Title: To Hell and Back | Chapter 19 x 終わり
Authors: furiosity & incapricious
Fandom: Harry Potter & Bleach
Genre: Crossover | Drama
Rating: R [overall] (this part; PG-13)
Pairing: Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy
Disclaimer: JKR and Kubo own. We only play. You do not sue.
Length: 4500 words (this part)
Summary: In which the story ends.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
19 x 終わり
Harry froze in the doorway. What's Dumbledore--
Dead, Forest Prince reminded him.
Dumbledore smiled, and for a wild split second, Harry wondered if he hadn't just been dreaming this whole time. Even here, Dumbledore looked perfectly at peace with everything, as though he spent all his days sipping tea from tiny cups whilst sitting on the floor. Dumbledore was still Dumbledore, and Harry was still Harry, so that meant--
"Well, good morning. You two led us on quite a chase," Dumbledore said.
"What are you doing here?" Malfoy demanded. Harry glanced at him, remembering that Malfoy's last meeting with Dumbledore wasn't exactly convivial.
"I have come to collect you, of course," Dumbledore replied, setting his cup down. "I was just telling the Commander-General how I know you two."
"Quite some story," Yamamoto said, and Harry realised with a jolt that he was speaking English.
"You-- you speak English, sir?" Harry asked. He was so confused he didn't even know what language he was speaking anymore.
"I speak fifty-nine languages," Yamamoto said, somewhat testily. "English is one of them."
Harry bowed in acquiescence, and, noticing Dumbledore's bemused grin, flushed.
"I see you've made yourselves right at home," Dumbledore said. "I would have expected nothing less."
"It's nothing," Harry said, bowing again, then caught himself. "Um."
"Sit down," Yamamoto ordered, gesturing at two empty cushions on the other side of the table. Harry and Malfoy obeyed.
"You look like you spent the night crawling through Rukongai," Yamamoto continued. "What happened?"
Harry's cheeks began to heat up, and he glanced at Malfoy, whose face was quite pink as well. What they'd done hadn't quite registered with him until now -- he'd been too swept up in it to reflect.
"We went to have a look at the Sōkyoku," Malfoy said, staring into his lap like he'd found the meaning of life there. "Then we got lost in the forest coming back down."
Yamamoto grunted. "Don't they teach flash steps at the Academy anymore?"
"Er," Harry offered. "We, uh--" Why didn't we just flash-step? He had just set off through the forest, and Malfoy had simply followed. Why?
Sorry, Forest Prince said, a bit guiltily.
Why, you little--
"--our last night here, so we decided to make the most of it," Malfoy finished.
Harry watched him out of the corner of one eye, wondering how Malfoy managed to lie so smoothly. Then it hit him that it wasn't a lie at all; Malfoy had simply neglected to mention the specific method whereby they'd made the most of last night.
"I am very glad to see you've become such good friends," Dumbledore said with a sunny smile. He appeared to have seen right through Malfoy's lie-by-omission, but surely Harry was just imagining things. This whole situation was surreal enough.
"All right, now that we're all gathered, I promised the Commander-General I would explain how you boys ended up here."
"Lucius Malfoy," Dumbledore began, and Harry's heart sank as he felt Malfoy stiffen next to him. He shot him an imploring look that he hoped didn't communicate "I told you so" inadvertently. But still. Harry had told him so. "Had been Voldemort's final tool of revenge," Dumbledore continued. "It turned out I had underestimated Tom; he had contended with the possibility of defeat. Unbeknownst to all his Death Eaters, Voldemort had placed a variation of the Imperius Curse upon Lucius ."
"A what?" Yamamoto asked, brows drawn together.
"The Imperius Curse is a form of compulsion," Dumbledore explained. "It is forbidden. Usually it will break with the death of the caster, but Voldemort managed to get around that somehow -- we aren't sure how he did it. But our Memory Charm specialists managed to reconstruct Lucius's memory of having the curse put upon him."
"So he's free?" Malfoy asked. "My father."
Dumbledore shook his head. "He was exonerated of your murders, but he was still a Death Eater. His Azkaban sentence is up in another three years, I believe."
