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Part 2


Fred and George are, if not connoisseurs of human nature, at least extremely astute when it comes to deducing what they can get away with in which company. And that’s why they’re so interested in the new boy. They have a feeling—and they are very rarely wrong—that Ichigo would let them get away with more than anyone they’ve ever met.

(Always excepting Lee, of course, who’s an honorary Weasley in any case. They’d swap him out with Percy any day of the week. They’d even swap him out with Ronniekins.)

The unsettling thing, though, about Ichigo Kurosaki, is that he watches them with…oh… calculation. They’re used to, say, amusement, fear, and exasperation being aimed their way. Calculation is a new one, and they’re not sure what to make of it.

And when you’re not sure of a thing, the logical response is to test it until you are.

“Say, Ichigo,” Fred begins, sidling up to him at dinner. “We have a business proposal for you.”

Ichigo frowns at them. Of course, Ichigo is in a constant state of frown—it doesn’t have to mean anything. “Business proposal?”

“That’s right,” says George. “You see, we’ve invented a few joke candies, and we need to give them a trial run before they’re ready for marketing. We need test subjects. No real danger, you understand!”

“Certainly not,” Fred agrees. “We would never.”

“And in any case, you’d be handsomely compensated. Double if you end up in the Hospital Wing.”

“And best of all, it would get you out of this dining hall sooner rather than later.”

As one, they turn to look at Harry, who is dealing with the stress of having his sanity publicly questioned with all the grace and subtlety of a rampaging hippogriff.

Ichigo pushes back his plate. “I won’t be your test subject,” he says, “but I am curious about what your candies do. Let’s go.”

Fred and George exchange a look. So he’s curious about their products. Which is curious. Is he a prankster himself? Is he a sadist? Is he—most alarming of all—competition?

They’ll just have to keep poking at him until they find out.

He’s not competition. They figure that out immediately, because he’s not interested in the process of making Fainting Fancies—he’s just interested in their effects. But he’s not a sadist, either, because he looks alarmed when the firsties faint, and manages, somehow, to catch three of them before they hit the ground. Then again, he’s not a prankster, because he’s interested in the results in entirely the wrong way. He doesn’t look like he’s having fun, he just looks…calculating. Still calculating.

He’s a true mystery, is Ichigo. They’d test him more, only Hermione has to ruin everything by storming over just then and threatening them with Mum—which is utterly uncalled for—and Ichigo wanders off to do homework.

(What is Hermione like, anyway? She’s not family. Not yet, at any rate. Ron wouldn’t really, though, would he? Not even Ron, not a rulebook-thumper. Except that yes. Yes, he would. That’s the tragedy of it.)

Oh, well. If they can’t continue their experiment now, they’ll continue it later. One way or another, they will figure out Ichigo Kurosaki.

* * *

Ichigo doesn’t go into day two with a lot of hope, and it turns out that’s wise. Breakfast sees Potter and Granger and Ron all fighting about elves and then sulking. (Because elves are a thing, too. What the hell.)

First class is Charms, and Flitwick talks a lot about the animal tests, and then tells them to go over summoning charms, which apparently everybody else already knows how to do. Ichigo tries to do one and blows up his desk. Rukia, at least, would be proud.

Transfiguration is next, and Ichigo’s simultaneously pleased and worried to see McGonagall teaching it. He likes her, but he also, oh, fears and respects her. She’s got kind of an Unohana vibe, and since there’s basically no chance of his being able to transfigure anything, he doesn’t see this ending well for him.

McGonagall also talks about the animal tests for a while and Ichigo tunes out, at least until she hands him a snail and tells him to make it disappear. He checks to see if she’s messing with him, but she looks really serious. Plus, she’s given everyone else the same instructions, and she doesn’t seem the type to troll her classes.

Ichigo raises his hand and McGonagall scowls at him, so they’re off to a great start. “Yes, Mr. Kurosaki?”

“Could I try this on something that’s…uh, not alive?”

The scowls deepens. “Why?”

“Because Professor Flitwick had us summoning things last class, and Ichigo blew up his desk instead,” Ron informs her gleefully, so at least Ichigo’s made someone happy today.

McGonagall has to turn away and take a moment. Ichigo darkly suspects she’s laughing at him. She does eventually give him a rock to practice on, though.

He doesn’t blow up his desk this time. There’s just a small, controlled fire, and Ichigo counts that as progress. McGonagall doesn’t seem to agree.

Next lesson is Care of Magical Creatures, which features little stick people. Ichigo just accepts this, possibly because his capacity for shock has shorted out. He partners up with the yelling guy—Finnegan—and Thomas, the last guy in their dorm. Thomas turns out to be just enough like Chad to be comforting—he’s quiet and calm, obviously not as badass as Chad, but still easygoing and undemanding and therefore reassuring to stand beside. It’s nice—the familiarity of it in the midst of all the weird that is this school.

Partnering up with them also means Ichigo doesn’t have to be a party to whatever the hell Potter’s up to—getting into sneering contests with the blond boy from the train, taking against the professor for no reason Ichigo can see, and so on. Potter’s blood pressure must be out of control. Ichigo’s getting tired just watching him.

But at least a few people march up to Potter and loudly believe in him on their way to gardening class. That seems to cheer him up. One of those people is Lovegood, though, and as much as Ichigo trusts that she’s got a firm grip on reality, he’s the only one. Anybody else would probably find it worrying to have Lovegood declaring them sane—especially as sane as she is.

She winks at Ichigo when she passes him. He wonders if that was a shinigami-related wink, or a did-you-see-me-mess-with-Potter’s-mind wink. He tries not to worry about it.

In gardening class, the plants only halfheartedly try to kill him and he doesn’t set anything on fire, so he chalks it up as uneventful. Dinner’s also uneventful, unless you count a girl swinging by to yell at Potter for a while, but since that seems to be like an hourly thing, Ichigo’s not sure he should. After dinner, Ichigo does exactly enough homework to keep himself from being expelled, then he goes up to the roof to call his sisters.

He doesn’t think to worry about Potter. Kid’s just in detention with the Ministry mole. How wrong could that go?

In retrospect, Ichigo will wonder how he’d managed to learn absolutely nothing from his first two days at Hogwarts.

* * *

Ichigo continues going to classes and keeping an eye on Potter, waiting for an evil, broken-souled wizard to come and try to murder the kid, but no joy. He also blows a lot of things up and sets a lot of other things on fire, and gets yelled at by every single professor except Binns. And that’s just because Binns is afraid of him.

