In the quaint cottage, a mint-green body lay partially buried in the middle of the ransacked room. A detective would have been puzzled by the scene. There was no sign of forced entry, and no clear path of exit; even a teleport would have left tell-tale signs of displaced air amid the scattered papers. Somepony had obviously been looking for something.
To the experienced eye, the scene told a much different story. From the doorway, Bon Bon could see that her roommate had collapsed, exhausted, before she could exit the study and go to bed. The steady rise and fall of her green barrel showed that Lyra was very much alive, despite what a casual observer would have assumed.
What little order the room would ordinarily have was completely gone. At its best, the room was cluttered and disorganized, with books scattered in haphazard piles throughout. The shelves would normally be laden with a hodgepodge of seemingly random objects, each foreign, with no apparent relationship with anything else in the room. Lyra had sworn there was a method to her madness, but Bon Bon had never seen even the slightest hint of anything that would corroborate that claim. These were clearly not the best of times. Hurricane Heartstrings had ravaged the room.
Bon Bon stifled a yawn as she mentally prepared her lecture on the importance of a good night's sleep. Looking at the now-bare shelves and then back at the slumbering mare, the candy maker changed her mind. The precious notes and artifacts that Lyra had been accumulating over the years had been scattered like so much rubbish. Lyra's life ambition was now in reach, and nothing Bon Bon could say would dissuade her. There was however, something that Bon Bon could do; she swore she would cut the sugar from the green mare's diet.
It had been less than a day since Lyra had met her first human. Bon Bon knew this was not the time to rein in her partner's behavior; it would be wrong to deny a pony her dream. She had seen just how determined the unicorn could be. With a smile she envisioned how successful Twilight would be in trying to keep Lyra from accompanying her to the human world.
The crowd of students in the courtyard was much larger than one would expect on a Sunday morning. Members of all four houses had come to witness the spectacle. The Gryffindor first-years were once again the center of attention, despite being short two members. Sweetie Belle and Lavender were out helping the latest students. Scootaloo had surprised everyone by asking that they start without her; she had promised to join in after she had attended some important business. The orange pegasus had soared high above the school grounds and was now lazily orbiting.
Abagail groaned as she raised her muzzle out of the furrow she had dug in the soft turf. Clearly, there was more to flight than mere instinct. The hungry looks she was getting from the crowd made her all the more grateful that Percy was there, keeping the crowd off the field. The last thing any of the herd needed at this point was overenthusiastic children scooping up any unwary fliers.
The filly squinted as she tried to filter out the agonizingly brilliant morning sun. She tried not to think about the bruises that were sure to form.
“I think you zigged when you should have zagged,” Luna Lovegood commented from behind an outrageous pair of dark-lensed glasses. She lazily flapped above the thestral. Magah trotted over to nuzzle the latest downed flier.
“What's with the flying eyesores?” a seventh-year Ravenclaw asked as he entered the courtyard and spotted the spectacle.
“The Gryffindors are teaching themselves to fly,” one of his housemates offered. “It looks like they have a spell that turns you into pegasi and . . . whatever those are.”
“Please tell me that they're willing to share.”
“Would we all be standing on the ground if they were?”
“Dean!” Harry called out. “Mind the wall!”
Elsewhere in the courtyard, Apple Bloom confronted Parvati, “Why ain't ya out there flapping your wings?”
“I just want to watch for now,” Parvati answered as she grinned and watched Potter swoop down and help Dean pry himself off the ivy.
“Y'all are starting to worry me,” Apple Bloom said, turning over Magah's pendent in her hands.
“Me too,” Neville said coming to stand by Parvati. “Weren't you saying, before, how much you couldn't wait to try your wings?”
“Don't worry,” Parvati said dismissively. “There's nothing wrong with me. I just don't feel like it right now. I want to watch.”
Apple Bloom looked at the pendent she was holding, then looked at Parvati. With a smirk, she threw it over the other girl's head.
“Hey!” Parvati squeaked, ruffled her black wings and brushed her navy blue mane out of her eyes with a hoof.
“Now, quit being a spoilsport and get out there and fly,” Ginny said as she looked down at her and prodded the pony with her foot.
“Okay.” Parvati said with a wide grin, “I suppose I could after all.” She took a step forward and tripped over her own hooves. “Ow, maybe I'll be better in the air than on the ground.”
Also smiling, the landbound members of the herd watched her hurry to join the others testing their wings.
“Wow, the necklace messed with her colors,” Seamus said, “but it's good to see her so happy.”
“Yeah,” Apple Bloom said with a small frown, “Ah'm gonna have to talk to Parvati about that latter.”
