(1940-12-08) Evening Stargazing
Details for Evening Stargazing
Summary: A midnight meteor shower viewing at the Astronomy Tower turns into much more!
Date: December 8th, 1940
Location: Astronomy Tower and Grounds
Plot: Centaur Civil War

It is an amazingly clear night over the grounds at Hogwarts. A heavy snowstorm had beat upon the castle for the past two days, resulting in two, three, and four foot drifts blanketing the grounds, covering the trees, and piling high on the stone castle windows, parapets, and outer walkways. The storm had thankfully abated around dinner, giving way to an inky blackness that set upon the grounds like a heavy drape. The crescent moon and the myriad of stars above, twinkling like diamonds, cast a pale glow down below, the snow reflecting dimly giving the ground an ethereal appearance.

It was no secret amongst the castle corridors that Professor Starkey was quite disappointed in the assault on the grounds from the sudden blizzard, lamenting that it was going to ruin the students being able to witness the most glorious meteor shower to pass their planet in a century. Thankfully, the storm abated just as darkness was falling, and Starkey sent out word that any student who showed up to watch the shower at midnight and wrote a report on their experience would receive points for their respective Houses.

Upon reaching the Astronomy Tower, one will find a number of highly polished telescopes already set up along the eastern side of the snow covered parapet that circles the tower. All of them are pointed skyward over the Forbidden Forest. The classroom is unlocked, Prefects having been arranged to chaperone the Stargazing, and a notice hanging at the door leading to the parapet that says, "Please be careful on the snow."

Susan is already up on the tower when the first students arrive, having conscientiously turned up fifteen minutes in advance to ensure that her supervisory capacity was in place well before any younger students made an appearance. Lest they be - gasp - unsupervised for a few minutes and plummet to their certain doom. Astronomy is not one of her more amazing subjects, but she's bundled anyway in a thick cloak and a bulky bronze-and-navy scarf and dark navy gloves, cheeks frosty in the night air.

Wrapped tightly in her winter cloak, Claudia delicately picks her way across the roof of the Astronomy Tower, gingerly placing each boot for fear of slipping. She selects the northern most telescope, before smiling nervously at Susan. As she waits for others to arrive, she fidgets with her black and silver gloves uncertain of what to do next.

Lissie looks like she's not quite awake, and she is also bundled in her heavy cloak and a thick sweater beneath that. She has on thick woollen stockings and a longish wool skirt as well. She yawns and tugs her scarf more tightly about her.

Elspeth is in the midst of students coming up, having taken the 'shepherd' position for chaperoning for the evening. It mainly consists of making sure that are students are actually going to the Astronomy Tower, and not trying to roam the halls to cause mischief. She is also carrying a large pot of hot chocolate that she made in the Domestics Club room, sweet with a little spice to wake up the sleepyheads, or keep people awake so they don't miss anything. Hopefully, there's a table for her to put it on, and the cups that one of the yawning first years is carrying as they walk behind Elspeth.

Madeline is not one to tread carefully - she practically barrels through the halls and along the walkways, excited to see the meteor shower and utterly heedless of any safety signs posted. Still - she manages to arrive without knocking anyone to their doom, and she stops near one of the telescopes, bouncing excitedly in place. This was going to be great!

Heading up the stairs to the Astronomy Tower is Brody. He has a heavy winter cloak of a deep navy blue thrown over his shoulders and fastened tightly in the front to ward off the frigid air. As he makes his way into the classroom, he glances around and then spotting the notice heads for the snowy parapet. Brown eyes quickly survey the gathered students, all of them he seems to know as most get a smile and nod in greeting, though Elspeth's greeting is rather stiff, and his eyes seem to miss Susan completely. He walks over toward the Madeline and offers the girl a whispered, "Hey Maddie. I hope this thing is worth braving the cold and the erm…" he glances over the parapet toward the ground far below. "…The possible fall to our death on by slipping in the snow."

