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[personal profile] metisket

HI, REMEMBER WHEN I WROTE FIC? PROBABLY NOT.

So I’ve decided to quit with the starting 800 fics and never finishing any of them thing I’ve had going on for the last year and change, and actually clear out some of my WIPs. Because the number of WIPs is ridiculous, you don’t even know. That Stiles birthday fic is on the list, too, so never fear. I’ll get to it. Eventually. When we’re all old and grey. DON’T HATE ME BECAUSE I’M USELESS.

This is a Bleach/Harry Potter crossover fic, because…well, because there are a surprising number of them out there, and none of them seem to address the fact that sending Ichigo to Hogwarts is basically the same as swinging a wrecking ball directly into the side of the castle.

So here is an entire fic about that.

It’s slightly AU for recent Bleach to make things fit better, but only slightly.

Neither Bleach nor Harry Potter belong to me. You can tell because if Bleach belonged to me, Aizen would’ve died like 200 chapters ago.

This is also on AO3. I'll post a chapter a week.


There May Be Some Collateral Damage


Ichigo’s sure he didn’t agree to this. Pretty sure. Admittedly, there might have been a point in the meeting with the captains—somewhere between “going undercover in the living world” and “killing an evil maniac”—where he’d nodded off, and the captains are definitely bad enough people to take silence as agreement. But surely he would’ve woken up for this part.

“I’m somebody’s bodyguard?” he demands in horror. They’re currently back in Karakura in Ichigo’s room, because Rukia wanted to dress Ichigo up in weird clothes and lecture him, apparently, and decided that was best accomplished in the privacy of home.

“Yes,” Rukia says with a total lack of sympathy, straightening Ichigo’s tie. “A boy called Harry Potter. Chosen. Special. Targeted by a would-be evil overlord. Sound familiar?”

“Why am I some living kid’s bodyguard? I thought I was just supposed to kill the soul-splitting guy!” Because some guy split his soul into pieces by magic, because apparently magic is a thing in the living world. Though Ichigo isn’t sure why he’s so surprised. After all, he fights dead monsters on the regular; nothing should seem weird to him anymore. And yet.

“You are,” Rukia agrees, now standing back with her hands on her hips and silently disapproving of his appearance. “But the soul fragments are so small you can’t feel their spiritual pressure until you’re practically on top of them—original soul-splitter guy included. We can’t find him. All we know for sure is that he’s determined to kill the kid, so it seemed most efficient to have you stick close to him.”

“…So the kid’s a stalking goat, basically.”

“Exactly.”

“Wow, that’s cold.”

“Take it up with the Captain Commander.”

“Do they even really want me to keep this kid safe?”

“Well, I mean. Ideally.”

Ideally. “Great. Look, even if we assume this guy actually does come to kill the kid, and I actually manage to wipe him out, there are still how many of his soul fragments floating around?”

“Six, at last estimate.”

“This whole soul-splitting thing is so gross I can’t handle it, by the way.”

“Agreed,” Rukia agrees, surprisingly patient. “In fact, everyone in Soul Society agrees. That’s why you’re getting rid of him.”

“Anyway, it’s not like the soul fragments are gonna float over and let me wipe them out. So how am I finding them?”

“The headmaster allegedly has a plan.”

“Headmaster’s a scheming, lying weasel, though,” Renji throws in, wandering in and silently disapproving of Ichigo’s clothes just as hard as Rukia, which takes some nerve. “Got kind of an Aizen vibe, tell the truth. So, yeah. Watch out for that.”

“Urahara and Yoruichi-san are going to investigate where the soul fragments might be,” Rukia explains. “They’ve spent so much time in the living world, it was decided they were best equipped to handle a large-scale search here. I’d put my money on them sorting it all out before you have to. They’ll visit you every so often and update you on their progress.”

“Urahara-san and Yoruichi-san?” Ichigo asks, surprised. “I know why I’m going along with this, but why are they going along with this?”

“According to Urahara,” Renji says, “they’re bored.”

Well that’s the most terrifying thing Ichigo’s heard all month. “This just gets better and better,” he sighs, turning to the mirror. As it happens, he disapproves of his clothes pretty firmly, himself. The tie clashes with his hair something awful. To say nothing of the basic ridiculousness of the robe. “I’m seriously supposed to wear this shit?”

“It’s the uniform. Suck it up,” Rukia tells him. Renji looks sympathetic, but doesn’t actually, you know, back Ichigo up or anything. “Now all you need is a stick thing.”

“…Stick thing?”

Rukia nods earnestly. “They all carry them. I’ve seen pictures. They use them as weapons, so you should make Zangetsu look like one.”

“You want me to talk Zangetsu into looking like a stick? Not happening.”

“Urahara and the former Captain Commander turned their zanpakuto into canes,” Rukia says brusquely. “So you can turn yours into one of these stick things.”

“And the stick things are what, exactly?”

“Magic wands,” Renji explains in apparent glee—whether over the idea of magic or the idea of Ichigo’s pain, Ichigo isn’t sure. “You wave them around, see…and the magic happens.”

So it’s glee over Ichigo’s pain. Good to know.

“By the way, is anybody worried about the fact that I can’t actually do magic?” Ichigo asks, glad this has come up.

“Nope,” Renji says blithely, sprawling back on Ichigo’s bed and mysteriously producing a box of pocky. Dinner and a show.

“Your spiritual strength could easily be mistaken for magic,” Rukia tells him. “They may even be related. So there’s no problem.”

“Except that I suck at kido.”

“Nowhere is it written that you need to be good at magic.” Rukia rolls her eyes like he’s being the unreasonable one. “They just need to be convinced you can do it. Blow something up every so often—you’re good at that.”

Before Ichigo can start yelling at her, Karin interrupts by marching in and staring at him incredulously. “Ichi-nii. Goat Face just told us…are you seriously going to some magic school in England?”

Ichigo points accusingly at Rukia, who smirks. “Scotland, in fact,” she says.

Karin looks from Ichigo to Rukia and back. “And you’re going there dressed like that?

“It’s the uniform,” Ichigo snaps, feeling unfairly beset on all sides.

“You’d better call us every single day,” Karin goes on, ignoring him. “Or Yuzu will cry. And if Yuzu cries, I’m telling everyone we know that you made her cry, and they’ll all beat the crap out of you. Remember that.”

“I’ll call every day,” Ichigo promises. “Or at least every few days. I do get one of the Soul Society phones, right? The ones that get reception on Mars?”

Rukia nods. “One of ours or one of Urahara’s, yes. We’ll want weekly reports.”

“I want weekly reports, too,” Renji says. “So’s I can laugh and laugh that it’s you getting thrown into this clusterfuck and not me. You even speak English?”

“Yes,” Ichigo sighs. At one point, he’d had dreams of getting a job in North America, far, far away from his dad. He’d studied English with a dedication bordering on fanaticism with that goal in mind. Didn’t work out, though. Instead, he gets shinigami, wars, magic schools—and is somehow still living in his dad’s house. “But about that—aren’t there native English-speaking shinigami who should be taking care of this?”

