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, the third year of trai...
Spring was busier for Tabitha and her friends than the fall had been. Third years spent an hour a week learning basic dueling. Even though the power of Tabitha's hexes and curses were at best average, she knew more than any Seventh year and had decent reflexes.
Of the 21 students in her House year, all but Cindie, Anna, Megan, and Margaret seemed to enjoy the dueling. All 17 of the remaining students were hoping to win a spot on the House dueling team. There would be four team members and up to four alternates.
Henry, to no one's surprise, claimed the first place in late April, while Tabitha managed to become the third alternate.
The other bit of excitement for the spring was the Spring Ball, which was held this year on May Day (it was usually held either on the nearest Friday or Saturday to May 1 or the one right after Valentine's Day).
Henry had asked Tabitha the day he came back from winter break. To his surprise, Tabitha had readily agreed. Jim had asked Megan the same day, and all the girls had been asked before the end of January, which prevented any displays of jealousy.
Whenever Tabitha looked back at the magical photos she had of the evening (one just of herself and Henry, one with them and Jim and Megan, and one of their whole table of 12), she thought she and Henry looked cute, trying to dress as adults. Henry, tall and broad for his age, wore dark green dress robes with green velvet trim so dark it was almost black, which set off his dark auburn hair.
Tabitha, now slightly above average height for her year and very lean, wore Victorian-style robes in the same green as Henry's, although with lighter trim. The pair did little dancing, but enjoyed themselves.
Henry had hoped the dance might lead to more formal dating. Tabitha told him to ask again in the fall, unless he wanted to give up on his druidical training, or at least give her up as a partner.
Henry agreed to wait, and settled for a kiss on the cheek, and then asked her to visit the ranch both before and after their training during the summer. Cadfael, at least, did not ask for Tabitha to visit during the upcoming summer. She did receive a large number of other invitations. When the term ended on June 23, Tabitha was ready. Marge was leaving to spend two weeks with Emily, while Tabitha was going to spend a little more than a week at Megan's family farm in the northern peninsula of Michigan, near the shores of Lake Superior.
Viewed from Lake Superior, no one would guess that just behind the hills that marked the lake shore lay a magical village. It was small, two dozen houses, most with shops attached or on the ground floors. Around the village were a further two dozen farms. There was another small village a few miles away, hidden in a cove and protected by many charms that disguised the entrance from Muggles. Some of the villagers there were fisherman, others had shops or tended small farms as well. There was also a magical co-op that made cheese, some of which they sold to a Muggle distributor.
The Poppins farm laid between the two villages. The house was fairly large, although more haphazardly put together than any Tabitha had seen before. Emily's clan's houses were fairly conventionally built, and the Dorff ranch, although eccentric in design, was sturdily built. The Poppins house only stood through the charms that kept it together. They grew their own food in fields and orchards, kept a few cows and a herd of goats, and gathered lots of honey. The family also made mead.
The family was multi-generational and fairly extended. Forty-two people lived on the farm, from Megan's younger sister, 6, to her paternal great-great-great grandmother, age 192. Megan had her own tiny room in the top of a crooked six storey turret. To a Muggle out on the lake, the top would appear as a tall pine tree. To Tabitha, it was an amazing view to see over six miles of wooded land to the lake itself.
Tabitha of course helped around the house with cleaning and other small chores, although she kept well-away from the live-stock. She decided she really didn't need to practice again this year how to milk a cow or a goat. Her few experiences the year before had convinced her it was a skill she had no great interest in mastering. She did take out her lute and Welsh harp and entertained the family after dinner. One of Megan's great-uncles often pulled out a fiddle, to play along.
Megan and Tabitha now approached each other more intimately, as Tabitha initiated her friend much like Emily had initiated her the previous summer. They hadn't planned on moving in that direction, but decided it their first night without even discussing it. Tabitha was more gentle, more sharing, and more tender with Megan than Emily had been with her, however. At the start of the next term, they would decide they had done so in part because they had total privacy at night, and in part because they had a limited time together. No matter what they did, they would have the summer to think about it.
The only thing Megan had worried about was having the highly academic Tabitha home with her when the grades arrived. Her family, however, understood once they saw Tabitha's grades, that whomever they compared Megan to, it shouldn't be Tabitha:
Arithmancy. . . . . .105*
/Astronomy . . . . . . 99/
Charms. . . . . . . . 93
/Defense . . . . . . . 96/
Herbology . . . . . . 96
/History . . . . . . .105*/
Potions . . . . . . .105*
/Muggle Studies. . . .105*/
Runes . . . . . . . .105*
/Transfiguration . . . 90/
. . . . . Total . . . 99.9
*Highest Possible Grade
Tabitha was of course generally happy with her grades, although she wished she had more power -- that was the only thing keeping her grades in DADA, Charms, and especially Transfiguration under 100.