Elspeth does indeed find a small wooden table just outside the door of the classroom. The night is very quiet this high up, and the wind is crisp and biting. No doubt, the hot chocolate will be much appreciated soon enough. After a few moments of the students standing around nervously, with no direction, a sudden bright light illuminates the parapet. After their eyes are able to adjust to the dazzling white light, the students will be able to tell that it is a Patronus in the from of a Golden Eagle. It alights on the parapet in the center of the gathered students and when it opens its beak, the voice of Professor Starkey comes forth. "Welcome students to the viewing of the Romulean Meteor Shower, I trust that you will all take this quite seriously, as it is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Please enjoy, and remember that the Head Girl and Prefects are in charge. Please turn your reports in to me by the end of the week! Happy viewing!" Once complete, the falcon disappears in a flash and following wisp of glowing white smoke.

Lissie just *stares* at the raptor made of glowy light. "Oh… oh my…." she breathes, then sneezes slightly and draws her scarf even tighter. "How did she do that?" she asks softly. She rubs her arms, then blinks at the smell of chocolate. "Ohhhhh…."

The chocolate is served to anyone who wishes, Elspeth using her new station to keep an eye on folks. Her nod to Brody seems the same as ever, without any reservation. She smiles at Lissie's admiration of the patronus, but doesn't want to speak so much in the cold, keeping her muffler up to her nose against the cold. Her head tilts up on occasion to see what she can of the shower with her naked eye for now.

"Hey," Madeline answers Brody, flashing him a big smile. "Oh, I bet it'll be great! I mean, I've done this sort of thing with my da' - we go out together and go game shooting, or stargazing, or what have you." As the large, glowing eagle appears, her gaze is drawn towards it - only to have her shielding her eyes a moment later. "Argh. Too bright," she complains quietly. "I hope it starts soon. It is pretty cold."

Susan slips over to Elspeth's table as she sets up the cauldron. "A good idea, that," she tells the Head Girl with a slight smile, nodding toward the steaming beverage. "It's cold as the grave up here tonight." She helps a few first-years acquire cups before ladling herself out a steaming mug herself, and looking toward the sky. "I suppose I thought Professor Starkey would turn up as well, but it's just as well."

As soon as the Patronus has dispersed, Claudia carefully steps away from her chosen telescope, taking the shortest path to the hot chocolate. "Thank you! This was very thoughtful," she exclaims to Elspeth, inhaling the fragrant aroma. Claudia sidles back to the telescopes, the steaming mug cradled in her hands.

Arriving quietly and keeping to herself is a diminuative Ravenclaw - Eutheria, with her robes pulled around her, and her hands shoved into her pockets. In her own reserved way, the girl was excited to have something to participate in - at night. As she arrives at the viewing area, she keeps to herself, her gaze going up at the sky without any prompting. They sky was so beautiful! With or without the meteors.

Elspeth gives a smile, even though it can't be seen, to those taking hot chocolate, and helps ladle it out. She finally takes a cup for herself and pulls down the muffler enough to blow on it and take an experimental sip. "Professor Starkey is actually still trying to divine the exact coordinates where the Romulean shower be passing closest, so that we are having the best view of the event," she tells Susan lightly. "She will probably relay them when absolutely sure. In the meantime, we can try and find it for ourselves, perhaps we can be finiding it first without the divination."

Brody nods his head to Madeline and says, "Yeah, honestly the only reason I came out is for the house points. I need to make up what I lost." He cups his hands in front of his face and breathes into them, rubbing his palms together, apparently not keen on partaking of the hot chocolate. His eyes glance upward and he says, "Yeah, I hope it starts soon to. Good thing the snowstorm finally broke. The sky is quite clear— Oh look!"

Brody points upward as the first streaking silver light flashes across the sky. It is a distant thing, but soon after that first streak, many others begin flashing across the darkness as well, leaving long trailing tails through the night sky. Though at first they seemed distant, and a bit unremarkable(as much as flaming objects in space zipping by your planet can be unremarkable), it is soon evident why Professor Starkey was so dismayed at the thought of missing the event. As the meteors trace by, they begin to appear to get closer and closer, each meteor bigger than the last, as the sky is suddenly filled with the meteors zipping across the night sky.

"Oh, wow," Madeline breathes as the meteor shower starts. She bounces up onto her toes, a huge smile appearing across the girl's face. "Wow, this is pretty neat," she says eagerly. "Wish we could watch this everynight! But then I guess it wouldn't be special, anymore."

