A/N: I am so sorry it took me so long to get this Chapter out. I had complete and total case of writer's block that I couldn't seem to shake off- mostly because there are parts of this chapter that required some serious angst, particularly the Harry part at the end. I apologize; I've never been good at angsty stories, so it may be rough.

On another note, except for the first part with just Hitsugaya, most of this Chapter will be in all third person. I apologize if this confuses anyone, but it makes it a lot easier for me to get inside the heads of the Golden trio this way.

Chapter Nineteen- The Shinigami

Third Person POV

Ron, Harry and Hermione hurried out of the classes and down to Hagrid's home.

They knocked on the door of the hut and Fang started barking, they hear Hagrid tell the dog to hush, and then the half giant opened the door up. "Oh, 'Ello there. 'Arry, Ron, 'Ermione. Good t' see ya. What so I owe the pleasure of yer visit to?"

"Well, Hagrid," Hermione said, "We need to talk to you about some things."

Hagrid sighed, "Have you three been stickin' yer noses where they don' belong again?"

The trio looked at each other awkwardly, "Well . . ." said Harry, "I suppose it's a little late now to change anything. We've already figured it all out."

Hagrid sighed, "Come in, you three. I'll make some tea."

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Hitsugaya POV

I sighed and leaned back against the tree, staring blankly at the leaves above. This was just like back in Rukongai, sleeping against a tree with an annoying voice trying to make contact inside my mind, and people gossiping. For an example on the whole gossiping thing, right now the three 'super sleuths' are 'sneaking' down to Hagrid's hut to discuss 'top secret plans'.

Tch. If they wanted it to be a secret then they should have kept their damn mouths shut.

I had been running on a total of four hours sleep every night for the past month. I swear, I was near passing out. I've gone longer without, but normally at those times I'm not constantly training.

I suppose, if I really wanted too, I could keep training-

No.

Hmm? I could if I wanted.

Yes, but I would refuse to train with you

Why would you do that?

You're so tired I would swear the world is spinning. Admittedly, it happens fairly often since you're such a workaholic, so you probably don't notice it. I, on the other hand, have gotten a bit tired of your inner world turning into a merry-go-round. Go to sleep.

What if I said no?

I'd spank you like the brat you are and then knock you unconscious so that you couldn't hurt yourself. As well as refuse to train with you for a month.

We don't have a month! Aizen could attack any time!

Well, you should get to sleep then.

Fine, fine. I seethed silently, Stupid dragon, telling me what to do. I oughta-

Go. To. Sleep.

I already said I was, damnit!

Then shut the hell up and start sleeping!

I decided that there was no use in arguing, and just closed my eyes and tried to sleep.

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Third Person POV

They all sat around Hagrid's table, huge buckets of tea in front of them. Hagrid was trying to glare at them, but for someone as nice as him, it just wasn't effective. Eventually he relented and said, "So . . . what've you gotten yerselves into this time?"

"Well," Harry trailed off, "We were curious about the transfers, since they're members of the Order and everything, and . . . ummm . . . ahh . . . we figured that you might know something."

"And why should I tell you?"

Hermione shrugged, "Well, we've already figured out their undead Japanese fighters that are supposed to go around sending souls to the afterlife. At this point, you might as well tell us everything, or else we'll just go ask Hitsugaya. He appears to want us to know, or else he would have stopped us by now."

"He doesn't know what we're doing." Ron said defensively.

"Yes," Harry, Hermione and Hagrid all spoke at the same time, "he does."

"He's not blind, Ron." Harry explained, "He sleeps in the same room as us- and he has those damn reflexes. He's noticed us sneaking around, at the very least."

"He doesn't act like he knows."

"Undead japanese fighter." Hagrid said pointedly, "If he can't act, no one can."

Hermione grinned triumphantly, "So you admit that he's a Shinigami!"

"Yes, Hermione, he's a Shinigami. Now Dumbledore's gonna have my hide if he learns I told you anymore, so let it drop."

"But-"

"No! Not another word from yous!"

". . ." An awkward silence filled the room.

"So . . . how are your classes going?" Hermione said hesitantly.

They chatted idly for a long time about life at Hogwarts, Umbridge's new restrictions, how the Order was doing (nothing classified, unfortunately, Hagrid had refused to say anything about that matter, amd they didn't really want to ask Hitsugaya right now) and most of all they talked about Hagrid's classes, and while he seemed to think that they were going well, it was clear that they weren't.

