|SIYE Time:23:58 on 17th October 2017|
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Category: SIYE Challenges, Magical Creatures Challenge (2017-3)
Warnings: Extreme Language
Summary: It was the first Tuesday in September, 2016, time to go back to school. So when Auror Potter found his office utterly incapable of handling this - creature - thing, they call an expert, or experts... Oh and who can answer Al's increasingly challenging questions?
Hitcount: Story Total: 2132; Chapter Total: 151
I seem to be incapable of life right now... So here we go with another chapter... Someone needs to give me a really hard kick in the butt to actually do my readings (and stay away from writing more fanfictions)!
On the side note, there are a few cultural things in this chapter. I'll try to explain them in the notes below, but let me know if things are still too confusing!
Warning: strong language
Ginny sat at the table and watched the September rain hit the window. It had just started to drizzle when she got to the school gate. It was that type of rain where you’d never think you’ll need an umbrella for, but then got you proper wet before you could reach your destination.
They’d got home, dried themselves, and changed, and now Ginny was in the living room, supervising homework time. A delicious smelling pot of beef and ale stew was simmering on the cooker. Ginny pulled her gaze back, and continued to read The Hippogriff at Hogwarts. It was a newly released book about migrant children’s experiences, and Ginny didn’t know what to take from it. She liked the writing though. The author possessed enough skills to keep her engaged, but never too attached to think. He had a poetic voice.
“Done,” Lily snapped shut her organizer smugly, “I’m faster than you!”
“That’s not fair,” Al protested, “You’ve only got maths, and I’ve got readings too! I’ve done maths faster than you!”
“I still finished before you did!” Lily was not a girl to back down, “Admit defeat, Albus!”
Al sighed, and shook his head, “Fine, I’m reading ahead anyways.”
Lily looked like she wanted to carry the argument further. Not wanting to play the peacemaker between the two, Ginny shot both kids a warning glare, and Lily dropped the thought.
“I’ll go work on my flexibility,” she excused herself, “Or Anna’s gonna jump on my neck next week.”
“Don’t overdo it,” Ginny called after her 8-year-old, “I’d rather not deal with a torn muscle again.”
“I know my limit,” Lily’s voice echoed from the stairs.
It was almost an hour later when Al decided he’d read enough. By then, Ginny was in the kitchen, mashing the potatoes.
“All right?” Ginny asked, adding more milk into the pot.
“Yeah,” said Al, “Can I ask a question?”
“Were there lots of refugees during the War against Riddle?” Al licked his lips.
“There was,” said Ginny simply, “Why?”
Al shrugged, “Just wondering. We’re learning about World War II this term.”
“Ah,” said Ginny, recalling a number of difficult conversations with James when he learned about the same topic, “Many muggleborns fled the country, more were forced into hiding.”
“And then what?” asked Al, “Did they come back?”
“Some of them did,” said Ginny, reaching for the salt jar, “Some of them decided not to come back.”
“But why?” Al frowned, “Why didn’t they want to come home?”
“I don’t know, Al,” said Ginny sadly, “Why do you think?”
“Because they were afraid?”
“Possibly so,” agreed Ginny, “or the Post-War Reform Committee never reached them.”
There was a shuffle from the living room. A few moments later, Harry and Teddy poked their heads inside the kitchen.
“Smells good in here,” said Harry, pretending to be fully immersed by the smell, “I know my missus has been working hard.”
Al made a face and ran away. He still avoided his parents’ “disgusting” interactions like a plague. Teddy, chuckling, hurried out with Al after a brief hello.
“Dinner’ll be ready in 10!” Ginny yelled after the boys. Harry pinned a soft kiss on her cheeks.
“Mmm… How was your day?” asked Ginny.
“Eventful,” Harry grimaced, “They found Islington in Seville, and refused to hand him over. Then Ferguson the lawyer came for the usual ‘It’s time for a reconsideration’ rubbish. A fight, and then a suspected sighting of an unknown creature.”
“Eventful indeed,” said Ginny. She sent the knife to cut the lettuce with a wave of her wand, “Strange creature?”