Claudia bights her lip in concentration, directing her telescope towards the meteors. "Fantastic," she breathes as she plays with the focus. "Definitely worth the cold." She seems to have forgotten the dregs of hot chocolate still in her mug.

"I don't know about that," Susan tells Madeline lightly, her expression grave as ever. "I think a meteorite shower this spectacular would seem special even if it happened all the time. Just look at how close they seem!" She gasps as a few more shoot across the sky, and sips her cocoa.

As the streaks begin to appear across the sky, Elspeth pulls her muffler back up, cradling her cup with both hands as she watches them come closer and closer. "I can see why ancient men thought the world might be coming to an end," she murmurs. "It is beautiful." She glances over when Eutheria arrives, and waves her over for some cocoa.

Lissie has grabbed one of the telescopes, and she gives a squeak of surprise as the meteors seem to come closer and closer and closer. "Oh…. oh…." She sneezes again, knocking into the eyepiece. "Are they going to ht us? They look like they're growing…."

As she's waved over, Eutheria comes closer, giving Elspeth a small, uncertain smile before accepting a cup of cocoa. She retreats with it to a quiet corner and turns her attention to the sky between sips. Whatever thoughts she had of the display she seemed to keep to herself, however.

"Of course they won't hit us," Claudia says absently, not taking her eye from the telescope. "Starkey wouldn't have us out here if they might." Despite her words, Claudia quickly glances at the other students as if to reassure herself.

Brody leans forward, pressing his eye to the telescope and fiddles with the adjustment knobs inexpertly. He likely misses as much as he sees while trying to get it focused in, but he finally seems to manage and he gasps at the sight, truly a wonder and experience that draws attention to his and all of the rest of the gathered students' places in the universe. How profoundly small they are in comparison. Brody pulls his eye away from the telescope and looks in the direction of the other Ravenclaw students and offers them half a smile before his eyes return upward. "You were right," he asides to Madeline. "Totally worth it."

Surely Lissie can't be right, though as the students gathered on the Astronomy Tower's parapet watch, the Asteroids do seem to be getting quite close. What once was a slight blip across the night sky gradually seem so very close, and so very large. The meteors continue to flash across the sky, giving the students a brilliant display, and possibly a slightly frightening one.

No sooner does Claudia speak the words, "Of course they won't hit us," than a meteor suddenly seems much, much too close. The flaming rock rockets across the night sky heading directly for the Astronomy tower. Flying in at an incalculable speed, it races toward the castle and zips across in front of the Tower, before landing with a LOUD crash and following shudder that can be felt all the way up the tower. The students can see the charred earth where the large space rock landed, a deep crater dug into the earth that smokes and flames slightly in the darkness.

"You know what I bet it is," Madeline remarks. "I bet it's a whole invading army's worth of alien craft! They're going to take over all of Europe and kick the Nazis back into Germany, and take Hitler in their space craft up into outerspace and leave him alone on a deserted planet where he can't harm anyo- oh, those are getting pretty clo- Oh my Gosh!" She ducks as the last one flies by - then peeks over the parapet to see where it landed. "…whoa. It is an alien invasion."

Lissie turns her telescope to try to follow the meteors, then screams as one crashes nearby, clinging to the parapet. "Oh no, no, please don't—!" She yelps, and then swiftly turns the telescope to try to view the crater. "I hope no one got hurt." She coughs softly, then wipes tears from her eyes.

"I may be incorrect," Claudia says, cautiously stepping back from the telescope. She grips the mug of chocolate and her cloak with numbing force, attempting to maintain her composure. Her eyes, however, are back on the sky, awaiting the next meteor.

The shaking of the ground causes Elspeth's eyes to widen a little, but then she goes with the others to look over the edge of the parapet to see the smoking crater below them. "Good thing it is so late at night," she says to herself, then does a quick scan and head count of the students there, as if one might have been vaporized by the close shave somehow.

Eutheria creeps to the edge with the others, looking down silently with widened eyes. Wow. What was it, she can't help but wonder to herself. And would they be able to go take a closer look?

