Tonks readied herself for the inevitable dizziness and held the map-glass to her eye. Her stomach lurched as a perfect mirror image of the land between the Steading and the Ruined Henge appeared and flowed madly beneath her gaze, the overland route glowing a sullen orange. Finally a low ridge appeared, with a smoothly landscaped muggle lawn on one side and trees on the other, with the circle right at the head, a few scraggly trees visible within it. Her brow creased – there were no megaliths.
"Hooch? I thought this was supposed to be a henge. I don't see any stones." She rubbed her eye irritably.
"Stop, you'll just make it worse," said Hooch, reaching to grab Tonks' hand. "It's not that kind of henge – the ritual part was wooden, and the posts have been either destroyed or hidden from muggle and human Magical eyes. 'S probably how the Woodfolk were overlooked."
"Oh, right enough. I wish Hogwarts offered Ritual! I had to take Potions in the Academy to make up for Snape and didn't have room to take it."
Andromeda had not taken any of the Blacks' books when she'd left, and had developed a positive hatred for any of the more marginally accepted Magics, which included most Ritual or Old Magick. Tonks, a true Ravenclaw, had sometimes thought with longing of all of the books and knowledge held within her mother's family's home – she wondered what Sirius had done with them. They had discussed the books some, but there'd never been any time…
"Well, History of Magic shouldinclude this sort of thing, even if it doesn't tell you how to do it, but Binns is obsessed with intra-Magical Being wars."
Hooch let go of Tonks's hand to start playing with the beads that the Auror still wore braided into her teal hair. Tonks had decided to keep them as a novelty – she so often changed the length and texture of her hair that she was rarely able to wear anything in it.
"I think that Dumbledore dropped even lecture seminars on it after the Death Eaters started showing up – he thinks that Riddle got his ideas there." She paused a beat, adding, "besides, I think that the Headmaster feels that students are too young to be exposed to such chancy possibilities. He agonized enough over bringing back Sorcery, and over having any sort of extra Defense or Weapons training available. Even some Muggle boarding schools have martial arts classes..."
"Dumbledore sees everyone as tall toddlers, needing to be nannied and protected – that's obvious enough." Tonks agreed with a nod, jerking her braids in Hooch's hands. She winced – she wasn't used to them yet.
"He's not really old compared to most Sidhe, but he surely is for a human, and he has taught or been headmaster for at least half of the adults in England – I think it warped his view."
"Just being British warped his view. All y'all are mad as sin, you know." Ghost startled them both by wrapping one arm around each of them and smirking down at them from behind.
"Why did you have to come again?" Hooch pulled away, lifting up Ghost's arm and dropping it ostentatiously. Tonks also pulled away, adjusting her satchel.
"This is my vacation. I'm supposed to play tourist. Besides, Samael asked me to – he didn't want to take chances with any hungry ghosts. He doesn't want y'all dead or possessed, after all."
Ghost had appeared in the two women's chambers in the Steading and asked to accompany them the morning after the Lughnasa feast. She'd claimed to be getting a bit bored with her relaxing vacation in the unchanging dream of the fairy steading. Hooch seemed amused but skeptical – Tonks was hesitantly welcoming. The idea of speaking with a forensic necromancer was fascinating, but the other woman made her slightly uneasy.
"Besides – somebody has to keep Miss Lady Serenity over there occupied so y'all can have some time alone, you know," Ghost added, tossing a mild glare towards the abandoned satchel of the party's fourth member.
"Now, now," protested Hooch mildly. "We've been friends since we all spent the summers here as little titchy things. Besides, she's going to create a record garnet to show the Council proof that we actually did what we said we would do. Can you do that?"
"No, I can't," Ghost acknowledged grudgingly – the power to create low-energy reusable record garnets that could be used to project events unaltered was limited to Fire Sorcerers and other advanced users of fire magic.
"Well, neither can we. I don't know any fire magic, and Tonks is water-natured, same as you – she couldn't touch it."
"Wait, so me being water means I shouldn't be able to do fire magic? I've never had any trouble with fire charms." Tonks frowned, rather indignant that they thought that she couldn't do such basic spells just because she'd found out that her magical nature was very purely water.
"Those are fire charms – wizarding magic." Ghost responded.
"Not much affected by magical nature – even someone whose nature was completely air would be able to do basic earth charms. Not the spells of sorcery, of the High Magicks, though." Hooch explained, seeing Tonks's comprehension grow.
