Chapter 14:

The Iron Beast Part 4

'He's addicted to danger'

And there the care went with it's Yankee music again, and yet somehow, harry felt it was mocking him.

'Ruled by passion and pride'

His efforts to keep his snowboard stead and keep the debris and plants from turning him to paste were ruined when, with a clever twisting maneuver, dragged hiim through a small berry bush where something soft, warm and teenaged-girl shaped smacked into him at full force.
'To pain and fear he's no stranger'

At first he thought he'd smacked into a disillusioned Fleur and brought her along for the ride as she clung do him like her life depended on it, but the smell of lilac and feel of rough, bushy hair whipping at his face in the wind told him exactly who this was.

"Wait. Hermione?!" Harry hollered, but even he couldn't hear his own voice over the wind and crunching of stone and dirt being flung into the air around the

'But his lust needs to be satisfied.'

Yup. Definitely Hermione. He recognized that scream anywhere. Man, did Hermione have a pair of lungs on her or what? This was the womping willow all over again.

And when her disillusionment failed and he could see her staring back at him in fright, her screaming stopped. Harry knew exactly why it stopped too, because he felt the sudden change in the magic around them.

The protective charms Fleur had layered him with to protect him from the space-altering effects of the Knight Bus Engine? They were only meant to protect one person. With Hermione now latched to him, it was trying to stretch itself thin and cover both of them, and in doing so, no longer protected either of them.

'Hooked on an 8 second ride.'

They were both screaming after that, as they watched the other get stretched and contorted to unrecognizable dimensions like a poorly animated acid trip.

Paddlecul crawled beneath the driver's seat and to the pedals. For a moment after that all he could do was watch as the steering wheel, gas and clutch turned and pressed themselves as the car drove without a driver.

Freaky. Anyways, back to work.

They'd had several ideas for how to disable the car. Cutting the gas line obviously won't work, as the damn thing never used them anyways so a crash from brake failure was out. Onto plan B then.

He crawled up off the floor and into the driver's seat where he transformed back into Cedric. Adjusting the seat for better comfort, he buckled up put his hands to the wheel without actually touching it. Eyes on the road, or lack thereof, he watched and waited for an opportunity. Spotting a large Douglas fir just off the deer path the car was driving itself down, he yanked hard on the steering wheel.

Bracing himself for the coming wreck he held onto the wheel for dear life, but the crash never came, for the damned car simply moved the tree out of the way. Which he honestly should have seen coming but dared to hope. Catching it off guard to wrap it around a tree won't work. Time for the brakes.

Slamming his foot down as hard as he could the vehicle buckled and swerved. With the tires being essentially non-existent the only thing to take hold of the rock, dirt and ice were the tire hubs. Metal dug into earth and the vehicle groaned as something in either the engine or gearbox grinded in objection, but then it went back to moving through the world without propulsion... just moving through space. Spacial manipulation magic was powerful shit, damn. No wonder the Knight Bus company wanted to keep this stuff a trade secret.

At this point Cedric was thoroughly flummoxed.

He leaned back in the seat and readied his wand, thinking he might have to just blow up the engine block from the inside and pray this didn't qualify as "dying by his own hands" when he noticed the jingling pieces of metal hanging from the side of the steering wheel. but once tehy caught his attention he couldn't let it go.

No. No freaking way. The solution couldn't be that simple... could it?

Reaching up he grasped the keys and firmly turned the ignition counter-clockwise.

He turned the car off.

"We sure showed him." Hermione said.

"Yup." Harry said back with a confident sniff.

Madame Pomfrey, ignorant to their conversation topic, merely continued to gape at them from where they sat on adjacent hospital wing beds.

"What in the world did you two get involved in this time?" She asked.

"We aren't entire sure ourselves, ma'am." Harry said. "You can fix us though, cant you?"

She bit her lip in consternation and the fact she had to think on it scared Harry tremendously.

"The only time I've ever seen anything this bad was when poor Nymphadora drank a glass of unfinished polyjuice and discovered it doesn't mix well with metamorphs at the best of times." She said. "I'm going to need to floo Saint Mungos and ask for an extra pair of hands."

She stormed out of the hospital wing and into her little side office to do exactly that. As soon as she was out of earshot Harry and Hermione looked at each other, and promptly burst into laughter.

Harry, for his part, was taking the mickey out of Hermione's right eye which was now four times larger than her left, with her right arm and fingers similarly elongated. The real killer was her new smile, which was now resembled an American cartoon parody of a British smile. He assumed he looked just as stretched and warped from the Anglia as she did becasue she didn't even stop laughing when the hospital wing doors opened and in walked another student in need of medical attention. She did stop laughing when she turned around and saw who it was.

