Birch-Wood and Dragon-Heartstring, 11¾ Inches
A Haiku for my beta, Birgit:
My beta, Birgit
Is a wonderful person.
She made this fic good.
And it's all true, too! ^_^ I must also take the opportunity to apologise for the ridiculous wait for the third chapter. Life, (more specifically university) has been kicking me in the behind. It's only recently that I've managed to turn round and kick it back - hard. The result of the absolute kicking I gave uni is the time to write this - and I dedicate it to the Quillers and to the non-Quillers - the passers-by in the world of Harry Potter Fanfiction - and hope that you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
“Young wizard,” it repeated, “would you like me to shine brighter for you so you may read your book?”
Severus, instead of answering, screamed something incoherent. Then he tried to run away and got caught in his bed sheets, falling to the bare wood floor on his bum with a thump. Briefly wrestling with his duvet on the floor, he looked like an angry cat in a sack. The tangle of sheets had temporarily blinded him, and he found that not being able to see the thing was much, much worse than knowing exactly where it was. When he felt his head pop out from the top of the pile of quilts, he noticed, with instantaneous, heart-stopping horror, that it had nosed open the window and had pushed its head in.
“Young wizard, are you quite alright?” it asked.
“Aaaaaaaaargh! DON’T COME IN!! DON’T COME IN!!” Severus yelled in reply, scrabbling backwards across the floor with his feet until he hit a bookshelf. A pile of heavy Tolkien novels came crashing down on his head, and as stars burst in front of his eyes, he felt the impact of The Lord of the Rings most keenly. There was definitely going to be a lump there in the morning.
He shook his head blearily and his vision cleared a little. It was still there, its slender, pearly white head poking in through the window. Although he was still very tense, poised almost for flight, it gradually dawned on him that he wasn’t about to be devoured or mauled (because if it had wanted to, it would have done it already - there was no doubt about that). So he sat still on the floor, cocooned in his sheets, and stared at it.
“You do not wish me to come in, young wizard?” it questioned, tilting its head to one side. “I cannot come in any further than this. Would it be better if I were smaller?”
For a moment, Severus continued to stare. Then, hesitantly, he answered in a monotone. He said, “Severus. My name is Severus.” A pause for thought, before he added, “And, yes. You’re too big. You wouldn’t fit in here.”
“That is not a problem,” it said. “I shall make myself smaller for you.”
Utterly dumbfounded, Severus watched as one minute, the dragon was there - and the next minute everything seemed to dissipate. Its glowing blue eyes and its vivid mane, its ivory scales and its slender neck, turned to smoke - or was it air? - that drifted through his open window. Curling languidly and making rather pretty patterns, the smoky matter contracted suddenly just above his bed and settled down upon it. Then, against all known laws of nature, a small amphiptere appeared.
It was sitting there on his bed, large as life, apparently quite comfortable and coiled in on itself like a snake. Right now, curled up, it was about the size of a large dog and took up the bottom quarter of Severus’ bed. Its silky-haired head rested on its body and the tips of little, white incisors poked out from its upper jaw. Lying there in peace, while it gazed expectantly at him, as though waiting for his approval, it looked quite-- well--
Pushing himself to his feet, Severus tottered back over to his bed -though blissfully unaware that with the quilt covering him, he had begun to resemble the bedraggled, old hag who begged in Knockturn Alley. The amphiptere looked up at him and blinked. He looked down at it, and with a small smile, sat beside it and stroked its hair.
“Is it better when I am smaller, Severus?” the amphiptere asked him.
He nodded. “Better for indoors, anyway, I think.”
“That is good. I shall remember it next time I come to visit you,” it replied, happily.
Suddenly, Severus stopped patting the dragon, his hand hovering thoughtfully in mid-air. “I don’t think you can come to see me again,” he said.
“Because I’m going to Hogwarts tomorrow morning. I’ve got to catch the train from here to King’s Cross and then get the Hogwarts Express,” he realised, with an unlooked-for pang of disappointment.
“And why should that be a problem?” the amphiptere queried. “I can fly, after all. I should be able to get to the young wizards’ school easily.”
“Really?” Severus said, now a little more animated. “Can you actually make yourself smaller and come inside, like you just did a few seconds ago?”
