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 is recruited t...
Monday, Christmas Eve, 1979
Tabitha paced back and forth, wondering when Henry would show up. He should have apparated by now, which meant he was coming by Muggle car or taxi instead. She hated to think of Henry making the trek from the small Magical Welcome center near Harvard through Muggle northern Boston towards her house in Lynn, near Salem. He was far from incapable in the Muggle world (unlike most wizard-raised that she knew), but that didn't mean he wouldn't be in casual danger in the 'urban jungle.'
Finally, the doorbell rang. Tabitha sprang towards the door, a smile on her face. She flung open the door and nearly crashed into the door on the porch. Her smile disappeared when she saw the look on Henry's face.
"What's happened?" she asked.
"There was a disagreement at work. I don't know if I won or lost." Tabitha gestured him in, and they sat on the small love seat in front of the fire after Tabitha hung up his coat and Henry had taken off his boots.
"Tell me about it, if you're allowed." 'Please don't let him have failed to be admitted into the hit-wizard apprenticeship,' she prayed. 'He's an auror, he's a Dragon, but he really wants to be a hit-wizard.' Dragons were of course the Old Believers charged with security, and were often found in the auror and hit-wizard ranks.
"I probably shouldn't, but I will. I'm not going to join the hit-wizard apprentice program. . . ."
"I'm so sorry."
Henry held up his hand. "In fact, I'm leaving the aurors."
"Officially, I've quit."
"And unofficially?" They didn't play games with each other.
He took a deep breath. "I've been asked to put together a team."
"A team? You mean . . . to go Britain?"
"To go to Britain. The idiots at the British Ministry refuse to ask for the International for help, and the International can't act against them without pressure."
"And the only governments with the pull to do that would be the other Europeans, who are sticking their heads up their collective asses, hoping that Voldemort can't see them there, and the Confederation, who claim that we're too busy fighting that cult in the south to interfere."
"That's just an excuse. That cult is no more dangerous than any other mixed magic/Muggle cult. There are some dangers of knowledge bleeding over to the Muggles, but it's not a class one conspiracy. They're using that as an excuse to avoid dealing with Voldemort, and will continue the policy unless we're asked by the British or unless he comes out to the Muggles."
He sighed, missing Tabitha's growing nervousness. "We had three teams of six in Britain, but they were attacked a few weeks ago. There were only two survivors." Henry saw Tabitha looking at him with horror. "What?"
She pulled her wand on him. "Are you going to try and kill me?"
Henry frowned. "What?"
"The MLE and the Dragons have authorized you to go on this mission, haven't they?"
"Then they won't let me have this knowledge! It would cause a huge scandal if the news got out! You should know as well as anyone that I can't be memory-charmed! I've worked very hard to make certain that NEVER NEVER happens again!"
Henry tried to calm her down. "Tabs! You should know I would never do anything to hurt you! I figured you would want to go with me, and if for some reason you refuse, then I'll use Obliviate and just not tell them it can't work on you." He went down on his knees and put his hands out. He moved from English to Old Briton, the ritual language of the Old Believers. "I swear to you, your life is more important to me than mine. By the ring I gave you, I swear."
Tabitha lowered her wand slightly. "You want me to go?"
"I could go by myself, but that wouldn't help them much. I need a team."
"Help who? Who were in the previous groups?"
"That mostly classified. I can't lead a team of other people 'on leave' from the MLE, because I don't have the seniority, but I need a team. People who can work together. You know more about Voldemort than anyone not in Intelligence. You are a Charms Builder and Potions Master. You can defend yourself. You're a brilliant researcher. Above all, I know I can trust you."
"How many people?"
"In my group? Six, if you can find or suggest an assistant."
"Just one? Tom Lawrence," she answered immediately.
"He's not a great dueler, but he certainly has everything else going for him," Henry agreed. "How soon do you think you can get an owl back from him?"
Tabitha rolled her eyes. "When would we leave?"
