A/N: Are you enjoying this yet? Haha. This chapter is waaaaay long, so go take your pee break now! And you might wanna grab a snack from the fridge. You're in for 7100+ words ahead for this chapter. There's a lot going on in this chapter. If it's just absolutely too hard to keep up with, let me know.
As always, reviews are most appreciated. And a thank you for anyone reading this!
1/1/2014: Update: I made a few changes to better flow into the next chapter, and to better elaborate (and make my writing a bit more mature (age, not rating)) on a few things. Thank you all for reading. I hope you still enjoy it.
"I will not stand for this! They are still children!" Molly shouted, infuriated by Sirius' demands that Harry, Hermione, Ron, and their friends be allowed into the Order's meetings.
Sirius stood up at the other end of the table where the Order members were seated in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place. "As Harry's godfather, I will take responsibility for him if it soothes your sense of mothering, Molly. But, seeing as the whole purpose of the Order is to counteract and destroy Voldemort, and Harry is at the center of our plans, he, above all others, deserves to know what the hell is happening!" Sirius slammed his fists on the table in anger.
Kingsley and Mad-Eye stood up, preparing to hold Sirius back if needed. Sirius growled. "You may do as you wish with your own children, but Harry and Hermione are not under your jurisdiction. Harry will be allowed at meetings whenever possible, and Hermione will, as well, should she so choose." Sirius glared at those sitting around him.
Remus stood, calmly nodding in agreement. "Sirius is right. Harry is, after all, the reason we are here now. He should be privy to any and all information, most especially that which concerns himself. Hermione, I am certain, will choose to attend as well." Remus took a breath and noticed Hermione nodding vehemently. "Molly, all we're saying is that you may as well allow Ron and Ginny in, else they'll just hear it second hand from Harry and Hermione. Would you prefer they get it fully and first-hand, or do you prefer them to hear perhaps only half or less of what we think the important details?"
Molly looked assuaged, though still very unhappy. She took a long moment for careful thought, nodding slowly. "Very well. I'm sure they would simply receive everything from Fred and George anyhow. Though I dislike it very much. They are so young still…" Molly broke out into soft sobs.
"I understand, Molly," Sirius spoke softly. "But this could be more destructive to our youth than us, and they deserve to be prepared. After this is over, they can take a couple of years to be kids again."
A few minutes later, Mad-Eye cleared his throat loudly, gathering the attention of the still weeping Molly and her comforter, Tonks. "Now we've hashed that out, we ought to move on to the real topic of this meeting. That letter. Albus, Snape, what do you have for us?" Mad-Eye's magical eye swiveled around, looking to both the men mentioned.
Snape stood, sneering at Harry and Sirius. "We have reason to believe the letter you received, Molly, is a forgery. Most likely it is something sent from one of the Death Eaters, someone who has been able to replicate your husband's handwriting. Also, it has been written with a brush and ink, rather than a quill. This is another cause of suspicion." Snape sat, his sneer firmly in place.
Molly looked alarmed. "I think I would know my own husband's handwriting, after all these years!" she exclaimed. "The question is not if it is from Arthur, but who or what allowed him to write it, and under what circumstances?"
"Finally, we agree on something, Molly," Sirius smiled sarcastically. "But, Molly's right. Who let him write the letter? Did they force him to write it, tell him what he had to say? It says he's lost most of his memories, and he can't tell her where he's at," Sirius pointed out.
Hermione, getting used to the feeling of the heat of the discussions, piped up next. "I'm by no means an expert, but I do know that no Death Eater would make his or her presence known like that. The woman who delivered the letter was dressed in something like the traditional Japanese garments of fighters. And she showed her face plainly. No Death Eater would do that."
Many in the room nodded, silently contemplating. "Well, Nymphadora and I can perform some more charms, see if there's anything else we can get out of it," Mad-Eye suggested, Tonks groaning about his use of her given name.
Remus spoke up, "But, you've already done nearly everything in, and out, of the book. They said they'd contact us, correct? Perhaps we should requisition an owl? I know it's hardly a solution, but if we drafted a letter, perhaps we would at least get a point of contact. We all know owls are amazingly skilled at finding people."
Kingsley looked to Remus. "That might be just simple enough to work. But whose owl should we use?"
"You can use Hedwig," Harry volunteered. Sirius looked at Harry questioningly. "Well, she's really good. She can find Sirius anywhere in the world, nearly. And she's more reliable than Pig." Harry and Ron laughed. Soon the room was filled with laughter, the simple joke was exactly what everyone needed to help raise their spirits and break the tension.
"Then it is settled," Dumbledore declared. "We shall send an owl, and hope to get some contact back. In the meantime, we will continue our testing, to see if we can infer anything else from the letter. Also, I would like to add, that I do implore our students to try to make this summer and school year as normal as possible." Dumbledore looked specifically to Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny, each of them nodding in turn. "You are only young and not responsible for yourselves once. Severus has indicated that Voldemort plans to remain invisible for the remainder of the summer, and much of the school year, to provide a better vantage for attack. I suggest you enjoy yourselves until told otherwise." Dumbledore's eyes twinkled with merriment.
As the group of teens wandered out into the drawing room, satisfied with the evening's events, Dumbledore turned to Snape and began a quiet conversation regarding the letter.
"This is unacceptable," a cold voice sneered. Wormtail cowered in fear.
"I am- so-sorry, my Lordship," he squeaked. He knelt down as far as the ground allowed, kissing the shoes of the masked leader.
The cloaked man standing before Wormtail kicked him. "You shall be rightfully punished for your misleading information. You all shall be punished for allowing this to become public notice so soon," the man yelled. Wormtail writhed in pain, holding his face and nose.
"Lord Volde-" another cloaked figure stepped forward in the circle of followers. "My Liege," he hastily corrected.
"Malfoy?" Voldemort returned briskly, inviting Malfoy to speak, though insistent that he waste no time delivering his report.