As she lay prone on the floor of the Leaky Cauldron, Sweetie Belle still couldn't believe how fast Apple Bloom and Scootaloo had thrown her under the cart. They were supposed to be a herd, but the two had wasted no time in casting her out. If Lavender hadn't chosen to accompany her, the filly masquerading as a girl would have been bawling her eyes out. She most definitely did not want to be out there without any support. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon were accompanied by Daphne Greengrass, while Clouded Hope was escorted by Susan Bones and Hanna Abbott. Had Lavender not come along, Sweetie Belle would have been the only Gryffindor there.
They had all assembled in Professor Sprout's office. She had been visibly perturbed at the number of children participating, but she had, with a sigh, resigned herself to teaching everyone there the basics of floo transport. Sweetie Belle hadn't listened to the lecture, she had been far too focused on the indignity of the situation. She knew she was obligated to go with the new students. Professor McGonagall had insisted that an Equestrian accompany the new students to the bank to exchange bits for the local currency. Since this transaction was to be performed under Rarity's authorization, it had fallen to Sweetie Belle to act as her local agent. The filly was more than ready to fulfill her obligations, and she knew she would love the shopping that would follow, but that was no excuse for the other Crusaders to abandon her like that.
Sweetie Belle hadn't staggered in the slightest when she exited the floo. While it wasn't her favorite mode of transportation, she was finding that she had a natural flair for it. In fact, she was beginning not to pay it much heed. Perhaps she should have paid more attention during the refresher. She had neglected to get out of the way before Silver Spoon had come barreling out of the fireplace.
The scents of cedar and leather filled the shop where Dylan read a brochure from the newest wizarding travel agency. The bell above the entrance had just announced the arrival of some new customers. A wide smile blossomed when he saw who it was. “Good morning!” he declared, sliding out from behind the counter and abandoning his reading material. “Don't tell me you're here for more repairs to your kitchen.”
“Hello.” Sweetie Belle furiously blushed at the reminder. “No, I need three trunks ready before we leave this afternoon.”
“With pleasure,” Dylan said. “Did you have a particular model in mind?”
“Wait a minute,” a girl behind Sweetie spoke up. She was in a sizable group of peers and Dylan nodded a greeting to the Hogwarts professor accompanying them. “What's this about Sweetie Belle having a kitchen?”
“Most deluxe models have built in kitchens.” Dylan responded proudly. He tried not to react when he saw the girl had pale purple hair with a white streak.
“And you gave one to Sweetie?” the girl asked.
“Yes,” Dylan admitted cautiously.
“Are you crazy?!”
“Miss Tiara,” Professor Sprout said with a warning tone.
“I'm sorry, professor,” Miss Tiara said looking at the adult while at waving toward Sweetie, “but letting Sweetie Belle anywhere near a kitchen is a very bad idea.”
“I'm not that bad.” Sweetie stamped a foot and pouted.
“Hydra guts all over town hall,” another girl said; this one had smoke gray hair, light enough to be mistaken for white.
“You can't blame that one on my cooking.” Sweetie countered.
“The emergency response teams rate disasters on the Sweetie Belle Scale,” the gray-haired girl deadpanned.
“It's not nice to exaggerate, Miss Spoon,” Professor Sprout said, starting to sound unsure of herself.
“I'm not exaggerating,” Miss Spoon said. “Just ask her.”
“Miss Belle?” Sprout asked, fixing her attention on the child in question.
“They just don't like anything well done.” Sweetie frowned petulantly.
The inspiration room in Carousel Boutique was abuzz with excitement as Rarity hummed quietly to herself, working on a creation not meant for pony eyes. While the rings that she and her friends used to transform between pony and human were wonderful, the default outfit that they bestowed on the human form was a crime against fabulosity. Rarity had adamantly refused to venture forth in the human world until Discord had clothed her in a passable outfit. She would make sure that Twilight would be clothed in garments worthy of a true friend -- and a painfully available single.
Human standards both frustrated and inspired her. She could not directly transfer pony fashions; the current trend of an intricate blouse that left everything from the hip back exposed was simply not acceptable where Twilight was going, even though Rarity was sure that Twilight would have no qualms showing off her cutie mark to that Sirius stallion she kept going on about. The restriction against using gemstones was an affront to the designer's sensibilities; she would have to substitute déclassé sequins and lace.
Lyra's outfit was next in the queue. Rarity had no illusion that the mare would fail in her efforts to tag along. Twilight simply wasn't that cruel. It would be only a matter of time before the mint green pony had a ring to call her own. Rarity would see to it that the guardian of her eventual son-in-law would have an outfit that reflected her adventurous spirit.
