Monday, 17 January 2011

Under the Pale Moonlight

Elsa's submission to a Harry Potter short story competition.

The story is based on Hedwig, Harry Potter's faithful snowy owl.
The character was chosen by the competition organizer, and the writer has to come up with a short story line based on that character.

All rights reserved by JK Rowling.

Under the Pale Moonlight

He was the start of her life.

She was just a small fluffy bundle of feathers when she met him: a small Tawny Owl by the name of Griffin. She always recalled him clearly in her mind as a confident, if slightly arrogant owl. He moved around their barn stealthily and always grabbed the juiciest bite from the others when he could. If he ever got caught for it, he’d just look up at the elders with his dark eyes and ruffle his brown wings streaked with gray. He’d always be forgiven.

Hedwig hated the attention he got. She was an obedient, proper Snowy Owl, uninterested in bullying the others who nested in the same barn. She obeyed every rule she was given, especially one that she learned from a superstitious Little Owl who nested alone in the corner of the barn.

Always stay away from a Tawny Owl. They’re always bad luck.

That’s what she did. Whenever Griffin came close to try and interact with her, she’d blink her large amber eyes, flutter her snowy white wings, and hop away. No amount of him pestering her would make her become his friend. She was adamant that they would remain nothing more than acquaintances.

It all changed when she learned how to fly.

The first time she fluttered her wings, hopping out of her nest, the experience was terrifying, yet thrilling at the same time. The rush of the wind beneath her wings and the feeling of weightlessness made her want to fly forever, to fly to the ends of the earth and back again. She wanted to fly towards the horizon and see what was beyond it. All the owls were surprised by her natural ability to fly as if she’d been practicing it her entire life.

The only other owl that could glide with her, who would willingly be her comrade in flight, was Griffin.

The first thing she noticed under the pale moonlight as they swooped through low branches, the night breeze blowing through their feathers, was the way Griffin flew. He had a lopsided stance, the left wing slightly higher than the right. She’d try to help him correct it, but he refused. He liked it; he thought it was unique.

She soon grew used to it, and flying at night would be a regular affair. They would use the washed out light from the moon to guide them through the dense forests as they quickly bonded with each other, catching food for the other and spending an increasing amount of time away from the barn.

They would communicate with affectionate nips and fond soft murmurs, perching themselves on the highest branch of an oak tree. Griffin would admire how the pale light reflected in Hedwig’s gleaming amber eyes. She would, in turn, think highly of his beautiful rounded wings that helped him move silently through the skies.

Soon, it was Hedwig’s birthday - thick fluffy clouds clouded the moon and obstructed the light, making the forest dark and eerie, with the sparse streams of illumination casting an otherworldly glow over the surroundings.

The two were warned not to go flying that night; that it was dangerous. Not even Griffin’s keen eyesight would be able to spot a predator from even a mile away. They decided not to heed the warnings, sneaking out to fly just for quarter of an hour together.

Hedwig was more than happy. The combination of her birthday together with flying next to her best friend, her soul mate, made her chest tremor with euphoria. She let out a joy-filled hoot before soaring higher up the trees, Griffin flying close behind her, not letting her out of his sight.

They finally perched on their usual branch on the old oak tree, both hooting quietly and grooming each other under the safety of leaves. Nothing prepared them for the sound of a seemingly distant call of none other than an eagle owl.

Hedwig turned her head in panic, hopping in place on the branch with uncertainty. Griffin let out a loud cry in a wave of alarm, trying to alert the elders in the barn before leading Hedwig under his wing and urging her to fly.

Without hesitation, she swooped low on the ground, narrowly missing branches and twigs scattered in her path. She couldn’t hear Griffin behind her, and apprehension rose in her small quivering body. Wings shaking in fear, she pulled herself up in flight until she rose above the trees, heading full speed towards the barn.

Risking a glance behind her, she let out a terrified screech as the face of an eagle owl soared towards her, his long wings spread out and his talons glinting when it caught the light. Hedwig let out another petrified cry before prompting herself forwards, her wings screaming for a break.

With a sudden soft thump, she spotted Griffin in attack position, moving fast towards the eagle owl, trying to get him by surprise. She watched as the eagle owl opened his sharp beak and bite deep into his wings. As Griffin cried in agony, his dark eyes wide and filled with suffering, Hedwig joined him with a tortured screech before the eagle owl carried her struggling soul mate away.

From then on, she never flew with another owl again. Whenever she flew out to hunt for food, she would always keep a look out for Griffin. She never stopped searching for her missing soul mate, and she knew she never would.

And when she took her last breath as she spiraled from the air down to the ground, her chest bursting with shooting pain from a stray curse, she thought she could hear a distant call for her.

She knew they would be together again.

He was the end of her life.