"We have news to report of the involvement of the giants and Dementors." Malfoy knelt slightly, looking downward worshipfully.
"Ah, but, My Lord!" Bellatrix called out from another side, "I've news to report of the creatures we discovered."
Voldemort ignored Malfoy in favor of Bellatrix's report, leaving Malfoy looking insulted. "Speak, then," he declared.
"Sir," Bellatrix's words oozed with admiration and devotion, "We discovered that they behave quite similarly to the Dementors, only much more violently." A few death eaters who had bore witness to their few experiments curled their lips and scrunched their noses in nauseated disgust.
Voldermort's eyebrow raised, eager to hear of his newest find. "Go on."
"Harry, you of all people should know that I will keep you as much informed as possible while you are away at school. And your friends, too," Sirius decreed earnestly, buttoning the last button on his shirt.
Harry nodded in response, giving a small smile. A comfortable silence draped the room in peace.
A few beats later Harry remarked, "Well, I need to go. Mrs. Weasley will be waiting for me." Harry started to turn away from Sirius, slightly saddened. "I guess I'll see you at first holiday."
"Come now, Harry," Sirius smiled, "Do you not enjoy being seen with your dog anymore? I thought Snuffles was well-behaved enough last time…" Sirius saddened.
"Sirius, you know that's not the problem," Harry retorted. "Malfoy recognized you the last time. We can't have that again. You've only just missed being turned in and sent back to Azkaban," Harry pleaded.
"Harry, I haven't walked outside in three months, not even to water my garden," Sirius pleaded. Harry knew the man would do as he pleased, no matter what, but he felt he needed to do his duty and try to help Sirius stay out of trouble.
"Sirius, you can't. It's too much of a risk," Harry stated. "We can find something else for us to do. I can stay behind, if you like," he offered.
"Never," Sirius stated firmly. "No godson of mine is going to miss out on a two-week, very much needed holiday in Diagon Alley. Molly even agreed to take you all to Hogsmeade a day or two."
"Sirius," Harry pleaded.
"Harry," Sirius returned.
Harry sighed. "I don't want to lose you for another thirteen years, or completely."
"You won't, Harry, you won't."
"But what if Malfoy sees you with me again? What then?"
Sirius grinned again. "Yes, I know. But it'll be a whole two weeks' stay at the Leaky Cauldron. I've not seen the place in… years. Besides," Sirius' grin widened, "Remus has agreed to help me out. Of course, it means I have to travel as a twin to Hermione's cat, but, I suppose beggars can't be choosers. 'Snuffles' better suits a cat, anyhow."
Harry could not help the grin. "But, what if it doesn't work?" he asked.
"Nonsense!" cried Sirius, still excited. "Besides, I have some Weasley's Wizard Wheezes as a backup."
Harry shook his head amusedly. "What have you got, Canary Creams or Nosebleed Nougat?"
Sirius laughed heartily, slapping Harry on the back then resting his arm across Harry's shoulders. "Nah. A few WonderWitch love potions." (1)
The pair walked from Sirius's bedroom to meet the Weasleys, Lupin, and Hermione in the drawing room, before setting off via the Floo Network.
The now famous, or infamous, depending on whom you asked, quartet stood in front of Ukitake's desk in the Thirteenth Division Office. Opposite them stood Urahara and Ukitake, both looking as excited as the four.
"Hitsugaya-kun, Kurosaki-kun, you have appointed your seats appropriately to handle the responsibilities of your division while you are away?" Urahara asked. Toshiro and Ichigo looked ruffled but nodded. "Then let us proceed with the details!"
Ukitake and Urahara shared a look. Taking a deep breath, Urahara began his explanation. "You will first be heading to a little pub known as the Leaky Cauldron; this is located at the entrance to Diagon Alley, in London. You have two weeks to stay there to acquaint yourselves with the area. Take in all the details you possibly can, as they will be most important in the near future, once you enter the school. According to the Stealth Force, Arthur's family is taking a two-week holiday to Diagon Alley before classes start again.
"Now this is convenient because the youngest son, Ronald, is the best friend of Harry Potter, the boy at the middle of all the chaos. We need you to meet with them and explain why we are invading their community," Urahara paused for breath.
He looked around the room to ensure everyone still followed him. Each of the quartet gave a quick nod and he began again. "Now, there are a few dangers involved in the next steps, but some I'm certain you will be glad to risk your lives for. Firstly, you will have to slip the some of the members of the Order of the Phoenix a memory modifying potion, as well as drink it yourselves. This will force you all to share the memories of the past five years, so that everyone assumes you've been at the school since you each turned eleven. By implanting false 'old' memories into your brains, you will be privy to everything Harry and his friends have done, seen, heard, and discussed, which will allow you to better integrate with them.
"However, we have two formulas of the potion. One is for the four of you, the Harry Potter boy and his friends, and the Order of the Phoenix's double agent, while the other formula will be given to everyone else. The first of the formulas will allow you to retain two sets of memories, your original and your new. You will have to focus to remember your true, original memories after drinking the potion. The second formula does not allow for the remembrance of both sets of memories, but only those close to you will need to worry about both anyhow."
Toshiro and Ichigo looked confusedly to Urahara. "So, basically it's going to be like we've been old pals all this time?" Ichigo asked. Urahara nodded.
"Precisely." Urahara grinned. A beat passed before anyone else spoke.
"So," Rukia began, "how dangerous is this?"
Urahara positively beamed. "Just a little. At best, this works as smoothly as projected. At worst, you all lose all of your social memories, those involving friends and family, and there is no way to recover them. However, the chances of that are approximately one in… seven hundred, at least. You will need to invite the Potter boy, his friends, and the Order members closest to him to tea or something. The sooner, the better. The stealth force and Yoruichi and I will handle everyone else." Ichigo, Rukia, Rangiku, and Toshiro did not look comforted.
