Yo – I don't own any of this shitznit - so back off.

Kežmarský štít, The High Tatras Mountains, Slovakia.

The wind picked up as the sunset, carrying with it the beginnings of a blizzard. High up on the vertical cliff face of the mountain, Ranma straightened her arms to lean back and watch the day's end. She could see storm clouds approaching to unleash their fury upon the peaks. She looked up and sighed; she had about 200 meters of vertical climb left. Unless she cheated and started jumping, she wouldn't be able to complete her ascent tonight if she wanted to get back to camp before nightfall. The tree line was just visible several miles off in the distance, nearly 700 meters of vertical elevation below.

She decided to call it a night. She released her grip with her hands and let gravity pull on her body until she was nearly perpendicular to the wall. Right before her feet lost contact with the mountain she flared her ki and stuck to the rock like a fly. She had been working hard on this – accessing her life force, or ki, ever since she first began to practice the art. It allowed her to do things that no ordinary human could do, like create a bond that made her part of the stone beneath her feet. She stood there for a second, enjoying the sensations of looking straight up into the dark clouds as she hung parallel to the ground.

She slowly raised one leg until her toe pointed at the sky. With a vicious snap her roundhouse kick pivoted her a quarter turn. She used her momentum to run horizontally across the cliff face before zigzagging further down. She remained attached to the wall despite the efforts of gravity to persuade her that what she was doing was impossible.

Finally, about 30 meters from the base of the wall, she leapt out into the darkness, buffeted by winds and snow, feeling the flow of air as it swirled around her. She attempted to weave her way through the whorls to minimize turbulence as she anticipated impact. She closed her eyes and extended her senses as far as she could in order to feel the ground racing to meet her. She landed as softly as the falling snow despite the distance. Ranma ran a few paces before stopping and looking back with a grimace. She wasn't satisfied with the impact of her landing – she had left some tracks despite her best efforts not to. She'd have to work on that tomorrow.

She raced down the slope in leaping strides, picking up speed until she was running at a full sprint. The treacherous footing and distance did nothing to slow her pace; in a few minutes she reached the tree line. Without breaking stride, Ranma leapt above the trees and sprung lightly across the tops, working hard not to disturb the snow that lay heavy on the tree limbs. The snow was really falling now; ahead the trees opened up to reveal a tiny mountain pond that had frozen over. Ranma leapt one last time to land in the middle of the ice, flaring her ki as she landed. She didn't slide as she stuck to the ice; like the mountain wall, all her forward momentum was absorbed by the surface beneath her.

Her warning senses suddenly flared to life and she leapt into the air as a red streak of light flashed through where she had just been standing. It struck a tree across the pond, shattering it with an explosion that echoed through the hollow. More bolts of followed Ranma into the air. She twisted in her leap, dodging as she scanned for her attacker. At the peak of her jump she lacked the momentum to effectively dodge a red bolt that curved to tag her in the lower back. More bolts followed as she fell, coming from various locations in the trees from around the lake.

It stung like a bitch. She grimaced as she felt her back spasm and the muscles in her legs attempting to stiffen. She flared her ki down the proper pathways in her legs stopped the tensing and ended the pain, but she could tell that they wouldn't be as responsive as she had needed. The attacks continued to come, closer together now than before but from fewer locations. A few more of the red shots tagged her legs because she couldn't move them nimbly enough to dodge. Her legs began to go completely numb and the lake below was rapidly approaching as she lost altitude. Rather than attempt to land, Ranma waited till the last second and punched through the ice, plunging into the depths of the freezing water below.

The shock of the icy water almost made her gasp for breath, but she couldn't afford lungs full of water at the moment. She took a few seconds to swim out of the way of the hole she made before beginning to work on making her legs function properly. The ice above shielded her from her attacker, affording her a few precious seconds of quiet meditation to undo the paralysis in her legs. She started isolating the nerves in her legs and correcting the flow of signals by carefully stimulating the nerve endings with her ki. It didn't take long before the numbness was replaced by the feeling of bitter cold from the water.