“I have never tried, but I suppose I could if someone let me in through a window,” it considered.
But Severus’ face darkened. “What about wards and things to keep out non-magical creatures?” he asked. “Hogwarts definitely has those. I read about them in Hogwarts: A History.”
The amphiptere bristled indignantly, the hairs of its mane standing on end. “I am galdorlicgastberend,” it said proudly, drawing up its head. “I have passed over many schools of wizards across the ages. Those barriers they place to deceive the ceorlgastberendas are nothing to me.”
“Oh…” Severus said, looking thoughtful. “That’s good to hear.”
A few seconds later--
“I think the last strange word you said meant Muggles, but I wasn’t sure about the first. What did you say?”
“I am galdorlicgastberend,” the amphiptere explained, patiently. “It is our word for those with magic in their souls. Ceorlgastberend is a creature without magic. All creatures are gastberend.”
Enthralled by this revelatory snippet of information, Severus sat forward, his dark eyes glittering with curiosity.
“So does that apply to everything? Gastberend, I mean,” he asked eagerly. “Wizards and Muggles?”
“Yes. And animals and plants. It applies to all soul-bearers, to all creatures, to all life,” the amphiptere replied, while using a bedpost to scratch an itch under its chin. The sound of its scales rubbing against it was rough, like an sculptor planing a plank of wood.
“Then…” Severus began slowly, the wheels turning furiously in his mind as he tried to take in all of this new information, “then dragons… if they have words for things, do they have their own language? Do you have your own language like we do?”
Suddenly the amphiptere stopped scratching and snapped its delicate head round to face him, snorting derisively. On instinct, Severus quivered and pulled his sheets up to his chin.
The amphiptere’s eyes narrowed as it replied with reproach, “Of course we have our own language. Just because you humans are not willing to recognise it does not mean that it does not exist. You will converse gladly with the creatures of the water, the horse-men and the goblins, and will acknowledge, if not understand, the language of the meanest pixie. And yet you will not allow us this status, even though it is no fault of our own but due solely to your ignorance?”
The sheer effrontery of its last remark saw Severus’ fears evaporate - replaced by a smouldering forcefulness that could only have come from a severely wounded ego.
“Ignorance?” he fumed, his eyebrows hitting the roof. “Hah! If you want us to recognise dragons as beings rather than beasts, you should think about it the next time you try to incinerate everyone coming to try and study you!”
“That is not the point,” the amphiptere replied, mulishly.
“Not the point, my arse,” Severus sneered. “You don’t let anyone near you long enough to jot down whether or not there’s any difference between the roars you make before your victims meet their agonising, fiery deaths - never mind words!”
“And with good reason!” the amphiptere hissed angrily, its eyes flashing as the air around it became uncomfortably oppressive. “They are all after our hides, our claws, our flesh! They casually butcher us for their own gain; unthinking, unfeeling of the pain we suffer. You, Severus,” it said earnestly, “you of all people should know this. You of all people should know why we do not consort with wizards.”
As soon as those words left the creature’s mouth, Severus felt a strange, cold, empty sensation somewhere in the region of his chest. His mind suddenly elsewhere, he raised a pale hand and pressed it against his ribcage. It felt the same as the night he had first met the amphiptere. He could feel its pain, its anger and its humbled pride. He remembered Ollivander and how he had treated the noble creature, how he would have torn the life from its still beating heart…
“I hate him,” Severus whispered bitterly, the quavering fury in his voice unmistakable. “One day, I’m going to make him suffer as much as he made you suffer.”
The amphiptere raised its head and regarded him to one side. The pressure from the air suddenly lifted. Then, Severus almost yelped as he felt it nuzzling his ear. The silky hair of its mane tickled slightly.
“Do not worry, Severus,” it said, placating him with its calm tone. “It is not your place to. It is my revenge and I shall exact it when I see fit.”
Severus opened his mouth to protest but there didn’t seem any point in arguing, so he remained silent. After a while of sitting there quietly, unconsciously, he began stroking the amphiptere’s hair again. It didn’t squirm under his touch, like he expected. In fact, it seemed to like it - and once, when he ran his fingers over the narrow bridge between its eyes, he almost laughed as it made a noise like the purring of a contented cat.
