Well, here's the conclusion and epilogue to the Philosopher's Stone. I hope all of you enjoy this installment! Next chapter we'll be moving right along into the Chamber of Secrets.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Bleach in any way, shape or form. However, I do like playing with the characters.
Anything you recognize is from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Ichigo had a bad feeling when he arrived to Quirrell's quarters and there was no reply. An even worse feeling rose in him when he began to think of what he could possibly be up to- and that train of thought was not going anywhere that could end well.
He tried the door- unlocked.
The redhead entered, reiatsu instinctively flaring at the amount of sheer sickening rot and darkness that surrounded every inch of the rooms and stomach roiling uncomfortably. It did little, however, to deter him from continuing in his search for him.
One thing was already clear, and that was that he needed to keep this as quiet as possible. If Quirrell- and through him Voldemort- were already onto him, it would mean that the entirety of the school was in danger, and he could hardly bear the thought of what that could mean for him.
"Shiro, go ask every student you can find if they've seen Quirrell. Ask where he's going, who he's with. I want to know everything that he's up to from this second on." Ichigo replied quietly, rage stirring in his voice and almost causing every hair on the back of the albino's neck to stand on end. "And if you find him, I want you to signal me in any way possible."
Shiro's expression flattened into one that Ichigo had rarely seen- seriousness. He nodded once, strangely colored eyes glinting, before disappearing in a blur of sonido.
Ichigo inhaled deeply, trying to keep his anger at bay. He needed to remain calm. It was too soon for anyone to know that he and Shiro had figured out who Quirrell really was- that meant that everyone was safe, for the moment. That was all going to change as soon as they found out where Quirrell was currently hiding. What was worse was that if he approached Albus and told him to evacuate the students, or at the very least get them to their dormitories, it would give them away and possibly even motivate the man to do something desperate. This left the tiniest of gaps that he and Shiro had if they wanted to ensure that Voldemort was finally vanquished.
He shunpoed to his room, barely wasting any time as he threw open his wardrobe and slid open the secret compartment in the back, revealing the all too familiar shihakusho that he hadn't donned since the last great war. The redhead clenched his jaw, refusing to relapse into the memories that rose to the surface of his mind, and stonily pulled on the clothing, pulling Zangetsu from the mounted shelf and pulling the heavy blade over his shoulder, the bandages rubbing against his spine soothingly.
Shiro's arrival came too soon, and as the albino perched on the edge of the window, his features were grim.
"No one's seen Prongs' bratling since dinner, and Quirrell was the one he was las' seen with." His twin said levelly, even as his hand instinctively went to the reversed version of the zanpakuto that Ichigo was wearing on his own back. "And if my hunch is right, I think he's goin' after the stone."
Quirrell had Harry. Voldemort had Harry. Whether as a ploy to draw him out, or as a method to attempt to gain access to the stone itself, he didn't know. But he and Shiro now had to move twice as fast if they wanted to ensure that Voldemort couldn't get his hands on the Philosopher's Stone.
"Damn straight I'm ready, King." Shiro bared his teeth. "The bastard's not even gonna be able to get away this time, either. Ya can bet on that."
With that, the pair vanished in a blur of their selected methods, ruffling a tapestry on the wall in their haste.
Harry was terrified.
He had no idea what was going on, other than Quirrell heading him off after dinner with a vague mutter of 'needing to talk to him privately'. The next thing he'd known, his Professor had latched a claw-like hand around his wrist and dragged him into the shadows of a lesser known corridor before stunning him and bringing him to this strange room.
Dark flames of some kind blocked the exit, their tendrils seeming to reach higher and higher with each snap and crack. He could have sworn that some were even reaching towards him.
He shuddered, wishing that he was anywhere but here as the Professor stood in front of the mirror that he himself had been facing not all that long ago. He was shivering from his fear- there was too much heat in the stone room from the fire, and his limbs hurt from where Quirrell had spelled some kind of rope to tie him.
"P-Professor-" he began, only to be cut off by a snarl from Quirrell, who levelled a dark glare in his direction.
"Shut your mouth, Potter!" he snapped, causing Harry to close his mouth with a barely muffled whimper. Why was he doing this? Did it have something to do with the Philosopher's Stone? "Too nosy for your own good, looking into dear Kurosaki and Flamel. I admit, it was unexpected to see him take such an interest in helping you, but no matter. The pieces of the puzzle didn't quite work out, did they?"
"I- I don't know w-what you're talking about." Harry replied.
"Wait quietly, Potter." Quirrell growled. "I need to examine this fascinating mirror."
Harry wondered what in Merlin's name Quirrell could want from a mirror, when his thoughts were interrupted by a murmur.
