguise. She tucked this information into
the back of her mind for later.
Malfoy watched the guards with growing hatred. They possessed unparalleled speed,
strange magical attacks, and a method of martial arts that was different from anything
the English boy had seen before. He wondered if he should get one of his many followers

to see into it. Upon further speculation (about half a second) he decided that, yes he
would.

[I've finally come to realize we are all the same]


Mouse shivered as she watched the students walk back towards Hogwarts. She had
released her Byakugan and now her eyes looked normal but they felt like they were on
fire. She sat down on the grass and rubbed them, glancing up at Dove to see that he was
messaging his temples. She patted the ground next to her and he sat down while the
others remained standing, chatting together and pointing out things that they had all
done really well or could improve on.
"Dove?" Panda asked as the redhead grimaced, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he said quickly, taking his hands away from his head. She looked at him in
confusion but shrugged it off as him just being his normal anti-social self.
"Is everyone gone?" Mouse asked. Fox nodded and the group disappeared behind the
trees around the fringe of the Forbidden Forest to use their genjutsu to change their
clothes again.
"Are you okay, Mouse?" Fox asked, placing a hand on her shoulder when he saw her
rubbing her eyes again. She smiled softly and shrugged his hand away when she noticed
Dove watching them intently.
"I-I'm fine, just got s-something in my eye. T-That's all," she said quietly. Fox watched
her hurry to catch up with Panda and Slug.
"Worried about her, are we Fox?" Viper asked sarcastically as he passed him. Fox
frowned at him and kept walking, looking at the ground. He was acutely aware of Dove's
eyes on him, boring holes in the back of his head. He tried to ignore the older ANBU and
just focus on the oh-so-interesting ground in front of him.
[Baby, seasons change but people don't]
"That had to be the coolest thing I have ever seen in my life. They were all over the
place! Did you see them? They didn't even use magic all the time. It was like they were
those ninjas out of animated cartoons only they were real!" Ron gushed as he waved his
hands, talking to Harry and Hermione. Unfortunately for him, Harry was talking to
Hermione who was pouring over a book about wand-less magic.
"It really can't be possible. I don't care how elite they are; there is no such thing as
wand-less magic. Nobody can make magic just come out of them like that and I want to
know how Muggles would be able to do something like that! They shouldn't even have
magic!" Hermione ranted and slammed the book shut.
"I just guess they're just more secretive than you thought," Harry said, trying to placate
her.

"But Panda, Mouse, and Slug answered all our questions! I don't know why they would
have lied about anything." Hermione flung herself down on a couch and stared at the
ceiling. "I don't understand this," she muttered.
"Well, they might have answered all your questions but how much did they add outside
of the specific stuff that you asked?" Harry wondered aloud, sitting across from her. He
opened up the book in his lap and looked over the contents before shutting it again; too
many words.
[You always struck me as the type to take him lightly]
Harry, Hermione, and Ron made they're way to the Care of Magical Creatures class
(which Harry was dreading by the way). Once they made it there they stood with the rest
of the Gryffindors and with the Slytherins. As Harry looked around he spotted Viper and
Fox standing in the shadows of the Forbidden Forest, leaning against the fringe trees.
"Bowtruckles," Professor Grubbly-Plank said as she waved a hand in the direction of the
strange stick men wandering around on the table. A few seemed to bend over and pick at
the strange white things that were moving slowly around between them. As the class
surged forward to pick out their creature Harry asked the professor where Hagrid was.
She just said that she didn't know and her tone told him to get lost.
"Maybe he's messing with something that's too big for him, if you catch my drift," Malfoy
sneered as he reached around him to grab a large bowtruckle. Harry looked at him,
aghast. What did Malfoy know?
Viper listened silently to the blond wizard. Malfoy seemed to be in on something that
could be potentially bad for the Order. Not that Viper cared much about it, but Fox had
ordered them to keep their eyes and ears open. The ivory haired man shrugged, tucking
what the boy had said away in the back of his mind to report to Dumbledore later.
"Mr. Viper and Mr. Fox, would you like a bowtruckle?" Professor Grubbly-Plank asked,
seeing the two guards having nothing to do. They looked at each other and shrugged,
Fox snatched one up and was immediately scratched by its long, sharp fingers.
It didn't take long for Viper to decide that he did not like the thin little beasties and for
Fox to realize that he loved them. Poor bowtruckle. Harry glanced at the guards every
once in a while as he drew the body of a bowtruckle for a project. Viper was always
standing several feet away, arms crossed, looking off somewhere else while Fox knelt on
the ground in front of the poor creature, prodding it or talking to it. Weirdo.
As they left Harry looked over his shoulder to see Fox following him and Viper slipping off
towards the school. The young wizard shrugged and kept walking with his friends, trying
to pay attention to what Hermione was saying.
" Don't go picking fights with Malfoy, he's a prefect now. He'll make life hard for you."
Hermione looked at him for a moment when he sighed.
"I really wonder what it would be like to have a hard life," Harry said sarcastically.
Hermione tensed when she heard those words come out of his mouth. She screamed
when Slug suddenly appeared in front of her. She looked around and saw the Hufflepuff
fifth years heading towards Care of Magical Creatures and guessed that Slug had been
with them.

"Say that again, Potter-san," Slug ordered, her voice low and dangerous. Harry glanced
over her shoulder and saw the Fox had been distracted by the Hufflepuff prefects who
seemed to be asking him a question that he thought was funny.
"Um I wonder what it would be like to have a hard life?" he said. Slug sucked in a
breath and it sounded like a hiss as it passed her perfect teeth. She leaned in very close
to him and whispered hoarsely in his ear.
"I know what kind of life you have had, Potter-san. I know that your parents are dead
and that Voldemort killed them; but what I do not know is why you insist upon
complaining about it every time someone brings up something about having a difficult
life. Your dependency on your reputation makes you weak.
Death is not as unusual as you think. Dove has no parents. Viper has no parents. Fox has
no parents. Panda only has her mom. We know the kind of loss that you went through
and, to be frank, we are all appalled by the way you handle it." She straightened and
glared at him, her green eyes flashing angrily. Harry was stunned into silence.
At that moment, Fox walked over to them. Slug waved briefly to him and vanished into
the line of Hufflepuffs. Harry stood frozen into place until Hermione tugged on his arm
and they started walking again.
Harry nearly had a heart attack when he saw Luna Lovegood making a beeline from him
out of her Herbology class. She stopped a little bit in front of him, her innocent eyes wide
as she looked at him.
"I believe you when you say that You-Know-You is back and that you fought him and that
he killed Cedric."
[Finish the bottle full of empty dreams]
Viper slipped through the halls. He didn't feel like getting caught and asked questions so
he removed the genjutsu and moved around easily in his ANBU uniform. He left his mask
hanging from his belt though as he walked through the shadows.
He murmured softly to himself as he thought over what the Slytherin kid had said. He
had heard him make another comment a few weeks earlier that had hinted that he knew
that Sirius was an unregistered animagus. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
He reached the gargoyle in front of Dumbledore's office and spoke the password softly. It
slid away and Viper walked into the room, dodging half a dozen strange things hanging
from the walls and ceilings.
"Dumbledore-sensei," he called. The old man waved from his desk, motioning him to
come in further. "Dumbledore-sensei," Viper said, right to business, "I overheard
something today that I thought you might need to know."
Dumbledore looked up at him from his desk, mildly amused, "You 'overheard' something,
Viper? You mean you were eavesdropping?" The ninja tensed and Dumbledore knew that
he did not liked to be joked with. Of course, that made no difference to the old man.
"Whatever you want to call it, Dumbledore-sensei," Viper muttered, "Draco Malfoy is the
son of a Death Eater, correct?"
"Yes."

"Are you aware that perhaps the Death Eaters might know more about the Order's
movements than you want them to?"
"That is a possibility. Why do you ask?"
"Draco Malfoy makes it quite clear that he knows not only that Sirius Black is an
unregistered animagus but also that Hagrid-san is currently out on a mission involving
speaking with the giants."
"How do you know this?" Dumbledore hid his unhappy surprise well but ninja were
masters of reading emotions. Viper's lips tightened into a thin line as he went on.
"He drops hints to Potter-san in casual conversation. I already assumed that he is no
friend of Potter-san's but I also noticed that he doesn't have much intelligence where
subtlety is concerned. Perhaps his father is informing him of the updates and he, either
through prodding or not, is telling Potter-san about it."
[It starts with one thing, I don't know why]
Harry wandered through his next classes without much enthusiasm, thinking about the
mound of homework that he had in the dorms waiting to be done that night. He glanced
over his shoulder as he and Ron made their way up to the Gryffindor common room. Fox
walked behind him and Dove suddenly appeared next to the captain.
The commotion in the room hit them like a blast of cold air as they entered through the
hole behind the Fat Lady. Fred and George were sitting among a small group of first
years, a few of which were falling randomly out of chairs and laying on the ground like
they were dead while the twins made notes.
Ron ran away to hide upstairs in the dormitories as Hermione stalked over towards them.
From her expression of fury both of the boys guessed it had something to do with the
Fred and George's escapades, something that Ron wanted no part in whatsoever.
Harry sat by himself next to the fire, everyone else wandered around the edges of the
room in little huddles. He was vaguely aware of someone creeping up behind him but he
still jumped when Fox swung himself over the back of the couch and sat next to him.
Dove slid past him and sat stiffly in the chair across from him.
"Why so glum, Harry-kun?" Fox asked, poking him in the side.
"No reason," Harry lied. He looked at the fire, thinking about what Malfoy had said.
Perhaps Hagrid really was in trouble, hurt, or maybe even dead. He shivered and curled
up in a ball even though the fire was plenty warm.
"Don't lie. You aren't fooling us," Dove said. Harry winced at the flat monotone that his
voice always carried. He tapped his chin for a moment as if thinking and then smiled
slightly. He looked from Fox to Dove, remembering what Slug had said earlier and
wondering if they would answer one question.
"I'll answer a question if you both answer a question," he said slyly. Fox glanced at Dove
and the redhead shrugged, already having lost interest in this conversation.
"Shoot," Fox said, leaning back and flinging his arms over the back of the couch.
"How did your parents die?"

Harry had about half a second to realize that he had made a very, very stupid mistake.
Fox had fallen off the couch in surprise and now sat on the floor with a dazed expression
but Harry was on the floor too. Dove sat on his stomach with a knife to this throat. It was
a very awkward position but Harry wasn't worried about what it looked like to other
people. Right now he only feared for his life.
Other people had stopped their discussions and the room was completely silent.
Everyone heard what Dove whispered to the wizard under him even though it was in the
quietest of tones.
"Never ask about my parents again," Dove whispered, "How they died is no concern of
yours."
Fox had regained his composure for a moment and put a hand on Dove's shaking
shoulder. The guard took the hint and got off Harry and, in fury and sadness, didn't even
bother taking the door. He slammed open a window and dropped out. A few girls
shrieked but no one was brave enough to see if he had survived the fall. Fox glanced at
Harry with a glazed expression and left through the main way.

[There in the way was a mountain up in the clouds]


The months flew by and Harry was sure never to bring up the guards' lives ever again.
There were a few times where he almost slipped up but Hermione or Ron were normally
there and they set him straight as fast as humanly possible. Unfortunately for him, even
little Mouse seemed to get upset whenever their families were mentioned.
Said quiet ninja stood silently outside of a run down building. Her cloak was pulled far
over her face, hiding her telltale lavender eyes. She poked her fingers together and kept
her eyes on the ground. The sign hanging from the building creaked above hear head in
the winter wind.
She reached up and touched the veins surrounding her eyes. There was no mistake. The
kids were coming this way; lots of them. She bit her thumb and pressed her bleeding
hand against the wall behind her. Her summoning, a tiny white rat, slipped up her sleeve
and through her coat until it reached her ear.
"Warn the others that the group is here," she whispered to it. The creature nodded and
raced down her sleeve again, disappearing into the Hog's Head bar. Mouse leaned back
again, pulling her cowl down even more as the students went by her.
She scanned the inside of the bar with her Byakugan and saw, grinning, that her
teammates were already there. Viper had wrapped his entire body in bandages and sat
at the bar drinking something that Mouse was sure he was going to regret in the
morning. Fox and Slug sat at a table by the window, pitching their voices to have
Yorkshire accents, and keeping their hoods down low. Tenten sat by the fireplaces
dressed in a thick veil that covered her completely. That only left Dove and Mouse to
figure out the exact details of what was going on.
The Hyuuga heiress did a few quick hand signs and made herself look like a small, timid
Hogwarts first year. Her pale eyes were covered up by thick glasses that blurred around

half of her face they were so large. Her hair was its normal blue-black color and hung
down straight into her face. She spotted her cousin already among the students.
Hopefully nobody would notice that they were there.
He was a tall, thin, spindly looking third-year. Dark sunglasses covered his eyes but he
had a hat pulled low over his face. His hair hung in a ragged gothic style around his
shoulders and he wore all black. He noticed her too and smiled ever so slightly to tell her
that he knew who she was. She slipped in line with him. So far so good.
A butterbeer was shoved into her hands and she passed over a small amount of change
to pay for it. She saw her cousin refusing one that was handed to him. She took no more
notice of the loud exchange of beverages and coinage because she was too busy taking a
seat as close as possible to Harry. Dove lowered himself into a chair beside her, his long
form looking like it was about to fold up on him.
Hermione started speaking, spouting some rubbish that they all already knew about how
Umbridge was a horrible teacher and they needed someone who had real experience to
teach them. It was then that Dove realized that everyone in the bar could hear them.
Well, that was the first sign that these kids had no idea what they were doing. They
should have cast some sort of charm to make their area soundproof. Thankfully, for
them, the only people in there were people that wanted to help them.
"Is it true that you can produce a Patronus, Harry?" Mouse asked. The situation had been
growing steadily out of hand so the quiet girl had decided to take control. Harry looked at
her in shock and then thanks. He nodded and another girl jumped in.
"A corporeal Patronus?" the Hufflepuff girl asked. After further discussion she introduced
herself as Susan Bones, niece to Aemilia Bones. Dove stirred slightly at that, knowing
whom Mrs. Bones was. Tenten shifted in her seat. They were steadily growing louder.
As the students began listing off Harry's accomplishments, the guards were shifting more
in their seats. The strength of the children's voices made them easy to hear. If they
weren't carefully, someone was going to figure them out before they could even get this
haywire scheme underway. Fox looked at Slug and she nodded, doing a few hand signs
and placing her palms on the wall. She glanced back at her superior and nodded. Now
their area was completely soundproof.
Dove winced as the students started arguing over whether heliopaths(1)existed. He
sighed and rubbed his temples but no one was paying him any attention. He bit his lip to
keep from shouting at them but it didn't take long before Luna started ranting so he
decided to pipe up.
"Hem, hem," he said, using his best impersonation of Professor Umbridge. A few
students look around in fear for the vile woman and then they all laughed. But they still
didn't know who had made the noise. Dove sighed, was he really that invisible. "I think
that we should get back on track and decided when to have these lessons," he said
sharply.
"Oh right," Hermione said.
As the debate for the time and place went on, Dove and Mouse sat completely still, not
saying a single word. Every once in a while someone would look over at them, as if
wondering who they were and where they would come from. But, thankfully, it seemed
that nobody really knew everybody there so they were sure they would be fine. Mouse
gazed at Hermione from behind her thick glasses as the girl took parchment and a quill
from her bag and held them out, hesitating.

"I-I think everybody should write their name down, just so that we know who was here.
But I also think," she took a deep breath, "that we all ought to agree not to shout about
what we're doing. So if you sign, you're agreeing no to tell Umbridge or anybody else
what we're up to." Hermione smiled slightly as Fred took the parchment and scribbled his
name down happily.
Dove glanced behind him at Fox and Slug. Both nodded to him. He sighed, it seemed as
though he and Mouse were going to have to keep up this charade for a while if Fox
wanted them to keep an eye on Harry in these lessons. Everyone signed their names and
when it got to Dove and Mouse they looked at each other for a brief moment before
accepting it.
Dove wrote in curling script, Corbin Taylor and passed the quill to Mouse who carefully
printed, Monica Taylor. Once they were done they handed it to Harry and Hermione and
slipped to the back of the group so that the two friends wouldn't be able to compare the
unfamiliar names with the unfamiliar faces. They followed the rest out and waited outside
the door until everyone was gone except Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the four guards in
disguise.
Hermione squeaked when she felt cold steal pressing against her throat. Her arm was
wrenched painfully behind her and someone had chokehold on her. She looked up,
terrified, at Harry and saw that the man who had been wrapped in bandages held him in
a similar position and Ron stood between the two hooded people who had been sitting by
the window, a knife from each one held at his throat. But the four backed off almost
instantly.
Hermione looked on as the bandaged man unwrapped his head and took a deep breath of
somewhat clean air. She recognized the white hair and earring. The little woman who
had been holding her threw off her veil and she saw the dark skinned, blonde haired
Panda. The two standing next to Ron pushed back their hoods and revealed Fox and
Slug. Her gaze snapped to the door when two more people came in; Dove and Mouse
dressed in normal wizard clothing.
"You all really should be more careful with the places that you choose," Slug said,
pocketing her knife. Hermione looked at them in awe.
"You mean, you were listening the entire time?" she asked. Viper nodded and tossed the
bandages aside.
"You were lucky though," he said in a quiet voice, "If we didn't know for a fact that the
barkeeper will keep his mouth shut and that Slug has a very good spell for soundproofing
things, you would have been busted before you got back to school."
Not only were the Golden Trio completely astounded that Viper had said more than three
consecutive words, but they also found themselves feeling suddenly wary of the group.
Where had Dove and Mouse been the entire time if four of them had been in the room
with the students? Harry decided not ask, considering what had happened lasttime he
had brought up a question.
The guards strode purposefully out of the bar and the Hogwarts students followed them
curiously. They said nothing more about the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes so
Harry assumed that their secret was safe, for the most part, with them. But he found
himself staring even more at Dove and Mouse.
When they had first disguised themselves he had noticed that they had been unable to
change their pale eye color and he was sure that the little first year girl had had been

sitting next to during the impromptu meeting had very pale eyes and so had the boy
sitting next to her. Even now he felt their eyes on him the entire time.
What had those two students called themselves? Oh yeah, Corbin and Monica Taylor. He
guessed they were siblings, or cousins or something and the two guards had said that
they were brother and sister. His green eyes narrowed as he glanced over at them out of
the corner of his eye. Corbin and Monica Taylor
"Can I help you with something, Potter-san?" Dove asked politely, having had quite
enough of the 'sneaky' staring. The wizard flinched at the monotone.
"No, no, nothing," he said quickly and looked away, running to catch up with Hermione
and Ron who were on their way to buy Hermione a new quill. The guards stopped
walking. They had summons and disguised clones all over Hogsmead, there was no way
the trio would be able to evade being constantly watched.
Fox shoved his hands in his pockets and gave a foxy grin. He glanced back at his group.
Slug sat down on a bench and placed her hands on her knees and Viper sat down beside
her, leaning back with his arms crossed over his chest. Panda had her eyes closed and a
tiny smirk on her face. Dove and Mouse stood a few feet away, veins standing out around
their eyes as they watched the trio from afar.
"Dove, Mouse, you both know that you are going to have to be extra careful now. I think
that Potter might have already begun to connect the dots. There is a strong chance that
Hermione might have noticed too. Tread lightly," Fox warned the cousins. They nodded in
understanding.
But ANBU are masters of secrets. There was no earthly way one boy and his friends
would be able to crack one of their disguises unless they told them personally. Mouse
smiled and slipped back into her school-girl appearance, tossing her hair over her
shoulder and Dove followed her example. Fox smirked and created two clones, giving
them the appearance of the guards. They would do for now.
"Fox-taicho," Mouse said quietly, "What are we going to do at these lessons? It wont be
long before they figure out that we can't use magic." Fox tapped his chin in thought.
"Eh, you are both smart. Figure something out on the fly and stick to it."

[A sinking ship, an awkward ship]


Fox grimaced and rubbed the back of his neck as he looked over his team. They had
Kage Bushins roaming the halls of Hogwarts and summons literally littered the grounds
but it was the teammates themselves that were giving the captain worries. They were
completely and utterly bored.
He sighed. This is why I hate guarding missions, he thought. He released his genjutsu so
that he stood in full ANBU regalia in front of his team. They followed his example and
soon he found that he was staring down at a much more dangerous group of people. For
some reason, looks can really make or break your idea about someone. For example, five

young wizards in heavy robes are not nearly as frightening as six highly skilled, armedto-the-teeth, ANBU members.
They were all ANBU captains and getting together six shinobi with that much power and
that high of a reputation is definitely not a smart thing to do. First of all, shinobi are
people of action. Second, ANBU feel the need to be constantly on missions, kicking butt,
killing, etc. Third, ANBU captains have all of these feelings to a much higher degree.
Therefore, if boredom reigns, mass destruction will soon follow.
The blond captain shivered as he felt the killing intent rolling off of every one of them.
Normally he would be one of them, glaring at his captain, but in this case he was going
to be the first one used for target practice if they didn't go somewhere to train fast. He
clapped his hands in sudden inspiration.
"Alright!" he said excitedly. Sometimes his own genius astounded him. "We are going to
go train for two full days in the Forbidden Forest, non stop." He found himself in the
interesting position of being hung by his feet from a tree a few seconds later. Viper
poked his captive in the forehead.
"What makes you think that would be interesting, baka?" he asked. Fox looked
desperately to the rest of the team but even Mouse looked like she wanted a little bit of
confirmation first. He crossed his arms and tried to look imposing despite the fact that he
was upside down.
"Ano Well there are five reasons." Fox started counting on his fingers,"We are all
bored out of our minds, we've never really been in the Forbidden Forest before, it's fun to
try to attack each other for two days straight, and um" Fox paused for too long. Dove
sighed and cut the rope that held him up and the ANBU captain went plunging to the
ground. You'd think that a shinobi would be able to land on his feet but apparently that
doesn't apply to Fox.
"Itai!" Mouse rushed up to his side and gently touched his head, which he was clutching
in pain.
"Naruto-kun," she said softly. "Are you a-alright?" she asked.
"Yeah, Hinata-chan, I'm fine." He grinned at her and then at the rest of his teammates.
Dove sighed and took off his mask, looping the string that tied it to his face around his
belt loop so that it hung from his belt like a kunai pouch. The others did the same thing.
"Very well, Naruto. You are right. We need to do something." Dove winced at Fox's
resounding whoop of joy before the captain darted into the forest. The rest of his team
followed him.
As they went further into the forest the five less-than-happy shinobi felt their excitement
growing greater. It had been ages since they had gotten a chance to actually fight in an
area that was unfamiliar to them and now they'd be out for two days unless something
happened back at the school.
Fox grinned as he felt the killing intent coming from his team slowly fade away. They
were excited and he knew it. Mouse kept up with his pace by his side, her lavender eyes
surrounded by chakra veins as she scanned the area with her Byakugan. Even if they
were only training and fooling around an ANBU's first instinct was to know the area
better than your opponent.

They stopped in a small clearing and Mouse updated them that she had seen a very
large, man-like creature about a half a mile away. She said that it was tied up and
seemed relatively harmless so they decided against investigating. Dove found it within
seconds as well and confirmed what she had to say.
The captains all looked at each other and grinned. They knew the drill. They would all
spread out on their own for two full days and, in that time, see how many of their
teammates they could capture. For example, if Fox managed to capture Mouse and Dove
and then Panda came and capture Fox, she would get all three of them. The one with the
most captives at the end wins. Did I mention that they could try to escape too? Usually
these games went on for months but they didn't have that much time and this was just a
break from the daily grind.
A minute later they all vanished. Out of courtesy, they spent a full three hours finding
and setting up a campsite. Fox found a small cave next to a waterfall that he instantly
took a liking to, Dove stumbled upon a tree that was hollow in the top half that was large
enough for several people to enter into, Mouse spotted a tumble down spot where
several large trees had fallen on top of each other, creating a natural fort, Slug just
decided to take the biggest tree she could find, Panda took just a small normal clearing
and rigged it with traps, and Viper found a small selection of underground tunnels.
Once three hours were up, the game was on.
Panda and Slug locked in combat first and it ended in Panda making a 'tactical retreat'.
She hadn't even meant to go for the med-nin first. She had knocked down half a dozen
trees with just one punch alone.
Mouse found her cousin first but she avoided him, knowing that he seen her as well. In
these exercises the two Hyuugas were the most dangerous. They could find almost
anyone and anything and it was just up to everyone else to stay out of the way. Mouse
slid down into a comfortable fighting stance as she came face to face with Slug.
She ducked under a punch aimed at her head and slammed her hand out with a small
burst of chakra, hitting Slug's stomach. The rosette winced and backed away quickly but
Mouse was after her in a heartbeat. Since they were not allowed to kill each other they
were a little easier to capture (plus, kunai were not allowed at close quarters). Slug did a
substitution jutsu when she was hit with another Juuken.
Mouse flipped sideways when Slug burst out of the ground where she had been hiding
and aimed a kick at her head. Unfortunately, the kick clipped her side, bruising several
ribs. She flinched and continued her forward momentum until her feet connected with a
tree and stayed there via chakra.
Slug looked up at the smaller girl, scowling. Somehow, Mouse always managed to dodge
her blows. She blamed it on that darned fighting style of the Hyuugas. Who else taught
their children to be able to fight by lobbing shuriken and kunai at them by the time they
could walk? It was just their flexibility and speed. She growled low in her throat and
punched the tree that the fast girl stood on.
Mouse had seen that coming and dropped down behind the pink haired girl as soon as
her fist shot out. Slug wasn't looking up at the time (stupid Slug) and so didn't notice
Mouse vacating her spot. Mouse knocked her out with a quick hit to a pressure point on
her neck. She knelt over her teammate to check her vitals and, assured that she was still
alive and kicking, dragged her back to her fort where she made sure she wouldn't be able
to get away.

Your first captive is always the easiest to take care of but if you get a second they start
ganging up on you. Plus, if you didn't tie their hands properly they could still use jutsu
and, in the forest, a fire type jutsu was sure to do major damage.
Dove found Panda next. His teammate paled when she saw him. They had been sparring
together since they were six and she knew for a fact that she could not beat him. That
didn't stop her from trying though. She knew that none of her traps would work on him;
he knew all of them already. She smiled, suppose she would just have to think up
something new on the fly.
Panda dodged when he came at her, aiming a punch at her face. She dropped to the
ground and tried to whip his feet out from underneath him while punching at his face at
the same time. Somehow he managed to jump over her legs and bend backwards to
avoid her fist at the same time. Panda groaned. Flexibility like that should be illegal.
But now he was close enough to her for her to have serious issues with getting away.
And now she couldn't use her sharp pointy objects. He kicked her in the side and
knocked her across the clearing that they fought in. She winced as she stood back up
and took out her scrolls. He looked at her in amusement. She had pulled out a net.
He looked at her, then at her weapon. It looked like an overly large version of those
butterfly nets. This one was big enough to trap a person if the wooden ring went over
them. He shook his head and smirked at her. She just grinned back. At least she would
have fun while she fought a loosing battle.
He raced towards her again, head on, and she readied herself for him. But he suddenly
disappeared and reappeared beside her, punching her in the stomach. She growled and
smacked him over the head with the handle of her net. He backpedaled away.
"Itai, Panda. What the heck was that?" he asked his teammate as she snickered. He
rubbed his head ruefully.
"That, Neji dear, was you getting hit with a butterfly net." She smiled mockingly at him
and swung again but this time he guessed that she was going to use it like her wooden
staffs, and therefore avoided it easily. He was getting bored of this so he lashed out;
broke the pole of the net with a chakra infused hand and knocked Panda out in the same
blow. He pulled her back to his hollow tree, tied her up, and then put the net end of the
odd weapon over her for her good measure, and mocking rights.
Did I mention that the Hyuugas are very good at this game?
Fox sighed as he raced through the trees. Normally he just waited for a couple hours and
then tried to find everyone else's bases. If he were lucky he would get there when the
captors were out and the captives were left behind. He would just steal the captives
then. It was kind of like an ultimate game of capture the flag, except everyone was the
flag.
He slid through the trees soundlessly and suddenly found himself face to face with a very
irate Slug. She had a gag in her mouth to keep her from shouting (hoping that she would
find someone easier to escape from most likely) and looked more than angry. Fox waved
cheerily to her and looked around to see if he could find Mouse anywhere. Seeing her
nowhere in the vicinity, he grabbed Slug around the waist and threw her over his
shoulder, sneaking away with his catch.

Unfortunately for him, just because he could not see Mouse did not mean that she could
not see him. This fact of life was what usually made Fox loose the games. It does not pay
to underestimate an ANBU.
Mouse stepped out of her hiding place, arms crossed as she blocked Fox's path. She
smirked at him, an uncharacteristically evil smirk that should not be on gentle Mouse's
face. Fox gulped. Then, without another thought, ran away as Mouse came charging at
him. Slug growled as she bounced up and down, waiting for the predictable moment.
She wasn't disappointed.
Mouse was faster than most of the other ANBU and soon appeared in front of Fox,
standing still as he barreled at her. That was when the moment came. Slug went flying
through the air, a human missal to get Mouse out of the way. Mouse was prepared for
this though and caught her teammate in a quickly spun net of chakra strings. Maybe she
should have been called Spider instead.
Fox knew that his short-term plan had failed and tore off in the other direction but Mouse
soon caught him and Juukened him in the back. He couldn't bring himself to hit her so he
went down without a fight and soon both Fox and Slug sat in Mouse's hideout, bound and
gagged on opposite sides of the fort. If they had been put any closer Slug would have
body slammed Fox for throwing her like that.
The captain of the team sighed. He admitted it, he was a rather poor excuse for an ANBU
when it came to fighting against his own team. They all knew him too well. He knew their
moves too but they always seemed to attack his weaknesses first. And to top it all off, he
couldn't fight against Mouse. Hopefully she would feed them within the two day time.
By the end of the first day, Mouse had capture Slug and Fox, Dove had captured Panda,
and Viper was moping somewhere as he tried to figure out where the rest of his group
was.

[Prayer for the faith departed]


"By order of the High Inquisitor of Hogwarts: All Student Organizations, Societies,
Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team,
Group, of Club in hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students.
Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No
Student Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge
and approval of the High Inquisitor. Any student found to have formed, or so belong to,
an Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High
Inquisitor will be expelled. The above is in accordance with Educational Decree Number
Twenty-four. Signed, Dolores Jane Umbridge, High Inquisitor."
Fox sighed as he listened to what Slug was reading them. She had found it on the
Gryffindor bulletin board, Dove had seen one in the Ravenclaw common room, Viper
spotted on in Slytherin, and Panda got on from Hufflepuff. The ANBU all sat in a circle in
the Gryffindor common room, aware of the looks that students were giving them.

"You'd think that they would be used to us being in here by now," Fox grumbled. Slug
rolled up the paper and hit him over the head with it.
"Do you think that she got wind of the defense group?" Mouse asked quietly. The rest of
them shrugged although it was very likely.
"We didn't soundproof Hog's Head until about halfway through the meeting. They
wouldn't know exactly who joined but I'm sure that she knows something is going on,"
Viper muttered.
There was a loud sound, similar to a warning alarm, from the girl's dormitories. The nin
looked up in surprise as Harry and Ron tumbled down the stairs that had someone
transformed themselves into a near vertical slide. Panda covered her mouth to keep from
laughing and even Viper's lips twitched into a tiny smile.
As soon as Hermione appeared at the top of the stairs the ninja quieted and listened
carefully to the conversation that the three students had. They seemed to be thinking the
same thing that the ANBU were; someone had told Umbridge and it was most likely
someone who was there.
"That's what they get for not making sure that everyone was trust worthy," Dove
murmured. The impatient females of their group immediately shushed him.
"But I put a jinx on the parchment we signed. If anyone told Umbridge we would know
exactly who," Hermione said, plopping down in a chair a little ways away from the
gathered shinobi.
"Smart," Slug said appreciatively as the three left the common room on their way to the
Great Hall. "She knew that there was a chance that someone would tell. But she really
should have made sure that they wouldn't tell at all, not just figure out who did. Kind of
defeats the purpose, no?"
"True, but she doesn't think like us, Sakura-chan," Fox answered. They all looked at each
other for a long moment before standing and brushing non-existent dust from their
clothes. They strode through the halls, splitting up once they got out of the Gryffindor
common room. They already had clones everywhere but it would give them something to
do if they went out too.
That left Panda to follow Harry around to his History of Magic class.
She stood at the back of the room, having already explained to the professor several
days previously that she would be popping into his class every now and again. She
smiled ruefully as she thought of the last time she had dealings with a ghost. Of course,
she and Dove had known that it couldn't possibly be real from the start but it had freaked
Fox out to no end. But this was different; this was a real ghost.
She watched as Harry grabbed an owl that was pecking at the window. She had seen it
long before any of the students noticed and found herself in awe of the beautiful bird.
She smiled to herself thinking about how Dove would have loved it. But as she looked
closer at it she realized that it was hurt. She saw the concern in Harry's eyes as he tried
to help his owl.
"Professor Binns," Harry said, raising his hand. Panda smiled. The professor was too
absorbed in his lecture to notice if Harry left with an owl that he had not come in with.

She silently applauded his quick thinking. "I'm not feeling well." The ancient ghost looked
rather baffled for a minute.
"Yes, well off to the hospital wing you go, Perkins," he said blearily. As the wizard left
the room Panda followed silently and invisibly. After all, ANBU must have the ability to
disappear in plain sight. She soon caught up with him as he was racing down the
corridors.
"Potter-san," she called after him. He froze and turned to face her. She gave him a
friendly smile. "Let me help your bird," she said. He looked at her for a long moment
before moving closer so that Hedwig could move from his shoulder to Panda's arm.
The nin ran her hand over the poor bird's wings. It cooed in response to the gentle touch.
The blond smiled and took a deep breath, medic jutsus had never been her strong point
but she could find Slug later. Her chakra surrounded her hand as she ran it over the
broken places. She glanced up as she worked and saw Harry watching her with rapt
attention.
"It's pretty apparent that she was attacked," Panda said, breaking the silence. "From
what I've read and seen I would guess that Thestrals might like owls but I would guess
that the ones on the grounds would be well trained to leave them alone." She gazed at
Harry. "Do you know where she was coming from?"
He didn't say anything for a long time before realizing that Dumbledore must trust these
people if they had already been to Grimmauld Place before.
"Sirius," was all he said. She nodded in understanding and gave Hedwig back to him for a
moment.
"Take your letter, Potter-san, and then I'll get Slug to come fix her up the rest of the
way. I never was very good at healing." As Harry carefully took the paper from Hedwig's
leg Panda summoned a silver lizard. The creature looked up at her, intelligence showing
in its large eyes. It was about a foot long and shone slightly in the dim light. Harry gazed
at it in wonder.
"Go get Slug and tell her that Potter-san's owl is injured and she is needed urgently." The
wizard watched as the lizard slid off down the halls at a pace that lizards were not meant
to go, apparently looking for Slug.
"What was that?" he asked curiously.
"That was a summon. All of us ANBU can do one. Its quite easy but you have to sign a
contract with the animals that you want to be able to summon. Fox was the first one to
sign a contract. He got his with the toads when he was thirteen."
"Do you get to choose which animal you can summon?"
Panda shrugged. "It all depends on if you can find someone else with the contract.
Usually you have to get an existing contract from another summoner or have to be
extremely special and approached by the animals themselves. As far as I know, only Fox
and Dove got theirs from the animals themselves. Fox's second one anyway."
At that point Slug appeared in a puff of smoke in between them. Hedwig fluttered her
wings to keep balance when Harry jumped in surprise. Panda spoke to the rosette in
Japanese for a moment, explaining what had happened and Slug held out a hand to

Hedwig. The snowy owl stepped willingly onto the medic's arm and Slug poofed away
again, followed shortly by Panda and Harry was alone in the hallway.
He unrolled the letter that he had gotten from Sirius. There were only five words on it.
Today, same time, same place.
He thought about meeting Sirius in the fireplace again. He had been scared stiff that the
guards would find out about the meetings but hopefully, like last time, they would all be
gone. But now he was beginning to wonder if they already knew but had decided not to
say anything about it. After all, they could summon animals that would look natural in
the old castle and could hide themselves easily. Perhaps they were just giving him his
privacy.
[You can't run the race, the pace is too fast]
Viper and Fox sat beside the fire later that day, talking in hushed tones. Mouse had been
watching Potter constantly after she had used her Byakugan to see the note that he had
been holding in his pocket all day and Panda had reported to them what she had seen
the first time Harry had met with Sirius. (AN: the first meeting with Sirius is not in
this fic because I am lazy).
They heard the Fat Lady swing out of the way and people start entering. They used a
genjutsu to make themselves invisible and waited. Over the course of the next few hours
the rest of their team trickled in. First Panda, then Slug, and lastly Dove and Mouse at
the same time. They stood at the back of the room, taking care not to get bumped into
by students thinking that they were just a spot of air.
During the night it was only the six guards, Harry, Hermione, and Ron left. They seemed
to be trying to do their homework, Harry and Ron being rather unsuccessful. The shinobi
tensed when they saw a floating head.
They listened intently to the conversation, although most of it was stuff they already
heard. They glanced in each other's general direction every once in a while even though
Viper was the only one who could see everybody. They didn't dare talk to each other
even though they were pretty sure they could be quiet enough. Questions and comment
would have to wait.
The watched as a hand rose into the fireplace and the head disappeared. The three
students fled out of the way and the shinobi had no idea why but as they observed the
hand still groping around they had a pretty good idea what Umbridge as trying to get a
hold of whoever had been in the fireplace. The fat fingered, heavily ringed hand could
only have belonged to the distasteful witch.
[Running in circles, chasing pain of yesterday]
Dove and Mouse stood together as they looked around the room that suddenly appeared
for the use of the Defense Against the Dark Art's group. It didn't really surprise them
much but the sheer size of the place was enough to awe them.
They were back in their student disguises, this time acting as if they were both
Ravenclaw. They knew enough about the groups and the passwords and the things inside
the common rooms to be able to answer any general questions that were asked of them.
They felt their pockets nervously where their fake wands resided. They had, rather than
putting a jutsu on a couple of sticks, carved their own wands.

Dove's was eleven inches long with a simple bird design carved around the place where
he held it. The indents left by the carvings were filled in with white paint, creating a
simple but beautiful wand. Mouse's was almost exactly the same only hers was ten and a
half inches long with a butterfly design painted in pale purple on it. They guessed that it
would look like most normal wands, from what they had gathered from the wands that
they had seen used around the school.
Harry walked up to them. Mouse's eyes shot to the ground, shadowed by her hair, which
she had modified slightly into long, gothic bangs that hid her face from the tip of her
nose up. Dove had done the same thing although his hair was a ragged cut while Mouse's
was straight and tidy.
"You are Corbin and Monica Taylor, right?" he asked. They both nodded, guessing that he
had read off the sheet of names in an attempt to know who they were. "Ravenclaw?"
They nodded again. "Are you both new here? I've never seen you before," Harry said.
"Monica is a first year," Dove answered. They had even gone through the trouble of
changing their voices. "I'm a third," he supplied. Harry nodded and was dragged away by
Hermione before he could ask any more questions.
The two slipped to the back of the group as they decided upon the name Dumbledore's
Army as they name of the group and began on the spell,Expelliarmus. The Hyuugas
watched the group for a moment, pretending to do the spell before they could copy the
moves exactly.
"Chakra strings," Dove whispered hurriedly as he saw Harry making his way towards
them to check on their progress. Mouse nodded and held up her wand. She touched the
tip of it as if checking it and then held it out again.
"Expelliarmus!" she cried and flicked her wand but, at the same time, threw a senbon
needle at her cousin. He caught the needle and attached the chakra string to the end of
his wand with a smile.
"Nice try," Harry said, not noticing the exchange. He stood behind Mouse as Dove tried.
"Expelliarmus!" He did a last minute jerk on his wand that he was sure Harry would miss
and the chakra string sent the wand flying from Mouse's hand.
"Good job," Harry murmured as he went away. He had been so sure that they were the
guards in disguise. But there was no way a bunch of Muggles could do magic, even if
they could make themselves look like students, or wizards, or ninja.

[Take, take all you need]


"I don't understand why they are always in our common room," Harry muttered angrily
as he watched Dove and Viper as they played shougi in front of the fire. They looked
incredibly daunting even though they were just sitting there. The firelight flickered on
their emotionless faces as they tried to outwit each other, reading facial expressions that
didn't exist to figure out their opponent's next move.

"You know why," Hermione hissed, not even looking up from her Charms homework. Half
of her essay was already written while Harry's and Ron's were completely blank.
"Dumbledore hired them to protect you so of course they have someone near you at all
times." She looked at him as if he were completely stupid.
"There hasn't been anything they've been protecting me from. There's nothing they can
do against Voldemort and his death eaters. The only people who can defeat a wizard is a
wizard. Muggles wont be able to do anything." Harry put his head down on the table and
sighed, running his dry quill over the paper. Maybe if he pretended that he was writing
something would appear.
Hermione watched him for a long moment. Ron hadn't said a word and it seemed like he
was just eyeing the guards as he scribbled down a few words on his otherwise empty
parchment. The girl looked to Viper and Dove. They hadn't moved for a long time but
that wasn't completely unexpected, she had seen them play before and it seemed like
they each took half an hour to make one move.
"I don't think you should underestimate them, Harry," she said quietly. He looked up at
her sharply. "I've watched them. Whenever they aren't on guard duty or playing shougi
they are always reading. I think that they have got Hogwarts: A History completely
memorized. They read books on everything from history to modern wizard sciences. They
are doing everything in their power to prepare for that time when Voldemort actually
does appear."
"Not that it will do them any good," he argued lamely. Truthfully, he was just annoyed
that Dumbledore seemed to think that he needed someone to protect him. There were
already several fully capable teachers around and Harry wasn't exactly green either.
What could a few Muggles do against Voldemort's power?
"Why are you so negative?" Hermione asked, finally slapping her quill down as she glared
at him. She, for one, had grown to like the guards, even if they were rather secretive and
didn't trust anyone outside of their own group. They all seemed nice enough, even the
two males who didn't talk to anyone. Harry just grunted an incoherent reply.
"If this is just for the sake of your own pride then why don't you cut it out. They are only
trying to do what they were hired to do and that is protect you in any way that they can."
"That's just it, Hermione, they aren't protecting me from anything. They just stalk the
halls all day and follow me around driving me crazy!" Harry moaned. She frowned as his
self-pity.
"I think that you might find that you will be glad you had them one day," Hermione
whispered, gathering up her stuff and fleeing from the common room before Harry could
say another word. The library called for her.
[One at a time, constants become surreal]
Mouse slipped around the edges of the Forbidden Forest. She moved lithely through the
trees, almost like she was dancing with the shadows. She wore her ANBU gear, the black
completely invisible in the darkness. The only thing an enemy would see if they came
upon her would be a flash of white mask and the gleam of a blade.
She gently tapped a button on her choker necklace, turning on the electronic device so
should could speak with her partner. Dumbledore had personally made the devices
usable in the otherwise 'electronics-free' grounds.

"Naruto-kun?" she spoke softly. For a moment she ceased her forward momentum. She
grabbed a tree limb and swung herself up so she could grouch on the thick branch. She
heard static over the airwaves and waited for him to remember what he had done with
his radio.
"Report," she heard his voice say, rather loudly, over the speaker. She smiled slightly as
she heard the breathless way he talked. Apparently he had been training on the side
rather than keeping a complete watch by the Lake.
"The Forbidden Forest is currently devoid of life along its outer extremities. The school
grounds are empty as well. Requesting permission to go further into the Forest." She
waited for his reply. With any other member of his team he would eagerly send them in
as long as they promised to bring back something interesting but he had always been
more protective of her. That was one of the reasons that Tsunade had almost not let her
on this mission.
"Fine."
"Thank you, captain." She started to move again but stopped when she heard his voice
coming through again. This time there was a tiny bit of concern in it. She could tell he
was trying to hide it but she was good at sensing emotion through voice. It came from
spending so much time around her human ice-cube of a cousin.
"Hinata? Be careful and make sure to report back in every five minutes. If you don't then
I'm coming in after you. Don't try to take on anything that you can't handle and "
"Naruto-kun. I know. I'll be fine. Talk to you in five minutes." He didn't answer her back
so she assumed he got the message.
She jumped to the next tree, focusing chakra into her feet to help herself fly faster and
further as she leapt from limb to limb. Below her she could see half a dozen odd
creatures watching her every move. None of them seemed to be interested in attacking
but she knew that it would only be a matter of time before the centaurs spotted her and
decided they didn't like her.
From what she had read on centaurs, they seemed to be a rather territorial bunch. She
assumed that they felt they had all rights to the forest and everything in it and it was not
her place to tell them otherwise. But, unfortunately for her, they also traveled in herds so
if she was found and caught there would be little chance of any centaur leaving alive. Of
course, killing off an entire herd of centaurs would not go over well with the others and
could lead to strife.
She smiled slightly to herself as she dropped to the forest floor. She was familiar with
this area already, the place where she and the rest of the ANBU had their little game. But
it was still not far enough into the forest. If there was anything dangerous in the forest it
would most likely keep itself deeper in the shadows.
She paused for a moment and did a quick jutsu, summoning three of her favorite mice.
All of them had small red ribbons tied around their throats to show that they were
different from other mice. They stood on their back legs in front of her. She gently
tapped each of their tiny heads.
"Look around. If you see anything interesting, come back and tell me immediately. Don't
try anything stupid." Her simple instructions were enough to keep the mice happy in their
short time out of their scrolls. She watched the flashes of white disappear and moved

back into her fast pace, growing nearer the heart of the forest. It had been five minutes,
she might as well contact Fox. She tapped the button.
"Naruto-kun, this is Hinata reporting in." She moved through the trees, her pace slower
but all together more significant than a normal human speed.
"Hinata?"
"Yes, Naruto-kun. Reporting in."
"Fine. Report." She sighed, hating to go over the whole 'report' order every time she
called him up. It was incredibly tedious and she could just wait for him to call her and
then she could just talk and it would be so much easier. But the ANBU wanted to make
sure that everything was harder, even the manner of communication between captain
and subordinate.
"I've passes the place where we were playing our game the other day. So far the
creatures that have seen me have made no move to attack. I summoned three of my
mice and they are currently scouting out the rest of the forest. So far, there has been
nothing of threat."
"Clear. Talk to you in five minutes."
"Hai." She grinned as she heard the fabric of his pocket rub against the mouthpiece of his
communicator. He would never wear a necklace if he didn't have to. Besides, he had
really good hearing. If something happened he would hear it, even if it was only barely
noticeable over the electronic device.
She sighed as she jumped up to a higher branch when she almost crashed into a few odd
looking birds. So far there was nothing of interest. She was almost getting bored just
running through the trees. Such action was so normal for her she could do it without
thinking, just like running on the flat, open ground. But it was this comfort with her
surrounds that landed her in a rather, unpleasant situation.
She winced as an arrow tore through her shoulder and she instantly flipped backwards,
backtracking to avoid another attack. There was blood on her arm where she had been
wounded and she wondered vaguely if she could get Slug to stitch her uniform back up
later. But all extra thoughts were cast aside as she looked down at her attackers.
Twenty or so centaurs stood on the ground below her, arrows pointing up. If she so much
as moved a muscle she was sure they would fire at her. She was sure that she could
move fast enough to get away but they were waiting and now that they had seen her,
they would follow. They had better eyes than humans and could move faster too. They'd
catch up to her soon enough. She tapped the communicator button but did not say
anything to her partner.
"Come down or we will be forced to shoot you," one of the centaurs, obviously the
leader, ordered. She obeyed and dropped from her tree, around eighteen feet up, to the
soft earth. She touched down without a sound. "Who are you?"
"I am ANBU Mouse, currently working under Professor Dumbledore as a guard for
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." They looked at her with hard expressions,
clearly mistrusting.

"We do not trust those who hide theirs faces with masks," the centaurs stated calmly. He
looked pointedly at her mask but she did not move to remove it. She stared hard at him
through the slender eye slits. Her pale eyes glowed angrily.
"Remove your mask, stranger, or suffer the consequences."
"I am sorry but I am not allowed to take off my mask while on a mission unless I am
undercover. As I am not in disguise at the moment I cannot remove my mask by law of
my profession. I am sorry but I cannot fulfill your wishes."
"Remove your mask." Mouse stared at him. She had quite clearly stated that she
couldn't, wouldn't, take off her mask. She activated her blood line limit silently and
scanned the area. She saw Fox coming towards her area. She thought about calling out
to him to warn him but she figured that would just make things worse. Hopefully he
wouldn't be too brash
"Hinata-chan!" She sighed. She should have known better than to hope for the
impossible. She glanced up and saw Fox jumping down next to her. She didn't even
flinch as he almost landed on top of her. Baka.
The centaurs reacted violently to his sudden appearance. In a split second there were
dozens of arrows and a few spears flying through the air towards them. Mouse took that
moment to drop into her familiar fighting style, using her defensive maneuvers to
destroy each missile before it could hit them.
Fox, understanding her fighting style, got the heck out of the way. He created Kage
Bushins that went at the centaurs with wild abandon. As Mouse twisted her arms in
complex maneuvers to keep her chakra flowing from her hands she felt the wound in her
shoulder throb painfully. She bit her lip and kept going, keeping herself safe while she
watched Fox, protecting him from flying objects whenever the need arose.
But the constant, steadily increasing rate of her blows, took its toll on her arm. She
winced as she felt the pang come back and then yelped as she felt the hole tear her skin
further down her arm. For a moment she paused in her defensive moves. But a moment
is all an enemy needs.
Fox and Mouse stood with spears surrounding them. Mouse clutched her bleeding arm
and Fox could do nothing to help her. The centaurs that had spoken with Mouse
previously stepped forward, smirking at them.
"I will say once more, unmask yourselves, strangers."

[I woke up knowing, today is the day I will die]


Mouse winced at the growing pain in her shoulder. There was no way she was going to
take off her mask for these strange creatures. Slug had told her about them during her
research one day. They were called centaurs, half man half beast. Although traditionally
savage they would not attack children. The only problem was, what qualified as a child in

their point of view? To some people, Mouse and Fox would look like older teenagers,
more adult that kid.
She glanced over at Fox, wondering if they should take off their masks just to get out of
this one position. His eyes were blazing with fury. She could practically see the flames
jumping behind his clear blue orbs through the slits in his Fox mask. She sighed; glaring
wasn't going to do them any good.
She slid closer to him in an almost imperceptible motion. She took a small breath that
warned him in advance that she was going to speak. His growling ceased as he waited
for her to tell him something, anything, that would get them out of this position.
"Sakura-chan told me that centaurs only attack children. If we take off our mask and use
a thin layer of genjutsu to make ourselves look younger they might let us go," she
whispered in Japanese. He nodded. Of course, Mouse spoken far too softly for the
centaurs to hear but with Fox's inhuman auditory senses he had no problem
understanding the hushed words.
"If you refuse to unmask yourselves then you are considered a threat to the Forest," the
centaur leader said. He hefted his spear and settled it on his shoulder, prepared to throw.
The other centaurs prepared their weapons in the same way, all taking aim at the two
ANBU in the middle of the ring.
"Wait," Fox said, holding up his hands in surrender. He slowly moved his hands back to
the string that held his mask to his face. The centaurs shifted nervously. "I'm going to
take off my mask," the captain explained carefully. His fingers reached the near invisible
cord and pulled on it just enough to untie it. He leaned his head forward slightly so the
mask fell into his hand.
The centaurs looked at their captive in astonishment. It was a mere boy. His eyes were
bright blue, twinkling in a way that could rival Dumbledore's. There were whisker tattoos
on his cheeks and he wore a mischievous smile that was tinted, barely, with sadness. He
looped the string of his mask around his belt so the fox face hung among his kunai and
shuriken pouches. They turned to look at the girl.
Mouse only used her good arm to take off her mask, pulling it off over her head. She
smiled just a little bit at the centaur's reaction. They shied back from her. It was
understandable. She looked like a normal, pretty young woman but there was always her
eyes; her pale, pale Hyuuga eyes.
"You are mere foals," the leader snorted, as he looked them over again. The two bowed
low to him in hopes that he would take it as a sign of respect. They really didn't want to
offer the customary English handshake to him. He might not take that very well. "Name
yourselves," he ordered.
Fox glanced at Mouse and Mouse stared at Fox. What names were they supposed to
give? They doubted the centaurs would be so stupid as to believe that the names 'Fox'
and 'Mouse' were their given names. The captain just shrugged. They were going to have
to get out of this somehow.
"I am Uzumaki Naruto, also known as ANBU Captain Fox and this is my subordinate,
Hyuuga Hinata, or ANBU Mouse," he said, bowing again to the magical creatures. The
leader looked at them in suspicions. He looked like he was going to order the attack
anyway but a female centaurs touched his shoulder and whispered something in his ear.
He sighed and looked at the two, still bowing low, in front of him.

"Very well. You are no longer considered a threat but do not ever return to our Forest
again," he said. The ANBU didn't bother reminding him that they could go wherever they
wanted under Dumbledore's orders. They weren't really in a position to try demanding
anything. They bowed and retreated quickly out of the Forest.
Once on the edges Fox forced Mouse to sit down while he bandaged her wound. She
blushed and looked away when he ran his fingers over her shoulder to assess the
damage. At least she wasn't fainting like would have when she was younger. He looked
away for a moment as if he heard someone coming and then tied off the bandage.
"There you go, Hinata-chan. That should hold you until we get back to Sakura-chan. Are
you good for walking up to Hogwarts?" he chattered to her. She giggled but stood quickly
and moved her arm slightly. It felt a little better.
"Of course I can walk, Naruto-kun. It's my arm that's hurt, not my legs," she said with a
light laugh. She pulled her armor back on since she had to take it off while Fox was
bandaging her. The armguards were the hardest to get back on and Fox had to help her
again.
"Do you think we need to tell Dumbledore-sensei about this?" Mouse asked as they
walked. Fox shook his head.
"I have a feeling that meetings with the centaurs were expected. He wouldn't be
surprised and, from what Sakura-chan told me, that is just the way that the centaurs
always react to strangers. Nothing special. But we'll need to tell everyone else. They
might want to know about the centaurs. Plus, since our masks seem similar to people
who aren't shinobi, the centaurs might mistake the rest of the group for us and just
attack them."
Mouse looked at him in shock. It was a rare occurrence for him to think anything out this
thoroughly and to provide an explanation as well was nearly unheard of. Fox grinned at
her surprised expression. Perhaps he was thinking that she just hadn't thought of that
yet. Of course, Fox could be a complete blockhead sometimes too.
[Cause it's not your day to shine]
Malfoy looked up and down the halls. The stone corridors were completely empty at the
moment but who knew when a ghost would pop out randomly from a wall. He chuckled
darkly to himself. He was so tired of those nosy guards and now he would have the
chance to put that Panda in her place.
He walked down the hallway, robes billowing around him in what he thought to be a very
theatrically dramatic manner. It made him look like a bloated duck trying to fly away but
he didn't have to know that. Voices floated to him from one of the other halls nearby. He
squeaked and ducked behind a statue.
Seconds later, Panda and Dove appeared, talking quietly to each other in a language that
Malfoy did not know. Unfortunately, they were both walking on the ceilings and would
undoubtedly see him as they strode nearer his hiding place. He grinned. Maybe, if he
hexed her fast enough, she would fall off the ceiling and break her arm or something.
Then she'd be out of his hair for several days.
This plan, of course, was originally supposed to just be a prank but the prankster, being
Malfoy, always decided to be more sinister than was necessary. He really didn't have

much history in the pranking business anyway so he didn't have many experiences to
look back on for reference.
He raised his wand in preparation.
"Hey, Malfoy! What are you doing down there?" Panda asked cheerfully as she waved to
him. He looked at her in shock. Just a few seconds ago she had been in front of him and
now she was behind him, at the other end of the hallway, on the ground no less! There
was something really wrong with that.
He stuttered, trying to come up with an excuse on the spot. But, that didn't work out so
well and Panda just twiddled her fingers at him and vanished with the redhead. Malfoy
growled as he was left all alone in the hallway. He'd get her next time.
Potion's Class (Same Day)
Malfoy growled over his potion as he tried to do it properly. No matter what he did he
would be fine since Snape only picked on Gryffindors but he was acutely aware that
Panda was in the back of the room watching him. Thankfully for him, Dove wasn't with
her during this class. The redhead seemed to rub all of the teachers the wrong way.
He death glared the cauldron in front of him. It was supposed to be bubbling silver but it
was more like boiling acidic green. He poked it tentatively with a wooden spoon and the
spoon turned a revolting shade of pink. He chuckled evilly to himself.
He pocketed a vial of the stuff and left with the rest of his group when the class was
over. After he extricated himself from his loyal followers he snuck into the Gryffindor
bathrooms that he knew the guards preferred to use. He poured the whole vial into a
bottle of shampoo and snuck back out. Perfect.
Later that Night (At Supper)
Malfoy heard light chuckles and some all out laughter as the guards entered into the hall
but there were enough death glares to keep most of the students silent. Malfoy smacked
himself in the head.
Dove, Viper, and Fox all now sported bright, obnoxiously pink hair. And for some reason
the pureblood Slytherin got the feeling that they knew he did it. Their eyes turned to
snap to him out of all the students in the Great Hall. Uh oh.
He bolted from the hall with three angry men hot on his heels. If only Malfoy had thought
to put the potion in the shampoo in the girl's bathroom. Of course, we can't all be smart
all the time.
Next Day
The noise in the Slytherin common room fell from a dull roar to a silenced hush. The
source of the sudden attention happened to be one, thoroughly beaten up, annoyed
blond. A few students covered their mouths with their hands to keep from chuckling.
Malfoy was already having a bad day.
He had been forced to stay in the infirmary until the nurse was absolutely positive that
he was going to be okay. Of course, he really didn't want to leave either because the

guards would probably be stalking him, ready to beat the snot out of him again. But
nobody is allowed to force a Malfoy to doanything.
He sat in a corner looking through several books on jinxes and charms, giggling to
himself (AN: whoa giggling?) as he read up on several that could be used in pranks.
Who knew a Malfoy would sink so low? He selected one and put the books away, hiding
them in hopes that none of his fellow Slytherins would try to figure out what he had been
trying to find. He slipped out the portrait hole to go looking for Panda.
It didn't take him long to find her. She was one of the more rowdy members of the guard
group in any case and she seemed to be in a very lively argument with Fox. The brown
haired man stalked away after a while and she settled for sitting with her back against
the wall as she played with several knives. Malfoy raised his wand and pointed it at her,
whispering the incantation.
She wasn't expecting the attack and the spell hit her right on, making her drop her
knives in surprise. She stood angrily but then paused and reached up to touch her face.
Her eyes widened in horror.
Her pale blonde eyebrows were growing at an unnatural pace along with her hair and
soon covered her face. Her hair fell down to the floor. Her eyelashes followed soon after,
making it impossible for her to see.
"AH!" she shouted and started thrashing around, trying to find some way to see through
the incredible mop she had grown. Malfoy doubled up in laughter as she made a fool of
herself and took out his camera. He snapped a picture before turning to run away. But
before he could make a complete turn he slammed into a brick wall.
Or something that felt like it anyway.
Dove stood over him, cracking his knuckles ominously. The redhead's pale eyes flashed
angrily as he looked from Panda to Malfoy back to Panda. The woman had managed to
part her hair and was looking at him pitifully. Malfoy gulped.
When everyone went into the Great Hall for lunch they found one pureblood hanging
from the ceiling by a rope connected to his underwear, tears in his eyes and a word
written on the air behind him.
Stupid.

