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Chapter 2 : Chapter Two - Brawling with Beasts
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Brawling with Beasts
As they approached the edge of the forest, Professor Flitwick managed to catch up with his colleague. The trees had a foreboding presence and he knew more than well enough that the mass of foliage and branches before them masked a broad spectrum of dangerous and mysterious beasts. As they entered the trees they were enveloped by darkness. The dense canopy of leaves overhead hindered the moonlight, preventing it from penetrating to the forest floor below.
"Lumos," whispered Flitwick, not wanting to break the fragile hush that had settled within the forest during the hours of darkness. A warm glow emanated from the end of his wand, illuminating the dirt path that cut through the trees ahead of them. Another beam of light appeared as Lockhart, who was now positioned just behind Flitwick's right shoulder, followed suit.
The other professor was perhaps a wee bit too close for comfort. There was an unnervingly high level of tension radiating from his companion's posture. His close proximity combined with his crouching form certainly conflicted with his usual confident stance. "Perhaps, it would have been better if I had asked Hagrid to come to collect the fairies as he usually does," he mused. Flitwick brushed this thought off with a sigh; it was too late now.
The path became rather overgrown as they moved deeper into the forest. Few individuals had reason to travel this far into this section of the forest. The centaurs, although a dominant force within the area, tended to reside in the more westerly regions. Hagrid, in his role as the school's Gamekeeper, was always keen to enlighten his fellow staff members about the various activities and habits of the creatures with which he interacted. "Funny fellow, Hagrid..." Flitwick thought to himself, "... such an affinity for magical creatures, but alas, rather ineffective when choosing names... Fluffy! Who in their right mind calls a large, vicious, three-headed dog Fluffy?..." Flitwick brushed an obstructing branch aside as he continued his musings. The supple branch twanged back into position.
"Eeeeek!" came a gasping screech.
Flitwick turned on his heel. There sprawling on the muddy floor of the forest was Lockhart, his shimmering mauve muffler and cloak in disarray. The young professor was rolling from side to side, clutching at his midsection and looking distinctly distressed.
"Oh! My dear fellow, whatever is the matter?" asked Flitwick.
At this, Lockhart pulled himself to his feet. "Nothing, it's n-nothing. Just, rather a surprise I am afraid," he gasped in an attempt to cover his wounded pride. "A momentary lapse in concentration, my dear chap. Although it might be prudent if you were to take a little more care when manoeuvring the foliage."
Flitwick noticed that the branch he had just pushed past was now faintly bobbing as it jutted out across the path. As realisation dawned, he offered his most sincere apologies to his now somewhat dishevelled-looking colleague. Lockhart's previously pristine cloak had been soiled with grime and dirt. He made a futile attempt to brush the mud from his clothing; there was a distinctly disdainful glint in his eyes.
As Professor Flitwick reached out his hand to help Lockhart up from the ground, a sudden and haunting cry rang out through the trees. The mournful sound sent a shudder along Flitwick's spine, almost as if it were a deathly omen. Caution was always advisable when you were out in the Dark Forest, especially at night time. Putting his concerns aside, Flitwick made moves to help his fallen colleague.
"I am sorry, my dear chap," Flitwick implored. "Are you alright? Let me help you with your cloak; a quick cleansing charm and I am sure it will be as good as new!"
"N- no!" he stammered in response. "I wouldn't presume to impose. Besides, the fabric is most delicate - use the wrong spell and it could be ruined."
The charms professor looked sceptically at his former student. As an expert in the discipline, Flitwick was certainly bemused by Lockhart's attitude.
"If only I had my book of household charms with me! I would be able to tell you the precise spell for the cleaning of refined fabric such as this. Unfortunately, the shock has caused a momentary loss in my memory so it shall have to wait," explained Lockhart, as he swept a rogue lock of hair back into place.
"As long as you are sure..." queried Flitwick, pondering the cloak in question.
"Perhaps there is more to it than meets the eye," he thought quietly to himself. "It certainly looks expensive enough to have had some sort of protective or shielding spell incorporated into its creation." The more he thought about it, the more it became obvious that there was something special about the cloak. It clashed horribly with the yellow robes that Lockhart had on underneath. For a man who was usually such an impeccable dresser, this choice seemed to be quite an oversight. Lockhart did, however, maintain a rather striking presence despite the ambiguous colour combination. "In fact," Flitwick confessed to himself. "The man did appear rather dashing!"
Flitwick couldn't discern the presence of any obvious charms or enchantments on the garment. It clearly wasn't an invisibility cloak, and he couldn't find an indication of any other form of disillusionment charm incorporated into it. Likewise, protection seemed rather unlikely, especially considering the vicious tree branch attack that his colleague had just suffered. "Then again," thought Flitwick, "the flecks of mud do make him look rather rugged ..."
As they trudged steadily deeper into the forest, the rain began to pitter-patter through the leaves. "We must be getting closer to the fairy colony," thought Flitwick. Fairies are vain creatures and rather prone to arguments. However, even their relatively weak magic did, when affected by emotion, have a propensity to cause localised fluctuations in the weather. This primarily meant that where one found fairies there was a greater chance of rain. Flitwick remembered reading a particularly interesting journal article in Magizoology Monthly that discussed the influence of a fairy colony upon an area in Mid-Wales. Apparently muggle scientists thought that the area was subject to a 'micro-climate' that caused higher rainfall levels. In truth, it was the influence of having such a large number of the argumentative little creatures in close proximity that caused the climatic variation.
