Disclaimer – As always, it's fanfiction
Acknowledgements – Beta work by Kokopelli and Ibskib
The Next Lord of Kobol
Chapter 21 – Sometimes the Simplest Advice is the Best
This is almost painful, Harry thought. I finally get to use my broom, but it's just a tease. I can only hover in someone's bedroom under my invisibility cloak, so I don't set off the possible pressure plate this pillock has in front of his safe. Okay, illusion set behind me in case there's any cameras hidden in the room.
Oh well, I'll take what I can get. I guess literally in this case.
He whispered the opening charm and waited.
There was the audible sound of a few clicks and then … nothing.
The locking mechanism must be too complex. Might be one of those electromagnetic locks? Let's see it stop this!
Instead of shrinking the whole safe, Harry concentrated just on the door. Amused, he watched it shrink and fall off the hinges. A wave of his holly wand held it aloft before the tiny piece of metal hit the carpet. He could float it back into place and enlarge it, but instead, Harry forced more power through his wand and vanished the tiny piece of once thick metal.
That should really screw with this lowlife's mind! And what does today's catch look like?
Hey! There's a tiny blue light in the back of the safe. Proximity alarm or camera? Either's bad. Gotta keep the cloak on and get moving. Someone is probably being alerted right now.
Using more magic to prevent any fingerprints being left behind, the contents of the safe floated out and hovered.
Hmmm. A couple of thousand cubits in paper bill form, what looks like stock certificates and other paperwork that I can't really be bothered to decipher, a couple discs that are probably encrypted, and some jewelry that actually doesn't look all that expensive. What to take? What to take?
Harry took the cubits and the discs. Whatever was on them might contain information on other things this particular gentleman was involved in, or it could be his will as a video, or a host of other worthless things. It didn't matter that much to the wizard from Earth. Taking it would probably point the finger at someone who knew this man or another person in the organized crime business.
The broom rider considered himself in the disorganized crime business at the moment.
The stock certificates could likely be tracked when they were cashed, so he left them. Satisfied, that he'd gotten what he could take; it was time for his departure. Harry concentrated on an intermediate destination to avoid being traced before heading home, and disappeared with a soft crack.
Once there, he conjured new cases for the discs and vanished the old ones. Next he used his wand and sent some Patronus mist all over the money, in case there was an embedded tracking device, just as Zoe Graystone advised him to.
Harry considered it rather unnerving that Zoe put that much thought into committing crimes. He admired the analytical side of his ghost friend's mind, and made him wonder how she would have reshaped the Twelve Colonies had her boyfriend not decided to make such a violent statement.
Satisfied, Harry concentrated on his final destination five hundred kilometers due east.
"Uh-oh! Looks like in the battle of ancient magic versus the semi-automatic twelve millimeter pistol, we have a clear winner…and it isn't magic!"
Harry sighed while Zoe Graystone laughed. The conjured Death Eater target had fallen over and now had a large hole in the middle of its chest. The protego shield stopped the first bullet, but the second went right through.
His stolen gun did what it was intended to and his spell didn't. Of course it really doesn't hold against more than one spell. Sadly, it was the primary shield taught to his schoolmates. Harry didn't like the odds if the wizarding world on Earth went to war with the Muggles.
"I'd like to think that maybe I didn't cast as strong of a shield because it was a Death Eater, but I'm afraid it's just not that good against bullets."
"What else you got, Magic Man? Usually, I'm pretty impressed by all the things your wand can do, but today? Not so much."
A quick reparo fixed the target and Harry levitated the fake Death Eater back to his feet. Between Dumbledore and Sirius, he knew seven different types of shield spells that weren't conjurations or transfigurations and he wanted to see how each of them would fare against the standard issue military pistol. He took a second pistol from the crooks who'd tried to rough him up. It was a ceramic revolver – commonly called a smuggler's special. The weapon wasn't terribly durable, but it was virtually undetectable by security screeners. Unlike most Colonial weaponry that was designed for fighting against Cylons if needed, this smuggler's pistol was intended to kill another human being.