[London Bridge is always falling down]


Dove and Mouse stood side by side at yet another one of the DA meetings. Dove sighed
and ran a hand through his hair. If they kept having them this frequently the two 'spies'
were going to have a few problems. At least, for now, they were only standing around
talking. Hermione seemed to be arguing with Harry over what curse they should learn
next. Mouse heard him sigh.

"Are you al-alright, Nii-san?" she asked softly. He just nodded, keeping his mouth shut as
Fred and George approached them. He stiffened slightly. The twins were way to similar to
Fox when he was younger.
"Hello there, pal!" George said, throwing his arm around Dove's shoulders. The whiteeyed ANBU flinched at the invasion of his personal bubble, very tempted to punch a hole
in the guy's face.
"What do you want?" Dove asked, trying to keep the hiss out of his voice rather
unsuccessfully. Mouse giggled a little at the expression of barely concealed horror on his
face.
"I never see you around except during meetings." George said. Fred nodded.
"I asked a few of my friends in Ravenclaw," Fred stated.
"About you but they all said that they had never seen either of you." George ended.
"And I thought to myself," Fred said thoughtfully.
"You two are kind of hard to miss." George tapped his temple.
"Because of your white eyes and all that." Fred whispered conspiratorially.
"Just where do you two hang out all the time?" George asked. Just as Dove was about to
make up a lie on the spot Harry blew a newly acquired whistle to get everyone's
attention. The students gathered all snapped their gazes to their teacher and he blushed
a little under their scrutiny.
"Okay, so today we are going to be working on Reductor Curses." Moans erupted around
the room; the Reductor Curse was hard. It took around ten minutes for everyone to
stand in front of a wooden target, one of which had appeared before each student
courtesy of the room's magic. Dove and Mouse watched the rest of the class carefully,
trying to figure out how to work it.
Harry saw that they didn't even try to do the curse. The cries of Reducto echoed around
him as he made his way over to the two, adjusting other students along the way. It
seemed that they had seen him coming because Mouse pointed her wand at the target
and shouted:
"Reducto!" Nothing happened. Dove was still looking from his wand to the target as if
trying to figure out some difficult equation. Harry frowned. Everyone in the class could at
least disintegrate part of it, even just a corner.
Dove pointed his wand at the target and muttered the incantation under his breath.
There was a sound similar to a saw going through wood and the target fell in four equal
quarters. Dove looked from the target to the other targets with a slight expression of
confusion. Harry patted his shoulder lightly.
"Well, I've never seen that before but don't worry, I'm sure you'll get it!" Harry said
cheerfully before walking away. He walked over to Hermione as fast as possible and
whispered what had happened in her ear. Her eyes narrowed and she dragged him over
to the bookcases.

"That isn't even possible with Reducto," she said angrily. "The magical makeup of the
spell doesn't have any kind of severing ability in it. That just doesn't make any sense!"
She paced around and Harry looked at the ground for a moment before he heard
someone shouting. Apparently Padma had managed to disintegrate a whole table holding
Sneakoscopes.
As Harry let the group go back to their dorms he heard a few talking to themselves, their
voices steadily becoming louder. He waltzed casually over to where Ginny, Luna, and
Neville were discussing something with a few older students. Whatever they were saying
was making the older students nod and murmur agreements.
" thinking that, since they're the equivalent of Aurors we could get their help," Ginny
was saying.
"What a wonderful idea," Luna whispered dreamily as she stared off into space. Her large
blue eyes glazed over and Harry wondered if her mind was even in the room. She was
quite good at all the spells they had covered so far but whenever she wasn't doing a spell
she would just gaze off into nowhere.
"What's a wonderful idea?" Harry asked, shoving his hands in his pockets as he neared
them. The rest of the students had ceased their trek out the doors and he could see the
Taylor siblings scooting closer.
"Ginny said that she thought we should ask the guards if they would help us out. Maybe
they would know some spells that are more offensive than just stunning and stuff"
Neville's voice trailed off as he looked at Harry. Ginny watched him like a hawk as if she
was worried that they would hurt his feelings by trying to find another teacher.
"We wouldn't replace you, of course, Harry," she said quickly. Harry just waved her off as
he tapped his chin thoughtfully. He saw Monica slip off behind a pillar out of the corner of
his eye and wondered briefly where she was going.
"I think that's a good idea," he said cheerfully. He had been getting excited about
teaching the class what he knew but now that he thought about it, it would be much
better to have a teacher that had more knowledge on the subject.
[Whispering secrets in vain]
Mouse pushed the button hidden in her collar and waited impatiently for Fox to answer
her call. She could hear the students talking animatedly out in the main room and when
she peeked out she could see Dove's mouth turned down in a frown. He wouldn't try to
dissuade them from their choice but he didn't have to be happy about it.
"Hinata?" Panda's voice came through. Mouse looked at it in confusion. She was sure she
had buzzed Fox.
"Where's Naruto?" Mouse asked. There was a brief pause on the other end.
"He left his communicator in the Gryffindor common room and I just picked it up when I
heard you calling. What's wrong?" Mouse sighed in relief. She didn't know why she was
put at ease by Panda's words though.
"The students are going to ask one of us, or all of us, to help them in their Defense class.
We can't do magic and I need someone to come up with an answer fast." Mouse fell

silent and then she remembered something else. "And I think that Potter-san suspects
Neji-nii-san and myself. Can you come up with some way to fool them?"
"The last one is not a problem. I'll just find Naruto and get him to make some Shadow
Clones and henge them into the both of you and we'll do something about the teaching
position on the fly."
"Thanks. Over."
"Over."
Mouse walked back out of her hiding place and returned to her cousin's side just in time
to hear the unanimous decision.
[Just cease, desist, and leave me like this]
"All in favor of asking Mouse to help us say 'aye'," Harry commanded. He saw Monica
return from the pillar and how she leaned over and whispered in Corbin's ear. His eyes
narrowed in suspicion and he almost missed the chorus of 'aye's that erupted around
him.
"Anyone against it?" he asked, just to make sure. Nobody said a word and he felt a slow
smile spread over his face. Mouse was the most demure of the guards and he was sure
she wouldn't turn them in. After all, the guards already knew about the Defense class
and the teachers hadn't told them not to meet yet so either the guards hadn't alerted the
staff or the staff agreed that the class was all right.
He saw Monica stiffen as he motioned the class out the door. She clutched Corbin's
sleeve as they turned down a hall towards the Ravenclaw common room. He watched her
go until Ginny tapped him on the shoulder and motioned the other direction where Dove
and Mouse stood, watching them emotionlessly.
He felt his heartbeat quicken as he walked down to where they were. Every eye was on
him as he approached Mouse. She looked down at him but said nothing.
"Um Mouse" he started nervously, "We were wondering if you would be willing to
teach the Defense class." The clone looked at them silently without showing emotion. The
real Dove and Mouse looked around the corner at them and shook their heads. They
shouldn't have trusted Fox to make a convincing clone. The Mouse-clone's blank
expression was nearly a total give away.
Thankfully, Naruto seemed to have told the clones to let the more intimidating 'Doveclone' do the talking. The clone pushed his female counterpart back and stepped forward.
Harry took an unconscious pace away.
"Everything that we do has to go through Captain Fox first. We will ask him and then get
back to you."
Harry looked at them in slight confusion but shrugged it off. He thanked them and they
disappeared. As he turned around he saw Monica and Corbin still watching him from
around the corner and he frowned. How were they over there when they were just in
front of him?

He growled. He disliked having his guards around more than enough already without
them infiltrating his Defense class secretively. He would have probably been fine with it if
they had just asked him if they could be there as students.
Then a thought struck him. He knew that they were Muggles and that they were very
talented in their country. But they were still Muggles. How could he have expected them
to be able to do magic if they decided to take the students up on their request? He
chuckled darkly to himself as the hallway emptied. Maybe if they were dumb enough to
get caught Dumbledore would make them leave.
[You and me and love and all our friends]
Dove undid his henge and stood in front of his cousin in his full ANBU gear. She did
likewise and they melted back into the shadows. As they walked along the ceilings,
crawling when the students walked beneath them, they talked in hushed voices.
"I should have expected Fox to play it safe," Dove muttered to her.
"Of course. I guess either Panda or Slug warned him that they didn't know whom the
students were going to ask. I didn't have enough time to contact them with any more
information after I heard that Harry was just going to ask someone from the group."
"It's not your fault. Fox is smart enough to think on his feet. I just wish he had made
your clone more realistic. At least it didn't have that weird grin he always seems to
wear."
Mouse giggled but didn't say anything else until they reached the Gryffindor common
room portrait. The Fat Lady didn't even see them as they henged back into their wizard
forms and told her the password. The rest of the team was already present. Slug waved
them over to the rug in front of the fireplace that they were all seated on.
They all faced the fire in a semicircle around it, closing their eyes. In the first few days
that they had been at Hogwarts they had made it very clear that then they were
meditating they were not to be disturbed. So now they all settled their hands on their
knees and pretended as they spoke in hushed voices. Dove and Mouse kept their
Byakugan activated so they could still see if people were sneaking up on them.
"Report." Fox ordered. Mouse was silent so Dove spoke up.
"The students seemed to take your prepared answer very well. I assume that Potter is
still suspicious of us but so far he has no proof and, in fact, has evidence against his
theory. But, there is a slight chance that he wants us to take the position so we can
make complete fools of ourselves. As far as I can tell he dislikes us being here and any
chance to humiliate or otherwise get rid of us is a good one for him. That's the only logic
I can see behind his choice to consciously ask us for help." Fox nodded and Dove could
see him through his eyelids.
Nobody else said anything for a long time. The news was a little disturbing to them. They
had had clients before that disliked them and wanted another team (usually when they
found out how young they were) but they had never faced a mere child attempting to get
rid of them before. Fox opened him mouth to speak again but Mouse hissed a warning.
Seconds later Professor McGonagall came through the portrait hole.
"Captain Fox," she said. The ANBU flinched as he opened his eyes and turned to look at
her.

"Yes? Whatever you have to say had better be important," he growled. There was only
one thing that he hated more than being disturbed during a reporting session and that
was being without ramen for more than a day. But that is irrelevant. The woman looked
rather shaken by his tone but continued nonetheless.
"Professor Dumbledore would like to see you and your team in his office as soon as
possible."
Fox sighed and stood, nodding to say that he would be there soon and McGonagall left
quickly. The rest of his team stood at different times, some rising in a fluid motion and
some back flipping into a standing position. Dove and Mouse both stood carefully. Mouse
wavered uncertainly for a moment and Dove lost his balance completely. Panda caught
him before he could hit the ground though.
"Are you okay?" she asked. The rest of the team looked at the two Hyuugas in concern.
Hyuugas never loose their balance.
"We're fine," Mouse said quietly, looking pointedly at Dove, who had righted himself
again. He nodded in confirmation and brushed Panda's worried hands off his shoulders.
She frowned and kept a hand on arm the whole walk to Professor Dumbledore's office.
"Lemon drops," Fox murmured to the gargoyle. It moved away and the six swept into the
room.
The entirety of the Order was present, from Professor McGonagall to Mrs. Weasley. The
Order wizards still looked a little shocked that the shinobi would have been able to
change their appearances to easily. The six stood in front of their client and bowed
respectfully.
"There you are, friends," Dumbledore said warmly. Sirius looked sharply at Viper when
he heard a muffled snort from the ninja. The Sharingan-user returned the look with one
far more venomous. "We ask that you forgo your disguises for now."
In one movement the shinobi raised their hands, clasped in a hand sign and muttered a
word. In a poof of pale smoke they stood in their ANBU uniforms, masks in place,
weapons covering almost every inch of their bodies, most of them were hidden though.
Dumbledore smiled at them, eyes twinkling.
"I apologize for my inability to actually meet any of you face to face. I trust that you
have been getting my instructions from the letters that I have been sending, correct?" He
paused and the ninja nodded. "Good. As you know, I am Professor Dumbledore but I am
not sure that I know each of you although I can guess your codenames. I ask that, for
the sake of the Order's ability to work with you, that you remove your masks and tell us
your true names."
The Order members all looked at each other. And here they had thought that the animal
names were their given names. Tonks watched them curiously. They had abilities very
similar to her but no Metamorphmagus changed their appearance with the
accompaniment of smoke.
The shinobi twitched minutely and their gazes snapped to their captain. Fox peered at
Dumbledore. All shinobi on a mission were to take orders either from their Hokage or
their client. All clients were told beforehand that they were to never request the removal
of an ANBU's mask. But this was a special case. Fox reached up and took his mask in one

hand and paused, the rest reached the same position. In a unified movement they
removed their porcelain faces.
"ANBU Fox, Uzumaki Naruto, captain," Fox said softly, but his bright, baby blue eyes held
all the smiles in the world. The expressions on the female faces in the room were
priceless.
"ANBU Viper, Uchiha Sasuke, lieutenant," Viper said coldly. He looked decidedly less
enthused about this than his captain. He crossed his arms as soon as he took off his
mask and let it hang loosely from his gloved hand.
"ANBU Slug, Haruno Sakura, medic," Slug stated cheerfully, a smile adorning her soft,
innocent looking face.
"ANBU Panda, Tenten, weapons specialist," Panda declared, twirling a magically
appearing kunai around on finger as she slid her mask onto the side of her head, held by
the string still.
"ANBU Dove, Hyuuga Neji, scout," Dove muttered, white eyes focusing fiercely on those
that were staring at him in shock.
"ANBU Mouse, Hyuuga Hinata, scout," Mouse whispered.

[Head under water]


Fox watched the reactions of the gathered wizards and witches with a mix of amusement
and annoyance. The woman all burst out asking questions in shrill voices of Dumbledore;
most of which centered on why he had hired children. Fox bristled a little bit at that and
felt Viper stiffen at his side as well. They were hardly children. They qualified as adults
even under wizard law.
"Dumbledore, how could you?" Professor McGonagall half shrieked, "They are the same
age as our seventh years. Just children!" Fox cleared his throat and the room fell silent.
"I'm sorry, McGonagall-sensei," he said apologetically, "We are all eighteen with the
exception of Panda and Dove, they're nineteen, so we qualify as legal adults even under
your laws. We are not children anymore." She snorted and muttered something
unintelligible.
"Look at how thin they all are!" Mrs. Weasley gushed as if seeing them for the first time.
Apparently she was more likely to remark on someone's size if they were children under
her own son's ages. Even the girl's rolled their eyes at that.
"If she things that we are thin, imagine what she would say if she saw Ino," Slug
whispered to Panda under her breath. The brown-eyed girl giggled and covered her
mouth quickly. The poor woman would probably pass out if she ever laid eye on
Yamanaka.

"Professor Dumbledore," Professor McGonagall said, standing directly in front of the


headmaster's desk, waving a hand at the gathered shinobi. "I insist that you send
thesechildren back to wherever you got them and hire an older, more experienced
team."
Before Professor Dumbledore could say a word Dove stepped forward and grabbed her
flying wrist, shoving it aside roughly. He had not taken kindly to being called a child.
"Professor McGonagall," he said slowly. Though his voice was calm and controlled the
shinobi knew better. He was going to kill something soon. "We can't go back on a
contract unless it is under extreme conditions. I don't think that you disliking our ages
counts as an extreme condition, do you?" She spluttered something incoherent.
"We are the most experienced team in Konaha," Viper said smoothly as he watched
Panda slide a hand around Dove's waist and pull him back towards the line in a secretive
motion that would not only get his attention but also look completely natural since she
had her other hand on his arm.
He grinned to himself. Yes, they were the most experienced team but they were not the
most experienced ANBU. There were plenty more that had been in the business longer
than them but the professor didn't need to know about them.
"I can assure you, professor," Fox decided to jump in, "We are the very best that Konaha
has to offer. We all currently hold the number one positions in our particular areas of
expertise." When McGonagall paused for a moment as she tried to think of someway to
respond to the interruption in her rant, Dumbledore made himself known.
"I trust Lady Tsunade's decision to send these six." His eyes twinkled as if he found the
whole situation completely hilarious.
"I don't think feel that Harry is that safe under the guardianship of these people," Sirius
said softly, trying to refrain from saying children as that just might incur their wrath. As
it was, all of the shinobi's eyes snapped to him and, even though some of the other
Order members were wondering what he just said, he knew that they had heard every
word.
"Harry's the one trying to get rid of us," Panda murmured in Dove's ear. She still had one
hand around his waist even though he had long since stopped trying to tear McGonagall's
head off. Now he settled for a death glare.
But his gaze soon turned from the professor to Moody who was watching him carefully
from a chair in a dark corner. He could see him with the Byakugan but he was using a
very basic form of it so the veins around his eyes weren't very pronounced. He was sure
that the annoying false eye could see it though.
Professor McGonagall and Mrs. Weasley were now both telling Dumbledore that they
were against having the ANBU protecting Harry at Hogwarts. Viper's hands were clenched
into fists at his side as every member of the Order started to talk at the same time, some
fine with the ANBU and some opposed.
"This is completely irrational!"
"They really should eat more."
"They're all so cute!" Yes, that was Tonks.

"How could they protect Harry? They're barely older than he is!"
"I just want to put them all in a box and take them home."
"I don't much like the ones with the freaky eyes." Jeez, Moody. You're the one with the
freaky eye!
"There is not way children just out of school could know enough to be real guards."
"I wonder where they make kids this adorable." (AN: I think Tonk's is a little off at
the moment)
Viper groaned. There were few things that could get under an ANBU's skin. The first and
foremost of which happens to be (AN: DUMROLL) lack of order. And here were these
'Order' Neanderthals were all trying to talk over each other. He would have clasped his
hands over his ears if that hadn't been showing too much emotion. Uchihas do NOT show
that they are annoyed.
"Perhaps we should give them a chance," Lupin said quietly, much to everyone shock.
They all turned to look at him and even the shinobi graced him with their looks of
gratitude. They were getting little annoyed with the way the conversation was going.
"Thank you, Lupin-san," Panda said with a cheerfully smile. The grin faded as she looked
at the other Order members. "Stop doubting your leader's choices. That is one of the first
things that make an organization fall, doubt. We trust our leader and he trusts our
leader. I think that we have a mutual understanding that we wont be going anywhere."
"There's someone in the stairwell," Dove and Moody suddenly announced at the same
time. Their glares shot to each other in minor confusion. In that moment of awkward
staring and shock from the other members of the surprised room.
BANG
In comes Umbridge, flying through the doorway like a bullet out of a gun. A very fat,
ugly bullet, mind you.
It took all of two seconds for the ministry official to be surrounded by startled shinobi.
One of the first rules when working with ninja is to never surprise them. Most of the time
mistakes like that could be fatal. Thankfully, for Umbridge, the shinobi were controlled
enough to merely frighten the living daylights out of her.
Fox held a knife at her throat, one arm wrapped around her head, jerking it back, Viper's
katana pointed at her face, nearly pricking her nose, Slug held a glowing fist at her
temple, and Panda had a spear pointed at her stomach. The gathered wizards looked at
the group in slight awe even though most of them were trying to figure out where
Panda's spear came from. Dove and Mouse hadn't moved a muscle. Those present were
too focused on Umbridge to see Mouse pressing a hand against Dove's shoulder to keep
him from falling over suddenly.
"The Ministry will hear of this!" Umbridge shrieked. The ninja winced as her voice pierced
their sensitive ears. "How dare you bring such savages into Hogwarts!" the toad woman
continued ranting. Her eyes grew wide as she saw Sirius.
"You will be put in Azkaban for housing and hiding a dangerous criminal!" she screamed.
She struggled against the blades holding her in place but the shinobi were all way

stronger than they looked. She shrieked and yelled, screamed and shouted but before
anyone could do anything, Dove appeared beside her. He hit a pressure point on the
back of her neck and knocked her out. The Order members breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank you, friends," Dumbledore said with a smile. "You are dismissed to your normal
duties although I would like a weekly report. Trust me when I say that no matter what
the rest of the Order members think you shall stay here." The shinobi bowed and exited,
replacing their disguises.
[Send out the morning birds to sing of the damage]
As they walked down the hall together Fox turned to Dove. The white-eyed young man
hadn't said a word since he had announced Umbridge's untimely arrival. Both Panda and
Mouse were looking at him with worried expressions.
"Hey, Neji?" Fox said, trying to get his friend's attention. He glanced at him, an eyebrow
raised in unspoken question. "Stay away from that Moody person."
"Hai, taicho," Dove said quietly. The group fell back into silence until Mouse broke it.
"Moody-san is still watching us from the room. I'm sure that he can see through walls
with that eye of his," she said, her eyes surrounded by an intricate network of veins
standing out against her pale skin. The rest nodded quietly. She swayed briefly and Dove
reached out a hand to steady her. She gave him a grateful smile.
Slug watched them suspiciously but soon dismissed their behavior as just tiredness. Both
of them had been taking night shifts every night since they had gotten to Hogwarts. It
would make sense for them to be tired.
[My love will not die, please let it be known]
"I'm rubbish," Ron croaked, "I'm lousy. I can't play to save my life. What was I
thinking?"
"Get a grip," Harry said sternly, "Look at that save you made with your foot the other
day, even Fred and George said it was brilliant "
Fox leaned over the Gryffindor table to grab a slice of toast and he stayed in that position
a little longer to continue listening to the conversation between his charge and his friend.
He took his time applying butter and jam to his breakfast with a serious expression on
his face. He felt his teammates' eyes boring into his back in silent questions.
"That was an accident," Ron whispered miserably, "I didn't mean to do it I slipped off
my broom when none of you were looking and I was trying to get back on and I kicked
the Quaffle by accident."
Fox had to step back quickly to keep the two from seeing the laughter in his face. He
stuffed his face with bread. Ron acted as if he would never get any better at this game
that they played (Quidditch, was it?). Fox thought it was quite hilarious.
"Well," Harry said as he tried to recover from the unpleasant surprise, "A few more
accidents like that and the game's in the bag, isn't it?" Ron only stared miserably at the
milk in the bottom of his now empty cereal bowl as if he was truly pondering how to
drown himself in it.

The ANBU captain laughed and slammed his hand against the boy's back. Ron lurched
forward and turned around faster than the speed of light to see what hit him. Fox settled
onto the bench next to him and grabbed another piece of toast.
"I don't see what you're so worried about, Ron-kun," he said, never glancing at the
redhead. "If you are so good at saving catches when you are making mistakes, imagine
how good you will be with a little practice to start saving them on purpose." Here he
glanced at the startled boy's expression. Priceless.
"Look at me," Fox said, getting an idea, "I was the one that always made the biggest
mistakes in my class. I had the lowest grades and was the worst at ju spells. But now
I'm a captain of team consisting of all the people who were better than me when we were
younger. All because I took the time to practice and try to get better." He smiled brightly
at Ron. "One day you might be the best Quidditch player out there!"
He stood from his seat in a fluid motion and gave Ron a thumbs-up sign. But his mature,
advisory image was ruined as he jammed the rest of his breakfast in his mouth and
walked away to find one of his team to annoy. He was satisfied that his work with little
Ronnie-kins was done.
[What if it was you, you that I needed all along]
The shinobi sat together in the stands at the very first Quidditch game they had ever
experienced. Slug kept jumping up whenever someone went up on a broom. Panda kept
pulling her down again and Slug would always mutter something along the lines of
'they're going to kill themselves on those things'.
Fox waved to Ron and Harry was they walked out to the middle of the field. Harry looked
the other way but Ron waved back, uncertainty showing in his face. The ninja pumped a
little chakra to their eyes so they could see what was happening down below them. Dove
and Mouse opted to not use their Byakugan (saying that the chakra veins would be too
easily seen by those around them).
"I suppose the captains shaking hands is like a bow for us," Panda remarked as she
peered at the captains standing in the middle, between their two teams. The way the
groups looked at each other gave her chills. It was almost like the calm before a death
match (not a storm, death match).
Slug flinched as she saw a Bludger narrowly miss Harry. She had asked Hermione about
the game earlier and supposedly Harry was supposed to find this thing called a Snitch a
little gold ball something or other.
"And it's Johnson, Johnson with the Quaffle, what a player that girl is, I've been saying it
for years but she still won't go out with me "
The ninja tried to ignore the sound of Jordan's voice above the dull roar of the crowd as
he narrated the game. Mouse tapped Fox on the shoulder and pointed to Harry and then
to a dull glint of gold all the way across the stadium.
"I found the Snitch," she said softly. Fox grinned. If Mouse ever played Quidditch, the
other team wouldn't have a chance of winning.
Weasley cannot save a thing,
He cannot block a single ring,

That's why Slytherins all sing;


Weasley is our King.
Weasley was born in a bin,
He always lets the Quaffle in,
Weasley will make sure we win,
Weasley is our King
Slug sat up sharply and looked around, suddenly noticing the Slytherin spectators all
singing the same song. The lines of Weasley is our King floated through the crowd and
Slug felt the desire to punch every single one of them out of their seats and halfway
through Hogwarts. How dare they sink so low?
She didn't realize that she had stood, hands clenched into fists, until she felt Viper's hand
on her arm, tugging her back down. He shook his head silently, not that she could have
heard him if he had tried to speak over the noise. Jordan's commentary grew louder as
he tried to overpower the growing song.
The shinobi twitched as Ron missed another ball, the Quaffle flying through the hoop to
add another score to the Slytherin side. Fox sighed but leaned forward to watch Ron,
mentally cheering him on. Ron let another ball in and the Gryffindor supporters groaned.
The Slytherin's song swelled to a climax now and Panda slapped her hands over her ears
in an attempt to keep the noise out. Dove would have done the same but he was too
busy watching Harry. He had seen the Snitch that Mouse and Dove had been watching
since the beginning of the game.
Cheering came from the Gryffindor fans as they all saw Harry's catch of the Snitch. Viper
frowned. Harry was clearly only trying to keep Ron out of trouble. He muttered
something under his breath but froze when he saw what happened next.
WHAM
A Bludger hit Harry in the back and sent him tumbling off his broom. The shinobi were
over the edge of the stands and by his side at a speed that sent anyone who had been
watching them into speculations. So maybe they had used a little chakra to get over
there faster. Angelina got there half a second after them.
"Are you okay?" Angelina asked, helping the wizard to his feet.
"Fine, fine," he muttered as he dusted himself off. He looked around and drew back in
surprise as he suddenly realized the presence of the six guards that hadn't been there
when he fell.
"Are you sure you're fine? Your neck doesn't hurt? What about your back?" Slug started
grilling him. She pressed a hand to his forehead though he couldn't see how she could
feel anything through her fingerless gloves. She bit her lip.
"Saved Weasley's neck, haven't you?" Malfoy sneered as he sidled up with the rest of the
Slytherin team behind him as the guards moved off to calm the panicking Madame

Hooch. "I've never seen a worse Keeper but then he was born in a bin Did you like my
lyrics, Potter?"
Harry said nothing and turned to the rest of his team who landed one after the other with
much shouting and cheering. He noticed, in his peripheral vision that Slug had stiffened
suddenly and he wondered if she had heard what Malfoy had said. No, that was
impossible. She was too far away. Ron dismounted his broom and made his way slowly
to the changing rooms.
"We wanted to writer another couple of verses!" Malfoy shouted over the din. Harry's
gaze snapped to him as Katie and Alicia hugged him tightly. "But we couldn't find rhymes
for fat and ugly we wanted to sing about his mother, see "
This time Harry knew for sure that the ninja could hear Malfoy. Dove tensed beside Slug,
his fingers curling into a fist at his side. Harry blinked. This would not end well.
"Talk about sour grapes," Angelina whispered while casting Malfoy a disgusted look.
" we couldn't fit in useless loser either for his father, you know "
Fox's head whipped around so fast Harry was worried that he would snap his neck.
By this time Fred and George figured out that Malfoy was talking about their family.
Halfway through shaking Harry's hand they froze. They turned to look at Malfoy with
murder in their eyes. Angelina saw and grabbed Fred's arm in a half-attempt to hold him
back. She murmured something that sounded suspiciously like 'leave it'.
" but you like the Weasleys, don't you, Potter?" Malfoy continued, smirking, "Spend
holidays with there and everything, don't you? Can't see how you stand the stink, but I
suppose when you've been dragged up by Muggles even the Weasleys' hovel smells okay
"
Harry latched onto George's arm as he started towards Malfoy but it was taking the
combined efforts of Angelina, Alicia, and Katie to keep Fred from pummeling Malfoy to a
bloody pulp right then and there. Nobody noticed the guards slowly moving towards
them. Madame Hooch had moved on to Crabbe and was berating him for illegally
Bludger-ing Harry.
"Or perhaps," Malfoy said, starting to back away to a safe distance, "you can remember
what your mother's house stank like, Potter, and Weasley's pigsty reminds you of it "
Harry snapped. He released George and the two bounded over the distance between
Malfoy and themselves. The Slytherin found himself on the ground with two angry
Gryffindors standing over him, ready to punch the living daylights out of him.
Harry raised his fist to punch Malfoy in the face but it never got there. His hand smacked
into someone's open palm. The fingers connected to said palm closed over his fist and
twisted it behind his back, pulling him away from Malfoy. It didn't hurt but it certainly
surprised him. He looked up to see Fox frowning at him as he held him in place. Viper
hauled George away from the cowering Slytherin.
Almost instantly the rest of the guards appeared, surrounding the Slytherin Quidditch
team. Harry shivered as Fox suddenly blocked his view of his enemy. The man didn't look
happy in the slightest. Slug cracked her knuckles, normally happy green eyes shadowed
by her hair.

Harry peeked around Fox just in time to see Viper appear behind Malfoy, a knife at the
blonde's throat. The ninja whispered something and Harry could only barely make it out.
"Be glad there are teachers around to protect you. Next time we hear trash like that
coming from your mouth we wont be so inclined to keep you in one piece."
Madame Hooch seemed to have heard the growing crowd's excitement and came running
over to the brewing fight. Harry tried to hide more behind Fox but the ANBU captain
moved out of Madame Hooch's way and went to stand next to Mouse. The little redhead
looked down, trying to disappear.
"I have never seen such violence before!" the flying teacher said in a great huff,
"Weasley and Potter, to you Head of House this instant!"
When neither of the boys looked like they were going to move, Fox grabbed George and
Mouse gently guided Harry back into Hogwarts. The crowd's jeering followed them until
the wide double doors slammed shut behind them. McGonagall came flying to them a
split second later, tearing her scarf from her throat with shaking hands.
"In!" she ordered furiously, pointing to the door of her office. The two guards propelled
Harry and George into the torture chamber. The wizards stood awkwardly in front of her
desk while Mouse and Fox stayed next to the door, hands clasped behind their backs.
Harry had never seen them with such emotionless expressions.
"Well?" she said, "I have never seen such a disgraceful exhibition. Two onto one! Explain
yourselves!"
"Malfoy provoked us," Harry said, working to keep the rising anger out of his voice. He
knew that the shinobi were watching him carefully.
"Provoked you?" the professor shouted. She slammed her hands on her desk and the
familiar tartan biscuit tin slid sideways off of it and burst open, littering the floor with
Ginger Newts. "He'd just lost, hadn't he? Of course he wanted to provoke you! But what
on earth can he have said that justified what you two "
"He insulted my parents," George snarled, "and Harry's mother."
"But instead of leaving it to Madame Hooch to sort out, you two decided to give an
example of Muggle dueling, did you?" McGonagall bellowed, "Have you any idea what
you've "
"Excuse me, professor," Fox said quietly, sliding up in between George and Harry. He
pushed them slightly behind him. "I think that, although Harry and George should have
better controlled their emotions they had a perfectly good reason to attack Malfoy. If
myself or any of my teammates had been in their position we would have reacted the
same way."
"As children! Of course you would have reacted as children!" she ranted. Fox flinched and
both of the wizards looked up at him. Mouse appeared suddenly beside them. Her calm,
soft voice seemed to cut through McGonagall's ire like a hot knife through butter.
"Professor McGonagall, we are very sorry for what happened but I do not think that there
was anything wrong. The boys didn't even have a chance to get to Malfoy, we were
already there taking care of the problem. It should be our duty to handle their

punishment. Let us deal with it until you are calmer. Actions taking under anger seldom
are correct."
"Hem, hem."
George and Harry spun around. Dolores Umbridge stood in the doorway in all her toady
glory. Harry felt Fox's hand on his shoulder, practically crushing his collarbone. The
wizard flinched but said nothing. Apparently the ministry secretary got under the guards'
skin as much as the student's.
"May I help, Professor McGonagall?" the revolting woman asked in her poison voice.
"Help?" McGonagall repeated in a tight voice, blood rushing to her face. "What do you
mean, 'help'?"
"As the guard just stated," Mouse twitched at being referred to as 'the guard', "You are in
no position to give out punishment at the moment. You are too angered. Let me take
care of it, after all, the guards are just guards and I am the High Inquisitor of Hogwarts.
I thought you would be grateful for a little more authority."
Fox's hand tightened even more and Harry felt the urge to squeak under the pressure.
The hand suddenly dropped and he turned slightly to see Mouse holding Fox's hand in
hers, apparently to keep him under control. The captain's face was flushed and his eyes
were cold. McGonagall looked to be in much the same condition.
"You thought wrong," the old professor said, turning away from Umbridge. "Now, you
two had better listen closely. I do not care what provocation Malfoy offered you, I do not
care if he insulted every family member you possess, your behaviour was disgusting and
I am giving each of you week's worth of detention! Do not look at me like that, Potter,
you deserve it! And if either of you ever "
"Hem, hem."
The other three adults in the room looked like they were going to blow at any second.
McGonagall closed her eyes in a silent plea for patience (and the strength to not murder
the woman on whim) and looked at Umbridge again.
"Yes?"
"I think they deserve rather more than detentions."

[I'm falling away from this artificial life]


"I'm sorry, say that again. I thought you just said that you were permanently banned
from playing Quidditch," Angelina deadpanned.
The entire Gryffindor Quidditch team sat in the common room in front of the fire. Most of
the rest of the Gryffindors had the courtesy to just leave them alone to mope in peace. It
wasn't everyday that you loose your two beaters and your best seeker in one fell blow.

"That's exactly what I said, Angelina," Harry muttered, staring at his hands. Even though
he didn't look up he could feel her eye twitching as she glared at him.
He glanced at Fred and George out of the corner of his eye. Both were gazing moodily at
the flames. They didn't even want to pull pranks. Katie had asked them if they needed an
anti-depressant potion earlier. They refused, of course, but now the girl was watching
them worriedly with an expression that said she was seriously thinking about just
shoving it down their throats.
"You got yourself what?" Angelina roared. Harry swore he saw a vein pop in her temple.
He sank down lower into the plush couch in an attempt to hide from her. She stood over
him, obviously thinking that he was the more mentally stable of the three banned
players.
"Banned," he squeaked. She threw her hands up in the air and let out an inhuman
screech. Those students who were beginning to doze off woke up with a jerk.
"How could you do this to us, Harry? How could you do this to the team?" she asked,
nearly sobbing. She gestured madly to the rest of the group behind her. A few nodded in
agreement while the others watched him sympathetically. Katie was eyeing the twins like
a hawk.
"It's not like I wanted to be banned," Harry said defensively. Angelina paced in front of
him.
"Maybe if you go to Umbridge and beg on your hands and knees, she will let you play
again," she suggested. He bristled in annoyance.
"Not only would she get a good kick out of that, she would also not even think about
letting me start back up," he said. The Quidditch captain sighed and headed for the stairs
to the girl's dormitory.
"Fine, I'll just go to sleep. It's all just a bad dream. I'll wake up tomorrow and find out
that we haven't played yet. Just a dream," she murmured. Katie followed her, a vial of
potion already in her hands. After they left it didn't take long for the rest of the team to
follow. Soon only Harry, Hermione (who was studying in a corner), Fred, and George
were still in the common room.
Hermione transferred her schoolwork to the table in front of Harry's chair, placing herself
opposite him. She yawned as she scribbled down the last line of her Herbology essay and
rolled the parchment up. She glanced at him for a moment.
"I wonder where Ron is," she said, looking out the window. Harry hummed
noncommittally. "Do you think he's avoiding us?" The wizard shrugged silently. "Maybe
he's still outs ah!"
Fox waved to them, a cheeky grin on his face as he climbed in through the window.
Hermione placed a hand over her heart and tried to calm her hyperventilation.
"Don't do that to me ever again, Fox," she said. He flopped down into the seat beside
her.
"Do what, Hermione? I thought your face was priceless. Hello Harry, Fred, George.
Anything interesting happen?"

Hermione looked at him with a shrewd expression. She'd seen the guards at the
Quidditch match and they were too nosy not to have followed Harry and George to
McGonagall's office. So why was he asking them this now?
"Nothing really," Harry said, staring at him, "Angelina just found out that Fred, George,
and I got banned from the Quidditch team. Nothing much."
"Ah. I see. Did she throw anything?"
"No."
"Punch holes in anything?"
"No."
"Thank goodness," Fox said, throwing his arms over the back of the couch he was
sharing with Hermione. A faint blush dusted her face as his fingers brushed her shoulder.
"If she was that controlled you are lucky. If you had Slug-chan in her place you'd
probably be dead."
"Um that's, um, comforting," Hermione stuttered.
The captain looked at the four in the room, concern flickering over his normally happy
features. He stood swiftly and looked down at them for a moment. He crossed his arms.
"Do any of you know how to do an Invisibility Spell?" he asked. Hermione nodded.
"Good. Hermione, I would like you to cast an Invisibility over you four and follow me."
"Why?" Harry asked, looking down at his newly vanished body. Fred and George didn't
disappear until Hermione had a good grip on both of them, seemingly ready to drag them
through the halls. Of course, they didn't put up much of a fight.
"The way you're acting is bothering me," was all he said.
It took nearly twenty minutes for the students and their guide to leave Hogwarts and
make their way across the school grounds towards the Forbidden Forest. Hermione
fidgeted until Fox told her that she was making too much noise. The rest of the trip was
silent after that.
[Your silence haunts me but I still hunger for you]
Harry looked around the clearing. All of the guards were there, standing around in
random places. Ron was huddled next to Slug. She had one arm around him, speaking
quietly with him. The Gryffindor looked depressed, probably from the game earlier that
day. He shivered in the cold snow.
"Take off the spell now, please Hermione," Fox ordered. Once the students were all
visible again Slug stepped up after patting Ron's head comfortingly.
"Fox noticed how you all seemed really down about being banned, and not playing as
well as you wanted to during the game. So, since most of you seem to like to vent we
figured we'd help you out as much as you wanted."
Fox gave them a foxy grin. "That means that I'm giving you my team as personal
punching bags."

"Fox?" Hermione said, looking rather nervous, "Is that such a good idea, we don't want
to hurt anyone."
"Perfectly fine. You wont be able to hurt us. Well, we do ask that you don't use spells
against us. Blowing us up would not be very welcomed."
The wizards all looked rather skeptical, even though the boys seemed rather willing to
take out their rage on something. Since none of them moved, the guards slipped from
their relaxing positions and gently guided them over to different parts of the clearing.
Harry faced Fox, Hermione got Mouse, Fred perked up a little when he got Dove, George
was a little confused when he faced Panda, and Ron looked terrified when he saw Viper
leading him away. Slug stood on the sidelines, ready to heal if necessary.
The shinobi held up their hands and released their genjutsu, standing in their ANBU
uniforms, complete with masks. The wizards took this as a sign that they would be
moving around a bit and discarded their school robes, standing in their uniforms. They
shivered lightly but said nothing about it. The guards were wearing even less than they
were.
Nobody moved.
Hermione sighed. She could guess what the guards were trying to accomplish, so she set
her wand down on her robes and charged at Mouse. The small woman looked a little bit
surprised but then guarded herself against each of Hermione's wild strikes. When the
witch backed away she had to say that she felt a little better.
The boys took that as a sign to start.
Harry attacked Fox timidly until the captain punched him back. Then he was rather
angry. Fred whooped and went at Dove with every one of his tricks. Fortunately, Dove
was faster than most normal shinobi so he dodged each thing thrown at him. If Fred had
been against any one else the poor guard would have probably been down in a few
seconds.
George was a little wary about going up against a girl but she followed the same basic
tactics as Fox. She attacked him until he was ready to be the attacker rather than the
attacked. Viper literally poked Ron into getting him to fight. The Uchiha really didn't have
any problems with prodding students with knives.
It took two hours for the students to calm down and that was when the shinobi lead their
partner away from the rest and sat them down.
[I'm a half-hearted fool with a heart that's broke in two]
Harry looked up at Fox warily. The blond sighed and sat down on a log across from him,
lacing his fingers together and resting his chin on them. The wizard looked at the fox
mask in interest, anything to keep from having to watch the brilliant blue eyes behind it.
"Why do you think we brought you out here, Harry?" Fox asked. Harry shrugged.
"You pitied us?" he guessed. He blinked in surprise when Fox suddenly laughed.
"No, Harry. If we pity you then we would have never let you fight us. We would have
thought you too weak to handle it. No, the reason we brought out here was because we

see you as strong leaders and one thing we cannot stand is when leaders fall behind
those they are supposed to lead."
Harry gave him a questioning look. He understood what Fox was saying but he still didn't
understand what this had to do with bringing them all the way out to the Forest. Fox
leaned back with a smirk that Harry couldn't see.
"We let you fight us so you would be tired enough to listen to what we have to say," he
explained. At Harry's raised eyebrow he continued. "The partners that you each got were
set up for a reason. We can tell that you are going to be the greatest of the group, Harry,
so it makes sense that you would be up against someone who has similar dreams."
"What could you tell me that would make me feel any better?"
"I've noticed that you don't like us being here. You feel like you are being babied and I
understand that. We've been trying to give you as much freedom as we can. Have you
seen anyone literally following you around to your classes?"
"No."
"Because there hasn't been anyone. Of course, we have people in random classes and in
the halls but nobody follows you around, listens to your conversations, or tries to find out
what you are up to."
"Oh."
"So, enough explanation. That brings me to what I wanted to tell you."
He stopped talking and, if he hadn't had his mask, Harry would have seen the bright, sly
smile he wore. As it was, he could still see the blue eyes twinkling much like
Dumbledore's did. It was a rather frightening comparison.
"You're a leader, Harry. So suck it up and be a leader." Harry frowned. "Leaders are
supposed to be the strongest ones. We worry about everyone else's problems, not their
own. We have to take everyone else's worries and cares and carry them instead. We
don't have any room for our own complaints. When you find yourself caring more about
your friends' problems than your own, then you know that you're becoming more of a
leader."
[I'm standing on the tracks and I'm missing the train]
Hermione sat on the blanket she had conjured. Her legs were swung over to the side so
her skirt fell over her knees. Mouse sat crosslegged in front of her. Neither girl spoke for
a long time.
"You have strong friends, Hermione," Mouse said quietly. Hermione started in surprise.
"Of course. I know that," she said defensively.
"Yes, you do know. But, you are also strong. Possibly stronger than both of them in your
own way." Hermione looked confused. "You are the backbone of your group. You have to
be there to hold them up. Think of yourself as the ladder that they have to stand on to
go higher. If you aren't there they will never make it. You have to care enough about
them to let them step on you to reach their destination. But you, you have the kinds of
friends that will turn around at the top and pull you up. Be thankful, Hermione."

[You've found hope, you've found faith]


"Normally I would tell you to control your anger."
Fred looked at Dove in confusion. The shinobi leaned against a tree, looking at him with
emotionless eyes.
"Huh?"
"Under most circumstances I would have told you to control your anger when you're
dealing with Malfoy. But, considering what he said, now I all I have to tell you is "
"Is what?"
"Punch the living shit out of him when nobody else is watching."
[The way we're living makes no sense]
George crossed his arms over his chest. Normally he wouldn't have this much respect for
any woman other than his sister and mom. But this Panda was strong. She had gotten
out of the way of everything that he'd thrown at her. Not even the dungbombs had left
their smell on her.
"So you decided that it would be smart of you to go after Malfoy yourself?" she asked.
"Yeah, I guess. Well, Harry was there." Panda had caught him by surprise.
She shook her head and laughed a little. She put a hand on his shoulder and he was a
little surprised by how long her fingers were.
"You and Fred are always together, right?"
"Yeah."
"Whenever you decide to prank Malfoy you always get away with it, right?" He nodded,
not really knowing where she was going with this.
"One of the most important things to know when picking a fight is to know who is around
you and who is going to help you. Never go into a fight without backup, no matter how
trivial it is. Always have a team that respects and needs you behind you."
[You've got a real flair for excuses]
Ron squeaked when Viper turned abruptly to face him.
"Stop being a pansy and try your hardest," he said harshly.
"What?"
"You aren't going to get anywhere in this world if you just give up when things get hard.
You are just going to end up as a nobody or dead. Either way isn't very good. You enjoy
Quidditch so try harder. You are making yourself look bad by just moping about how you
didn't play well. If you thought you did poorly then you work harder to meet your own
standards."

[Let's groove, light up your fuse[


The wizards said good night to each other in the common room, waving as they stepped
up the stairs. The smiles on their faces were tired but refreshed at the same time.
Nobody said anything about what the shinobi had told them. It was a private matter that
would, hopefully, change them if given time.
[I hope you act much stronger]
Fred flopped down in the snow outside of Hogwarts. George amused himself by making a
snow angel nearby. The twins sighed, their breath coming out in small puffs of icy wind.
"I'm bored," Fred said.
"Same here."
They sat up and looked at each other, mischievous grins on their faces. A few meters
away stood most of the rest of the Gryffindors, just wandering around doing nothing.
Each of the twins took a handful of snowballs and began throwing them at their
unsuspecting housemates.
It took all of two minutes to get the rest of the students into the snowball fight.
[She's too wrapped up in all her things]
Ron and Harry were in the common room, plowing through their mountains of
homework. They could hear the gleeful shouts coming from the mass snowball fight
outside and were trying their hardest to ignore them. Somehow Hermione had convinced
Fox and Viper to stay in the common room to make sure the two wizards did their work.
At the moment, said guards were busy playing shougi in front of the fireplace. To top it
all off, someone got the grand idea to bewitch snowballs to fly up to the Gryffindor Tower
and bang on the windows.
"Oi!" Ron bellowed, finally losing his patience and sticking his head out the window, "I'm
a prefect and if one more snowball hits this window OUCH!"
He ducked back into the common room, face now covered in white fluff.
"It's Fred and George," he muttered, slamming the window. "Gits"
[And I say "goodnight" to a closing skyline]
"George! What're you doing?" Panda called as she dodged snowballs, attempting to cross
the grounds towards the twins. Dove trailed after her, his mouth turned down in a frown.
Panda wore Muggle clothing; a tight brown jacket over a black button-down shirt, black
pants, and a pair of knee-high fur boots. Her hands were encased in a pair of black and
white gloves and she wore a Hufflepuff scarf around her neck. She poked Dove in the
side to get him to move out of the way as another snowball came flying at them.
He was wearing a knee-length black trench coat, khaki pants, plain black boots, and
brown gloves. Panda grabbed a hold of his Ravenclaw color scarf and pulled him over to
where the twins were hiding behind a wall of snow.

"We are just having a bit of fun, Panda," Fred said as he pointed his wand at another pile
of snowballs. They obligingly flew at a group of timid first years that had just joined the
fight. Panda and the twins burst into laughter at the shocked looks on their faces.
"Sure," Panda said with an evil grin. She had her hands behind her back and Fred looked
over at her just in time to see Dove start putting snowballs in her hands from the huge
pile he had apparently made while they were talking. "I suggest you run. We are hereby
kidnapping your fort."
Fred and George darted from their hiding place as Panda kept a steady stream of snow
flying in their direction. Neither of the twins knew how Dove managed to make that many
that fast. A girl shrieked as Panda pegged her in the back.
George whipped around with a snowball in his hand as he heard his housemate's shout,
Fred pulled out his wand. The two grinned ferally at the hiding guards.
"Now, we can't have you attacking girls like that." Fred grinned.
"It really isn't very nice of you," George added.
Seconds later the snow began forming itself into balls and hurling itself at the shinobi.
Panda squeaked and used Dove as a human shield until the man jumped out of the way
and started running with Panda chasing after him and a hoard of bewitched snowballs
going after her.
"That's not fair!" she shouted at the Weasley twins. They grinned and waved at her as
she passed, somehow in front of Dove now.
"All's fair in love and war, m'dear!" Fred called back with a mock wince as a snowball
managed to hit Dove in the head.
Panda smiled as she ran. She could have easily outrun any of those little snowballs but
Fox had warned them all not to show off what they could do. Fred and George already
know, of course, but the rest of the students would have been a problem.
"Oomph!"
She tripped over an abandoned snow fort and landed heavily on her back on the other
side. She looked up at the bright sky above her, arms flung out the side. It was so
peaceful. She felt the snow beginning to seep into her clothes and she grimaced, ready
to get up.
Dove came flying over the same way she had.
He saw her just moments before he landed so he managed to get his arms down so he
didn't flatten her. Panda grinned ruefully up at him, ready to move again when she
realized what kind of a position they were in.
He had his hands on either side of her head. Her legs were between his as he knelt above
her. His jacket fell down on either side of him, creating a curtain around their bodies. For
a moment she wondered what it would have looked like if he had his long hair back. She
felt a blush creeping into her face just wondering what the rest of the group would have
thought if they saw this.
"Tenten?"

Her breath hitched as she heard his voice. She thought she was used to the deep tone by
now but there was just something different about it in this compromising position.
"Are you okay?" he asked. She nodded mutely as she realized that he had leaned down
closer to her. Their lips were just centimeters apart. She found that her eyes were
trained on his mouth, concentrating on the thin stream of breath coming from between
his parted lips.
But the moment was broken as a massive lump of snow suddenly toppled down onto
them.
Dove rolled off of her and sat in the snow, looking completely annoyed as he shook the
snow out of his hair. Panda pushed herself up into a sitting position and glared at Fred
and George until she saw what they held. Fred had his wand (obviously the maker of the
falling snow mountain) and George had
A camera.
"If you really have to have alone time do it somewhere that little first years' minds wont
be corrupted," Fred said tauntingly. He laughed and ran away with George, leaving Panda
and Dove to stare at each other for a long moment, slow smiles slowly spreading across
their faces until Dove stood and helped his teammate to her feet. They walked back to
the castle, not arm-in-arm, but definitely closer than just friends.

[It's always better when we're together]


December had finally arrived and with it the Christmas spirit was ushered in. Hinata
watched in amusement as Ron tried to put up tinsel in the Great Hall with the rest of the
prefects. Unfortunately, it seemed that Peeves was highly amused by attempting to
strangle him with said tinsel. Hermione was trying to get Peeves to leave them alone at
the same time and was failing spectacularly.
Hinata leaned against a pillar as she watched them, wondering why they all go so hyped
up over a simple holiday. Ninjas tended to avoid holidays just out of the basic knowledge
that even if they planned head, they might not be alive to celebrate it. She shook her
head as Peeves moved on to wrapping the Ravenclaw prefects in electric lights (a new
novelty for pure bloods) and holly branches.
"Cheerful, aren't they?" Hinata didn't even bother to turn around, she had felt her
captain's chakra several minutes back when he had first sneaked up behind her. He had
never been very good at hiding his chakra.
"Yes, they are," she murmured as he dropped from his perch (standing on the side of the
pillar above her) to land beside her.
"Kind of makes me wonder why we weren't aren't that cheerful," he mused. She
leaned over and rested her head on his shoulder. She sighed thoughtfully as she watched
the children still oblivious to their presence.

"We are that cheerful, just, in our own way. I think you actually wonder why they are so
carefree compared to us. So innocent." He shrugged and her hair momentarily changed
from red to its natural blue-black as it rustled against his jacket when his shoulders
moved.
"How can they still be so childlike when they know there is a great foe out there?" she
went on. "How can they feel so secure when they obviously aren't? How can they live in
the hallucination of comfort and protection?"
He pulled away and took her by the shoulders, turning her to face him. For a long
moment he scrutinized her pale silver-lilac eyes.
"How do you read my thoughts?" he asked. "Can you see into my head with those eyes
of yours?" She giggled at the last part, knowing that he was teasing.
"Perhaps I can just read your expressions like an open book." She stood on her tiptoes
and brushed her lips against his cheek. "Or maybe I just know you that well."
[Come away with me in the night]
"Watch out! Chocolate frog on the loose!" A few second years screeched and dove to get
out of the way of a first year tearing after the runaway candy.
Sakura smiled to herself as she looked over the common room. There were first and
second years everywhere, all being watched by just two people. Ron was trying to help
the first year catch his chocolate frog and Hermione had one child by the ear and was
shaking a reprimanding finger at another group of kids. But overall, everything was just
insanely out of control.
During the winter the first and second years took their breaks inside their common rooms
and were under the watch of the prefects. Unfortunately, that meant that Ron and
Hermione had to give up their own breaks in order to baby sit and it seemed that the
younger students were a tad bit cheekier than the duo had expected.
"Don't you have something better to do than order us around?" one of the students
Hermione was lecturing moaned as he plopped down on the ground and wrapped his
arms around a pillow. Her mouth hung open loosely as she looked positively affronted.
Sakura giggled slightly and hid behind one of the many couches that littered the floor of
the common room. Naruto had given her one job and that was to keep an eye on
Hermione and Ron as they went about their babysitting duties.
"It's rather amusing isn't it?" she heard a silky voice say from behind her. She whipped
around and the smile spread further over her face as she saw who was behind her. She
just hummed agreement as Sasuke settled down next to her.
"What do you mean?" she asked teasingly.
"They can't handle these few children. In fact, I think it's rather pathetic that the children
are even this out of control in the first place. They are all as old as we were around when
we graduated from the academy." She didn't look at his face but she knew he was
sneering. She frowned. It was hard to joke around him without him turning whatever she
said into some sort of insult.