As the students examine the meteor below, the shower above seems to once more become more normal, the flashes still quite large, but gradually getting further away. A familiar flashing light arcs toward them through the air and soon Professor Starkey's Patronus alights once more on the parapet. Her voice rolls forth once more, this time brisk and professional. "Hogwarts Students, as you have no doubt seen, a meteor has gotten a little closer than expected. I apologize for any fright this may have caused. However, this is most definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity that should not be missed. If Elspeth is willing, I give her permission to lead you down onto the grounds to examine the meteor, take close notes. Any brave enough to participate will earn extra points for their Houses. If you should choose not to, I quite understand, please make your way back to your dormitories instead should you not wish to participate."

Brody gestures an arm out toward Madeline as she ducks, obviously looking to keep her from accidentally sliding off of the Tower in the snow. Standing upright he calls out, "Everyone okay?" and glances around to the other students, each one in turn. As the Patronus arrives and then vanishes, Brody steps toward Elspeth and says, "I'll go."

"I'm definitely in! Not gonna pass up on a chance to meet my first alien being!" Madeline says eagerly, her gaze locked on the crashed meteor down below. "Oh, wow, this is so amazing!" she adds eagerly.

Head count achieved, Elspeth looks to the patronus as it appears. If she's surprised at the permission granted, she doesn't show. She merely nods to the students gathered around, and notes the eagerness on some. "All right. Let us all have partners to keep safe, then. Sixth and Seventh years, please pair up with the younger years, firsties or seconds," the Head Girl suggests, and looks to Susan. "Do you want to lead them down, and I will escort those who wish to go back to their rooms and meet you down there directly?"

Lissie sneezes again, and she fastens her cloak more securely. "I'll…. I'll go to see," she murmurs. "Might just be a rock, though, but…." Then she frowns. "In my classes… they said Hogwarts is protected by lots and lots and lots of magic. Maybe it's a magic meteor, to be able to land here. Maybe…. historic exanamaination."

"Sounds like fun," Claudia says unsuccessfully trying to suppress the grin spreading across her face. She quickly steps into the knot of students preparing to go down to the grounds.

"I, umm, I guess I'll go look," Eutheria chimes up in her quiet voice, barely heard amongst the eager excilimations of other students. "It does look interesting," she adds - as if she needed some sort of justification for her decision.

Elspeth's plan is what is put into action. Brody moves over to Lissie and nods his head to her, as if claiming her as his first year. After everyone pairs up, they begin filing out of the Astronomy Tower. Elspeth escorts the few students who decided to go home, and then makes her way to the Entrance Hall only shortly after the other students are making their way out of the large doors into the deep snow.

Brody leans down to Lissie and says, "Grab on if you need to. The snow is deeper tonight." Indeed the snow IS quite deep as it reaches up to a good few inches above the Seventh Year's knee.

The meteor can be seen far ahead out on the grounds, apparently quite hot, the snow all around it has melted, the sudden heat and water thawing the ground and turning it to a slippery mud slick on the outer edges, and then hard charred earth closer to the meteor.

Madeline makes and idly tosses a few snowballs as they tromp through the snow - it's not that hard to manage, if you allow a few of the bigger and larger students to go ahead of you and beat the path for you. …which of course, Madeline doesn't. She was one of the first to plough into the deep drifts, eager to be the first to the 'alien craft.' "I can't wait to write to my mum 'n da, 'n Uncle, 'n Rena about this," she remarks excitedly.

Claudia plows her way through the snow, determinedly trying to keep up with Madeline. She's not fond of the cold, but she won't be outdone by a Gryffindor either. Anyway, the sooner to the impact site the better.

Lissie clings to Brody; she has to wade through the snow as it is. Still, for once the view is worth it, and she is hardly breathing as they come closer.

Since no one wanted to go back to their dorms, Elspeth didn't have to make an extra trip, and so she brings up the rear, watching ahead to make sure everyone makes it there. She also keeps an eye on Eutheria, since she followed her own advice when she realized the numbers were uneven without her.

Eutheria is content to stick towards the back, rather than tramp through the thick snow drifts so Elspeth's desire to keep her eyes on the entire troop of students worked well for her. She walks just ahead of Elspeth, looking ahead at the backs of the students in front of her.

As the troupe finally makes its way to the fallen meteor, the snow gives way to very slippery mud, and then finally to the charred hard earth that was baked by the still steaming hunk of space rock. The rock itself is quite large, near the size of a large SUV, its surface roughly textured and cracked.