Hermione sighed, "How about I come down tomorrow after classes and help you make up lesson plans, Hagrid? That way Umbridge won't be able to get you at all for anything, because you'll have it all planned out already."

Hagrid beamed, "Why, that'd be wonderful."

"So, see you tomorrow then?" Hermione stood up, and Ron and Harry followed suit. Hagrid opened the door for them and showed them out.

"See you all tomorrow."

The golden trio jogged up the steps to the castle, not wanting Umbridge to see them and start asking awkward questions. They debated heading to the training room where Toushirou would surely be, but then they decided against it. They had been out for a surprisingly long time, and it was well past dinner time. They decided it would be a better idea to go and sneak into the school kitchens and get food and then go to bed, rather than risk getting caught sneaking around the school by Umbridge.

Which probably would have been far too easy for her, since they hadn't bothered to bring the invisibility cloak.

Not that it would have helped them much.

It had come to their attention that they were getting too big for it, Ron especially, and that it was becoming increasingly difficult to all fit underneath there. After one incident involving Ron, Hermione and a couple of accidental grabs in personal areas, Harry had vowed to go find a way to replicate the invisibility cloak so that he would be able to give them each one and never go through that kind of awkward situation again.

Honestly- you'd think that after being friends for so long, none of them would care about embarrassing moments like that. But no, the hormones just had to kick in while they were all crammed under the invisibility cloak, stuffed into a broom closet and hiding from Filch.

It would naturally be just his luck.

Someone out there really hated him.

Maybe he would ask Hitsugaya if god actually existed when they confronted him about the whole undead-reaper-of-souls thing. Maybe the Shinigami would be willing to put in a good word for him so that the powers that be would stop messing with his life so much.

Hell- who was he kidding?

The only people that had worse luck than him were- in order- Ron, Neville, and Hitsugaya Toushirou himself.

If the Shinigami could do anything about bad luck, he would have probably done it a long time ago.

Or at the very least, he would probably have asked for a less intimidating hair colour.

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Sitting on his perch in the training room, Hitsugaya sneezed loudly and then sat up, rubbing his eyes sleepily.

I should probably head back to the dormitories and fall asleep there so that I can keep an eye on Harry- shouldn't I?

It might be wise.

The young child prodigy of the Tenth division hopped down and slowly made his way to the training room exit. He wasn't feeling like he was in a particularly large hurry. In fact, if anything, he was feeling rather drowsy. That wasn't a normal feeling for him, so he figured it was a sign that Hyourinmaru was right and he should probably take the weekend off.

I told you so.

Bragging is unbecoming of you.

I know, I know. Doesn't mean I'm not right, though.

Yeah, yeah. Hitsugaya thought idly as he made his way up the stairs into the common room, You're a brilliant genius. How I manage to survive in your glorious presence is a mystery to all of us.

Sarcasm is unbecoming of you.

The Captain snickered quietly and changed into his pyjamas before climbing into bed.

That doesn't make it any less entertaining.

He fell asleep and actually slept soundly, and deeply, with no dreams whatsoever until noon the next day. He opened his eyes and saw how high the sun was in the sky before mentally cursing his need for sleep.

Harry, Ron and Hermione were all sitting on Ron's bed idly doing homework. The window to the room was flung wide open and it was probably one of the nicest days that they were going to get before winter kicked in; the sun was shining and there was a faint breeze. Hitsugaya was impressed; even the Soul Society rarely had days this nice in the middle of October. Normally it would be rainy and muggy, and generally icky weather.

Harry looked over, "You sure slept late."

Hitsugaya shrugged, "I had nothing better to do."

"Yeah, but still, now that you're up . . ." Ron trailed off, "Umm . . . we were wondering if . . ."

Here it comes. Hitsugaya murmured to his Zanpakutou.

"If . . . ummm . . ." Ron appeared to have an inherently hard time spitting it out, and eventually Hermione tried.

"We . . . erm . . . heard some rumour about you and Urahara and Shihoin, and umm well, umm we-were-wondering-if-you-were-really-a-shinigami-hired-by-Dumbledore-to-protect-the-school-and-if-you-were . . . if you were . . ." she trailed off, "Y'know . . . dead."

Hitsugaya sighed, "Yeah, I kind of figured it would be that. Let's head down to the training room, I don't want to risk anyone overhearing. I can explain everything there."

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The golden trio was, if anything, very confused right now. They hadn't been expecting Hitsugaya to deny the truth, that wasn't the way the Shinigami seemed to work. What they had been expecting though, was for him to say 'none of your business' and shut them out completely.

