The Sugar Quill
Author: Murasaki99 (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Airs Above the Ground  Chapter: Chapter One
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Airs Above the Ground - Chapter One

Airs Above the Ground

A Harry Potter Fan Fiction

by Murasaki99

Sequel to The Unhappy Horseman of Sleepy Hogwarts

Any Harry Potter character you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling

Part 1. Perfection

"Oooh, he's beautiful," came a breathy sigh in her ear. Elenna frowned in annoyance and shot a sharp glance at the source of the heavy breathing.

"What are you talking about?"

Gilda smiled dreamily and nodded at something behind Elenna's seat. The two Slytherin girls sat side by side in the Great Hall not long after lunch, picking at the remains of their meal and studying. Or, Elenna was studying while Gilda made a study of another kind. Elenna sighed, trying to suppress her irritation. They were only second years; the boys would wait. She wrote another note for her History of Magic paper. Suddenly she stopped writing and sat up straight. Surely there was something wrong with her ears?

Clop, clop, clop, clop.

The sound of a horse's hooves echoed crisply over the low murmur of students. Elenna's eyes grew large. "There's a horse in here? Why didn't you tell me so?" While boys held little attraction for her, horses were another matter entirely. Had someone Transfigured something or someone into a horse? "Now that's worth looking at!" Quickly, she turned around.

"Oh. My." Her eyes widened.

It was almost a horse. Trotting briskly across the length of the hall was Professor Snape. From the waist up he looked perfectly normal, his long professorial robes streaming behind him, his angular face wearing that perpetual scowl of his. From the waist down however, he was a horse. Not a big horse, but a horse nonetheless; the human torso somehow flowing smoothly into the powerful chest and shoulders of a black equine. Strong ebony haunches matched those shoulders and his legs were straight and feathered like a Friesian's. Professor Snape as a Centaur

"Elenna, your mouth is open," Gilda whispered in delight to her friend, poking her. "Was I right?"

"You were right." As if spellbound she watched the Potions Master traverse the room, grandly ignoring the students. "What happened to him?" she whispered. "Look at the lovely flat strong cannon bones!"

"Potions accident." Gilda grinned behind her hand. "Headmaster said it would just have to wear off."

Someone's cat streaked out from under the table. As Elenna stared, Professor Snape settled his weight back on his haunches and performed first a levade, lifting his forelegs off the ground, and then a perfect passage, that lofty elevated slow trot favored by Dressage masters, avoiding the cat and stepping over several other familiars fluidly. His hide was so dark it gleamed with bluish highlights and his long tail nearly dragged the ground.

"Rhiannon's Birds," she murmured. "He's perfect. Absolutely perfect."

Gilda eyed her friend uneasily. "I was only joking."

"I'm not. I've never seen such a perfect dressage body on a small horse before, and I should know. My mother breeds Connemaras and we've been trying to get movement like that for years."

"Um. In case you hadn't noticed, he's a Centaur, not a horse." Gilda shook her head slowly.

"Doesn't matter, he's got gaits to die for. I wonder how he'd feel under saddle?" Elenna gnawed on the end of her quill as she considered the prospect. Her eyes gleamed.

Gilda began to look alarmed. "You're not serious?"

"I'll bet my old Stübben saddle would fit... I could adjust it with a charm..."

"You're mad. There's no way Professor Snape would let you jog round on his back!" She eyed the professor's retreating form and breathed a sigh of relief as he exited the hall.

"I intend to do more than jog; there's a show in Hogsmeade in a couple weeks, with open Dressage classes." Elenna looked down at her notes and found she'd been sketching horses in the margins.

"Impossible!"

Elenna looked at her companion and her normally sober face lightened in a smile. "I'm Slytherin. We regularly do the impossible." Her jaw firmed. "Just watch me."

Part 2. Planning

"Elenna you are not still thinking of dragging Professor Snape off to the show, are you?" Gilda hissed at her friend as they sat at a study table in the library the next afternoon.

"Uh huh." Elenna flipped through a grimoire, her narrow face intent as she scanned page after page of text in scratchy handwriting. "I'm sure he's fit enough to do an Elementary test."

"Elenna, listen to me! You can't!"

"Certainly I can. And he'll go willingly, if I can find the right spell." She flipped another page, frowning at the dust that flew into the air.

"But he's a Centaur! I can't imagine they'd let you ride him in the show, even if he was willing."

"Ah, but he won't be a Centaur when I get through." Elenna raised her head to look at Gilda, a slow smile growing on her face. "He'll be a lovely small Friesian. No one will ever know but you and me."

