The search for Uzumaki Naruto had been long and difficult. He wasn't in Konoha, and his mission was top-secret. Getting the information without alerting anyone had been tricky. But then, Uchiha Itachi and Hoshigaki Kisame weren't S-rank criminals for nothing. Eventually, they got the info, and made their way to the faraway land of England.
Wizarding England. From what little they could gather on the subject, there was a difference. But for someone who had grown up in a village that was home to thousands of people and yet could still call itself "Hidden", the wizarding world was about as secret as Orochimaru's bedroom tastes.
Of course, the trip itself still took them about two months. By the time they arrived, they were rather low on funds; stealing from passersby was rather petty and needed to be repeated too often to be practical. They were, sadly, too far from base to get money there.
But there was no reason not to rent their services.
It made sense; Naruto-kun was holed up at Hogwarts, Harry Potter was holed up at Hogwarts. Voldemort could also pay them in information about the kind of defenses around the place. Besides they weren't Muggles to be distracted away from their path by a basic "you don't want to go there" genjutsu, and they strongly doubted that Kakashi had had the occasion to take care of every little flaw and loophole in the castle's security just yet.
The Death Eaters would give them money and the plans of Hogwarts and its defenses, Itachi and Kisame would do what they hadn't been able to do, deliver Harry Potter to Voldemort. And Naruto-kun, who just happened to be there to protect their "Boy-Who-Lived".
So basically they'd get paid to fulfill their original mission. All good.
The Death Eaters, though, especially that crazy woman -- Vera? Bella ? -- seemed to mix up contractor and servant.
Uchiha Itachi didn't kneel in front of anyone who wasn't able to make him -- preferably by breaking his two legs.
He didn't know what her little spell did, but then you had to be a worse fool than his brother to stay in the path of a ray of red light, especially one screamed out with such delighted wrath.
There was, though, an easy way to find out -- just for the sake of experimentation.
Itachi had the man with the silver hand pegged as such a coward, though, that it was hard to say how much of the scream he made after Itachi switched places with him was real pain, and how much was that he was a wimp.
"Try again," he invited tonelessly, and ignored the minions shouting in surprise at finding him in their midst, a step behind their master.
Voldemort was shielded, with something that made Itachi's skin prickle. He didn't care to find out if he would be able to break it; he didn't know enough about magic for that. He didn't have to let them know, though.
The woman started screeching again. Itachi frowned a little. Didn't these people know anything? Murderous anger was to be channeled in actual murder, not wasted with pointless and stupid advertising of one's intention. She was unhinged enough to be an easily manipulated tool; still, that she seemed to be one of the most efficient people around there was rather...
... unsurprising, really, considering they'd frittered away decades and still hadn't won so much as a Go match for their leader.
There were maybe two truly competent people in the room, he considered as a blond, haughty-looking man, and a broken-nosed, sallow-skinned man, who were already in position on both sides of him. The rest were yelling in protest or frozen in shock.
"Enough," Voldemort hissed, a hand raised, as he turned to give Itachi a long, red-eyed glare. His minions seemed well-trained; they lowered their wands slowly. Itachi didn't pay them any attention, his own red eyes meeting his would-be employer calmly.
"...You do seem to have interesting tricks indeed..." the old man said softly.
Itachi stared at him a second longer, then nodded his head, barely. It wasn't too late to salvage the negotiations, if the man wasn't too prideful to recognize Itachi and his partner's skills; he still wasn't about to be any more polite than the bare essentials. These people needed to understand how to deal with a S-class missing-nin.
They stared at each other a little while longer. Itachi could feel the smallest ripple in his chakra, on a weird level that he had always associated with Genjutsu -- the mindfucking kind.
"I would not advise that," he cautioned, still softly, and let his eyes shift into Mangekyou.
"... My apologies," Voldemort whispered silkily at the last possible second. He was smirking, as if pleased and amused; Itachi knew better. The Dark wizard was seething. Itachi made a note to either avoid giving Voldemort any reason at all to avenge himself, or if he did, to kill the old man on the spot, rather than let him plot some nefarious scheme. Itachi really didn't care to spend the next month looking over his shoulder for a curse coming his way.
He was about to say something meaningless -- "Let's forget it" or something like that -- and restart the negotiations; he was interrupted.
"HOW DARE YOU!"
The woman was all but frothing at the mouth. Itachi frowned, just a little bit.
"Enough, Bella," Voldemort snapped -- too late. She was already aiming her wand and incanting again.
Itachi didn't bother to move; he turned to face Voldemort instead.
They'd all forgotten Kisame. One little punch and she was out like a light.
"Good help is so hard to find these days," he commented, unconcerned, and hefted his huge sword up, balancing it on his shoulder negligently.
Itachi allowed himself a little smirk at the look on Voldemort's face.
"We need information on the various kinds of spells there are around the place. Their limitations, their reach," he listed quietly, before the glare war could start again.
Voldemort briefly looked murderous, and then his snakelike face smoothed out. "Wormtail, bring them chairs."
"My partner prefers to stand," Itachi countered calmly, and finally got around to getting the information they'd come here to find out.
Kisame glanced at the picture of the black-haired boy they were supposed to
"Neat little trick," he commented when Potter, apparently shy, started inching out of the frame. "I wonder if any jutsu could do the same."
Itachi didn't bother turning around to see what his partner was talking about. "Are you done reading?"
Kisame passed back the folder with the maps and the plans, crumpling the picture and throwing it over his shoulder.
"How long do you think before they figure out that we don't intend to bring them back that brat?"
Itachi snorted softly. "Who cares." It wasn't as if even one of them was competent enough to track them down, and the two Akatsuki had cautiously avoided leaving even one hair or one scrap of clothing behind, to prevent from being cursed from afar. The... Death Eaters, such as they were, didn't even have their real names.
Kisame smirked wide, amused. Voldemort really thought that they didn't know he'd planned to kill them as soon as he got what he wanted. Kisame was half-tempted to come back, just to see what tricks they had up their sleeves; so far, he hadn't been impressed, but there must be a reason why everyone was so scared of them -- or else that country was really more pathetic than he'd ever thought possible.
Coins jingled in his pocket; it was only an advance, a third of the total they'd been promised. It was more than sufficient for their needs.
"Let's get a hotel room," he suggested.
Not bothering to answer, Itachi followed, the Hogwarts map in his pocket.