This might be the most annoying mission Ichigo’s ever been on. Not even in the ballpark in terms of danger, obviously, but just for day-to-day, grinding irritation, he really thinks this has them all beat. He’s not usually a very communicative guy, but on this mission, he’s feeling the need for frequent sanity checks badly enough that he’s taken to calling everyone he knows who might be even vaguely sympathetic and whining at them. At least it’s making Karin and Yuzu happy.

That’s why he gets back to the common room so late on Thursday night—he was busy listening to Ishida expansively insult his intelligence and question the existence of his common sense. And he was enjoying it, so he knows he’s in bad shape.

It’s a surprise to run into Potter and Ron in front of the Gryffindor portrait this time of night. Ron’s hissing something at Potter—a worried, get-your-ass-to-the-Fourth kind of hissing. Ichigo recognizes the style, so he automatically checks Potter for injuries.

The kid’s hand is bleeding. Ichigo walks over and grabs it for inspection without thinking things through—he hardly knows Potter, so this is definitely weird behavior. Still, Potter’s bleeding, and Ichigo’s bodyguard gig may be a cover, but that doesn’t mean he’s not taking it seriously.

“What are you doing?!” Potter demands, tugging at his arm until Ichigo releases him.

“Who did this?” Ichigo asks in a quiet rage, because it’s not just blood. It’s words carved into Potter’s hand. I must not tell lies.

This is not happening to someone Ichigo’s responsible for.

“No one—” “Umbridge!” Harry and Ron say over each other.

That’s right. She’s had Potter in detention.

“She carved shit into your hand?” Ichigo hisses, horrified.

“No,” Harry insists, trying to hide the evidence. Classic.

“Right.” Ichigo turns to give the portrait the password and drags the other two inside. “How’s she doing it? Is she sitting there taking a knife to you or what?”

“No!” Harry says indignantly, like that’s just silly, when he is clearly still bleeding from the hand. “It’s just—it’s a quill. It doesn’t have any ink, it’s—when I put the words on paper, it writes them with my blood.”

“And carves them into the back of your hand.”

“…Yeah.”

Ichigo wonders why he has such a gift for finding the creatively evil sadists. “Where’d she put the quill?”

“You’re not thinking of stealing that quill,” Ron whispers, wide-eyed. “That’s…that’s mental. You’ll be expelled for sure—”

“We should be so lucky,” Ichigo mutters. “Potter. Where.”

“What do you care?” Potter asks sullenly.

“I’m supposed to be your bodyguard. It’s my job to keep you safe, and at the moment you’re freaking bleeding, so I’m going to do my job.”

“So I’m just a job to you.” Potter’s attempting to win the sulking Olympics, but given that people are carving shit into his hand, Ichigo can hardly blame him.

“You’re my duty,” Ichigo corrects. “You don’t understand how seriously I take my duties. Come on, cough it up. My motives shouldn’t matter—do you want that quill gone or don’t you?”

“It’s in her office,” Potter says. “I don’t know where—she always has it out when I get there. It’s a big, black quill. But you’ll only get into trouble—and who knows what’ll happen if you do get rid of it? What if she comes up with something worse?

“Then I’ll get rid of that, too,” Ichigo says confidently, heading up the stairs to the dorm. “Come on. Sleep.”

Ron looks disappointed. “I thought you were stealing the…?”

“When they least expect it.”

“I really doubt she’s expecting it now.”

“Ron,” Harry cuts in, exhausted. “Let it go.” He seems to think Ichigo’s all talk and not actually planning to go through with it.

Ichigo is not all talk. Ichigo, in fact, is something of a king of understatement.

* * *

He’s tried to be good about staying inside his body while at Hogwarts for a number of reasons. Firstly, Urahara claims that wizards can’t see shinigami, but they can obviously see ghosts, and Ichigo finds that worrying. Secondly, it really alarms the Hogwarts ghosts when he runs around in shinigami form, and he’s trying not to upset them. He doesn’t have anything against them; they don’t deserve to be scared. And finally, he hasn’t wanted his dorm mates to discover his still, lifeless body and come to obvious, but incorrect, conclusions. Mainly because they would never shut up about it.

But this time, it’s important that he not get caught by Umbridge. So he ditches his body, heads for Umbridge’s office, and fervently hopes wizards really can’t see shinigami.

I’ve been so fucking bored I think parts of me have actually died, Shiro says in a flat monotone, which is practically polite, coming from him. Maybe the boredom is making him numb. Can a hollow die of boredom? Is that a thing that can happen? It feels like it might happen, partner. I’m feelin it.

I hear you, Ichigo answers with a mental sigh. I keep asking for permission to destroy stuff, and everybody keeps saying no. It sucks. And after this one fun thing, we’re going right back to boredom. Unless we get expelled.

Here’s hopin’, Shiro says—and he and Zangetsu turn obligingly into blades, though Zangetsu has nothing to say. He may actually be unconscious from boredom, and who can blame him?

The office door goes down easy as cardboard, and if there are any alarms on it, they’re silent ones.

Nope, Shiro sighs sadly. Still bored.

They try to take out their aggressions on the quill, but even that’s only minimally satisfying. So they end up trashing most of the room as well, which is, to be fair, a crime against taste surpassing even Kukaku’s wildest flights of architectural fancy. And it’s full of dangerous magical objects, besides. Ichigo tries to tell himself he’s destroying everything in order to limit Umbridge’s future creativity and also to hide the fact that the quill was the target, and that’s partially true. The rest of the truth, though, is that it’s been way too long since he went on a real destructive spree. He is part hollow.

Whatever. The only person who’s going to be sad about this is Umbridge, so there’s no downside.

* * *

Potter, Ron, and Granger come gather around Ichigo at the breakfast table the next morning, all staring and gaping like fish. It’s uncomfortable.

“Can I help you?” Ichigo asks.

“What did you do?” Ron demands. Because apparently they swung by Umbridge’s office before breakfast on the off-chance. Their curiosity really is going to kill them.

Ichigo takes a bite of onigiri to give himself a moment and finds that they’re still doing something weird with the rice, and he still can’t figure out what. “What do you think I did?”

“We think you…you destroyed…” Granger stammers.

How?” Potter wants to know.

“…Magic?” Ichigo suggests.

“Don’t even try that,” Granger snaps. “All the doors in Hogwarts are heavily shielded against magical attack.”

“But not physical attack?” Ichigo asks incredulously, because that is the stupidest thing he’s ever heard.

“You mean you knocked down the door with your bare hands?” Ron asks in a weird scream-whisper.

“I had something in my hands,” Ichigo corrects him. “Now stop talking about it before anybody else shows up and gets interested.”