Gilda looked horrified. "And him! Once the spell wears off he'll Curse you into goodness knows what! And that's before the Headmaster has his turn!"

"As long as he turns me into a horse, I'll be happy," Elenna replied with a quirky grin. Sighing, she shoved a stray lock of black hair out of her eyes and put the volume aside, pulling another from the pile in front of her. "You should relax. I've found nothing useful so far for my project." She glanced up from the new book to see Gilda staring at something behind her. She looked... green.

"And what project would that be, Miss Brandon, if I might inquire?" The deep, silken tones were unmistakable.

Slowly, schooling her face into a mask of neutrality, Elenna turned and looked up at Professor Snape. The half-equine professor watched her keenly, his arms folded across his chest. As the silence dragged on he raised one sardonic eyebrow. "Well?"

Gilda looked as if she were going to faint. Elenna worked up a little saliva in her dry mouth and found her voice. "We're trying to study ahead for the Transfigurations practicum, Sir. Professor MacGonagall is very hard to please and we wanted to find something out of the ordinary. It's difficult because none of the really good references are in one book." Elenna felt her pulse in her throat as she watched her Head of House. "We Slytherins have been at least five points behind the Gryffindors all term. Gilda and I wanted to bring the average up. I was trying to find the more advanced spells that create large animals."

"Did you, indeed?" A gleam came into the Potions Master's dark eyes as he heard the words 'Gryffindor' and 'points'. "An admirable goal, Miss Brandon. Do you share it also, Miss Darcy?"

Gilda nodded vigorously, her blonde curls flying.

"Hmm." Professor Snape looked thoughtful. "You may want to try the Historical Section. Sewell's Bestiary of Transformative Spells may be useful." He nodded at them curtly. "Carry on." Turning, he moved quietly away, his long tail switching gently behind as he walked.

With a low groan, Gilda collapsed onto the table, weak with relief. Elenna rested her head on her arms, feeling much the same.

"Sneaky man, he's covered his hooves with something to muffle the sound!" Elenna shot an admiring glance after her professor. "He's not our Head of House for nothing, I suppose."

"And you, my girl, are utterly barking mad for even thinking about... that project," Gilda growled, glaring at her friend. "You'll give it up now, won't you?"

Elenna rose and dusted off her hands and the front of her robes. "Don't be an ass. We're not found out and our good Professor has even given us some help! We can't waste the opportunity, come on!" Dragging Gilda from her seat, Elenna marched into the bookstacks, heading for the Historical Section.

"I've got a bad feeling about this," Gilda muttered as she began searching the shelves.

Part 3. Pursuit

Elenna peered cautiously around the suit of armor at her prey. Professor Snape was walking slowly, frowning at the parchment in his hands. "Excellent," she whispered, drawing her wand. The hallway was nearly empty, and no one was looking at her. In a low voice she spoke the new spell precisely, combining it with a wave of her wand toward her professor's back. "Primum Equiverto!"

Spell light sparkled toward the Centaur, striking him squarely, splattering away like bright rain. The young Slytherin girl stared in disbelief. The spell hadn't worked at all! Snape walked on, unrolling the parchment, lost in his reading. A moment later he turned the corner and moved out of range.

"Well?" asked Gilda the moment her friend returned to their dormitory room.

"It just bounced off." Elenna shook her head and threw herself down on the bed with a disgusted growl. "Nothing happened. He didn't even notice!"

"Does this mean you'll give it up, then?" Gilda looked hopefully at Elenna.Gilda and Elenna read a spellbook

"No. I'm not halfway finished, yet." Grabbing Sewell's spellbook from her nightstand, she sat up and began reading with determination. "There are plenty of things in here we haven't tried."

"Wonderful." Gilda's tone implied anything but enthusiasm.


Professor Snape halted, sniffing the air delicately. Someone had left a cup of syrupy liquid on a windowsill in the hall. Picking up the cup he waved a hand delicately over the warm fumes still rising from the surface. "Hmm. Fleabane, coltsfoot, green willow, dragon's blood." He shook his head slowly. "They'll never get a good Spot Removing Potion that way, the proportions are all wrong!"

"He's supposed to drink it, not critique it!" Elenna hissed to Gilda as they spied through a crack in the door of the nearby broom cupboard. "I thought he couldn't resist sugar; I'm sure I made it sweet enough and I put an attractiveness charm on it."

"Shh!" Gilda clapped a hand over Elenna's mouth as their professor backed a pace as if perhaps he had caught the sound of their voices. The two girls froze in place, hardly daring to breathe.

