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Feathered Flesh

By Richard Kirk

Fantasy / Romance

Feathered Flesh

‘Class dismissed,’ said Snape lazily, waving the assembled students away with an impassive gesture.  The Gryffindors and Slytherins that made up Snape’s Friday afternoon double Potions lesson packed away their books and quills and began filing out of the dungeon classroom.  A general murmur of conversation rippled through the small pockets of students as they made their way back to their respective common rooms.  The general topic amongst most of these groups was how out of character Professor Snape seemed to be acting.  He had not spent the lesson sweeping dramatically in between the many cauldrons, looking for any excuse to dole out some punishment; he had not even bothered to pick on Neville Longbottom or Harry Potter, as was his wont.  This was extremely bizarre behaviour for Snape, and many found it creepily unnerving.  Numerous theories were flying about as to why the reviled Potions Master and head of Slytherin House was not living up to his fearsome reputation, but none of them came anywhere near the truth.  The fact of the matter was that his mind was elsewhere, and no matter how hard he tried he could not seem to keep his thoughts away from that one particular place, the only place where he felt alive, felt energised.

As soon as the dungeon was empty of students, Snape packed away the ingredients he had been using to show the class how to make hair grow on any surface, and locked them all up in his private store.  After the unauthorised removal of some items from this store, Snape had started taking the precaution of using Anti Theft charms to ensure it never happened again.  Once he was satisfied that no one could get into the store without him knowing about it, he collected his books and left the dungeon, closing the door securely behind him.

He strode through the various corridors of Hogwarts; paying little or no attention to anyone he passed, and he walked with such speed that he nearly ran into several students when he rounded a corner.  He continued on his way, walking purposefully through corridor after corridor until he finally arrived at his chambers.  As a knee jerk reaction, he looked about to make sure no one was watching him, and then he slipped inside, closing and locking the door behind him.

Once inside his chambers, he set his books down on a table and walked directly over to the set of shelves that lined one of the walls.  He took down one of the many jars that filled these shelves and unscrewed the lid.  From within the jar he removed a single black feather, replaced the lid and put the jar back on the shelf.  Cradling the feather in his hands, he walked over to the window and opened it as far as it would go.  A cool, refreshing breeze blew in form the grounds and ruffled the sleek feather, causing Snape to smooth it down with his long, thin fingers.  He placed the tip of the feather on the windowsill and with his free hand removed his wand from somewhere within his midnight black robes.  He pointed the wand at the feather and uttered a spell that rooted it to the spot.

Immovacus,’ he said, taking his hand away from the feather and leaving it to stand freely.  The breeze still ruffled the feather, but it did not move from its place on the windowsill.  Putting his wand back inside his robes, he went back to the shelves and busied himself sorting jars and vials, keeping his mind occupied while he waited.  He tidied up, dusted surfaces and did many other pointless little jobs while the clock ticked agonisingly away in the corner.  He knew she would be here soon, but the waiting always killed him, every single time.

Over the tree line of the Forbidden Forest a dark spot appeared on the horizon and began to grow bigger.  There was nothing extraordinary about this; owls were constantly flying to and from Hogwarts, delivering mail to the students and faculty, but this was not an owl, it was a crow.  The dark bird flew across the grounds and circled Hogwarts castle a couple of times before coming to rest on a windowsill, Snape’s windowsill.  It cawed impatiently as it ruffled its wings and looked suspiciously at the feather standing upright on the windowsill.  Snape had successfully managed to busy himself so much with menial tasks that he had not noticed the large bird land at his window, but as soon as he heard that familiar caw he stopped what he was doing and turned to face her.  A smile spread across his sallow face as soon as he laid eyes on her; not the cold, mirthless smile that he reserved for students, but a genuine, warm smile.  He walked over to the window and extended his arm, onto which the crow gratefully perched.  She ruffled her feathers again while Snape closed the window and walked back towards the shelves.  He set her down on the back of a chair and briefly turned his attention to the numerous containers lining the shelves.  He quickly found the vial he was looking for and set it on a table, before rummaging through a drawer and retrieving a small glass pipette.  He removed the stopper from the vial and dipped the end of the pipette into the liquid, drawing out a suitably sized measure.  Taking care not to spill any, he took the pipette over to the crow and looked at her expectantly.  She obediently opened her beak and allowed him to drip the Polyjuice Potion down her throat.

The Moment of Change always fascinated Snape; no matter how many times he saw it he was always left awestruck.  For the first second or two nothing happened, but then the crow let out a throaty caw and it began.  She hopped down from the back of the chair onto the floor and was suddenly shrouded in a ghostly, translucent aura.  Her skeletal structure began to change; muscle and sinew shifted, and feathers retreated into pale, smooth skin.  Her wings extended, elongating, as the tips of feathers became fingers and her once thin, yellow legs strengthened and grew in size.  Her beak receded, dividing into nose and mouth, and her eyes separated and turned a shade of blue.  While most feathers disappeared into soft, pink skin, some were transformed into vibrant, purple tinged blonde hair that fell about her cheeks and neck.  Almost as soon as it had started it was done, she was here.

Snape smiled appraisingly at the womanly figure standing naked and vulnerable in front of him.  She would be modest and shy, if she knew what those things were, but instead she simply stood there, returning his gaze with her bright blue eyes.  Snape quickly tidied away the Polyjuice Potion and pipette, and then lead her by the hand towards his large four-poster bed.  His mind had been elsewhere, it had been on this moment, it had encompassed his every waking hour, and now that it was here he wanted time to freeze, to never move from this night.  He pulled a cord and allowed the curtains of his four-poster bed to fall into place, concealing them both from the world.  Her memory was not perfect, and when she changed back she would only remember indistinct feelings and vague recollections.  However, for now all she knew was him, for now she was ‘Crow.

- May 2003

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