“Yes,” Rukia says, “but they think it’ll take someone captain-class to handle it, and they don’t have anyone that strong who looks young enough to pass. We have two of you, plus I think Commander Kyoraku owes them a favor for something…? In any case, they asked for you or Captain Hitsugaya.”

“So basically you’re saying I have to do this because Kyoraku lost a bet with one of his drinking buddies.”

“Don’t be so disrespectful to the Captain Commander, fool.” Rukia pauses to consider. “But yes, probably.”

“Fuck my life. Why aren’t they sending Toshiro?”

“He refused.”

“What happens if I refuse?”

“You can’t. Captain Hitsugaya has seniority, so if he refuses, it has to be you.”

“They seriously need someone captain-class for this?”

“Probably not, but that’s what they asked for. Now stop whining and turn your sword into a stick.”

Karin and Renji are both laughing by now, and Ichigo wonders what weird shit he could possibly have done in a past life that would’ve earned him…this.

* * *

“Don’t look like that, Kurosaki-san!” Urahara carols. “This mission is going to be a joy and a privilege, and I won’t have you ruining it with your face.”

“…Thanks.”

“I know how you value straightforwardness.” Urahara smiles a worrying smile. “Now. I have paperwork for you.” He dumps a novel’s worth of loose papers into Ichigo’s arms. “You’ll need to read up on this school—it’s a surprisingly complicated place. I’m pleased to tell you, however, that you won’t need to do your own shopping, because Yoruichi-san did that for you—we’re keeping your school things in the shop until you need them. Be sure to thank her when she gets back!”

So that’s where the uniform came from. Ichigo considers the idea of Yoruichi shopping for him. That could go one of two very different ways, depending on her mood. He chooses to believe she didn’t feel like messing with him that day. He has to believe that, or else he’ll cry. “Where is Yoruichi-san, anyway?”

“Oh, she’s out scouting for soul fragments.” Urahara waves his fan in what he clearly feels is an explanatory way, but it sure doesn’t explain anything to Ichigo. “No sense in holding up the party while I hang around here training you for the next two weeks.”

“School starts in two weeks?” Ichigo feels very under-informed about this entire mission.

“Indeed it does! And by that time, you’ll need to be able to pretend to be a wizard. A laughably incompetent wizard, obviously—but since you couldn’t even manage that much at the moment, we have a long way to go.”

Sometimes Ichigo hates Urahara. Never for long, but he’s always pretty sincere about it while it lasts.

Training is predictably awful. Urahara tests Ichigo on everything he’s learned about wizard school every morning—it’s called Hogwarts, what the fuck—and then throws kido at him all afternoon until he’s a bruised wreck. And then he goes home every night to find Karin laughing at him. But it’s still better than that training session when Urahara semi-accidentally turned him into a Visored. At least there’s that.

By the end of two weeks, Ichigo’s so eager to get away from training that he’s almost excited about school. He knows Urahara well enough by now to figure it was arranged that way on purpose.

* * *

On the first day of school, Urahara opens a portal right onto Platform 9 ¾. It’s not a Senkaimon, it’s not a Garganta, Ichigo doesn’t know what the hell it is and suspects Urahara shouldn’t be able to use it. In view of that, the blasé attitude everyone on the platform takes toward it is pretty weird—or at least it is until Ichigo spots a few of them walking through a wall. If you walk through walls, he figures, you probably take most things in stride.

Urahara and Yoruichi lead him through the gate—Yoruichi in cat form, for reasons best known to herself—and Yuzu, Karin, Rukia, and Chad follow along after them. More people wanted to come see Ichigo off to his “super-magic school for magic people,” as Inoue’s been calling it, but Urahara wanted to limit the numbers to attract less attention. (And then he opened a portal right onto the train platform. Ichigo doesn’t even know.) Yuzu and Karin got to come because they’re family, and everybody else played rock-paper-scissors for it. Ichigo’s not sure how, but he’s pretty sure Rukia figured out some way to cheat. Chad’s just lucky.

And so here they all are, making a small spectacle of themselves instead of the giant spectacle that could’ve been. In this crowd, they actually don’t stand out much.

“Call every day, brother,” Yuzu demands tearfully, clinging to the hem of his shirt. “Or if you know you can’t call the next day, at least warn me!”

Yuzu and Karin really didn’t take well to that time Ichigo ran off to train with Shinji for a while, then disappeared into Hueco Mundo for even longer, then almost got killed a bunch of times after that. They’ve gotten…not clingy, exactly. It’s scarier than that. Possessive? Jealous of his time? Vengeful toward anyone who threatens to take him from them, including Ichigo himself?

“Okay,” he sighs.

“And you’re reporting to us every week,” Rukia adds, her arms folded belligerently.

“I know.”

“I’ll be visiting your school over the winter holiday.”

“God, why?”

“Think of it as a progress check. Captain Hitsugaya will come along to see if he needs to take over from you, and Renji will come along because he’ll miss your face by then. You’d better have gotten something done by the time we visit, Ichigo, or I’ll be very upset.”

And when Rukia’s upset, Ichigo gets kicked in the head. “I’ll do my best. But why aren’t you giving this lecture to those two?” he asks, waving toward Urahara and Yoruichi.

“They’re not my responsibility,” Rukia explains. “But you are.”

Well. True.

“Good luck, Ichigo,” Chad says, giving Ichigo a sympathetic look.

“Thanks. Try to keep these lunatics out of trouble while I’m gone, okay?”

Chad nods gravely, planted behind Ichigo’s sisters like a giant wall of pure strength. This is why Chad is Ichigo’s favorite, right here.

“Good, good,” Urahara says, clapping. “But the train is screaming and whistling, which I assume means it’s about to leave without you, Kurosaki-san. Hurry along. Yoruichi-san and I will be dropping in on you from time to time.”

“Yeah?” Ichigo asks, heaving his trunk up onto his shoulder. “And when is that likely to happen?”

“Oh, at any time,” Urahara says, beaming. “When the stars are in alignment. When we feel like it. When you least expect us.”

“Bye, Yoruichi-san,” Ichigo says, ignoring this. “Have fun killing soul pieces.”

“Take care, Ichigo,” she croaks in her cat-voice. “Be good and I’ll save some for you.”

He waves at everybody and turns to board the train in a last minute rush of alarmingly small kids. Some of them don’t seem old enough to be in school at all, let alone scary, magical boarding school. It’s freaking Ichigo out.

He stows his trunk just as they start moving, then wanders up and down the train for an hour, checking out everybody’s spirit ribbons in case there’s something weird about them. They all seem normal, though. White, white, white. Oh, wait—all except for one, right at the back. It’s mostly white, but it has a thread of green so dark it’s almost black running through it. Ichigo’s never seen anything like it, and he doesn’t like the feel of it at all. Things are already interesting in a bad way and he’s not even at school yet.