Then, a thought occurred to him.
“You know my name,” he said softly, huddled under his sheets with the dragon curled up on his lap. “Do you have one?”
The amphiptere thought for a moment and then answered, “No. I have no name. We do not have names. We simply are.”
“Would you like one?” Severus asked. “It would make it easier for me. You see, I don’t like thinking of you as just a random dragon.”
The amphiptere considered this for a moment. “I have never had a name before,” it mused, turning the concept over in its mind, “but I suppose if it is better for you. What name should I have?”
“It’ll have to be something that suits you,” Severus said firmly. “Something that represents your old-age, your patience, your wisdom and your sheer bloody elusiveness…”
And the proverbial light-bulb flickered on.
“Tell me,” he began with a smile, “what concept appeals to you more: Thought or Memory?”
“I think perhaps Memory,” it answered after a while.
“You cannot have one without the other; you cannot have Thought without Memory. Each depends on the other. However, Thought has certain connotations. Thoughts are instantaneous, myriad and fleeting - branching off and coming together and are always changed. Memory, on the other hand, is measured, whole and enduring. It may be obscured, stained or repressed, but no matter what changes on the surface, the essence remains the same. Thought is like humans,” it said, its eyes smiling, “and Memory is like dragons. Therefore I choose Memory.”
Severus smiled. “Then I think I shall call you Muninn,” he concluded. “One of Odin’s ravens was called Muninn - it meant memory. The other one was called Huginn - he had a pair, you see - and its name meant thought.”
“Those are very good names,” Muninn said. “Could you not choose Huginn as your name, seeing as you are a human and your race are like Thought?”
“I don’t think so,” he replied. “My parents already called me Severus. I think I’m stuck with it.”
“Severus is a good name too,” Muninn said. “It sounds nice to say. What does it mean?”
“It’s Latin. I think it means serious. Or stern. Or strict. Something like that.”
To Severus’ puzzlement, Muninn suddenly erupted into fits of laughter. If he hadn’t taken such immediate offence, he might have realised that it sounded rather like the hiss of a snake possessed of basso profundo pitch.
“What? What’s so funny about that?” he said, frowning so gravely that Muninn laughed even harder.
“If your name reflects who you are, then you certainly suit yours!”
In response, Severus stuck out a foot and kicked the dragon off the bed. For half a second, its eyes widened with shock as its tail fell to the floor - the rest following with a dull thud. His hand over his mouth, Severus had to suppress the giggles and when Muninn’s head appeared above the edge of the bed looking rather disgruntled, Severus smirked at it. Huffing, the dragon wound its way back up onto the bed and curled up at the bottom in a bad mood.
“Fine, be like that then,” Severus said, unsympathetically. “I need to get to sleep anyway if I’m going to catch the early train down to London tomorrow. You’re keeping me awake.”
“I could fly there faster,” it muttered resentfully, with its head turned away from Severus.
“I’m sure you could,” he replied, rolling his eyes, disbelief dripping from every syllable. He started smoothing out his quilt covers so he could lie down. “It’ll come in handy if you ever get the notion to come visit me.”
Muninn poked its head over a coil and glared at him. “You don’t believe me? Then I shall prove it to you. I will take you to your wizards’ school tomorrow, and then we will see who is right.”
The dragon snorted impatiently. “I shall prove it to you,” it repeated. “I shall prove I am faster than those… those…” it trailed off, brow furrowed slightly.
“Trains,” Severus prompted.
“Yes, those things,” it said dismissively before continuing. “I shall prove I am faster than your trains by taking you to your school tomorrow.”
“What, you’d fly me there?” Severus whispered, astounded, his eyes wide with excitement.
“How else might I prove myself to you?” the amphiptere replied.
Grinning, Severus turned away for a moment and ran a hand through his hair with a glassy-eyed expression. He felt so excited at the offer that he felt he’d burst. Going on the Hogwarts Express had very much appealed to him before, but now the prospect paled in comparison to the amphiptere’s proposal. Though… flying into Hogwarts on the back of a great, hulking dragon? He wasn’t too sure of the school rules, but he was pretty certain that such an enterprise would be heavily frowned upon.