“Or something related to a creature,” said Harry as he ordered the plates to set themselves on the table, “Luna never really explained it. I’m starting to suspect she doesn’t even know for sure.”
“Luna doesn’t know the beast?” asked Ginny incredulously, “Merlin, that must be one hell of a beast!”
“It’s not really a creature, as far as we know,” sighed Harry, “But Luna insists it’s creature-related, and we’re calling in Kathy Walters.”
“I remember that girl,” Ginny smiled fondly, “one of the first Muggleborns to attend Hogwarts after the war. As passionate as Hermione, that Kathy.”
“True, we wouldn’t have the VAO if not for the Walters,” said Harry, “Enough of me. How was your day?”
“Me?” Ginny shook her head, “Just the old so-and-so. Finished the report for yesterday’s match, then used the rest of the day to read that new book I’m supposed to review. Then Al came and asked questions about refugees. He’s learning about that Muggle war now.”
“That’s productive,” Harry praised, “As for Al, we’ll just have to wait and see, I suppose. He’ll be more difficult than James, but he’s no Rosie, or Molly.”
“True,” Ginny chuckled. Molly was only in her third year, and she had already driven Percy up the wall by demanding all kinds of facts about the War, some of her questions more embarrassing than the others. Audrey had to step in before she decided her father was a coward. Rosie was the same age as Al. She asked for “a book about that magic that made Uncle Harry famous” for her upcoming birthday. Hermione was more than exasperated.
“Speaking of the kids,” said Harry, remembering her lunchtime conversation with Hermione, “Hagrid invites us for tea on Thursday.”
“We can go, as long as he clears it with the Headmistress,” said Ginny, “You mind making the salad while I go up and call the kids? We’re out of dressing, I think. So salt and vinegar for now.”
Harry gave her a thumb-up and redirected his attention to the bowl of fresh garden veg before him.
Dinner was a quiet, dull affair, with Al in his own thoughts and James’ absence. Lily and Teddy tried their best to jabber on throughout the meal, and managed to maintain the conversation till the main course was over.
“What’s for pudding, Mummy?” asked Lily.
“We’ve still got those ice cream sandwiches we made the other day, would you like some?” asked Ginny.
Lily nodded enthusiastically.
“Me too, Mum,” said Al.
Harry put on the kettle as Ginny pulled out the sandwiches for the kids. He and Teddy then worked on the dishes. It was an unspoken rule at the Potters: if one cooked, the others must help with the dishes.
When the kitchen was once again presentable, and the tea was ready, the men loaded the pot and a few cups onto a tray and carried it outside, where the kids and Ginny passed a Quaffle around. Al seemed to have convinced the others that their current rule was to never pass forward.
“We’re playing a game of magical rugby,” said Ginny in way of explanation, “Care to join us?”
It took a lot of confusion to explain the rules and boundaries, but the group had fun nonetheless. It was soon on the darkening, and the ball and the bodies were getting harder to see.
“Touch!” squealed Al, “Knock over!”
“You got me, Al,” said Teddy, panting.
“Next try wins!” screamed Lily, “Cuz I’m knackered!”
“All right,” said Al, slipping past Teddy before the older boy could react, and sprinted past the goal line, “We won!”
“Good job, Al,” praised Harry, also catching his breaths, “You’re a very clever Captain! Let’s go back inside now.”
The next set of routines were in play as the grownups set to get the kids ready to bed. Finally, at half past nine, Harry and Teddy settled in the living room sofa.
“Never have kids, Teddy,” grumbled Ginny as she laid down their second brew of tea and a box of shortbread on the table, “You’ll be forced to abandon all day-time social activities, and everything that does not happen at home.”
“Duly noted,” said Teddy, smiling, “I hope I wasn’t a little devil like these two.”
“You were worse,” teased Harry, “We were terrified of losing you. We’d never know what you’d look like the next second!”
“My favourite trick,” Teddy teased back, “good to know it worked.”
Harry took a sip of tea.
“So, how are you settling in?” Ginny asked, “You and Susan getting along?”
“Yeah, she’s a very capable mentor,” said Teddy, “she doesn’t yell at you like Kopp always does,” he spared a cautious glance at Harry, “but she makes her points clear, and she cares about teaching.”
