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 shikai practice is nothing like Dumbledore's Army, Forest Prince knows secrets (but won't share), Harry nearly loses his head (except not really), Ozu delivers a lecture, and Draco gets detention.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
13 x A Kind of Fear
Ryoko whirled and stabbed the dummy five times in rapid succession, her weapon leaving neat, small holes. She had achieved shikai about a month after Harry; her released sword was a slender ice pick.
"Who do you think will be next?" Harry asked, watching her. He held Forest Prince's wooden shaft in a now-familiar grip, his practice already completed.
"I dunno," she said, charging the dummy again. A few short but violent seconds later, she lowered her ice pick and touched one of the holes she'd made. She retracted her hand immediately, as though burned.
"Bigger than yesterday?" Harry asked.
She smiled. "I think so."
At first, Ryoko had seemed disappointed in the form her zanpakutō, Frost Wraith, took when released. Not that she had said so, but Harry had seen the carefully controlled expression on her face when she had told Ozu, had shown the small, simple-looking point of metal to the class. She had looked resigned when he'd asked her to try sparring with it against one of their classmates.
But then she had accidentally nicked Kihara's shoulder after a failed block. He had fallen to his knees and pulled his uniform shirt down, revealing a shallow puncture mark surrounded by a ring of blue-grey flesh. Ozu, after a brief inspection of the wound, had sent him off to the infirmary.
Frost Wraith, true to her name, froze the flesh where she hit. With practice, Ryoko would be able to control not only how much of her opponent's body froze, but also how quickly.
That day after class, Ryoko had asked Harry if she could join his nightly shikai practice sessions. Harry had immediately agreed -- practicing alone lost its charm after a while. Even though he hadn't actually been alone -- thanks to Forest Prince, in some ways Harry would never be alone again. The thought was both comforting and alarming.
As he watched Ryoko renew her attacks, Harry felt a thrum of contentment from Forest Prince. Their bond was growing stronger with every completed practice, and watching his classmates seemed to please Forest Prince, too.
A few yards away, Kihara threw one end of his manriki, the chain rattling as the weighted point hit its target. He had been the fourth to manage shikai release, although he hadn't joined their practice group until a few weeks ago, after more than a dozen others.
Nearly half the class regularly attended the nightly practices -- everyone who had achieved shikai was present tonight. After so many nights of meeting, Harry felt that he was friends -- or at least friendly -- with most of them. Not only did Harry know his classmates better, he was also getting to know their zanpakutō. Many of them transformed into a new kind of weapon when released, meant to be used for direct attack, although a few had Demon Arts-type releases.
Those were much cooler than Harry had expected, like the girl who could snap tendrils of painful energy from the end of a short leather whip. One boy, Daisuke, had his sword bloom into a plant, its leaves succulent spikes containing a sticky liquid that healed cuts and scrapes. He had already been approached by the Fourth Division scouts -- Healing-type zanpakutō usually meant the wielder would be skilled at other types of healing, which was the Fourth Division's business.
A yell came from the other side of the practice field -- Satoru, who also had a Demon Arts-type zanpakutō, bent low, clutching his arm as a white-flecked smoke-cloud rose over his head. Daisuke leaped up and ran over, drawing his sword. Harry suspected that unlike everyone else at these sessions, Daisuke showed up hoping someone would make a mistake.
Despite the late hour, Harry and Malfoy's room was empty. Unsurprised, Harry laid Forest Prince down by the door and began to strip off his uniform. For the past several weeks, Malfoy was either asleep or absent when Harry returned from practices. They were still friendly -- they still ate together, anyway. And whatever friendship had grown between them in the last four years wasn't going to be undone in a few weeks' time. But there was a distance between them, one that Malfoy seemed intent on keeping. Why else would he have frozen Harry out? He couldn't possibly still be angry about Harry's shikai.