"I see," Malfoy said, frowning. "What about my mother?"
Dumbledore met Malfoy's eyes squarely. "You shall see her upon your return, I daresay."
Harry's heart jumped. Narcissa Malfoy had died, then. He wasn't even sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Death had seemed so terrible when he'd been alive, but now that he was dead, it meant nothing. Hell, Harry even half-wished Ron and Hermione would hurry up and die so he could talk to them again. He wondered if Malfoy felt similarly.
"It took us several years to find out the spell Lucius had been compelled to use. The Aurors -- the wizarding defence force -- had collected the incantation, but no one knew its origin. Just recently, we tracked it to a Kazakh volume on Dark magic around the world. It had been a mistranslated Japanese incantation, and the book claimed the spell would send its victims directly to hell."
Yamamoto harrumphed. "Nonsense."
"Indeed," Dumbledore said with a nod. "Nonetheless, we felt it would be prudent to make sure these boys hadn't ended up in hell." He took a sip of tea and chuckled. "I imagine Severus will be quite cross when he returns from that trip."
"Professor Snape?" Malfoy burst out. "You sent him to hell--?"
"Severus volunteered," Dumbledore replied. "He felt that James Potter would -- to borrow his phrase -- bungle everything up again." He smiled, and, despite himself, Harry grinned back.
"Was it Japanese hell that Sna-- Professor Snape went to?" Harry asked.
"There's only one hell," Yamamoto said.
Dumbledore nodded. "So there you have it."
"As I thought," Yamamoto said, his voice grave. "Letting humans use the spirit arts is nothing but trouble."
"Ah, we were all humans once," Dumbledore said with the air of someone reminiscing about a good meal. "The three of us should get going, then."
"Wait," Harry said. "Professor. Commander-General. Isn't there any way we can stay for a little while longer? At least until graduation--"
"Impossible," Yamamoto said.
"Your presence here upsets the eternal balance," Dumbledore explained. "It may be a very small thing, with just two of you, but it is not permitted. Different Soul Societies operate in their own ways, but we are all sworn to maintain this balance."
"But since we've trained," Harry interjected. "To become Shinigami, I mean. Can we still do that over there?"
"I'm afraid things work a little differently at home," Dumbledore said, smiling kindly, but shaking his head.
"But aren't there Hollows everywhere?" Malfoy asked. "Someone's got to destroy them, isn't that so?"
"Indeed," Dumbledore said. "However, the destruction of Hollows is a task given to those souls who do not pass from the human world."
"Huh?" Harry and Malfoy asked in unison.
"We do not perform soul burials," Dumbledore said. "As you know, only wizards may become ghosts -- Muggles do not have a choice but to pass on. However, those with enough at stake in the world of the living often turn into Hollows to escape going to Soul Society. Their purification is the task of those wizards who choose to stay behind after death."
"So Moaning Myrtle is a Shinigami?" Malfoy exclaimed. "Give me a break."
"We are bound not to speak of it to the living," Dumbledore said. "And in fact, the Hogwarts ghosts -- thirty-seven of them to be precise -- are there to ward off any wandering Hollows rather than destroy them."
"How do they do it, though?" Harry asked.
"Dementors," Dumbledore said. "They act as conduits between the living world and Soul Society. Unfortunately, they're quite unintelligent and can't tell the difference between a Hollow and a human being. The Department of Mysteries has long struggled with trying to create a smarter Dementor, but all they've managed was an artificial portal to Soul Society -- the same portal your godfather went through."
"So what do all the souls in our Soul Society do?" Harry asked.
Harps, Forest Prince quipped. Harry sincerely hoped that was not the case.
"Whatever we want, my dear boy," Dumbledore replied. "Imagine a Room of Requirement the size of a world. That's what Soul Society is. You may even go into the living world if you wish. It's one of my favourite pastimes, in fact."
"The world of the living?" Malfoy asked with a look of disbelief. "Without gates?"
"You may not cross over fully," Dumbledore said, shaking his head. "We may see and hear, but not touch or taste or smell -- and of course we can't speak, except through portraits. You, Harry, will be quite lucky in that respect. There are portraits of you all over the country."