They sat down in the training room, the three of them on a rock with the white haired boy in front of them. Hitsugaya stared at them for a few seconds and then sighed, "You lot can be really unassertive, you know that? You've been sneaking around for the past week or so, doing secret research. And after all that time, you don't even tell me what you found?"

"So you did know what we were doing!" Hermione snapped, "I knew it."

"Congratulations." came the sarcastic drawl.

"So why didn't you tell us? It would have saved us a lot of sleep if we didn't have to sneak around like that." Harry muttered irritably.

A shrug, "To be completely honest- I was bored and you all provided an honest source of entertainment. Besides, I was kind of curious what you would turn up about Soul Reapers. Classes in the academy about human's knowledge of us are about as accurate as what your classes tell you muggles think about wizards."

"I see. So- your people actually have a school then? I mean, we always thought you lot were lying about that."

"I kind of was. Urahara isn't a teacher at the school, and I graduated years ago. I don't think that Yoruichi even attended the academy- but they both left about a century before I showed up, so I wouldn't know."

They paused and then Harry said, "So why are you really here. And don't say it's because Dumbledore asked you to, because you don't respect him at all."

"It's a bit of a long story." Hitsugaya said calmly.

"We have time."

"I kind of figured that, too. I'll make it short. About a year ago, a Captain called Aizen betrayed the Soul Society. Along with him went two other Captains- Ichimaru and Tousen."

Harry frowned, "You told us about them- you just said that they had threatened your school and were the new allies that everyone was worried about. So they're actually Shinigami?"

"Yeah. Nasty ones, though. Aizen managed to get his hands on a reality-bending device called the Hogyouku. He was invincible before- now he's immortal. He plans to usurp the Soul King and place himself as the new god of the world."

"So- why is he here?"

"In order to beat the Soul King he needs three things- first, to find something to make him immortal."

"He's got that." Hermione said.

"Second, he needs to defeat anyone who could stop him from getting to the Soul King."

"That would be you."

Hitsugaya shook his head, "No, not me. He's worried about Yamamoto and Urahara. Maybe Kurosaki too, if Kurosaki has progressed that far. He could defeat me or pretty much anyone else without even blinking."

"So- why would you risk fighting Aizen if you know he's powerful enough to kill you easily?"

"Why would you fight Voldemort when you've seen him fight and you know he's powerful enough to kill you."

"He killed my parents! Ican't just let that lie!"

"Exactly. What Aizen has done is unforgivable for us to. No matter how futile it is, I have to try to beat him. Besides," Hitsugaya gave a grim smile, "he'd kill me even if I wasn't fighting him, so I might as well give it my best."

"So . . . what's the third thing he needs."

"Access to the King's realm, which is a lot harder than it seems. Him getting in there is like a human trying to get into Soul Society without a Shinigami to guide them. It's nearly impossible. To do it, he needs a key, and there are only two ways to do that."

"How?" Hermione prodded.

"The first was to go to the spiritually rich plot of land in the world of the living, and then sacrifice a thousand souls and steal their life energy at that land. That way is no longer possible for him, since we made sure no soul will ever go near that land, making it impossible for him to make the key there."

"How did you do that?" Ron asked.

"A fake earthquake that knocked down all of the buildings as well as sinking the town so it flooded with water. No one was hurt, and Aizen won't be able to use it anymore. The fact that we made that one impossible to use means that Aizen now has to use the second one. Which is here in Hogwarts somewhere. The only problem is that none of the books we have left doesn't tell us what that was actually is."

"So that was why Aizen allied himself with Voldemort- to figure out what information is in Hogwarts that could help him?" Hermione speculated.

"Maybe." Hitsugaya frowned, "Although, I get the feeling that there's something else to it."

"Why?"

"What are the chances that Voldemort just happens to know how to create a key to the King's realm?"

"Slim to none." Ron stated.

"Exactly."

"So . . . now what?" Harry asked.

Hitsugaya shrugged, "We keep waiting. I've been going through the library as much as I can, but my knowledge of wizarding isn't that great yet. Not to mention the fact that it could literally be anything."

Harry frowned, "If we have nothing better to do . . . could we practice some kido, then?"

"Don't you all have a potions essay due tomorrow?"

"Well . . . yeah."

"And isn't your OWL year kind of important?"

"Well . . . yeah."

". . ." the look Hitsugaya gave them said it all.

"I guess we should do that, shouldn't we."

"Yeah, you really should."

