Author's Note: This is yet another update of my first chapter, in the constant pursuit of something better and better. This go around I actually had help- the invaluable help of lexy, who is amazing! I am truly, truly indebted to her for her patience and exhaustive help- even if she'd never helped edit this chapter, I'd still owe her. lexywrites, you are amazing!
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any aspect of the world created by J.K. Rowling. I just like imagining what they do when the narrative moves away from them and they have a chance to stretch and play. I do not mean any harm or illegality in writing this piece of fluff, so please don't sue me.
Disclaimer the second part: This story is rated M for adult content (which, if you're curious, starts in the next chapter and then reappears in later ones). If scenes depicting sexual thoughts and acts upset you, then please don't read this.
The night Sirius Black entered my life so was ordinary, I still cannot recall exactly what day of the week it was. Dusk found me on the cliff-top, as it so often did. The stereo in my living room had been enchanted to amplify its sound and it accompanied me outdoors. I was listening to music so loudly that I could almost hear it, now and again, echoing back from the far cliffs (one of the many enchantments placed upon my property, along with those for protection and security, kept loud noises, like music, muffled from muggle ears).
I was not only listening to ABBA (pretend to judge me -- you love them, too), I was singing along, belting out the words ("Don't go wasting your emotion- lay all your love on me!") along with them in a horrid, loud, off-key voice. I'd stripped until all I had on was a dark blue prairie skirt, which I kicked up as I twirled about and danced in the grass.
I fancied that the salty sea breeze blowing against my newest tattoo was helping to heal it. It was a line, in Elvish runes, of a poem by J.R.R. Tolkein. It translated to Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost and trailed down my sternum.
In short, I was indulging in a rather typical evening of infantile but extremely delightful behavior which made being an hermit so agreeable when I heard a strange sound -- something between a bleat, a coo, and nicker, followed by hoof beats.
I turned to locate the sound and found myself about ten feet away from a hippogriff. I remembered the creature from my school studies -- head and wings of bird, the body of a horse -- but nothing in a textbook could have prepared me the daunting presence that stood before me. The beautiful mix of silver and blue in its feathers and coat could not diminish the power of the beast.
I quickly brought forth my wand from a pocket in my skirt and flicked it toward the house, silencing the music. Then, remembering what I'd learned years before, swept into a deep bow. Never having anticipated actually meeting one of these creatures, I hadn't exactly committed to memory all that might have been useful. I recalled that they were polite, so the bowing was in order if I wanted to approach it, but I couldn't remember if eye contact was to be maintained or avoided. I only hoped it didn't really matter either way.
I returned to an upright position and the animal returned my bow. Apparently, whether I'd gotten it right or not, I had not been found wanting. It then turned its head, inclining its beak towards its back. Following his gaze, I noticed, for the first time, a man astride him.
Well, astride may not have been the word for it. The man was slumped forward, unconscious. His limp arms were on either side of the animal's neck, his dark, stringy hair tangled in the blue-silver feathers there. He appeared to be wearing an overly-large black trench coat, but beyond that I could not see much.
I reached out an open hand and approached beast and rider, uncertain how to proceed beyond that. Was the man injured or dead? Did the animal solicit my help for healing or burial? And why had he (I thought he, but had no idea of the animal's gender) brought the man to me? Then again, regardless of the answers to my questions, I had to help this man. I could only hope it was in keeping with the desire of the animal for me to remove his passenger.
The huge bird's head found my hand, and nuzzled it. I began to stroke its beak but swiftly, and with more care than I would have expected, it instead took my hand in its beak. Turning its head, still with utmost care and gentleness, he placed my hand atop the man's head, cooing again once it was there.
I stroked the hair and let my fingers cautiously wander to the man's neck, brushing through the curls until I found a pulse. Yes! There it was! Now that I was closer and watching more attentively, I could only just discern the rise and fall of the man's back as he took small, shallow breaths.
I took a step back and paused, considering what to do next. The animal's eyes never left my face, questioning me. In a single, fluid movement, I pointed my wand at the hippogriff's beak and spoke a single word: "Hominirhetorius!"
The indignant squawk of the animal's turned spontaneously into a stream of… if not invectives, the words were not nice. They were being spoken by a slightly hysterical, mid-timbered, human, male voice -- one with a lilting Stoke accent.
"-- confounded blasted wand! If I had one of them, I'd – wait -- did you hear that?!"
"I am quite sorry, sir, but in order to help this man I need to find out how he came to this state. You, as his companion, seem the likeliest witness. I am sorry that I caught you off-guard, but I assure you, my intent is to help, not offend."
"Bloody cheek, she has. Maybe I don't want to talk like one of you lot -- maybe I prefer my own speech! Why not put a spell on yourself so you can understand me, not the other way around?"
"Well, I don't know a spell for that. Also, it didn't occur to me. This is a spell I know, so it's the one I used. Now, do you want me to help him or not?"
"Course I do. I brought him here, didn't I?"
"Would you mind carrying him into my home? I could use my wand, but I think the journey would jar him less if you were to do it."
He seemed to be looking dubiously at the doorway.
"Inside, it is one single, large room and you shall fit quite easily. I'll magic the door larger from here."
I did so, and we commenced walking in a clipped fashion toward the house.
"Can you tell me his name?"
A moment's hesitation followed.
"Padfoot. He's got others, but that's as good as any…least for now. You do realize you've got nothing on top, don't you?"