Ranma allowed herself to sink to the bottom of the lake a couple meters below. Once to the bottom, she gathered her ki together and released a small blast towards the ice above. The blast cracked the ice just enough for her to braced her legs and shoot upward through the water, hitting the ice with enough force to break through the and land on the bank nearly thirty feet away. The attacks began immediately, coming from the trees at intervals of one or two seconds apart from across the lake.

Ranma sprinted into the trees while dodging a red blast from behind, extending her senses as much as possible. She was dripping wet and rapidly cooling, but she allowed some of her tightly controlled ki to burn away the water and dry her clothes. Unfortunately, this action also melted the snow under her feet, leaving a clear path for her attacker to follow as she took cover under the trees. She began weaving in and out of the boughs, keeping as much tree cover between her and the attacker as possible. Finally dry, she used her ki to walk on top of the snow, erasing any trace of her presence. She saw a flash of red from the corner of her eye; a tree in front of her exploded in a cloud of snow and sawdust. She smirked. Ranma used the explosion to cover a leap into a nearby tree, carefully concealing herself against the trunk.

She waited for a minute or two, still and concealed. Her intuition paid off as when she heard a small "pop" below her. She couldn't see any movement, but she could hear the crunch of boots on snow. She watched as footprints began marching carefully towards the remains of the exploded tree, showing the steps of an invisible figure. Who ever was down there was facing away from Ranma at the moment. She leapt from the tree to land silently behind the last set of footprints. As soon as she landed she launched into a foot sweep, knocking whoever was there to the ground.

The outline of a body fell into the snow, even though nothing but a pair of boots could be seen. Ranma wasted no time before leaping at the impression and grabbing… something, even though it was impossible to see. It felt like silk but was completely transparent. She pulled back with her left hand and felt the object give. The air rippled as a white man with messy black hair and glasses appeared. His face registered shock for a second right before Ranma's jab sent his glasses flying and rendered him an unconscious heap on the ground.

She took a few seconds to scan the area to make sure there was no one else around. Satisfied that the attacks had stopped, Ranma sat back on her heels as she pondered the man before her. His face was a little grizzled with beard stubble and his hair starting to turn grey around the temples, but she had a feeling he was younger than he looked. Out side of a lighting shaped scar on his forehead, his skin was smooth and attractive. His clothes, at least, gave him away as a stranger to these parts. He was wearing wool pants and winter hiking boots, a dark brown sweater, and some sort of hooded cloak that hung to his ankles and opened in the front, held by a single clasp at the neck.

She chewed on her lips for a second before reaching into the snow for his glasses. She pocketed them and stood up. The snow was falling steadily, and if she left him here he would freeze to death before too long. She sighed and reached down with one hand, picking him up by his collar and slinging unconscious man over her shoulders. Even though he was nearly six inches taller than Ranma, she barely noticed the extra weight as she leapt once again to the treetops and headed back to camp.

Harry woke up to a pounding headache and the smells pine logs and goulash. He was laying flat on some sort of hard surface, covered in a scratchy blanket that came up to his chin. He reached up to scratch his chest and stopped. Something about the scratchiness bothered him. His eyes widened as he realized he was naked. He sat up slowly, clutching the blanket around his chest while wincing as his pounding temples. He put a hand on his forehead and gritted his teeth.

"Your glasses are on the table to your left."

Harry whipped his head around and immediately wished he hadn't. Once the room stopped spinning, he glanced down and groped for his glasses, putting them on as quickly as possible. Once he could finally see clearly, he could make out a crude log cabin with a dirt floor that was barely bigger than a shack. A small fire burned in a crude stone hearth on the opposite wall, with a small iron cauldron suspended over the flames and a couple of tree stumps before it. The bed on which he sat was nothing more than a raised pallet in the far corner of the room, stuffed right against the pine logs. Besides the pallet and the small table, nothing else was in the room.

