Authors: furiosity & incapricious
Fandom: Harry Potter & Bleach
Genre: Crossover | Drama
Pairing: Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy
Disclaimer: JKR and Kubo own. We only play. You do not sue.
Length: 2500 words (this part)
Summary: In which Harry is furtive, Captain Aizen dispenses advice, breaking up is just as difficult when you're dead, Draco's hair meets its match, and Vagrant Darter smells a trap.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
12 x Someone Else's Blessings
Draco sat with his back to a thick tree trunk, watching beams of sunlight dance on the bared steel of the zanpakutō across his drawn-up knees. He had taken to escaping into the forest beyond the campus boundary; the farthest practice field was too open to a casual observer, and never mind that few people ever ventured this far on Academy grounds. Safe was safe, and sorry was sorry.
Potter had been unusually... furtive lately. Draco had caught him staring at mealtimes more than once, and their silences after lights-out were beginning to feel significant -- it was as though Potter had a secret he wanted to share, but didn't know where to begin. Draco's first panicked thought had been that Potter knew about Hajime, but that was impossible -- for the duration of their affair, Draco and Hajime had been painstakingly careful about never being seen together, and that had included the bathhouses. After the first time, if even one other person happened to be in the building, they hadn't gone anywhere near each other. Then Draco had ended the relationship, and that had been that.
But Potter was harbouring something in that mostly useless brain of his, and Draco had decided it would be best to minimise their interactions. Let Potter think he was just bitter about the shikai, why not? Draco had chosen not to reveal his shikai, else he could have easily been in Potter's place right now. It was a small comfort when the recruiters had started showing up at kenjutsu lessons, all of them watching Potter. The one from the ninth squad had looked familiar, but Draco hadn't placed him until after eight lessons -- Moyashi, the hapless unseated member whom Lieutenant Hisagi had been scolding on the day Harry and Draco had appeared in Rukongai. Draco wondered if Moyashi even remembered that. He had seemed as intent on Potter as all the other recruiters.
Perhaps some people were simply destined for celebrity. Draco tried to be an adult about it -- he may not have seemed to age physically since arriving in Soul Society, but he was, technically, twenty-one years old. Also, something Captain Aizen had said during a recent lesson had resonated with him: power lies in the ability to make reality seem a certain way, not in the ability to change reality. Draco couldn't change his zanpakutō any more than he could spontaneously come back to life, so he would have to work out a way to make his zanpakutō seem more powerful than it really was. The truth would be between him and Vagrant Darter, for a zanpakutō could not speak to anyone but his Shinigami partner.
"The question is, how do I make you do tricks?" Draco murmured, glaring at the sword.
"I'm a dragonfly, not a dog," came the reply. "Tricks are not part of my job description."
"That's because you're weak," Draco bit back. "You just talk big."
"You're awfully maudlin today," Vagrant Darter observed. Then, with a sly intonation, he added: "Maybe Konishi can fuck you better."
"And you're awfully rude," Draco said with a sigh. He missed Hajime. They had run into each other more often lately than they used to before their affair; Draco was sure none of these meetings had been truly accidental.
"We need to talk," Draco said, stopping at the entrance to the eastern wing of the old administrative building.
He had walked in on Hajime working through a sword-form. The top of his uniform hung around his hips, and his bare chest gleamed with sweat in the moonlight. The sight alone had almost been enough to make Draco forget his resolve -- almost. That resolve had brought his zanpakutō to him, and as ridiculous as Vagrant Darter was, he was Draco's in a way Hajime -- or any other man -- could never be.
Hajime sheathed his sword and took a step forward, but Draco shook his head. "No," he said. "I have come to tell you that we must stop seeing each other."
Hajime's arms hung limply at his sides. "Will you explain why you have made such a decision?"
"Of course," Draco said. "What we have been doing is forbidden. That is why."
Hajime nodded. Draco had known that would happen -- anyone in this position would only lose face if he tried to argue. Still, the matter-of-fact acceptance stung a little.
"We can meet again when we're members of the Gotei 13," Hajime said, shrugging into his uniform.
"Maybe," Draco allowed. Truthfully, he hadn't thought that far yet. What if they ended up in rival divisions? What if Hajime found someone else? What if Draco found someone else? The future was too uncertain, and promises made by Shinigami carried grave importance. So he left it at maybe, which really meant no. Hajime knew that as well as Draco did.
Hajime tied his hair back with a smooth, practiced movement. "Very well," he said. "You may leave.
