Chapter 101: Holiday Gift to Our Patient, Lovely Readers

The damned bird still wasn't responding to him. Hari glowered murderously at airport security until they decided they had better things to do than search the fifteen-year-old traveling on his own. It was keeping him from going home to check on Aunt Konan. When he'd had a chance to think about it, she'd seemed too . . . off. He didn't know what was wrong with her, but it made something itch in his chest and he wanted to make sure she was okay. Instead, he was forced to rely on his people just to find out where his friends were so he could visit them.

X X X

Hermione was just about done with this. She'd put up with her family being followed for a week already, but it was getting on her nerves. The two men clearly thought they were doing a good job of blending into their surroundings. She'd give them that at least they weren't wearing Federal-Agent suits or brightly colored robes, but anyone trained by Hari would notice. At least if they could use magic to keep up a steady stream of detection charms and she was in the habit of using one that allowed her to track everyone within a fairly wide radius. Most people couldn't use it the way she did, but an eidetic memory meant that she remembered every return she'd had. The two had been following them since they'd gotten to the airport in London.

"I'll be back, mum." She pulled on a bathrobe and stepped away from the pool. Disillusionment was easy enough for her and she tiptoed back into the hotel and up to the third floor. It wasn't even a moment's work to work out which room they were in. The door was warded to hell and back, so she broke into the room next to it and transfigured a hole in the wall.

She didn't say anything to them until she'd stunned the both of them. It was more difficult than she'd been expecting and if she'd had a wand, there would have been a tremendous problem. As it was, whatever wards they'd thrown up had been enough to keep the staff from noticing a pitched battle in the room.

Once the two were disarmed, bound, and thoroughly disabled, she walked into their line of sight. "Can I help you two gentlemen?" She sat down on their bed and crossed her arms. "I don't appreciate being followed by whatever organization sent you. You're too muggle for it to be Death Eaters and I don't know who else would bother."

"Miss Granger," said one with sandy hair. "I . . . the boss is going to kill us."

"Assuming he gets the chance," Hermione pointed out mildly.

"Well, when he finds out the principal caught us, he's going to be upset."

"Princi . . . are you telling me you two are bodyguards?"

The one with darker hair nodded. "We work for the Dawn. Our boss assigned us to keep an eye on you. I don't know why, you seem perfectly able to take care of yourself."

"The . . . Dawn?"

"Yeah. You're a nice girl, Miss, so you probably wouldn't have heard of us. But we work for Professor Potter."

"He sent guards?"

"No, Miss. That was our boss, Miss."

"I see. And do you have a way to prove this?"

"Technically? No. I mean, I have the business card in my pocket and you could call the main office . . . well, Mister Sasori might be in. Would that help?"

"Indeed." Hermione walked to the phone. "That number, please?"

X X X

Hari didn't question why Arnold had exact locations for all his friends. Instead, he merely broke into one of the more warded magical prisons on the Continent to visit Millie. He observed as she waded into a riot that was bubbling nicely and proceeded to batter men into states of shock that replicated unconsciousness.

"Hey, Hari!"

"Things going well?"

"Yep!" Mille bashed a man a little too hard and scowled as his skull partially caved in. "Damn. That's going to come out of my pay."

X X X

Hari was glad to know that at least Daphne and Astoria were reliably at home. Apparently, no one had bothered to add him to the wards, so he broke in there, too. He found the two of them eating breakfast. Well, Daphne was eating breakfast. Astoria had presumably finished her breakfast and was gleefully chasing the nundu cub, who was in turn chasing a garden gnome that it was apparently allowing to live solely to torment.

"Hello, Daphne."

"Hari." Her tone was unwelcoming at best. "It seems that she knew you were coming. I have no other explanation for why she managed to guzzle syrup straight from the pitcher this morning. As such, I blame you for the headache already beginning."

"HARI!" Girl-Tobi came racing up to him to bounce in place. "Anything interesting happen?"

"Apparently Hermione was being tailed by a couple of mercenary wizards. She caught them." Hari had been torn when he got that report. There had been no good answer to who he would want to win-either way, someone he wanted to win had to lose.

