Chapter 1 - That Odd Muggle Girl

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   [Late August 2000 CE]

A man sat quietly painting at an easel in a woodland clearing. He looked sad and hardly seemed interested in the canvas he was painting; the dark imagery, with a white and pale yellow burst of what looked like an explosion, didn't bear reference to his surroundings. His long, straight, white-blond hair looked as though little attention had been paid to its care, but the tousled effect was not unpleasant against his handsome, chiselled face. He hadn't shaved in a few days. His eyes were such a pale, icy grey, that they look unnaturally hollow and contributed greatly to his look of austerity and boredom. Around his neck, there was an industrial looking, blackened metal choker. It was about the width and half as much the thickness of a finger and in the middle had a jet-black, oblong segment made of a different material. It fit so closely to his skin, it looked as though it must have been uncomfortable. It was a peculiar choice of embellishment for any ordinary, austere gentleman of about 45, yet set between this particular austere man's frosty demeanour and the rest of his uncommon appearance, the choker looked fitting and rather chic.

His hands were soft and in contrast to his unkempt hair, all of his nails were clean, buffed and filed down neatly to precisely the same length. On one of his middle fingers, he wore a platinum ring cast in the shape of two writhing snakes; they coiled elegantly around the perfectly manicured finger and froze in dramatic positions, which extended out over the two neighbouring fingers at each side. On the little finger of the same hand, he wore another platinum ring – this one had a chunky and elaborate heraldic band, set with a surprisingly large, square cut diamond that seemed to gradually fluctuate between the colours of aqua-blue and green.

He wore a very long painter's smock (which looked like more of a dressing gown, or a light coat) over a dark grey tunic and lose fitting, black linen trousers. Close-up, his painting smock –creased and softly faded from frequent laundering and predictably spattered here and there with flecks and occasional splodges of paint– revealed that it was originally intended for a grander purpose. The unusually long smock was made of soft, brocaded black silk, which revealed a barely noticeable foliate pattern when beams of light travelled across it. The wide skirt of the dark smock had a broad velvet border at the bottom and there was a long rip to the end of one side. The broad cuffs and lapel of the smock were also velvet, edged in an intricate, but subtly apparent decoration of fine, dark grey and green metallic threads. Two extravagant looking silver and emerald-green, jewelled buttons were at the side of each cuff, which were frayed and threadbare at the ends. His tunic, which also seemed as though it once had a grander appointment than its present service, was made of a soft, unusually thick, loosely woven silk and had the same wash-worn look and frayed edges. The fat silver buttons on the tunic were embossed with an ornate pattern, similar to that of the ring on his small finger and one button was conspicuous in that it was missing – the thick threads that once held it in place, still present. He wore lilac coloured, buttery leather slippers with a monogram of the letters: H.L.H.O.M in pale, silvery thread across the front... Even without his easel and painting, the unusual mixture of his costume, age and demeanour, gave him the eclectic look of a serious artist, who was comfortable and rooted in his eccentricity.

Next to the eccentric, blond haired man was another man – or rather, a man-beast. He too kept a detached demeanour. The man-beast had the face and upper torso of a human and the lower body, something like a horse. His clean-shaven face was a face like that of any human man's, except that (even with the impassive expression) it was so exceptionally handsome that it could be described as "beautiful" with little dispute. His arms and torso too were typically human, except they again were exceptional, being both very muscular and nearly fatless. The horsey bottom half of his body was also muscular and lean. His entire body, was in fact very much like an Arabian horse – powerful, but long and elegant in its proportions. A sleeveless and hooded, plain grey tunic, that was belted at the waist, covered his chest and legs up to what would have been his calves. The long tunic obscured the horsey features to the outside world, but enough of his legs showed to reveal their shape and show that the short, glossy fur covering them was a dark bay colour, matching the thick, brown, wavy hair on his head. He had large, strong, yet graceful hands and sturdy, shiny, black hooves of the same proportion. There were several visible scars on his bear forearms and a long, fine scar up his cheek that was barely noticeable.

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