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: 3500 words (this part)
Summary: In which Harry contemplates future experiences, some people just don't know when to give up, Captain Ukitake's medicine has side effects, Draco doesn't roll his eyes enough, the past returns with a vengeance, and a cat is fine too.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
17 x Music for the Lonely Boys
As Harry and Malfoy made their way back to their dormitory, the campus grounds were already empty, intercut with long shadows from the setting sun. A groggy-looking first-year walked a little further up the path, lighting the walkway lanterns and waving at fireflies. Harry had never drawn the lot for lantern-lighting duty as a first-year -- there were so many things even here at the Academy that he had not yet experienced. Tonight's encounter with Captain Kuchiki made him wonder what other new things awaited him in Seireitei proper.
Harry walked, conscious of Malfoy just beside him -- too conscious. He could feel a quiet, whispery heat, as though his and Malfoy's spiritual energies were mingling. He was tempted to let himself drift over until their hands brushed together and their shoulders bumped--
What the hell?
Harry took a breath and widened the distance between the two of them. Okay, so after Captain Kuchiki had gone, something had happened in the West Courtyard, something that had come from Harry, not from Forest Prince. In that moment, he had looked into Malfoy's eyes and felt lost.
That made no sense and sounded like something a girl would think. Harry glanced at Malfoy, half afraid the sensation would recur.
I'm glad he's not seeing Konishi anymore. The thought jumped unbidden into Harry's mind, along with the same happy relief he had felt in the courtyard. He didn't like where his thoughts were taking him, and cast about for a way to break the silence.
"Captain Kuchiki's really strong, isn't he?" he said. "I still feel a bit weird."
Malfoy nodded distractedly. "Mm-hmm."
"Did it make you feel weird?"
"If by 'weird' you mean 'squashed like an insect', then yes, I suppose it did."
Harry had drifted back towards Malfoy again: not so close as to be able to touch him, though, so it was okay. It felt nice. There was nothing wrong with feeling nice. "I wonder if we'll ever become that strong."
"Who knows? It's all in the training, isn't it?"
"Yeah." Malfoy was clearly just making small talk at him, and Harry wondered if he, too, felt lost.
A faint noise caught Harry's attention, and he stopped. "Did you hear that?"
Malfoy stopped a little further up the path and turned to Harry with a slightly irritated face. "Hear what?"
A faint mewling sound drifted to them from a clump of bushes.
"That," Harry said. "Sounds like a cat, doesn't it?"
He stepped off the path and approached the bushes. There was, indeed, a cat there, with short grey fur, a round face, and large copper eyes. Harry vaguely recalled Mrs Figg having had one just like it.
"Hi," he said, dropping into a crouch. The cat meowed piteously and limped forward, trying to keep its right paw off the ground.
"It's injured," Harry said.
"Come on, Potter; do you really need to add 'Rescuer of Kittens' to your résumé?" Malfoy said, his tone impatient. "That thing might be rabid or something, so don't let it bite you."
The cat nudged Harry's outstretched fingers with its nose and began to purr. "See?" Harry said, turning to Malfoy. "He's friendly."
As he reached to pet the cat, Malfoy's hand clamped onto his shoulder. "Potter, wait."
But Harry already knew what Malfoy had noticed; beneath the grey fur, the cat's skull felt cold and hard, almost metallic. Up close like this, the fur was thinner and duller, over skin as translucent as cheap rubber bands -- it was as though someone had done a slipshod job of stuffing the animal. The cat hissed, an acrid stench filled the air, and the world began to ripple even as Harry pulled his hand away.
It was like being on the bottom of a lake while a group of boys skipped rocks over the water surface. Harry couldn't see any rocks, but he saw concentric circles over everything, melding with the world, distorting every structure. Unlike the surface of a lake, these ripples were everywhere at once, and it was difficult, impossible to concentrate.
"I think--" Harry began, but he forgot the end of the sentence, confused. He stumbled backwards and fell to the grass sideways, the blades cool and prickly against his cheek.
Forest Prince? Harry's mouth moved, but no sound came out. He heard a vague thump next to him and thought Malfoy must have fallen, too. The cat purred again.
Bad kitty, Harry thought at it, but received no response. That was okay, though; he just wanted to sleep, not talk to robot cats.
He didn't want to talk to Forest Prince, either.
The world went black.
Harry woke up to a row of bright lights shining in his face, and promptly squeezed his eyes shut from the glare. He lay on a flat smooth surface, and his arms and legs were strapped down. He had a pretty good idea where he was.
Please, let this be a bad dream.
Real, Forest Prince informed him.