"Should I be worried about that?"

"I doubt it."

X X X

Blaise didn't even look up. "Mother is out on a date," he said. He'd heard the sound of the window opening and when nothing had died from the entrail-expeller he'd tossed in its direction, he decided that it was Hari. "Is there anything else you want?" he was reading a book and apparently quite invested in it.

"Just checking in."

"Well, I'm not sure. She's still pulling for us to date, though. I've tried to convince her that she will probably have grandchildren, but I can't say that's gotten through to her."

"You're not my type, Blaise."

"Somehow, that is at the bottom of my list of reasons, Hari."

X X X

Tracy was blissfully enjoying sleep when she felt someone enter her room and instinctively threw a piercing hex at it.

"Good, you didn't use your wand."

Tracy yelped. "Damn it, Hari. I've been enjoying getting to sleep in."

"That's a terrible habit to be in."

X X X

Pansy had been having a terrible summer. Her parents had been especially aggressive in trying to reeducate her on the proper behavior for a good pureblood girl. There was only so much of it she could take. She wished she knew why they were suddenly pushing it so hard, though. Nothing had changed that she knew of aside from getting older. Technically, they might be worried that she was coming up to an age where they could marry her off, but she couldn't imagine that any pureblood family would want her.

To get away from the orders and disapproving stares, she'd taken to riding her bike all the way to London and roaring around ignoring the attempts to pull her over. That was how she ended up in this alleyway which she discovered was a dead end with a bunch of bikers gathered around the entrance, all looking rather mean.

"Lookit what we've got here," one of them called. Pansy scowled; he sounded drunk. "Bitch on a bike like she's got a right t'be there."

Pansy didn't wait for the rest of the drunken group to start talking. She'd already identified the leader. Her gun came up and drilled two large rounds into the man's chest and put a third into the middle of his forehead as he pitched backwards, showering several men behind him in brains.

"Before any of you get the bright idea to rush me; just consider that I was really over-ambitious with the three shots to him. I have plenty of rounds left in the mag and several more at my hip. If you rush me, I can probably put most of you down before you're even off your bikes.

"Now, you can either make me waste ammo and litter this entire place with corpses, or you can go the fuck on your way and leave me alone." There was some quiet conferring. "Look, if you don't pick in another ten seconds, I'll start shooting people until you make up your minds."

After a few more seconds of hurried discussion, one of the large, rather hairy men raised a hand. "Can we pick option three?"

"The fuck is option three?" Pansy ejected the magazine from her gun, a fresh one sliding into place in a blink.

"You run the gang?"

"The fuck?"

X X X

Hari had been planning to stop in and see Pansy, but he got a call from Arnold about an urgent job in London. Technically, it could be farmed out to someone else, but Arnold had been adamant that Hari take it himself.

He kicked in the door to the bar. "Hello jackasses. I'm looking for the 'Bloody Rose', if you'll kindly point them out to me, I'll leave with a minimum of killing the rest of you."

"Hi, Hari."

"Pansy?"

X X X

Hari sat down at a rather beaten table at the back of a bar that smelled of unwashed humans, alcohol, and tobacco smoke, watching as Pansy lit up a cigarette and took a pull from a bottle of whiskey. "You've been busy."

"It's something to pass the time. And it keeps me out of the house."

"So . . . I have a contract to kill you."

"And I'm not dead."

"Yes. Well. One time offer: if you'll pick up some of the fee, I'll go deliver a rejection in clear terms."

"Is it by any chance one of the other gangs?"

"Probably."

"Done."

X X X

Pansy smiled to herself and lit a cigarette, taking a drag as she reread the headlines in the paper. Bloody Rose Breaks Bonez. The warehouse that had been a haven for the enemy club had been burned to the ground with all hands, save one who'd been nailed to a wall with a rose carved into his back. Her parents would have been appalled at her satisfaction-not the violence, especially not to Muggles, but the fact that it had been done by hand. That was barbarism in their eyes. She wished she'd been the one to do the carving, but she didn't have Hari's talent for art.