"They just have a different culture," she muttered. He snorted and leaned against the
back of the couch beside her. They could hear the rest of the Gryffindor population
milling around out of their sight.
"Perhaps. But they are all going to die if they are relying on teaching like this to protect
their future leaders and warriors," he replied unrepentantly.
"They only have one to be afraid of. We have many so we prepare better. They all
thought their enemy was gone too," she argued.
"Would we cease teaching our children to protect themselves if all of our enemies were
gone?" he asked.
"Maybe we would. If there was no longer a need for us to be shinobi and kunoichi then I
suppose we would just all be civilians. We would all live normal lives," she mused. She
glanced over at him and saw that he was looking at the ground in contemplation. She
knew that he had always assumed that Konaha would always be full of ninjas, that they
would never give up their heritage no matter if it was needed or not.
"I wouldn't want to live a normal life," he said quietly. She leaned over and took his
hands in hers. He didn't pull away like he normally would have. After returning to
Konaha, after his long stint with Orochimaru and the Akatsuki he had spent more time
with his old team, reigniting old bonds. It had only taken a few months before he and
Sakura had started seeing each other as more than just friends. Some of the other
shinobi that knew of their quiet relationship thought that it was only because of her that
he was kept in line.
"I don't think that you will have to. There will always be enemies and all we can do is
work to fight against them and teach those who are weak to be strong," she murmured.
He nodded quietly and pulled her into a hug. As she rested her head on his chest she felt
his heartbeat, the rise and fall of his breathing. It was comforting for her that he would
let her be this close with some many other people around.
Teach the weak to be strong, she told herself in her mind and she silently vowed that she
would help the children here who would suffer if they were sent out in to a world as they
were now.
[You play it coy but it's kind of cute]
Tenten sighed as she walked over the ceiling. Of course they had been the ones to get
duty following Filch around. The crazy old man apparently thoughts that the Christmas
spirit would bring on a new bout of wizard duels.
"Seriously," she muttered to herself. "Wizard duels are pathetic excuses for a real fight.
We could take down on of them in a heartbeat."
"Complaining again?" She squeaked in surprise and whirled around, a knife already in
hand although she already knew who it was. Her subconscious training told her to always
be prepared. She huffed as she looked up into the pearl-lavender eyes, or it was more of
a down since he was on the ceiling too.
"Yeah right. I never complain about anything," she said sarcastically. A tiny, almost
nonexistent smile tweaked the corners of his mouth. He sighed and ran a hand through
his hair.

"I'm just as bored and aggravated as you are," he said quietly as he continued wandering
down the halls. She trailed after him.
"There's just nothing I can hide from you is there?" she asked rhetorically. He grunted a
wordless agreement with the assessment. For a few moments they walked in silence and
Tenten just watched him in front of her.
Since they were patrolling using a blatant show of their powers, Neji and Tenten had
decided to forgo their disguises and stick to their most comfortable forms. The Hyuuga
had tied his hair back in a low ponytail but it still fell almost comically around his face.
Tenten's smart (albeit boring) hair style was much more practical.
"Do you like having your hair so long?" she asked randomly. He glanced back at her, a
little annoyed with the question.
"It's tradition," he muttered and sped up just ever so slightly. She skipped along the
stones after him. She pounced on his back and hung on piggy-back style. His control
slipped slightly and he fell from the ceiling but managed to land on his feet with
customary cat-like grace.
"Nut case," he murmured to her as he hitched his arms under her knees and positioned
her better on his back. She just hummed slightly in response and twisted her fingers
through his hair. It had always been like this. They were best friends since they
graduated the academy, even if they had never showed anyone.
"Don't be mean," she chidingly ordered. He snorted slightly. A deep sigh passed between
her lips as she let her forehead rest against his dark hair.
"What's wrong?" he asked, not really curious but willing to let her talk anyway.
"It just feels so pathetic." He raised an eyebrow at her answer but didn't speak, letting
her go on. "They can't defend themselves against what's going to come. You and I both
know that it is only a matter of time before Voldemort attacks and they will be helpless.
Or worse, if he gets shinobi to help him, then everyone will die."
"Since when did you get so pessimistic?" He let go of her legs and she slid to the floor.
He turned around and faced her but she could not see his expression because of his
mask. She was sure he could see her face though.
"Since I actually started worrying about them."
[I've fallen out of favor and I've fallen out of grace]
Naruto leaned back on the couch he was sleeping on in the Gryffindor common room.
Neji was curled up in an armchair in front of the fire. If Naruto wasn't half-dead from
sleep deprivation, he would have gone to find a camera to take a picture. It wasn't often
that you got blackmail on the prodigy. He heard some shifting up around the boy's
dormitories but didn't think much of it. They had some rights to privacy as they went to
the bathroom.
He frowned as he felt their charge's chakra flare wildly for a moment before calming
again. He glanced over at Neji. The Hyuuga was still asleep so it couldn't be something
too serious. He lay down again and tried to get a few minutes of dozing in before he
would inevitably have to get up again. Within seconds Harry Potter's chakra signature
blazed up like a wild fire, clearly upset and frightened.

Naruto sat up and shot out of the common room so fast he was practically invisible. Neji
was hot on his heels. They didn't have to talk to each other to know what was going on.
Voldemort was trying to read Harry in some way. He skipped steps as he raced to the
room where Harry was. He didn't even bother stopping to knock on the door. He
slammed his whole weight against it, crashing it to the floor.
"Harry! HARRY!" Naruto shouted as he shook the boy, trying to free him from the dream
that had him thrashing around on the bed. A few of the students who were housed in the
same room tried to get closer to see what was going on but Neji pushed them back as
quickly as he could. Ron ducked past him though and joined Naruto in shaking his friend.
"Harry!" Naruto shouted in Japanese.
Harry's eyes snapped open and he looked dazed and disoriented. His eyes were glassy
and glazed, his pupils were dilated and he was covered in sweat. Naruto pulled the
sheets off of him quickly, just in time for him to empty the contents of his stomach all
over the floor and part of the bed.
"He's really ill," one of the boys said, his voice shaky with worry. "Should we call
someone?"
"No shit," Naruto murmured in frustration. "Harry! Harry!" he continued to call. He
reached out and touched Harry's shoulder but his hand was knocked away roughly. Harry
pushed himself up and turned half-way to Ron.
"Your dad," he whispered between panting breaths. His chest heaved and his breath
hitched in his lungs. "Your dad's been attacked" his voice failed and as he fell back onto
the bed Naruto caught him.
"What?" Ron said dumbly.
"Your dad! He's been bitten, it's serious, there was blood everywhere."
"I'm going for help," Naruto heard someone behind him say. He shook his head and lifted
the Potter boy into his arms, bridal style.
"No need," Neji said, understanding his captain's nod. "I'll call the others and get the
Weasleys to Dumbledore's office."
"See you there," Naruto said before running as fast as he could out of the room with Ron
hot on his heels.
"Harry, mate," Ron said as they ran, barely keeping pace with the ninja. "You you were
just dreaming"
"No!" Harry screamed as he struggled in Naruto's grasp. "It wasn't a dream not an
ordinary dream I was there, I saw it. I did it"
Naruto winced and clutched the child tighter to his chest. He didn't care as Harry vomited
all over his clothes. It was crucial that he see the headmaster was soon as he could.
"Ron, get to Dumbledore's office. We can't wait any longer," he murmured. A voice
buzzed over the communicator that he always kept in his ear.

"Fox, this is Panda reporting in. I have Ginny at Dumbledore's office. He's telling me to
go ahead and take them to Grimmauld Place. Do I have your permission to go?"
"Hai," he muttered as he vaulted over another moving staircase, cursing whoever it was
who created them. Soon afterwards he received similar messages from Hinata, Sakura,
and Sasuke. Soon it was only him and Neji left in Hogwarts. The others took the Weasley
children as far away from the school was they could, as fast as they could.
Naruto stopped in front of the gargoyle that served as a guardian for Dumbledore's
office.
"Password?" it inquired. Naruto didn't mince words with it and just kicked it out of the
way, knocking it over and ignoring its outraged shouts. He raced up the staircase into the
office where he found Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall already waiting. He saw
Neji's shadow in the corner where he was probably communicating with the rest of the
group, keeping them updated.
"Ah, Captain Fox. I was waiting for you," Dumbledore said. Naruto set Harry down in a
chair and turned an angry glare at the old headmaster. He was in no mood for his
mysterious talk today.
"Voldemort is trying to influence Harry's mind."

[You don't know me, you don't know me at all]


"Voldemort is trying to influence Harry's mind."
Dumbledore leaned over his desk, eyes serious and piercing. He interlaced his fingers in
front of his face as he scrutinized the Anbu captain and his charge. Harry shifted
uncomfortably in his chair, seeming eager to speak but unwilling to reveal all that he
knew. Naruto heard Neji speaking quietly in his communicator behind them.
"Why do you say that Captain Fox?" Dumbledore asked. Naruto tried to resist the urge to
ram his head against the nearest wall.
"He had well he had a nightmare and "
"It wasn't a nightmare," Harry broke in quickly. The boy sat up in his chair, back ramrod
straight. Naruto felt a little proud of him when he saw the fierce determination in his
eyes.
"Very well, Potter, you tell the headmaster about it," Professor McGonagall said from her
position just to the right of the professor. Harry looked around for a means of escape for
a moment before forcibly turning his eyes to the headmaster. Naruto permitted a mental
cheering session.
"I well, I was asleep" Harry began with a rather lackluster start. The captain felt a
flash of annoyance as he realized that Dumbledore was not looking at the storyteller but
rather at his own fingers. "But it wasn't an ordinary dream it was real I saw it

happen." Here Harry paused to take a deep breath. "Ron's dad Mr. Weasley has been
attacked by a giant snake."
Naruto felt as if someone had knocked the breath out of him. He heard Professor
McGonagall's stifled gasp as she tried to hide it behind her hand. But it was only a
secondary observation. Professor Dumbledore looked up at the ceiling meditatively. Ron
said nothing but looked down, white-faced, at his hands.
"How did you see this?" Dumbledore asked. Naruto's eyes widened slightly in
understanding. Unfortunately, it seemed that Harry did not share said understanding.
"Well I don't know. Inside my head I suppose " Harry answered with a distinctively
hostile undertone.
"You misunderstand me," Dumbledore broke in calmly.
"What the old man means is that he wants to know where you were when this attack
happened. Were you beside Mr. Weasley, looking down at him, up at him, etcetera?"
Naruto interrupted the interrupter. Harry's jaw dropped slightly. His gaze was
questioningly critical.
"I was the snake," he whispered. "I saw it all from the snake's point of view."
Nobody said a word. An awkward silence followed the words as those present took the
time to soak them in and understand what that could possibly mean. Naruto gritted his
teeth in annoyance. If there is a sword coming at your head you don't stand there and
try to figure out why and how; you always know. You keep yourself prepared. From the
way Neji was shifting behind him he knew that the scout knew precisely what the dream
proposed as well.
"Tell Panda and Viper to go find Mr. Arthur Weasley from the Department of Mysteries.
He should be posted there for guard duty over the Prophesy. Take him to St. Mungo's
Hospital in whatever guise they think suitable," Naruto muttered out of the corner of his
mouth. Half a second later he heard the instructions being relayed quickly and precisely.
There was no time for questions.
"Is Arthur seriously injured?" Dumbledore asked slowly.
"Of course he's seriously injured. If he wasn't then I doubt Harry would be reacting to
this situation the way he is," Naruto half-snarled. This was irritating him. Dumbledore
looked at him for a long time before breaking the gaze and turning it to the portraits
behind him.
"Everard? And you too, Dilys!" A witch and wizard who seemed to have been soundly
asleep in their frames just moments before, immediately snapped their eyes opened
attentively.
"You were listening?" Dumbledore asked. The wizard nodded mutely while the witch
muttered something that sounded suspiciously like a 'naturally'. "The man has red hair
and glasses," Dumbledore continued, "Everard, you will need to raise the alarm, make
sure he is found by the right people "
"Already taken care of, Dumbledore-sama," Neji spoke from the shadows. He stepped up
to Naruto's side. "Panda and Viper are on their way and the family knows what's going
on. Thankfully they seem to still be in shock so the screams are avoided for now."

"What do you mean, already taken care of?" Professor McGonagall asked stiffly.
"I already have two of my people taking Weasley-san to St. Mungo's, most likely where
you were wanting him to go. I suppose they will make contact with whoever you have
positioned there who you know is favorable to your cause." Dilys vanished for a moment.
"And the Weasley family has been informed of their patron's condition. I assume that you
will want Harry to go stay with them for the time being?"
Professor McGonagall just looked at them in blank shock while Harry stared at them
carefully, as if trying to peer under their fake faces to see the real expressions beneath.
But both operatives kept their Anbu-standard 'reporting' faces.
"Of course, of course," Dumbledore said with a wave of his hand. Neji slipped back into
the darkness and Naruto was sure he was the only one who could hear him quietly telling
Sakura instructions of what news to give Weasley-san.
"The toad is coming," Naruto announced monotonously. Dumbledore quickly waved his
wand over an old kettle lying on his desk.
"Then it is time to go. Portkey is the easiest at the moment, you ninja seem to leave
behind traces whenever you teleport yourselves from one place to another. Come here,
hurry, Harry." The two ninja and two students moved over to the kettle and placed a
finger on it. "On the count of three. One two"
Naruto glanced at Harry's face. He nearly bit his tongue in two at the sight that he saw.
There was such a pure hatred in the boy's face, but an agony buried deep down. The
eyes that he saw were not those of the 'Boy-Who-Lived' but rather of a murderous
creature who wanted to do nothing more than sink its fangs into the headmaster at that
moment. The expression reminded him painfully of Orochimaru.
"Three."
"Hang on! You can't go tearing off to St. Mungo's!" Sirius shouted over the general
mayhem as he grabbed on to Ginny's jacket to keep her from racing out the door. The
group didn't even spare a glance at Harry and co. when they appeared by Portkey.
Naruto landed on his feet, Neji balanced gracefully on the back of a couch, Harry and Ron
hit the floor with a distinct 'bang'.
"'Course we can go to St. Mungo's if we want," Fred stated stubbornly.
Naruto glanced over at Sakura. She had already gotten rid of her henge and stood in full
Anbu gear, fingering the steel-plate gloves she always wore. She shrugged at his
questioning look and he slipped over to her. He noticed somewhat selfishly that Hinata
had first gone to her cousin to find out what happened after they left.
"The kids want to go see their dad and Sirius-san is pointing out their folly and the many
ways that they will kick themselves in the ass if they try to leave now," Sakura said
shortly. He grinned slightly at her version of the state of events and nodded, settling
against the wall next to her to watch the argument from a safe place. It didn't take long
for his headache to set in fully and the constantly shouting voices to make it worse, not
to mention Sirius' mother's portrait shrieking her head off.
"Listen, your dad's been hurt while on duty for the Order and the circumstances are fishy
enough without his children knowing about it seconds after it happened, you could
seriously damage the Order's " Sirius tried to explain.

"We don't care about the Order!" Fred shouted.


"It's our dad dying we're talking about!" yelled George. The shinobi felt like they were
watching one of those odd 'ping-pong' matches.
"Your father knew what he was getting into and he won't thank you for messing things
up for the Order!" Sirius shouted back angrily. "this is how it is this is why you're not in
the Order you don't understand there are things worth dying for!"
The ninjas tensed very uncomfortably at the last words. They acted as if this was
something that could not be fixed. Snake bites, even poisonous ones, could be cured.
Poisons could be extracted. Bites could be healed. At least it wasn't a stab to the heart.
Sakura pulled on the hem of her glove.
"Easy for you to say, stuck here!" Fred bellowed. "I don't see you risking your neck!"
All the color drained from Sirius' face at those words. There was a brief flicker of hatred
that flashed through his eyes before it was quenched and he spoke again, this time his
voice full of a determined calm, a rather frightening representation of Dumbledore.
"I know it's hard, but we've all go to act as though we don't know anything yet. We've
got to stay put, at least until we heard from your mother, all right?"
"Well that's enough of that," Sakura said loudly as she pushed herself off the wall. She
grabbed Ginny's hand and began pulling her upstairs. "You can wait by yourselves.
Hinata, get Ron and Harry to the kitchen. Neji, take the twins to the living room so they
can mope and shout at each other. Naruto, you," she smiled. "Do what you do best."
"Would that be blowing things up, painting the Hokage faces, or saying something
inspirational?" he asked in a lame attempt to relieve the tension for his people. A timid
giggle came from Hinata and Sakura gave him a half-hearted glare before they vanished
with their charges.
Once they were gone Naruto turned to Sirius. The man sank into an armchair with his
head in his hands. For a moment, the Anbu captain was appalled by the extent of the
self-pity until he realized that it was not for himself that the man was saddened. He knelt
beside him and pried the hands away.
"Men don't cry," he said simply. Sirius looked up at him, the faint beginnings of tears
pricking at his eyes. Naruto frowned.
"What you said is true, all of it. They cannot understand what your Order is doing and
they can't accept it. Which is why they aren't in it. They don't have the maturity level
that is needed. They think it is all a game. They think that if they mess-up there is
always a way to fix it. You see this, Dumbledore sees this, Weasley-san sees this. Don't
beat yourself up about what you said."
He stood and brushed non-existent dust from his pants before dropping his henge
abruptly. Sirius looked up at him in an almost comical fashion.
"And don't take what Fred said. He was angered. We all know that it is not your choice to
stay here. There is nothing you could have done."
A while later their communication earpieces vibrated with the report coming in from
Tenten, who had opted to stay with Mr. Weasley to check for updates while Sasuke went

back to the department to see if he could find anything that would lead to knowing
Voldemort's whereabouts.
Sakura looked down at the sleeping Ginny. She shook her slightly and the girl shot up,
looking around as if she expected to see her mother standing there with her father,
ready to tell them that he was perfectly fine. But her hope died when she saw that it was
just the Anbu.
"What is it?" she asked as she rubbed sleep from her eyes. Sakura smiled
sympathetically.
"We just got word. Your dad is still alive and your mother is with him right now. So far,
Panda says that he has a good chance of surviving. If there are any further
developments I'll wake you again to tell you."
Ginny looked down at her hands for a long moment as she thought about the words. Her
long red hair hid her face but Sakura knew that she wore a pensive expression that
conveyed her worry and her understanding of the situation.
"You make it sound like dad, could die," she whispered. Sakura shook her head and
placed a hand on the girl's back. Even though Ginny could not see her face, she was sure
that the guard was worried too.
"Everyone can always die," Sakura said. Ginny's head jerked up so fast she popped her
neck. Apparently she had been expecting condolences or some sort of 'I'm sorry but
don't worry about it' speech. "I've seen many people die but anyone who received this
sort of injured survived. Raven got a snake bit before, very bad, worse than anything
that your father got. And he's still alive, isn't he?"
She failed to mention that most other people who got Orochimaru's bite died from the
pain alone. But she would leave out that little bit of information simply because she didn't
want Ginny to go into a nervous break down.
"Really?" the girl asked, sniffling slightly.
"Really."
At ten past five in the morning, by Ron's watch, the kitchen door swung open with a
bang and a very tired Mrs. Weasley stumbled in. She looked very pale but when all of her
children and the guards appeared in the doorway with expectant, hopeful but fearful
faces, she gave them a wan smile.
"He's going to be alright," she said weakly. "He's sleeping. We can all go and see him
later. Bill and Panda are sitting with him right now, he's going to take the morning off
work."
Fred fell onto one of the chairs and tossed his hands over his face. George and Ginny
gave their mother a huge hug. Ron laughed slightly, shakily, before draining a mug of
butterbeer in one go.
"Breakfast!" Sirius half sang. When Mrs. Weasley came to help with breakfast as well
Harry pulled his godfather over to the side. Naruto followed silently and stood out of the
way, hidden. He listened intently as Harry described every detail of his dream, including
the fact that he was the snake that had attacked Mr. Weasley.

"Sirius, I I think I'm going mad back in Dumbledore's office, just before we took the
Portkey for a couple of seconds I thought I was a snake. I feltlike one my scar really
hurt when I was looking at Dumbledore Sirius, I wanted to attack him "
At that point Naruto decided he heard enough. He would tell the rest of the team about it
later when they were all together again. Tenten was keeping him almost constantly
updated through their communicators and Sasuke reported that he had found nothing
and was on his way back.
Sasuke sure was gone for a long time to investigate one place.

[lyrics]
Naruto leaned against the wall around the corner from Mr. Weasley's room in St.
Mungo's. He didn't look up from the ground, even when he felt the presence of the rest
of his team gather around him. His brow was furrowed in concentration as he seemed to
count every dot in the obnoxiously speckled tile. He knew that they were watching him
silently, all of them with their eyes shadowed by the implications of what they knew he
was about to tell him.
"I know that we have been watching Harry Potter closely before now but I think it is
vital that we keep a closer watch. There is just too much going on in his head that we do
not understand. Why is he dreaming of being a snake? Why does he react like one
occasionally? These are questions that we need answers to. I don't care how you get
answers or who you question. We will take watching him in shifts, decide amongst
yourselves who will go when. I shall take the first twelve hours."
"Fox, what do you think that he is so closely connected to snakes?" Hinata asked timidly
as she poked her fingers together behind her back. She no longer dared letting her
captain or her elder cousin see her do it. The action annoyed them both to a point where
Neji had threatened to cut her fingers off.
Naruto looked up from the floor and met eyes with Hinata. He could see the worry that
most Anbu would have hidden. She had kept the emotions that many of her rank would
have long since cast away. It was one of the many things he loved about her. One of the
things that made her unique.
"I don't know," he answered truthfully. "But I assume it must have something to do with
Voldemort. From what I've heard and read of him, he seems to have a strange
fascination with snakes. It reminds me of someone else I've heard of" his voice trailed
off and he fought to keep himself from looking at his long-term teammate Sasuke. He
could practically feel the tension rolling off of the old Cell Seven in waves.
"We need to find out what is going on with Voldemort. Panda, that will be your job "
"No."

The captain's eyes snapped to Neji as the usually stoic shinobi snapped out in the
negative. None of the others looked at him except for Tenten, who gave him a sad smile
that he frowned at. Blue met with furious lavender.
"Care to explain why you disagree with me, Dove?" Naruto asked in a deceptively calm
voice that he had picked up from being around Tsunade for too long. Neji's face was a
mask of indifference.
"I was under the impression that this would be a stealth mission and perhaps Mouse's
abilities would be more useful in this situation," he said. The captain got the distinct
impression that his team member was trying to cover up his protective blunder.
"Then why did you not say that instead of your interruptive 'no'?" Naruto asked as he
chose to have fun and push Neji into a corner. It wasn't often that he got the opportunity
to catch the Hyuuga being protective of his teammates.
"I thought that perhaps you would be too busy explaining the rest of your plan before the
Weasleys come back from being locked away in their father's room."
"Regardless. Would have you reacted the same if I had said that it would be you going to
spy on Voldemort?" He smirked slightly. "Or was it simply because I assigned a
dangerous portion of the mission to Tenten-san?"
Neji glared at the ground and bit his lip. He didn't answer. He didn't have to. Everyone
there knew precisely what he said. Tenten smiled just slightly although she was a little
embarrassed by this. They didn't know whether to laugh or to stay silent. In indecision,
they decided upon the latter, until Naruto spoke again.
"I've changed my mind. Dove and Panda will go infiltrate Voldemort's hide out together.
But if one of you comes back without the other, consider your lives forfeit. You leave
now, is that clear? I assume you are ready."
The two nodded and Tenten dropped her jutsu and sighed in relief as she fingered the
knives hidden expertly about her form-hugging Anbu uniform. She pulled her mask over
her face, hiding her concerned brown eyes. Seconds later she vanished. Viper, Slug, and
Mouse trotted back to the Weasley's room where they stood a silent vigil.
Neji released his henge and tied his hair back in a ponytail at the base of his neck. He
drew his mask in front of his blank look and for a moment but just as it covered his face,
Naruto saw a tired expression flicker over his aristocratic features. Just before he
vanished Naruto reached out and caught his arm. The older man turned to look at him.
"I wont say that emotions are bad but I will say that you need to be careful how you
show your relationship with Tenten. If anyone from the other side found out about it "
"I understand," he answered simply. Naruto frowned but released him and the scout ran
out so fast it looked like he had melted into thin air. He stared at the open door for a
long time as the wind banged it on its hinges. He made no move to close it but wondered
exactly what he had just sent the couple off to do.
Sasuke sighed heavily as he sat down in one of the many hard chairs that were scattered
around the halls and the waiting room. Since Naruto had decided to take the first shift
and Neji and Tenten were gone, it had been left up to them to decide who would go next.
Sakura had volunteered even though they all knew that Naruto would probably try to
watch over Harry unceasingly.

He ran a hand through his hair. Where it had once been black it was now white but the
spikes fell limply in his face, over dark eyes that turned red with his bloodline. A nurse
scurried by with an armload of herbs and neon bottles filled with unappetizing potions. A
few more met her at the end of the hall and relieved her of her load. She ran past him
again, doubtlessly to take more potions and plants to another part of the hospital.
He tipped his head back until it touched the hard brick wall behind him. He felt the
coldness of it through his hair as it seeped into his skin like water. He had always liked
the cold. It was perfect, biting, and clean. People had often told him that he was cold but
he had always disagreed in his mind. He was no longer clean and he was far from
perfect.
Fingertips brushed over his shoulder where his Anbu tattoo resided. He had been
surprised when Tsunade had allowed him to become part of the elite, most trusted
ninjas. He knew that there were many in the elders who had hated her for it, but they
had also disagreed with her decision to name Naruto as her successor when she retired
from Hokage. There were many things about the old Cell Seven that the elders didn't
like. They had even been against Kakashi going back into Anbu, which had done anyway.
Pale fingers moved from his shoulder down his arm, tracing his muscles absently until he
reached his forearm where they stopped. He rubbed his skin through his thin sleeve,
remembering what he had been told was an option for him. To become a Death Eater,
perfectly preposterous but he had thought about it anyway.
In the back of his mind he shouted at himself for being a stupid idiot. How could he do
that to Sakura, to Naruto, to Kakashi? They all trusted him again and he had only
recently begun to gain back the trust of those in the village. He had noticed how the
Hyuuga and Tenten still watched his every step warily.
They were all teammates and had been together under Naruto for almost two years, long
enough time for an Anbu to decided whether or not they would put their lives in their
teammates hands. Hinata and Naruto were willing to give him a try and had soon come
to trust him, Sakura had given him her unconditional love, but the elder two still didn't
seem sure. It was almost as if they still expected him to take his katana to their backs
when they were asleep.
He shook his head. If he followed Voldemort now they would never trust him again and,
though he might deny it, their trust was something that he valued highly, something that
he felt had to be gained. He might feel stronger than Neji but he still found him to be an
equal, a peer that he wanted to have trust him with his life. And it seemed that what Neji
decided, Tenten usually went along with.
But there were still the promises that they had made to him. He knew that Orochimaru
was up to no good, he had seen it himself when he followed the snake in the first place.
But he was still sorely tempted by the power that they offered.
It was his one weakness that he could not shed when he became an Anbu.
They had been traveling around for hours, trying to find the chakra patterns that
belonged to the Death Eaters and their snake-like master. But it still seemed that as soon
as they would pick up on one it would vanish, as if they were playing hide and seek.
Tenten grinned. She had always loved games.
She glanced over at Neji and realized that he was just staring straight at the trees, she
couldn't see his eyes but she was sure they were glowing with the chakra of his bloodline
limit. Perhaps it was a good thing Naruto had sent him along with her. He was very good

for these kinds of games. She knelt on the ground and gently traced her fingers over the
dirt. It had been disturbed not to long ago, and not by an animal. She and Neji had kept
to the trees to avoid putting more tracks in the ground. She brought it to her mask and
sniffed it curiously. She was no Inuzuka but she could tell when someone carried chakra
by the smell they left behind.
Nodding happily, she crept a little further until she found another track, this one carrying
the same chakra signature. She frowned when they vanished into thin air and looked up.
She reached out into the air and felt nothing but the cool wind flitting over her fingers
where the fingerless gloves cut off. She pulled a kunai from her belt.
All of the tracks had disappeared near here and she was sure that it had something to do
with Voldemort. If only magic wasn't so hard to track. It was so much weaker than
chakra and much more elusive. The wizards could not contain it or hide it but the magic
itself seemed to take measures to remain hidden. She pushed her chakra into her kunai
and watched it flare blue for a moment before returning to its normal polished grey. She
stood back a few paces and hurled it into the air.
It slammed into the invisible force and created an explosive reaction. The kunai itself
blew to pieces and she saw the transparent wall turn black for a moment around the
edges of a nice sized hole before returning almost immediately to normal as it healed its
burn wounds. She whirled around when she felt Neji's presence behind her.
"What did you do to it?" he asked her. She grinned at him and held up another knife.
"I think that I might know a way to get in," she half-sang. She wondered if he was
smiling behind his mask too.
A minute later Tenten was standing next to her clone and Neji next to his. With a wave of
their hands the Bushins slipped away into the trees and continued their scouting in
placement of the real shinobi. Tenten touched the sealing on of her scrolls and released a
mace and chain. She pumped it full of her chakra and held it back with one hand. Beside
her, Neji henged into an almost comical rat form. The smaller the creature the better.
She held her hand ready with half of the sign for henge. She cranked her arm back and
let the mace and chain fly and change almost simultaneously into a mouse. They shot
through the fire and the charred edges of the hole and found, as they almost expected,
the hideout of Voldemort, hidden cleverly by magic.
They ducked into the bushes when several Death Eaters ran past to find where the
explosion had come from. They could hear them from where they sat in the foliage as
rodents.
"Do you think it was those shinobi we saw hanging around?"
"No, just checked. They're still out there."
"I guess they might have just hit it accidentally."
"Maybe."
"Nothing to worry about."
As they wandered away again Tenten changed into a graceful chestnut cat, seconds later
Neji was a black feline. They slunk off into the castle-like structure that served to house

the Dark Lord and his minions. It didn't take long to find their chakra and it too just a
moment longer to realize who was with them.
"Orochimaru is here?" Tenten whispered hoarsely. She pressed herself into the shadows
next to her teammate. She could feel him tense beside her, worried at what this could
mean. She lashed her tail against her sides with agitation. This day just kept getting
better and better, please note the sarcasm.
"We'll have to tell Naruto and leave the decision up to him. But for now, we have to focus
on what he sent us out here to do." She glared at him as best she could with her marbled
cat eyes. There were snakes everywhere that they had seen so far. But they still didn't
explain how Harry became a snake in his vision.
"Do we send word now or later?" she asked. She unconsciously referred everything that
they did to him. Ever since they were young and first put together with Lee and Gaisensei, Neji had always been the leader, the strong one who knew exactly what to do
and when to do it. Even Gai-sensei looked to him for direction at times, especially now
that they were all higher rank than their teaching jounin.
"Later. For now we just need to find a place where we can return to our normal forms
and create a plan." She grimaced.
"You always have to have a plan for everything, don't you?" she asked sarcastically. She
got the feeling that he was glaring at her and smirked at him as best she could, made all
the more infuriating by her fuzzy, cute kitty face. He just growled and stalked away. She
darted after him. They would have to tell Naruto soon, before it was too late.

[Close your eyes and think of somewhere]


Tenten glanced around another corner, mentally frowning at the sheer number of snakes
(both live and decorative) around the place. Several Death Eaters passed by but none of
them noticed the two, thin cats crouched in the shadows. A few of the smaller snakes
saw them but they just hissed lazily before slightering on their way. The kunoichi glanced
over her shoulder at her partner. He had his eyes closed but his tail twitched rapidly.
Another Death Eater passed by, blissfully unaware of the enemies already in their
hideout.
Geez. They wouldn't last two seconds as bad guys in the Hidden Countries, she thought
to herself. Well, I've never been one to complain about an enemy's stupidity.
She was cut off from her thoughts at Neji wacked her side with his paw. She glanced at
him to find him already slipping out into the dim hallway. A low, annoyed growl built up
inher throat as she hurried after him. If they had been anywhere else she would have
pounced maliciously on his tail.
"From the way I can feel the magic floating around this place (AN. Think dolphin
sonar), there should be a little, unused room somwehre around here where we can send
out a message to Naruto," he whispered. Tenten's face twisted in jealousy. She hadn't
ever been able to get the view of an area by feeling the way the energy swirled around

an objects, one of the reasons she wasn't as highly ranked as Neji. "Found it," he
muttered.
They looked aorund quickly and, seeing no one in sight and not sensing any highly
unusual magic, they released their henge and opened the door.
"You found a closet, wonderful," Tenten muttered sarcastically. Neji shoved her in
roughly. She eeped when she was pressed against the wall, Neji slapped a hand over her
mouth. He closed the door quickly. They were cast into darkness. Then she heard the
footsteps coming down the hallway. There was barely enough room for one person, let
alone two. Tenten rolled her eyes as she found herself smushed between her teammate
and the wall. She bit his hand, making sure to get his skin through the cloth of his
gloves.
"Ouch," he whispered, jerking away quickly. She turned around, almost making her nose
collide with his chin. She jabbed a finger in his chest ruthlessly.
"Get out of my way so I have room to write," she ordered. Her caught her wrist before
she could poke him again.
"Where do you suggest I move too? There's a ridiculously low ceiling in here." He caught
her other hand as it came in for another jab and pressed her palms to his chest so she
couldn't curl her fingers into fists.
"Whatever," she hissed, "Turn around."
"Why?" he asked, releasing her hands so she could dig around for a small scroll, a brush,
and some ink. She grabbed his shoulders and forced him to turn around.
"So I can use your back as a table," she said with a 'no-duh' tone. She flung his long
ponytail over his shoulder. "Hold the ink please." She handed him the small jar, which he
took with a long suffering groan.
For a couple of minutes the only sound was the crinkle of parchement, gentle swish of a
brush, and the occasional 'Ink!' demand. When she was finished she blew carefully on it
to help the ink dry quickly and rolled it up, trying it with a thin black ribbon.
"I wrote it so you get to send it," she said cheerfully as he straightened and handed her
back the ink. He said nothing but the heavy sigh he heaved was enough. She smacked
him upside the head.
"Ow," he deadpanned. "And I can't get to my scrolls." Tenten could have growled with
impatience.
"I'll get you one," she forced out between gritted teeth. Carefully, she searched his belt
for the small loops that held his summoning scrolls. "Which one do you want?"
"The black one with the white tree on it," he answered. She found it, held horizontally at
the small of his back.
"The dead tree or the live tree?" she asked, praying it wasn't the dead tree. The dead
tree was so much closer to his ass. He sighed and shifted slightly. She jerked her fingers
away from where they had been resting on his belt,
"There's one with a tree and one with clouds. Which one do you think it is?"

"My, you're impatient today," she murmured, slowly pulling at the dead tree scroll.
"You have to undo the straps," he said. She stopped tugging and glanced at the straps in
question. He sighed again. "The clasps are under the scroll," he drawled. Tenten
grimaced and hoped he couldn't see her blush as her fingers slowly hooked around the
scroll and undid the clasps, brushing the small of his back repeatedly. The clasps clicked
open and she jerked the scroll away.
Neji accepted the scroll as she handed it over his shoulder, deciding against remarking
on how long it had taken her to get it undone. The end dropped to the floor as he
unrolled it. He bit his thumb quickly and spread the oozing blood down the black, closely
cramped writing. A small poof of smoke announced the arrival of Neji's summon: a small,
thin black cat with huge marble blue and silver eyes. It bowed its head as Neji lifted it
quickly. He tied the message to its throat with the white ribbon that served as its collar.
The summon rubbed its forehaed against his masked cheek.
"Take this to Uzumaki-san, you'll know where to find him." The summon bowed its head
and leapt to the floor. It looked up at its master and blinked wisely. Then, it vanished in
a brief flash of shimmers.
"I've never seen that one," Tenten remarked. Neji turned slightly and opened the door.
He peeked out carefully, looking up and down the hall. There wasn't even a snake in
sight.
"That was Chei. She was the one who orginally contacted me," he murmured. He slid out
of the closet, dragging Tenten along behind him by her wrist.
"No henge?" she asked curiously.
"I'd prefer to use as little chakra as possible. We might need to make an escape later on.
For now, let's just try to find a couple Death Eaters." He moved carefully into the
shadows of the wall towards the dimply lit end of the corridor. Tenten followed silently.
Both of them looked into the room at the end. They watched three Death Eaters, in
complete costume, scribbling frantically on rolls of parchment by a dying fire. Tenten
snickered.
The two shinobi moved across the room like lightning. One Death Eater slumped as a
pressure point on his neck was hit. The other two gasped their last breath as one's heart
stopped beating and a knife slid skillfully into the other's throat. Not a single drop of
blood dripped from the last Death Eater's wound as Tenten withdrew her blade and
quickly placed a cotton patch over it to stem the blood flow. They stripped the two dead
men of their robes. Neji handed his to Tenten when he realized he had a woman. They
hid the bodies, curled into fetal positions, under the large sofa and dressed in their new
robes. Once they were prepared, they woke up the first man. He jerked and flailed as he
awoke. Tenten hissed, hoping her woman had been a mean one.
"Watch it," she ordered. The first Death Eater shrank back from her.
"Yes, Miss LeFarge," he said. The woman had looked very young, early twenties at the
latest, so Tenten had hoped her voice was still soft and feminine.
"Idiot, fainting away when you're supposed to be reporting to the Dark Lord," Neji said.
His man had been middle-aged so he had no choice but to henge into him and make use
of the new vocal chords. The poor man shuddered.

"I beg you, Mr. Doyle, don't report my weakness to the Dark Lord. I beg you to have
mercy." They could hear the tears in his voice. So, either this was a very cowardly man
or Mr. Doyle was a rather malicious character. Neji played with the wand he had found in
the pocket of his robes and leaned back in his chair, the picture of nonchalant control.
"Maybe I will, maybe I wont. But for now, take your pathetic existance elsewhere. I can't
stand the sight of you." The man gathered his things and darted out of the room in a
blind panic. Tenten started reading her parchment, memorizing all that Miss LeFarge had
written in her extremely long report to the Dark Lord. Neji hid his in his sleeve as he
heard a dark chuckle come from the doorway.
"Well, well, Doyle. I don't think I've ever seen you pass up a chance to Crucio an idiot."
[I couldn't save you and I didn't want to]
Naruto leaned heavily against the wall in the kitchen of number twelve Grimmauld Place.
His shift of watching Harry was over and now Sakura was keeping an eye on him. He was
just dozing off to sleep when he was startled awake by the nearly silent pop of displaced
air caused by a summon. Neji and Tenten couldn't possibly have much to tell him yet. A
black cat with blue and silver eyes stared up at him before it shook its head, making the
small scroll tied to its collar jiggle.
"Is this from Neji?" he asked. The cat stared at him again.
"Chei am I. Uzumaki-san are you. From Neji-sama come I with a message for Uzumakisan. Please take it," the cat said in an airy female voice. Naruto knelt awkwardly beside
the summon and untied the scroll. "The ribbon please tie back," it said. He complied, a
little freaked out by the way it talked. Once the white ribbon was back around its throat,
it vanished into a shower of silver shimmers. The Anbu captain unrolled the small scroll,
recognizing Tenten's messy scrawl.
Uzumaki-san, as you requested, Neji and I have gotten into Voldy's HQ. There are
snakes everywhere, not just live ones either. The whole place has a snake theme from
what I can see. It's in a forest just outside of a civilian town called Berkline. A
transparent wall surrounds it. If you throw a big enough chakra charged item at it, it
opens up a hole for a couple of seconds, that's how we got in. But that's not why we sent
word so quickly.
Orochimaru is here.
We haven't seen him yet but Neji and I both felt his chakra signature when we came in
and Kabuto's. Do NOT come here to find him. We'll find out what they're up to and report
back. Don't worry about us. DON'T RUSH DOWN HERE!
Panda
Naruto gazed at the report in blank horror. Orochimaru was teaming up with Voldemort
(if he assumed the worst) and only Neji and Tenten were there. He ran a hand through
his hair (back to yellow) in a blatant show of agitation. Neji and Tenten were both
perfectly capable shinobi and well trained to meet any challenge but Orochimaru?
Naruto has thought he was dead, Sasuke killed him. In an uncharacteristic display of a
lack of confidence, he called Hinata on her communicator. She was by his side in an
instant.

"Yes, Fox-taicho?" she asked, probably watching her expression through her Byakugan.
He grabbed her shoulders and shook her roughly.
"I just sent your cousin and Tenten into a death trap!" He shook her again. "What am I
going to do? They're irreplacable. The team is nothing without them! And Chei didn't stay
long enough for me to call them back!"
"Naruto-kun, you aren't making any sense. If you want my help you have to be
coherant," she said in a surprisingly strong voice. He stopped shaking her and yanked
her into a nearby room, a long-unused guest bedroom. He pulled the pictures off the
walls, ignoring their protests, and tossed them out the door. Then he cast a secrecy jutsu
on the whole room. Satisfied, he took his mask off and threw the scroll to her.
"Read that," he commanded. Hinata sank onto the bed and slipped her mask off, reading
the report carefully. Her pale eyes widened as se went along. Gingerly, as if it were made
of fragile glass, she placed it beside her. Naruto gave her an expectant look.
"What do you want me to say?" she asked quietly. Her captain stared at her.
"What should I do? Should I go get them?" She held up a small hand to silence him. A
soft, sad smile played on her lips. He sat beside her, on the side away from the scroll.
"Neji-nii-san and Tenten-chan are very strong. They will not die in an enemy's hideaway,
especially not at the hands of a wizard. Orochimaru might try to capture or kill them but
do you really believe that such a thing will happen to them? You have to trust them,
Naruto-kun. They are stronger than you realize."Her slim hands took his and held them
in her lap, playing absently with his fingers. He watched her hands on his with an
unreadable expression. She smiled that small, sad smile again. "You are just going to
have to trust them."
"But I can't loose them, Hinata-chan. Tsunada-baa-chan will skin me alive if I get back
without them. Your crazy father will be after my head! And heaven forbid Gai ever find
out that I inadvertantly killed two of his students." Naruto shuddered violently at the very
thought of 'Konaha's Green Beast' ever trying to avenge the deaths of his 'youthful'
students. "And Lee I don't know what Lee would do but I'm sure it would not be good."
Hinata giggled slightly.
"You don't have to worry about Hokage-sama, Otou-san, Gai-sensei, or Lee-kun because
Neji-nii-san and Tenten-chan will be fine," Hinata assured him, amused despite the real
danger that her cousin and friend could face.

[make this music from your soul]


Sakura watched a very merry Sirius dragging box after box of old Christmas decorations
from various dark closets and rooms, covered in cobwebs and dust. He blew a thick layer
of dust off one and onto the carpet, starting Mrs. Weasley on a rant about keeping the
floors clean. The kunoichi smiled slightly and settled herself more deeply into the deep,
plush couch beside the fire. She still wore her mask but had changed into a pair of loose

pants, light shoes, and a sweater. She was supposed to be sleeping since it was Hinata's
turn to keep an eye on the reclusive Harry.
Ever since they had returned from St. Mungo's he had locked himself away from the rest
of the world. Ron had only gone up to tell him it was time for lunch and dinner. Harry
had not come down for either. But it wasn't really Harry that was worrying her. His
reaction was very natural for someone who had overheard his elders saying that he was
possibly being possessed by the wizarding community's greatest enemy (at least what
she supposed would be natural, she hadn't actually run into that particular situation
before).
No, Harry wasn't worrying her. It was the rest of the wizards at Grimmauld Place that
were worrying her, and agitating her. They talked about him in hushed tones, as if he
could hear their concerned gossip from upstairs. Ron looked terrified the first night he
had to sleep in the same room as Harry. It was like they were forgetting that Harry had
never attacked anyone, that he had only witnessed an attack, unfortunately through the
eyes of the attacker. It was incredibly annoying for her to sit there and listen to them
hypothesis with no real facts. But Naruto had told his team to try to avoid pushing
themselves anymore into the wizard's lives. They had to learn some things for
themselves. Sakura didn't like it though.
"What are you thinking about, Sakura-chan?" She twisted in her seat to see Naruto
watching her with those bright, blue eyes; the only things she could see behind his mask.
He vaulted over the back of the couch and sat beside her.
"Nothing really," she murmured, "Just what I've been thinking about since yesterday."
He nodded sympathetically. Sakura pulled at the hems of her metal plated gloves she
still wore with her civilian clothes. Naruto gazed at her for a long time, making her
slightly uncomfortable before turning away to face the fire. The red, orange, and yellow
hues flickered across his mask, shining brightly over the flat surfaces, and casting the
indents and crevices into dark shadows.
"You've got to let some people figure out things on their own. Stop thinking about it,
you'll just make yourself more annoyed and Kami-sama knows that you're annoyed
enough already." She wrinkled her nose and shrugged. He seemed like he was going to
say something else to her when Sasuke appeared in front of them, still dressed in full
Anbu gear. The fire's light didn't seem to reach him as he stood in shadow.
"Naruto, I need to talk to you" he shifted his weight, "Alone."
Sakura stood but Naruto pulled her back down into the couch as he rose to his feet. The
couch creaked at the exchange of bodies. The Anbu captain motioned for Sasuke to
follow him to the same room where he had told Hinata about her cousin's report. The
pictures had not been replaced and though the secrecy jutsu lingered, Naruto
strengthened it. Sasuke shut the door but didn't lock it. He removed his mask and shifted
his weight again. Naruto settled into a straight backed chair, laying his mask on his
knees.
"When I returned to the Department of Mysteries, it wasn't completely empty like I told
you it was," he began quietly. Naruto was silent. "There were two people there and they
wanted something from me." He glared at the ground as if he could scare it into
opening up and swallowing him whole.
"Voldemort and Orochimaru?" Naruto guessed, keping a detatched expression glued on
his cheerfully face. Sasuke twitched, slightly startled.

"How did you guess Orochimaru?" he asked. Naruto waved the report scroll from Neji and
Tenten.
"Tenten wrote me a report to say that she and Neji had felt Snake-bastard's chakra. I'm
not really surprised they were there but why didn't you tell me before I sent them out to
find Voldy-whatever?" Sasuke looked strangely chastised.
"I didn't want to have to explain what happened at the Department while everyone else
was there," he half-explained. Naruto frowned, playing at the string on his mask. It made
a humming noise as he pulled it tight and plucked it.
"What happened?" he prompted. He willed himself to be prepared to forgive Sasuke for
whatever mistake he had made.
"They want me to betray you. They want me to spy on you for them," he said plainly.
FLASHBACK.
Sasuke crouched beside the broken doors into the Department of Mysteries. Tenten had
broken them down the first time they went in. Apparently it required an identification
spell to open properly. The kunoichi held no love for delays. Her mace and chain had hit
it before the recorded voice had finished requesting identification. He tighened his mask,
listening for sounds of life, before creeping around the corner into the long rows of faintly
glittering, very dusty objects sitting silently on the shelves.
Carefully, keeping an ear open for footsteps or slithering coils on the cold, dirty floor, he
slid to the spot they had found Mr. Weasley. The snake was already gone when he and
Tenten had gotten there. Nobody was around, not even Ministry personel, but he
assumed they would find the blood in the morning.
And blood there was. It settled into the pools on the concrete floor. Random drops left
thin, red trails on the lower shelves, having long rolled down and fallen to the floor. A red
streak glimmered angrily against the dusky sparkle of a sphere settled on the lowest
shelf. He fully intended to clean it up, see if there was any venom left over, and was
kneeling beside the large puddles when the pop of Apparation startled him.
"My, my, little Sasuke." He knew that voice; knew it far too well. "Reduced to clean up
duty now that you don't have me anymore?"
The smoke cleared slowly, probably Orochimaru's doing he always had a ridiculous flair
for dramatics leaving only two shadowy figyres in the previously empty space. The
snake sannin gazed easily at Sasuke those eerie, yellow eyes. His body was completely
bandaged expect for his mouth and eyes. But that did not change the fact that he was
still alive.
"You are wondering how I am still alive when you supposedy 'killed' me," Orochimaru
said. Sasuke gritted his teeth and drew a long kunai (specially made). "And I thought I at
least taught you to be thorough when you kill someone. You did quite a messy job;
messy, messy." He smield creepily at Sasuke. "Did you really think that just blowing up
my laboratory would be enough?'
"The explosive tags were stuck to you," Sasuke stated, demanding answeres in his own
way. Orochimaru just chuckled.

"I was due for a new body anyway. Since I couldn't have yours I had to settle for a lessthan-satisfactory replacement. You did narrow down my choices with your explosives in
the cells. Rather cold-blooded of you to kill all those innocent men. Kabuto could hardly
find one that was still breathing." He motioned vaguely to his bandaged body. "As you
can see, my new body was unfortunately burned by your little stunt."
Sasuke snarled at him, but it came out as more of a hiss. He threw the kunai with all his
strength at Voldemort. The wizard didn't even flinch as Orochimaru caught the knife
right before his face. The snake sannin tsked and examined it with an amused chuckle.
"These are new, little Sasuke. I really did think you preferred the katana. But you have
been trying to distance yourself from me, haven't you? Trying to get dear Tsunade to
trust you again? Seems like that has worked, if that mask indicates anything." He
laughed again and thew the kunai back to Sasuke, who caught it, eyes stony. "No matter
what you did, no matter what you do, little Sasuke, no matter how much you try to get
away from me, you're still mine. Or did you manage to cover your curse seal with your
Anbu tattoo?"
The Anbu's hand snapped to his shoulder, unconsciously trying to cover the mark of
shame Orochimaru had given him. The smug smile of Orochimaru's thin lips needled at
Sasuke's pride. He breathed out harshly.
"So, what about you? Reduced to bodyguarding now that you don't have anyone to
torture mindlessly?"
"Good try, little Sasuke, but you never were very good with words. You have always been
the silent type. In fact, as far as I know, your best insult was 'dobe' whenever a certain
fox-demon talked to you. Does he still trust you, little Sasuke?" he asked, still smirking.
Sasuke hissed again, annoyed at not being in control.
"What do you want from me, bastard? I'm not here for you to catch up on my life," he
spat angrily. Orochimaru crossed his arms, eyes narrowing as his smirk grew.
"You have no life, little Sasuke. You gave that to me the day you tried to murder your
best friend for power, using my seal "
"Shut up!" Sasuke shouted. "What do you want from me?"
"Nothing, or maybe everything. It depends on what you think you have," he answered,
smile growing larger. His teeth were straight and white.
"I don't have time for your mind games, bastard," he hissed. A long kunai appeared in
each of his hands. His lips tightened into a thin line as his former master chuckled again,
not that he could see his expression.
"Fine, fine, little Sasuke," he said, patting the air lightly, "I don't want anything from you.
I just wanted to see my favorite missing nin. Of course, if I wanted something from you,
you couldn't do aything about it, not with that little mark on your shoulder. However, my
friend Voldemort might want something from you."
"I don't have to listen to anything your latest project has to say," Sasuke said. He took a
deep breath.
"We want you to report to us everything your captain finds out about us, all his
movements," Voldemort said quickly.

"No," Sasuke answered sharply. A blinding pain shot through his neck and shoulder. He
instinctively grabbed the source of his pain, dropping his knives; the curse seal.
Orochimaru watched him blankly.
"Just think about it, little Sasuke." He vanished and reappeared beside him, close enough
for the shinobi to feel his breath on the unmarked side of his throat. "But it would be
awful if, say, while you were rolling on the floor in blistering pain during a battle, a
certain pink haired kunoichi just," he breathed in, "vanished." Sasuke's breath caught in
his throat. Orochimaru drew back.
"I don't want anything from you, little Sasuke yet." Orochimaru's fist slammed into the
side of Sasuke's mask, shattering the right side into dozens of pieces. The sharp pieces
left cuts on his face. It crashed to the floor as it fell from his face. He looked up and
Voldemort shuddered.
His mask clung to the left side of his face, breaking still in little bits at the edge. Blood
dripped down the right side of his face in scarlet beads. A thin trail of red drew a line
from his cheekbone to the corner of his mouth. His eyes flashed violent red, black dots at
the center whirling angrily. His teeth were bared in a feral snarl.
"Get away from me!" he screamed.
Voldemort and Orochimaru vanished, all their work and a bit more accomplished. Sasuke
fell to his knees and gathered the bits of his mask.
END FLASHBACK.
Naruto watched his friend stare at the ground as he finished recounting the true tale of
what he had run into at the Department of Mysteries. The captain licked his lips
nervously and began to pace. Sasuke looked up at him, black eyes showing an alarming
vulnerability.
"I assume you fixed your own mask before you got back," he stated.
"Yes. Every Anbu must know how to repair his own mask." All an Anbu had to do was
write a certain set of runes on the largest part of the mask and it would reassemble itself
if all the pieces were within three feet of each other. Naruto decided against pointing out
that he had no clue how to fix his mask. Hinata had always done it for him.
"I think you should accept," Naruto said slowly. Sasuke opened his mouth to speak but
Naruto cut him off, "You could feed them false information and bring back information for
us."
"I thought about that already," Sasuke said, "Do you really think Orochimaru wouldn't
have thought of that? He wont let any information slip to me. And I have no idea how
much power he has over me through the curse seal. What if he can force me to tell the
truth? Besides, Neji and Tenten are already over there "
"What if they get caught? If I had known Orochimaru was over there earlier I wouldn't
have sent them." Sasuke flinched. "We can't rely on them for information. What if
Orochimaru demands Harry for them?"
"Don't be stupid. You know they wouldn't let us trade our charge for them," he pointed
out. Naruto growled and ran a hand through his hair. "Can't you call them back?"

"Not until they send another report. Neji's summon ran away before I could order them
to come back. We know exactly where they are but I don't want to start a rescue mission
if they don't need rescueing." He plopped down on the bed. "This just got a hell of a lot
more complicated."
[The days get shorter and the nights get cold]
"Well, well, Doyle, I don't think I've ever seen you pass up a chance to Crucio an idiot,"
the dark voice chuckled. A tall man, not wearing his mask, strode into the room, a
decorative cane clutched in his bony fingers. The ninja recognized him from the list of
suspected Death Eaters.
"I'm feeling rather forgiving today, Malfoy," Neji answered in an aloof tone. Malfoy
laughed humorlessly and tapped his cane on the ground.
"I don't think you have a forgiving bone in your body," he answered.
"You don't think?" Neji mused, hoping he wasn't supposed to be in awe of Malfoy. "How
unusual."
Malfoy looked stunned and Neji cursed silently. He should have played it safe. But then
Malfoy chuckled, a real chuckle, and leaned against the doorframe.
"Touch," he said, "It's unlike you to be so unveiled in your insults."
"Well, I can't let you gain the upperhand, can I?" he asked, forcing his voice to sound
smug and confident. Malfoy's mouth twitched.
"No, I suppose you can't," he answered slowly, obviously a little confused by Doyle's new
personality. Tenten was just glad she hadn't had to say anything yet.
"Malfoy, Doyle, LeFarge," a young man with wild eyes appeared at the doorway,
"Everyone's got to meet in the Great Hall. His Lordship's got something to say to
everything."
"Come, Miss LeFarge," Malfoy said, offering an arm, "Allow me to escort you." Tenten
jumped up.
"Oh no, you really shouldn't "
"I insist, Miss LeFarge," he said. She hesitantly rested her hand in the crook of his arm.
"It wouldn't do for a nice young lady like you to wander around with only Doyle as an
escort."
They walked swiftly down several hallways and down a few sets of stairs. Malfoy chatted
amiably with 'Miss LeFarge', completely ignoring 'Mr. Doyle' who was ignoring 'Miss
LeFarge' silently pleading for help. The walk continued in this manner until they reached
the Great Hall, which was really just a large, grey walled and floored room lit by bubbling
pots of some nasty goo.
Voldemort sat upon a raised dais on throne that seemed to be made of decaying wood
and human bones. Neji and Tenten didn't care about him when they saw who stood by
his side: Orochimaru in all his evil glory. Both shinobi started counting the number of
ninja around the room. Naruto would need to know at least how many enemies they

were up against. They kept count of Death Eaters as well. The gathered group fell silent
as Voldemort rose from his throne.
"My followers and allies," he raised his arms high above head, his wide sleeves falling
down to his shoulders, showing his bony, pale arms, "We shall not have to wait much
longer! The prophecy shall soon be within our grasp! Now we must "
"Lord Voldemort," Orochimaru interrupted easily, Eerie red eyes met yellow. "You have
rats in your home. May I catch them?'
Neji and Tenten tensed. Orochimaru had sensed their chakra even though they were
supressing it with all their might. Voldemort sat back down, his robes flowing around
him. He smiled nastily.
"Please do," he said. Orochimaru vanished.
Neji gasped as a solid hit landed on his spine, he released his henge and whirled quickly,
going for a blow to his attacker's chest. A cold hand caught his wrist and twisted,
torquing his elbow mercilessly. He kicked out where he estimated the attacker's legs to
be. Someone else latched onto his back from behind and wrapped and arm around his
throat, tightening their grip. He shoved his free elbow into the second attacker's ribs as
hard as he could. Whoever it was let go and jumped away. He used his good hand to
grab the hand that was holding his other wrist and shove as much chakra into it as he
could. The attacker hissed and let go but another person kicked the back of his knees. He
dropped to the floor as pain lanced up his legs. A rough hand pulled off his Death Eater
mask and hood and then yanked away his Anbu mask. Neji saw Orochimaru clearly,
standing above him with his Anbu mask held in his thin hand.
"What do you know? A blind rat." Neji's arms were grabbed and he was hauled to his
feet, his arms pulled far back behind him. Tenten was in a similar position. She looked
frantically at him. He knew his expression was not one of a confident shinobi.
"Lord Voldemort," Orochimaru said, waving grandiously in their direction. "I am pleased
to introduce you to Dove and Panda, also known as Neji Hyuuga and Tenten. Aren't they
lovely." He ran his fingertips over Neji's cheekbone and over his eyes. He flinched away,
growling.
"Find out what they know," Voldemort ordered.
Neji's world went black.