"You said that there are a few dangers. What else are we risking our necks for?" Ichigo asked, slightly put out.
"Ah, and this is the fun part. As you will be living with the Wizards, you will be unable to use your soul forms, and must remain in a semi-permanent gigai. This means most of your reishi based powers will be ineffective, and your zanpakuto will be nearly null." The looks of horror on the faces of the four standing opposite Urahara almost made him laugh madly. Sweeping his fan in front of his face, he played out their discomfort for a moment longer.
After torturing them enough, and to head off the forthcoming protests, he quickly started explaining again. "Now, now, before you get your fundoshi in a twist, we have a way to balance this effect out." Rangiku looked extremely confused and on the verge of upset, prodding Urahara to continue quickly, lest she tell Yoruichi that he was looking at her chest again. "We have a method to materialize your zanpakuto in miniature form, and in the form of an animal. Similar to the animagi you learned about last week. Besides, everyone wants to take a pet to school." (2)
The four stood listening quietly, curiously to Urahara's idea. "So, we're going to pretty much split our own souls, and take the zanpakuto portion of our soul and turn it into a school-acceptable pet?" Toshiro summarized. Urahara nodded enthusiastically. Toshiro looked unhappy. "Will we still be able to speak with our zanpakuto spirits?"
Ukitake finally spoke. "Yes, but only those like yourselves. We've arranged it so that only those who have 'seen death' can speak with your animals, much like the requirements to see Thestrals. And, they won't know anything if your animals do not speak back. That is the only demand I made of this. Unfortunately, we do not know all of the possible side effects. So I urge you to use caution where your zanpakuto are concerned. We have taken the natural materialized form of your zanpakuto and created a gigai, if you will, for them based on these forms, as much as possible. Hitsugaya-kun, dragons are actually illegal in Great Britain, so we've had to… alter Hyourinmaru's appearance and abilities a bit."
"Not to mention all the people we had to persuade to allow you a dragon on school grounds, lots of Unforgivables we had to use," Urahara chimed mischievously. Toshiro felt Hyourinmaru stirring nervously inside him and tried to remain as calm as possible, hoping to soothe Hyourinmaru's nerves. "And we've arranged for your zanpakuto as well, Kuchiki, Kurosaki. In keeping as much as possible with school rules, we've determined an owl to be most useful for both of you. Matsumoto-san, Haineko will only have to accept being a bit smaller."
Urahara grinned his best Cheshire Cat grin and started for the door. "If you all will follow me, we'll get the process underway, and you'll be ready to go within the hour."
Ichigo, Rukia, Toshiro, and Rangiku looked nervously to one another before hesitantly following Urahara to whatever contraption he had in store. Ichigo only hoped it did not result in his death – he had no more 'free lives' left – like Urahara's last 'bright idea for soul splitting alterations.'
"This is absolutely ridiculous," Toshiro huffed, glaring at Hyourinmaru. "That was excruciatingly painful for me, and you're simply flying about, having a good time with your feline friend over there."
"You're just jealous because you think Rangiku-san doesn't think you're as cute as Haineko thinks I am," Hyourinmaru retorted, still enjoying his new bat-like, deep blue wings. Toshiro colored a forceful shade of red.
"I do not know what you are talking about," Toshiro ground out in staccato. Toshiro and Hyourinmaru were too busy staring one another down to notice the pale blush adorning Rangiku's cheeks as she tried to pretend she was unaware of their conversation.
Haineko's grey form sauntered up to Hyourinmaru, purring excitedly. "Just wait until I get you into that forest I keep hearing everyone talking about. I just love the sound of it… Forbidden."
Toshiro rolled his eyes and Ichigo made gagging sounds; Zangetsu blinked his new owl eyes in agreement. Before either could do or say more, the Senkaimon team appeared to open the gates and help deliver their things to the Living World.
Ukitake, Urahara, and Yoruichi, among a few others, came to see them off. "Here's the key to your bank account. Be nice to the goblins, and Hyourinmaru, you crafty little bugger, no fire or ice," Yoruichi warned.
Rukia bowed goodbye to Byakuya, waving to the rest, before following her companions through the gate, the snowy Sode no Shirayuki nestled in her arms and the black and white Zangetsu riding on her shoulder, looking scorned by Ichigo for no apparent reason.
The group of four hacked and coughed as they stepped through the Senkaimon, wiping ash and soot from their eyes and clothes. The black unembroidered school robes were colored grey.
"Ugh! I just washed my hair this morning," Rangiku complained, dusting the ash from her strawberry locks unhappily. "Taichō, can we get our rooms and clean up before we find these Weasley people?" she pouted. Toshiro rolled his eyes, annoyed at himself for succumbing to Rangiku's pull over him so quickly.
Toshiro and Ichigo walked up to the counter, looking around the near barren pub curiously. "Excuse me?" Ichigo called out when no one appeared behind the counter to help them. They heard a shuffle of footsteps as a shorter balding, toothless man walked up, smiling in greeting. Ichigo noted his name tag read "Tom – The Leaky Cauldron."
"What can I get ya?" Tom asked, nodding to each of the boys in turn.
Ichigo thanked the heavens for Urahara's and Arthur's discovery of the "Instant Language Learner Potion," guaranteed to last a lifetime. "We've got reservations, for Kurosaki and Hitsugaya. Is this the place?" Ichigo questioned.
"If you're looking to stay in Diagon Alley it is," Tom nodded. He picked up a log book. "Right here. One room for Kurosaki, one room for Hitsugaya, paid in full for two weeks. Be just a minute and I'll have your rooms ready. It'll be rooms thirteen and fifteen." Tom handed them each a key. "Two beds, as requested."
The group waited patiently until a witch came down the stairs, broom in hand, declaring the rooms fully prepared and ready. The foursome started up the stairs, luggage in hand when Tom noticed Hyourinmaru. "What's that you got there?" he asked, motioning his hand toward the Sapphire dragon.
