|SIYE Time:18:47 on 23rd September 2018|
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Category: SIYE Challenges, Magical Creatures Challenge (2017-3)
Warnings: Extreme Language
Story is Complete
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: 4773; Chapter Total: 325
Apologies as I'd completely forgot about this chapter... Hope this ends the story on a better note!
Warning: strong language
“Tea?” Ginny asked as Harry stepped out of the fireplace. She had been trying to finish the book since she put the kids to bed. Her effort had been in vain as her mind insisted on drifting to the little girl, and the potential loopholes in their security spells.
“Yes, please,” said Harry, leaning his briefcase against the coat rack and hanging his cloak. Ginny hurried into the kitchen and fussed over the kettle.
As she laid down the tray that contained a pot of boiling tea, two cups, and a jar of milk, Harry was already leaning back in the sofa, his hands covering his face.
“You want me to get something stronger?” said Ginny, sitting down beside him.
“It’s fine,” said Harry, his voice tired, “How was your day, aside from the little episode?”
“Okay,” said Ginny, pouring tea for both of them, “I’m three chapters away from finishing the book, so the review will wait till Friday morning… Lily tried to do cartwheels on the kitchen table, and Al wanted to know if there was something like Anne Frank’s Diary from the War - what even is that?”
Harry sat straight, and sighed.
“A Muggle book, from the Second World War, documenting a girl’s life back then. As for the equivalent from Riddle’s reign... Suppose there would be one if Dudley wrote,” he said, “D’you think taking them to Worthing would help?”
“We don’t have to if you don’t want to,” said Ginny, “You want me to add milk for you?”
“Thanks, I’ll do it,” Harry took over the milk jar, poured a splash of milk, and put it down.
“Is the girl - whoever she is - safe?” asked Ginny.
Harry waved a hand, “She’s the Fox.”
“Sorry, it’s been a long day. I’ll start from the beginning,” said Harry, stretching his arms, “Kathy was a big help today. She took a look and told us it was a Nine-Tailed Fox behind the thing. She was just talking about the Fox being a Shapeshifter when you called. She solved the case, and now she’s taken the Fox home till we find her owner.”
“That explains the Stranger Alert thing,” said Ginny, taking a sip of her tea, “It only picks up humans.”
Harry gaped at her, guilt clearly written on his face, “Is that what you’ve been thinking about all night? I should’ve updated you before reporting to Kingsley.”
“You’re fine,” she said, pulling herself into Harry’s arms, “I know you’d put out the fire first. I was simply wondering. Honest. I don’t even know why I thought it urgent enough to call you.”
“It was unexpected,” Harry massaged Ginny’s lap, “Besides, Kathy said the Fox manipulated your emotions to get help.”
“Oh, bugger,” Ginny leaned on her husband, and enjoyed his gentle rubs. They cherished the silence for the next minute or so. Harry was lost in his own mind, and Ginny listened to the fire logs crackle and waited.
“Amos wasn’t happy with me,” said Harry, putting down his cup.
“Because you didn’t hand over the case?”
“Because I called Kathy instead of him,” he sounded slightly disturbed, “I think Amos wants to lock her up, if not to kill her right away.”
Ginny sat up. She gazed into Harry’s bright, green eyes.
“But she’s sentient, shouldn’t she be protected by Hermione’s latest legislation?” she couldn’t help but let her own disgust seep into her voice.
“Amos spent the better half of tonight trying to convince Kingsley that the Fox is dangerous,” said Harry, “I even wished Hermione was still in Magical Creature. She’d be the head now.”
“Kathy seems capable to be the head,” observed Ginny, “Maybe you should encourage her to join the department.”
“She’s not coming back until she finishes her apprenticeship,” said Harry, “Even then, she’s more interested in academia than politics.”
“How about Luna?” Ginny suggested, feeling a tug at the corner of her lips.
“Brilliant idea,” said Harry, grinning, “Kingsley would be amused when he sees a Ministry full of Nargles.”
Ginny pinned a soft kiss on Harry’s cheek. “What happens now?”
“We’ve transferred the case to Percy, who’s contacting the Chinese Ministry to find the owner. They’ll question her in Beijing and send two copies of their report over.”
“At least that’s not for you to worry about, then,” said Ginny, seeking Harry’s other kiss.
“Bedroom later?” Harry jumped up and pinned her onto the sofa, breathing fast.
“Bedroom later,” said Ginny, pulling her man onto herself.
Katherine Walters was not one to get angry, but when she did, she had the power to send chills around the whole room.
Harry watched as she stormed into his office stony faced, set down the Fox, ran her shape with her hands about an inch above her fur, and explode.