"This mirror is the key to finding the Stone…Trust Dumbledore to come up with something like this…But he's in London. I'll be far away by the time he gets back…"
He paused as he paced around the mirror and faced it fully, features twisting into something much darker and hungrier.
"I see the Stone…I'm presenting it to my master…but where is it?"
Frustration colored his tone, and instinctively, Harry knew that he had to prevent Professor Quirrell from paying too much attention to the mirror. Something horrible would happen, he just knew it. He began to struggle against the bindings around his limbs, grunting as they dug mercilessly into his skin.
"I don't understand." Quirrell said in frustration again. "Is the Stone inside the mirror? Should I break it?"
Harry's mind was racing. He had to do something! But considering his predicament, it was highly unlikely that he would be capable of doing anything, even if the ropes came off.
"What does this mirror do? How does it work? Help me, Master!"
To Harry's shock and horror, a voice answered. Stranger still, the voice seemed to come from the back of the Professor's head.
"Use the boy…use the boy…"
Quirrell rounded on Harry, a crazed gleam entering his eye.
"Yes- Potter! Come here!"
He clapped his hands and the ropes around his hands and ankles dropped away to the stone floor, and Harry stood hesitantly at an impatient gesture from Quirrell.
"Come here." He repeated. "Look in the mirror and tell me what you see."
I have to lie. I have to look and lie about whatever I see. That's all. He thought to himself desperately. At the same time as he walked towards the mirror, however, he was silently hoping that someone noticed that he was gone and came searching for him before something really awful could happen.
Quirrell moved close behind him, almost shoving him to face the mirror. Harry had to take a deep breath to try and avoid smelling the odd scent that was seemingly coming from the Professor's turban. He closed his eyes, silently praying, before opening them again.
He could see his reflection- pale and scared at first, but then a moment later, his reflection smirked at him. It put a hand into its pocket and pulled out a blood red stone before winking and putting the Stone back into its pocket- as it did so, Harry felt something heavy drop into his own pocket- somehow, incredibly, he'd gotten the Stone.
"Well? What do you see?"
This was where he had to be brave, he reminded himself, gathering what little courage he had left.
"I see myself shaking hands with Dumbledore." He invented. "I- I've won the House Cup for Gryffindor."
Quirrell cursed before shoving Harry out of the way, causing him to tumble onto the floor, before cursing and running his hands over the frame of the mirror, as if it might help in revealing the secrets within.
Harry wondered if he could make a break for it now that the ropes were gone or if he should stay and hope for the best. Either way, before he could make a decision, a high voice spoke, causing Harry to pause.
Quirrell hadn't been moving his lips.
"Potter!" Quirrell roared. "Tell me the truth! What did you see!"
Harry backed away as Quirrell began having what appeared to be an argument with himself, still reeling from the strangeness of it all.
Finally, Quirrell turned, and it was like every limb had turned to stone. Petrified, he could only watch as Quirrell began unwrapping his turban. Something very wrong was happening, but he was helpless to prevent it.
The turban fell away- Quirrell's head looked strangely small without it- and then he turned slowly on the spot.
He would have screamed, but he couldn't force any noise to pass through his lips. Where there should have been a back t Quirrell's head, there was a face- the most terrible face Harry had ever seen. It was chalk white, with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake.
"Harry Potter…" it whispered. "We meet again…"
Despite the urgency to get to Quirrell, both Shiro and Ichigo knew that they would have to notify someone as to what was going on. And luckily enough, Minerva's office was on the way to the third floor, where Quirrell and Harry were no doubt headed.
"Minerva!" Ichigo shouted, crashing through her door. "Voldemort is in the castle and has taken Potter- alert Dumbledore immediately and try to get as many students away from the third floor as possible."
The witch was still for a moment as Ichigo's words sunk in, and by the time that they had, the pair were already gone. However, orders were orders, no matter who they came from, and she knew that she had a duty to the school to alert Albus as to what was going on now. Fear was present in her heart- if Voldemort had managed to infiltrate Hogwarts and kidnap Harry Potter, it could only mean the worst. But she knew that she had to push all of that aside for one blasted minute and get an owl or the floo to Albus.
Ichigo and Shiro flew through the corridors, their feet barely landing from sonido before they had taken off again. Neither spoke- or dared to- given the circumstances. Had it simply been Voldemort, it would have been a different story. But Ichigo knew very well that this was something that Tom Riddle had plotted for years and was now making a reality. He wanted revenge against Ichigo for everything that he had done to him after he became Voldemort- no matter how slight.
Only a handful of students even caught a glimpse of a blur as they tore through the space between themselves and the third floor, and even that was too slight to even begin to comprehend what they had seen.
