|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: 2134; Chapter Total: 95
The meeting room echoed silence as Harry closed the door behind him. It was the type of silence that made Kathy shudder. She was a friendly acquaintance of the Potters, and was even invited to Wye Cottage last time she returned to Britain. Ginny didn’t appear to be an overly anxious wife. When she called, it must be an emergency - and emergencies for the Potters tended to be ten times graver than sudden illness or burglars.
“What was that about?” whispered one of the Aurors. She was a tall, lean blonde, with a plaid bowtie tucking up one side of her short hair and an asymmetrical smile. No name came to mind, though. Kathy was never the person to remember names, or to match them with the correct faces.
“No idea,” said the metamorphmagus, “But it’s Harry. Must be something serious.”
“More serious than this case?”
“Apparently,” Geraint Ostrovski, the specialist a few years ahead of her, tapped his fingers impatiently. It was then Kathy noticed that his right hand was missing its middle finger. Kathy wondered what deformities she would bear if she didn’t listen to the calls of the mysteries of her other home.
“Hem, hem,” Susan cleared her throat. To Kathy’s amazement, that gesture alone was enough to send shudders to the Aurors around her age. Evan even blanched. Even after all those years, she wondered if she’ll truly understand her peers’ world. On the other hand, she hoped she’d never understand.
“What? It got your attention!” Susan snapped at her gaping peers, “Shouldn’t we work out a plan to find that Fox?”
“Do not ever do that again,” Evan breathed weakly, “My poor heart...”
“You have no idea how terrifying that sounds,” added Florence, patting his chest, “Brings us right back… Anyways, the Fox. Are you confident about this - trapping method, Miss Walters?”
“Kathy,” said Kathy, “I cannot guarantee anything, as it’s an unprecedented case.”
“But you think it’s worth a try,” said Geraint.
“I think it’s your best bet,” said Kathy, “Or we can wait till I call the Chinese Ministry and experts, and let them deal with it.”
“That’ll be at least five days of processing, as it can’t be categorized as an international emergency until dark magic is detected and confirmed to be related to the Fox,” said Susan grimly, “I say we try this before anything else can happen.”
“Agreed,” said Amelia, “I’d rather solve the case before anything dark is involved, and chuck the diplomacy part of work to International Cooperation and Magical Creature Control.”
“Amelia,” Susan pursed her lip in exasperation.
The door opened, a dishevelled Harry walked in and sat down.
“All right, Harry?” Teddy asked despite Susan’s annoyance.
“Ginny said she found a magical, Oriental-looking girl and brought her home,” said Harry, shooting an almost desperate glare at Kathy, “She was in a strange state when I talked to her. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost say she’s fighting an Imperius curse.”
“Who could break into your house and cast an Unforgivable in your house?” asked one of Aurors, “You think it’s the same bloke who brought the Fox? For what? Distraction?”
“That’d be a heck of an unnecessary trouble for one display,” said Evan, “Surely no one’s that stupid?”
Kathy shut off the voices as the Aurors started a discussion on their theories behind this person who “broke into” the Potters’ residence and Imperiused Ginny. It made no sense for them to think it was one case, thought Kathy, but if Harry didn’t feel a connection, he would most likely assign Susan’s team to investigate in private. What was going on?
Then she saw it, the connection. Everyone jumped onto the Imperius part assuming their boss confirmed signs of an Unforgivable Curse - only Harry almost admitted otherwise. Strange state… Imperius Curse… That could mean some sort of spell, or… Where was that last piece of the puzzle…?
“Got it!” yelped Kathy, slamming her hand on the table and making everyone jump.
“What in Merlin’s name...” Florence’s trainee gaped at her. He looked like he was ready to hex her.
“Oriental girl. Magical.” said Kathy. Her brain was turning too fast for her to find words, one of the problems she attributed to being a bilingual. “E - Ah. Regulation. No, not that word - urgh!”
She put her face in her palms, and took a long breath. It helped, but only just.
“Sorry,” she said, “I just can’t - urgh - my brain is giving me a blank in the Vocabulary Department right now.”
“Slow down, Kathy, and think in Chinese if you must” said Harry. He was no stranger to such episodes. It happened almost every single time the two worked together, ever since her first year.
“Chinese is coming up with nothing, either,” said Kathy, “That - ah - Mood Regulation, not quite but close enough. Not Imperius. Oriental, girl! The puzzle - the piece.”
She stared at Harry hopefully. The latter’s eyes flickered. Kathy knew the connection was made.
“You’re saying that Ginny did find a girl, and that girl is the Pet Fox you were talking about?”
“Thank you,” said Kathy, pressing her fingers against her eyes. Bits and pieces of information, concepts, and images were still flying around way too fast for her to process, but now that Harry understood her haywiring mind, her job was done.
