The Sugar Quill
Author: zzzFF minerva daune  Story: The Midnight Dance of the Mooncalves  Chapter: Default
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The Dance of the Mooncalves

The Midnight Dance of the Mooncalves


Colin Creevey glanced back at the castle, and seeing no one watching, plunged ahead into the Forbidden Forest alone.  It was sunset in autumn, and Colin couldn’t resist sneaking into the forest to get a closer look at the glowing leaves of the fire birch tree up close. Colin proceeded cautiously along the paths of the forest.  He was afraid of werewolves and beasts in the forest, but he was also well aware that George, Fred, and Ron Weasley, Lee Jordan, and Harry Potter had visited the forest before and returned unscathed.  He would hardly be a Gryffindor without a sense of adventure, after all.


Colin guessed his direction at a first and then second fork in the road and soon found himself at the foot of an enormous tree with scarlet leaves.  However, instead of falling, the leaves would spontaneously burst into flame, sending spectacular red, orange, and gold sparks in every direction.  All around the tree was a large clearing with trampled grass.  Colin found a sturdy oak on the far side of the clearing and sat against it lazily, mesmerized by the fire birch, whose fiery bursts became even more spectacular as it played against the bold hues of the sunset and eventually the dark night sky.  Each time it seemed the tree couldn’t possibly have any leaves yet to lose, a new display of sparks began and the tree was covered in dancing flame.  Forgotten was the potions homework, or any worries about monsters in the forest.  He breathed deeply and found himself falling asleep, curled up against the oak tree.


He awoke several hours later.  Lying on the ground looking overhead, he could see that the tree stood bare and proud, all its leaves lost.  The end of each twig glowed like the embers of a fire with a reddish-gold hue.  Colin shook himself awake, propped himself up on his elbows and looked around.


There was a full moon in the sky and the clearing was glowing with silver moonlight reflected off the smooth skin of dozens of creatures which had gathered while he was asleep.  There was a soft music playing somewhere, and the animals were dancing gracefully.  Colin stared in fascination at the creatures.  They were about knee high, with huge feet and spindly legs, so that at each step their knees threatened to buckle.  Their bodies were perfectly round, and upon a narrow neck was perched a perfectly round head with bulging round eyes on top.  They stood on their hind legs, sometimes in pairs with their front feet pressed up against a partner, and sometimes the whole group holding hands to form concentric circles that twirled left and right.  The dances were complicated, nearly as mesmerizing as the tree had been. 


After a time, Colin became aware of the biting cold of the autumn night and the lateness of the hour.  He realized that the creatures might not notice him where he lay, but were likely to notice when he moved or stood to return to the castle.  He shivered, took a deep breath, and slowly moved to stand. 


Colin had hardly risen to one knee, however, when he felt hands from behind him pushing him down and covering his mouth.  He heard a deep voice whispering in his ear.


“Human, do not move.  You will startle them.  You are fortunate to witness the Midnight Dance of the Mooncalves.  Rarely do the full moon and the Midnight Dance coincide with the Festival of the Fire Birch.  You must not interrupt.  You have observed quietly for hours, and so we have allowed you to stay.  You may remain still and quiet until the end of the festival, or you may sleep here all night under another enchantment.  Which do you choose?”


Colin felt the hands releasing him.  He turned to look at who had caught him and saw a centaur- the torso of a man on a horse’s body.  He had white blond hair and a palomino body. 


“Please- I’d like to watch-“ Colin whispered, wide-eyed.


The centaur smiled and nodded, and picked up a lyre nearby and resumed playing the cheerful music of the dance.  Colin turned his head very slowly to look around the trees behind the clearing.  There were dozens of centaurs gleaming in the moonlight, playing lyres- some were of rich shades of chestnut and black, others were dappled and gray.  Colin turned his attention back to the mooncalves.  In pairs, the mooncalves were leaving the dance, scurrying away into the woods and out of sight. 


The dance was over.  The plants of the clearing were trampled in a perfect circle, with grasses and flowers in whorls flattened against the ground.  The clearing glowed with the silvery droppings left behind by the mooncalves.  Thousands of tiny twig-like men with long, sharp fingers and glittering black eyes came forward and collected the dung, carrying it away with them into the forest.  Colin tried again to rise to one knee to leave and felt himself restrained again immediately, with the centaur’s whisper in his ear.


“It is not yet finished.  Do you know why we collect the droppings from the moondung?”


Colin shook his head, shrugging. 


The centaur explained patiently, “It is a fertilizer for magical plants.  Humans who collect mooncalf droppings unknowingly decrease the beauty of the forest.  The bowtruckles take it to nourish their magical trees.  We centaurs collect some to nurture other plants, and some will remain here to feed this tree.  After this much is complete you may return to your school.”


The centaur paused. 


“You have seen and appreciated much of the beauty in living things today.  I hope you will remember it even when that beauty is less obvious.”


And with that the centaurs and bowtruckles faded into the darkness, and a cloud obscured the moon. 


“Wow,” breathed Colin.  “I have to owl Dennis about this…”


He ran back to the castle and marveled on his remarkable night.



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