An Asian woman with blue eyes leaned casually against the wall near by. She was extremely attractive, with a petit frame and long black hair that was braided into a pigtail. Harry was surprised at how short she was, maybe 5'2 or shorter – he was only of about average height, but he doubted she would even come up to his shoulders. It was hard to guess her age – Harry figured she might be in her late 20's to early 30's. Her red silk shirt and black kung-fu pants clothes weren't provocative, but she wore them with as much assurance they might as well be an evening gown. They also didn't hide the fact that she was rather… curvy, either. Most dramatic, however, was that she stood twirling Harry's wand idly between her fingers as she watched him rise.

Harry struggled to appear unconcerned.

"Judging by the look on your face, I take it this is important?" The woman chuckled as she stuffed it into a pocket. "Don't worry, I ain't gonna break it. You will have to answer a few questions before you get it back, though."

Using her foot she pushed a tree stump from in front of the fire to the side of the bed. She sat down on it and stared.

"So, who are you?" She asked in English. Her gaze didn't waver in intensity. Harry watched as her eyes flickered briefly to the lighting shaped scar on his forehead, but she didn't act as if she recognized it.

"I'm… Harry."

"Just Harry?"

"Harry Potter."

"Harry Potter from where?"

"I'm from England."

"You're an awfully long way from home, Harry Potter from England." She leaned back a bit, but didn't take her eyes off his face. "So… why did you attacked me?"

Harry blinked. "Attack you?"

She tilted her head a bit as she contemplated him. "Back at the lake – You attacked me with something. It was red and stung like a bitch. Not sure what it was or why you did it, but I intend to find out."

"That was you?"

She nodded.

"I thought you were a… um…" Harry trailed off lamely.

"A what?"

"I thought you were something… Unnatural. These mountains are known to harbor… unsavory creatures."

She briefly struck a glamorous pose, one arm behind her head with her chest pushed forward. "Oh, so I'm unsavory?" She smirked as he blushed a bit.

"Um… No. Quite the opposite, really." Harry sighed. "I'm sorry. Would you believe it was a case of mistaken identity?" Harry almost cringed at the…placating tone his voice had taken.

She snorted and relaxed. "Lucky for you, I actually do. That sort of stuff happens to me all the time. Mind telling me what you mistook me for?"

Harry licked his lips. "I thought you might be a… um…"

"A goddess?" She teased.

"Er… well, I thought you were some sort of supernatural creature. But more like… a vampire."

Her face scrunched up in a pout and she crossed her arms. "Dang. I've been called a lot of things, but vampire's a first. People prefer 'goddess' or 'succubus,' usually." She stood up and worked her way over to the fire, standing before it with her back towards Harry.

"Um… What… I mean, who are you, anyway?" Harry pulled the blanket up. "And where are my clothes?"

"I'm Ranma. I'm a martial artist and a damn good one, too." She was silent for a second. "I hid your clothes. I didn't want you wandering around outside until we had a chance to talk. And don't worry; you ain't got nothing I haven't seen before." She turned around and watched as Harry blushed and shifted uncomfortably on the hard pallet.

"Oh." For a minute the two of them fell silent as they stared at each other. The silence stretched uncomfortably for Harry as Ranma just continued to watch him, her gaze intent upon his face. Harry broke the silence first.

"How did you do… what ever it was you did? I've seen a lot of strange things, but I've never seen anything move like you did."

"Like I said, I'm a martial artist." The tone of her voice made it evident that she believed that explained everything.

"Right..." Harry said, sarcasm dripping from his voice, "I've never seen any martial artists do what you did."

"Most people aren't as good as I am." She shrugged.

"Uh… what are you doing out here? If you're so good, why are you in the Tatras?"

Ranma smirked. "I live here. You?"

"Uh... I was hunting… stuff." Harry stared back at her.

"Like vampires and other creatures sort of stuff, right?" Ranma's smirk turned into a full-blown grin.


"Why would you do that? I mean, what ever you hit me with stung, but how is that going to stop a vampire?"

"I've got lots of methods, you know."

"You a magical demon hunter or something?"

It was Harry's turn to shrug. "Or something. I'm an Auror." With one hand he gestured at the blanket. "Could I get my clothes back? This thing itches."

