A Sixth Year Story: Voldemort's Return brings in the International Confederation and a team from the North American Wizarding Confederation to take control. In this chapter, Tabitha gets more out ...
The Snyders lived in a small two storey house behind a small motel (18 units) on a fairly busy two-lane state highway that, Tabitha was told many times over her short stay, would soon be enlarged into four lanes over the next few years.
Tabitha had hoped for a swimming pool, but there wasn't one. On either side of the highway was undeveloped land for many miles. In fact, except for having to cross roads and highways, you could travel in a few directions for hundreds of miles without ever hitting a town. A mile to their west northwest was the small village of Chemung, with its raceway and a few miles beyond that was the small city of Elmira, to their southeast three small towns that made up the so-called Penn-York 'Valley'.
"I don't know what you'll do," Mrs. Snyder had said with a sniff after welcoming Tabitha, "but so long as you stay out of trouble, you're welcome to do it."
Summer assignments were no trouble for Tabitha -- she'd written them all out ahead of time. Mrs. Snyder had taken her the first afternoon down to a Grants Department Store in 'the Valley', so that she could buy a swimsuit and some more appropriate Muggle clothes and other items (fortunately her father had left some small amounts of American and Canadian money in the trunk). To Mrs. Snyder's approval, Tabitha was happy to help Cindie change the sheets and vacuum the rooms. Cindie did more than half the work, but it allowed Tabitha to think she had at least earned her meals.
Beyond that, Tabitha was happy laying out in the sun, watching television, and helping Cindie with her homework. Twice, Mrs. Snyder let the older woman who helped out at the motel run the office, and took Cindie and Tabitha down to 'the Valley' to the Drive-In. Tabitha studied the set-up and wrote up a short essay, to turn in for extra credit in Muggle Studies.
It was a nice, relaxing ten days.
The late morning of July 5, Cindie and Tabitha were waiting for Tabitha's transportation. They were a bit surprised to see an old Ford truck pull into the motel's graveled parking lot with Emily at the wheel. She and an older boy got out of the truck, smiles on their faces. "Hi! This is my cousin, Frank Johnson."
It turned out that the Tynes and their relations lived in a small magical village, about a 90 mile drive into Pennsylvania. "Muggles just see at most a dirt road turn-off," Frank explained. "They never could guess there's a whole wide valley filled with us and our farms."
After using the motel office's toilet, the trio took off, Emily again driving. "Even though we're Pure-Bloods, we like to be able to blend in," Emily explained.
"How many families are there?" Tabitha asked, curious.
"In one sense, it's all one family, but there are eighteen houses. We're all second cousins or closer. We marry out, of course."
"So we have, what, a hundred and twenty-three of us, all together?" Frank said.
"Something like that. Our valley was first settled in 1749. As far as they could tell, they might have been the first people to set foot there."
"Not even an Indian trail within twenty miles," Frank agreed.
"Were you involved in the battle Diahoga? That must be near here."
The pair laughed. "This highway is the trail the Muggles took to destroy the Iroquois Confederacy. Did you visit the Valley? The Battle of Diahoga was there in 1777. The Iroquois and British then came through in 1778 on their way to massacre Colonial Muggles over near Albany, and the Colonial Muggles came through in 1779 to destroy the Iroquois."
"Since I just turned sixteen, and you're coming, I get to stay with Frank's family."
"And that's good, right?" Tabitha teased.
"Indoor plumbing is always good," Emily stated.
"You're getting spoiled at that school," Frank growled.
"Frank went to the Ag School out in Colorado," Emily said, "he likes manure."
"I guess I do, since I like you," he teased back.
"He's my first cousin, so I know he's just teasing," Emily told Tabitha, who was looking a bit confused by the by-play.
Soon they were driving the back roads, and then moved from narrow paved roads to a gravel road. From the gravel road, they turned off to a dirt track leading up a steep incline. The track curved to the left at the top, and after about twenty yards, it widened into a paved road. Ten yards further, there was a lookout on the side of the road. Emily pulled into it, and the three got out of the truck.
