Dawn of the Moonfang
By Tango Dancer

You're not dreaming, this really is a chapter of Dawn of the Moonfang!
As I've told several of you, I'm really, deeply sorry about the long wait, and even more that I can't guarantee I'm back for good, but believe me when I say I feel terrible whenever I think of you all and how I ditched you. I absolutely hate that I made you all wait for so long. Truth is, I had no inspiration, Bleach canon moved on too quickly, and I've had a lot of things going on this year (still going on, actually).
I also want to thank you all for your support and enthusiasm and kind words, and especially sparklefreeze, whom I will definitely hire as my spokesperson in the future -thank you, you're a brilliant person, you write what I think better than I ever could!
I hope you will all enjoy this chapter!

Chapter 24:

It was a long hour after her arrival that the black-haired woman, whose name they heard was Unohana, decided that Ichigo was stable enough to be moved to the infirmary. Immediately, both Snape and Dumbledore took out their wands to cast a levitating charm on his body, but stopped when someone stepped between them and the passed-out teacher. The blue-haired man snarled at them, lips pulled back to reveal his teeth in an animal growl, clearly stating that he wouldn't let them cast any spell whatsoever on his unconscious -partner?, then turned around once he was sure they wouldn't dare go through with it anyway and picked him up bridal style.

"Lead the way, woman." He snapped. Madam Pomphrey looked outraged, but said nothing and left the Hall, the Espada on her heels.

"Grimmjow-kun really does care." Inoue said softly.

"Shihouin-taichou has a wonderful gift." Unohana merely answered, and they shared a glance before the fourth division captain turned to look at the wizards. "I am afraid my services are required back in Japan. Please don't worry: Inoue-san is a very gifted healer."

And with that she was gone, leaving a blushing Inoue behind her, fidgeting slightly as everyone looked at her. In the end, Ron was the one to break the silence.

"So, um, who're you?"

"My name is Inoue Orihime." She chirped, with a blinding smile.

"And how d'you know-" He was interrupted by Hermione harshly elbowing him in the ribs.

"Ron!" She exclaimed, looking scandalized. "Don't you know how rude it is in Japan not to introduce oneself before asking for someone else's name?"

Turning, she smiled at the orange-haired woman.

"Forgive my boyfriend, Miss Inoue. I am Hermione Granger, and here are Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, Blaise Zabini, Theodore..." She went on, pointing at everyone in turn as she named them while Inoue smiled and bowed politely from time to time.

"Maybe we should relocate," Dumbledore said. "You must be tired after using your abilities to heal Mr Kurosaki."

"Oh no!" She waved her hands in front of her face. "This was nothing, Unohana-san did most of the work!"

"I think Inoue-chan's hungry, actually." Isshin said knowingly, and she blushed at the truth of his words.

"Not to worry, then!"

Five minutes later, they were all seated at the Gryffindor table and eating the meal several House elves had just brought them. The woman, they noticed immediately, had very odd taste in food, and they tried their best not too stare, though it was getting more and more difficult as she'd just mixed ketchup and mustard with a dish of saucy fish and chili con carne.

"So, how do you know Professor Kurosaki?"

"Oh, Kurosaki-kun and I used to be in the same class. He was so powerful he couldn't hold all his power in, and as I was so often exposed to it, me and several others developed abilities of our own."

She was very talkative, in a bubbly, cheerful way, and they shared a glance: it was obvious that if they wanted answers, she was the one person they should ask. Isshin had gone with the twins to see Ichigo, and that left only a bunch of very curious wizards with the young Japanese.

"So he's a good friend of yours?" McGonagall asked.

She nodded vigorously, eyes shining with conviction and loyalty. "Oh, yes! Kurosaki-kun is definitely my best male friend! We've been through a lot together, he even invaded Hueco Mundo with only two friends to rescue me when I was captured by Aizen."

"A rescue party of only three people? In enemy territory?"

