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: 4100 words (this part)
Summary: In which chopsticks are potential instruments of death, the soul bone is connected to the sword bone, dropping the soap is the least of anyone's worries, Draco gets ink on his fingers, and Harry still likes redheads.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
07 x A Study in Anger Management
Four months later
Harry arrived at the dining hall doors just as Yamane was walking out, flanked by a pair of tall, unsmiling boys from her year.
"Good morning, Yamane-san," Harry said, stepping aside to let her pass.
She inclined her head with a perfectly polite smile. "I wish you a good morning as well, Harry-san."
Harry sighed as the trio filed past him. He had been at the academy for nearly five months. He'd hoped, long ago, that by this point he would have at least one friend. Now, he'd settle for just one person to treat him with anything but cool politeness -- and Malfoy didn't count. Even though at this point, being the object of scorn felt almost preferable to feeling invisible.
As he picked up a square container of rice, pickled radishes, and slices of rolled-up omelette, he saw Malfoy at their usual table, far in the corner. Harry sighed again and headed towards him, staying close to the wall.
They were walking along a wide, straight path down the common area. Yamane pointed to a rectangular building with rows of large windows. "That over there is Building 42. Most of the instructors' offices are there. The ground floor is for theory classrooms. You know, the boring stuff," she said, grinning.
Harry smiled back. He could easily imagine her fitting in at Hogwarts, maybe even in Gryffindor. "There are theory classes?" he asked. "I thought we would just be learning how to fight, with swords and, um, Demon Arts and stuff."
"Worried you'll flunk out?" Malfoy muttered.
"Shut up, Malfoy."
Yamane tilted her head to one side. "Did you two know each other before you came here?"
"Yeah, we went to school together," Harry said. "How could you tell?"
She rolled her eyes. "Come on. You call each other Malfoy and Potter."
Harry didn't understand, but Malfoy was smirking in that you're-about-to-ask-a-stupid-question kind of way. So Harry said, "Oh, I see."
"School, though, huh?" Yamane said. "I didn't know there were schools in Rukongai."
"Oh, no -- I meant when we were alive," Harry explained.
Yamane's eyes widened. "No way! That's incredible. And you met here? And you both have spirit power? Wow. Talk about tall odds."
"Excuse me, but what's that area for?" Malfoy interrupted, pointing to a wide lawn, its grass worn down to dirt in rows. Harry wasn't sure if he was trying to change the subject or just being randomly obnoxious.
"Oh, that's one of the kenjutsu training fields. We're headed there next. Do I have some stories to tell you about Instructor Ozu-sama, or what? You don't want to get on his bad side. He just loves to give detentions."
Harry knelt down opposite Malfoy, setting his tray down with a clatter. Malfoy didn't look up from his breakfast.
"I miss chairs," Harry declared after he had settled himself and picked up his chopsticks. He was pretty good with them now, especially when he used them for stabbing things. "I don't miss forks, though. Weird."
Malfoy still didn't look up. "Just the other week you said you would sell your soul for a fork. And I pointed out that you were a soul, so you were willing to trade your existence for a utensil you would no longer be able to use, being non-existent."
"I never said that. I said I would sell your soul." Harry shoved a piece of omelette into his mouth. "Also, that was months ago."
That earned him a glare. Malfoy hated it when Harry talked with his mouth full. Harry made a little chalk-mark on his mental Gryffindor vs Slytherin scoreboard. He missed his friends. He wanted someone to talk to, normally, without trying to one-up or insult each other. Anyone would be better than Malfoy.
The truly pitiful thing was, classmates surrounded him -- all of them a sight more pleasant than Malfoy, and none of them wanted anything to do with Harry.
"I don't understand why they're still so upset," Harry mumbled to a clump of rice he'd just picked up.
"Again? Honestly, Potter, will your self-pity never end?" Malfoy snapped, getting to his feet. "They aren't upset; they never were. We're outsiders, and that's that. You're just too stupid to get it."
After breakfast was their longest kenjutsu class of the week -- three and a half hours. The shinai was familiar in Harry's hands, its leather hilt worn grey by his grip. He wondered how long it would be before he got to use a real sword. Considering how often he'd been whacked in the head whenever he missed a block during sparring, Harry suspected it would take years.