"Urm… my pet, sir," Hitsugaya said quickly, still trying to get up the stairs without further opposition.
"So you're the one I been hearing about? Some bloke come through here yesterday saying a kid had bred a dragon to remain small and not be able to breathe fire. No wonder they wanted you at Hogwarts," Tom smiled. "Maybe ol' Hagrid'll get his wish after all." The four looked around to one another, not sure what this Hagrid person had to do with anything.
The fight that ensued when they realized that by "two beds" Tom literally meant only two beds, not two to a room – Ichigo and Toshiro initially refused to share a room and let the ladies share, but with the reminder from Rangiku and Rukia that they were posing as sixth year students, they agreed – woke their neighbors. A red-headed boy came stumbling out of the room across the hall.
"Eh, mates! Mind keeping it down? A bloke can't get any sleep with you lot hollering and carrying on like that," he fussed.
Rangiku leaned over to whisper in Toshiro's ear. "Taichō, I think that's one of them. I remember the picture." Toshiro nodded, recalling the photos with the people moving about in them.
"Excuse me," Toshiro stepped forward, extending a hand in greeting. "I'm very sorry for our disturbance. We had no idea that anyone would be sleeping in the middle of the day."
The red-headed boy looked at Toshiro like he had just told him the Chuddly Cannons had won the world cup. "Middle of the day? Have you looked outside lately?" he asked, astonished.
Toshiro blinked dumbly. He knew they had traveled across several time zones, but Urahara was supposed to have allowed for that. Taking a quick look around, he noticed the nearest window with light just beginning to filter in. So, that was what he meant. It was actually very early morning. "Ah, my apologies. We've only just arrived back from holiday, and the trip through the Floo Network must have thrown our sense of time off. We've been studying abroad for the summer, after our O.W.L.S. last term." Ichigo tried not to look stupidly surprised with Toshiro's quick answer and recollection ability.
The red-headed boy yawned. "Ah, it's okay," he muttered, glancing at a clock and running a hand through his hair. "Mum wanted us up in another five minutes, anyway." The boy extended his hand. "The name's Ron. Ron Weasley."
Toshiro took Ron's hand, giving his name in turn. Ichigo introduced himself next, and Ron looked astonished as Rangiku and Rukia shook his hand, as though he only just realized they were there. There was a groggy groan and yawn as another boy stepped out of the door of Ron's room.
"Harry, mate, I think these are students we haven't ever met before at school," Ron pointed to the foursome, catching a sleepy Harry's attention slightly. "They're Rukia, Rangiku, Ichigo, and Toshiro. Said they're all sixth years." Harry and Ron used their states of half-sleep as an excuse to stare at Rangiku's chest for a beat longer than they should.
"You're feeling rather jovial today, Ron," Harry commented sleepily. Harry shook his head to wake himself a bit more before extending his own hand. "Harry Potter. Nice to meet you." Within minutes Ginny and Hermione emerged and met their neighbors, followed shortly thereafter by Molly, fussing over all of her charges in her usual motherly way. Haineko began hissing in warning when a large yellow cat got particularly close to her mistress, looking rather smug as it ran between Rangiku's legs. Hermione shooed it away with a forceful whisper of "Snuffles!"
"We're looking for a Remus Lupin. We were told he'd been traveling with a group of Weasley's. Do you perhaps know how we might reach him?" Toshiro asked, taking charge as always.
"Lupin? Sure, he's in room twenty-two," Harry said, giving Toshiro a questioning look.
"Part of our studies included instruction on the past and present instructors at Hogwarts, and we'd like to speak with him to make certain our project is correct," Toshiro lied quickly, soothing some of Harry's questions.
"Oh, I see," Harry returned. "He should be getting around soon. Snuffles here is actually his cat, after all." Harry cast a warning look to the cat, who the others all would have sworn grinned.
Having left Ichigo and Rukia behind to settle their rooms, Toshiro and Rangiku knocked lightly on door number twenty-two. A man called out that he would 'be right there' and left the two to wait for nearly ten minutes. "My apologies," he said, opening the door as he made minor adjustments to the fit of his robes, "I wasn't expecting any visitors, and certainly not this early. How can I help you?"
"You are Remus Lupin?" Toshiro asked.
"I am. May I ask who I'm speaking with?"
"Toshiro Hitsugaya. I believe you have had correspondence with a Mr. Kisuke Urahara, telling you to expect us," Toshiro explained. "Rangiku, the packet, please."
Rangiku fished a packet of documents from within her robes, Lupin looking on in astonishment at her ability to stow so much in what he would have thought to be such a small space. "Here you are, Toshiro," she sing-songed brightly, annoying her shorter companion immensely, much to Lupin's amusement.
"Indeed, I did have correspondence with Mr. Urahara. We spoke through the floo network just this last evening. Please, come in and have a seat," Lupin invited. "I must admit, I was expecting someone a bit older when he mentioned that you had white hair. It looks like a bad curse got hold of you. Though I suppose you've been able to use it to your advantage some, what with the looks of your girlfriend."
Toshiro would have turned beet red if not for the laughing fit afflicting Rangiku. He grit his teeth and began trying to explain over the woman's inability to control herself, "We've brought letters and other documents we need to discuss with you…"
"Alright you lot, I need to see you all in here now," Molly called out to Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Fred and George, who had enjoyed a meal with their family, after breakfast.
"What's going on, Mum?" Ginny asked, confused, as the group of teens all crowded into the small living area of the suite. "Why did I notice some people hanging around in strange places last night?"
"Remember the owl we sent? Well, just a few days later they returned it," Molly said when the door was shut firmly behind everyone, earning surprised looks from her entourage, "and said they would send another in a few weeks. Moody got it yesterday. They said that a representative would meet us here, and Remus spoke with them a bit ago." She never mentioned that she had Order members following each of their newest members, and her own self as well, for protection.