"Yes! Incredible, isn't it? But we were joined by two of our nakama later on, and then by Kuchiki-taichou and Zaraki-taichou and even Unohana-taichou and Kurotsuchi-taichou! And everyone survived!" She said it like it was amazing and common at the same time, and they found themselves unsure as to how they should feel about that.

"Nakama?" Draco repeated.

"What does 'taichou' mean?" Harry asked, feeling confused.

She flushed in obvious embarrassment. "I'm so sorry! Of course you wouldn't know! Well, 'taichou' means 'captain' in English and 'nakama' means 'comrade'. I apologize!"

"No, no, it's fine. Thank you for explaining. So, you're a healer, right? Is that all you can do?"

"Well, I can attack, but my abilities are mostly defensive and regenerative. I can heal and protect, but my offensive skills are nowhere near those of Kurosaki-kun!"

"Yes, we've seen that..." Severus said curtly. "He's very powerful, isn't he?"

She nodded slowly, cheerful demeanor suddenly gone as she stared down at her plate sadly.

"Yes. He's most likely the most powerful of us. Even Aizen acknowledges him as a such. He's been trying to get to him for years, but he hadn't managed to until..."

"Until a month ago."

She jerked a little at that, but nodded anyway. The war in Hueco Mundo had lasted three months to the fighters, amongst whom she hadn't been, but though she hadn't been there, the way people kept referring to it as having lasted three months made it difficult to keep in mind that in the real world, only one month had passed.

"Yes..." She whispered.

"What happened? How did he get captured?" Ron asked, a little too eagerly if Hermione's disapproving frown was anything to go by.

"Ukitake-taichou was sick that day, and half his division got ambushed by four of Aizen's elite. They were getting slaughtered, so Kurosaki-kun came to help as he was in the vicinity. But the Espada-" she swallowed "they're very powerful. Even Kurosaki-kun couldn't have defeated all three of them by himself. We only managed to get him back thanks to Grimmjow-kun."

It was all she said, but it was enough. They didn't ask any more questions after that, seeing that her enthusiasm seemed to have faded, and she was now morosely picking at her food.

"Will you be staying here, Miss Inoue?" Dumbledore asked politely once they were all finished.

"Just tonight if everything goes well." She replied gently. "Kurosaki-kun is a fast healer, he shouldn't be in need of my abilities."

"Then you could explain to us what just happened, couldn't you?" Draco drawled.

She shook her head, eyes full of uncertainty.

"I'm afraid I can't. Though I am affiliated to the Seireitei, I am not an officer, and therefore have no authority to tell you anything. You will have to wait for Kurosaki-kun to wake up." She paused. "Don't make him overexert himself, though. Unohana-taichou can be very scary when she gets angry." She shuddered slightly as they all wondered how the delicate sapphire-eyed woman they had seen earlier could be anything but gentle.

"Anyway, I should head home soon." She rose to her feet and bowed. "Thank you for the meal." And just as she said it, Grimmjow came stalking into the room.

"Oi, woman, you ready to go back?"

Nodding, she bounced over to him and he wrapped an arm around her before disappearing.

"How the hell do they do that?" Ron muttered. Harry could only nod, quite confused himself.


"We're alive Aibou."

"You fought well." Pride was almost rolling off Zangetsu in waves, and Ichigo allowed himself to briefly bask in the feeling. The old man, after all, had been with him since the beginning, his mentor every time he needed advice -be it in battle or merely life-related problems.

Then, he turned to the silent figure standing a little off to the side. Obviously, the Zanpakutôt feared he wouldn't accept him now that he knew his identity.




"The Blood Blade was originally made so that it would change to become a Zanpakutô should the Shihouin Clan Head ever need one, and be gifted with enough reiatsu. However, that process was modified when you were changed into an Arrancar, thus giving you another Zanpakutô."

"But you were born from a Shinigami..."

The solemn spirit nodded his head.

"Indeed. However, I agreed on changing my nature to suit your needs."

They looked at each other. The last time they had seen each other, they...

"I thought you were dead."

"I thought I was too. However, part of me was already hoping that I could find a place in your soul, and bonded itself to you. It helped me survive and regenerate over the years, and when the time came, I was ready to lend you my power and become yours."