But he had a better idea…
“I don’t think you can take me all the way to Hogwarts,” he began hesitantly, still turning his plan over in his mind, “but you could take me to King’s Cross, and - only if you wanted that is - you could make yourself small again and come with me on the train and pretend to be my pet...”
He didn’t know what made him say it, and he was ready to be resoundly rejected. After all, it was a magical being, an ancient, wise and noble creature - why would it want to become the pet of an eleven year old wizard? That was why he was so surprised at the dragon’s answer.
“Yes,” it replied, after hardly a moment’s thought. “I should like that very much. We shall fly to this-- King’s Cross-- tomorrow. Then I shall prove myself to you, after which you will apologise for having insulted my race…”
“I did not insult your race! I only said you couldn’t go faster than a bloody train!” Severus cried out indignantly - an interruption that was smoothly passed over by the amphiptere.
“…then I shall go with you on your train,” it continued “and will continue to watch over you at your wizards’ school as I have sworn to do.” It paused for a moment and then nodded. “Yes,” it said, seeming satisfied with the plan, “it will be done.”
“Hey, wait a minute,” Severus protested as he felt Muninn drawing up the sheets around him and nudging his head down onto the pillow. “I didn’t say yes, did I?”
“It does not matter,” it said repressively as it curled up at his feet. “I must prove you wrong. You must learn, Severus, that you cannot wound a dragon’s pride without facing the consequences. Now go to sleep. I shall wake you at dawn.”
Muttering mutinously, Severus rolled over onto his side. As he lay there, listening to Muninn’s breathing becoming gradually deeper and more regular, it was not long before he realised how tired he was. Just before he closed his eyes, he gave the sleeping dragon a soft nudge with his foot.
“You’d better be right,” he murmured, yawning. “If I miss this train, you’re going to be potions ingredients…”
* * *
The next morning, at the crack of dawn, as the sun peeked in through his bedroom window and crept across the floor, Severus was rather rudely awoken. At the moment, he was yelling and cursing and hopping around the room, clutching at one foot.
“DID YOU HAVE TO BITE MY BLOODY TOE?” he bawled, glaring furiously at the offending toe-biter in question, which had perched itself on top of his wardrobe, out of reach.
“You would not get up,” Muninn said simply, as if it was the most logical thing in the world. “And I did not bite hard. It was… a gentle nip.”
“Gentle nip? Gentle nip?” Severus howled, as he sat down on the bed and cradled his injured digit. “You drew blood!”
The dragon rolled its eyes and fluttered down onto the bed. It observed the toe critically. “It is only bleeding a little. You are acting like a fledgling.”
“Oh shut up,” Severus huffed, as he limped over to his wardrobe and began raking around for some clean clothes.
“Your father came in and left something for you,” Muninn continued, as Severus was bent in amongst the hangers.
Instantly, Severus stiffened.
“Do not worry,” Muninn continued. “I heard him coming and I hid. He left you this--”
Severus felt something papery and slightly damp pressed into his hand. He looked down at it. It was a note. Muninn had obviously gotten a hold of it, as there were small puncture holes dotted about the paper where it had picked the letter up with its mouth. He took out a pair of black robes and stuffed the note in his pocket. He would read it later.
“Right, I’m going for a shower,” he announced. “I’ll have to take my trunk with me. It’s under my bed” he said, pointing. “I hope you’re not going to back out?”
“Not a chance,” Muninn retorted. “We will just have to find some way of making it secure. And make sure what you wear is warm, and that you will be able to breathe,” it warned. “The air is very cold and thin up there. I shall be waiting for you in the forest.”
When Severus was washed and dressed, he grabbed a hold of his wand, shoved on a pair of shoes and went downstairs. Before he left, he wrote his father a short note saying that he wasn’t to worry, that he would write every week and that he had to promise to visit his mum in St. Mungos and tell her he was finally off to Hogwarts. Then, after a last look round at his home, he stepped out of the door and locked it behind him. If there was an air of finality that accompanied the muted click of the lock, it was lost on young Severus. Then, in the pleasantly warm rosy light of dawn, he walked down to the forest to meet Muninn.
