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Chapter 2 of the Bleach/Harry Potter crossover fic, in which the trio persuades Ichigo to help them out with the DA and they immediately, bitterly regret it.

Bleach and Harry Potter don't belong to me.


Chapter 2


To Ichigo’s complete lack of surprise, there’s yet another Educational Decree (Number Twenty-Six—all clubs disbanded) waiting for them on Monday morning. And that, that is why you don’t hold top secret meetings in a shady pub.

“She knows,” says Potter.

“She can’t!” insists Ron.

Ichigo considers explaining that it would almost be harder for her not to know at this point, but he gets distracted when Ron tries to run up the stairs to the girls’ dorms to cry to Granger about it, then immediately slides back down, causing the morning to become hilarious.

To Ichigo, at any rate. Everyone else seems to think it’s all very grim. Though he’d never say so, Ichigo’s downright relieved that Quidditch is cancelled—it makes Potter far less likely to die. If Potter dies, they’ll have lost their first stalking goat, which means Urahara will definitely make Ichigo find the next one.

Plus Ichigo would probably feel guilty about it. He is supposed to be the kid’s bodyguard.

It’s ultimately decided that Defense club is still on, though, Decrees notwithstanding. Sure, it has to happen in total secrecy and absolutely not break curfew, but that was true before. Nothing’s really changed, but that doesn’t stop everyone from freaking out about it all the way to history. And then Potter’s owl crashes class, making it the most exciting history class they’ve ever had. Potter promptly ditches for the greater good or at least the health of his owl, and Ichigo follows after him like a loyal bodyguard or possibly an extremely bored student. Binns doesn’t argue, obviously. He’d never dare argue with Ichigo about anything.

“Why is Binns afraid of you?” Potter demands curtly as they hurry down the corridor.

“Why is Smith afraid of me?” Ichigo counters.

“That’s not the same thing at all,” Potter insists, but he manages a strained smile. Kid is seriously worried about his owl, damn. “Ghosts aren’t afraid of anyone.”

“Well, according to Luna, my face makes children cry. Maybe it has that effect on ghosts, too.”

Potter throws him an exasperated glance, but gets distracted by an argument with gargoyles (this fucking school), and then forgets about Ichigo completely when McGonagall opens the gargoyle door. After some back and forth over whether Potter’s turning into an actual juvenile delinquent, McGonagall (or someone) agrees to nurse the owl back to health. She also tries to make Potter understand that sending top secret messages via defenseless bird is maybe not so top secret. Ichigo wishes her the best of luck with that one.

…How do you doctor birds, anyway? Like, Potter’s owl is pretty big, but some of them aren’t, and it seems like it’d be a real veterinary challenge to do more good than harm. All those tiny moving parts. Huh. Magic, probably.

In any case, because the owl wasn’t done causing chaos yet, it turns out to have been carrying a message from the dog guy. He wants to talk with Potter by means of a fireplace.

“How secure are fireplaces?” Ichigo asks the kids after history lets out, incredulous that this sentence is even coming out of his mouth.

“Well…” Granger pauses. “It depends on the fireplace.”

“Like phones, then.” Amazing—that almost makes sense. “So smart money says a fireplace in a students’ common room isn’t secure at all.”

“I would imagine not,” Granger agrees, worried.

“Great,” Ichigo sighs. “And do we have a secure way to warn dog guy that the fireplace is a no go?”

The kids fidget unhappily, so that’s a no. Ichigo wonders if his bodyguarding mandate extends to the dog guy. He hopes not, because first impressions suggest the man’s determined to get himself killed, and Ichigo likes to limit the number of losing battles he’s fighting at one time.

You’d think that’d be enough for one day, really—the dystopian school rules, the pet maiming, the suicidally reckless family member—but no. Because on the way to Potions, they run into the blond Slytherin boy who’s always winding Potter up for kicks. (As far as Ichigo’s concerned, winding Potter up is a game so easy it’s not worth playing, but the Slytherins are the most easily entertained kids on campus, no joke.)

This time, though, blondie manages to wind up the soft-faced boy—Longbottom—instead, by making cracks about mental hospitals like the class act he is. Turns out messing with Longbottom is the more dangerous proposition, too—sure, Potter rants and raves, but Longbottom goes from zero to attempted homicide with no stops on the way. Who knew? It takes Potter and Ron and the scary authority of Severus Snape to get him to settle. Ichigo doesn’t even want to know what caused that meltdown, because he knows what causes him to melt down like that, and yeah—he doesn’t need any more trauma from other people to add to his own bank of nightmares.

Ron, on the other hand, thinks he wants to know all about it. He’s gonna regret that if he ever does find out.

And naturally, because it’s chaos day, Umbridge decides that now is the time to audit Snape. Not her best call. Partially thanks to Ichigo, she is seriously losing her cool, which Snape has no respect for. It’ll be very fire meets gasoline, Ichigo expects, and he’s pleased with himself for his small part in today’s tragicomedy.