Fluffy was no match for their speed, either, and neither was the Devils Trap- although it wasn't for lack of trying on its part. The pair shredded the gigantic plant with as much effort as it would take to slap a bug from their person before moving on to the next rooms. Anything in their way, they destroyed, until they finally came to the riddle and the potions. Only then did they pause, and Shiro instinctively knew that he would not be going through the ominous black flames with his partner. They repelled and rejected anything dark that came close to it- it would incinerate him before he even realized that it had happened.
"Go on, King. I'll be waitin' right here." He said quietly, eying up the fire warily.
Ichigo didn't need any other prompt.
Planting himself, he slowly drew Zangetsu, his reiatsu flaring in ways that it hadn't done since the night Lily and James Potter had been murdered in their home. His eyes bled into a lightning white- glowing as bright as small suns, and he roared as he charged into the flames, ignoring them even as they crawled up his form like some kind of twisted lover.
Quirrell's head snapped towards the entrance of the room with something that could be remotely related to fear shining in his eyes.
Voldemort's features, jutting out from the back of the man's skull, however, only laughed.
"I see that you have finally figured out my secret, Kurosaki." He rasped in the same high tone. "Did you like the little surprise that you discovered? Say hello, Harry, we wouldn't want to be rude."
Ichigo's eyes flicked over to a terrified Harry for a split second before noticing the mirror standing behind Quirrell.
"I can't say that I did." He said slowly, his reiatsu flaring again and causing Harry to gasp as the pressure grew on his lungs. "I have to admit that I didn't expect the attack in the woods- a shame Shiro couldn't be here to see me finally end you."
Voldemort laughed again.
"Same as the last time we met, Kurosaki. Your emotions rule you. I knew if I wanted to lure you out all I would have to do would be to….gain some leverage, so to speak. A fitting match that Harry was an easy target for me to snatch away."
Ichigo growled lowly in his chest, the sound ominous.
"You will not leave this chamber alive, Tom. I can promise you that." Ichigo swore before raising Zangetsu.
Quirrell drew his wand, standing firmly in front of him, even as the pressure around them grew.
Harry could barely breathe where he was- this kind of animosity that he could feel in the air itself was both awe-inspiring and terrifying. Luckily enough for him, he could still move, and he moved to the furthest corner away from Quirrell-Voldemort and Ichigo, his hands clutching as his chest as he struggled to continue getting air into his lungs.
Quirrell jabbed sharply forward with his wand- a sour green spilled from its tip and shot towards Ichigo, who blocked it with his blade before retaliating with a vicious lunge that almost impaled Quirrell, had it not been thanks to Voldemort.
"How unfair that you should be the only one with such a weapon." Voldemort murmured, transfiguring the discarded turban into a carbon copy of Zangetsu. "Perhaps you should have realized that this would happen sooner or later. Such a weapon, above all else, should not be limited to just one simple creature such as yourself."
Ichigo snarled, the sound animalistic, before leaping towards the man in front of him again, fully intent on ripping him limb from limb if nothing else.
What he didn't expect, however, was for the casual flick of a wrist and a block to the attack. It was enough to throw him just off balance and allow for Voldemort to get a blow of his own in, despite not being able to connect.
The next volley was almost impossible for Harry to follow. Ichigo lunged, sending his cleaver down into the other, causing sparks to shoot into the air from the metals connecting, only to have Quirrell and Voldemort return the blow with his own strange way. Either way, watching the two of them was completely out of Harry's capacity- his head was spinning, and spots flashed at the edge of his vision even as he tried to stay awake. He knew he couldn't possibly have long to stay conscious if the amount of pressure stayed like this for much longer.
What no one quite managed to notice, however, was that the mirror had begun to glow as the pressure continued to rise, burning a bright crimson as if the metal was heating up. Ichigo remained oblivious, even as a large presence at the back of his mind began to stir.
Zangetsu could sense the turmoil surrounding him, as well as the heat caused by Ichigo's own inner turmoil that had assisted in rousing him. He could especially sense that Ichigo was in danger of harming more than innocents if he was unable to control himself.
The zanpakuto spirit began pulling on the consciousness of the mirror he knew all too well, feeling its own power rise to meet his and slowly begin to add its abilities to completely rousing him. Not only that, but Zangetsu could sense that the mirror would be valuable in the next handful of moments- if played correctly.
It didn't take much longer, and the zanpakuto wrenched on the mirror one final time before he felt himself swell into being once more in the back of Ichigo's mind.
Ichigo. He greeted, causing the man to almost allow Quirrell to get a blow in on him. There is not much time. Use your will on the mirror- it may be the only way to truly rid yourself of this dark spirit.
Ichigo ducked another blow from the look-alike Zangetsu, maneuvering himself so that he could face the mirror before flaring his reiatsu and staring in at the illusion presented to him.
His nakama all faced him, their faces soft even as the surface of the mirror began to shift and roil as if it were molten metal. It was enough to cause Quirrell pause, and Ichigo didn't waste a single second to lunge back into the battle.