"What's an Auror?"

"I hunt and catch supernatural things and dark wizards."

"Been doing that long?"

"12 years or so."

"You any good?"

Harry gave a noncommittal grunt. "People seem to think so."

Ranma pulled out Harry's wand and looked at it closely. It was just a simple stick of holly, polished with use and covered in small scratches. She gave it a twirl between her fingers.

"Real magic, huh?"

Harry nodded.

"A wizard who catches evil wizards and other dark creatures… sounds… interesting."

Again, Harry nodded, a little more cautiously. "Um… Ranma? Clothes? It is a little awkward being the only one naked…" Harry flashed Ranma a nervous grin.

She rolled her eyes at him. "Don't get any ideas." Harry didn't see what she did, but she put away the wand was suddenly holding his clothes in one hand. She tossed them to him, and he caught the bundle awkwardly. He found his underwear and shimmied into it under the blanket, followed by his pants. He had to stand up to put his shirt and sweater, followed by his robe, and without socks the ground was bloody cold. Ranma didn't say anything as he got dressed – she continued to watch with a slight smirk on her face.

"I'm Ranma." She walked over to the bed and extended her hand.

Harry hesitantly took her hand and shook. Her grip was very rough and powerful, and her fingers and palms were thick with calluses.

"Harry. Harry Potter" They shook. "Do you have a last name, Ranma?"

"Not yet."

Harry looked at her inquisitively.

"Don't worry about it. Long story, anyway." She waved it away before continuing. "So, Harry – what you attacked me with – that was magic? What was it supposed to do?"

"Yeah– those were stun spells. They should have immobilized you. Sorry."

"Nah, don't apologize." She made a dismissive gesture with her hand. "It stung a little, but I'm tougher than I look."

"I bet."

"I want to learn about it."

"'Bout what?"

"Magic, of course."


"Because – the only way to know how to defeat something is to study it, right? Magic is something I've been exposed to a lot, but I've never really had anyone to teach me about it."

"What makes you think I can teach you?"

"You want your stick back, right?"

"My wand – and yes, I want it back."

"Alright, I'll give it back if you agree to teach me."

"What do I get out of this?"

"You get out of here in one piece, plus help hunting down what ever… unsavory creatures might be lurking." Ranma grinned. "I'm bored here, and I won't be staying much longer. You've seen only a small fraction of what I can do. I can be very helpful, and besides… it could be fun."

"Fun?" Harry rubbed the scar on his forehead. "Hunting dark beings is not FUN. You are putting your life at risk every single day against forces that you can't comprehend or defend against effectively. You're putting others at risk as well – because if you fail, then what ever is will be unleashed upon people who can't stop it. A fist does no good against magic."

Ranma raised an eyebrow. "Didn't seem that way to me." Harry looked like he was about to protest. "Look, Harry. I can look after myself. You say that you do your job to protect others. That's what martial arts are about - protecting yourself, but more importantly, protecting those who can't protect themselves."

"A fist can't kill a vampire, Ranma."

"Then let's find out."

"How do you propose to do that?"

"You're here hunting vampires, right? Show me one, and let's see what I can do with it. If I can't take it out, you get your wand back and we part our merry ways. If I'm right, you try and teach me."

"Even if you can take out a vampire, I don't think I can teach you. You have to be born magic."

"Doesn't hurt to try, does it?"

Harry sighed. "No way I can get out of this, is there?"

"Well, you can always try and steal your wand from me, but I really wouldn't recommend that."

"How would you stop me?"

"Easy- I'd beat the snot out of you before you can blink. Carry to give it a go?"

"Not really, thanks."

Ranma moved to the fireplace. She picked up a wooden spoon from the rough mantle and stirred a small iron cauldron that hung suspended over the flames. "Glad we got that sorted out - Want some food?" Ranma gestured over to the caldron. "Goulash - Hungarian recipe, but it's pretty good."

Harry shook his head.