The moment that thought slipped into her mind, the tempestuous storm halted. The term was Emotional Manipulation, Kathy sighed inwardly.
“I’ll go home and see if I can bring her back to the office,” said Harry, back to his Big Bad-Bloke Buster pose, “Amelia, if you don’t mind coming… And...”
Kathy felt Harry’s hesitating glance. She knew what was expected.
“I’ll go with you,” she said, “In case something happens.”
Kathy stifled a sigh at the child before her. She looked about 8 years of age, and wrapped herself tightly into a blanket - the only comfort the Auror Office was allowed to give an unaccompanied child. Her eyes were red-rimmed and wet, her cheeks stained with tears and smears of mud. Despite her pitiful looks, Kathy was told to remain on the other side of the desk until the end of the interrogation, or statement taking. Her personal Transcribing Brush stood straight on the desk, trying to retain that drop of ink ballooning from its tip. Below it was a stack of Xuan paper, each piece had one side sealed by grease to prevent staining. Harry sat beside her, an European standard translation parchment laid in front of him. He was to decipher whatever the parchment could regurgitate from their conversation, and advise her on what to ask.
“Are we ready to start? 可以开始了 吗” asked Kathy in English, then in Mandarin. Her brush started scribbling fervently, taking in not only the conversation, but also any noticeable details of its participants.
The girl nodded, squeezing more tears from her eyes. The sound of her language seemed to have opened a crevice on her dyke that held back overwhelming emotions.
“Let’s begin,” said Harry, also nodding.
“Okay,” said Kathy, turning her attention to the girl in front of her, “Do you have a name?”
“I’m called Xiaohu,” said the girl, trying her best to hold back the sobbing.
“Are you human?”
“Nine-Tailed Fox,” said Xiaohu.
“Xiao for Little, Hu for Fox, right?” Kathy clarified her name, and the girl nodded. It wasn’t a very inventive name for a pet, Kathy thought.
“How old are you?”
“Six months,” said Xiaohu truthfully, “A year of Hatching before that, and another year of growing before my owner harvested the Egg.”
“And you know that because -”
“My owner told me. We all ask about these things when we’re little,” Xiaohu was now studying Kathy’s face curiously, “How come you don’t know that?”
“I’ve never Hatched a Pet before,” said Kathy, “Who’s your owner?”
“Li Zijie,” said Xiaohu.
“Li for the common surname, Zi for boy, and Jie for clean?”
“Zi for wood-spicy Zi,” Xiaohu corrected.
Kathy was grateful that Xiaohu talked about the character itself, rather than making a word containing the character. It was one of those rarer characters that she wasn’t confident writing, even though it was a plant name that she was to learn in the near future.
“Thank you,” she said, “Do you know where your owner is?”
Xiaohu shook her head. She had just calmed down a little, but the new question sent her back into her misery.
“Can’t find - Can’t find owner -” she howled, wiping her tears and boogers on the blanket, “Can’t feel her - can’t call her - the bad ones - there were bad men but I can’t call owner -”
“Bad men?” Kathy was exerting all of her self control to not dash over and hold Xiaohu in her arms. She could feel Harry clench his fists, too. She wasn’t alone in wanting to comfort the girl.
“In the city,” Xiaohu snivelled loudly, “They saw my human form, and they dragged me and pinned me on the ground and I Transformed and fled.”
“When did that happen?” Harry dropped the question.
“When did that happen?” Kathy translated.
“Yesterday… Afternoon, I think?” said Xiaohu, “I could hear things miles away.”
“You can hear through your Illusion?” asked Kathy. The Nine-Tailed Fox wasn’t a well-studied species, and she was finding the magical powers of the Pet incredible.
“I could hear things from miles away,” said Xiaohu, “People shouting strange words and talking about how to deal with the beast. I split an Illusion?”
“A very impressive one,” said Kathy sadly. Xiaohu must have been completely overwhelmed to create an Illusion almost 30 feet tall, “You can understand the language here?”
“My original form can.”
“How did she find Ginny?” Harry whispered beside her ear.
“How did you end up in the red-hair woman’s house?” Kathy translated the question, and directed it towards the girl.
“I heard people talking about a family, and how close my Illusion was to their house. Another one mentioned a city in a general direction. I heard a man going to the same city and followed him on the train. Then someone else said something about the family living in a small town outside of the city so I walked around and felt the magic at the school.”
“Then you forced Ginny to help,” said Kathy, connecting the dots.
Xiaohu shook her head, “Not Force. I Willed her. I didn’t want to, but I was terrified of the bad men.”
“And your owner hasn’t contacted you yet? She didn’t feel you’re in danger?”
Xiaohu shook her head again, blinking, “Owner’s not here. I know it. I can’t feel her, she’s far, far away.”