“But what happened to the…” Granger trails off and checks the dining hall. There’s still almost no one around, but her voice drops to a whisper anyway. “The quill. Did you take it?”

“I don’t take things from people,” Ichigo corrects her indignantly. “I mean, sometimes I chop them up and set them on fire, but I don’t take them. Stealing is wrong.”

Granger’s whole face lights up. For somebody who’s so big on the rules, she sure loves breaking the hell out of them.

“Did you really…?” Ron asks in delight.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Ichigo informs him. “Eat your breakfast.”

The twins take this moment to appear in the dining hall and stare at Ichigo in something like awe. They shouldn’t have any reason to know what he got up to last night, but their faces suggest they do anyway. He’ll have to ask them how they managed that. If they can track shinigami…yeah, they’re gonna be all kinds of useful.

After the shaky start, breakfast is blessedly normal right up until the end, when Dumbledore makes an announcement about the destroyed office. So even Hogwarts doesn’t take destruction of teacher’s offices in stride. Good to know.

“As some of you may have noticed, there was an attack on Professor Umbridge’s office last night,” Dumbledore says, looking surprisingly grim, given what Ichigo knows of his feelings about Umbridge. “The professors have studied the site of the attack,” Dumbledore continues over the sudden loud whispering, “and we are agreed that this level of destruction would be impossible for any student—even the Weasley twins.” There’s some strained, nervous laughter. “The power required was simply too great.”

There are a lot of eyes on Ichigo all of a sudden. These kids had better not be planning on careers in espionage.

“In view of this,” Dumbledore goes on, “classes will be cancelled today, as the professors will be investigating to determine the source of the attack. Please remain in your common rooms until your Heads of House inform you that the investigation has concluded. Those of you who had detention with Professor Umbridge today, your detentions will be delayed until her office is repaired. Thank you for your attention.”

Umbridge looks like she might actually pop a blood vessel in rage, which is gratifying. Ichigo wonders who she thinks did it, and whether he’s going to need to protect that person from her.

Ah, well. Tomorrow’s problems.

“Mr. Kurosaki,” McGonagall says calmly, appearing across the table with a neutral expression and murder in her eyes. “If I could have a brief word about your schedule before you return to the common room.”

“Oh. Sure.” Ichigo stands up and notices that Potter’s crew looks worried on his behalf. He frowns at them—he told them he wouldn’t get in trouble, and he won’t. God, they have no faith at all.

McGonagall bundles him into her office and casts a few spells on the door—silencing spells, maybe? Or is she just locking him in?

Mr. Kurosaki,” she says sternly when she’s done. “That attack on Umbridge’s office wasn’t just beyond students—it was beyond human. There were charms overloaded and wards shattered that the best Curse Breaker at Gringotts couldn’t manage in anything less than a month, which I know because I asked him. In fact, I can’t think of a magical creature short of a dragon that could’ve unleashed so much destruction in so little time, and dragons, you will agree, are too large to be guilty.”

Ichigo isn’t admitting to anything until she makes him. He tries looking politely attentive.

Why?” she demands after a long, unhappy silence. “Why would you draw attention to yourself in such a meaningless way?”

“I didn’t, did I?” he asks in surprise. “Nobody’s traced it back to me who didn’t already know about me.”

“Not so far,” McGonagall grinds out. “But that isn’t an answer.”

Well, no sense lying about it. “She had Potter using a quill that…look, it used his blood for ink, and it carved what he wrote into the back of his hand. I’m just saying, I’m supposed to keep him safe from bodily harm, and that is bodily harm. To say nothing of the psychological harm.”

McGonagall sits down abruptly, looking a little pale. “A blood quill,” she whispers. “That’s a Dark artifact. That’s…it breaks several laws to own one outside a school, but in one—Kurosaki, what did you do with the quill?”

“I destroyed it,” Ichigo admits, wincing. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. He hadn’t known it was illegal, so it hadn’t crossed his mind that he was destroying evidence. “Sorry. I didn’t know.”

McGonagall sighs at him in exasperation.

“You could give me a list of Dark artifacts?” he tries.

“I think it’s best for everyone if I avoid doing anything of the kind,” McGonagall says firmly, then mutters something that sounds like sleekit wee shite. Ichigo doesn’t know what that means, but he doubts it’s flattering. “Do you have any further plans to torment the staff?” she continues.

“No.” Not plans, per se. He’s operating on an as-needed basis.

“I see.” She’s dubious, and she’s right to be. But she doesn’t call him on it, and this is just one more reason she’s quickly becoming Ichigo’s favorite teacher. “Do try not to get yourself expelled, arrested, or murdered, will you? Give it your very best effort.”

“It’s my main goal in life.”

She waves him off, looking like a person who plans to spend the afternoon drinking and questioning her life choices. Ichigo feels a little bad about that, but really, he’s doing her a favor in the long run. She’ll see.

After everybody in the common room finishes bombarding Ichigo with questions about what McGonagall wanted (“To go over my schedule. What, did you think she was lying?”), the rest of the day basically turns into a party in Gryffindor. And then, bonus, they get cleared to have Quidditch tryouts in the evening. Everybody’s excited. Ichigo decides to tag along and watch, since from what little he understands of the game, it seems like a prime opportunity to kill somebody.

It develops that Quidditch is like sky soccer with more balls, except a couple of the balls have minds of their own and periodically try to kill people, just because. Because it’s the wizarding world, and they wouldn’t be having fun without at least a fifty percent chance of bloodshed at any given moment.

“What’s the point of this?” Ichigo asks Granger as someone gets attacked by an angry ball and falls off his broom.

“Sport,” Granger says absently, doing her history reading and glancing up occasionally to make sure nobody’s died. “Whatever the point of sport is.”

Ichigo begs to differ. He’s done sports, and it was always a way of working off rage or grief or stress. In no sport ever has the equipment up and tried to kill him, and he doesn’t get why that’s a thing anyone would want. It’s funny—the wizarding world has less overt violence than Ichigo’s used to, but a lot more institutionalized cruelty. Like, attacking someone as a form of greeting is one thing, but blood quills and homicidal sports equipment is something else again. Even Kenpachi would find this school fucked up, and if that isn’t a damning commentary, Ichigo doesn’t know what is.

Karin would love Quidditch. Ichigo silently vows never to tell her a thing about it.

In the end, Ron gets picked for the dubious privilege of having possibly-sentient sports equipment thrown at his head all game long. For whatever reason, he seems really excited about this. There’s yet another party over it. Ichigo makes it about fifteen minutes in before he’s maxed out on human interaction for the day, then he goes to hide on the roof and wait until it’s time to make his calls. He’s calling Chad today. He really feels the need to talk to someone sane and calm for a minute.

