The Sugar Quill
Author: Murasaki99 (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Unhappy Horseman of Sleepy Hogwarts  Chapter: Default
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The Unhappy Horseman of Sleepy Hogwarts

The Unhappy Horseman of Sleepy Hogwarts

by Murasaki99

The usual disclaimer: Harry Potter and friends belong to J.K. Rowling. We're just borrowing them for some totally non-profit fun.

"The Basilisk Bile has gone off. We'll have to use a substitute for today's lesson," Snape said in an annoyed tone. The orange color of the vapor rising from the cauldron he'd been using for the Potions demonstration had been a dead giveaway. The whispers and gasps of the students should also have given him a clue as to just how badly the potion had misbehaved, but it wasn't until he turned to admonish them that he finally noticed the extra limbs his body had sprouted. Snape stared down at himself in astonishment. The fumes of the corrupted potion had transfigured him into a centaur. A very nice centaur, but still…! A quick check reassured him that his human half still looked normal, and had not grown pointy ears or the heavier features that characterized the wild centaurs that called the Forbidden Forest home.

The trip to Dumbledore's office was fraught with peril, the moving spiral staircase being just one of many hazardous obstacles for a body grown suddenly unfamiliar. The Headmaster had been good enough not to laugh over his predicament, but his eyes sparkled with humor. Given the dire events of the past, Snape could not honestly begrudge him the amusement, although he did wish he could have discovered some less-drastic way to give the old wizard a chuckle. Unfortunately, Dumbledore did not know of an immediate cure for his condition, and sent him off to Madam Pomfrey. That worthy lady had cast a few diagnostic spells over him and then dismissed him, promising to "look up the condition" and give him any information she could find on a cure. To top it all off, she had ordered him to eat a vegetarian diet as long as he was stuck with a horse's stomach in addition to his own.

That left Snape with time heavy on his hooves. Prowling the halls after classes served to get him somewhat more comfortable with managing a longer frame and four equine legs up and down stairs, but it didn't do much to improve his temper. Among other irritations, he had discovered that it was impossible to move quietly. His horse-hooves raised hollow echoes on the stone floors no matter how carefully he tried to walk.

On the fourth floor, Argus Filch stopped him and spoke in a low, urgent tone. "Be careful, Professor Snape! You're being followed!"

Snape looked behind him. Sure enough, the caretaker was right, somewhere during his perambulations he had acquired a coterie of youngsters. All girls.

"They're just first years, Filch, I seriously doubt if I'm in mortal peril," he snorted. "They've simply never seen a centaur before."

"They're not just first years, Professor," Filch whispered as he watched the giggling pack of girls advance on them. His eyes held alarm for Snape. "They're Pony Clubbers! See? They're carrying currycombs and hoof picks! Run away while you can!"

Snape stared at the children, who were from all the Houses of Hogwarts: Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and his own Slytherin. They looked as if they had been entranced and they were advancing on him with happy smiles.

"Poor fellow; he looks like a New Forest pony that's never been groomed. I'll bet no one has ever picked out his feet."

"A good wash and some liniment will set things right…"

"…needs a good curry, he does!"

"Get back to your Houses right this instant!" Snape growled in his most forbidding tones, stamping a hoof. The spell the girls were under appeared to have affected their hearing, since not a single one obeyed him, or even seemed the least bit intimidated. They grinned at him like miniature copies of Gilderoy Lockhart. Snape felt the small hairs rise along his equine spine.

"I'm taking my C-Levels next month, I can use the practice…"

"A good bran mash…"

"…Needs a body clip, too."

"The C-Level book says: be sure to wash the udder or clean the sheath…"

Snape wasn't sure he knew exactly what that sort of personal care entailed, but he had a nasty hunch. He shivered in horror and backed up a pace. The girls advanced a pace. He backed and they advanced. Deciding discretion was the better part of valor; he curled his long, tangled tail over his back, turned neatly on his hocks, and fled at a gallop, leaping down the stairs at a reckless pace.