With some dismay, Harry realised he was looking forward to finding out if there was a portrait of him at the Burrow. As if on cue, Dumbledore rose.
"Thank you for the tea, Commander," he said, bowing. "It was delicious."
Harry and Malfoy got to their feet and bowed deeply. Harry didn't know what to say. He had intended to fight, to try and find a way to stay, but if there was anything his years at the Shinigami Academy had taught him, it was that the balance between worlds was precious. Since Harry's presence here interfered with that balance, then he was glad to go. In that respect, he would always be a Shinigami.
Outside, reveille was just sounding, and Seireitei was awakening. Yamamoto accompanied them through a vast and empty courtyard towards a nondescript gate in the spirit wall, not unlike the gate Harry and Malfoy had gone through when Lieutenant Hisagi dragged them to the Academy from the streets of Rukongai.
Before going through the gate, Harry glimpsed Sasakibe diverting traffic away from the courtyard. He imagined their departure would be hushed up, and their friends and teachers at the Academy would be told some suitable tale, like they'd chosen to drop out and become Kurotsuchi's test subjects forever -- or that they'd died during an experiment. There might even be a funeral. Harry would have wanted to say good-bye to Sugita, at least, and to Ozu-sensei too.
Beyond the gate was a smaller courtyard -- an enclosure, really. At Dumbledore's gesture, a senkaimon opened in the middle of it, but the doorway was not filled with light. Inside, Harry saw King's Cross and a train, waiting.
"That's--" Malfoy said, gaping. "What is that?"
Dumbledore gave him a slightly puzzled look. "A train, of course. It's specially built to withstand the restrictive currents that bind souls in the Severing World forever."
"Oh," Harry said. "We just use Hell butterflies for that."
Dumbledore brightened. "How interesting! You will have to tell me more about it when we get home. Go on, then, in you go."
Harry and Malfoy stepped into the gate and turned to face Yamamoto. Together, they bowed deeply again.
"Thank you very much for taking care of us, Commander-General," Malfoy said. "Good-bye."
Yamamoto inclined his head towards them. "Good luck." He hesitated, then added, gruffly, "Dumbledore, please give Helga my regards."
"Certainly," Dumbledore replied, and Yamamoto disappeared. A moment later, the gate closed.
Harry tugged on Malfoy's sleeve. "Helga?" he mouthed.
Malfoy nodded, his eyes wide. "How the hell does he know one of the Founders?" he muttered.
"That's a story for another day," Dumbledore said. "Shall we?"
An impatient whistle blew, and the three of them filed into the carriage with Dumbledore in the lead. As the train pulled slowly out of the station -- or whatever it was -- Harry glimpsed a tall man in a funny striped hat jumping up repeatedly beyond one of the station windows, clearly trying to have a better look. In the next window over, a black cat sat watching the train move out.
The middle of nowhere was perfectly white, not including the two graffiti-festooned benches that stood -- or seemed to float, really -- side by side. Three men sat on one bench; two women, on the other.
The atmosphere around the women was like that around two cats who had just decided to become friends --or, as any cat would tell you, enter into a mutually beneficial lucrative partnership. One of the women had hair so blond it almost blended with their surroundings; the other's hair was so red it drew the whiteness into question.
The men were a sorry lot. One had patches on his suit jacket's elbows. The other's eyes resembled a wild animal's, an unkempt mane of black hair only serving to reinforce this appearance. The third one wore glasses and had rumpled hair; he was otherwise unremarkable, except for the fact that he looked about to sock it to his companions.
"Moony, get your bony elbow out of my side," the wild-eyed man complained, giving his shabbily-dressed neighbour an obviously exaggerated frown. He had gone by the name of Sirius Black once -- still did, though most days he was called Padfoot.
A black rectangular hole ripped through the white right in front of the benches, and their occupants fell silent. As the hole slowly expanded, three figures came into view: a tall old man with a glorious white beard, and two young men, dressed in identical light blue pleated wide trousers and white kimono-style shirts. One looked remarkably like the third bench-sitter; the other bore a resemblance to the blond woman, who presently shot to her feet and took several steps towards the newcomers.