“What do you mean her owner does not wish to reclaim her pet, nor is the Chinese Ministry willing to launch an enquiry? Can’t you or Kingsley order her to accept her or something?”
Harry dared one glance at her furious face.
“No Ministry is above another,” he said, “If the Chinese Ministry deem it unworthy of further investigation, we can’t force her owner to come and take her back.”
“But you can’t just listen to a Ministry that’s covering for a politician’s niece!” Kathy vented, “I did my research today. Pulled some strings and pieced a few things together. Li Ziyi is a tenth year student at the Dome and the only child of their late Minister. She’s only seventeen, and she’d abandoned her pet like it was some sort of disposable trash! She needs to learn and take responsibility!”
“You read the transcript, right?” asked Harry, stealing a glance at the Fox. She seemed to be unaware of their heated conversation, and was engrossed in a game with her tails.
“I damn well did,” said Kathy, “and I read original, along with the translation. It doesn’t matter whether she thinks it’s evil or not. She should know better. I’ve spent the past few years de-mystifying rare creatures, and she knows bloody well that being in Water and having a Fox as her pet doesn’t make her a whore!”
“Is that what the Miss line is about?” asked Harry.
“The ‘I don’t want to be a Miss’?” Kathy looked slightly surprised by the question, “Yes, you idiot. She knows it’s nothing more than a superstition. Her aunt doesn’t really care what she has. It’s she who doesn’t want Xiaohu, for whatever reason. Having an aunt working in Law Enforcement shouldn’t exempt her from facing the consequences of her behaviour. She caused a potential breach of the Statue in another country, for Merlin’s sake. She was just fortunate that Xiaohu hasn’t attacked anyone yet!”
“Kathy, calm down,” said Harry.
“I’m calm enough to talk to you,” Kathy put her hands on Harry’s desk and leaned forward, “I’m not giving Xiaohu to Magical Creature. That Diggory bloke wants to do her in.”
Harry glanced at Xiaohu again. The female Fox lay on his desk and breathed heat out of her tongue. Her big, fluffy tails served as fans to their owner.
“She can’t hear us,” said Kathy stiffly, “I’ve set up a conversation filter around her.”
“You can keep her for research purposes,” said Harry, “I’ll make sure to see it through if you submit a request.”
“That’s the problem, Harry!” said Kathy, bouncing herself against the desk in exasperation, “I can’t take her back to China! Foxes only recognizes one owner in their lifetime. They have an unbreakable bond with their owners as soon as they were Hatched. If I bring her back to China, they’d both know each other’s close. Xiaohu’ll be desperate to get back to Li Ziyi. And who knows what else that wicked girl is capable of doing? Her next attempts may rival Diggory’s proposals!”
Harry cursed. He had not thought about that when he assumed Kathy would take the Fox.
“And you’re the only one who knows how to handle her,” said Harry.
“Glad to see it finally sink into your dense skull,” said Kathy, sitting down, “She cannot go back with me, and Diggory cannot have her.”
“Here’s a thought,” said Harry. The fox chose that moment to crawl into Kathy’s arms, distracting them both.
“What were you saying?” asked Kathy, scratching Xiaohu’s ears.
“Er - I forgot,” said Harry. He took a moment to probe his brain, but the perfect solution had already fled the grips of his mind, and didn’t seem to be coming back anytime soon.
“Is there a sanctuary or something?” asked Harry, “Where they have trained staff to take care of abandoned Hatched Pets?”
“Children usually Hatch their Pets around 9 or 10 years of age,” explained Kathy, “by the time they’re capable to launch a successful abandonment scheme like this, they’ll have grown up with their Pets and developed a deep sense of affection towards them. Ziyi’s Pet died, or rather ceased to exist, three years ago when her parents were murdered. She’s the first person to abandon a Pet in at least a decade - and abandoning a Fox, of all things. There’s no sanctuary that could handle Xiaohu. Besides, if our information for all other Pets is anything to go by, we’ll need to keep her at least ten thousand Chinese miles away from that girl. That’s three thousand English miles. The distance between London and Beijing is some fifty hundred miles.”
“Basically, she must stay in Western Europe, or the Americas,” said Harry, trying his best to estimate.
“Or south of the equator,” said Kathy, “though I’d hate to relocate Xiaohu for a second time. She needs some stability until she’s fully grown.”
“Well, that rules out Luna and Charlie,” said Harry, “Luna’s constantly on the go, and Charlie’s moved to Romania. You know, the dragons...”
Harry trailed off. Something about the dragons managed to jog his memory.
