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: 2900 words (this part)
Summary: In which the Giant Squid makes an unexpected appearance, the burden of air is hard to bear, a rabbit turns violent, Harry wants a cookie, and Draco is offended by blue hair.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
06 x Six Sides to Every Story
Draco stood in the middle of the room and stared at the machine the two boys had wheeled in. For something made of metal and -- apparently -- doorknobs, it was a surprisingly faithful representation of the Giant Squid. The thing emitted an unsettling whir, glowing blue lights dotting its tentacles. Were he and Potter supposed to fight it somehow?
Shima-san smiled at Draco. "The Shinigami Research and Development Institute developed this machine for our use. It produces spirit force. Once I turn it on, all you need to do is remain standing for as long as possible."
"That's all? We just stand here?" Potter asked.
"She just said that, didn't she?" Draco muttered from the corner of his mouth. "What are you, deaf?"
Potter glared at him, but before he could say anything, Nakane-san turned one of the knobs, and the machine began to hum louder.
"Distance, three spirit miles. One shikai," the machine said in a squeaky voice.
Initial release? Of what? Draco glanced at Potter, who didn't appear enlightened. Aside from the machine's infernal noise, nothing was happening.
Nakane-san twisted a different knob, and the machine beeped once, then said, "Distance, two spirit miles. Five shikai."
"I... think I feel something," Potter muttered.
"My foot itches," Draco said. It didn't, but he wasn't about to be outdone by Potter.
"Ten shikai," the machine responded to yet another dial turn. The air was getting heavier, pressing in around Draco like it had in Headmaster Takabe's office -- though this time, it was more like trying to breathe on a humid day than like Apparition.
Nakane-san fiddled with one of the glowing lights, and the machine beeped again. "Distance, one spirit mile."
Draco peered at the captain in the pink kimono, who seemed to have fallen asleep again. Draco's eyes were too-dry for some reason, and he blinked rapidly, to no avail.
"Distance, half a spirit mile."
Which each increase, the pressure worsened, and Draco understood why his only task was to remain standing: the very air around him seemed to have developed a malevolent will to force Draco to his knees. He trembled as he struggled to withstand it, but refused to yield. Next to him, Potter was breathing hard, his feet planted apart, a look of single-minded determination on his face.
"Thirty," the machine shrilled, but Draco could barely hear it; the air was so thick that it was blocking his ears. He closed his eyes and ground his teeth. He couldn't fall first. Maybe he should have mimicked Potter's stance, but it was too late for that. It was all he could do to stay upright; any movement would upset the precarious balance he maintained, and he would topple.
Draco went down. He couldn't feel the impact, but his limbs, suddenly free, twitched uncontrollably. Draco lay there gasping, staring up at Potter, who was still standing. Bastard.
Potter's eyes were bulging, and his fists were clenched tightly at his sides. Draco willed him to fall with a savage desperation. It made no sense for a half-blood like Potter to have more raw strength than Draco. No sense at all.
Potter not so much crumpled to the ground as folded in two across the midsection and fell over sideways. "Can't--" he gasped.
And then everything stopped. The humming, the pressure, the mechanical voice.
"I stand corrected," said the pink captain, leaning over them both. "That was impressive for untrained ryoka." His enormous straw hat blocked Draco's view of the two boys moving the machine back out of the examination room.
"Wh-- what do you mean?" Draco rasped.
"You both have just withstood the equivalent of a Gotei 13 squad training exercise," the captain said.
"What's an initial release?" Potter asked, struggling up with his elbows. "Shikai?"
"Never mind that," Shima-san said. "Have you had training in spiritual power in the living world?"
"Spiritual... no," Draco replied, also sitting up. "We studied magic."
"Magic, huh," the captain said with a thoughtful look on his handsome face. "Stand up," he said. His tone was mild, as though making a helpful suggestion, but it was clearly an order.
Draco raised himself a little higher, but his legs were still like jelly; he fell onto his back. "Oof."
The captain extended his hand. "My name is Kyōraku Shunsui, captain of the Eighth Division," he said.
"Draco Malfoy," Draco replied automatically, accepting his hand. Damn, he'd said it wrong again. He was doomed to be Draco-kun for the rest of his days.
Captain Kyōraku pulled him upright and turned to Potter, who had in the meantime managed to struggle up to a kneeling position. Draco stumbled to the nearest wall and hung on to it for dear life. He was beginning to regain feeling in his legs, so that was good. He wondered if falling before Potter meant he'd failed that portion of the examination.
Potter managed to get to his feet without Captain Kyōraku's help, swaying a bit. Draco saw him casting longing glances at the wall.
Nakane-san and Shima-san stood side by side, facing Draco and Potter. "We will now test your ability to harness your own spiritual energy," Shima-san said, favouring Draco with a smile. She had taken a liking to him, he could tell, and the thought gave him comfort. So far, nobody they'd met seemed to like Potter very much at all.
