ZA: I'm freeeeeeeee! Free at last! From the oppressive prison known as public schooling.

Yaxley: Oh, come on. It can't be nearly as bad as the dementors in Azkaban.

ZA: You've got to be kidding me. Have you seen those makeup-plastered vultures in the day-glo pink shirts? Those can be worse than dementors.

Y: I don't know. Dementors are pretty bad.

ZA: Imagine this: dementors…in neon…with clown makeup…armed with flatirons. *shudder*

Y: What is a flatiron? Some sort of torture device?

ZA: Yes. Yes, it is. Now, do the disclaimer, or I'll flatiron you.

Y: *gulp* Zsugami Alba does not own Harry Potter or Bleach.




Chapter 13: Santa, this is not what I meant when I asked for a pony.

It took Haru a few minutes to fully catch his breath after his mad dash to the Hogwarts Express. Luckily, the Weasley twins and Ron were waiting and ready to help him toss his luggage and self onto the moving train. Unfortunately, Hermione took those few minutes to lecture him on punctuality.

"Haruyuki Kurosaki! Just what were you thinking getting to the station late? You nearly missed the train!"

"Look, Hermione, the barrier didn't want to let me through. And then Ichigo came and did some sort of feudal era reenactment with a giant meat cleaver that caused a whole bunch of property damage," Haru explained.

"Ichigo? Isn't he the sane one in your family?" Ron asked.

"Actually, that's Karin," Haru reminded his friend. "Anyway, he took a meat cleaver – a giant meat cleaver! – and slashed through the barrier. And earlier this summer he destroyed a guitar with a black katana. But it wasn't just a cut and slash. It was this wave of red and black energy that completely disintegrated it."

Hermione cut in with an incredulous look. "Haru, it is impossible for a meat cleaver to damage an ancient magical barrier – no matter how large a cleaver it is."

"Well, maybe it was a magic meat cleaver. And he was wearing these really strange clothes. The thing that gets me is how did he change into them so fast?"

Ron held up one hand and said, "Okay, Haru. Back up and tell us what happened from the beginning."

So Haru gave them the whole story, including the torturous family sing-alongs ("Family sing-alongs? That sounds like fun," Hermione interjected, much to Haru's disgust and Ron's amusement.), the guitar snatching, Dobby the house elf, Isshin's attack on Gilderoy Lockhart ("He attacked Lockhart?!" "Wish I'd been there."), and Ichigo's shocking public display of violence against bricks. "Something is definitely going on with my brother," Haru concluded.

Ron looked thoughtful. "Maybe he's secretly a wizard, too."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Ron, why would Ichigo keep a secret like that? He's definitely a muggle. Can you describe again what he was wearing and what his weapon looked like? Maybe I can search the library for ancient Japanese –"

"Guitar-vanquishing ceremonies?" Haru suggested.

Hermione huffed and looked more than a little put out. "Whatever. I do agree there is definitely something going on with your brother."

Suddenly, Ron sat up straighter. "Haru, didn't you mention there was a weird girl involved in the guitar snatching? A new friend of Ichigo's?"

"Yeah. He wouldn't talk much about her or how they met. I just thought he was embarrassed about having a girlfriend. Although, he did deny they were dating, and she kicks him in the shin a lot."

"Fred and George say that's a sure sign that a girl likes you," Ron pointed out sagely.

Hermione aimed her own kick at Ron's shin. "Shows how much you know, Ronald."

"Ow! What was that for?" But Ron was quickly distracted from her answer by the appearance of the snack trolley. "Blimey! I'm starved."

For the rest of the journey, the trio limited their conversation to more familiar, less puzzling topics. However, when the train arrived at Hogsmeade, Haru's comfort in the familiar fled as he set sight upon their intended method of transportation to the castle.

"What. Is. That?" he demanded, staring at what appeared to be black, skeletal horses with leathery wings.

"It's a carriage, Haru," Hermione enunciated slowly, shooting Ron a look that screamed, 'Now what is it?'

"Not the carriage – the thing pulling the carriage," Haru specified.

"There's nothing pulling the carriages but magic, Haru," Hermione sighed as she climbed in.

Haru gave the black horse of death a wide berth as he joined his friends. Things just kept getting weirder and weirder.

ZA: Well, that concludes our chapter for this evening…today…this morning…whatever. To those of you who said Mayes Hughes was the cameo appearance in last chapter, you are correct. Award yourself an appropriate number of house points. To those of you who inquired whether Hughes would be making additional appearances, the answer is no. I just thought it would be amusing if he and Isshin met.

Ichigo: I really hope Hermione doesn't find any ancient Japanese guitar-vanquishing ceremonies. What if I did it wrong and it resurrects itself?

ZA: I think a black Getsugatensho should do it, but you might have to pay for the repairs to the magical barrier at King's Cross. At least you didn't get robbed.

Ichigo: Wait, robbed?