The first hour, as always, went to drilling basic forms. Harry ran through the kata as Instructor Ozu called them out, arms and legs flowing through the moves. He loved this; it had given him something magic never had, a peace he'd never known. Calling it peace of mind would be wrong, for Harry's mind didn't exist when he trained like this -- only his body did, muscles flexing, tendons stretching, lungs and heart fully engaged. All surroundings faded away; there was no life or death, no living world or spirit world. All that existed were Harry and the bamboo sword in his hands.
"Harry," Ozu barked. "What are you doing?"
Harry dropped the shinai to his side, straightening up. Even now he couldn't believe how automatic this reaction was. "Practicing the twelfth individual kata, sir!" he replied. Had he been doing it wrong? Impossible; he'd done this hundreds of times now, and Ozu had even praised his form once...
"Show it to me now," Ozu said, hobbling closer.
Harry planted his feet further apart, bending his knees. He swung the shinai in a wide arc, as though cutting through a circle of enemies at the waist. There were no flaws in execution; he could feel it. So what was Ozu's problem?
"How are you connected to your sword?" Ozu asked.
Harry righted himself again and looked down at the floor. "By... my hands, sir."
"By your hands," Ozu said, staring at Harry. "Sugita."
The girl next to Harry bowed. "A Shinigami and her sword are connected by spirit. The sword is in your hands, but you connect to it with your entire being," she rattled off.
Ozu nodded. "Indeed. A Shinigami's power derives from the fusion of his soul with the soul of his Soul Cutter sword. A zanpakutō is not merely a sword; it is a living spirit, the embodiment of a Shinigami's power. How will it decide whether or not to obey you, if it does not know your soul? It must believe you are worthy. When you fight, your zanpakutō fights with you. If you hold it in your hands like a stick, how can it trust you? Why would someone be your friend if you do not acknowledge his existence? If you merely hold your zanpakutō in your hands, you will never learn its name."
Harry's face was burning. He had learned this in the catch-up theory lessons -- and had thought the connection similar to that between a wizard and his wand -- but how was he supposed to have known that he was to treat his shinai like a real Soul Cutter sword? He'd been told that only asauchi had the potential to transform into zanpakutō.
Every few weeks, Ozu uncovered yet another crucial tidbit that the theory class hadn't mentioned but the first few kenjutsu lessons had. And every time, he made an example out of Harry.
"Harry will serve detention tonight," Ozu said. "He will report to me after his final lesson of the day."
"Yes, sir," Harry said, fuming. It wasn't fair. Malfoy had the same gaps in his knowledge, but somehow his mistakes usually escaped notice. Harry glanced at the students in front of him, their backs straight as Ozu limped along the row. Malfoy, on the far right, stood in a slight half-turn, smirking. Harry wanted to say something to wipe the smug look off his face, but that would only earn him another detention.
Ozu stopped in front of Malfoy, who quickly straightened and assumed a stone-faced expression. "It is dishonourable to rejoice in the misfortune of others, Draco. You will also serve detention this evening."
"Are all non-theory classes held outdoors?" Malfoy asked.
Yamane shook her head. "We use indoor ranges for Demon Arts." She turned onto a narrower path that curved towards a low, windowless building. "Follow me."
Once at the doors, Yamane peeked inside through a gap. "All clear," she said, slipping off her sandals for some reason. She strode inside, and Harry made to follow, but Malfoy grabbed his arm.
"Shoes off when you're going inside," he muttered. "Are you blind?"
"Right," Harry said, wondering why Malfoy wasn't simply letting Harry embarrass himself. Maybe he'd grown a conscience in the past ten minutes.
The inside of the building turned out to be one huge room. To Harry's right extended a row of wooden dummies, surfaces marred by scorch marks. A few were missing limbs and heads.
"It's more fun during lessons," Yamane said, poking at a dummy with her index finger. "But you get the idea."
Malfoy wasn't in the dining hall at lunch -- probably off sulking over his entirely deserved detention. Harry had never thought he'd feel anything but vast indifference at the absence of Draco Malfoy in his immediate vicinity, and yet here he sat, feeling even more alone than usual.
