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Not Afraid

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Harry blinked, the world a blurry haze of colours and….screaming? There was an immense pressure in the air, like magic, but different somehow.

'Oh Merlin! Was it Voldemort? Did I fail?' Harry thought in rising panic. He was relieved when his vision started to clear and the beige smudges turned into rocks and the brown/green turned into a forest. But not the one he'd been facing Voldemort in, he could tell that much. Everything about this situation felt wrong and he didn't know why!

A woman's face swam into view, her pale cheeks stained with tears as sweat stuck her deep red hair to her forehead. For a moment Harry thought it was Lily, that he was somehow having a nightmare. The last thing he remembered was staring at the end of Voldemort's wand, green light glowing from its tip.

His thoughts stuttered to a halt.

He was dead , he had to be. It was the only logical solution to why he wasn't in the Forbidden Forest anymore. But then...what the hell was happening? Harry tried to move his head to look around but it just felt so heavy , in fact he couldn't get any of his limbs to cooperate, only managing a frustrated flail. But then he saw how tiny his hands were and the pieces (however crazy they were) fell into place.

Harry made a distressed noise in the back of his throat, prompting the woman to coo, even as worry and fear clouded those suspiciously bright green eyes. But no matter the similarities, this wasn't his mother. The blond tan man he was handed off to when the screams rose to mass panic levels and the Not-Magic pressure became almost unbearable, was not his father.

Or, at least they weren't Harry Potter's parents. But if he was right, then he wasn't Harry Potter anymore. The next thing he knew was pain, pain, pain! Oh! How it hurt! He screamed for all he was worth because this was way worse than the Cruciatus Curse, way worse!

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There was something inside of him. He could feel it, there was a darkness lurking at the back of his mind. Frustratingly, it always managed to slip out of his fingers whenever he tried to grasp it. It was warm though, incredibly warm. He didn't know if that was comforting or concerning, considering he had no idea what it was!

He growled as his fifth attempt to make contact failed yet again, startling the caretaker currently changing his nappy (and wasn't that an embarrassing experience!) . It had been a few months since that night and he had learned several things.

His name was Naruto Uzumaki. He was an orphan (big surprise there) and everyone was speaking Japanese, which he was somehow able to fully understand and fairly certain he could reciprocate without issue (despite never learning a lick of it beforehand) .

Also, everyone hated him.

He suspected it had something to do with the darkness in his mind, but no one was really talking about it. He had heard, however, that the circumstances around his birth were an SS-Class Secret that all denizens of Konoha were to abide by. Suffice to say, he didn't know what it was. It didn't feel like a Horcrux, per say. But it was still alive in the same way; there but not at all aware of what was going on. It was similar in that regard, to the tiny shard of Voldemort's soul he'd unknowingly carried for all those years.

Except it wasn't leeching anything from him. It just felt like a presence in the back of his mind, like someone was sleeping right behind him or something.

It certainly hadn't been there before he'd come to this world--something that he was still coming to terms with. It sounded crazy to him, to be living in an alternate reality, but with every passing day, 'Naruto' was beginning to realise that he may have been reincarnated into a different universe, complete with its own set of rules and stipulations.

It was just his luck that he still had all the memories from his past life. For all he knew, a Demon could have been sealed into his gut--yeah, he'd seen the Seal markings on his stomach. He didn't know what they meant, but he could hazard a guess as to what they did.

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When Naruto was five and proven to be able to look after himself (if only loosely, considering he was still grappling for control over his limbs and couldn't see the top of kitchen counters) , the nasty caretaker shoved him into an empty apartment and locked the door. She was a bitter old hag who did the absolute bare minimum when it came to caring for him. Naruto rolled his eyes, it was like the Dursleys all over again. Would he never get a break?

It was when he was trying to unlock the door at around dinner time that he discovered he had no magic (He'd never tried it before because he was usually watched 'round the clock at the Orphanage) . He panicked quite a bit before something else coated his fingers and he gaped at the bright blue light, sizzling and popping like oil in a pan.

Chakra , he later learned it was called. It was different from Magic, but no less powerful and just like Harry, Naruto seemed to have an above average core.

Naruto felt someone come up behind him and whirled around, backing up as the urge to grab his wand came over him. Instead his fingers twitched uselessly by his side, the Chakra sinking back beneath his skin.

The man was tall with grey hair that seemed to defy as much gravity as the Potter's did, despite not looking all that old. That was another thing he'd discovered about this world; they were all ninjas!

The man wore a dog mask and the typical black outfit for one of the Hokage's ANBU, a Special Forces Unit. It would be like the muggle MI6 back in England or the Hit Wizards in the Magical World. Naruto had known, of course, that there was always one nearby. They had been a mostly silent presence on the peripheral of his senses, until now.

"Why did you leave your post?" Naruto asked, trying to make his voice sound even and calm, mature. There was nothing he hated more than being looked down on or treated like a kid. The ANBU Officer stiffened, whether it was from surprise or he sensed something outside, Naruto didn't know. Nor did he care. He was hungry and tired.