Draco pressed his back against the wall and held out his hands, forming an energy sphere between his palms. "You mean like this?" It had come with barely any thought, he realised, a bit startled. He had had to focus a lot harder when he'd done this in Headmaster Takabe's office.
"Yes, very good," Shima-san said. She turned to Potter. "Can you do that?"
"Of course I can," Potter said, shooting a glare in Draco's direction. He held his hands apart and produced a ball of flickering light, pitifully small compared to Draco's.
"I see," Shima-san said.
Potter clenched his jaw and narrowed his eyes at the ball, which grew a bit larger, but its edges were poorly defined, as though bleeding into the air.
Draco let his own sphere grow larger and larger until it was forcing his hands apart, and then, without warning, he was inside the sphere, still controlling it from within. It felt like being lifted up on a cloud; his muscles were no longer complaining, and he was able to detach himself from the wall with no difficulty. He had no idea how he was doing it, but it felt brilliant. Even more brilliant was the bitter scowl on Potter's face as he struggled with his own sphere.
"Thank you, that will be enough," Nakane-san said.
Potter's sphere vanished immediately; Draco let his own shrink to a single point of pale blue light in his hand.
Shima-san gathered up the test papers from her mat and bowed to Captain Kyōraku. "By your leave."
Captain Kyōraku nodded, and the two female examiners walked out through the sliding doors. The two boys from earlier came in again, but this time each of them carried a curved wooden sword. They walked up to Draco and Potter, the swords balanced on their hands. Predictably enough, Potter grabbed his by the hilt and held it aloft like an idiot. Draco fought a smirk and took the sword with a bow, keeping his eyes on the boy who held it.
"These are replicas of asauchi, Shinigami practice swords," Captain Kyōraku said after the boys departed. "Neither of you looks like you've had any sword practice in your life, so just swing it as best you can, I guess."
"Swing it at what?" Potter asked with a bewildered frown. "At you?"
Captain Kyōraku chuckled. "At him," he said, pointing into the centre of the room. A giant hot-pink rabbit popped out of the floor at that moment, emitted a distinctly un-rabbit-like roar and began shambling towards Draco, who froze, sword still clutched in his hand.
"You lost your shit in a fight against an imaginary pink bunny."
"Shut up, Potter."
"You lost your shit in a fight against--"
"I said, SHUT UP!" Draco bellowed. "Anyway, what are you so proud about? So you can swing a sword around like a bloody Muggle, big deal. You couldn't even channel your own spiritual energy properly."
"Oh yeah? Well--"
"Excuse me, Harry-kun, Draco-kun?" It was the same girl in white from the night before, the one who'd brought them food. She stood in the doorway to the holding room, looking a bit friendlier than the last time Draco had seen her. "Headmaster Takabe wishes to see you."
They followed the girl down one corridor after another, until Draco wasn't even sure if she was taking them to Headmaster Takabe's or if she was going to lead them to the centre of the earth. Soul Society. Whatever.
But the Headmaster's office waited at the end of one of the corridors, and the girl departed as soon as they were through the doors. Headmaster Takabe was alone this time, seated at his desk with two sheets of paper in front of him. Draco bowed immediately, even though Takabe wasn't looking at him.
"I have your results here," Takabe said, glancing at Potter over the rim of his glasses. "You both have a spot on the student benches if you want it."
"That's it?" Potter asked. "Just like that?"
Takabe raised an eyebrow. "Why, would you also like a cookie?"
Draco fought a snigger as Potter flushed and looked down. Takabe smiled benignly and leaned back in his chair. "When you first begin your training at the Shinigami Academy, you must decide the study track you're going to take. The three branches of Soul Society's military are the Gotei 13, the Demon Arts Corps, and Special Forces."
He paused to take a sip of tea. "The 13 Division Imperial Guard, or Gotei 13, is the main military branch; most of our graduates end up there. They are responsible for soul burials in the human world, and they're Soul Society's first line of defence against Hollows. Their main form of combat involves the zanpakutō, or Soul Cutter sword. I believe you've seen a few of those already."
"Much of what the Demon Arts Corps does is classified -- and when I say that, I mean that even I don't know what it is that they do. When students graduate into the Demon Arts Corps, I never see them again. The Corps is only interested in skilful Demon Arts practitioners; they have little use for swordsmanship."
"The Special Forces' work is focussed in and around Seireitei, though the Patrol Force extends to all realms. The capture and imprisonment of criminals is among their tasks, as is carrying out classified missions on behalf of the Central 46 Chambers, Soul Society's executive branch. The Special Forces favour hand-to-hand combat."
Draco didn't care about the subdivisions -- he wanted to go back to the real world, and preferably before Potter managed to do the same. That would mean he'd need to stick with the people who performed soul burials -- the Gotei 13.