"Draco," she said, staring at the blond boy, whose haughty facade vanished at the sight of her.
The other woman ran towards the black-haired boy, embracing him fiercely. "Thank goodness," she said. "You're finally here, Harry."
The three men got up as well, approaching. "What the--" Sirius said, staring at the gate.
"What a rag-tag greeting committee," remarked a squeaky voice. A large green dragonfly landed on Draco's shoulder and peered at Sirius. "You didn't tell me you associated with such ruffians. And this one's got your eyes, Blondie-kun. If he's your relative, I may never stop laughing."
Harry gaped at the creature, then slowly turned around. The last to emerge from the black gate was a magnificent stag, its antlers burnished gold.
"Forest Prince!" Harry cried.
The stag bowed its head. "Yo," it boomed.
I hope you are doing well. I was very happy when I got your letter -- the censors on your end removed some things from it, but I think I've got a basic idea of what your life is like now. It's too bad we can't go and visit each other, but I am very happy we can at least write. When you and Draco-kun disappeared from the Academy, everyone thought Captain Kurotsuchi kidnapped you, and I am sure you can imagine what Takabe-dono is like when it comes to impertinent questions.
The reason it took me so long to reply to your letter is for six months, so all services were disrupted. All students from the fourth year up were mobilised but now that the war is over, things are back to normal. I often wished you were here during the fighting; I think you would have enjoyed yourself. I also think you would have loved meeting Kurosaki Ichigo, -- his zanpakutō is as tall as he is! We and ; he is a human from Karakura Town -- the place we had our soul burial training. Nobody really knows how he became a Shinigami -- they thought he'd , but that turned out to be false. Kihara swears that , but you know how that man likes to run his mouth. Urahara, who , refused , but he has agreed to come in once a month and teach at the Academy; I am already signed up for that every month until graduation, because Urahara-sensei is .
Aside from that, life in the Academy is just as usual. Ozu-sensei still gives us no rest, and there is now a new instructor for those of us with elemental-type and Demon Arts-type zanpakutō; we are learning about . Draco-kun would have enjoyed that, I think.
As for my future plans, Seireitei is almost rebuilt, but . Graduation is still a year away, but I have been scouted by the Sixth Division -- Captain Kuchiki and then Lieutenant Abarai . They want to focus the Division on and that's always been close to my heart.
I am very envious that you can go anywhere you like in the human world, even if you can't interact with anyone you see there. The world is so vast and full of interesting things -- when I was alive, I had no idea there was anything outside of Japan. Sometimes I wish I had the time to go and look at how the rest of the world lives. But, being a Shinigami, I will never get to see much more beyond my prescribed area, and that's if I ever get assigned for that kind of duty. So when you travel the world, please think of me. I look forward to hearing about it all.
I do feel lucky that as a Shinigami, I don't have to worry about suddenly being reborn as a human -- that's a part of your new life that doesn't sound like fun. Isn't it ironic that going back as a human is like dying? One minute, you are talking to your friend, and next minute, poof, and your friend has vanished from your side and re-appeared as a screaming human baby with no memories of your friendship. After all, we Shinigami can die, too, but we don't just randomly die without warning. I hope that no one dear to you is reborn before you are!
We are just covering other Soul Societies in history lessons now; it makes me think of you often. I hope you continue to do well. Well, until next time, then.
With kind regards,
The spirit once known as Harry Potter floated above Karakura High, following a group of students walking away from the school. The erstwhile Draco Malfoy hovered next to him, pretending to enjoy the April sunshine. It had taken them a week of eavesdropping to find out what Kurosaki Ichigo looked like; as famous as he appeared to be in Soul Society, Kurosaki only had the reputation of a thug in the living world.
Kurosaki had bright orange hair and wore a perpetual scowl, but he and his companions -- an enormously tall man no one would think was a high-schooler, a very well-endowed girl with dark red hair, and a slim, bespectacled boy -- didn't look the least bit thug-like.
"Isn't it great, Kurosaki-kun?" the girl simpered.
"What is?" Kurosaki returned, glancing at her.
