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: 3000 words (this part)
Summary: In which Draco inquires about the date, Hogwarts is in Denmark, casting spells with a writing brush is harder than it sounds, Harry is back to his old tricks, and Headmaster Takabe makes an offer.
Note: Chapter title borrowed with love from the magnificent Don Kanonji, who does not actually appear in this story.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
04 x Smells Like Bad Spirits
"Release them, Hisagi-kun."
"Yes, sir," Hisagi said and then muttered something.
Draco's arms flopped to his sides like a rubber doll's, and he bowed to Takabe, hoping he did it correctly. He knew the Japanese spent about eighty per cent of their time bowing to one another, but he had never bothered to learn how to do it. Potter, of course, did not bow; he tried to stick his hands in his pockets but, finding no pockets, crossed his arms and shoved his hands inside his yukata.
At this, Takabe shut his eyes briefly and then turned to Draco. "Now, child. Tell me how you have come to learn the Demon Arts."
Considering the chilly relations between wizarding Japan and wizarding England in the middle ages, Draco was not about to mention that he was English -- for all he knew, his capture might cause an international incident and alter history forever. If only Potter weren't there. Without him, Draco could make up any story, but to avoid any indignant "that's not true!" outbursts from Potter, he had to be careful.
"We are wizards," Draco said. "We would prefer to speak of our abilities in the presence of a Sun-River Conclave representative."
Takabe frowned. "Sun-River Conclave? There isn't such a place in Soul Society."
"Soul Society, right," Draco said, racking his brain desperately -- he had never read about anything like that. His best guess was that he and Potter had somehow ended up in some kind of area protected by anti-Muggle enchantments where only wizards lived -- perhaps it was so secret that no books mentioned it. It was also a bloody good idea, if Draco did say so himself. When he got back to his own time, he would see about making it a reality. Perhaps he'd start with Wiltshire. Or Sweden.
"The Rukongai people said they're ryoka," Hisagi put in.
Takabe glanced at Hisagi, then back at Draco. "Do you understand what Soul Society is?"
Draco shook his head. Souls, Soul Reapers, wandering spirits -- it was all too close to Potter's insane babblings about being dead. "What year is it?" he asked before he could stop himself.
Takabe cast a glance at Hisagi, who stood up a bit straighter. "It is the current emperor's tenth year..."
"Which emperor?" Draco asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
Hisagi frowned at him. "Emperor Akihito, but--"
Takabe waved for Hisagi to be silent. He was studying Draco over the rim of his glasses, looking rather like the McGonagall hag, if McGonagall were ever to turn into a diminutive Japanese man.
Scripps's annoying voice pursued Draco through his daydream, relentless, droning. "Japan's wizards follow the Japanese Muggles' calendar, which names each era after the current emperor. The current era -- Heisei -- began with Emperor Akihito's ascension in 1989."
"I see," Draco whispered, staring at Potter. Subtract one from the beginning year then add the Japanese year to get the Western year. "So it's 1998."
Potter's jaw clenched. "We really are dead," he muttered.
"I didn't know you were questioning it," Draco bit back. At least he wasn't too shocked to speak. That was probably a good thing.
"What language is that?" Takabe asked.
"Duh-Danish!" Draco blurted, shooting Potter a warning look. "We're from Denmark."
Then he realised that if they really were dead, there was no reason to hide their nationality, but he couldn't take it back now: it would look too suspicious. He just had to hope there weren't any Danish people here.
Wait a minute, why wouldn't there be any Danish people? Why is everyone we've seen so far Japanese?
"Tourists," Takabe said with a nod. "Do you remember what happened to you?"
Draco gave him a blank look.
"How you died," Hisagi clarified. Draco was really starting to hate this man, and not merely because of the way his hair stuck up at odd angles like Potter's. Did he really need to rub it in that Draco was dead?
"Malfoy's father killed us," Potter said. "He cast some kind of spell that sent us here."
"Sent you here," Draco snarled, rounding on him. "And it wasn't my father. You dragged me along, you--"
"Which Way of Destruction did he use?" Takabe asked, turning to Potter with some reluctance. Draco had the sense that Potter had not made a very good impression.
Then Potter spoke. "Erm, that's not it, Takabe-kun."
Takabe's eyes widened a fraction. Hisagi goggled at Potter. Draco fought the urge to hide his face in his hands.
"You idiot," he murmured. "You're not allowed to address him like that -- he's not your equal or inferior." To Takabe, he said, "You must excuse my... companion. His knowledge of Japanese has considerable gaps. As does mine," he added hastily, remembering that it was polite to self-deprecate. Potter looked utterly bemused. "Just let me do the fucking talking before you land us in any more trouble," Draco said to him.
"That's rich, coming from you--" Potter began, but Draco turned away from him and faced Takabe again.
"What you call the Ways of Destruction, we call spells, and ours are different from yours. Hisagi-san said I had shot red fire, but that wasn't fire -- it's what we call a Stunning Spell. It immobilises the opponent."