"Ron?!" She gasped.

"Oh, hey Hermione. Heya Harry. Barely recognize ya." Ron said as he limped over to them to sit in the bed next to them.

Harry felt as speachless as Pomfrey had been just moments ago.

Ron was covered small cuts and bitemarks that looked like they came from baby sharks. Most jarring of all was the head of a broken trident jutting from his shoulder blade, with the pointy side firmly wedged into his body.

"What the hell happened to you?" Harry asked.

"Oh you know... things." Ron deflected, before suddenly taking in their appearance and blinking. "What the hell happened to you two?"

"Oh you know..." Harry said, trying to come up with the wording to explain the chaos that was his life. "Things."

That was the best he had.

Ron hummed.

"Well, suffice to say my wedding is off." Ron told them. "But I'm not allowed within twenty meters of the black lake ever again."

A few moments later Madame Pomfrey came back out of the office flanked by two, white-clad wizards. All three of them stopped in their tracks when they spotted Ron, and Pomfrey groaned.

She turned heel, returned to her office, and moments later came back with a third pair of hands as backup.

Working in a school housing Harry, Ron and Hermione surely couldn't be paying her enough for the workload. And now that Harry thought about it, with the other Marauders here she definitely needed to demand a raise.

Cedric, Fleur Viktor and Poliakoff stood before the downed Ford Anglia.

"All of that bluster and research into the Ford Anglia, and it never occurred to us to just turn the key and ignition off?" Cedric boggled aloud.

His little superspy episode had been completely overkill and a waste of good brain juice better spent elsewhere. Still, it was a victory for them, if not for Hermione and Harry. They had all gotten over the arrival of their two new rivals rather quickly after seeing the state of their two friends. The two had completely dismissed the other four's fussing and begun walking back to the castle.

Harry with a "I'm stealing your girlfriend Viktor. Take care of the car." And Hermion with a "I'm stealing your boyfriend Fleur, take care of the car." before limping away and supporting each-other by the shoulder. Troopers, both of them. They ought to get the two something nice for when they visit them in the hospital wing.

They had removed the... whatever that thing was from the engine block that clearly came from the Knight Bus. It vaguely looked like an a 3-dimensional Astrolabe inset wit ha model of the solar system, if all the planets were proportioned incorrectly and merged randomly.

"What are we supposed to do with it?" Cedric asked.

They hadn't planned far enough ahead to figure out how to return it to its rightful owner. Or at least, how to do so anonymously.

"Leave eet somewhere publique and send an anonymous tip to ze Aurors?" Fleur suggested with a shrug.

Meh. Good enough. Drop it in the middle of Hogsmeade and be done with it.

"And the vehicle?" Poliakoff asked.

"Did 'arry say who it belonged to?" Fleur asked. "I zink he just said it belonged to his friend's fazzer?"

"Weasley, yeah." Cedric said. "Not sure if he'd appreciate it being returned in such condition, or how we'll get it to him, but I'm sure we'll figure it out."

"Should give it a once over to make sure nothing dangerous crawled in first." Viktor said, before withdrawing his wand.

Cedric, Fleur and Poliakoff followed his example. Each drew their wand and circled the car, casting their own myriad of detection charms for curses, different animals, magical beasts and boggarts. Discovering nothing they went about cleaning and repairing it. They removed every speck of rust, which turned out to be a lot, and repaired everything made of glass. The interior was next, with all of the dead leaves and dirt removed all the car needed was a good scrub with some stain removal and a new paint job. Not to mention a new engine.

"Cedric, do you have the keys still?" Viktor asked.

Cedric looked to see Viktor trying to pry open the boot, which they had all somehow missed.

"Oh yeah, here." Cedric said, pulling the keys from his pocket and tossing them to Viktor. He, Fleur and Poliakoff circled around to watch him open it, and regretted the decision when he did. The stench of feces and urine gone septic exploded outward in a rush and they all backed away as fast as they could.

Each then cast a bubble head charm and their own air cleansing charms in the general direction of the boot. With that done, they all bravely reapproached the trunk and stared in horror at what they saw.

A man, bound by his hands and feet, lay huddled in the small cavity. His hair was a sandy blonde and had a straw-like texture. Hid pale, freckled face was as gaunt and emaciated as the rest of his body, which was soaked through with his own stagnant filth. Their horror amplified further when he came to, and with bleary, terror-stricken eyes looked up at them. He recoiled from Fleur, Cedric and Viktor but when his eyes landed on Poliakoff that terror turned to desperation and hope.

"Please..." He pleaded to Poliakoff is a broken, raspy voice. "Help... me."

They helped him.

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