Authors: furiosity & incapricious
Fandom: Harry Potter & Bleach
Genre: Crossover | Drama
Rating: R [overall] (this part: PG)
Pairing: Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy
Disclaimer: JKR and Kubo own. We only play. You do not sue.
Length: 2900 words (this part)
Summary: In which shrubbery is silent, memory is elusive, flip-flops are uncomfortable, Harry is hungry, and small children attempt to explain it all.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
01 x 20/20 Vision
Harry had never slept so well in his life. It was the sort of sleep you didn't want to wake up from, the sort you wished would last forever. Luxuriating in the sweet, heavy feeling in his limbs, Harry kept his eyes shut to defer the inevitable slide into reality, to hover on the brink of wakefulness for as long as he could. If he stayed in bed, he could pretend he didn't have to... to....
He didn't have to... what? There was something he was supposed to do. Something big. The memory lurked just out of reach, casting vague shadows of importance, murmuring of destiny, of prophecy. Someone was counting on him out there. His shoulders tensed, and he could no longer feel blissful: anxiety was sleep's mortal enemy.
Maybe it was just residual emotion from an unremembered dream, Harry tried to tell himself. He urged his mind to relax -- he didn't know what he was supposed to be so anxious about, anyway. So why not recapture the peace that he'd felt just seconds ago? Why not go back to sleep? What was he forgetting?
His stomach growled and twisted. When was the last time Harry had eaten anything? A day? A week? Maybe that was all -- for reasons unknown, he had forgotten to eat, and now his hunger had woken him. Perhaps after a few mounds of bacon, eggs, and toast with butter, he'd be able to go back to sleep. That had to be it.
A bird's lilting chirp was answered by a shrill one, so close Harry could've sworn the birds were just feet above him.
Birdsong? Inside Gryffindor Tower? Harry's eyes snapped open.
Dark, glossy leaves surrounded him like a cocoon, their sharp points pressing against him as though to hold him down. On instinct, Harry clawed his way free, his breathing frantic, as vine-like branches slashed across his skin. A skylark took flight from a nearby tree, the flutter of its wings barely registering in Harry's mind. He rubbed his upper arms under his sleeves and took a few steps back. What he had taken for a leafy prison was just an ordinary holly bush.
Ordinary or not, the bush had somehow replaced his four-poster. Harry reached into his robes, but his wand wasn't there. Neither was his pocket. He appeared to be wearing a white skirt, though a closer look revealed it was more like a thick cotton dressing gown, cinched with a wide cloth belt. On his feet were odd flip flops made of coarse rope. Harry wiggled his toes; the rope chafed. He wouldn't walk very far in these, that much was certain.
Maybe he was at some kind of wizarding health resort. Hermione knew he would never agree to go if he were in his right mind, so she must have transported him whilst he'd slept. If his mind had arms, it would have hugged this explanation, for it seemed the only sensible one for waking up in a bush wearing a dressing gown and girly flip-flops.
Harry took a deep breath, and his heartbeat slowed a little. Trouble with the health resort theory was that he had never even heard of wizarding resorts. The only kind he knew about were Muggle ones in Aunt Petunia's magazines -- the glossy ones she hid from Uncle Vernon underneath one of the flowerbeds in the back garden. Harry had found them once whilst weeding. But Muggles had lots of things that wizards didn't.
He looked around. He was in a forest; that much was obvious. It was no forest he'd ever seen, though -- the tall, graceful trees around him were nothing like the thick-trunked giants from the Forbidden Forest, and though he'd never been one for observing nature -- or paying attention in Herbology, for that matter -- he could tell that the flowery shrub a few feet away wasn't anything that grew in England. Plus, early June was not usually skirt-and-flip-flop weather, yet here it was warm. So he was probably nowhere near Hogwarts.
"That's good," Harry mumbled to the bush he'd woken up in. "Now I know one place I'm not. That leaves only ninety-nine per cent of the rest of the world..."
The bush did not reply.
Sighing, Harry spun round, looking for anything else that might give a clue to his whereabouts. The trees were sparser, and he could see a row of buildings not too far off. Buildings meant people, surely, people who could tell him where he was, even if they couldn't explain how he'd got here. Harry took a step forward, then stopped.
Where had he been before this? Had he even been at Hogwarts, sleeping in his bed? Why couldn't he remember? It was the oddest feeling, as though someone had scrambled his memories like jigsaw pieces. Harry didn't feel like he'd forgotten anything, precisely, but he couldn't make connections anymore -- like a puzzle reassembled at random so that nothing fit together.
He took a few more steps, staring without focus at the row of buildings. They were all one-storey, with... straw roofing? Like primitive huts he'd seen in storybooks.
"What the hell?" he muttered.
A few feet away, something small and quick darted through a pile of dry leaves. Harry reached for his wand again, his fingers brushing against nothing but stiff cotton He looked around in the vain hope that it had simply rolled away whilst he'd slept. The forest floor was sturdy and dark, covered with soft grass, piles of dry leaves here and there, and mossy growths spreading around tree roots, but no wands.