"Why don't you demonstrate it for us?" Takabe asked, leaning forward. "I'm sure your friend here won't mind."
Despite himself, Draco grinned. They were finally in a world where nobody would be impressed by Harry Potter. They said living well was the best revenge, but Draco would choose a guilt-free Stunner to the chest over that any day.
"It's no use," Potter said, glaring at Draco. "Without wands, our spells don't work properly."
"Wands?" Takabe asked with an expectant look at Draco.
"Uh, yes," Draco said, remembering how slow the magic had been when he'd tried to direct it through that reed. But he'd been so irritated that he hadn't known he could use a reed to cast magic -- and Potter had known -- that he hadn't given it much more thought. "We channel our magic through objects."
Takabe got up, picked up the brush he'd been using, and walked over to Draco. "Will this do?"
Draco nodded and took the brush. As he brandished it, a drop of ink splashed onto his foot. Ink. This is fucking ridiculous. How can I be dead when there's ink drying on my toes?
Hisagi and Takabe were staring at him. Right. Cast a spell with a writing brush. Easy-peasy. Stupefy, Draco thought, thrusting the brush towards Potter for effect. As with the reed, the magic came not from within, but from the air, flowing languidly into his hand.
The Stunner looked more like a squiggle than a straight jet of light, but it was much better than the blobs he'd produced in the square. Still, if thickness of the instrument was the important factor, he'd need a bloody tree trunk to create a real Stunner. The spell shot towards Potter, who snatched his right hand from his yukata in an attempt to block it. Draco was about to laugh when the Stunner disintegrated a few inches from Potter's open palm, as though having hit a barrier.
"Protego," Potter said, staring at Draco. "It worked without a wand. Sort of. A stronger Stunner would've gone through, but..."
"You boys are very interesting," Takabe said, plucking the brush from Draco's hand. "Please do me a favour and create a ball of spirit energy, like this." He placed the brush into a holder and raised his hands, cupped over a sphere of white light. He looked expectantly at Draco, who decided ignoring him would be a bad idea all around and promptly set about pretending there was a small melon in his hands.
Takabe nodded. "Now picture a circle in your mind and feed your spirit energy into it."
"Your... magic, if you prefer. Go on."
Draco decided not to point out that the magic here appeared to originate from around him rather than from within. Who knew, with these people? Hisagi had a big sword and he looked scary enough to use it. Feeling utterly absurd, he pictured a circle. Then he pictured a square around the circle. Then he coloured the square blue and the circle yellow, on a whim. He was busy adding some clouds into the mix when Takabe snapped his fingers in front of Draco's face.
Draco was just about to close his eyes and comply when Potter raised his arms and produced a flickering sphere between his palms. "Like this?"
Hisagi, who had been impersonating a statue since Potter's linguistic faux pas, moved away from the wall to get a better look.
Takabe gazed at the ball of light in Potter's hands, his expression inscrutable. "Just so. But you are using reishi, not your own spiritual energy."
Spirit particles. Was that where the magic here originated? More importantly, even as a dead bloke, Potter was still showing off and stealing Draco's thunder at every turn. He had died and gone to hell, where Potter would one-up him for all eternity. Draco focussed with all his might... and found that anger made the flow of magic around him sharper, clearer. He didn't need to picture a circle in his mind or any of that mumbo-jumbo; he only had to coax a single point of light into his cupped hands, then make it grow.
Warmth suffused Draco, and he realised with wonder that his ball of light was expanding, not coalescing as Potter's had. Energy coursed through him, emerging from a core he could not pinpoint, adding layer after layer to the ball, which forced his hands further apart as it grew larger.
"Very good," Takabe said.
Draco's concentration broke, and the energy vanished along with the ball of light.
Takabe turned to Potter. "Did you feel that?" Potter nodded, not looking at Draco. Feel what? "Can you repeat it?" Takabe asked.
Frowning, Potter lifted his hands and shut his eyes. Even in a yukata and barefoot, he somehow managed to look like the perfect fucking hero -- Draco seriously had to wonder if Potter practiced his Saviour of the World face in the mirror as part of his morning ritual. Nothing else explained him being able to exude such smug superiority every time he went out in public. That set jaw, those slightly narrowed eyes, that barely noticeable wrinkle between his eyebrows -- it was all so fucking fake.
Then light surged up between Potter's palms, and Draco gasped. It felt like Apparition -- tight, suffocating pressure as though the air had taken it upon itself to mould him into a new shape. But he remained where he was, and as Potter lowered his hands at Takabe's gesture, the sensation vanished. Draco exhaled noisily. What was that? Had Potter done that?
Takabe was studying Potter with his eyebrows raised. "For an untrained ryoka, your power is very great."
Potter shrugged, looking uncomfortable. Draco resisted the urge to gag. You love it, you bastard. Your false modesty will never convince me. I was only 'very good', and Potter is 'great'? Of course. Fucking brilliant, that Potter.