“Good old Susan,” said Harry, “Glad to see she’s treating you as Teddy, not Harry’s godson.”
“Yeah. Thanks, Harry,” said Teddy, “I know a lot of the lecturers couldn’t do that. Susan’s amazing, really.”
“What about the other trainees? You’re getting along just fine?” Ginny sounded a little concerned, “Harry hexed Florence when he first joined the force. They weren’t giving you a hard time for being related to Harry?”
“No,” Teddy cracked a wicked grin, “But I bet they’ll be jealous now that I’ve become the first one to go on a mission.”
“Susan took you to the scene today?” asked Ginny.
“She called me after the rest of the team deemed the scene safe,” explained Teddy, “Don’t worry, Harry won’t get me killed before I could even finish my training.”
“What happens now? You’re calling in the Obliviators?”
“They’ll be on standby, in case some Muggle sees more than they should,” Harry explained, “Fortunately they couldn’t see what was really there, or we’d have a nationwide crisis. But we can’t really do anything till Kathy gets back.”
“At least twenty-four hours of waiting,” moaned Teddy, “with a rotation between three teams to keep an eye on the Big Balloon.”
“Alex named it,” said Teddy, “It looks like one of those giant balloons Muggles use for festivals, or so he said. Except it looked like a real animal with real furs and stuff.”
“At least you don’t have the Magical Creature folks breathing into your neck,” said Ginny.
“I had to file a request to look over recent custom records though,” Harry stretched his back, “in hopes that we could find more clues on who brought it in.”
“Great,” muttered Teddy, “More work for the inexperienced.”
“Better than going into the field and getting killed on your first day” Harry reminded him, “A few of us were scarily close to that on our first days.”
“True,” said Teddy, “That would be especially sad for you lot, considering...”
“Yeah, anyways,” Ginny refilled her cup, “How’s Andromeda, Teddy?”
The question successfully spinned them off the trajectory of more war talk, and the rest of the evening flew by with general banter and gossip. Harry was amused when Teddy turned pink at Ginny’s innocent question,
“Victoire? You fancy her?”
Teddy nodded as if it was the hardest decision of his life.
“Congratulations, young man,” said Ginny, “Just don’t let your Auror friends know about your girl yet. They can give you hell if they know you’re dating a schoolgirl.”
“Thanks, Ginny,” Teddy smiled shyly.
The grandfather clock chimed eleven. Teddy stood up,
“I’d better get going,” he said, scooping his briefcase from the sofa, “Gran’ll be livid if I don’t show up soon.”
“Here, take these,” Ginny dashed to the kitchen and returned with another box of shortbread, “We made loads with the kids the other day, take this to Andromeda and say hi to us.”
“Thanks, Ginny,” said Teddy, not even attempting to refuse, “I’ll make sure there’s a grand Victorian cake waiting for you next time you visit.”
“Thank you, Teddy,” said Harry, “You have a good night.”
“You too,” Teddy searched his pockets, and pulled out a sealed bag. He reached in, grabbed a handful of Floo powder, and walked to the fireplace, “Tonks’ Residence.”
Harry watched as his godson disappear spinning in the flames.
“Well, that’s another child dealt with,” said Ginny, inching closer, “What do you say about some real grownup time, Mr Potter?”
“Certainly, Mrs Potter,” said Harry in his poshest voice. He took Ginny’s hand, held her by the waist, and together, they marched to the master bedroom.
Katherine Walters had just finished her last cycle of meditation. Growing up in the west, she wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of sitting around doing nothing. Unfortunately for her, she chose to study in the Wood domain, and a heightened sense of the surrounding and herself while maintaining what her master called “the inner peace” was the basic requirement for the specialization. Over the past few years, she did her cycles earnestly, without gaining a taste of the practice itself.
In her meta-alert state, she sensed a movement from the hallway. It was light, but a powerful sort of light, just like how in Wood aspire their footsteps to be. Kathy waited till the movement halted in front of her room. The person knocked.
Kathy opened the door. Tianya, the Domain Director, stared at her grimly.
