Chapter 10: The Arkan Sonney
Charms excited and stimulated Taylor's attention the following Tuesday morning. Professor Filius Flitwick taught the students how to hold their wands in different positions and enunciate spells correctly. His part-goblin squatness did not diminish his clever ability. The go-getter in Taylor's soul thrived on the minor accomplishments she made throughout the day. When Taylor perfected Lumos before lunch, she celebrated with two pumpkin pasties and a teal macaroon.
The History of Magic, however, was more arid than the Atacama Desert. Professor Cuthbert Binns, a ghost with a droning, reedy voice, lulled his students into a state of lethargy. Taylor gave up trying to follow the lesson. She promised herself that she would read A History of Magic from cover to cover before the week was over. Rip van Wrinkle wouldn't stand a chance in this class. Every so often, she would awaken from her daydream to copy down a name or date.
The papers Professor Binns read from were covered in a thick layer of dust. "In the fourteenth century, the economic bubble ruptured. This following the Soap Blizzard of 1378…" His words trailed off.
"I wish I had some of that Wide-Eye Potion right about now." Taylor jumped at the voice. The copper haired Slytherin from her Potions class pulled out the empty seat next to her.
She shook her head sarcastically. "How can you be tired? The Soap Winter of 1738 is absolutely thrilling."
"The Soap Blizzard of 1378, you mean?" Taylor dismissed her mistake with a wave of a hand.
The boy looked up at Professor Binns, who did not notice the conversation. After a brief moment of silence between them, he spoke up again.
"I actually wanted to ask a favor." She waited for his request. "It seems that I have fallen victim to the most unfortunate act of theft. My potions textbook was knicked right out of my bag yesterday. Seeing as I will need a class copy, I ordered another. Flourish and Botts responded to my request with a backorder. So, a replacement will not arrive until next Monday." The boy judged her expression before finally asking, "May I share your text on Wednesday and Friday during class?" Taylor eyed him for treachery but found none.
"Sure. I'll make my copy doesn't get stolen." He did not laugh.
The boy folded his hands on the desk, clearly disconcerted at having asked a stranger for a personal favor. "My name is Fionn Wilkes by the way. Not that you asked." His voice had an aggressive edge to it, and his stoney eyes resonated with temper.
"I figured you'd get to the introductions eventually, Fionn." She held out her hand and introduced herself. He stared at it.
"I don't shake hands." Taylor pulled her hand back to her side of the table. Fionn pulled out his notebook. They sat in silence for the rest of the period.
On the training grounds, Taylor chose to stand by Lily. Her first week at Hogwarts was nearly over. The only exception was Flying. A variety of broomsticks laid sprawled out upon the grass. Following Mr. Ollivander's process, Taylor picked the only broom she had a connection with: The Tinderblast. Lily, less picky about her flying device, chose the next available Nimbus 1000. In a scene of utmost hilarity, James and Sirius tried to educate Peter and Remus on the basics of flying. Taylor's brother was severely uncomfortable about the prospect of being suspended in midair, while Peter tried to feign previous flying experience.
"Trust me, Remus." James patted his friend's back. "It's simple. You're going to be addicted after today."
Sirius agreed. "Just grip the neck tightly, and don't fall off."
"Good afternoon students! Line up, please. Nice and orderly. Thank you." A woman with light gray hair and golden eyes approached the field. In her arms, she carried a small wooden box, which she placed at her feet. She waited for stragglers to fit neatly in the line, and then introduced herself. "Welcome to your first flying lesson. I am Madam Hooch, and I will be your flight instructor for the rest of the year." In a militaristic way, she listed the basic guidelines and rules for the training field. After a brief digression about the sport of Quidditch and Swivenhodge, the professor ordered everyone to advance to the left side of their broomstick.
Taylor began to feel a pang of doubt in her abdomen. This has the potential for ending very painfully. With magic, you'd think wizards would upgrade their transportation from a broom to an enchanted automobile.
"Stick your right hand over your instrument, and say up." Madam Hooch commanded. In unison, the group shouted "Up!" Taylor's broomstick shot into her hand. She wrapped her fingers around the pine handle with a grin on her face. Now this is really awesome.
Sirius and James, natural born fliers, also grasped their brooms with skill. Lily and Peter, however, had to yell twice before the stick complied; and Remus's broom feared his hand, equally as much as he feared flying. Taylor peered down the line inquiringly and noticed Fionn holding his broom at arm's length, waiting for the next instruction.
"Now that you have your brooms, mount it. Grip onto it tightly, or you will slide off." James whispered a dirty joke to Sirius, who burst at the seams. Madam Hooch paused to stare at the two Gryffindors. "Something you'd care to share, Mr. Potter?"
"No, Madam Hooch. Sirius and I are dreadfully sorry for the interruption. Please continue."