Swiftly, Flitwick twirled his wand and cast a quick Impervius charm overhead to prevent the rain from soaking them. At that time of night, the cold winter air had a distinctly frosty edge to it. Lockhart pulled his slightly soiled, mauve cloak tighter to his body; this made the fabric shimmer quite delightfully in the wand light.
"I do hope that this little trip of ours doesn't take too long," stated Lockhart. "I was planning on popping down to the Hog's Head later on this evening."
"It shouldn't take too long," replied Flitwick. "There should be plenty of time for a Butterbeer or two."
"Marvellous, just marvellous," grinned Lockhart. "I will have you know that there is a pretty, young barmaid who has recently taken up employment there. I daresay she will succumb to my charms. Well, I ask ... who wouldn't?"
Flitwick grimaced at the man's arrogance. However, he noted that Lockhart's grin was rather striking. "No wonder he wins all those smile awards from Witch Weekly Magazine," he absently thought.
There was a break in the trees up ahead, which allowed a shaft of moonlight to permeate the darkness. The two professors continued along the path towards the moonlit glade. As they entered the clearing, they immediately saw at its centre a circle of red and white spotted toadstools. The fairy-ring clearly indicated that they had thankfully made it to the site of the fairy colony. The rain diminished, leaving a fine mist that swirled and settled around the vegetation.
The two professors circled the edge of the clearing, staying close to the trees so not to startle the fairies. As they walked, a strange rustling noise emanated from the leaves overhead as if something was following them. Flitwick could feel the tension stretch across his shoulders as he tightened his grip on his wand. The forest was filled with unseen dangers, and although he had never had any problems when previously collecting fairies, he knew that vigilance was definitely advisable. Flitwick motioned for Lockhart to stay still; placing a finger to his lips, he indicated the need for both caution and quiet. Lockhart was looking decidedly nervous, his ears twitching at every sound.
The rustling suddenly stopped. A perceivable sigh of relief came from Lockhart and his whole body seemed to relax. Flitwick surveyed the trees suspiciously; the wand light created eerie shadows amongst the branches, but nothing was obviously there. The humid air made everything damp to the touch. As the air condensed on the cold metal of the silver cage, Flitwick was forced to relinquish his faltering grasp on the handle so that he could wipe his hand on his cloak. There was a squelchy noise as the base of the cage touched the muddy floor of the clearing.
Suddenly, at least four dark shapes launched out of the trees and landed on Lockhart, clawing at his mauve cloak in a frenetic assault. In the dim light, it looked like parts of the trees themselves were attacking the professor. Flitwick jumped out of the way as Lockhart lurched forward in a frantic attempt to rid himself of his assailants. One of the creatures climbed its way up past Lockhart's chest, reaching its long, sharp, stick-like fingers towards his face. It was about eight inches tall and looked like it was made of bark and twigs.
"Ouch! Arrrgh! Eeeeek! Ooooph! HELP!" shrieked the besieged professor as the assault continued.
One of the creatures was attempting to poke Lockhart in the eye with its long, sharp fingers. The other twig-like beasts were clawing manically at the flailing man. Flitwick was momentarily stunned by the sudden commotion. "What is going on?!" he thought. He suddenly recognised the flat faces of the stickman-like creatures. "Bowtruckles! They're bowtruckles ... what on earth are they doing?" Flitwick had never heard of them randomly attacking anyone.
Lockhart continued to howl as one of the bowtruckles' sharp fingers clawed along his face. "If only I had some doxy eggs!" deliberated Flitwick. Thinking quickly, Flitwick spotted a rotten log. He pulled it up, grabbed a handful of scurrying woodlice, and began pelting his thrashing colleague with the insects. Abruptly, the bowtruckles' attention snapped towards Flitwick; he kept hurling the woodlice towards them. Gradually, they relinquished their grasp on Lockhart and proceeded to scurry around the ground, grabbing at the woodlice.
Flitwick steadily used the wood lice to lure the bowtruckles away from Lockhart. He threw a few large handfuls of the small creatures back into the trees. The bowtruckles readily ran back beyond the tree line. Thankfully, the woodlice had proven to be an adequate distraction. Flitwick was rather relieved that he had managed to find some woodlice. The fairies would have been really angry if he had been forced to use fairy eggs to distract the bowtruckles. Furious fairies make really horrible decorations and he was sure that a rainstorm in the main hall would not be appreciated by the castle's inhabitants.
The normally immaculate professor was now looking rather worse for wear and breathing rather heavily. His hair was in disarray, his cloak was torn in a couple of places and there were a number of long scratches stretching across Lockhart's face. A few beads of sweat trickled down his forehead; the scratches could easily be healed, but even a Mediwitch as skilled as Madam Pomfrey would be unable to heal the man's wounded pride. Now that the panic was over, Lockhart used the edge of his shimmering muffler to wipe the sweat from his brow.
