Harry Potter and the Physical Adept
Chapter 1: All Summer Long
The next nine days were hectic.
Despite having done the bulk of the research while still at boarding school, Harry simply did not have the supplies in the quantities he would need to erect the wards he wanted to in his safe house; thus, he spent the first day after his homecoming visiting jewelers and vendors of stone and other types of construction materials, researching who would sell him the goods he wanted for the lowest price in bulk and have his purchases rush delivered to his house. Once he found vendors matching his needs, he put in his orders, then turned his attention to the bulk of the work ahead of him.
With Liv watching, Harry went to work chiseling runes and symbols into the concrete Shaun and his team of builders had put in, plastered over and then painted white, answering her questions as she posed them while he worked on the project. The basement floor and the attic ceilings quickly followed, and by the time the materials he ordered arrived Friday morning, the carvings were complete.
The shipment was a pallet of rough cut amber, amethyst, black obsidian, fluorite and staurolyte, all of the lowest quality and unsuited for jewelers, but perfect for his purposes; after unwrapping the plastic holding everything in place, Harry began transforming the gemstones into a dust-like fine powder with magic, and Liv joined him in the task, making quick work of what took Harry significant concentration and effort.
Once all the stones were in powder form, he began combining them in batches using a commercial mixer until it was all sufficiently blended, then introduced quicklime into the mixture, carefully passing Astral power into the powder to ensure the resulting mixture could continue to retain it, all while separating out small portions and adding water to it in order to check whether there was enough quicklime to produce a mortar-like paste, and only when he managed a combination that could do both was he satisfied.
He began filling in the etchings with the compound in its paste form, starting with the basement floors and pushing Astral power into the cement-like material as he did so before using his magic to quickly harden the substance into a solid. Once she understood what Harry was doing, Liv quickly joined in and helped, taking up a trowel and bucket of her own, pouring magical energy into every inscription she filled over and using magic to speed up the curing process.
When the wards were finally set after every runic carving was filled with gem-infused mortar and Astral power alike, the two began the process of sanding down the fillings until they were smooth and level with the surfaces surrounding them, a labor-intensive process involving sandpaper and hard work. Once the task was complete, the boy and the dragon wallpapered the house from floor to ceiling, then laid down tile for the basement floor, thereby warding the walls, floor and ceiling of the safe house.
By Monday, all that was left were the windows and doors; Harry quickly set the windows with a diamond-tipped chisel he had made with magic, etching runes into the inside of each window, then carved additional runes on the inward faces of the wooden exteriors of the steel-core doors at both the front and back of the house. The windows—being made of glass, itself a byproduct of silica sand—were already capable of holding Astral power, so Harry did not need to do more to them besides the etching, but the wood and steel were inert to the flow of the magical energy at his disposal, forcing him to fill the etchings on the doors with silver he magically liquified at room temperature while channeling energy into it before forcing it to return to its natural solid state, leaving the doors with the appearance of having silver inlays on the interiors.
But that took until Monday afternoon, and with the departure flight was on Tuesday morning, Harry barely had enough time to notify both Fay and Hermione, who had telephones at home, he would be out of the country for the next six weeks.
Those six weeks would be some of the hardest of his life.
Karen insisted on accompanying Harry and Liv on their trip to the United States despite the boy's protests that he could handle things on his own, but with nothing on her schedule and more than a bit of Coronation Street money burning a hole in her pocket, the actress had signed up for the same program as the two children through Jason, considering it an investment in her now-bright future in the television and film industry.
Jack Ryan (but, as he introduced himself, not that Jack Ryan) ran the program, a training camp in Las Vegas for those who wanted an authentic experience in what it would be like to be a spy. Each day began at five in the morning, starting with an hour of drills and physical training, followed by two hours of classroom study, before breaking for the business day, allowing those with day jobs to earn their living. It then reconvened in the evening at six, with another hour of classroom followed by two more hours of drills and physical training. The program provided training in hand-to-hand combat, marksmanship, weapons handling, black bag operations, dead drops, eavesdropping, interrogation, and surveillance and counter-surveillance; though each individual class was not thorough, most participants only stayed with the program for five days, allowing Jack to alter the lessons from week to week, and by the end of the six week period, the material Harry had learned surpassed that of any participant who had only attended for a week.