He struck hard and herded Quirrell back, and as he lifted Zangetsu high for the killing blow, a cool breath fanned over his ear and cheek.
"We're here with you, Ichigo." Rukia whispered, the small woman standing beside him in determination.
"Like we'd let you have all the fun." Renji chuckled darkly, his red hair flowing over his shoulder in it's wild tail.
"It is not so fun as it is business." Uryuu argued, with an agreeable grunt from Sado. Inoue too, lay a hand on Ichigo's shoulder, offering a gentle smile as they faced Quirrell together.
"What magic is this?" Quirrell demanded, looking as though he'd seen a ghost.
"This is no magic." Ichigo replied darkly. "This is what you're going to see as you finally go back to Hell where you belong."
As one, all of them flared their reiatsu, causing a heavy thundering wind to pick up in the chamber. Ichigo raised Zangetsu higher-
The roar of the attack blew away everything else- the chamber flashed white, and Harry finally closed his eyes to the world around him even as the storm continued to surge.
The next time Harry woke, it was to see the smiling face of Albus Dumbledore above him.
"Good afternoon, Harry." He greeted.
Harry blinked, trying to figure out what was going on, before everything came surging back to him at once. "Sir! Professor Quirrell- Ichigo!"
"Calm yourself, dear boy. You are a little behind the times." Dumbledore soothed. "Quirrell does not have the Stone."
"Who does?" Harry couldn't help but ask. The last he could remember, the Stone had appeared in his pocket in that chamber and then Ichigo had arrived and he couldn't remember anything else other than that at the moment.
"Harry, please relax or Madam Pomfrey will have me thrown out."
Harry swallowed hard and looked around him. He realized that he must be in the Hospital Wing- he was lying in a bed with white linen sheets and next to him was a table piled high with what looked like half a sweet shop.
"Tokens from your friends and admirers." Dumbledore explained, beaming. "What happened between you, Ichigo and Professor Quirrell down in the dungeons is a complete secret- so naturally, the entire school knows. I believe your friends Misters Fred and George Weasley were responsible for trying to send you a lavatory seat. No doubt they though it would amuse you. Madam Pomfrey, however, felt it might not be very hygienic, and confiscated it."
"How long have I been in here?" Harry wondered.
"Three days. Your friends will be most relieved you have come round. They've been extremely worried about you."
"But sir, the Stone-"
"Just leave the Stone be, Potter." Ichigo said quietly, appearing from seemingly nowhere and offering him a wan smile. "It has been destroyed by its maker and will never be used as a weapon again."
Harry looked the older male over carefully. He couldn't see any signs of injuries, but that didn't mean that they weren't there. However, he was already feeling quite tired, and he settled back into his sheets reluctantly, his eyes hovering closed once more.
Dumbledore and Harry both watched the boy for a moment longer before Albus stood and dusted himself off, moving towards the door. He could sense that Ichigo needed his own space, and would save all the questions he might have for a later time- one in which the older male did not feel such grief.
In the meantime, he would return to his office and hunt down an acid pop. He found that he had a sudden hankering for them just a moment ago.
Ichigo didn't go to the end of the year feast.
Nor did he say good-bye to any of his students.
On the day that everyone was to leave for the summer holiday, he was standing high above the castle, his cloak flapping around him in the brisk wind that had picked up. Shiro had decided against joining him, realizing that this was something that Ichigo would come to him for when he came to terms with everything. It certainly wouldn't happen in the near future- this was just another brick to add to the steadily growing wall that was being formed because of all that they'd already been through.
He watched the carriages move down towards Hogsmeade with little inflection, eyes blank.
They had been there- touched him- spoke to him- only to be ripped away once more by the cruel hands of fate.
There were many things that Ichigo regretted.
But the deaths of everyone that he had known and loved was certainly the hardest blow.
He knew that they didn't hate him for what he'd done- it had been necessary, despite the consequences that had come around because of it. They'd even known that that would have been the outcome, even though they'd never told him. He was the one who was the protector. He had been supposed to keep all of them safe from the things that were dark and evil.
He bowed his head.
You are not to blame for this, Ichigo. Zangetsu reminded gently. Despite all of the recent events, the past is the past. You did not fully destroy the dark lord, but you did ensure that part of his soul will not return again.
"But what cost will I have to pay this time?" he asked quietly. "At what cost will I have to ensure that no one will die under my watch a second time?"
Zangetsu didn't have an answer for him, remaining silent as he retreated further into Ichigo's mind to continue catching himself up on the events that had occurred since he had last been 'conscious'.
Harry would be someone he couldn't bear to lose now. He could see so much of his parents in him- see the potential that he carried within him. He would have to ensure that he, above all else, was one of the ones he could save.
And he was not going to fail this time.