Brody holds his arm out to Lissie, allowing her to hold on to him as he walks them through the deep snow, actually squatting and lifting the Hufflepuff girl as the snow gets particularly deep on him. Once they reach the slick mud, Brody sets Lissie down and says, "Careful everyone.. it is pretty slip-!" Down Brody goes, sliding down the side of of the crater all the way to the charred earth. He curses aloud as he slides, and when he stands, mud covers him all the way down his back.

As the rest of the group joins him in the hard earth, they are able to fan around and take notes.

"Great - not again," Claudia murmurs. Drawing her wand beneath her cloak, the Slytherin scans the crater as if expecting an ambush.

As they pull nearer, Elspeth pauses, tilting her head to the side. "Please hold up," she calls to the students, and makes her way towards the front, then around the side. Holding her arm out, palm facing the others, she tries to keep them from getting too close as she pulls out her wand and whispers 'lumos', sending a small spere of light towards the shuffling something she thinks she sees.

"…it is a space ship!" Madeline suddenly exclaims, her eyes wide. "There's something in there! It's alive!" Surely it's just the Gryffindor's overactive imagination, though? The girl is well known for telling tall tales. She pulls out her own wand, calling 'Lumos!' like Elspeth, and circles the crater, peering down and trying to get a look at the alien creature.

"I do hear *something*," answers Lissie. "Something snorting or grunting…" She frowns a little, brushing snow from her robes. "Hello?" she calls softly. "We're here to help you…. if you're hurt….. or lost…."

Brody draws his wand as well, whispering a soft, "Lumos," and adding his wand's glow to Elspeth's. His eyes glance toward her and he says softly to her, "What's going on?" His eyes drift from Elspeth to the meteor and back again, his muddy arm held out as well though surely no one would want to draw closer to the muddy boy.

As the student's voices draw nearer, their footsteps closer, whatever it is that the students had been hearing gets louder, an occasional squeal piercing the air loud enough to hurt the ear drums of all of those gathered. Madeline seems to be the closest to whatever it is, and from her side of the meteor the grunting gets louder, earth even flying out in small puffs, and then what looks like a small clawed hand reaches out, illuminated faintly by the wand light. The view is fleeting, but it was definitely sporting a good deal of deep purple fur.

"…space ship?" Eutheria answers, sounding utterly baffled by the Gryffindor's reaction. "What's a space ship?" She hangs back from the crator as instructed, watching with cautious curiousity.

From the grassy gnoll where there is a glow of a large bon-fire there comes several orbs of light - torches quickly coming along with the sound of galloping hooves. "Little humans, Care! Back!" For the meteor shower Ealisaid and her herd - The Starchasers are in full ceremonial garb and her human body only covered in her sash and body paint in a deep purple splashed with pale mud that extends over her equine form like a galaxy. The other centaurs with her are similarly coated in starry paint.

"It's purple! It's a purple alien! This is the best night ever! We found a purple furry alien!" Madeline enthuses! To her credit, she doesn't make any attempt to go down the slope to see the creature from close up. "Should we get a teacher? Should we get a scientist? This amazing!" And now - the centaurs are even coming! "Oh hello again! We found a purple alien!" the exciteable Gryffindor informs the nearest centaur.

"Evans!" Elspeth's voice cracks out with more authority than she usually employs. "Please be staying back with the others, until I am knowing if it is safe or five points." She peers a little closer, and notes the clawed hand, and motions the others to stay for another moment. "I do not know what it is." She looks up when the centaurs arrive, and nods, backing away and making sure her partner is back with the group. "Partner check, please," she tells the rest.

Ealisaid gestures sternly but not hostily to those in the muddy area around the steaming meteor. "Out!" If necessary she lowers her spear so that it can be taken and the warrior helps to hoist everyone out of the slippery muddy zone. The other centaurs start to circle about the meteor. Guarding it.

Accepting the centaur's aid, Claudia scrambles back onto the snow. Quickly turning back, she throws a concerned glance at the Gryffindor across the crater. "Are you all right over there?" she calls, carefully keeping any of the worry she feels out of her voice.