"Saw what that hag did. I thought you might be hungry." And it was only then that Naruto noticed the shopping bag, half convinced the asshole had hidden it from him on purpose. His nose twitched, the absolutely heavenly smell he'd noticed on his way here was coming from a small styrofoam bowl. Ramen. There must have been a shop near this place, that was good to know.

He managed to restrain himself until Inu-san had put the steaming bowl on the kitchen table and backed away. Quicker than his little legs should have been able to handle, Naruto was sitting on the table with the bowl in his hands, the rim already tilted to his lips. He was so hungry! This body was a veritable vortex for nutrients, he could eat four times his weight and still be hungry enough for dessert--though he'd never had dessert before due to a certain cursed old hag.

The food was gone when he resurfaced from his aggravated thoughts and the ANBU was staring at him like he'd grown a second head. "Is there more? Come on, Wanwan , don't be stingy!" Naruto decidedly did not whine, eliciting a choked off laugh at the 'doggy' comment as the ninja disappeared before reappearing with ten more bowls.

Naruto cheered, unusually enthused as the steaming bowls were set in front of him. This body didn't do well with hunger. At all. So it was a massive relief to be able to fill the bottomless pit that was his stomach. He didn't even care that the ramen had little to no nutritional value, it was food! He was only vaguely aware of Inu-san's movements, the man coming to sit opposite him as he tried to snag a bowl.

Naruto growled, sounding very inhuman as he hunched over the untouched bowls and eyed the ninja warily. He would have dragged them closer if there was enough room to without spilling them. The darkness in his mind had shifted in that moment to the forefront, imbuing him with the instinct to rip anyone apart who thought they could steal his food and get away with it.

"Maa, kids these days! So possessive! " The ninja joked halfheartedly, putting his hands in the air lazily, like he hadn't just been growled at by a five year old, who was apparently a demon out to steal the souls of other children. Naruto snorted, viciously stabbing one of his chopsticks into a thick piece of beef before popping it into his mouth.

He'd overheard the bints at the orphanage talking when they thought he was out of earshot a few days before he was abandoned in this mouldy, rundown hellhole. It was only slightly better than the mouldy, rundown hellhole he'd come from because there was no one to pester him here.

More fool them, whatever it was that made people hate him, it gave him enhanced senses and a set of instincts that influenced him more than he'd be willing to admit, even in the safety of his own mind.

Just to spite the man, Naruto took the bowl he'd wanted and downed it in one go before moving onto the others closest to the ninja. It seemed to only amuse Inu-san, who was heedless of the danger he was in, had Naruto not had enough control to stop at a simple warning. Considering the ninja had brought him the food in the first place, he'd say it would go against every rule to bite the hand that had so kindly fed him.

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"So," Kakashi started, when he saw that the boy was finally done eating. Man, this kid could fucking eat! 'Maybe it was a jinchuuriki thing,' Kakashi thought, remembering the way Kushina was never satisfied until she'd divested half the village of Ramen--especially when she was pregnant. He suppressed a shudder, she had been one scary lady, that was for sure.

He was still sad she was gone though. Even after five years he still hadn't gotten over losing the only family that had ever cared about him.

Verdant green eyes that were far brighter--practically glowing --than Kushina's ever could be, bored into his lone grey one. He suddenly felt like he was exposed to those eyes, like they could see right down to his soul and he felt a shiver run up his spine. Kakashi cleared his throat and crossed his arms.

He was out of his depth here, he always was when it came to kids. He didn't blame the Hokage for not trusting him with raising Naruto. Though from the way the kid had been attacking bowl after bowl of ramen, like he was ravenous --hadn't eaten for days --Kakashi could bet that the Hokage hadn't done any better in trusting the hateful bint in charge of the orphanage.

"I think you need to come with me to the Hokage."

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Sarutobi Hiruzen was pretty sure he was too old for this. There was a reason he'd given up the hat to Minato-kun all those years ago, but with the Yellow Flash gone there was no one else he trusted to take his place. There just weren't that many qualified for the position, and those that were….he thought of a certain pale-blonde alcoholic and shook his head, reaching up to message his temples.

So, here he was, spending his Friday night playing catch-up. Sarutobi had been silly enough to take a couple of days off to rest his aching old body at one of the hot springs the land of Fire happily boasted. Now he was paying for it. Let it not be said that ruling a country was fun, or even without at least three mountains of paperwork to be looked over everyday.

He sighed gustily when he saw Inu-san crawl into his office using the window--because the doors here were just for show, apparently--with a small red-headed bundle in his arms. He ignored the kernel of panic that wanted to unfurl when he caught the tense lines of his favourite subordinate.

This couldn't be good. Was there an attack? Had someone finally realised the boy's true parentage and come after him? He'd tried to hide it as best he could, just as he had of the boy's jinchuuriki status. It was for Naruto's own safety that he'd handed him off to Mavis, like he was any other war orphan. Danzo had vehemently disagreed, saying that they should show their strength after such a blow of losing so many lives to the Kyuubi No Kitsune.