Nearly all of their classes were together, and when Harry added time spent in their quarters and at meals, it meant... a lot of Malfoy-hours. It was a wonder really that Harry didn't spend every day in a blind rage. Truthfully, Malfoy seemed much less irritating now than before -- perhaps it was true that a person could get used to anything. Occasionally, Malfoy even said things that weren't wholly malicious or spiteful. Like that time he'd asked Harry to pass the salt.
But Harry had to remember that this was still Draco Malfoy, and however he behaved, he was probably plotting something vile, like revenge on Harry for turning all of their classmates against them.
"So that's it for the boring stuff," Yamane said after they left the dojo. "Now I'll show you where we have fun."
She led them through a veritable maze of pathways; Harry had brief flashbacks to the Triwizard Tournament as they passed hedge after neatly trimmed hedge. They arrived at a squat, single-story building with walls of faintest green and many sets of doors. Yamane called a greeting to a pair of uniformed students walking outside. They waved back but didn't stop to talk.
"This is the common area for the Gotei 13 track," Yamane said to Harry and Malfoy. "You're first-years, so you'll only have admission into Block 1 for now. C'mon."
The set of doors marked with the number one slid open, admitting them into a spacious room dotted with low tables. Several dozen students sat in clusters around the room, some hunched over books, others talking. The sounds of laughter and rustling pages were achingly familiar; if Harry closed his eyes he could almost pretend he was in the Gryffindor common room... on a really quiet day when everyone decided to speak Japanese. A lump was forming in his throat.
"Yo, rookies!" Yamane called.
A red-haired girl seated near the doors rose, adjusting a dark armband. "How do you do, Yamane-san," she murmured, bowing.
"Got your new guys here, Sugita," Yamane said. Turning to Harry, she added, "She's the first-year head prefect."
"Nice to meet you," Harry said, bowing. He was getting good at this.
"Everyone, these two are called Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy," Yamane said to the room. "They're a bit late to the party, but you shouldn't hold it against them."
Everyone gazed towards the doors with something like expectation.
"Please take care of me from now on," Malfoy said, bowing deeply. Harry copied him, feeling ridiculous. What the hell was wrong with 'hello'?
"Welcome," chorused the other students. "Let's all do well."
That seemed to conclude the formalities, because a thin boy near the back immediately called out, "What district are you from, Harry-kun?"
"You're only asking because his hair is as dark as yours, Kihara," Sugita shouted. Several people tittered. Harry didn't get it, but he grinned for all he was worth.
"We're both from the second district, but we weren't there for long."
Next to him, Malfoy exhaled sharply. What was his problem?
"You mean you only just died?" Sugita asked, eyes round. "It's very unusual for someone to manifest spirit power so soon after a soul burial."
"Well, we weren't--"
"--brought here by a Shinigami," Harry concluded, glaring at Malfoy. "We just sort of ended up in Rukongai."
"You're ryoka," Kihara gasped. "They let ryoka into the Academy?" he demanded, turning to Yamane.
Some of the grins around the room froze, others slipped away. The silence began to gather weight.
"If you'll excuse us," Malfoy said, bowing. "We're both a little tired from the examination, so we'll leave now." He grabbed Harry's arm and pulled him back outside; Harry was so bemused that he didn't even protest. "You fucking idiot," Malfoy snarled the minute the doors closed behind them.
That Shinigami who'd guarded their room their first night had been right: the Ways of Destruction were particular, and so were the Ways of Binding. Instructor Okada had told them that advanced practitioners of Demon Arts could cast spells without a word, but even though Harry had known how to do silent spells, he wasn't sure he believed it was possible with the Demon Arts.
There were ninety-nine incantations, and the difficulty between them increased exponentially. They had learned the first five spells in a month. Level six had taken two weeks, and another month of intense practice got them to just begin trying level seven. Magic had never been this frustrating: as long as you pronounced a spell correctly and did the right wand movement, magic just worked. This Demon Arts stuff made you work. And the bizarre incantations made Harry worry that he was unwittingly learning Dark magic.