A tentative hoot broke her concentration, and Rarity looked over to see a familiar owl, perched on a window sill. She was positive it was the same one that had brought Sweetie's first letter.
“Why hello there,” Rarity said, levitating the tools of her trade to their proper resting places. “I am so happy to see you again. I'm afraid I never properly thanked you for letting us know the girls were safe. I must insist that you stay for some refreshments. There are owl treats aplenty.”
The owl hooted again and offered its leg.
“Yes, yes.” Rarity nodded. “Business before pleasure. Please come in.”
The owl leapt from its perch and relocated itself onto Rarity's back.
“Darling, you are just in time to offer your opinion,” Rarity said with a charming wave towards a lilac dress resting on a poniquin propped up in poor imitation of a biped. “What do you think of my latest pièce de résistance?”
“Who,” the owl replied, rotating its head counterclockwise
“Yes, I agree. It needs more lace.”
The owl shook himself and held out his leg once again. Rarity smiled fondly as she used her magic to retrieve the letter. “Now, let's see what Sweetie has to say.”
Professor Snape was in a foul mood as he made his way back from the owlery. Normally, he would have sent an elf to complete the task, but today he had felt the need to perform the deed himself. In a way, the mere existence of the message was an impeachment of his capabilities. While was proud of his self-sufficiency, he was not too vain to ask for help when it was warranted. This matter, however, required that he be prompt, so he decided to cut through the largest castle courtyard.
When he entered the field, he was dismayed to find a large cluster of students lollygagging on the sidelines. As he was about to exhort them to do something productive, a small, unintelligible voice drew his attention skyward. Squinting as he gazed toward the Sun, he noticed a dot that grew at an alarming rate, blotting out the orb. As an orange blur filled his vision, he finally made out the words. "Professor Snape! Professor Snape!"
“Thank you! Thank you. Oh, thank you!” was heard in conjunction to the impact
“Mffft!” Snape exclaimed into the fur that covered his face.
“I thought I'd never know what it felt like! You gave me the sky!”
“Mrrrrrf!” Snape repeated, bringing up his hands to pry away the obstruction.”
“I can't thank you enough! You have no idea how much this means to me!”
Snape heard another student say, “Hey Jeremy, remember that movie 'Alien'?”
“I think we have a new definition for 'face hugger', here.”
“Rawwwwwf!” Snape yelled.
"In deep space, no one can hear you whinge," noted the second student.
“Did you see? I was flying!”
Snape didn't have the breath to respond.
“I wonder how he can breathe like that,” a female student mused.
Snape dropped to his knees, frantically trying to remove the blockage.
“The answer to that would be; not very well.” yet another student commented.
With his last iota of strength, he finally yanked the object free. Gasping he saw that he held a small orange pegasus with a purple mane. “Miss Aloo, what is the meaning of this?” He tried to sneer.
Scootaloo stared back at him with her eyes as wide as they would go. Two visible streams of tears escaped the orbs. “Your potion! You fixed me.” A sob convulsed her small body. “You fixed me!”
Professor Snape attempted a rage roll, but even with his occlumency bonus, he was left with a critical fail. “That's hardly an excuse,” he said to the illegally cute bundle he held.
A small pair of arms wrapped around his neck from behind and Snape caught a glimpse of bright red hair topped by a bow. “Thank you for helping Scootaloo,” came a heartfelt whisper.
Shocked past the point of being able to reply, Snape was only barely aware of another small body latching onto his right side. “Thank you,” said Arthur Weasley's youngest.
“Fifty points from Gryffindor.” Professor Snape announced as sternly as he could manage.
“Eh,” a fuchsia body said as it wrapped its hooves and wings around Snape's chest in an additional hug. “It's worth it. Thanks for helping Scoot.”
“Gryffindors are so crazy,” a black form declared before adding herself to the dogpile.
“Geronimo!” exclaimed yet another ebony attacker, adding her leathery wings to the embrace.
A gray form swooped down and silently attached herself to the first opening she could find.
The normally stoic Professor knelt there with an unreadable expression on his face. Then emotionlessly he said, “Let me up.”
One by one his assailants released him and he stood up. He looked each one in the eye before ending on Scootaloo. “You're welcome.” With those words, and a swirl of his robes he stalked from the field with as much dignity as he could muster.
Silence followed as the gathered students watched him leave.
“I'd say he's still broke,” a seventh-year Slytherin girl observed after a minute.
“Isn't that just grand?” said another.
“Well, that settles it,” said a Hufflepuff boy. “We are going to have to invite Zecora back as often as we can convince her.”
“Fifteen points to Gryffindor.”
“You're not even a prefect.”