"Late May. One of my team needs a little more training, and I know you would need that amount of time to make plans."
"Toby. You don't know the other two."
"Okay, hang on." Tabitha turned and picked up the telephone.
"What are you doing?"
"I doubt my phones are tapped, don't you?"
"Right now? Certainly not. There are elements within the Confederation who could, but they're on our side."
"Great." She turned her attention back to the phone.
"Tom, this is Tabby. Can you talk?"
"To you? Always!"
"No, idiot! Are you alone?"
"At the moment."
"What are you doing with your life?"
"You know what I'm doing!"
"Do you want to do something more important?"
"Like going to Britain and joining the underground against Voldemort."
There was a long pause on the line, then, "You're kidding."
"You know how I've always felt about him. I've been given the chance to go, and was told I could recruit you."
"To do what?"
"Potions and going through intelligence, although there's always the chance you might have to defend yourself."
There after another long pause, "I can't afford to finance myself."
Tabitha turned to Henry. "Are we expected to pay our own way?"
"There's no regular salary, but we can cover transportation, food, lodging, and the like."
Tabitha repeated that to Tom. After a short pause, he said, "Tell Harry that if he can get my rent and utilities paid here while I'm away, I can go."
Tabitha smiled and repeated that to Henry, adding, "And I'd like the same deal."
Henry nodded. Tabitha passed that on to Tom.
"Unless I hear differently from you, I'll come visit, either over Mardi Gras, Easter, or both. And I'll hex anyone who approaches me that I don't know."
"Sounds good, Tom. I'll let you know."
"Thanks." Tom sighed. "At least I have five months to get in shape."
They said goodbye, and they hung up.
Henry snorted when Tabitha told him what Tom had said. "Who would be afraid of Tom?"
"Anyone with a brain. He's a lousy dueler because he has average reflexes. If he gets the drop on you, he knows more hexes than you ever will and he can make them all work, and he knows more about ritual magic than anyone not hidden away in some religious community."
"I never knew him all that well. . . ."
"You went to school with him for six years!"
"And he was a year below me. He never played Quodpot or Quidditch, never made the dueling team, and was never very involved in the religion."
"He's a Novice as well as an Open Believer. Just remember, you might not have made it to Novice with my special help."
"I'm not making fun of him! I know he's smart, I know he's loyal, at least to you, and I know he's Muggle-born, so he's not even going to be recruited."
"And he'll be a Potions Master by May. And he has a Muggle undergrad degree in Classics, and will have his MA in British history by May."
"British history? Really?"
"Really. He's become a real nut for British culture. He picked it up from his housemate. They even drink Scottish stout and cook traditional roast beef dinners, complete with Yorkshire pudding, on Sundays for their Muggle friends. He told me they're having a roast tomorrow, with stout, claret, and port."
"In New Orleans? He's nuts!"
"They are . . . enthusiasts."
"No, they're nuts. But to heck with Tom, and Voldemort, and everything else. . . ."
"Uh uh," Tabitha scolded. "Not yet. Who was involved in the previous teams?"
"I shouldn't tell you, but it was Tudor and Gwen. There were at least two teams of six, and Gwen was there as a researcher."
"Gwen? Gwen Lloyd? My old Floor Prefect?"
"Yes. They were the only two survivors, out of all the teams. Tudor is still recovering, but he'll be back in fully fighting form long before May, and he'll be leading the groups, and be my boss. Gwen will be recovered a little later. I won't know how many other teams there will be, or who will be on them."
"The need to know?"
"And his boss?"
"I can't tell you who's above us in our Government, Tabby, or else I would have to kill you, and I don't want to do that. In Britain, it will be Albus Dumbledore. He's leading an underground movement, but we can't go beyond that until we're over there. If it wasn't for that group, Voldemort would have taken over the British community by now."
"I had wondered why the fight was still going on. I thought maybe the British Ministry wasn't as incompetent as we all thought."
