|SIYE Time:23:59 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: 2135; Chapter Total: 145
“It’s most definitely a Fox,” said Kathy after performing a number of entrapment chants, “And not the Fox itself.”
“The Pet, right? Not the Spirit.” asked Harry.
“Feels like a Pet in distress,” said Kathy, “But I’ve never seen the Spirit before, so I can’t be sure. There’s also the saying that the Pets are sent to earth by the Spirit, so maybe they have the same feels.”
Harry blanched. The giant Fox turned again in midair, its face in agony.
“That’s just supersitstion, I doubt it’s true,” said Kathy, taking pity on the Auror, “I’m just being a responsible researcher, Big Bad-Bloke Buster.”
It was Kathy’s brother’s nickname for Harry when he first heard of the man. Ever since, the name became her favourite salutation when Harry appeared to be too wrapped up in his cases.
“But you’re confident about this - whatever it is?”
“I know it’s a Fox behind it,” said Kathy, “and if we find the Fox, I know how to do away of this Illusion.”
Harry was no mediocre investigator. Kathy sighed, and gave away her concerns, “but Foxes can’t move too far away from their owners. So if there’s a Fox, there’s a person behind it. I don’t know what that person wants.”
“Thank you, Kathy,” said Harry, “At least the person part is something we’re good at. You can go take a rest now, visit your folks if you want. I’ll send my men to look for this Fox and whoever’s behind it.”
“You’ve really got no idea of creatures from the Far East, have you?” Kathy pointed out, “Let’s organize a lecture for all Aurors involved in this case, back at the Ministry. This illusion here is safe as it is, and a couple of hit-wizards can handle the safeguarding. You’ll never find the Fox, let alone the person, without the basics.”
The afternoon was dry and gloomy after a morning full of rain. Ginny stood by the school gate, listening to the Mums talking about their back-to-school adjustments.
“Jonny just wouldn’t do his homework,” said Hannah, complaining about her kids as usual, “Ruth, of course, wouldn’t do it either, as her big brother kept distracting her.”
“Craig’s okay,” said Polly, “I suppose he wants to have a good impression on their new teacher this year. That helped with Sally.”
“Eva’s not having it, too,” said Simon, the only dad in their group, “We let her get away with it as long as she’s honest, and can convince us she didn’t need it.”
The school gate opened, and a swarm of kids streamed out, spotting and running towards their parents. Ginny failed to spot neither of her children at the first glance.
“Mummy, Mummy!” Lily called, already by her side, “Miss Henman said my story was ingenious today!”
“Yes?” said Ginny, “What did you write about?”
“I invented a chocolate bird that can sing and fly away if people eat too much. Miss said it was a brilliant idea!”
Ginny smiled at her daughter’s excitement. Ever since her children found out that their slip-ups would almost always be interpreted as being imaginative, they started to use it to their own advantage, which frequently resulted in them getting praised in English class.
“That is a very good idea,” said Ginny, looking around, “Have you seen Al?”
“His class was off late,” said Lily, nonchalant, “I didn’t wait for him today. I wanted to find you first.”
“Al’s talking to Mr Robson,” Craig arrived just in time, “He’ll be out in a little while.”
“Thank you, Craig,” said Ginny. The boy nodded before leaving with his mother.
Soon, Ginny and Lily were the only people waiting, aside from a girl about Lily’s age. She was lean, muscular, and well-tanned. Her hair was black and soft, and despite its shortness, Ginny could tell she was a girl. She had a sorrowful, uncertain look on her.
“Do you know that girl?” Ginny whispered to her daughter. She had suddenly had an urge to check if the girl was all right.
“She’s not in my class,” said Lily truthfully, “But she might be in Year 3.”
“Shall we ask if she needs any help?” asked Ginny, trying to shake off the pressing feeling in her throat.
Al chose that moment to come out of the school, diverting their attention.
“Al!” Lily waved, “You’ve taken your time!”
Al sprinted towards them, “Yeah, I asked Mr Robson a few questions. Sorry, Mum. It took a bit longer than expected.”
Ginny had a fair idea about what those questions were, but she said nothing. If the boy wanted to search for answers, Ginny wasn’t going to interfere unless he asked for her help.
“Are we ready to go home, then?” she asked.