“I don't care, they can have the next fifteen I earn.”
Ollivander sighed and laid down his tools. He had been so lost in working with the new core material that he almost missed the wards' announcement of some new customers. The racket that was clearly audible in the back room should have tipped him off long before now. This would be the second school weekend in a row that he received children as customers.
As was his custom, he observed his clientele before making himself known. With relief, he recognized the woman attending the students. “Pomona, I see that you've brought me a curious lot,” he said, stepping from the shadows.
There was a considerable number of shrieks and gasps as the young girls reacted to his presence.
“Ollivander," Professor Sprout said with a smile. “We've had some last-minute additions to Hogwarts.”
“I see,” Ollivander said, studying his customers. “From Equestria unless I miss my guess.”
“But where are my manners. Good morning Miss Greengrass, Miss Bones, Miss Belle, Miss Abbott, and Miss Brown. I trust you are here as accompaniment and there is nothing wrong with your wands.”
“Yes, sir,” the five girls chorused.
“I something wrong, miss?” Ollivander asked, turning his attention on the purple-haired Equestrian girl to whom he had yet to be introduced. She was squinting her eyes and peering toward the back of his shop.
“Diamond Tiara,” Diamond responded, not turning toward him. She seemed to consider her next words before saying, “I think something is calling me.”
“Oh?” Ollivander raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Then, by all means, go to it.”
Diamond turned her blue eyes on the old man and warily asked, “Are you sure?”
Ollivander stood to the side and gestured for her to proceed.
Eyeing the old man one more time, Diamond walked past him into his private work space. With unerring steps, she homed in on a dusty shelf in the very rear. On it sat a battered chest, roughly the size of a breadbox.
She hesitated and shot another questioning look at the shop owner. Wide eyed, he nodded for her to continue.
Diamond steeled her breath before reaching out and opening the chest. She heard Ollivander's sharp intake of air as the lid went up. Sensing the seriousness of the moment, she plunged her hand into the container and pulled out a long, lacquered box. The green and silver seemed to glow as she brought it close to her chest.
“Amazing,” Ollivander muttered as Diamond closed the chest. “Go on girl, open it.”
Diamond anxiously looked at Professor Sprout for permission before opening the box she held. Inside was a worn and antiquated wand. It might have been her imagination, but she could have sworn that it leapt into her hand even as she reached for it. As soon as she gripped it, a silver light washed over her body and she marveled in the rightness of the piece of wood she held.
“I want this one,” Diamond said hungrily. “Is it for sale?”
“No, my dear.” Ollivander said, walking forward and placing his hand on her head. “My family has been the caretakers of that chest for a very long time. If you could open it, then that wand already belongs to you.”
“Applejack! Darling!” Rarity called out making her way around the side of the barn where Big Mac had indicated his sister was. “Applejack I need your hel . . . Sweet Celestia! What is that!”
“Hey there, Rarity. Let me introduce you to Fluffy, Apple Bloom's new pet,” Applejack greeted brightly.
“. . . Her what?!”
“This here is Apple Bloom's new pet.” Applejack reiterated.
Rarity fought to regain her composure. “What's that he's chewing on?”
“That would be timberwolf haunch.”
Rarity's composure ran away screaming and she backed up in a futile attempt to follow. “Timberwolf haunch?”
“Yeah, it keeps trying to re-form, an' Fluffy jus' keeps breaking it back down. If'n it's like the last one, it's going to run away yipping first chance it gets.”
The clerk had her attention buried firmly in "Witches' Weekly" when the shop bell announced the arrival of customers.
There came the sound of the front door opening a second time.
“Sweetie come back! Of course, there are cats; it's a pet store!”
Sighing, the clerk put down her magazine and prepared to attend to remaining children. A beautiful, young, blonde girl marched up to the counter and declared, “I need an owl that can make large deliveries.”
Professor Snape found himself sitting in front of fireplace in his apartment yet again. He had just reviewed his favorite memory in Dumbledore's pensive. All things considered, it had been a good week. Not even the attack in the courtyard could dampen his mood. Truth be told, he relished when others were appreciative of his work. Despite the face he presented to the public, he was happy. It was a rare enough frame of mind for him, and he intended to relish it as long as possible.
He was no fool, though. All good things had to come to an end.
As if on cue, his privacy was interrupted by the arrival of a large owl wearing a pouch. Frowning at the intrusion, Snape accepted the letter it was carrying.
How had it gotten into his private apartment?
After quickly reading the note, Snape produced his wand to tap the pouch. “Ex dimittere.”
After a rude noise, Snape was no longer alone in his apartment with only an owl.
“Ah hate being puked up.”