[I've been the flame in the fire she's raging]


{two days before Christmas}
When Neji opened his eyes again he was panicking internally, trying to sense Tenten's
chakra to make sure she was alright. To his relief, she felt scared and tired but
unharmed. She was nearby but not too close, maybe on the floor above him. Neji was
ninety-nine percent sure he was underground.

"Wonderful, Hyuuga, you are finally awake," a snake-like voice remarked with fake
cheer. Orochimaru stepped in from a doorway that blended seamlessly into the wall. He
walked closer and Neji was suddently uncomfortably aware that his arms were
chainedabove him to the stone wall, forcing him to stand on his toes to keep his
shoulders from popping out of socket.
"Sorry for making you wait," he spat. Orochimaru chuckled darkly and stood close to
him, running his hand over the uncovered curse seal and down over his eyes.
"Oh, you will be sorry. Neither Lord Voldemort nor I are particularly patient people. You
have made us wait a whole half a day," he purred. Neji pulled his head away from those
grabbing fingers.
"If you two are so simliar you should marry and populate the world with tiny snake
bastards and bitches," Neji responded. Orochimaru twitched and backed away.
"Watch your mouth, Hyuuga, your proud words are going to land you in a world of pain,"
he hissed.
"Going to rely on Moldy Voldy for that? You could do it yourself if only you had the
Sharingan " Orochimaru slapped Neji across the face savagely. The sannin growled as
Neji smirked, disregarding the stinging feeling on his cheek. Orochimaru grabbed Neji's
chin and yanked his head to face him.
"Listen well, Hyuuga, you had better watch your tongue before I cut it out of your pretty
mouth," he snarled.
"Do wizards have a spell for that too?" Neji asked innocently. Orochimaru seemed to be
about to hit him again when he stopped short and withdrew to the door.
"You should know better than to assume I wont have my fun with you. And you've just
made it a hundred times worse," he hissed. He vanished out the door, which blended into
the wall again.
Neji let out the breath he had been holding. Baiting Orochimaru had been easier than he
had thought it would be. He k new he would pay for it later but his pride just couldn't
take Orochimaru controlling the situation for a moment longer than necessary. Now all he
had to do was figure out how to find Tenten and get out alive.
Voldemort would probably send Naruto a ransom note soon, most likely demanding Harry
in return. What Neji didn't know was whether Naruto would go through with the
transaction or not. It all depended on if he viewed the mission as of utmost importance
or not.
The Anbu grimaced and tried to meditate. He would have to mentally steel himself for
wahtever Voldemort and Orochimaru intended to torture him with.
[I've been the spark in the war she's raging]
Tenten looked up from where she had been hiding her head in her arms when the
invisible door to her cell opened ominously. She narrowed her eyes dangerously when
Voldemort walked in, rippling in his cumbersome robes. With a creak and a sickeningly
final slam, the door closed behind him.

"Where's Neji?" she demanded before he could open his mouth to speak. He chuckled
softly.
"Not to worry, your teammate is safely in the care of my friend Orochimaru." Tenten's
eyes widened. She knew she could not have suspected anything less but fear forced
through her mind, penetrating her emtotional barriars with ease.
"You're not going to get any information from either of us. Anbu do not break under
torture," she stated confidently, trying to wipe the smug smirk off his face.
"We'll discuss the terms of your captivity at a later date," he said with a dismissive wave.
Tenten growled. "For now, we're going to allow you to see your beloved Neji." Tenten
wrinkled her nose, rightfully expecting trickery. Voldemort snapped his bony fingers.
Two shinobi entered the room, their faces covered with masks like the one Tenten knew
Kakashi wore. Both were male, all rolling muscles and evil glares. They crossed the tiny
room in your stride and grabbed her arms. The shackles around her wrists and ankles fell
away but the burly apes kept her from bolting. They hauled her to her feet and dragged
her out the dor. Before they walked any further, one took a rope from his belt and bound
her arms and then blindfolded her with a thick strip of cloth that smelled like rotten
vegetables and felt like it had been drenched in something sticky.
They walked for what seemed like ages, they picked her up four times as they went down
the stairs, so they wouldn't have to deal with her falling on her face. The entire time she
listened to the near silent footsteps of the shinobi and the rustling of Voldemort's robes,
counting the number of steps and turns, memorizing all she could. Thank Kami she had a
good memory. When they stopped she was confident that she could find her way back to
Neji and that he could find his way to her. She heard the creak of a door and a quiet
hiss.
"Are you ready, Orochimaru?" Voldemort asked. The snake must have nodded because
Tenten's blindfold was removed. She kept her eyes closed. Neji's chakra was calm,
peaceful; he must have been meditating. Steeling herself, she opened her eyes slowly.
She didn't even twitch when she saw her teammate chained to the wall before her, curse
mark uncovered, eyes closed, breathing even. She was pushed into a corner and her
wrists were bound in front of her to her ankles. Her shinobi guards left quickly at a look
from Orochimaru.
"What is he doing?" Voldemort emanded, jabbing a finger into Neji's chest.
"Meditating, Lord Voldemort," Orochimaru deadpanned. From where she sat, Tenten
could see the disgust cross the sannin's face as he said the wizard's 'title'. She smirked, a
trait she had picked up from Neji, when she realized that Voldemort and Orochimaru
weren't as buddy-buddy as the shinobi led the wizard to believe.
"Why?" Voldemort asked. He sounded like an annoyed child.
"To prepare himself mentally for what he is about to experience," the sannin said in a
'No-Shit-Captain-Oblivious' tone. Voldemort either didn't notice or just ignored it.
"Hm, wake him up," he ordered tersely. Neji's eyes opened slowly.
"Meditating his not sleeping," he said pointedly. The corner of Voldemort's mouth
twitched. Wizard and shinobi locked their eyes in a glaring contest: demon red against
vavant white. Orochimaru watched with a blank expression.

Three new shinobi entered the room. One walked over to Tenten and positioned himself
behind her. He grabbed either said of her head and yanked back so she was staring right
at her friend. She shifted nervously, having already guessed that they would make her
watch, most likely intending to get information from her, not Neji.
The second of the three removed a long whip from her belt and handed it to Orochimaru,
bowing reverently as she did so. Out of the corner of her eye, she shot Voldemort a
withering glare. The missing nin caressed the handle gently, almost lovingly. The whip
itself was several long chords, studded with strategically placed bits of glass and metal.
He snapped out and the very tip of the longest chord caught Neji's cheek, ripping a
bloody line through his skin.
Tenten caught her breath but, when neji glanced her way and shook his head just
slightly, she let it go in a quiet sigh. She closed her eyes and sank into the blank, quiet
part of her mind she kept for meditating. Everything became nothing; she was nothing,
Orochimaru and Voldemort were nothing, the three shinobi were nothing, Neji was
nothing. All that remained in her mind was her mission. She would not fail her mission.
Her eyes opened, blank and unfeeling.
Orochimaru lashed the whip against Neji's chest, tearing through skin and flesh.
[O my brother, do not leave me, lest the evil spirits harm you]
{Christmas Day}
Sakura sat curled up in a ball on the couch by the fire next to Sasuke. It was Christmas
day, a holiday none of the ninja were familiar with. But the day had already ushered in
whoops of joy over gifts (courtesy of Fred and George) and a waterfall of tears from Mrs.
Weasley. Sakura didn't really understand Mrs. Weasley's situation but Lupin had
explained to her that her son Percy had sent his Christmas present back without a note
or any indication that he was concerned about his father.
"Sasuke, do you think Neji and Tenten are alright?" she asked quietly. It had been three
days since they had left, two days since their last report. He shrugged mutely, eaving his
female teammate a little worried. She gazed into the fire. Naruto was outside, watching
civilians passing by from the shadows. He had been incredibly antsy and tense ever since
he had received the report from Neji and Tenten. Sakura had been filled in on its
contents as well.
"Hey, Slug!" a voice shouted from the top of the stairs. Sakura turned to see Fred and
George descending the stairs towards her.
"Yes, is there something wrong?" The twins grinned evilly.
"No, nothing at all," Fred said.
"We just have a little something to give you and Viper," George added, nodding towards
the package in his twin's arms.
"For Christmas," Fred explained.
"From me, Fred, and Ginny," George expounded.

Sakura and Sasuke looked at each other, instantly wary. Last time they had seen the
twins 'give' something away, it had blown up in Ron's face. Fred tossed a small, thin
package to them; Sasuke caught it.
"Ginny made it pretty but we got it," Fred stated proudly. And, with that said, they
scampered away towards the kitchen, which had quieted since Lupin had gone in to
comfort Mrs. Weasley.
"You open it," Sakura said, leaning over his shoulder so she could see it. He tentatively
slid a finger under one of the self-sticking flaps of wrapping paper. Sakura clenched a
kunai in one fist, ready to skewer whatever was about to jump out at them. The paper
fell away.
"Oh, Kami-sama," she gasped.
Inside of the paper was a black picture from holding three pictures side by side, the
middle one larger than the two on the sides. Pale pink flowers bloomed and swayed at
the bottom of the frame. But the pictures amazed the shinobi the most. The right picture
showed Sakura, a close up of her disguised face, gazing away from the middle picture, a
soft smile on her face. Her green eyes opened and closedly slowly as her hair blowed in
the wind. As they watched, her picture-self reached up and tucked a lock of red hair
behind her ear.
The left picture was of Sasuke in disguised form, sitting in the rafters of the Great Hall.
He wasn't smiling but neither was he frowning. He was angled away from the middle
picture, playing with a kunai. Sasuke's picture-self blew his white bangs away from his
face, dark eyes staring down at whoever was taking the picture.
The middle picture susprised them both. The photograph was of the two of them sitting
behind a couch in the Gryffindor common room. Shadowy students floated in the
background. Disguised Saskura and Sasuke sat close beside each other, Sakura's head
resting on Sasuke's shoulder. Sasuke absently ran his fingers through the ends of her
long hair, a peaceful, small smile on his face.
"When dd they manage to get these?"
[You feel like a candle in a hurricane just like a picture with a broken frame]
Hinata leaned against the kitchen wall, sighing slowly as she observed Mrs. Weasley,
Lupin, and a very merry Sirius making a Christmas brunch. Fred and George ran in and
looked around. Fred's eyes landed on her and he seemed to be making his way toward
her when Naruto appeared from nowehre in front of her.
"I need to talk to you, on the roof, now," he said. His blue eyes were wild in the sockets
of his mask. Fred and George stopped walking towards her and turned away, making for
the pantry and trying to look like they hadn't been about to talk to her. Naruto practically
flew out of the room, Hinata hot on his heels.
"Sakura, Sasuke, roof, now," he commanded. And then he vanished. The two looked at
Hinata, who shrugged and disappeared as well. Sakura set the picture down on the table
and both she and Sasuke poofed into smoke as well, reappearing on the invisible (to
non-Order members) roof of number 12 Grimmauld Place. Narutot had already hooked
his mask to his belt and was handing two sheets of paper to Hinata.

"Read," he commanded. Hinata's hands shook. Sakura sat beside her, Sasuke behind
her. The heiress read aloud.
Naruto Uzumaki, Captain Fox,
Long story short, I have two members ofyour team that you had the gall to send into my
domain. Although they lasted an impressive half a day undetected, they could not last for
long. But, enough of their failings. Onto business.
In exchange for Tenten and Neji Hyuuga's lives and safe return to you, I only ask for on
thing, or perhaps one person would be better. Come to Hogsmead on the first day of the
school term with Harry Potter and you will receive your teammates, alive. Otherwise,
they will die knowing that you chose duty over friendship.
If you need confirmation, look at the picture.
Lord Voldemort,
Hinata shakily set the written page away and unfolded the picture. She gasped, tears in
her pearl eyes as she covered her mouth with a thin hand. The picturew was all the
confirmation she needed. Sakura caught her breath and Sasuke's eyes widened
fractionally.
At the center of the picture, arms shackled high above his head, forehead and chest
bare, angry welts standing out on his pale skin, was Neji Hyuuga. His long hair hung in
tangles over his shoulders, but he kept his head up, glaring fiercely at the photographer.
His lips were parted and his chest heaved as he gasped for air but he kept his angry
gaze.
Tenten as crouched in a corner, her wrists tied to her ankles. An unfamiliar shinobi held
her head so she was forced to watch Neji. Her eyes were blank and uncaring, her lips
parted just slightly as if she was in a daze. Orochimaru and Voldemort were no where in
sight.
Naruto wasn't looking at his teammates as they finally tore their gazes from the picture.
Hinata's face was tearstreaked as she folded the picture up and shoved it into Sakura's
hands. The medic wrapped an arm around her friend's shoulders, passing the note and
picture to Sasuke.
"How did it get here?" Sakura asked.
"One of Tenten's summons," he said, "But it vanished before I could ask it anything."
"Naruto-kun," Hinata whispered, "What are we going to do?" He gave her a sad look.
"We're going to see Voldemort on the first day of the school term."

[Living life like the ocean]

Orochimaru sat uneasily in a bare, straight backed chair. His elbows rested on the hard,
plain arms of the throne as he pressed his fingertips together before his face, yellowed
eyes narrowed in thought. His mouth was drawn into a thin line, turning his already
unpleasent features into a grotesque grimace as his skin wrinkled over his cheeks from
the displeased expression. Kabuto stood completely still slightly behind him.
"What do you think of our Anbu guests, Kabuto?" he hissed after a long while. The medic
nin hummed a brief, low note as he processed his thoughts.
"They have lasted unusually long in the face of the physical and mental strain that the
wizard and yourself present. But that is to be expected. Both Hyuuga and Tenten are
known for their extreme strength, both mental and physical "
"Then how is is that they were brought down so easily?" Orochimaru cut in. His voice was
slightly altered by agitation. Kabuto fell silent. "They are the most feared Anbu, on the
top squad, reknown among all villages, even purely civilian ones. It would take two
dozen shinobi to take either one of them down. Yet, they were incapacitated by just four
each and my shinobi took minimal damages."
"Maybe they were weighed down by the death eater costumes," Kabuto suggested
carefully. Orochimaru again interrupted, this time with a sharp bark of laughter.
"Anbu can fight regardless of their attire," he said, anger now mounting. "And they must
have expected me to sense their chakra. Why did they allow themselves to be captured?"
he shirked the question. "They must have a plan that required this. But what could it
be?"
Orochimaru stood abruptly from his chair and began pacing restlessly. He wore wizard
robes that billowed in large, cumbersome waves around his boney frame, Nervous hands
clutched at his clothes, thin fingers whitening as he inversely tightened and loosened his
grip on the folds of his robes. Not once did he even glance at Kabuto, who watched him
with a guarded expression and studious gaze. The sannin's mouth worked rapidly as his
expression tried to keep up with the rate of his thoughts.
"No, they couldn't possibly have played me for a fool. Lord Voldemort will perhaps fall for
that charade but I shall not," he announced. Kabuto nodded and bowed when
Orochimaru turned his direction. "I will pay a personal visit to our guests myself," he
looked sharply at his trusted aid, "Alone."
"As you wish, Orochimaru-sama," he said clearly. The missing nin frowned and flowed
out the door and down the hall toward his rooms, where he would undoubtedly change
from his wizard clothing into his well-worn sound nin tunic and rope.
"Is he looking too much into this?" Kabuto asked aloud.
"You expect me to answer that question?" a voice asked from the shadows of a hidden
alcove.
"Would you if I said please?" the medic asked sarcastically. The voice chuckled
humorlessly.
"Old Orochimaru seems rather tense around all these wizards. Perhaps Voldemort is
getting to him." Kabuto frowned at the words.

"How would you know he is tense around the wizards?" he questioned. The voice
chuckled again.
"Because I see all, of course, little Kabuto." The medic nin flinched at the name.
"Orochimaru cannot hide anything from me."
"When will you show yourself?"
"All these questions, all these questions." The voice sounded a little saddened. "Soon,
little Kabuto, very soon."
Kabuto's glasses glimmered.
[If you feel so empty, so used up, so let down]
Hinata watched the wizards preparing their belongings to return to Hogwarts with a
heavy heart. Harry had asked her again to help the defense class, as Natuo had
completely forgotten to discuss the matter with her or Neji. She has said 'no' mostly
because it pained her to see him trying to overcome his dislike for them and ask for help
for the sake of his friends and partly because she feared that Voldemort would actually
get him at the exchange the following evening and there would be no defense class.
"He still doesn't trust us," she whispered to Naruto, "And I'm beginning to understand
why." He sighed and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. She leaned into his embrace
carefully, half ready to break free if anyone were to come upon them.
"We don't intend to really hand him over," he assured her quietly.
"But what if something goes wrong? What if we do loose him and Voldemort wins,
Orochimaru wins?" she questioned.
"We won't," he said firmly. She wrinkled her nose and wrapped her arms tightly around
her thin torso. "I know you have doubts, Hina-chan, but you have to trust me, and
Sasuke, and Sakura, and yourself. We're not the best of the best for no reason."
"I know but " she took a deep breath, "Sometimes I wonder if we deserve that title."
A burst of laughter caught their attention. They gazed across the room at the stairwell
where the twins, Harry, and Ginny were laughing teasingly at Ron as he tried to get
Hermione to promise to help him with his schoolwork in the next semester. Hermione
dramatically commented on the already sorry state of Ron and Harry's grades, prompting
several indignant remarks from said boys.
"You see, Naruto?" Hinata said quietly, motioning briefly in their direction. "We would set
our plans around a single preson? One whose life we are here to protect but we willingly
throw into danger?"
"What do you want me to do? All we want is your cousin and Tenten back. I'm more
inclined to rescue my friends than to "
"Sustain the life of a single brat," Sasuke deadpanned, emerging from the darkness fo
the shadowy corners of the room. He crossed his arms over his chest and pinned Hinata
with a blank stare. "What do you want, Hinata? To leave your family member in the
hands of the ene"

"No!" The wizards banter ceased at her strangled shout. They cast nervous glances in her
direction. She carried on in a fierce whisper. "I would never ever want any harm to come
to Neji or Tenten. What kind of person do you think I am? I just" she trailed off and a
tear slid down her cheek. "I just wish something would happen so we wouldn't have to
bargain this way." Sakura strode silently from the corner where Sasuke had come from a
minute earlier.
"Don't worry," she said soothingly, placing a hand on the small woman's shoulder. "It's
like Naruto said: trust him, trust Sasuke, trust me, trust yourself, trust Neji and Tenten."
[These aching cries from from the bottom of our hearts]
[Note: torture scene ahead, beware if such things make you squeemish]
"Just one more day, Neji-kun," Orochimaru hissed. He slashed a knife across the Anbu's
stomach, creating a shallow but painful cut. "Unless, of course, Naruto decides that duty
is of a higher priority than friendship." The hilt of the knife slammed into the new wound.
Neji couldn't contain a gasp of pain. Orochimaru stood silently, allowing him to catch his
breath. He spat blood at the sannin.
"Naruto wouldn't be foolish enough to agree to exchange our mission for a teammate,"
he snarled. Orochimary slapped him across the face, a snide smirk on his lips.
"No, Neji-kun," he whispered. He grabbed Neji's chin and forced those proud white eyes
to his snake-like yellow. "You insist upon confusing him with yourself. You would never
exchange the mission for a teammate; heartless, cold, Anbu that you are. Naruto would,
he will, and you know it." He did not resist when Neji tore his face away angrily.
"You believe you know everything about us," he growled. "You're wron"
"Of course I know everything about all of you," Orochimaru chuckled, "I do have to keep
up with my darling Sasuke-kun and his teammates, make sure he's not doing anything
dangerous. Think of me as his dear foster father." He almost idly dug his knife into Neji's
thigh, twisting and turning it lazily. The tortured Anbu made a muffled, pained noise.
"You would know all about foster fathers, wouldn't you?" He smirked as Neji tensed,
aware of what the sannin was saying even through his pain. The missing nin pulled his
knife slowly from Neji's leg and pickedup a shallow bowl of melted wax that had been
sitting over a candle in the corner.
"It seems that being an orphan is a common trait among missing nin," he remarked
conversationally. Gently, he poured the hot wax down the hole he made in Neji's leg.
The Anbu screamed in pain,
"There, there, little Neji," he said, a delighted smirk on his face, "There's no need to
sound so distressed." He ran a finger around the wound. Neji shook with pain. "All of us
understand what it's like to loose family. Sasuke-kun understands, perhaps you should
talk to him once Naruto hands Harry Potter over to us "
"Never," he bit out. The next moment, his jaw was clenched tightly in an effort to keep
from screaming again.
"Never what? You'll never talk to Sasuke-kun? That's not a good way to build
relationships," he said teasingly.

"Naruto would never exchange Harry for me," he managed between rough breaths.
Orochimaru just laughed mockingly. He placed his knife under Neji's chin and forced their
eyes to meet again. The Hyuuga's eyes were clouded and unfocused.
"Going to pass out on me already, Hyuuga? You usually last longer, or perhaps all these
sessions are finally catching up to you," he mused, more to himself than to Neji. He
placed the candle wax back over the candle and let Neji's head drop. "You always seem
overheated when we really get going," he observed wickedly. Indeed, Neji's skin burned
with fever and his chest glistened with sweat. Orochimaru picked up a large bucket of
water charmed to be below freezing but not frozen. He unceremoniously upended it over
the Anbu's head and shoulders.
The freezing cold water had almost the same effect as blistering heat. It almost seemed
to physically burn Neji. He cried out but stopped himself quickly. The spelled water
dripped over old and new torture wounds, slipping in and settling into bloody cuts and
gashes. It kept freezing the inside of his wounds even when the water should have
warmed to his body temperature.
"Feeling better now, Neji-kun?" he taunted. The shinobi sagged against the chains
holding his arms above his head.
"Bastard," he managed weakly. The sannin laughed.
"Is that all you can come up with, Neji-kun? Dear little Sasuke would have been able to
come up with something better than that and he has no talent with words." He
scrutinized the gasping Anbu for a long, silent minute. "You are very similar to Sasuke,
but perhaps more like Itachi?"
"No," he whispered.
"No?" he repeated. "But yes. You are strikingly similar to Itachi." He held up one long
finger. "Both of you were named geniuses, prodigies, top of your classes."
"No."
"Of course you were. You cannot deny that fact." He held up a second finger. "You both
planned to assasinate your families."
"No," he said, like a mantra, a little louder.
"Granted, Itachi actually succeeded and you've just been a good boy since then." He
raised a third finger. "You both were members of Anbu and were both highly desired
scouts." A low snicker escaped him. "I'll say 'were' for both of you because with the
damage you've taken, you wont be able to be an Anbu any longer. So you will become a
retired Anbu, just like Ita "
"No!" he shouted with as much force as he could muster. "No, I am not like Uchiha
Itachi! Do not compare me with that murderer!"
"You are, Neji-kun, and you know it. There is darkness in you, and you know it, just like
Itachi." He selected a long, thin knife from the table beside him. "Itachi removed his
Anbu tattoo, you know," he mused, running his fingers along the blade's edge. "I'm sure
it was painful." The blade left a thin cut on his fingers. "And you are so much like him."
He reached up and unchained Neji's left wrist. The ninja slumped, unable to find the

energy to hold his own body up. "You poor dear." He pressed his knife to the skin above
Neji's Anbu tattoo on his left shoulder. "You don't deserve to be in Anbu any longer."
The sannin dug his knife straight down into Neji's skin and then began moving sideways,
beneath the skin. The Anbu whimpered pitifully. Slowly, caressingly, Orochimaru dug out
the section of flesh where the symbol had been inked. With a flick of his knife, a bloody
hole was left where the proud Anbu mark once rested. Neji couldn't hold back a cry of
pain. The sannin smirked and stabbed the portion of flesh with the tip of his weapon. He
scrutinized it for a moment before holding the inked skin up before the ninja. The
prisoner flinched away.
"Poor, poor, dear Neji. No longer an Anbu. All Anbu are required to be marked with the
insignia and you don't have one any more." He waved the punctured flesh teasingly.
Blood ran thickly down Neji's arm, leaving dark streaks over his abused limb, mingling
with dried blood from older wounds.
"Do you want it back?" he asked snidely. Neji didn't answer. "Yes? Of course you do." He
carefully picked up the pot of wax again. "The Anbu tatoo is the source of utmost pride
for all shinobi." He filled in the wound with melted wax. It pooled and dripped to the
floor, stained pink by blood. Neji cried out, agony ripping it's way out from his mouth.
"But since you've already lost it once, I can't give it back to you. You'll have to make do
with a minor replacement."
With a flourish, Orochimaru turned the severed flesh around and pressed it, backwards,
into the hardening wax, tattoo facing in. He chuckled as he grabbed a needle and string
from the table. Cheerfully, he sewed the displaced tatoo back to Neji's arm. The thick,
red string made the stitches large and the fibers clung to Neji's skin as it was forced
through the needle's tiny holes.
"There," he hissed, placing his mouth close to Neji's ear, "Do you feel like an Anbu again,
little Hyuuga? Does all that strength and pride flow through you again or is it all lying on
the floor with your blood?"

[My hands they shake, my head it spins]


The first day back in school after Christmas break was always hectic. Everyone wanted to
merely play around and catch up with friends and show off new gifts, so teachers
wrestled with students to have class. Nobody seemed to notice that two of the guards
were missing and thte remaining four were quiet and stilted. Harry, Hermione, and Ron
watched them curiously as they trailed about listlessly, preoccupied by their thoughts.
Mouse seemed to be the worst off. She had dark bags under her eyes, her clothes were
rumpled and wrinkly, and her red hair was in disarray and seemed darker than usual.
"Hey, Harry!" Zacharias Smith called from down the hall. The trio stopped, watching him
approaching blankly. None of them noticed Sakra standing silently around the carner.
They had been keeping a constant eye on him all day, making sure he didn't make any
plans for the night. If he did, it would be harder to wisk him away.
"Yes, Zacharias?" he prompted when the obnoxious boy stopped to breathe.

"When's the next D.A. meeting?"


"I'll let you know," Harry answered, sighing. This was the fifth time he'd been asked this
and it was only just after lunch. "But not tonight. I have Remedial Potions."
"Remedial Potions?" Zacharias repeated, sounding like he wanted to laugh. "Good Lord,
Potter, you must be horrible." Sakura frowned and pressed the paging button on her
communicator around her throat. Naruto answered immediately.
"Yes?"
"Potter says he has Remedial Potions tonight. Did we alrady know about this?" she
murmured as she strode away.
"Remedial Potions. Hold on, letme ask Hinata." She was left with radio static while she
waited. She zoned out.
"Sakura?" he asked.
"I'm still here. What did Hinata know?"
"Remedial Potions is a cover story for his Occulemency lessons with Snape later.
Occulemency is basically guarding your mind from crazy mind readers. It shouldn't take
too long. Not past eleven most likely," he answered.
"M'kay," she said. "Hey, Naruto? Hinata doesn't look so good. You need to send her to
bed asap. Is Sasuke going to these Occulemency lessons as an escort?"
"I will and yes."
"Good, see you later."
"See you, Sakura."
Naruto looked at Hinata curled up in a chair by the fire in the Hufflepuff common room. It
was empty, since all the students were in classes. At first he thought she was asleep, but
when he shifted to see her face he realized that her pearl eyes were open and gazing
blankly into the fire. The sadness in her face was agonizing for Naruto to witness.
"Hinata?" he called softly. She turned slightly to glance at him. "Sakura says you need to
sleep." Slowly, she moved until she faced him completely, her back to the fire.
"I can't. I'm too worried about everything. Every time I close my eyes I" her voice
broke. She hugged her knees to her chest and released her genjutsu. He followed her
example. He crept over to her until he sat on the plump arm of the chair, pulling her
against him. She rested her head on his leg.
"Tell me what you're worried about," he commanded gently even though he already
knew.
"All of this. The mission, our safety, Nii-san and Tenten, Orochimaru ad Voldemort's
power, the wizards, everyone back home." Though she had no tears left to cry, her voice
was terribly sad.

"You don't have to worry about anything," he said quietly, petting her hair. "Let me
worry about everything, alright? You just worry about staying healthy. Got it?" She
sighed.
"I can't do that. I just can't."
"Try," he whispered. She looked up at him, wide eyes dry but still conveying her despair.
"Just try for me." She didn't seemed convinced. "Please just go to sleep and forget your
worries for a couple of hours."
"Will you stay with me?"
"Of course."
Sakura found Naruto and Hinata asleep in the Hufflepuff common room. Quickly, before
students gathered between classes, she cast a genjutsu over them herself, masking their
real faces. She then sat across from them, watching their eyes jitted between closed lids.
Naruto had one hand on Hinata's head as her face was buried in his pants, and the other
laced with hers on his lap.
"You're not worried about students finding them asleep here?" Sasuke asked, coming
through the portrait door. He stood by the fireplace.
"No. It's not that unusual for us to be asleep in their common rooms," she pointed out in
a whisper.
"During the afternoon, together, yes," he replied. "The students will talk."
"Since when do you care? Let them talk, as long as they whisper. Naruto and Hinata both
need sleep. This mission is wearing them down too quickly." She frowned, tapered
fingers tapping her chin as her medic mind whirled.
"What about you?" Sasuke sat down beside her on the couch. He knew the students
would be bustling in soon.
"What about me?" she asked, feigning innocence.
"You should get some sleep. I know you haven't been sleeping very well since we got
here and barely any at all since Tenten and Hyuuga were captured." She felt a small
smile stretch her lips.
"In that case, you should get some sleep too," she said. "But we can't all be napping at
once."
"No," he murmured. "You get some sleep. I'll keep the children quiet and I'll wake you up
before I go to watch over Potter's lessons." He absently brushed his thumb over her
knuckles. She gripped his hand tightly.
"Promise?" she asked childishly. He smiled, just slightly.
"I promise, Hime," he whispered. She leaned her head on his shoulder and almost
instantly drifted off to sleep. Once he was sure she was asleep, he gently brought her
hand, which still clutched his, to his lips and kissed her fingers. "I promise, my Hime. I
wont let anyone hurt you. Orochimaru will never get you and I wont hurt you again by
joining him. I promise you that."

[staring down the stars, jealous of the moon]


The village was quiet, nearly silent but for the gentle sound of the wind whispering
through the empty streets. Snow floated on the air currents, whitening the sky but for
the dark, heavy clouds that lay obstructively across the heavens. Though the wind was
not fast, it was thick with white snow and the small party stayed very close to each other
to avoid loosing each other.
The thin, twisting rope in Harry's mouth pulled at the corners of his lips, not painfully but
rather uncomfortably. A dark, satin feeling cloth covered his eyes tightly. He could hear
the footsteps of his captors crunching very quietly over the ground. Vaguely, he noted
that their steps were far too quiet for an average adult human striding over thick snow.
The light hand on his back guided him through the paths.
"Where are we going?" he asked aloud, wishing greatly for his wand. Only his enemies
would hav the desire to rip him from the Gryffindor common room and somehow drag
him out the window and lead him away to a village, probably Hogsmead as far as he
knew. His captors did not answer him but the hand pushed a little harder, quickening his
pace.
Very abruptly, they stopped moving. The hand grasped his shoulder roughly, thin fingers
digging painfully into his skin and pressing on the muscle hidden beneath. He could hear
nothing but the whispering breath of wind and the light breathing of his captors. The
space around him grew warmer as those around him drew closer to him in a protective
guesture?
Just as he was about to fidget due to the uncomfortable silence that enveloped them, he
heard many pairs of feet striding toward them. Some sounded heavy and encumbered
and some were light and quick, like those of his captors and there was a curious sound
like someone was being dragged carelessly along the ground. Then, they stopped.
"Do you fear he will escape you?" a snake like, slippery, hissing voice asked. There was a
snide, smug tone in his voice.
"I'd rather package him up for you so your lazy minions wont have too much trouble."
His heart stopped for a moment. That voice belonged to Captain Fox. His breath caught
in his throat.
"Hand him over, Naruto-kun," the voice hissed again.
"Don't, Uzumaki, don't be an idiot." That was Dove's voice but it sounded weak,
supressed, pained. His mind was qorking overtime to try to understand what was going
on while his body froze. The hand on hisi shoulder tightened painfully again.
"Really, Naruto-kun, do remove the blindfold from dear Harry's eyes. Let's see his
expression," the voice said, almost lovingly. Nothing happened and the voice started
again. "Oh? You would dare refuse my orders when I hold the lives of two of your
comrades in my hand?" Harry shivered involuntarily as he heard the scrape of metal
agaisnt metal as a sword was drawn from a sheath. There was a brief moment of silence
and then the fabric fell from Harry's eyes.
"There, now I don't have to harm your poor, defenseless Hyuuga." Harry saw the owner
of the voice, a tall, thin, incredibly pale man with eerie golden eyes and long black hair.
The man held a sword in one hand, the tip pressed against the throat of a bloody, ragged
young man whose arms were pulled tightly behind his back by several large man who

wore half cloth masks that showed only their eyes. The pale man drew the tip up the
man's throat, over his cheekbone, to rest at the center of his forehead at the middle of a
strange tattoo design. A drop of blood slid down his face from where steel met skin. The
young man's ale eyes burned angril. Harry was so confused by everything that it barely
registered that he was looking at Dove. Dove's real face.
"How do I know I can trust you to hand my friends over?" Captain Fox asked. Harry
looked up to see the masked Anbu staring straight ahead. The pale man smirked and
pulled a tall, brown-haired woman in front of him, pressing the knife to her throat,
"You don't." The Anbu stiffened considerably. "But how do I know that you will hand
Harry over?"
"You don't," Viper growled.
"How about this, Naruto-kun. You send Harry out to the middle and we'll send Tenten out
to meet you. Once Harry is safely back on our side we'll hand Hyuuga over." The snake
kicked Neji viciously in the ribs. "He'll ake more time to move anyway. So, what do you
say?"
"I want both my teammates out in the middle, not just Tenten. You don't get a chance to
keep my friend with you," Fox bit out.
"Naruto," Slug whispered in the Captain's ear. "Neji's in really bad shape. We have to get
him back no matter what."
"I see that," he hissed, obviously frustrated, "Just give me a minute to figure out how."
"I'm truly sorry but we don't trade two things for one," Orochimaru said with mock
sincerity.
"That's the deal, bastard," Viper hissed. Harry began to panic: deal? "Harry Potter in
exchange for Hyuuga and Tenten."
"That's what your letter says right here," Slug said, taking a folded piece of parchment
from her pocket. "'In exchange for Tenten and Neji Hyuuga's lives and safe return to you.
I only ask on thing, or perhaps one person would be better. Come to Hogsmead on the
first day of the school term with Harry Potter and you will receive your teammates,
alive,'" she read.
"Who signed that letter, Sakura-chan?" Orochimaru asked in his repulsive hissing voice.
"Voldemort, your partner," she said shortly.
"Voldemort and I are not partners. So what he told you does not apply to me." Sakura
crumpled the paper in her fist, shaking. "Tenten for Harry Potter, final."
"What do want for Neji?" Naruto managed to grit out from clenched teeth.
"Damaged goods for damaged goods. I want Sasuke-kun."
"Dear Kami!" When will you leave him alone?" Sakura shouted.
"Sakura, please hush," Naruto whispered. "Give us a minute to discuss this please."

"Nothing short of suicide will get you Neji if you wont exchange," Orochimaru answered.
He kicked the downed shinobi. "Hyuuga wont be going anywhere fast." Naruto growled
and whirled around, pulling his team and Harry into a tight circle.
"What's going on?" Harry tried to demand, ending up sounding weaker than he had
intended. The shinobi ignored him.
"Alright. Come on guys, we need a plan," Naruto said.
"We need to get Neji, fast," Sakura said, "Any way we can."
"How do we do that without giving up Sasuke?" Naruto asked. The shinobi were silent.
Sasuke removed his mask and Harry stared into a pair of dark, young eyes that were
cold and determined.
"Hey, dobe, do you think you could follow my lead for once?"

[Put me by the window, let me see outside]


"Hey dobe, can you follow my lead for once?"
"Only if you have the most kick-ass plan in the history of kick-ass plans," Naruto
answered. A corner of Sasuke's mouth twitched like he was going to smile but then
thought better of it.
"I have the most kick-ass plan in the history of kick-ass plans," Sasuke answered
confidently. Naruto rocked back on his heels for a moment, looking over his teammate
with a credulous expression. Sasuke rolled his eyes. "Orochimaru wants me and we want
Hyuuga. The only way we're going to be able to do that is if we go through the exchange
"
"Stop right there," Sakura snapped. "We are not going to let you hand yourself over."
"I wasn't finished, Sakura," he said quietly. Her mouth closed as she rethough going on
with her verbal rampage. "As I was saying, we have to go through the exchange but he'll
want to send the two of us to the middle again, like he's going to do with Tenten and
Harry. If Hinata can do a very fast jutsu to get the snow to make some kind of shield, I
can grab Hyuuga and get out of there. Tenten can take Harry as far away as she can, as
fast as she can, and I doubt that a mixed bag of ninja and wizards will be able to take
the rest of you down."
The shinobi looked down, thinking over his plan. Naruto was the first to speak up again.
"That was not the most kick-ass plans in the history of kick-ass plans," he pointed out.
That got a couple chuckles from Sasuke and Sakura. Harry looked around at them,
suddenly very aware of how young Sasuke looked. He couldn't have been older than a
seventh year. He also noticed how Mouse hadn't said a word since they had gotten to
Hogsmead.

"I think that's going to be our best bet right now," Sakura said.
"Orochimaru is going to be expecting that sort of thing," Naruto pointed out. Sakura and
Sasuke sighed.
"Yes, we understand that. But this is the only thing we can do. If Neji stays with them for
much longer I'm afraid that he's not going to live," Sakura said bluntly.
"You've had more than a minute," Orochimaru's voice rang out, loud in the abandoned
streets. Naruto growled and turned, the other team members following his lead.
"Send Tenten and Neji out together and we'll send Harry and Sasuke out together,"
Naruto commanded. "We can't run the risk of Harry getting away and I doubt Neji can
stand on his own." Orochimaru's smirk widened, a knowing glimmer in his eyes.
"Fine."
Harry made a frightened noise as Sasuke's hand wrapped around his arm, pulling him
roughly to the front of the group. He watched as Orochimaru released the brown-haired
girl and she knelt down to support the man on the ground. She wrapped an arm around
his waist and helped him stand. He leaned heavily on her for support and Harry got a full
view of the damages done to his body. It looked like only fierce determination was
keeping him together.
"Do not run," Sasuke hissed in Harry's ear as Tenten and Neji started walking out
towards the middle. The shinobi pulled on Harry's arm to get him moving. Harry gulped.
The walk to the center of the two groups seemed to take eternity. The two from
Orochimaru's side couldn't walk very quickly at all and Sasuke made sure that he, and
Harry by extension, matched their speed, meeting at the very center. They faced each
other and Harry found himself looking in to a pair of fierce pearl eyes. Sasuke raised his
free hand and Tenten mirrored his movement. They clasped hands loudly between them
and then, as if it was a signal, snow lashed around them in an anger swirl, completely
covering them from sight.
Harry felt Sasuke's hand leave his arm and panicked for a moment, until smaller, thinner
hands grabbed him under his arms and hauled him off his feet on to someone's back. He
assumed he was with Tenten at that moment. There were sounds of fighting as the two
sides met each other and fought, struggling to determine friend from foe in the chakra
infused snow storm. Then Harry felt like he was flying.
Once he and Tenten were out of the snow storm he looked back but he couldn't see
anything but impenetrable whiteness. Tenten was running over the snow, barely even
making a mark in it as she seemed to fly over it. Her breath was coming in ragged gasps
and Harry was vaguely aware of how bony her shoulders were as he clutched her for
dear life. After nearly ten minutes, or so Harry guessed, they stopped. They were very
close to Hogwarts but Tenten fell to her knees and shrugged her burden off. She gave
Harry a weak smile.
"I'm sorry," she said. His eyebrows furrowed as he waited for an explanation. "I want you
to know that Naruto never intended to give you over. It was his plan all along to keep
you from harm." Harry snorted, despite being safely away from the original danger, he
felt betrayed.

"If you really meant for me to be safe you wouldn't have even thought about handing me
over in the first place," he snapped. Tenten heaved a great sigh and looked up to the
dark sky, as if begging heaven for patience. She said nothing more but sat in the wet
snow. Her cheeks were flushed red from running and her brown hair was loose around
her shoulders, a few strands sticking to her sweaty face.
"Tenten!" Sasuke's voice resounded over the flat, snow covered field they had stopped
in. Harry turned in time to see the dark haired man coming up towards them, supporting
Neji. The Hyuuga was limp and breathing hard. Harry had to force himself to look at his
face instead of the nasty wounds that covered him.
"Sasuke!" Tenten answered. She was on her feet in a second, rushing over to him. She
stood in front of Neji, wrapping her arms around him so he could fall into her waiting
embrace. Tears rolled down her face as she supported him. She helped him over to
where Harry was, a process that took a fair minute or so. "Where do you hurt?" she
asked as she helped him settle to the ground, He let out a ragged breath.
"Everywhere, actually," he rasped. Tenten gave a quiet moan as if she were the one in
pain. Harry looked at him and was afforded a great view of the gruesome wound where
his Anbu tattoo had once been. Harry felt bile rising in his throat.
"Sakura should be meeting us here, as soon as she can get rid of Orochimaru's people,"
Sasuke said quietly. He was gazing at Neji with blank eyes but his mouth was turned
down in a serious frown. Neji nodded absently and for a few minutes the only sound was
his labored breathing.
"Tenten! Sasuke!" They turned toward this new voice. Sakura ran towards them, her
mask gone from her face and hanging from her belt. She was waving as she approached
them. Naruto and Hinata were nowhere to be seen. "Naruto and Hinata are holding them
off for now. We have to get to Hogwarts!" she shouted as she neared them. Tenten and
Sasuke were up in a second. Sasuke grabbed Harry and threw him on his back.
"Hold on," he growled as he and Tenten took off. Harry looked back to see Sakura lift
Neji bodily on to her back. She seemed to be saying something to him as she pressed a
glowing hand to his chest briefly. Then they were flying again.
Harry buried his face in Sasuke's neck. The shinobi said nothing as they ran toward
Hogwarts. They were very nearly there already. He knew if he looked back he would be
able to see the other three but he had no desire to get whipped in the face by the snow
laden wind.
The clock was just striking two a.m. when they stumbled in to Hogwart's lobby. Everyone
was asleep but they couldn't stop the huge double doors from slamming in their wake.
The shinobi winced at the sound. No doubt the teachers would come running soon. Harry
was dropped to the ground and fell to his rear as his legs gave out from underneath him.
His head was spinning.
Neji was leaning against a wall beside the door when Harry looked over to see him.
Tenten sat beside him, one hand laced with his as she murmured something in his ear.
His eyes were closed. Sakura was nearly sitting on his lap as she parted shredded cloth
from his chest. Blood and skin came away with the ratty strips and Harry looked away
quickly, disgust welling up inside of him as he saw long gouges in the guard's flesh.
Sakura's hands glowed green as she pressed her fingers into different wounds, stopping
blood from flowing out of them. Neji's face was twisted in pain.

The doors parted again and Naruto and Hinata fell through them, shoving them closed
quickly behind them. Harry heard shouts and screams from outside, like banshees crying
after an escaped victim. Naruto's mask was completely gone and Hinata's was shoved
halfway in one of her bags. They leaned against the door, breathing hard. Hinata turned
so her back was against it and slid down to the floor, her legs sticking straight out in
front of her. That is, until she saw Neji.
"Nii-san!" she said. She clambered over to him and grabbed his free hand, pulling it to
her chest and clutching it there in a substitute hug. He gave her a weak smile.
"Hinata-sama, you haven't been sleeping," he observed. Hinata gave a light laugh and
wiped tears from her cheeks. She kissed his cheek and choked back another sob.
"You might not want to watch, Hinata," Sakura said after a moment, shooing Hinata
away with a wave of her hand as she rolled back another bit of cloth. Harry could hear
skin tearing with it. Hinata pressed a hand over her mouth but didn't let go of Neji's
hand.
"Let me help," she said. Neji pulled his hand away.
"No," he said, sounding commanding even though he was weak. "I don't want you to
see. It wouldn't be right," he said. He gave her a small smile. She sniffed but let go of his
hand reluctantly. He waved her away and she backed off, turning around to go be with
Naruto again. There were tears openly streaming down her face.
"Captain Fox!" Dumbledore's booming voice called. They looked up to see the old
headmaster walking swiftly down the stairs, bearing a lit wand and followed by
McGonagall and Snape. All three wore expressions of shock.
"Yes, Dumbledore-sama?" Naruto asked cheekily. He didn't bother picking himself up off
the floor. He was busily picking at a long cut on his forearm.
"What is going on here? Why is Harry out of bed? What happened?" the headmaster
demanded. Naruto shrugged.
"We had a bit of a tiff with Orochimaru and it went badly. Don't worry about it though,
we're all safe and fine."
"Dove does not look fine," McGonagall said stiffly. Sakura turned to face her, untangling
herself from the blood mess of cloth that was beginning to accumulate around Dove.
"We don't have time to discuss what happened right now. Dumbledore-sama, could you
please wake Madame Pomfrey? I will need her help," Sakura said. She kept herself
largely in front of Neji, hiding him from the teacher's prying eyes. Tenten had moved
herself as well, covering what she could of her teammate.
"Why is Potter here?" Snape demanded.
"We'll fill you in on the details later," Naruto said cheerfully, waving to the teachers
before vanishing into a puff of smoke. Tenten and Sakura each pressed a hand to Neji's
and the three of them disappeared. Sakura and Sasuke followed soon afterward. All that
was left was a puddle of blood where Neji had been.
[I got my own brand of company]

Madame Pomfrey had forced everyone but Sakura out of the room once Sakura and Neji
had arrived and had set about the task of trying coax Neji out of his clothes. The anbu
just gave her a blankly tired look before shrugging his shoulders as if to tell her that the
clothes were her problem. Madame Pomfrey would have turned thirteen shades of red if
she hadn't been in a mental state of emergency. Sakura was pulling the curtains closed
around Neji's bed when Madame Pomfrey gave a short shriek as she pulled away at Neji's
tattered shirt. Sakura was by her side in a second with a hand over her mouth.
"Please tell me you have something that can put him to sleep," Sakura said quietly as
she released the older woman. Neji gave her a helpless look. "No buts, Neji. I can feel
them coming. You are going to sleep and you are going to stay here."
Madame Pomfrey bustled back over with a steaming cup of tea laden with some kind of
sleeping drug. She handed it off to Sakura who held it in her hands with a threatening
look as she stood over Neji.
"Are you going to drink this properly or am I going to have to force it down your throat?"
she asked. He rolled his eyes tiredly and lay back on the pillows.
"You don't have to threaten me all the time, Sakura," he pointed out. She huffed and
helped him drink the concoction, catching a few drops that managed to bypass his
mouth. He was asleep in minutes after finishing it and Sakura looked at his sleeping face,
peaceful for once in his life. Then she turned on Madame Pomfrey.
"Help me get rid of his shirt."

[Shame on me and my man-eating game]


Naruto, Sasuke, and Hinata gathered in Dumbledore's office within minutes of getting
into Hogwarts. They had only given themselves enough time to clean up briefly and put
their disguises back into place. Tenten had insisted that she be allowed to attend with
them but Naruto had told her repeatedly that she had to sleep. She had returned
grumpily to her bedroom, mumbling mindless threats and plans for revenge. A few
impatient mental notes to visit Neji peppered her death speeches. Of course, Naruto had
just thought she was hilarious.
Now the three ninja stood in Dumbledore's office in front of his desk, surrounded on all
sides by teachers who were up and looking around nevously. Only a few sat in the motley
group of chairs provided for them. Dumbledore was sitting himself but his hands twitched
every once in a while and his muscles were tense.
"Captain Fox, I will not waste any words in getting to the point. Why were your team out
in the middle of the night with one of my students and would you also kindly explain why
one of your team is currently in the infirmary with near-fatal injuries?" The headmaster
leaned over his desk with his fingertips pressed together in front of his face. His blue
eyes weren't as kind as they had seen them before and his lips were turned down in a
frown.

"Well you see, Dumbledore-sama, we had a little issue with Voldemort and it got out of
hand and we had to do something about it " Naruto started in a kind of bumbling way.
He chuckled nervously and rubbed the back of his head. "I I guess I may as well just
tell you everything from the beginning, ne?"
"That would be nice," Dumbledore answered with a kind of vaguely sarcastic tone. Naruto
took a deep breath.
"When we found out about Mr. Weasley's condition and the dream that Harry had, I sent
out two from my team, Neji and Tenten, to infiltrate Voldemort's lair. They were
successful upon entry but after about a day they were discovered and taken hostage.
Both were tortured for information, Neji more so than Tenten, but they didn't say
anything. Voldemort sent us a letter demanding Harry Potter in return for our teammates
and since there didn't seem to be any other conceivable way to get them back we
agreed kind of."
"You agreed to hand over Harry for your teammates?" McGonagall half-shrieked. "You're
supposed to be protecting him, not giving him over to our enemies!"
"I said that we kind of agreed, Professor," Naruto said as if speaking to a very young
child. "We never intended to hand Harry over. We've dealt with our fair share of hostage
exchanges before so we decided to just double-cross Voldemort. Unfortunately a rouge
ninja from our county has teamed up with Voldemort and there was a big to-do over
when to get them back and who to get back for who. In the end we just grabbed Harry
and our teammates and ran for it and here we are!" Naruto spread his hands wide in a
motion to his teammates in the room.
"I can't fault you for handing him over since you didn't," Professor Dumbledore said
slowly, "But we have put a large amount of trust in you by letting you do what you will to
protect Harry however you see fit. However, next time you think that you have to
pretend to hand him over to the enemy, or anything that could be at all deadly for him,
do tell us."
"Hai, Dumbledore-sama," Naruto said, giving the professor a little before before making
for the door.
"Captain Fox, I don't believe I said you were dismissed yet," Dumbledore said. Naruto
turned on his heel with a tight smile on his face.
"Right, my bad."
"What is the current state of your absent teammates?" Dumbledore asked
conversationally.
Naruto shrugged. "I'm pretty sure Tenten's just shaken up, Sakura's looking after Neji,
and I'm not sure about Neji until Sakura tells me."
"Very well. You are dismissed."
Naruto, Sasuke, and Hinata left the room quickly, darting down the hall toward the
infirmary. When they reached the door, they stood outside for a moment, listening for
any sound that may warn them against going in. The sun was starting to rise outside the
school and children would be up soon.
"Ne, Sakura?" Naruto called as he stuck his head in.

"Hush!" Sakura's whisper came from behind a curtain. She stuck her head out and made
a quick motion for them to come in and put a finger to her lips in a sign to be quiet. The
three made their way into the infirmary with silent steps.
"How's Neji?" Naruto whispered. Sakura gave him an almost helpless look.
"There's only so much we can do. I'm starting to think that we may have to contact
Tsunade, she'd be able to help him. Madame Pomfrey's magic is doing some of the things
that I can't but there's still so much that isn't working," she whispered back. Hinata
clasped a hand over her mouth as her eyes widened. There was fear in her innocent face.
"Can we see him or is he off limits for now?" Naruto asked. Sakura glanced back over her
shoulder. Neji was hidden by the thick curtain around the bed and Madame Pomfrey was
bustling around him, trying to figure out exactly everything that was wrong. The older
woman had an ongoing list floating in the air by her head as she listed things out loud.
"He's asleep right now and I don't know how Madame Pomfrey will take to you being
around. When we let him wake up I'll send a summon to get you, alright?" The three
ninja nodded and Naruto and Sasuke headed for the door. They glanced back when they
realized that Hinata had not followed them.
"Sakura, please may I see him now?" she asked softly.
Sakura bit her lip. "I'm not sure if you should. He's in bad shape, Hinata, and I don't
know if you should see him now."
"Please?" she pleaded. Sakura glanced back at Neji and then at Hinata's face. She sighed
and pushed the curtain back just enough for Hinata to get in but not for Naruto and
Sasuke to see their teammate.
Hinata knelt beside her cousin's bed taking in his pale face and gruesome torture
wounds. She tried to hold back the tears gathering in her eyes but couldn't. Silent tears
slid down her cheeks as she brushed a few strands of her cousin's hair away from his
face. His breathing was harsh but even in the drug-induced sleep. Madame Pomfrey and
Sakura ducked out of the space to let the cousins have some privacy. Hinata clenched a
fist in the blankets that covered her cousin from the waist down.
"I'll make sure that this never happens to you again," she whispered. "I don't care if you
think that you should always be the one protecting me. I can protect you too. Just you
wait. You'll get better and I'll make Orochimaru pay for what he did." She stood and
leaned over, kissing Neji gently on his forehead, right at the center of his curse mark.
She pushed the curtain back and walked back over to where Naruto and Sasuke were
waiting for her. She wiped tears from her eyes and sniffed as they left the room.
"Are they related?" Madame Pomfrey asked tentatively.
Sakura gave her a small smile. "Yeah, they're cousins but more like siblings." She looked
over at the door Hinata had gone out of and sighed. "And Hinata's too damn sweet to
handle some of the stuff that we go through." She pursed her lips and carefully cut the
awkward stitches holding Neji's Anbu tatoo in reverse. Her nose wrinkled as she started
pulling it away very gently.
"He needs to go to the hospital, not stay here," Madame Pomfrey said quietly. Sakura
sighed and examined the wax filled hole.