Draco bowed deeply and walked away, his mind in turmoil. He cared for Hajime -- it was perhaps unavoidable, developing feelings for someone after being allowed, repeatedly, to see him at his most vulnerable. Draco suspected that most people simply refused to acknowledge those feelings -- just as he had done when he'd been alive. But he had changed here; Soul Society had changed him, made him more self-aware, more willing to admit his feelings to himself even if he still wouldn't admit them to anyone else. It was easier to achieve a meditative state when you didn't lie to yourself. Or perhaps Draco had been a silly queen all along and hadn't known it. Either way, he hadn't liked putting that hurt look into Hajime's eyes. It made him feel guilty.
Even now, he was really here because of Hajime, not Potter. Their study group had been going over their history essays together when Hajime had looked in on them. He'd apologised for interrupting and asked Sugita to come out, for some official prefect business.
Except Hajime wasn't a prefect.
As soon as Sugita was gone, Draco had gathered up his books and papers, mumbling an excuse that may or may not have been "gotta go eat my weight in dried persimmons." And here he was.
"Indeed, you useless lump of a failed Shinigami. Here you are," Vagrant Darter said cheerfully.
"It's not my fault you're so embarrassing," Draco snapped. Damn it, he wanted to be the one the Gotei 13 recruiters stared at. What kind of zanpakutō called itself Forest Prince, anyway? What a girly name. Draco deserved the recognition, he--
"Did you know you aren't allowed to be here?"
Draco clutched Vagrant Darter's hilt and looked around. The voice belonged not to an instructor, as he'd feared, but a Shinigami: a young man with a knitted orange collar worn over his shihakushō, hair so black it was blue, and two decorative feathers glued to his right eye -- a yellow one at the outer edge of the eyelid and a dark red one at the inner edge of the eyebrow. He was unbearably pretty-looking, and Draco couldn't help wondering what the rule book said about students "fraternising" with full Shinigami.
"Put that thing away before you hurt yourself," the newcomer advised, folding his arms with a genial smile as he nodded at Vagrant Darter.
Draco shot to his feet, sheathed his sword, and bowed. "My name is Draco Malfoy, fourth year. I offer my apologies for interrupting your day."
"You didn't answer my question, Draco Malfoy," the Shinigami said. "Never mind about interrupting my day; I was bored anyway. So?"
Draco kept his eyes on the ground. "I am indeed aware that I am not allowed to be here, sir," he said.
"So why are you here?" the Shinigami asked. "And who were you talking to?"
"To my zanpakutō, sir," Draco replied. "I came here for that purpose."
"And you were being rude to your zanpakutō, too, so you must know his name already. Did you lie about your name? Are you really Harry Potter-chan?"
Draco did his best not to grit his teeth. "No, sir."
"No, I didn't think so. They would have known to tell me if Harry-kun had such beautiful blond hair."
Draco looked up, startled. There was something he didn't hear every day. "Um."
"I'm Ayasegawa Yumichika," the Shinigami said, smiling sunnily.
Draco wanted to fall through the floor. How could he not have recognized him? Ayasegawa was the Eleventh Division's fifth seat, known throughout Soul Society for his prodigious fighting skill and obsession with beautiful things. Draco also recalled idle, out-of-class speculation about Ayasegawa's real relationship with his best friend Madarame Ikkaku, the Eleventh Division's third seat.
"It's an honour to make your acquaintance," he said, bowing even deeper.
"Why don't you sit down and tell me why nobody knows about your zanpakutō, Draco-chan?"
Draco glanced up again and saw that Ayasegawa had sat down facing the tree, looking expectant. It was natural for him to want to know, since it would be very unusual for any student to keep such information to himself, but still...
"Don't worry, I won't tell Ozu. I hate that old fart," Ayasegawa added. "He's so ugly, don't you think?"
Draco removed Vagrant Darter from his belt and sat back down. "The leg does him no favours," he said, keeping his tone neutral.
"Among other things," Ayasegawa said. "I'm listening."
"I..." Draco cleared his throat. "My zanpakutō is... it's very embarrassing."
"I heard as much just now. What's embarrassing about it?"
"It's a kidō-type," Draco said, colouring. Ayasegawa was from the Eleventh Division; they abhorred kidō-type zanpakutō. It was just Draco's luck he ran into him and not Captain Aizen's Lieutenant Hinamori. "And his ability is even more embarrassing."
Ayasegawa chuckled. "Thinking about joining the Eleventh Division, are you?"