Snape stared dumbly at his visitor.
“Jus' a minute. Mah hat is still in that thar bag.”
Snape recognized her description from Minerva; supposedly she owned a large farm.
“Come here a sec Lodestone, it don't feel right to be without my hat.
Snape's visitor had huge tracts of land.
“Thanks, yer a good owl.”
Huge tracts of land.
“Hello, Ah'm guessing yer Professor Snape. Rarity asked me to mosey over and have a word with ya. She's still not supposed to come herself.”
Huge tracts of land and proudly wearing a hat and a smile. Snape's occlumency decided it was long overdue for a vacation and abandoned ship. “Gah,” he greeted.
“Mah name's Applejack, it's a right pleasure to meetcha.”
“Are y'all alright?” A hand waved in front of his face, disrupting his view.
“Wait right here, Ah'm gonna see if I can get y'all some help.”
The door to his apartment opened, and Snape had a few minutes to reacquire his composure.
“Ah'm so glad you were close by; something's wrong with that stallion.”
Applejack came back into the room, leading Minerva and Paola. Nope, there went his composure again. It was turning out to be a bad day for composure.
“See thar? Somethin's wrong with him.”
“Au contraire mon ami,” Paola disagreed. “I've yet to hear tell of him acting more normal.”
“Y'all speak fancy, jus' like Rarity.”
“I'm sorry Applejack,” Minerva said. “It looks like you just caught him off guard. Quite the achievement, considering how unflappable he normally is.”
“That can't be right. Gettin' thrown up by Lodestone's bag ain't that shocking.”
“I think she was referring to your minimalist outfit,” Paola offered.
“Ah didn't have a choice. The clothes that came with this here ring were much too tight. Ah couldn't breathe in 'em.”
“I can see how that would be a problem,” Minerva said. “However, Professor Snape is accustomed to women wearing clothes in his presence. Call it a human folly.”
“Oui,” Paola agreed. “He's not the most social individual to begin with. A naked woman in his quarters seems to be more than he can handle.”
“Y'all saying Ah scared him stiff?”
“I'm not sure he knows what to do with you in this situation.” Paola continued. “Perhaps you were coming on a touch too strong.”
“I don't think we are all on the same page here,” Minerva said.
“Ah wasn't goin' to mount 'im or anything like that,” Applejack objected.
It had taken some time, but Snape was slowly recovering his composure enough to talk coherently.
“Leastwise, not without his permission.”
Aaaand there it went again.
“Guys! Guys!” a pair of Slytherin girls said as they excitedly ran into the courtyard. “You are not going to believe what we just saw!”
“A naked woman just came running out of Snape's office. Naked as in no clothes.”
The crowd stared at the pair dumbfounded.
“Ow! If you don't stop pinching me I swear I'm going to hex you into next week!”
“Running and screaming bloody murder, I assume,” somebody ventured.
“No, she was screaming that Professor Snape was hurt and wasn't moving.”
“Zecora killed Snape?” a Ravenclaw gasped. “I guess, now we know why she was interested in him. It was just a set up.”
“It wasn't Zecora,” the first girl corrected. “It was a blonde I've never seen before. She was upset, so whatever happened wasn't on purpose. And she didn't rhyme once.”
“You're telling us that Professor Snape, the same man who has been teaching us potions all these years, had a naked blonde woman in his room?”
“You're right, we don't believe you.”
“It's true!” The girls stamped their feet, offended. “She got Professor McGonagall and Miss Quint and ran back into his office.”
“That git!” a Hufflepuff girl exclaimed. “He hasn't been dating Zecora a week yet and he's already cheating!”
“You should have seen the blonde.” the second girl said. “She has looks that would make any man weak.”
“That doesn't make it any better,” the Hufflepuff insisted.
“Professor Snape must have brewed some new super love potion,” a Gryffindor boy said. “It's the only thing that could possibly explain this week.”
“I wonder if he's willing to sell doses,” another boy wondered.
The girls in the courtyard started sending stinging hexes his way.
“Are you feeling more yourself, Severus?” Minerva asked, holding out a glass of water.
“Yes, I must apologize for my rude behav...gah!”
“Paola sighed, “Would you please pull your blouse back down? You're not helping.”
“Ah can't help it. It's funny.”
“You're going to land him in the hospital at this rate.”
“Ah don't see what the big deal is. They're just udders. The cows back home have larger ones and nopony gives them a second look.”
Paola sighed, “The way you are going, someone is going to call the authorities and have you taken in.”
Defiantly, Applejack crossed her arms under her newest assets. "Is this a bust?"
Snape's composure took the opportunity to flee one more time.