Ichigo looked taken aback at that. But then, his eyes softened, and the Zanpakutô who'd been scorned by his master and abandoned by him could feel his whole being fill with warmth as their souls resonated with each other. Ichigo hesitated, looking torn.

"Was it -painful?"

Muramasa shook his head. Adapting was something he'd been doing for centuries, and this... this had been nothing compared to the slow death he'd been forced to endure when Kôga had rejected him and broken his blade. Ichigo's voice tore him from his musings, and he focused back on him. He looked healthy in this world, much better than his physical body these days, and his features were marred by a contemplative frown. His reiatsu was full of quiet thinking, healing and the whispering remnants of triumph after Ulquiorra's defeat.

"I-" The hybrid paused. "I'm no saint. I'm full of faults and I'm only trying my best to protect the people I love. I'm not really sure what I am anymore, and I'm potentially dangerous, but... If you still want me, then-" He breathed in deeply, locked gazes with Muramasa's own clear gray orbs and opened his arms. "Then I welcome you into my soul."


Muramasa's eyes widened. He hadn't doubted Ichigo would make this decision, but to actually hear-


He had just been accepted by someone, a Shinigami hybrid with so much power he could never have dreamed it in his wildest dreams.

Thud. Thud.

And now he could finally know what Zangetsu knew, what Zabimaru and Sode no Shirayuki had, what Senbonzakura treasured so much that he and his wielder had actually defended him against his master. But master he was no more, and instead Kurosaki Ichigo, that strange human, had accepted him...

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Accepted... him.

Light exploded around him, and suddenly, hundreds of reishi strings wrapped around both Ichigo and himself, and he felt more complete than he ever had. Ichigo's presence filled his very being, and suddenly, he knew all about him, his secrets, his fears, his victories and his defeats, everything there was to know, down to the first words he'd ever spoken. Such was the intimate connection a Zanpakutô and its Shinigami shared, and it was no longer painful to acknowledge that it was only after hundreds of years of existence that he finally got to know this feeling, because this, what he was feeling now, was worth the entire wait. He doubted anyone could fathom the true depths to which Ichigo's being ran.


He looked up, eyes still full of the fear that somehow, this was only a dream, or a twisted joke, or something, but Ichigo's eyes were full of warmth and sincerity when he said the words that truly made his Zanpakutô heart swell:

"Welcome home."

And Muramasa knew without a doubt that he meant every word of it. A lone tear ran down his cheek, but he didn't pay attention to it. Because those words, those two, simple words, actually meant-

You're not alone anymore.


This is getting repetitive.

There were people with him in the room, but they stopped talking as soon as someone said a sharp "Hush now! He's waking up!" It was a woman's voice, curt and dry. Obviously, she was used to being obeyed. Most likely the nurse, then.

His eyelids were a pain to open, but he managed to do it, only to slam them shut immediately as the light in the room was far too bright.

"I just shut the curtains, Professor, you can open your eyes."

Dipping his chin in acknowledgment, he tried again, and found that the brightness was much more bearable this time. Someone pressed something cool against his lips, and he drank from the glass before letting his head fall back on the pillow. His eyes slid shut on their own, and before he knew it, he was fast asleep once more.

In the infirmary, Ron looked at his friends. "Well, that sure was anticlimactic." Hermione glared at him, torn between outrage at the casual way he treated the serious injuries of the professor, and awe that the red-head actually knew such a big word. In the end, she settled for a lecture on tact and finesse, which the others quickly tuned out.

"How is he?" Karin asked Madam Pomfrey worriedly.

"Exhausted." She answered briskly. "Don't worry, Ms. Kurosaki, your brother should be fine once he gets his rest. His body is just recovering all the energy he used up three days ago. He will wake up when he's ready to properly function again."

Theo squeezed Yuzu's shoulder as she shared a relieved glance with her twin.