Sarutobi personally thought he'd done the right thing by raising him in the orphanage, if the other option was to hand him over to his old teammate. He loved the man like a brother, but Sarutobi wouldn't put it past the old War Hawk to torture the boy in the name of 'training' or 'tests'. No, he didn't want that for poor Naruto, he was his student's son after all.

"What happened?" He demanded, frowning when Kakashi set the Jinchuuriki down on his feet--his bare feet, no less--and the child looked up at him with curious but knowing eyes. Sarutobi stared back, unable to look away from that hypnotic gaze.

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'Ah, so that's what all this is about.' Naruto thought, gleaning the answers to virtually all his questions from this 'Hokage' Person, who seemed to be the leader of the village. Naruto noted, with some resentment, that Sarutobi Hiruzen was very much like Dumbledore in a lot of ways.

They were both well-meaning, powerful old men who had a penchant for sending poor little orphans to live a life of abuse and neglect.

It was somewhat of a comfort to the bitter former wizard that at least this one didn't do it with some ultimate master plan in mind to save the greater good or whatever. It seemed like sending him to that orphanage had been the lesser of two evils and Naruto was grateful for that, at least.

"I want guardianship over Naruto." Inu-san said confidently, taking off his ANBU mask to reveal the same curved grey eye he'd seen before. The Hokage blinked, breaking the connection before quickly pressing a button under his desk and a heavy aura settled over the room; 'privacy ward' Naruto's mind supplied--or the Chakra equivalent to a privacy ward.

It was interesting to see that Chakra was much more versatile than Magic, that it could do similar things while also naturally enhancing the human body. A normal human wouldn't have been able to race over rooftops so cleanly and stick to walls without it, after all. But that was how they'd gotten here and Naruto had sensed the ninja carrying him using his Chakra to do just that seemingly without thought.

With Chakra they were able to practically Apparate! And reach speeds so soundlessly that no one in his old World would have been able to do. He was excited to learn how to use his Chakra, the theories behind it and how it stacked up against his magic. Naruto tuned back in when the Hokage shook his head.

"You know why I can't let you do that, Kakashi-kun." But 'Kakashi' only groaned in exasperation, like this wasn't the first time they'd had this conversation. That warmed Naruto's heart somewhat, to think that someone had been fighting to have him with them. That not everybody hated the Jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi No Kitsune, the Human Sacrifice of the Demon Fox.

"Do you know what that Cow has been doing to him?!" Kakashi gesticulated wildly, abandoning his 'lazy' persona in the face of his frustration.

"I found him locked in one of the shitty apartments in the Red Light District , starving and with no way to take care of himself!" Naruto flinched at the loud and angry pitch his voice had taken, inadvertently proving Kakashi's claims that he'd been abused and neglected his whole life.

"She's been doing the absolute bare minimum in taking care of Naruto, spending most of the money you give her on booze! " Now that was news to him, Naruto hadn't known that the old hag was being paid to make his life miserable. Thinking of it like that made his incredibly angry.

"She what?! She was being paid to--" He choked on a frustrated sob, glaring at the Hokage. "She was being paid to make my life miserable?! Are you fucking kidding me?! " He hissed, the room buzzing with an oppressive amount of KI for someone so young.

But it was there and then gone in a flash as Naruto ran a hand through his hair in frustration. This whole situation was shitty from the beginning. At least now he knew why .

There was a faint protest of 'Language!' whispered from the corner of the room where an ANBU was hanging upside down but Naruto paid them no mind, eyes fixed on the Dumbledore-reincarnate in front of him. Would he always be destined to grow up with people who hated him and treated him like shit?

The Hokage held his ground in the face of the twin glares he was receiving, looking far older than before. "I'm sorry for what you had to go through, my boy. No child should bare hatred for circumstances out of their control. But ," the Hokage continued, turning a stern gaze onto Kakashi.

"You know I can't let anyone but myself have Guardianship over young Naruto. That was the deal I made to keep Danzo away from him." To Naruto's complete disappointment, Kakashi immediately ducked his head like a chastised child. It looked like he would be stuck in that shitty apartment until he came of age--whenever that would be. He honestly didn't know with this world.

"Now, please take Naruto home. It is late and children shouldn't be up at this time." The Hokage clapped his hands once, as if that would make the matter over with. He reached under his desk to undo the privacy ward. Naruto was scooped up, a sulky lump of frustration in Kakashi's arms. He still enjoyed the ride though, it was similar to flying in the air on a broom.

"I'm sorry, Naruto." Kakashi said solemnly, gently, as he deposited the sleepy child onto the lone ratty mattress in the main room. "But just because I can't be your legal guardian, doesn't mean I won't still take care of you, okay?" The man whispered, brushing feather-light fingers over Naruto's unmarred forehead.

Naruto barely felt him leave before he was pulled into morpheus' arms.