The portrait of a nobleman and his foxhunter on the second landing cheered him on with a hearty, "Tally ho, Old Man!" and blew his bugle.

Snape gained the main level, charged into the Great Hall, and skidded to a stop in dismay. It was too early for supper, but the Hall was full of students eating snacks and studying. Many heads turned at the thunder of his hooves on the flagstones. Snape scowled and slowed his gait, tail switching like an irritated cat's.

His crowd of admirers had been left temporarily behind, so Snape managed to keep himself to a dignified trot as he navigated the large room. The place had been decorated for the evening's Halloween Feast. Jack o'lanterns floated above, charmed bats flitting between them. Large sugar skulls formed the centerpieces of the candy-filled decorations on every table.

Sugar. Both of his stomachs rumbled. Snape slowed to a walk, then stopped, eyeing the candy. Surely, just a little wouldn't hurt? he decided. Snape selected a toffee, popped it into his mouth and munched. Ahh, sugar. His eyes glazed over and thoughts of fleeing to the safety of his dungeon evaporated in a happy carbohydrate haze. He picked up another toffee.


Dumbledore entered the Great Hall just in time to see Snape, bound and hobbled with lead ropes, being dragged away by a horde of happy girls brandishing curry combs, sponges, and scissors. He blinked through his spectacles and deliberately turned his attention to the vaulted ceiling.

"Hmm, we could use a few more jack o'lanterns, I do believe. Perhaps a few will o'the wisps, too." He busied himself with adding artistic touches to the Halloween décor, while Snape's howls of protest faded away.

The Potions Master finally reappeared at suppertime, clomping grimly to his place at the professor's high table with a thunderous look. He had obviously been bathed and brushed. His hooves had been trimmed, filed, and polished. His black hide fairly gleamed. Each leg was neatly wrapped from knee to fetlock in white stable bandages and his tail had been pulled, combed, and braided. Snape sat himself down dog-fashion at his place, his face set with an expression that plainly said, "ask me and die."

"All put to rights, Severus?" queried Dumbledore, clearly not worried over his personal safety.

"Albus, I have just been through a terrible ordeal. I would not consider myself 'put to rights' by any means!" Snape chewed his vegetarian meal savagely, taking his ire out on the steamed carrots.

"But, you look just lovely!" Minerva MacGonagall said with a smile.

"Lovely?!" Snape stamped a foreleg under the table. "It was not lovely! It was demeaning and dreadful."

"But you look splendid, Severus. Surely what the children did wasn't all bad?" She eyed his tidy coat and tail with approval.

"Some things are too frightening to discuss, even for Halloween," Snape muttered, his pale cheeks blushing.

"Don't worry, Severus, Madam Pomfrey informs me that the shape change is only temporary and will eventually wear off." Dumbledore said soothingly.

"How soon?" Snape looked at the Headmaster hopefully.

"Well, she did say it depended upon the level of exposure, and you were right up in front of the cauldron…"

"Don't tell me…"

Dumbledore smiled benignly. "By next All Hallows Eve at the latest you should be back on two legs again."

Snape opened his mouth to scream and Dumbledore quickly popped in a sugar lump. Snape's face suddenly relaxed into vacant bliss.

"Thank goodness he has a horse's reactions to food." Professor MacGonagall shook her head. "I hope you have a large supply of sugar, Albus," she said warningly. "Hildy intends to take her B-Level ratings next year."

"Now that is quite scary to contemplate. We really should have Severus back to normal before he has to learn dressage or stadium jumping." Dumbledore fed Snape another bit of sugar and patted the glistening black hide of the temporary centaur. He thought a few moments, and then added, "I'll order more lump sugar just to be sure."

Owari

Hoofnotes: I knew the silly cartoon I'd drawn would prompt a story sooner or later. So it was sooner. You don't think Pony Clubbers could manage Professor Snape? Heh-heh-heh.

 

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