He eventually found the dragon, full-sized once more, splashing around in the little river that ran through the forest - and it looked as though it was enjoying itself. Then he spotted his trunk lying at the roots of a tree at the riverbank. For a moment, he hid behind the tree and stole a short moment of pleasure in watching it making a fool of itself as it played a little game, tossing water up in the air and trying to catch it with its teeth. Eventually, though, he knew he was pressed for time, so he stepped out from behind the tree and coughed politely. Soaking wet, Muninn looked up him, strands of vivid blue hair sticking to its scales.
“Greetings, Severus,” it said happily. “You said you were going away to wash yourself - well now I am washed too.”
“That’s brilliant,” Severus said, uninterested, looking at his watch, “but can we go soon? I know you feel you have to prove your point to me and all, but time is moving on.”
Muninn nodded and rose up out of the water. Curling in on itself in mid-air, hovering over the water, it started to shake itself dry like a dog from head to tail, thoroughly drenching the young wizard in the process. When it was finished, it landed beside Severus, who looked as though he had just been caught in a downpour. His expression was similarly stormy. Balefully, he looked up at the amphiptere and shook his head.
“You are an idiot,” he said.
“Am I?” Muninn replied casually. “I am not the one who will be unable to breathe while up in the air.”
“I’ve got that covered,” Severus said, pulling out his wand from his thick, black jacket. “There’s a special charm that you can use to help you breathe underwater. It should work just as well for high up in the air.”
He pointed his wand at his face and attempted the Bubble-Head charm. It was quite complicated, and it didn’t work the first couple of times he tried it. But on the third attempt, he felt something clinging to his nose and mouth. He walked over to the river and looked at his reflection. There was a shimmering, opaque bubble stretching over his mouth and nose. The charm may not have worked properly, but at least he wouldn’t look like an absolute prat and it seemed to have the same effect as the full, bubble works.
“Done,” he said, his voice strangely muffled, turning round to Muninn and pointing at his face. “But what am I going to do about my trunk? How did you get it down here?”
“I used the ether to drag it behind me,” Muninn replied. “But I can carry it in my mouth.”
Severus’ eyebrows shot up. “Excuse me, but did you see what you did to that note my dad left me? It was full of holes and covered in drool. I don’t want you doing that to my trunk.”
Muninn sighed. “I assure you that there will not be a scratch on it.”
“Do you promise?”
“I promise,” it said. “Now please - get on.”
Severus stared at the dragon blankly. “Get on? How? Where can I sit? You have far too much hair.”
“Sit just in front of my wing joints and make sure you are holding on tightly.”
Tentatively, for he was now starting to feel a bit nervous, he climbed up onto the dragon’s back and tucked his legs behind the wing joints. He grabbed two fistfuls of Muninn’s hair and clung onto it very, very tightly. Gently, Muninn picked up his trunk in its mouth.
“Are you ready?” it said.
Severus fell silent for a moment. He wasn’t sure.
“W-what if I fall off?” he asked.
“Then I shall catch you,” Muninn replied simply. “Do you still wish to proceed?”
“I don’t recall ever having ‘wished’ to do this in the first place, but it’s too late now, isn’t it?” he retorted, with a little more vigour.
“Then are you holding on tightly?”
“Lean forward because we are going to climb.”
Severus didn’t quite know what it meant by “climb” but to be safe, he practically pressed himself flat out against Muninn’s serpentine body.
“Are you ready?”
“Just get it over with,” Severus mumbled, screwing his eyes shut.
“As you wish...”
Suddenly, Severus’ stomach lurched as he felt muscles contracting beneath him.
Oh dear god. Please let me live through this...
And then the dragon shot from the earth like a powerful, tightly coiled spring and began its thundering ascent into the air.
Severus knew he was screaming, though he could hear nothing but the roaring of wind rushing past his ears. Branches of trees had briefly whipped at his face, but he had long since left them behind. Below him, individual houses were swallowed up by villages, which were in turn swallowed up by towns, then cities, before a colourful patchwork of hedgerows and yellow, green and brown fields came into view.
All this was lost on Severus, who was more concerned with the rather strange thing that was happening to him. As the dragon climbed (and he now understood the meaning only too clearly: they were flying at almost a ninety-degree angle) to his horror, he and Muninn began to turn into smoke.