Even though Harry was a quick study, Liv proved herself a prodigy; a voracious learner, she picked up everything from the first moment she saw it demonstrated, and as the only person with a body similar in size to her, Harry bore the brunt of it, especially during hand-to-hand combat, where she used her vastly superior physical ability, even in her form as a girl around his age, to dominate grappling and striking exchanges alike. In fact, with her superior agility and strength, Liv could easily outmatch the adults taking part in the program, but at Harry's suggestion, she continued to use him as her punching bag to maintain her cover as a human.
It was frustrating, to be faced with an insurmountable genius every single day; any time Harry would think of a new trick, it would be rendered useless by his second attempt to utilize it as Liv adapted a defense against it. Even worse was that she quickly adopted every little dirty trick he came up with into her own arsenal, turning his own weapons against him. It made him feel helpless in the face of an overwhelming opponent, and he did not like the feeling at all.
Still, he was learning much faster than Karen was; she too was attending the program to prepare in advance for any covert agent-type roles that might be offered to her, but the few times they had been paired together for training, Harry had always managed to best her by way of being quicker in both mind and body, something she found more amusing than frustrating. Harry wished he could share her tranquility, but in the end, he supposed it was because their perspectives were so different; after all, she was only preparing for a possible job in her future, while it was a matter of life and death for him.
The training was not why the six weeks were difficult, though; rather, it was a matter of what his pride had made him do.
Karen had offered to pay for the trip, but Harry had refused; despite her newfound wealth, it was not something he could abide by, continuing to rely on her charity when he had wealth of his own and was willing and able to work. Thus, on his second day in Las Vegas, he went out hunting for a job, even though he knew the legal minimum age to work in Nevada was fourteen.
The Jade Garden was a restaurant just off the Strip that served both Japanese and Cantonese cuisine through two separate restaurant concepts within the same facility; when Harry had walked in, asking if they were hiring, the head chef, a squat Asian man with long sideburns and a prodigious gut, only asked a few pointed questions before taking Harry on as a dishwasher, albeit with a backroom agreement of being employed under the table, allowing the chef to save money by paying the underaged British boy who did not have a work visa less than the minimum wage in Nevada, which did not have a state minimum wage, of (the federally mandated) four dollars and twenty-five cents an hour.
And so, Harry worked at the Jade Garden from ten in the morning to five in the afternoon, six days a week, earning just under two pounds an hour, though it was paid in American dollars at the end of every day, usually amounting to around thirty dollars when tips were accounted for, just enough to cover the cost of the hotel room he shared with Liv with a little left over for recreational spending. It was through this arrangement that he learned how the tipping system within the restaurant industry functioned: patrons would tip the front of house staff, who tipped the cooks for having food to serve, and they in turn would tip the dishwashers for having clean equipment ready for the kitchen staff to use.
Two weeks into his job as a dishwasher, one of the line cooks unexpectedly quit in the middle of the lunch rush after getting into a heated argument with the head chef; in the ensuing scramble, Harry found himself promoted to the position of prep cook, a job which paid just a little bit better but also required him to not only complete his tasks as a dishwasher but also keep an eye on the line and get ingredients ready before the cooks ran out of them. It was in this position that the years of experience of cooking for the Dursleys were most useful, as his existing knife skills and knowledge of foods allowed him to step into the role without truly missing a beat, even though he had to be shown how to perform certain tasks before he could do them at the quality expected from a professional kitchen.