The instructor's eyes narrowed slightly, but she carried on the lesson. "I will blow my whistle. When I do this, I want each of you to kick off of the ground. As if you were on a trampoline. Hover slightly, lean forward, and then land back with your feet on the ground." The whistle blew.
Great force sent Taylor hovering into the air. Nearly everyone successfully levitated and returned to the ground, even Remus. Impressed by the skillful set of students, Madam Hooch led the class through steering exercises, speeding applications, and spin prevention. The comfort level rose, and so too did the professor's final first class task.
Madam Hooch picked up the small crate and looked at the students. "The best way to get better at something is to practice."
"I would have never guessed." Sirius mumbled, indifferent to her newest challenge. The other students, however, watched her apprehensively. Taylor leaned onto her broomstick.
"Now that we know how to balance, steer, and hover, we are going to try trailing. By trailing, I mean following a fast moving object." James rubbed his hands together excitedly, and Sirius perked up. "Inside this box, I have a creature known as an Arkan Sonney. The first person to capture it will get ten house points. We will not dismiss until it is back in the crate." The class stood back as she opened the carrier. A small hedgehog with long white hairs waddled out. Thin translucent wings fluttered on its back like a dragonfly in the warm summer. It snorted daintily, but squealed at the sight of congregated students. It jumped toward the sky. Madam Hooch blew her whistle.
"Here piggy, piggy!" Sirius called, hopping on his broom. With nimble speed he jumped off the ground and gave chase. James provided his broom with a sprinting start, and was soon at Sirius's heels. The Arkan Sonney's eyes were bright red and frantic at the wizards' pursuit. While Lily helped Remus get situated on his Oakshaft 79, Taylor took to the air. Flying felt like second nature almost. Wind rushing through her hair made her heartbeat faster.
One by one, the Gryffindors and Slytherins steadily pushed off from the earth in pursuit. Most glided through the air, unable to spur their brooms to a high speed. In many instances, the rodent hog traveled off the grounds over the Forbidden Forest, but that did not stop the boys. The creature zipped through the air as a flash of lightening, followed by the roaring thunder of Sirius and James. Without warning, the Arkan Sonney ducked under the Gryffindors and straight toward Taylor. She reached out; grazing its soft fur, the beast narrowly evaded Taylor's grasp. Despite the miss, she was determined to catch the animal and trailed it attentively.
James appeared next to Taylor, and attempted to sideswipe her out of the air. Holding on tightly, she spiraled like a corkscrew. "Gotta do better than that!" He called behind him. Taylor regained her direction fast enough to race up next to James. His heckling did not distract her focus. If I can just get a bit closer, I can ambush it from above. Sirius pulled up to her other side, but yelped when Fionn sped underneath him.
The Sonney wailed, as James reached out for the pig. The already tiny animal became smaller and accelerated toward the clouds. Taylor pulled up reaching for the frightened Sonney, but Sirius intentionally collided with her. At the sudden jolt, she was knocked off her broom. She flailed trying to grab her broomstick, but like the evasive Sonney it sputtered just out of reach. Her stomach was in her mouth. There was only enough time to fear impact. All of the bones in her body would break as she hit every tree limb.
In a fleeting motion, Fionn whipped around and dived for Taylor. Just before she hit the trees, he grabbed her wrist. Pulling her up on the broom, he proceeded after the Sonney. Heart pounding through her ribcage, Taylor looked back at him.
He ignored her gratitude. "We might not be able to catch up, but I'll be damned if Potter or Black catch that pig."
The Arkan Sonney wailed as Lily Evans caught up and shepherded it back near the school. Surrounded by enthusiastic students, the creature darted toward Fionn and Taylor. Anticipating its next movement, Fionn pulled up just enough for Taylor to grip hold of the Sonney's bottom paw. She tugged the animal down and hugged it against her chest. Only the size of a house cat, but the animal fought like a tiger. Thrashing wildly, it bucked the two Slytherins until Fionn was able to land on the training field. Madam Hooch blew her whistle and opened the wooden crate. Without stern objection, the Sonney burst from Taylor's chokehold and skittered into the crate with a grunt. Lily Evans was the first Gryffindor to land back on the field, followed by a sour James and Sirius. Having witnessed her friend's descent from afar, she looked Taylor over briefly before turning her rage on Sirius.
"Excellent maneuvering on the Cleansweep, Mr. Wilkes! I haven't seen proficiency like that since the Great War." Fionn smiled smugly under the instructor's compliment. "Catching your classmate and handling a heavy broom—Excellent! I am very impressed. And you dually managed, with stark determination, to catch the Sonney. In that case, ten points for each of you." Taylor felt relieved and wanted to thank Fionn again, but did not. Instead, she turned her attention to the little white hedgehog hairs clinging to her uniform.