“Do you think Mr Scamander would build her a home in his suitcase?” asked Kathy.
“What about Hagrid?” Harry spoke at the same time.
“Hogwarts?” Kathy frowned, “Would she be allowed on the grounds, being sentient and all that? She can’t live alone in the Forest. It’s too dangerous for a Pet.”
“As long as it’s for teaching purposes, Hogwarts has the right to keep her,” Harry was having trouble suppressing his grin, “As for safety, I’m sure Hagrid will build her a den upon seeing her.”
“That’s solved, then,” said Kathy, standing up, “I’ve got a lecture for Hagrid now.”
“Clear it with Professor McGonagall first,” advised Harry.
“Harry, Hermione! Come in,” said Hagrid, stepping aside to let them squeeze into his hut, “I was just showin’ the kids my Nine-Tailed Fox. She came just this morning.”
“We know, Hagrid,” said Harry, “Kathy helped us rescue her. It’s a long story.”
“Long story, eh?” Hagrid was in a cheerful mood, “She’s such a friendly lass. Agreed to come back and visit, she did. I oughta introduce her to my classes.”
They’d just squeezed past the narrow front door and entered the bigger, inner space. Ginny and Ron appeared to be in another Quidditch-related argument, while the four kids - all but James - sat on the floor, playing with Xiaohu. Upon seeing them, Ginny waved.
“‘Lo, Hermione. Harry!”
“Busy week, mate,” Ron stood up and greeted him, “Good lecture, Hermione?”
“Yes, Ron,” said Hermione,giving Ron a not-in-front-of-the-kids glare, “As it should be.”
“Mum?” Al stood from the floor, “Can Rosie and I go for a walk on the grounds?”
“Where are you going?” asked Hermione.
“Just around,” said Al, “It’s getting hot in here.”
The parents exchanged a look.
“Don’t go too far away,” said Harry, “and don’t go into the castle. We’ll need to be able to see you from the hut.”
“Yes, Mum,” said Al.
“We’ll behave,” Rosie promised.
“What was that about?” asked Hagrid.
“They’re probably going to the Tomb,” said Ron, “these two have been asking questions.”
“They’ll eventually find out,” said Hagrid, setting new cups on the table, “Like you lot did.”
“We know,” said Hermione sadly, “Especially now it’s included in the Hogwarts curriculum.”
“We tell them what is necessary, and they when find stuff out on their own, we answer their questions,” said Harry, “I’m beginning to understand Dumbledore now.”
“Dumbledore, good man. Dumbledore,” said Hagrid as he poured tea for Harry and Hermione. Thanking him, Harry gazed out of the window. Al and Rosie were already at Dumbledore’s Tomb, and appeared to be examining the white marble grave carefully.
Maybe Al was just a philosophical child who preferred to read than to play, Harry thought. While James and Lily spent most of their time being as vocal as they could, Al was the observer, the thinker. Although he never confirmed, Harry was sure Al had been the mastermind behind a few of James and Lily’s more impressive stunts, so he did have fun with his siblings, and that might be enough socialization for him.
And the teachers, Ginny’s voice reminded him at the back of his mind. For a ten-year-old boy, Al was exceptionally good at holding conversations with adults. He was polite, inquisitive, and always articulated his own thoughts - something Harry had only seen in Kathy Walters, when she insisted to shape the post-War reform by setting up the VAO and employing her parents’ expertise. Harry smiled as he thought back of his first encounter with Kathy 18 years ago, and the progress she’d pushed through ever since entering the magical world.
“A knut for your thought?” Ginny whispered beside him.
“Maybe we can invite Kathy for dinner on Saturday,” said Harry, “and she can talk to Al about the War.”
Xiaohu yipped. It sounded like a mix between dog barks and cat yowls, and Harry could understand why so many Muggles took it as a child in distress. Strangely, the sound he heard tonight didn’t make his hair stand on its end. It sounded more like a request, an expression of a need trusted to be fulfilled.
“Hungry, eh?” Hagrid asked. Xiaohu opened her eyes wide, and let out another yip. Hagrid stood up, pulled out a dead chicken, and dropped it onto the ground. Xiaohu’s eyes glowed as she charged at her prey, clenched her jaws, and tore off its head mercilessly.
“Can’t let you out to hunt yet,” Hagrid apologized amidst Lily and Hugo’s ‘ew’s, “You’ll have your go when you know the grounds better.”
Xiaohu seemed happy enough with the promise.
 Water: one of the Dome's Specialization Areas
 Miss: when taken as an unmarried female, the translation of "miss" is also an euphemism of "prostitute".
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