Umbridge starts out with a reluctant compliment, then promptly recommends completely rewriting the syllabus. Snape tries to kill her with his eyes. She speculates on why Snape’s been consistently judged unworthy to teach Defense (which, given that Umbridge is so bad at teaching that Potter’s been driven to take over her class, is a five star hilarious topic). Then she starts asking if Snape spends much time outside at night. He looks at her like she’s losing her goddamn mind (which is not impossible, actually), and tells her he rarely leaves his rooms at night. She asks further Sirius Black-trending questions in an increasingly frantic, high-pitched voice while Snape studies her like a lab specimen and gives bored, monosyllabic answers, and the Slytherins snicker at everyone indiscriminately. Eventually (unfortunately) Umbridge manages to rein herself in long enough to go interrogate the students.

Snape, who was looking pretty bleak during the Defense interrogation, cheers up a bit in his sour way at the Sirius Black freakout. Then, once Umbridge moves on to hassling students, Snape goes and yells at Potter for a while, which always brightens his life (former Slytherin: easily entertained). By the time he makes his way to Ichigo, he’s as close as he comes to a good mood.

“You’ve solved your wand problem, I see,” he says, staring in mild disgust at the weird sludge Ichigo’s cooking up. Whatever it is, it’s not a Strengthening Solution. On the other hand, it hasn’t exploded, so. Victory. Snape leans down like he wants a better look, and murmurs quietly, “If you drive that woman mad, the Ministry will only send another like her.”

“So I’ll start over with the new one,” Ichigo murmurs back. “I’ve got time to kill.”

“You’ve more patience than I would’ve expected, Kurosaki,” Snape tells him, straightening up. “Considering the hash you generally make of your coursework.”

“That boy can’t speak English, Professor,” Umbridge carols across the room. “I’m quite surprised to find you don’t know such basic facts about your own students!”

Snape gives Ichigo an incredulous stare. Ichigo widens his eyes, a silent play along, you know you want to. Snape looks beyond exasperated, but says, “He is capable of following basic instructions. Barely.”

Ron quickly, guiltily turns a laugh into a cough, and Potter shoots him a betrayed glare. The rest of the Gryffindors stare studiously into their cauldrons, trying not to smile. The Slytherins…come to think of it, Ichigo’s never actually talked to any Slytherins, and he doesn’t talk much in class. It’s possible that as far as they know, he can’t speak English. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see the blond boy puffing himself up in glee—he’ll be making something of this at the first opportunity. Kid seriously needs a better hobby.

Eventually Potions ends, and everyone escapes to lunch. Ichigo cannot believe this day is only half over. He misses home, where, admittedly, people are forever trying to kill him, but at least they have the decency to just come at him with a weapon. He’s so over all of this politicking and plotting and shit. All he wants is someone he can swing a sword at without feeling bad about it. Is that so much to ask?

* * *

“How?” Ron demands, shocked, appalled…possibly slightly impressed. “How did you get Snape to play along?

Ichigo shrugs, as if he doesn’t see anything extraordinary in it. Hermione supposes he doesn’t—he hasn’t witnessed years of Snape cutting off his nose to spite his face when it comes to Harry. “He hates Umbridge more than he hates me,” Ichigo explains. “The enemy of my enemy, whatever.”

“The enemy of my enemy…?” Ron repeats, confused.

“Honestly, Ronald,” Hermione sighs. She should know better by now than to be surprised by this kind of thing, but honestly. “‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ It’s a proverb.”

“Snape’s never going to be our friend,” Harry insists. “He’s just a less important enemy.”

Ichigo gives him a sharp look. “He hasn’t been carving shit into your hand, has he?”

Hermione must admit she is charmed by Ichigo’s protectiveness of Harry. Charmed, but also…slightly worried? Even for a bodyguard, Ichigo’s taking a lot of interest, and, well. Historically, people taking an interest in Harry hasn’t ended well. She’s keeping an eye on Ichigo, just in case.

“No! No,” Harry says hastily, probably picturing the hell that would be unleashed on the school if Ichigo were to destroy Professor Snape’s office. “He’s just a horrible, hateful man.”

Ichigo shrugs. “Yeah, well. Some people are like that. Doesn’t mean you can’t use them.”

Hermione hates it when Ichigo says things like this, because in theory, she agrees with him, but something about the way he says it makes it all sound so uncomfortably mercenary. She shakes her head and tunes out the rest of the conversation, turning to her copy of the Daily Prophet. What with the Educational Decree excitement at breakfast, she hasn’t had a chance to read it yet.

There’s nothing overtly sinister today, so that’s lucky. Nothing beyond the low grade, petty evil the Ministry’s taken to projecting constantly, at any rate. In fact, there’s only one item of interest, though it is very interesting. She interrupts the ongoing debate about Professor Snape’s potential usefulness with, “Someone’s robbed Gringotts!”

Again?” Ron asks, shocked.

“Yes. And they were successful this time.”

“Gringotts is a bank, right? There was a bank robbery?” Ichigo asks, suddenly tense. It’s odd, because Ichigo has never shown any interest in the news until now. In fact, Ichigo typically shows very little interest in anything outside of Harry’s physical safety, so this is…well, Hermione doesn’t like it.

“There was,” Hermione confirms slowly. “Something was stolen from the Lestrange vault, apparently.”

“What was it?” Harry wants to know.

Hermione shrugs. “Undisclosed.”

Ichigo closes his eyes as if he’s bracing himself. “Did…anything happen to the dragon?”

“…Dragon?”

“The dragon in the bank.”