He follows the ribbon to a compartment and opens the door, then stands there staring at the kid he’s supposed to be…whatever the hell…bodyguarding. Or staking out and watching, anyway. He’s not sure what the green thread in the kid’s spirit ribbon means, but given the way Ichigo’s life goes, it’s definitely something awful.

“Hey,” he says. “Mind if I sit here?”

“Oh. No! Not at all,” says a girl with brown hair fluffed out all over the place, hurriedly scooting over and making room for him. He sits. He’ll need to get to know these kids anyway—the mark and his friends. Might as well start now.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know your name,” A red-headed girl says apologetically. One thing’s for sure—nobody at this school will give him crap about his hair. It’s freaking tame compared to the people in this compartment alone.

“Yeah, I’m new. Exchange student from Japan. My name’s Ichigo Kurosaki.”

They introduce themselves, but he’s not listening. He’s too busy puzzling out what kind of people they are and whether they might try to kill him. They all seem a little dangerous, but not the kind of dangerous Ichigo needs to worry about—they don’t seem the type to screw with you if you don’t screw with them first. With the possible exception of the kid he’s supposed to be protecting, so that’s wonderful.

There are two redheads, a boy and a girl. Siblings. The girl, in particular, Ichigo’s going to be careful not to piss off. Then there’s the fluffy-haired girl, who looks like she takes everything way too seriously, and a boy with brown hair and a soft face and, randomly, the world’s ugliest plant in his lap. There’s also a girl with blonde hair and a kind of floaty expression, like she’s barely in the living world, herself. In fact, she looks unhinged in such a determined way that Ichigo’s almost sure it’s deliberate. And finally, there’s Harry Potter, Ichigo’s new stalking goat, who looks like trouble with a side of barely controlled hostility, and who has something weird about his spirit ribbon.

Kyoraku is going to pay for putting Ichigo through this. And so is Toshiro.

“I thought people from Japan were supposed to have black hair,” says the redheaded boy.

Funny, Ichigo thought people from Britain were supposed to have tact. And so much for no comments about his hair. Didn’t even make it an hour. “You and everybody,” Ichigo tells him. The boy doesn’t seem to know what to make of that.

“Erm…which year are you?” asks the kid with the plant.

“Fifth.” He thinks. Maybe.

“Same as us,” says Harry Potter. So Ichigo guessed right—so far so good. “You seem a bit old to be in fifth year, though.”

“Yeah, well. There was a lot of moving, switching schools, repeating grades. Plus, I look older than I am.” Does that seem plausible? Whatever. Urahara should’ve given him a more thorough backstory to go with the rest of his Hogwarts packet.

“What made you decide to come to Hogwarts?” The fluffy-haired girl asks with scary interest. “A lot of people are, well…avoiding it at the moment. On top of that, it seems a lot of trouble to transfer so late in your schooling.”

Ichigo shrugs uncomfortably. “It was decided for me.”

“Oh.” She blinks. “Why?”

“As a punishment, I’m pretty sure.”

Awkward silence falls, but Ichigo’s getting a feel for these kids, and he figures it’s only a matter of time before one of them has to trample all over it.

“What for?

Points to the redheaded boy for jumping in first.

“My sins,” Ichigo says gravely.

“…What does that mean?” the fluffy-haired girl asks, and goddamn, she may actually be winning the ‘refuses to take a hint’ contest. He stares at her blankly, trying to channel Soi Fon.

“You’re lucky,” the floaty girl tells him when it becomes obvious he’s never going to answer. “I hear that in…Japan, sins are sometimes punished by an encounter with a tiny, pink-haired demon.”

Ichigo turns his stare on her. “Yeah? Where’d you hear that?”

“Oh, the Quibbler,” the floaty girl says, pointing at the magazine Potter’s holding.

The whole compartment looks ready to laugh except fluffy-hair, who frowns and mutters something about horrible journalistic standards. So there’s exactly one person in this compartment who knows what’s what, and everybody thinks she’s crazy. Typical. Really convenient for Ichigo, but seriously—typical.

“The wild Yachiru,” he says. “I’ve heard of that.”

The floaty girl smiles a positively smug smile at him, while the rest of the compartment falls into shocked silence. Ichigo’s torn between admiring floaty girl’s attitude and not wanting to be seen with her in public. It’s the cork necklace, he thinks, that pushes it over the edge. Everything else he could roll with, but the cork necklace is a bridge too far. “What’s your name, again?”

“My name is Luna Lovegood. Luna means moon. Your name is Ichigo Kurosaki. What does Ichigo mean?”

She does have a way of cutting right to the heart of the thing. “One protector. Or it can mean protector of one thing.”

“Which do you prefer?”

“That’s another choice I didn’t get much say in.”

Lovegood frowns, either at his words or his expression. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” He’s introducing this girl to Inoue the second he gets a chance. They can form a club for people who pretend to be airheads while secretly outsmarting the whole room. But he and Lovegood are gonna have a chat later on about her knowledge of shinigami—and specifically shinigami from his corner of Soul Society—because everybody and their mothers promised him that no one would know about that.

“…Anyway,” the redheaded girl says, eyeing them in confusion and concern. “Do you know which—”

The door opens, cutting her off, and a white-blond kid marches in with a couple of goons and sneers at everyone in general. He kind of reminds Ichigo of Ishida on Ishida’s very worst day. If Ishida actually were the weakling he looks like he should be. Also if Ishida had never seen battle and had no clue about the consequences of his actions—and yeah, okay, that comparison is totally unfair on Ishida.

Ichigo has to hand it to the kid, though—he gets half the compartment riled up in ten seconds flat. Old hand at it, Ichigo guesses. It’s easy to wind up people you know. Sometimes, when you know them really well, all it takes is one word to make them fly off the handle.

And that word, in this case, would appear to be dogging, and the blond kid totally nails it. If Ichigo remembers right, one of the Order members can turn into a dog—maybe that’s what that was about.

Ichigo has to remember to tell Komamura about the dog guy.

“Sorry,” fluffy-hair says when the blond boy’s gone. “That was Draco Malfoy. He’s an insufferable, prejudiced little monster, and you should ignore everything he says.”

“Already forgotten,” Ichigo says, because it is. Except for the dogging part. That, he’ll probably have to report to somebody—though he’s still unclear on whether he’s supposed to report to just Soul Society, or Soul Society and Dumbledore (who may or may not be an Aizen understudy), or possibly both of them plus Urahara…maybe he’ll just report to Toshiro and let him figure all the political crap out. He’s good at that, and really, he should be the one here anyway.

Rest of the ride’s pretty tame—they only interrogate him a little more before settling down. Lovegood takes her magazine back from Potter and reads it upside down for a while, then she puts it away and freaking stares at everybody for the rest of the trip. Ichigo’s getting more sure by the second that she’s just fucking with people for the hell of it. And she’s succeeding: everybody’s totally weirded out by the time they have to change into their stupid uniforms and get off the train.