The valley was spread out in front of them. "This valley is pretty much under total cultivation," Emily said. "It's about three quarters of a mile wide, by 9 miles long. The next two valleys over, and the ones to the north and south, are also under our ownership, although the Muggles do come close to the southern one during hunting season."
"We all have to go out and put up more wards every fall," Frank agreed. "The sober ones are distracted by the wards, but the drunk ones sometimes stumble in. We hunt and gather plants and wood from the valleys."
"And what will I be doing in this sylvan paradise?"
"You mean besides milk and muck the cows and goats?" Frank asked.
"She won't be mucking out anything," Emily nearly snapped. Turning to Tabitha, she said, "You're good at potions, and can help prepare the ingredients for some brewing we're doing, if you want to help out. There are a lot of little chores you can help with, but don't feel too obliged. You're a guest."
"Do you have many guests?"
"A fair number, actually," Frank said, "although most are here for potential matchmaking."
"I'm a bit young for that," Tabitha said drily.
"That's for certain," Emily almost snarled. "Let's go."
Frank drove them to his parents' house. It was a fairly modern-looking, almost Muggle-looking farm house. It even had a television antenna. "Electricity?"
"Some, generated by a windmill," Frank said. "My father is the local Muggle-relations wizard. He contacted the Snyders when the girl accidently dyed her room pink, for example. He gets called out about once every two months to disenchant items or apply memory charms. He likes to keep up with Muggle culture, so he doesn't cause more problems than he solves."
Tabitha's near-two weeks with Emily's clan was more interesting than fun for the most part. Tabitha wondered if FitzWilliam had approved of these visits to show her a range of lifestyles.
The clan lived a fairly wide set of lifestyles by themselves. Three of the households lived nearly a Hidden Believer lifestyle -- candles, open hearth cooking, chamber pots and all. Had they not accepted what the Hidden called banned 'modern' foods (corn, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, coffee, etc.) and some Muggle-produced products (mostly hand tools, cloth, and some foods), the life-styles would have been identical. The other households ranged from just slightly more openness to the totally modern Johnson household. Tabitha spent some time in all of them.
While nearly all of the males and most of the females over ten spent most of the day doing farm chores, a few of the oldest women and Tabitha spent a great deal of time brewing potions, especially health potions for both the people and the livestock, and also starting in on the preserving of wild berries and other foods for the winter. Tabitha had a deft hand for chopping and measuring, and so did well under the elderly witches' supervision. They also tried to teach Tabitha how to knit, but she found crocheting better suited to her tastes.
While even a magical farm needed much work done by hand, things were easier than on a Muggle farm. Each night, the families gathered in three or four houses to make music. Tabitha was not a confident singer (her voice was not that strong, although she did have perfect pitch). The families had her try all their instruments (she knew how to play them all in theory), and she found she was fairly comfortable, and able, with the lute, although it would take a great deal of practice for her to become really proficient.
Tabitha did wonder by her second day why the older girl had invited her. There were two other guests when she had arrived, both dating members of the extended family. Six others were supposed to show up before she left for the same reason. Tabitha and Emily were sharing a small bed in a tiny room in the attic of the farm house to help 'make room'.
Her third night, Tabitha found out. It was hot, and even the open window failed to stir a breeze. The two were forced to cuddle close on the small bed in the tiny room, despite the heat. Tabitha jumped when she felt Emily's fingers stroke her thigh.
"I'm sorry, Tabby . . . I just couldn't hold myself back, any more."
"Is that another reason why you keep turning Frank down?" Tabitha asked nervously.
"I might be attracted to some boys, but not my cousin," Emily said, wrinkling her nose. "I was attracted to you, though, from the instant I met you, but of course you were way too young then."
"And you don't think I'm too young now?"
"Thirteen might be a bit young to fool around with guys," Emily admitted.
Tabitha swallowed nervously. The fact that she was twelve had to be kept secret.
"Look, I know you're probably never going to be interested in, well, anything long term, especially not now."