As the students close to the meteor walk amongst the steam of the impact zone, they will eventually feel their heads begin to get heavy, their eyelids growing heavy and their motions more sluggish. Suddenly trying to maintain their footing in the muddy soil becomes much harder as their legs become unsteady. The air before their eyes takes on a shimmering quality that doesn't quite mirror the rising steam. What grunting and growling was hear grows louder in their ears and the something moving beneath it seems much more sinister in nature.

"If the centaurs are not thinking it is safe, then it is not being a good idea to hang around," Elspeth says firmly. She holds out her hands to usher the students away, calmly urging them to go, and turning to bring up the rear. "We must be leaving it alone," she reiterates, reaching down to help Madeline as she scrembles. "Come on, be on your feet, Evans," she encourages. "Go ahead, Flitwick, lead the way. We are being right behind."

Lead the way? Her? Eutheria blinks in surprise, but nods, turning to make her way back towards the castle. She glances at one of the other students, since she hadn't really gotten that close to the meteorite, herself. "Was it interesting?" she asks.

Lissie starts to back away, slips, backs away, then slips again. She pinwheels to keep her balance, then slaps her cheeks to try to rouse herself. She slips again, then falls on her rump. "Floating…. so…. so…. Hello. Centaurs. Pretty centaurs… tails…."

Shaking her head violently, Claudia pulls her scarf over her mouth and nose. She turns to follow Eutheria, but stops when Lissie falls, offering the other girl a hand up.

Madeline lets Elspeth help her up - but finds herself clinging to the older student. "Hey. I'm no' sure 'm feelin' so great afterall… Maybe I should sit down," she suggests, without relinquishing her hold on Elspeth.

As the students begin to make their way away from the meteor, and free of the smoke, the effects that had been settling in on them recedes to nothing but a faint headache the longer they are able to breath the fresh air. After a bit, they are able to make their way back to the castle and their respective dormitories, the centaurs setting up a perimeter around the meteor.

The whole herd seems to be on the move now. Everyone of them bearing torches with long handles. One by one they circle about the meteor. The torches are planted around the edge of the crator and soon those around the meteor start to sing and dance and lift their hands to the stars and then a pair of centaurs calmly stroll holding the same torch between them. The Chief, Torrigan and The Mystic, Oighrig. The female centaur steps forward away from Torrigan. She wafts the steam from the shrinking meteor as the ice and crust start to melt and crack. In what appears to be a trance she sings and dances around the meteor. "This is a sign!" Torrigan booms. "We came to this place and we have been blessed! The Starchasers are HOME!" The rest of the herd all trill and clap and rejoice. It seems the temporary camp is about to turn more permanent.

Even though her own legs feel sluggish, Elspeth shakes her head. "No sitting down. If you are not feeling well, I will be carrying you," she says. "But i would rather you are walking," she says honestly, blinking her eyes as she tugs at the Gryffindor. "It is best being away from whatever it was, I was not liking the claws on that hand." As they get a little further away, she turns to walk backwards a few steps to watch the centaurs, then she does a head count to make sure all students are still with them.

"It was a real space ship, Elspeth! There was something inside!" Madeline says, as she forces herself to keep walking alongside the older student. "The centaurs aren't gonna keep the alien, are they? We need to let everyone know. This'll change science!" Even a sluggish Maddie is more excitable than the average student, it seems.

Brody walks alongside the rest of the students back through the deeper snow to the castle. He is still covered in mud, and quite wet from the deep snow. Nevertheless, he moves over toward Elspeth and relieves her of Lissie, picking her up above the snow. "Come on then," he grunts as he saves the little firstie from having to slog through the waist high drifts in her drugged state. He maintains hold on her as they reach the Entrance Hall, discovering that she has fallen asleep in his arms.

As the students make their way back to the entrance hall of the Castle, they find it far more chaotic than when they left the Astronomy Tower on their harmless meteorite exploration adventure. Faculty members are rushing here and there, some out onto the grounds, and others rushing toward the students. Madame Spleen is waiting in the Entrance Hall and tuts loudly, fussing over the students as they make their groggy way into the castle. She rushes them all off at once to the Infirmary, while all of the other faculty members are busy making sure no other students manage to sneak out onto the grounds to investigate tonight's happenings for themselves.

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