There’s a lady on the platform calling for first years, which isn’t all that helpful to Ichigo. “Think I count as a first year?” he asks Lovegood in passing.

“It is your first year, you know,” she replies absently. “On the other hand, I’m sure your face frightens children, so you should probably stay away from them.” And she wanders off.

“Thanks for nothing,” Ichigo calls after her. She ignores him. Feels like home already.

“Mr. Kurosaki?” comes a stern voice from behind him. He turns to see yet another person he wouldn’t want to piss off—this one probably a teacher.

“I’m Ichigo Kurosaki,” he says.

“Minerva McGonagall, Head of Gryffindor House. I’ll be giving you a brief introduction to the school. I’m afraid we’ll miss the feast—your transfer has been extremely rushed, and we are, I’m sorry to say, a bit unprepared for you.”

Great. This is what happens when he lets Urahara organize his life. “Sorry about that.”

“Yes, well, it’s too late to do anything about it now,” she says brusquely. “This way, please.”

She leads him to a carriage pulled by some winged horse creature that looks halfway between a corpse and a hollow (what the hell), and they head up to the…the freaking castle posing as a school. She doesn’t say a word to him until she’s dragged him impatiently inside, up some stairs, down some other stairs, through a few hallways that don’t connect in any logical way, and up a weird escalator/staircase thing that was hiding behind a statue. At the end of all that, there’s a room full of bizarre—but interesting—crap. There’s also food, which is more interesting to Ichigo at this point.

“So, Mr. Kurosaki,” McGonagall sighs, sitting and gesturing him into the chair opposite. “I understand you’re meant to protect Mr. Potter and save us all and kill our enemies for us into the bargain.”

Oh, so she knows about that. Okay. Well, it’s probably easier this way. “Mostly I’m supposed to kill your soul-splitting guy,” he explains. “Everything else follows on from that, the way I hear it.”

“Indeed.” She looks exasperated, but Ichigo feels that’s not his fault. It’s not like he volunteered for this job. “Please feel free to have your dinner—we’re waiting for the headmaster. He’s giving a speech at the moment, but it shouldn’t be long now.”

Ichigo eats, trying to ignore McGonagall’s suspicious staring. He’s used to it, anyway. And the food’s pretty good, considering how awful everybody always claims British food is. Maybe a little heavy and bland, but totally edible.

“They tell me you’re a grim reaper,” McGonagall says eventually. “I find that hard to believe.”

He doesn’t know how to respond to that. “Sorry?”

“You mean to say that you actually are a grim reaper.”

“Soul reaper, I’m told, is the preferred designation, Minerva,” says an old guy with a cheerful face who just appeared behind Ichigo. Which is straight-up terrifying, because the only other person Ichigo knows who can surprise him like that is Yoruichi, and she’s an assassin. “They do not end lives, but merely…escort the dead to their appropriate resting places.

“Hello, Mr. Kurosaki,” assassin guy goes on. “I’m Albus Dumbledore, headmaster here at Hogwarts. It’s a pleasure to meet you at last. Mr. Urahara had nothing but praise for you.”

Ichigo doubts that very much. Huh. So this is the headmaster. Okay, that explains everything. “Um, it’s nice to meet you too, Headmaster.” He thinks about saying he’s also heard a lot about Dumbledore, then figures it’s safer not to go there.

“I’ve taken the liberty of placing you in Gryffindor House. It seems most convenient, if you are to protect Harry. And it appears someone’s bought you a uniform in the appropriate colors, so everything’s settled. Unless you’d prefer to be officially sorted.”

“Sorted? What does that mean?”

“Oh, we’d place the Sorting Hat on your head, and it would sort through your memories and decide which house would best suit you. The process is completely confidential, of course.”

Yeah, that’s not the issue. Ichigo pictures Zangetsu’s probable reaction to some magic hat poking around in his head. Then he pictures Shiro’s. He shudders. “I’m good with Gryffindor. Thanks.” The last thing his brain needs is yet another personality inside it.

“In that case,” Dumbledore says jovially, “Professor McGonagall will be your head of house. She’ll also assist you, wherever possible, with your mission. However, she may not be able to help as much as she’d like.”

“Our Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this year is a Ministry mole,” McGonagall explains bitterly. “The Ministry is trying to discredit anyone who so much as suggests He Who Must Not Be Named has returned, and the Headmaster is the loudest voice suggesting it. The mole’s name is Dolores Umbridge, and she must not, under any circumstances, learn about your mission here.”

“Wasn’t planning on advertising it,” Ichigo tells her. “We’re not supposed to interfere in the living world at all, normally. Only reason I’m here is that this soul-splitting guy is technically dead, so he’s one of ours. But the fewer living people who know about us, the better.”

They both nod grimly, McGonagall apparently starting to buy that he’s a shinigami. Then they give him a quick rundown of the school’s rules, history, and structure. Most of it he’d already learned from Urahara’s notes, but it’s nice to have a refresher. Though it does confirm his initial suspicion that everything about this school’s setup is, without exception, a hot mess.

Once they’re done with the overview, they give him his schedule, which is as light as they can make it without it looking suspicious. Then they give him Potter’s schedule, presumably so he can bodyguard better. They’re really efficient. He’s surprised and impressed.

“I think that covers everything,” Dumbledore says when they’re finally done. “Do you have any questions for us at present?”

“Yeah, actually. Potter’s got…okay, so everybody has a spirit ribbon. They reflect, uh, the way people are, I guess. Humans have white ribbons, soul reapers have red ones—it goes on like that. Potter’s ribbon is weird, though. It’s white, but it’s got a nasty-feeling dark green thread running through it. Do you know what that’s about?”

Dumbledore and McGonagall exchange unhappy looks that suggest they know exactly what it’s about, and yet somehow they never bothered to mention it before.

“We suspect,” Dumbledore says, “that Voldemort—the soul-splitter, as you call him—has a…connection, of sorts, to Harry. And you’ve just added to that suspicion.” So that’s how you say the name. Voldemort, huh? Yeah, Ichigo’s never even gonna try to pronounce that. “Minerva, if you could step outside for a moment? I’ll send Mr. Kurosaki out to you presently.”

McGonagall leaves, though she’s clearly not happy about it. Dumbledore waits until she’s gone, then turns back to Ichigo. “It’s not impossible,” he says, “that Voldemort unintentionally split his soul one final time when he killed the Potters, and that that soul fragment attached itself to…well. To the nearest object at hand.”

“Which was Harry Potter,” Ichigo says, wanting to be really clear on this point.

Dumbledore nods sadly.

“Okay, this is a thing I might’ve wanted to know right at the beginning of this conversation, or better yet, before I agreed to come here. Because I did not sign up to kill a kid. I won’t do it.”

“Then perhaps, as a soul reaper, you can find another way,” Dumbledore says. “Merlin knows I’ve had no success. And I’ve been trying, Mr. Kurosaki. I swear to you I’ve been trying.”