Ichigo only woke up two full weeks after his fight with Ulquiorra. Lucius had agreed to substitute for him again, only insisting to get the full story which had been obliviated from the students, as it wouldn't have been good to have such a story reach the parents. The rumors about Hogwarts' lack of safety and the existence of a secret society breeding such powerful individuals would be nothing short of a catastrophe for everyone involved.

Though it had taken a long time, his recovery was complete when he did open his eyes, and he felt it immediately in the way his reiatsu simmered gently under his skin, begging to be used. He felt more rested than he had in years. Shiro's instant regeneration ability, he thought, really was a blessing he could never thank God enough for.

His sisters had apparently forgotten all their resentment, because he had an armful of sobbing twins crying their hearts out in his hospital shirt five minutes after waking up. His father was there too, of course, his eyes a little too bright to be normal, but he'd at least had the decency to keep from resorting to a 'Super-Daddy-Love-Hug' to show his affection, instead opting for a manly clap on the shoulder and a firm "nice to have you back, son."

And then, before he knew it, he'd been roped into an impromptu Order of the Phoenix meeting, which ended up with him seated on an armchair in Dumbledore's office, facing a bunch of curious and suspicious wizards and witches, the youngest of whom where no older than fifteen. This, he could only think as he rubbed his forehead tiredly, promised to be absolutely no fun.

It still wasn't any fun when, after ten minutes of sitting there, they'd just kept staring at him without saying a word. He could understand the curiosity, especially if this was about what he thought it was about and Hermione had accurately translated the word 'Shinigami', but still... He'd been sure Dumbledore at least would have gathered his bearings after a few minutes.

"We gonna sit 'ere all day, or actually do somethin'?"

Gasps echoed all around the room as wands were wiped out and pointed at the albino perched precariously on the arm of Ichigo's armchair, looking utterly bored as he let his golden eyes sweep over the group before turning back to his doppelganger.

"I was wondering about that myself, actually." Ichigo said in the same bored tone. "Headmaster?"

The old man flushed in his beard, cleared his throat.

"Yes, yes of course, hum... Who, pray tell, is your... lookalike?"

"I ain't no lookalike, ol' man. Name's Shiro. Ya can call meh Master."

Ichigo concealed a smile behind his hand, amused at his Hollow's antics.

"What are you doing out here, anyway?"

"'m bored. Newbie's still shy, won't spar, and ol' man's sleeping."


"Well, yeah, we used up quite a lotta power to get ya back on yar feet so quick, Aibou."

"Mmm." Ichigo looked thoughtful for a second, then nodded. "You can stay, but don't cause any trouble."

The Hollow merely answered with a grin which clearly said he had little to no intention of respecting that wish, but Ichigo merely rolled his eyes at his behavior. They turned back to the Order members, and Shiro's hand quietly found its way on his Shinigami's shoulder, where he let it rest in silent support. Though the Shihouin Clan Head said nothing, he seemed to lean into the touch ever so slightly. That had the Hollow inwardly smiling at the thought that it was long gone, the time when the young man had been fighting him at every turn, struggling for dominance and hating this part of himself with every fiber of his being.

"So," Ichigo said. "I guess you want explanations on what happened..."

"Two weeks ago." Tonks supplied helpfully.

"Yes, two weeks ago." He paused. "This is actually a very complicated story, so I will try and make it understandable. However, I want an Unbreakable Oath that none of you will go and speak of this to anyone not already aware of it without my consent."

They hesitated but swore anyway, knowing that it was the only way they were getting any answers. When that was done, Ichigo nodded in approval and settled more comfortably in his seat.

"Basically, what I told you about the war in Japan is true, except that it doesn't originate on Earth, but on a separate dimension altogether. Shinigami are Soul Reapers. Their duty is to help the souls of the dead to pass on to the afterlife, to a place called the Soul Society. Soul Society is divided between two places: the Rukongai, or 'Town of the Wandering Souls', and the Seireitei, or 'Court of Pure Souls', where the Shinigami live. We are organized in thirteen divisions all led by a captain and a lieutenant.