I was afraid of that. At least his zanpakutō was here somewhere. Harry turned his head and opened his eyes, right onto Captain Kurotsuchi's enormous grin.
"Interesting. You've recovered faster than I thought; I should increase the drug dosage next time."
"Whrruh?" Harry had meant to say "what the hell are you doing?" but his mouth refused to form the words.
"Oh yes," Captain Kurotsuchi said, nodding at Harry's look of puzzlement. "I decided to temporarily dull your powers of speech. You two are a nuisance with all your talking."
Harry heard a soft moan and turned his head the other way. Malfoy was strapped to the table, too, right beside him. His eyes opened; a second later, he was struggling against his bonds and making frantic, unintelligible noises.
"Mmmf," Harry said, and Malfoy seemed to notice him for the first time. Harry smiled -- or tried to, anyway; he couldn't exactly feel his lips -- and Malfoy stopped moving, closing his eyes again.
"I see," Captain Kurotsuchi said, jotting something in a notebook. "Clearly you have a bond with each other due to your Britishness. I suspected as much, which is why my trap took the form of a British blue shorthair. You could not help but go to the aid of a fellow British creature."
This man is insane, Harry thought. Forest Prince harrumphed.
"Luckily I found several reference photographs to use while constructing it," Captain Kurotsuchi continued, gesturing to a bank of computer monitors behind him. Each displayed a different picture of a cat just like the robot cat that had drugged them. The one Harry could see most clearly showed the cat sitting with its head slightly tilted, its mouth almost a smile. He shuddered.
"Now, some housekeeping matters," Captain Kurotsuchi said cheerfully. "You are my research subjects, but you will be returned to the Academy during the day to attend classes. I'm sure you'll agree this is most unfortunate, but Headmaster Takabe has never understood the importance of my work." His smile vanished, and for a while he scowled at something Harry couldn't see. Probably plotting the Headmaster's death.
"Where was I? Oh yes. Seeing as how you have been so recalcitrant, I will have to inject you with a drug that compels you to return here each night. I hope you appreciate that I will be upsetting my customary schedule for your sake. Normally I devote my evenings to reading Seireitei Communication. While--"
A bell sounded somewhere above them, and Captain Kurotsuchi glanced up. "Who could it be at this hour? Nemu?"
One of the computers buzzed. "Captain Ukitake is here to see you, Mayuri-sama," Nemu's flat voice announced.
"Really, that man is such a bother," Captain Kurotsuchi muttered, walking away. Harry heard a door slide open. "I'll be right back. Don't move!" Captain Kurotsuchi called, chuckling. The door clicked shut.
Harry considered his options. He couldn't move his limbs or speak, so unless Forst Prince learned to float on his own, escape seemed unlikely. But if they were going to be released in the morning, all they had to do was tell the Headmaster what was going on before this supposed drug compelled them to return. Surely the Headmaster would make Captain Kurotsuchi stop the experiments.
Not that Harry believed there really was a drug that could make someone return to a certain place at a certain time. But supposing there was such a drug, couldn't there be a drug that would keep them from talking about a certain topic -- like a Tongue-Tying Curse in pill form? Even if there were such things, surely there were other drugs to counter or nullify their effects...
I can survive this, Harry thought. Then he remembered that he was dead and started to laugh.
"Nn?" Malfoy wore a look of exasperated concern.
Harry shook his head weakly. "Nnng." Nothing.
Malfoy held his gaze, and Harry felt the swooping mixture of dread and joy, the same one he'd felt in the courtyard just hours ago. Despite being less than optimistic about their chances of getting out of here before Captain Freakshow turned them into gibbering vegetables or something, Harry wanted to reassure Malfoy. Somehow. Oh, this was bad. Can't it wait?
No, Forest Prince piped up.
This is all your fault, Harry groused. And, resolving to just blame the drugs later, he reached for Malfoy's hand. Due to the restraints, he couldn't get much further than brushing his little finger against Malfoy's.
Malfoy's eyebrows went up, but he extended his hand as well, so that his little finger intertwined with Harry's. Harry's face felt hot. It might have been his imagination, but he thought Malfoy's cheeks turned slightly pink, too. He turned to look at the ceiling, because gazing into Draco Malfoy's eyes while holding hands -- okay, little fingers -- was a little more than he was ready for.
The door opened again.
"Now," Captain Kurotsuchi said, his face looming above Harry again, "Shall we begin? First, I must investigate your reaction to--"
"Captain Kurotsuchi, I forgot to tell you," a voice called from the other side of the room. "I've been experiencing a strange side-effect when-- oh."
Captain Kurotsuchi whirled to face the door. "Yes? Side-effect?"