The next shield stopped three bullets which was better, but the one after that didn't even stop the first one. Harry guessed that if Albus were here, he'd have an extremely clever explanation concerning why some shields worked better against Muggle weaponry. Some of the complicated ones worked decently, but others were not very useful.
When he reached the last one, the fortress tower shield, he emptied the entire clip and it held. Unfortunately, it was a glowing circle of blue light, which looked kind of obvious.
"I remember at the beginning of my last year, Fred and George were talking about weaving shield charms into the fabric of clothing. I could put some shield runes into a shirt."
"What about using a bulletproof vest as your base?"
"Metal is really hard to enchant."
Zoe gave him a look that Harry knew meant he was being stupid. "Um, most vest plates use composite metal and ceramic. You don't know much about vests, do you?"
"Oh," Harry said. "I guess not. I've grabbed vests in the Goldkiller game. Never put much thought into what is inside of them. Might still be dodgy with any metal. Can we go with ceramics only? There's a spell that Hermione used on my glasses when I played Quidditch that made them unbreakable. It might work on that."
"You could do better than that," she said, after thinking for a minute. "How much work do you want to put into the vest?"
"My life is kind of important to me," Harry replied. "What do you have in mind?"
"The plates go inside pouches, so they can be changed out if they are damaged. If you used a size expansion charm on the pouches and a weightless charm on the material, you could fit like half a meter's worth of carbon fiber block inside of it. It should work way better than the ceramics. Dip it in your strengthening solution or use that unbreakable spell on it and who knows how much damage it could take. You might have to still worry about the force of the impact."
"Actually a cushioning charm might take care of that."
"Okay, magic is starting to be frakking cool again," Zoe said. "You should make one before you go rob another one of those crooks, just to be on the safe side. You can't always count on good luck and those memory charms to be on your side. You need protection in case things get stupid all of a sudden."
"It would also allow you to do more experiments," Harry said, teasing her. He'd stopped drawing any kind of comparison to Hermione with Zoe. Hermione would have never advised him to do something so he could be safer while robbing someone else. He couldn't picture that conversation ever happening.
"I'm living vicariously through you," she replied. "What can I say? If I had my way, you'd have a suit that weighed almost nothing and could stand up to an anti-tank weapon. If that whole thing about you meeting the Cylons at some point is true, you might need that level of protection."
Harry nodded. Robbing the scum of Caprica felt less dirty than selling chamala, at least by Harry's standards and it was turning out to be far more profitable. At some point, he figured he would start donating some of his ill-gotten funds to worthy causes to complete the similarity to Robin Hood, but for now that needed to wait.
"Actually, I have a sliver of hope that I could be a legitimate businessman," Harry said.
"Do tell," the ghost replied.
"Annabeth sent me a name and an address to meet a guy named Mason Prescott. He bought a table and chair set and is a furniture dealer. He's considering a bulk order, which would give me some justification for depositing some of my money into a bank. At some point I'm going to need, what did you call it again?"
"A front company, Harry."
"Oh right! It just bugs me that I finally have some money, I can't really use too much of it or even consider flaunting it," Harry complained, but wasn't as confused as when his ghostly friend first warned him not to put it all in his tiny bank account. The government actually cares where the money comes from and naturally wants to make sure the proper taxes are paid. His Muggle education hadn't really covered things like that and the goblins didn't care what was stored in a vault – as evidenced by their protection of a portion of Riddle's soul in the Lestrange vault.
If I ever got back, I'll deal with Gringotts right after I finish with the Ministry.
"True," Zoe answered. "You'd have a hard time explaining where thousands of cubits just suddenly appeared from to the tax collectors. It's part of the reasons those crooks have safes in their houses. Even so, the nice part is that you aren't tied down since you can jump all over the planet. That makes spending your money easier since you can be on any one of the three main continents at any given time."