"Your loss, then…" Ranma pulled a bowl off the mantle and slopped some goulash into it. She moved a tree stump against the wall and sat down, leaning back against the walls as she began digging in. Harry was silent as she ate, watching her. There was no wasted motion – it was efficient and straightforward. Ranma paused with the spoon dangling over the bowl. "You sure? There's still plenty left…" When Harry declined, she helped her self to a second and then third portion, demolishing the rest of the stew. She grabbed the bowl and stirring spoon and pulled the cauldron off the flames before heading outside to clean the dishes.

A few minutes later she trooped back in and hung the cauldron by the fire.

"Alright… So, where do we find these vampires?"

Harry couldn't believe it. She actually looked excited about the prospect.

The walk to the graveyard took a little longer than anticipated due to the heavy blanket of snow. It was bitterly cold out, and without access to his wand, Harry didn't want to risk apparating to the site, and he didn't feel like wasting his energy trying to conjure a floating charm to walk on top of the drifts or a warming charm to take the bite off the wind. So, he trudged through, his pant legs and coat getting cold and soaked while he sweated from the exertion of walking in the deep snow.

Ranma had no such problems. She walked smoothly over the snowfall, not even leaving tracks as she waited for Harry to catch up. By the time the pair arrived, Harry was cold, winded, and grumpy. His mood didn't improve as he took in the scene. The graveyard wasn't heavily used, but there was definitely activity in the area. A fresh set of dirty footprints in the snow lead away from one of the more recent graves on the edge of the cemetery. The trail went through the side gate before disappearing into the woods. Harry scattered a handful of poppy seeds around the grave and glanced at his watch. It was 2:00 AM. He walked over to where Ranma was leaning up against the broken fence.

"So, what did you see?"

"Vampire rose out of the grave tonight. Looks very fresh – this one may only be a couple of days old, at most."

"And the seeds? What was that for?"

"Vampires tend to be obsessive compulsive. If this one comes back, he'll probably start counting each seed. Makes it much easier to fight with them if they are too busy counting to notice you."

"What next, then?"

"Well, now we wait." Harry grumbled a bit under his breath. "I can't believe I let you talk me into this, Ranma."

"Why? You were gonna do this anyway."

"Yeah, in the morning. During daylight."

"Does it make a difference?"

"Tracking a vampire at night in his home turf is generally considered foolhardy by most of the wizarding world. Some are mindless zombies, but most tend to be quite diabolical. Usually, people wait till sun up and take them while they are at their weakest."

"Vampires strong?"

"Even a weak vampire is three or four times as strong as a normal human."

"Oh, is that it?" She seemed nonplussed.

"Is that it? I don't fancy fighting anything three times faster and stronger than me without a wand, thank you very much."

Ranma gently patted him on the shoulder. "Don't worry, you won't have to." She paused. "So, when it gets back…?"

"Like I said, you have to kill it, Ranma."

"Stake through the heart or cut off the head, right?" Harry nodded. "Piece of cake."

They fell silent as they walked away from the cemetery towards a hastily constructed lean-to in the shelter of the pines. Ranma was wearing a pair of loose black pants and a long sleeved black-silk shirt, but no jacket. She didn't seem to mind the cold, or even notice it. She was relaxed and alert, clearly enjoying this little outing.

Despite the fact that Ranma was holding Harry's wand, he really didn't feel threatened by her. She seemed nice enough, and was a pleasure to talk to. Whispered small talk filled the next couple of hours. Harry asked about how Ranma, who clearly wasn't local, ended up in the middle of the High Tatras.

"Long, weird story, really. You ever feel like Fate is having a laugh at your expense?"

Harry nodded. "All too often, really."

"Yeah, well, I feel like Fate likes to use me as its favorite chew toy. It started when I was about 4, you see. My dad was a bit of an idiot. He wanted to make a real ma…" A brief look of loss passed across her face before she cleared her throat and continued. "a real… martial artist of me. So, he took me from my mother and we went on a 12 year training journey, traveling the world and learning as much about martial arts as possible."

"What happened?"

Ranma sighed. "To make a long story short, I made a lot of enemies, a few friends, and a couple of fiancées. I was young and stupid, and got into more trouble than I could handle. In the end, my fiancée got killed in a fight and the few people close to me cut ties."