Tabitha was portkeyed from Megan's to Cindie's on July 2, where she would stay until July 9. Her stay was more relaxing that her time in Michigan, although of course less passionate as they were just friends.
Anna showed up the mid-morning of July 7, arriving in the nearby Valley by Muggle bus. Mrs. Snyder took the three girls back to the Valley July 8, for an excellent dinner at a small Italian restaurant that was so good even Anna was impressed and then on to the drive-in for the movies.
When Tabitha arrived at Henry's, he tried to treat her as something like a girlfriend. Tabitha soon set him straight, and had him reciting his lore under privacy spells. (Druidical students were allowed to practice magic in relationship to their studies.)
Henry wasn't sure why Tabitha was making him repeat his old lessons all Friday afternoon and all day Saturday, even in their dream-time together, but he had long ago learned to follow her lead, especially in their druidical studies.
On Sunday, they left via portkey a little before noon. Their instructions had reminded them to eat lunch before leaving and to bring a canteen of water.
"Names?" a tired acolyte asked as they managed to stagger to their feet.
The acolyte said nothing to them. Two teens in novice robes came forward. The acolyte handed each a sheet of parchment, and they led Henry and Tabitha away separately.
"Are you allowed to tel me anything?" Henry asked in Welsh.
The novice said nothing.
"I take that as a 'no,' Henry said. He saw they were coming out of the woods into the same valley they had studied the year before. He could see that at the far end of the encampment, there were many small groups people. As he came closer, he saw that the groups were actually a large number of seated people, grouped anywhere from twos to fives, each seated in front of a student who was standing.
Henry realized what would be happening. He would have to Recite the lore he knew. He hated recitations, but was grateful Tabitha had to some degree prepared him.
The novice left him standing some thirty-five feet from the nearest student. Five druids -- two full druids, two disciples, and an acolyte -- came from the hut area and four of them sat on stools about six feet from him. One druid took the parchment from the novice.
One of the disciples left his stool and walked closer. "We would like to hear you Recite all that you have been asked to learn, since the first lessons. If possible, please do so in order. Do not shout, just retell it as you have been taught. If you need to pause between lessons to drink, please do so. All right?"
The disciple gave him a friendly smile, and sat on his stool. "When ever you are ready, student."
Henry swallowed nervously and began reciting.
Two and half hours later, Henry stopped. He was exhausted and sweaty, his throat was raw. The five judges looked at each other. They nodded, and the disciple stood. "Thank you, student. You may go to the same hut you stayed in last August."
Henry managed to nod, and staggered off to his hut. He was only a bit surprised to see Tabitha and Cadfael talking between their huts. Cadfael saw him first, and told Tabitha. She turned, and with a big smile on her face, ran to Henry and hugged him.
"What?" Henry demanded.
"You made it!"
"Well, I don't think I made many mistakes. . . ."
"You didn't make any real mistakes," Cadfael told him. "Did they ask that you repeat anything?"
"Then you passed. If you hadn't, you would be on the way home now."
"Really," Tabitha said.
"So you two passed, too?"
"Of course, we'd be gone otherwise," Cadfael said with a shrug.
"Don't be mean," Tabitha scolded, "he's still in a bit of shock." She turned back to Henry. "Why don't you get cleaned up and change into another robe?"
"Good idea," Henry agreed.
The trio was surprised that Cadfael's cousin apparently failed. Just before dinner, one of the acolytes led a girl over. She was placed into Hut 54, while Henry was moved in with Cadfael. Morag was the strict portion of the Rock sect, and seemed a bit stand-offish. Time would tell, Tabitha decided, if that was because she'd been thrust into an established situation and felt like an outsider, or if she just didn't like the idea of rooming with someone who was from other than a strict background.
The next morning, after the sunrise prayers and breakfast, the remaining students (now down to 132), where given a huge exam which (with a few breaks) would last until dinner. The third and fourth days, the students performed mock rituals, which included the rote recitation of prayers and formulae. The fifth day, the students had to play their Welsh harps and sing a traditional song.
The sixth day, the group rested, and awaited the results. To some of the students' consternation, the students were told to bring their knapsacks and all possessions to lunch.
July 16, 1971
After lunch, each student was called from the pavilion. The Hidden and others with Old Welsh names were called first (a little more than half of the remaining students), and then the others would be called alphabetically. There was still half an hour wait between the last student with an Old-style name and the others.
Just before Henry was called, Tabitha leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Good luck."
Henry was therefore smiling as he walked out of the glen towards the main valley. A few dozen yards on the path through the woods, a disciple came up to Henry. "Student Dorff?"
"Tell me, Student Dorff," he asked as they walked, "do you believe you could have achieved your current level without the dream-learning Student Spellman has been using with you?"