Ginny looked surprised. "You mean the ones who've been holding Dad hostage?" she spoke harshly.
Molly sighed. "Ginny!" Hermione whispered loudly. Fred and George gave her an unkind look. Ron and Harry just shrugged.
Lupin smiled. "You're father is not being held hostage. Actually, he's been rather enjoying himself, teaching charms and spells and history these last couple months." Ginny still looked disbelieving. He pulled out a couple of pictures and a letter from the packet Toshiro had given him. "Here," he pushed the pictures and the letter toward Ginny. "You father sent another letter, and some pictures."
Lupin retold the story of how Arthur found himself on the other side of the veil, and tales of the lessons the past months, and other things Rangiku had recounted to him. "Supposedly, this organization says he's been a great help. They refuse to refer to their organization as anything but a division of the Japanese Ministry."
"We've a meeting with the Order this evening, and we wish you all to be there. The representatives are going to be there tonight as well," Molly said.
"You said the Japanese ministry?" Hermione asked, looking pointedly to Lupin. He nodded. "Would they have anything to do with the students we met this morning? They certainly appeared to be of similar ancestry. And I can't recall having ever seen them in the school before."
Lupin appeared genuinely unaware. "I'm afraid I've not met any students this morning."
Hermione decided to reserve her unasked questions for later when she could sit and discuss with Ron and Harry.
To avoid overmuch unwanted attention, Toshiro locked their 'pets' up in their rooms before they set out to explore Diagon Alley. They watched from a safe distance, unnoticed by the others, as Molly demonstrated the proper sequence of bricks to tap and the door to Diagon Alley opened. All of their faces lit with amazement. They made a stop by Gringotts first, Rangiku and Ichigo coming away a bit queasy from the trip to their vault.
Once they'd refreshed themselves a bit they reconvened in front of the bank. "Let's see… first on the list are our wands. Here are the school supply lists, and we need to pick up new robes, too," Ichigo rattled off and handed a sheet of parchment to each of the others.
The fiasco at the wand shop would have rivaled Harry's own experience.
Toshiro froze the shelves in a three inch thick layer of ice, needing an incredibly powerful defrosting and mopping spell to clean up the mess. Ollivander found Toshiro's ability delightful and gave him a wand of Elder, with a Dragon Heartstring core, 14 ¼ inches long. Rangiku was just as disastrous and exciting for Ollivander, setting everything aflame. It took Toshiro, Ichigo, Rukia, Rangiku, and Mr. Ollivander all to put the flames out. (3)
Rangiku was, however, very pleased with her Phoenix Feather and Vine wand, at 11 ½ inches long.
Ichigo – causing several of the boxes to come apart neatly at their seams, as though sliced by a sword – and Rukia – whose worst offence came in the form of a disturbing cold chill in the air – did not cause quite the disaster, though they each went through several dozen (or perhaps a few hundred) wands before finding theirs. Ichigo took a Holly wand with a Dragon Heartstring core, at 13 ½ inches, while Rukia whisked her Birch and Unicorn Hair wand around happily, at 10 inches long.
"I'm glad that's over with. I thought we'd never get to leave," Ichigo grumbled as they exited Olivander's. Toshiro simply nodded his head in agreement. Ichigo scratched his head in thought.
"Hmm… If we do things right, we might be able to get in good with that bunch we met this morning and, you know, give them the potion at lunch," Ichigo suggested.
"Ah, so you've discovered the joy of spiking someone else's punch?" Rangiku asked laughingly.
A red-headed young man and his identical companion bumped into them, one asking, and giving the others quite a start, "That wouldn't happen to have been my punch you spiked, perhaps with a WonderWitch Love Potion?"
Rangiku gave the redhead a bright smile. "I don't need love potions to make men fall in love with me," she winked flirtatiously, causing Toshiro to give an involuntary, though barely audible, growl.
The young man considered her for a moment before taking in the site of Toshiro looking as though he would freeze him and his twin in place eternally if he so much as flirted back. Deciding it was worth the risk, the redhead replied dramatically, swooning, "Alas, it is true. A woman of such beauty and grace as you needs no assistance from a measly potion such as mine. May I know your name?"
"Rangiku," she replied.
"What a lovely name! I'm George, and this is my dear brother, Fred," George declared, again detecting a chill on the air. "So, about this punch we're spiking…?"
Toshiro, too, raised a demanding eyebrow.
"Not that I've ever done anything like that before, of course. That would be quite against regulation. Oh, look, there's the others now. Never too early for a good start, right?" Rangiku successfully, if perhaps only temporarily, distracted Toshiro from the discovery of any crimes, and George from discovering just what they were up to. The foursome trotted quickly to catch up with the others ahead of them, Fred and George sharing curious glances before following.
"Why is Mum going with Lupin?" the foursome heard Ron asking, shocked and worried Molly had begun an affair in the absence of his father.
"She's been trying to help him pick up Tonks," Hermione and Ginny giggled together.
Hermione smiled sweetly. "They are good for one another, aren't they?"
"Um, excuse me," Rukia cut in.
Hermione turned to face her and smiled. "How can we help you?"
"I think you dropped this a bit back," Rukia smiled, extending a small purse of money she had skillfully pick pocketed from Hermione only moments before.
"Oh, goodness! Thank you so much!" Hermione cried out, relieved. "I can't believe I dropped it. I could have sworn I had it properly enchanted not to fall out of my pockets."
Fred and George sidled up to the foursome. "Ah, madam, a pleasure to meet you. I'm Fred Weasley, and you must be the beautiful woman our friend Hermione here mentioned having met this morning," he spoke smoothly, reaching for Rukia's hand in greeting. When she offered it, he placed a light kiss atop it, astonishing Rukia and making Hermione uneasy to be so near him while he made such forward gestures. "I'm afraid we did not have time to be properly introduced until now."
"Rukia Kuchiki," Rukia answered in her state of shock.