"Most are, but not all. There's a new head of their Law Enforcement, Barty Crouch. He's very very bright, and he's also very cold and ruthless, which isn't surprising, considering what happened to most of his family. We hope he'll really unleash the British aurors and hit-wizards. With us and Dumbledore's other volunteers, it might be enough."
"Let's hope." She gave Henry a very strange look.
"I think it's time to break the Maiden's Charm."
"We've been close for over ten years. We've had sexual contact for seven years. We're going into combat in five months."
"You want to get married tonight?"
"You don't have to be married to break the Charm. The best way to do it is for me to put a charm on your penis, and you put a complimentary charm on my vagina. That will break the Maiden's Charm and prevent any real pain. There's only one problem."
"You can't wear a condom. Have you been anywhere you shouldn't have been?"
"I've only been with you, Tabitha. Can you say the same?"
"You're the only male I've ever even french-kissed, the only male I've ever let touch me more than a friendly pat on the shoulder. I've never done anything any more than kissing another boy lightly on the lips, and I've only really allowed that from Tudor, Tom, and Cadfael. You know about each of the girls, and I haven't caught anything from them."
"I trust you as much as I love you."
"I've also found an interesting set of flexibility charms," Tabitha teased.
"Really?" Henry said with a real smile.
"Really. Just for your information, I don't have to be anywhere until the dawn of Twelfth Night -- I agreed to lead a service -- I have enough food for an small army, and I have my little lab here ready to make the First Night Potion, just in case we ever want to use it."
Henry grinned and picked Tabitha up in his arms.
"Why Rhett!" Tabitha fluttered her lashes, and they laughed as he carried her up the stairs.
Henry partially awoke to strong scents. They teased his senses, and he wondered where he was. Someplace nice, from the smells and the soft warm mattress. The same signs also told him he had no idea where that someplace was.
Since he felt so safe, for the first time in months (he had been tracking down a group of violent smugglers between early October and mid-December) and was so comfortable, he laid there, his eyes shut, and tried to identify each smell.
The most powerful scent was of an incense in the air -- pine and spruce -- with lilac a close second. He guessed the bed linens were stored with lilac potpourri. There was wood smoke as well, and he wondered if whomever had built it had added some damp oak leaves to it for the stronger scent. There were also other aromatics in the air -- pipe tobacco for one. Underneath it all, there was the smell of food -- apple pie and turkey.
'Pipe tobacco?' Henry thought. He hurriedly sat up. "Why would there be pipe smoke in Tabby's house?"
Tabitha's house looked to be completely Muggle, as long as any visitor stayed out of the tiny potions lab in the cellar. It had been built in the 1920s, and she had completely remodeled it. The downstairs had a living room and small dining room in front, as well as a kitchen, stairs, powder room, and small study, and there were two bedrooms and a bath in the smaller upstairs (due to the pitch of the roof). Henry pulled on boxers and his robe. He saw the incense was still slightly smoldering on Tabitha's household shrine. He paused and looked at it. His was the only picture on the top shelf. The second held the photo of Tabitha and Maple, her corn husk dolls, her tooth and quartz necklace, and the wampum. It also had three other photos, of Megan and the two other women whom Tabitha had considered to be her lovers and friends. The next two shelves down held photos of close friends.
Henry padded down the stairs. There was fire in the fireplace. He was unsurprised to see a basket of oak leaves, various conifer cones, acorns, and the like on one side of the hearth, stacked wood on the other side. The former would be burned for various ceremonial purposes. There was a small device gently puffing the pipe smoke. No doubt there was some ritual reason for that as well.