He looks older than Yamamoto, all of a sudden, and a million times more tired. Ichigo may not like him all that much, but he can’t help but feel bad for the guy. “I’ll figure something out,” Ichigo says firmly.

Dumbledore smiles a lying fucking smile at him. “I hope so. In the meantime, I’ll have Professor McGonagall keep you up to date on the password to my office. Feel free to come here any time, with any questions or concerns.”

“I will,” Ichigo tells him, while silently resolving never to set foot in here again if he can find a way around it. “Thanks.”

“Professor McGonagall will escort you to your common room. Have a pleasant evening.”

“Yeah.” Because it’s been awesome so far. “You too.”

* * *

Ichigo makes it to his dorm room—dorm room, how the hell did he let them talk him into this?—just in time for a screaming match about whether or not the soul-splitter guy really is up and running around. Good times. And Ichigo managed to walk right into the middle of it, so now everyone’s staring at him.

“Hey,” he says. “Ichigo Kurosaki, nice to meet you. Don’t mind me, just keep on…screaming, or whatever. I’ll be over here.” He heads for the one unoccupied bed.

“No, wait—what do you think about all this?” Potter demands belligerently. Ichigo’s pretty sure stalking goats aren’t supposed to be belligerent.

“Define ‘all this,’” Ichigo sighs.

“Do you believe Voldemort’s back?”

Ichigo shifts his weight so he’s balanced and stable. This is looking like it might descend into a brawl, and he wants to be ready. “You mean the soul-splitter guy?” he asks to buy time.

The climate of the room takes an abrupt turn from hostile to baffled.

“…Soul-splitter?” the redheaded boy from the train asks.

“Yeah. You know, he wants to live forever, so he split his soul into pieces, makes him hard to completely kill off? Like…” he tries to think of a good English-language analogy. “Whack-a-mole.” Yeah, he’s proud of that one. Or he would be, except that now everybody’s staring at him in stunned silence. “What?”

“I’ve never heard that,” Potter says, eyeing Ichigo. “Ron?”

“Me neither,” says the redhead—Ron, apparently. Ichigo should really make an effort to remember the names of the people he’s sharing a room with, at least. “I didn’t even think you could do that. Splitting your soul.”

“Neville?”

“No,” says the soft-faced boy. Neville.

“Anybody?”

“No,” chorus the other two, whose names apparently even Potter doesn’t remember.

“So where did you hear about it?” Potter demands in a fit of towering suspicion.

Looks like Ichigo’s successfully shifted everyone’s negative attention off of Potter and onto himself. Is that good? It seems like a bodyguard kind of thing to do. He’d feel better about it if it hadn’t been completely accidental, though. “It was in the introductory packet I got before I came here.”

Nobody believes him, which is disappointing, because it’s actually true.

“How could your school in Japan have figured out something about a British wizard that the British Ministry of Magic hasn’t figured out yet?” Ron asks, just as suspicious as Potter. “That makes no sense. You-Know-Who’s never even been to Japan.”

“Maybe they’ve seen something like this before,” Ichigo suggests, though he knows they haven’t. “Maybe it’s only a theory. How should I know? I just read the packet.” He honestly doesn’t know how the hell they found out about the soul-splitting thing. He assumes it was a Western European Soul Society investigation, and he’s grateful he had nothing to do with it.

“So you do think he’s back,” accuses the still-nameless boy who was yelling at Potter when Ichigo came in.

“I think he was never really gone.”

“Then you’re mad, too,” the boy says firmly.

“Okay. Nice to meet you, too, whoever you are.”

“I’m Seamus Finnegan,” he says, “and you’re all mad.”

“You could be right,” Ichigo allows, shrugging. “But if you’re wrong, the future’s gonna be full of ugly surprises for you. Never hurts to prepare for the worst.”

Finnegan glares at him, then whirls around and flounces into bed. Neville quietly declares that he and his grandmother believe Potter. Everybody else just silently goes to bed, not looking at each other. Well, Potter does cast Ichigo a few looks that are a mix of grateful and mistrustful. It’s all incredibly awkward.

Ichigo unpacks as much of his stuff as he can in the dark, then gets into bed and waits for everyone else to fall asleep. He’s got a report to give and a rant to deliver. And if he’s quick about it, he can wake Toshiro up at an obnoxiously early hour.

* * *

Harry isn’t at all surprised to hear Ichigo sneaking out of the dorms in the middle of the night. He’d stayed awake waiting for it, in fact. He stays put until the Marauder’s Map shows Ichigo leaving the common room, then he grabs the Invisibility Cloak, wakes up Ron, and drags him downstairs. Ron’s not happy about it, but he’ll survive. Harry enchants a paper airplane note to fly up the girls’ stairs and wake Hermione, which gives Ron time to pull himself together.

“Where’s he gone, then?” Ron asks on a yawn, not exactly giving the impression of great interest.

“The Astronomy Tower,” Harry tells him, holding out the map. “Or I’m guessing that’s him, in that it’s the only name in a language I can’t read.”

“Huh. Maybe the map shows your name the way you’d normally write it yourself?”

“Looks like.”

At this point, Hermione storms down to the common room, tired and furious. “What in the world,” she hisses quietly. “It’s the middle of the night! What do you mean, ‘We have to see what he’s up to’? Who is he?”

“The transfer. Ichigo,” Ron explains. “Turns out he’s in Gryffindor after all. And he walked in our room tonight and right away said that You-Know-Who split his soul into pieces and hid them all over. He said it like he thought everybody already knew. And now he’s gone and snuck out of the dorm, so Harry’s convinced he’s a Death Eater.”

“I.” Harry stops. He supposes that does more or less sum it up. “It seems like a good idea to check, anyway.”

Hermione sighs and puts her face in her hands briefly, like she always does when she thinks Harry and Ron are being especially ridiculous. “Where is he now?” she mumbles, resigned.

“Astronomy Tower,” Ron tells her.

“And you have your cloak, Harry?”

“Right here.”

“Well then,” she drops her hands and straightens up. “I suppose we may as well get it over with.”

She’s come so far since first year.

From the look of the map, it seems Ichigo’s happy to stay in the Astronomy Tower now that he’s gotten there, so that makes things simpler.

“I can’t believe we’re sneaking around the school in the dead of night again,” Hermione complains in a whisper as they start up the Astronomy Tower stairs. “Well, yes I can, of course I can. But I can’t believe we’re doing it already.”

“We’ve a problem, too,” Ron mutters. “If he’s up there meeting people, they’ll all be talking Japanese, won’t they?”

“Not if they’re Death Eaters,” Harry argues.

“What if they’re Japanese Death Eaters?”

“There are no Japanese Death Eaters, Ronald,” Hermione says impatiently.

“How do you know that, then?”

“And I know a translating spell, in any case,” she carries on as if she wasn’t interrupted, just as they reach the entrance to the observation platform, which is where Ichigo is—pacing up and down. And still alone, so far.

“Really?” Harry asks. He hadn’t known there were translating spells, but of course Hermione would.