Until it gets late enough to do that, he takes a stab at some homework and idly wonders what Umbridge’s next move will be. He hopes it’s a good one, because institutionalized cruelty notwithstanding, he feels kind of wasted here.

* * *

There’s Quidditch practice on Saturday, and Ichigo goes because he feels obligated—bodyguard duties, whatever. The Slytherins also go, because tormenting Gryffindors is both a hobby and a calling for them.

Practice is such a travesty it’s painful to watch. There are endless dropped balls and missed shots and it all culminates in the Weasley twins accidentally poisoning a teammate and everybody running off to the Hospital Wing. The Slytherins laugh and laugh. As they should, really.

The Weasley twins are definitely going to the Twelfth Division when they die, Ichigo doesn’t care that they’re English. He’s calling it now.

After the highlight that was Quidditch practice, Potter and company troop back to the common room, presumably to sulk loudly, so Ichigo decides it’s as good a time as any to hunt down Luna Lovegood and ask her why the hell she knows about shinigami. So he asks around for her. Everybody he asks looks shocked that he’s talking to them, and even more shocked that he wants to find Lovegood, but after more dithering than Ichigo thinks is strictly necessary, someone does finally direct him to the library.

Lovegood’s reading at a table barely visible from the door, just on the edge of the stacks, within sight but not earshot of the librarian. Ichigo’s impressed. Nobody can pick on her because the librarian’s right there, but the librarian can’t overhear any conversations she might have—and neither can anybody else without her knowing about it, because she’s got a clear view down the aisles between all the stacks near her. There’s nowhere for anyone to hide.

Which is good, because Ichigo can’t afford eavesdroppers. He’d been planning on dragging her out to the lake for this talk, but it looks like there’s no need.

Of course, he’d be even more impressed with her if she hadn’t chosen to wear a necklace strung with five giant, glass eyeballs of various colors. But what the hell, no one’s perfect.

“Hey,” he says, pulling up a chair at ninety degrees to Lovegood’s, so they can talk, but also both keep an eye on the door and the stacks.

“Ichigo Kurosaki,” Lovegood replies, eyes drifting slowly to his. “I’m doing homework, you know.”

“I know. Sorry to interrupt, but I kind of have to ask—how do you know about shinigami? How did you know I was a shinigami?”

“…Shinigami?”

“Soul reapers.”

Her mouth opens in a silent oh, and she actually shuts her book. So she thinks this topic deserves her full attention. That’s a relief.

“My mother is a soul reaper,” she explains. “You have a red ribbon like hers.”

Okay, so Lovegood can see spirit ribbons. That’s weird, but Ichigo can’t exactly judge and isn’t going to comment. “You mean your mom had you while she was in a gigai?” Because that would make Luna’s mom just like Ichigo’s dad, and what are the odds of that?

Lovegood tips her head to the side, birdlike. “Gigai?”

“A…a false body. So a shinigami—a soul reaper—can interact with the living world.”

“Oh no, not at all,” Lovegood says in surprise. “She was human when I was born, and then she died, and now she’s a soul reaper.”

“Then…no, I still have no idea how you know about soul reapers. And why do you know about Yachiru?

“My mother is quite the experimenter, you know.”

Ichigo didn’t. He doesn’t see what that has to do with anything, either.

“She’s made an effort to meet other researchers in Soul Society, to pool their knowledge. It’s very frustrating to her superiors, I understand. They want her to stay in one place, but she wants to have conversations with Akon, who is part of your part of Soul Society, isn’t he?”

“…Yeah, he is.” So this is Akon’s fault. Ichigo honestly didn’t see that one coming. He would’ve blamed Urahara before anybody. “Still not seeing how you know all this.”

“Sometimes she comes to the house and tells me about her day,” Lovegood explains dreamily.

“That’s fifteen kinds of not allowed.” Not that Ichigo has a leg to stand on when it comes to what is and is not allowed.

“Oh, she doesn’t know I can hear her. Or see her. I don’t tell her, because I’m afraid she’ll stop coming if I do.”

…And that is one of the loneliest things Ichigo’s ever heard. He wonders if he’d have had the self-control to do that if it had been his mom. He doesn’t think so. He’d probably have opened his mouth right away and ruined everything.

“I lost my mom when I was nine,” he confesses, feeling he owes Lovegood…Luna something for dragging this horrible story out of her. Though the more accurate statement would be I helped get my mom killed when I was nine. “I don’t think I could’ve done what you do—not letting on. You’re kind of amazing.”

She smiles at him, bemused. “No, I don’t think that’s true at all. I thought I was imagining her at first, you know, because I wanted her back so badly. I didn’t dare say anything to her, because if I had, everyone would’ve known I’d gone mad. It took me months to decide that she was real. You wouldn’t have made that mistake. That’s the only difference between us.”

Ichigo stares at her in silence, thinking of the way she all but forces people to think she’s mad these days. Maybe she wishes she’d never cared about other people’s opinions of her sanity. Maybe she’s punishing herself for it.

“You can start talking to her now, though,” he says, starting to get worried. “If that’s what you want.”

“I really can’t,” Luna disagrees, maintaining a faint smile. “She always has a watcher, I suppose to keep her from doing anything improper. If the watcher knew I’d been listening all along, I imagine my mother would be in a great deal of trouble.”

Yeah, she really would. So instead, Luna stays quiet, and listens to her mother talk, and hates herself for not saying anything back when she could have.

Well, this has been a uniformly awful conversation.

“I’m sorry,” Ichigo says. Sorry about Luna’s life, sorry about bringing it up.

“Thank you,” Luna responds gravely. “And what about you?”

“What about me?”

“When did you die?”

“Oh.” Yeah, that’s a logical assumption to make. “I’m not actually dead. I don’t think. I mean, this isn’t a gigai—it’s my real body.”

“A living soul reaper,” Luna says, eyes shining. “So it’s you. My mother’s talked about you. You’re quite famous, actually. Did you really invade Soul Society with a handful of living humans to rescue a damsel in distress?”

Ichigo tries to put the concepts of Rukia and damsel in distress into the same mental space and possibly sprains something in his brain. “Your mom just gets everybody to tell her everything, doesn’t she?” he mutters irritably.

“She does,” Luna agrees, placid. “She’s also very interested in anomalies, and you’re an outstanding anomaly.”

“I’m not that weird,” Ichigo insists, feeling defensive.