"However, Shinigami have another duty: to fight and purify the souls which, for one reason or another, corrode until they become creatures of hatred, rage and hunger, led solely by instinct. Those beasts feed on normal souls, or 'Pluses', and are called Hollows. Are you still with me?"

"Very good." He said as they all motioned for him to continue. "You are aware of course that normal humans can't see ghosts. Select individuals, though, have enough power -we call it reiatsu- to feel or even see them, which in turn enables them to see Shinigami. Such was my case." He paused. "Seven years ago, I got involved with the Shinigami, which led me into this war."

"What is it about?"

Ichigo ran a hand through his hair.

"Three captains turned traitor and left the Soul Society for Hueco Mundo, the world of the Hollows. They started creating an army of extremely powerful hybrids called Arrancar, which he numbered. The smaller the number, the stronger the Arrancar, numbers ten to 1 -or zero, in our case- being the elite, the Espada."

"So the guy you defeated was one of those Arrancar guys?" Sirius questioned.

"Yes. He was actually the Tercera Espada, Ulquiorra Cifer. Technically, he should have been Cero, but he hid his last release from even Aizen. Nobody had actually seen it until he used it against me. He was most likely the strongest opponent I have ever encountered, except for Aizen."

"And those Arrancar are Shinigami-Hollow hybrids?"


"How can you recognize a Hollow?"

"Big monsta wit' a white mask? Not that difficult ta spot if ya ask meh." Shiro intervened.

"You used a mask, though, didn't you?" Bill asked.

"I did. I used to be another type of hybrid entirely. Arrancar are Hollows who break their mask and are given Shinigami powers, hence their having a Zanpakutô. I, however, was a Shinigami before I gained my Hollow powers."

There were a few seconds of bemused silence.

"O-kay... And what does that make you?" Tonks said slowly, clearly perplexed.

"A Vizard. There were eight others before me, actually. But near the end of my captivity, Aizen managed to turn me into an Arrancar, thus making me the Cero Espada. Thankfully, we were strong enough that he didn't manage to brainwash us, or-" he trailed off.

Shiro squeezed his shoulder and took over.

"Anyway, fact's tha' the idiot actually managed ta make us even stronga than before, and that now we've gotta damn lotta releases."

"But aren't there laws in Soul Society against that kind of thing? Hollows are a Shinigami's enemy, after all, aren't they?"

Ichigo inwardly sighed. Dumbledore's perceptiveness would be his downfall one day.

"Course there are. But Aibou didn't get 'is powas willingly, fought lil' ol' meh for dominance for quite a while, actually."

"You're a Hollow?" Ron burst loudly, looking very pale. Shiro grinned, showing off his sharp teeth, then licked his lips.

"Whadya think, ginger'ead? D'I look like a normal 'uman ta ya?"

"So, how come you still -forgive me- exist?" Lucius said carefully.

"Aibou's proven 'imself far too damn useful and strong for any of them weaklin's ta actually try and fight us. And they still owe 'im a whole lotta debts for the times 'e saved their wrinkled asses."


"Yeah, yeah, whateva." The man brushed him off with a flippant wave of his hand. "Anyway, thin' is, Aibou's got far too many allies for anyone t' even think o' turnin' against 'im."

"Especially considering the fact that you're on good terms with the Head of the Kuchiki Clan, and the Head of the Shihouin Clan yourself." Severus said.


"You changed forms several times during the fight," Harry said, "how did you do it?"

"A Shinigami's power is born from their soul, and materializes under the form of a Zanpakutô. In other words, our sword. Those have two possible releases: Shikai and Bankai. To achieve the first, one must learn the name of their Zanpakutô, while to reach Bankai, you need to materialize your Zanpakutô's spirit and force it into submission. Bankai is a requirement for captains, and only a Shinigami every few centuries manages to gain it, for it is a testimony of great power."

"How long do you need to get it?"

"Usually, at least ten years."

They picked up on the word immediately.

"Usually?" Mrs. Weasley repeated.

"Aibou got it in two days and a 'alf."

They gaped.

"Yes, well, it was an emergency. One of my friends was about to be executed, and I needed that power to save her."