“I learned it in case I ever met any of Viktor’s friends who couldn’t speak English,” Hermione explains quickly, ignoring Ron’s sour expression. “It’s tricky to learn, but surprisingly easy to adapt for different languages once you have learned it. I checked on how to adapt it to Japanese as soon as we met Ichigo.”

“As you do,” Ron says, sounding fond despite himself.

“It only lasts for half an hour, but that should be plenty of time to get the idea if someone does come to meet him,” Hermione concludes. “Come on, then. He’s as far from the door as he can be—we should go now.”

They quickly slip through the door, closing it softly behind them.

And there’s Ichigo, still pacing, still alone. But he’s ranting (in Japanese) into a mobile phone, which is…it’s impossible, isn’t it? Hermione clearly thinks it’s impossible; she looks shocked. (Ron has no idea what a mobile is, so he just looks confused). Obviously they can’t understand a word, but Ichigo sounds seriously annoyed. It’s a lot more emotion than they’ve heard in his voice until now. Harry nods at Hermione, and she casts the translating spell in a whisper.

“お前らのせいだから you figure out who I’m supposed to be reporting to,” Ichigo snaps impatiently as the spell takes effect. “This Dumbledore guy is—yeah, a little of that, Renji had a point, but I don’t think he’s actually that far gone. No, he’s one of these old guys who’s seen a lot of shit and so he thinks he knows everything about everything—you know the type. Manipulative, too. Weird cross between Urahara-san and Yamamoto, basically. Yes, it’s unholy, and that’s why I’m asking, do I actually have to report to this guy? Besides, it won’t be subtle if I’m running up to the headmaster’s office all the time. Yeah, there are people watching. Seriously, this is a school with spies in it.”

“Report?” Hermione mouths silently, looking worried. Harry and Ron shrug. Harry’s not understanding most of this conversation, but if Ichigo’s wondering if he should report to Dumbledore—he can’t be all bad, can he? Even if it doesn’t sound like he especially likes Dumbledore?

“The stalking goat kid? As far as I can tell, they’re keeping him in the dark and feeding him bullshit, so—right? Picture what I’d be like under those circumstances. Except less violent. Okay, a lot less violent. I do not have rage issues, I just do what needs to be done.”

Harry scowls. He doesn’t like the sound of stalking goat one bit. Ichigo had better not be talking about him.

“You get to hear about it because you should be the one here and we both know it. For one thing, you can actually do kido. For another thing, I just finished high school—do you know how much I wanted to turn right around and do it again? This blows. Oh, don’t even. Wearing a gigai for a few months is not as bad as repeating high school.”

Apparently the spell doesn’t know a translation for kido or gigai. Harry sees Hermione writing the words down in a notebook. Is she actually keeping a notebook on Ichigo? …Actually he’d be more surprised if she wasn’t. Ichigo is more obviously full of lies with every word that comes out of his mouth, even if they don’t seem to be evil lies. That’s the kind of thing that sends Hermione right into a research frenzy.

“Toshiro, there’ll be homework. And they use quills to write with, apparently. Screw that, I’m having Yuzu send me a fountain pen or something. Yeah, I would ignore it, but in just one train ride I worked out that one of the kid’s best friends is seriously overinvested in everybody’s academic development, so I doubt she’ll let me. Fine, explain to me how I bodyguard somebody without talking to his best friends.”

Harry, Ron, and Hermione exchange wide-eyed looks. Ichigo’s supposed to be Harry’s bodyguard?

“Yeah. No, I just—yes. Fine. But send me visitors other than Urahara-san and Yoruichi-san sometimes, because I’m gonna go out of my goddamn mind. I’d even take Kenpachi, that’s how desperate I am. Ha! No. Oh, and I meant to ask you…Wait. Gotta go, I’ve got eavesdroppers.”

Harry jumps, a little guilty, but mostly shocked. How could Ichigo know they’re here? Can he smell them or something?

“As far as I know, they don’t speak Japanese, but I wouldn’t put it past—well, it’ll be awkward as hell, but I think we’ll survive. I don’t get why every single thing about this is so top freaking secret anyway. Yeah, I get that, but—look, the kids didn’t even know about the soul-splitting thing. Exactly. No idea, it’s so fucked up. Sure, I’ll call next week. Tell Rangiku-san to beat up Ikkaku for me. Bye.”

Harry, Ron, and Hermione start edging back toward the door as quickly and quietly as they can—only to be stopped by Ichigo, who’s somehow gotten between them and the door.

“How the bloody hell…” Ron gasps, and Harry elbows him silent.

Ichigo’s eyes narrow, and he stares right at them. But there’s no way he can see them, is there? No one can see them, except possibly Mrs. Norris. Mrs. Norris is a cat, though—it doesn’t count.

Ichigo reaches right out and touches them, then he grabs the cloak and pulls it off.

How?!” It’s Hermione this time. Harry’d like to ask the same thing, actually, but he’s too busy silently gaping.

“Magic cape thing that makes people invisible,” Ichigo mutters, shaking his head and dropping the Invisibility Cloak at their feet. “Why not, I guess. So. Do you speak Japanese?”

After a pause, Hermione straightens up to her full height and lifts her chin. “There’s…there’s a spell.”

Ichigo sighs and scrubs his face. “Of course there is.”

“How did you know we were here?” Hermione carries on bravely for all of them.

“I can tell when people are around,” Ichigo says vaguely. “Why are you here, by the way?”

“We were following you. Why are you here?” Ron demands.

“I was calling my family.”

“This…Toshiro is your family?” Hermione asks doubtfully. “That didn’t sound like a conversation with family. And you can’t use electronics at Hogwarts, so what do you mean you called him?”

“He’s family now,” Ichigo says firmly. “He’s still getting used to the idea, but yeah. And the phone isn’t electronic. Tell you the truth, I have no idea how it works. Whatever acts as the battery never dies, and it gets reception everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. I’d show it to you, but I’m pretty sure it’s a secret, and all the inventors I know are terrifying and carry swords, so. Sorry, you can’t see it.”

“Swords?” Ron repeats dubiously.

“Swords,” Ichigo confirms. “Are we done?”

“No!” Harry snaps, indignant, shaking off his confusion. “What did you mean, about…being a bodyguard? Are you supposed to be my bodyguard?”

Ichigo shrugs, like he’s bored with the conversation. “Yeah.”

“I don’t need a bodyguard.”

“Don’t look at me; wasn’t my idea.”

“But why would…” Hermione frowns up at Ichigo. “This makes no sense. Why would they send someone from Japan to be Harry’s bodyguard? And someone so young. Why not an Auror?”

“What they told me was that they needed somebody the right age to blend in, and I’m the only one near that age who has enough experience. In bodyguarding. Besides, nobody here recognizes me, which is a plus. And I hear my boss has local connections, so. Here we are.”

“You said that Toshiro bloke should be here instead of you, though,” Ron points out, intrigued. “Earlier, when you were talking.”