Oh, yes. There is a dragon guarding the bank, isn’t there? But how would Ichigo know that? He can’t possibly bank at Gringotts, since he barely remembered that it was a bank. Hermione blinks and skims through the rest of the article. And there it is. “Well. The good news is, the dragon is alive. If that can be said to be good news, in view of the fact that it was set loose inside the bank, went on a rampage, and destroyed quite a lot of property and a bit of Diagon Alley before it escaped to parts unknown. Dozens of casualties, but, surprisingly, no deaths.”

Ichigo rubs his forehead, looking tired.

“Do you…know who was responsible?” Hermione asks carefully.

“They’re not my fault and they’re not my responsibility,” Ichigo says firmly. “If you ever meet them, you can’t hold them against me.”

It hasn’t escaped Hermione’s notice that Ichigo is becoming fast friends with Fred and George. If he regularly spends time with people who set dragons loose inside banks while robbing them, that explains a great deal. Fred and George must seem positively tame by comparison. “Am I likely to meet them?”

“God, I hope not.”

“What would they take from Gringotts?” Harry asks again, eagerly.

“Something awful,” Ichigo sighs. “They’re on our side, though, so that’s good. Both that they’re on our side and that they stole the thing. I mean, I’m assuming this Lestrange is a bad guy.”

“A bad husband and wife team,” Hermione explains, folding the newspaper. “The wife, Bellatrix, is, ah, Snuffles’s cousin. Also Draco Malfoy’s aunt.”

Ichigo appears not to recognize the names of any of these people, which is frustrating, because within the past few hours he’s actually encountered Malfoy and participated in a whole conversation about Sirius. Honestly, Hermione doesn’t think he even tries. “Okay,” he says blankly. “So it’s a good thing when people steal from them, so there you go.”

This is not sufficient explanation, no matter what Ichigo seems to think. “Really, though,” Hermione says. “Who robbed the bank? And how do you know them?”

“Really, though,” Ichigo drawls, looking annoyed. “You need to let this go.”

One day she’s going to hit Ichigo over the head with a plate. She’s going to be forced into it, so she won’t feel sorry at all. She is, in fact, ready to threaten him with that plate right now, but she gets distracted by Harry and Ron blathering about Divination, and then the bell rings, and the moment is lost.

If she didn’t know better, she would think Ichigo had organized that distraction deliberately.

* * *

After lunch, the day’s blessedly calm. Ichigo figures it owes him that, given the way it started. Sure, he spends the evening trying not to watch Fred and George projectile vomit in the common room, but by the standards of Hogwarts, it’s calm.

Or at least it is up until late evening, at which point Sirius Black’s disembodied head shows up in the fireplace. Ichigo knew it was coming, and he’s still not okay with it. He’s so done with the wizarding world.

Black chats with Potter and Granger and Ron for a while like it’s no big deal that a wanted fugitive—and this fugitive in particular, the one the Ministry mole is gunning for special—is hanging out in an unsecured fireplace. Eventually, after some babbling about Quidditch and Defense and who even knows, Ichigo has to cut in and try to impose some logic. Ichigo is trying to impose logic. It’s just wrong on so many levels.

“You do know Umbridge has it in for you, right?” he asks Black.

“Yeah, kid, I know.” Black grins like he doesn’t have a care in the world. “You must be Ichigo. I’ve heard a lot about you. Hear I owe you one for poking this Umbridge toad in the eye for me.”

Ichigo scowls at him. “Yeah, I’m Ichigo Kurosaki, hi. You invited me for Christmas. We can talk then. For now, get the hell out of the fireplace before the Ministry creeps find you, okay?”

Black turns to Harry and gives him a knowing, tolerant smile. “Security people,” he says. “They’re all like this.”

Harry chews his lower lip in worry, but says nothing.

In a minute, Ichigo’s gonna start killing people himself, thereby eliminating the aggravation of trying to keep them safe. How’s that for a security stereotype? “Humor me.”

“Listen, Ichigo, you need to lighten up,” Black tells him. “I’ve never been—” He twists around abruptly, swears, and vanishes.

And then Umbridge’s hand comes groping into the fireplace, and everybody bolts for their dorms.

Ichigo hates being the voice of reason—it’s thankless. Nobody ever listens to the voice of reason, even or maybe especially when it’s correct. It’s so much more rewarding to be the voice of reckless aggression.

* * *

The kids decide to discuss the whole Sirius Black problem the next day in Charms, having clearly learned nothing from the Hog’s Head debacle. Or the fireplace debacle. It’s like they think they’re walking around in a sound-proof bubble, and it kills Ichigo, it really does.

To give them what little credit they’re due, though, the classroom is pretty deafening. Ironic, since they’re practicing silencing charms—but everybody sucks at them, and the place is packed full of ravens and bullfrogs, all with loud opinions about the lesson.

Ichigo’s using his completely unmagical stick instead of Zangetsu, because he doesn’t feel like messily killing a raven today. Not that the raven’s grateful or anything. It keeps trying to pull out his hair and steal his shirt buttons. Halfway through the lesson, he starts calling it Grimmjow.

It’s pouring rain outside, so after class, most everybody heads to a first floor classroom to hide from the weather. The poltergeist’s in there, too, but he takes one look at Ichigo, screams in terror, and dives into the ceiling. Ichigo’s a little insulted. If he wanted that poltergeist dead, no amount of hiding in the architecture would save its ass.