George laughed, "We were just heading to the apothecary. Would you all care to join us? And then how about a browse around our shop for the lovely ladies?" He extended his arm to Rangiku, who took it happily, and proceeded ahead toward their destination. Watching Toshiro from the corner of his eye, he leaned in to Rangiku and whispered, "And perhaps tell me more about this punch-spiking business? Hmm?"
Rangiku blushed prettily. "How about… no?" she said, winking.
The growing group of young wizards approached Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.
"What sort of shop do you have?" Rukia asked as she took Fred's proffered arm, earning unusual and unhappy looks from some of their companions.
"Why," Fred and George chorused, "only the best shop in the world! Weasley's Wizard Wheezes! Our specialty joke and gag gift shop." Rukia grew excited. Even Ichigo and Toshiro could not hold back their smiles.
"Come on, first galleon free for you all, including you, ickle Ronnie-kins. One time only," George decided, moving an arm around Rangiku's waist, but otherwise acting a perfect gentleman. Toshiro glared at nothing in particular.
Fred and George unlocked the doors and held them open like gentlemen to allow the others to pass. The foursome took a long look around the shop, taking in each of the shelves and racks full of Canary Creams, Ton-Tongue Toffees, WonderWitch products, Skiving Snackboxes, Headless Hats, Instant Darkness Powder, Patented Daydream Charms, and so many more things they could only gape at excitedly.
"Take your time, enjoy your browsing," Fred told the group.
"For you, Milady," George handed Rangiku a Pygmy Puff and a WonderWitch love potion, "A gift for you, and a gift for me. Don't worry, it only lasts about a day." Rangiku grinned.
"Hmm… I thought we agreed I didn't need a love potion?" she purred, setting both George's and Toshiro's cheeks burning. "But, I'll take it." She downed the small bottle in only a few gulps. "Mmm, strawberry."
"You don't need one. It's to make you fall in love with me!" George declared, bowing deeply.
"And a Pygmy Puff for you, Madame," Fred presented the fuzzy puff to Rukia, having noted her look of distrust for the drink. She took it playfully, cooing over the cuteness. Toshiro and Ichigo wandered around with Ginny and Hermione.
"Don't worry too much about Fred and George. They act like this around any pretty girl. They even do it to Hermione sometimes to annoy Ron," Ginny told Ichigo and Toshiro as they wandered the shop. They both gave her confused looks. "What? You're dating, aren't you?" Ginny clarified, moving her fingers between Ichigo and Toshiro. Ichigo looked a bit bewildered, while Toshiro looked disgusted. Hermione chastised Ginny. "You want to know, too, and I don't mean them dating each other. I meant, 'dating them,' the girls with you. Well, I suppose Toshiro and Rangiku, anyway. The way you get angry and all protective is so cute! I wish Dean would act that way with me," Ginny sighed wistfully.
"Oh," Ichigo and Toshiro shared a sigh. "Um, well…" Ichigo could do nothing but splutter, and Toshiro did not even try. "Hey, what kind of question is that? And quit laughing!"
"I see. You're not dating her, what was her name, Rukia? But, you'd like to be," Ginny determined. She and Hermione simply assumed that the assumption regarding Toshiro and Rangiku was correct, as Toshiro offered no rebuttal. "You know, Hermione and I might be able to give you a hand later. I'll just have to be sure to let Dean know, so he doesn't freak out too much," Ginny suggested. "And the only guy Hermione has lives in Bulgaria. So no worries there." Hermione blushed, feeling embarrassed for more than one reason.
The four of them wandered around some more, joining in Ginny's chattering about her ideas for revenge, since the twins refused to let her have a part time job that summer, as the twins walked toward the back rooms, Rukia and Rangiku in tow.
Fred and George led Rukia and Rangiku on a personal tour of the little shop, showing them the back rooms where they experimented and created new Wheezes. They led the ladies to a break room, their latest large experiment. The furniture and décor changed every couple of minutes from Victorian to Steampunk to Modern. A red theme, replete with Valentine's styled decorations and extra-soft cushioning, stuck with the wave of a wand, and the twins bid the girls have a seat and cup of tea.
"It is quite delightful to have the pleasure of the company of such lovely ladies as yourselves," Fred charmed Rukia.
She swooned ever so slightly. 'What is happening to me? Did he slip me one of his love potions? What if he did? Why doesn't that bother me? Oh, no, my brother is going to kill me,' she thought to herself.
He scooted his chair closer, draping one of his arms across the back of her chair. Instinctively she leaned into the movement. Rangiku rolled her eyes playfully, making Rukia blush. They spent a few minutes chatting until the service bell rang.
"I believe we have a customer," George announced. He looked to Rangiku. "Would you like to see the 'behind the counter' views?" he asked, standing and allowing her to take his arm again. She nodded, winking to Rukia as they walked from the door.
Rukia and Fred remained, him still trying to chat her up enough for a date. For several minutes they sat and enjoyed the other's company. Finally, Fred plucked up his courage to ask her for a date, guessing the taller boy with her would… not appreciate it, and she knew of the boy's feelings.
"I know you're only staying here for a couple of weeks, but, maybe we could have dinner, say, Thursday night?" Fred offered.
Rukia smiled bashfully. "I would like that, yes." What is happening? And, what about… she worried, unable to be sway her body to react otherwise.
"Well, maybe we could catch up on your first Hogsmeade trip?" Fred suggested before realizing her answer. Fred looked shocked for an instant, having expected to be turned down. He caught a wisp of thought wondering when he had ever cared about rejection, anyway.
"Wait. Really?" he asked, wondering if he had read the situation wrong. She nodded, and a faint tinge lit his cheeks. "Alright, then. I'll come by your room Thursday at six." They laughed a bit more as they strolled back down the hall and into the shop, so that the group could go and fetch their remaining school supplies before lunch. Fred walked Rukia to the door and gave her a polite kiss on the cheek before she left. Ichigo glared daggers at her and Rangiku, who did not stop talking about how sweet and cute the twins were until they met up with Molly, Lupin, Snuffles, and the twins for lunch.