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” Severus screamed hoarsely, face down into the dragon’s back and eyes shut, as his hair writhed about his head like Medusa’s.
“We are becoming aeðm so we will not be seen,” Muninn answered, its thoughts calmly and effortlessly entering his mind. “How did you think we amphipteres won our reputation for elusiveness?”
“I REALLY, REALLY DON’T GIVE A TOSS!!” he yelled frantically, beginning to lose control of his grip on sanity as he felt everything suddenly becoming a little too transparent. “I DON’T WANT TO DISAPPEAR!”
“Do not worry, Severus,” it said reassuringly, attempting to bring him to his ease. “Even though you cannot be seen, you are still very much whole and intact. But please hold on,” it added, “we are approaching the lyftedor. When we are above it, I shall make myself whole, that is licham, and you will become so also.
“WHAT? I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU JUST SAID TO ME--” Severus began to rant, before he was cut off abruptly as they hit the lyftedor.
It turned out that the lyftedor meant the thick layer of flocculent clouds nearest the surface of the earth. For a moment, Severus truly panicked as his vision was obscured by dense, chilly vapour. But then, seconds later, they punched through it, and to his relief, he felt everything slow down and come back into focus. More importantly, he felt himself come back into focus - and Muninn, too. He could see its hair again, and underneath, a tantalising glimmer of shimmering-white scales. Muninn had stopped, it seemed, in mid-air, to allow Severus time to compose himself. Tentatively, he opened his eyes. He could see the end of Muninn’s tail swirling around before him. It curled in so closely at one point, that he fancied that, if he wanted to, he could reach out and grab hold of it.
It was then that he summoned the courage sit up and look for the first time. And the sight before him took his breath away.
Stretching out before him - above him, beneath him, all around him - was a palette of infinite colour and indescribable loveliness. When he looked down, the downy stratum of clouds looked like a great fleecy quilt of glittering gold streaked with warm peaches and gentle pinks. Behind him, further away from the light, the colours faded into creamy beige and then soft greens and greys. Above, stars still shone in the firmament: punctuating the deep blue, the faint, scarlet bands of cloud, and blossoming patches of violet with vivid, faceted, shimmers of white light. But the most arresting, the most beautiful object by far, was the gently burning, fiery orb that gave light and life and made possible the creation of all the myriad shades and colours his astonished eyes had taken in. It was utterly dazzling, burning with a sublime and thoughtless fierceness, casting out brilliant rays of smouldering oranges and yellows. Below him, Muninn’s hair, the deep-blue colour of the fading night sky, fluttered in the
breeze. His scales, once like pearls, had now caught the light and shone, opalescent - and Severus’ pallid face, too, was illuminated by that same warm light, glowing with pure and unadulterated astonishment and awe. He had seen the sun rise before, but never like this.
“Do you like it?” he heard Muninn ask quietly, after a while.
He nodded. He couldn’t bring himself to speak.
“It is beautiful,” Muninn said. “And you will never tire of it - even I never tire of it - for no sun rise is ever the same.” A moment’s pause and then, “But we will move on now, so hold onto my mane…”
“Don’t go too fast,” Severus whispered, still gazing, transfixed, at his surroundings.
Muninn smiled and moved off, slowly at first and then gaining speed. Severus leaned forward a little, but not so much as to obscure his vision. As they flew south, Severus realised that Muninn had been right: no sunrise was ever the same, and no one sunrise remained the same - not even for a second. The colours kept changing, morphing, melting imperceptibly into one another like a mandala. It was utterly fascinating and Severus found himself occasionally having to remember that he was god knows how high up in the air, and that he had to hold tight or fall off, burn up in re-entry and become a great, circular, steaming stain on some old grandmother’s back garden. So he was almost disappointed when they began their descent.
Muninn warned him again about going through the thick clouds (or the lyftedor as he now found himself calling it) but it didn’t need to. This time, he saw it coming, and although it was still a little strange (it was colder and wetter, for one thing) he didn’t mind it quite as much and he supposed he’d eventually get used to it. He still wasn’t sure about turning smoky, though. The feeling of dissipating, yet, oddly, remaining whole and intact while not being able to see your hands in front of your face would take a bit more getting used to. It was as bad as Apparating.