"We're all in the same class again -- what else? Tatsuki-chan, too."
"Oh. Right. Yeah, that's cool, Inoue." Kurosaki veered away from the girl slightly, colliding with the boy in glasses.
"Watch where you're going, Kurosaki," the boy snapped.
"Don't walk so close to me, and I won't have to!"
"Who's walking close to you?"
The two looked ready to attack each other, but the heretofore silent giant spoke up in a deep, rumbling voice. "Ichigo."
"What is it, Chad?"
Chad pointed at a lamp post ahead.
Kurosaki's scowl softened for a split second, then returned in full force. "Oi, Renji, what are you doing there? Didja lose Rukia again?" he called.
"Try as you might, you can't see him," Draco said, elbowing Harry.
"But I see him just fine," Harry said, puzzled.
"I don't mean Kurosaki Ichigo. Didn't you hear what he said? Look."
Harry glanced over -- the little group clustered around the lamp post, gazing up. They were too far now to hear what they were saying, but Kurosaki and his bespectacled friend both looked apoplectic.
"It must be Lieutenant Abarai," Draco said. "Rukia was the name of that girl we saw returning just before Kurotsuchi nabbed us."
"I don't get it," Harry said. "Why would someone like Lieutenant Abarai come here to talk to these high-schoolers?" Kurosaki's group had moved off down the street, sounding even livelier. Harry began to follow.
Draco stretched out, hands behind his head, and floated along behind him. "Who knows? From what Sugita wrote, Kurosaki's some kind of prodigy. Don't tell me you're jealous."
Harry turned on him. "Who's jealous?"
"Just as we thought," Draco said with a smirk.
"I wish you'd stop referring to yourself and Vagrant Darter as one entity," Harry groused. "It's creepy."
"We are one entity, smart guy," Vagrant Darter squeaked from his perch on Draco's shoulder.
Harry shook his head and kept moving. Forest Prince was right; those two were way too co-dependent.
Slowly, the group they'd been watching split up -- the boy in glasses went off first; the girl ducked into a supermarket, and the tall man got on a bus. Harry floated closer.
"Wait until we get inside, dumbass, will you? I can't just talk to you when I'm by myself like this," Kurosaki was muttering.
There was a pause, during which Kurosaki's scowl deepened. "It's not normal for people to talk to themselves on the street, got it? Bastard. What happened to your gigai, anyway?"
They approached a low, narrow building whose sign read Kurosaki Clinic. Kurosaki went inside.
"A clinic? Don't tell me he's a doctor, too," Harry mumbled. Who the hell did the kid think he was, talking to a Gotei 13 lieutenant in that tone?
"Stupid," Draco said. "He's a high school student. It's probably his parents' clinic."
"Ichigo, you've got customers!" a girl shouted. Harry glanced down and saw a pair of dark eyes focussed directly on him. A girl who looked a lot like Kurosaki was hanging out of a downstairs window, staring right at them.
Kurosaki's orange mop poked out from upstairs. "Where, Karin?"
"Right there!" Karin pointed at Harry and Draco. "Two guys, kind of foreign-looking."
"I don't see 'em," Kurosaki said. "Quit messing with me; I'm busy."
"I'm not-- STUPID ICHIGO! I'M TELLING YOU, THEY'RE RIGHT THERE! COME BACK!"
"We'd better get out of here before she steals his zanpakutō and tries to give us a soul burial," Draco said. "She looks like the type. Come on."
A moment later, they were back in Harry's room. It looked like a mixture between his Hogwarts dormitory and his Shinigami Academy one -- a futon had replaced the four-poster, and several cushions were scattered about the floor.
"How could she even see us?" Harry asked, sitting down.
Draco shrugged. "Some people must be able to. I told you never to listen to a word Dumbledore says."
"I still wish we could go back. Don't you?"
"Sometimes," Draco said, joining Harry on the floor. "I have fond memories of the Sōkyoku in particular."
Harry leaned in. "Vagrant Darter, you can leave now."
"Hmph," the dragonfly said and zipped out the open window.
"I wonder why he never listens when I do that."
"You secretly want him to watch and he knows it?"
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