Her glance flicked up at the boy in question. He was . . . brooding. She'd never seen that before. He'd plotted, planned, precipitated chaos, and generally been up to something most of the time she'd known him, but she'd never seen him brood. For that matter, she'd never seen him just hang around somewhere, either. He wasn't drinking or smoking with her crew, just sitting at the table with her. Brooding.

She really wished he'd do it somewhere else. She wasn't exactly a people-person and had no idea how to deal with someone like this. At least without firearms. There were questions she wanted to ask, though, but . . . to hell with it. "You seem to have two eyes now."

"Twelve," he said absently. It was as though he'd answered on automatic. She blinked. Whatever answer she had expected, that hadn't been it. "Mind if I use your back room for a day or two?"

The question was a bit random, but at least that was normal for Hari. "Sure. Why?"

"Need to do a ritual."

"Oh." Yeah, that was definitely a Hari answer. "Alright." She turned her head to face the bar. "Everyone stay the fuck out of the basement until he says otherwise." She jabbed a thumb at Hari.

"Yes, Boss!"

"I don't think I'm ever going to get tired of hearing that."

Hari didn't quite smile, but he nodded. "It's nice, isn't it?" He lapsed back into silence and stared off into space.

She wanted to ask the biggest question on her mind-well, aside from what had happened to his eye-but she just knew that wasn't going to be a good question to ask. She didn't know why, but he was back far too early and didn't have any stories about his family's exploits, either.

Pansy stubbed out the remainder of her cigarette and motioned for someone to bring her a drink. It had taken all of a few minutes for her guys to learn not to argue with her when she wanted alcohol. She knocked back the tumbler of whiskey and sighed as the heat crawled down her throat. It gave her a nice, comforting warmth and right now, she was starting to feel a little cold.

X X X

==Omake==

Sasuke just barely kept his blade from slicing into the man when he materialized beside him. His arm certainly twitched enough for any vetaran ninja to know what had almost happened. "Can I help you?" His eyes were still covered by bandages from his own impromptu surgery. It had been agonizing, but he wasn't exactly going to go back to Leaf with his brother's will so recently transferred and Kabuto probably wouldn't be accepting his application for return to Sound either. Probably for the best that Kabuto had taught him medical techniques, then.

He didn't ask who the man was. The fact that he'd appeared from nowhere went a long way to telling him. He was fairly certain the man wasn't the Fourth returned from the dead, which left only one person.

"I'm here to offer you revenge."

Right Sasuke thought. Pretend you don't know. Pretend you don't know. Pretend you don't know . . .


(A/N John)

Well, I've got another chapter done. So that's something. This has been sitting on my drive, three-quarters done for months and I finally decided I was going to finish it and get it out to you guys. I don't know that I'd call it my best work, but it's not the worst thing I've done for this fic. At least I don't think so. It's not as funny as I might want, but there are things going on at the moment in the story that don't lend themselves to humor. I expect that to change at least a little in the next chapter. If only because the focus will (temporarily) shift away from Hari.

(A/N 2 John)

Like I said, though: Hari's resilient and he'll recover sooner than later. But there's probably always going to be a little part of him that feels the loss of Nagato. He really had planned to fight for the eye and then they'd celebrate his victory afterwards. He was cheated out of that-both the victory and the shared experience with a favored uncle.

There's also the fact that his family seems to have been falling apart. Half of his uncles were dead when he got home. Kisame was absent. He didn't even get to see Tobi.

(A/N 3 John)

The previous chapter still makes me a little sad to think about. Poor Konan.

(A/N 4 John)

Well, I think that's all for me. No idea if Spoon will add anything. No doubt she will. Heavens alone knows what, though.

We're most of the way there, people. Thank you all for bearing with us so far. The story from here on out is pretty well settled . . . which of course means that something I do will send everything we've planned spiraling out of control. But still, we're on track and I just need to do the actual writing.

Have a happy New Year everyone.

(A/N Spoon)

Just to spite John's expectations, I shan't be adding anything