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Harry sighed and leaned back into his pillows. The sun had set ages ago, and they had only just finished their essays. That being said- it felt like they had done a pretty thorough job of them. They had spent almost all of the day concentrating on them, and had them so well written that not even Snape would be able to find anything wrong with them.

Now that they were out of the way, though, he found his mind drifting to other things.

Mainly the transfers.

Or rather, where they came from.

Now that they had deduced the big secret around the Shinigami, a few things were beginning to hit home.

The first thing was that Hitsugaya was dead. Honest-to-god dead. And he looked about ten years old. That would have meant he was really young when he died, which must have sucked a lot. Sitting in the training room and talking, that hadn't seemed like such a big deal, but now, laying in bed and mulling things over . . . well, it seemed like a big deal.

He had had his fair share of near death experiences, and last year at the end of the tri-wizard tournament, he had come closer than most. For a few moments, he had thought he was going to die. When he was tied to that damn statue, and Voldemort was stealing his blood, he had never been more terrified in his life.

It was one thing to be in the middle of a fight and be . . . well . . . fighting. When you were fighting, you didn't have time to think about the consequences, you just concentrated on surviving and that was it. But when you weren't fighting. When you were just laying there, waiting for death to come . . . that was a whole different story.

In the end, Voldemort had freed him from that torture and then duelled him. And in that duel, his family had come to protect him.

Had anyone done that for Hitsugaya?

Or had he just lain there, waiting for death to come. Knowing that there was nothing anyone could do to help him.

That scared Harry a lot. Up until now, he had never really thought much about dying- sure, it scared him. But he always thought 'I'm young, I have the rest of my life ahead of me'.

The only problem with that train of thought was that Hitsugaya, and even Urahara and Shihoin to an extent, were not 'old' by any means. All three of them had pretty much died young.

And then there was the fact that they had never actually thought that much about the land of the dead itself. Obviously, it was different than what they thought. A lot different, given the fact that there was a military organization running the place. Was it a happy place?

Or was it some kind of horrifying dystopia.

His parents were there.

He had never thought of it like that, but his parents were currently in the same place that Hitsugaya and the other transfers had come from.

Were they happy there? Were his parents even together still?

For what seemed like the millionth time he flipped over and irritably tried to get comfortable.

Why couldn't he fall asleep?

Eventually he got up and decided to go downstairs and do some divination homework. It's not like he was doing anything useful tossing and turning in bed, and divination homework would normally put him right to sleep.

He grabbed his bag and went downstairs, idly noting that Hitsugaya's bed was empty.

He hoped the transfer wasn't in the common room. He wasn't sure if he could face the other boy right now.

Damnit. Why on earth was this only bugging him? Hermione and Ron both seemed fine around the transfers.

He got halfway down the stairs and froze when he saw the transfer sitting one of the chairs reading. He made a move to turn around and Hitsugaya's voice stopped him, "Something you wanted, Potter?"

"Huh- oh, umm, no, I was just coming down to do some divination homework."

"Is that so? Rather late for that, don't you think? Shouldn't you be sleeping?"

Harry winced, "Well, ummm, I couldn't sleep. So I came down here to divination homework."

"So why are you turning around?" Hitsugaya said calmly, picking up a cup of tea of the bedside table beside him, frowning at it, and then setting it down.

"Umm . . . well, I didn't want to disturb you."

"I don't mind." Hitsugaya said simply.

Harry stuttered, "Umm. Ah. Well, I was kind of thinking that I would try and sleep again."

"Potter. Do you really think if you just run upstairs you'll be able to sleep? Do you really think that will fix your problem?"

"Umm . . . well . . . no, not really. I guess it won't. How did you know I was going to be bugged out by all of this?"

Hitsugaya folded up the book, and put it aside. Harry noticed that the inside of his hand, the one he had gone to pick the tea up with was shiny and almost glass-like.

"Hey- Hitsugaya? Is there something wrong with your hand?"

A pause and then, "Damnit. I knew I shouldn't have tried to drink that tea."

"Uh- what?"

"It melted my hand." A voice came from the corner of the room hidden behind the fireplace, and Harry turned to look in time to see a tall, green-haired man walk out.

"Hyourinmaru?" Harry yelped. He lowered his voice and hissed, "Why are you out here?"

"Because I knew you would, as you put it, be 'bugged out' and my Master has the emotional depth of the ten year old he resembles, so he's not going to be able to help you out without screwing something major up."

"Then who is-"

The Hitsugaya sitting on the couch shattered into millions of tiny shards of ice dust.