"How old were you at that time?" McGonagall asked suspiciously, and they all leaned forward, eager to know the answer.


"Can't believe you kept us out of the Order with the pretext we were too young when he was fighting a war at our age." Ron grumbled, glaring at his mother.

"I don't think you would have liked getting repeatedly stabbed and cut in half at age fifteen, Mr. Weasley." Ichigo said dryly. "To be quite truthful, the number of near-death experiences I'd had by the time I turned eighteen was actually less than the times I actually did die."

You could have heard a pin drop. Ron was squirming in his seat, put very ill-at-ease by the Hollow's poisonous glare. Nobody dared to ask how the teacher was still there to talk about it, obviously breathing and healthy enough to walk and fight.

"So, how does this all actually concern us mortals?" Dumbledore asked, fingers intertwined under his chin.

"The war has spread into the Living World. Aizen managed to get Wizarding Clans to join him by making empty promises as he always does, and they are now harassing the fighters we dispatched to that dimension. The problem is that between Konsôing souls, purifying Hollows and fighting Arrancars, Soul Society has nowhere near enough fighters to handle everything at once. We need reinforcements, and we need people with actual magical power, seeing as I'm the only one amongst us all with Wizarding blood, and I can hardly be fighting a bunch of Wizards at the same time as I am destroying a group of Arrancars."

"So you were sent here for backup."

"Yes and no. I decided to leave for Karin and Yuzu's safety. They were being targeted by Aizen, and it was too dangerous for them to stay in Japan."

"I still say you should have let us train." Karin growled, arms crossed over her chest.

"Preposterous." Ichigo scoffed. "Yuzu barely has enough reiatsu to feel them."

"I've been able to see spirits for four years, Ichi-nii." Yuzu protested.

"That doesn't make you powerful enough to go anywhere near a battlefield. And we've already had this conversation, the answer is still no."

They pouted, but he merely dismissed them and turned back to the wizards.

"I have no intention of forcing you into joining our war. I understand that you just got out of your own conflict, and that it's still painful for you to think about it, let alone consider entering another one you hardly have any interest in. Please take your time to decide. However, were you to choose to get involved, be assured that you won't be sent off to fight without proper equipment and training. You will first be trained by the best we can offer, and believe me when I say, the best you will get."

"But you will go back at the end of the year, am I wrong?" Hermione said softly.

"I will. This year was supposed to allow me some reprieve after seven years of non-stop conflict, but my men need me and I can't leave them to fight a war without proper leadership. Though my lieutenant is very competent, she is no captain, and relying completely on her is unfair of me."

A bad leader would never have worried about that, Bill thought as he looked at the Shinigami's golden eyes, but Ichigo still seemed to think himself unworthy of his position.

"Anyway," he said as he rose to his feet, "I will report to the Soul Society tonight and leave you to your thoughts. Take your time."

And with that he swept back out of the room, Shiro vanishing in a flash of white spirit particles.


When he came back that night, it was to a group of students waiting in the hallway by the entrance of his rooms, and he let them in quietly before fixing himself some sake and offering them tea.

"What is it?" He eventually asked as they didn't seem inclined to speak.

"The story you told us... It was yours, wasn't it?"

Lowering the cup of alcohol from his lips, he looked at them, then settled down in an armchair by the fire, long legs crossed at the knee.


"Why did you? Tell us, I mean."

He shrugged. It was amazing, Hermione reflected, how, ever since the secret of his true nature had come out, he'd been acting far more relaxed, more natural and ever so slightly less distant. He was more human in a sense, and it was reassuring somehow, because what inhuman being shrugged?

"You asked for information on the Shinigami. I couldn't very well give you all the vast amount of practical knowledge I have on them, and what little history I know wouldn't have sufficed. It was also a way to subtly put you on the right track about me. I was ordered to recruit wizards for the war, after all."

They all fell quiet as they watched the teacher, whose golden orbs reflected the flames flickering in the fireplace. He looked very calm, very composed, almost at peace, though they doubted he'd ever open up enough in front of them that they'd actually see him completely at ease.