"So you think it will be easier to move around when I'm in space?"
"That's my guess," Zoe said and shrugged. "I had several months of my allowance that I'd saved up in my purse when Ben decided to make his grand political statement. Oddly enough that was a few thousand more than you have right now. Such was my life, but…"
"You're not bitter or anything like that," Harry finished for her. "You really didn't deserve what happened on the train."
"You might be right, but right after dear old Mom comes out at the ceremony and lays the blame at my feet, you should have heard the things people said. Even after all these years, I still remember that one joke – want to hear it?"
"I guess," Harry replied. He wasn't sure that he did, but she had someone to talk to after all these years and he could tell how much pain she was carrying inside.
"What color were Zoe Graystone's eyes?"
"I don't know."
"Blue. One blew that way and one blew the other way."
"Yeah, that's pretty harsh." Harry recalled Ron Weasley making a similar joke when they were discussing the origins of the blasting hex. His friend unfortunately made the comment around his other friend and Hermione promptly whacked him on the back of the head.
That was actually funnier than the joke, but he reasoned that Zoe wasn't in the mood for another rousing tale of Harry Potter and the Daily Life at Hogwarts.
She turned away from him, and he suspected that he'd be able to see the phantom tracks of tears on her face. "But what probably hurt the most was watching my parents pay more attention to that frakking computer program than they ever paid to me!"
"I wish there was something I could do to help," Harry said. With the Dursleys, he could match her shameful tale with one of his own, but Harry had put that behind him and he wasn't interested in playing the "my life sucked worse than your life" game with her. Zoe was dead already and nothing from his life would really top that.
Besides, he thought. She needs to move on from her death and the time just after it.
Hey! Why not? The worst she could do is start screaming at me.
"Zoe," he said cautiously, wondering if he should offer this suggestion.
"Yeah," her voice was a whisper.
"Why don't you write your story down? You could dictate it to Winky and then she could pop over to Freddie's house and type it out on a portable. Binns used to have an elf to mark up our papers."
He didn't add that the elves considered it a form of punishment. From the corner of his eye, he could see both Dobby and Winky staring at the two of them. He tried to give them a reassuring look and promise that it would be fine.
"No it's not. All that crap I read about you on the grid was just that … crap! Tell your story, the one only you know. Let the twelve worlds see it."
"They'd hunt down the publishers and kill them."
"Are you looking to make a bunch of cubits? If you just put it out there for free, it'd be hard to figure out where it came from and they can't kill you if you're already dead."
She turned to face him, varied emotions playing out on her face – shock, hurt, and pain. He could feel the swirl of energy building around her. She was close to reaching poltergeist levels, which only occurred if she was actually one or angered.
"Nobody wants to hear the truth! They want me to be that a bitch like Pandora. I'm the girl that made the monsters! That's who they want me to be!"
Harry stood his ground. "But it's not the truth. Dumbledore used to say that the truth was the greatest magic of all."
"He's wrong!" The energy swirled a little more.
Harry waved his hand dismissively at her growing tantrum, doing his best not to show any concern. "I'm on your side, Zoe. I've been slandered by the public before, not to the extent you have, but I could fight back. Now, you have an opportunity to fight back. It doesn't matter if they believe it, what matters is you can finally have your say. If you don't want to that's your choice. Tell me, when was the last time you can say you had a choice?"
The psychic tantrum began to abate. She stared at him with her mouth moving slowly, but no words came out. It amused Harry to see her acting as if she'd been hit by a confundus charm.
"Just think it over. Even if it's not the redemption you're looking for, or even want, what do you have to lose?"
"Sometimes, I think I hate you," she finally said, but without any real anger behind her words.
"My problems with girls are the stuff of tragedies."
Zoe let out a hollow laugh. "What about that Ellen person you game with? Last time you were telling me that she was sniffing around you like a daggit in heat."
"She quit the guild."
"Did you use a spell on this one too?"
Harry shook his head. "It wasn't my fault, honest. But it is a funny story."