Harry craned his neck and saw Captain Ukitake stopped just inside the laboratory, frowning. "Am I interrupting something?" He coughed wetly into a handkerchief.
"Yes, you are. These students are research volunteers."
Captain Ukitake glanced towards Harry and Malfoy. Harry shook his head slightly, hoping that Captain Kurotsuchi, who was directing the full force of his stare at the intruder, wouldn't notice.
Captain Ukitake looked at Captain Kurotsuchi and smiled. "I see. That's very noble of them."
"Yes, yes, well, it's completely understandable. My work is very important. Now what's this about a side-effect?"
"Oh, it's nothing as important as your research. I'll return tomorrow morning to discuss it. Good night, Captain."
Captain Ukitake disappeared. Captain Kurotsuchi began to fiddle with the controls on one of the computers. "So much trouble," he muttered. After a minute of pressing buttons, turning dials, and more muttering, he walked back to the table.
"I think that is what I will do first. Yes," he said under his breath as he pulled off the boys' sandals and socks. "Twelve should do it," he added, and began to attach wires to the soles of Harry's feet with small pieces of tape. "Now--" he said, and then stopped. His eyes snapped to the centre of the table, where Harry and Malfoy's little fingers were still clasped together.
"Oh. I see. Perhaps fifteen, then." He rummaged through a large box on a nearby bench, pulling out a fistful of mean-looking wires.
"I can't tell you the purpose of this experiment, as it would ruin the validity of my findings," he said as he attached three new wires to Harry's feet. "I only ask that you react naturally. And don't be afraid to scream."
A chill went up Harry's spine. Malfoy's grip on his little finger tightened, and Harry squeezed back.
"One more injection and we can begin," Kurotsuchi said, pulling two syringes out from within his coat. They contained a murky brown liquid; Harry was pretty sure he didn't want to know what it was. He tried to pull his arm free from the table, but the bonds held fast.
The door banged open, and a very tall, dignified-looking man walked in. "You're experimenting on students again," he said by way of greeting.
"Lieutenant Sasakibe," Captain Kurotsuchi returned, a shade too brightly. "I haven't started yet!" He grabbed the end of his hat and began toying with it.
Harry stared at the newcomer's white hair, thin black moustache, the white undershirt covering most of his neck. Sasakibe Chōjirō, Lieutenant of the First Division, second-in-command to Commander-General Yamamoto, who just happened to be the head of the Gotei 13 and founder of the Shinigami Academy.
They were saved.
"Are you two here of your own free will?" Lieutenant Sasaikibe asked, looking down at Harry, who shook his head with much more vigour this time. "Nn."
Lieutenant Sasakibe glowered at Captain Kurotsuchi. "The Commander-General requests your presence in his office, Captain. Please free these two students; I shall bring them along as well."
With a look of resignation, Captain Kurotsuchi waved his hand; the bonds fell away. Harry sat up, and the room began to spin around him. Malfoy sat up as well and pulled his hand away.
"Unngh," Harry said, rubbing his forehead. He felt like he had been hit in the head with a large mallet. Repeatedly.
"What are your names?" Lieutenant Sasakibe asked, bending down to peer into Harry's face.
"Hrrr. Puh." Harry gestured at his mouth and shrugged. Maybe if they gave him a pen and paper, this would go smoother, even though his kanji still sucked.
Captain Kurotsuchi giggled -- now there was a sound to cause nightmares -- and withdrew two more syringes from his coat. With a lightning-quick motion, he injected one into Harry's arm and one into Malfoy's -- at once, using both hands.
"Hey, what the hell is that?" yelled Harry. "Oh." He could talk again, just like that. He'd never heard of drugs that acted so fast; now he was doubly glad Captain Kurotsuchi hadn't had the chance to try any other drugs on them.
He looked up at Lieutenant Sasakibe. "My name is Harry Potter, class 4-A. This is Draco Malfoy; he's from the same class."
"Thank you for using your precious time to provide aid to these two useless students," Malfoy put in, glaring at Harry, who gave a helpless tiny shrug. So he still didn't know all the minute intricacies of behaviour here, so what?
Lieutenant Sasakibe nodded at them both, then turned to Captain Kurotsuchi. "Please go ahead, Captain; the Commander-General is waiting for you. I will bring these boys along shortly."
Captain Kurotsuchi sketched a little bow and stomped out, muttering.
Commander General Yamamoto was bald, with a long white beard and a moustache that drooped below his chin. Even his eyebrows hung down the sides of his face like brackets. Harry had seen his picture up in many places around the Academy, as well as in his textbooks, but the pictures didn't convey the immense power this man possessed; in the flesh, he looked immovable and eternal.