“Now that is just bloody weird,” Ron says, staring after the poltergeist.

“Not the first time it’s happened, either,” Potter informs him. “Between Peeves and Binns…”

“Really, Ichigo, are all ghosts afraid of you?” Granger demands, baffled.

Ichigo shrugs, but he’s spared answering, because the Quidditch team captain bounds over to tell them Quidditch is back on. Her timing’s so good Ichigo’s almost willing to forgive the content of her message. Fucking Quidditch.

The captain’s also in the Defense group, so seeing her reminds Granger of that whole thing, and everyone completely forgets about Ichigo. He’s always appreciated their short attention spans.

Granger’s apparently having a crisis of faith about their Defense club plan, though, mainly because the dog guy thought it was a good idea. And yeah, Ichigo gets where she’s coming from. After all, the dog guy also thought unsecured fireplace conversations were a good idea, and look where that almost got them.

But this kind of tactical math is way too complicated for Potter and Ron. Ron likes to make a plan and stick to it, while Potter lives in a strange reality where people are trustworthy in direct proportion to how much they like him—ergo, the dog guy, who loves him, must always be right, and Granger is threatening his entire worldview by questioning that. Plus, the boys are both stuck on the fact that the Defense club was Granger’s idea in the first place. They can’t handle her changing her mind; it confuses them. And when they’re confused, they have a tendency to shout. Also whine. Ichigo finds himself missing the distraction the Grimmjow raven provided.

And then it gets worse, because it starts involving him.

“Ichigo, do you think we should go through with the Defense Against the Dark Arts group?” Hermione abruptly asks.

Ichigo has no idea why she thinks he should have a say in this. “…I can’t run your cost-benefit analysis for you because I don’t know enough. I mean, on the one hand, all training is good training. On the other hand, eventually you’ll probably get caught and maybe expelled. Then again, getting expelled with training under your belts is better than getting killed at school because you don’t have any. So I don’t know. You figure the odds.”

Granger bites her lip and looks really uncertain. It makes Ichigo uncomfortable when confident people look uncertain—like he’s failed them, somehow.

The bell takes this moment to ring, which is a relief.

* * *

“Hang on,” Ichigo says, because he thought he’d gotten used to this school, but he was wrong. “You’re saying this room can turn into anything you want?

Potter nods, like it’s interesting but not incredible. “That’s what Dobby made it sound like. I guess we’ll see.”

Dobby the elf. The elf who told Potter about a room that can be anything, which Potter’s only excited about because it means they have a place to practice Defense. Ichigo never would’ve accused Potter of lack of imagination before, but now he’s starting to wonder. He can’t decide if he should tell Urahara about this room at the first opportunity, or if he should carefully never, ever tell Urahara about this room.

“Filch is on the second floor,” Potter says, studying his freaky magical map that shows where everyone is at all times, because why not. “And Mrs. Norris is on the fourth.”

“And Umbridge?” Hermione asks, fretting.

“In the staff room,” Potter tells her. “Okay, let’s go.”

Potter leads them to a completely blank stretch of wall opposite a tapestry of a guy teaching, uh, trolls to dance, apparently. Ichigo briefly wonders if trolls are actually a thing, then remembers that one tried to kill Potter his first year. Because that’s Ichigo’s test for whether or not a thing exists: whether or not it’s tried to kill Potter. Sometimes their lives really are upsettingly similar. Anyway, Potter tells them to think about studying Defense, then makes them all walk up and down along the wall three times.

And suddenly there’s a door in the wall. It’s a comfort to Ichigo that even the blasé magic kids are weirded out by that.

The room itself is full of books and cushions and gadgets Ichigo can’t identify, but it also has a corner that looks like it could’ve come right out of Urahara’s shop—it’s got bokken and throwing knives and fighting staffs and…are those shuriken? They’re shuriken. Ichigo can’t even pretend those aren’t his fault, because they’re completely his fault. Apparently his subconscious thinks it’s hilarious.

Actually…yeah, Shiro’s laughing his ass off. His subconscious definitely thinks it’s hilarious.

Granger beelines to the books and Ron beelines to the shuriken (and manages to injure himself with them in short order). Potter just stares around in shock until the rest of the kids start wandering in. Ichigo heads over to the Urahara corner to take the shuriken away from Ron and to prevent any other enterprising students from getting their hands on the knives. Plus, it’s a good vantage point to watch the room from.

The kids vote on a name for their group and do a bunch of other blah blah blah, but eventually they get down to business. Ichigo’s amazed to find that Potter’s not a half bad teacher. He knows his stuff, he’s patient when he needs to be, stern when he needs to be, scary when he needs to be. Ichigo’s impressed. Sure, it’s all How Not to Die 101, but that’s better than the nothing these kids came in with.

At some point, though, Ichigo’s gonna have to prove to them that they rely too much on magic. Magic’s great and all, but you’ve gotta have more than one party trick. Seems to Ichigo that getting a wand away from these kids wouldn’t be too hard. In fact, Potter apparently survived against the soul-splitting guy in June by taking his wand away, and he’s allegedly the baddest badass of the wizarding world. And even he’s a one-trick pony.

Easy advantage, then, having one more trick.

Curfew’s at ten, so the kids practice until nine, and then Potter lets everyone out a few at a time, eyes on his magic map. Ichigo’s starting to have a faint, feeble hope that maybe they won’t get busted for doing this. Weirder things have happened. He and Potter are both still alive, for one thing.