“Gu Xiaoqian,” he used her legal name, “The British Ministry Aurors request your assistance.”
“Is everything okay?” she asked. It wasn’t usual for anyone in Britain to call her via the Doom, let alone the Auror Office requesting her expertise.
“The Collaborator only suggested that your immediate presence is preferred,” he said, “We waited till you finished your meditation cycle. Here’s the official request document.”
“Thank you very much,” Kathy took the parchment envelope from the small, wrinkly man, tore it up, and skimmed through the letter.
“They suspect a sighting of a rare magical creature from the Far East,” said Kathy, frowning, “That’s strange… Sir, would this be all right -”
“It’s a Ministry request on their expert abroad, the school has no say in this. It’s your decision.” said Tianya. Kathy couldn’t tell any emotion from the man.
“I’ll go then,” said Kathy, genuinely worried, “It’s an Auror Office case, so I’m not sure how long it’ll take. Would you put a word for me if I don’t come back in time for the next Lecture Cycle?”
“That won’t be a problem. You’re an apprentice, not a student. The usual discipline doesn’t apply,” the man finally let out a reassuring smile, “Take a few days to visit your family, eh?”
“Thank you, sir,” said Kathy, warmed by the Director’s concern, “I’ll try my best to come back before the lectures.”
“I’ll go and tell the Ministry to arrange your Portkeys, then,” said Tianya, “You take care, lass.”
The man walked away, leaving Kathy to stare at the empty yard. It was the start of the Eighth lunar month, and the day before White Dew. Most students were enjoying their end-of-summer holiday with their parents, or using the holiday to further their studies. Of course, those who were studying were either in their final year of their education, or aspired to become a healer or a lawyer.
A cool, summer’s breeze caressed the yard, shaking the date trees on either end of the rectangular space, and carrying the smell of fruits from the back hills. The Dome was a peaceful place, if not a little repressive at times, and she was glad she sought out her roots after graduating from Hogwarts.
Kathy closed the door and pulled out her travel pack. The students here had never seen a Standard Magizoology Travel Pack before, and frequently asked about her “foreign hiking bag” during her first year as an apprentice. They eventually saw its usefulness after their last End-of-Cycle Trial, which required students to form groups and survive in the back hills for five days. Now they just looked at her pack with awe.
Kathy opened the pack and checked for her supplies. She was the type of person who never truly unpacked, so that packing would never be too difficult. After a quick count, she decided she only needed appropriate clothes, her book box on East Asian, South African, and Australian magical creatures (because Charlie and the Ministry cared to mention the inadequacy of the legendary Newt Scamander, so the creature couldn’t be from Europe, North America, or northern Africa), and her equipment kit for all sorts of Chinese magic. Hoping for a creature that she knew well, Kathy decided she’d take a nap first. Her midnight to noon meditation session wasn’t tiring, but her upcoming Portkey travel would be.
It was a few hours later when the Silhouette knocked on the door, delivering the details of her Portkey. Kathy just had time to change into her jeans and shirt before she was due in the Central Hall, where she would start her journey home. She found the broken comb with ease, and held it in her hand. At 3:30pm sharp, the comb glowed blue. She felt a familiar tugging sensation at her navel before embracing a whirlwind of potential destinations.
Mongolia Bilgee Hunting Ground… Kazakhstan Ministry Reception Room… Mascow Academy of Transportation Magic…
As Kathy was directed to the Portkeys and waited for each one of them, she realized that she was taking the short route. Her family had been Portkeying between Britain and China since she got her Hogwarts letter, and every other time they were directed towards a route that would either skirt Southern Europe or India. The Ministries must have pulled several strings to put her through via Russia.
The Leeuwalden All-Welcome Magical Tourist Centre took care of her final connection with kindness and warm food. Finally, after finishing her portion of sausage and mash, she was directed to an old ball pen. It would take her straight to the Ministry Entrance.
It was a rainy day in London. Dampness seeped through her battered runners as Kathy marched towards the guest entrance on Northumberland Street, just off the Strand. She cursed silently when she checked her watch, convinced that the Ministry was closed, before coming back to her senses: her watch, although magic-proof, did not sync time zones. She arrived at 14:41 in London, not 21:41.