“Mm. How many living soul reapers are there?”

“…One,” Ichigo admits grudgingly. “Far as I know.”

“Anomaly,” Luna trills, reaching over to pat him on the head.

“Anyway, she wasn’t a damsel in distress.” Ichigo needs to clear up this misapprehension before Rukia finds out about it and kills him. “She got into trouble for saving my family. I owed it to her to return the favor. That’s all.”

“I like you,” Luna declares. “Now go away; I have homework to do.”

“Ravenclaw, huh?” Ichigo mutters, standing.

“‘Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure,’” Luna singsongs, turning back to her book and shutting Ichigo out.

Ichigo swings by the common room to make sure Potter’s still alive (he is; well done), then he goes for a run to clear his head and kill time until it’s late enough to call and complain about this mission once again to everyone responsible for it, starting with Rukia.

* * *

Breakfast on Monday is loud and unhappy because Umbridge has managed to make herself the Hogwarts High Inquisitor. At that point, Ichigo feels, you should just call yourself the Hogwarts Evil Overlord and have done with it. The title must be soothing to her, though, because her face is almost back to a normal color. Disappointingly.

It’s obvious that Granger would love to blame this turn of events on Ichigo, but the timing’s wrong, and she knows it. This was happening no matter what anybody did.

It’s turning into a real fight now, Ichigo figures. This is just the beginning, and it’s almost a relief. Ichigo doesn’t know jack about politics, but he can fight. It’s what he was made for.

Umbridge doesn’t immediately use her new powers to inspect Snape (too bad), but Potions ends up a fiasco anyway. And it started out so well. Ichigo got an E on his essay, which he can tell is good by the way Snape looks totally annoyed by it. He’s not sure what it proves, exactly, except that he can bullshit with the best of them, but it still feels nice, given what a fuckup of a fake wizard he’s been so far.

In the interest of keeping this unfamiliar success rolling, he’s careful to follow all the directions to the letter when making his potion. It’s a Strengthening Solution, which appeals to him anyway. He wants to get it right.

Everything goes great until it’s time to stir the potion with a wand. Should’ve seen it coming, really—Zangetsu isn’t a wand; Zangetsu is a deadly weapon.

Between them, Ichigo and Shiro and Zangetsu somehow manage to vanish not just the potion, but Ichigo’s entire desk as well. It’s not just invisible—he checks. It’s gone, and so is part of the floor that was under it. He’s lucky he didn’t take out a chunk of his legs. And he has no idea—like, did he destroy the desk, or is it just hanging out someplace else? Is it on the roof? Is it in Soul Society? What the hell?

“Kurosaki,” Snape says in a cold, carefully restrained tone that’s probably stifling a whole lot of screaming. “I have never, in all my years of teaching, seen anything like this. Congratulations, your failure is unique.”

The Slytherins snicker, but that’s because they’re easily entertained and have no feel for when they should be terrified.

“Fifty points from Gryffindor. Stay behind after class,” Snape hisses, then storms off to abuse other people. He knows when to be terrified, and Ichigo’s clearly terrified him. Accomplishment! Five points to Gryffindor.

Or not, because Granger’s terrified, too. She’s staring at Ichigo like he’s come over hollow in the middle of class. She keeps it up long enough, in fact, that he eventually pats down his face to make sure he hasn’t, and Shiro laughs at him. Shiro’s very Slytherin, come to think of it.

Once class is over and everyone’s fled, Snape casts a bunch of spells on the door. Some of them sound familiar—Ichigo thinks they might be the same spells McGonagall cast on her door when she and Ichigo were having real talk about Ichigo destroying Umbridge’s office. Memories.

“Kurosaki,” Snape snarls when he’s done, whirling around dramatically. Ishida would be impressed. “Do you have any idea what you did here today?”

“No,” Ichigo admits, annoyed with himself. “And I was trying to be careful, too. I think it’s the wand.”

“The wand,” Snape repeats slowly. “I’m aware that you’re not human, Kurosaki, but are you now telling me that your wand isn’t a proper wand, either? And, if so, can you explain why you’ve been allowed into my classroom with it—a classroom full of potentially fatal potions ingredients?”

“Can you explain why the fact that I’m not all human is apparently break room gossip in this place?”

Snape scowls. “I was not informed in my capacity as a professor, but because of my affiliation with…other organizations.”

“Oh.” Come to think of it, Urahara’s report did mention that the Order had teachers in it. One of them was even a spy. Was it Snape? That would make sense. Well, now Ichigo feels even more stupid. “Right, you’re that guy. Sorry. I read a lot about this place at once—forgot some of the details.”

“Answer my question, Kurosaki,” Snape demands, unimpressed with apologies.

“My wand is actually a sword—I just talked it into looking like a wand. I don’t know why I was allowed into your classroom with it, but don’t take it out on me, because it wasn’t my idea. I warned them I’d be a disaster.”

Snape looks like he’s developing the headache of the century. “And yet you went through with it.”

“Orders are orders,” Ichigo says blithely, because Snape has no way of knowing that Ichigo obeys orders only when he feels like it and/or at random.

“In that case, I have a new order for you, Kurosaki,” Snape says tightly. Ichigo refrains from pointing out that Snape isn’t in his chain of command, because he figures that’s a good way to end up poisoned. “In fact, you could consider this homework. Find a stick somewhere, sand it down until it looks like a wand, and use it in my class exclusively from now on. You’ll never create a successful potion, but on the other hand, you won’t slaughter us all in an explosive show of incompetence. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir,” Ichigo says, aiming for meek and probably missing.

“I would give you detention, but since, in an ideal world, I would never see your face again, that would benefit neither of us. Instead, I’d like you to write an essay on what went wrong today.”

“…But we know what went wrong, and I can’t write about it. Classified.”

Snape leans across his desk with a crazed look in his eyes. “Then I advise you to be creative.”

So this is going well. Man, if Ichigo manages, after everything, to get himself killed by a guy who’s basically his chemistry teacher, Karin’s gonna be furious.

* * *

What with the whole Snape situation, Ichigo ends up missing lunch. And Potter’s in Divination, so Ichigo hasn’t even got bodyguarding to distract him from the fact that he’s starving. He considers his options, and ends up going to the common room to pick a fight with Shiro, because that’s a reliable distraction.

He’s still busy yelling at a voice in his head when the Weasley twins arrive, at which point Shiro abruptly drops the argument and settles down happily to watch the show. Shiro loves the Weasley twins, obviously. Ichigo would wonder why said twins aren’t in class, but wondering why they’re ever anywhere doing anything is futile. Because no one could stop them, probably.