“Wait,” Granger says after everyone’s gone but the four of them. “Just quickly, before we’re out of time…I’d like to see what Ichigo can do. He’s only been watching so far, and—no offense, Ichigo, but you don’t seem particularly good at magic, and you’re meant to be protecting Harry. I’d feel better if I knew you could honestly do it.”

“Ouch,” says Ichigo, but the truth is he’s been waiting for someone to bring this up. All they’ve ever seen him do is accidentally blow stuff up. It’d be weird if they weren’t concerned.

“You did manage to get into Umbridge’s office and destroy it,” Granger allows. “But that only means you have a lot of raw power. We don’t know how well you can use it.”

“You are meant to be my bodyguard,” Potter agrees apologetically.

“No, you’re right. It’s a good idea to check.” Ichigo grabs a fighting staff from the Urahara corner. It’s too dangerous to use Zangetsu, obviously, but Potter’s got a magic stick, so Ichigo should at least get a regular stick. That seems fair. Staff in hand, he walks over to Potter and braces himself for whatever weird magical thing is about to come his way. He can’t explain that normally he wouldn’t be stuck inside his body for this kind of thing, but whatever. He’s pretty sure he can handle their magic even inside his body.

He’d better be able to handle it, or he’ll lose all of Potter’s trust completely and right now. And that’ll make his job a lot harder.

Potter says something magical, and a red light comes at Ichigo. He ducks it, then waits for the next strike. Nothing happens. He stares at Potter in suspicion, looking for the trick.

But Potter’s just standing there, shocked. What, he didn’t think Ichigo could dodge the first strike? Ichigo’s offended by that, so he does what he does best—he attacks.

He runs at Potter, not at superhuman speeds—that seems like cheating—but pretty damn fast all the same, and swings his staff at Potter’s head, just to see what he’ll do.

Protego!” Potter shouts, waving his wand and jumping back, and Ichigo slams into a shimmering shield, like one of Inoue’s. So that’s what protego means. Potter only keeps the shield up for a second, though, before dropping it and firing another red light Ichigo’s way. This time, he does it without saying anything. Ichigo ducks the light, but barely—Potter got him off-balance, throwing up that shield and then dropping it so suddenly. Not bad. Ichigo straightens up and sprints along the edge of the room to the left, looking for something to throw—and there’s a small, round stone, sitting there waiting for him. Ichigo loves this room. He snaps up the stone while Potter keeps up continuous fire—but he keeps missing. A moving target’s hard to hit, and it seems like Potter doesn’t get enough practice at it. Something to work on.

That said, Ichigo’s starting to see how Potter’s survived this long. He’s got that light in his eyes—the look of somebody who loves the fight. He might claim to hate violence, but Ichigo bets what he really hates are the results when it goes wrong. The fighting itself? Potter can tell himself whatever he wants, but he obviously lives for it.

That said, he’s used to an entirely different kind of fight than the one Ichigo’s giving him. He expects someone to stand in place and send spells at him—the fault of all those one-trick ponies he’s been up against. (Ishida had a similar problem, back in the old days before he started sparring against his slightly evil father and half a dozen shinigami on the regular. Low-level hollows don’t exactly have complex battle strategies.) Potter doesn’t know what to do against an opponent aiming to take him down physically instead of magically. He’s fast, but even without flash step, Ichigo’s faster—he’s more practiced, and in better shape.

It’s like all wizards everywhere learned kido and just stopped there. Bad plan, particularly since they need wands to use their kido. You should never be dependent on something that can be taken from you.

Ichigo chucks his rock at Potter. Potter tosses up a shield and stops firing spells…until he realizes Ichigo faked him out with the rock. Then he drops the shield and starts firing spells again. Interesting. So either wizards can’t fire spells through a shield, or Potter hasn’t worked out how yet. And either way…either way, Ichigo figures it’s time to test just how strong that shield is. They only have so long before curfew, after all.

He runs at the nearest wall, jumps up and hits it with both feet to change direction, then charges at Potter as fast as he can without cheating. Potter didn’t see that coming, and almost doesn’t manage to cast a shield in time. But he makes it, barely.

Ichigo’s guessing Potter’s shield is a lot like Inoue’s early-days, pre-war shields, which is to say he’s guessing it doesn’t extend all the way around Potter in a bubble. Running with that guess, Ichigo slams his staff into the shield and runs to Potter’s right, dragging the staff along the shield and drawing up sparks. Potter can’t drop the shield with Ichigo right there, but he also can’t fire through it, so basically he just has to stand there like an asshole and watch, which is making him seriously angry. Kid’s got all the right instincts, at least.

Turns out the shield ends just behind Potter’s shoulder. The staff slides off the edge and falls toward Potter, and Ichigo follows the momentum on in, slamming into Potter’s wand arm with all his weight before the kid has a chance to cast. Potter drops the wand with an angry, pained yelp. Once he’s disarmed, it’s pretty easy to knock him down and sit on him, knees pinning his arms. Just to be safe, Ichigo goes the extra mile and shoves the staff under Potter’s chin to hold his head in place. Of course, he could’ve gone even safer and pinned the kid facedown, but this is a way to test whether it’ll occur to Potter to try to kick him off.