A large fly buzzed around the cup, drawn by the sweet stuff inside. Greatly daring, it darted down to steal a drink. As the Potions Master watched, the fly turned into a tiny horse with diaphanous wings. With a confused whinny, it flitted off. Snape's eyebrows arched upward.

"No, it'll never do for Spot Removing." With a muttered spell, he caused the questionable potion to vanish and set the cup back in its place. "Must have been Hufflepuffs," he growled. "I can see I'll have to do some remedial classes, if that's the best they can manage." Tail switching, he stamped away down the hall.

"I slaved all day on that!" wailed Elenna as they emerged from the closet. "I don't understand why the spells and potions aren't working on him!"

Gilda watched the horse-fly as it zoomed around their heads. "Well, you were close, at least."

"Back to the drawing-board!" Elenna strode off with a purposeful look on her face.

Gilda, the tiny winged equine perched on her shoulder, shrugged and ambled after.

Part 4. Passage

"Now then, it's all set." Elenna looked around the corner of the dungeon corridor at the door to Professor Snape's classroom. It was Friday evening and the last class had left an hour ago. In her hands, protected by dragon hide gloves, she held a cobweb-fine net made of silvery threads. "We throw the pony-sark over him, and once he changes you offer him a sugar lump while I put the halter on him. Then all we have to do is lead him down to Hogsmeade."

"I still don't see how this is going to work." Gilda hefted the lump sugar in her hands and frowned. "It just doesn't seem possible."

"Sewell's book had the answer - if a creature is resistant to the change, the one foolproof method is a contact-spell using the substance of the animal you want as a result. That seemed clear enough." Elenna hefted the net; it drifted gently around the edges like gossamer. "Took us the rest of the week to get this done."

"Yes, and I had to steal a pinch of that 'essence of pony' Professor MacGonagall had in her collection." Gilda smiled with guilty pleasure. "That was rather fun, decoying the cat and making the snatch."

"Without you, it couldn't have been done." Elenna grinned back at her friend. Looking up, her face suddenly became determined. "He's leaving his office! Get ready."

A muffled clatter of hooves announced the approach of their professor, who seemed to be in a hurry, since he had left his office at a brisk trot.

"He's coming fast!" Gilda squeaked, jerking back from the corner.

"Here we go!" Elenna stepped forward boldly and threw the silver net into the air, just in time to intersect Professor Snape.

The centaur skidded to a stop, startled by the sparkle of magic as it settled around him. "What in- " his exclamation of surprise suddenly ended in a shrill whinny as his formerly human torso blurred and reformed into the neck and head of a startled black pony.

"It worked!" Elenna jumped up and down for joy, then quickly waved her friend forward. "The sugar, quickly!" she whispered urgently.

"It worked." Gilda seemed more surprised than Snape as she held out a lump of sweet stuff. The black pony sniffed the offering carefully. It vanished with a sweep of velvety lips. He crunched the sugar happily. Gilda patted his nose and offered him another piece. "Ooo, he's adorable."

"Isn't he just?" Elenna put the halter on the pony and admired him. The magic seemed to have worked very well. Professor Snape now had the body of a very fine pony-sized Friesian stallion. His neck sported a thick mane of ebony hair and his eyes were half-hidden under the long forelock. He peered out from under the hairy overhang with an air of bemusement as if he couldn't quite remember what he had been doing. Elenna tugged gently on the lead rope and the pony followed her obediently along the corridor. "Come on, we'll get you down to Hogsmeade. I've got a stall all ready with a friend of my mother's." Her grin of triumph was wide. "The show is tomorrow afternoon - I'll get you all cleaned up and braided tonight, and tomorrow we'll win some ribbons."

Gilda walked on the other side of Professor Snape, patting his shoulder and neck and looking at him with wonder. "He's going to give us detention forever, once he's back to normal."

Professor Snape shook his head and snorted as if to underline her concern.

"One problem at a time. Tonight we celebrate, and tomorrow we win!" Whistling merrily, Elenna led her prize away, ignoring Gilda's gloomy projections of future disaster.

Part 5. Preparation

"Well, at least he's clean," said Gilda as she manfully took a brush to the black pony's heavy mane. It was thick and very long, hanging down like a black curtain. Elenna leads the black pony

"Thank goodness," Elenna sighed as she combed out Professor Snape's equally long and thick tail. "And he'll stay that way tonight. I've got the stall well-bedded with straw. We'll braid him up before we go and tomorrow we'll wrap his legs before the show. White leg wraps look gorgeous against a dark hide. They accentuate smooth movement." She smiled dreamily. "What a good-mannered fellow he is; he doesn't bite, and he's not at all kicky or pushy." She looked thoughtful. "Rather an improvement on the original."