Okada stood on the far side of the range, facing one of the dummies. She raised her hand. "Disintegrate, you black dog of Rondanini! Look upon yourself with horror and then claw out your own throat! Way of Binding, number nine: strike."
A red light shot from her hand, enveloping the dummy in a nebulous blob. "If that were a person," Okada said, keeping her hand raised, "he would be unable to move a muscle. It is called 'strike' because it deals a powerful blow to your opponent's spirit centre, temporarily disabling it. As long as you maintain the connection, the strikes will continue, but you cannot keep a person thus imprisoned for very long."
Harry remembered Lieutenant Hisagi using that Way of Binding on him, but he hadn't realised how very similar to a Stunner it was.
"Now pair up for practice," Okada said.
Harry looked around, but no one was meeting his gaze. After less than a minute, only he and Malfoy were left standing in the middle of the room.
"Do try to look a bit less like a kicked puppy," Malfoy said as Harry followed him to an empty practice boundary. "It's disgusting."
Hadn't Harry just been thinking that Malfoy wasn't so bad anymore? Yeah, strike that one. He whirled to face Malfoy. "Disintegrate, you black dog of-- um. Shit." What did dogs have to do with Stunning, anyway?
"Black dog of Rondanini," Okada said from the vicinity of Harry's elbow. She had a habit of sneaking up beside her students and catching their mistakes -- for her, this was easy, since she bore an uncanny resemblance to Professor Flitwick. In stature. She didn't have a moustache or anything.
Harry looked down at her stern, upturned face. "My apologies, Okada-sama. I will try to do better from now on."
She nodded and walked briskly away. She didn't seem to like any of the students much, but she especially didn't like Harry. That, at least, was Malfoy's fault.
"You really are a complete idiot," Malfoy gritted as he stomped away from the common area, several paces ahead of Harry.
"What's your problem? The Headmaster let us in, didn't he? So it shouldn't matter if we're ryoka or whatever--"
"The Headmaster let us in!" Malfoy mimicked, whirling round. "I knew you had a hard-on for Dumbledore, but this isn't fucking Hogwarts, you utter imbecile. Ryoka are considered dangerous here; weren't you paying attention in Rukongai?"
"They were just kids, in Rukongai," Harry protested. "So they were a little scared, so what?"
"Right. The adults were all hiding in their houses because they just had to catch the afternoon soap operas," Malfoy returned. "You really do have the perceptual abilities of a fucking guppy."
"Anyway, this isn't Rukongai," Harry began, but Malfoy raised a hand to silence him.
"Look at it this way: what would you do if you found out that someone you've just met is a Death Eater?"
"That's not the same thing at all," Harry replied, stunned. "Death Eaters are--"
"My mother's a Death Eater, Potter, so it is the same fucking thing. Just because we know we're not made of evil doesn't mean everyone else will just accept us if we smile politely." His eyes darted to something behind Harry, and his face lit up. "Why don't you ask her what she thinks of ryoka?"
Harry turned and saw a small girl striding up the path, looking preoccupied. "Fine, I will," he said, trotting over to intercept her.
"Excuse me, little girl. What do you think of ryoka?" he asked.
The girl narrowed her eyes at him in a way that was anything but childlike. "Ryoka are dangerous," she said. "They represent a loss of balance. Spirits should only enter Soul Society after a Shinigami performs a soul burial."
The way she spoke was different from the way Tsuyoshi and the others had talked: she sounded like a grown-up. Despite her size, it was almost as though she were talking down to him. "Um, are your parents Shinigami?" he asked, stepping back a bit.
"I am a Shinigami," she answered coolly. "And I have no time for this nonsense. You will return to your quarters now."
As she stalked away, Harry realised she was dressed in Shinigami black, and the back of her shihakushō read "Instructor".
Harry turned back around and saw Malfoy shaking with silent laughter.
Detention had been brutal. Apparently the secret to the well-tended Academy lawns was a small but heavy mower operated exclusively by students in need of punishment. Harry returned to their quarters well after dark, drenched in sweat and covered with grass clippings, only to find Malfoy seated cross-legged on his mat, reading a textbook.