They turned. The girl, who had been sitting by the school gate, was just steps away, and she looked truly in distress. Ginny felt a twinge of guilt in her heart for forgetting about her.
“Sorry, dear,” she said, “Is your Mummy late?”
“Mama. Gone. Find,” was all she got for answer.
“Sorry?” Ginny frowned.
“Mama,” the girl said again, “Find Mama.”
“You’ve lost your Mummy?”
Another repeat of the same words. But this time, Ginny saw tears welling up in the girl’s eyes, and crouched down.
“Come, now,” she said, wiping away the tears with her handkerchief, “We’ll go home, you and I and Lily and Al,” she drew a big circle with her arm, including all four of them, “We’ll go to my home,” she patted her heart, and then pointed to the direction of Wye Cottage, “And we’ll see what we can do to help, okay?”
Perhaps it was her softened tone, perhaps it was her gestures, or perhaps it was the word “help”. The girl stopped sobbing almost right away, and nodded.
“What’s your name?” Ginny asked as she led the way home.
“Xiaohu,” said the girl.
“Yeo-oo,” Ginny repeated back with difficulty, “Sorry.”
Xiaohu shrugged. She glanced at Ginny with her big, brown eyes. Her eyelashes were long, and looked like a set of brushes when she blinked. Ginny suddenly felt a surge of pride rising inside her. For helping out a stranger, maybe?
“So, do you not speak English at all?” Lily asked.
“She does speak English,” Al observed, “Just a few words, but it’s English.”
“I’m not asking you, Albus,” Lily rolled her eyes.
Ginny let the kids sort themselves out.
Harry glanced across the room. Team A and C were all present, and Special Unit MC, Geraint’s team, was waiting for their specialist trainee. Alex the third-year trainee was their notetaker for the meeting. The Aurors, save Susan, Geraint, and Teddy, studied Kathy politely, as if they weren’t sure whether to trust her with their case. Amelia Murphy and Evan McGill, on the other hand, were engaged in a hushed conversation with their long-term friend.
The door opened. Dylan MacDonald, Geraint’s newest man, barged in.
“Sorry, sir -” he said, halting at the door, “I was on my break and didn’t get the message -”
“Sit down, please,” said Harry mildly, “And please, it’s Harry.”
“Sorry, sir - Harry.” Dylan walked along the table and sat down between Teddy and Geraint.
Harry nodded towards the Dylan, and addressed to everyone in the room.
“Yesterday at 13:18, our Breach of Statue Monitor picked up 156 signals, and a dozen Muggle emergency calls corresponding to an incident in Coventry. Muggle witness statements consisted mainly of hearing cries and screams, seeing shadows, with one person reported being attacked by a squirrel. Two teams of Aurors, Team A and Specialist Unit MC were dispatched to investigate.”
“We have, upon arrival at the scene, identified the source of the shadow,” Susan read off her report, “It was an unknown creature - or a creature-like entity - in the air, drifting west at approximately 3 miles per hour. The creature was about 20 feet tall, and kept growing in size to this hour, reaching approximately 25 feet. Aurors at scene attempted a few spells to identify the nature of the creature. Their efforts were in vain. The spells agitated the entity, who subsequently took defensive positions.”
“Not that we could have harmed it,” Geraint took over, “Shortly after, we observed that none of the spells seemed to have an effect on the creature-like entity, and none seemed to go through either. It was hypothesized that the magic simply disappeared upon reaching the entity. The Magical Creature Specialist Unit contacted two experts in Europe immediately, who recommended the help of another scholar, Kathy Walters.”
Kathy nodded to the room, unfazed by the skeptical glares sent by the wary men and women. Harry concluded the briefing, “Upon arrival at the scene, Miss Walters was able to identify the creature, and called this meeting to aid us in capturing the culprit. Kathy.”
“Thank you, Harry,” said Kathy, “Your briefing further confirmed my suspicion of the creature being a Nine-Tailed Fox.”
“So that is a creature?” asked Dylan.
“Yes, and no,” Kathy didn’t seem to mind the interruption, “It’s an Illusion created by a Nine-Tailed Fox, likely in distress.