It doesn’t. Another thing to work on.

“Bloody hell,” Ron says loudly.

“Harry, are you all right?” Granger asks, frantic.

“What did…how did you…? You didn’t use any magic at all!” Potter gasps, looking shell-shocked.

“Well, no,” Ichigo says, backing off and standing up, leaning on the staff. He thinks about what happens when he tries to use even completely benign magic, and shudders. “I didn’t want to kill you. That would defeat the whole purpose of my being here.” He holds out a hand and pulls Potter to his feet. Everyone’s staring at him, speechless. So they actually believed Potter’d been assigned a worthless bodyguard. That says a lot about their faith in the people who’re meant to be protecting them.

You should be teaching Defense!” Potter says indignantly, rubbing at the arm Ichigo slammed into. Yeah, that’ll bruise.

“I’m a lousy teacher,” Ichigo tells him, which is…probably true. “Plus, I use a completely different kind of magic from you. Why do think I’m so terrible at yours? I’ve never done any of this stuff before. To teach you the way I was taught, we’d have to start from scratch, and we don’t have that kind of time.” Besides, most of what he knows they couldn’t learn, being human and all.

“You should teach a hand-to-hand combat section, in any case,” Granger puts in, looking a scary combination of disapproving and calculating. “Harry can teach defensive spells, and you can teach physical defense.”

“If you think that’s a good idea.” Ichigo thinks it’s a terrible idea, himself. Though it would probably be the bodyguardly thing to do. “But you all tend to be pretty out of shape, so I can only teach you so much. For anything else, you’ll need to be stronger and faster and have better endurance. That, you have to do on your own time. I can’t do it for you.”

“How did you learn to fight like that?” Ron wants to know. Or he thinks he wants to know. He always thinks he wants to know, does Ron.

“Uh, well. I joined a dojo when I was little. Plus my dad’s attacked me as a wake-up call every single morning since I was, like, ten. He attacks me every time I come home, too, and sometimes at random just because. It built up good reflexes. Then there were some older kids in the neighborhood who didn’t like my hair color, and they’d beat the crap out of me after school if I didn’t fight them off. And a bunch of other stuff happened, I don’t know. It was basically learn or die.”

Now they’re all staring at him in horror. Even Potter, which is ridiculous. Potter’s life is much worse than Ichigo’s.

“Why…why would your father attack you?” Granger demands, scandalized.

“Why does the crazy old jackass do anything?” Ichigo shrugs. “I think he was trying to raise me tough. But it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking. Or even if he is.”

“Is he a boxer for a living or something?” Potter asks.

“He’s a doctor.”

They all go silent and try to process that. Ichigo wishes them the best of luck.

“Do you hate him?” Potter asks, quiet and worried. From what Ichigo remembers of Urahara’s report, Potter’s home life blows, too, because the universe felt that being orphaned as a baby by a murder wizard with a grudge wasn’t bad enough.

“No,” Ichigo tells him, as comforting as he can manage. “He tried his best to raise us; it’s just that his best is lousy. Silly bastard loves us, though.”

Potter looks relieved, and maybe a little jealous. And if you’re jealous of someone for having Goat Face as a father, Ichigo figures, you are coming from a very low place indeed.

* * *

Defense club keeps up, and the kids actually start getting borderline dangerous, so that’s rewarding. The Ravenclaws as a whole have a weird natural aptitude for hand-to-hand, which Ichigo doesn’t get, but it’s awesome. If someone could talk Luna into putting on some muscle, she could even give Soi Fon a workout. Well. In like twenty or thirty years, anyway. The Hufflepuffs, meanwhile, are pathologically incapable of quitting. Seriously, Hufflepuffs never give up. It’s annoying, because Ichigo doesn’t want to beat them unconscious, but he’s also about done with their goddamn surprise attacks after he thinks they’re down. And then there are the Gryffindors and their creative ways of taking out their rage issues on everything and everyone around them.

It’s a lot more fun than Ichigo expected.

The only thing he’s sad about is the lack of Slytherins. He thinks Slytherins would be hilariously passive aggressive and might actually try to poison everyone in the room, and that would be awesome. Not to mention good practice. But when he mentions it to Potter, Potter looks at him like he just spat on the dinner table. Oh well.

Meanwhile, Quidditch gets into full swing, and it’s a maddening combination of boring and terrifying. It really is the stupidest way Potter could find to die on Ichigo’s watch, and Ichigo wishes he would stop trying. Still, Granger’s reassured him over and over that Potter doesn’t need a bodyguard during every single practice, and Ichigo chooses to take her word on that. Mostly because he could really use the free time.

First and most importantly, he decides to check if the Room of Requirement will actually give him anything he requires, or if it’s limited to what the castle has available. Probably option two, but it seems worth testing, so he waits until a rain-free Wednesday evening, when people are likely to be outside, and gives it a try.

He paces back and forth in front of the wall and really requires a piece of the soul-splitter’s soul. Then he opens the door to find a small, mostly empty room with a pretty little antique crown sitting right in the middle of it. Ichigo walks in and shuts the door behind him, because there’s something very wrong with the pretty little crown, and he doesn’t want anyone else anywhere near it. Its spiritual pressure is a dirty, dark green, just like the thread in Potter’s spirit ribbon. Plus it feels nasty in general.

