Sunday, July 08, 2012

A Feather Transformed

The racket in the mews that morning was simply deafening. Most of the students had their hands over their ears as they waited for Care of Magical Creatures class to begin. Brilliantly feathered birds with three foot tails swooped and dove overhead, shrieking.

Professor Latisha Jorkins entered and made her way quickly to the front of the room, where she performed a swift and silent charm. With a final flick of her wand delineating the tail of the final rune, silence fell through the entire classroom. She let the eerie stillness rest for a moment before she smiled and said, "Good morning, students."

They mumbled their response, watching as the birds fluttered from perch to perch, beaks open, and nothing but silence.

“These birds surrounding you are the Fwoopers. Do not let the charming colors fool you--these birds are dangerous!

"Just as there are certain colors that cannot be perceived by the human eye, and sounds that cannot be heard, there are sounds that cannot be processed, even by the highly trained minds of wizards. The Fwoopers make such a sound.

"We have cast a Silencing Charm on these eggs, so the baby Fwoopers will be quiet for the first few weeks of their lives, until they fledge out. Your assignment is to incubate these eggs until they hatch, and then return the live Fwoopers for grading. You may, if you wish, create an object to commemorate your care of these birds." And with that, Professor Jorkins handed out the oval eggs.

Spike handled hers gingerly. They were vibrantly colored and warm in her hands. She cast a manere charm to keep them warm and whole as she tucked them into her bag. Thank the Great Bear I have time to drop by the Pit before next class. I'll wrap them in a shawl on my pillow, where they'll be safe.

The bright colors were especially so in the Dungeon's cool gloom, and the warming charm on the shawl made caring for the eggs easy. Spike would roll them around in the mornings when she woke up, at break times between classes, and at night before bed. "The chicks may come out dizzy, but they should develop normally," she told Totenberg, who grinned. He had always been fond of little helpless things, although mothers tended to snatch their children away from the Hound.

One morning, Spike woke to a tiny sound, like a house elf cracking its knuckles. The eggs! "They're hatching!" she cried, and all four gathered around to watch the fragile pink creatures with their enormous heads peck their way out of the shells. Soon they were staggering around on the coverlet, making tiny hops, wings held out for balance.

The house elves brought fruit peels to feed the birds. They seemed to grow at a visible rate. Soon the pink skin was covered with rainbow down, which began to shed as full flight feathers came in.

That was the problem. Fwoopers apparently were magic in a number of respects, including the ability to moult . . . and moult . . . and moult. The house elves gave up on trying to keep the feathers swept up, and settled for replacing the newspapers under the tree Spike grew for them to perch on. "Shouldn't these things be BALD by now?" grumbled Totenberg, kicking his way through the brilliant viridian, ruby, and aubergine feathers.

"They'll be gone soon," sighed Spike, crossing off another day on the calendar. She had written the glyph for freedom in bright red ink on the date they were to be returned to the Care of Magical Creatures staff. "At least they're still . . . what was that?"

"I didn't hear--wait. That?" They looked at each other. It wasn't a sound so much as a feeling, or a taste. A taste that sounded like garlic being scraped down a blackboard, slowly. A sound that tasted like sauteed chalk in licorice. Spike lunged for her wand.

"Silencio!" The noisefeeling grew more intense for a moment, then blessedly died away again.

It seemed to take an eternity for the days to wind down to the freedom glyph, and the best silencing charms Spike could produce lasted for shorted and shorter periods of time. Her minions stuffed their ears with cotton, and spent as much time as possible lurking anywhere but the dorm room. Finally, the day came when she could cage them and hand them back to the care of the Hogwarts staff.

She returned to a room still packed with Fwooper feathers. She picked one up and twirled it in her fingers. Hmmm. Socks. These would make some awesome socks.

A little wandwork later, and she had brilliant rainbow-colored warm wooly socks on her feet.

"Miss the birdies?" asked Totenberg, seeing her examining her feet pensively.

"Not really. They're pretty . . . but overall, I'd rather baby-sit a Hungarian Horntail."

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