That was it. His wand. He needed that to face Voldemort. Without it, without the magic of the twin cores, he was powerless. That was what he'd forgotten. Voldemort. The war. Everyone was counting on him, so why was he wandering around in this forest like a lunatic? He began to jog towards the distant buildings, but had to slow almost immediately -- the flip-flop rope between his toes chafed and burned. He settled for a fast walking pace instead, lifting his feet fully off the ground, knees high. There goes Harry Potter marching off to war. Or something.
He emerged onto a dirt road lined with houses on one side -- they were much like huts, the straw roofs steeply angled. It was eerily quiet -- there were no traffic noises, and no footfalls but his own, soft clops in the dirt, sending little clouds of it up as he walked into the middle of the street.
"Hello?" Harry called. "Can anyone hear me?"
"You shouldn't be here," answered a small voice from somewhere close by. "Ichinose says nothing good can come from a ryoka."
A part of Harry's mind gibbered in alarm at something, but he couldn't figure out what -- the voice sounded friendly enough, if a bit wary. Sure, it had called Harry an intruder, but he supposed he was one, at that. He'd gladly stop intruding if only he could find out where he was.
"I don't mean any harm," he said, gesturing vaguely in the direction the voice had come from. "I'd like to leave, but, uh. I don't know where I am?"
A small boy emerged from between two of the huts, stopping several yards away. He had short black hair and a smudge of dirt on the end of his nose. His outfit resembled Harry's not-skirt-thing, but had wide blue stripes all over. The boy twisted his foot on the ground -- he, too, wore the flip-flops, though he hadn't seemed to have trouble walking in them.
"Nothing good can come from a ryoka," he repeated, eyeing Harry suspiciously.
Harry smiled, trying to look as non-threatening as possible. "I... um. I realise that," he offered. "I-- my name's Harry. Harry Potter. I just need to know where I am, and I promise I'll leave right away."
The boy looked down at his feet. "You're a ryoka," he said. Then he looked up and whispered, "This is the second district!" A flush spread across his face.
"Thank you," Harry whispered back. "The second district of which city?"
The boy looked as though Harry had asked him if the sky were up or down. "This is Rukongai," he said carefully, no longer whispering.
Town of Wandering Spirits? Geography had never been Harry's strong suit, either, but he was pretty sure that wasn't in England.
"Okay. Um. Thank you," he said, blinking. "I know this will probably sound mental, but... what country are we in?"
The boy giggled. "Soul Society is no country," he said with authority. "But a ryoka like you wouldn't know, I guess. Why didn't you wait for a Shinigami to guide you? Did you do something bad?"
Harry gave a helpless little shrug. What was a "soul reaper" supposed to be? A health resort this place definitely wasn't, at least not a mental health one. "I don't understand," he offered.
"You should have waited for a Shinigami," the boy admonished him. "Gorou was like this too, but he was just asleep when the Shinigami arrived. Still he didn't believe us when we told him he was dead."
Harry started. "Dead?"
The boy nodded solemnly, though the dirt on his nose somewhat ruined the effect.
You've got dirt on your nose, by the way, did you know? Harry's heart twisted. Who had said that?
He shook his head. "No, I'm definitely not dead," he said. "First of all, I don't remember dying--"
"No, I was--"
And it came to him then -- Voldemort was dead. The memories flared up all at once, the broken connections between them resealing. The Forbidden Forest, his parents, King's Cross that wasn't King's Cross, the Elder Wand, the duel with Voldemort.
"I almost died," Harry said, nodding firmly. "I remember now. But I came back. And then I... took a nap." He looked around himself as understanding dawned. Of course. Why hadn't he thought of it before? This was a dream. "And I'm dreaming now." He'd heard of it before, realising you're dreaming while still asleep. It didn't feel any different from regular dreaming, though.
The boy sighed and shook his head.
"Well, you're part of my dream too," Harry told him. He wished fervently to prove to the boy that he was only a figment of Harry's imagination. He looked around, hoping for a clue of some sort, but saw only the empty street, the trees, and the clear blue sky. A grey wisp of a cloud drifted overhead, and suddenly Harry's mind made another connection. That was the grey fog, the one from Lucius Malfoy's wand! Harry had seen it rushing at him, but his reactions were a split second too late. The floor had opened underneath him, and he had fallen into darkness -- without sight, sound, or pain, he had fallen for ages and ages, and then he...
The boy, who must have drawn closer in the meantime, patted Harry's arm. "You'll like it here," he said with the air of a conspirator. "If you wait, a Shinigami will come to take you to your proper district..."