"I'm sorry."

She smiled. "Not your fault. It happened long ago, anyway. Anyway, as a result, I've been traveling the world and training as hard as I could for 16 years. That's why I'm here. I was practicing some advanced ki manipulation techniques."


"Ki is the central component of advanced martial arts. It's life force – pure energy, in a way. It's the thing that keeps you alive and healthy. Every living thing has it, but not every living thing can utilize it."

Ranma suddenly stiffened. "You feel that?"

"Feel what?"

She shook her head. "Feels like… like a demon, almost. Negative life force. Like… Something's ki is missing, but it is still walking around."

Harry stared at her for a minute. "Negative life force… Hmm…" He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Let's go check to see if our vampire is home." With that, the two carefully crept back towards the graveyard. Once they arrived, a pale man wearing a dirty suit was crouched on his heels, carefully picking out poppy seeds from the snow.

Ranma whispered to Harry, "That's guy is the source of the disturbance. What ever he is, he isn't natural."

Harry nodded. "That's our vampire. Notice a couple of things about him." Harry pointed to the snow behind the man. "First, he doesn't cast a shadow."

Ranma nodded.

"Second, his cheeks aren't red from the cold – see how pale he is? Also, he isn't breathing. Plus, he's picking up all the seeds out in the middle of nowhere next to an empty grave. Dead give away, if you'll forgive the pun. He's all yours. You sure you are up to this?"

Again, Ranma nodded. She pulled Harry's wand out and handed it to him. "You seem like a good guy, and just in case... ya know." With that, she stood up and sauntered into the cemetery. Ranma sashayed into the graveyard and coyly played with her pigtail. For all her strutting, she walked silently up the man as he counted seeds and tapped him on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, are you a Vampire?"

The man looked at her blankly for a second before growling and baring a wicked set of fangs.

Harry groaned.

The vampire lunged at Ranma, but before Harry could even see what happened, Ranma had it pinned to the ground on its stomach. She held it in place with a knee on its upper-back and one arm twisted painfully beneath it into a half nelson. She held both of its ankles in her left hand, forcing his knees to bend and pulling his hips off the ground to remove any source of leverage. The vampire's 'free' hand was pinned beneath her right foot at full extension from the body. It growled and attempted to raise itself off the ground, with no success.

Harry watched in amazement. He had never seen a vampire handled so effortlessly. Ranma didn't even seem to be straining in the slightest as she kept the monster pinned to the earth. Vampires were highly magic resistant and quite strong – he knew he could never subdue one as quickly or effectively. Ranma's question snapped him out of thoughts.

"What was that?"

"I said, 'Harry, do you have some sort of stake I can use on this fella?'"


"Don't get your panties in a bunch, Harry. He's not going anywhere." Ranma twisted the vampire's arm a little further, eliciting a growl. "Do these guys feel pain?"

Harry shrugged. "Not really. They know if they are hurt, but it doesn't incapacitate them at all. Why?"

There was a sickening crack as the vampire's right shoulder popped out of socket. Ranma tsked in annoyance. "This fella just broke his own arm trying to get out of my hold."

Harry raised an eyebrow.

"Don't worry it. Go get me a stick unless you want me to do this the hard way."

"What's the hard way?"

"Ripping his head off with my bare hands."

Harry gulped.

"One sec!" He dashed to the nearest tree and pulled out his wand. With a flick he cut off a low hanging branch about the width of a mop handle. He quickly stripped the bark and fashioned a crude stake and raced back into the cemetery, tossing it to Ranma. She caught it with her free hand and gave it a superfluous twirl before driving the stake through the vampire's back and into his heart. Flames leapt from the hole in the vampire's back and quickly reduced the body to a pile of ash.

Ranma wiped her hands. "Feels unsporting to not give them a fair chance."

"Vampires are dark creatures to the core, and will kill you in a heart beat if they can. At best, you'd die, and at worst, you'd become a vampire yourself."