"I know but I don't know if he should go to a wizard hospital or if he should go back to
our village where our specialists can help him," she murmured. She set her tools down
on the table beside the bed. "I am going to contact my Hokage. She'll know what to do."
[Please, good missus, a soul cake]
Tsunade lounged at her desk, leaning her chair back on its back two legs while propping
her feet up on her desk. She was completely unconcerned with the paperwork littering
her work space and was busily staring out the window. The day was very nice, the sky
was clear except for a few billowy white clouds. Genin were out in force today, doing any
odd jobs they could for 'ninja experience'. She was just settling down to her third cup of
sake when the communication device on her desk started buzzing. She snatched it up.
There was only one team on a long term mission right now, the one team she hadn't
heard from in months.
"Yes?" she answered.
Sakura's voice came back to her, crackly and tiny because of the interference over the
long distance. "Tsunade-sama, we have a bit of an issue," she said.
"What?" Tsunade demanded.
"Orochimaru is here and he got a hold of Neji and Tenten. We have them back but Neji
isn't looking good at all. He has extensive injuries and I don't whether to send him to the
wizard hospital here or send him home. And if you want me to send him I have no way of
getting him there without hurting him more"
"How bad is it?' Tsunade was no longer relaxing at her desk. She sat on the edge of her
chair, on hand gripping her desk, white knuckled, and the other clutching the
communicator like it was a life line.
"The resident nurse in the school is having to help me with his injuries. I can take care of
them by myself. That's how bad it is," Sakura said. She sounded weary now that
Tsunade really listened to her voice. "As soon as we got him in here we had to put him to
sleep."
"Don't do anything besides what is necessary. Shizune and I are going to be there by
tomorrow." Tsunade held the communicator away from her ear, calling to the Anbu
stationed outside of her office. "Akira, get your ass moving and find Shizune! Tell her I
need her urgently!"
"Hai, Tsunade-sama! Right away, Tsunade-sama!" a muffled voice came back as the
Inuzuka nin bolted from his position by the door. Tsunade put the communicator back to
her ear just in time to hear Sakura's rant.
"Tsunade-sama, you can't come down here. Who's going to be in charge while you're
gone. Stay where you are and just send Shizune. She can help me figure out where to
move him "
"Haruno Sakura, are you trying to order your Hokage around?" Tsunade asked. Sakura
fell silent instantly. "Good. That's better. I'm coming there whether you like it or not. I
am not loosing one of my best shinobi because of Orochimaru. Don't you dare worry
about who is going to be in charge while I am gone. I'll handle what I know and you
handle what you know, got it?"

" Hai, Tsunade-sama" Sakura said reluctantly.


"Good girl. Tell Naruto that I'm coming and I expect a full report of everything that's
happened. Make sure that everything is in that report. Make sure that you inform
Dumbledore that I'm going to be there and exactly why I am going to be there. Don't
move Neji or do anything other than what is necessary. Try not to let anything wrong
heal that way. It's going to take me at least a day to get there. Shizune and I will have
to get everything together, find a way to get there, etcetera, etcetera. Just hold tight
until we get there."
"Hai, Tsunade-sama."
"Tsunade-sama!" Shizune exclaimed as she burst in the door, Akira standing behind her
with his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. "What's wrong?"
"Pack your medical bag, we have a long trip ahead of us," Tsunade said. "Oh, and gather
our best Anbu. We're bringing an injured shinobi home and I have to leave back up in his
place." She put the communicator back up to her mouth. "Did you hear that, Sakura?"
"Hai. Do you want me to tell that to Naruto and Dumbledore-sama?" she asked.
"Why not? See you tomorrow," Tsunade said. Before Sakura could say goodbye, she
terminated the connection and swiveled in her chair. "Shizune! Why are you still here?
We have a mission to go on!" she shouted. She gave her assistant a broad wink as
Shizune rushed out of the room. Once the younger medic nin was gone Tsunade sank
back into her chair. She heaved a sigh and looked back out the window.
"Why did I know that this was going to go all wrong?" She tapped her ink brush on her
lips. "Why do these kids always get in trouble? Am I just getting old?" She sighed again
and quickly pulled out a scroll and started making a list of everything she need in case
she had to take care of Neji without moving him.
[Tired of working in the coffin factory]
"Yamanaka-san, Hyuuga-san, Nara-san, and Inuzuka-san, urgent mission, let's go!"
Shizune shouted into the courtyard filled with Anbu. The Anbu had a separate compound
to live in if they so chose, which many of them did. Anbu were in and out of the village so
often they usually didn't have enough time to keep up a house or even an apartment.
The four shinobi in question were all in a little training area of their own, two in the
middle sparring against each other while the other two relaxed on the sidelines, watching
and making comments every once in a while. At Shizune's call, they looked up.
"Heh, guess you're not going to beat me today, Hanabi-chan!" Kiba said, smacking his
younger teammate heartily on the back. She kicked him in the shins in return. "Itai!
Vicious woman!"
"Just to be clear, you didn't beat me either!" she announced.
"Can you two cut it out just for a moment?" Ino asked with a yawn as she stretched,
catlike, and ran a hand through her long hair. She flashed Shizune a peace sign. "What's
with the emergency? Are we going somewhere fun?"
"Urgent missions don't tend to be fun, Ino," Shikamaru drawled. Ino stuck out her
tongue at him.

Shizune sighed. She had no idea what Tsunade was thinking when she put the four of
them on a team together. Shikamaru, Ino, and Kiba had been a team for several years
but Hanabi was a first year Anbu and needed an experienced team to wander with. The
previous fourth member of Shikamaru's team had retired a few months earlier so they
got the Hyuuga handful as a 'gift' as Tsunade called her.
"I don't know where we're going, actually" Shizune said. "Tsunade didn't tell me
anything other than we would be moving an injured shinobi from his post and leaving a
new one in his place. But she did tell me to get a team so maybe she intends to leave a
whole team there"
"Awesome!" Hanabi said, punching the air with her fist. Her bright white eyes flashed as
she gave Shizune a bright grin and a peace sign like Ino had done. "I'm ready when you
guys are!"
"Hanabi," Shikamaru started slowly, "Aren't you forgetting something important? Like
armour and weapons and maybe your mask?"
Hanabi looked around for a moment, as if searching to see if said important things were
within easy reach. Not spotting them anywhere, she gave Shikamaru a rueful smile and
rubbed the back of her head. "Hey! None of you guys have your stuff either!" she pointed
out.
"We didn't say we were ready," Ino said, examining her nails. "Come on, if it's urgent,
Tsunade will have our hides if we take too long."
"We're not leaving until tomorrow because Tsunade and I have to get some things
together and she mentioned figuring out how to get to our destination. I don't know what
that means but you may want to report to the Hokage first before getting anything that
you think you need," Shizune said.
"Hai, Shizune-san!" Ino chirped. "Let's go, guys!" she said.
"I thought Shikamaru was captain," Kiba muttered. Ino raised a threatening fist and he
decided that it would be better to hide behind the captain in question. Shikamaru sighed.
"Let's just hurry up and get to Tsunade-sama's office," he said. With that, the team
members raised two fingers in a sign and vanished without a puff of smoke. Smoke was
a jounin thing that people in Anbu quickly learned to get rid of. A puff of smoke could
mean life or death on a mission. They appeared in Tsunade's office where she was pulling
books and scrolls of her shelves.
"Um Tsunade-sama?" Ino questioned. The Hokage turned around and looked them
over. She sighed.
"Of course Shizune would get me you," she said absently. "Hanabi is going to have to
stay here. I doubt she will be able to handle this mission," she said after a few minutes.
Hanabi looked affronted. "I can handle anything my sempai can!" she stated. "All we're
doing it getting an injured shinobi, right? I can handle that! I'll be careful!"
"Really?" Tsunade said quietly. Hanabi narrowed her white eyes. She put her hands on
her hips and tried to look determined. Tsunade stopped what she was doing and looked
the young Hyuuga over. She raised an eyebrow.

"Who's the shinobi?" Ino asked. Tsunade didn't look at Ino. Her gaze never wavered from
Hanabi's indignant eyes.
"Can you handle a mission where you have get an injured shinobi who might die on the
way back to Konaha?" she asked.
"Hai," Hanabi answered confidently.
"Can you handle a mission where you might know this shinobi who may die on their way
back to Konaha?" she asked, her eyes narrowing. Hanabi paused for a moment, as if
trying to figure out where this was going.
"Hai," she said.
"Can you handle a mission where you have to get your cousin Neji who may die on his
way back to Konaha?"
Hanabi's eyes widened.

[Where is your heart]


Sakura had left Neji in Madame Pomfrey's capable care, after telling the witch exactly
what orders Tsunade had given her pertaining to Neji. Then she had left, telling the witch
only that she had news to deliver to her captain and Professor Dumbledore.
Unfortunately, by that time everyone was awake and in the Great Hall eating breakfast
so she stood outside of the door, her arms crossed over her chest as she waited for her
captain to show up. He did not disappoint. Just moments after morning announcements
he and the rest of her team appeared. Tenten pounced on her.
"Is Neji okay? Is he going to die? Tell me!" Tenten grabbed Sakura's collar and was
shaking the pink-haired kunoichi so hard that Sakura felt like her head might be shaken
right off her shoulders.
"Tenten," Hinata said quietly, laying a hand on the kunoichi's shoulder. Tenten seemed to
realize what she was doing and released the other woman.
"I called Tsunade," Sakura started, rubbing her neck. Her teammates' expressions varied
from concerned to blankly interested. "She's coming down with a backup Anbu team.
She's going to go over the extent of Neji's injuries and then she's going to take him back
to Konaha if she can."
"So that means he's going to die," Tenten said in a strangely harsh voice. Sakura raised
an eyebrow.
"If Tsunade doesn't get here by tomorrow, which she said she would. Naruto, Tsunade
said that she wanted a full report of everything, don't give me that look, she
saideverything has to be in that report." Naruto had gone very white.

"She's going to be here tomorrow?" Hinata asked for confirmation. Sakura nodded
slightly. Naruto collapsed against Hinata, weeping fake tears.
"My fate has been sealed!" he cried. "Tsunde is going to kill me once she get's here!"
"I'll help you with the report, Naruto-kun," Hinata said sweetly. He looked up at her with
an expression akin to something like a worshipper looking upon their god. She blushed
crimson.
"Really?" he squeaked out.
"Hai," she murmured. Sasuke, Sakura, and Tenten rolled their eyes. It was like they
were back in the Academy again.
"Is that all Tsunade had to say?" Sasuke asked, completely ignoring their captain.
"That's everything except that she wanted me to tell Dumbledore that she was coming as
well." Naruto seemed to have developed a twitch.
"Please tell me that I'm not the one who has to tell him about this?" Naruto said.
"Well I suppose I could if you don't want to," Sakura said hesitantly. Naruto gave a sort
of whoop of joy and pounced on her, hugging her tightly as if she had just told him that
he had won the lottery.
"Thank you, Sakura-chan!" he shouted. She clasped a hand over his mouth and shoved
him off of her. She straightened her clothes once he was in a pile of joyful shinobi on the
ground. Hinata giggled.
"You should go get started on that report. Tsunade may be here early in the morning,"
Sakura said. Naruto jolted up from his seat on the ground and grabbed Hinata's hand.
"She's right! Off to write a report! Come on, Hinata-chan!" he announced. He dragged
the Hyuuga heiress away by her hand, completely oblivious to the massive blush across
her cheeks. She squeaked a little bit when he suddenly took off into a run without
warning. Then they were gone.
"When are you doing to tell Dumbledore?" Sasuke asked Sakura quietly once the loud
mouth was gone.
"As soon as breakfast is over," she answered just as softly. "Is Harry in there?"
Sasuke looked around the corner at the Gryffindor table, giving it a quick scan. "Yes. He's
between Ron and Hermione as usual. From the looks of things he hasn't told them what
happened yet but I'm sure he will eventually."
"He's going to warn them not to trust us again," Sakura said, looking up at the ceiling.
Her chakra was low and it was making it very difficult for her to keep up her genjutsu.
Sasuke frowned. "You should get some sleep," he observed.
"I will once I have told Dumbledore what Tsunade told me to tell him." She smiled gently
at the concerned expression on his face. "I promise. You can even tuck me in if you want
to make sure that I'm in bed," she said teasingly.

He wrinkled his nose at her playful tone. "This is serious, Sakura. If you don't get enough
sleep you wont be able to keep up your genjutsu and "
"You're preaching to the choir," she interrupted. "I'm a medic nin, remember? I know all
about sleep and chakra exhaustion. I'm not going to run myself into the ground. I'll
sleep, I promise." He sighed but didn't say anything else. They lasped into silence,
leaning against the wall while they listened to the chatter from the Great Hall. They
heard several snatches of conversation but they were nothing important, mostly about
who was dating who and where someone was the night before.
They stood there in silence, waiting for the children to filter out from breakfast so they
could discretely go talk to Dumbledore. Children went in and out, in huddles with their
best friends. They cast curious glances at Sakura and Sasuke whenever they went by but
those gazes never lingered for long. They knew the guards' faces well by now. After
waiting for the better part of an hour Sasuke deemed it empty enough for them to go in.
There were still a few students cramming last minutes breakfast items into their mouths,
even a few darting in for a slice of bread before class. Dumbledore sat at his seat at the
head of the hall, eating slowly and looking at his food like there was a puzzle etched in
his eggs. Harry and his friends were nowhere to be seen.
"Dumbledore-sama," Sakura said as she approached, announcing her presence. He
looked up and gave her that old, wise smile. She found it rather disconcerting. She gave
him a small bow as she got in front of the table.
"Yes, what can I do for you?" he asked.
"I contacted my Hokage about an hour ago to discuss the state of my teammate. She
ordered me to inform you that she, her assistant, and a handful of backup shinobi are on
their way here to take Dove back to Konaha. She also told me that she would be leaving
a shinobi in his place so you still get the same number of shinobi you paid for."
Dumbledore nodded. "And when should we be expecting this group?"
"Tomorrow at the latest. I don't know how fast she will be able to get everyone together.
She's also unsure of whether she will have to do preliminary medical work here before
moving him. It all depends on his state when she gets here."
"So I assume that means that he may not make it if he stays under the care at
Hogwarts," Dumbledore stated. Sakura's lips tightened into a thin line but she nodded
none the less.
"His condition is" She took a deep breath, "Disheartening. The only one who can heal
him well enough for him to continue his life as a shinobi is Tsunade-sama."
"Very well. Rooms will be prepared in the event that Tsunade-sama and her team have
to stay overnight or for a few days. I have no control over what students go into the
Infirmary as that is determined by when someone is injured." He gave Sakura a smile
that she assumed was supposed to be comforting. She bit her lip.
"Arigato, Dumbledore-sama," she said, bowing again. With that, she decided that she
had had enough talk and turned on her heel, walking away with Sasuke close behind her.
If she had looked back she would have seen Dumbledore watching her with a curious
expression on his face, his thin hands clasped together in front of his face. He watched
them until they turned a corner outside of the Great Hall and vanished.

Sakura sighed and popped her back as she walked. "Well, that went better than
expected," she observed.
"What were you expecting?" Sasuke asked, not that he was actually curious.
She shrugged. "I don't know. More confrontation. More questions. Something along those
lines. He's just too curious for his own good."
Sasuke hummed a quiet note of agreement. They walked in companionable silence back
to the Gryffindor common room where they were sure Naruto was trying his hardest to
remember everything that had happened since he had last had contact with Tsunade.
That was where they found him with an ink brush in his hand, scribbling away furiously
while Hinata leaned back in her chair, staring at the ceiling, narrating everything that she
could remember.
"Mou! Hinata-chan, my hand hurts!" Naruto complained. He dropped the ink brush and
held his right hand by the wrist, shaking it to let the heiress see his hand flop about like
a dead fish. Hinata giggled quietly into her sleeve.
"Naruto-kun," she said quietly, "You have to write the report as quickly as possible and
Tsunade-sama said that you have to write it so I can't write it for you." Naruto groaned
and let his forehead fall onto the table, meeting wood with a hard thwack. Hinata giggled
again.
"Naruto! What are you doing?" Sakura asked. He raised his head just enough to give her
the most pitiful puppy dog eyes he could conjure. He gave a little sigh and put his head
back down on the table.
"It's no use, Sakura-chan. Tsunade is just going to kill me for something else whever she
gets here. If I do finish the report, she'll kill me for something in it," he moaned. Sakura
growled and wacked his head with her fist. "Itai! Sakura-chan is so mean!" Naruto took
his ink brush back up and looked forlornly at Hinata for her start telling him what to write
again.
Sakura curled up on a couch near the fire, watching the flames absently. She knew she
really should be getting back to Neji and Madame Pomfrey but she needed a moment for
herself. She folded her arms on the arm of the couch and rested her chin on them. She
shifted slightly when Sasuke sat silently beside her. She sat there for several minutes
until she heard the quiet steps and barely audible clink of metal that announced Tenten's
presence.
"Naruto," she said, sitting at the table where he was working. He didn't look up from his
writing as he tried to finish the sentence Hinata had just given him. Once he was done he
looked at her expectantly.
"Yeah?" he prompted.
"Naruto, if Tsunade-sama ends up moving Neji back to Konaha" she drifted off for a
second. "I I want to go with him."
"What?" Naruto shouted. He stood suddenly and knocked his chair over backwards.
"Tenten, you can't leave! Tsunde'll have a fit if she has to replace two shinobi and what if
we don't know them? We need you on the team!"
"Neji needs me more," she said quietly. Naruto fell silent.

"Tenten-san, are you sure?" Hinata asked quietly.


The weapons mistress crossed her arms over her chest and nodded resolutely. "I don't
think Tsunade-sama will make me stay if I want to go with Neji and I also don't think
that she'd bring a replacement for Neji that we don't know. She's not an idiot, Naruto."
Naruto made a face at her. "If Neji goes then I go. I'm not going to let him be alone back
at Konaha. I'm sure if I didn't say I wanted to go, Hinata would end up going back with
him." Hinata looked at the ground when Naruto glanced her way in an almost accusatory
manner.
"Can you just wait to decide until Tsunade gets here?" Naruto asked after a few
moments' pause. Tenten frowned and jammed her hands in her pockets.
"Why?" she demanded.
"We'll be able to see who Tsunade brought with her and if she thinks it's okay for you to
leave with Neji. She is the Hokage and what she says goes." He gave Tenten a small,
apologetic grin. "And if she says you can't go back to Konoha, I'm going to have to agree
with her."
Tenten wrinkled her nose and her frown deepened. An almost uncomfortable pause
stretched between the two shinobi. "Fine." She turned toward the portrait hole and
pushed it open, stepping out into the hallway and vanishing.
"She's probably going to go see Nii-san," Hinata said after a moment.
Naruto stretched. "That was weird," he observed. "Tenten normally isn't that demanding.
I guess she's really worked up about Neji's condition."
"Why wouldn't she be?" Sakura asked. "Neji might die, Naruto, and you know how close
she is to Neji."
"She is?" Naruto gave her the I'm-Completely-Clueless face. Sakura made a noise
somewhere between a sigh and a growl and stood up, dusting imaginary dirt from her
pants.
"Neji and Tenten have been close ever since they were genin, Naruto," she said, raising
an eyebrow. "I'm almost absolutely sure that they will make an announcement that they
are courting very soon if Neji survives that is."
Naruto leaned back in his chair. "Jeez, Sakura, way to be a downer." He flashed her a
peace sign. "I don't believe for once second that Neji is going to die. He might give us a
scare but he's come back so many times from near-death experiences. I think he might
be a cat, you know, nine lives and all that." He grinned at her.
"You're really oblivious sometimes, you know that, Naruto?" Sakura said as she walked
toward the portrait door. He raised a questioning eyebrow. "If Tenten's this upset, how
do you think Hinata feels? He's her cousin." Naruto looked surprised and glanced to the
woman at his side. She looked at the ground, hiding her face with her hair.
"Well, I knew that!" he said loudly.
Sakura shook her head. "Sometimes it's better to be quiet and listen than to be loud and
make yourself heard."

[I don't really feel you]


Tsunade made a face as she made her way to her seat on the airplane. She really
couldn't understand why they had to take this sort of thing. Thankfully she was able to
figure out a way to use chakra to mask the metal of the weapons that her team carried.
She was sure that if they had seen how much stuff was packed on to any one person that
she was with they would be arrested for sure. As it was, they had been delayed by more
than half an hour because of the suspicion over the very interesting array of other items
they carried.
"Shikamaru-san, Shikamaru-san! Isn't this fun? I've never been on an airplane!" Hanabi
said as she repeatedly poked her captain. He had the joy of sitting beside her for the
entirety of their trip.
"Hanabi, if you don't stop poking Shika and bothering me, I will snap your hand off at the
wrist," Ino snapped. Hanabi glared at her but sat back in her seat with her arms crossed.
Anbu or not, she was still just a sixteen year old girl on an airplane for the first time.
"Jeez, Ino, you don't have to be so mean," Kiba muttered. Ino gave him her best death
glare. He whimpered and hunkered down in his seat, pulling a sleeping mask over his
eyes.
"Will you three be quiet?" Tsunade snapped. Her Anbu fell silent immediately. She
growled and ran a hand through her hair. Sometimes she forgot just how childish the
second Anbu squad could be. She felt that she would never figure out how they had
made it so close to the top.
"Tsunade-sama," Shizune said quietly. "How long are we going to be on this plane?" she
asked, her nervousness showing.
"Fourteen hours so I suggest you get some sleep," Tsunade answered. The cramped
compartments and endless dangers of airplanes made her want to rip her hair out. Why
had this been the fastest way to get there? At least she hadn't sent the first Anbu team
on a plane. Naruto was already hyper enough without ending up in a small space with his
favorite bothering targets.
Kiba started snoring and Ino gave him a disbelieving stare before she too shifted to get
comfortable as could be expected and drifted off to sleep. A positve thing about being a
shinobi was learning how to get whatever amount of sleep you could get whenever you
could get it. Hanabi seemed to have completely ignored those learning opportunities. She
bounced in her seat so much Shikamaru eventually demanded that she move to the
window so she could amuse herself by staring out of it.
Tsunade relaxed as much as she could in her seat and passed the time by making
designs in the pattern of the fabric of the seat in front of her and going over the list of
her medical equipment over and over again. Shizune and Hanabi eventually fell asleep.
Shikamaru was out as soon as he had relocated Hanabi to the window but Tsunade
couldn't sleep. Her mind raced with all sorts of different things that could be wrong with
one of her best Anbu.
What if he died while he was still at Hogwarts? What would that do to Hanabi and Hinata?
How would Hiashi act? Would Tenten remain in Anbu? What if he died on the way to
Konaha? If that happened, the mission would have been for nothing. Tenten would leave
the mission, Sakura would feel that it was all her fault, Hinata would leave the mission,
Hanabi would be in a shambles, and Hiashi would be out for blood.

She let out a long sigh as she took up her pattern making game again, finding a smilie
face in the red thread in the chair.
"Tsunade-sama?" a whisper came from across the aisle. Tsunade looked up, surprised to
see that Hanabi had climbed out of her seat, over Shikamaru, and up to her without
anyone noticing. The younger kunoichi was looking at her with a determined expression.
"Tsunade-sama, if you have to take Nii-san away, please leave me in his place," she said.
"Why would I do that?" Tsunade asked, a brief shot of annoyance going to her head
before she calmed by reminding herself that Hanabi just wanted to prove herself.
"Nii-san is a Hyuuga and his Byakugan is first class. He trained me personally in the use
of my Byakugan and in my Juuken. I was the only one in the compound other than Tousan who was able to beat him even though I just barely won and we were only using
Juuken. In terms of ability and the similarities between our styles, I thought that I might
be the best replacement for him," she said, clearly having thought it over for a while.
Tsunade looked her youngest Anbu over for a moment. There was no doubt in her mind
that Hanabi was talented, otherwise she wouldn't have put her in the second team but
Hanabi lacked experience and although she was strong, she had neither the years of
Anbu training nor the emotional lock the her cousin had. "I will think about it, Hanabi,"
she said after a while. Hanabi didn't let her frustrated emotions (that Tsunade was sure
she had) show on her face. She just nodded and crept back over to her seat, snuggling
down between Shikamaru and the wall of the airplane. Her light, even breathing told
Tsunade that she had fallen asleep several minutes later.
Tsunade decided that she had spent enough time awake and settled down to sleep for
the remaining ten hours of their trip. She was already exhausted just thinking about it.
[What I really want is to believe you]
Naruto stood uncomfortably in the airport waiting for his Hokage. He had the report he
was supposed to give her in his shoulder bag (his man-purse as Tenten insisted upon
calling it) in case she demanded it as soon as she got off the plane. Nobody spared him a
second glance besides a few select teenagers girls who thought he was eye candy. He
shifted nervously as he waited and waited. He never had been one to have endless
patience. Tsunade's flight was already delayed by half an hour because of turbulence. He
was about to go find something to eat when the plane carrying his hot headed Hokage
landed. He made sure he waited where she could see him as soon as she got off, which
she did.
"Gaki!" she shouted across the airport. "Get over here now!"
He twitched but followed her instructions. "Hai, Tsunade-sama?" he asked meekly. She
wacked him over the head with her fist.
"You have to get my stuff out of bagage claim as soon as possible. Shizune and I will go
ahead to the school. You're in charge of getting the other "
"Why is there so much light?" a mellow voice grumbled. Shikamaru half-stumbled off the
plane, yawning so hard his eyes squinched into little cresents.
"Why do you have to complain so much?" Ino growled as she followed him, tugging Kiba
behind her.

"Why are you hurting me?" Kiba moaned as he was pulled by his ear.
"Why are we asking so many questions?" Hanabi snapped.
The moment Naruto saw her, he leaned over to Tsunade. "Why is she here? She's gonna
freak out once she sees him!"
Tsunade banged his head again. "She told me that she could handle it and who am I to
tell her that she isn't allowed to go on a mission with her team? Well I am the Hokage
so I suppose I could but all she wants is to help and prove herself. She's just like you
were, Naruto, so I suggest you be nice."
"I never said I wasn't going to be nice," he grumbled, rubbing his head. "I just don't
know if she's going to be able to handle it."
"Are you questioning me?" Tsunade snapped. She raised her fist again and he cowered
away, slinking out of her reach before she could hit him. The second Anbu team and
Shizune had made it to them by then. "Shizune, let's go," Tsunade snapped. She gave
Naruto a parting smack over the head. "Don't forget anything, gaki."
"Maa. Tsunade-sama," Shikmaru drawled. "We'll get everything, don't worry about it."
"Good. Let's go, Shizune," Tsunade demanded. The two shoved their way through the
crowded airport while the Anbu made their way to the bagage claim.
"At least Tsunade-sama put protective seals on all her stuff. We'd be in trouble if
anything broke," Ino said as she yanked several small bags off the conveyor belt.
Hanabi found a huge bag that was big enough to hold her inside of it if she curled up.
"Tsunade-sama would kill us if anything happened." She glanced up in time to see Naruto
watching her. She fought the urge to frown and show that she knew why he was keeping
an eye on her. The mental picture of her cousin's emotionless face, the face that she
knew all high ranking Anbu were supposed to have, kept her from confronting Naruto
about his suspicions that she wouldn't be able to handle her assignment. She looked
away from him quickly.
"Is that everything?" Naruto asked after they had quite a collection of bags around their
feet and several passersby were staring at them.
Ino did a quick count. "Yep, that's everything. Let's get going."
Hanabi grabbed as many bags as she could, hoping that someone would offer to seal
away their luggage into managable scrolls. She was almost certain that Naruto would do
it once they got out of sight of the citizens. There was no way they would make it by
running to Hogwarts if they had to carry everything.
"We'll seal everything up once we get further away. Dumbledore-sama said that he'd
send a car to pick us up so we wont have to run anywhere," Naruto said, rubbing the
back of his head. "I couldn't really say no so"
"It's fine, Uzumaki-san," Hanabi said. Naruto twitched and looked back at her. Her face
was expressionless in a scary imitation of Neji. He puffed his lips comically but turned
away.

"There's the car!" he said, pointing to a run down looking blue car. Mr. Weasley sat in the
driver's seat, waving to get their attention. The shinobi dragged everything over to the
car and Naruto whipped out several scrolls to seal them away neatly for Tsunade to be
able to get to everything easily (if she remembered which bags everything was in. Once
that was finished they all got into the car, which expanded nicely to fit everyone. Mr.
Weasley drove them off to Hogwarts, flying the car into the air as soon as they were out
of sight of the muggles.
[I want your heart to bleed]
Tsunade slammed the doors of Hogwarts open with all her strength. The massive double
doors swung on their hinges like they were made of paper. The Hokage stomped into the
building, ignoring the hundreds of students who were on their way to lunch. Everyone
inside froze as she marched in towards the Great Hall where she could feel Dumbledore's
presence. The room was crowded when she entered but all noise ceased as she walked
down the center aisle. She walked right up to the teacher's table and in front of
Dumbledore. He looked at her in surprise, obviously wondering who she was.
"I am Tsunade, the Hokage of Konahagakure," she said in her native language, one that
she was sure he had equipped himself to speak with her people around him. "I am here
to care for my wounded shinobi. Where is he?" she demanded.
"Tsunade-sama," he said, setting his fork down slowly. "I understand your concern for
your shinobi but I must ask that you do not draw so much attention to yourself. The
students do not see people such as yourself very often. You are causing a disturbance."
"I'll cause as much disturbance as I want until my shinobi is out of harms way," she said
stubbornly.
"Tsunade-sama!" Sakura's shout came from the doors leading into the Great Hall.
"Tsunade-sama, you're here!" Tsunade turned around and she noticed that the children
were watching Sakura, who was so disguised Tsunade wouldn't have recognized her
unless she had spoken and Tsunade could feel her chakra, as she ran toward her. "I can
show you the way to the Infirmary." Sakura bowed quickly to Dumbledore and grabbed
Tsunade's arm.
The Hokage looked at the children as they rushed past them, noticing many of them had
utensils of food halfway to their mouths, stunned and frozen by the unusual woman and
the way that one of their guards had greeted her. Tsunade saw her shinobi's target
sitting at one of the many long tables, his eyes wide as saucers as he watched her go by.
"He's gotten worse," Sakura was saying quickly. Shizune had followed them once they
had passed the doors to the Great Hall where she was waiting quietly. "You know how I
told you that we gave him something to make him sleep? When we tried to wake him up,
he wouldn't. He's in a coma right now and there's nothing we can do. I don't know what's
going on but his vitals are all over the place "
"Calm down," Tsunade ordered. "Shizune and I are here and the backup team is coming
with all of my equipment. I basically brought the hospital with me. He'll be fine, alright?
Everything will be fine." They stopped at the Infirmary door.
"I hope you're right," Sakura whispered. She pushed open the door and walked in,
making a beeline for a bed at the back of the room surrounded by thick curtains. No one
else was around except for a plump woman flitting around the back of the room with
rows and rows of glass bottles of some liquid or another. Sakura pushed the curtains
back and Tsunade felt her heart stop for a moment at what she saw.

One of her best shinobi lay motionless in a pile of white blankets that matched his face in
color. His dark hair was laid out over his pillows in a shineless tangle. His mouth was
open and his breathing was even but Tsunade could tell that he wasn't asleep. For the
moment, he looked peaceful, but she wondered how long that would last. His entire
upper body that she could see was swathed in bandages. Shizune gasped.
"How long has he been like this, Sakura?" Tsunade asked.
"Since this morning," she answered.
"So he may very well wake up on his own. We don't need to get too concerned. Do you
have a list of his injuries?"
"I have one," Madame Pomfrey said, holding her list in her hand. "I am Madame
Pomfrey, the nurse here at the school."
"Tsunade," Tsunade answered. She gave Madame Pomfrey a small bow and then turned
to Shizune. "Go wait for the team to get here with my equipment. Make sure they get
here fast. Don't let anyone come in but Ino. She will be able to help some."
"Hai, Tsunsade-sama," Shizune said. She left the room quietly.
"You brought Ino's team?" Sakura asked curiously.
"Yes, I did. Help me get these bandages off."
"Did you bring Hanabi?" Sakura carefully cut the bandages around Neji's wrists and
started to unravel them. She bit her lip slightly as she felt skin catch on the material.
"Hanabi is here, yes. She told me that she would be able to handle it so I allowed her to
come with the rest of her team. Hyuuga or not, she is still in Anbu and she should be
allowed to prove herself just like any other." Tsunade gently touched the sensitive skin
around a particularly deep whip wound that was starting to heal. He didn't react.
"Will you leave her in Neji's place?" Sakura asked.
Tsunade was silent, carefully removing soiled bandages from Neji's broken body. Her lips
were pressed into a tight line as she set them aside in a wastebin. For a moment, her
hands stilled, right over Neji's heart.
"I will leave her if she can prove to me that she deserves it."

[When I get older I will be stronger]


Harry was mad, more mad than he had ever been in his life. To be more exact, he was
furious. The very people who had been hired to protect him had nearly handed him over
to the ceature that they were supposed to be protecting him from. And and top of that he
had an essay due in three hours that he had forgotten about in the aftershock of nearly

dieing. Unfortunately, Hermione had another class to attend and Ron was getting a
lecture from Professor Trelawny concerning his 'disturbing lack of attentiveness in the art
of future-reading'. That was why he sat along in the massive library, trying to teach
himself the materials he had zoned out for.
As he flipped through the several books layed out on the table around him, he realized
that he didn't have one he needed and so, with a heavy sigh, he trudged off to find it.
Upon wandering several aisles down in search of the ellusive book, he came upon a
curious sight: a small, pixie-like girl with long black hair stood on a chair, on her tiptoes,
trying desperately to reach a book on the highest shelf. She gripped a shelf that was
more within her reach for balance but was still several inches away from the book she
seemed to be seeking. Her head snapped around when she heard Harry coming and all
he saw was a pair of huge, black rimmed glasses set on a tiny face. She smiled.
"Hey, could you help me?" she asked sweetly. He didn't really feel like it but did so
anyway, casting wingardium leviosa and bringing the book to his hands while she jumped
down. Once she was on the ground he was a bit astounded by her height, or lack of
height to be exact. She barely reached his chest.
"Sugoi!" she said as he handed the book to her. "We haven't learned that spell yet!" She
gave him a huge, childish grin. "Thank you very much." He shoved his hands in his
pockets nonchalantly.
"No problem. What, uh, language was that first thing you said?" She gave him a curious
look and he was surprised to see that her eyes were a pale blue-lavender color.
"Japanese of course!" she said brightly. "My family is from Japan to my mother taught
me how to speak it." She hugged the book to her chest. "I'm Julie Saito and you're Harry
Potter. I'm so excited to have finally met you." She pulled his hand out of his pocket and
shook it vigorously. He replaced it as soon as she let go.
"Right, look. I'm glad that I could help you but I have a paper to write and "
"Oh, on what?" she asked with an innocent smile. He backed away a halfstep.
"It's fifth year potions so I don't think "
"Try me. I take seventh year potions classes from Professor Snape after school hours. I
could help you." She beamed at him. "And if I can't remember, I can always help you do
research!"
"It's uh the effects of the Numbing Potion and how it is used in the medical field," he
said, praying that she had something else to do. When her face fell her nearly leapt for
joy.
"I don't know about medical uses of the Numbing Potion," she mumbled. But her face
immdiately brightened instead. "But I can help you research!"
"No, no, that's okay uh Julie, but I have a friend coming to help me once she's done
with her class and she should beg etting done soon," he said, trying to dissuade her
gently. She laughed and shook her head.
"She? Well I guess I should leave you," she said with a sly wink that looked more at
home on her face than her smile did. He took a moment to figure out what she was

implying and once he was done, she had already skipped down the aisle and was waving
back at him from the end.
"Bye, Harry," she said cheerfully, "I'm very glad I got to meet you and I hope I get to
see you again soon!" As she turned to leave he realized something he had missed before.
Her clothes were entirely black.
"Wait! What house are you in?" he asked.
"Slytherin," she said, "But I am certain I was miss-sorted. I would much rather be in
Ravenclaw." Then she was gone, leaving Harry a bit dumbfounded and completely alone.
Shikamaru was waiting for Hanabi as she dodged around students who milled about the
library like aimless little clouds. Once she ducked into the restricted section she released
her genjutsu. She tucked her hair behind her and smirked proudly at her captain.
"How was that for some smooth work?" He rolled his eyes and patted her head. Though
she was tall, like her cousin, Shikamaru still beat her by a few inches even when he
slouched.
"The question is, can you keep it up? I don't think that you'd last a week being a nonstop bubbly first year. Do you even remember what it was like to be an eleven year old?"
She stuck her tongue out and pulled at the skin below her eye in a grotesque expression.
"I guess so."
He turned and walked away from her, not even bothering to check if she was still
following. They meandered through the back passages of the castle that had, at one
point, been the traditional servants passages. Of course, no house elf needed to walk
from place to place so they were abandoned for the most part. The Weasley twins kept a
few stashes of fireworks and candy in the one behind the Gryffindor common room but
they hadn't taken the time to look through all of the passages, or they had and just
found them boring.
"What's the plan for you, Ino, and Kiba?" Hanabi asked after several minutes of silent
plodding. Shikamaru shrugged and stuck a cigarette in his mouth and patting his pockets
for a lighter.
"For now we're just staying out of sight. Naruto's team spent most of their time
completely out in the open but we won't be able to do that without unnecessary
questions. Tsunade-sama is meeting with Dumbledore-sensei right now to talk about
what kind of a threat Voldemort poses. If she decides to take Neji back, and I bet she
will, Tenten will probably go with her. If Voldemort is considered a threat, she will leave
us here as a team. That will put an extra two shinobi on the mission that Dumbledore
didn't pay for. It's going to be up to her to decided whether she wants to let Dumbledore
know that there is an extra two or not." He found his lighter and lit his cigarette, puffing
on it peacefully.
Hanabi stepped quietly in time with her captain, her earlier pride in herself having worn
off quickly as she realized that she might still be sent home. Shikamaru glanced at her
out of the corner of his eye and sighed as he realized she was staring forlornly at the
floor. He patted her shoulder, startling her out of her thoughts.
"You might not have meant to but you've put Tsunade-sama in a difficult position if she
wants to send you home. You've already made contact with the target, Potter, and
you've managed to make yourself memorable. You have also promised, in a way, that

you will see him again. Although you did make yourself Slytherin so he wouldn't ask your
house members about you, he would start to notice if he didn't see you anywhere at all,"
he said. She gave him a small smile.
"But I couldn't change my eyes. If Hermione ever sees me as Julie she'll notice in a
heartbeat that I have almost the same eyes as Neji-nii," she said glumly.
Shikamaru just chuckled slightly and took another drag on his cigarette. "Then you can
always just lie and say that your parents both have the same eyes as you and avoid any
questions about it. Your Julie is smart in some things but stupid in others, right? She
would be able to dodge around most questions if you really thought about it."
"Saying that my parents have the same eyes as me would not be a lie," she pointed out.
But a glimmer of her usual smirk appeared on her face again. She punched his shoulder
good naturedly, making him stagger away from her in mock pain.
"Troublesome girl," he muttered.
[Waging wars to shake the poet and the beat]
Dumbledore's office was dark and far too small for Tsunade as she sat in one of the
large, plumb chairs in front of the headmaster in question. She felt uncomfortably like
she was back in the Academy, sitting in front of her sensei to answer for whatever minor
crime she had committed that day. Dumbledore waved his wand and a teapot popped out
of thin air accompanied by two small tea cups. The teapot accordingly poured tea in both
cups.
"Would you like tea, Hokage-sama?" he asked politely. She wrinkled her nose a bit,
prefering sake, but accepted anyway, plucking the cup out of the air as if she did it every
day.
"Dumbledore, you know that I'm here only for the retrieval of my injured shinobi and I'm
afraid that I am going to have to remove him from this mission promptly and leave
another in his place. He is far too severly wounded for your medical staff to handle and I
don't dare leave him at one of your hospitals." She sipped her tea.
"Very well. Have you brought a replacement with you?" he asked, taking it in surprising
stride.
"Yes. I brought a team that is very friendly with the one on mission here but I am
concerned that another of the original team will want to leave with me and if she asks
then I will let her. In that event, I'd have to leave two team members with you but what
I want to know is exactly how much of a threat this Voldemort is."
She leaned forward in her chair and placed her teacup down on the edge of Dumbledore's
desk. "I trust that you will be frank with me," she said, "Because if Voldemort is going to
be a threat to my village I will be forced to take more drastic measures. For your safety
and the safety of my people, I need to know what I'm dealing with exactly. The report
that you sent me when you hired my shinobi is unsatisfactory for any sort of
information."
"Hokage-sama," Dumbledore started, setting his own teacup down gently, "I can assure
that, though your assistance would be appreciated, the wizards here have everything
under control. We are not incompetant and there is no way that Voldemort will ever
become powerful enough to be a threat to your society."

"With all due respect, I will be the one deciding whether or not he is a threat," Tsunade
said flatly. Dumbledore raised an eyebrow curiously but he did not look displeased with
her statement.
"Very well. That will be your call to make. Allow me to tell you all that we know of
Voldemort, Hokage-sama."
As Dumbledore revealed everything that the Order of the Pheonix knew about Voldemort
and what he could manage to do, Tsunade was quiet. She leaned back in her chair,
picking up her teacup again and taking small sips whenever she felt the need to occupy
herself with something. She wondered briefly how much of what she was hearing was in
Naruto's report, but she didn't linger on that thought for long. Though she was never one
for sitting and listening, she forced herself to pay close attention. One missed thing could
lead to death in her country or in the wizards' land.
"And the prophesy states that the only one who can defeat Voldemort is Harry Potter,
which is why I requested the work of your shinobi in the first place," Dumbledore
finished.
"Does your prophesy say anything about Voldemort's future power?" Tsunade asked
intently. Her teacup was empty and resting on a small table beside her chair.
"If it does, it's too deeply hidden in the prophesy for us to be able to figure out,"
Dumbledore said with a hint of sadness. Tsunade's mouth tightened into a thin line.
Shinobi were not unaccustomed to the idea of prophesies but they did not allow
themselves to be restrained by them either. However, Tsunade had a little tact and
realized that insulting this thing that the wizards were basing the future of their society
on would be a bit of a tactical error.
"So Potter-san is the only one who can defeat Voldemort," she said, "But there is
nothing, as far as we can see, that pertains to his followers." She shifted in her seat. "If
you don't mind, I will be leaving all of the team that I brought here and possibly sending
more backup later in the event that they call for it. I will not give Voldemort a chance to
push through to my country, even if your Potter-san might kill him. We have no idea
when that would happen and I don't want to take a chance."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled and a small smile hooked the edges of his mouth as he
leaned back in his chair as well. "You are obviously a good leader, Hokage-sama, and
care very much about your people. I do not mind if you allow your ninja to stay here but
I will not pay extra for their services, only enough to cover the four that you sent."
"Agreed."

[With you by my side I will fight and defend]


The Konaha shinobi stationed at Hogwarts stood in a small huddle outside of the school.
It was midnight and the sky was black as pitch but the stars provided a small light to see
by. Tsunade, Shizune, and Tenten stood beside a stretcher that was floating on its own

and Tenten held the hand of her fallen teammate like a last lifeline. The only wizard that
stood near them was Dumbledore and in his hands he held a small pocketwatch.
"Once you take hold of this you will be sent directly back to your village," he said quietly
as he held it by the chain between his thumb and forefinger. Tsunade bowed her head
but turned back to her team before taking it from him.
"Naruto, your team may remain open to the children of the school but if they ask
questions about Neji and Tenten you are no allowed to tell them anything. Shikamaru,
Kiba, and Ino, you are to remain in the shadows at all times." Her eyes brushed over
Hanabi, who stood with a blank expression on her face, her eyes trained on her cousin.
"Hanabi," the girl looked up at her sharply, "You know what you are to do."
"Hai," the shinobi answered as one. Tsunade nodded and gripped the stretcher tighter in
her left hand, reaching for the pocketwatch with the other. The second her fingers
wrapped around the gold watch the shinobi vanished from sight, leaving only the
headmaster and the on-duty shinobi behind.
"Well," Dumbledore started, "I think I'll turn in for the evening. Good night." Once he had
gone through the school doors and they had shut soundlessly behind him, the gathered
shinobi relaxed.
Kiba stretched his arms high above his head. "Yo, Shikamaru. What's the plan?"
"How come Shikamaru's automatically in charge?" Naruto complained. "I'm a captain
too!" But no one seemed to be much in the mood for Naruto's voice and even Hinata
looked down at the ground in slight embarassment for his sake.
"Just like Tsunade-sama said. Naruto's team will remain as they were, Hanabi will
continue with her minor mission, and my team will fall into the shadows. All we can do is
gather information like there's no tomorrow." Shikamaru rolled his shoulder absently.
"Once we find what we need to know for us to be able to launch an attack on Voldemort,
we will report it to Dumbledore and then we will join forces with the wizards to take him
down."
"You make it sound so easy," Ino yawned.
"Yes, well, if everything goes correctly it will be that easy," the genius stated. The rest of
the shinobi rolled their eyes at that. Ino chuckled lightly.
"Since when does everything go correctly?"
[Time may change me but I can't trace time]
Shikamaru and Hinata sat in the massive library, pouring over dozens of old magazines,
papers, and books, trying to find anything that they could use to discover what they
could do against Voldemort. Hinata bit her lip as she read through papers from the time
when Voldemort first rose to power and skimmed as quickly as possible through the parts
describing the chaos left in his wake. Shikamaru noticed her reaction and shook his head.
She was much too emotionally weak to be a part of Anbu. He had no idea what Tsunade
was thinking when she let Hinata pass the entrance exam.
"Harry!" The voice calling through the library caught both shinobi's attention. Hinata
looked vaguely confused and Shikamaru just sighed. In a moment, he had vanished from

the table, leaving Hinata to peer through the things herself even as the voice and the one
it called out to drew nearer.
"Oh hello, Julie," Harry Potter sounded less than thrilled and, as they turned down the
very aisle that Hinata was at the end of, she saw that the 'minor mission' her little sister
was on had something to do with portraying herself as a very young student.
"Hello!" Hanabi, or Julie as it seemed to be in this case, said cheerfully, waving at Hinata.
The elder Hyuuga was a bit stunned at her sister's choice of personality for a moment but
waved back timidly. "Harry, I found the best book yesterday while I was looking up more
books on that potion you had to write on. You see, I was very unhappy that I couldn't
help you with it so I decided to learn everything I could about it."
"That's very kind of you, Julie, but I had to turn that paper in just after I wrote it so
even if you did know something else now I wouldn't be able to change it." Hanabi
laughed a curiously sarcastic sounding laugh and held out the book for Harry to see.
"The Ten Most Deadly Medicinal Herbs and Where to Find Them," she announced proudly.
"Professor Snape told me that he has the companion book The Ten Most Deadly Medicinal
Herbs and How To Make Them Not Deadly in his office! So if you like it you could ask
Professor Snape if you could borrow his copy." She sounded exceedingly proud.
Harry took the book tentatively and flipped it open to a random page, closing it again
upon seeing the picture inside of it. When he lowered the book from his line of vision and
saw the little Slytherin looking at him with such an expression of happiness, he didn't
have the heart to tell her that he couldn't care less about deadly medicinal herbs.
"How nice," he said, even if it was a bit forced.
Hanabi giggled happily. "I knew you would like it!" she exclaimed. He took a deep breath
and nodded reluctantly, a small part of him being unable to hurt a young girl's feelings,
even if she was kind of strange. Suddenly, Hinata quieted and looked around
suspiciously. She stood on her tiptoes to whisper in Harry's ear and, finding him too tall,
grabbed the front of his robe and dragged him down to her height. "Can I join your
Defense club?" she whispered conspiratorially.
Harry drew back in surprise. For one, he never expected a Slytherin to want to join a club
started by Gryffindors and for another, he didn't know how such information had gotten
to a Slytherin first year of all people. He stuttered a bit nervously. "Um Julie, I I have
no idea what you're talking about. We don't have a defense club," he said.
Hanabi laughed her strange laugh again. "You don't have one?" She smiled up at him.
"But I thought for sure that Fred and George were telling me the truth. I will be very sad
if they were lying." There such a large measure of innocence in her voice that it sounded
almost poisonous. Harry didn't know quite what to think of her. One minute she was a
normal eleven year old and the next it was like she was a snake in human clothes. It
unnerved him to say the least.
"You know what, I need to go talk to Hermione and Ron. I'll see you later." He backed
away from her quickly and walked away as fast as he could without running. Hanabi just
watched him go and, once he was out of sight, released her genjutsu and sat in one of
the chairs at Hinata's table.
"What exactly are you doing, Imoto-chan?" Hinata asked quietly. Hanabi shrugged and
pulled one of the newspapers toward herself.

"I'm getting us information," she said.


Shikamaru appeared in his chair, reading as if he had never left. "You sure are a tricky
one," he said absently. "Did the Weasley boys actually tell you about the Defense Club or
were you lying?"
Hanabi looked suitably affronted. "Of course I would never lie. They did tell me all about
the Defense Club but only after I introduced myself and threatened them with death and
financial ruin if they didn't tell me all about it. I didn't break character the entire time.
You would have been proud of me, Shika-taicho." Shikamaru just made a weird muted
noise through his nose and went back to his reading.
"Once I get into the Defense Club, what do you want me to do?" Hanabi asked suddenly.
Shikamaru frowned at her absently.
"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched," he warned. Hanabi rolled her eyes
and stared at him until he looked back at her. "I can't tell you what I want you to do
because I don't know enough about the club. All I know is that it's a bunch of troublecausing students who think Harry is God's gift to mankind."
"I know about the Defense Club," Hinata offered. Hanabi shifted her focus from her
captain to her sister. "Neji and I went in the few times that they managed to hold a
meeting." The sisters looked away from each other for a moment out of respect for their
wounded cousin before going on. "I could go back with you again once you've made it in.
They would be expecting me to be there."
"Arigato, Nee-chan," Hanabi said quietly as she stood up. "And Shika-taicho, I'm not
'counting my chickens' I'm just planning ahead." She glanced up at the large, ornate
clock that was high above their heads on the wall. "It should be lunch time now. It's time
for me to go make more waves in Harry's world."
"Be careful, Hanabi. He's on guard against us because of the whole hostage-exchange
thing," Shikamaru warned. Hanabi just laughed, this time an eerily ghostlike laugh, and
henged into her Julie form.
"No problem, taicho. I'll be good." With that, she vanished.
Shikamaru turned to Hinata and said in exhasperated tone. "I never will get used to her
weird laughs." Hinata just giggled quietly.
Hanabi wandered the halls for a few minutes before judging that Harry and his cohorts
would have made their way to the Great Hall and would have been sitting down to eat.
When she walked in, she made sure that she had avoided putting the Slytherin crest on
her robes. She didn't want the Slytherins to try to figure out who she was. If she
remembered anything from her Academy days, rumors spread like wild fire among
teenagers and even faster among teenagers who had to see each other every day.
Harry and his friends sat together toward the center of the long Gryffindor tables. Ron
seemed to be laughing at something Harry said and Hermione didn't seem to find it
amusing in the slightest. But they fell silent when they spotted Hanabi approaching.
Harry whispered something to his friends and she was sure that he was telling them who
she was.
She sat down across from them.

"Hello again, Harry, long time no see!" she said in that overly bright voice. Harry's eyes
were wide as saucers and Ron's jaw looked in danger of falling off.
"Hello, Julie," Hermione said sweetly. Hanabi smiled just as sweetly and grabbed a
peanut butter and banana sandwhich off a tray near her seat. "I'm Hermione Granger,"
Hermione offered helpfully. Hanabi nodded around her huge bite of sandwhich. She
swallowed.
"I'm Julie Saito," she said cheerfully. Hermione looked a bit suspicious at her last name.
Hanabi leaned across the table conspiratorially and held up one hand to the side of her
mouth. "I'm a Slytherin first year but I guessed that everyone would be mad if I sat with
you guys and was a Slytherin so I decided to where my clothes that didn't have the crest
on them." She smiled proudly. "I'm very smart, yes?"
Hermione laughed a little bit. "I guess that was a good idea," she said. She glanced at
her two friends who seemed to still be in a state of shock. "That's Ron Weasley, in case
you didn't know already." Ron seemed to snap out of his daze and eyed Hanabi
suspiciously.
"Why're you sitting over here if you're a Slytherin?" he demanded.
"Is it against school rules to be friends with people from other houses?" Hanabi asked
with false innocence
"Well, no, but Slytherins usually don't associate with Gryffindors," Ron said.
"Why's that?"
"Because" Ron trailed off and looked at Hermione and Harry, who offered him no help.
"Because I don't know" he said weakly. Hanabi gave him a huge grin.
"See! I can be friends with you even if you're Gryffindors!" she said triumphantly and
took another bite of her sandwhich. She reached for a glass of grapejuice while she was
at it. "Besides, Harry Potter is way more fun than the Slytherine people. They all just tell
me to leave them alone."
It seemed that the little tidbit about the other Slytherins pulled at bit at Hermione's
matronly heartstrings and the older girl slid a tray of carrots at the younger girl. "You
really should eat some vegetables so you don't stunt your growth," she said helpfully.
"And you can be our friend!"
"Yay! Hermione is so nice!" Hanabi cheered. Inwardly she was cackling like a kid that had
just gotten candy. This was playing so nicely into her hands and now she had a pity card
to play against Hermione. She just had to figure out what exactly to do with Ron to make
him like her as well. "Ron," she said suddenly, "Do you know how to play wizard's chess?
I've never played and I really want to learn."
Ron's expression turned from one of distrust to one of mild curiosity. "Yeah, I know how
to play." Hanabi gave him a sweet smile. "And I guess I could teach you how to play
sometime." Hanabi was about to cheer again when Hermione started talking.
"So where are you from, Julie?" Hanabi stopped her almost-cheer and pursed her lips.
She thought about being a brat and saying 'it's a secret' but then she guessed that she
would only put the trio on guard that way.

"I was born in Japan but I live in London now," she said brightly. "My mother and father
went back to Japan a couple of months ago so I've been staying with my grandparents."
"Why didn't they take you with them?" Ron asked in spite of his desire to stay detatched
from the strange girl.
"Father was going for something to do with his business. He's the translator for all of the
interactions between his boss and the Japanese branch of offices," she said. "And Mother
wanted to go visit her family but since school was starting up and I got my acceptance
letter, they decided that it would be best for me to stay here and start my education."
"So you're a pureblood?" Harry couldn't help ask. Hanabi made her face darken as if she
were thinking of a particularly unhappy memory.
"No. No one else in my family is a wizard or witch. I told you that I thought I'd been
sorted wrong," she said. Hermione felt her heart go out to the little muggle-born girl
sorted into a house of muggle-hating children. "Most of the kids in my year don't even
know that I'm there since I try to stay away from my house as much as possible. I don't
even sleep in the bedrooms anymore. I have a little spot in the common room."
"Oh, you poor kid," Hermione said as she pushed another tray of vegetables toward her.
Hanabi took some just to make Hermione happy but balanced it out by grabbing a cookie
to nibble on after she finished it.
"Well, it was nice to meet you, Hermione and Ron, and to see you again, Harry," she said
as she stood and dusted imaginary dust off of her uniform. "But I have to get to class
soon so I'd better be going." She wolfed down the vegetables and then stuck the cookie
in her mouth and wandered away toward the huge double doors leading out to the
hallway. She waved back at them and then vanished around a corner.
"Don't tell me that you believe her, Hermione," Ron said accusingly.
"Of course I don't believe everything that she said but how dangerous can she really be?
She's a first year for heaven's sake!" Hermione responded.
"Voldemort can use anybody and don't forget that those freaky guards can change the
way that they look," he reminded.
"But they never changed their age and if Voldemort was using her, don't you think that
'those freaky guards' would have already taken care of it?"
"You have too much faith in them, 'Mione," Ron muttered, "Just look at what they almost
did to Harry! They were going to hand him over to Voldemort!"
Harry ignored his friends' bickering and stared at the door through which the mysterious
girl had vanished. She reminded him of Luna in a way although she didn't randomly spurt
things about imaginary creatures. Her personality was strange and he couldn't shake the
feeling that she was hiding something, something big. He wouldn't put it past her to be a
tool of the Dark Lord or even one of the guards in hiding.
"Let's just keep an eye on her," Harry said suddenly, interrupting the bickering that had
escalated into an argument. His friends looked at him curiously but didn't say anything
else. They stood to go to their classes.
[You stare politely right on through]

"Boring, boring, boring, troublesome and boring, just troublesome," Shikamaru said as
he flipped through page after page that he had already read. Hinata had left to go get
lunch and take a rest hours ago and Ino had replaced her. Perhaps that wasn't the best
idea that the shinobi had ever had.
"You're such a pain," Ino muttered as she took notes on yet another book that claimed to
know the reasoning behind Voldemort's desire for power. "This book is bull crap. It says:
'You-Know-Who's seething desire for power can therefore clearly be traced back to his
desire for a friend'. Whatever. Everyone knows that he just wants world domination."
She tossed the book to the floor where the things that Hinata had already gone through
and taken notes on rested.
Shikamaru ignored her and let his forehead fall to the table, hitting it with a loud thump.
Ino patted his back in a mockingly consoling way. She chuckled.
"Why don't you go find something to eat and then rest. I'll call for someone to come take
your place," she offered. Shikamaru turned his head slightly so he could see her.
"Only if you promise not to call for Kiba. Nothing will get done if the two of you try to
stay on task around each other." He stood up slowly and slumped away from the table,
hearing Ino press the button on her communicator.
"Sakura-chan, can you come fill in for Shikamaru?" he heard her ask. When she was
quiet and then mumbled a thanks he assumed that the medic had agreed to lend her
valuable services.
If only Hanabi-chan didn't have other things to do, he found himself thinking. Hanabi was
surprisingly good at just sitting down and filtering through information. When he had
asked her about she had simply told him that her Nii-san could sit for hours and work
through new information so she had wanted to be able to do it too. Shikamaru had to
thank Kami-sama that Hanabi had picked up some of Neji's good habits to balance out
her numerous bad ones.
He wandered aimlessly through the shadows of the school, dodging students' notice
constantly. Even if they did see him he supposed that they would he think he was a
figment of their imagination. Civilians were incredibly unattentive.
As he walked he noticed the 'Golden Trio' in passing and smirked slightly as he spotted
Hanabi creeping after them like the little stalker she was pretending to be. The three
Gryffindors hadn't noticed her yet, and she didn't intend to let them notice her yet. She
flashed his a peace sign as she stalked past him. He shook his head as he watched her
follow the unsuspecting students around a corner.
"You must be one of the replacement guards." The voice caught Shikamaru completely
off guard and he froze in place. The voice came from a rather greasy looking teacher
whose name, if Shikamaru remembered correctly, was Severus Snape.
"Aa. Not quite. I'm one of the extras," he corrected absently, wondering how on earth a
wizard had managed to sneak up on him. He decided to blame it on his tiredness.
"What are you doing exactly?" the Professor questions.
Shikamaru yawned and stretched like a cat, popping his back leisurely. "I'm on my way
to bed if you must know."