It had definitely started with Harry's shikai; Malfoy had withdrawn then. Harry was long done being angry and stung that Malfoy hadn't even congratulated him. Now he just couldn't believe that Malfoy was still upset about that. Harry may have been first, but there were some unbelievably cool shikai in their class now. Compared to some of them, Forest Prince was almost mediocre.
"Hey, I don't think you're mediocre," Harry said, glancing at the zanpakutō.
He went off to the bathhouse, where he took his time soaking the day's tiredness from his muscles. When he returned, sleepy and mellow, the room was still empty. Just as Harry shrugged into his yukata, the door slid open and Malfoy walked in.
"You're up late."
"Yeah, practice went a little long," Harry replied. "Satoru burned his arm."
"Ito Satoru? His zanpakutō is a fire-type -- did he burn himself, then?"
"Yeah, but not too badly," Harry said as Malfoy sniggered. "Anyway Daisuke -- I mean Kinjo -- was there, so at least he got to practice, too."
"Just another thrilling day on the practice field." Malfoy's voice was flat, and Harry felt a pang of sadness for him. It must have been really difficult to watch so many classmates achieve shikai and move forward while he was still stuck with a plain old asauchi.
"Didn't Ozu tell us that some zanpakutō are shy?" he offered. "Maybe yours is like that too."
Malfoy shucked his uniform and climbed under the blanket. "Good night, Potter," he said, rolling over to face the wall. The message was clear: he was not interested in talking.
"Yeah, okay. Good night." Harry lay down on his back and slid his hands underneath his pillow. Forest Prince made a humming noise.
What? Harry asked.
What was that supposed to mean? Malfoy did have a secret -- Konishi Hajime. But other than that one incident after kenjutsu class weeks ago, there were just no signs the two of them had ever met. It would have been ludicrous anyway, even if it weren't forbidden -- Konishi was worshipped by practically the entire student population. Why would he be interested in Malfoy? Not that Malfoy was a troll, but he was nowhere near as handsome as Konishi.
Handsome, Forest Prince agreed.
I didn't say he was handsome, Harry replied, frowning. I just said he's not ugly.
Malfoy had a Konishi-related secret, all right, but clearly it was just a crush. Harry could kind of see why Malfoy would want to keep it to himself -- the two of them didn't exactly have the sort of friendship where they discussed their crushes. Plus, fancying the bloke most of the girls squealed about in breathy voices would be pretty embarrassing. Harry just hoped Malfoy wasn't keeping it a secret from him because Konishi was male. Granted, it was a little strange to have a gay roommate, but not uncomfortable.
Right, he told himself. What happened to your dick during taijutsu class wasn't uncomfortable at all.
Forest Prince laughed then, a rich and deep sound that would've woken Malfoy if it hadn't been confined to Harry's mind.
Vexed, Harry turned over in bed and glared in the direction of the door. What?
The zanpakutō fell silent, and Harry lay back down with a deep sigh. Fine, so it was uncomfortable to think of Malfoy getting hard because of Harry. But that had been a one-time thing; since then, he hadn't seen Malfoy so much as give him a suggestive look or anything. Malfoy could respect Harry's boundaries, so why would Harry have a problem with his sexual orientation? He didn't. If Malfoy didn't like girls in that way, that was okay.
But Harry liked girls.
He was pretty sure about that.
Halfway through their next kenjutsu lesson, a Shinigami walked onto the field as Ozu was demonstrating a new parrying technique. It was normal for Shinigami to sit in on the lessons these days, but most of the time they sat on the sidelines, making notes and gossiping. This woman, though, strode right up to Ozu, who called a halt to the lesson. The two of them conferred for a few short moments, and then the woman flash-stepped out of the practice field. Harry shielded his eyes from the sun and tried to track her progress; she seemed to be headed east.
"A group of low-level Hollows has appeared in a remote part of the countryside," Ozu announced. "No officers have been assigned to the area as practically no one lives there, but we can't let the Hollows move on from there. They have been penned in by temporary barriers, but as you know, we can't maintain those forever."