It was about that time that Liv became curious as to where Harry was disappearing to each day; prior to that, she had spent her days exploring the Strip with Karen, who was happy to discover the sights of the city. Following Harry to work one day, the dragon in the young girl's body found herself being roped into taking up the dishwashing position so the boy could focus solely on working the prep for the kitchen and even sometimes filling in on the line when a line cook unexpectedly called out. Through this, the dragon began to learn the value of money and just how difficult it was for a person to earn a living; before, she had simply spent the money that was given to her without thinking about it too much, but when she started to work and see just what her labor earned her, she came to realize just what goods and services were worth in relation to the labor required to earn money.
Of course, good things came from the experience too; just from eating the employee meals provided at the Jade Garden, Liv came to discover the delight that was human cooking, which she heartily declared as better than just eating raw meat, though she did continue to have a preference for eating meat. There was also the discovery that, as long as she remained in her human form, her dietary needs were reduced to what amounted to a large portion for a person instead of whole steers, which Harry had been purchasing with his savings, another reason why he was so desperate to work a job, because any way to blunt the dent Liv was putting into the money he had banked was welcome.
Now with her own source of income, Liv could buy things that caught her eye, and by the end of her second week of work, she had purchased herself a Super Nintendo Entertainment System along with a copy of the game Final Fantasy II, a game called Final Fantasy IV in its native Japan. From then on, when she was not training or at work, the video game soaked up almost all of her free time.
Except the one time she snuck into a strip club. After that, she was anatomically correct, which only served to make her habitual nudity slightly more awkward for Karen. Harry just didn't care; like he had told Hermione once, he had seen better and more.
It was the first week of August when Jack finally pulled Harry aside; up until then, their relationship had been cordial but otherwise distant, no different than Jack and any other participant in his program, and though the boy could not put a finger on exactly why, he would have guessed it had something to do with Jason.
"Why are you doing this?" asked Jack without preamble.
"Beg your pardon?" Harry asked, feigning confusion even though he had a guess as to what Jack meant.
"I've been watching you, kid," said the man. "Most people, they're here because they want to play pretend, live out the fantasy of being a spy. You though, you go harder than anybody else who's ever been through the program, you get after it like your life depends on it, and I know you spend time outside of training hours trying to come up with new things you can do to get ahead when it comes back around. Why?"
"How much did Jason tell you?" the boy asked, giving the man a narrowed-eye look as he scrutinized his face.
"Just that you needed to be in the program for six weeks."
"Well, there's somebody trying to kill me," Harry said with a sigh, deciding to give as few details as possible. "I was told he tried once when I was maybe eighteen months old and failed, but then he tried again back in June; that's when I realized he was going to be willing to start a war over it, and I needed to prepare myself for the war that's coming."
"Have you tried reporting them to the police?"
"The police can't even touch him; they know he wants to kill me, but every time they've sent people after him, they've ended up in the ground."
"It's just you against him, then?"
"Something like that."
"In that case, has the program been helpful?"
"Helped a lot, actually. I knew about most of the things you covered because I like espionage thrillers, but being able to learn the techniques involved in those tasks step-by-step is useful."
It was at this point Jack set a wooden box on the table between them, pushing it to the boy. "Jason asked me to get this for you."
Harry took the box hesitantly, then opened it gingerly; quickly his eyes snapped back to Jack. "What the hell is this?"
"It's a High Standard HDM," said the man flatly, as Harry carefully removed the firearm from the box it was in, ejecting the clip and checking its contents before reinserting it back into the magazine well.
Raising the weapon, Harry turned to the side so the man was not within his line of fire, sighting along the barrel for a moment before slowly lowering the pistol.
"This has an integrated sound suppressor," Harry remarked. "It's not legal even in this country."
"Jason was adamant you have one," Jack said, shrugging.
"What cartridge does it chamber?"
"Twenty-two Long Rifle. That mag's loaded with subsonic ammunition."
"If I need more mags?"
"Interchangeable with the Colt Woodsman."
"I'm going to need to fire this on the range after hours, so I can get used to it." A pause followed. "Do I need to break this in?"