It was tricky, but Rukia's days in Rukongai came in handy again as she slipped the memory modifying potion into the drinks at lunch, including the plate of milk 'Snuffles' drank from. Lupin was surprised to meet the four among the lunch group but easily feigned innocence and pretended to be getting introduced to them for the first time.
When confronted with their earlier statement about seeking out Lupin for research purposes, Rangiku easily played along and struck up a conversation that managed to placate Hermione's worries about the coincidental nature of their meeting. She was still suspicious that the four newcomers were not quite who they claimed they were, but allowed herself to reserve that investigation for a later date.
"Fred," George stated as he and Fred left their shop that evening, "we never did figure out what that punch-spiking was all about, but I feel as if we've known Rangiku and the others since they started at Hogwarts. And I swear I saw Rukia pouring something into the drinks…"
Fred shrugged, smiling brightly at the mention of Rukia. He paused momentarily, looking panicked. "I swear I didn't spike her drink. She said yes of her own free will!"
George looked confused for a moment. Then he shook his head sadly. "That's not what I meant. But, never mind. I'm sure it's nothing."
The representative's first meeting with the Order was held that night at Grimmauld Place. Toshiro and Ichigo appeared to speak with Dumbledore and a select few others long before the meeting at large. After explaining what they knew to be safe to share about their mission, the memory modification potions (and apologizing profusely for not telling anyone about them earlier), and the situation with Arthur, they took a bit of time to meet the other members and explain their ideas to the Order at large. Rangiku and Rukia met Ichigo and Toshiro then, all noticing the effects of the potion from earlier. Kingsley, Lupin, Sirius, Tonks, and Mad-Eye immediately warmed up to them, and they adored Mad-Eye's magical eye and Tonks metamorphosing. Molly, of course, already loved them like her own, and it took little time for Dumbledore to chat away happily with them all, Rangiku especially.***
At a lull in the conversation, Dumbledore stood again. "If we all are accepting of the presented requests and desires to assist, then I propose a toast!" The members, even a grudging Snape, nodded and passed the beverages around, Rukia's skills again having been put to work. With a hearty, "To the Order!" all glasses rose and everyone drank. Snape drank and quickly left. Those who had not yet partaken of the potion had a growing tingle in their head for the rest of the night.
"Supper, then?" Molly suggested, to a resounding 'yes.' Supper was laid out on the table some minutes later and Molly set a few plates in motion, preparing dishes for all ten of the teens. (4)
"I suppose that potion is working well," Rukia mused quietly to Toshiro, digging into her Sunday Roast most happily. "I don't think I've ever had food this good, except at the Burrow, of course," she added. (5)
Many of the Order members talked and laughed and shared stories over the meal, enjoying the delightful atmosphere. "So, Harry, tell us about your DA club again," Sirius said, enjoying the stories of how much mischief and trouble his godson had been the source of. He slapped Harry heartily on the back. "You make an old Marauder proud."
Hermione rolled her eyes. It had been her and Ron's idea, not Harry's, but she allowed Harry to have the pleasure of finally having a father figure to be proud of him. "Well," Harry began, "Actually, it was Hermione's idea, and she and Ron tried for weeks to get me to agree to it. If it wouldn't have been for the toad teaching D.A.D.A., no one would have ever needed me…"
Rangiku and Ichigo listened intently, very interested in the "Dumbledore's Army" group. They laughed and joked together as the memory modifying potion began to take hold, all it's unknowing victims unawares, putting them all in the DA at the same time. For a few hours, the stories wandered to The Burrow, holidays at Hogwarts, Hogsmeade visits, and anything else someone could come up with.
Finally, late into the night, the dishes cleared and everyone wandering home, Molly stood up and tried to gather the children in her care. "Come on now, you lot. We need to get back to our rooms if we ever intend to enjoy this holiday tomorrow. I wish Arthur were here to see this…" Molly sighed, smiling sadly.
"Your mum's been in especially good spirits, what with everything that's happened," Ichigo commented to Ron as they all herded around the fireplace.
"Yeah, she's been away from the Burrow and Bill and Fleur," Ginny put in. "Actually, I think she and Hermione and I have all been happy to be rid of Phlegm." Rangiku giggled with Ginny. "Although we'll have to sneak back there one or two days to play Quidditch." Harry nodded enthusiastically before they all stepped through the fire.
That Tuesday evening found Ron, Ginny, Rangiku, Harry, Toshiro, Ichigo, Hermione, Rukia, and Fred and George playing Quidditch in the garden at the Burrow. Rukia and Hermione preferred to stay on the ground, and rooted for the teams playing.
Fred and George acted as team captains, Fred selecting Ichigo, Ginny, and Toshiro for his team, leaving George with Rangiku, Ron, and Harry. Toshiro made a surprisingly good seeker. They forwent the bludgers, with only a few players for each team, and assigned their positions of seeker, keeper, and chasers.
Hermione cheered loudly for Ron, clapping and cheering when he managed to block the quaffle. Rukia rooted for Fred's team, which coincidentally both Fred and Ichigo were on, causing a bit of rivalry to be the better chaser. Quidditch quickly displaced football, kendo, and anything else the shinigami had ever seen or played. It even blew strategic games like "Go" from the water for Toshiro.
Hermione kept a tally of the points, calling out the scores. "Fred's team has 120 points, leading George's team by 30 points. And there's the Snitch!" Hermione and Rukia cheered again, watching everyone else look around frantically for the tiny golden ball. Harry and Toshiro spotted it at the same time, each speeding off in the direction of it.
From a distance, a lone figure hid in the woods, enjoying the game. It moved about gracefully, quietly, following Harry's every move.