"It's four in the afternoon."


Shikamaru raised an eyebrow as if to remind the professor that he wasn't a complete
dunce. "I was aware of that. Unfortunately, I didn't sleep much last night and have been
in the library since early this morning researching to keep your society safe from a
certain Dark Lord." He always did get a bit snappish when he was tired. Even Ino tended
to stay away from him when he missed his beauty sleep.
Snape just huffed and shuffled away, leaving Shikamaru in peace. "That was odd," he
mumbled to himself. "Weird teacher."
[it's a brother and a sister kind of thing]
Ino and Sakura flipped through page after page after page in book after book after book,
looking for something, anything, that could help them. Finally, after hours of sitting on
her bum reading (something that was very unusual for her) Ino stood and sighed,
arching her back to work out the newly developed kinks.
"We're not getting anywhere here and I think that Dumbledore would have already gone
through this when Voldemort first started gaining power for the second time. All we've
got is a million different views on what happened the night that Harry's parents were
killed." She tilted her head at her best friend. "Did Neji and Tenten find out anything
while they were in Voldemort's lair?" she asked bluntly.
Sakura stiffened and closed her book with a loud bang. She looked down at her hands. "I
don't know. When they got back we were too preoccupied to ask them anything. But
Tenten would have said something if they had found out anything big"
Ino nodded her understanding and sat back down. "There's only so much we can do.
Maybe we can talk to Dumbledore and see exactly what he knows and piece together
some things from other sources. I'm sure that not all of the Death Eater guys are with
Voldemort at once. Maybe we could corner one and "
"You're going to find out that Dumbledore likes to keep his mouth such on things like
this. I have no idea how much he'd be willing to tell us. But" Sakura's mouth twitches
into a half-smile, "The wizards do have this thing called the Order of the Pheonix. I'm
sure Tsunade-shishou briefed you on it." Ino nodded. "If we could manage to get in on
one of their meetings and tease the information out of them then we could really get
going on something."
The blonde twisted a lock of her hair around her finger while looking contemplatively at
the ceiling. "Tsunade-sama mentioned that the wizards here knew a lot but were keeping
it from us and that they were too slow to act on what they knew"
"All we have to do is get them to spill their secrets," Sakura said almost gleefully.
"And how do you propose we get them to do that?" Ino asked.
Sakura grinned at her. "Step one is getting into their meeting unseen, and by that I
mean everyone from Naruto and Shikamaru's teams getting into the meeting unseen.
Step two is simply disarming them. Step three is demanding information in a kind way
that doesn't seem too threatening and getting what we want so we can start drawing up
exactly what we're against."

Ino was quiet for a moment. "I really don't think Shika is going to agree with that," she
said slowly. But then, a ginormous grin spread over her face. "But that's what we have
Naruto for! It's a plan!"
With that, they executed the Fist-Bump-of-Friendship-and-Mutual-Agreement-UponSomething-Awesome.
[Here we are like we're gonna get war again]
"I honestly cannot believe that I let you guys talk me into this," Shikamaru muttered
unhappily as the gathered shinobi huddled just outside of number twelve Grimmauld
Place.
"I honestly cannot believe that you guys thought that this was going to work," Kiba
grumbled. He shivered in the cold and hunkered down inside his jacket, thinking
whistfully back to Akamaru, who was back in Konaha because they had no way of
transporting him to Europe without extreme difficulty. How many unnaturally massive
dogs did airplane personnel see a day anyway?
"Shut up, dog-breath," Ino hissed. "This is going to work, I can feel it!"
"The last time we trusted what you feel, Ino," Hanabi said, "We ended up getting lost in
enemy territory, ambushed three times, and having to take cover in a chicken coopuntil
the entire army of enemy nins that was after us passed by. I smelled like poultry for
weeks."
" That was an extreme situation" Ino muttered.
"Extreme my arse. That was the most mild example she could have used," Kiba halfgrowled.
"Will you three stop arguing for five minutes?" Sasuke growled. The three in question
answered him with their patented Ino-Hana-Kiba Glare-of-Immense-Doom. Sasuke was
unimpressed.
"Do I need to go over the plan one more time or are we good?" Naruto asked. The
collected shinobi just shrugged and he took that as a 'we're good'. "Alright then, move on
in."
As one swift shadow, the eight shinobi flitted up to the front door of the house and
opened it with ease, Hinata tweaked the lock with a bit of chakra. The inside was quiet
and dark but they could hear the Order in the kitchen. It seemed that they were all
sitting down to supper. The ninja slid along the wall outside of the room and hunckered
down to listen at Naruto's signal.
"We should bring all of the children back here, they aren't safe at Hogwarts."
"Molly, dear, if we start taking children out due to safety, think about all the other
students that will be removed by their parents. If pure wizarding families don't trust
Hogwarts, why should Muggle families?"
"Dumbledore told me this afternoon that he's got four more shinobi at Hogwarts, two to
replace Dove and Panda and two as backup from the Hokage. You can't get much more
protected than that."

"That's where you're wrong, Tonks, if Dumbledore and the Hokage believe that they
even need backup, that means that there must be something dangerous."
"It could just be a precaution."
"If they see that they need to take precautions then that must mean that they have
something that they need to take precautions against."
"Maybe, maybe not."
Naruto looked like he was itching to make a grand entrance as soon as possible but
Sakura had him by his belt so he couldn't bust in and ruin their master plan (courtesy of
Ino and Sakura). He kept looking back at her with the most pitiful puppy dog face he
could conjure but it wasn't cutting any ice. She flicked his forehead when he started to
whisper a 'please' to her. Kiba chuckled at that and got a punch from Ino and Hanabi
each.
"We need to befriend the shinobi, not act like they are a separate group from us."
"I agree!" Naruto managed to free himself from Sakura and had gone rampaging right
into the room. Sakura and Ino facepalmed as their perfect plan was flushed down the
toilet like it had never even been an option.
The wizards and witches gathered in the room looked at him with huge eyes and a
variety of comical expressions. Naruto stalked right up to the end of the kitchen table
where they all sat and raised his fist in a 'heroic' pose.
"We should unite for the betterment of our causes and since we both want to defeat
Voldemort, our cause is the same! So it should be a massive betterment to one cause!"
he announced dramatically. The shinobi outside of the kitchen all heaved a unanimous
sigh of mild annoyance. "So please, my wizard breatheren, give us all of the information
you possess on the workings of Voldemort so that we may defeat him (within the bounds
of your Prophesy) as is necessary for the continuation of our respectable nations.
Therefore OW!"
Naruto was cut off as Sakura bashed him over the head with her fist and shoved him out
of the way as he stumbled and slumped in Hinata's arms. Sakura shook her head. "I'm
sorry, he's been wanting to do something theatrical ever since we got here. What he
means to say is that we would be very pleased if you could help us get some current,
truthful information on what Voldemort is doing exactly."
"We've been tearing through the library," Ino said, "But we can't find anything that we
think is trustworthy. Most of it's just garbage. I'm Anbu Peacock by the way." She
flashed a victorious peace sign. "And this is my team, Anbu Wolf, Anbu Sloth, and the
midget!"
Hanabi punched her. "I'm Anbu Lynx," she said.
"If you're part of the same group as Captain Fox, where are your masks?" Mrs. Weasley
asked suddenly. The team members looked at each other in confusion for a moment.
"Where are our masks anyway?" Hanabi asked.
"We don't have to wear them because because," Ino scratched her head
unconvincingly, trying desperately to come up with an answer.

"Because I'm the taicho of the second squad of Anbu and as long as we are simply the
backup squad we are not required to wear the official masks unless I say so," Shikamaru
sighed.
"Is that a real reason?" Hinata whispered to Sakura. The medic nin shrugged but laughed
quietly under her breath.
"Oh well" The Order and the Anbu looked at each other awkwardly and Sakura wanted
to punch Naruto for making the whole thing more difficult than they had expected.
"Look," Sakura said, taking charge in her usual way (busting to the heart of the matter),
"We need information and we need it now so we are all going to sit down around the
table and you are going to tell us everything that you know about Voldemort, his
followers, his whereabouts, and this Prophesy thing."

[They will see us waving from such great heights]


Harry found that sometimes he just couldn't express the immensity of the awfulness of
his day. The day in question was not one of those days.
He had started by waking up bright and early to a warm, summer-type day and managed
to make it through to breakfast without getting into any serious fights with any of his
housemates. At breakfast he had been mercifully ignored by most everyone except the
people that matters (those people being Hermione and Ron). He wasn't once stopped by
the annoying guards throughout the day and by lunch he had seen Julie Saito twice but
she hadn't taken the time to attach herself to him. However, after lunch she seemed to
have decided that she just couldn't resist.s
"Harry!" The voice screaming down the hall could only bear the bad news that danger
was drawing nearer. Ron and Harry shuddered. "Harry, there you are! I've been looking
everywhere for you!" Danger popped right up in front of the golden trio wearing the
largest grin she had managed yet.
"Julie," Hermione greeted kindly, patting their underyear on the head in a matronly way.
Ron and Harry couldn't believe the way that their friend doted on the little mongrel of a
Slytherine. Harry noticed absently that Julie didn't ever wear the robes with her house
insignia on it. Every time he saw her she seemed to be out of dresscode in some sort of
long-sleeved, black turtle-neck and black pants with massive black combat boots. But as
far as he knew she'd never gotten in trouble for it.
"Yo, Mione-nee-chan," Hanabi said casually. She always played the part of a cool little
first year when she talked to Hermione but the moment she started talking Harry, it was
like the fangirl switch of doom got flicked on.
"How are you doing?" Hermione asked, the mother instinct coming in full force. "We
haven't seen you in a couple of days and when we asked around nobody seemed to know
where you were." Or who you were, she added mentally. Hanabi chuckled and rubbed
her neck ruefully in a strangely masculine type move.

"I've got a lot of exams coming up soon and so I spent most of my time in the library,"
Hanabi said lamely. In truth, she'd spent several days with the Order of the Pheonix and
her shinobi teammates trying to come up with some sort of plan using their new
information. "There's this cool little room that I found too down one of the hallways. It
kept changing to suit whatever I wanted, pretty cool huh?"
Harry, Hermione, and Ron paled a bit. It had been their decision not to let her know
about the Defense Club until they were sure she could be trusted but it seemed like
every once in a while she would purposefully let something drop that hinted at her
knowing more than she let on. This was the first time she had mentioned the Room of
Requirement in an unveiled way. Julie Saito was the queen of veiled hints.
"I'm sure it is," Harry said after a moment, "You'll have to show it to us sometime."
Hanabi laughed again, more high pitched than her previous chuckle. With a flourish she
pulled a brand-new blood pop out of her school bag, unwrapped it, and popped it in her
mouth, grinning mentally at the expressions of disgust on the Gryffindors' faces. She
popped it out of her mouth for a moment to wave it at them innocently.
"But Harry already knows where the Room of Requirement is," she said before shoving
the strange treat back in her mouth. She hugged her loose books to her chest and rocked
back and forth on her heels, her long dark hair falling into her face. Yes, she had
perfected the look of the innocent, goth first year. The Golden Trio turned more pale than
they had before.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Julie," Harry stuttered, "Hermione told us about
the Room because she read it in a book but we've never been there."
The kunochi smiled grimly. "I never said that Harry had been to the Room of
Requirement," she said with mock cheer. "I just said that Harry knew about it, which he
does." Her eyes, mercifully hidden and misted by her massively thick glasses, narrowed
as she sucked on the blood pop. She was taking a risk here, moving from the innocent,
slightly insane girl to a professional kunoichi pressing for information.
"What do you want from us?" Ron suddenly asked with surprising vehemence. Hanabi
was silent, the only noise coming from her enjoyment of her treat. She hadn't expected
Ron to be the one to ask the question. With a mental shrug, she decided to play along.
"I only wanted to be Harry's friend," she said quietly, with the downcast eyes of a hurt
child. "But Harry doesn't want to be my friend. He keeps me out of everything that he
does because he doesn't trust me." She raised her eyes to the trio, a line of tears
trickling down from her right eye. "I would never do anything to betray Harry to anyone."
"Oh no," Hermione said, glaring at Ron, "It's okay, Julie, Ron didn't mean to hurt your
feelings. You've got everything wrong. We just wanted to make sure that you wouldn't
get hurt hanging out with us. First years can't really keep up with fifth years, you know,"
she said consolingly as she knelt beside the tiny first year. Hanabi sniffed and rubbed her
tears with the back of her fist.
"I won't get hurt," she said, "I promise."
"Yeah, I know that you've promised but you have to let us think about it, okay?"
Hermione said patiently. Internally, Hanabi growled to herself. Hermione could play all
sweet and kind but she was just as calculating as Harry and Ron. There was no way they

were going to let her into the Defense Club unless she did something to make them trust
her.
"I can help you!" she said suddenly, grabbing Hermione's sleeve in a surprisingly strong
grasp. "Professor Snape has been teaching me seventh year potions and I know a lot of
defensive and offensive stuff. I can help you!" As she put on her best 'earnest' face, she
realized that Hermione was looking suspiciously at the colour of her eyes.
"We'll talk about it," Hermione repeated before standing up. "We have to get to class now
so we'll see you later." The Golden Trio walked away quickly. Harry looked back once to
see that Julie was still sitting in the middle of the hallway, her bloodpop in one hand, with
a strange smirk on her little face.
"She's completely bonkers and probably a spy for someone," Ron said once they were
out of earshot.
Hermione punched his arm. "She's a little strange and I certainly don't trust her but I
guess we could use her to our advantage if she is a spy and we let her in."
'What do you mean?" Harry asked quietly, speaking for the first time.
Hermione raised two fingers. "Let's assume she's a spy of some sort, which I definitely
think she is. You just don't have weirdos like her around without someone knowing who
she is. Reason number one, if she is Voldemort's spy, we can let her in on the Defense
Club and act like complete screw ups when she's around, this will detract from Voldemort
ever knowing our true strength and we can use that to our advantage in a fight." She
raised her second finger. "Reason number two, if she is a ninja spy they are probably just
trying to figure out what we're up to without seeming invasive. My guess is that she's
one of the new ones although she did have those weird eyes that Dove and Mouse have.
If we let her in the Defense Club in that case, we can always use her to our advantage
and, by acting stupid again, we can get the guards off our back since they'll think we're
just doing some kiddie game thing."
"But what if she's not a spy?" Harry offered. "And we act up. What if we end up ruining
her chances at defending herself because we suspected he?"
"You don't need to worry about that," Hermione said absently. "If she's a first year taking
seventh year potions I doubt that she's completely unable to defend herself. And if she
proves to be trustworthy then we'll let her help us. Heaven knows the two of you are
awful at potions in general."
"I'm not that awful," Ron muttered under his breath. "So what's the verdict? We let
Jacked-up Julie be part of the Defense Club?" Harry and Hermione nodded. "So I guess
that means that we'll be having a meeting soon."
Shikamaru was waiting for the three marks to leave Hanabi alone so he could talk to her.
A small part of him was bursting with pride at her sneaky little way to get information.
She had those three wizards backed so far into a corner, they couldn't be able to get out
without giving her something. When Hanabi didn't move from her spot once they were
gone, he assumed that she knew he was there and wandered out of the shadows.
"What exactly are you eating?" he asked lazily. She grinned up at him and, since there
was no one around, released her genjutsu.

"Blood pop, apparently they're the biggest thing with the vampire crowd. You want to try
it?" She waved it in front of his face and he batted her hand away with a small grimace of
disgust. "What do you want to talk about?"
"My guess is that they'll have to let you into this defense club they have. Hinata said that
it looked pretty good but I think that they will act out of character just so that you, since
they seem to think you are a spy "
"I am a spy, Shika-taicho," she deadpanned.
"I was aware of that, so shut up. As I was saying, since they think you are a spy they
wont act like themselves but I don't think that they'll be expecting Hinata and Neji to be
there (as whatever the heck they picked their names to be). Ino's going to be playing
Neji's part so we can take more of the suspicion off of them. They're going to pretend
that they didn't get the memo and keep performing above-par in comparison with the
rest of them."
"And my job is to point this out and throw a big fit that they don't love me?" she ended
sarcastically. She popped the strange candy back into her mouth and Shikamaru felt like
he was going to puke his internal organs.
"I vote for staying away from being the brat if at all possible. You can always just blame
anything you do on crazy mood swings since that seems to be the way this Julie
character is." She was nodding in understanding before he was done speaking, a habit of
hers that told him she was already zoning out. "Hyuuga Hanabi if you mess this up I will
personally skin you alive, is that understood?"
She perked up at that and raised the hand that had held her candy in a strict salute,
managing to look like a complete idiot with her piles of books and sucker in her mouth.
"Understood, taicho-sama," she said around the stick in her mouth. Shikamaru sighed
and patted her head slightly.
"Good. You're doing great on this mission, Hanabi-chan," he said with a small smile. She
positively glowed under the praise.
"Thanks, taicho."
The praise time was gone just as soon as it had come. "But if you mess this up, I'm
letting you take all the blame and Tsunade-sama will hand your ass to you before the
mission report is in."
"You're simply the best taicho that I know."
"Damn straight."
[It's only going up, just one thing and another, you know]
"So that's the plan everyone," Harry said to the room of teenagers. He got more than a
few concerned looks and he was sure that in a moment someone would ask why they
were even doing this anyway if this kid could be Voldemort's spy. Fortunately, nobody
got to ask because, at that moment, the door opened again and three new people came
into the room.
"Corbin and Monica Taylor?" Hermione whispered in his ear. "But I thought for sure that
they were Dove and Mouse."

"Why are they here?" Ron hissed under his breath. The trio was more surprised by that
than the fact that little Julie Saito was right behind them like she was born to follow the
strange duo.
"Ah, sorry we're late," Hinata said quietly to the room on a whole. She was met with
various versions of 'don't worry about it' and 'it's okay'. Hinata grabbed Ino's hand and
pulled her toward the edge of the group where she and Neji had always stood. They
would put Shikamaru's plan into action and pray to goodness that it worked. She smiled
a bit as her little sister put on her full fangirl-personality.
"Harry!" Hanabi-Julie said loudly, waving as if he wasn't just a few feet in front of her.
"I'm so happy you let me come, now I can show everyone what I can do." She clenched
a fist dramatically in front of her face. "Nobody will underestimate Julie Saito again!"
"Oh my lord," Hinata heard Fred whisper to his twin, "It's that little freak again." He
sounded absolutely astonished and not in a good way.
"Hey, what house are you in anyway?" one of the kids asked suddenly.
Hanabi's mouth twitched down into a frown and she pointed boldly to the questioner.
"I'm a Slytherin first year, if you must know." The next second her hands were in front of
her, poking her fingers together in a mockery of her older sister's classic pose. "But I'm
sure that I was sorted wrong so please don't hate me."
"It's probably because that's where the psychos go," one kid whispered to another.
"But Loony Lovegood's in Ravenclaw," the other kid answered.
"Alright, we should get started now," Harry said, clapping his hands to get everyone's
attention. They all turned to look at him immediately and Hinata had to turn Ino just a
bit to keep her from staring off into space, bored already. "We're going to be practicing
simple spells today so everyone get in two groups and we'll do accio again." He was met
with collective, dramatic groans from the group but they seperated themselves out
accordingly, with Hinata and Hanabi going to one side and Ino to the other, facing two
giant boxes of pillows.
Shikamaru-san, I really hope this works, Hinata said silently as she raised her wand. She
knew exactly what Harry wanted them to do but Shikamaru wanted the opposite and so
that was that. She flicked out a chakra string from the tip of her wand, grabbed the
pillow, and flung it to the side while saying the spell name effortlessly.
"Um well that was really good, Monica but maybe you shouldn't put so much effort into
it," Hermione said from behind her. Hinata gave her the best confused look she could put
on and didn't say anything, just moved to the back of the line.
After everyone in the line tried and failed epically to do the simple spell and Ino, Hinata,
and Hanabi did it perfectly each time, the trio decided to put the plan into action. Hinata
poked her fingers together and did her best to look completely innocent.
"Gosh, Julie, I'm sorry you had to be here today. Normally we do a lot better than this."
The rest of the class behind Julie started waving their hands in the air frantically and
making cutting motions across their throats. She looked at the ground and pretended not
to notice them. "I know that everyone here and do this spell perfectly and a lot of harder
ones too." She gave her sister a perfectly angelic smile. "I hope that next time you come
everyone will be able to do better."

Harry and Hermione looked at each other and practically deflated. Of course someone
should have taken Monica and Corbin aside to explain everything. They hadn't been their
for the announcement but they had assumed, incorrectly it seemed, that they would
catch on without problems. Harry glanced at Corbin suspiciously. He had been ultra quiet
today and had even seperated from his sister without fuss. How interesting.
"Everyone normally does better?" Hanabi repeated in a cutesy fashion. She pressed a
finger to her bottom lip and looked up at the ceiling. "Maybe the house elves messed up
the food this morning and everyone is feeling down?" It seemed like she was talking to
herself. "Oh well, I'll just have to come back a lot so that I'll get to see upperclassmen's
abilities," she said with a joyful smile. She clapped her hands gleefully. "I'm sure Harry
will tell me when all of the meetings are and if he can't then I know that Fred and George
would be happy to help me again. Thanks for telling me, Monica."
"No problem," Hinata said quietly, studiously ignoring the betrayed looks from the rest of
the group. Ha, it seemed that Shikamaru's plan was working. They wouldn't dare reveal
that they had been acting all along while Hanabi was still in the room.
"Well I guess we'll just dismiss for today since nobody's performing really well and I'll get
back to everyone on the next meeting," Harry said lamely. An annoyed muttering started
up among the students but then Hanabi uttered a shriek that made the whole room
silent.
"You can't just give up because everyone's down!" she said, pointing a finger at Harry. "I
thought better of you, Harry! Voldemort's not going to just give you a few days if you're
not performing all that great when you meet him. No! He's going to take advantage of
that! We have to get through this and force ourselves to become stronger for the sake of
the people that we want to protect, even if that's just ourselves!" She lowered her finger.
"Isn't that something Harry should say?"
The room was quiet as the gathered students looked at this girl that they thought was a
spy. She looked completely unassuming and to have uttered something so passionately,
she was either not lying or a freakin' good actress. Hinata smiled inwardly at her sister's
acting abilities.
"Um well, I guess that's right, Julie," Harry said awkwardly. He turned to the rest of the
group. "Does anyone want to keep going today and see if things get any better?" There
were a few raised hands but the rest seemed to be waiting to see if he actually wanted
them to perform their very best or if he wanted them to keep acting.
"Harry," Hanabi said quietly. She titled her head to the side and clasped her hands in
front of her. "Please stop being afraid that I am a spy. I can assure you with all my heart
that I am not. I would never do anything to hurt you. You can even use a truth potion on
me, I could even make it for you, I know it by heart. I'm not afraid of Voldemort, I just
want to help."
Harry looked between the rest of his group, Hermione, and Julie and then back around.
After a moment of assessing the situation, he shrugged. "Alright, let's get going for real."
There were a few cheers from the group. "We'll do something more advanced now," he
started and Hinata couldn't help but zone out and grin at her sister across the room.
Hanabi saw her out of the corner of her eye and gave her a disguised thumbs up.
Shikamaru always knew what to do and Hanabi always knew how to get it done.
"Harry," Ron said, "Are you sure this is a good thing to do? We can't trust her just
because she's a good actress."

"I know but I just can't find it in myself to think that she's a spy. She's too innocent
and carefree," he said as he watched Julie try desperately to do the newest spell and fail
every time. Her partner laughed and helped her with the movements, teaching it to her
as they went along.
"We can't do something like this just because of a feeling," Ron reminded quietly. But
even he didn't want to think that way of the little first year. "But if that's what you want,
I guess we'll just have to go with it a damn the consequences, right?" He gave his best
friend a big grin and thumbs up and Harry returned it with his own smile.
"Yeah, and pray to goodness that we're right."
[Storms wait outside, oh love, hold us together]
"Good job, Hana-chan," Naruto said brightly as the young kunoichi skipped her way back
into the room that they were using as their temporary base. She growled and made a
move to bash his head but he moved out of the way quickly.
"I told you not to call me that, senpai," she growled as she flopped down onto a sofa and
piled all of her school books up on the seat next to her.
"And I told you 'no can do, Hana-chan'," he teased. She muttered dark threats under her
breath until the portal swung open again and Hinata and Ino strolled in.
"I could have sworn you guys were right behind me," Hanabi said as she lounged in her
seat. Kiba came up behind her and flicked her forehead.
"No swearing," he said. She rubbed her forehead and glared at him.
"I picked most of it up from you," she said and he backed off with a grin, raising his
hands in a touche pose.
"Stop bickering, it's so troublesome," Shikamaru said from the couch he had overtaken.
He had an unlit cigarette in his mouth, acutely aware that Sakura was watching his every
move, ready to bash his head in if he lit it. "Now that every one is here, what did you
three think of this defense club?"
"It's stupid," Hanabi said. "All they can do is cast their little spells. One of us could take
them out in a heartbeat. They'll never stand against Orochi-bastard's shinobi."
"In their defense," Sakura said, "They don't know that they would have to face
something that's not a wizard like themselves." She twirled a lock of pink hair around her
finger. "But of course, that could be fixed if Naruto and Shikamaru would let us
intervene."
"We're not getting onto that topic yet," Shikamaru mumbled. "Hinata, Ino, what did you
two think?"
"It has it's merits," Hinata said quietly. "They've certainly come a long way from what
they were. They have the potential to be very strong and well rounded."
"Yeah but the potential's not going to come out unless we do something about it," Ino
offered. She plopped down on top of Shikamaru's feet. "We've got to do something fast
too. From the information we got from the Order, we're going to have a few months at

minimum to get ready to face Voldemort and there is no way I'm going to watch some
wimpy kid's back so they can have their time of glory."
"I wasn't going to ask you to. Get off my feet."
"Move your feet," she retorted, but shifted so he could disentangle himself.
He sat up and leaned his elbows on his knees. "We can't just waltz in there and take
over, that would just lead to more distrust of us. We can't reveal who Hinata, Neji, Ino,
and Hanabi are or we will foster more discontent. So what we have to do is get one of us
who aren't directly a part of this to be the ones who approach them and ask if we can
watch. Then we can get around to telling them exactly what they are up against. In a
couple of months we can do some basic hand to hand and at least get them some
reactionary skills."
"Basic hand to hand wont serve any purpose against a highly trained shinobi," Hanabi
pointed out as she stared at the ceiling. "Wouldn't it be better if we let them train using
us as their dummies? Then they could get the feeling of defending themselves against a
real warrior and if they get used to how difficult we are, they can easily defeat a mere
wizard." There was silence following this idea as the gathered shinobi went over this
plan, weighing the pros and cons.
Sasuke finally spoke up. "Well, I guess you have a brain in there after all, Hyuuga," he
smirked.
"Hey!" Kiba smooshed a pillow over her face to distract her from her momentary
bloodlust.
Shikamaru sat back in his chair and looked out the window. It was night but it would
soon be morning again and they had very limited time to get into this defense club and
he had a feeling that something big was going to happen, something that would try to
stop their plans. "We will go with Hanabi's plan," he announced. "Naruto and Sakura will
approach Harry and Hermione. Hinata, Ino, and Hanabi, if we get in and we manage to
use this plan, you are not allowed to, under any circumstances except for my direct
order, show that you are one of us. You will be normal students who've never fought
shinobi before, is that clear?"
"Hai," Ino and Hinata answered.
"Crystal," Hanabi drawled. "So when do we get started?"
Shikamaru let a half-grin quirk his lips. "We're putting this into action tomorrow so be
ready. Naruto, Sakura, you have until lunch time to talk to the Boy-Who-Lived and his
little posse. Hanabi, you have got to be with him when they ask so they don't think that
you are one of them."
"Aye, aye, taicho-sama," Hanabi answered with her flippity, mock-salute.
"You had better be glad I'm so nice or I would have had you demoted for that months
ago," he pointed out.
"I know. But taicho loves me so much he would never dream of demoting me," she
answered with a grin.
"Cheeky Hyuuga, who knew?"

[Everything looks perfect from far away]


Sakura stood by herself around the corner that Harry has to pass to go to his next class,
checking her special magical watch she had picked up in Diagon Alley before school
started. Harry and his friends were later than ever and she hoped dearly that Hanabi
hadn't accidentally slowed them down when she met up with them. Naruto waved to her
from down the hall where he was stationed.
As the last stragglers to class raced passed where they were hidden in the shadows,
completely unaware that the recently-absent shinobi were even there, Sakura and Naruto
began to get a bit nervous that they might miss Harry completely. But their fears were
found to be unnecessary, as they felt Hanabi's chakra signature blazing around the
corner, followed by the slightly dimmer versions that belonged to the wizarding trio.
"We're going to be late, I just know we are," Hermione was saying frantically, tugging at
the strap to her bag as she tried to stuff a few last books in it.
"It's not my fault that your crazy cat wanted to eat all my books," Ron muttered. He was
busily nursing a few nasty cat scratches down his arm.
"Julie, aren't you going to be late for class?" Hermione asked as an after thought.
The disguised kunoichi just shrugged, munching away on some new sort of candy she'd
probably bummed off the house elves. "I have a free period right now so I figured I
might as well walk with you guys."
"You've been hanging out with us all day," Ron grumbled. Hanabi gave him her best
glare, which forced him to cower behind Hermione even as she strode onward with the
force of an angry elephant.
Sakura and Naruto looked at each other and noticed Hanabi staring at them with one
eyebrow raised in question. She stuffed another handful of some sort of chewy looking
candy in her mouth in a deceptively innocent manner. Who knew that a Hyuuga could
have such a sweet tooth? When neither of the older shinobi moved, Hanabi took it upon
herself to make contact.
The little first year grabbed the edge of Hermione's sleeve and yanked her back. Hard.
Hermione ended up crashing into Ron, who grabbed Harry and pulled all three down into
a jumble of uniforms and scattered books with Hanabi standing proudly far enough away
to escape the chaos. "Hey, look, there's two of the guards!" she said in a strangely loud
voice. The Golden Trio looked up like a group of deer in headlights. Sakura sighed and
rolled her eyes.
"Good morning," she said cheerfully as she stepped out of the shadows. Naruto followed
her, trotting down the hall to offer his hand to help Hermione up. She took it, with a
slight shake to her hand.
"Good morning," she said quietly as she was pulled to her feet. For a moment, she
glanced in Hanabi's direction, wondering how in the world the little first year had been
able to see them when they were so well hidden. Even Harry looked a bit stunned.
"We need to get going, we're going to be late for class," Harry said as he started helping
his friends gather their books. The shinobi knelt down immediately to grab a few potions
books off the floor.

"Don't worry about it, we'll talk to your teacher for you," Sakura said as she briefly
dusted off the cover of Ron's book and handed it to him. "Are you three going to
Professor Snape's class?" she asked. She received a few tentative nods. "And what class
are you going to, Saito-san?" she asked innocently.
Hanabi treated her senpai to her largest grin to date and licked a light dusting of sugar
off of her lips. "Free period," she said happily.
"We need to talk to you guys about something really fast," Sakura said, crossing her
arms over her chest.
"So we're going to need you to step into this classroom right here," Naruto said as he
shoved the trio and Hanabi into a randomly open room that they had picked out while
they were waiting for them to make it their way. Once they were all inside the room,
Naruto shut the door and stood in front of it, managing to look dangerous even if he
didn't mean to.
"What did you want to talk to us about?" Hermione asked in a strangely cold voice. "We
really need to get to class."
"We wanted to talk to you about your Defense Club," Sakura said. She noticed how the
three immediately looked over suspiciously at Hanabi, who now occupied an empty desk,
seemingly finished with her candy. "We heard about it through Dumbledore and we
wanted to make sure that you know exaclty what you're going against."
"We're up against Voldemort, that's who," Harry almost spat. It seemed that he still
wasn't over that little almost-hostage exchange fiasco.
"Voldemort's not the only one and we don't want you guys getting hurt or killed because
you don't know what you are going to have to face," Sakura explained in the voice that
she used to calm half-crazed patients back at the hospital.
"What do you mean?" Ron asked suspiciously.
"There are others like us, but not quite, who are on Voldemort's side and we want you
to be prepared to fight them," Naruto said bluntly. "We have our evils just like you guys
have yours and it seems that they were simply made for each other."
"What does that have to do with the Defense Club?" Hermione asked, even though she
already knew. She wasn't sure if she actually wanted to hear them say it.
"We want you to trust enough to let us come to your meetings and help you," Sakura
said. When Harry and Ron looked like they were about to protest, she kept going. "We
don't want to try to make you learn new things in a short amount of time, since time isn't
exactly on our side, but we want you to be able to defend yourselves against people like
us."
"Did Professor Dumbledore tell you to do this?" Harry asked icily.
The two shinobi glanced at each other. "No," Naruto said, "We came up with this on our
own." He offered them a small smile. "We just don't want you to be killed when we're
supposed to be the ones watching your backs."
Watching our backs? Hermione repeated in her head. She had thought that they were
supposed to be 'protecting' them, which they sure hadn't done too good at so far. For a

moment, there was a brief flicker of hope inside of her. Maybe the shinobi realized that
they would work much better if they were side by side instead of one in front of the
other. "What do you mean we?" she voiced aloud.
"There's the four of us who are still here and we got a back up team a few weeks ago,"
Naruto said. "We're all close friends and they want to help you guys too since they'll be
fighting along side you very soon."
"Are we going to meet everybody or are you going to keep sending your little spies in to
watch us," Harry asked with a veiled expression.
Naruto decided to make an executive decision and play dumb. "I have no idea what you
mean. We didn't even know where your Defense Club was until Dumbledore told us about
it. All we knew was that you had one."
Ron snorted and Hermione rolled her eyes. "We don't believe that and I'm pretty sure
you aren't telling us the whole truth," the girl said with a slight hint of sarcasm in her
voice. She grabbed her fallen back and slung it over her shoulder, her two friends
following suit and Hanabi leaping from the desk as soon as she realized that they were
leaving.
As they neared the doorway, Harry looked back at the two shinobi and the strange
Slytherin girl that he was almost sure belonged in their number. "We'll think about it," he
said. "But keep in mind that, if you want us to trust you, it helps to start by getting rid of
secrets." Then they were gone.
Hanabi looked up at her superiors and shrugged, leaving the room without releasing her
genjutsu so she could catch up with her self-proclaimed charge before they thought that
she had just stayed behind to meet with her fellow shinobi. They would keep pretending
that she wasn't one of them for now. At the moment, she was too valuable of an asset
for them to give away.
"Well that went a bit better than expected," Naruto said with a sigh as the door closed.
He plopped himself down on one of the desks and fingered a strange scorch mark etched
into the wood top.
"Are you serious?" Sakura muttered. "I thought that Harry was going to skin us alive with
his eyeballs." She sighed and rubbed her forehead with two fingers as she sat down
across from her taicho. He gave her one of his grins that were so big they made his eyes
into tiny crescents.
"Well we have a start at least, we didn't get shot down immediately like we thought we
were going to."
"But Shikamaru was right, yet again," she murmured. "He told us that Harry would want
us to come clean about the stuff that we've been hiding for him."
"That's to be expect, Hanabi could have told us that," Naruto said with a grin. Sakura
gave him a small smile of her own and gazed out one of the long, narrow windows.
"I just hope this goes as well as Shikamaru thinks it's going to. I've never known him to
be wrong but sometimes I just get a bit concerned."
"Don't be. If he's wrong then there is always a Plan B!" the captain said cheerfully.

"I just don't want the teachers finding out about what we're doing. If any of them
thought that we were corrupting their students, we'd be in deep mud before we could do
anything about it."
"You're such a downer today, Sakura-chan. Is there something wrong?"
His sudden question caught the medic by surprise and she took a moment just to stare at
him, wondering what exactly to say. But she soon shrugged and looked away from him.
"I'm just missing Neji and Tenten, that's all. I'm worried about them and everyone else
on this mission." She gave him a sad smile. "And we thought that this was going to be
easy."
[I belong to the hurricane]
The next Defense meeting was planned faster than any meeting had been planned before
and took place a mere three days after the previous one. All of the students stood inside
the Room of Requirement, a bit confused about the speed that the next one had been put
together. They stood in their slight cliques, whispering to each other, contemplating what
could be wrong, while the Gryffindor trio watched the three spies that they thought were
part of the shinobi group.
Corbin and Monica Taylor stood by themselves, as they always did. That was a strange
thing in itself. Harry had been almost certain that Corbin and Monica were the pale-eyed
shinobi cousins but once he was sure that Dove was gone, had had no idea how Corbin
could still be there. And they were far more quiet, almost like mutes, than they had been
before.
Julie Saito was a completely different story. She bounced among the older students like
they were old friends, having completely hit it off with Neville and Luna the second she
had met them. The other students didn't mind having her around, indeed, she seemed to
make eveything a bit brighter although some of her habits (like munching happily on
blood pops) was a bit off putting every once in a while. Hermione had told him the night
before that she thought Julie was one of the backup team.
Harry whistled to get everyone's attention and they turned to face him instantly, very
familiar by now with the sound of that whistle. They were quiet. "Everyone, we called you
guys here today because we wanted to talk to you about something that the guards
asked us a few days ago," he started. There were a few whispered words in response but
they were soon shushed out of existance. "Captain Fox and Slug asked us if they could
come be a part of our Defense Club, to help us with a few things and," he took a deep
breath, "We said yes."
More murmurs followed this announcement but they weren't angry. They were actually
rather curious and interested sounding. Most of the other students hadn't had any sort of
contact with the guards other than a brief greeting or split second eye contact in the
halls.
"Are they going to be here today?" Cho asked suddenly, her pretty face alight with some
odd kind of happiness at the idea of someone new to talk to.
"We're already here." Trust Naruto to make a great entrance.
The doors to the Room of Requirement had been opened silently and, in the doorway,
were the three familiar bodies and two new ones. The ones that the student recognized
were Captain Fox, Slug, and Viper, the last of which didn't seem to be all too happy with

the arrangement. But the other two were completely new. One was a slightly slouched,
younger looking man with his brown hair pulled back in a spiked ponytail and another
man was brown haired with triangles on his cheeks instead of whiskers.
"We thought we might be a bit late. Sorry about that," Slug said with a smile on her face.
"But we had to gather up some of our team who were wandering around," she cast a
goodnatured glare at the brown haired man with painted cheeks. He just gave her a
wolfish grin that looked completely natural on his tanned face.
"Um well I guess that's fine but, where's Mouse?" Hermione asked. Naruto and twitched
a finger in the direction of Monica and Corbin and the two Ravenclaws ambled their way
over to the gathered shinobi.
"We agreed that keeping secrets wasn't a good way for us to gain your trust, so meet
Monica and the second Corbin," Naruto said. The two students pressed their fingers
together in some sort of hand sign and, in a puff of smoke, they were replaced by Mouse
and a tall woman with a long blonde ponytail and merry blue eyes. "The first Corbin was
Dove but he was taken back home to get treated for some nasty injuries," Naruto
explained to the students.
"Whoa! How did you guys do that?" That was Fred and George, looking at the sudden
change in appearance with mischeivous looks in their eyes.
"Trade secret," the brown haired man said with a quirky grin. "I'm Wolf, by the way," he
said with a wink at Cho. She blushed crimson and giggled nervously behind her
hand.That did not go unnoticed by Harry.
"Shut up, dog-breath," the blonde woman muttered, shoving his shoulder hard. She
made a peace sign with her fingers and gave a blinding smile that put Kiba's wink to
shame. "I'm Peacock," she said proudly. The students found themselves wondering how
she could have pulled of the quiet, subdued Corbin character. "That's our lazy Captain
Sloth," she added as an after thought, jamming her thumb in the direction of the spikeyhaired man.
"Since Peacock likes to hog the spotlight," Sakura suddenly broke in, pushing the blonde
out of the way, "We'll just have to move on before she blinds us all with her sparkling
teeth." A few students could have sworn that they heard her mumble something that
sounded like: Just like Gai and Lee under her breath. The blonde looked like she was
about to breathe fire out her nose.
Hanabi watched her team from the sidelines, having gone strangely quiet when they
came in. She noticed the Gryffindor trio watching her out of the corner of their eyes from
time to time so she pretended to be simply enraptured with the newest treat she'd stolen
off Fred and George earlier.
"So listen up, kiddies," Ino was saying, drawing all the attention immediately to herself.
She and Kiba stood in front of all of the students, making a rather imposing duo
together, even though they kept discretely poking each other when they thought nobody
would notice. "We've got some good news and some bad news that you're just going to
have to accept or accept."
Kiba took over. "The bad news is that Voldemort's got some people like us on his side,
our mortal enemies, so to speak."

"Just like among wizards, there are good and bad people in our people too " Ino was cut
off by a student.
"Aren't you guys wizards too?"
The shinobi all looked at each other and then at Harry and their eyes glazed slightly as
they realized that he had no explained to his group exactly what they were. In the
student's eyes they were still wizard guardians.
"You know I thought for sure that he would go ahead and tell them," Naruto muttered
under his breath. He glanced at the backup team. They hadn't bothered to wear anything
other than their usual shinobi clothes since they figured that the students would already
know whatever Harry knew about them. "Could you hold that thought for a second?"
Naruto asked weakly.
The shinobi huddled, keeping their voices low so that the wizards couldn't hear them.
"What do we do? If we don't tell them then they'll wonder how we know all this," Ino
said.
"But if we do tell them it will take them even longer to trust them," Naruto said.
"What about the no secrets policy?" Sakura asked.
"We obviously can't tell them everything. We'd end up having some secrets anyway,"
Sasuke answered.
The shinobi looked at each other, frowning. Finally, Shikamaru sighed and straightened
up, running a hand through his ponytail. "What Peacock was trying to say is that
Voldemort has some people on his side that we know of through our personal work. They
are quite dangerous and you can't fight them like you would fight a wizard."
"What kind of people?" Fred (or maybe George) asked.
"Ninjas."
"Ninjas" the twin repeated.
"Are you serious?" the other one asked.
Ino seemed to think it was her turn to talk again. "Dead serious and unless you want
to be dead, I suggest you wipe that stupid look off your face and open your ears because
we're about to tell you about stuff you could have never even dreamed of, kiddos."
"If you're going to stand a chance against Voldermort's shino-" Naruto cut himself off.
"Ninjas. You're going to have to have our help and if we're going to help you, you're
going to have to learn some new stuff really fast and you're going to have to be willing to
trust us."
"Trust you? We barely even know you," someone said.
"I trust them," Hanabi said quietly. The students turned and looked at her, their eyes
wide in clear surprise at little Julie. To them, she was just another student, but once they
turned away from her and back to the shinobi, she gave her captain a sly wink. The
corners of his mouth quirked in a grin.

"Are you willing to learn?" Shikamaru asked.


Harry answered for his group. "I guess."
"Damn straight!"
"Shut up, Peacock."

[All I do is win, win, win no matter what]


Harry had thought that, perhaps, having the shinobi around wouldn't be so bad. The new
ones, at least, seemed to be charismatic and funny and pleasent enough to be around.
Wolf and Peacock argued most of the time but it all seemed to be in good fun. Sloth lived
up to his name and did little more than laze around and catch quick naps whenever
anyone wasn't looking. Harry had never seen anyone fall asleep that fast before. Fox was
more relaxed around the new team than he had ever seen him, Slug and Peacock
constantly made inside jokes and seemed to either be the best of friends or the worst
rivals, and Mouse oftentimes stood in the corner, smiling peacefully to herself.
Regardless of the levity of the shinobi, the work that they began to put the Defense Club
members through was unlike anything they had ever experienced before. Magic, for most
students, was a way to get out of having to do other things. For example, accio was one
that was generally used if your quill was on the other side of the room and you were too
lazy to go get it. But in the shinobi's minds, anything could be used as a weapon and
should be, if there is a need for it. This was what they told the Defense Club members on
their first day learning from the shinobi.
"You have on your side something very powerful that will be the only thing that can save
you from someone like us," he said, "Magic is very like chakra, which is an energy...
type... thing," his voice faltered, "Something... that we possess. And, we've found that
magic can counter chakra just as well as chakra can counter chakra." He rubbed the back
of his neck. "Don't even try to ask me what chakra is exactly or how it works, Hermione,
'cause I have no clue. I didn't pay much attention at the Academy." There were several,
barely concealed snickers from the other shinobi so the Hogwarts students assumed that
there was some sort of private joke going among them. Harry noticed that Julie chuckled
as well, although she tried to hide it.
"Even 'much attention' is exaggerating a bit," Peacock whispered, loudly enough for
everyone to hear.
Fox shot her a half-hearted glare that was eclipsed by a rueful grin before speaking
again. "There is no way for us to teach you everything that you are going to be up
against but we can teach you how to defend against the basics and I guess you'll just
have to get creative with everything else. Most of the ninja that you'll be facing won't be
our level." He smirked proudly. "We are the cream of the crop, the awesome of the
awesome, the best of the best, the -"
"You're killing it, man," Wolf called. Cho smiled in amusement and the tattooed shinobi
gave her a flirty grin. She blushed. Harry was not pleased by that.

Fox huffed, "So, anyways, before I was interrupted, Sloth and I have spoken to Harry
about a few things that we want to do-"
"By that he means 'Peacock and Slug'," Slug whispered. There were more snickers.
"Stop interrupting me or we're never going to get through this," Fox complained. "So
Harry is going to tell you all what to do and then we are all going to do it! The end. Let's
go!" He bounced back to the rest of his group at the back of the collection of wizards and
witches and Harry stood in front of them and started directing like any good leader
should know how to do.
The shinobi paired off: Sloth and Peacock, Fox and Slug, Wolf and Mouse, and Viper
lurked in a corner by himself, clearly not participating. From there, Harry directed
students to each of the groups, minus Viper: Hermione, Luna, and Julie with Sloth, Ron
with Wolf, Neville with Fox, and Cho with Sloth (although she sneaked over to Wolf's
group as soon as his back was turned), and all the others, and then placed himself with
Fox and Slug. He had no expertise in what they were about to do.
Fox arranged his group around him like they were about to play duck-duck-goose, in a
half circle sitting on the ground. He and Slug stood. "The very first thing that you are
going to run into is a barrage of projectiles." He fished around in his pockets until he
pulled out two kunai and a shuriken. "The shuriken, or throwing star as I believe you call
them, vary in size but the fact of the matter is that they're going to get thrown at you."
He gave them to three different students to begin passing around. "As you can see, these
aren't toys. If one of them hits you... BAM!" Several jumped. "You might as well take
yourself out of the game. It really, really sucks to get a kunai stuck anywhere and unless
you have a really high threshhold for pain or have been hit with one enough to ignore it,
I suggest you plan on not getting hit by one of these." Nervousness played on every
student's face, even Harry's. Neville shifted in his seat, gingerly taking the shuriken
between his thumb and index finger when it passed by him. It was one thing to know
that the threat of magic was there but quite another when you could see how much it
would hurt to get hit by a flying knife or star.
Sloth and Peacock were taking an entirely different approach. Peacock had all of her
students standing in a very military style line while she spoke. "A huge thing to look out
for," she said, "Is an attack that probably won't hurt but will immobilize you." She
grabbed Sloth's sleeve and pulled him over as he tried to slink off into the shadows.
"Sloth and I specialize in things that won't necessarily cause harm but can if they are
coupled with other attacks." She poked her partner in the side. "Show them already."
Sloth sighed and muttered something under his breath before jamming his hands
together in a weird sign. Peacock stopped him right there and grabbed his clasped hands.
"One thing I forgot," she said, "All ninja attacks that aren't purely physical start with a
handsign." She waved Sloth's hands around while he let her yank his arms too and fro.
"If you see a ninja beginning to do handsigns, it means that they're about to do an
attack. It's kind of like waving your wands and saying your magic word. Some attacks
take lots of handsigns and some take very few but if you run into someone who is really
accustomed to doing their handsigns, they'll breeze through them before you have time
to react." To demonstrate, she whizzed through the handsigns for one of her favorite
wind attacks but didn't release it. "See? I know that one really well so I don't take long."
She patted Sloth. "You can go ahead now."
Sloth raised his hands and muttered something and suddenly, Hermione felt her whole
body go stiff. Then her arms were moving without her consent. And suddenly, she felt
her back fall into a slouch and her hands clasped in the same handsign as Sloth's. Then

she walked out a bit from the group, not of her own accord. The other students gaped at
her. Peacock patted her head while Sloth made her wave her hands around like a moron.
"Sloth and his family use shadows in their attacks. They're next to impossible to stop or
avoid unless you can move super duper fast. However, you're not going to run into
someone who does shadows controlling on the enemy's side because only Sloth's family
does that and they're all on our side." Sloth released Hermione. "The point of this is to
show you that shino- ninja," she corrected herself, "Can use chakra to take control of
their surroundings just like you can do with your magic. The attacks won't always be
flying at you, in fact, most of the time, they'll be sneaking up behind you." She smiled.
"Now let's get to work."
Wolf and Mouse covered the third aspect of shinobi warfare. Their group lounged around
in various stages of repose since Wolf was too absent minded to put them into any sort
of arrangement and Mouse was too shy. Wolf took care of all the talking. "The largest
part of ninja fighting is jutsus," he said, "Which, I guess, is something like one of your
spells. Anyways, there are different elements and each shinobi has on or two elements
that their jutsus stem from... blah, blah, blah. In example, Hin- Mouse," he corrected
hurridly, "Mouse has a water elements so most of her jutsus are going to be water based.
Show 'em," he said.
Mouse went through several handsigns, explaining the same thing Peacock had said to
the other group while she did so. Then a small twist of water appeared in the air, turning
and twirling with each movement of Mouse's hands. "If I'm near water, I can do
something larger, but I can do this just from the water in the air."
Ron raised his hand. "What good is that going to do?" he asked.
In reply, Mouse threw the twist of water at him. It hardened on its way and struck the
stones with a clang, piercing them just a few centimeters away from his hand. Ron paled
considerably.
Wolf chuckled. "As I was saying, Mouse is a water element. I'm earth so I can do things
like pull rocks out of the ground and throw them at people and stuff. It's pretty cool." A
few students sweatdropped comically. "Stronger ninjas will have stronger jutsus and
weaker ones will have weaker jutsus, just like anything else. You just need to know how
to react when someone is throwing a big jutsu at you and that's what were going to be
working on today." He rubbed his hands together. "So line up behind Ron and let's get
started."
['Cause I can do anything, anything, anything I want]
Harry, Hermione, and Ron retired to their dorm room late that night, rubbing aching
muscles and complaining all the way. Hermione claimed that her brain hurt worse than
after studying for one of Snape's exams from all of the hacking at it that Peacock had
done, Ron had a wild-eyed look of paranoia as he jumped at every sound, thinking that
perhaps it could be the crazy monster who called himself Wolf, and Harry nursed several
small cuts that he had gotten from close calls with the kunai that Slug and Fox were so
fond of throwing.
"I don't feel as if we achieved anything today," Hermione said as she sat by the window
in the common room with her chin propped up in her hand and her elbow on the arm of
her chair. Ron and Harry looked at her curiously, unused to such pessimism. So she
continued, "I know that they want to help us but I kind of wonder why they didn't come
out with it in the first place."

"Maybe they couldn't," Ron offered, for once sounding like the rational one.
"I already thought through that," Hermione said, "And I can't find any reason why they
couldn't unless Professor Dumbledore was stopping them for some reason that I can't
fathom." She sighed. "Unless they didn't know about the enemy... ninja... until recently."
"That seems most likely," Harry said. "I guess they can't be completely all-knowing." He
trapped Ron's bishop in the game of wizard's chess they were playing. Ron hissed a
curse.
"How do you feel about them these days?" Hermione asked, an almost absent look in her
eyes.
Harry sighed. "I don't like them any more than I did before but I have to admit that, if
there are enemy ninja out there, then it's a good thing that they're on our side, even if
they are only here because Dumbledore made them come."
Ron's bishop snagged Harry's queen. "Check," he said.
Harry moved his king away swiftly. "Why are you so un-optimistic?" he asked his female
friend.
"And by that you mean pessimistic?" she said wryly. "I guess I'm just a bit down
recently," she went on without waiting for his reply. "There are just so many things going
on with the Order and school and now this. I don't even know where to start to let my
mind wrap around all of it."
"Maybe it's one of those things that your mind can't wrap around and you just have to
accept that you can be all-smart all the time," Ron said before pumping the air with his
fist. "Check mate, Harry."
"I suppose you would know all about not being all-smart all the time," Harry teased.
Ron's fist pumping stopped at the same time that he shouted an unhappy, "Hey!"
Other students in the common room shushed them.
"How about this," Harry said. "It's just like our first year at Hogwarts when we didn't
know anything." He quirked an eyebrow, "I guess that's kind of hard for you to
understand," he said sarcastically. Hermione snorted ungracefully but made no comment.
"You don't understand everything right away but when you get further along, you start to
see things that you didn't before. Fox and them are trying to get our brains to
understand that when something sharp flies at you, you have to move out of the way
without using a spell to conserve your energy, but we aren't ready to figure out how to
attack who threw it at us yet." He looked thoughtful. "It's kind of like Arithmatic,
everything is a building block for something else."
"I guess you're right," Hermione conceeded. She offered him a small smile. "Maybe I'm
just tired. And my brain is sore. Peacock can do some crazy mind control thing that
makes my brain wrinkles itch like crazy."
"Brain wrinkles?"

[Did the four winds blow him away?]


"Move your feet, Hermione!" Slug called as she lazily threw yet another kunai in the girl's
direction, narrowly missing said girl.
The members of the defense club had learned very quickly that wearing their school
robes to the meetings was no longer advisable. Most came in loose, comfortable muggle
clothes that they didn't mind getting a little cut up, wet, or singed; all three of these
things came into play during their meetings now. Hermione herself was dressed in a pair
of trainers, some loose shorts, and an old t-shirt that sported a huge smiling monkey
wearing braces that said "Braces are Cool."
The three pairs of shinobi switched their groups at each new meeting, building
simultaneously on each other's work. Slug and Wolf always taught how to avoid physical
blows from non-chakra based attacks, Fox and Mouse taught how to deflect jutsu, and
Sloth and Peacock worked with stealthy jutsu. There was a meeting almost every night
and, with the students growing by leaps and bounds each night, when a student missed
one they were liable to miss a lot. They were in their third week of training before
someone asked about the absent Dove and Panda.
"Are Dove and Panda going to come help sometime?" Cho asked one day, surprisingly
thinking about something else other than Wolf's abs, which she got to see a lot of since
he had a habit of removing his shirt when he and Mouse worked with other students. She
had gotten nearly stabbed several times while staring at him appreciatively. The shinobi
did not answer so she assumed they hadn't heard and repeated her same question in a
louder voice. "Are Dove and Panda going to come help sometime?"
Mouse tapped her on the shoulder and Cho whipped around, startled. "Dove and Panda
have been removed from this mission until futher notice due to health concerns," she
said in a level, almost mechanical voice. Several of the shinobi turned their eyes to the
ground respectfully.
"Why would they be put on the mission if they had health concerns to begin with?"
Neville asked.
"I never said that they had health concerns to begin with," Mouse said quietly.
Sloth suddenly spoke up, starting many students who hadn't heard him speak outloud
before. "Maybe telling them what happened will teach them what they're up against," he
suggested before taking a long drag on the cigarette in his mouth. Slug glared at him
and made a motion to throw the cancer stick away, followed by a raised fist, which he did
after taking another breath of smoke and exhaling it dramatically. At this suggestion,
everyone grew still and silent.
Fox sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "About four weeks or so ago, Dove and
Panda were captured by Voldemort and Orochimaru, the ninja who is head of those who
are assisting Voldemort. Dove was brutally tortured for information and, for his and
Panda's return, we were asked to hand over Harry."
Several gasps followed this announcement but he ignored them. "Obviously, we didn't
hand over Harry but when we finally got Dove back, he was in too bad of shape to
continue with the mission so he was returned to our village and Sloth's team was sent as
backup. Panda went with him to ensure his safety and wellbeing on the way to and while
he's recovering in our village. As far as we can tell, he probably will not return to
complete this mission."