“He had the right of first refusal. Apparently.” Ichigo scowls resentfully.

“You said that’s what they told you,” Hermione puts in. “It doesn’t seem like you believe them.”

“Yeah.” Ichigo scratches the back of his head, suddenly awkward. “Truth is, I’m like eighty percent sure I’m here because somebody lost a bet. I just can’t tell if it was my side or your side.”

“What does that mean?” Ron demands.

“Just…well, I get things done, but I get them done my own way. And sometimes, it’s not a way that the people who gave the orders had in mind. Assuming I follow orders at all.”

Well, that’s ominous. “And…how do you feel about your orders to keep me alive?” Harry asks uneasily.

“Oh, I’m keeping you alive,” Ichigo says with determination, which is a relief. “But if people start telling me how I should go about it, I’m not gonna take that well.”

There’s a pause while everyone digests that.

“Not exactly popular back home, are you?” Ron murmurs eventually.

Ichigo seems pleased with himself. “Depends who you ask.”

“Only I really don’t need a bodyguard,” Harry says again.

“You sure?” Ichigo asks. “Way I hear it, you almost get yourself killed at least once a year. To say nothing of last year, when you tried to get killed like five times.”

“Four times,” says Ron cheerfully. “Be fair.” He’s actually enjoying this, the traitor.

“And I survived every time,” Harry insists, even though Ichigo’s estimate of his near-death experiences is fairly accurate.

“Whatever. It’s not like they’ll let me go home just because you don’t like the idea,” Ichigo says, rolling his eyes. “And if I’m here, I might as well be doing something with my day. What can it hurt?”

“He makes a fair point,” Hermione points out. “Always assuming he’s telling the truth.”

“Ask Dumbledore,” Ichigo suggests. “Some of this is definitely his fault.”

Harry scowls at the idea of asking Dumbledore anything. Surely Ichigo wouldn’t offer that option if he didn’t mean it, though. Would he? Does he know Dumbledore’s avoiding Harry?

“Or you could ask McGonagall,” Ichigo says, eyes narrowed, studying Harry’s face. “If that’s more your speed. She knows about me, too.”

“…I’ll do that,” Harry says reluctantly. Because he doesn’t need a bodyguard. But if he has to have one, he supposes he could do worse than Ichigo, who generally minds his own business and has never once called Harry a liar—not so far in their admittedly short acquaintance, anyway. In any case, Ichigo seems enough like the Weasley twins that it probably isn’t a good idea to allow him to get bored.

That said, Harry’s never had a long-term bodyguard. He’s not sure what to do with one on a day-to-day basis. “So are we supposed to…be friends with you now, or what?”

Ichigo looks surprised. “Not unless you’re feeling friendly. Just ignore me. I mean, tell me if you’re doing something dangerous so I can be there, but otherwise, don’t worry about it. I’ll be around, but pretend I’m furniture or something.”

Harry’s so uncomfortable with that idea he doesn’t even know where to begin. “…What would you do if we broke school rules? Would you tell, er, whoever you’re reporting to?”

“No,” Ichigo says, rolling his eyes. “They’re not paying me to police school rules, they’re paying me to keep you alive.” He pauses. “Actually, they’re not paying me at all—they’re bribing me. Still. Same idea.”

“Bribing you?” Hermione asks, interested. “With what?”

“My family’s safety,” Ichigo tells her shortly.

Everyone goes quiet. Harry feels a bit awful about all the things he’s been suspecting Ichigo of up until now, when it turns out he’s just keeping Harry safe so somebody else will keep his family safe.

Wait.

“Why can’t you just stay home and keep your own family safe?” Harry asks.

“I can’t protect my family on my own,” Ichigo explains. “You, I can protect on my own.”

Hermione stares. “You mean your family is in more danger than Harry?”

Ichigo waves a dismissive hand. “It’s a question of numbers. My family and friends—they’re scattered around. Potter’s just one person, and I can keep an eye on him pretty easily. When there are a bunch of people in different places, though, I need help. And I can have it, as long as I do things like agreeing to keep an eye on Potter.”

“But not if you don’t?” Hermione asks. She looks horrified, which is exactly how Harry feels.

“Not as much if I don’t.” Ichigo smiles at Hermione, and for the first time since they met him, he actually looks nice. “You don’t have to look like that. It’s only fair, when you think about it. Like an exchange.” He pauses, possibly to see if they have further questions. They don’t. Harry suspects they’re all far too blindsided for more questions at the moment. He knows he is.

“We’re done, then?” Ichigo asks. “Good. Now get lost. I still have to call my sisters before they leave for school. Try not to die on your way back to the common room, Potter. That would be embarrassing for both of us.”

And with that, he walks back out to the middle of the observation platform and pulls out his mobile again. Harry, Ron, and Hermione stare at each other in baffled silence, then duck back under the Invisibility Cloak and return to the common room, at a loss for anything better to do.

* * *

Ichigo’s first morning at Hogwarts continues socially uncomfortable, with the Finnegan kid making snide remarks and then bravely running away, Potter taking it out on everyone, and Granger yelling at Potter for taking it out on everyone. Ichigo tries to make himself as invisible as possible, but he’s a tall guy with orange hair, so there’s only so much he can do. And that’s only the start of the morning’s problems.

It develops that the dining hall ceiling imitates the sky, which seems a strange choice, in that this is Scotland, and Ichigo understands the weather is shitty more often than it isn’t. Also, owls carry the mail into the dining hall, which seems unsanitary. Finally, the kitchen staff tried to throw some Japanese food into the mix, which is…well-meant. Ichigo appreciates what they’re trying to do, he really does, but their take on Japanese food is…odd. It’s not exactly bad, but it’s not exactly Japanese food, either. The rice, in particular, has something off about it, when it seems like that should be the easiest thing to get right. And since they went to the trouble just for him, he has to eat some of it, though he’d really rather stick to the local food. At least he’s expecting that to taste unfamiliar.

There’s a lot of talk over breakfast about owls and newts, and everybody’s acting like they’re exams, but Ichigo was pretty confident they were animals—owls are definitely animals; they just delivered the mail. Which means there are exams named after animals. This is a weird freaking school.

Fortunately, there’s one bright spot to the morning, and that’s the discovery of Ron’s twin brothers. They’re a lot like the very wildest members of the Twelfth Division—the types who try to invent something fun and end up destroying half the compound instead. People like that are really useful, because you can talk them into any damn thing, and they’ll always assume it’s not as dangerous as it sounds.

Ichigo decides he should get to know the twins immediately.

It’s all downhill from the twins, though, because after breakfast come the classes, and they are—wow. Like, Ichigo gets that it’s a magic school, so classes were bound to be bizarre. He just hadn’t remotely guessed how bizarre.

History of Magic is taught by a ghost. Ichigo can’t believe they’re pulling this shit on him. A ghost teaching history. He may cry. But Urahara’s report was right—there’s a little bubble on the end of the ghost’s almost-invisible soul chain. Some kind of magic, apparently, that keeps the chains from eroding and the local ghosts from turning into hollows. Very cool, Ichigo has to admit.