“The Nine-Tailed Fox is a rare Pet found exclusively in China,” she went on to explain, “It is different from the East Asian Fox Spirit, a highly powerful, immensely destructive creature thought to be immortal but hidden. Most available sources agree that Fox Spirit, or Spirits, only comes out when they smell trouble, and their presence would aggravate conflicts, eventually sending a society into warfare. It was most certainly true with the last sighting of the Fox Spirit.
“The Nine-Tailed Fox, or simply the Fox, is a smaller, less powerful creature with highly similar physical features, and it can only be Hatched by people who wish to have pets. Hatching of the Fox is extremely rare, with an incident of about one in every twelve to fourteen years. The Fox has the ability to make its screams heard by all living creatures within nine Chinese miles, to manipulate humans by planting and modifying emotions, and to breath fire and water, depending on the need. It creates an Illusion of itself whenever it experiences overwhelming emotions, which is, I believe, what we are looking at.”
“But you don’t know for sure?” asked Leah, Geraint’s partner.
“We can never know till we find the Fox itself, which should not roam further than 99 Chinese miles away,” Kathy remained calm and patient, “The creature itself is not a danger to anyone. However, our priority is to reach the creature before its owner does. Mr Potter and I agree that anyone who would smuggle a Fox and let it loose in Britain would be of questionable motives.”
“How can we find the Fox, then?”
“Harry has agreed to figure out that part once you are all familiarized with the creature. I can only provide information,” Kathy tucked a flock of hair behind her ear, “but I expect it’ll be some hard work. The Fox can be anywhere within 99 Chinese miles - 35 English miles - from the Illusion, and it’s a limited Shapeshifter.”
“That means we have no hope till we hear it scream again, then?”
“Not entirely,” Kathy’s eyes swept across the room again, “the Shapeshifting ability of the Fox is very limited, and it can only Transform into humans. If it is younger than two years of age, it has only one original form, which is a human child corresponding to its age. Once the Fox reaches adulthood, it can explore more disguise personalities.”
There was some collective chuckles as Teddy’s nose suddenly became wide and flat, while his hair changed into a very dark shade of brown.
“Sorry,” Teddy’s cheeks grew pink, “I - I don’t really know what happened -”
“That’s fine,” said Kathy, waving away the young man’s concern, “But Foxes are not Metamorphmagi. They can only Shapeshift from their Fox form to one human form at a time. If they’re not satisfied with their human form, they need to Transform back to a Fox and try again. Besides, a Fox can only take on human appearances of those it has seen before. The more familiar the human is to the Fox, the better chances of the Fox’s Transformation.”
“So if that fox grew up in China,” Evan reasoned slowly, “We’re most likely looking at an Oriental witch or wizard whom we do not know existed before.”
“Or the Fox itself,” said Kathy, “Or, if it is still a cub, we’re mostly definitely looking at a Chinese-looking child. I also happen to know a ritual to attract nearest magical creatures. It’s never been tried on Pet Foxes before, and I can’t guarantee to not attract any native species, but it is worth a try.”
“If you don’t mind, Kathy,” said Harry, “I think we’ll take your offer -”
He stopped at three solid knocks on the door. Stacy poked her head, and called him.
“Ginny called, she’s suspecting a compromise of security at Wye Cottage, and you’d better Floo call her right away.”
Harry nodded numbly, and stood up. It wasn’t like Ginny to ask for him straight out of the office. It was close to the end of his shift anyway, so she must have something really urgent to tell him. Concerned about his kids, Harry hurried back to his office, where he had a personal call-only fireplace.
“Ginny, what’s wrong?” Harry called as soon as he could see his living room.
“We found an Oriental girl at the school gate looking for her Mummy,” said Ginny, her eyes cloudy but full of unmistakable panic, “She’s got a magical photo in her pocket but when she came in the Stranger Alert didn’t pick up. She doesn’t speak English and she keeps crying for her Mama and I just don’t know what to do… Sorry, it’s really not a big deal, I could’ve waited -”
“It’s alright,” said Harry, his mind churning, “You found an Oriental girl, you say?”
“Yes,” Ginny confirmed, the clouds in her eyes clearing up, “I thought I’d ask if you know who her mum might be… It really shouldn’t matter. I should’ve waited till you get home.”
“Wait for me, Ginny,” said Harry, “and try to comfort her. I’ll need to tidy up a few things and we’ll be there as soon as we can.”
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