“Why, if it isn’t Ichigo!” says the one with slightly crazier eyes and stronger spiritual pressure.

“Shouldn’t you be in class?” asks the other one sternly.

“Shouldn’t you?” Ichigo counters.

The twins circle closer, predatory, intrigued by Ichigo’s choice of response. They’re still testing him to see where his break points are, he knows. It’s only fair, though. He’s doing the same thing with them.

“We’ve been hearing some very interesting things about you, Ichigo Kurosaki,” says Twin One.

Alarming things, one might say,” adds Twin Two.

“Destruction of property.”

“Terrorizing the innocent.”

“Entering the school under false pretenses.”

“And possibly a false identity.”

“For shame, Ichigo,” they conclude together.

Ichigo has no idea where they heard any of that, but hats off to their grapevine. “Who are these innocents I’m supposedly terrorizing?”

They like that he didn’t deny the rest, he can tell. Their faces light up like Kenpachi’s when he realizes a fight’s gonna be good. “Poor Peeves,” explains Twin One.

“I’ve never seen a poltergeist cry before,” says Twin Two, trying to look sad, but mostly just looking avidly, alarmingly curious.

“All the ghosts are terrified of you, we hear.”

“Even Binns, and Binns hasn’t noticed the living world in centuries.”

Yeah, well, technically he still hasn’t. “What do you want?” Ichigo sighs, figuring there’s no point in dragging this out.

“We want to know what you are,” Twin One says, leaning forward, intent.

And then they want to know how they can use him, no doubt. “What’s in it for me?”

They weren’t expecting that. “…Lunch?” offers Twin Two.

These guys are uncomfortably similar to all of Ichigo’s favorite people. “I am pretty hungry, but not enough to sell my soul for lunch.”

“How about lunch and an unlimited number of future loud diversions on demand? Just in case you need to blow up more offices, and so on,” Twin One suggests.

Oh, and they’ve gone and offered Ichigo exactly what he wanted from them. Now he has to give them something. Freaking perceptive people. “Deal,” he mutters unhappily.

The twins are delighted. And they manage to produce a decent sandwich, so that’s something. Turns out Twin One is Fred and Twin Two is George, and they’ve got plans for Ichigo. Ichigo’s not sure they’ve noticed he’s got plans for them, too.

“Tell us everything,” they demand.

“I’m supposed to be bodyguarding Potter,” he tells them, mostly focused on his sandwich.

“Right.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“We’d figured that out already, in fact, but it’s good to hear.”

“But what are you?

“Nobody really knows.” And isn’t that the sorry truth. “But I can touch ghosts. Always have been able to. And if I can touch them…”

“You can hurt them,” Fred says, eyes wide with horror and delight.

“I can even kill them,” Ichigo allows.

“Kill them?” George is skeptical. “How do you kill a ghost? Aren’t they dead already, rather by definition?”

“They’re still in the living world, though,” Ichigo explains. “I can send them on whether they like it or not.” Or he can destroy them completely, not that he’s bringing that up in a castle full of them. They’re terrified enough of him as it is.

“Send them on where?

Ichigo decides he can’t justify knowledge of that, and shrugs. “Guess we’ll find out when we die.”

“No wonder they’re afraid of you,” Fred says, though he himself doesn’t seem afraid at all. “Do you have any other superpowers we should know about?”

“No,” Ichigo says firmly. They definitely should not know about his other superpowers.

“And yet you’re bodyguarding Harry,” George puts in. “No offense, but you seem a little young for the job.”

Ah, so they like Potter. Potter has people like the twins worried about his safety. God help him. “I’ve had a pretty eventful life. Guess they figure I’m prepared for most things the wizarding world can throw at me. And I’m young enough to hang around a school without it looking weird.” He pauses, considering how much he should actually tell these two, then figures, what the hell. It’s not like they don’t keep secrets semi-professionally. “Plus, sometimes it seems like every time I turn around, somebody’s saying, ‘Hey, Ichigo, go kill this evil guy who’s trying to take over the world.’ It’s annoying, but it keeps me in practice.”

That stuns the twins into silence for a second, and for that reason alone, Ichigo’s glad he said it.

“They’re not expecting you to kill You-Know-Who, are they?” Fred demands eventually.

Ichigo inconveniently blanks on how you’re supposed to answer negative questions in English. Is it no—you’re wrong, because they are expecting that, or is it yes—that is what they’re expecting? “Well, somebody has to kill him,” Ichigo says, dodging around the whole yes or no problem. “Maybe it’ll be me, or maybe it’ll be one of my…” he hesitates over how to describe Urahara and Yoruichi. “Former teachers. Whoever gets him first, basically.”

“Does Harry know this is your plan?” George asks, intrigued.

“No. I don’t want to get his hopes up—what if it doesn’t work out?” Like, what if they get Potter killed in the process, for example?

The twins beam at Ichigo and he doesn’t know why. “Well said,” they tell him.

Ichigo’s glad this talk went so well. He’s not sure why it went so well, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. A win is a win, and he’ll take it. Free sandwiches and all.

Mission accomplished, he escapes the twins and heads to Defense Against the Dark Arts. It starts out slow, particularly by contrast to conversations with the Weasley twins, but then Granger sasses the teacher and Potter opens his enormous mouth and get himself detention again, and things liven up.

Not that Umbridge has an office to give detentions in at the moment. In fact, she may never. Ichigo hasn’t decided yet. Still, it looks like Potter may be even more of a hot-headed idiot than Ichigo, which is comforting in a backhanded way.

Ichigo’s actually getting used to the way things work in this school, which is, when he thinks about it, horrifying.

* * *

As the weeks pass, it becomes clear that Umbridge’s newfound powers aren’t doing her any favors. She audits a few teachers (including McGonagall, which will forever be a beautiful memory for everyone who witnessed it), but nobody seems impressed. She also keeps giving detentions, but she can’t follow through on them the way she wants to because she’s got no space of her own. This is because once her office gets repaired, Ichigo goes ahead and smashes it again. It gets repaired again. He smashes it again. She moves to a different office, and he smashes that one, too.

Everyone needs a hobby.

After a month, she really starts flipping out. She’s convinced Sirius Black is after her, which Granger assures Ichigo is a source of great delight and amusement to Black himself (the guy who can turn into a dog, it develops), because actually he’s trapped in the Order’s headquarters going stir-crazy. He’s even inviting Ichigo to his house for Christmas, he’s so pleased. Ichigo wonders if he’ll still be pleased when he realizes Ichigo’s bringing along Rukia and Renji and Toshiro. Most people wouldn’t be.