"Harry-kun, Nakane-san was of the opinion that you won't have any difficulty finding a place in the Gotei 13. Your test results showed a strong will, and though your thirst for knowledge is not what we'd call overwhelming, she believes that your capacity for learning is quite great."
"It was the meaning of life question, wasn't it?" Potter muttered. Draco wondered what the hell he was on about.
Takabe turned to Draco. "You're a different matter, Draco-kun. Shima-san says it's been a long time since she's seen a student so well-suited for the Demon Arts Corps. You would do well in the Gotei 13 or even Special Forces, but your true strength is in your aptitude for the Demon Arts."
Draco felt enormously vindicated. He was a better magic user than Potter; this was clearly proof. But he couldn't risk joining this Demon Arts thingy -- what if it meant he'd be stuck here for all eternity? He glanced at Takabe. "Do I get a choice?"
Takabe looked grave. "Of course you do. Some members of the judiciary believe it would be more expedient to sort students according to their innate abilities, but I think that's rather nonsensical. I have always thought that facing the consequences of our own choices is one of life's greatest pleasures. When someone else makes an important choice for us, it's very easy to blame him if things don't turn out well."
"Well, I want to join the Gotei 13," Draco said without hesitation. I want to see my parents again. And I'll show Potter he's not as great as he thinks. "I want to fight Hollows and bury souls."
"Perform soul burials," Takabe corrected.
"I'm very sorry," Draco said quickly, bowing. "I will do my best to improve my Japanese, too."
Takabe turned to Potter. "And you, Harry-kun?"
Potter, who had looked deep in thought earlier, straightened up. "Me too," he said. "The Gotei 13, I mean."
Takabe nodded. "Usually there is an admittance ceremony, but as the school year began a month ago, we can't justify disrupting everyone for the sake of two new students. Thus, you will need to undergo two weeks' worth of catch-up training."
Draco stood in the middle of a large, sunlit room, experiencing rather bizarre déjà vu: seven years after they'd first met at Madam Malkin's, he and Potter were getting fitted for school uniforms. Only this time, they were going to be in the same house, so to speak.
"Imagine being in Hufflepuff. I think I'd leave, wouldn’t you?"
He had been so small. They both had. Draco glanced at Potter, who was staring out of the large window onto the lawns below. He had been oddly subdued since Takabe's little introductory speech, and even Draco's attempts to gloat about his superior Demon Arts abilities had fallen flat.
The unsmiling, burly man who'd taken their measurements earlier walked inside, carrying a clipboard. "I deliver shihakushō, three hours. Go, now."
"Do you know where to deliver them?" Draco asked with some dubiousness as he stepped off the stool.
"Deliver, sure. Building six, floor two, block eight B. Go, now."
As Draco stepped out into the sunshine, a thought occurred to him. "Why are they delivering our uniforms to the same place?" he asked, but the doors to the fitting rooms had slid shut already.
Potter gave him a look. "They've made us roommates," he said. "Bet you wish you'd chosen the Demon Corps or whatever."
"So much for choice," Draco said quietly, glaring at the floor. He wished he could complain to someone, to make them understand that he and Potter would kill each other before they could be of any use to Soul Society. But Takabe had made it very clear, before they'd parted, that he was now their Headmaster, and they couldn't just show up in his office for a nice chat or to ask for things. They were on their own.
The room turned out to be an exact replica of the holding room they'd spent the previous two nights in, only on a larger scale. There was no furniture save for a low round table by the window, low enough that one could eat whilst sitting on the floor -- though bringing food to the living quarters was frowned upon, Aioke-san, Takabe's assistant, had told them as she'd escorted them to the school grounds.
The walls were bare except for vertical scrolls hanging on either side of the room, above the sleeping mats: Find strength in yourself before you demand it in others, read one. A helping hand should not inspire fear, read the other. Draco walked to the one with the helping hand and sat down heavily.
There would be no privacy here. The loo was down the corridor and served their entire floor. Bathing was communal, too; Aioke-san had pointed out the bathhouses on their way to the fitting rooms. Having to live in the same room with Potter without being able to shut a door in his face? Truly, this was hell. Still, Draco would do what he did best: he would make Potter's life so very miserable that Potter would be forced to beg anyone in authority for a different roommate. This was a great plan, and it was totally going to work.
"You're the new guys!" exclaimed a cheerful voice from the doorway.
A girl stood there, clad in the feminine version of the Academy uniform -- white with red accents. She had blue hair. Not grandma-blue; no, it was the colour of summer sky on the brink of twilight. Draco wasn't sure what offended him most -- that the hair was in careless pigtails or that she seemed utterly unaware of, well, having blue hair.
Potter blinked at her. "Um. Aren't these the boys' quarters?"
"Balls to that," the girl said. "What are you, new?" She laughed, apparently unaware that neither Draco nor Potter were so much as cracking a smile at her stunning wit. "I'm Yamane. The head prefect sent me to show you around."
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