I'd forgotten, mostly, that my peasant blouse was lying discarded on the ground a hundred yards from where I was still moving, but his words reminded me. What's more, they embarrassed me. I could feel a blush start at my chest, creep up my neck, and land on my face with a splat.
"Oooh -- I've never seen one of you do that without clothes on -- I didn't realize you could make that color all over! Do it again!"
I gestured to the bed and murmured, "Just put him on the bed, doofus."
It takes the both of us to get the man to the bed and then I turned to the hippogriff.
"I'm sorry to have forgotten to ask before this, but what is your name?"
"I thought it was Doofus."
"Sorry about that, as well…"
"It is Buckbeak."
"Buckbeak, it is very nice to meet you. My name is Amarice."
"Yes, well -- can you fix him?" Hippogriffs are creatures which have a strict sense of propriety. The only explanation for Buckbeak's lack thereof must be his worry and concern for the man now laying on my bed.
Then I looked closer and thought I could see that the beast was tired and hungry but it's difficult to tell with a creature I'd never seen before.
"I might know if I can if you tell me what happened to our Mr. Padfoot."
The man on the bed, Padfoot, was thin, haggard, and filthy. Eyes closed under heavy black brows, I couldn't see their color. His skin was gray, sunken and stretched over his skull. How long since he'd had a decent meal?
There were huge, dark circles around his eyes. How long since he'd slept, really slept? He opened his mouth to sigh and revealed rotten, black teeth. The picture was completed by a long beard, which had obviously not been trimmed in a very, very long time.
His long black coat was worn over a striped shirt and matching pants. The outfit could have either been a slightly odd choice of pajamas or a prisoner's uniform. I looked to his feet and saw tattered plastic sandals. Yep, a prisoner.
Had he been set free or escaped? What crime had he committed that required imprisonment? Something about him seemed familiar, in a way. I felt that, were he cleaner, were his hair and beard trimmed, if he had a month of decent meals, perhaps I would be able to recognize him.
Then I noticed that there were spots of blood on his clothes -- as if he'd sustained injuries of some sort, but had put these clothes on after they had happened.
"Got into a fight with a werewolf."
"A werewolf. A bit of a fight…sort of a…thing. Then there were the-"
"Wait- let me see if I can get him to tell me."
Hitching up my skirt, I climbed atop him, centering my midsection to his, chakra to chakra. I rubbed my hands together, calling up stores of empathy and power. I leaned toward his face.
I placed a palm to his forehead, then his temple, reaching with the other so I was holding his head between my hands. I let one hand wander lower, over his neck, massaging his pulse, while the other closed over his eyes. I murmured a word of incantation, asking him to show me what had lead to his appearance at my home.
A vision of him, howling, curled into a fetal position, bellowing three names in more of a keen than a human voice -- James, Lilly, Harry. Then things changed. He was in a place, tiny, wet, black with mold and mildew, lit by flickering torchlight from high above on the wall, arms wrapped around himself as he gently rocked to and fro and stared, glassy-eyed, at the wall, still repeated the three names. James, Lilly, Harry. Then, stomping in the snow in the form of a huge, black dog, but still him. Streaking toward an angry-looking house, propelled forward by a righteous avenging fury, but this time a different name repeated like a mantra- Peter.
Locked in battle with a werewolf, again in dog form, but no, not really a battle. It was more like Padfoot was striving to keep the werewolf in place -- never initiating contact unless the wolf seemed inclined to head towards somewhere else. He seemed to greatly desire a trip to a small group nearby, a few people standing.
And then, on the bank of a large pond, unconscious, with an abjectly terrifying black figure hovering above, grisly, seeping lips parting, approaching his, and beginning to sip some sort of vapor escaping from Padfoot's lips and nose. Then an opalescent, ethereal yet solid stag appeared and head-butted the thing, sending it flailing over the tree line.
One last image -- embracing a boy of about fourteen years, feeling him hugging back, fiercely, not wanting to let go, and feeling his faith, his trust, his hope, his love making everything worthwhile.
Healing years of hurt and hopelessness in a single embrace. That boy's love was what kept the man alive. It had given him the will to survive everything that had come before. Proving worthy of that love was the hope keeping him alive and breathing even now.
"Wow. Let me get this straight. We have a frighteningly malnourished, physically wasted man who fought with a werewolf and almost got a Dementor's Kiss on the same night. That's a tricky thing."
"May I be of service? Do you require assistance?"
Thing was, now that Padfoot had showed me what he did, I knew how to fix him and I did not require Buckbeak. Turns out, I hadn't exactly needed him to even tell me what was wrong. I felt slightly guilty having used a spell on him without his permission, particularly when I turned out out to not even need it.
"Actually, I think I see a path to recovery, and I think I know how to set him on it. I do, however, think you could help me with the voles that are out in my garden. There is also a freshwater spring. Please, go, eat, and rest. You've obviously worked to get him this far, and you need to take care of yourself now. I will most certainly call you if I need further assistance."
"I am yours to command, my lady."
Apparently even just the promise of food was enough to return Buckbeak to himself and a sense of propriety. He knelt to me, showing his neck, which was quite the sign of respect and trust. I returned the gesture and he exited, leaving me alone with the project passed out on my bed.
Author's Note, again: I forgot to mention that I also don't own the rights to any ABBA songs or the line from a Tokein poem that I quoted earlier. I hope it doesn't make anyone angry that I wanted to use them here.
Please feel free to review... gently.