"I don't know," Henry answered. "I think I might have, but it would have been a tremendous struggle."
"An honest answer. Your test results were outstanding, your ritual work was average. Your playing could using improvement, but that is usually true for students who have not been raised hearing the harp. We are, however, concerned about your dependence on Spellman."
"Many from inside the Heart of the Religion seek to become druids because it is an expected path. Most of those from the Outside seek to join because they see us at the center of magical culture and desire to use us as a stepping stone on a career path. The others often seek us out in order to join the Hidden or Stricter sections of the Traditional Sects. You are one of those who partially has sought us out to advance what you hope will be your career. However, that is balanced by the power of your faith. Therefore, we offer you a choice. Separate yourself from Spellman, and do all the remaining work yourself. You may fail this summer, you may go on as far as you are able. Or continue as you are, and stop after your initiation to novice."
"What do you mean by 'separating' myself from Tabitha?"
"No more dream-learning, no private lessons. To prevent temptation, you should just become casual acquaintances."
Henry shook his head. "No. No, that I will never do." He stopped, forcing the disciple to stop as well. Henry tried to think of how to say what he meant in the formal Welsh he had been taught -- largely taught to him by Tabitha. "I will always remain true to the Faith, no matter if I am just another member of a casual gathering of the Open or a novice within a stricter sect. Tabitha will always be so close to my heart that I cannot and will not separate myself from her willingly."
"You are fourteen, she is thirteen. You are far too young to try and form a life-bond."
"I do not know if we will marry, but we will always be friends of the heart. Send me home now, if you must."
"No, I gave you honest choices. Come along."
When Tabitha was called, she walked with a senior druid. "You are the first student I have seen today who did not look nervous."
"Why should I be nervous?" Tabitha asked. "I have done everything correctly, have I not?"
"You have," the druid conceded. "However, you do have doubts."
"I have doubts about the afterlife. I do not know if we simply die, or if we are reincarnated as we are taught, or if we go on to some other plane of existence. I do not have doubts about the Powers around us. I do not have doubts about the potency of the Rituals to bring us closer to the Powers."
"Very well. If you do not resolve your doubts, you may not progress beyond acolyte."
"I understand, Master."
"Do I need to tell you where to report?"
"There are three buildings in the compound. One is for the Hidden and Strict Observers who wish to remain as purely old-fashioned as possible. I hope I am not there. One is for those you have the greatest doubts about, the other is for the rest. Am I in the former?"
"How are the buildings arranged?"
"Each is a three storey building with two towers. The first floor is the communal dining room and study rooms. The second and third floors are the main living floors. One tower has the teachers who are not acting as floor monitors. The other tower also has students."
"Exactly. Yes, you are in the tower of the former building. The top floor, in fact. You are there because we trust you. The doubts in your case are purely yours."
"Go to your friend. Hurry down when the dinner bell rings. You have the longest distance to go."
The 'tower' was a full six stories above the three-floor base. The third, fourth, and fifth floors were sealed off. The top floor only had five rooms -- three small bed chambers, one with a toilet and sink, the final just held a cold water shower.
Tabitha was happy to see Henry, and only slightly surprised to find Cadfael was the third person on the floor.
"Some climb, huh?" Cadfael said after she had hugged them both.
Tabitha was grateful for the near-privacy and the fantastic view. Their third summer of training was mostly devoted to learning sacred songs by heart and more reciting of the lore they had learned previously.
The only problem Tabitha had that summer was with Cadfael and Henry, who constantly irritated each other and her. When the summer training was over, Tabitha returned to the dragon ranch, where she would spend a week. She decided she needed to have a talk with Henry, and resolved to do the morning after they went back to his home.
Right after breakfast on the morning of July 31, therefore, Tabitha dragged Henry outdoors and to the most secluded spot she knew of.
"What?" Henry asked for the fifth time that morning.
"Harry, what is your problem?"
"Err . . . what do you mean?"
"You and Cadfael were constantly sniping at each other, and you were actually vile to a number of the other students."
"You know why. . . ."
"I love you."
"I like you, Harry. I don't care about any other boy. That may or may not change; after all you're just fourteen and I'm a year younger. So, let me tell you your two choices. All right?"
"All right. . . ." Henry answered fearfully.
"One, we can become acquaintances instead of friends. Two, forget the idea that we are going to be some grand romantic couple in school. But I do like you. I will not date any other boy than you, unless I give you fair warning, and you will not date any other girl without telling me. We can hold hands, and we will say we're dating."
Henry looked confused as he tried to untangle what Tabitha had said. Then he smiled. "You really like me like that? Really!?"
Tabitha sighed. "Boys." She gave him a light peck on the lips. "I take it we're dating?"
"Just remember, do not press, Harry. I'm not ready and I'm not interested. Okay?"
"I'll do my best, and when I don't I know you'll remind me."