"And this is sorcery."
"Surely is – there are wizard charms that will create records, but not reliable ones that can be projected," Ghost agreed. "Of course, Muggle video cams can do it too, but they tend to implode into little heaps of dead metal around too much magickal energy. Not very convincing to most faerie, eh?"
"No, it's not," Tonks laughed, grinning. "Did I ever tell you the story of the time my Muggleborn dorm-mate tried to sneak in a Walkman to play us some Muggle song and tried to play it during Binns' class? It shorted and blew up, and he blew straight up through the ceiling! We got cheered for it when we got back to the dorm, and that's something in Ravenclaw."
"It certainly is!" agreed Hooch, sliding her arm comfortably around Tonks' shoulder. "I'd be shocked to see any of my little 'Claws show any approval of anything that disrupted a class, even that one."
"As to that, generations of Ravenclaws have discarded that class, Defense, Muggles, and Divs and run in-House tutorials. We respect the position, but not poor teaching." Tonks sighed a little, looking contemplatively at Hooch – the Hyter Sprite would make a much better History professor.
She sometimes privately thought that Headmaster Dumbledore's attention was too scattered between Hogwarts, the Order, the Wizengamot, and many other things to really give all of his positions their due. What else could explain the poor quality of instruction in courses that the Headmaster was uninterested in? Well, Defense was cursed, everyone knew that, but nothing could excuse Binns, or that ancient Pureblood teaching Muggle Studies.
"I have to say, a school where the students have to teach themselves for half the courses because of bad teachers doesn't sound so good, ladies. Plus, I heard that it doesn't teach any higher maths, literature, sciences, Advanced Magics, Magical Civs, or many electives?" Ghost trailed her voice off, raising her arched brows questioningly.
"We have electives! But, no. No, it doesn't – there are summer self-study courses for maths, but only students in Arithmancy take them. Advanced magic and magical civilizations are only in college courses, except for people with inborn gifts." Hooch scowled slightly defensively – Tonks knew that her friend agreed with Ghost's criticism, but it washer school. Tonks herself had felt distinctly cheated when she'd graduated and met students from other schools and realized how much she didn't know that was widely taught overseas.
"What do you do with your necromancers? That's a born gift, you know – even if it is hated here." The necromancer's eyes seemed to glaze a little as she added, "funny things can happen with a strong one if they aren't trained. Messy things, too." She grinned a little grimly.
"Uh… I don't know." Tonks was a little startled as she thought about it. "I've never met anyone who was one before, or heard of anything except what happened during the Grindlewald wars. What happens?" She thought uneasily about some of the stories she'd heard about necromancers.
"Roadkill can reanimate and follow them down the road, or dead pets dig themselves out of the ground and follow them home. Remember those skunks in Michigan, Ghost?" Hooch grinned teasingly at her childhood friend.
"Eeew!" exclaimed Tonks as Ghost laughed and stuck her tongue out at Hooch.
"Yeah, yeah. Like you didn't have some issues when you were trying to learn your gifts!" The necromancer was blushing, her pale skin showing the slightest flush vividly.
Tonks turned under Hooch's arm, glad to leave the topic of dead animals to ask her friend what sort of accidents she'd had, but was interrupted by the arrival of Serenity.
"I'm terribly sorry for the delay, but I simply had to take a flue from Geneva," apologized the beautiful ash-blonde Fire Sorceress, who was another halfling like Hooch who worked primarily in the Wizarding World, though in Switzerland as a financier rather than in her home country. "Will we apparate, or walk an elf-way?"
"Take the elf-way part way, then walk the last eight kilometers in. The elf-ways near the henge are still… twisted. We talked about this before – I hope you have boots in that bag of yours!" Ghost looked disapprovingly at Serenity's soft shoes.
"Well-broken in and waterproofed!" said Serenity, too sweetly, looking distastefully at Ghost. "I may not tramp about like some jolly human schoolgirl every weekend, but I am capable of acquiring necessary items."
Tonks sighed slightly, distracted enough to stumble over her own feet as she moved to stand waiting near the threshold to the elf-way, one of the ancient Sidhe-built roadways that crossed between gates to the various parts of Underhill. Hooch had told her of the long-standing dislike between her two old friends – this seemed like it could be a long few days.