"I frakked up," Zak said, letting Harry into the Adama household. He had a bottle of a liquor in his hand.
Harry glanced around looking for Carolanne.
Zak anticipated his question and supplied, "Mom's off at the Columbia's Family Support Group meeting. Won't be back for a while."
"So what happened?"
"Silkybear and FTEllen left the guild."
"Dare I ask why?" Harry shrugged. They were two of the better players in the guild and they were supposed to be a quad in the upcoming Level 3 tournament, which now seemed doubtful. Harry had played bodyguard at the last couple of tournaments just to ensure that the pair finished in the top three. He figured that the story behind this would be rather interesting.
"I convinced them to have a three-way in the real world," Zak said. Despite his downcast expression, there was a slight curl of a smile on the young man's face.
"Um … congratulations … I guess?"
"Yeah, it was pretty awesome. Lasted a few times and there might even be a video of it. Then, I found out they had started seeing each other without me, so maybe it wasn't as brilliant an idea as I originally believed it would be."
Harry thought it over and tried to stifle a laugh. "That explains why Ellen stopped propositioning me during the games. So, you got angry?"
"Yep! The old Adama temper strikes again. I told a couple of the guys in the guild already. They just gave me crap and started messaging the girls. That went about as well as you might expect. I guess the guys are right, 'Even when I'm unlucky, I'm still lucky,' and all that happy horseshit."
Harry chuckled and was inclined to agree. Instead, he said, "Misery loves company. If it helps, you got dumped for another person. Maggie dumped me for another planet."
"Really? I was wondering why you stopped talking about that girl. Anyway, I'm still trying to convince them to stay a quad during the L3. Maybe they'll listen to you if you ask them."
"Lee said that we should be prepared to drop down to a pair real quick. Depending on how much you pissed them off, they may just try and PK you. I say we don't risk it and go on our own from the start."
"You're probably right. I'm worried about who is going to take over the guild when I have to take a step back for University."
Harry arched an eyebrow and recalled his previous discussion with Ellen.
"No, I'm not going to ask you to do it; I know you want to be out in space. But I do want to know who you think we should turn it over to."
"Maybe you should just let it go when you're ready to quit? Cut it loose. If it survives, it's meant to be."
"Lee and I formed this when I was nine. It's getting near ten years. We're even running a profit for the past four years. It's the Huskers!"
"I get it. Believe me, I get. It means something to you. After the L3, we can start looking at the remaining top ten to see who's the best person to ask might be."
That seemed to mollify Zak for the moment. Originally, Harry had pinned his hopes on winning prize money from the tournaments. Fortunately, he now had a new source of income which made the virtual reality competition more of an enjoyable experience that he was looking forward to and not something that he was counting on.
"So what do you intend to do now that you are single again?"
The youngest member of the Adama family smiled and said, "Well, now that I've seen the results of my temper, I guess I will just have to try out my famous luck, charm, and good looks to see what, or more precisely who turns up. Do you want to join me for a night out on the town?"
Sometimes Harry wondered if his godfather had taken a quick trip through the veil, come to this planet, secretly fathered a son, and figured out a way to get back home.
"I don't really have anything else going on tonight," Harry said. "Let's see how much trouble the two of us can get into."
Maggie glanced at the metallic diskette in her hand. Her entire educational life was on it. She thought it would feel somehow heavier and more important. Instead, it was just a data disk, indistinct from any number of ones on the desk in front of her. Of course this had an official Caprica University seal on it complete with the Registrar's thumb print and genetic markers. She could not wait to place this disk in the hands of someone at Her Majesty's Royal Institute of Technology's hands. That wonderful event would take place in a mere twelve days.
"What are you thinking about?" Kelsey said, sticking her head in the partly opened doorway.
"In ten days I board a shuttle to Virgon," Maggie replied with a grin. "It's finally happening!"