"No, sir," Draco replied immediately. "Captain Zaraki is very intimidating." The right word for Zaraki Kenpachi was terrifying or perhaps psychotic, but Draco wasn't about to say that to Zaraki's fifth seat, pretty hair or no.
"Is he really?" Ayasegawa asked, looking genuinely perplexed. "I never noticed."
Cute, but dumb, Vagrant Darter squeaked. Draco had to fight not to roll his eyes.
"Show me your zanpakutō's ability," Ayasegawa said. "Maybe it's not so embarrassing."
"I can't always make him do it," Draco apologised as he got to his feet again. In fact, his success rate had gone up to seventy per cent already, but that might've been just luck. "Disappear, Vagrant Darter!"
The sword glowed, zigzagged into a lightning-bolt shape, and vanished.
Ayasegawa's eyes widened. "Oh, I see. It makes you invisible? How terrible. I would hate to be invisible -- it would rob the world of beauty. In fact, you becoming invisible does that too."
For his part, Draco was glad he was invisible right now, for he surely wore a rather unseemly dumbstruck expression.
"What a cruel zanpakutō," Ayasegawa murmured. "So mean."
"Hmph," Vagrant Darter put in. "Takes one to know one."
Draco kept his mouth shut. Ayasegawa couldn't hear Vagrant Darter, and so anything Draco said would sound like he was talking to him. And the retort on the tip of his tongue would not go over well with Ayasegawa.
"May I sheathe my sword?" he asked instead.
"Sure," Ayasegawa replied, looking thoughtful. When Draco reappeared, he brightened. "I have a friend with the same problem as you."
"Uh-huh. He knows a trick, though. It lets him pretend like he has a physical-type zanpakutō."
Draco frowned. "Pretend?"
Ayasegawa glanced over his shoulder, and then leaned in a little closer. "I think my friend wouldn't mind if I told you how. If I don't tell you his name, you won't know who he is. And I'm sure he would want others to benefit from his experience."
Draco could only stare. Had he fallen asleep? Was he dreaming all this?
"It's like this," Ayasegawa continued. "Your zanpakutō changes physical form before it goes into full shikai mode -- that zigzag shape. What you need to do is force him to stay in that shape when you release him in public."
Draco's face fell. "He'd never listen." He should have known this was too good to be true.
"Oh, he'll listen," Ayasegawa said, looking somewhat smug. "You just need to find the right button to push."
Draco cast a glance at Vagrant Darter's hilt. No buttons there.
"A mind-button," Ayasegawa amended. "My friend's zanpakutō is fussy about colours, for example, and my friend used that against him. Let's say a zanpakutō is called Golden Eagle, and he really hates the colour orange. So you use the release command as normal, but you call the zanpakutō Tawny instead of Golden."
Draco frowned. "But wouldn't that just make the zanpakutō ignore you?"
Ayasegawa nodded. "At your level, yes. But you're still a fourth-year rookie, and my friend is a s-- ah, a full Shinigami. Truth is, once you master the release command, you can call your zanpakutō any name you like."
Indulgent nonsense, Vagrant Darter said loftily. But Draco sensed a hesitant edge in his voice.
"Well, you'd better go back to Academy grounds," Ayasegawa concluded, rising. "And I'd better get back to looking for Ikkaku; the captain will feed us to Lieutenant Kusajishi if we're late for the Division meeting again."
He vanished, and Draco flash-stepped into the training field, lest someone else happened by and found him out of bounds.
As he made his way back to the dormitory, Draco wondered who Ayasegawa's friend was. It couldn't possibly be Madarame -- thanks to Potter's constant showing off and Ozu peppering his lessons with anecdotes about famous pole-arm zanpakutō, everyone knew that Madarame Ikkaku's shikai was a spear; it wasn't just transformed steel like Vagrant Darter's intermediate shape. Besides: Madarame, who had once destroyed two hundred Hollows alone without even going into shikai, a kidō-type user? No way.
Over the next several weeks, Draco became so absorbed in trying to master his shikai that he forgot to be miserable about the split with Hajime. He even stopped being annoyed at Potter: soon, he would upstage Potter, and it would be his turn to gloat and to strut about like he owned the place.
The final answer came to him as he perused a massive volume on insects for an essay about forms Hollows could take. Vagrant Darter was whip-smart, capable, and acid-tongued, but for all his cleverness, he was quite petty and vain.
"Got you," Draco murmured, closing the book.
For once, the zanpakutō remained silent.
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