The apple pie, along with a pumpkin pie, was in the small dining room, cooling. Henry loved these two front rooms. The house was small, with an enclosed porch running the full length of the front. The living room took up two thirds of the length of the house, and nearly two thirds of the original depth (before Tabitha had extended the tiny kitchen back further), and yet it was only twenty-four by fifteen feet. The only furniture were the old build-in bookshelves on either side of the fireplace, a large sofa (with a Christmas afghan Tabitha had made), and two rocking chairs. The dining room had an old handmade oaken table with eight matching dining chairs and two sideboards. One held the two sets of dishes, wine glasses, and crystal. The other held Tabby's growing pewter collection.
A glance in the large, modern kitchen (the remodeling had also built-out the kitchen into the back yard) showed it was empty as well, although there were many good smells there. Henry had to duck into the powder room under the stairs, and when he came out Tabby was basting the turkey.
"Everything smells great, but where were you?"
"Checking on the First Night Potion. It looks perfect."
"Oh. . . ." Not knowing what else to say, he asked, "What time is it?"
"Almost Nine. You looked tired, so I let you sleep."
"Thanks. I should have been up to greet the dawn."
"I made certain to ritually purify you."
That explained the incense, he realized. "Thank you, acolyte."
"Would you like breakfast first, or presents?"
"When is dinner, and will we be alone?"
"Two o'clock, and two pairs of lesbian Wiccan witches will be here after One." She smiled at the look on his face. "Just be glad that it's not my gay Muggle friends. They're mostly vegans."
"Breakfast, then, since I know I got my best present last night."
Tabitha blushed slightly, but turned and opened the fridge. Soon she had a large pan of bacon cooking.
"Two questions. One, way enough bacon to fed a dozen people, and two, why live so Muggle?"
"Let's see . . . in order, I cheat a lot when it comes to cleaning. I've found food tastes better cooked by hand. I need the bacon grease."
"We're having regular skillet bread and corn bread the same way."
"Get dressed and see if the fire needs tending."
"Yes, my love."
When he was finished dressing and tending the fire, Henry opened the front door and went onto the cold enclosed porch. One end had chairs for summer sitting. On the other side there was a six foot spruce, fully decorated Muggle-style at first glance. Henry smiled as he saw most of the ornaments were magic bubbles, which would burst into nothingness in a day or two more. Two fairies had also made their home deep inside the tree. Tabitha hadn't put any packages under the tree, to discourage any Muggle vandals.
Henry went back in and went into Tabitha's small den. He turned on the radio, and found a station playing Christmas songs. A flip of a switch turned on small speakers throughout the house. Henry was told to relax, while Tabitha played hostess.
Henry enjoyed the dinner conversation almost as much as he enjoyed the dinner (chowder, a full turkey dinner, both served with mulled cider; pie and espresso; and finally they split a bottle of vintage port, served with hickory nuts and walnuts). One of the witches helped Tabitha clean up while another played Tabitha's lute.
One pair of witches disapparated, while the others drove off in an old VW Beetle, a little before 7:00. Tabitha went up to take a shower while Henry raked out some ashes and rebuilt the fire.
Tabitha came down the stairs in a long flannel nightgown. Henry went up for a quick shower, and when he came down he sat next to Tabitha on cushions near the fire. She had fixed them sundaes, and they ate them slowly.
"It's going to be a tough campaign, isn't it?" Tabitha finally said.
"It will," Henry admitted. "The British Ministry has always been part of the problem."
"This Voldemort really is an amazingly powerful and evil wizard. He could very well be the most powerful Dark Wizard in centuries."
"And twelve or eighteen of us, or however many, should make a difference?"
Henry shrugged. "Let's hope."
December 26, 1979
Tudor Myrddin sat in a pub in the Capitol of the Confederation, nursing a tankard of shandy. It was a fairly traditional pub, and Welsh was as common as English. He was away from his family over the holidays, making arrangements for the new groups to go over to Britain. He only had three groups lined up -- two combat groups and a mixed combat/research group that Dorff would be leading.
It wasn't going to be enough.
He almost wished he was drinking something stronger.
"May we sit with you and have a drink?" a voice asked.
Tudor looked up, and wondered who the two strangers might be.