"The great odyssey begins," her sister said, with mock seriousness. "Hopefully, it's not like the ancient tales of the Gods where the hero must wander for years before reaching her true home."
"I don't think I'd enjoy aimlessly wandering the stars," Maggie answered.
"Just got off the phone with Mom; your buyer showed up and took possession of your motorcycle. She wasn't terribly pleased."
"I sent her a message," Maggie said. "I can't be responsible if she didn't bother reading it. Is she depositing the cubits or keeping them?"
"She's not that petty," Kelsey answered with a frown.
"To you she isn't," Maggie retorted.
"Not even bothering to argue this one," Kelsey conceded. "Mom's sending me the money to give to you. I might have to charge you some type of brokering fee, or at least make you buy me dinner at some point. So how goes selling every facet of your life that won't fit into a two meter by four meter shipping container?"
"It's getting there, but it's going slower than I expected. I never believed I had so much stuff! Yeah, I moved everything here when I left Delphi, but I've already donated four bags of clothing and I'm not even halfway done."
"In fairness, you have too much clothing and some of it is still in the boxes from when you moved here."
Once again, Maggie could not refute her sister's words. "I guess I should ask where we are going to dinner on my cubits then."
"Hemrem's Café comes to mind. Their spiced lamb just melts in my mouth. Besides, it's cool enough that we can sit outdoors and pretend you're already on Virgon."
"You just want to ogle the guys walking by."
"Ah, you know me too well."
"Fair enough," Maggie answered. "Just give me a few more minutes to start making a dent on this desk and I'll be downstairs."
Listening to her sister's footsteps descend the stairs, Maggie glanced at all the knickknacks on her computer desk. Her eyes settled on framed picture of her and Harry. It was from their excursion to the museum in Delphi. Her mother had taken it and given her a framed version. It brought back good memories of a time when she could still speak with her mother and Harry was eager to spend time with her, but there was still something that she couldn't put her finger on that continued to bother the young woman. It was something just below the surface of her thoughts, or maybe just like a scab waiting to be peeled back.
No. Time to put those thoughts behind me now and get on with my life. Even if I was planning on asking for Mom's forgiveness, I doubt she's willing to give it and I haven't had even a message from Harry for over a month.
She had another copy of it on her mobile and knew that if she kept it, it would mean something else would be staying on this planet. If she was ever so inclined, she could always print one out on Virgon and frame it.
Decision made, she plucked it from its spot and placed it in the garbage bag.
Harry checked his mobile and looked at the run-down warehouse. It was the address that Annabeth had given him. He was hoping the furniture retailer was impressed enough for long term work. This kind of money would be much better than peddling chamala and far less dangerous than robbing criminals.
"Guess, I should go knock and see if anyone is there."
Two steps from the door; he felt something that raised the hairs on the back of his neck. It reminded him of his own ward lines and it was most definitely magical in nature.
Sliding his right hand into his jacket pocket that was expanded to hold his holly wand, he gripped it and raised his left hand to knock on the door when it opened.
"Ah, you must be Harry!" The man's accent sounded a bit like it was British, which Harry knew meant he was from Arelion. Heaven knows enough people had thought he was from there because of his own accent.
"Mr. Prescott?" Harry asked, while guessing that whatever line he'd crossed must have been some form of a perimeter ward. Internally, Harry was fanning the embers of Constant Vigilance into a bonfire.
"Quite right. Please call me Mason. Do come in." He was tall, blond, and possessed a ruggedly handsome face. He wore a suit which made him look slightly out of place in an abandoned warehouse. In the middle sat one of Harry's transfigured tables and four chairs – the set he'd recently made and given to Annabeth to sell.
"I'm thinking of opening a furniture distribution store here in this space after some extensive remodeling. Imagine my surprise when I discovered your pieces. One makes the most wondrous discoveries in the local craft markets. I do love visiting them so."
Harry nodded and thanked the man, keeping himself at a state of readiness. He appeared to be the only person in the warehouse, but Harry made certain to keep an eye out for others.