“Please state your name and the purpose of your visit,” the dull, female voice boomed as she closed the door of the telephone box.
“Katherine Walters,” she said, “For a consultation.”
The lift descended into the ground, and soon transported her to the Atrium.
“Please proceed to the security desk at the end of the hall to receive your Visitor’s Badge. Have a good day.”
Despite the number of times she walked through the Atrium to visit her parents, Kathy never got used to the shiny, marble floors. It always felt like they were out to make her slip and break her arm.
Kathy paused briefly at the Monument - a tall obelisk with all participants and victims from the First and Second Wizarding War, on both sides, in alphabetical order of their surnames. She smiled fondly at a particular memory, one that involved Professor Underwood, Harry the Deputy Head Auror, and Kingsley the Minister.
“Name?” the burly wizard at the security desk called her impatiently.
“Katherine Walters,” said Kathy, “I’m here as per request of the Aurors.”
She handed the wizard her wand, accepted a number of pokes from the new Deception Detector - one that was said to detect a range of Muggle disguises - and was relieved to finally receive her Visitor’s Badge. She pinned it firmly on the left collar of her shirt.
“What on earth is going on?” she ranted as soon as she entered Harry’s semi-private office, “You’ve pulled me out of a transformative year of studies, it had better be something worthwhile!”
She was glad to see Harry sigh. It meant he didn’t want to call her either.
“Believe me, Kathy,” he said, throwing his hands above his head, “We wouldn’t have called you if we have a single clue. In fact, we wouldn’t have known to call you if not for Luna’s insistence.”
The mention of Kathy’s eccentric ex-mentor signalled the gravity of Harry’s problem. The Auror Office had their own team of Magical Creature experts, and to involve borth Charlie and Luna, and by extension Kathy, they must have zero clue of their current Big Case.
“You’re that desperate?” Kathy asked, settling herself into a chair.
“Giant, badger-like thing in the air, nine black tales, fox’s head,” recited Harry, his eyes half closed, “Sounds familiar?”
Kathy felt her hair stand on the back of her neck. She had heard plenty about the creature, few of the rumours positive. She’d never met one alive, thank Merline, as her master’s stories were horrifying enough. She didn’t know if she’d be able to handle it with his master, let alone doing it alone.
“Blimey,” she said, “Don’t tell me it’s a Fox Spirit! That foul thing has never been seen for almost 200 years, and last time it was seen, it lead the whole of China into chaos and war.”
“Great,” muttered Harry, clearly displeased at her hypothesis, “Another war. Just what we need not even two decades after last one.”
“Or - ” Kathy thought about the recent rumours circulating the Dome, “It could be an Illusion of a Nine-Tailed Fox. It’s harmless, but it’s as unlikely as the Fox Spirit for it’s a very rare Hatched Pet. I can’t really tell between the two unless I go there and see it myself.”
“A pet. At the Dome, students grow Pet Eggs and Hatch them instead of buying pets. Whatever they Hatch says something about their power and personalities, and as they grow up together, they become one unit. A Nine-Tailed Fox is extremely rare, though. I think there’s only been one Fox over the past decade or so.”
Harry nodded, “Let’s get ready. We’re going to the scene.”
 Tianya: 天涯, a common name for both males and females in Mainland China, literally means "edge of the heaven/sky"
 Gu Xiaoqian: 顾晓倩, Kathy's "other" name. Gu (顾) is a surname in China, and Xiaoqian (晓倩) is her first name. It has two parts. Xiao (晓) means early (or knowing/understanding), and Qian (倩) means beautiful, handsome, or a beautiful female smile, though its meaning is largely lost and this character is almost only used in names these days... It's a surprisingly common character for female names these days, starting with Kathy's generation. Xiao (晓) is less common in names but its meaning still stays in the lexicon of the common folks.
 White Dew: 白露, or Bailu. One of the 24 solar terms in East Asia. It usually falls around September 8th and represents the day where dew would be forming in early mornings, merely a month after the First Day of Autumn (which is usually around August 8th).
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