Lieutenant Sasakibe, Harry, and Malfoy knelt on cushions by the door, heads bowed in obeisance, but Harry kept sneaking looks at the Commander General. He actually felt a little sorry for Captain Kurotsuchi -- although he was standing at attention rather than kneeling, he looked tiny compared to Commander Yamamoto.
"Let's hear it, Mayuri," Commander Yamamoto said again. "Why are you interested in these two children?"
"Well," Captain Kurotsuchi mumbled, twisting his hat. "You see..." His shoulders slumped. "They're actually British, you see."
Next to Harry, Lieutenant Sasakibe made a slight movement, but Harry didn't dare look.
"Is this true?" Commander Yamamoto asked.
Harry nodded without thinking, then felt Malfoy's elbow sink into his side.
Idiot, Forest Prince said.
While waiting to be called in, Harry and Malfoy had agreed that Malfoy would do all the talking. The last thing they needed right now was for Harry to inadvertently piss off the big boss. But all he'd done was nod! He hadn't even been looking at Commander Yamamoto!
Oh. What if it was acceptable to kidnap English people in Soul Society? That might explain why they seemed to be the only ones! Shit.
"It is true, Commander General, sir," Malfoy said, bowing deeply. Harry felt a stab of guilt; he'd put Malfoy in an inconvenient position.
"Show me your faces," Commander Yamamoto said, and the boys looked up at him. "Hmph."
Hmph? Is that a good kind of hmph or a bad kind?
Listen, Forest Prince advised him. Why did he sound so sad? Were they about to get killed?
"Return to your division, Mayuri," Commander Yamamoto said. "We'll take this up again at the next meeting."
For a moment, it seemed as though Captain Kurotsuchi might refuse, but then he bowed and walked away, shutting the door softly behind him.
"How did you arrive to Soul Society?" Commander Yamamoto asked, gazing at Malfoy.
"We came from the living world," Malfoy replied. "Some kind of portal opened in our school, and we ended up in Rukongai. Lieutenant Hisagi stopped us trying to do magic and brought us to the Academy."
"So you were wizards."
Harry was so surprised that he forgot he was supposed to bow. This was the first time he'd heard anyone use the word since coming to Soul Society.
"Yes, sir, we were wizards," Malfoy said.
"I see." Commander Yamamoto pushed aside a piece of paper and addressed his lieutenant. "Chōjirō, take them to the guest enclosure and see that they're fed and watered. Bring them back here at sunrise."
Before Harry could even open his mouth to react, he and Malfoy were whisked from the Commander General's presence and delivered to the gated entrance to a small cluster of buildings.
"Lieutenant Sasakibe, sir?" Harry ventured. "What just happened? Why can't we go back to our dormitory?"
Lieutenant Sasakibe looked at him with some consternation. Then, in halting English, he said, "You're in a mistaken Soul Society."
"A mistaken-- why are you speaking English?"
Lieutenant Sasakibe brightened. "Practice! I love English, but I never have a chance to talk to anybody. Since you are honoured guests, I hope you won't mind."
"Honoured... guests?" Harry glanced at Malfoy, who looked as gormless as Harry felt.
"Indeed," Lieutenant Sasakibe replied. "You must go to the heaven when you die, but you came here. So you are guests!"
Malfoy folded his arms and frowned. "Since we're guests, may I humbly request that you explain that in Japanese? I promise Potter will help you with your English later."
"Very well," Sasakibe said, bowing slightly. "There is a system to keep everything in order when humans die, you see. It would be troublesome if people from the whole world ended up in the same place -- there would be chaos because we all have different languages and customs. So there are as many Soul Societies as there are countries -- some are small like Sweden, others big like America."
"But we ended up here with perfect knowledge of Japanese," Harry protested. "Not the customs, maybe," he added after a sharp look from Malfoy. "But the language definitely."
"I don't know how that could happen," Sasakibe admitted. "Usually if someone dies inside Japan, even if they're a visitor from another country, they come here with knowledge of Japanese. It's a gift from the King that makes the barriers between Soul Societies easier to keep. But if someone dies outside of Japan, they can't come here. Yet you somehow did."
"So what, now that the brass found out we don't belong here, we're going to be sent back?" Malfoy demanded. Harry noticed with some alarm that Malfoy had dropped all ceremony and was behaving casually, just like he would with Harry. What more, Sasakibe didn't seem to mind it.
"Yes," Sasakibe said with a firm nod. "Even if you were full Shinigami by now, the rules are very strict. Nobody can blame you for not turning yourselves in, since you didn't know, but you must return to the British Soul Society."
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