"Oh. A clone. Where is he, then?"

"Training hand-to-hand combat and flash step with Shihoin. Sucker. She's going to kill him."

"Why is he doing that?" Harry asked curiously.

"Because she bullied him into it, and he knows that it's his weakest area so he's willing to put effort into improving. He can beat her in sword fights, but he's always been a bit to shrimpy to get a good start in hand to hand fighting, and now she's going to make it so that he'll have to get better at it. But enough of that, I came here because we were worried about you and Toushirou couldn't figure out a way to talk to you himself, since you've been avoiding him ever since you got near the end of those essays. Not to mention he's never been good at talking."

"Is he really that bad with people?"

"Well, no . . . not really. He's just used to the Shinigami method of dealing with things, which is beating someone up until they snap and let all those pent up emotions up. For the record, if you don't talk to me, that is plan two. So I suggest you start talking. What is it about the whole dead thing that's bugging you?"

That brought Harry back to the present, and he plopped down on the couch, "I don't know. Mainly the fact that you're all dead. It's a little hard to swallow. It's . . . I dunno. I just find it hard to imagine what it must have been like to die. I mean, I've been close to dying, and that terrified me. It scared me so much I'm surprised that I'm even sane. So if I feel that way, how are you all sane?"

Hyourinmaru frowned, and Harry was shocked by how similar that expression was to the one Hitsugaya wore so often, "Well, I'll admit, the actual dying is a bitch. But in a way, it's no worse than thinking you're about to die. The only difference is with one, you wake up and you're on earth, and the other you wake up and you're in Soul Society. And if what's bothering you is the fact that you're horrified for us, then don't bother. If we're not bugged because we're dead, then you shouldn't be dead because we're dead. That make sense?"

"Yeah. Umm . . . what's the Soul Society like."

"It's just another version of the World of the Living."

"So . . . my parents?"

"They both died at the same time right?"

"Well . . . yeah. They did."

"Then they're probably together living their lives as best they can."

"Do you think they still remember me?"

"Most likely. I don't see how they could forget." Hyourinmaru said softly.

"Will I ever see them again?"

"That, I'm afraid, I don't know. Soul Society is the same size as the world of the Living, after all." Hyourinmaru wasn't sure how else to put it.

". . . I see. So they're not really watching over me, are they?"

Hyourinmaru sighed, "No. They're not."

Harry chuckled, and Hyourinmaru raised an eyebrow at him, "In a way, that scares me. But I know that when I needed them last year, they came. I don't know how, but they did. So I know that if I really need them, they'll help me. But in a way, it's relieving too, because I was always afraid they could- you know- see me when I was going to the washroom, and that's just awkward and nerve-racking."

Hyourinmaru stared for a few seconds, and then burst out laughing, "That, Potter, is one of the weirdest things I have ever heard. And trust me, I have heard some really weird things."

Harry chuckled, "That was weird, wasn't it? So, you think they're happy in Soul Society, then?"

"Yeah, I do. It's a relaxing place, when you get down to it."

Hyourinmaru hoped that by the time Potter got to the Soul Society himself, he would forget that little white lie.

Harry nodded, "Thanks."

"No problem. Unless you need anything else, I'm going to the training room. I want to try and make sure Shihoin doesn't kill my Master."

"Why do you do that?" Harry asked curiously.

"Do what?"

"Call him 'Master'. I mean, he thinks of you as his partner." Harry explained.

"It's complicated. Really complicated. Just acknowledge that it makes no sense and move on." Hyourinmaru said shortly.

"But-"

He was cut short when Hyourinmaru swore and grabbed his arm. "Ouch. Son of a bitch that woman is insane."

"What? What happened?"

"That crazy woman just broke his arm in two places. To be fair, he pretty much knew this would happen. But still. Ouch."

"I take it you should get going?"

"Yeah. Good night, Potter. If anything is bothering you, let us know."

"Yeah I will."

Harry frowned at the massive man shattered into a million tiny pieces the way the clone had, and then leaned back to stare at the fire. It was still a lot to take in . . . but for some reason, knowing that his parents were probably still together in the afterlife made it better. If what Hyourinmaru said was true, then they were just happily living out their lives in Soul Society.

Although- that still raised one question.

How was it that last summer the two of them had shown up to help defeat Voldemort. Was it all an illusion?

Or had there been something else going on that night? After all, it was entirely possible that a spell or something had affected things.

But if that was the case- what was the spell?

Harry sighed and leaned back.

Nothing ever made sense anymore.