Anyway, Umbridge’s Black-related freakout leads to Educational Decree Number Twenty-Four, which declares that staff must assist in any investigation the High Inquisitor deems necessary until the culprit is apprehended—because apparently a few of the professors were muttering about giving up on the investigation and just having someone share an office with Umbridge permanently. “After all,” McGonagall tells Ichigo sourly after class one day, “it’s not as if this terrifying murderer has done her any real harm, is it?”

That’s swiftly followed by Educational Decree Number Twenty-Five, which states that any student out after curfew is subject to immediate expulsion. Because Umbridge is convinced that Potter’s sneaking onto the grounds and letting Black in.

It means Ichigo has to leave his body in the dorm when he goes to make his phone calls at night, but other than that, he doesn’t get what the big deal is. He’d actually been hoping for better. Something really unforgivable, so he could retaliate with a clear conscience. This isn’t far enough.

Ichigo’s the only one who feels that way, though. Granger in particular seems to be holding a grudge against him over it, which is weird—what’s she so eager to be doing after curfew?

* * *

In view of Granger’s (persistent, determined) grudge, it’s a surprise when she sidles up to him at the beginning of October with a look on her face that Ichigo associates with people saying things like, “So I know we’re outnumbered ten to one, but if we can just herd a bunch of them together and blow them up, we should be fine…”

“Would you—erm.” And now she’s being hesitant. This is seriously out of character and therefore worrying. “We’ve decided, er…would you like to join our study group?”

It takes a lot of effort, but Ichigo manages not to laugh in her face. “Why?”

“It’s…it’s a Defense Against the Dark Arts study group, since we’re not learning anything in that class, and I thought. Well, it’s possible the study group might be dangerous. For Harry. Not likely! But I thought, as his…bodyguard…you might like to be there in any case.”

Oh, okay. That’s why. Ichigo’s glad he didn’t laugh in her face, because it turns out Granger’s actually doing him a favor. “That’d be great, thanks.”

Granger lights up. “This is a Hogsmeade weekend, so we’re going to have a meeting about it at the Hog’s Head. Will you come?”

“Sure.”

“Perfect! Then just follow us to Hogsmeade. Er, you do have permission to be in Hogsmeade, don’t you?”

“I have blanket permission to be where Potter is.” He assumes. It would be pretty ridiculous if he didn’t, given the whole bodyguard cover.

“Then the only one I need to convince is Harry,” Granger murmurs to herself.

“Potter doesn’t want to study Defense?” That seems unlikely.

“Harry doesn’t want to teach Defense,” Granger corrects. “But the truth is, he’s the only one who can.”

If Granger says so. Still, Ichigo can’t help but feel sorry for these kids. All of his teachers were like five hundred years old and had seriously seen it all. These wizard kids are getting Potter instead, and sure, Potter’s allegedly great at Defense, but he’s still a pissed off child who’s making shit up as he goes along. It’d be like Ichigo up and training shinigami.

Looks bad for the future of the wizarding world.

Ichigo tags along to Hogsmeade anyway, mostly because it’s his job, partly out of curiosity. He’s never been to Hogsmeade before; it’s pretty amazing. Also terrifying from a bodyguarding standpoint, because there’s so much casual weirdness going down that it’s tough to sort the dangerous weird from the benign weird. He’d like about a week to hang out here Potter-free so he could get a feel for the place and actually enjoy himself. With company, even. His actual friends, say. That would be awesome. But instead, here he is, bodyguarding a little rage-ball of a kid and stressing out about it. Typical.

They’re halfway across town when they run into the Weasley twins and Jordan, their partner in crime. As soon as the twins spot Ichigo, they practically come to attention. They need to knock that shit off before Granger notices, because if Granger notices, they’re all in for an interrogation. Ichigo scowls at them, eyes flicking to his escort. The twins instantly relax and start hassling their brother like normal.

They really are useful.

* * *

The Hog’s Head turns out to be a gross, dark pub that smells, appropriately, of livestock. Ichigo peers in the door and checks out the denizens. There’s no one there who seems to be actively plotting Potter’s murder, so that’s a relief. On the other hand, Ichigo has to wonder at the wisdom of holding a top secret meeting in a silent pub full of shady people.

Whatever. Not his war. And if it attracts the attention of the soul-splitter guy, so much the better.

“You should sit next to Harry,” Granger instructs him.

“I’m not staying,” Ichigo says hastily. He hates meetings. “I’ll wait out front. Keep an eye out for any murder wizards wandering this way.”

“Murder wizards,” Ron murmurs happily.

“Scream if something awful happens,” Ichigo tells them, then ducks outside and takes up a post by the door before anyone can argue.

Kids make their way past him and into the shady pub in a steady stream. All kinds of kids—the earnest, the curious, the star-struck. It quickly gets to the point that calling this a secret meeting is a joke. Feels like half the freaking school shows up, all side-eyeing Ichigo as they pass. Apparently he’s got a reputation. He’s not sure when or how that happened.

“It’s your face,” Luna says on cue like a mind-reader, casually elbowing him as she goes by. He could almost—but not quite—believe it was accidental. “I may have mentioned it before, but your face makes children cry. That’s why they’re looking at you that way.”

“Thanks, Luna.” She’s like a one-woman crusade to keep him from feeling homesick. “Your opinion means the world to me.”

She beams up at him and then drifts into the shady pub.

She’s almost the last one in. Once the stream of kids dies down, Ichigo anticipates an hour or two of mindless boredom, so he settles in for the long haul, keeping a careful eye on the street and ear on the pub, but letting his mind drift.

“Kurosaki-san!” a voice calls out abruptly, making him jump. “Long time no see!”

“Urahara-san,” he says, because who the hell else would materialize beside him in the middle of Hosgmeade? Oh, wait. “Where’s Yoruichi-san?”

“Hey, Ichigo,” comes a voice from above him. He looks up to find Yoruichi—in human form—perched on the roof of the Hog’s Head. Of course.

“Yoruichi-san. Hi.”

A passing witch gives Ichigo a strange look, at which point he realizes Urahara and Yoruichi aren’t wearing gigai, so it looks like he’s standing in front of a pub talking to himself. In a language other than English. Even in the wizarding world, that kind of thing gets noticed.

“Let’s get off the street,” he says. He waves the other two into the dark alley between the pub and a butcher shop, figuring no one’s likely to question or even look too hard at anything that goes on in there. They follow him without arguing, which is a nice surprise. They’re also laughing at him, but whatever. He’s not asking for miracles.