“How did you come here then?”
“She said we were going to travel together,” said Xiaohu, more tears streamed down her cheeks, “So I went into a box and slept there. I woke up and found myself inside a suitcase of that Squib.”
“Zijie’s cousin,” said Xiaohu, “we played together over the break.”
“Thank you,” said Kathy softly, “Do you have anything else to ask?”
She put her face in her hand again as Xiaohu gaped at her. She’d just spoken Mandarin to Harry.
“Sorry,” she said to Xiaohu. To her exasperation, the line came out in English. “Harry, anything else you wish me to ask?”
“I think I’ve got enough here, at least for now,” said Harry, “You can do your job now.”
“Xiaohu,” said Kathy, seeking the girl’s eyes, “Would you mind Transforming for me?”
The fear in Xiaohu’s eyes almost convinced her to give up the idea.
“It’s okay,” said Kathy, trying her best to not let her own emotions run wild, “I won’t let anyone other than Harry’s family to come near you.”
“But - but - they said they’ll deal with me -”
“Not when I’m here,” Kathy was furious at the Aurors for their casual choice of topics now. How else would Xiaohu know what the Ministry planned for her?
“Harry and his men are going to try and find your owner now,” said Kathy, “and I’ll stay here with you. You can take a rest first, and if you want, I can take you home till we find your owner. You’ll be safe.”
“No cages?” Xiaohu asked, “No Containment?”
“As long as you behave,” said Kathy.
Xiaohu didn’t seem convinced, but a second later, she closed her eyes, turned her torso and became a cyclone of blurry colours. Her Transformation was quiet and instant. A second later, the child was replaced by a Nine-Tailed Fox. She looked exactly like her Illusion.
Kathy walked around the desk, untangled the blanket, and scooped the small creature into her arms. Xiaohu clinged onto her shirt with her sharp, strong claws. She was slightly shaking.
“There, there,” she whispered, letting her instinct take over, “You’re safe here, Xiaohu. I’m with you. I can protect you.”
At first, it only made Xiaohu to curl up into a ball, her tails covering every single bit of her body as if she was still trying to keep offenders away. Then, as Kathy sat down and scratched the back of her ears, Xiaohu relaxed, rubbed her face against her chest, and buried herself deeper into Kathy’s arms.
Someone knocked on the door. Harry stood up and went out for a brief talk.
“The Illusion is shrinking,” he said upon his return, “Amelie just sent a Patronus to Susan.”
“Good,” said Kathy, “She’s calming down now. I can handle it here. You go work on your Big Bad-Bloke Buster stuff”
“Are you sure you want to take her home?” asked Harry, still eyeing Xiaohu warily.
“She’ll do no harm,” said Kathy, “she’s not the Spirit. Besides, Mum and Dad would love to meet her, I’m sure. You go find the owner now.”
Harry nodded, and grimaced, “I go explain to Kingsley why I investigated a magical creature case with no apparent link to Dark Magic. I’m supposed to let Magical Creatures carry their own investigation.”
“But you’re obliged to investigate every potential breach of the Statue. I did the trial training upon graduation, you know, and you lot drilled it into my head.” said Kathy, “Tell them exactly that. I’m sure Ginny will say the same thing.”
“You’re right, Kathy,” said Harry, standing up, “Say hi to your Mum and Dad for me.”
“I will,” said Kathy. She watched as Harry walked out of the room and closed the door without making a noise. She looked down and focused on the Fox in her arms.
Upon a closer inspection, Kathy noticed that Xiaohu hadn’t entirely rid her baby form yet. Her mouth and ears were slightly rounder than an average adult Fox, and her eyelids were grey, rather than white. She was about half a metre long, Kathy estimated, and was as heavy as a newborn child. Kathy admired her smooth, white and black fur, and recalled her favourite tune as a child.
“How beautiful the jasmine is (好一朵美丽 ;的茉莉花),” she hummed, rubbing Xiaohu’s back as the Fox fell into a peaceful slumber.
 here I call Chinese pictographs characters... Every syllable has many characters meaning different things, and most people understand which character is used by context (ie which other characters/sounds goes with it and stuff like that). For example, if I was only given a sound shí, it could mean at least a dozen things like "ten/十", "time/时", "real/实", etc, but if someone says shí yàn, a two-syllable, two-character word, I'll know the word is written as 实验, and means "experiment". When people aren't sure how one's name is written, making a word out of it is the most common way to clarify, but occasionally, people also dissect parts of the character, so basically telling people how to write, instead of what to write... Like the name "Lily" - I can either say "Lily-the-flower" or I can say "L-I-L-Y". Here Xiaohu uses latter.
PS the song at the end of this chapter is an acclaimed traditional Chinese ballad :)
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