She got her invitation rather later than she believed most other guests would have, closer to the big date, but she suspected the distance and the ... rather tortuous means of delivery had more to do with it than any deliberate slight.
The season of beautiful fresh new leaves has begun
(blahblahblah, seasonal greetings; she skipped ahead)
We shall be holding a wedding ceremony soon.
We're truly sorry to trouble you in the middle of such a busy time
but we would be so honoured with your presence there
Uchiha Sasuke . Haruno Sakura
It was alright, though. She was already faintly surprised the boy remembered her and her old friendship with his family well enough to send anything.
Her queen-cat flopped across her lap and started pawing at the thick, velvety envelope with great interest. She lifted it up with a little 'tch' of admonishment. The cat gave her a resentful look and snagged it with two pawfuls of claw tips. After a couple seconds of careful tug-o-war she worked the envelope free; a thinner, looser sheet of paper fluttered down, to be batted at with ferocious joy.
Her guest rescued it for her with a swift movement that took even the cat by speed; she gave him a shrewd look, thanked him with a dry, amused little nod, and decided not to reward him for knifing the air toward her midsection with a faceful of hot green tea and sharp porcelain splinters. He handed the message back wordlessly, without even glancing at the contents. She let Nya-hime have the soft, thick envelope to knead, balanced her cup on her knee, and unfolded the note.
I know you won't be able to attend, but here it is anyway.
"Hm," she said, and planted her pipe at the corner of her mouth to disguise her smile.
"Grandma?" inquired Tamaki-chan, as she knelt by the low table to place a plateful of biscuits before their guest. "Good news?"
"One might say." She puffed on her pipe, smiled a little wider, crookedly. "Always nice to be remembered."
And nicer to see that the boy had done more than remembering, had thought over his memories of the nice old shop-lady and her cats, and come back out with 'underground ninja gear shop' and 'village-neutral by way of not flaunting herself under anyone's nose'. Village-neutral being another way of saying missing-nin-friendly. Of course she couldn't come to Konoha; it didn't matter how late or how early the message had been sent. Widely known in the appropriate circles, for her wares and for the painfully strict neutrality she enforced both, her shop was nevertheless small, and well-hidden enough that the Great Villages didn't consider it worth the bother to root her out; presenting herself at their gates asking for a visa was another matter entirely.
"Marriage?" Tamaki asked politely, though she'd no doubt guessed from the envelope alone.
"Mmh. Ah, that kid, he's still so young." She stroked the sleek gold fur of her queen-cat, still sprawled in the cradle of her lap, arched an eyebrow at her guest. "What do you think? Planning on dropping by?"
The young man lifted his cup to his mouth in a ceremony-perfect gesture, one hand cupping the curve, the other underneath to lift; she could see his mother stamped all over it.
"That might not be the best idea," he replied, voice quiet and bland, removed.
"Indeed," she replied with a long sigh, though Tamaki looked from her to their guest with curiosity. The girl knew better than to press for information, though; she held her tongue.
The Elder Cat had a long history of usefulness and grit to presume on, though, so she nodded sadly and went on. "What a pity, I was all set on convincing you to safeguard your family's legacy with my Tamaki-chan."
Her granddaughter yelped; she ignored it, though the girl had the sense not to go straight for her senbon when the cats hissed and scampered out of range. Red eyes speared her; she met them patiently. Yes, boy, I'm testing you, she thought, and let him read it on her face.
When it was clear nothing would follow that red gaze, "I suppose there's no pressing need for that anymore," she said, flicking the marriage invitation. "Hmm, but a spare wouldn't hurt, would it?"
Itachi drained his cup, still watching her coolly through thick eyelashes, lowered it with the same graceful economy of movement. "Thank you for the tea, Grandmother."
He was gone in under ten seconds, a quiet, polite "I'll take my leave" falling from his lips as he crossed the threshold. Cats slowly milled closer to her lap and the table, uncertain until a couple of young toms decided the empty cushion had kept enough body-warmth to sprawl possessively onto.
Slippery. She still was no closer to guessing his reasons, his triggers, which way he might jump if pressed, even though if anything could possibly be a button on his temper it was the clan he had once utterly massacred. It was trigger enough now to prompt an immediate end to any interaction.
Oh well; she would be sad to see Mikoto's children tear each other apart, if that was their destiny; but if either of them expected her to take a side, truly they should know better, and she wasn't stepping in the middle. Good enough to know he wasn't unstable enough to take offense at the drop of a hat.
"You weren't serious, were you, Grandma? About -- about having his child."
She snorted, held out her teacup to her granddaughter for a refill. "Of course I was. And of course he was never going to take me up on it. Either he wants his clan dying with him, in which case that brother of his and his line of descent is good as gone, or he doesn't, and he would hardly choose someone who wasn't loyal to him first."
"Oh." Tamaki blinked, and then her lips stretched into a faint, wryly amused smile. The Elder Cat mirrored it.
They were Nekoka, and like the animal that had given their family its name, they were loyal first and foremost to themselves. What did the sire know about raising kittens, protecting them, or indeed do anything but produce them? That was a queen's business.
"Well. I guess he was nice to look at." Tamaki shuddered. "But talk about biting off more than you can chew. I think we'll do fine without the Sharingan, Grandma."
She hummed an agreement, sipped her tea. Crumpled the invitation and the note into two balls, and with a flick of her wrist let her cats dispose of the evidence. Safer for everyone involved if she didn't send a return letter either.
The boy had given her the courtesy of keeping her informed, though, so as a wedding present she made a note to send intel along, if Itachi ever let slip any.
If he ever did, likely enough it would be deliberate, fully knowing what she would do with it. She gave a philosophical sigh and teased a kitten with her foot. That sad business had to run its course, and never mind how much she'd liked their mother, how much she lamented the waste, in the end there was nothing she could do about it.
Nothing she would, either.