Here was an area where Tabitha's encyclopedic knowledge was certainly lacking. Tabitha felt a wealth of conflicting emotions. She found Emily, Christine, and Gwen very attractive, and had been teased a little about crushing on them by some of the other girls in her year (who had also had similar childish infatuations with some of the older students, male and female), but she had never entertained the idea of even kissing them, let alone anything more physical.
On the other hand, in many ways Tabitha's life lacked one major thing -- any form of physical affection. She hadn't held anyone's hand since Tudor Myrddin had held hers showing around school her first year. The closest things to hugs she had ever felt were the time Emily had embraced her in relief after the abortive Christmas Eve attack, Henry and her huddling together for warmth, and walking arm-in-arm with some of her House mates.
"I don't know what I'm ready for," Tabitha told Emily. "Why don't you teach me?"
"We'll learn together."
When it came time for Tabitha to leave Emily's clan, she was a very confused girl. She decided to put her thoughts and feeling over what had happened between herself and Emily over the previous ten days aside, to be considered later.
Montana was of course several time zones away. After leaving by a timed mid-morning portkey the Headmaster had given her when she left the Ysgol, she arrived at the dragon ranch just in time for breakfast.
Tabitha found herself in a room like none she had even imagined. It was a large stone chamber, with a fireplace larger than any of the ones at school. On one side, a full-grown stuffed grizzly bear stood rampant, but it looked dwarfed by the fireplace. There were mounted heads of moose, bison, bears, and other creatures on the wall. The rest of the room was in shadows, as the fireplace was out.
"Bit gruesome, huh?"
Tabitha swirled around and saw Henry, standing there, looking like he always did -- tall for his age, getting a bit husky from hard work, and above all unlikely to make any demands on her. She flung herself into his arms in the relief of his normalness, "Harry!"
"Whoa! What's wrong, Tabby?" Henry asked as he hugged her back "Did you have a rough time at the Tynes'?"
"I didn't think so most of the time, but it was . . . odd." She wondered what story she could possibly tell her friend, which wouldn't get back to the Tynes and make her look bad.
"Everyone was like . . . we were all being considered for future membership."
"I'm sure you were, dear," a matronly voice stated from the shadows.
Tabitha quickly freed Henry from her grip and backed away.
A slightly taller, older, matronly version of Henry walked out of the shadows. "Henry dear, hush." The woman turned to Tabitha. "Now those of us who happen to live in the wizarding towns or in wizarding centers in Muggle cities get to know each other. Old Believers, at least in the smaller sects, also generally know each other fairly well. The rest of us encourage these summer visits so that we get to meet people, not just for matchmaking, but in general. So, don't think I'm already to start wedding plans for you and Harry. . . ."
". . . because I'm not, and I won't. But this is how it's done, over time. Now, dear, show your friend to her room and hurry down before all the food is gone."
"Sorry about that," Henry said, taking one end of Tabitha's trunk while she grabbed the other.
"It's all right. Say, how big is this place?"
"It's between two and four storeys tall, but it's pretty spread out. We're here, while my parents are on the floor below. This room shares a bathroom with my little sister Julia. My older brother John and I are in the other two rooms. Ready?"
It turned out that there were nearly 100 people living on this part of the dragon ranch, in seven households and a dragon-hand bunk-house. There were eight of these small communes that ran the dragon ranch. Each also raised some other animal. One raised hippogriffs, one thestrals, one griffins, four feed animals for the animals and people, and this one wyverns.
After breakfast for twenty was over, Henry turned to Tabitha. "What shall we do first?"
"What do we have to do?"
"I have a few assignments to finish, we need to introduce you to the guards, but other than that, we're pretty free."
"Did the other have you do chores?" Mrs. Dorff asked. When Tabitha nodded, she asked, "Such as?"
"I helped Cindie change the linen and clean. . . ."
"That wasn't too hard, was it?"
"No, with two it was pretty easy."
"Mrs. Snyder runs a Muggle inn, Mother," Henry pointed out.