Takabe tilted his head to one side. "Hold your palm out like this," he said to Potter, straightening his right arm in front of him and flattening his palm. "Now repeat after me. Ye lord! Mask of flesh and bone, flutter of wings, ye who bears the name--"
Hisagi spoke up, his tone urgent. "Lord Takabe, I am very sorry for interrupting, but are you sure? If he succeeds, he might harm you--"
"Do not worry, Hisagi-kun," Takabe said without looking away from Potter. "There are limiters in place here to prevent such mishaps."
"I'm sorry, sir," Hisagi said with a perfunctory bow.
Takabe smiled, still gazing at Potter. "Ye lord! Mask of flesh and bone, flutter of wings, ye who bears the name of Man! Truth and temperance, upon this sinless wall of dreams unleash but slightly the wrath of your claws." It sounded like a chant, and Draco reckoned it was far too long to be of any use when time was short.
Potter repeated the words haltingly, pausing in the wrong places, but Takabe didn't seem concerned. "Way of Destruction, number thirty-three: blue fire, crash down," he said.
As the last word left Potter's lips, energy burst forth from his palm, blue as lightning at midnight. Takabe waved it away. "Just as I thought," he said, walking back behind his desk. He sat down and squinted at Draco and Potter. "Tell me your names, please."
"Draco Malfoy," Draco said quickly, and then realised they'd given their names the wrong way round. Now everyone would think Potter's surname was Harry and that his own surname was Draco. Not that people with names like "Hisagi Shuuhei" had much room to take the piss, really.
"I do not know much about the world of the living," Takabe said, folding his arms on the desk. "Usually, after a human dies, the soul lingers until a Shinigami comes to perform a soul burial and provide a hell butterfly to guide the spirit to Soul Society -- or, if the soul's human owner had committed mortal sins, until hell's master takes it."
Draco felt absurdly validated that none of the sins he had committed had apparently been all that severe. He suddenly wished for Pansy Parkinson to be here -- so she could see that he would not, indeed, suffer in hell for being that way. He hadn't really believed her, but it was one thing to believe and another to know.
"There have, however, been cases of souls ending up here of their own accord, and it seems that is what happened to you. I cannot speculate why; as I said, I do not know much about the world of the living. A spirit attempting to enter Soul Society without a hell butterfly as a guide is usually consumed by the dangai, the world that severs our dimensions."
"Wait, if you're a Shinigami, you can go back to the real world?" Potter asked.
"Listen, I don't care if you're from Denmark or the moon," Hisagi growled. "Acknowledge your disrespect before you interrupt your elder."
"Please leave it, Hisagi-kun," Takabe said. "He is a child." He glanced at Potter. "Shinigami can, indeed, enter the world of the living, but not freely. You must be either assigned to Hollow patrol or under direct orders."
"Hollow?" Potter muttered. "That kid from Rukongai said something about a Hollow."
"Oh yes, I was getting to that," Takabe said, leaning back in his chair. "I cannot possibly explain all the intricacies to you -- one of the freshman courses deals with the duties and responsibilities of Shinigami. In brief, however, we maintain balance between the world of the dead and the world of the living, so that the number of souls in one world is equal to the number of souls in the other. Soul burials are a part of that. Another part is the eradication of spirits we call Hollows -- they are souls who have lost their essence and consume other souls to fill the emptiness. A Shinigami must destroy any Hollow he encounters; that responsibility prevails over all else."
"What happens if the balance is not maintained?" Draco asked. He vaguely remembered a book he had found on his father's desk when he was small -- a book along these lines, but it had contained too many unfamiliar words.
"Without balance, all the worlds fall into ruin," Takabe said.
There's a thought. All the Dark Lord had to do was destroy a few of the Hogwarts ghosts. But that made no sense -- if the Shinigami were supposed to guide the dead to this place, why did the Hogwarts ghosts hang around? Were they actually Hollows, then? But then the Dark Lord would have done a good thing by destroying them. Draco sincerely hoped Potter was faring no better at fitting this into his puny brain.
Takabe was no longer looking at them; he appeared to be speaking to the wood-carving hanging next to Hisagi. "As Headmaster of this Academy, it is my duty to recruit those who demonstrate spirit power of any magnitude, for the continued existence of Shinigami is all that keeps a rein on chaos. There are other souls in Rukongai who can do what Harry-kun just did -- most of them will come through here eventually. But there is more to becoming a Shinigami than the ability to manipulate your own spirit energy."
Draco was barely listening. He had been first to use his own spirit energy, and yet, despite Potter's usual lack of class or anything resembling manners, Potter was now Harry-kun, and Draco was an afterthought. Death was just as fucking unfair as life had been.
"...in order to be accepted to train here, you must pass the entrance examination," Takabe concluded. "If you do not wish to try, you will be taken back to Rukongai and assigned a district to live in."
"I want to try," Potter said without hesitation.
"Me too," Draco said, still fuming. Why did Potter always have to look like he was in charge?
"Very well. Hisagi-kun, please ask Aioke-san to take them to the holding area."
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