"Goodness me! Are you okay, Lockhart?" asked Flitwick. "Perhaps you ought to sit down for a little while... now that all the excitement is over."
"Why yes ... yes, I think I shall," replied a slightly dazed Lockhart. "Vicious things, bowtruckles. I'm sure you were glad that I was here to fight the nasty creatures off!"
"Yes, I am sure ... your presence was most ... beneficial," said a bemused Flitwick. "Since when have Bowtruckles been dangerous?" he thought to himself. "They only attack when threatened and are generally considered to be a rather peaceful creature that feed on a diet of insect and fairy eggs." What he couldn't work out was why they would engage in such a sudden and unprovoked strike.
Lockhart gracelessly plonked himself down on a tree stump at the edge of the clearing. He put his head in his hands as he tried to catch his breath. Flitwick decided to give his colleague a moment to compose himself. He wiped his sullied hands on a large white handkerchief and resolved to turn back to the task at hand: collecting fairies! He did, however, find himself unwittingly conscious that of the fact that the exertion had made Lockhart look alluringly rugged.
Flitwick reached into his cloak and produced a small flute carved from rowan wood, the fairies' sacred tree. He turned towards the sliver cage that, due to all the excitement with the bowtruckles, had been left undisturbed on the muddy ground. He propped the cage up on a conveniently positioned rock next to the ring of toadstools and carefully opened the delicate silver door. Flitwick placed himself at the centre of the fairy-ring and, placing the flute to his lips, began to play. The tune was a simple one. However, melodic accuracy was required in order to enchant and charm the little creatures.
Little flecks of light began to appear throughout the clearing. The peppering of little lights in the darkness created the impression that the heavens had suddenly been mapped onto the clearing's floor. As the fairies moved and shifted in time with the music, they formed swirling patterns of light like contorting galaxies and interweaving constellations. The delicate and graceful movements of the dainty little lights as they rotated around Flitwick were exceptionally beautiful. Flitwick did his best to concentrate and he calmly continued playing the hypnotic tune.
The fairies gradually danced their way into the centre of the toadstools. The creatures circled and spun, turned and twisted as they skipped and pranced to Flitwick's melody. When the fairy-ring was full to bursting, Flitwick's playing transformed, shifting to a minor key as he stepped carefully towards the silver cage. He positioned himself directly behind it; drawing the fairies towards the cage's opening.
One by one the fairies danced their way into the cage. When it was full, Flitwick concluded his tune, holding the last note as he closed the cage door with care. The fairies grinned sleepily from between the bars, obviously having taken great enjoyment from their dance. While the rest of the fairies receded back into the darkness, the ones that had been caught curled up next to one another and fell into a deep slumber. Flitwick gazed affectionately at the exhausted little creatures. "Such a beautiful display," he thought. "No wonder they are tired!" The fairies never needed a reason to celebrate, they were simply happy to play, dance and sparkle. It was their happiness, as well as their ability to twinkle, that made them such fantastic additions to the castle decorations.
Turning to face his colleague, he noticed the preoccupied expression on Lockhart's face. He was still sitting on the tree stump, clearly impressed by what he had just experienced.
"Beautiful, just beautiful!" Lockhart quietly exclaimed to himself.
"Yes, indeed it was," said Flitwick, drawing Lockhart's attention. "Although I am sure that you have seen it all before ... Is the dance of the Bulgarian fairies similar?"
"Bulgarian?" questioned Lockhart. He looked momentarily confused. "Oh, yes!" he exclaimed as a thought struck him, "Yes! It is rather similar, if I do say so ... although there was a greater number ... so it was on a rather grander scale... of course."
"I am sure," replied Flitwick, a slight hint of sarcasm encroaching into his tone.
Fliwick suddenly noticed something move on Lockhart's leg, just below the knee. "Lockhart, there is something on your leg," he warned.
Lockhart directed the beam of light from his wand downward, only to see two large, fat, slimy flobberworms crawling up his leg. He shrieked! The shrill sound echoed, cutting through the quiet of the clearing. Some of the fairies shifted slightly in their sleep in response to the noise, but were largely unaffected. Lockhart, on the other hand, launched himself up to his feet, flicking his leg up and down to rid himself of the slimy creatures.
"This really isn't his night!" thought Flitwick. To his surprise, he also found himself thinking that the exertion had given the man's eyes a pleasant twinkle.
In this chapter I have chosen to use a number of references and influences as a way to develop the plot:
In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream the characters of Oberon and Titania are powerful fairies and their arguments affect the weather. Titania describes what happens to the weather and nature when they argue in Act 2, Scene 1.
Bowtruckle – creature described in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Listed as not being very dangerous.
Traditional tales about fairies often state that it is easier to meet fairies at night.
Charm Flute - Some fairy lore is contradictory, in some tales rowan trees are considered to be sacred to the fairies, and in other tales are protection against fairy magic. I liked this contradiction, which is why I chose rowan wood to be the material from which Flitwick's charm flute is made.
**A huge 'thank you' to Academica at hpff for being such a wonderful beta for this story!**
Please review and let me know what you think!
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