"Are we gonna get tortured?" someone squeaked.


"Nah," Wolf answered drily. "Voldemort and Orochimaru wouldn't bother with any of you.
You don't know anything special so you're in the clear. They'll probably just kill you on
the spot."
"Kiba!" Peacock barked, slipping up and saying his name in her shock that he would say
something like that. She hoped that the students would just think that it was one of the
shinobi's native words.
"Just saying what needs to be said," he muttered.
The students broke out into fearful whispering and shifty glances toward the shinobi,
most of whom were sending glares Wolf's way. Harry watched them carefully, realizing
belatedly that Julie hadn't partaken in the sudden, barely suppressed panic, and instead
stoof off by herself, dressed in her customary black pants, black long sleeved turtleneck,
and black boots, watching the shinobi with an expression somewhere between longing
and attempted blankness. He logged that away in his mental file of "Odd Things about
Julie Saito."
"Everyone, calm down," he said suddenly, stepping into the leadership role as if it had
been tailored to fit him. "Stop talking." There was silence. "Thank you. What are you all
getting so anxious about?" he asked. "We knew that there was a chance of this
happening. Why are you getting nervous about it now when we've known it all along?"
"There's just something about hearing someone actually say it," Fred offered morosely.
"What's so different than hearing you say it to yourself?" he asked. "My point is, stop
freaking out over this. We know that this is going to be a risk but hey, look at these
guys," he said, waving a hand at the shinobi. "They've been doing this for way longer
than we ever will and they're still alive. We can do this too. We have magic, we have
confidence, and there's no way that we are going to let Voldemort take that from us just
because we're afraid of what ifs and maybes." There were several agreeing mumbles. He
smiled. "So stop worrying about what might happen in the future and let's just get on
with worrying about what's happening today."
And with that, it seemed like everything was back to normal. The students returned to
their groups and the shinobi returned to teaching. But there was an energy and a passion
for learning accompanied by a sense of urgency that the shinobi hadn't seen just five
minutes before. They resumed their teaching but each nodded when he or she saw Fox
tell them through sign language to meet back by the lake at midnight. Wolf looked at the
ground when he got the message which had been accompanied by a stern glare that
could have cowed Viper in seconds.
When they finished their training for that evening and the students made their way back
to their dorms to crash, the atmosphere was one of fierce anticipation for the dangerous
and thrilling rather than one of fear of the unknown and threatening.
[Haven't you seen me sleepwalking?]
The shinobi met out by the lake just a bit before midnight, each having discarded their
disguises and sitting in comfortable, dark clothes. Hanabi was the last one to arrive,
slipping away when she was sure that none of the other students or teachers were
around. There were several minutes of silence after her arrival before anyone spoke.

"I'm sorry," Kiba said. Every shinobi looked at him curiously except for Sasuke, who was
busily looking moodily out over the lake. "I should have realized that they're just like
Academy students who don't know what they're getting into. I shouldn't have mentioned
anything about dying. I apologize." He bowed low to his and Naruto's team before
lowering his head and falling silent.
"We forgive you," Naruto said at last. "Everyone slips up, I mean, even Ino called you by
your real name today."
"Hey now," Ino said, "Don't pull me into this. 'Sides, I think everyone there thought it
was just a curse word or something equally as vulgar." She smirked at Kiba, "Because
your name sounds like a curse word."
"Only when you say it," Hanabi said, punctuating her sentence with a yawn. Ino turned
on her with a raised fist and the younger kunoichi cowered behind Shikamaru, who
looked like he could teeter off into dreamland at any moment.
"Ladies, calm yourselves," Naruto said exhasperatedly, for once feeling like the only adult
in the area. It was a very strange, unusual feeling. Generally he could count on Neji to be
the mother hen, but Neji wasn't there.
"Did you call this meeting just to humiliate Kiba or was there a real reason?" Ino asked,
having grown bored of threatening Hanabi while she hid behind a dozing Shikamaru.
"There is a real reason," Naruto answered. "And Shikamaru is going to tell you what it
is."
All of the shinobi looked expectantly to the other captain, who was oblvious to everything
going on around him. He didn't react to anything until Hanabi reached over and prodded
him forcefully between his ribs, and even then all he did was swat her away with a
mumbled "troublesome."
"Shikamaru," Ino said, "Wake up and tell us why we're out here in the cold for no
reason?"
The lazy genius cracked one eye. "Naruto thinks that we should allow Harry to have more
one on one training time with us. With his life being the walking epic story that is is, the
chances of him being the one to face Voldemort, and by association, Orochimaru, will be
the greatest."
"Is that all?" a very sleepy Sakura grumbled.
"Yeah."
"What about Hermione and Ron?" Hanabi asked, now lounging beside her captain.
"What about them?" Kiba asked.
"Should we give them specialized training as well? A shinobi always has to have backup
so why should Harry be any different? It would be kind of pointless if his best friends
were worthless and couldn't help him at all," she pointed out.
"We're his back up," Kiba reminded her.

"But we won't always be," she argued. "We're going to leave eventually and then he's not
going to have any backup besides a couple of good friends who make lousy teammates."
"We will be leaving when the threat of Orochimaru is taken care of," Sasuke said blandly.
"Once Orochimaru is gone then there wont be any need for Potter's friends to have to
fight our kind."
Hanabi's mouth twisted into a thin line as she glared around the room. "You'll cause
unneccessary tension between the three of them if you only allow Harry to learn from
you, even if he accepts it," she began her last argument, "And if there is tension between
Harry, Hermione, and Ron then he won't do as well and will undoubtedly either try to get
you to teach them as well or won't accept your help. That's the kind of people that they
are."
"Annoying ones," Ino muttered.
"Harry-kun sounds a lot like Naruto-kun," Hinata said thoughtfully. When there were a
few surprised glances cast her way she blushed and corrected herself, "Not that Narutokun is annoying at all. He just values his friends more than himself, like Harry-kun does."
Hanabi looked triumphantly at her captain and Naruto. "See? If he's anything like Naruto
he will always try to get is way and we don't want to bother with that it would be so...
troublesome," she said, grinning at Shikamaru.
He sighed and let his head fall back and a mock snore escape his mouth. "You're the one
being troublesome now."
"Think of is a little trouble now to escape greater trouble in the future," she said, having
already won him over to her side.
Naruto considered her proposition for several minutes, weighing the pros and cons in a
decidedly uncharacteristic way. Each shinobi had noticed that, on this mission, Naruto
seemed to have grown in seriousness and personality. Perhaps it was because on this
mission the lives of hundreds of innocent children were on the line and he had someone
to save rather than someone to kill.
"Alright," he said after a while. Hanabi let out the breath she hadn't even noticed she had
been holding. "But you have to suggest it to them."
"What? No way!"
[I've been waiting for you]
"And that's why that we, or at least the three of you, should ask the ninja if they will
train us personally," Hanabi, disguised as Julie Saito, said, trying to not let a tinge of
anger enter her voice. She could see the rest of the shinobi lurking in the shadows on her
peripheral vision, hiding out in the corners of the common room, Naruto giving her a
huge thumbs up and an irritating smile that she wanted to slap right off of his face.
"You want us to quit letting them come to the Defense Club?" Hermione asked.
"No, just let us do some stuff with them on the side, so, like, Harry can be really super
prepared for when, or if, he has to face Voldemort," she assurred. For once, she didn't
have candy in her mouth, a testament to her agitation.

"I don't know..." Harry said.


"Why not?" Hermione asked. "Having extra help could be really useful and it couldn't hurt
to ask."
"But what if the other kids in the club think that we're acting like we're more important
than them?" Harry asked.
Hermione tapped her chin with her finger. "We could... ask the ninja if they could do
even more classes that are much harder and make them optional for everyone in the
Defense Club. That way people can not come and not feel guilty and we can have more
training."
"Guys?" Ron interrupted in a squeak. "We kind of do still have classes here, you know.
'Mione, you're really smart and you can get away with skipping classes or not studying
but I can't 'cause I'm... dumb. And so's Harry."
"Hey!"
"Listen, Ron, we'll get through this, okay?" Hermione said, placing a hand on his
shoulder. "We'll take extra time to be with the shinobi and I'll promise to help you with
all of your homework. I think that, dare I say it, right now our lives are more important
than school work."
"Just right now? So later on those two might be switched?" Harry asked wryly.
Hermione's only answer was to stick out her tongue at him.
"Did you just say that it's okay for us to skip out on schoolwork?" Ron questioned
disbelievingly.
Hermione threw a pillow at him, which he caught elegantly with his face. "I said that it
was okay for us to spend more time with the shinobi and that I would help you a little
bitin our free time while you are slaving over homework."
Hanabi turned away from them as if she was looking into the fire while she took a
handful of candy out of her pocket (her bribe from Shikamaru in return for suggestion
the extra lessons to Harry). Ino was nestled in the shadowy corner of the room nearest
the fireplace and she offered her teammate a hidden thumbs up. Ino flashed her bright
smile and slinked over to the rest of the group to spread the word. It was hard to hear
what Harry and Co. were saying over the chatter of the rest of the students crammed
into the room.
"Julie?"
She turned when Ron spoke her name and saw that he had gone white as a sheet and
was staring at her as if she was a ghost. "Yes?"
"How did you get in our common room?"
She popped a piece of candy into her mouth accompanied by a feral smile.
[Why are you so far from me?]
"Faster, Harry!"

Harry felt as if his lungs were going to burst with the force of his breathing. His wand
quivered as his hands shook, his knees quaked, and he stumbled with every quick turn
he was force to make while he tried to follow Peacock's flashing movements.
Just as Hermione has suggested, the ninjas had agreed to make optional, harder classes.
Unfortunately, it had turned out differently than expected and everyone had started to
come to the harder classes, still pushing themselves with the drive to create the best
chances of survival. So that lead to evenharder classes that knocked a few people out at
a time until the only ones left were Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
They spent most of their night hours in training with the ninjas, constantly attacking and
defending as they were put through series after series of grueling tasks that ranged
anywhere from dodging and spelling away incoming knives to doing as many sit ups as
they could until they couldn't breath anymore... and then doing more. And the strange
thing was, even thought they had been sneaking out at night for nearly two months and
had nearly been caught dozens of times, everytime a teacher spotted them, it was like
their eyes just slipped over them and they went on their way. Harry wondered if it was
the ninjas's doing or if they had just gotten lucky so far.
The divergence in thoughts cost him a needle in the arm, a feeling which he had grown
unfortunately accustomed to over the past weeks. Peacock didn't stop moving though,
throwing more projectiles and every once in a while leaving just enough of a teasing
opening to goad him into attacking. Once Peacock decided that they were finished Slug
would patch him up and he would either be dismissed or would go on to another arena
with another ninja. He shot an offensive spell at her that she dodged with ease but he
followed in the wake of his spell and managed to get close enough to clip her leg with a
second, faster incantation that forced her to duck into a roll to keep from sprawling on
the ground. She suddenly held up her hand, breathing hard. Harry had noticed that they
more often he and his friends trained the ninja, the harder the ninja breathed at the end
of their sessions.
"That's enough," she said with a bright smile. Her blonde bangs stuck to the side of her
face where they had come loose of her ponytail. She patted his shoulder. "Good job. That
last one hurt."
"I'm sor-" he started.
"Ah!" she reprimanded as if he was an unruly puppy. "No apologies. Come on, let's get
Slug to fix you up right and send you over to Wolf for a while."
Harry groaned in spite of knowing that Peacock hated it when he voiced any kind of
complaint. It was one thing to be stuck with Peacock for an hour and a half and it was
quite another to be stuck with Peacock for an hour and a half and go immediately to the
physical, bruising, beating tornado that was Wolf. She let his groan pass for once and
just laughed and patted his shoulder again before steering him in Slug's direction where
she was carefully removing a splinter from Ron's leg while he whimpered in pain while
trying bravely to surpress the sound.
Harry sat down beside him. "Wolf get you?" he asked without preamble. He barely had
enough energy to breathe, let alone talk. Ron nodded mutely.
Slug looked at Ron, then at him, then back at Ron and suddenly ripped the splinter the
rest of the way out. Ron yelped. "It can't be helped," she said. "If you get a knife in you
during a fight you have to able to just pull it out and keep going. No time for nice easy
pulling."

A shout made them all look over to another part of the room where Hermione was deep
in combat with Sloth. The shout had come from Sloth.
They watched in amazement as Hermione drove the ninja back with spell after spell,
lighting up her part of the room to cut down on the amount of shadows her could use,
creating a circle of light around them that nearly reached Slug and the boys on the other
side of the room. Sloth, for once, appeared awake and was having a difficult time
dodging her spells. An incendio flashed from Hermione's wand as she murmured the spell
name, trying to cut down on how much Sloth knew about her spells before they went for
him. It caught the end of Sloth's pants leg and lit it on fire. When he bent down to snuff
it out she followed it with a swift impedimenta that he barely had time to move around.
She had physically followed her spell and ended up nose to nose with Sloth when he
rolled to his feet, her wand pressing to his stomach.
"I win," she said triumphantly.
"You did," he answered with a sudden small smile.
The rest of the ninja applauded while Ron and Harry whooped their appreciation of
Hermione's abilities. She beamed at them, looking away from Sloth.
Suddenly he ripped the wand from her and, in the same movement, planted a foot
against her stomach and shoving her back with enough force to hurl her head over heals.
While she lay on the floor trying to catch her breath he formed the necessary handsigns
for his shadow possession and caught her. She stood immediately in his jutsu and
stepped in time with him as he walked closer to her. Once they were near enough to
touch each other he handed her wand back to her and released the spell.
"Remember that even if you win in a fair fight there is always a chance that your
opponent won't be so keen on taking a defeat," he said. She nodded, the triumphant
smiled wiped clean from her face and replaced with her now-customary one of
determination. She accepted her wand gravely and bowed to Sloth in thanks and hobbled
over to Slug when he waved her away. She flopped down beside them with a gust of
breath.
"Ow," she moaned.
"Well that was harsh," Ron said. "And I haven't even been able to put a serious wound
on any of them yet." He glared over his shoulder at Wolf where the ninja was having a
flirting match with Peacock.
"We can't injure them," Hermione said. "We have to be able to trap them."
Slug moved her glowing hands over the puncture wound made from the needle in Harry's
flesh. "The fact that you got that close to Sloth-taicho is amazing, Hermione," she said.
At Hermione's questioning look she expounded. "Sloth-taicho is regarded as the greatest
tactical mind in our village and possibly all of the Hidden Countries. His ability to think
ahead and plan is unmatched by anyone in our village except, perhaps, Dove." She gave
Hermione a sweet smile. "The fact that you got that close to him, or that heallowed you
to get that close to him speaks greatly to how he views you. You've won his respect with
your ability to reason and plan," she reached over and tapped Hermione's head with a
non-glowing finger, "and that is a very valuable reasource."
"And then he kicked me across the room," she groaned in reply, unable to cope with such
a compliment in any other way.

Slug laughed. "That comes with the job. You were too close to him anyway."
[I know everything you don't want me to.]
A knock on the door to the Room of Requirement caught Naruto's attention immediately.
The Room provided a peephole obligingly as he stepped up to it, perfectly at his height.
When he glanced down he immediately recognized Hanabi's undisguised face. She looked
agitated, shifting from foot to foot and glancing around nervously. He pulled the door
open just enough to peer the the crack. Every time they had an extra training session
with the Golden Trio, they left Hanabi outside as a lookout.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"You need to get out of there," she hissed. "Umbridge is coming. Someone's told her
about the room and she's coming to look at it right now." She suddenly looked behind
her as if she heard something. Her Byakugan flared wildly, tugging almost violently at
the veins around her eyes, and he didn't miss the sudden wince of pain that crossed her
face. His brow furrowed. "I'll try to hold her off as much as I can. Get out of there!" Her
face suddenly shifted into something much younger and Julie Saito stood in her place,
hissing one more impatient "go!" before running off down the hall.
Naruto whirled back into the room. "Guys! We have to get out of here now!"
"What?" Harry asked. He was just standing as Sakura finished healing him and was
moving onto the prone Hermione.
"Umbridge is coming, we need to get out of here now!" Naruto hissed. He looked over at
Sasuke and Hinata and they were suddenly beside him, pushing the door open and
slipping out on the unspoken command to stall Umbridge as much as they could. Kiba
slipped his arms around Hermione and cradled her bridal style against his chest. She
didn't make a sound, suddenly stricken by something like terror. Ino forced Ron to his
feet before he had a chance to say a word and grabbed Harry's arm, propelling them
both toward the door. They slipped out into the dark hallway.
"That way," Naruto said, pointing in the opposite way he had seen Hanabi run. They took
off at a run, steps muffled by a swirl of blue-purple chakra that belonged to Ino. After
rounding several turns and finding nothing waiting for them they slowed to a walk.
"That was close," Ino said with a relieved sigh.
"Indeed." The Headmaster stood before them in all his starry wonder with a decidedly
unhappy expression on his grizzled face.
[I see black smoke up around the bend]
Hanabi ran down the hall in a full spring, her crestless robe billowing behind her as she
ran in her child disguise. The only thing out of place was the lack of a blank, vague
expression on her face, replaced by one that was full of determination and a tint of fear.
There wasn't much that could stop them from training Harry but Umbridge and her ties
to the Ministry could certainly cause political problems that would throw a sizable wrench
in their plans. When she got close enough to feel the presence of the toad-woman she
slowed to a stroll and calmed her breathing. She purposefully ran into Umbridge as she
rounded the corner, knocking the woman over and allowing herself to fall into her
behind. She squeaked.

"Professor Umbridge!" she exclaimed as if surprised. She scrambled to her feet and held
out her hand to help the portly woman up.
Umbridge spat curses and practically rolled to her feet, swatting Hanabi's hand away and
dusting herself off, thoroughly embarassed to have been laid out in front of her lackeys
which was comprised of Draco Malfoy and his brainless monkey goons.
"What are you doing out here so late?" Umbridge demanded angrily as she straightened
her skirt.
Hanabi treated her to an innocent smile. "I thought I heard something passing down the
hall when I was in the common room so I decided to investigate," she dropped her voice
to a whisper and murmured conspiritorially, "there could be an intruder, you know.
Professor Dumbledore isn't all that great as keeping people out."
Umbridge look caught between being pleased at the remark against Dumbledore and
infuriated that Hanabi was out of bed. "Well, you don't need to worry about that. Off to
bed now, I have things well in hand." She stalked past Hanabi and when she was barely
a hairsbredth from Hanabi's side the girl whispered:
"So you think."
Then she vanished in the darkness, using her Anbu abilities to blend into any scenery
along with the mysteriousness afforded to her by her student character to appear to
dissolve into the darkness right before Umbridge's astounded eyes. She watched as
Umbridge was torn between trying to find her and going after the lead that Harry Potter
was out of bed after hours and in the company of the guards that she so hated.
Umbridge muttered something about finding "the brat" later and marched down the hall.
Hanabi followed them, hoping that she had offered enough time for her teammates to get
out of the Room and also hoping that she wouldn't have to make another appearance.
She hated having to jump back in after leaving mysteriously. It really ruined her whole
night terror effect. Thankfully by the time Umbridge and her crew of Slytherins reached
the Room it was empty, just another closet in the wall. While Umbridge was growling
angry words at the wall and opening and closing the door as if would make Harry appear,
Hanabi slipped off down the hall toward the feeling of her team's chakra. She didn't use
her Byakugan. It made her eyes hurt.
[Darling, if you please, don't go without me]
Harry looked up in shock at Dumbledore's face. He had never seen the headmaster so
grim before. Dumbledore held to envelopes in one hand, both weather worn and wrinkled
from dried water. Surprisingly, the headmaster didn't say a word beside his monotone
affirmation of their situation and held out the letters to Fox, who took them with a bow
and glanced at the addresses written. The captain looked up at Dumbledore.
"Have you read them?" he asked.
"I have not," Dumbledore answered.
The captain frowned and ripped one of the letters open, handing the other to Mouse and
quietly telling her to open it for him. She did so but waited for him to finish the other one
and read it first. The writing, from what Harry could see, was foreign and artistic, running
down the paper in neat lines but blurred in places where rain drops had hit it. Fox did not

speak for a long time, even after her finished reading and folded the letter neatly and
handed it to Viper.
"It seems that we have less time than we previously thought," he said to the
headmaster.
The old man nodded. "So I suspected. These were sent by means of messenger falcon
instead of owl and it looked harried."
Fox ran a hand through his hair and Harry was surprised to see that it turned gold in the
wake of his palm before shifting back to the brown that he knew was a disguise. The
original guards had not released their disguises when they went around Harry and his
friends unmasked. "Orochimaru has begun moving the majority of his troops out of his
home base and we have received word from other countries that they are moving
steadily in one direction... here."
"How long do you think we have?" Dumbledore asked grimly.
"Two weeks, maybe three if Voldemort and Orochimaru don't get along," Fox answered.
"And the other letter?"
Fox held out his hand to Mouse and she placed it in his palm. He read it quickly and a
surprising smile stretched his face. "It seems that we will be having some amount of
backup. Tsunade couldn't send much but Dove and Panda are on their way back at this
very moment." He folded the letter.
Dumbledore looked concerned. "He was very badly injured. Is two months really enough
time for him to heal from his injuries?"
Fox smiled wider. "Tsunade-obaa-san is a miracle worker and she had the rest of her
staff with her, that and Dove is notoriously stubborn. He wanted to come back and he
made it so that he would. They should be here in a few days." The smile suddenly left his
face. "You know that we have been having secret training sessions for your students."
Dumbledore nodded. "I do."
Fox looked pensive. "I want permission to pull those students from classes and train
them exclusively for the next two weeks."
"I can't do that."
"Why not?" Fox demanded, crossing his arms. "You are the headmaster here."
Sloth suddenly stepped in, placing a hand on Fox's elbow and forcing him to lower his
arms. "There is a lot of politics at work here, Fox. Umbridge will have a field day if she
found out about students being pulled from class for no reason. There's no way that we
can have all of them." Dumbledore nodded his agreement.
"Just Harry, Hermione, and Ron then," Fox pressed.
"I'm sorry, Captain," Dumbledore said, "That would arouse even more suspicion."
Fox groaned. "Is there anything that you can do?"

The headmaster peered off into the distance, thinking hard. When he looked back at
them he was expressionless, which worried Harry more than anything else. "No, I don't
suppose there is," he answered. "Any attempt to give you any more time with the
students would result in suspicion. I am aware that Umbridge has found the Room of
Requirement and it is no longer safe there for you to practice." He glanced away again. "I
can tell the teachers to give lighter homework that would allow for the students to feel
less stressed over balancing their schoolwork and lessons with you. That is all."
Fox ran his hand through his hair again, resulting in the odd streak of color a second
time. "I guess that will have to do."
The headmaster looked honestly unhappy about it. "I am sorry that there is not more
that I can do," he said, "but my hands are tied."
Fox nodded and bowed respectfully. The rest of his team followed suit. "I thank you for
that then, Headmaster," he said formally, "We understand your position." He
straightened. "We will take care of everything from here and inform you when Dove and
Panda arrive and if we find out anything more on Orochimaru and Voldemort's position."
Dumbledore nodded his head sagely, his serene expression firmly back in place. "Very
good. I would suggest that you return the students to bed then. Umbridge shall be
coming this way very soon to make try to make a scene about students out of bed at
night."
"Thank you," Fox said again.
Harry suddenly had the very peculiar sensation of being sucked into a high powered
vacuum and being spat out again and suddenly he was no longer in the dark hallway with
Professor Dumbledore, but in the warm, dimly lit common room that was cast into
dancing shadows by the low burning fire. One of the ninjas held his arm as he swayed,
his legs suddenly feeling like jello.
"Sorry about that." It was Wolf. "Normally we wouldn't do that without due warning but
we were cutting it a little close with the toad and all." He offered a cheeky smile.
"Transporting'll get you if you aren't ready for it, won't it?"
Harry could only nod mutely, feeling faintly queasy. Wolf pushed him down to sit on a
couch and placed a finger over his lips to warn him to be quiet. Everyone else in the
dorm was asleep still.
The last thing Harry heard before he drifted off into a sleep brought on by physical
exhaustion and an adrenalin crash was the opening of the portrait door and a very
familiar, young voice calling the all clear followed by some very high-pitched excited
chatter in a foreign language. Then he fell asleep, snuggled up against the arm of the
couch in the fading warmth of the fire, feeling safer than he had in a long time,
surrounded by the people that a small part of him had come to trust wholeheartedly.

[I feel like a zombie come back to life]

Harry lay on his back on the cold, damp ground of the Forbidden Forest, gazing up
through the grabbing tree limbs that clawed at the night sky. He was sweaty and bruised
and breathing hard. His whole body felt limp as the adrenaline rush left it. He felt too
weak to hold his wand. It lay on the ground by his side, blending in with the dark dirt.
There were still sounds of sparring going on around him, punctuated by the guards,
shinobi, calling out advice every now and again. More often he heard other members of
the forbidden defense club shouting war cries and grunting or yelping when they were
knocked away with ease.
Ron flopped down beside him. "These things are getting harder, mate," he gasped as he
gulped air like a landed fish.
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "They're getting us ready for the real thing now. Didn't you hear
them with Professor Dumbledore?"
His friend took a huge breath of air and let it out slowly. "Yeah, but it's still kind of weird
to think... that there's something worse out there."
Harry glanced over at him. "What makes you think it's worse?"
Ron sat up. "What do you think? Look at them," he waved a hand at the shinobi who
were fending off students in pairs and threes. "They could kill any of us in seconds. In a
real fight we'd be dead meat. If these new guys are anything like them then we'll be
toast in seconds."
"Death Eaters are just as deadly," Harry reminded him somewhat impatiently.
"Death by knife seems a little more painful than the killing curse," Ron said bluntly. Then
his eyes widened and he snapped his hand over his mouth. "Harry, I'm sorry. I didn't
mean..."
Harry rolled to his feet, grunting with exertion, and grabbed up his wand. "Whatever,
Ron," he said as he walked way, stung by the offhanded comment about the curse that
had taken his family away from him. Regardless of how much it hurt, people died one
way or another. He crammed his hands in his pockets and side stepped as Fred (or
perhaps George) was thrown a particularly long way by Wolf, who was fending off the
other twin's renewed attacks. He found a tree that seemed out of a danger zone and
slumped down against it.
He was tired. Long days in school, no matter how light the homework was in the
evenings (except for Potions, of course; Snape was too much of a stick-up-the-ass to
agree to letting up on homework), going from class to supper to difficult work outs to
sleep to class was taking its toll on all of the defense club students. They were dragging
during the day and almost always tired. It was starting to effect their reaction skills
during workouts too. But the ninjas just told them to fight through it, that they might not
always be well rested before a fight.
A rustle in the bushes caught his attention and he looked over just in time to see a flying
blur rush across the clearing and pounce on one of the two newcomers that emerged
from the undergrowth. The blur was Captain Fox and the new person that he was
attached to in a back breaking embrace was...
"Dove!" Mouse shrieked in an uncharacteristically loud voice. She left her students and
ran to Dove and Panda, who had just stepped into the clearing. Fox let go just in time for

Mouse to wrap Dove in a monster hug and bury her face in his chest. He patted her
head.
"You're sooner than we expected," Fox said.
Panda nodded. "We allowed for more travel time than usual but it turned out that we
didn't need as much as we thought." She looked around at the defense team members
who were looking at them in surprise. "You'll have to fill us in on everything that's
happened here. All we know is what's going on back home."
Harry had been watching as Dove and Mouse seemed to be having a quiet conversation
between themselves while Fox and Panda spoke, lips barely moving while they kept their
heads close together. Mouse had yet to release him from the hug and was looking up at
his face. He was much taller than her. Panda glanced over at them but quickly looked
away as if she had intruded on them. When the rest of the students began to gather
around they released each other and Mouse stepped to his side, just barely brushing his
arm with hers. She seemed more relaxed than she had been for the past few months.
A movement caught his attention and Harry turned slightly to see Julie out of the corner
of his eye. She was shifting on her toes at the edge of the group, her mouth working
almost convulsively as if she wanted to say something and run so badly but couldn't. He
realized that she was looking at Dove and he was looking at her. He nodded to her, a
tiny, hardly noticeable nod, and she suddenly calmed down. A small, peaceful smile
tipped the corners of her mouth. The smile was mirrored on Dove's face. Harry saw
Hermione watching the girl closely.
"So what are you guys doing?" Panda asked, stepping into the clearing. The students
parted almost reverently for this survivor of Voldemort's lair. She planted her hands on
her hips and raised her eyebrows at Fox expectantly.
He grinned. "Some hard core sparring," he answered.
"Oh, really?" she said. She glanced back at Dove who was watching her blankly. He had
yet to speak a word aloud to anyone but Mouse. "I guess we'll just watch this time then."
A knife suddenly appeared in her hand, flicking lazily between her fingers. "We'll join in
next time."
And so they began again, going off to their respective ninjas to train. Harry and all of the
others were acutely aware of Dove and Panda watching them and the tale of their escape
from Voldemort's lair, enlarged and glorified in their teenage minds of course, always in
the back of their thoughts. These people had proven themselves to the students and they
held them in naturally higher regard than the other, as of yet, unproven ninjas. Every
once in a while Panda would shout an order to one of the students and they would follow
her directions immediately. She took to prowling around among them, expertly avoiding
all flying objects and accidental attacks. Dove remained seated on a fallen tree slightly
hidden in the shadows of the trees, just watching.
They finished up at midnight, sweaty, breathing hard, and drained. They trooped back to
the school in a tired line, expertly entering through a series of underground passages
that would get them around the most open passages where patrolling teachers could see
them. Harry looked back as they left the forest to see that Julie hadn't followed them. As
he passed out of the forest and out of sight of the ninjas he saw her step right up into
Dove's arms and hug him just as tightly as Mouse had. Her shoulders were shaking.
[We only got four minutes to save the world]

Naruto and his team sat in a small, comfortable room that had been provided for them
by Dumbledore for their personal meeting room after Naruto had complained once that
they couldn't get anything serious done in the common rooms. Neji sat on a couch in
between his cousins who both looked like they were never going to let him out of their
sight again. Tenten lounged on a chair beside the couch, watching the cousins with a
serene expression.
"So what's going on?" Tenten asked.
Naruto stood from his seat. "We decided that it was time to stop pretending to be
guards, basically," he began. Her eyebrows rose marginally. "We revealed to the defense
club that we are shinobi hired to guard the school and we began to train them to attack
shinobi with magic instead of just other wizards. We are guessing that Orochimaru is
going to have plenty of his people where we end up fighting and we need them to be
ready in case something horrible happens."
"You're teaching them taijutsu?" Tenten questioned.
Naruto shook his head. "No, we're teaching them to attack and defend against us with
magic. We couldn't possibly get them up to speed in taijutsu in just a few months. We
had to rely on their strengths, which would be their knowledge and mastery of magic."
"So why were you all outside?"
"Umbridge found the Room of Requirement," Sakura supplied from a loveseat as Naruto
grimaced. "We can't us it anymore because we don't know how safe it is. Dumbledore
was kind enough to let us take the children out after school hours into the Forest to train
them after we read him the letter about Orochimaru moving his forces here." She rested
her cheek on her propped fist. "The most he could do other than that was to tell the
teachers to give less homework across the board. We couldn't just keep kids out of
class."
"Umbridge is jumping on every little odd thing we do," Naruto grumbled. "She's a huge
pain."
Shikamaru spoke up from where he was practically flopping off a particularly plump
chair. "Which is why we need the two of you to stay hidden. She will question your
leaving and then coming back. It's bad enough that I had to bring my team in. She takes
every opportunity to make things difficult for us." He frowned. "It's only a matter of time
before the Ministry becomes a huge force in this school and I would prefer to avoid it as
much as possible while we're here."
"Of course," Neji said quietly. He was normally a taciturn individual but the level of
silence that he had been using since his arrival had made the rest of his team and his
cousin's team nervous.
Shikamaru turned a suddenly piecing eye on the eldest Hyuuga cousin. "How are you
doing?" he asked.
"As well as can be expected," Neji answered shortly. Everyone noticed the way his
fingers brushed over his left shoulder where his Anbu tattoo should have been. The
gesture seemed unconscious for him. "Tsunade-sama cleared me for active duty so long
as I did not get mortally injured again."

That didn't seem to be the answer that Shikamaru was looking for but he let it go
anyway, remembering from his days on the same team as Neji that the other Anbu
preferred to be left alone when he was struggling with his life, feeling more confident in
controlling it himself than talking about it with anyone else. Shikamaru was a little proud
of being one of the very few people that Neji was willing to talk to about his struggles.
But now, in front of everyone else, Neji might as well have been mute.
"When do we expect Orochimaru's people to get here?" Tenten asked suddenly.
"A week to a week and a half," Naruto answered. "We don't think he'll try an attack
before everyone's "
An explosion rocked the stone floor.
"What the hell?" Kiba shouted as he shot off the stool he had been sitting on. He ran to
the window and threw it open. "Guys. You should come here now," he said in a strained
voice. The other shinobi crowded around the window.
Outside, just at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, they could see a dim group of people
barely lit by the moonlight. They moved among each other, a milling mass of bodies.
Suddenly a bright light flared, illuminating several outlines before the light shot across
Hogwarts grounds and struck the side of the castle walls. The shinobi were out the
window and down the side of the castle before the echo of the sound of the attack
finished reverberating.
They separated naturally into two groups, one for each squad. Naruto took the lead of his
squad, Kiba leaped to the front of his, growling like a wolf. As soon as the group of
attackers saw them coming, the shadows ceased to be a mass of movement and formed
into four distinct groups that divided and spread out, forcing the two Anbu squads to
each select a target, leaving one group open to attack as they pleased. The Anbu squads
wordlessly split into smaller groups, matching the four groups. Naruto, Hinata, and
Sasuke took one group, Neji, Tenten, and Sakura took another, Kiba and Hanabi darted
after one group, and Shikamaru and Ino faced the remaining one. When they clashed it
was clear that the attackers had not been expecting the Anbu teams to split among
themselves and were not prepared to deal with well-trained, quality warriors.
The Anbu fell on their enemies, dodging swings, deflecting jutsu, retaliating with cold
ferocity, and always working in unison with each other. The Anbu never once came in
any danger of hitting each other and were often back to back, whirling with each other to
always keep their enemy from getting at their backs. Despite there being nearly a dozen
enemies in each of the groups, the Anbu were clearly on the winning side.
As Naruto ducked under a wild swing from one of his enemies and crushed the man's
windpipe with a swift punch to the throat, he realized why the fight felt so one sided. The
shinobi that they were fighting were hardly chunin level. They didn't have a chance of
defeating the better trained, more prepared, more ferocious Anbu.
Even as that thought went through his head, out of the corner of his eye, Naruto saw
Neji take a full front kick to the chest and go down with a sharp shout of pain. Tenten
immediately took a position over him, both guarding him and attacking while he fought
to catch his breath. As much as Naruto wanted to rush over and help, he couldn't leave
his position and so had to turn his back on his teammate to keep from breaking rank.
The next time he managed to glance over, Neji was back on his feet.
It wasn't until the enemy started to fall back, leaving their dead lying on the dew-damp,
green lawn of the school, that Naruto noticed that they had an audience. He turned to

congratulate his team on a job well done when he saw nearly every teacher standing in
stock at a respectable distance away, wands in hand, faces slack in awe and fear. He
looked down at himself and found his clothes torn and bloodied, a few cuts from lucky
strikes decorated his skin. All together, he had looked worse. His teammates looked a
little worn but hardly anything to write home about. They had taken worse in sparring
matches.
"Captain Fox," Dumbledore said, stepping forward. He did not lower his wand. "What is
the meaning of this?"
"We were under attack, Professor," Naruto said, "My team neutralized the threat as we
are trained to do."
"What?" Umbridge shrieked. "What is this, some kind of muggle fighting?" Her voice was
a high shriek, obviously terrified as much of the enemy as of the protecting ninjas. When
Naruto took a step closer, she leaned back. "This is an outrage. The children should not
have to see this mess!"
"We were doing our jobs, Professor," Shikamaru said, already taking a drag on his
customary after-battle cigarette. "You don't have to worry about the enemy coming back.
They have been severely weakened by this attack."
"How did they get on the campus in the first place?" Professor Sprout asked, her face
white in the darkness. She trembled as she looked at the still bodies.
"They hid themselves well. We did not know they were here until they attacked the castle
itself," Naruto admitted.
That sparked talk among the teachers, whispering to each other but always keeping one
eye on the roughed shinobi. Umbridge shrieked again. "This is an atrocity! This sort of
violence is not tolerated in polite society!"
"This sort of violence just saved your life!" Kiba snapped back. Fighting always shortened
his already short temper. "Would you have preferred us to let those guys," he gestured
to the dead bodies. Umbridge paled, "come right up to the school and slaughter you all in
your sleep? I don't think so." He crossed his arms. "We just did our jobs."
Umbridge sneered at him. "And what would your job be exactly, Mr. Wolf?" she hissed
out his name.
"The protection of Hogwarts and its students," he growled.
"And do you think you are protecting the students when you allow them to see this
carnage on school grounds?" she shrieked, pointing to the bodies but lowering her hand
quickly. She didn't look at the corpses.
"Yes," Kiba snapped. "It's better than it being student bodies out here!"
"Wolf," Shikamaru broken in smoothly, "that's enough. Professor Umbridge, there is
nothing we can do about the place that we must fight, only that we must do it. We can
take care of cleaning up. The students won't even know what happened. Feel free to tell
them whatever story you wish." He bowed and walked away from the teachers,
deliberately turning his back on Umbridge. His teammates followed. Naruto bowed to
Professor Dumbledore and followed Shikamaru and was, in turn, followed by his own
team.

The teachers watched as the Anbu dragged each of the bodies into the forest, not
bothering to help with the levitation charm, which would have been very useful; they
gagged when Sasuke lit the bodies on fire with a very quick, hidden fire jutsu that
consumed the bodies in minutes, leaving on the bones and sickening smell behind. The
Anbu had grown used to the smell and wouldn't have even noticed it if it hadn't been for
the teachers holding their noses and hiding their faces in their sleeves. Someone was
nice enough to cast a scourgify on the grass before the Anbu trekked back out of the
forest and made their way back to their room just as the sun was rising.
[Sometimes these cuts are so much deeper than they seem]
As they all slumped in their chairs and couches, Naruto stood in front of the fire, hands
clasped behind his back. "That was sooner than we expected," he said after a long while,
his voice very quiet. "We should have been more prepared. I should have been more
prepared."
"It's not your fault," Hinata said. "None of us knew what was going to happen."
Shikamaru said nothing but he would not look at anyone. He just looked at the smoke
rising from the end of his cigarette and took a drag on it every once in a while. He sat on
the couch beside Neji, who held one arm like a band around his chest where he had been
kicked, face blank as he stared off at nothing.
"Those were chunin level shinobi," Sakura observed. "Hardly worth being used as
preliminary attack."
"There were good for one thing," Sasuke said cynically, "They showed the enemy how
close they could get to the school. I'm willing to be that that was their only purpose. The
next group will be harder to find and harder to fight." Sakura grimaced at him and
snuggled closer to the edge of the loveseat, away from him. She had a habit of
withdrawing from everyone right after a battle, usually not wanting to be touched or
spoken to.
"That seems like too simple of a plan," Naruto disagreed. "There must be something else
that we're missing. Some reason why Orochimaru would be willing to send his men out
so soon, when they aren't all gathered and when they are such a low level. Losing so
many soldiers in the first battle engagement can't be good for their morale."
"They're evil henchmen," Hanabi said with a roll of her eyes, "They don't need morale."
Ino smacked her over the head. "Ow."
Hinata stepped in, as motherly as you like. "I think we should worry about this after we
have all had a few hours of sleep, don't you think?" She pulled Hanabi to her feet. "We
can't think like this." With that, she dragged Hanabi off to one of the small rooms that
had been furnished with futons off the side of the tiny common room. Ino, Kiba, Sakura,
and Sasuke followed soon after. Tenten and Naruto went to patrol the hallways and send
out summons to take care of the borders. That left Shikamaru and Neji alone in the
common room.
Shikamaru continued to look at the smoke curling from his cigarette. It swirled white,
purple, and noxious green. Cigarette smoke had always reminded him of clouds, only
shifting much faster and always looking like a sunrise, right before his eyes. It was like
time sped up, flickering at the end of the addiction that would no doubt cost him his life if
he managed to live to retirement. He snuffed it out on the ashtray that had appeared as
soon as he had lit up his first cigarette in the room. It seemed to follow him around
whenever he pulled out his lighter.

"Since when do you get taken down by a kick to the chest?" he asked suddenly.
Neji didn't look away from the fire that he appeared to find fascinating. "Since I took a
beating to my ribs a few too many times," he answered dryly. "And before you ask," he
said, cutting off Shikamaru when he opened his mouth to speak, "yes, I did get an okay
to come back from Tsunade-sama."
"A reluctant one, no doubt," Shikamaru deadpanned. "How long did you pester her
before she gave in?"
"I did not 'pester' her," Neji answered. "I merely requested to be allowed to return to my
mission since I am well enough to fight and therefore do not need to stay in the village
any longer when I have an outstanding mission."
Shikamaru snorted his disbelief and they fell into companionable silence for a long while,
neither willing to sleep. Shikamaru felt unusually awake and aware of his surroundings.
Neji looked as if he was about to pass out on the couch but wasn't letting himself do so.
One cheek rested in the cup of his hand as he propped his elbow on the arm of the
couch. He slumped into the comfortable furniture. His eyes were nearly closed but every
time he seemed on the edge of sleep, he would jerk back awake.
"Why don't you go on to bed?" Shikamaru suggested after watching his friend and former
captain struggle with sleep. "I'll stay out here and keep watch."
Neji raised an eyebrow tiredly. "Since when can we trust you to keep watch?" he asked.
He stood slowly as if pulling himself off the couch was the most arduous task he had ever
performed. "I'm going to bed. Wake me when Naruto and Tenten get back. I'll take next
watch. Stay awake," he said.
"Sure, Captain," Shikamaru said.
Neji gave him a little smile and waved him off. "Can't call me that anymore," he said.
The younger Anbu looked away. "Since when do I follow rules?" Neji didn't answer and
Shikamaru listened to his footsteps as he went into one of the bedrooms and didn't relax
until he heard the rustling sounds of fabric stop and knew that Neji was asleep.
"When did I turn out to be such a mother?" he asked himself.
[Stronger than yesterday]
Harry was eating breakfast, normal as you please, when Hermione ran up to him and
flopped down on the bench, shoving a newspaper in front of his nose and successfully
blocking the path between his plate and his mouth.
"Look!" she demanded, shaking the paper.
He took it from her hands to avoid being slapped in the face with it and glanced down at
the front page. There was a picture of Hogwarts and beside it, a picture of Captain Fox
and his team obviously taken when they weren't paying attention. The picture people
moved every once in a while but, for the most part, appeared to be talking to each other
and not walking around much. Not one of them looked out of the photo. After noticing
the pictures, Harry read the headlines:
"ATTACK ON HOGWARTS 'GUARDS' SUSPECTED."

"You're taking too long," Hermione said, jerking it out of his hand. "Listen." Ron
appeared suddenly. "Oh, good, you're here. Sit down and listen," she demanded. He sat
without comment and began loading his plate. Hermione read:
"Just after midnight last night, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was
supposedly attacked." She skipped a few lines. "Although hired school guards claim that
the attack was created by Voldemort's followers, authorities have come to believe that
the guards themselves perpetrated the attack and are attempting to cover up their
failure." She skipped more lines. "One guard has been taken into custody." She speed
read the next few lines and read the last, "There is no word yet on how Headmaster
Dumbledore is dealing with this attack or whether he will fire his guards."
"There was an attack last night?" Harry said. "One guard has been arrested?" He yanked
the paper away, reading as quickly as he could. When he looked up he saw that theDaily
Prophet was in many other students' hands and the ones who didn't have one stood
around those that did. Several of the defense students were looking back at him grimly
as they read the implied participation of their guard teachers.
They went through the rest of the day without seeing any of the guards. At supper,
Dumbledore informed them all that he would not be firing the guards and that he did not
believe that they had anything to do with the attack other than protecting the school
from those who had attacked them and not to worry, they were perfectly safe with the
guards. Neither Captain Fox's nor Captain Sloth's teams showed up for dinner. After the
lights were turned out in the common rooms and students were put to bed, the defense
club crept out of the school and went down to the Forbidden Forest like always. And, like
always, the guards were there waiting for them looking ill tempered and short one of
their number.
"Come on, come closer," Fox said, waving them toward the guards. They approached,
some more hesitantly than others until they stood in a semi circle facing the group of
ninjas. "I'm sure you've all heard by now that we are being blamed for the attack last
night."
"So there was an attack?" one student asked.
"Yes, there was an attack but it wasn't from us. We were attacked by some of the ninjas
who have joined Voldemort," Fox said. "We were not harmed but several of their number
managed to get away. However, your ministry has seen fit to try to get rid of us and
have therefore... arrested Wolf."
Cho gasped, holding her hands over her mouth. Tears pooled in her eyes and her friends
were quick to pat her on the back and murmur empty consolations. Fox ignored her.
"This happened sooner than we expected, so we have to train doubly hard now. Don't
worry about Wolf, we are not without political power here. We'll get him back soon
enough. Until then, we can only prepare more and more. Now that Dove and Panda are
back we have a greater number of us so we can help more of you at once." He gave
them a blinding smile that Harry thought looked strained. "So let's all do the best we can
and not worry about tomorrow."
With that, they separated into groups and Harry found himself facing Dove with Ron and
Cho. When Cho had claimed that she didn't want to practice because of her
overwhelming sadness for Wolf, Peacock had marched right over, yanked her off the tree
stump she had been sitting on, and plunked her right back down in front of Dove with a
snarled "It's not like he's dead!"

The last time Harry had seen Dove had been right after they had returned from the
prisoner exchange with Voldemort and Orochimaru. The Anbu had been ripped apart,
bloody, and barely alive. But now, here he was, just two months later, looking as healthy
as he had when he had first arrived at Hogwarts. He pulled out his wand when he
realized that Dove was obviously waiting for them to decide what they wanted to do. It
occurred to him that perhaps Dove didn't really know what he was doing.
"So, do you want us to just attack you?" Harry asked.
"Is that not what you usually do?" Dove asked in his quiet, smooth voice. Harry had
forgotten how controlled he was. It was an stark change from Captain Sloth's wild team
and Captain Fox's customary bounciness.
"Sometimes we go over moves and what to do if someone attacks you in a certain way,"
Cho offered, sniffling.
"I see," Dove said. There was a moment's pause when he seemed to be thinking. "Attack
me," he ordered.
The three students were accustomed to this command by now and spread out, covering
as many sides as they could and hoping to force him to fight on multiple fronts at once.
They took a second to take a deep breath and calm their nerves (there was something
about actually fighting the man who had withstood Voldemort's torture that made all of
their hearts beat wildly with nervousness), and leaped at him, shouting out spell names
as they did so.
Dove dodged the first few spells with ease, moving much like Mouse did except with even
more of a dancer's grace than a fighter's. He did not attack them, instead choosing to
stay on the defensive. Harry went in first for a second attempt with petrificus totalus. He
followed the spell as he had grown accustomed to doing but as he opened his mouth to
cast the second one and Dove turned to avoid the first, he found himself flat on his ass
several feet away.
Fox shouted at him from where he was observing. "You're against a first rate, shortranged fighter, Potter! You had better not get in too close or he'll take you out!"
Harry, Ron, and Cho circled Dove until they were standing closer together. "Think of
something long range," Ron said frantically. Dove stood farther away from them, letting
them converse quickly, but they were under no illusions that they could talk forever and
kept glancing his way to make sure he hadn't moved.
They spread out again, unsure of what to do. They had faced close range fighters before
but they weren't sure what to do with Dove. Cho cast a nervous incendio that Dove
sidestepped lazily.
"If you don't come to me then I am going to come to you," he warned.
They spread out once more, feeling suitably threatened. Harry nodded to Ron and Ron
glanced at Cho. She raised her wand and shouted, "Impedimenta!" Ron
cast expelliarmusimmediately in its wake and Harry finished with reducto. The spells
were cast very quickly, nearly hitting at the same time, but Dove dodged around each
one. As he moved to avoid Harry's spell, Cho cast a very quick impedimenta again that
clipped his shoulder as he stopped midturn to avoid running into it. His arm went numb.

"Stop," he said, holding up his hand. The three paused, wands raised as they prepared to
move in again. "Put your wands away, that's enough." They tucked them into their
pockets and he waved them over with his good hand. They gathered around and sat
around him in a semi circle when he plopped down on the ground. His good hand
hovered over his numb shoulder.
"Do you want me to take care of that?" Cho asked.
"It's fine," he said. A blue light trickled under his fingers and vanished into his skin, much
like the method of attacking that they had seen Mouse perform on numerous occasions.
He rotated his arm experimentally. "You did well," he complimented Cho quietly. "It is
necessary to be able to attack as an individual as well as a team. Had you waited to
make your next move with your teammates, you would have lost your chance." Cho
flushed at the compliment. He looked over at Harry. "What you all need to practice is
teamwork."
"We practice teamwork," Harry answered. "All the time."
Dove gave him a little, patronizing smile as if he was a very young child. "No, not
teamwork in that you just attack as one. You need to know each other, be friends with
each other. Know how your teammates think, what they enjoy, how they fight." He
motioned absently to Hermione where she and two other girls was sparring with Panda.
"You fight better with Hermione and Ron because you know them. You know their
strengths and weaknesses."
"But we're not all in the same house," Cho reminded him.
"What does that matter?" he asked. "I don't live with Captain Fox or Slug but I can fight
as well with them as anyone else here because we know each other. We took time to
understand one other outside of fighting. We wouldn't have survived this long as a team
without that knowledge." He stood with a quiet gasp for air that Harry thought he might
have imagined. "My only suggestion is that you take the time to become friends with
those outside of your house. The way Hogwarts is set up has only served to create
animosity between you all. Harry, when Voldemort attacks Hogwarts again, will you not
fight with a Slytherin just because of what house they are in?"
That didn't seem rhetorical, so he answered, "No, I would fight with them."
"And, Cho, wouldn't it be better if you knew the Slytherin and knew if they didn't know
how to perform a spell than to not know the Slytherin at all and expect them to cast it?"
"I suppose," she answered slowly.
He nodded. "Take the time to get to know one another then. You spend a lot of time here
with us but you also have classes with some of the people here. Hufflepuffs and
Ravenclaws have many classes together, do they not? Cho, spend more time with some
of the Hufflepuff students. You may find that it will help you when you come here to
train, and of course if you ever have to fight with them."
"Switch groups!" Captain Fox shouted.
[You'll still be my star]

Sakura and Sasuke sat beside each other in the rafters of the Great Hall, sharing a plate
of food between them. Well, Sakura was eating, Sasuke was watching the students below
them with interest. Sakura held out a cluster of grapes.
"Come on, eat something," she said.
He accepted the grapes without looking at them and popped one into his mouth. "Look
down there," he said, motioning toward the tables. "Some of the Gryffindors are sitting
at the Ravenclaw table."
Sure enough, far below them they could see several of the red sweatered Gryffindors
seated among the green clad Ravenclaws. Even from where they sat they could tell that
they were members of the defense club.
"Good for them," Sakura said as she took a bite of apple. "I guess they actually listened
to what Neji told them last night." Sasuke grunted agreement. "I can't believe that none
of us thought of that. It's almost too late for them."
"It's setting an example for them for after we leave. Maybe they'll get over this ridiculous
house nonsense and befriend each other," Sasuke said bitingly.
Sakura just chuckled. "I didn't know you felt so strongly about them."
"I don't," he snapped.
"Be careful, your feelings are showing," she teased as she leaned back against a vertical
beam. One leg dangled off the side. "I guess they do kind of grow on you after a while.
We have been here for nearly a year." Sasuke didn't contest her. "I wonder what they'll
do when we're gone. Voldemort will probably still be around."
"Not if we get to him," Sasuke answered.
"Even if we get rid of Voldemort," she said, "The Ministry will still be after them. They
have something against Dumbledore. I don't understand it." She tossed him her half
eaten apple. "They're so power hungry."
"There are always power hungry people," he reminded her. "Are you planning on finish
this?" He held up the apple.
"No, you can have it," she answered. He took a bite out of it. "Has Naruto decided who is
going to Kiba's trial yet?"
"He said it was going to be me and him from our group, Dumbledore and Professor
McGonagall from Hogwarts, and that Tsunade-sama is sending someone over from
Konoha," he answered. "It's serious business for them to be arresting Inuzuka."
"Won't that blow our cover?" she asked. "We don't want the Ministry to know that we're
not from here. We're just supposed to be guards."
"They'll figure out sooner or later that we're not from here, that we're not even Wizards,"
he pointed out. "It's better if we take care of all this right now. If we have to leave then
we'll leave and send someone back more covertly."
"That could hurt everything we've been doing up till this point," she said.

"Tsunade-sama knows that," he answered. "That's why we're going to try to handle this
as quietly as we can. Unfortunately they seem to have a habit of using their media to
turn people against the Ministry's rivals. We're the focus of that right now."
She swung both her feet over the beam she was sitting on. "It'll all work out," she said
optimistically. "It always does. Tsunade-shishou will take care of it."
"You're too optimistic," he deadpanned.
She laughed and stood up, brushing little crumbs off her shirt. She walked across the
beam over to him, as graceful as any gymnast. "And you are too pessimistic," she said as
she tapped his nose with one slender finger.
He caught her wrist. "And what's wrong with that?"
She laughed again. "Absolutely nothing." She leaned down and gave him a swift peck on
the lips before vanishing into a swirl of faint mist.
"Absolutely nothing. Ridiculous girl," he muttered, but he smiled as he took another bite
of apple. Really, he wouldn't have her any other way.