"You're free to use the range whenever you need to; just give me a call first. You won't need to break it in, though; I may have acquired it from the hands of a collector, but this weapon's definitely seen action before. Before you ask, it doesn't have any bodies on it; I checked."
"I don't even want to know how."
That very same day, Harry gave his two week notice; though it had not been uncommon during his time at the Jade Garden to have staff, both front of house and back, quit without warning, Harry wanted to part on good terms with the head chef, in case he ever wanted to return to the restaurant in the future. Besides, he had learned a lot from the head chef and cooks, including more than a few recipes from the restaurant's repertoire and some dishes not on the menu but the chef and cooks assured him were authentic to Cantonese and Japanese cuisine; for what he had gained from the experience, paying his respects was the least he could do.
As a side effect of giving his notice, he and Liv started losing shifts at the restaurants as the head chef hired their replacements and began training them for the job. With sudden free time on his hands and a decrease in his daily income, Harry found himself often alone; Karen had started taking meetings with casting agents a few weeks ago, something he had not realized until now due to just how busy he had been with work, and the shifts he had lost were at the same time as the ones Liv still had. Nonetheless, he was worried about the negative cash flow; even though he hadn't really spent the excesses of his earnings, he did not like having to spend money without any income.
The solution, however, came unexpectedly.
"Hey kid, you wanna score?"
Harry stopped short at the call from the alleyway, barely more than a loud whisper. The speaker was a young man in a hooded jumper, sagging jeans and expensive-looking tennis shoes, a thick gold chain dangling around his neck.
The boy did a quick look around, almost as if checking to see if the man had been talking to him, though in reality checking for surveillance in the form of people and cameras, then gestured to himself with his thumb, and the man nodded.
Feigning nervousness, Harry approached the man, who gestured for him to follow behind him. "What do you mean, 'score'?" he asked, as he followed the man.
He immediately regretted asking the question.
Deeper in the alleyways, in an alcove out of sight from the main streets, a quartet of girls, all who looked quite young, were huddled together.
It was in that moment that Harry realized he had just been pandered to.
"Who'd you like the look of?" asked the man, gesturing to the girls, who had risen to their feet.
"You a copper?" Harry asked with feigned anxiety. "You have to tell me, or it's entrapment."
"Of course not," said the man with a tight smile, in a tone he clearly thought was reassuring but instead felt unnaturally controlled.
"Can I talk to them?" he asked, and when the pimp nodded, he moved closer as though to get a better look at the girls. To the one who looked the youngest, he asked, "How old are you?"
The girl swallowed, looked down at the ground, then said in a soft voice, "Th-thirteen."
Harry turned towards the man. "I've never done this before," he said. "What's the process?"
"You pay me for the time, and then you can take the girl back to your place."
"That seems fair," Harry said. "How much is this?"
"Two hundred for an hour," said the man.
Harry pulled out his wallet, counting out ten twenty dollar bills before folding the banknotes in half in his left hand, extending his hand in what appeared to be a proffered handshake. "I'll take her for the hour," said the boy, gesturing his head towards the girl who had indicated she was only thirteen years old.
The pimp clasped hands with the boy. "Pleasure doing business."
"Pleasure's all mine," Harry said, his grip tightening on the handshake.
Then, he drew his pistol from the holster strapped to his lower back and fired twice into the man's chest, pausing as the man crumpled limply to the ground before lining up a third shot, which he quickly placed between the man's eyes even as his expression showed his absolute surprise as he went completely limp. Whirling back towards the girls, he brandished his pistol threateningly, hissing, "Quiet."
Harry pulled on his basilisk skin gloves, then quickly searched the man while keeping his gun trained on the young witnesses, taking a thick roll of banknotes, a leather wallet and a pistol with a plastic polymer frame from the body, tucking the last of the three into the waistband of his pants and tossing the wad of money to one of the girls, who caught it dumbly.
"Split that amongst yourselves and get out of here" said the boy, as the girls looked confused by the sudden windfall. They needed no further urging, though, as they quickly turned tail and fled together in a pack.