Ichigo tells Zangetsu to turn back into a sword, and they hack the crown into pieces. When it starts bleeding and screaming in a horrible voice made of nightmares, Ichigo figures he made the right call.

Since that was a success, he goes back out the door and tries again, but no dice. The room presents him with a few other things, though, like it’s sorry it can’t help—a locket with nothing weird about it, a cup with nothing weird about it, a ring with nothing weird about it. Nice that it’s making an effort, anyway. After the third time, Ichigo gives up, but he pats the door in gratitude when he closes it. He thinks this room is his favorite magical thing so far.

He takes the broken crown and heads to Dumbledore’s office. It’s true that he was planning to avoid the guy, but this seems like something he should know about, if only so he doesn’t waste time looking for it himself.

* * *

“Mr. Kurosaki,” Dumbledore says, surprised. “How can I help you this evening?”

“Found a piece of the soul-splitter guy’s soul,” Ichigo explains, tossing the broken crown onto Dumbledore’s desk. “Killed it. Figured you’d want to know.”

It takes Dumbledore a second to even start to respond to that. Ichigo’s pleased. He bets it’s not every day somebody stuns Dumbledore silent.

“That…is Ravenclaw’s Diadem. It is…or was said to grant wisdom to the wearer,” Dumbledore explains carefully. “Created by Rowena Ravenclaw—the wisest of the founders of this school.”

“Oh.” At some point, Ichigo needs to learn to ask questions before he starts breaking stuff. What’s he supposed to say now? Sorry I smashed your priceless magical heirloom seems inadequate. “I didn’t know.”

“It had to be done,” Dumbledore reassures him. “Once an object is turned into a horcrux—a container for a soul fragment—there’s no way to recover it. Or in any case, no way that I’m aware of.”

Well, that’s a relief. “Okay. Good.”

“Mr. Kurosaki, where on earth did you find this?”

“In the castle. There’s this room—the Room of Requirement, Potter calls it. It gives you anything you want. Or anything the castle can drag up for you, anyway. I asked it for a soul piece, and it gave me one. Then I asked for more, but it must not’ve had any, because it tried to give me some random stuff instead.”

“Such as?” Dumbledore asks, fascinated.

“A ring. A cup. A locket. After that, I gave up.”

Dumbledore blinks rapidly. “My dear boy, we are almost certain that one of the remaining horcruxes is a ring. It’s possible…”

“You mean the room was giving me hints?” It’s official: Ichigo fucking loves that room. He feels like he should give it candy or something, but that wouldn’t do it any good. What do rooms like? Being dusted, maybe? Ichigo can do that. “That’s awesome. Did you already tell Urahara-san and Yoruichi-san about the ring?”

Dumbledore gets a worryingly glazed look. “I did,” he says, sounding not all there.

Ichigo doesn’t even want to know. “Yeah, okay.” Moving swiftly along. “Do you know which locket and cup it meant?”

Dumbledore’s eyes clear abruptly. “I believe I may. Voldemort wouldn’t settle for just any container for fragments of his soul. He’d want something special. The diadem was an important artifact connected to Ravenclaw, which means the cup is likely the one famously enchanted by Helga Hufflepuff, and the locket a well-known possession of Salazar Slytherin.”

“And they’re…where, exactly?”

“I have no idea,” Dumbledore says brightly. “But at least we now have a place to begin.”

Ichigo knows that Urahara and Yoruichi already destroyed whatever was in the bank. But Dumbledore knows that too, right? Sure, they probably told him. And even if they didn’t, Ichigo doesn’t like the effect their names have on the guy, so he’s just letting it go and hoping for the best. “Cool. I’ll head over to the room again tonight and ask it to show me all the soul pieces at once. I’ll let you know.”

“Thank you,” Dumbledore says earnestly. “But why tonight, if I may ask? Why not now?”

Ichigo shrugs. “Quidditch practice is over in a minute. Potter’ll think I don’t love him if he doesn’t see me hovering around doing my bodyguard thing.”

“Would he?” Dumbledore smiles in that creepy, fake-benevolent, Aizenish way. “But he doesn’t know you’re his bodyguard.”

“He does, actually. Because I told him,” Ichigo explains. “I didn’t tell him why, though—not that it’s hard to guess.”

“Why would you tell him anything at all?” Dumbledore asks. “He and his friends have been known to evade any sort of watch put on them the moment they know about it. For his own sake, it would be better for him not to know.”

This is an obnoxiously Kuchiki attitude, and Ichigo’s annoyed by it.

“I told him because he and his friends crept up behind me in their cape that makes them invisible while I was giving a report. I had to tell them something.”

Dumbledore seems shocked. “You noticed them? The Invisibility Cloak is said to hide the user from Death itself.”

“Well, it doesn’t work,” Ichigo informs him. “Obviously, since that’s not how death works. Death is an abstract concept; you can’t hide from an abstract concept. Apparently you can’t even hide from shinigami. Where’d that stupid story come from?”

“It’s an old legend…the Invisibility Cloak was allegedly a gift from Death to a young wizard.”

“Huh.” Well, Ichigo’s heard of shinigami doing weirder things. Hell, Ichigo’s seen shinigami do weirder things. Maybe the cloak is some proto-version of Urahara’s spiritual pressure masking cloaks. If it is, though, it doesn’t work for shit. “I guess it’s possible. But, actually, it sounds like a shinigami messing with the living. Or, worse, a shinigami experimenting on the living. Either the shinigami lied about what the cloak did, or the kinks weren’t worked out yet. Doesn’t really matter now, does it?”