[I'm in fear for my life from the long arm of the law]
Kiba surveyed the bland cell that he was in again, looking for anything in the plain room
that he could have missed the first time. It was a normal cell, small with three grey
cinder block walls and one iron that contained a slit that the guards spoke through. There
was a cot with a thin blanket, a toilet, and a sink. All in all, certainly not the worst place
he had ever been. Even the spells to drain his chakra (which they thought was magic)
didn't take away nearly as much as they could have. The only bad thing was that he was
stuck sitting there, twiddling his thumbs while he waited for a trial that would certainly
not be in his favor.
And he was just plain bored.
The arrest had taken them all by surprise. They had just been standing in the front hall,
waiting for the students to wake up and get down to breakfast when the giant double
doors had banged open and Professor Umbridge, backed by two dozen Aurors, had burst
in. She had pointed one pudgy finger right at him and shouted for his arrest. Which had,
obviously, happened with all due haste. His teammates had made no move to help him
but they hadn't looked ruffled in the least. In fact, just before the Aurors had managed to
get close enough to grab him, Shikamaru had leaned over and whispered in his ear,
"When you go to trial, tell them that you're not saying anything without a lawyer."
Kiba wasn't quite sure where he was going to get a lawyer or what one really was but he
trusted his captain and so had waved a cheerful goodbye to his teammates and shouted
for Naruto to hurry up and get him out of jail so they could get back on with their jobs.
And so, here he was, magical shackles around his wrists held to the wall by swirling
green magic that sparked every time he pulled it to the extent it would allow him to go.
He tried to keep it away from his skin whenever possible. It burned him and it smelled

something horrible. It was one of those times when he could have done without his
sensitive nose.
He rose and banged on the door until the slot opened and someone peered in. "Hey,
what does a guy have to do to get some food around here?" he demanded.
"Quiet, convict," the guard snapped. The slot closed.
Kiba banged on the door again, harder and louder, until it opened. "Dude, I'm hungry
and you guys are not being very nice. I didn't even do anything! The least you could do
is pass me some bread. The slot slammed shut before he could finish his last sentence.
He sighed and flopped back down on the bread. "Well that's just rude," he muttered to
himself as he went back to twiddling his thumbs and looking for imaginary faces in the
texture of the blanket.
The slot slid open.
"Well," he said, "I'm glad you've reconsidered because I'm hungry I can be one hell of a
"
"Are you ready?" the guard broke in.
Kiba raised his eyebrows. "Ready? For the trial? I haven't even stayed for a week yet.
Where's the torture devices and those unforgivable spells you wizards are always railing
about? Don't you even have someone to question me?" The door opened and he saw that
the hall outside of this cell was full of guards all holding their wands at the ready, as if
that could stop him. "Not that I'm complaining, of course. Despite you guys holding out
on meals you really do have better digs than some other hell holes I've been in."
He allowed them to shackle him and put half a dozen spells on him to keep him from
blowing up their faces on the short trip from the cell to the courtroom. They were all
tense and silent except for whoever was chanting the spell. His nose twitched from the
tingly scent of magic and he sneezed right in one man's face.
"Sorry about that, dude," he said. "You can relax your arms enough to wipe that off, you
know. I'm not going to eat you." The wizard was practically shaking from holding his
arms so tensely. He had his wand underneath Kiba's chin to threaten him while the spell
casting was taking place. "Alright, I understand if you don't trust me," he said with a
chuckle. The wizard flinched.
"Come on," one guard said, hooking an arm around his elbow and dragging him out into
the hallway.
Kiba was marched down several hallways, up a flight of steps, down another hallway,
through a waiting area, and brought to a stop in front of a large door labeled "Courtroom
Four" on a gold rectangle. Not once had the wizards spoken and not once had there been
less than three wands digging into his back. One guard pushed the door open and he was
escorted inside. He was shoved and pushed to the chair in the middle of the room and
had to keep himself from jerking away when the chains lifted themselves up and
wrapped themselves around his arms and legs to replace the magical bonds. The guards
faded into the background, always watching him.
High about him, in the judge's balcony, was a selection of wizards. Somewhere between
forty and fifty from what Kiba could tell, and all looking at him with particularly atrocious

sneers of disdain. He saw Professor Umbridge seated beside a portly older man who was
precisely in the front middle of the group. All of the people present wore dark purple
robes that Kiba found quite ridiculous looking (he had never understood the use of robes)
with elaborate silver Ws decorating the left lapel.
"State your name," the portly man demanded.
Kiba stuck his nose up in the air, mimicking their expressions. "I'm not saying a thing
until I have a lawyer," he said, obediently doing as Shikamaru had told him.
The wizard looked annoyed. "You are in no position to be making demands," he said.
"What is your name?"
"I'm not saying a thing until I have a lawyer," Kiba repeated.
"You are sitting before Wizengamont, the most powerful court in Europe," the man
stated. "You are in no position to be making demands. If you continue to evade our
questions we will be forced to deliver and unfavorable verdict on you that will send you
to prison for the rest of your life."
The door slammed open and everyone's heads turned as if pulled by a single string to
see who dared enter the room. Kiba couldn't help the grin that stretched his lips when he
saw Naruto and Sasuke, Dumbledore, and... Shizune? Naruto and Sasuke reached him
first, standing on either side of him protectively. Sasuke threw the guards a threatening
glare and several of them visibly flinched. Naruto placed a comforting hand on Kiba's
shoulder, giving it a hearty squeeze. Shizune marched right over in front of Kiba, looking
strangely out of place in her Western style business suit and without Tonton in her arms,
and looked up at the gathered wizards.
"I shall be speaking on behalf of Mr. Kiba Inuzuka today," she said formally. "I am
Shizune from the Japanese Department of Defense and I have come to avoid any
possibly conflict between Japan and your wizarding community." She bowed low.
"Miss Shizune," the man said, "I am the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge."
"Mr. Fudge," she answered politely, "I am afraid that my superiors in Japan are quite
confused as to why Mr. Inuzuka has been arrested and what it is that he is being charged
with."
Fudge shifted a little nervously at the concept of "superiors" but read the charges
anyway. "Mr. Inuzuka is being charged with disturbing the peace, damage of public and
private property, and attacking a school."
Shizune shook her head as if she were disappointed. "Mr. Fudge, I think that you fail to
understand that in arresting Mr. Inuzuka, you have have put yourself and the British
Ministry on the brink of an international incident. Mr. Inuzuka is is a member of an elite
Japanese combat force and part of," she motioned to Naruto, "Mr. Naruto Uzumaki's
team. These teams are often hired out to personal investors. Mr. Uzumaki's team was
specifically hired to protect Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I can show you
the papers documenting the arrangement if you don't believe me."
"We know nothing of this force," Professor Umbidge snapped.
"Regardless," she answered airly, "these teams are often hired out. Because Mr. Inuzuka
is here on a peacekeeping assignment, arresting him without cause and holding him

without evidence shall only create dispute between Japan and your Ministry. What proof
have you that Mr. Inuzuka has committed any crime?"
The wizards looked at one another and then at Fudge, who looked at Professor Umbridge
expectantly. She cleared her throat, "Ahem," and began, "Well, we have several students
who have anonymously told us that they saw these men and their teammates creating
chaos on the Hogwarts campus."
"Two nights ago?" Shizune asked.
"Yes," Umbridge answered with a cross look. When she opened her mouth to speak again
she was interrupted.
"How could students, all the way in the Hogwarts dorms see specific people fighting all
the way at the edge of the campus?" she asked in almost mock thoughtfulness. She
spoke again before anyone could answer. "Professor Umbridge, yes?" She didn't wait for
an answer. "What houses were these children part of?"
"What does that "
"What house?"
"They are respectable Slytherins," she huffed.
"Slytherin," Shizune repeated. "Professor Dumbledore, where are the Slytherin dorms
located?"
"The dungeons under Hogwarts," Dumbledore answered shortly with a half-hidden smile.
"Can Slytherin students see the edge of the campus from their dorms?" Shizune pressed.
"No, not at all."
Shizune turned and looked back at the wizards. "So there is no proof from students. Mr.
Uzumaki, what actually happened two nights ago?"
"Miss Shizune," Fudge said sharply.
"Mr. Fudge, you couldn't possibly prohibit a first hand witness from speaking," she said
sweetly. Fudge fell silent, glancing around at the other wizards as if they could back him
up in the face of the surprisingly forceful Japanese woman. "Please, Mr. Uzumaki, go on,"
Shizune said.
He smiled brilliantly at her. "Of course, Miss Shizune," he said. "Two nights ago my team
and I were in our rooms going over some plans when he heard an attack hit the castle."
"An attack hit the castle?" Fudge interrupted.
"Yes, sir," Naruto answered. "We believe it was some sort of fireball. The force would be
enough to shake the castle on the side that it hit, which was the side that we have our
rooms on." He went on, "Upon going outside we discovered a group of men who were
launching magical attacks at the school from the edge of campus. We successfully
repulsed the attackers with only minor injuries to ourselves. Several escaped into the
woods and we believe that they were " Dumbledore was shaking his head in warning,
"regrouping," he finished.

"Professor Dumbledore," Shizune took up the thread before anyone could get a word in
edgewise. "You and several members of your staff, including Professor Umbridge," she
nodded to the woman who turned up her nose, "reached the fight near the end. Can you
deny the presence of persons other than Mr. Uzumaki and his team?"
"No, I cannot truthfully deny it," he answered.
"There," Shizune said, "You have no proof that Mr. Inuzuka attacked Hogwarts and
indeed, we have evidence otherwise." She waved a hand absently at Naruto and Sasuke.
A spark of chakra was all they needed to force the chains to fall away, effectively
breaking the spell in them. "Mr. Fudge," she said sweetly, "this case is over. I will be
happy to speak with you privately on this gross injustice you have done and discuss how
to avoid.. unpleasantness between yourself and Japan. Mr. Inuzuka will be leaving now.
Do not attempt to stop him or his teammates or I will not take responsibility for your
political gamble."
Naruto hooked hand under Kiba's arm and hauled him to his feet and steered him out the
door, past Shizune and past Dumbledore, down the hall, and out of the building. "Time to
go back to Hogwarts then," he said cheerfully.
"I can walk on my own, you know," Kiba said crossly.
Naruto slapped him on the back so hard it made him stumble. "I know that. But man that
was a close one. I never would have been able to talk you out of there myself and Kamisama knows that Sasuke can barely put three words together to make a sentence."
Kiba grimaced, "Speaking of Shizune, why is she here anyway?"
"Oh, Shizune," Naruto said, "Well once you were arrested and all that, we sent an urgent
letter to Tsunade explaining everything to her, since getting put in jail or getting
someone out of it isn't exactly in our job description, and she said that she would be
sending someone right over and then Shizune showed up this morning all ready to talk
you out of a trial and everything." He smiled. "She's so good at deflating situations like
this."
"Yeah, I bet that's how Tsunade-sama stayed out of jail for her gambling debts all these
years," Kiba muttered.
"Yeah," Naruto agreed, throwing his arms behind his head, "Shizune's pretty awesome
like that. Speaking of awesome, here she comes." He jerked his head toward the door
just as Shizune and Dumbledore walked out. She didn't look nearly as intimidating out of
the courtroom. In fact, she looked tired and flustered.
"Shizune-san," Kiba said, bowing politely to her, "Thank you for getting me out of there.
I don't know what I would have done if I had to rely on Naruto to talk me out of
execution or something."
She waved him off with a tired smile. "It's nothing, Inuzuka-san. Tsunade-sama agrees
with you; Naruto isn't the best for talking his way out of non-violent situations."
"Hey!"
"Well, I'm glad that it was you that she sent," Kiba said. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome."

Naruto was looking around like a maniac and waving his arms to get everyone's
attention. "Hey, has anyone seen Sasuke?"
[The power lines went out and I am all alone]
After Naruto dragged Kiba down the hall outside of the courtroom, Sasuke was distracted
by a shadowy figure in the opposite direction, leaning nonchalantly against the wall.
When it caught Sasuke looking at it, it raised one hand and beckoned him almost lazily.
Sasuke glanced behind him just as Naruto and Kiba vanished around a turn, and peeked
back into the courtroom to see Dumbledore and Shizune still giving Fudge the what-for.
He slinked down the hall silently.
"What do you want?" he asked shortly.
The shadowy figure was a man in black clothing with his face hidden by a cloth mask
similar to the one that Kakashi always wore. He reached into a pocket on his jacket and
withdrew an envelope. He held it out wordlessly.
"Who is this from?" Sasuke demanded.
The man said nothing, shaking the envelope slightly as if he urgently wanted Sasuke to
take it. Sasuke snatched it impatiently and looked at the front of it. There was nothing
written. When he looked back up to ask who it was from again, the man was gone.
Sasuke was a bit shaken by the fact that the man was able to slip away with him, an
Anbu level shinobi, noticing, but shook it off in favor of turning the envelope over in his
hands. It was light and he couldn't see at all through it when he held it up to the lights
above him. He tentatively ripped open the top and pulled out a single sheet of paper
written in loose, large Japanese script. He recognized the handwriting immediately and
scowled at it as he read:
My dear Sasuke,
It has come to my attention that your Hyuuga and his woman weren't nearly as
indestructible as you seemed to have thought they would be. You know that Hyuuga is
still suffering. What good is a wounded Anbu, especially one that doesn't even have his
tattoo? Fear not, I know just as much about the Nara's team as yours although his team
interests me far less. In particular, your Hyuuga's little cousin was an interesting choice
for the Hokage to send.
Regardless of the changes in your staffing at Hogwarts, and as I am sure that you are
busy getting the Inuzuka out of prison and cleaning up after that little skirmish on
Hogwarts grounds, I shall keep this brief.
Meet me at what these wizards call the Shrieking Shack at midnight tonight. I insist.
Sensei.
P.S. If I can break your Hyuuga, imagine how easily your Sakura blossom will shatter.
She is not nearly as safe as you think she is.
Sasuke ripped the paper in two.
[This town used to be a pretty place to stay]

It was lunch time for the students but the Anbu were once more gathered in their
meeting room, this time joined by Shizune who wouldn't be returning to Konoha until she
had a more detailed report on what had happened on the mission since they were sent
out. Hinata was busily writing it, with Sakura and Ino looking over her shoulder to offer
their two cents every few words. No one thought twice about Sasuke sitting moodily in a
chair in the corner, arms crossed and his ankle hooked over his opposite knee.
He watched Sakura as she laughed with Yamanaka, throwing in good natured punches
that he knew from experience felt anything but good natured. She was smiling and
laughing as if they weren't on a mission, as if they weren't the shinobi world's greatest
killers, as if they hadn't murdered hundreds of people in cold blood. She was open with
her emotions and free with her love. There wasn't a person in the room that she didn't
care deeply about, even Inuzuka, who she claimed annoyed the hell out of her. He smiled
a little when she pushed Yamanaka and accidentally knocked her long time friend
completely off her feet and onto Inuzuka's lap. That, of course, stirred up more shouting
and laughter than before as Yamanaka tried to struggle her way out of her teammate's
space. But the smile faded as he thought about the letter. If Orochimaru had so easily
broken Hyuuga, how much easier would it be to break Sakura, who had nowhere near
the strength of mental defenses that Hyuuga had.
He caught Naruto watching him. He had not yet told him about the letter or where he
had been for those few minutes he had separated from the group but he knew that
Naruto would grill him about it later. It was one of the things that made approaching him
easy, you didn't have to find a way to bring up the subject, Naruto went ahead and did it
for you.
He had just made up his mind to tell Naruto about the letter when something knocked on
the window. At six stories up, there was a limited number of things that could be
knocking. Hanabi rushed to the window and opened it, letting in a rumpled looking blue
jay. Yamanaka ran over to her summons and gathered it up in her hands. It seemed to
take a deep breath before saying, "Attack on the castle. At the front doors." Then it
poofed into nonexistance, or back to wherever summons came from.
"An attack? It's the middle of the day," Inuzuka said as they raced down the stairs,
pulling on uniforms, armor, and weapons.
"That's why they're here," Nara grumbled, "They knew we wouldn't be ready for it."
"Genin mistake," Hanabi growled, obviously angry with herself for not having seen that
they were open for attack even if she wasn't a captain.
Sasuke ignored them, pulling his mask over his face. In the heat of the moment, no one
had bothered to henge back into their disguises. It was more important to be able to
repulse the enemy than to keep up appearances, especially if they were going to keep
attacking Hogwarts like this. He was just one step behind Naruto and Nara, who was
surprisingly quick when he wanted to be.
"We can't go rushing in on this," Nara said, "Everyone who can, send out your summons.
We have to know what's going on out there. Hanabi, can you see anything?"
The mask was already over the youngest Anbu's face so Sasuke couldn't see her
Byakugan eyes and chakra veins but he noticed that her step faltered for a moment
before she began to run again. They vaulted over a railing when a staircase started to
move. "There has to be at least thirty of them. They're shinobi. I don't see any wizards."
Sasuke felt the chakra she was emitting go back into her body and heard her let out a
breath of air that sounded pained.

The sound of summons appearing filled the hallway as the shinobi whipped out their
scrolls on the fly, in too much of a hurry to try to stop to summon. Hinata's mice were
the first to scurry away, followed swiftly by Ino's bluejays, Tenten's salamanders, Neji's
cats, Naruto's toads, and Sasuke's snakes. The animals vanished, most out of the
windows that Hinata's mice managed to pull open, and some ran ahead to go out
windows and doors on the other side of the castle. A sudden explosion rocked the ground
and the shinobi took an unsteady step at the staircase jerked. They leaped over another
banister and landed in the midst of the teachers in the entrance hall who were spelling
the door to death as it bent inward with the force of another jutsu.
"Where have you been?" McGonagall snapped. "They are attacking us again and you
didn't know!"
"Shut up and let us do our job!" Naruto barked back. She scowled but went back to her
spelling. Naruto waved the two teams around himself and they gathered swiftly. "We
need some people to go out the back and circle around and some to stay here."
"Uchiha, Ino, Tenten, Haruno, Neji, and myself will go around back," Shikamaru said.
"Uchiha, Tenten, and I are the only long range fighters, Haruno is useless inside the
building, and we'll need Neji if we get too close. Naruto, you keep the others in here in
case they manage to get through those doors, I would suggest putting someone in the
Great Hall with the students in case they manage to get in." Shikamaru pulled back and
waved to the shinobi he mentioned and, before anyone could say otherwise, they
vanished to find a way outside where the enemies wouldn't see them coming.
That left Naruto, Hinata, Hanabi, and Kiba inside. "Hinata, go to Great Hall and make
sure that all of the students are there. I don't want any wandering the halls. Kiba, get to
the doors, I want you to be the first thing that those bastards see if they get through.
Hanabi, keep an eye on everything going on outside, if they need backup I want you to
go out there. I'll keep up with what the teachers need. Everyone keep me posted on
what's happening. Make sure that you have your summons ready if you can't reach me."
[You think you're so persuasive]
Harry wasn't sure what to do with the barrage of questions coming from the students
around him. They weren't just Gryffindors, they were all of the students from the
Defense Club, gathered around him and ready for action. Most of them were asking if he
could get them outside so they could have a piece of the enemy for themselves, although
some of the girls seemed a little hesitant about seeing action. Harry could only fend off
their questions with halfhearted answers that were more often than not run over with
more questions until he was forced to just fall silent and shake is head. He was well
aware that Umbridge was in the room and she was watching them all with suspicion.
"Guys," he tired, "Hey!" They ignored him, too busy talking to each other and talking to
him to notice that he was trying to answer. Thankfully everyone else in the hall was also
talking up a storm and so what they were asking was noticeable. "Everyone!" he
suddenly said, waving his hands. His group stopped talking. "I don't know what's going
on out there and no, I can't get you out there. There are too many of us and if someone
"
"Hey, look, there's Mouse!" someone said. Immediately the DA's attention was turned to
the shinobi who had just slunk in from the wide double doors, somehow able to open
them without attracting too much attention.
"I bet she knows what's going on."

"We should get her over here."


"Maybe she could get us outside."
"Or maybe that would just be a waste of our time since she's not going to get us outside
to fight off enemy forces," Hermione said dryly. The rest of the DA turned to her with
shocked expressions, as if they couldn't fathom why she wasn't being extremely
optimistic. They watched like vultures while Mouse spoke quietly to the teachers in the
room, receiving nods and waves in random directions in answer to whatever questions
she was asking. She wore the uniform that the DA had grown used to seeing but she had
her mask hooked into a loop on her belt and her false face and hair were in place. She
walked away from the teachers and skirted the edges of the room, seeming to watch
everyone at once in a way that only she could. When she neared them, Fred and George
reached out and dragged her into their circle. She was immediately caught under a
barrage of questions.
"What's going on out there?"
"Can we fight?"
"Where's Captain Fox and Sloth?"
"How long until we can do something?"
"Won't you please let us out there?"
The questions surely would have kept going without waiting for an answer had she not
held up her hand with a patient expression on her face. The students quieted
immediately, having grown used to the nonverbal commands that the Anbu preferred to
use.
"You know that I can't help you get out there," she said in a quiet voice that they had to
strain to hear, some students on the outside edges of the circle having to whisper to their
neighbors to know what she was saying, "Don't worry about anything. We have it under
control. It's not as dramatic as you think it is. We'll have everything taken care of in a
little while. There's not reason for you to try to get out there, either," she said with a
stern, mothering look. A few of the boys blushed and scowled. "Captain Fox and Captain
Sloth would be very annoyed if you did, in any case." She backed out of their reach. "I
have to make sure that everyone is in here. If you see anyone escape, let me know. It is
safest in here, just in case." With that, she moved on.
"We have to get out of here."
"You heard what she said, it's not that bad!"
"Yeah, it'll be a good practice battle."
"I don't think " Harry began. But he was quickly overrun by more assurances that
everything would be fine as the rest of the DA began to make plans for how to get out of
the Great Hall without the all seeing Mouse knowing. They began to discretely make their
way toward the doors in twos and threes, pretending to rejoin the students from their
particular houses, knowing that Mouse was keeping an eye on them the entire time, even
if she couldn't devote her full attention to them. Their chance came when the doors
swung open and a couple of the teachers walked through, dragging several students
behind them who hadn't gone to the Great Hall when they were supposed to. Mouse was

looking off in a different direction as if she could see through the walls and the DA
students quickly slipped out with shushing motions to the friends they were leaving
behind and following Fred and George through a hidden tunnel behind a picture of a
toddler who just laughed when they asked her to be quiet.
[Here we are like we're gonna get war again]
Shikamaru's group watched the enemy shinobi casting jutsu after jutsu at the main door
from the safety of the trees some quarter of a mile away. Neji's Byuakugan kept them
aware of some of the finer details but they could see all of the big things going on.
"Why do you think they're just banging on the door?" Sakura asked, peering at the
group. "They're just all gathered there in front of the door. You'd think they'd be spread
out."
"Yeah," Ino agreed, "And they're not even throwing high level jutsu at it. They could be
just crushing the stone around it."
"Regardless," Shikamaru cut in, "We can't just let them sit there and bang on the door."
For some reason, Shikamaru glanced over at Sasuke. The Uchiha stiffened, seeing the
look as accusatory. "Everyone get ready to attack. We'll have to take out as many as we
can and then call for backup." When they started moving off, Shikamaru stopped Sasuke.
"Uchiha, what was in that letter you got this morning?"
Sasuke started. "How did you know about the letter?"
"Shizune saw you stuff if in your pocket when you passed by the courtroom. I want to
know what was in it. We don't have time for you to keep things to yourself," the captain
said impatiently. "Don't bother getting offended at me."
"It was a letter from Orochimaru," Sasuke ground out. "He wants me to meet him at the
Shrieking Shack tonight and he implied that they will try to take or kill Sakura if I don't
go."
Shikamaru sighed. "You should know better than to be worried about that but that does
give some indication of why these morons are here," he said, waving a lazy hand in the
direction of the attacking shinobi. "They might be trying to lure Sakura out so they can
grab her." When Sasuke's lips tightened into a thin line he said, "But don't worry about
it. Sakura is perfectly able to take care of herself. They won't manage to get her.
Besides, you're here," he finished with a patronizing smirk. Then he moved off like the
shadows that he fought with, leaving Sasuke to get himself into position.
"Holy shit!" Sasuke jerked his head around just in time to see that Ino was pointing to a
side exit of the castle that they hadn't noticed before but that was now quiet open
because there was a small trickle of students climbing out of the short doorway and
pulling out their wands.
"Neji," Shikamaru said, "Who is it and what are they doing?"
The Hyuuga seemed to wince a little at Shikamaru's voice but turned his gaze to the
students. "It's Potter and his defense club students. They look like they're going to " he
was interrupted as the students shot their first spells, "fight."
"Why do they do this to us?" Shikamaru asked no one in particular. "We might as well
get over there before they get themselves killed."

[Rebel souls. Deserters we've been called]


When the DA students emerged from the side entrances the first thing they saw was the
sheer size of the group attacking the school, all dressed similarly in dark clothes and half
masks. It was Neville who threw the first spell, getting nervous from just standing there
and mistaking a movement from Harry as a signal to fire. The novelty of seeing their first
enemies wore off quickly as they realized that they weren't quite ready yet for the
sudden surge of bodies racing towards them. Harry didn't even have a chance to shout
instructions to his classmates before the shinobi were upon them.
Through the chaos that ensued and the flashing of spells on the shouts of the students as
they took punches or cuts, Harry saw several more bodies racing towards them from a
different direction. It was because he was watching these people approach that he didn't
notice an enemy coming up from behind him until he turned around, sensing that there
was a body at his back. He screamed out of reflex as a dark blur suddenly slammed into
the side of his attacker and took it down physically. A short burst of blue light ended the
enemy's life and Harry found himself face to face with a bird mask. It was Dove.
"What do you think you're doing?" Dove shouted, raising his voice for the first time since
he had been on the mission. Harry was shocked. "Nevermind, just fight. You're going to
get yourself killed!" Dove physically grabbed his shoulder and turned him while reaching
over his body and killing another enemy with a touch. The body fell heavily at Harry's
feet. "Get your damn wand up, moron!"
A feeling like an earthquake rocked the ground and Harry nearly toppled over, falling into
Dove's chest. He heard the shinobi catch a pained breath before steadying him. When he
glanced over his shoulder he saw that half of the enemy force had vanished into what
seemed to be a ginormous crater. "Don't look at other people," Dove said sharply, "Focus
on your own fight."
"Neji!" a woman shouted. It was Peacock. "Hurry up and tell Naruto that we need
backup!"
"He already knows. Hanabi told him!" Dove shouted back.
Harry's head whipped around when he heard a screamed war cry in a language he didn't
know. It came from above and when he looked up he saw a blurred form drop from the
second story window onto the heads of a pair of shinobi that were advancing on Luna. He
didn't get a chance to see who it was because Dove was suddenly forcing him to turn and
face his newest enemy, who he stunned on reflex and watched with horror as a knife
suddenly sprouted from the stunned ninja's throat. He couldn't see where it came from
before he was forced to turn and attack someone else. It felt like he was in a dream.
[Well does she want me to make a vow? Does she want me to make it now?]
Hanabi was in her element. She excelled in close combat and protection and moving
among the enemies and the students let her have a taste of both as she worked
simultaneously on the defensive and the offensive. She didn't worry about Harry after
she glanced over and saw Neji at his back, keeping the enemies from getting too close to
his exposed sides and Tenten occasionally throwing a knife to finish off anyone who was
stunned. None of the students killed their targets but their stunning and disarming spells
worked well enough to give the Konoha shinobi enough time to pick them off at their
leisure. It was one of the easiest battles Hanabi had been in since becoming an Anbu.
As the last two shinobi turned and tried to run for it, Shikamaru caught them in his
shadow possession jutsu and held them in place while the DA students, still jittery from

nerves and adrenaline, looked around frantically for something else to attack. All were
bleeding from wounds, some more than others, but from a cursory look around, no one
from the Hogwarts side was dead. That was a miracle in and of itself. Then, as the
adrenaline wore off and the students realized that they were injured and surrounded by
dead people, they stumbled away from the carnage, most of them losing their lunches on
the grass. Harry was one of those people.
"I thought you would handle this the best," Hanabi said offhandedly as she passed him a
handkerchief that she kept tucked into her belt. It was one of the little things she carried
out of habit from being brought up in the Hyuuga clan.
"I've never seen anyone killed like... this," he whispered, accepting the cloth. "It's not
like magic."
"It's death either way. Most of us just don't have the luxury of casting a spell that doesn't
break skin," she answered. "Clean yourself up. The teachers will be out here in a few
minutes. I'm sure they're already trying to keep everyone else back inside. They'll want
to know what you were thinking bringing everyone out here. Umbridge is going to be
pissed."
"Not if she doesn't see them." Harry looked up to see Sloth standing over him with one
hand on the unfamiliar woman's shoulder. "We have to get them and you out of here
immediately," he said. "Dove and Tenten will transport them into the forest until we can
be sure that they can be taken back into the Great Hall without anyone noticing."
"Can the three of us really get them all there?" she asked.
"You had better be able to. That's all we can spare."
She nodded her understanding and the students were herded together like sheep,
separated into three uneven groups, and told to clasp hands. Dove joined the largest
group, Panda the second largest, and the new woman took the smallest. The sensation
that followed was somewhat like apparation but much easier on the body. When the
feeling of being lifted and spun a few times ceased, they were standing in the Forbidden
Forest, in the clearing that they had used so many times before. Several students threw
up again, their senses aggravated by the relatively easy travel accompanied with the
images of death on the lawn.
"Everyone just lie down," Panda said, waving the students to seats on the ground or on
the fallen trees if they could handle sitting up. "I know it's difficult but you all have to
calm down and take deep breaths. It will pass if you just give it a few minutes."
"They'll need longer than a few minutes," the unfamiliar woman muttered. Her mask was
cat-like. Dove gave her a sharp look and she quieted, sitting next to him and slouching.
Harry heard her ask, "Are you okay?" very quietly. Dove just nodded in answer.
After little while longer the rest of the Anbu started appearing, most suffering from a few
flesh wounds although Peacock had taken a knife cut to her hip and was letting Slug take
care of it while impatiently tapping her nails on the ground while she lay on her back so
her skin wouldn't mess up where Slug was working. The students were starting to pull
themselves back together although no one really spoke until Luna suddenly said:
"Julie, what is your shinobi name?"
The unfamiliar woman looked over sharply and all of the shinobi stilled.

[We just now get the feeling that we're meeting for the first time]
"Julie, what is your shinobi name?"
Every person in the clearing turned wide eyes to Luna at those words. Even the shinobi
looked stunned, as the students would have seen if they bothered to look anywhere but
at Luna. The new shinobi woman still wore her mask and her head turned slightly from
Captain Sloth to Luna and back to Captain Sloth. If Luna's question wasn't enough to
make the students suspicious, the lack of immediate response confirmed it.
"We were intending to do this soon in any case," Sloth said, waving a hand in lazy
nonchalance.
The woman sighed and reached up, removing her mask and letting it hang from her
slender fingers. The first thing Hermione noticed was that she looked incredibly young,
even younger than the other shinobi, the second thing was that she had the same eyes
as Mouse and Dove, the same eyes that Julie kept hidden behind her thick glasses.
"My shinobi name is Lynx," she answered. "Yes, I am also Julie Saito."
Surprisingly, it was Ron who was accusatory. "You lot said that there wouldn't be any
more secrets."
"We're not children, Weasley-san," Sloth answered, "Your version of secrets and our
version are very different. We cannot refrain from doing things that will help us carry out
our mission to the best of our ability. In this case, we chose to keep Lynx among you as
a student. Was there really any chance that you would have told us everything that you
were planning?" When there was no answer he continued, "No, you wouldn't have. Lynx
has been valuable for us in knowing what you all plan to do so that we can work with you
without stepping on your toes too often. You barely trust us as it is and "
"And now you've ruined that trust further," Harry interrupted.
"How so?" Lynx asked suddenly as she crossed her arms and leaned against a tree.
There was a slight smirk on her face. Hermione thought she was pretty in a deadly killer
kind of way.
"You told us that there would be no more secrets and yet, you were in disguise around us
all the time," Harry accused.
"Don't think of it as a secret," Lynx said, "Think of it as neglecting to mention something.
We never told you that I wasn't a student. We never lied to you about who I was."
"A lie by ommission," one of the other students said.
"But a lie is not a secret," Sloth said absently. "Regardless of how you feel about this,
Lynx is here and she was undercover as a student and it's because of her that we've
been able to keep track of you all and know what you need. It's because of her that we
have been having these lessons to get you all prepared for your battles with real
shinobi."
"Speaking of battles with shinobi," Fox cut in. "What were you all thinking going out
there to fight the enemy without telling any of us?" He didn't soundtoo angry.

"We're ready," Fred (or George) said firmly. The other students nodded and murmured
their agreement with the statement.
"Ready my ass," Peacock said, taking her mask off and flipping her hair over her
shoulder. "If we hadn't been there you all would be dead on the lawn right now."
The students fell silent, some looking in the direction of Hogwarts as if they could see the
dead bodies litering the grass through the trees that hid the clearing.
"Have a little confidence," Fox said suddenly. "Sloth, how long did it take your group to
get there?"
Sloth removed his mask as well, "Dove was there first maybe two minutes after they
came out the door. The rest of us got there fifteen seconds or so later."
"So for two minutes and fifteen seconds they are fine," Fox said charitably.
"Make that closer to one minute and fifteen seconds," Peacock muttered, "There was
about a minute where the enemy didn't notice them."
"So for a minute and fifteen seconds, they were perfectly able to take care of
themselves. That's far better than what it would have been two months ago." He gave
the students a lopsided grin. "A few more weeks and they'll be just as good as us!" This
declaration was accompanied by a chorus of disbelieving snorts from the shinobi. "Or at
least able to not be a liability."
"A minute and fifteen seconds isn't going to do anyone any good," Wolf grumbled. "We'll
just be stuck watching their backs and ours. Dove didn't even get a chance to step away
from Potter during the fight. If he had, Potter would be dead right now."
"Regardless, we work as a team, not as indeviduals. The wizards were certainly a help in
the battle. It was much easier to... take care of an enemy if they were stunned than if
they weren't, right?" Fox said logically with a cheeky grin. A few of the wizards smiled
slightly at the indirect praise. The shinobi gave grudging nods of agreement. "Then we
should be thanking our little wizards, not telling them off. They were just doing what
we've been training them to do." He smiled brightly. "Even we had to have our first
battle some time. Ours were just less dramatic than this one."
"I doubt that," Panda grumbled, flipping a knife between her fingers lazily.
"Anyway," Sloth said, "Now that we've taken care of all that business, it's time that we
got the students back to Hogwarts before anyone notices that they're gone."
"I'm sure someone's noticed by now," Slug muttered.
"Make that before Umbridge notices," Fox amended.
Of course, no one thought they had half a chance of getting the students back before
that happened.
[This time, baby, I'll be bulletproof]
The students were once more safely in their common rooms, classes having been
canceled for the day and wild rumors flying around about what had happened out on the
school grounds. By the time the students managed to force their way outside the bodies

had been removed but bloodstains remained on the grass. Less than an hour later the
bloodstains, too, were gone, as if the skirmish hadn't taken place at all.
And so, once more in the room that they had made their headquarters, the shinobi took
the time to unravel the things that had happened since their last meeting that morning
with their masks removed and civilian clothes on for the first time in days.
"If they had figured Hanabi out at any other time, we would have had a full blown riot on
our hands," Kiba observed from his place sprawled out in a lazy chair.
"They did well," Sakura said quietly. When she received several bemused looks she
added, "For being basically genin level."
"They're not good enough yet. If those shinobi were any higher level it would be student
bodies out there," Hanabi said, massaging her temples as if she had a bad headache.
She leaned over and rested her elbows on her knees.
Naruto turned to Hinata, "How did you not notice them slip out?"
She grimaced daintily, cradling her forehead in her hand. "There are hundreds of
students. I couldn't watch them all at once."
Naruto gave her a concerned glanced as she ran her fingertips over her forehead, her
eyebrows furrored as she kept her eyes cast to the ground. Then he glanced over at
Hanabi, who was still pressing her fingers to her temples. On a hunch he looked at Neji
too, who sat as stiff as a board beside Tenten on a couch. His hands were clasped
together in his lap and he stared straight ahead.
Shikamaru beat him to the question. "What's wrong with your eyes, Hyuugas?"
The three cousins turned to him, three pairs of questioning, identical eyes.
"Shika, what are you talking about?" Ino asked, touching his arm gently.
"Our Hyuugas here are having trouble with their eyes and they're not telling us what's
going on. So, out with it," he explained. "Keeping things from the rest of the team will
only get us killed."
Hanabi answered first, compelled to answer her captain's command by the habits drilled
into her as an Anbu. "I don't know about Hinata-nee and Neji-nii but... the magic here
looks like a lot like chakra, only brighter, so it hurts after you look at it for a long time."
At his nod she continued. "At first I didn't think anything of it but after I kept using my
Byakugan is started getting harder to see through things and to see for very far and then
I started getting bad headaches after I used it. But that's all."
"Hinata-chan? Neji?" Naruto prompted.
"We've experienced something similar to Hanabi," Neji answered after glancing at his
cousin. "Although since we've been here longer and we've been using our Byakugan
more frequently, it causes more pain, like a migrane except only around our eyes. So far
it has led only to disorientation, dizziness, and headaches but we're concerned that it
may get worse if we continue to use it."
"Is it worse if you have stronger eyes?" Sakura asked, coming over to touch a glowing
hand to Hinata's temple.

Neji glanced at Hinata and Hanabi and they both shrugged. "Perhaps," Neji answered.
"Why didn't you tell me about this before?" Naruto asked.
"It would have been one more thing to work around. It's no unbearable and you need us
to be able to use our Byakugan without worrying about anything. Knowing you, you'll
overreact about it now that you know and insist that we don't use it," Neji answered
dryly.
It seemed like Naruto hadn't heard him. "Of course you can't use it any more!" he
exclaimed, jumping up to begin pacing. "I can't believe none of you told me this before
and I had Hinata and Hanabi using their Byakugan during the first and everything."
"Naruto," Shikamaru said. The other captain stopped and looked at him. "Stop pacing
and worrying. Regardless of how the situation has been handled before, we know what's
going on now and we can take measures to deal with it. Sakura, do you know what's
going on?"
"Other than the obvious idea that the strength of the magic is just straining their eyes?
No," she answered, trailing her fingers over Hinata's eyes one more time and then
moving to Hanabi, who submitted to the healing probing with minimal fidgeting. "Have
you ever felt something similar when looking at chakra?" she asked the three. They all
shook their heads. "So then it's something about the magic."
"And we won't be able to figure that out right now," Shikamaru stated. "We have other
things to think about first, like why we even had this pointless battle." He glanced over at
Sasuke when no one was watching him and the Uchiha tensed, uncomfortable with the
nonverbal demand.
He took a breath. "I may know why," he said. All eyes shifted to him immediately. "When
we were leaving the Ministry after Kiba's trial I was approached by one of Orochimaru's
shinobi and given a note that said I should meet him at the Shrieking Shack at midnight
tonight or... it was implied that there would be attacks on Sakura with the intent of
capture."
"So this might have been an attempt to grab Sakura?" Ino clarified. "They didn't do a
very good job."
"They didn't figure in that the students might attack. They did manage to get Sakura
outside of the school," Hanabi pointed out.
"Sasuke," Naruto asked quietly, so the others couldn't hear him, "can I see the letter?"
The Uchiha slipped the folded paper from his pocket, unfolding it silently and handing it
over. Naruto peered down at it in silence as the rest of the group mulled over the new
information. The blonde leader must have read it three times before the rest noticed that
he had the note in question in his hands.
"Did you recognize who gave you the note?" Kiba asked.
A bit annoyed by the insuinuation that he would know any of Orochimaru's henchmen,
and regardless of the fact that he did, he answered with a short negative.
Naruto read the note allowed and Sasuke watched as eyes immediately flicked to Neji
when the note mentioned him and how he shifted slightly and cast his eyes at the

ground. The Hyuuga's hand went to his left shoulder automatically and Tenten grabbed it
before it could get there, squeezing his fingers lightly and giving him a smile. He kept his
eyes on the ground, his eyebrows furrowed as if in deep thought. There was more
uncomfortable shifting when the note mentioned Shikamaru's team and the hint that
Orochimaru was very well versed in their tactics and personalities.
"I think he should go," Shikamaru said at the end of the note. When the others gave him
disbelieving expressions he added, "with backup, of course."
"Who for backup?" Ino asked, examining her nails. "You can't send Naruto, Sakura,
Tenten, or Neji, obviously. You can't go because you're our captain. Hanabi can't go "
"That leaves you and Kiba then," Shikamaru said, sounding a tad smug.
She quirked one perfectly plucked eyebrow at him. "I think not. It's going to be a trap
and I'm not going to walk right into one willingly."
"I could just drag you there," Kiba offered.
"I don't need either of those morons," Sasuke deadpanned. "They'll get us killed even if
there isn't a trap."
"Regardless," Sakura interrupted, "why do you think he should go, Shikamaru?"
"I'm curious about what Orochimaru wants."
"Is that all?" Ino asked. "I thought you would at least have some more intelligent reason
than that."
"This is the second time Orochimaru has approached me," Sasuke said quietly.
The others quieted. "It is?" Shikamaru asked. "Why didn't you tell us before?" Sasuke
didn't answer and the others knew the reason why: embarrassment. "Fine, whatever.
This is the second time. Do you think he actually wants something or that he just enjoys
playing with you?"
"Probably both," he answered.
"Probably," Shikamaru repeated. "You should go and take Ino and Kiba as backup.
Naruto?"
"I agree," Naruto answered. "I want to know what he wants."
[I'm on the edge with you]
Everyone went to bed that evening after fending off a barrage of questions from
teachers, accusations about their ability to do their jobs, groups of children asking what
happened, and the whole DA club finding out where their rooms were and banging on the
door, demanding to know why they were attacked. They were given the "it's Hogwarts,
do you need another reason?" answer and promptly kicked out by Ino and Sakura.
Well, almost everyone went to bed.

"You should be sleeping," Sasuke said as he heard the footsteps that he knew belonged
to Sakura coming up behind him.
"You should get an hour too," she answered, climbing over the back of the couch and
settling beside him. She was cradling a mug of tea on her hands and drew her knees up
to her chest.
"I need to leave in a little while if I want to be there on time. Where are Kiba and Ino?"
"Sleeping. I told them I would wake them up when they were needed," she answered.
She looked down into her mug and and swirled the contents. "I don't like you doing this."
"I'm not exactly while about it either," he answered dryly.
"He can do this to you because of me," she said quietly.
He slipped a finger under her chin and made her meet his eyes. "It's not just because of
you. It's not your fault that he threatened me with you." He gave her as much of a smile
as he could manage. "Besides, I'm not in any danger. I'll have Ino and Kiba and, as
annoying as they are, they are decent enough shinobi. At least I hope they are, they did
get this far."
She laughed slightly. "They're loyal and smart when they need to be. I'm not really
worried about that." She grabbed his hand. "I'm more worried about you. Are you going
to be okay facing him?"
"I've faced him before, I'll be fine."
She held their joined hands on her knees, playing with his fingers absently. "I just want
you to be safe."
"We're shinobi, we're Anbu, safe shouldn't be in our vocabulary," he reminded less gently
than he meant to.
A pink eyebrow quirked. "A girl can dream, can't she?" She sighed. "Just, promise me
that you'll be safe."
"I can't promise that."
"Then..." She paused, looking up at the ceiling as if the words she wanted were written
there. "Promise me that you'll do your very best to come back to me."
He smiled, wide than he had before, more sincerely. "I always do my very best to come
back to you. You're all I have to come back to anyway."
"Oh hush," she said.
Her eyes flicked to his face and the smile faded from his face. As their faces neared and
Sakura set her tea mug aside, he wondered how she could tell him to hush. She was
what brought him back, what he always looked forward to when he got home from
missions without her. She was all he had to come back to because she was all that he
thought about.
[Written in the stars a million miles away]

Shikamaru stood outside of the room he had to himself on the balcony, watching the
forest with glazed eyes. He leaned his elbows on the railing and clasped his hands in
front of him. There was a light breeze, just enough to be comfortable.
"Shouldn't you be sleeping?" he asked suddenly.
"Not yet," came the answer. "I'll never know how you know I'm here."
"Call it intuition," Shikamaru said, turning his head every so slightly when his former
captain appeared beside him, placing his hands on the rail. "No matter how close you
get, you can't walk silently."
"Close enough to fool anyone but you."
Shikamaru didn't answer. It was true, in any case. He looked up at the stars. "So what
do you think of Sasuke's note?"
"I think that Orochimaru knew that someone would read it allowed if Sasuke showed it to
us," came the answer.
The Nara turned sideways, leaning his hip on the rungs of the railing. "So that's why you
can't sleep. You're still going to let him mindfuck you even when you're this far away
from him." He said it was a statement, not a question.
"I wouldn't say that."
"Of course you wouldn't. You would never admit to someone getting under your skin,"
Shikamaru answered, realizing a split second later that Orochimaru had literally gotten
under Neji's skin.
"I'm here, aren't I?" Neji said. "That's as close as I'll get."
"Why come to me?" Shikamaru asked.
Neji sighed and looked away. "Do you even really need to ask that?"
"Sometimes I like to hear people state things instead of assuming that I know their
words before they can say them," he answered, crossing his arms.
"Then all I can say is that I don't know."
"Unsettled by everything?" Shikamaru guessed. "Orochimaru getting you and Tenten and
coming back and the problems with the Byakugan and the letter and everything?"
"You forgot to add Hanabi to that list," he answered dryly.
Shikamaru just smiled. "I thought that she wouldn't be quite as important as the other
things."
"Family is always more important than all those other things," Neji reminded.
A harsh laugh escaped Shikamaru before he could stop it. "Your clan isn't exactly one
that puts the family above the mission."

"I am not my clan," Neji answered shortly.


"And neither is Hanabi, or Hinata for that matter. So why is Hanabi such an issue for
you?"
"I would just like to know why Hokage-sama chose her for this mission. She should have
known that it would be hard for her "
"She's a big girl now," Shikamaru reminded.
"She's sixteen," Neji replied tightly. He frowned and looked down at his clasped hands.
"She's Anbu; she can handle herself."
"I suppose." Neji looked up at the sky. "I'll just have to remember that, I guess."
"So tell me about the Byakugan issues," Shikamaru said to change the subject. Sibling
issues weren't really his forte, seeing as he had none.
Neji laughed. "You aren't very good at transitioning."
"They aren't necessary. Point A to Point B is all that's required. So tell me, when did you
start noticing it?"
"There was pain almost immediately when we got here," his former captain said. "The
magic doesn't look like chakra. It's full of color, kind of like soap bubbles. It's constantly
moving but not in any one particular direction. It's all of the place. It's does the same
thing in the people that it does in the castle. At first Hinata and I just thought that it was
causing us pain because it was so bright, brighter than chakra, but then we noticed that
we noticed that we were dizzy and fuzzy right after and that it was worse when we used
it for a long time."
"But that's not the reason you think it's causing problems. Your Byakugan still works fine
when you're in it, right?"
"After a few months it started getting harder to keep track of things when we were using
it. Hinata said that she was missing things, like her blind spot was larger. I couldn't see
as far. Both of us were getting fuzzy while using it. We would get lightheaded and the
smaller lines would get blurry. Just before I... left... Hinata teared up and it was...
blood."
"Blood?" Shikamaru asked, surprise. "Why didn't you tell Sakura about this?"
"We were going to but then things happened and I suppose she just decided not to in the
rush of everything. She probably couldn't get a word in with everything going on, you
know how she is."
"How is it now?" Shikamaru asked, peering at his friend's eyes as if he could tell what
was going on just by looking at them.
Neji's mouth quirked up in a small smile at the concern. "Still bad. Mine is a little better
because I spent time away from the magic and everything and Hinata tried her very best
to not use hers but after you get to a certain strength with the Byakugan is starts
seeping into the way you see things regularly. Hinata told me yesterday that she still
tears blood every few weeks and that she's starting to get larger gaps while using it."

"That's why she missed the defense group leaving the Great Hall," Shikamaru noted.
"Yes. She was looking for other students and they were in one of her blindspots. She has
more than one now with all of this." Neji crossed his arms and looked down at the grass.
"I didn't have the problem with the blood until today."
Shikamaru reached over and grabbed his friend's face, suddenly struck by the need to
peer closely at his eyes. He turned Neji's face this way and that and the Hyuuga let him
even though he was just smiling while Shikamaru did it, knowing that he wouldn't see
anything. "When did that happen?"
"A few hours ago."
"Did Hinata?"
"Yes. If we use it for long periods of time it's worse."
Shikamaru sighed and released his friend's face, pulling his hand quickly back to his
chest as if embarrassed. He looked down at the ground for a moment and took a step
back when he noticed the proximity of their bodies. "I wish you would be more careful."
"I am careful," Neji protested mildly.
"Not careful enough," Shikamaru argued.
"I am as careful as I can be considering who I am and what I do," he responded. "You
know this, you know that we can't stop just because something hurts or something goes
wrong. If I'm in the hospital for a few months after this, at least I'll know that I gave all I
could while I was here."
"I think you've given quite enough already."
"Worried about me, Shikamaru?" Neji teased lightly.
Shikamaru didn't answer, gazing up at the stars again and wondering if, perhaps, they
could answer all his questions. He decided that they were much more quiet than the
clouds. Stars were mysterious, whispering things.
[You're the only thing I wouldn't change in this place]
Ino closed the door quietly, peering out the crack until she could see no more. When it
clicked shut she let out a near silent breath of relief and turned around, smoothing her
hands down her pants. "Do you think she believed us?"
"Of course she did," Kiba answered from where he lounged on the bed, throwing a ball
up into the air and catching it just before it hit his face.
She lunged over and snatched it out of the air. "What do you think about this?"
"I think that it's a good thing we have as good of backup as Uchiha," Kiba answered.
She groaned in aggravation. "We're the backup, Kiba," she reminded.

"Are we?" he asked teasingly. She threw the ball at his face. It bounced off his forehead
and rolled away under a chest of drawers. "That wasn't very nice."
"Well I don't feel like being nice."
"I don't feel like being nice either." And that was all the warning she had before he
suddenly jerked to a sitting position, grabbed her wrist, and pulled her onto the bed with
him, rolling her underneath him and grinning down at her from his new vantage point.
"I'd say we have about an hour and a half before we have to go anywhere. What do you
say we think of this as our last moment together before we die?"
"We're not going to die," she answered dryly.
"Fine, fine. I was just trying to make it more romantic," he said, sounding wounded. "But
if you would prefer to think of it another way then go ahead. I'll keep my delusions while
I can."
[Confess your love as well as your folly]
Hinata was sitting on the bed with her back to the door, looking over a scroll that Sakura
had lended her when she heard the door click open. She didn't bother to turn around.
She already knew who it was.
"Hey," Naruto said quietly, sitting on the bed behind her. He wrapped one arm around
her waist and propped himself up with the other, resting his chin on her shoulder. "What
are you reading?"
"Just a scroll on healing from Sakura. It's all based on chakra control."
He laughed humorlessly. "Well that's something that you don't have to worry about.
Speaking of problems "
"We weren't speaking of any problems, Naruto-kun," she said quietly.
"Well since you brought it up," he went on, "when were you going to tell me about the
Byakugan?"
"Eventually," she answered in a whisper as she rolled the scroll back up and held it
loosely in her lap.
"Did Neji tell you to keep it from us?" he questioned as calmly as he could.
"No," she answered, "We decided together. It just wasn't the right time for it, Narutokun. Please don't be angry." She turned to she could see his face. "It was for the best for
the mission that we didn't tell you."
"What about what's best for you?" he asked rhetorically. "You're hurting because of this
and you didn't tell me. I thought I told you that I want to you tell me when you're
hurting so I can help you."
"Sometimes it's better that I hurt than I tell you things," she answered softly.
He fell quiet, stunned, as he looked at this tiny woman that had captured his heart. She
turned back and looked down at her hands and the scroll, turning it this way and that as
if it held the world's secrets. "Why do you say that?" he asked after a while of silence.

"You know that Tsunade-sama doesn't really like all of us being on the same team,
Sasuke-kun and Sakura-chan, Neji-nii and Tenten-chan, you and me. It is better if you
don't show favoratism and it's easier for you if I just don't mention anything that could
give you that temptation. It's better this way."
"Hinata, look at me," he said quietly. When she did he kissed her very gently. When he
pulled away he said, "I know that it's difficult for us to be on the same team but I just
want to keep you protected whenever I can."
She smiled in her soft way and turned completely, leaning against his chest and resting
her head on his shoulder. "I know you want to, but I'm not completely defenseless. I did
get this far. Let me handle myself sometimes. Don't worry. I know what I'm doing."
"What if I don't want you to have to handle yourself?" he protested lamely even as his
hands came up to rub her back absently.
A soundless laugh blew across his throat. "I want to be able to handle myself. I can
handle myself. Please don't change the way you're doing this mission because I'm having
trouble. I put all I can into these missions. It would hurt me if you tried to make things
easier for me." She looked up mischievously. "And you don't want me to be hurt, do
you?"
He laughed and pulled her into a tight hug. "When did you become so manipulative, little
fox?"
"Since people stared listening to me," she answered. She didn't give him time to feel
sorry for her though, closing the gap between their lips again and then snuggling back
against his chest. "Thank you, Naruto-kun, for protecting me. Thank you for listening."
[No dawn, no day, I'm always in this twilight]
Sasuke looked up at the hill that the Shrieking Shack rested atop, pulling his gloves
higher up on his arms and glancing back once to be sure that Ino and Kiba were hiding in
the woods, ready to see his signal or to hear it through their mics. He took a breath and
walked up the hill, always glancing around for enemies. When none showed it did not
release his tension, only added to it. He reached the door and, before he could knock or
kick it open, he wasn't sure which one he preferred, it was yanked open and a witch
stood there, her hair a mess of crazed tangles around her face. She stood back and
motioned for him to come in.
Stepping past her carefully, and certainly not putting it past one of Voldemort's people to
hit him with a killing curse when his back was turn, he entered into a hallway and then
was motioned down it by the woman behind him into a large main room which held a
handful of enemy nin and wizards and the two dark lords themselves.
"Sasuke," Orochimaru hissed lovingly, his ridiculously long tongue flashing out to wet his
almost nonexistent lips, "so glad you decided to come." When Sasuke remainded taciturn
he went on. "Wondering why you're here yet?"
"Not really," he answered blandly.
"Of course not. The Nara told you to come though, so you did. He's curious about what I
want," Orochimaru said. "I told you that I'd be keeping in touch."

"You implied it, yes," Sasuke allowed, ignoring the comment about Shikamaru. Anyone
with half a brain could have guessed that Shikamaru was the one who sent him. Naruto
would have told him to just blow of the shack before he even got there.
"Do you remember what I asked you to do for me so long ago, Sasuke-kun?" Orochimaru
asked.
"Vaguely."
Voldemort spoke up, his voice not quite as much a hiss as Orochimaru's but certainly no
more pleasant. "You are very insubordinate for your current position."
"I can't be insubordinant if I'm not a subordinant," the Uchiha deadpanned.
Orochimaru just laughed. "You haven't lost your wit then, Sasuke-kun. Now, what
information do you have for me on your little team and friends?"
"None that you haven't already gotten," Sasuke answered.
"None?" Orochimaru repeated. "Do you have so much faith in my spies or so little faith in
your teammates?"
"They tell me nothing," he lied.
An unpleasant smile stretched Orochimaru's already thin lips. "I know a lie when I hear
one, Sasuke. What do you really have for me?"
"Nothing," he insisted.
Orochimaru's smile fell from his face and he sat down in the throne directly behind him.
There was no chair for Voldemort. "I am surprised with you, Sasuke. You're normally not
so stubborn. Perhaps we've been apart for too long and you've forgotten what it's like to
be in the prescence of true power." He raised a hand.
The woman from before was still standing behind Sasuke and, before he could do
anything about it, she shouted a word and a stream of green light shot from her wand
and hit him in the back and he was suddenly overtaken by excruciating pain. He fell to
his hands and knees, his teeth clenched and his hands fisted on the floor. It felt as if his
insides were being burned while still under his skin.
"Yes, there are parts of wizarding society that aren't so useless," Orochimaru said
conversationally as if the most powerful wizard of the time wasn't standing right beside
him. "The crucio curse is particularly lovely."
"I thought you said something about true power," Sasuke said from between gritted
teeth. He looked up at Orochimaru defiantly. "This feels like borrowed power to me."
Orochimaru frowned and waved his hand again and the spell intensified. The woman was
giggling madly to herself. Sasuke let his head drop again as he fought to dull the pain
with all the years of Anbu teaching and personal necessity that had instilled the ability to
ignore pain within him. He took a breath and lurched to his feet, dusting his hands off on
his pants. He failed in appearing completely casual but the looks on the wizards' faces
were quite enough reward for the added burst of fire in his abdomen.
"Borrowed power," he repeated grimly as he clenched his hands to hide the shaking.

For a moment there was complete silence. Even the curly haired woman had stopped her
laughter. Then Orochimaru just tipped back his head and laughed at the sky. No one
joined him. The wizards were looking at Sasuke with something like utter awe and hero
worship. Voldemort remainded impassive. But Orochimaru laughed as if he had just been
told the most amusing story in his life.
Suddenly he stopped. "Release the spell." It stopped. "The wizards needed a little lesson
on your kind's stubbornness in the face of their torturousspells." He cut his eyes
noticeably at Voldemort who ignored him. "Why do you think I brought you here?"
"To ask me for information," Sasuke said, a little dizzy from the spell.
Orochimaru suddenly stood. "No, not at all." He smiled evilly. "I brought you here to die.
Goodbye, Sasuke."
With that, Orochimaru and Voldemort and all of the wizards and enemy shinobi were
gone, vanished without even the trail of smoke left from a teleportation jutsu.
And then the Shrieking Shack exploded.