"Oh, well, yes, that would make a difference."
"And I did a lot of the ingredient preparation for some tonics, plus helped with the berry preserving at the Tynes. But that was only five hours a day or so. . . ."
"Five hours! It sounds like you were unpaid help in both places!"
Tabitha considered. "Maybe at the Tynes, but not at the motel . . . that what the Muggles call a small hotel or inn near their motorways. Motor hotel - motel."
"That was less than an hour and a half on weekdays, maybe two and a half Saturday and Sunday."
"Well, Henry here has worked very hard since he's been home. You and he can set the table and clear it off. Did you have any fun?"
"Oh, yes! It was nice laying in the sun at Cindie's, and watching a little television, although a lot of it is pretty silly. The Tynes had musical evenings every night. I rather liked playing the guitar and especially the lute. I sent an owl off to the Headmaster, asking if I could have one at school."
"I expect you can, as long as you use silencing charms and your room mate doesn't mind."
"I don't have a room mate."
"Then it shouldn't be a problem. Now, help me clear, and then Henry will introduce you to the guardians."
"Now stand perfectly still, and try not to be scared, all right?"
Henry gave two whistles, and within seconds Tabitha heard two sets of wings beating their way towards her. Letting her eyes go up, she saw two large animals flying towards her. "I thought griffins and wyverns hated each other?"
"They compete in the wild where their habitats overlap, but the trained ones get along fairly well. Livy is old -- he was my great-grandmother's protector and dowry, and he came along with Mom. Ovid is the alpha male of our pack. Hold your hand out in a fist, palm down. That's right."
The reddish miniature dragon went first, looking at her and Henry. "Tabitha, friend, Ovid. Remember, Tabitha, friend." The wyvern's arrow-tipped tongue flipped out and ran along the underside of Tabitha's arm.
"Friend," Henry repeated. The wyvern blinked, and then took off. "He'll share your scent with the rest of the pack." The griffin did the same, and stalked off.
Tabitha really enjoyed her time with the Dorffs'. Her second afternoon, three owls arrived, carrying a package, which turned out to be a lute, along with an instruction book and sheet music. She played away happily in the afternoons out in the sun, while Henry finished his assignments. There was a small lake nearby, and they went swimming in the hot late afternoons with Julia and some of the other children from the compound. The families all seemed to accept her more openly than most of the Tyne clan had. Perhaps because they all lived at the same level of technology, there seemed to be fewer tensions here than there had been back east.
They were more open about asking Tabitha about herself. Perhaps because Henry was also taking the druidical training, they were interested in her opinions of the Old Believer in general. The Old Believers had seemed to be a taboo subject with the clan.
Each night, Tabitha visited Henry in his dreams. She managed to catch him dreaming at least once a night. They had both enjoyed dreaming together during the school year -- she would visit him on the weekends at the very least. This summer, she made certain he knew the material he would have to recite. They had often debated if they were cheating.
They had decided that while they might be bending the rules, they weren't breaking any. They were, after all, encouraged to learn the oral traditions any way they could, short of writing them down. This year, they would be required to work with a partner. Henry and Tabitha had decided from the beginning that they would partner together.
Tabitha found the wyverns quite impressive. She decided that she didn't really need to visit the dragon preserve to see their many-times larger cousins. When it came time to leave, Tabitha had recovered her emotional equilibrium. She felt ready to face the rest of the summer.
Tabitha and Henry sat outside, waiting for their portkey to activate, dressed in their white robes. Tabitha was leaving all her things at the Dorffs', where she would return for a few days before going back to the Ysgol.
Henry asked, "Do you know where we're going this summer?"
"Really? To the Old Believer's school?"
"Near it, anyway. I'm sure we'll never see the actual grounds."
"And next year?"
"Next year we go in mid-July back to the same place. The year after that, it's August again. After our WT's, we leave right before the summer solstice. The visitors go to the Old Tower at the Ysgol."
"It won't get easier, will it?"
"No, it won't." They then felt the tug of the portkey.