Ranma shrugged. "He didn't seem like anything special."

"He was newly born. They get stronger with age. Old vampires are very difficult to kill."

Ranma nodded. "Makes sense. How old is an old vampire?"

Harry shrugged. "Not sure. The old ones are the smart ones, so they stay hidden. Anyway, thanks for the help, I guess." Harry checked his watch. It was 5:00 A.M. Harry shivered. He cast a warming charm on himself. Ranma watched with curiosity plainly evident on her face.

"What was that?"

"Just something to help warm me up. How come you aren't freezing?"

Ranma shrugged. "Temperature changes don't touch me, really."

"How come?"

"Byproduct of martial arts. It's all about using your Ki."

"You mentioned that 'ki' stuff before. What does it do?"

Ranma shrugged and stuck her hands in her pocket. She began to walk out of the graveyard, heading in the direction of home. Harry followed her after a few more quick spells that allowed him to keep up.

"Seriously, Ranma-What does this 'ki" stuff do?

"Well, it… enhances… everything, really. You could say it augments my core abilities. I can manipulate it to defend and attack, or just enhance my strength and speed, or do all those things at once."

"How do you get this 'ki' stuff?"

"You don't get it – you have it. It's internal; you just have to train it to be able to consciously use it."

Harry pursed his lips in thought. They walked on silently for a bit as he mulled over her answer. "So, this martial arts bit… It makes you impervious to the elements, faster, stronger, and tougher than a normal human, right?"

"Once you learn how to manipulate ki and you've got enough practice, yeah, it can."

"How can I get some practice manipulating this ki stuff, then?"

"It takes lots of effort and training to manipulate it."

"How long would it take for me to get as good as you?"

Ranma shook her head. "Don't know. Honestly, I doubt you ever could, Harry."

"What makes you say that?"

She shrugged. "Because, I've got such a head start on you you'll never catch up, even if you live to 300. Doesn't mean you can't try. I'll teach you if you want to learn."

"Oh… Thanks, I guess."

Neither said anything for a while. Fatigue was beginning to catch up with Harry, but Ranma still looked fresh.

"You gonna teach me some magic, then?"

It was Harry's turn to sigh. "Don't know if I can. I'll try, but it's kind of like this ki stuff, I guess." He shrugged and turned up his palms. "I don't know a lot about it, but I guess that magic is innate. If you aren't born magical, you can't learn no matter how hard you try. Even if the spark is in you, you'd still spend years learning and training."

"I don't mind training."

"That's good, I suppose. But what if, even if you had the spark, it's burnt out now because you've never used it? There is just too much I don't know about how one 'obtains' the ability to do magic. I just never gave it much thought - I don't even know if it is possible for you at this point."

She shrugged. "Maybe I'll be lucky."

"Maybe. Honestly, it will probably be a waste of time to try. If the magic community didn't find you when you turned 11, then the chance of you being magical is practically nil."

"Can't hurt to try."

"Guess not."

Ranma stopped short. Harry looked around and realized that they were at her cabin – it looked even smaller and cruder from the outside. The chimney wasn't particularly straight and the space between the logs was patched with mud to keep out drafts.

Harry stopped. "So… yeah. I guess I should thank you again."

Ranma turned. "For?"

"Helping me take out that vampire. It was much easier than I had hoped. A little… surprising, perhaps, but still…"

Ranma waved a hand dismissively. "It wasn't much, really. Anyway, what happens next? If you'll teach me, I would love to start tomorrow."

"I'll need a couple of days first, I should think. I've got to go to London and do some research, and also file a report at work. Will I be able to find you here?"

"How long will it take?"

"Couple of days, at most."

Ranma tapped a finger against her chin. "Hmm… Alright. I'll just stick around here for a bit more, then. If I'm not at the cabin when you come back, just wait – I'll probably be out training somewhere."

Harry nodded. "Sounds good." He stuck out his hand. "See you in a few?"

Ranma shook it and grinned. "Can't wait."

Harry stepped back and drew out his wand with a flourish. With a quick grin and a flick, he disappeared with a 'pop.'