"You don't expect us to join, do you?"

He looked up briefly, eyes meeting Harry's for the shortest second, before looking back at the fire.


"Why not?"

He took a small sip of sake.

"Our war has been going on for the past seven years. I can't imagine what it would be for you after twenty years of constant fear."

"We had thirteen years of reprieve thanks to Harry." Hermione pointed out.

"Maybe. But people like Severus and Albus, people like Lucius... they knew the Dark Lord would be back and they lived in constant fear and anticipation of that day. When it happened, your Ministry proved utterly useless, and in the end, it was a war fought on two fronts. They deserve their rest. And I fully understand that. Us Shinigami live for centuries. As dead people, we age very slowly, and consequently have very long lives. Mortals, however, don't have that luxury. Severus has spent most of his life at war, as has the rest of his generation and the one before that. I do not wish a second war on them."

"You said yours is bloodier than ours..." Draco murmured.

"Yes. Because Shinigami fights often entail mass-destruction, and Japan has a very long war tradition. We cultivate the Arts since birth, be it only by attending lessons at the local dojo or actually learning strategy and how to wield weapons. We are a Warrior country, and I don't expect that will change anytime soon."

There was a knock at the door, and he stood, only to come back with Lucius and Severus in tow.

"Students out of bed, I see." The blonde commented. The Potions Master, much to the small group's surprise, said nothing and instead chose to ignore them.

"Let's go." Harry said, tugging at Draco's hand as he stood. Lucius raised an eyebrow at his son, but said nothing. "Thanks for answering our questions, Professor."

"No problem, Potter." The man waved off the gratitude dismissively. "Good night."

The three men waited for the portrait to swing back shut, then settled down on the seats around the fireplace. The two British accepted a glass of sake for Severus, Brandy for Lucius, and sipped at their drinks quietly, neither saying a word as they contemplated what they had learned today.

Ichigo had certainly become a powerful warrior, but the fact that Shinigami were supposed to be dead still bothered them.

"Are you dead?"

In other circumstances and to the uneducated ear, the inquiry might have sounded odd, comical even, as the man it had been directed at was clearly sitting there, breathing and quietly drinking from a cup of very fine alcohol. Ichigo, though, seemed to find humor in it, as when he glanced up, his eyes were full of mirth.


"But you said you died. Several times."

"Yes I did."

"Then how-"

"I think, Severus, that it would be better if Ichigo were to explain this all to the Order as I doubt he would appreciate having to repeat himself several times over." Lucius said, turning to Ichigo. "Maybe we could do this by way of memories, if you agree?"

He hesitated only a second.

"That would be acceptable."

Severus looked somewhat disappointed, but said nothing, acknowledging the wisdom in his blonde friend's statement.

"Very well. But you and us will have a talk after that, young man."

Said young man merely smiled, and the rest of the evening was spent catching up, as between classes, war emergencies and Order meetings, they hadn't had time to just enjoy each other's company properly for several months.


It was a full week before Dumbledore called for another Order meeting. Ichigo had gone to report the situation to Yamamoto, who'd decided to give the wizards time to think about the choice they'd been given, and allowed him to give up any information that would be required if it helped get the humans on their side. Everybody fell silent when the DADA teacher swept in, looking as regal as ever in his crimson and black robes, and sat down elegantly before crossing his legs at the knee. It seemed to be one of his favorite sitting postures.

"Lucius suggested I show you some of my memories to help you understand some key facts of this war and see the true extent of the damage Shinigami can deal and sustain. I think this idea is acceptable. It will spare me a lot of explanations, and a lot of confusion on your part. Any objections?"

They all shook their heads.

"Very well, then. We will start with the difference between a Plus and a Hollow."

For the second time since he had walked into their lives, they got to see his wand, and could only admire its pure beauty and deadliness as he raised it to his temple and pulled. A curt flick of his wrist let the silver filament loose, and then, with a muttered spell, they were all sucked into the memory.

And done! Did you like it? There was a lot of talking, I'm afraid...

Please leave a review!

Until next time!