"The workmanship is worthy of note," Mason said running his hands along the surface of the table. "While it could perhaps use a good stain to complete it, I find myself quite impressed with the quality and durability. I simply must know where you learned the woodworking craft?"
"It's something I've always liked growing up," Harry lied.
"Where did you grow up?"
Another question that really had nothing to do with a transaction. "Here and there. My family moved around quite a bit. How about you? Aerilon?"
"No, but I spent the last several years there. The accent seems to have stuck. Works wonders with the ladies here on Caprica though, but I probably don't have to tell you that. Sounds like you spent plenty of time there as well."
Harry responded with a simple shrug. "So, you're interested in a bulk order?"
"Did your parents teach you woodworking, or was it someone outside of your family?"
"Does it matter?" Harry countered. He didn't care for the question and answer session.
On the other hand, Mason appeared to be thrilled with the verbal sparring. His smile reminded Harry of the Cheshire Cat from the one animated film one of his Muggle teachers showed in class. Hermione once told him that it was based off an actual event in the Wizarding World. "Well when I invest my cubits in a product, I like to know the history of the people I deal with. So tell me about yourself, Harry Potter. Annabeth said you're an orphan."
Harry decided to be abrupt. "I prefer not to talk about that time in my life. Are you interested in the bulk order, or not?"
Mason placed both hands on the table and glared at Harry. A sudden thrust of Legilimency followed, a painful spear of mental energy stabbing at his mind. Harry rallied his mind's defenses and violently pushed the man out.
Prescott rubbed his right temple with his hand while Harry gripped his wand and prepared to draw it.
"Fascinating," the man said. "I've never felt something like that from a human before."
"I would ask that you not try that again."
"Oh! I get it now!" Mason exclaimed. "Which one of the others do you work for?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Don't be coy, child. I am guessing this is their way of welcoming me to Caprica? You must be one of their pet projects. The Greater here obviously has her own ways of doing things, if she is going to such lengths for an elaborate prank. Is she grooming you for a taste of true power?"
"You might say that," Harry continued to lie, trying to get as much information out of Mason Prescott.
"And such a strong mind! I think I shall enjoy my time on this world."
"Why did you come to Caprica anyway?" Harry asked, hoping for another piece of the puzzle. He concluded that this person in front of him was an Incarnate.
"Even my kind aren't immortal, young man. Only the One True God can lay claim to that distinction. I was brought to Caprica to fill the place of a Lesser who was too careless or foolish – take your pick. I've never met an aware human that could actually push me out of their mind. Is that a natural gift, or did you receive instruction from one of my kind?"
"I'm not allowed to say," Harry deflected.
Mason frowned. "I may be new to this world, but on mine, the few that are aware know their place. When I ask you a question, you will answer it or suffer the consequences!"
The man suddenly disappeared from Harry's vision. There was no crack of Apparition, so Harry's mind went to some form of disillusionment. Drawing his wand, Harry went with a wide area banisher.
His magic met something just a few feet in front of him and knocked it back, along with scattering the table and chairs. Harry snapped off a trio of body binds, with at least one catching the Incarnate. A revealing spell counteracted the obscuring power the shapeshifter employed.
"What is this?" The captured man yelled. Harry applied a sticking charm to keep the man's eyes open.
"So, you're an Incarnate. You and I are going to have a long chat. Let's see if you can take what you dish out! Legilimens!"
Harry's mind pushed into his captive and confirmed that whatever an Incarnate was, it wasn't human. The mind wasn't anything like he'd encountered previously. True his non-human encounters had been limited to that one Dementor, his elves, a Centaur from a pack he and Dumbledore met in Norway and several different types of domestic animals.
It has a feline feel to it. Like Hestia Jones' kneazle.
The Incarnate fought back. It pushed at him and tried to throw him out, but Harry remained determined. Their minds grappled as Harry saw the first memories from the Incarnate's mind.