Harry dove and wove around, obviously showing off his skills on a broom, leading Toshiro by only a few short feet. Toshiro thought quickly and sped up just enough to get in front of Harry. Harry, determined to fly faster, and forgetting about the snitch in his endeavor, sped past Toshiro.
Toshiro stopped, dust and wind swirling around him. Harry kept flying a moment, everyone else forgetting the game and watching the two boys. Harry recalled his purpose and looked around, not seeing the little golden ball anywhere.
"Oi!" Fred called, flying up to Toshiro. "He caught the snitch!" Toshiro held out his hand, the tiny gold ball fluttering its wings unhappily. "Haha! We win!" Fred took off, flying back to the rest of the crowd, practically dragging Toshiro behind him. Harry looked around dumbly for a minute before flying back himself.
The figure in the trees smiled to herself. Her son had been a seeker, capable of flying at least as well as the Potter boy and his friend.
"Wow, it looks like Gryffindor needs a new seeker," Harry grudgingly admitted when he reached the crowd.
"Ah, Toshiro, that was amazing!" Rangiku hugged Toshiro, trying not to squish his head too much into her chest, and only failing by a slight bit. Toshiro broke loose, blushing harder than usual, and smiled embarrassedly back. The two stared at each other, the other teens gathered around, looking curiously, wonderingly at them.
The moment everyone knew something would happen they heard movement in the nearby tree. Each of them readied their wands.
A lone, cloaked figure emerged from the trees. In an instant, the clearing filled with Order members, including Tonks, Mad-Eye, Lupin, and Sirius, each brandishing their wands like swords before them.
"I am looking for the Potter boy." A high pitched voice and a resentful laugh resounded from beneath the cloaked figure's hood. "We don't need to fight," it stated sarcastically, with a now obviously lilting female voice. "I simply came to pick up my son."
"Can't say I know what yer talking about," Mad-Eye growled out. "We ain't got anybody's son who doesn't belong here."
The brief moment for negotiation ended with a swish of the cloaked figure's wand. The teens cast a shielding charm. Mad-Eye stepped forward threateningly. "We don't know who you're talking about, now get, before I curse you to oblivion!" he yelled.
With a quick twist of the wand, the cloaked figure disappeared, leaving behind only a quiet string of words. "The Potter boy knows where my son is. Tell Dumbledore that he will be spared by us if he returns my son, Draco," the voice spoke. "He has been gone far too long for this… training mission." The tone sounded almost pleading, guilty. "I only wish to see my son alive again…" it faded out.
"So, the Malfoy boy went missing, huh?" Tonks wondered aloud.
Lupin shrugged. "It seems so. Perhaps Snape knows why?"
"Probably. There isn't anything Snivellus doesn't know about the damned Death Eaters," Sirius grumbled unkindly. Lupin and Tonks could not help their smiles. Even Mad-Eye grinned along with the teens.
The group started back toward the house, Sirius declaring the Quidditch game over, and no further games to be played since the risk was obviously far too much. Looking around curiously, and wondering why Draco seemed to be missing from his memories – he looked to Rangiku, Rukia and Ichigo, all returning the same look – Toshiro asked about Draco's importance.
The rest looked dumfounded. "Actually," Hermione finally spoke, "I don't really know who Draco is… I can't remember him at all, I mean, I think he's a Slytherin, but beyond that…" Harry and Ron nodded in agreement. Ichigo and Toshiro later determined that it must have been something caused by the memory modifying potion.
"We have time to worry with that later. We need to get back to the Leaky Cauldron now, and get some rest. You still need to get your new robes tomorrow," Sirius decreed. The teens were, not surprisingly, rather agreeable with the idea.
"We need to get back to the shop," Fred shrugged. "I guess… we'll see you all later." He walked off a bit and Rukia hurried after him, leaving Ichigo feeling awkward. George walked slowly with the others.
"Ah, a pretty lady," Fred grinned when Rukia caught up to him. "I should like to invite you with me, but according to Snuffles over there, it's your bedtime." Fred looked anxiously toward Sirius.
"Well… I am a bit tired, I suppose," Rukia sighed, a light blush adorning her cheeks. Fred took one of her hands, smiling brightly.
"Then, this is goodnight!" He kissed the back of her hand softly, flirtatiously. "Have a good sleep, and I shall see you Thursday," he winked at her. They smiled at each other again, Rukia wondering what on earth could be happening to her to become so asinine.
1 – A creation of Fred and George's. According to the Harry Potter Lexicon website, it is "Effective for about 24 hours, depending on the weight of the boy, and the attractiveness of the girl." Sirius is still regarded as generally good-looking, so long as you can see through the shagginess, hence the humour.
2 – Fundoshi is the word for the traditional underwear (looking like a thong or g-string) worn by Japanese men. Since WWII, it is now mostly worn only for festivals and such, men favoring more modern styles (boxers and briefs) for everyday wear.
3 – It is stated that Toshiro's sword is as long as he is, which is quite remarkably long. Granted, a wand can't be quite that large, but I felt that, in keeping with the spirit of his zanpakuto, Toshiro deserved a longer wand. The longest I found was 16 inches, and that belonged to Hagrid, so I had to shorten it to the second longest, at around 13 inches. Regardless of Hyourinmaru's length, 16 inches is quite long for any full-blood human.
4 – I am counting Fred and George in this number, as they are only 17 at this time.
5 – "Sunday Roast" actually refers to a Sunday dinner tradition in Great Britain. It usually consists of some sort of roasted meat (beef, pork, lamb, chicken), a potato dish, a vegetable dish, and Yorkshire Pudding.
***Special Note: Rangiku is the kind of person who could have a conversation with a brick wall, then tell you something she learned from it. I think she and Dumbledore would make excellent conversation. According to Rowling, the love of Dumbledore's life is Grindewald, so although even he couldn't help noticing Rangiku's enormous assets, he wouldn't be interested in her sexually.