"Braid? I don't know that Professor Snape would like that." Gilda looked at the pony, who was munching on a generous pile of hay. "He doesn't seem like the girly type."

"No, no! It's not meant to be feminine." Elenna laughed merrily. "You can do a decorative and tasteful braid for shows. I'm going to weave ribbons in our House colors into a nice French braid in his mane. He won't object to that, surely."

"Maybe not." Gilda tackled Snape's thick forelock. This task was made a little more difficult since the pony kept putting his head down at intervals to take more hay. At one point he sniffed her robe curiously. "Um, Elenna?"

"Yes?" Elenna frowned as she struggled with a big knot. Snape whisked his tail, sending her comb flying across the stall. Sighing, she retrieved it and set to work again.

"He seems to recognize me. He won't remember this, will he?"

"Not a bit," said Elenna confidently. "I mean, if he remembered anything at all, he'd hardly be standing here letting us groom him, would he?" She patted the pony's glossy hindquarters. He continued placidly eating.

"Good point. He'd be furious."

"Exactly. He's not angry, so he must not remember."

"Hopefully no one will tell him, either." Gilda frowned. "You don't suppose anyone at the show'd recognize him?"

"No, of course not. He was a centaur, not a pony. Don't worry; I've got everything planned. I'll ride the Elementary tests One and Two tomorrow, take him out of Hogsmeade, reverse the spell at a safe distance, and no one will be the wiser." Elenna's smile grew broader. "Score a few more for Slytherin."

Gilda listened to her friend and her expression smoothed out. "That sounds like a good plan, actually. Where are those ribbons you wanted put in his mane?"

Part 6. Phooka

"Albus, please come get yuir wee wicked pookie out of my establishment."

Dumbledore pushed his spectacles up his nose and peered at the face in the fireplace. It was eight o'clock Friday evening. "A phooka, Mistress Mim?"

"Yes, a pookie. He walked in here bold as y'please and he's been ramping about like a bull in a china shop iver since! Here now, you keep away from that!" She shouted at something behind her. "He's been helping himself to the herbs and tormenting the clerk and me!"

"That's very odd behavior," said Dumbledore thoughtfully. He leaned toward the fire. "Phookas typically prefer the wild moor and heath lands. I haven't heard of one simply coming to town on a lark, let alone walking into a building."

"Well this one did. He's one of yuirs. I've got no use for him, so come and get him!"

Mistress Mim looked harassed. Her long grey hair was in disarray. From somewhere beyond the Headmaster could hear the sounds of crashing, angry shouts, and something very like deep chuckling noises.

"Certainly I'll be glad to help, but how do you know this creature is 'one of ours' as you say?" he queried politely.

"'Cos he's got Slytherin ribbons braided into his mane and tail, that's how I ken!" Mistress Mim's voice was triumphant.

"Oh, I see." Dumbledore sat up a bit straighter. "Would this phooka be black, by any chance?"Severus the Phooka

"Blacker'n the Dark Lord's heart he is, yes. He'd be a darlin' pony if he wasn't so mischievous." The herbalist turned around to shout into the room beyond. "Here now, you stop that this instant! Put that down! Don't eat that, y'daft beastie!" Her voice began to fade as she moved away from the fire to deal with the immediate problem.

"I'll be over directly," said Dumbledore as Mistress Mim faded away entirely from the fire. Sighing, he rose and stretched. "Dear, dear. It's not even the weekend yet. The students must've gotten an early start."

Continued in the next installment, Airs Above the Ground, Chapter 2

Hoofnotes

The British Horse Society dressage tests are kept by the British Riding Club. They have different names compared to the USDF ones used in the USA, but I believe the required movements are very similar. I need to order the tests from BHS, so I hope I'm not too innacurate. They correspond in this way:

BRC - BHS
USDF - USA
Preliminary Introductory (walk-trot)
Novice Level One (walk, trot, canter, free walk)
Elementary Level Two (medium gaits, some collection)
Medium Level Three (more collected gaits and extended gaits)
Advanced Medium Level Four (tempi changes)
Grand Prix Special  

Grateful thank-yous to my beta-readers Judi, Kathi, and Ozma, and to Yolanda to encouraging me to send this in. More to come, in between Lions on a Banner. I should also acknowledge a debt to all the authors of horse stories I read during my youth.

Disclaimer: If you recognize the characters as being from the world of Harry Potter, then they belong to J.K. Rowling.
Further disclaimer: This non-profit fan-fiction is not meant to infringe on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, either. All his stuff still belongs to him (and his heirs).
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