Ichigo isn’t sure why Dumbledore looks like all his dreams have just been smashed into confetti right in front of him, but that is definitely how he looks.

“Anyway,” Ichigo mutters uncomfortably, “I’ll come back tonight, update you on the thing with the soul pieces. Sound good?”

Dumbledore tries to shake off whatever it was that made him look like his life was over. It works about as well as you’d expect. “Of course, my boy,” he says absently. “Of course.”

Ichigo leaves, thanking any available god and also Kyoraku that at least Dumbledore isn’t his problem.

* * *

“Bottom line,” Ichigo informs Dumbledore that evening, after dinner and a visit to Ichigo’s favorite room in the world, “there’s the crown, a cup, a ring, a locket, a book, a snake, and a kid. The snake and the kid were little stuffed animals, but I’m assuming the room means an actual snake and an actual kid. So it seems like you were right about Potter having a soul piece stuck to him.” Personally, Ichigo thought it was nice of the room to refrain from dragging Potter himself up there, since he’s pretty sure it could have if it’d wanted to. It’s just that awesome.

“The crown has been destroyed,” Dumbledore says thoughtfully. “And if the room showed you a book…it must have been Tom Riddle’s diary, which Mr. Potter destroyed during his second year.”

“Tom Riddle?”

“It was Voldemort’s birth name.”

“Wow. You mean this guy is named Tom, and you’re actually allowing him his delusions of grandeur by calling him that weird unpronounceable name he came up with while high on evil? What is wrong with you? I’m calling him Tom.”

“As you wish, Mr. Kurosaki,” Dumbledore says, looking pleased. Guy is seriously weird.

“Meanwhile, my, uh. Teachers? They destroyed the one that was hidden in the bank. And you know about the ring. Hey, we’re making progress. I’m still not killing Potter, though, so we need some way around that.”

“I truly fear there is no way around it, Mr. Kurosaki.” Dumbledore looks very sad about it all—because he’s given up. He’s a quitter. Ichigo calls it lazy. “You see, there is a prophecy concerning Mr. Potter and…Mr. Riddle.”

“Prophecy?” Ichigo wrinkles his nose disapprovingly. “Yeah, I don’t do prophecies.”

Dumbledore stares. “You don’t do prophecies,” he repeats blankly.

“Prophecies are a cop-out,” Ichigo explains.

“There are true prophecies, Mr. Kurosaki,” Dumbledore insists, now looking like he’s not sure they’re even having the same conversation.

“Okay, fine, but aren’t they mostly self-fulfilling? Plus, you know how sometimes if you really, really believe something’s true, you can make it true? It’s not quite willing it into existence, but it’s close. The power of positive thinking, right?”

“…I’m familiar with the concept.”

“Well, sometimes, if you refuse to believe in something hard enough, you can make it go away.” Ichigo learned that from Karin. He also learned that it only works about one time in fifty, but hey, that’s better than nothing.

“And this is what you plan to do with the prophecy.”

“What prophecy?” Ichigo counters blandly.

Dumbledore sighs like he’s got a headache coming on. Ichigo’s noticed he has this effect on lots of people.

“Good talk,” Ichigo declares, standing. “I’ll let you know if we kill any more soul pieces, you let us know if you kill any more. And I’ll see you around.”

“Have a good evening, Mr. Kurosaki,” Dumbledore answers, his hands lifting slightly, then dropping again, like he wanted to rub at his temples but stopped himself. So he tries to lie even with his body language. Just like Urahara, swear to god.

Only no, Urahara’s worse. Urahara’s got centuries of experience in being a pain in the ass, whereas this guy’s barely cracked his second century. Perspective.

Ichigo escapes Dumbledore’s office, and immediately the ghost of a beautiful, long-haired woman swoops up next to him and starts trailing him to the common room. It’s like the good old days in Karakura, but not like Hogwarts ghosts at all. Hogwarts ghosts generally flee from Ichigo; they don’t come and hang out.

“Can I help you?” he asks the ghost politely. He’s curious about this weird behavior shift.

“You destroyed my mother’s diadem,” she says. So this is Ravenclaw’s kid, huh? Ichigo can’t tell whether she’s mad about him destroying the crown or not. He guesses it depends on how she felt about her mom.

“I had to,” he explains, figuring that’s safe either way. “There was an evil soul fragment in it.”

“Yes, I know,” she hisses, looking fierce. “I heard it cry out as you destroyed it. I didn’t realize…he manipulated me into telling him how to find the diadem, you see. And then he defiled it with Dark Magic. He deceived me. Kill him for me.”

Wow. “…Yeah, the plan is to get rid of him, since he’s basically dead already. But I’m not doing it for you. No offense, but I don’t even know you.”

“I understand,” she allows, reining it in a little. “We are nothing to one another, after all. Still, I appreciate what you’ve done. If you have need of assistance in your quest, feel free to call on the Grey Lady.”

And then she floats off to do whatever it is pissed off ghosts do when they’re trapped in a castle with eternity to burn.

Ichigo shakes his head and keeps walking. Dead people and their issues.


Part 2
 
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