The image of Albus Dumbledore rose, unbidden, to the forefront of his mind. He would be seeing him again very soon, and felt rather excited at the prospect of meeting all his teachers for the first time. More importantly, he would find out what house he’d be Sorted into. Not being a pureblood, he knew that Slytherin was out and he was pretty certain that he wasn’t destined for Hufflepuff either. It’d have to be either Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, although he was crossing his fingers for Ravenclaw because his mum’s friend (who she always used to talk about when she took him out shopping with her) had been Sorted there - what was his name, again? - and from what he had heard from her, Ravenclaw sounded as if it would suit him down to the ground.
Speaking of the ground, Severus noted with sudden alarm that they were just about to touch down upon it. In anticipation, he renewed the force of his grip on Muninn’s mane and cringed. It was now apparent that they were directly over London. Their own special bird’s eye view took in the rather overcast and smoggy vista of a great city. The millions were stirring. Buses and taxis scurried along the intricate, intravenous network of roads, transporting the first wave of morning-rush travellers to work - and they were getting closer and closer. They were no longer flying at an angle. Muninn had levelled out his position, now almost parallel to the ground, and appeared to be gliding gently to earth along a rather busy thoroughfare, which Severus recognised with a thrill as Pentonville Road. They were almost there. The Muggles on foot yelled angrily as they felt a great gust of wind forcing them to the pavement and whipping away their umbrellas. Muninn passed particularly closely over a
disgruntled-looking man in a black suit and hat - almost skimming his head - and Severus, in a moment of madness shot out his hand and gleefully snatched the hat from the top of the commuter’s head and flipped it onto his own, grinning from ear to ear. The entrance to Kings Cross station was just ahead - Severus could see it - but it didn’t look like Muninn was going to stop outside.
“What are you doing?” Severus asked, leaning forward and speaking into its ear.
“I am going to take you to your train,” it replied. “Please stay like that, as flat as you can.”
Just as they were about to hit the entrance, Muninn slowed right down and passed through the automatic doors behind another suited man with a briefcase. Sailing through the station, the amphiptere whipped up skirts, spilled coffees and sent newspapers flying.
“It’s platform nine and three-quarters,” Severus informed Muninn in hushed tones. “Between nine and ten.”
He felt Muninn nod and take a sharp left. Moments later, he felt the odd feeling of coming back into focus. Then his feet hit the ground running and he tripped over his trunk, which had fallen to the floor in front of him with a dull thud. Grimacing, rubbing his grazed elbows, he looked round with intent on giving Muninn a mouthful. But the dragon wasn’t there. Bemused, Severus craned his neck and looked behind him. Nothing.
“Munnin?” he called, tentatively. “Muninn?”
Suddenly, he felt a light weight settling upon his right shoulder. A thin, white tail brushed to-and-fro across the small of his back and he looked round to find a pair of brilliant, blue eyes staring back at him playfully. He raised an eyebrow.
“How small can you make yourself?” he asked, with a shade of incredulity.
Muninn flickered its tongue at him by way of response.
“Fine then,” he said, rolling his eyes and picking himself up off the floor, reaching for his trunk. “As long as you don’t look too out of place.”
Severus grabbed the handle of his trunk. “I suppose we’d better get along to nine-and-three-quarters, then,” he said thoughtfully. “And thanks for the lift. You were faster than the train. Not by much, but you were faster.”
As he trudged off to the barrier with Muninn curled around his shoulders, the dragon didn’t say anything, but Severus knew it was feeling smug. He gave it a poke with his finger just to make sure it didn’t get too cocky, and passed through the barrier.
A terrible haiku to mark the end of chapter three:
The chapter is done.
Severus now has Muninn.
Hope you all liked it.
Oh yeah, in case you were wondering, the dragon language - I didn't make it up. I study Old English as part of my course at university, so I decided to make use of it for a change. Basically, I've practised the age-old Old English method of creating compounds - if you need a new word, make one out of two old words - and then adding an inflexional ending where appropriate. It works quite well, I think. Dragons suit Old English. ^_^