"We're going to open a senkaimon in twenty minutes, and those of you who have achieved shikai are expected to deal with the problem. The Eighth Division's lieutenant Ise, who will return shortly with a few senior students, shall supervise and provide assistance if you need it."
Ozu began to usher the shikai users towards the right side of the field; the class broke into excited whispers and murmurs. Harry's heart pounded. Forest Prince roared and pranced through imaginary trees. Just like that, they were going to be sent to the real world to fight Hollows. He supposed this was part of the training -- full Shinigami dropped everything to destroy Hollows, no excuses. Real Shinigami rarely had twenty minutes, too -- Harry supposed that they, as students, were being allowed to prepare themselves mentally. Low-level or not, Hollows were dangerous, especially when hunting in packs.
Ozu called for attention, and Harry turned around, squaring his shoulders and laying his hand on his sword hilt.
"Very well, Draco-kun," Ozu said. "If you can demonstrate your shikai successfully, you may come along. Please go ahead."
Harry's eyes widened. Malfoy had achieved shikai? Why hadn't he said anything last night?
Malfoy's pale face was still and dark-eyed as he palmed his sword hilt. "Disappear, Common Darter!" he cried, and his sword glowed green, shifting into a green lightning-bolt shape with audible snicks.
So it was a physical-type -- that was surprising. Harry had thought that given Malfoy's Demon Arts affinity, his zanpakutō would be a kidō-type.
Forest Prince gave a delighted rumble. Yeah, Harry thought. I'm happy for him too. But what on earth was a Darter? Some kind of animal specific to Japan? Harry's mind burned with ten billion questions at once, all while a petty, selfish part of him insisted he had no reason to -- Malfoy had never cared about Harry's blade.
"Good," Ozu said, inspecting Malfoy's blade. "A surprising type for you. Very unique shape."
"That's not all," Malfoy said. He mumbled something. Ozu's eyes widened, and Malfoy vanished, unleashing a storm of furious whispers through both groups of students. Invisible? Malfoy had turned invisible? But why had there been a delay?
He suddenly felt a surge of spirit power all around him, suffocating, just like it had been on the day of their entrance examination. A rush of air hit him, air filled with the unmistakable sound of a blade singing towards a target. Forest Prince growled a warning, but too late -- Malfoy's face materialised inches from Harry's, his blade a fraction of an inch from Harry's neck.
Malfoy was grinning. "Surprised?" he whispered.
Harry grinned, too, but the pit of his belly felt cold. "Nah," he whispered back. "I let you do that so as not to ruin your big moment."
"Liar," Malfoy said, and disappeared again. He reappeared beside Ozu moments later, his sword sealed into katana form once more. He bowed.
"That's brilliant," Harry muttered. Malfoy's zanpakutō was a dual-type, then. That would be a first in their class.
Ozu nodded, clearly pleased. "It has been many years since I have seen a dual release. They are exceptionally rare."
Ryoko raised her hand. "Excuse me, Ozu-sensei, but what do you mean by dual release? Is it like the sixth-year prefect's three attacks?"
Ozu began to pace. "Not quite. In time, some of you may discover that your zanpakutō has special abilities -- powers you can only access in shikai. However, what Draco-kun just did is call his zanpakutō into two distinct forms -- two stages. This is normally only seen with bankai."
Bankai. The ultimate release that most Shinigami never experienced. It represented the highest level of power, and it took decades to achieve, and more yet to master. And Malfoy had done something similar to it. He also looked quite smug all during Ozu's explanation, Harry noted with an unpleasant surge of envy.
Was this why Malfoy had stolen away all those nights -- to practice alone, to keep his knowledge a secret? Surely there was a trick to mastering stages of release. As expected of Malfoy, really -- always putting himself first. A knot of shikai-using students surrounded him now, eager with questions -- even Kihara was there.
Malfoy was going to be a nightmare to deal with from now on. Everyone would want him at the nightly practices, for a start.