"How the hell did you finish before me?" Harry demanded, stretching out on the floor. The cool wood felt wonderful against his cheek.
"Ozu-san kindly asked me to help Captain Aizen set up for tomorrow's calligraphy lesson," Malfoy replied in a bored voice.
"That's not fair," Harry groused. "I had to cut a bloody acre of grass."
Malfoy shrugged and held out his left hand, his eyes still on his book. "I got ink on my fingers."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Oh no, how will you possibly live?"
"I won't, if you don't wash up," Malfoy said, nose wrinkling. "You stink."
Harry sat up. "Then maybe I won't wash up," he said. "Will the smell really kill you?"
"Har har har," Malfoy intoned, glancing up. "Your sense of humour is as refined as ever. Now stop bothering me; I'm sure you can find your own way to the bathhouse."
The bathhouse was one place Harry never saw Malfoy. In fact, he rarely saw anyone there at all.
"I don't understand why they got so upset," Harry said, towelling off in the changing room.
Malfoy was performing some kind of weird ritual wherein he put his clothes on while also holding his towel up like a shield, ostensibly to hide his nakedness. Harry hadn't known Malfoy was such a priss.
"You climbed into the bath covered in sweat after practice," Malfoy muttered in a clipped tone.
"But it's a bath. That's what they're for," Harry said patiently.
"It's a communal bath, Potter. Communal means other people use it, and it's rude to sully the water for them. Did the big red arrow and the word SHOWERS escape your notice?"
Harry stretched the towel across his back and rubbed it up and down. "I was tired."
"And to top it off, you brought soap in with you," Malfoy continued, turning his back to Harry.
"Right, so why couldn't you have told me any of this in advance?" Harry demanded, wrapping the towel around his waist.
"I was showering off," Malfoy said. "Anyway, it's not my fault you know nothing beyond your crude Muggle upbringing. Excuse me."
Malfoy practically ran out of the changing room, and Harry could only stare after him. Draco Malfoy had just walked away from a situation where he had the opportunity to taunt Harry forever. Wonders would never cease.
Harry entered the bathhouse with some trepidation, but it seemed that his fellow students had fewer reservations about breaches of etiquette than they did about ryoka: only a handful of people left the bath upon seeing him, this time.
Six months later
Sugita's shinai crashed down towards Harry's shoulder, but he swiftly parried the blow -- just as Ozu called a halt to practice.
"Not bad for a ryoka," Sugita said as they formed up for the end of class. She was grinning a little.
Harry returned her smile. They'd been paired up after the kenjutsu class was split into four groups at the beginning of the third term. Ever since then, Sugita had seemed to warm up to him. He wasn't sure how much of it had to do with his sword skill -- which even Ozu often praised these days -- but whatever the reason, he wasn't about to complain. If the head prefect could forgive Harry for being what he was, surely the others would too. Eventually.
Ozu raised a hand, and all four groups turned to face him. "Groups one and three, you all pass. You'll be using bokken starting next term. Be sure to check the notice board outside Building 42 tomorrow for soul burial training group assignments. Dismissed."
"Bokken, huh?" Harry mumbled, hefting his shinai. Wood instead of bamboo; it would be heavier, but would that really be a problem? As long as he could correct his swings in time...
Sugita elbowed him. "Is that all you care about? He said soul burial training!"
Harry blinked. "Which means..."
"Which means we'll be given asauchi and go into the living world, dummy," she said, grinning widely.
"Oh," Harry said. "Oh."
He'd managed to get so caught up in all the training and learning to navigate the complicated social customs that he'd almost forgotten why he'd come to the Academy in the first place. He still thought about going home every day, but he hadn't thought an opportunity would come so soon -- even Takabe had implied it would take years.
And it was as though a switch flipped inside Harry, drowning out everything he knew about Soul Society: making him forget that Sugita looked kind of fit, that he preferred chopsticks to forks now, that he had to bow to the instructor before leaving the practice grounds. Then there was Malfoy. Malfoy was in group three, which meant he'd be going, too -- and if he managed to get to the world of the living before Harry, he would surely warn his father that Harry was coming to tell everyone what he'd done. Harry had to make sure that didn't happen.
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