Harry sat down heavily, crossing his legs. "I don't understand," he said. He had been free, finally -- no more war, no more fear, just being a kid turned away by the Fat Lady because he'd forgotten the password to the Gryffindor common room. He'd wanted nothing more. Dead? Or a dream? "So... this is heaven?" he asked, not really addressing the boy. He saw no fire and smelled no brimstone, after all.
"It's Soul Society," the boy muttered. "I told you. The spirit world."
"Spirit," Harry repeated blankly, and suddenly it came to him why he'd felt vaguely alarmed earlier, when the boy had first spoken to him. The word he'd just said sounded nothing like spirit, though Harry understood it to mean spirit.
"My... my name is Harry," he murmured. That sounded normal. He looked at the boy, who had begun to back away. "My name is Harry," he repeated. This time, the words were all wrong, and his own name sounded more like "hurry", with the R rolled for no good reason. Yet he knew what he'd said. "What language did I just speak?"
"Er, Japanese?" the boy said. "Are you okay, mister?"
Harry reached to push at his glasses, but they, like his wand, weren't there. Yet he had seen everything clearly since arriving here, hadn't he? Apparently, in heaven, people spoke Japanese and had perfect vision.
Thank God for small favours, I guess.
"Oh," said Harry. This reality felt like a too-small robe. But his parents, and Sirius and Lupin -- they hadn't spoken Japanese when he'd used the Resurrection Stone. Maybe... maybe he was in the wrong place? Maybe there was a different heaven for wizards? At any rate, he doubted that the Statute of Secrecy applied in the afterlife. "Is... are there wizards here?"
The boy gave him a blank look. "Wizards?"
"People who do magic," Harry clarified, miming a levitation spell.
"Oh, kidou," the boy said. "The Shinigami."
The Shinigami again. "Where do they live?" Harry asked.
The boy pointed vaguely. "Seireitei."
The Court of Pure Souls wasn't much better than Town of Wandering Spirits in that Harry still hadn't heard of either of them. "Can I go there?" he asked.
The boy shook his head. "The gatekeeper won't let in a ryoka. You have to be a Shinigami to enter Seireitei, or have special permission."
"Do they ever come out here?"
The boy suddenly looked apprehensive. "Sometimes," he said. "They're scary."
Harry sensed that the boy was about to bolt for safety, and he quickly cast about for a change of subject. This kid seemed willing enough to answer questions, and who knew if Harry would find anyone else? So far he'd figured out that people didn't just suddenly walk into town from the forest around here, and that the Shinigami, who used magic and were somehow involved in bringing people here, terrified the local Muggles. Sure, they all spoke Japanese, but maybe his parents did, too. Maybe they'd only spoken English when Harry had summoned them to England...
"So if I want to find my parents who died, where would I start looking?" he asked quickly.
The boy bowed his head. "You can't do that."
"Why not?" Harry asked, dumbstruck.
"Rukongai is so big it's huge. We all make new families here, because it's impossible to find anybody."
"But that can't be right," Harry said, getting to his feet. "My parents met up, and their friends too, I know because I saw them. Um. Long story," he hastened to add.
The boy looked doubtful. "I heard of a girl who found her second cousin once," he said. "But that's not normal."
"But it isn't a law or anything, right?" Harry insisted. "Not a divine rule that you can't find your family because you're not allowed, or something?"
"No," the boy said. "But you won't find them."
"Well, I can try," Harry said, irritated. Didn't these people want to find their families? Did they all give up after being told they couldn't? "You said this was the second district, right?"
The boy spread his arms wide, as though attempting to close them behind his back. "It's this many spirit miles, and there are eighty districts just like it."
"Gorou says there are scary districts, too," a second voice piped up. Harry looked around and saw a tiny, bright-eyed girl gazing up at him. "Are you going to eat Tsuyoshi, mister?"
The boy -- Tsuyoshi -- rounded on her, fists on hips. "He's a ryoka, not a Hollow, stupid," he snapped. "Why did you come out here, anyway; didn't Gorou tell you to go hide in the house?"
"Who'd hide in your smelly house?" the girl replied with an indignant sniff.
"What's a Hollow?" Harry asked.
The girl looked at him. "Don't you know anything?"
"He's a ryoka, dum-dum," Tsuyoshi repeated, lifting his chin.
The girl pulled down her lower eyelid and stuck out her tongue at him. "Blehhhh!"
Harry couldn't help chuckling, and just as he stopped, his stomach gave a loud rumbling noise.
"What was that?" the girl asked, looking around.
"Sorry," Harry said, patting his belly. "I, um. I'm pretty hungry." How could he be hungry if he was dead, though?
"You're hungry?" Tsuyoshi asked, gaping. Judging from his expression and the girl's, hunger clearly wasn't normal: they both wore looks of reverent fear, as though he were some fantastic but dangerous monster.
"Is that a bad thing?" Harry asked, feeling oddly abashed.
"He's hungry!" the girl shouted. A half dozen children suddenly emerged from the shadows between the buildings, all gaping in astonishment.
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