“Why are you bothering me?” he asks, tired of this conversation before it’s even started.

“So cold, Kurosaki-san, so cold!” cries Urahara. “And when we’ve come to make your life easier, too! Because we have information and we’ve made progress. Unlike you.”

Yoruichi, now stretched out on the roof sunning herself, smirks and reaches down to tug mockingly at Ichigo’s hair.

“I’ve done stuff!” Ichigo insists, indignant. “I’ve kept the Potter kid alive. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to be doing? I even kept him in one piece, which is technically above and beyond. I destroyed a Ministry mole’s office like five times to keep him in one piece!”

“Oh? Well, Yoruichi-san and I recently executed a bank heist,” Urahara says, smugly hiding his mouth with his fan. “So don’t expect us to be impressed with your petty destruction of property.”

Ichigo wishes he were more surprised. “Okay, that sounds like a disaster. Did your bank heist get you a soul piece?”

“Of course it did! I’m surprised you even need to ask. And then Benihime and I destroyed it, and it screamed and bled and carried on—quite rewarding.”

“There was a dragon in that bank,” Yoruichi says dreamily. “I’d never seen a living dragon before.”

“Did you two kill a dragon?” Ichigo asks flatly.

“Killing living things is against the rules, Kurosaki-san,” Urahara says sternly. Which obviously means a lot coming from a guy currently living in exile in part because of his tendency to see rules as amusing but ultimately meaningless obstacles between him and his goals.

“Whatever,” Ichigo sighs. It’s not his job to police these two, thank god. “By the way, the headmaster thinks Potter has one of the soul pieces attached to him. And I think he’s right.”

“Potter?” Yoruichi sits up abruptly. “But he’s still living.”

“Yeah, I’ll need help with that one,” Ichigo admits. “I don’t know what’s going on, exactly, but Potter’s spirit ribbon has a thread of dark green, same color as the soul pieces. I don’t know how to separate them.”

Yoruichi and Urahara turn to look at each other, momentarily serious.

“We’ll look into it, Kurosaki-san,” Urahara says eventually. “As soon as we find a way, we’ll let you know.”

Ichigo nods his thanks. “I also think the headmaster knows more about the other soul pieces than he’s telling us. The kids tell me he keeps a lot of secrets.”

“Excellent!” Urahara snaps his fan closed and smirks ominously. “Yoruichi-san and I are outstanding with other people’s secrets. We’ll just head on up to the castle and discuss things with this headmaster, shall we? And you’ll stay here and continue doing…well, whatever it is you’re doing.”

“Please don’t kill or maim the headmaster,” Ichigo begs. “They would definitely blame me.”

“Have a little faith in us,” Yoruichi tuts, leaping gracefully down from the roof and landing uncomfortably close to Ichigo. “We would never be that sloppy.”

“That doesn’t make me feel better at all, just so you know.”

“Be good, Ichigo!” she says brightly, and Urahara gives an enthusiastic wave. And then they flash step away and are gone.

Ichigo walks out of the alley and takes up his post by the door again, hoping he won’t get back to school to find Dumbledore irretrievably psychologically damaged. He’d feel responsible for that. It wouldn’t actually be his fault, but he’d still feel responsible.

The remaining hour or so passes quietly. Semi-quietly. Wizards and witches make for great people watching, especially that guy with what looks to be a parrot physically grafted to his shoulder. Or maybe growing out of his shoulder. Ichigo can’t decide which would be more disturbing.

Eventually, though, the kids pour out of the pub in an almost perfect reversal of the way they poured in, complete with wary looks at Ichigo. But Luna gives him a nod and a smile, and the Weasley twins give him a conspiratorial wink. At least he’s not a total pariah.

“Ichigo?” Granger calls, poking her head out the door. “The meeting’s over, but could you come in here for a second?”

“…Sure.” He follows Granger into the shady pub, suspicious about her motives.

“Everyone’s agreed to the Defense group,” Granger explains. “And everyone’s signed a contract promising to keep it a secret.” She gestures to an incriminating list. Ichigo nods, not sure why he’s being told all this.

“And I was thinking…well, I was thinking that you should sign it too.” And now Granger’s not meeting his eyes.

“Why? What unholy magic thing will happen to me if I sign that paper?” Ichigo demands, cutting to the chase.

“What—how would—why would you think that I—”

Oh, Granger. It’s like she thinks he hasn’t been paying attention at all. “There’s always some new awful magic thing with you. Plus you’re not looking at me, which means you feel guilty about it, which means this one’s really bad. So what is it?”

Potter and Ron are staring at Granger in fascination now, meaning they hadn’t picked up on this themselves. Which is a disgrace; they’ve known Granger for years. Ichigo has no sympathy for them.

“Anyone who signs the paper agrees to keep the Defense meetings a secret from anyone not on the list,” Granger admits sullenly after a long pause. “In a magically binding sense.”

“Or else…?” Ron looks…entertained.

Granger fidgets. “Or else they’ll end up with SNEAK written across their faces in, erm, pimples or boils…the spell wasn’t very clear. But it should scar.”

“You are vicious,” Ron says, admiring.

“Yeah, I’m not signing that thing,” Ichigo announces firmly. “I have to report to Toshiro tonight, and I don’t feel like disfiguring boils would be a good look on me. Who did you think I’d rat you out to, anyway? Umbridge? She still thinks I can’t speak English.”

“Which is brilliant, by the way,” Ron puts in.

“You’re being weirdly cheerful,” Ichigo points out. “Make it stop.”

“Can’t help it, and it’s your own fault, anyway,” Ron explains. Cheerfully. “There was this Zacharias Smith bloke in the meeting—total wart—but he was terrified of you. All we had to do was say your name and bang! Meek and quiet.”

“Like magic, huh?” Ichigo has no idea who this Smith guy is, but hey, Tatsuki’s always said he’s accidentally terrifying. And if Luna’s right, there’s some problem with his face, too. It shouldn’t be surprising that he doesn’t even need to know people to scare them.

Just like magic,” Ron agrees. The Smith kid must be a dick, because generally speaking, Ron doesn’t get off on terrifying people.

“Ronald,” Granger says sternly. “We’re lucky to have had as many people show up as we did. Every one counts, no matter why they came. I mean, Michael Corner and his friends wouldn’t have come if he hadn’t been going out with Ginny—”

Ron, predictably, flips out. They walk out of the pub in a cloud of babbling about other people’s love lives, their own love lives, how confusing romance is, and so on and so forth. Because that’s clearly the important thing to focus on right now.

It’s a miracle they aren’t dead already.


Chapter 2
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