I was still first in the class, a small voice inside Harry said. But there was a first shikai in every class. This two-stage business was a big deal.
Forest Prince seemed unaffected by Harry's emotional state -- and even that felt like a little betrayal. Don't you care? Harry demanded, clenching his fists. Or did you know all along?
Secrets, Forest Prince said, as if that explained everything.
An intense wave of spirit power flooded Harry's senses. Harry had become pretty good at sensing others' power and distinguishing between different people based on it -- and he knew with full certainty that this power did not belong to anyone in their class.
He glanced to the far side of the field, to the source of the pressure, and saw a tall, buxom woman with long red hair striding along the Academy grounds wall, looking preoccupied. Behind her walked a sulky-looking boy; his hair was a mass of tall white spikes unlike anything Harry had seen before. Because he didn't know them, it was difficult to separate which spiritual power was which, but they were both freakishly strong.
Everyone else had felt the pair's presence, too, and a hush had fallen over the class as heads turned towards the newcomers.
The woman turned and gave them all a brilliant smile. "Look, Captain, Academy students!" she cried, waving cheerfully. "How cute!"
"Matsumoto," the boy growled, crossing his arms. "Don't get distracted. It's not here, so let's double back." His voice was still breaking, so he couldn't have been any older than thirteen -- but had the woman called him captain?
Then they both vanished from the wall, and Harry was left with a dazed sense of awe at the power they'd wielded.
"That," Ozu called, "was Tenth Division Captain Hitsugaya, along with his lieutenant, Matsumoto. The Captain's bankai is rumoured to have nine stages."
"Oh," Harry said. "He's the one with the ice-type dragon, isn't he?"
"Just so," Ozu agreed, stepping next to him. "It is said that when in full release, he controls all the water in the universe."
"Oh, please," Malfoy muttered. "That kid is what, twelve? I bet I could take him with just my shikai."
"Draco-kun, you forget yourself," Ozu said, glowering. "Disrespecting a Gotei 13 captain is a serious breach of the Academy code of conduct, and you will serve detention for the rest of this week."
Malfoy turned pink and lowered his eyes, bowing. "My deepest apologies."
Harry stared at him. Why had he said that? Malfoy was usually the one who knew all the rules of polite communication, even the unwritten ones. Harry was pretty sure the one about only speaking of the Gotei 13 captains with tones of deference and respect was written down somewhere -- even Harry knew it. It was as though Malfoy had regressed in age or something.
"Captain Hitsugaya's zanpakutō is the strongest ice-type zanpakutō in the recorded history of Soul Society," Ozu lectured, pointedly not looking at Malfoy. "As a reminder to all of you, especially those of you who are about to face a Hollow for the first time: when sizing up an enemy, you focus on spiritual power, not physical size. The latter can be deceiving."
Lieutenant Ise -- the slim, pretty woman who'd brought the news to Ozu earlier -- appeared at the edge of the field, flanked by eight sixth-years, one of whom was Konishi. Harry glanced at Malfoy, but he was till staring at the ground. The twenty minutes were up.
"Right, you brats! Those of you who have achieved shikai will join the seniors," Ozu commanded. "The rest of you, return to your drills." He bowed to Lieutenant Ise. "I do not doubt these whelps are in good hands with you, Nanao-san. Please take care of them."
Lieutenant Ise bowed, unsmiling. "It shall be as you say, Ozu-sensei."
"C'mon," Harry said, tugging on Malfoy's sleeve. "You'll miss all the fun."
Malfoy fell into step next to him. He was still looking down, but Harry wasn't sure if it was because of the scene he'd caused or because he'd spotted Konishi. Probably not. Malfoy didn't strike Harry as the shy type -- easily embarrassed, yeah, but far from timid.
But all these thoughts faded from his mind as he passed through the senkaimon Lieutenant Ise opened. He was finally going to fight -- really fight -- alongside Forest Prince.
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