A group of two-legged tigers stood in the room surrounding an old man with a deep bronze tan, by instinct Harry knew that the human wasn't really a human either, but the leader of this conclave. The creatures stood just slightly taller than the man. Black teeth, almost obsidian, lined their mouths.
"Cyrce of Caprica has asked for one of you six to replace one of her fallen Lessers. I am loath to part with one of you, but it would be an opportunity for you to learn from her."
"I will do it!"
"You are bold and eager, Kytr. Perhaps too much so. You are proud, but she will try to bring you to heel, if you are allowed to join her pride. There is a reason she is the Greater of Caprica. She is ruthless and driven."
"I will learn her secrets and rise through her ranks. If she can be removed, then it will be by the claws of your most faithful, Great Surmas."
"See that you do, Kytr. Though I fear she will be more than a match for your guile and ambition."
The scene shifted to the ghost of an old woman cursing the creature in front of her, while thrashing in his arms.
"You promised me everything, but you ruined me! Everything I have is gone, because of you."
"Foolish human! There is always a price for the life I allowed you to live. You must suffer so that you can help liberate the creator! Be proud. Your essence will help the great cause!"
"No! Leave my mind!" Mason/Kytr screamed and finally shoved Harry out.
It was painful, but Harry prepared himself for a second assault on the Incarnate's mind. What he wasn't prepared for was the Incarnate breaking out of the body bind and leaping at him. Mason Prescott was gone and in his place was one of the tigermen he'd seen previously. Harry snapped off a spell, but it passed harmlessly under the monster's twisting form. A claw raked across Harry's outstretched arm and the wizard felt the cut along with the horrifying sound of his wand being snapped.
"Now you die!" The voice had changed into something between regular speech and a growl.
It was Harry's turn to transform into his Animagus form. Sharp claws met thick skin and fur of a much larger gorilla. Harry used the moment of surprise to smack the tiger aside and deliver two clubbing blows to the smaller beast.
His enemy recovered. The claws on its legs worked like pistons scratching at Harry's legs as he dashed it against a concrete support beam. For what could only have been a minute, but felt like ten times that, a battle raged across the dilapidated structure crushing crates, boxes and everything else in its path.
"What are you? Vanara?" Kytr demanded, bleeding and badly bruised.
Harry could not speak while transformed, so he could only answer with violence. Another support beam groaned in protest as the pair slammed into it. The Incanrate squirmed out of Harry's grasp and tried to scramble out of reach. The Animagus responded, grabbing the Incarnate's wildly thrashing foot with both hands and twisting until the bone gave way.
The creature screamed in pain and slashed with its remaining limbs. The claws opened deep, new wounds on Harry's Animagus form. It broke free and tried to disappear again. Harry could still smell the blood and follow the noise of the barely recognizable shape hopping, trying to make for the exit. He didn't have a wand and it knew his real name. If it escaped, Harry's life would be forever changed.
Harry understood what he would have to do. He didn't like it, but what he was about to do barely cracked the top ten of the most distasteful things he'd done in his life. Harry grabbed a piece of jagged wood, realizing it was a leg from the table he'd created. He stumbled a little from his own injuries, but he was able to catch the Incarnate before it reached the outside. He threw it to the ground and drove the oversized stake into the shapeshifter's chest, pushing all his considerable weight down on it.
Stepping back and avoiding the death throes of the tigerman, Harry waited until it ceased moving. His nostrils flared with the exertion. His fur was slick with his own blood and the creature's. Only when the wizard was certain that it was dead did he dare to return to his human form. The pain immediately intensified. It was far worse than any physical beating he'd ever endured.
Sagging to his knees and not trusting himself to Apparate, Harry croaked a single word and waited for a rescuer. "Dobby!"
"I was wrong. Selling furniture turned out to be much more dangerous than I ever thought."
"So that's what an Incarnate really looks like," Zoe said looking at the body resting on a table back in Harry's hidden greenhouse. If possible, the ghost shivered. "You really do look like shit!"