After disposing of the remains with disintegrate, Harry threw the bullet hole-riddled garments that remained into a nearby trash can before setting it alight, reduced the bullets and casings into slag with magic, and stripped the paper currency from the wallet before tossing it down a storm drain.
No body, no evidence, no crime.
The boy did not count his blood money until he was back in his hotel room; when it was all said and done, it came out to just under six hundred dollars, mostly in small bills.
Killing the pimp should have been difficult, but he had found it comfortably easy; maybe it was because it was the kind of run he had pulled in Shadowrun dozens of times, albeit with more preparation and against an entire organization instead of just one sex trafficker, but regardless of the reason, it had been as easy as breathing. He felt no remorse for doing what he had; while he may have sold drugs to children his own age, Harry was not a peddler of juvenile flesh and would never be one.
Besides, with his magic, he could easily clean up after himself as long as he wasn't caught on CCTV, and he was fairly certain invisibility could be used to take care of the latter. If not, he could research and develop something similar to mask.
At least now he had a lead on an alternate income source; it wasn't like criminals could report crimes inflicted upon them in the commission of another crime to the authorities.
Besides, he truly hated sex traffickers.
Going to the gun show was Jack's idea, a way to acquire firearms without the need for a background check, by taking advantage of the exemption which applied to the resale of guns between private citizens. Of course, despite all the numerous legal sales going on, every such exhibition has its share of undesirables using the show as cover for selling their illegal wares, and Harry planned to take full advantage of it.
Walking the floor of the convention on his own, he was a little surprised he was not drawing more attention; even though other children his age were there, they clearly were accompanied by adults, likely parents, or guardians at the very least, yet he was allowed to wander around from table to table without so much a question or unusual glance. Still, he did not see anyone who looked likely to sell him weapons.
As he wandered the convention center, Harry began to notice certain patterns of behavior, sidelong glances and small nods people gave each other, the small groupings that seemed to leave around the same time, always involving a few of the same people.
That was worth investigating.
Author's Notes: Happy Holidays! As it turned out, this project required a little less research than expected, so I decided to begin publication of the second book in the series earlier than scheduled, as a Christmas gift of sorts, because I already have sixteen chapters written.
Regular updates will now take place weekly on Friday mornings Eastern time, starting on January 3rd, 2020, instead of Sundays, because I now work Sundays and have Fridays as my regularly scheduled day off.
I've been told my author's notes are a bit self-indulgent, but I think I've earned it with the amount of work that goes into every chapter.
This is a direct continuation from Harry Potter and the Hermetic Arts; if you haven't read that, I suggest you do, because understanding the first book is fundamental to understanding this one.
I wanted to include the varying aspects of Harry in the first chapter of this book, to reintroduce the reader to who he is as a person and to familiarize new readers with the kinds of things this version of Harry Potter can and will do. There's researcher Harry, enchanter Harry, hard-working grinder Harry, and shadowrunner Harry, and I felt it apropos to include all of those in the first chapter of Physical Adept.
Jason Bourne (not that Jason Bourne) and Jack Ryan (but not that Jack Ryan)... there may be a pattern there.
My time working at a restaurant really enlightened me about the situation when it comes to tipping, and it made me realize what really happens to the money that are tips; when a patron does not tip a waiter, what they're also doing is failing to tip the cooks and the dishwashers, and it made me appreciate tipping more. However, I'm still of the mind that tipping shouldn't be necessary in the first place and wouldn't be if restaurants paid their employees a living wage.
Everybody is a nerd about something; it's just a matter of the subject(s) and the level of obsession and knowledge.
Read, review, PM me with your thoughts... I'm always happy to discuss my project.
Credit to Wolfman217 for the work they did proofing and editing the chapter while Romantically Distant was unavailable due to university exams; they and I did not part on the best terms, and I would like to take this time to apologize to them about how our last exchange went, as it went badly.