The ghost is lecturing on giant wars, and Ichigo’s finding it interesting only because he had no idea giants were a thing. Knowing that they are, he has to wonder if Jidanbo was a giant when he was alive. Then, too, he has to wonder why they’re not common knowledge, being, obviously, giant, and also, from the sound of it, really violent. How do you hide an entire species of giant, violent, intelligent creatures?

Urahara probably knows. Ichigo takes a bunch of notes, not so much on the class as on things he’s discovering he needs to ask Urahara about at some point.

Things take a turn for the worse, though, when the ghost abruptly pauses mid-droning lecture and spins to face Ichigo. Not satisfied with that, it has to come float directly in front of him and stare into his eyes in apparent horror.

“Why?” the ghost demands.

“It’s not about you,” Ichigo tells him. “It’s not about any of you here. You don’t need to worry.”

“Ah. Good.” The ghost, satisfied and therefore losing interest, floats off and resumes the lecture. The living section of the classroom, meanwhile, dissolves into a hissing mess of whispers. Whoever thought Ichigo could handle any kind of undercover anything was clearly a moron.

After History of Magic is Potions, and Snape gets to join the ranks of all the teachers who don’t like Ichigo’s looks. On the plus side, Snape doesn’t seem to like anybody’s looks, so at least Ichigo doesn’t feel singled out. Nice change, there. In fact, if anyone gets special hatred, it’s Potter. That poor kid—he’s Soul Society’s stalking goat, but he’s his own government’s scapegoat, and apparently he’s Snape’s scapegoat, too. Just all around treated more like a goat than a human. Ichigo wouldn’t trade lives with the sorry bastard for anything.

As for Ichigo, he’s pretty sure he screwed up his potion, but since he didn’t actually blow it up, he’s calling it a success. (Snape calls it a lot of things, none of them even in the ballpark of success, but since Ichigo’s pretty sure Snape can’t be made happy, he’s not taking it personally.)

Ichigo has a free period after that, during which Potter goes to Divination and Ichigo just has to pray he doesn’t manage to trip over a crystal ball and die. As for Ichigo, he goes down to the library to sit very quietly for an hour and work on his suspension of disbelief.

Then there’s Defense Against the Dark Arts. It’s taught by this…creature…wearing a whole lot of pink, and it’s just. Ichigo can practically hear Yuzu crying every time he looks at that sweater. He himself has no particular fondness for pink, but that’s a seriously unfair thing to do to any color.

Then the pink creature starts talking in a freaky small-child voice, and Ichigo cannot force his brain to parse her words. Not that he thinks she’s particularly worth listening to, but she’s the Ministry mole, so he should probably try to pay attention.

He can’t, though. He really can’t. He just stares in fascinated horror until she stops talking and everybody opens their books. He opens his book, too, since apparently that’s what they’re doing. The book quickly proves to be mind-numbingly boring, so he starts writing up his first report instead. It includes a lot of phrases like why would you, and wouldn’t it be faster to just blow up the school, and undue cruelty to substitute shinigami.

The teacher sidles up beside him and stares at his report. Great. The whole point of the exercise was to encourage her not to take an interest in him.

“Why don’t you take notes in English, dear?” she coos.

Ichigo frowns up at her. “My English bad. This way more fast.”

Everyone in class who’s heard him speak English before turns to stare at him. Most of them look like they’re about to start out laughing, so that’s good. Or bad, if they actually do start laughing. That would blow his cover. Granger is also staring at him in incredulous delight, but she, at least, has her hand clapped over her mouth. It’s good that someone understands the game.

“Oh.” The teacher blinks. “Well, I’m surprised people from your…country…would allow you to attend school here without being able to speak a proper—to properly speak the language. You must practice your English, dear. Practice! Do you understand?”

Wow, this lady is an all-around class act. But Ichigo just nods gamely, and she goes away before anybody does anything more than snort quietly. Win.

Neville Longbottom passes him a note that reads, “I want to be you when I grow up.” Ichigo smiles and shoves the note in his pocket to show Renji. This, my friend, this is how undercover is done.

Then the whole class abruptly gets into a screaming fight with the teacher and a riot almost breaks out, so that’s pretty entertaining. Shiro’s downright cheered by it, and Ichigo’s kind of impressed with the teacher’s cast-iron balls—because that’s what it takes to tell a bunch of kids who had a classmate murdered the year before that they live in a world of safety and sunshine. Like. Damn.

Anyway, Potter ultimately gets kicked out—kid really is everybody’s goat—and then, apparently in the spirit of the thing, Ichigo gets kicked out too. The teacher wants him to escort Potter to their Head of House and also get a translating charm for himself. Makes sense. How’s she supposed to spy on him if she can’t read what he’s writing?

By the time Ichigo makes it out the door, Potter’s already running down the hall and yelling at a poltergeist. It’s a pretty sorry day when Ichigo thinks somebody should learn to pick his battles. He trails after them, though, because he’s got no idea where McGonagall’s office is. Also because they’re funny to watch.

McGonagall must not agree, though, given the way she flings open her door and demands to know what the noise is. Which is exactly the moment Peeves notices Ichigo, freezes in panic, and then dives into the ceiling screaming about murderers and death dealers. McGonagall and Potter both turn to stare at Ichigo.

“Ghosts don’t like me,” he lies blandly.

“Yes,” McGonagall says faintly. “So I’d understood. Well, come inside, the two of you, and explain to me why you’re here when you should be in class.”

“I’ve been sent to see you,” Potter grumbles, holding out a note of offensive pinkness.

McGonagall takes the note, frowning, and reads it. By the time she’s finished, she looks about as happy as Potter. She sighs in exasperation and sets it aside. “And you, Mr. Kurosaki,” she demands. “What are you doing here?”

“That teacher thinks I can’t speak English,” Ichigo explains, and despite everything, Potter smirks. “She wants me to get a translating charm or something.”

McGonagall blinks slowly. “You seem to me to be quite proficient in English, Mr. Kurosaki.”

Ichigo shrugs, and Potter looks down and bites his lip against a grin.

“And I suppose you have no idea how this confusion came about,” McGonagall continues, taking off her glasses and pinching the bridge of her nose.

“No idea,” Ichigo says firmly, and then, pretty sure of his footing here, “but I wouldn’t mind if she stayed confused.”

McGonagall gives him a small smile (and Potter laughs outright). “Well. After all, if I gave you a translation charm, how would you ever learn…?”

“Good point,” Ichigo allows, impressed.

McGonagall sighs and replaces her glasses. “Mr. Kurosaki, if you get yourself expelled, that will be of no help to anyone, and I will be extremely annoyed.”

“Understood.”

“Please go back to class now, before you convince me to do anything else ill-advised. Mr. Potter, you stay.”

Ichigo leaves. He feels pretty good about today. So far, it’s only mostly been a disaster.


Part 2
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