"Feel like it too," Harry admitted. Even with a pair of blood replenishers in him and over a dozen episkeys closing his various wounds, he still felt a little lightheaded. Winky had put a cloth slathered in a salve around the ugly bruise on the side of his head. Just to be certain, Harry took one of the broad spectrum poison antidotes, because the creature's fangs could be poisoned. Later, he'd get out a knife and go looking for venom sacs.
He hadn't bothered to fix his shredded clothing either. They were little more than rags at the moment. His injuries would be gone in less than a week and the clothing was almost an afterthought. His wand getting snapped and the feeling of near-helplessness that accompanied it would leave a lasting impression. The elder wand had been able to mend the pieces of his holly wand and make it whole again. Still, it might be Harry's own fatigue or imagination, but he felt like his original wand was slightly diminished and feared it would never be quite as good again.
"Why did you send Dobby back there?"
"I sent him back to clean everything up. I don't want any traces if someone comes looking. He's going to scourgify the living shit out of that place. When I get my strength back, I will go and transfigure his car into something else, take it hundreds of clicks north, or just vanish it completely. Maybe I'll shrink it and hide it here. But unless I keep it transfigured, the residual magic will probably fry every electronic component."
"Smart," Zoe stated. "I'd say if you were vindictive that you could put it in your old bosses junkyard, but that would lead anyone looking for that thing right here to Delphi and a connection to you. Does it have an address on the Ident card? What about a mobile?"
"The mobile was destroyed in the fight. Dobby is going to bring back the pieces. Maybe you can tell me how to access any data left on it. The card still lists his address on Aerilon. Not really much of a help there. I'll take the numbers of his plate before I dispose of this car. I should be able to use a compulsion on a police officer to get an address from that. If we do find his place, I'll go in polyjuiced. I might need you to scout his place in that case."
"I don't know. Maybe it's best we if we just leave them alone," Zoe said.
Harry understood her hesitation. "This one caught me with my guard down. It won't happen again. The next one won't even get a paw on me before I kill it. I'm going to go lie down and let the healing draughts do their thing."
"Those fangs," Zoe muttered. "At first I thought it was decay. I wonder if their bones are black as well?"
Still feeling a bit dizzy, Harry used both palms to brace himself on the table and looked at the maw of the beast. "I remember a girl at my school, she'd go on about these magical creatures no one had ever heard of … nargles and crumple horned something or others. But one of the ones she mentioned the most were called Rotfangs."
"Yeah, and what's worse is that Luna would go on about these Rotfangs being in some kind of conspiracy. Everyone thought she was crazy, but after today, I'm not so sure. Then again, maybe I just took one too many hits to the head. Frakk! I seriously need to lay down and rest!"
"Okay. Last question and then I'll let you go. Why'd you cut off the head when you brought it back here?"
"I honestly don't know what kind of healing abilities it might have as a shapeshifter. Didn't want to take a chance. Took a piece of advice from an old friend."
"Your godfather, Dumbledore, or that paranoid Moody fellow?"
Harry grinned. "Actually, Hagrid. He taught Care of Magical Creatures for a short time. He used to have this saying, 'If'n it ain't got no head then I reckon it's probably dead.'"
"I was expecting something a bit more profound, but that works. Get some rest, Harry. Something tells me you're going to need it."
Author's Notes – So we finally get to meet an Incarnate. I'm modeling them after the shape-shifting Rakshasa of myth and good old Dungeons and Dragons. Interestingly enough, the enemies of the Rakshasa in mythology were the Vanara, creatures created by Brahma that happened look like monkeys and bears. When I saw that, I threw in the reference because of Harry's Animagus form. I wish I could say that I planned that from the start, but it was just a coincidence. Of course, Rakashasa aren't described as having black fangs, but I couldn't resist a good Luna Lovegood reference and it fit the whole conspiracy thing I'm doing in the BSG world.
Happy New Year to everyone and here's looking forward to 2017.